Friday, October 26, 2018

I'm 12, should I mention that in my query?

Dear Ms. Reid,

I am twelve, soon to be thirteen years old.

I have written a middle-grade fantasy and am thinking of querying. I don't expect many results, especially given the minimal results of my previous novel. But I still want to query, as I'm serious about writing and want to start a career.

I've read your blog and QueryShark for about a year now. But I find myself unable to use your tips for success. I can't create a website. I can't sign paperwork. I can't change my email address to be more professional, since I share the account with my little brother.

Most importantly, I'm not sure whether to mention my age in querying. It's unlikely agents will take me seriously, but it'll have to come out at some point. Will a prospective agent be mad when they find out they've signed on to babysit a kid through the world of publishing? Even if they initially say yes, is it possible they'll say no when they find out? Should I just put this whole writing thing on a back burner and wait until I'm older?


Dear Writer Dude,

First, I'm glad you're writing novels. Judging by what you wrote to me, it looks like you know how to sling sentences pretty darn well.

My client Jeff Somers wrote his first novel when he was a bit younger than you are now. He started querying when he was about your age. He didn't tell anyone he was "just a kid."

And people took him seriously.
They actually bought books from him too.

Some of this is covered in his book Writing Without Rules, but please, don't buy it unless your parents give the ok. They may not want you to pursue the writing life. It leads to dancing. (An obscure riff on an old joke.)

Here's my advice: query without mentioning your age. Let your work speak for iteself. If an agent is interested, we'll figure out how to persuade your parents that you're not running off to join the circus by signing a publishing contract.

Lots of writers started early. And while it generally took a couple years, they found success too.

I hope you'll be one of them.

Let me know how it goes, ok?


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hey Writer Dude, don't wait until you're older because older will come on you faster than a fitting for a cap and gown for graduation...from college. Go for it.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Hey Writer Dude, go for it. Don't wait. Lots of writers start young. Completing a novel at any age is huge. Give it a go and keep writing. Starting young is a great advantage. Although if you follow the track of Jeff Somers, that can often lead to cats and no pants. So do it your way. This is your journey, but do ask your parents about Writing Without Rules. It is a great book for those pursuing a writing career. Good luck and let us know how things go.

Timothy Lowe said...

Best of luck, Writer Dude. If what you've written is salable, agents will figure out a way to deal with the wrinkles. Go for it! And keep writing, no matter what!

Lisa Bodenheim said...

OP: Yesterday's blog on Fiction University mentioned Mikayla Lowery, a middle school author of "Zoey's Zany Life" which is being released November 13th. The guest writer of the article is Mary Claire Branton, a member of SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) and an editor and publisher of child authors. You and your parents may wish to check out the blog article and Branton.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

And as the others above mentioned, best of luck! Go for it!!

Lennon Faris said...

OP (Writer Dude?) - If you write your query the way you wrote your question, they will take you seriously.

And that is the first step towards requests and offers of rep.

When you get your book deal (whether it's in the next one or ten years, but 'when' is the right word), let the Reef know. We're all rooting for you!

Amy Johnson said...

OP: Congratulations on the writing success you've already attained (two completed novels!) and best wishes for continued success. I hope you'll take the time to really let the words of encouragement you're getting here sink in. It seems that oftentimes the negative statements (such as "You can't because...) get heard more loudly and for longer than the positive statements. I'm not sure why that is. Great job. Keep it up!

Colin Smith said...

I agree with all the above. If your books are as well written as your question, Opie, you'll do just fine. Don't mention your age until you need to sign the contract or your publisher offers to take you for a celebratory drink. :)

Stacy said...

Looks like you're a good word-slinger, there, OP. Best of luck and keep at it!

CynthiaMc said...

I wrote and illustrated my first book when I was five or six.

Keep practicing your craft. All the writing you're doing now will pay off later.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

When I was 12, I had a Very Serious conversation with my dad about whether he would sign papers with a publisher for me if I hit it big with my Epic Fantasy Novel. He agreed, bless him. I wrote to a few publishers (but didn't know anything about "querying"....this was the 90's). None of them replied to me, and happily I was smart enough to realize by the end of high school that this novel I'd spent so much time on wasn't very good.

However, my letter to the publishers was not, I think, nearly as articulate as the OP's letter to Ms. Reid. I am wildly jealous and also wish you every success!

Elissa M said...

OP, do exactly what Janet said. Query. Don't mention your age. You can reveal your age when an agent calls to offer representation.

