A few weeks ago I posted an article about age discrimination toward young authors (yes, some literary agents are guilty of age bias). After I published that article, some of you asked me about age discrimination toward old authors.
Well, this article is for you. It’s 100% about the equally-discriminated-against silver-haired members of the literary population. Sad, but true.
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Warning Old Authors
What do old authors need to know about age discrimination?
Side note: Middle-aged authors, you have nothing to worry about (aside from the midlife crisis that you’re dealing with). Hey, I can say that. I’m middle-aged.
Now… before you get disgusted about the fact that some literary agents discriminate toward old authors, consider this: You have complete control over whether you reveal your age.
As one of my 1-on-1 coaching clients pointed out on my blog: “Unless you make specific references (e.g. times & places growing up), they [agents] may not be able to tell [how old you are] unless they’re downright rude and ask outright. Which, after they’ve asked, by the way, it’s perfectly okay to be demure and dodge the question. ‘I’m over 21’ works for me.”
Okay, so why do some literary agents discriminate against old authors?
Think about it for a second…
Imagine yourself as a literary agent with two promising prospects to choose from. Both authors have written a brilliant first novel or nonfiction book, but you only have time to take on one new client this month. One of the authors is in his thirties, forties, or fifties. The other author is in his eighties or nineties (really old authors category).
Which author (in your opinion) has the greatest potential to have a long career as an author, write lots of books, and make you both lots of money? Which author has the most potential to travel to promote his book?
During my time as an agent I read more than 60,000 query letters, many of them by old authors. One of those old authors said (proudly) that he was very old and probably didn’t have much time left… so he figured it was a good time to try and publish his book.
Yes, no lie.
Could I make something like that up?
Would I make something like that up?
Now, be honest. Would you really be just as keen about representing the very old author… who might (as he said, in not so many words) give up the ghost during all the stress and excitement of contract negotiations and/or a book tour?
I know, I know…
That same author might be an energetic dynamo and live to be 122. And he might be a better promoter than the young buck. Yes, that’s a possibility (and that’s how I think), but that’s not how all agents think.
So, all of you old authors out there,
please be smart and keep your age private.
Side note: I worked with Dr. Ruth Westheimer (the sexpert) when I was the Marketing & Licensing Manager for the publisher Blue Mountain Arts. Dr. Ruth was 73 years old at the time and ran circles around me. She also gave me a rose and held my hand… then we sang New York, New York together in front of everyone at a huge party during the Frankfurt Book Fair (but that’s a story for another day).
Old Authors – Conclusion
Long story short, don’t put yourself at a disadvantage by talking about your age… or anything else that isn’t relevant to your book.
Let your writing do the talking.
Your “Undercover” Agent
P.S. – If you liked this article about old authors, click here to read my article about young authors.
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Yes, but a simple query on the internet now reveals your age. The jig is up! Can’t even shave 5-10 years off…
Hi Mark, I’m writing a memoir/narrative. What are my chances to be successful? I’m a senior citizen, Navajo.
I look back to the time, the place, and the people who shaped my life as a Navajo child growing up on the Navajo reservation. Two major events changed the direction of my Navajo life and my family life: World War II and Hweeldi, the prison years of our Tribe 150 years ago that still have impact on Navajo life, tribal life, and especially my life beginning at age 7.
Age and ethnicity aren’t important.
Writing a good book is. 🙂
And I’m happy to help somehow if possible…
As a next step…
If you haven’t already done so…
Look at the 50 questions authors ask me most (with my answers) on my FAQ page here: https://thebestsellingauthor.com/ask/. You can also post questions for me on that webpage (after you make sure your question isn’t addressed in the FAQ).
Second, you can click here (no charge) to access our resources to help authors get literary agents: https://thebestsellingauthor.com/membership/. After you enter your name and email address, look for the link that says “Audio Training Library” to get my “7 Insider Secrets to Get a Top Literary Agent, Publisher, and Book Deal.”
I’m looking forward to learning more about you and your writing, and I hope the information above is helpful.
Have a great day!
The Bestselling Author
Literary Agent Undercover
I am a new author of 3 incredible books which were published by Xulon Press Publishing (2 fiction, 1 non-fiction). As a disabled former teacher, I know very little about literary agents. I also have a Webpage: (kengreensigma.wixsite.com/kengreen). My books are currently listed on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Ebook and etc. However, my dilemma is that I desperately need the help of a literary agent to help me get my books into the hands of the reading public.
Please Help me find a good agent.
I’m happy to help if possible.
As a next step…
If you haven’t already done so, click here to access all the valuable (no cost) resources I have about getting an agent in my private, members-only area (no charge): https://thebestsellingauthor.com/membership/. Once you’ve entered your name and email address there, click on the link that says, “Audio Training Library”. Then you’ll see my main audio training (and text transcript), which reveals the 7 Insider Secrets You Need to Know to Get a Top Literary Agent, Publisher, and Book Deal.
