Friday, 27 July 2012

DEAR CRABBIT - too old to debut?

Dear Crabbit
Is a 79-year-old debutant novelist (but a highly successful writer in other fields) deluding himself and wasting his time trying to get an agent or a publisher interested in his work, even if he’s fit, healthy and energetic, and has one novel completed and two well on the way? Or should he go straight into self-publishing? I’ve said “he” because I’m a man, but obviously it could also apply to a woman. (I’m not talking about vanity-publishing: I first saw my name in print 50 years ago, and have more than 30 books with my name on the cover.)

The short answer is that if the book is good enough and a publisher believes it has a sufficient market and wants to publish it, the publisher will do so. And, for the same reason, an agent could be interested. (It's true that an agent needs a career out of you - but you could have another 20 years or more of writing!)

It's true that it may have to be even better and more marketable than if you were 29 or even 49. On the other hand, at the commissioning stage no one needs necessarily know your age. (Although in your specific case they probably will because you'll be telling them about your previous work.)

There are advantages to being young and fit and having a long career ahead of you, but the absence of those conditions does not create an insurmountable barrier to publication. It does raise the bar, though. With some publishers and agents perhaps more than others.

However, since you don't crave publication for the "having your name on the cover" reason, I also think you should look seriously at self-publishing anyway, depending on the type of novel. You could have a lot of fun and a lot of success. I know you are already active on Twitter and ready to engage in that side of things. And you already have credibility as a published writer. 

You have a choice - and that's good!


sheilamcperry said...

Personally I have gone into self-publishing because of my age - I just don't have enough time left to spend years waiting for a publisher to accept something, or to get rejected, write something else and wait another while, and as getting novels out there is something I've always wanted to do, this seems like my last chance.
Nicola is right that it's usually a lot of fun, and what I've found is that it encourages me to write more as I see people (apparently) enjoying my books. Well, some people anyway!

Josephine Carr said...

I, too, am in the enviable position of having been traditionally published for 30 years. I'm now eagerly embracing the self-pub/indie explosion because I don't need validation. Instead, I'm in charge, and I gotta tell you: it feels GREAT. My most recent new novel is just out on Amazon, and I'm delighted both by having written it, but also by having commissioned the cover, etc., It's all a hoot and full of joy.

Jody (publishing as Anna King (ADELE: The Rabbi's Mother)