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popmuze
12-07-2018, 03:22 AM
A couple of years ago my query was resulting in four full requests out of ten. Lately basically the same query is now 0-30. Maybe the story is not the high concept it used to be. But I'm wondering if agents are doing some minimal research on me and, discovering I'm an old coot, automatically rejecting me. How much longer should I give it before I resort to self publishing.

lizmonster
12-07-2018, 03:29 AM
A couple of years ago my query was resulting in four full requests out of ten. Lately basically the same query is now 0-30. Maybe the story is not the high concept it used to be. But I'm wondering if agents are doing some minimal research on me and, discovering I'm an old coot, automatically rejecting me. How much longer should I give it before I resort to self publishing.

As another old coot, I'd suggest having another look at the query. Times and tastes change; you may not be pitching your book properly, or it may simply have a theme that's currently played out.

While there are a lot of younger people in publishing, it's not all of them. And while I'm not going to say I didn't run across age-related issues, I will say I believe most people will care only about how well they think your book will sell.

popmuze
12-07-2018, 03:40 AM
I'm wondering what age related issues you ran into. I do agree that my story is not as hot as it once was. But 25 out of the 30 rejections are no responses. I've reworked my query and sample pages a few times. As far as the query I'm trying to minimize or eliminate my credits to disguise my lengthy track record. I'm not so sure any agent or editor no matter what age would think it easy to sell a book to teenagers that could have been written by their grandfather. I'm definitely not averse to writing this book under a pseudonym with a fake biography, if anyone showed some interest.

lizmonster
12-07-2018, 03:46 AM
I'm wondering what age related issues you ran into. I do agree that my story is not as hot as it once was. But 25 out of the 30 rejections are no responses. I've reworked my query and sample pages a few times. As far as the query I'm trying to minimize or eliminate my credits to disguise my lengthy track record. I'm not so sure any agent or editor no matter what age would think it easy to sell a book to teenagers that could have been written by their grandfather.

With selling my book? I didn't run into any age-related issues at that point. It was one or two people I had to deal with, and they were the sorts of situations that are too nebulous to prove. In one specific professional relationship, my level of knowledge and opinions were specifically rejected as being old-fashioned and out of touch, although this person later admitted I'd been right. (Cold comfort, really.)

There are a lot of YA books written by older folks. Have you run your pitch through Query Letter Hell lately? You might try there, and tell them your concerns.

popmuze
12-07-2018, 03:48 AM
I've been to hell and back. I've never posted a query that wasn't utterly ripped to shreds (although usually one person got it), even when I was getting a 4-10 result. Also, it doesn't look like you're writing Young Adult. As far as other older folks publishing YA novels, the only ones I've heard of are the writers who are already established in another genre, like Carl Hiassen, James Paterson, and Harlan Coben (or celebrities).

lizmonster
12-07-2018, 03:59 AM
I've been to hell and back. I've never posted a query that wasn't utterly ripped to shreds (although usually one person got it), even when I was getting a 4-10 result. Also, it doesn't look like you're writing Young Adult. As far as other older folks publishing YA novels, the only ones I've heard of are the writers who are already established in another genre, like Carl Hiassen, James Paterson, and Harlan Coben (or celebrities).

No, I'm not writing YA. Age might be a completely different issue there. I see a lot of YA authors in their 40s, but I don't know about older than that.

novicewriter
12-07-2018, 04:02 AM
:) It's kind of ironic; months ago, while looking at Publishers Weekly's recent book announcement deals and seeing that most children's authors that were listed were older, I wondered whether I might be deemed too young for an agent to represent and that they'd probably favor older authors, instead.

So, if you're interested, you can check out Publishers Weekly and see a few of the most recent (including debut) authors' book deals, along with their photos; they're not all young authors.

popmuze
12-07-2018, 04:20 AM
I see a lot of YA authors in their 40s
I have kids in their forties.

lizmonster
12-07-2018, 04:24 AM
I have kids in their forties.

Oh, I get it. And I honestly can't tell you if that's hurting you. I tend to avoid the assumption of discrimination, but yeah, having experienced it first-hand (albeit in a different situation), I don't have any authority to tell you that's not what's happening here.

What's the age of the agents you're querying? I've no idea if that would make a difference, but I'd suspect an agent who's been in the business longer would be less likely to take issue with your level of experience.

screenscope
12-07-2018, 04:32 AM
I got a manuscript request from an agent last week who looks young enough to be my granddaughter, so I suspect the concept appealed to her more than my ancient appearance.

be frank
12-07-2018, 04:33 AM
No, I'm not writing YA. Age might be a completely different issue there. I see a lot of YA authors in their 40s, but I don't know about older than that.

Sort of related, I read a YA not too long ago that was published in the mid-2000s. There were (young) characters named things like Phyllis and Keith and Nancy, and the MC's favourite TV shows were Mary Tyler Moore and the Brady Bunch. Needless to say, details like that got a massive side-eye from me (I am very much not a teen anymore, but I read/write YA). The author's age/generation was bleedingly obvious, and if she hadn't already been an established writer, I doubt the MS would have found rep without some tweaks!

