An Age-Old Dilemma

Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, explains why the longer a writer waits to “go for it”, the harder it is to reach that lofty goal of publication.

sunny69@comcast.net

http://www.sunnyfrazier.com

http://www.oaktreebooks.com/

Discrimination is a dirty world.

When I worked for the county, we had a big poster on the wall listing all the things that couldn’t be discriminated in the work environment: gender, sexual persuasion, religion, politics, race. We couldn’t discriminate against anyone with for these reasons or push our opinions on others. Ageism was also one of the no-nos. I’m not in that world anymore. Now I have political correctness and my conscience to guide me.

Having said that, I find myself in an awkward position. As acquisitions editor, I have to find not just the best manuscripts offered to me but authors I feel can handle the physical strength to do all the marketing necessary.

This is where age becomes a factor.

I understand that writing improves with years of practice and life experience. What an author has to offer at 30 and  another at 65 are two different things. But, I also have to consider the length of productive years ahead. Authors beginning their writing career after retirement are already behind the game.

A hard truth, right? Well, here’s an easier one: being an author takes a physical toll. Long sessions sitting in front of a computer, fighting eyestrain and doubting our memories isn’t good for anyone’s health. I’m experiencing these symptoms already at the age of 60.

Worse yet, traveling to conferences on a tight budget is an economic and physical strain. Ask me how fun it was to schlep a suitcase with a broken wheel from a ferry to the airport to get out of Canada. Ask me about Phoenix airport changing gates three times and making me wait five hours for the next flight. I’ve developed an intense hatred of airports.

Three days at a conference feels like six. Energy is high, time to eat is scarce, everything happens at  breakneck speed. Hauling books requires the strength of a body builder. It takes me a week to recover from all the fun.

What am I suppose to do when an author blithely adds in their query letter “I have macular degeneration, can’t drive anymore, get around with a walker, have a phobia about flying and I don’t know how to use a computer. My dream is to have a book published before I die.” Why anyone would give full disclosure so early in the game is beyond me. What can I do except send a rejection?

I know the other side of the argument. Grandma Moses started painting in her 70’s. Lilian Jackson Braun, author of the Cat Who series, was well into her 90’s when she wrote the final book. I plowed through the 1,184 page bestseller “And the Ladies of the Club” by Helen Hooven Santmyer. She published it at the age of 88 and died two years later.

Good for those folks. I don’t think they went at it without publicists doing most of the leg work. Unfortunately, a small publishing house can’t provide limo service to take author to books signings. We need them to be healthy and mobile. This is a tough business in more ways than one. Even the strongest are ground down by the demands.

I don’t want to discriminate but I’m forced to decide. The later an author puts off their career, the easier the decision becomes.

Unfortunately.

41 thoughts on “An Age-Old Dilemma

  1. Wow, I can see it now. Pretty soon, all of literature will be the product of the fittest!

    Unless, of course, The Old Ones learn to use the newfangled Internet and fool everyone into thinking they’re still young enough in mind and heart to turn out interesting stories.

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  2. I appreciate your honesty about something I’ve known for a long time. From a business perspective, it makes sense. I believe most agents think the same way. Unfortunately, a lot of good books will be lost because of it. I don’t have any answers except to tell writers to start right away–don’t put it off!

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  3. A provocative statement, indeed. As a long-time observer and practitioner in the writing biz, I suspect there are about as many exceptions to your stance as those who fit the bill.
    There are many ways “tricks” if you will to help we “oldsters” continue to participate effectively in marketing. I, for instance, continue to appear on radio programs all over the nation, through the magic of a canny publicist and modern technology. No one of any age is capable of participating in every single con or program event. Instead, we plan more meticulously in order to take maximum benefit from fewer events.

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  4. Truthful as always, my friend. But again, it all depends upon the author. This great-grandma is still going strong. I’m probably not going to fly as much as I used to mainly because of how much it now costs to fly.

    And certainly the Internet is there for us all to use in so many creative ways no matter how old we are. Of course if someone just won’t take the time to learn how–well then shame on him or her.

    By the same token young people drop dead all the time by accident or disease.

    You probably ought to judge by the quality of the book and the willingness to promote.

    I think I’ve still got a lot of life (books and promotion ability) left in me.

    Remember, I’m the one who has had two publishers die on me.

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  5. I appreciate your honesty, and can see the business angle on what you say. But that’s why the ebook revolution might be the salvation of the literary world. It should not be just about the business end. Writing is an art. Eliminating those who have learned a lifetime of lessons does not make sense. Many cultures want to hear the words of their old, and consider them wise. Ebooks have yet to evolve a convenient way to find the gold among the many, but if the agented and contracted publishing world looks too much to the business angle, not the art — well, it might die too young itself.

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  6. I understand your comments from a business POV, and the pity pitch is a factor in all busines, but some of the things you mention are weird.
    That exhausted at 60? Worrying about budget? Lousy flight connections? Who is your agent? Yourself? 3 seems like 6? Management or organization issues? Too weird.
    JMHO
    Patg

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  7. Well, Patricia, I’m fighting kidney disease at the young age of 60, not old enough to get social security, existing on my measly retirement, struggling at airports with all the lines, pat-downs and tiny seats, and yes, most of us are our own agents.

    Maybe mystery cons are more exhausting than conferences. Or, maybe I’m overwhelmed because I have to smile until the corners of my mouth hurt, my feet hurt, my butt hurts from sitting down at panels and dietary restrictions means I don’t get to eat all that lovely food. I listen to pitch sessions and my heart breaks knowing that the writer isn’t functioning in the real world of publishing and probably won’t break the code.

    I’m lucky because my career did start early and I established myself before turning my expertise into a job (acquisitions editor) where I can stay home in my bathrobe all day, read the work of others and do a bit of teaching when I have the energy. I’m aware of my limitations in ways I never understood before.

    Not so weird. Realistic.

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  8. The glass half full tells me that as we age we aren’t concerned with babysitters, spouses that won’t do their parts if we contemplate going away for a weekend, have fun and colorful perspectives on life, know what discipline, perseverence and a good attitude means because we’ve done it half a century or more. That’s only some of us oldsters’ perks and I thank my lucky stars that I didn’t try this in my twenties. Love ya, Sunny!

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  9. They say nice guys finish last. Keep pushing us around.

    Hey, I’m 84 years old. Fought through double vision and won. Live with arthritis, stiff joints. But having fund and doing lots of marketing. I’m on it every day, trying to balance writing and promoting. Age doesn’t make a damn bit of difference for me.

    As long as I can do the project and keep selling it, who cares how old I am? Sixty is the new forty. Eighty is middle age. Get over it.

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  10. I imagine this is why so many older writers are turning to epublishing their own books. I always said I would NEVER be one of those old writers hobbling around conferences, pitching my books, but here I am fat and not-so-sassy, doing just that.

    I hate discrimination regarding anything – but I know it’s true, it happens. You’re darn brave to admit it. Anyone throwing rocks at you yet?

    Several years ago at a conference in my area, a little old woman approached an editor and pitched her book. The very young editor rudely told her she was too old. No soft-spoken, sympathethic word there. The little woman was crushed, heart-broken. She’d put years of love and attention into her writing and her writers’ groups, nurturing others, but it took one heartless word from this editor to destroy her dreams. Sunny, I hope you choose your words wisely and try not to crush anyone’s dreams.

    And I venture to say in this day of ebooks and the internet, more senior citizens will be writing and marching to their own beat. After all, this is the land of opportunity.

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  11. Appreciate your honesty, Sunny. But reading through your post, I’m not sure you’re really engaging in ageism. By declining to publish the work of someone in a wheelchair with macular degeneration, you’re making a legitimate, informed choice, and doing your employer a service. But I don’t see you turning down a dynamite manuscript from a spry octogenarian who is up for the legwork. We all age at different rates, and we all have moments of energy and moments of lethargy, but I’d hazard a guess that the average Oak Tree Press author is nearing retirement age if not there already.

    William Doonan

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  12. I’m a real estate developer that laid-off 83 people and needed a challenge while waiting for the real estate market to rebound…well it hasn’t. My wife said to me “You’ve always wanted to write why don’t you dust off that novel you wrote 25 years ago and give it a go.” I said, I’m to old.” She said,”hell you run 20 miles a week your in good shape stop feeling sorry for yourself and write!”

    I’ve written five novels, published one and find I can crank one out in about six months. I figure I’ll live another ten years at least and probably twenty…so I guess I have twenty to forty novels left in me…that is if I can get them published. My publisher published my first one and I can’t even get them to look at the other four even though they claim my first one did well…go figure.

    My point…keep writing you’ll probably outlive the publishing houses..they’re in the same straights as the real estate industry…folding as we speak.

    I agree with Sunny though…it’s all about the bottom line.

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  13. I completely understand that whichever authors you take on must be able to manage not only the writing, but also the promotion and marketing. We’ve even done a conference presentation on the subject. The activities after publication are far more stressful and demanding than the writing itself.

    That said, we are fortunate that our first book was published seven years ago, so we are established authors. We were in our 50s when we first published, but are often assumed to be at least ten years younger. And we both want to be Marilyn and Hap Meredith when we ‘grow up’! No one has more energy and enthusiasm than those two!

    If your love of writing and the quality of your books is very high, and you love and enjoy people, the demands of promotion will be energizing rather than draining.

    I do agree with Marilyn that each author should be judged on the basis of the work, first and foremost.

    And if any of your readers want to see energy and love of people in action, come to the eFiesta for EPICon in San Antonio on the 17th of this month and meet Marilyn and the two of us. You’ll also see quite a few ‘senior citizens’ who are still publishing and actively marketing their books. Heck, come by anyway. It will be FUN!

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  14. I’d say it has to depend on the individual and the person’s mental/physical condition. Some are worn out at 30 while others are still energetic and productive at three times that. My mother died at 101 and, though she had dementia in the last half of her final year, she still did much for herself and had more energy than ‘kids’ half her age.

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  15. Hi Sunny. Provocative post as usual:-) I began my first manuscript at 29 and put it away because morning sickness and work did not a happy manuscript make. But the intervening 30 years provided wonderful opportunities to observe others, mature, enjoy experiences and mishaps that would provide wonderful material. And laughs.

    Besides how many “younger” authors would be brave enough to dance a cha cha/hustle number dressed in pink fringe at the age of 61 to sell books.

    And I sold a ton. Viva la baby boomers!

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  16. The publishing industry is changing so much so fast, no one knows how it will shake out. Considering only a person’s age will definitely not help the publishing industry, but it is understandable that when you put money into a venture you want the maximum profit you can get from your investment.

    I think it all depends on the health, attitude, discipline and internet savy of the author at this point (and of course a good product). My generation is not interested in reading most of the work coming out of the twenty something generation, and we are a good chunk of the buying market. So when books are considered, I would think product is primary and that means the older writer has an advantage if they are not over the hill in their thinking and what they put on the page.

    This is a very interesting subject for further discussion, Sunny. So glad you were brave enough to put it out there. It is one of those subjects not often talked about.

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  17. Hmm. I was surprised when I read this, to say the least. I know a woman who’s blind and has something set up on her computer so she can dictate her books. She’s a very talented author and her books are selling.

    I know another author who’s with an epublisher, very seldom does any marketing or promoting, and doesn’t travel. Her books are selling very well. I know a third woman who’s close to ninety and going strong. Excellent writer.

    All of these women are “of an age”.

    Me? I’m perfectly capable of doing it all, but this economy has me by the neck and won’t let go. There are all kinds of issues during these times. However, I don’t believe age is one of those issues when I consider how well the two women I mentioned are doing, and they’re not the only ones.

    So, in all honesty, I have to say I think age in a non-issue and should remain so.

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  18. The same thing has been true in NY for a number of years, Sunny. They want younger writers who can physically go the extra mile. And yes, Ellis, agents do follow the same thinking. They all want younger, sellable clients. It’s all about money, and you can’t blame any agent or publisher, NY or indie, for thinking that way because for the most part, it’s true: you just suddenly reach the point where you know you can’t fly all over the country for any length of time and it is just way too exhausting and expensive to attend conferences, even if the publisher would pay for them.

    I wouldn’t say at sixty, but certainly by the time you hit 75, if you haven’t made it as a huge million book seller who gets all the publisher promo perks, then of course you can probably still write, and maybe a lot better than before, and maybe a lot better than most younger folks, but to properly do promotion for print books, you really do have to be able to travel. There’s too much money at stake for the publisher for you to avoid it.

