I can’t believe it’s April already. We’ve been at this for months now! How are you doing on your writing journey? I’ve fallen a little behind due to things I’ve mentioned here before, but I’m trying to get caught up. Anyway. Today we’re going to talk about another frequent question from Reddit and Facebook groups: Am I too old (or young) to publish?
The short answer is no. The long answer depends upon more personal circumstances, and I can’t just give a blanket statement here that will apply to all of you. Everyone grows and develops at their own pace, and age is just a number.
At the end of the day, publishing success comes down to skill–note that I said skill and not talent. A natural aptitude for something is meaningless if you’re not willing to put it to work. Also keep in mind that your ability to market yourself is at least as important as your writing skill; the masses aren’t going to buy your work if they don’t know it exists.
Rather than give you a list of reasons why you should/shouldn’t or can/can’t publish at whatever age you happen to be, I’m going to suggest that you make a list of your favorite authors and look up how old they were when they published their first book. I’ll also give you a few names and details to get you started.
- Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. Published her first novel at 14. She did have a bit of a leg up because her English teacher was also her agent, but she was ultimately the one who put in the work and wrote the book. She’s published almost a book a year ever since then.
- Christopher Paolini. Published his first novel at 19. His parents were his agents and also the operators of the original publishing company, so take this one with a grain of salt, I guess. After his first novel, Alfred A. Knopf took over publishing for him and he’s done pretty well for himself.
- Kim Harrison. Published her first novel at 36 under her real name, Dawn Cook. She published several fantasy novels as Dawn Cook with limited success before rebranding herself and launching a very successful urban fantasy career.
- Maya Angelou. Published her first book at 41 and was considered a new kind of memoirist. In addition to writing, she was also an actress, dancer, musician and civil rights activist.
- Emily Dickinson. A few of her poems were published, albeit heavily edited, while she was alive, but the bulk of her work didn’t come to light until after her death at age 55.
Also look up Stephen King, or check out his memoir, On Writing, for some insight into one very popular author’s long road to success. He started writing when he was a child, but didn’t become a commercial success until much later in life. I won’t spoil it for you by posting his age; you should absolutely read his story for yourself. The takeaway, however, is that consistency and persistence will carry you a long, long way no matter your age. Even when writing is hard and life is wearing you down, you can’t let yourself give up.
I hope this has helped you push aside your concerns that you’re too young or too old to get yourself published. If you’re willing to put in the work that it takes to produce a great manuscript, your age doesn’t matter. I’ve been writing for most of my life, but it’s taken me this long to get to a point where I have the worldview and maturity to write stories that I feel are worthy of publication. Something always felt like it was missing before. Now that I have more life experience, I’m able to fill in those gaps and write stories that have real depth. Don’t let a number get in the way of your dreams.