Last week you featured posts on the glacial pace of publishing and the death of an aspiring writer. While writers generally accept the maxim “write a good book and everything will fall into place,” there must be some calculations made by literary agents when the author seeking representation is a senior citizen. Frank McCourt’s breakthrough with Angela’s Ashes is often held up as proof that success can come to elder writers. I’m sure there are other examples, but aren’t they the exceptions that prove the rule?
Can your share some observations on how literary agents assess the marketing viability (i.e. touring, physical stamina, appeal to book buyers, follow-up titles) and profit potential for prospective clients who happen to be north of, say, sixty-five?
I’ve read a lot of the blog archives, but couldn’t find anything on this exact topic.
Let me just start with an homage to my beloved client, Richard Gilbert. I think he was 83 when I first started working with him on his memoir. Sadly, he has now shaken off this mortal coil, as has his lovely wife, and I miss them both to this day.
I was honored to work with a man like Mr. Gilbert. He ran the agency that created some of the most iconic advertising images of the 60's. Images I remembered when he queried me.
It never crossed my mind that he was too old to sign.
It never crossed my mind that he would die either, but we had a number of lovely years working together before that very sad day.
But, that doesn't really answer your question does it.
I don't know how other agents handle this; it's not something we really talk about.
What I know is that I don't think about a writer's age unless it's mentioned in the query. It's not a factor in assessing whether I want to sign a great writer.
If you're concerned about your work getting short shrift because you're of mature years, don't mention your age.
Don't mention you didn't start writing until you retired.
Don't mention your grandchildren.
In other words, let your work speak about how talented you are, not how old you are.