I think it's really savvy of you to be looking for an agent and a traditional publishing contract rather than diving right into self-publishing. Both routes are difficult, but far too many writers jump the gun with self-publication. Going with traditional publishing might take longer, but I personally feel having that extra endorsement from the publishing world is definitely worth it.

Whatever happens, keep writing. That's the only way you'll truly find success.

RosannaM said...

Well, this just made my day! Query on, my friend, and keep on writing.

And sit down with your parents and see if they can sign you up for an email address that you may use only for writing (business) purposes. If the answer is no, that is still not a deal breaker. Just make sure to check your email before your little brother can delete something important!

Best of luck.

roadkills-r-us said...

Writer Dude,
Do your parents take your writing seriously? If so, explain that you need an email that others will take seriously.
When you say that you can't create a website, I'm curious what you mean. Do Wordpress and Wix require you to be a certain age to use their site builders? Because you can easily do something simple for free.
Best of luck; I'm excited for you. I was writing at 12, but I was clueless about the whole process at the time, beginning with the writing itself.

Bethany Joy said...

Wow! OP- your writing stopped me in my tracks. Good luck with your queries!And keep writing novels. One of my favorite novels (The Outsiders) was written when the author was 15-16 & it's still often required reading in high school.

BrendaLynn said...

You write with clarity.
You are diligent enough to complete not one novel but two.
You are wise enough to research the industry.
You are patient enough to seek trad publishing.
You have time on your side.
When I’m in my dotage...from my rocking chair at the ‘Sunny Side of the Sod’ rest home...I will read your novels and smile.

In much need of a contest fix here, Janet.

Craig F said...

Go ahead and query, but also consider some of the myriad writing contests for teens. Of course, do this with your parents approval.

A writing contest might help give you some insight into how your writing is perceived. It might also be profitable. A lot of people in the business pay attention to these contests, hoping to find that fresh, new voice that carries the desires of a new generation.

Do not be dismayed if you don't succeed at first, every writer out there started at a fairly young age and have been developing ever since. Some actually broke through early. The OUTSIDERS and ERAGON were both written by teens.

Good luck to you.

John Davis Frain said...

I remember 12, yo. Keep at it. You may not hit a home run the first time up, but there are a lotta guys in Cooperstown who struck out their first trip to the plate.

You came to the right place for advice. Wish I had this Fountain of Truth when I was 12.

Karen McCoy said...

Hey Writer Dude,

Seize the moment! Many of us writer folk wish we'd started out sooner. Also, check out Stefan Bachmann and his books--he also started at a younger age.

Jen said...

Oh my gosh, this is so awesome! Keep writing, OP. And don't give up!

Laina said...

@roadkills-r-us Technically the OP is not legally old enough to sign up for many websites. The part of the TOS where it says "You must be 13 or older".

I would personally suggest waiting til they're 13 and getting a gmail account on their own, that they don't have to share. An email that is your full name, or close to it, and sounds professional is good for a lot of things, not just querying. My query email address also goes on my resume and such.

Sam Mills said...

Good luck!! I was writing at 12, but didn't have the bravery to submit anything till I was 16, at which point I didn't have the resources available to figure out agents and querying. You're already leagues ahead of me because you're doing your research from the beginning. So just keep on trying! Sometimes it happens quickly and other times it takes a few books, but you'll be better every time.

Megan V said...


You're not the first to query at 12 years old. Once upon a time, I was a querying 12-year-old too.

Now, I'm probably not the best person for query advice. I've been the trenches for a long time. That said, I want to share with you this bit of advice.

There will be people who say you're too young to do this.
Ignore them.
If parents or other adults in your life try to take over your query letter or writing—don't let them. Advice is fine and getting the parent/guardian stamp of approval will be a necessity at some point, but ultimately you need to be the one in control of your creative journey.

Keep writing. Keep querying. Keep doing you.

I look forward to reading your book in print!

Donnaeve said...

Dear Writer Dude,

Pfft to the age thing. As a twelve y.o. you make more sense than some adults. You're smarter than some adults. (reading Query Shark, and this blog.)

You show you've got the patience too. All I can say is, carry on.

LynnRodz said...

Dear Writer Dude,

Do as Janet advises and the best of luck to you. From your letter, I'm sure we'll see your work in print one day soon and, please, let us all know.

All the best to you!

Ginger Mollymarilyn said...

Writer Dude, I'm very impressed. It's really amazing that you already have two novels under your belt at such a young age. Wow. Going by your email to Janet, I can see you have a command of the English language. Practice makes perfect, and you should keep at it. If you love it, do it.