Dear A. E.…
Who says you have to reveal your age when you submit? Just say, “This would be my debut book” in your query letter and leave it at that. They’ll judge the manuscript on its own merit, with no age-related bias. You can share your age after they decide they like your work. And then, frankly, your age becomes a selling point. An agent would love to pitch the “next Christopher Paolini.” I’ve seen agents go out with that as the lead in their pitch. In fact, that may be an argument for revealing your age in the query letter. If you show in that letter that you’ve got writing chops and then swoop in at the end with the news that you’re just 16, agents will eagerly ask for your full manuscript. Should they ultimately decide it’s not for them, I’m confident “blowing off” won’t be involved. Typically, folks in publishing like to encourage young writers.
One more thing: Do your homework when researching agents. You want a well-reputed one. Start with the Literary Market Place, identify agencies/agents who want submissions in your genre, then google their names to see what other writers are saying about them and who they represent. Their agency websites should state if they’re members of the AAR, an organization that requires ethical practices of its members. Certain names will rise to the top of your list pretty quickly.
A great and encouraging answer, Deborah, and best of luck to the young writer!
What a terrific question and great answer. I’ve recently met some very talented young writers and wondered the same thing. Thanks for asking. And all the best with your writing journey! At 16, you’re off to a great start. Keep at it!
Great advice! Good luck with your writing and whatever you do, do your best and keep at it! I wish there were resources like today when I was writing in high school (a Very long time ago)!
I’ll take a slightly different response to this. Don’t put your age in the query letter. Many agents have addressed this issue on their blogs, and most seem to feel that it’s better for a young author to wait until they have the writing skills to make a great book. This goes for authors of all ages – if you’re looking to become a career author, make sure you put your best foot forward with your debut book. For example, think how difficult it may be when you’re 21 and trying to publish with a reputation of being that kid who wrote that so-so book when he was 16.
That being said, back to the original point. Don’t include your age. If your writing is amazing, it’ll stand on its own regardless of who you are (and later on your new agent can address how to market you as an author). And if your writing isn’t amazing, stating your age won’t be needed.