Thursday, September 3, 2009

About My Age

Okay, a lot of people have asked, and I feel like the subject deserves a full blog post, so here it goes. You teen authors out there, listen up. You adults out there....well, it might be somewhat informative for you, too.

Yes, I am a teenager.

Yes, I got an agent and had my book sold at seventeen.

But not BECAUSE I was seventeen.

Many, many, MANY people have asked me if I mentioned my age in my query letter. My answer is, of course, "No."

Why, you may ask?

Because I shouldn't need to.

What does being a teenager have to do with my writing? Sure, by one argument you may think (and be correct, perhaps?) that being a teenager helps in understanding the YA market and mind set. But others will tell you--and I have heard this A MILLION times by professionals--that teenagers cannot write well (yet, at least) and should not be published or pursue publishing.

To the people who say the first: That may be true, but plenty of adults seem to remember high school well. And they do AMAZING YA novels.

To the people who say the second: Well, you're just wrong. Exhibit A, SE Hinton (age 16 when she wrote The Outsiders) and Exhibit B, all of my teen writer friends (Kristin Briana Otts, Hannah Moskowitz, etc etc) who have agents and novels.

However, I didn't consider either of these arguments when writing my query letter. I focused on the writing--because that's what i wanted to be judged on. Not my age or who I was, but compltely and totally judged by my work.

And that worked.

My agent had no clue I was only seventeen until she gave me a phone call and I had to tell her. If I'm correct, she was quite shocked. But not deterred. She still signed me. Yay!

So for my young writer friends who've been wondering, DO NOT mention your age in a query. It doesn't matter. If you're good, it'll work out. It doesn't make a difference if your 15 or 53.

Oh, and FYI, its INCREDIBLY offensive to make the statement, "I'm sure your age is a great marketing tool." Never, ever tell a teen author that. I've had a lot of people say this to me, and I know they had the best of intentions, but it really hurts my feelings. Like with getting an agent, I want my book to be popular because of the writing, not because I'm eighteen. So, yes. Don't say this to teen writers. It's not cool.

But I think that's it for my rant. I just wanted to answer that question so many of you had posed to me. I hope you found it helpful!

Loves ya'll!


Joanna said...

I had NO IDEA you were a teenager until the END of our phone convo, after I offered you rep--jaw dropping doesn't begin to describe the shock!

You're a talented writer, Kody!

Emilia said...

Yay yay yay!

ILU Kody.

Though, I'd be okay with someone saying that my young age is a good marketing tool. You take what you can get. :)

Kody Mekell Keplinger said...

Joanna - AW! Thank you! See, that's what I want people to say. Talented writer. Not "talented for your age". lol.

Emilia - No! Don't "take what you can get." You have a LOT of talent, and that is what people should note. Not that your age is your selling point. That isn't right. Don't let anyone reduce you to that, love.

MeganRebekah said...

I definitely think that people shouldn't judge your book (or the initial query) on your age. Your work should be judged for its own merit.

That said, I do think that your age would and could help with marketing. I don't mean that it will make people like the book more or less. I mean that you're still a teenager and in college. You have insider access to your core audience. When your book comes out you should have major exposure on your campus, which is awesome. And it would only come about because you're a student.

Personally, if/when I have a book coming out I would hit up my old college, see if I could write ups in the college paper, posters and signings at the bookstore. But being an alumni, among hundreds of thousands of alumni, isn't that great.

Being a current student is worth a lot! So use it up!

Frankie Diane Mallis said...

This is a good post!!! I totally agree with you-Im not a teenager anymore (le sad) but I have a ton of respect for them -especially bc honestly, Im 26 and I don't feel a hell of lot differently then I did when I was 18-and I respected myself then, so why wouldn't I respect someone that age now?

Unfortunately, the craziness and competiveness of the publishing industry can lead to a lot of misconceptions, and older bitter writers have not so nice opinions about younger writers-for which I say, "Whatever! If you feel that way you shouldn't be writing YA. Go home!"

I don't think being younger makes you less of a writer at all. You wrote a great book (so I hear) and you got an agent and a book deal. You rock! and you shouldn't listen to anyone else's negative opinion!

hannah said...

My editor was on the phone with my new agent, and she happened to mention to him that I'm eighteen. According to him, his response was, "Whoa. What the fuck?"

It is fun to shock people.

And I definitely don't get mad when people say my age is a huge marketing tool. It IS. I'm eighteen, I'm female, I'm Jewish, I'm eighteen, I'm living in Rhode Island, I'm from D.C...all these things help me in various degrees, from a little bit to a lot. Some of them only matter if you live in D.C. or R.I, and then maybe not even then. Some of them only matter if you're a Jewish girl wondering why Jewish writers only ever seem to write about memoirs about the Holocaust or their relationship with their mothers. Some of them matter if you're interested in young writers--and some people are, and if they pick up my book because of that, then yay, they pick up my book!

suzie said...

Yay Kody! Very good and informative post. Hopefully it helps other writers with questions - and adults with misconceptions.

I second the fact that you are a talented writer :)

hannah said...

oh, way to say i'm eighteen twice in my post, btw. can you tell i'm used to hitting people over the head with it? I'M INTERESTING DAMN IT BUY MY BOOK. etc.

Kody Mekell Keplinger said...

Wow, guys! Thanks for the very long comments. Had no clue this post would generate such a response. I'm surprised!

Thanks everyone! (Especially you, Suzie! Compliments make me happy, teehee)

Karla said...

Hey I've been new to poking around fellow teen writers' blogs. I'm 18 too and a freshman in college! Although I still have a long way to go with my writing. Anyway, loved the post! I didn't even realize this was a problem so I'm glad to be informed. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I was a better writer in college than I am now.

Gary Couzens said...

Another example is Catherine Webb, a British YA writer who sold her first novel at fourteen. She's 23 and on her seventh (?) YA novel by now, and also writes adult novels under a pseudonym.

It's certainly true that an adult has potentially more life experience than a teenager - if you keep your eyes and ears open that's something you gain all the time you are on this planet. Also, reading widely is essential for any writer, and if you're older you will have done more of it. But by that line of reasoning a seventy-year-old would be a better writer than a forty-year-old, and I don't think that's necessarily the case. It's what you do with that life experience that matters.

On the other hand, any writer of any age has to learn the craft of writing, and that's a matter of the hours you put in. Also, some learn quicker than others, but that's that mysterious indefinable thing called talent. And there's clearly a lot of that about in the AW young adult forum.

I look forward to seeing The Duff in print next year!

P.S. I'm not a teenager.

Kristin said...

I HATE it when people say "Oh, you're nineteen? That'll be a great platform." (Had an agent tell me this, actually. Not MY agent, but AN agent.) I hate this. Like people will only want to buy my book because they think I'm some sort of prodigy. I'm not. And I don't want special treatment just because I'm young-ish. I want to be a good writer, period. Not a good YOUNG writer - a good writer. If my book's just "good for my agent," damnit, don't sell it. Wait until I write a book that's just plain good.

/end rant. :P

Thanks for the great post, Kody. I agree (obviously).

Kristin said...

P.S. Haha, I meant "good for my age," not "good for my agent." *head/desk*

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you. I finished my novel when I was seventeen and all I heard were the things you've mention. Annoying doesn't even begin to cover it. Now that I'm 20 things have died down some...but now I'm getting the why-haven't-you-published-your-book-yet,-you're-getting-too-old-to-milk-your-youth

Shelli said...

i say who cares about age. if you right well enough to get an awesome agent like Joanna and a book deal more power to yah. Its pretty awesome to have a deal that young and know you will have a long wonderful journey.

what did your parents ? did joannes need a signature from them since you were under 18? Did she have to divulge that to editors?

Just curious :)

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