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I am an extremely young author. I don’t mean to sound like I’m bragging, but I think I am very good. They say the best readers are the best writers, in a single day I once read a 700 page book. I read every book in the house. Twice. I got bored. I was staying up late because I couldn’t sleep the night before seventh grade. I walked to the other side of the room, pulled a random book off the shelf, and started to read.

The book I had randomly selected was an old leather bound classic, Peter Pan. About a hundred pages in, I came across the list boys of never land. I read about how they were tromping through the woods, alone and scared, gripping daggers and wearing animal skins.

The light bulb above my head exploded with a book idea.

At least, at first it was a single book. Now it’s an eleven book series.

I finished my first book, and no one (by this I mean agents, editors, and publishers) is taking me seriously.

When I call them on the phone, they say they can help me out. But when they realize how young I am, they simply refuse.

What do I do?

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    Why do you feel the need to let them know how young you are? – RedSonja Oct 20 '20 at 11:22
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    I do not think being good at reading makes you a good writer. You can consume all you want; that does not mean you are good at creating. – yeah22 Oct 21 '20 at 3:33
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    Have you considered self-publishing some of your material first to get your name out there? – Mast Oct 21 '20 at 9:53
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    You need to write better than most other would-be authors. – NomadMaker Oct 21 '20 at 21:45

11 Answers 11

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It's certainly possible to be published as a very young author. Nancy Yi Fan published her Swordbird series at eleven years old, and Christopher Paolini wrote Eragon in his teens. I loved both of those books as a kid.

However, if you are calling agents and have gotten negative responses, here are things to consider.

  • Are you calling them out of the blue? Most literary agents get lots of calls, emails and unsolicited submissions in a day, and they don't always like to get calls from people without a recommendation, a platform, or an introductory email. Instead of calling, try reaching out with a short, courteous email. If they don't respond, don't push it and leave them alone, but if they do, that's the time to give them a call. Make your age clear in the message right away so they know that up front.

  • Are you just too young for the publishing houses you're contacting? Some publishing houses simply don't accept submissions from any authors below a certain age - I've heard 13, 16 and 18 quoted at me before when I was going through the publishing circuit. That's not your fault at all! It's just a policy sometimes, since most publishing houses only specifically focus on fiction and nonfiction written by adults.

  • Are you thinking too highly of yourself? It's wonderful to have dreams and it's great to reach high, but you are an unpublished author and unproven. You haven't shown anybody that you are a really good author yet, so a lot of people are going to question your prowess, and they might be mean to you if you come across as bragging or too full of yourself. Be careful not to brag about being a good reader or good writer when you talk to agents. You have to keep yourself in perspective, and remember that you are talking to somebody with a lot of experience - they probably know more than you do.

  • Have people looked over your novel? Do you have beta readers? You should always run your work past multiple people before presenting it to publishers, and in all likelihood, editors will want to modify it further. Give it to literary people, your English teacher, and anyone who expresses interest in reading it (but don't push it on them, of course!) to see what they think. Listen carefully to all feedback and try to improve it. Critique is a very important part of the process, and a lack of it might be a reason for the lack of interest.

I hope this gives you some help. Publishing is really hard, especially when you are young, and you will have to deal with a lot of people who might talk down to you for your age. Try not to let it get to you, and make sure you are taking the right approach and being respectful to everyone you talk to. Someday the right door will open. I wish you luck!

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    Also, to be fair, adult authors, by and large, routinely receive exactly the same treatment from publishers and agents. Getting a fiction novel published is hard. The number of aspiring authors far outweighs the market for works of fiction, and even good authors can find starting a carreer extremely difficult. Just because you can cook doesn't mean you can run a restaurant. – J... Oct 20 '20 at 18:00
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    Like in many other fields, success is less about pure talent and more about who you know - networking, schmoozing, and finessing relationships - and also how good you are at building your brand and your name. These are all skills that young people are particularly poor at and need time to practice and grow into. – J... Oct 20 '20 at 18:01
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    "Eragon's" parents were in the publishing business and actively promoted the book. So many that's an answer: get parents to help. – Owen Reynolds Oct 20 '20 at 18:04
  • "Are you thinking too highly of yourself" - keep in mind, this is something adults struggle with too! This has nothing to do with your age. – corsiKa Oct 22 '20 at 15:06
  • Just as addendum, the reason for age restrictions in who can publish can also be local laws. Depending on country contracts with minors can be quite a bit more complicated as they normally are not supposed to work yet^^ There may be ways around that, but it might cost the publisher additional money to figure out how and thus they might have simply excluded that option. – Frank Hopkins Oct 22 '20 at 20:14
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Figure out your Resources:

Even this site says you need to be 13 or have a parent assisting you to use it. Start with a school English teacher, and see if they will beta read the book and give you feedback (A parent isn't likely to be neutral). Get friends to beta read it, but not so good a friends that they won't criticize. The first sentence, paragraph, page and chapter are the most critical ones to make a first impression, so work these over well (I redid the beginning of my novel five times).

This is your baby, and you love it, but it will need to get torn apart and rewritten (possibly several times). Your book is likely not in publishable condition yet (no one's first book is, without a lot of work/experience). BE PREPARED for criticism; no one likes to hear their baby is full of run-on sentences and has the word "the" in it 400 times too many. Or worse, they say you are doing something flat-out wrong (better to fix it now than try publishing something that will be rejected). I feel like my editor is kicking me in the teeth, but I ignore her at my own peril.

A lot of authors don't have their first novel published first. That is because it usually is good, but poorly written (until they go back and rewrite it later). Have a backup story/plotline in mind in case you can't get the first published. Or, think about if you can make each/any of your 11 novels standalone stories and not dependent on the first (except as your own reference for the world).

If you are targeting a YA audience, look for agents in YA. They will be more receptive to writers in their target age range. Use your parent as your representative, since you are legally unable to enter into a contract and agents will only deal with contracts. Possibly try getting some short stories published in magazines; people take authors with published works more seriously. Even if it's just a story in the school paper (or equivalent), the experience of success and failure will get you in the right frame to capitalize on success and be ready for failure (being an adult doesn't mean you aren't rejected over and over...)

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    Thank you all for your valuable input. It means a lot to me. I will take your questions and suggestions into consideration the next time I attempt to publish. – Leila Oct 19 '20 at 19:19
  • I think the very good friends are the best to criticize. – lvella Oct 22 '20 at 15:14
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How likely are you to see this through?

Some authors have churned out huge numbers of books - look up the output of some pulp authors (sci-fi, cowboy, romance, etc.) and be amazed!

But you're young. Right now this is the hottest thing in your life. Is it always going to be that way? You can't say, and your publisher certainly can't. And an 11-book series is long! And even if you do keep going, you're also reliant on keeping up the quality.

Think George R R Martin. We're still waiting for the end of Game of Thrones. Patrick Rothfuss? Same. Scott Lynch? Same. Robert Jordan? Died before he finished his series. Stephen King? Took years to finish The Dark Tower, and many people don't think the remaining books were as good.

As Neil Gaiman rightly said, no author owes us anything. But publishers need to make money, and if there's a risk they won't, they won't invest in you. As things stand, you absolutely are a risk that way.

But on the upside, you may be as good as you think you are, and you may stick at it

In that case, keep going. Write all 11. And rewrite them, and rewrite them. And see how it goes.

Kate Bush started writing songs when she was still in single-digit years. She got spotted at 14. Paul Gilbert was famous as one of the fastest guitarists in the world in his teens. The Kanneh-Mason kids perform internationally. They started on stuff they really liked doing, and they worked like hell to get good at it.

Those 11 books are your portfolio. Your demo reel. Get good, and keep going. Good luck.

And by the way, if you do post your first book online for review, do let us know. As other answers have said, you're going to want feedback on what works and what you could do better. I can't promise good reviews, but I can promise honest ones.

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  • Actually I think I am very likely to see this through. I spend every moment I can writing or taking notes on my characters, plot, backstory, character arc, subplots, sentence structure, etc. I am obsessed with it and my parents punish me by telling me I’m not allowed to write for a day. – Leila Oct 21 '20 at 16:44
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    @Leila Then it's quite likely you're going to make it in the end! I remember being the same with computer programming at a similar age. This may not be the story which makes you famous, but work on it and it'll take you further. (The computer games I wrote, I can see the faults in them now; but 30 years later I've worked on power station controls, electric vehicles, aircraft anti-missile systems, and nanopositioning. Stepping stones... :) Oh, and do keep us posted on anything you'd like reviewing. – Graham Oct 21 '20 at 16:56
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    @Leila BTW, this is the internet, and you are young. (And from your username here, presumably female.) Your parents should be your first reviewers, but you do want feedback from other people. Unless there are other issues, you do want to keep your parents in the loop with the authors' forums you're visiting. And if anyone says stuff online about you or your writing which freaks you out, take it to them. Some reviews are going to be harsh but fair, and they can tell you "suck it up buttercup" into a way that's easier to take. :) But some won't be, and they can deal with those jokers. – Graham Oct 22 '20 at 9:19
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    One important addition to this is seek out constructive criticism and listen to it. Learning what you're currently not doing well and learning from it is critical to improving, even though it can feel awful. The first draft of something may feel like genius but is often junk. The 12th or 30th rewrite might be good. :) Also I highly recommend keeping humility about you. Try to get an accurate sense of your strengths and weaknesses, and use these to keep an accurate assessment of your skills in mind. The worst thing you can do is have an inflated view of your skills. It prevents growth. – bob Oct 22 '20 at 16:18
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    @bob Totally agree. But it can be hard to take, so filtering it through parents to soften the edges seemed like a good idea to me. – Graham Oct 22 '20 at 20:57
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I can't add much more. But now that we are in the age of social networks, take advantage and spread small parts of your work. You can create a YouTube channel. But the main thing about your job is auditions, so creating a podcast can also be a good idea. Sorry if my English is not very good.

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    Your English is just fine; you certainly speak it much better than I speak your native language. Welcome to the site! – F1Krazy Oct 21 '20 at 10:02
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    Agreed. Even if you release your whole first book, you can potentially grow an audience. I have no idea how I found "John Dies at the End" originally, but I know I was reading along as the web serial slowly released chapters. (I actually liked it better than the book, as you didn't know when it was going to end) – Joe Oct 21 '20 at 16:08
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I've written a couple of books that have been published (although they were in a specific and rather technical field -- not novels). I wrote the first one when I was 18, and my coauthor for it was 15. The chances of a good book being written by a young author are smaller, but it definitely can happen.

I'd recommend trying to demonstrate expertise to potential publishers. Contact them by email (instead of over the phone) and send an excerpt of your book. If you happen to have any writing qualifications, such as awards or published articles, mention those too. You could also try getting something small published first (like in a newspaper or magazine) in order to build up your credentials. In addition, no need to mention your age. Do you want their first impression of you to be that you're young, or that you write very well (assuming you do)?

For my first book, when we contacted our published we didn't mention our age. We mentioned some credentials we had for the specific field we'd be writing about, and asked if they'd like to do a book with us. They replied asking for some sample work, and after we sent it they were happy and started the project. A little later we told them how old we were as it was necessary (they might have already known by looking us up though), but by this point it wasn't an issue.

Another option is self-publishing your book (I don't have experience with this though) -- your parents might be able to help, and I think there are services that can print your book in physical form. This kind of goes back to the tip about getting published a bit before trying to go to the next step with a novel accepted by a big publisher.

Finally, you might be a very good writer, but many people who think they're good aren't viewed this way by everyone else (i.e., people who might buy your book). So it's important to get feedback from other people. I don't want to say this due to you being young -- e.g., for myself, multiple people online have been skeptical of my books' quality just due to my age. However, by this point I know that I actually am a decent author, since my publisher has been extremely happy with my writing and the books are received quite well by people who bought and read them. But without this feedback, how would I know if it was just me assuming my books were good due to a subjective perspective?

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This has very little to do with your age. Writers of all ages have similar experiences. The problem is that there is a huge number of people who want to publish books, and a very limited number of books that get published each year. You may be very talented, but it doesn't automatically mean you will be published, whether you are eight or eighty.

I also started writing at your age, and expected to quickly meet with great success. Now, years later, I know that I wasted a lot of time being too focused on getting published. The more important thing is to write a lot, to enjoy the process of writing, and to continually learn to be a better writer.

If you do want to be published immediately, short stories are usually easier to sell at first than books. There are some magazines and contests especially for young writers. You can submit to those. There are also a lot of ways to publish online --through your own blog, for instance, or on a writing platform. You can still keep trying to sell your book at the same time. Make sure your manuscript is free of all errors, and as good as you can possibly make it. Then, learn how to write a "query letter." You can send those to agents and to publishers. If they like the query, it will make them take your submission seriously --no matter what your age.

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Maybe try to get just one book that is separate from the series published first, and if that goes well then try out the series. 11 books is very long. Not everyone can or wants to read 700 pages in a day. You can definitely compress your idea in to 1 book or a 3 book series. You didn't tell us how much of your plot you have now or anything. If you're "very young" that makes me think 9 or 10, so you haven't learnt that much in English class about plot devices and stuff like that.

