Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Mentioning Your Age in a Query

It’s hard enough being an aspiring novelist, but when you’re an aspiring teen novelist, there’s a whole extra set of rules and obstacles you have to overcome. Especially in publication. People like to set examples of other teen writer’s who’ve done well, such as Christopher Paolini, but those are just like any other Cinderella story. It can happen. Just don’t expect it to happen to you. 

One thing teen writers struggle with, especially when trying to get published, is their age. Should you mention it? Should you hint at it? What if you’re seventeen or eighteen. Should you still tell? If you plan to tell, when is most appropriate? Is the query too soon? Is the full manuscript too late?

First, realize that agents and editors don’t like to be tricked. You don’t want to hide your age. If an agent did sign you, there could be wrinkles later when they took your picture for the book jacket, or even when you signed the legal papers, and needed to add your parents to the deal. Professionalism and responsibility are highly regarded in this business – blow the agent’s trust, and you may even loose the deal.

This goes for mysteriousness, too. An agent wants to do their job; they don’t need you dropping little hints about yourself, acting all coy, or promising to tell more later on. That’s just foolish. It won’t get you anywhere but rejected.

A comeback argument is that if you talk about your age, it might be a turn-off. This is true. If you start your bio with, “I’m a thirteen year-old student at Kempton High…” that’s going to be a bit of a shock. And the longer into the process you wait, the worse the shock gets.

But despite all the Cinderella stories, there are teens who have gotten published.  No one is going to reject you just because you’re a minor.

So now that we’ve discussed the moral of the question, let’s talk about what you should do.

The 18 or older rule.

There’s a basic standard when it comes to mentioning your age. If you’re 18 or older, pass. If you’re under 18, you should tell. The reason for this cutoff is mostly legal: 18-year-olds aren’t minors anymore. An agent won’t have to worry about getting the parents to sign paperwork, or about consulting them when the big decisions are being made.

So even if you’re turning eighteen in two months, you need to tell. Or wait two months first, your choice. 

The query vs. the cover letter.

So if you’re under eighteen, you still need to know when it’s appropriate to mention your age. Some say, go ahead, mention it in your query. Others say to wait until an agent asks for a partial; then mention it in the accompanying cover letter

Mentioning your age in the query has benefits. It’s upfront and honest, even if the age itself was a drawback. But I personally believe it’s forward – at the querying stage, there are no expectations between you and the agent. There is no relationship. Your query is a business proposal and nothing more; you are not obligated to tell them your age, because it will have no effect on this part of the transaction. Doing so assumes the agent is interested.

However. Once an agent does show interest, you’ve formed the stepping stones of a relationship. At this point it’s your duty to warn the agent about anything that could effect the process. Your age has legal implications: it’s something the agent deserves to know.

So. Mention your age in the cover letter.

Stating it appropriately.  

When mentioning your age, you don’t want to drop a bomb. You don’t want to sound coy either, like this is a secret you’ve just now chosen to reveal. You don’t want to make a big deal out of your age, and you certainly don’t want to sound childish.

What you want is to sound respectful, professional, and mature. State it as a fact and move on. As to where you put it, I would suggest just above your closing, or right next to where you usually mention the SASE and requested materials.

Whatever you do, don’t add it as a P.S.


- Creative A


Similar Posts:

Teen Writers

How to Write a Query Letter 


Rafael said...

Is it me, or are my comments swallowed up by the spam filter every time I try to post something. Then again my comments may be so inane they don't deserve to see the light of day. Oh well....

Creative A said...

I don't think your comments are inane :) I appreciate every one.

(But if it helps, I think the disappearing-comment thing is universal: I always copy my comments before clicking "publish," because half the time they don't go through)


Rafael said...

Thank you. Well I said before that this post was not only good for the younger writer but also for the not so young yet not yet old ones like me.

Keep them coming!


Creative A said...

Will do :)

Google Analytics