How old is too old when you’re a fiction writer? Is there an “age bias” in the publishing world?
The last week has been busy with travel and all that, so I’m just now catching my breath.
Martha posted this question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:
Hi Randy, I’m a fan, needless to say, and I read your blog daily. This morning’s question brought up one that has been bothering me for some time and that is, when is a writer too OLD to be considered by agents and publishers? One hears all the time that agents/publishers want to develop a career novelist, one who will produce book after book and make the agents and publishers rich. But what about those of us who are seniors. Should we keep mum about our age in our queries or just wait and cross that bridge when and if it comes up? And how about meeting and pitching an agent at a conference? No chance hiding one’s age there, so do you have any advice for what to say or do to mitigate any prejudice they might have about oldsters?
Randy sez: I’m told that age bias is a serious problem in screenwriting. I wouldn’t know, since I don’t do screenplays.
In the world of novel writing, there may possibly be an age bias, but it’s really the least of your worries.
Your main worry with fiction writing is “craft bias.” Agents and editors are massively biased against poor craft. They are massively biased in favor of excellent craft.
It’s that simple. There are any number of examples of fiction writers who’ve published novels in their 70s. Fiction is about life, and the longer you’ve lived, the more you probably know about life.
If you were extremely old, your age might even be a selling point, as it was for 88 year old Helen Hoover Santmyer’s novel “… And Ladies of the Club.”
This is a good time to mention the “Fiction After 50” blog, by my friends Ron and Janet Benrey. They published their first novel after the age of 50, and their blog is about the advantages of being an older writer.
Martha, my advice is to not mention your age at all in your queries. It’s essentially irrelevant. What matters is your craft. Great writing is great writing. If you write well, you can get published at any age.
Go to it.
If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in public on this blog, hop on over to my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page and submit your question. I’ll answer them in the order they come in.