Is There Ageism in Publishing?

Yahoo Image Search

Pretty sure I’ve already said too much and at least one person has skipped right to the comments.  I haven’t seen many posts and articles about this topic, but I know it’s going to ruffle feathers.  In fact, I can guess what people will say and it will be determined entirely by their own age.  So, I’m going to do the same.

In my experience, it feels like age plays a fairly big factor in getting published or attention from readers.  There are other factors that I won’t get into, but age does seem to play out in two common scenarios:

  1. The child prodigy who wrote a great book (may have been edited by an adult) and their age is a selling point.  Experience doesn’t factor in because it’s amazing that they could do something that most adults can’t accomplish.  This is a great feat and should be praised, but let’s not lie and say the age isn’t a reason the story was picked up.
  2. The person is older, retired and has a lot of experience to make their bio as interesting as the story.  This can happen at any age, but I do see a lot of ‘publishing a book in their golden years’ stories.  Honestly, I can totally understand this one because a person who has lived through so much will have stories to tell.  It helps a lot with non-fiction and fiction based around real world events.  People are fascinated by the author as much as the story in these scenarios.

Now, I’m in my early 40’s, which some people say are young, but it feels a lot more like middle age to me.  For my age group, I don’t see the years being factored into our promotions and influence.  In fact, I’ve been told things that make me feel like those previous categories are the best ways to go.  I should stop because I’m not young anymore, so I can’t be a prodigy is one such statement.  Another is that I have plenty of time to write and I’ll get more attention for my books when I’m old and retired.  Both of those concepts are what drove me to this post because my age shouldn’t be an obstacle.

Yet, it does wear me down and cause a little depression.  I was trying to write books in 2nd grade and then got back to it in 10th grade.  Would I have been a prodigy if I was supported the right way back then?  Did I miss my chance?  All of these ideas will take years upon years to write, so maybe it is retirement that I need to shoot for in regards to publishing.  Of course, this means I have to live long enough for that and earn it.  Keep in mind that I’m from the generation that doesn’t believe retirement will be an option due certain systems.  So, was I simply born with an ability and dream during the worst time period to have such things?

I know this is a foolish concept because people will think it’s either nothing or I’m making excuses.  Plenty of people my age have gotten published.  Damned if I know how I can there at this point since I lack the resources and contacts to sell even 99 centers.  This is why the possibility that I’m either too young or too old really gnaws on me.  I’ve either missed my chance or am stressing myself to the point where I could die before my time has come.  There’s an impatience that comes with authors who want recognition and have been slamming their heads against the walls for decades, especially now when the methods have changed.  That’s what I’m feeling and it makes the age situation feel even heavier since I realize I’ve been at this for nearly 26 years.

Let’s open up the floor.  I’m sure I’ve touched a few nerves or turned some people away with this topic.  Do you think age factors into an author’s success?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
This entry was posted in Thoughts and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Is There Ageism in Publishing?

  1. L. Marie says:

    A number of people have mentioned this to me, so I can’t deny the truth of this, particularly among those who have been published but were not had given the same marketing budgets as those half their age.
    However, I also can’t deny the truth of this: https://writersrelief.com/2018/08/29/6-writers-who-debuted-their-first-books-as-senior-citizens-writers-relief/#:~:text=Lorna%20Page%3A%20The%20oldest%20debut,was%20ninety%2Dthree%20years%20old.

    Like

    • I’ve seen lists like that. It strikes me how most if not all authors on those lists are from the older times. I mean before ebooks, self-publishing, and the flood of celebrity written books. Back then, you could easily work a regular job, raise a family, and write a book without fear of bankruptcy. At least easier than these days. I remember being told in the 90’s that I had to be patient and my time would come because of *insert famous author*. It never happened even when I went full time and had the ability to put my all into the trade. This is why I wonder if 20-40’s are the ‘dead’ years for writing a book these days.

      Liked by 1 person

      • L. Marie says:

        I also noticed that they are from an older time. And I was told the same thing in the 90s. The issue for us nowadays is how fast technology has changed. Platforms are pushed at some places, rather than sheer talent. So many celebrities have been chased after for their platforms, regardless of whether or not they can write a book.

        Like

      • 90’s was when I was sending our letters to agents and publishers. Early 00’s too. So many rejection letters, which always made me wonder what was wrong with me. You’re totally right about the platform.

        Like

  2. I just can’t imagine being in your forties has anything to do with publishing success. There are circumstances to face. To be a number one seller takes time and money. An indie author has to go through the process of getting the word out in enough volume to be remembered. This means being everywhere your readers visit. It means advertising, marketing, and personal appearances. It means having a core group of fans who help spread the word. In short, it means working full time on selling books and part-time writing them. The other route would be finding an agent who can represent your writing and getting a publishing contract. That, too, takes work. An estimate exists that an author would need to send over 100 query letters to try and find an agent with interest and no guarantee. Those letters can’t be generic mass mailings either. They need personalization for the particular agent. So I would say becoming a best-selling author is not a matter of age but energy. I know being 80, I don’t have the energy anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Actually, the time and money does connect to being in ones 40’s. I have very little time or money to put towards this unlike those much younger or older than me. I need to depend on luck to sell books instead of anything I actively do because I simply can’t do much as I struggle to survive. I can’t do personal appearances since I have work and parenting. Not that any place around here ever wanted men because I’m not an interesting person. That’s what I heard when I was actually selling stuff. I wasn’t the prodigy or the seasoned person, so people couldn’t determine my age bracket when I asked. So, I gave up trying. I also call bullshit on query letters too. I’ve sent 100’s of specialized letters to agents and publishers to only be told that they like my story, but I’m not marketable.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well okay then, Charles. I still say it is not age but in your case it is situation.

