Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ask The Editor-- Does Age Matter?

QUESTION: Are publishers shy of taking on unknown older writers in case they don't get enough future novels out of them to make it worth their while? If so, is it better not to state your age when submitting a manuscript to an agent or publisher?

Gladys, haven’t you heard? A lady never tells her age.

Seriously, age should not be a huge factor in whether an editor would consider your work, and I certainly would not disclose that in a query to a potential publisher. Of course, publishers do look for a long-term relationship with a new author, and that has more potential with a young author. But none of us knows how much time we have, so I would advise you not to be too concerned about your age and just keep writing.

QUESTION: Although size of manuscript submissions may not be stated, are agents and publishers put off by manuscripts over 100,000 words - or even 80,000? They do take longer to edit (even if edited/proofread already) and cost more to print.

The guidelines for word counts in manuscripts really vary, depending on the genre and the form of publication. Fantasy novels tend to be longer; some even over 100,000 words, but most other genres tend to be smaller books. Romances, mysteries, westerns, and horror novels for print are usually between a range of 65,000 words and 80,000, with only a few going up to 100,000. In electronic publishing word counts are much more flexible. There are categories for short stories – 5,000 to 10,000 words – novellas – up to 30,000 words – and novels up to 70,000 or 80,000 words. Here again there will be some books that go longer, but these are just the averages.

Most publishers post their guidelines on their Web sites, and you can easily determine what length of manuscript they would consider.

Thank you for sending us your questions, Gladys, and I hope you have many more years of writing.

Gladys Hobson

When Angels Lie by Gladys Hobson
ISBN : 978-1-907108-02-0
Publisher : Mythica Publishing Ltd


Maryann Miller is an author and freelance editor. Her latest books are One Small Victory and Play it Again, Sam. Visit her Web site for information about her books and her editing services. If you have a good book, she can help you make it better. When she is not working, Maryann loves to play "farmer" on her little ranch in the beautiful Piney Woods of East Texas.

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  1. I would think that since it is illegal to practice age discrimination in the workplace, it would be no one's business what age you are.

  2. I know a Grandmother who just sent in a full ms requested by E-HQN! And it was her FIRST book.

    Age equals more memory and experiences to draw from when we write.

  3. I seem to remember reading somewhere that both E Annie Proux (literary fiction like The Shipping News and Brokeback Mountain) and Bryce Courtney (commercial fiction like The Power of One) were both mid-50's when their first mss were accepted.

  4. Love that Ann Victor- it means at 45 I still have time.

  5. Thanks for the info!

    I saw an article some time back that claimed some pubs considered an author's attractiveness as part of looking at their marketing capability. Still, I've never seen age cited as a reason for book rejection. LENGTH, on the other hand, quite commonly is. Long books cost more to print, so work longer than 75k find more opportunities among electronic venues.


  6. A few years back, the look of an author was a factor in whether they took you on. It probably still is. It was just more blatant then. Most agents want to know your approximate word count in the query, so make sure you're within the range for that genre. Or have a manuscript no sane agent would turn down.


  7. What a great post! Personally, it should never matter the age, if someone has the talent for something, even if they are over 90, they should have as much opportunity and respect as someone much younger!

  8. Oh-oh, I better get on it. I'm burning daylight, Pilgrim.




The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice.