1. WritersBlock
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    WritersBlock New Member

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    Age Bias?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by WritersBlock, Mar 30, 2010.

    Hello all-

    I'm a teen writer, probably one of the small percentage that does not write fantasy, as us teens are sometimes stereotyped to (if you're curious, I like to write horror, thriller, and mystery). I was just wondering- is there a bias when it comes to publishers and teen writers? I dream of getting published someday, but I know that it will be nearly impossible if the publisher knows of my age. I feel that I am more mature than the average teen-fantasy writer type, and actually am writing my current novel for the adult market. My opinion is that if it's a well-written piece, it doesn't matter how old the person who wrote it is. Have you had any experiences with publishers like this, or know of how they act in these situations?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Well, to start with, don't announce you're a teen writer. There's no need to mention it in the query or the manuscript, and don't volunteer a bio until asked. By then, you already have the publisher's interest, and probably even an offer.

    Don't point them to a personal website, or your Facebook page. Stick to business. Queries should be tight and focused anyway.

    The only time it may matter is when it comes to signing a contract. Check with a lawyer at that time, and see if you need an adult to sign with you.
     
  3. bruce
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    bruce Active Member

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    You know? How? This is really a false belief that you should get rid of.

    "Publishers will only buy saleable novels."

    This is the new belief that you should embrace. Learn to write well and stay focused on writing.

    In fact, at your age, if you can write saleable novels, many publishers will welcome you gladly. Just imagine how many novels you could write in your lifetime.
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Cog pretty much said everything I wanted to say, but here's looking at it from another point of view. Some publishers love young writers only because they gives them an additional marketing tool. There tends to be a lot of hype around younger writers only because of the fact that they are young. Often times the quality of the writing (which is usually mediocre to bad) is overlooked. As these writers grow older, they may become less popular because it becomes clear that their writing wasn't so great to begin with. So my only advice is to write a very, very novel and then keep getting better as you get older.
     
  5. Afterburner
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    Afterburner Active Member

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    As biased as it is, I feel that most people will pass on younger writers for being inexperienced. Publishers are going to assume that with age comes wisdom.
     
  6. marina
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    marina Contributing Member Contributor

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    No, I disagree. I think if a publisher is deciding between two manuscripts, one by a teen and the other by an adult, they'll just as likely choose the one written by the teen because of the marketing edge. There are a lot of books recently (or at least I've really noticed them of late) published that were written by teenage writers. Their young age is always mentioned somewhere on the book cover.
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Forming a binding contract with a minor is riskier for a publisher. I would not volunteer the age before the manuscript has been at least tentatively accepted for that reason.

    Let the writing speak for itself. The publisher will spin the age thing in the marketing, but it really is not a good idea to throw it into the mix early on, because it can complicate matters.
     
  8. afinemess
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    afinemess Active Member

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    I agree, don't include your age until after they have requested and read your manuscript. If the writing is that good, then after the fact, they won't care how old you are. I personally don't see how anyones age could factor into a query letter anyway. It's about your writing, not you. (well, until after you've snagged a deal. haha)
     
  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    As Cog has already mentioned, put your work first. Literally.

    You yourself come second.

    Don't come off as, "Hey! I'm a teen! Publish me anyway!"

    You need to come off as, "Here is my work for consideration. Correctly formated and presented per industry guidelines."
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    nothing new about that... it's always been the bottom line in publishing...
     
  11. SirSamkin
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    SirSamkin Member

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    If I may humbly point out: Eragon is an international best-seller, and it's author was not only a minor, but terrible as well.

    Christopher Paolini's disadvantages:

    1. lacking any type of literary skill or talent

    2. stole characters from Beowulf (not just names, the whole character. i.e. Hrothgar)

    3. was home-schooled in the backwoods of america

    4. try comparing the plot of Eragon to that of the original Star Wars movies. (sounds familiar, eh?)




    So, to sum it all up, I think it's safe to say that if publishers think they can make money off of it, they will, regardless of age (or quality apparently). Cog is right though. Don't tell them unless they ask.
     