    Heck, conferences exhausted me in my late forties, early fifties, when I attended a lot of them, which you have to do, at least in the print book world you do, to help the publishers reach a larger audience.

    I look at the schedules of some of the big name NY writers and it’s enough to throw me into a week long funk. But they’re only doing what they have to do to help the pubs sell their books. That doesn’t happen automatically, the author has a LOT to do with selling their books over time.

    Writing is a HUGE business, and it takes a huge amount of money and time and energy to crack the bestseller lists to any extent. The ones who have that kind of time and money to begin with can (and we’re talking a LOT of traveling) have an easier time of it to hit the NY Times list. The ones who can’t might sit and wonder why they’re not there too, but it’s all about money. Like everything else, it takes money to make money.

    Also, the fact is, most authors work their heads off. Non writers see photos of the author at her signing, never dreaming how much work it actually takes for the author (unless she’s in that group where the publisher pays all the expenses and hires someone to hand-hold her everywhere she goes) to even make it to that signing and maybe, one day, after many of those signings, hit the bigtime.

    I think what Sunny is saying is, once you hit the age where you KNOW you can’t keep doing it, there go the contracts because there goes the big money for the publisher. They don’t do all that and not expect a good return for it. The older you are, the higher the risk.

    So yes, it is unfair to older people. It’s always been unfair to older people and it’s gotten worse over the past 20 years. My personal feeling is, of course you can get a truly wonderful book full of wisdom from an older person. Happens all the time in the indie world. But it doesn’t happen for long or for big numbers unless that older person is physically able to, as Sunny said, travel and do all the promo that it takes for a bestselling book–and what other kind would you be doing all that work for?

    Now, some older folks are able to do that, as Chester and Marilyn and others have proved, but then you also have to consider the backgrounds and circumstances of oldsters who do. Do they have someone reliable to help them every day, i.e., a husband or wife who is also in good health? Are they able to drive around in a comfortalble camper, combining it with a vacation, which also costs money? So, basically, do they have a good enough retirement income to make it all possible, because unless you’re talking huge bestselling author credits, millions of books sold, then all the expenses are going to be on the author. Most folks can’t afford the extent of that travel, either moneywise or physically. It can be done, but it’s not easy and kudos to the very small group who can do it.

    (The exception would be huge name authors who already have the following to be exempt from a lot of promotional things that authors normally have to do. And yet, the big names still have to do a certain amount of work just to stay in the public eye. The ones who don’t have to are the ones who have made their audience long ago and that audience is pretty much guaranteed because those authors keep writing the same kind of books their audience loves and are used to year after year. They’ve already got that audience, they’re not scrambling to get there when they’re in their seventies or eighties. At that point, if they had a large enough audience built up, they could coast. I know a few in that category, and good for them! But they worked many years at writing for their comfort now.

    It’s a business. You have to do what you have to do, and if you can’t do it, and do it right, then it’s probably time to step down if you’re going for print books.

    I feel sorry for anyone who has to send out rejections to older folks who possibly have at least a credible book written, knowing that because of traveling and money constraints, even though it’s a publishable book, this will be a book that may sell a few hundred copies, if that. It can be the best book in the universe, but if it can’t reach a large enough audience, mainly at the author’s expense, publishers who want to make money won’t be able to afford to take that book on. Sad but true.

    That’s when that author can self publish ebooks, but be aware, you’re never going to sell many print books just working online. You’ve got to get out there and hustle.

    Ebooks are a different story. Large sales there can happen, but again, it’s going to be at the author’s expense and physical labor to make them happen. Maybe not traveling to signings and conferences, but it’s still a lot of work. I think the ebook growth will have as many older authors as they will younger ones, and the pitfalls will be the same for old as well as young writers.

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  19. I think there may be two issues here–one involves the limitations of the writer and the other involves the limitations of small publishers, and they are necessarily intertwined.

    If you are limited physically, financially, emotionally or otherwise to the extent that you can’t do your own promotion, whatever your age, your only real hope is that a big house with lots of resources discovers you and decides to pour a bunch of money into promoting you, because all of us little people have to do our promotion, whether it’s going to writer’s conferences, touring at bookstores and libraries, or sitting on the computer to get our names and books out there.

    Directly related to this, the smaller houses can’t sign writers who can’t participate in their own promotion. That’s just a financial reality.