        Like

      • Age is a factor in my situation. I’m not seen as someone worth helping to many because I’m in my 40’s. I’ve been flat out told I’m of the age where I can experiment and have to be patient.

        Liked by 1 person

      • What is meant by help? Buying your books? Hosting a tour? Or do they mean giving you a boost n the industry?

        Like

      • Buying books. Reviewing books. Sharing blog posts. Giving a boost. It feels like those who are trying to be authors, but are in the busy, soul-crushing years of life can’t catch a break. This is why so many quit too. The dream dies because all one gets are likes and promises of the future, which my generation has already fallen for enough times. I’m frustrated. The congrats, comments, and likes on posts for a new book are larger than actual sales too. Not even by a bit, but by a huge margin that means most aren’t even going so far as to buy. Again, I get told that my time will come as if I’m the wrong age for success.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I have no answers.

        Like

  3. I’m 77 and just published my second book, with the third one underway. Because of my age, I self-published, but I still worked on “elevator” and other pitches (even though I didn’t until the marketing stage), hired editors and cover designs, someone to do the upload, and even the narrator for the WWII book.

    Even though my books don’t have access to the big bookstores, both books are doing well. I blog regularly on my website and am active on social media, where I can feature the places the books are for sale, speaking engagements (I’ve got one in the morning for a Kiwanis group), and am enjoying having autonomy about these precious stories.

    If you’ve got stories that need written, don’t let any age stop you!

    Like

    • Age doesn’t stop me from writing. It’s the publishing and selling that I can’t get. Again, I have no personal pitch to draw anyone into me as a person. That’s a bizarre necessity from what I can tell. I blog every day, but I gave up on social media when I would go crazy on them and see nothing in return. I wake up at 5 am and keep going until I can relax around 9 pm every weekday. There’s no time for me to do more. That’s how many, if not most, people in my generation are living now.

      Like

  4. Pingback: Is There Ageism in Publishing? — Legends of Windemere | Kim's Musings

  5. I don’t disagree with you to a point. Those you pointed out are being celebrated for something because of their age. It does not mean the same thing as prejudice against anyone who is not of those ages. Many of us face the same challenges you do. We’re not uber successful either. Time is a huge deal to Americans right now. I can work, or write, or promote. I can’t do all of them at once. We do what we can. We also can’t make ourselves fit into a different age bracket or demographic without a pen name and fear of discovery. Some nights you just have to close the word processor and do something else. Passing you the metaphorical whiskey. Cheers.

    Like

    • Most nights I don’t even get the word processor booted up. With age, I have noticed that people were more interested in me as an author when I was younger. It was nurtured and supported. Then, I got around 38 and I saw a big drop. People began telling me I’m too old to keep trying or too young to find success. I’m in this weird limbo age where I’m getting both messages, which is why I wonder about the significance.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. kimwrtr says:

    Interesting article! I’m 65, and I started writing seriously in my early 30s. My first book was published through a small online publisher around 1998 when I was 42. So, I was about your age. I’ve never tried for an agent. I feel I came close to getting a big publisher deal in 1997 after waiting 18 months for the rejection. (It did get to the final round–whatever that means.) That’s when I decided life is too short and I started submitting to smaller/newer publishers. I was lucky enough (through a writing club) to win a read from an ex Big Publisher Editor who went to freelance editing. Her advice helped me to rewrite my first book to make it more publishable before doing the submission route again. I never sold much with the small publisher and it was pretty much like being self-published as I had to do all the promotion myself. I also missed the big self-publishing rush where many made good money, because I had preferred to stay with my publisher too long. Now I am multi-published and I’m still not selling much of anything. I’ve tried paid promotion, which I couldn’t really afford, and I ended up spending more than I made from sells. I’ve bought courses. I have the newsletter, the blog, the social media accounts, etc., but it’s always been hit and miss for me. It’s is frustrating and depressing. To me, the whole thing gets harder as I get older rather than easier, and time seems to be running out. I wish I could be like I was writing with that first book, full of hope and not worrying about the many writing rules. If I didn’t have all these stories in my head that need to get out, I wouldn’t be doing this anymore. Sorry, I have no answers and I too don’t believe age is a factor, at least not an older age.

    Like

    • I tried time and again to get published doing query letters. Never a bite. Then I went indie and got somewhere. Once life got tough, I had to tone things down and it all fell apart. I think my age does have something to do with it. Younger people can bounce back faster from defeat since they have more energy and time. Older people have more stability and experience to handle these negative events. I have no problem with the writing part unless I’m depressed or exhausted, which happens more often these days. People seem to think those of my age are still unbreakable work horses and don’t need rest or mental health days. It’s getting sales since I lack time and resources to promote or a life story that draws people in. The truth is that I, like many my age, are just trying to survive.

      Like

  7. noelleg44 says:

    I’ve never considered the age of a writer when reading a book – and I envy all the time you have ahead of you to write. I will say one of my favorite books was written by a woman approaching 100 – it was her perspective I loved. Keep at it, Charles. Rejections are tough and perhaps I’ve been more mellow about it because I’m older and have had a lot of experience with that in my former career. Lacking time and resources to promote a book is every writer’s problem. Welcome to the club, and keep up the fight! I’m sending you boxing gloves and a helmet. 🙂

    Like

    • This is more how publishers and other authors perceive age. Readers only factor in age when that’s part of a promotion. For example, Paolini who write Eragon was marketed as a child prodigy.

      You mention that I have all this time ahead me to write though. Where? This assumes I’ll live a long life and not die by disease or accident. This also assumes I’ll reach a point where I’m not struggling to survive financially, which is the life long fate of my generation. I really don’t understand how I have all this time. In fact, the only reason I’ve been able to finish my vampire series is because the pandemic had me working from home for a while. It was a fluke. Otherwise, I’d still be struggling to get it done.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s