re: When Did Editors Get So Young?

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Dear Editor…

I’ve attended some writers’ conferences, and I’m always a bit surprised at how young the agents and editors are, compared to me and many other writers. Do you think the age difference can work against a writer?

Sincerely,

Kathy

Dear Kathy…

On the contrary, I recommend you pursue young editors and agents at full speed because they are often in high list-building mode. That means they’re more likely than those long in the tooth to fly around the nation for smaller events like writing chapters’ Agent/Editor Days, making them more accessible to submitting authors, and they are more likely to offer an ‘open call’ for submissions when they get there. They are also more willing to work through a round or two of revision on a promising project. And very importantly, in almost every case these young’uns have deeply experienced mentors hovering in the background. Mentoring is a big thing in the ranks of literary professionals, and that, coupled with youthful enthusiasm, brings young agents and editors up to speed on the marketplace and their craft very quickly. These ‘kids’ are hungry, driven, and acquiring; does it get any better than that? If you have an opportunity to connect with an editor or agent, forget about your abundance of gray hairs and their lack thereof. It’s about the books, always.

Happy writing!

The Editor

5 Comments

  1. Oh, darn, you just took away one of the comforting explanations I give myself when I get a rejection. You mean, it’s not just that the editor is too young and inexperienced to appreciate the excellence of my work? It’s getting harder and harder to avoid concluding that one or two of my stories might possibly be a little less than perfect. What a downer, as my kids used to say. (Notes to self: must find out what word kids use now. Forget about having hair dyed before next conference.)

  2. If Kathy’s thinking is like mine, you haven’t answered the question. People tend to drift toward individuals with similar tastes and life experiences. Would a young person care to mingle with an old lady like me? I mean I left the bar scene over twenty years ago. What do we have in common with them to make a young person want to work with us? Wouldn’t they rather work with someone young like themselves?

    • Joyce, m’friend, they’re not looking for someone to party with. Nor are they looking for BFFs. This is a business relationship, based around a mutual vision for a product–that product being your story. I know storytelling/writing is a very personal endeavor and so calling it a product feels crass, but that’s still what this relationship is about when all is said and done. The chemistry you should search for, and which editors and agents seek, too, is a connection based on mutual respect for what you both bring to the table–talent, vision, and execution. Friendship is a bonus, not the goal. As a twenty-something editor, I often worked with much older authors, and those relationships were mutually enjoyable because we DID have a lot in common despite the age gap—a common vision, a common taste in stories, common work styles, and life experiences that, though different, revolved around a common love of storytelling. That’s what matters in an editor/author relationship. Work styles are a consideration; bar preferences are not.

  3. I’ve heard it said by some young agents and editors that they prefer to represent young writers because they want to develop a life-long relationship with someone who is in it for the “long haul.” I’m comforted, though, by the fact that Laura Ingalls Wilder first got published in her sixties. I may still have time!

    • Yes, Nancy, you DO have plenty of time! Remember, the amazing children’s book author Eve Bunting didn’t publish her first book until she was 44, in 1972. She’s since published over 200 books for young readers, ranging from picture books to young adult novels, and has received numerous awards, including the Caldecott Medal and the Golden Kite Award. I started working with Eve when I was in my twenties and when she was, well, NOT in her twenties (ahem). Our working relationship was outstanding, and our friendship, which continues fifteen years later, stems from our mutual love of storytelling. Our different life experiences just make for lively conversation.

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