    I am less mobile than a lot of my older writing counterparts, but I try to make up for it by doing more online promotion and utilizing the resources that are available to me to use–my husband is an actor of sorts and promotes my books on the t.v. and movie sets, (he’s given copies to Mark Wahlberg and Jason Mamoa, among others), and I promote myself at my children’s school functions, local events, etc.

    Sadly, gone are the days when writers can just write good books.

    Holli Castillo

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  20. Love ya, Sunny, but this doesn’t compute. I was 63 when my first book was published in NY at Topaz. After four, it was the industry and not me who pooped out. I attended RT conferences every year and had a ball. The bottom fell out and I managed two more before it was over in NY, more or less. Went to nonfiction, which I promoted all one summer when I was 73, driving all over two counties four and five times a week to meet with people in libraries, historical societies, etc. Yes, I’m more tired than I used to be, but I’ve since learned to promote online endlessly, as you probably know. I write thee blogs, have published all my back list on Kindle, which I learned to do myself.
    Well, honey, I could go on, but I won’t. Think you get the idea. I was told once that I probably had a lot more to say and said it better after 50 than I would have at 25.
    I have three novels sitting on my desk now that I’m going to edit and publish on Kindle. My books already there are selling well, and I just had two come out from Epublishers.
    Hate to brag, but you asked for it.
    Take care of yourself, Sunny. I really appreciate you as do a lot of us over and under 70, even when we can agree to disagree.

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  21. This is what’s going to drive more and more authors into self-publishing – or seeking small, independent publishers (like mine) who are less concerned about age.
    I’m 64 – and feel, easily, 30 years younger. Most of the time. Are there days when it’s hard for me to roll out of bed at 5 a.m.? Yes. Mostly when I haven’t gone to bed until nearly midnight the night before.
    The happy truth is, those of us of the Boomer generation are, as a group, younger in thought and health, than our parents’ generation. My publisher, who is 10 years younger than me, is firmly convinced I’ll outlive her.
    Also, as a group, I think we’re more dedicated and have a stronger work ethic than our children’s generation.
    Do some of my generation have physical limitations? Of course – but so do many people 30 years younger than me.
    It’s the old issue of being seen as a statistic rather than being judged as individuals. Sadly, from my perspective, it appears that – as so many other prejudices are going away – ageism still flourishes.

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  22. A number of popular novelists were former screenwriters who were booted out of Hollywood when they reached the dreaded age of 40 and were “too old” for the biz. Ageism is far worse in the TV/film industry.
    I think what Sunny is saying is that there’s a different between the professional author who wants to create a long-term career vs. the retiree looking for a new hobby and is only interested in producing a book to impress friends and family. This person sees writing as “something fun to do” vs. the serious writer who pays attention to the market and building a “brand.”
    The days of “overnight successes” are gone. Formerly, writers “marketed” their books with a three-week book tour paid by the publisher and then back to writing the next novel. Nowadays writers reach their audience one reader at a time through many months of ongoing efforts at the author’s expense. Many writers won’t spend the time and effort to build the fan base. Publishers want the writers who are willing to work as hard after publication as before.
    Sally Carpenter

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  23. Great replies from a number of people, several of whom I’ve met during travels to conferences and book promotion. Another thing about these folks — they’re senior citizens like me. I really can’t add anything to what they’ve said except maybe: “It all depends, doesn’t it!”

    These days many people around us are perking at 100. There are a lot of “Spunky Seniors” out there!

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  24. Can’t say I agree with you either, Sonny.

    I had some interesting conversations with a sassy, snarky NY agent I chauffeured around for my local RWA’s chapter conference recently.

    Her take:
    • Publishing is all about the money. Can your novel bring in the dollars? But, the Big Six and small presses have to rethink LOTS of their dead horse thinking. ePublishing/indie publishing is shaking up the money part, author ages and the publication methods.
    • Contracts are a bear to write and negotiated these days, she said, because the young authors are so savvy and business smart. Publishers aren’t willing to change and they don’t give on their contracts.
    • Writers don’t always write full time (money’s not there if you’re not NYTBL). Many end up taking breaks for babies or job promotions. Young clients have sliced her agent income. She’s adding more stable older writers to her stable to keep her income steady. LOL

    The publishing paradigm is changing. Writers can control their destiny. Imo, age doesn’t matter. The playing field has leveled. It’s all about the reader.