That is to say, voice and authenticity is hugely important in YA. I don't know whether there's any age discrimination at play, but as a separate consideration to QLH, it could be worth running the first scene or chapter through YA SYW if you haven't already. :)

novicewriter
12-07-2018, 04:38 AM
I have kids in their forties.

:) Oh. Okay. Well, perhaps you might like to check out SCBWI's forum (you don't have to register just to read most of the posts). There are quite a few children's authors, there, who are in their 50s and 60s; some have agents, and have published several children's books. They discuss their publishing and agent experiences, etc.

Guerrien
12-07-2018, 02:33 PM
A couple of years ago my query was resulting in four full requests out of ten. Lately basically the same query is now 0-30. Maybe the story is not the high concept it used to be.


I'm not so sure any agent or editor no matter what age would think it easy to sell a book to teenagers that could have been written by their grandfather.

So I don't really know about author ages and YA, but I wanted to mention that the general experience of querying YA seems to have changed a lot in the past few years. I had a similar experience--the same YA SF manuscript, which I'd reworked (and presumably improved!), got a lot more attention a few years ago than it did when I tried again last year--and I've heard, anecdotedly, of other people experiencing the same thing across all genres of YA. It seems like it's a lot more difficult right now to break into YA than it was a few years ago, regardless of age.

popmuze
12-07-2018, 07:09 PM
I'm definitely feeling that.

Harlequin
12-07-2018, 08:15 PM
25 silence out of 30 responses doesn't sound far off the norm to me.

I specifically pared my querying list from 130+ the first time, to 51 the second time, selecting agents who were known to have a high response rate or guaranteed response (with a handful of exceptions, ie less than 5.)

From a list of 51 agents, 24 didn't answer. That's a no response rate of 47%, despite me attempting to pick agents who were known for responding and/or responding quickly. No response is just really really common I guess.

hester
12-07-2018, 08:50 PM
Generally, I think YA's become a tougher sell over the last couple of years. When I first began querying in 2011 (different book than I'm querying now, but still YA) I had a lot of responses, even from some big-league agents. Now I'm finding the responses are fewer and farther between.

I tend to think "no response means no" is also becoming more common, probably because most agents are inundated! :)

Barbara R.
12-08-2018, 07:29 PM
A couple of years ago my query was resulting in four full requests out of ten. Lately basically the same query is now 0-30. Maybe the story is not the high concept it used to be. But I'm wondering if agents are doing some minimal research on me and, discovering I'm an old coot, automatically rejecting me. How much longer should I give it before I resort to self publishing.

It's not impossible. And if you're a typical agent--overworked and stressed---you're very careful about taking on new clients. Given a choice between a talented oldster who's been around for ages but never quite "broke through" to rack up impressive sales numbers, and a new kid on the block with tons of talent and maybe 50 books ahead of him, who's the agent going to pick? If you're interested, I wrote an essay on ageism in publishing (https://www.pangyrus.com/ideas/speak-up-im-eavesdropping/) (which actually sold, disproving much of its premise.)

But as writers, we're always fighting against the wind. The solution is the same as it always is: write something irresistible, something so fine that no matter what the agent's preferences or mood or preconceptions, she can't resist. Agents and editors love good books, wherever and whoever they come from. That's what drew them to the industry in the first place; certainly not the big bucks! Roger Strauss Jr. of FSG once told me that he published a particular book that had limited commercial potential because he couldn't turn it down and still call himself a publisher. That's what we need to aim for.

cool pop
12-14-2018, 12:52 AM
In my experience, there is more age discrimination in the writing/publishing field when you are younger than older. I started submitting when I was right out of high school and I flat out got comments that proved that because I was so young, people felt like I wasn't experienced enough to be writing. Also got treated funny from a lot of older writers. Seems like when you are older you are more respected and taken seriously in this field so I don't think it works against you. Besides, many new authors I see are way over 50. Being older can help because people assume your writing is going to be better because of your experience. As we know, a writer's age doesn't determine their writing talent but some still think this way.

Your issue is you might need to update that query. If you've been using the same query for years it might just be outdated. Things change so your query might just have outlived it's usefulness. You should change your query often.

Barbara R.
12-15-2018, 08:23 PM
In my experience, there is more age discrimination in the writing/publishing field when you are younger than older. I started submitting when I was right out of high school and I flat out got comments that proved that because I was so young, people felt like I wasn't experienced enough to be writing. Also got treated funny from a lot of older writers. Seems like when you are older you are more respected and taken seriously in this field so I don't think it works against you. Besides, many new authors I see are way over 50. Being older can help because people assume your writing is going to be better because of your experience. As we know, a writer's age doesn't determine their writing talent but some still think this way.

Your issue is you might need to update that query. If you've been using the same query for years it might just be outdated. Things change so your query might just have outlived it's usefulness. You should change your query often.

What you blame on age discrimination may simply reflect the fact that it takes a long time to learn to write well enough to be published. Very few writers in their teens have been at it long enough to get really good. When a young person submits, agents don't know their age unless they volunteer it. (Older writers are more easily outed, through their published works.) Besides, it wouldn't make sense to discriminate against a brilliant young writer with a whole lifetime of work ahead of him/her. Agents salivate at the thought of such clients.

