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Too old to write?

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Showing 1-25 of 125 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 20 May 2012 09:01:06 BDT
Ethereal says:
I had a novella professionally critiqued a couple of years ago and was told in an aside that for a first-timer I'm okay around the fiftyish mark but in a few more years I'll be considered over-the-hill for many agents and publishers (despite there having been notable exceptions in recent years).

She didn't say so but my guess is this is to do with marketing, which makes me wonder how successful authors who go under pen names manage to sell their books.
Perhaps this drawback also applies more to women than men, the old cliche that you can have a distinguished greying man but a woman just looks "past it"?

My own feeling as a reader has nothing to do with publicity, but I prefer an author to have life experience to draw upon, particularly as I've got older and I felt this way before I became interested in writing only lately myself.

In view of recent discussions I've been involved in here I thought it would also be interesting to see if there's much reader/writer interaction and one of the few threads begun by a non-author!

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2012 09:05:44 BDT
Jim Webster says:
I'd tend to agree with you, experience counts.
Also how many people meet their publishers?

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2012 09:52:49 BDT
Ethereal says:
That editor was counselling me not to mention my age in my submission letter (which is daft because it can be inferred from your bio) but these days you don't need to have lunches with your agent - when my short story was published I had to email a photo of myself for the book though I never met the publisher. There wasn't much time so I just sent him my passport one but later wished I'd forked out for a professional photo!

Posted on 20 May 2012 11:41:01 BDT
Ethereal, I'm 56 now.

My first novel was published last year, and my publisher doesn't care how old I am as long as I can keep writing jokes...

Posted on 20 May 2012 11:49:22 BDT
Sadly Ethereal what you say is very true - my publisher is always looking for the latest "new" writer. I don't get it, because it's the quality of the writing that should count, not the looks of the author. I'm 55 now and am sure that if I was just starting out I'd be ignored by most publishers as being too old. That's the beauty of self-publishing on the Kindle, of course. Amazon doesn't care who you are or how old you are. (It has to be said that I have stopped updating my photograph on my website!)

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2012 12:20:21 BDT
Ethereal says:
Perhaps marketability depends on genre too.

Re the website Stephen, maybe readers also care how old an author is and therefore publishers have to as well?

When my novel is eventually written and grabbed by a publisher I intend to use a pen name for privacy anyway and if I'm in my eighties or nineties by then my age could be a novelty selling-point ... and they may ignore how many books I'm likely to have left in me to make me a good catch.

You could have your super sleuth detective (Nightingale, isn't it?) become a grandfather, age him as you go along!

Posted on 20 May 2012 12:54:05 BDT
Lilian says:
I have a friend who will be 71 this year and she has had two books published. As regards past experience, well she writes about what she knows....her early family life, growing up in war-torn Britain, first jobs, love and marriage etc., etc., and it works :-) She has also been interviewed on local radio and is very much in demand as a speaker for ladies groups :-) So don't ever think you are 'too old' :-) If you can put a book together then I say go for it :-) Good luck :-)x

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2012 13:10:03 BDT
First off, you're never too old to write. Doesn't matter how old you are as long as you write good stories and write them well.
If you manage to write 1 book a year at the age of fifty, you have quite a few coming along. Agents want to make money, so do publishing houses. If your books hit the spot with the audience, they probably don't even bother you being 102.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2012 13:13:09 BDT
Ethereal says:
How lovely for a thread not to be doom and gloom!

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2012 13:14:43 BDT
Last edited by the author on 20 May 2012 13:18:24 BDT
Blimey, Amazon ate my comment! I behaved, I promise.

Whoever assessed that book needs a clip around the ears. That's not only rude, but also unprofessional, I find.

Agents and publishers want to make money and I'm pretty sure that if you can write a good story and write it well, they wouldn't even care if you're 102. If the book would hit the market and sell millions... Then, if you can write 1 book a year, they could milk the success for quite a while.

That's only my logic speaking of course.

Eh? Why's the post here now? Ah well. Twice the positive reply can't do any harm now, can it? :-)

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2012 13:17:09 BDT
Ethereal says:
So good Az spat it out twice!

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2012 13:19:04 BDT
Last edited by the author on 20 May 2012 13:22:44 BDT
Just for your benefit of course.

Edit: I have a friend who is in her fifties. She was discovered by accident (absolutely great story) by Little Brown, without an agent, by the way, last year. As far as I recall, she didn't get to do any promo tours or interviews, because publishers don't do much marketing anymore. She got a website, did a short video introducing herself, and that's it. No book signings, no nothing.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2012 13:33:02 BDT
Ethereal says:
I think it's these kind of stories that give hope and if it doesn't happen for you, well you've had a great time writing.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2012 13:40:24 BDT
Last edited by the author on 20 May 2012 13:42:44 BDT
I'm apprehensive about the: 'If it happened to me, it can happen to you' approach.

There can be so many reason as to why it happened to the other person but not you. It was the the age, which I wanted to point out. Something you can't influence.

She had handed her ms out to a few people in her granddaughters school (if I remember correctly) and the mothers fought over that ms. One of the women has a brother, an editor, who works at Little Brown, who said, if they fight over the book, I want it. He read it, handing it over to the acquisition editor and the rest is history. They're bringing out her second book this year. Did it sell millions? No. Did it make a bestseller list? I don't think it did, but I haven't followed up the story to be honest.

Now I need to go and fiddle with the last bit I wrote, got quite a few corrections back from a friend, then get on with writing my first million-pound-bestseller. :-) See you later.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2012 13:56:14 BDT
Ethereal says:
It's a bit like the saying if you don't look for love you'll find it in the most unexpected place ... perhaps people try too hard and when they fail they become bitter, spoiling their enjoyment of the writing process. I'd rather take a more laissez-faire approach and never wanted to be a career writer, it might be different if you're younger (getting back to the age thing).

