April 15th, 2008


from the mixed up files of Agent Manners - age and writing

Dear Agent Manners,

I've got a bit of a problem. I'm a very young writer (18), but I've been publishing work in magazines for pay for a few years. I know that an agent would have no clue of my age in a decent query, but a friend suggested that I should intentionally mention it because it would make me "marketable." I suspect this is madness, because if I were an agent and someone told me they were barely even a legal adult, I probably wouldn't assume much of their writing.

Then again, the boy who wrote "Eragon" got a great deal of his publicity thanks to his age. Thoughts? Should I mention it and be a novelty-item of sorts, or does it really have no place in a query letter?

Dear Agent Manners:

A thousand warm wishes for your speedy return to 100% health and wellness. Enough gratuitous grovelling ... on to my question. Is there life after 50 for a first time author? If so, do you have any recommendations for how I can get noticed by an agent, many of whom were dancing in their Pampers Pull-Ups to the Teletubbies theme song when I graduated from law school?

48 and Cresting

Dear Nameless but Young:

Eragon's success is often cited as a rationale for attempting to use youth as a marketing ploy. Indeed, since Eragon and its sequels found a major publisher, the number of queries in which the under-18's declare their age has been on the rise. However, Mr. Paolini's experience appears to be somewhat singular, and the support he received from his parents was in no small way helpful for giving the book a raise in visibility and securing the attention of a major publisher. While it is possible that his youth has also contributed to his notoriety as a published author, if the books were not finding an audience, it would be irrelevant. Your current credits are far more likely to garner notice whether you mention your age or not, though if you are writing YA and happen to be in the YA demographic, it doesn't seem like it would hurt either. As an aside, it has been noticed in some queries that the under-18's have a better mastery of both language and courtesy than some of the older crowd.... Isn't that peculiar.

Dear 48:

It seems Agent Manners has similar advice regardless of your age. Age is unlikely to get you noticed. Brilliant writing and marketable concepts will. If you don't mention your age in an inquiry, it's unlikely an agent will ascribe any weight to such a statistic. However, if you are writing a book in which your age is actually relevant (e.g. fiction for older women experiencing life changes that you, yourself, have recently dealt with), then perhaps you might reference it. As for the age of the agent, that may also be irrelevant, whether they were forced to watch the Teletubbies or not. If you do not wish to be dismissed for your age (or skin color, or geographic location, etc., etc.) do not apply same to the agent you seek. Look to the agent's skill as a measure. Their sales and networking ability are the key.

To both of you, I can only say that Agent Manners doesn't care what age the author is as long as any requested samples, partials, or manuscripts hook her hard and keep her up until 3am.

Agent Manners is, in fact, uncertain of the age of many of her clients (it's just not polite to ask) but suspects there are some in their 40's and 50's and possibly even their 60's (some of them have grand-children). The youngest may be in their 20's.