    And, for stories based from experience and emotion, who has more fodder for the mill? I’m thinking the old folks. Readers read for the story, don’t forget.

    As I dropped off said agent at the airport for her trip back to NYC, she shared she’d had her first rejection. After a positive pitch of a project the agent was very interested in, one of our members told her she wasn’t a good fit! The agent was a bit shocked.

    After all, writers need agents. Or do they?

    Writers need traditional publishers, Big Six or small houses? Do they?

    But writers DO need social media and networking. If you’re too old to learn that then you are too old to think about publishing and just about everything!

    Writing is no different than any other pursuit at any age… hard work, hard labor. I say bring it on! Age is a state of mind and I’m ready.

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  25. I’ve been published for twenty years and writing more now than I ever have. Thank goodness for editors who believe it’s the book and work ethic that matters. After over 75 published novels I’m branching out from romance into a new mystery career, ePubbing and into social media daily. As far as conferences… I’d rather put my time and money into a research trip to make my next book sparkle!

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  26. Sunny, I think it’s proper to consider how able and willing a prospective author will be to promote. But it’s not fair to make that judgement based on age. Many older writers are retired from their other careers, have time on their hands and energy to burn. Many may even have good experience in sales and promotion. If you assume an older person is likely to be lame or feeble is a mistake. I expect you already know this and pay more attention to how they fill out a promotion/marketing questionnaire than to the year of their birth.

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  27. Wow! I’ve been gone all afternoon so 27 people beat me to the comment section. I think they’ve pretty well covered the subject.
    I don’t believe that Sunny would ever discriminate on the basis of age or anything else. I think she simply wants to refer authors to OTP who are willing to work hard to promote themselves and their books. Right, Sunny?

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  28. I have to agree, where I work, there isn’t supposed to be discrimination, but it happens. I don’t state anything about my physical appearance, age or financial info. I don’t believe it is anyone’s business and will perform any task that I need to market and promote my book. I may complain to myself, but I will enjoy every minute of it.

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  29. At the risk of repeating what others have said, the issue is more the willingness of the author to do promotion than the author’s age. But if (to use an overused phrase) the spirit’s willing, but the flesh is weak, how good will the promotion be? AgaIn, though, is fitness age related? Well, yes, let’s be honest, it can be. I am sure, though, that many of us know spry, active, energetic octogenarians and slothful, unmotivated, couch potatoes in their 20s.

    Younger people also have other limits on their abilities to do the promotion that their books require, limits imposed by such realities as finances, student loans, and day jobs with few vacation days. Then there are children, plus the activities leading to the presence of children.

    My examples may be more prevalent among the young, but not restricted to them. I am 63, and have an 18 year old son who is a college student and living at home. His road test for his license is not for two more weeks which means my husband and I are constantly having to schlep him from place to place. Fortunately, my husband is supportive of my need to network at such conferences as Sleuthfest and is willing to juggle his schedule to take care of whatever needs to be done while I am away, even when the 4 day conference is tacked on at the end of a six day solo vacation. As for finances we paid off our own student loans many years ago, but we do have an older son who is just finishing his masters degree, and has informed us that until he finds a job he will be moving back home.

    I reiterate: it’s not chronological age that is the issue here, but the author’s ability to do whatever is necessary to make sure that his or her books become known.

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  30. I love all the comments. I’ve never read anything on this subject and I suspect nobody is willing to stick their neck out and bring it up.

    What nobody seems to pick up in the post is that it’s heartbreaking for ME to be forced to pick and choose. This isn’t the Hunger Games, for goodness sake! Yet, I do my publisher a disservice asking for a contract when I know the author hasn’t the ability to follow through with promotion.

    Many of the folks who responded are people I have acquired for publication. They know I didn’t use their age as a factor. I saw where their career path was up to now and their writing credits. Remember, there’s a big difference between a beginner and a seasoned author. I’m willing to give beginners a chance as long as they prove to me they are cognizant of the work ahead and able to do it.

    Just don’t list your illnesses in a query letter. Save that for the doctor.

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  31. As someone who started writing after fifty, I’m thankful that my publishers haven’t had the same viewpoint, Sunny. Otherwise I wouldn’t have five books, and a new series with a wonderful writing partner, who’s also “older.” All that counts is the writing.