Bottom line, it's not about expectations, it's about what's on the page and the agents' estimation of their own ability to sell the work.

novicewriter
12-16-2018, 10:38 PM
In my experience, there is more age discrimination in the writing/publishing field when you are younger than older. I started submitting when I was right out of high school and I flat out got comments that proved that because I was so young, people felt like I wasn't experienced enough to be writing. Also got treated funny from a lot of older writers. Seems like when you are older you are more respected and taken seriously in this field so I don't think it works against you. Besides, many new authors I see are way over 50. Being older can help because people assume your writing is going to be better because of your experience. As we know, a writer's age doesn't determine their writing talent but some still think this way...

I relate to this. I saw a YouTube video last year where one agent (I think it was the president of the agency) answered questions about their process of querying and offering representation; she mentioned that an author's age did give her some pause in deciding whether to offer representation if an author was still a teenager (compared to an older author), due to the fact that they said that they might not have as much time to write books at that point in their life if they're trying to attend college and earn a degree; how they might still be at a learning stage in writing, etc.

It slightly worried me because, although I didn't query anything when I was a teen, I've had strangers still mistake me for a teen for decades, only based on my appearance, without even talking to me (and one small piece of my work that was published in an online literary magazine shows my photo.) So, I know agents who check my previous work have the ability to see my photo and mistake me for a teen, even though I'm not. Trying to dress in professional clothes still doesn't help, as others still just think I look like a well-dressed teen. I do have strands of white hair! They just aren't noticeable to others.

lizmonster
12-17-2018, 12:39 AM
I relate to this. I saw a YouTube video last year where one agent (I think it was the president of the agency) answered questions about their process of querying and offering representation; she mentioned that an author's age did give her some pause in deciding whether to offer representation if an author was still a teenager (compared to an older author), due to the fact that they said that they might not have as much time to write books at that point in their life if they're trying to attend college and earn a degree; how they might still be at a learning stage in writing, etc.

I think it's a stretch to say hesitating to take on a teenager as a client is discriminating against younger authors in general. The frequency of books may indeed be a legitimate concern (although I can tell you authors of all ages often have wildly unpredictable levels of productivity, no matter how successful their books), but what a young author has is time.

I do know personally of one case case where the agent sold a trilogy at auction for a lovely sum of money, but stipulated up front the first book wouldn't be published for a couple of years because the author was still in school. Delays are expected at various points in a person's life, but an agent who's looking for multiple books to rep is better off with a teenager than someone over 50.


It slightly worried me because, although I didn't query anything when I was a teen, I've had strangers still mistake me for a teen for decades, only based on my appearance, without even talking to me (and one small piece of my work that was published in an online literary magazine shows my photo.) So, I know agents who check my previous work have the ability to see my photo and mistake me for a teen, even though I'm not. Trying to dress in professional clothes still doesn't help, as others still just think I look like a well-dressed teen. I do have strands of white hair! They just aren't noticeable to others.

AFAIK any agent who's trying to estimate your age isn't going to rely on a photograph, but on your online presence and/or your work history.

Barbara R.
12-18-2018, 04:37 PM
There are so many things to worry about, Novice. For example: climate change will soon make all other worries irrelevant; Tiny Trump is attacking our democracy with help for the Russians, and the GOP is on board; and millions of people may soon lose their health insurance. Your worry? Push it so far down on the list that you never think of it again. I was a literary agent for 14 years, and I knew many agents, and I can't credit anyone turning down a first-rate writer for being too young. The agent you mentioned had some concern that young writers might not have developed the skills to be published yet--so she's talking generally about first impressions prior to read. The remedy is not to share your age in a query letter. (Why would anyone do that, anyway?!) No one is going to google the writer until and unless they've read the work and fallen hard for it. Then they will google the writer, maybe check out his/her social media presence...but it just makes no sense from an agent's perspective to refuse representation to a writer who has 50+ productive years ahead of him.

Climate change, OTOH...

MythMonger
12-18-2018, 09:32 PM
So, I know agents who check my previous work have the ability to see my photo and mistake me for a teen, even though I'm not. Trying to dress in professional clothes still doesn't help, as others still just think I look like a well-dressed teen. I do have strands of white hair! They just aren't noticeable to others.

Hmmm... do you have kids? They tend to age people.

Or you could start smoking. That can definitely add a few years to your appearance.

:tongue

Roxxsmom
12-18-2018, 09:36 PM
A couple of years ago my query was resulting in four full requests out of ten. Lately basically the same query is now 0-30. Maybe the story is not the high concept it used to be. But I'm wondering if agents are doing some minimal research on me and, discovering I'm an old coot, automatically rejecting me. How much longer should I give it before I resort to self publishing.

It's also possible that you have already pitched your book to the agents that have the greatest interest in the subject matter/style etc. If you are working your way down a list that you (consciously or subconsciously) arranged with the "best" fits for your project up top, you may simply have exhausted most of your best options.

popmuze
12-18-2018, 09:40 PM
Lately I've been thinking that my first five pages may be the problem. I've exhausted all the agents who take query only.