Second, look at the 50 questions authors ask me most (with my answers) on my FAQ page here: https://thebestsellingauthor.com/ask/.
Third, you can post your question(s) for me on that same webpage (just make sure you look at all the Frequently Asked Questions first to make sure I haven’t already answered your question in the FAQ).
All my best,
The Bestselling Author
Literary Agent Undercover
You are so right! People, agents in particular, think older authors have nothing to share and therefore cannot possibly make money for them. So, another first from an agent, to actually read that you advise older authors to keep their age a secret. Shush; if I don’t tell, who poses for my bio? Guess I’ll have to cross that bridge if and when it ever happens.
Older, but a lot wiser, thanks to you. And by the way, age does have its benefits. Ask your grandma.
Love and kisses Mark, Elizabeth.
Old or young I believe that if a manuscript ticks all the boxes for the agent then it should be published. A book that is simply good and marketable should never be denied to it’s potential readers simply to keep the publishers Porsche on the road..
Hi Brian, I couldn’t agree more. Although I have nothing against Porsches. And some publishers drive Volkswagons and Chevys. 😉 Thanks for posting and being part of the conversation. Mark | Old Authors
Great info, Mark. Thanks. Just one question, though.
When you meet a client face-to-face, does age then become a factor? Maybe they don’t tell you their age, but clearly can’t hide it in person. Have you ever loved a manuscript FIRST then been discouraged from promoting it AFTER seeing that the author is a senior?
Some of the best stories I’ve ever heard have come from oldsters who are living history and we’re losing that history every day en masse. | Old Authors
Hi Jackie, age doesn’t usually play a factor. I just want people to not mention their age in queries if it isn’t going to help them, and it might hurt them. That’s not fair to me. In person, not much you can do. 🙂 And, personally, I don’t believe that I ever let someone’s age influence my decision to represent them. Although I also might have “hidden” or not revealed some of my clients’ ages when pitching their work to publishers. 😉 Mark | Old Authors
I’m glad you shared this article with us. In my memoir, I had mentioned I was middle-aged and had grown up in the sixties. But I think I’ll keep that in since it’s relevant but even if I took out the words ‘middle-aged’, any agent would know roughly I’m at that stage since I grew up in the sixties. It’s a relief to know that I’m in a safe age range for them. I think these agents are limiting their minds with all sorts of prejudices they unnecessarily build up. But it’s a sad fact that can be easily worked around, as you say. If only all agents thought like you.
Hi Saw Lian, when it comes to memoir… it’s okay and necessary to mention your age. Otherwise it wouldn’t really make sense. I’m really glad you mentioned this though, because I’m sure other authors were thinking about it as well. Mark
Thanks for the tip Mark. As far as I’m concerned the written word is ageless.
So I need to make sure my novels are all blockbusters so I can afford the facelift and botox.
Hmm. Maybe a good agent could get that put into your deal? Laughter. Make sure you check out the column I just sent out… it’s one of the book trailers you sent me. Have a great weekend! 😉 Mark
This is funny. 🙂 I do believe in not “oversharing”. Don’t volunteer any information that you weren’t asked for. The more a person knows is not always better. Sometimes less is best. However, as a nurse, I must say that there are some in their 70’s and 80’s with sharper minds and better health than some 30 or 40 yr old. So, agents should never underestimate age. It’s all in how you take care of yourself. A 45 yr old may have a massive heart attack(I’ve seen it) and die, while a 70 yr old is out every morning walking, eating right, remaining active, etc and get the bill of health.
I agree…let your writing speak for you. Age should not be a discriminating factor. Not to mention, all that wisdom and experience that person has to write about. Hmmm! 🙂 I see bestsellers in that agent’s future. 🙂
Hi Sabrena! So true… yes, let the writing speak for you. By the way, I spoke with Braden this week and liked him very much. I told that you sent me. 😉 Thanks for the recommend. Mark
Perfect! Love your “insider information” and this was certainly on the money as well! OBTW, the only thing I’d add is: don’t discuss the age of your project. Some writers do a first draft and let it sit a bit, then work on a second, or even third revision. The agent won’t know – and probably doesn’t even care – if it took 5 years or 5 minutes to write the ms. What they SHOULD care about is whether or not it is a salable property and they’re right for the job. Dr. Ruth was a favorite of mine and I can just see her “running circles” around you – a young 73 was she! Have a great day & keep sharing!
Hi Lois… another good point. I always pull that out of queries when my authors put it in. I understand the fact that it might take someone five, ten, or twenty years to write a manuscript… but it doesn’t sound good. Talk to you in a few… Mark
All I can say is “I resemble those remarks”!
Hi G. William… been thinking about you. Hope to hear an update from you soon. You have the secret code, so don’t be a stranger. If I can answer any questions for you… set up a call. And have a great holiday weekend! Mark