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    OP mentions being in seventh grade when she first had her book idea, which would make her 12-13 at the youngest, depending on how much time has passed since then. – F1Krazy Oct 21 '20 at 6:53
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Consider self-publishing (for your first book at least)

There have been comments and answers that hint at this without expanding on the point.

There are a variety of services out there that enable authors to self publish. You'll probably have to put in a bit of work (and front any/all the money) yourself, but it is an option to get your works out there. For example, Amazon has resources available for self-publishing, for both digital and physical copies. IngramSpark is another

There are pros and cons with everything of course. With self-publishing, you will miss out on a lot of stuff that a traditional publisher would give, such as advertising, the clout to get your book in front of major influencers/reviewers, or sold at major bookstores. You'll also have to take full responsibility in terms of the book's content - designing/purchasing a cover, getting someone to proof-read or edit, and handling copyright/trademark issues. You can lean on friends and family a bit for this, but you'll still have to do a lot of work yourself.

Before you head down one road however, definitely get some second opinions, and I don't mean from internet people: Talk it over with a parent or guardian to see what they think - they might be able to offer advice or have an alternate route you haven't considered.

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I think you can try sites like Wattpad? If it is good, then you will get readers, and if it is good enough, you can put it into paid stories section. Or you can publish it in a website, and then monetize it. And if it is again good enough, and you get good rankings, then put an email and wave your followers and votes in their faces(The publishers) and that would be very good motivation for it to get published as hardcover. And you get money while you keep trying. Best of luck!

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Here are a few:

  1. Prologues are not a way to dump information on readers. This is a common scenario in fantasy and science fiction books. All the extra details and important facts are plainly written down in the prologue. Sometimes, the entire structure of a dystopian world or society is explained in the prologue.

This is a good way to make sure that most readers do not read past your prologue.

Yes, this is a serious concern. You have to understand that prologues are snippets that will capture your readers' attention and make them want to read ahead. The above mentioned details and information should be disclosed bit by bit as the story unfolds.

Most authors advise to skip prologues altogether because of this misuse. However, if you use prologues the right way, then you can absolutely go ahead and use them.

  1. Spend a significant amount of time writing the opening paragraph. Write down a number of openings and select the one that appeals the most to you. This opening paragraph is the one that basically makes a reader decide if the book is worth the time or not.

Some overused openings to avoid are weather descriptions, alarm clocks, dream sequences, flashbacks, and waking up scenarios.

  1. Keep filler chapters to a minimum. If possible, avoid them altogether. Filler chapters are those that do not really contribute in moving the plot forward. They exist solely to increase the word count of the book or to simply engage the reader more with the characters, the setting, or the plot.

  2. Avoid overexaggerating descriptions and excessive use of figure of speech. As opposed to what most aspiring authors believe, complicated vocabulary, fancy descriptions and excessive figure of speech do not impress the readers. These things annoy the readers because reading such writing becomes a chore. The book will most probably be classified as boring and kept aside.

  3. Don't fall in love with your words. Of course, you should be your biggest fan and you should write only what you love. But don't let the words become so special to you that you can't edit them. Your heart might be clinging onto them even when your mind clearly tells you to get rid of them.

This is what editing truly means. Editing is basically getting rid of all the words that were once special but are no longer so. Edit ruthlessly.

  1. Endings can make or break your book. Once a reader finishes reading the book and the last page is flipped, it is the ending that stays with the reader. They will remember the story because of the ending.

For this reason, do not make your ending too complicated, do not haywire it to surprise the reader, do not leave the reader hanging (unless there is a sequel), and do not elaborate the moral of the story or the lessons learnt.

  1. Lastly, do not lose hope. Writing a book is a long process. Getting published is an even longer process. Marketing to make your book sell is a neverending process. So to survive as an author, stick with just two things; patience and perseverance.

I hope these tips will help you in polishing up your book. Remember that writing is a beautiful but painful journey, littered with shards of glass and rose petals. Be patient and persevere and you will soon transform from being an aspiring author to a published author.

All the best for your first story.

ONLINE PUBLICIST

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Stop calling people on the phone for two reasons.

First, your voice will give away your age and your responses will give away your lack of experience.

Then, telephone is prolly the least-preferable method of first contact between writers and their agents, editors, and publishers)

When no one is taking you or your first book seriously, why are they wrong?

Why can you not ask for funds from friends, family or crowd-funding and publish your work yourself?

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