    Who goes on book tours today? Not me. My publishers don’t require that. Authors can do more PR work and reach a much broader audience through diligent social networking today, no matter what their age.

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  32. Dear Miss Sunnie Frazier:

    Thank you for your interest in the manuscript of my first novel, Starlight Shines on Starlight Manor Nursing Home. You have asked me for a market proposal. I thought it was the publisher’s job to distribute the books. But I tried anyway. I took the nursing home bus when it made its weekly run to the supermarket – my aide usually buys me my supply of Ensure – and I talked to the manager, but he said they do not sell books.

    I promise you that my family, my fellow nursing home residents, and the staff will buy the book. They know I have named all the characters after them.

    My great grandson said I need to learn to use a computer. He is the one who “scanned” (he said it was like teletype) the typewritten manuscript (I even used an electric typewriter!) to send to you electronically. He did show me how to turn on the computer, and he even set up an “email account” for me, but until I have my cataract surgery, it is too hard for me to sit in front of the glowing screen. I even find it hard to watch my favorite soap operas most afternoons. I am dictating this letter and he is typing it into the computer for me.

    By the time the book is published, I will have had both knees and hips replaced, and will be able to walk by myself to the refrigerator for the food to attach to my feeding tube. I might have to delay the orthopedic surgeries, though, until I recuperate from the heart bypass surgery. I am not sure I will be able to travel by airplane to appear on Oprah or The View, as I doubt oxygen tanks can be taken on airplanes. But, do not worry, I have all wits and all my own teeth, and, at 97, can play a mean game of whee bowling while seated in my wheel chair.

    I always thought it would be fun to write a book. What a wonderful hobby for a retiree!

    I look forward to hearing from you again, but you will have to send me a message by regular mail. My great grandson is going back to college, and I am afraid if I try to turn on the “email” by myself, I will “crash the internet.” I don’t know what that means, but I remember when Wall Street crashed back in ’29, so it cannot be good.

    Sincerely yours,
    Mrs. Penelope Snoodle
    Proud widow of the late Wilfred Snoodle III
    Author of Starlight Shines on Starlight Manor Nursing Home

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  33. Sunny: Great thought provoking post as always. I’ve missed your wit. I wonder what would have happened had Steig Larson’s books would have been pulled when he died….
    I say keep trying until the bones are cold and maybe just the therapy of writing will add years to all our lives.
    Wendy
    W.S. Gager on Writing

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  34. Great subject, Sunny, and so many wonderful, thoughtful responses! I hope I’m spry enough to travel around the country or the world when my memoir comes out and immediately hits the NYTBL. But if I’m not, maybe I’ll hire a stand-in who’s a decade or more younger, a few pounds thinner, and maybe even has a quicker wit. For now, I’ll just keep on writing and reading and teaching and try to ignore the spectre of old-er age.

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  35. Well, gee, do ya think this is a touchy subject? Being a senior myself, but not a writer, I can sympathize with all sides but it has to be difficult for a publisher to just take it on faith that a debut author can handle all the pressures of marketing and self-promotion when that debut author hasn’t been faced with it yet. Hey, I’m trying to decide if I can handle the rigors of being a panelist and fan guest at a local con 😉

    Sunny, thanks for bringing this dilemma to public attention!

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  36. Sunny, I wouldn’t expect anything less than super entertainment, wisdom and controversy from such an honest, contrary girl!

    I just have to think about Steig Larson and Alan Bradley. One dead, the other over seventy…and look at him go!

    One other attraction of us out to pasture folks is that we are often retired with plenty of time and/or money. Not many young people are going to take a couple of years off without pay to bank on a book’s success making up for it. Chevy Stevens did it and got a six-figure advance, but that’s rare.

    As they used to say, a woman has to work twice as hard as a man to be thought half as good. Luckily that’s not hard.

    Change that to a senior…….you get the idea.

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  37. At 78, Marilyn Meredith is the most active promoter I know. Her travel schedule alone wears me out just thinking about it. Most of us do our book promotions online now, so it doesn’t matter how old you are as long as you can get to the computer and spend a few hours social networking..

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  38. Pingback: A QUERY LETTER IN THE SPIRIT OF PURIM « rabbi.author

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