  12. Evelyanin
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    Evelyanin Senior Member

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    As a young teenager, I actually enjoyed the first book. I didn't care for the rest ( I never finished the series. Is it even complete?) Here are my opinions on the points you made.

    1. While we here on wf.org are so focused on literary value, there is actually a percentage of the population that cares more about the story than the writing. Apparently, the writing in Eragon was good enough that it didn't get in the way of the story. The story appealed to certain teenagers, and that is all that mattered. Paolini may have had the advantage of having publisher parents (I'm not sure if this is true or not), but whether or not you publish a book, it needs to have something about it in order to make it a best-seller. Eragon had this "something".

    2. & 4. Good point if you have actually read Beowulf and seen Star Wars. I have not done either, so I was completely ignorant of the fact. The truth is, there is nothing new under the sun, and nothing is going to be truly original. Yes, it was a more blatant rip-off than other books you may read (if you are familiar with either of the other stories) but to the thousands who bought the books, it didn't matter.

    3. I don't see how this is a disadvantage. What I find more unnatural is millions of teenagers grouped together with other of the same age. That's not how real life works. Then again, perhaps I am a little biased. (My best friend was homeschooled)

    To sum this all up, I agree with SirSamkin's sum up. I'd like to add on that though we all may think Eragon and Twilight are written terribly, there was "something" about them that made them sell so well. So instead of complaining about the terrible writing quality, the young inexperienced age of Paolini, etc, etc, we should ask, "What did they do right?" Because really, how many of us here can claim to be on the best-seller list?

    P.S. As was mentioned, age shouldn't be brought up. It will only become a bias if you let it.
     
  13. Mantha Hendrix
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    Mantha Hendrix Contributing Member

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    The writer of Eragon, Christopher Paolini, doesn't count.

    His parents own a publishing office. That already gives him a massive advantage.
     
  14. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think that's accurate, Mantha. I think Eragon was published through some POD company and then they went about promoting the hell out of it.
     
  15. Mantha Hendrix
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    Mantha Hendrix Contributing Member

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    True, but I have two different copies of the first book. Don't ask why.*

    One is Doubleday, the other is Paolini international.

    I agree that it's good when you're young.

    *It was because my cousins sent me it one year, but I already had a copy.
     
  16. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I think Paolini International is the LLC they set up to market the self-published book. All you have to do is fill out a form with the Secretary of State to do the same. Probably did it for tax reasons, though I don't know enough about tax law to be sure.
     
  17. Mantha Hendrix
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    Mantha Hendrix Contributing Member

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    Yeah it is an LLC, according to wiki anyway.
     
  18. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    It was self published and then the family advertised it like crazy until an actual publisher heard about it and wanted it, or so that's what I've been told.
     
  19. Phlogiston
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    Phlogiston Member

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    There are around 6 billion people on the planet at the moment. There are always going to be individuals who go against general rules.

    If there is a bias against teenage writers, I would argue that it is because teenage writers aren't as good as their elder counterparts. This may sound brutal, but think about it. The current writers in their twenties were the teen writers of a decade ago. The current writers in their thirties were the teen writers two decades ago. On the plus side, unlike many other forms of bias (gender, race, sexuality etc) the nice thing about age is that you are constantly moving bracket.

    Writing is a craft. For the vast majority of people it requires hard work, practice, repetition and experience. This all takes time.

    If you're good, you may get published. You may not. There are lots of other factors.

    Just some thoughts.

    Phlogiston
     
  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    writing is actually an 'art'... which means it takes inborn talent to be one of the truly 'great' writers...

    but as with any art form, anyone can try their hand at it and many of the much less than 'great' can still achieve monetary success and fame, though not even very good at it, thanks to a buying public that can't tell the difference [or can, but don't care]...
     
  21. Mantha Hendrix
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    Mantha Hendrix Contributing Member

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    I agree with Maia. Certain people are always going to have a lot more potential than others.
    However often skill does not bring wealth or popularity. Just look at artists like Van Gogh, completely ridiculed during his time, nowadays he's revered.

    People can get published, but getting popular I believe has a lot to do with luck.
     

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