Yes, I'm out to clear some choked guttering while it's dry!

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2012 14:07:54 BDT
Those lucky swines are rare. ;-)

If you don't submit, you can't be discovered. Then again, it's always good to keep a realistic approach. Just because JKR made it, doesn't mean I have the same chances. She writes for a different audience, has had plenty of stories/book ready and others in the pipeline and hit the nerve with readers.

In addition to being in the right place the right time, you need the right material and most of all: talent.

Posted on 20 May 2012 14:53:03 BDT
I think it's more important to be a good speaker. Publishers like writers who are willing to market themselves. It used to be the case that publishers wanted young, glamorous writers, but I thought that things had changed - but maybe not.
Apparently the largest book-buying section of the public is middle-aged women (at least it used to be before e-books, but might have changed) I don't think they would mind a writer in their own age group, or older.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2012 15:10:22 BDT
Ethereal says:
It's getting the balance right - from the start I've always submitted, that's what our writing group tutor banged on about, but I don't wait around for rejections or more often silence but get on with something else and it did pay off for me a couple of times. Once that envelope or email has gone it's out of my hands so why stress over what you can't change?

Jan, I wonder too if agents and publishers tend to be youngish and prefer writers of their own age group?
As I plan on being an ethereal writer my mystique will speak for me!

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2012 15:21:36 BDT
I agree. Though I remember sending out submissions and being asked for partial reads by publishers and consequently being nervous, I just can't be bothered anymore. Normally, if something's really good, they'll respond within two weeks, if not earlier. If it takes longer, you know they are routing for something else.

I pondered if I should submit my Thriller, but it's rather hitting the time at the moment, a publishing contract would delay it for about two years (until you get an agent and he or she a publisher and then the whole process) and in that time, someone else could publish something similar, making my book old socks. So better to get it straight out there.

Posted on 20 May 2012 15:24:21 BDT
I don't think age matters and unless the author was 90 I think you'd have to be impressively shallow to turn an author down on grounds of age.

For what it's worth, as a reader, I never even think about the age of the people writing the books I read, I just go on whether or not I reckon they'll be good. To me, it sounds as if they didn't want to take the book and in the absence of an obvious reason not to - over and above the lame but honest 'didn't do it for me' - they came up with that. If they really meant it, they're not the kind of publisher you want anyway.

I've self published for a number of reasons, the main one is that when I was looking at publishing my first book Kindle et all were all here but there wasn't the proliferation of indie presses there are now so there were literally only about 20 or 30 publishers I could submit to. Ditto with the agents which, back in 2009, was how you were meant to go and of course you were meant to approach them one at a time, which, naive dolt, I did, and it took me a year to get polite nos from five of them, proving that I would be dead before my work saw print if I took the conventional route.

If I was writing now, I probably would send a query letter to just about every small press prepared to accept fantasy AND humour in the UK. As it is, I think I'll complete the trilogy self published and jump on them all with the subsequent book the moment the next Witer's Handbook comes out. There is a time factor, too. It takes me 18 months to write a book so I probably wouldn't be much use to a publisher right now. I think many of them need you to turn books out quite fast or it takes them too long to get their money back. Either that or you need to arrive with five or six in various stages of completion.

Oh and I'm 44 and an old bag by anyone's standards.



In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2012 15:29:06 BDT
Ethereal says:
"... in that time, someone else could publish something similar, making my book old socks. So better to get it straight out there."

I didn't realise that was an issue. But even if two people have a similar idea their treatment of it will be different.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2012 15:36:48 BDT
Last edited by the author on 20 May 2012 15:40:53 BDT
I know of someone who had landed a very respective London agent who approached her. The agent couldn't place the book with publishers, because they had a similar story already. Happens a lot, actually. And even if my book was 'new' to them, by the time it hits the shelves, it could be too late.

She has now published the book herself.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2012 15:38:07 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 20 May 2012 15:38:15 BDT]

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2012 16:03:16 BDT
Last edited by the author on 20 May 2012 16:11:30 BDT
Ethereal says:
Whew, since I began this thread I've bobbed out and in all day, it's like hosting a supper party when you want to welcome guests. So feel free to refill glasses and plates from the sideboard!
I now realise how time-consuming it must be when promoting.

It wasn't an agent who said this to me but advice from a paid-for critique to keep quiet about my age on submissions. If it had been a publisher I wouldn't have wanted to go with them anyway, but since employers aren't allowed to discriminate on age grounds anymore I doubt anyone would tell you that even if it's true.

Did you double up again, Stella? Maybe it's not just stories that get duplicated! It is fascinating how that can happen. Edit: the story I meant, not the twice posting.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 May 2012 16:12:44 BDT
Yes, after posting it said 'we made a mistake'. Damn right, Amazon. ;-)

I find those paid critique services dubious and would never fork out money for that. They often tell you what might have a chance of getting a contract or not. But how would they know when even commissioning editors don't know? Twilight and Harry Potter were rejected quite a few times, too, so they might have told Meyer to better forget about it ever being published and a 'weak' writer might listen. Mistake.

Nobody knows what really sells, even if it's written in a most popular genre. Those services take a lot of money from people and give advice such as they gave to you, which is absolutely rubbish. Being 50 might even be an advantage as they know you'd know how to behave, are much calmer than many in their twenties and instead of going to parties you'd rather write.
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Total posts:  125
Initial post:  20 May 2012
Latest post:  6 Jun 2012

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