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Question
I am currently in the process of writing a young adult fiction book. My grandfather has connections to a publisher, but I'm a bit worried whether they will doubt my abilities according to my young age, as I am only thirteen. I've heard very little about publishing books and would like to know if age has anything to do with the process of it. Also, if you wouldn't mind answering one more question, I would like to know the average amount of publishers I'll have to go through to get my book published. Thank you very much!

Answer
Hi, Kaylee!

I saw your question in the pool and thought I'd offer to help out. Your age really has little bearing on the quality of your book. Where age becomes a factor is in the signing of the contract (which your parents/guardians would have to do for you until you're legal age) and a possible concern about your ability to squeeze a fixed publishing schedule into your legally-structured life. By that, I mean that publishers have fixed dates for things like editing, copy editing and other items, and you have school, homework, chores and sports/clubs.

The trouble is that let's say today you get your manuscript accepted with a June, 2010 publication date (publication dates are often about a year after acceptance.) Well, about 2 months from now, your editor would send you a letter that would have a list of requirements to make changes to the manuscript. They can be changes to scenes that don't make sense to the editor, rewriting entire character personalities or even deleting subplots that you like, but the editor doesn't. The contract specifies that you have a certain amount of time (let's use 2 months--which is common) to complete the changes and get the manuscript back to them. But in the next 2 months, school starts and there is homework, clubs, friends, sports and such. Yet the contract is the contract, and they don't CARE whether you have other obligations. They have deadlines and have people in the company waiting for the changes to that book to move it through the chain toward the shelf. The publisher doesn't want to come out in second place, but they also don't want to overtire you. Neither is fair to you or the publisher.

Now, it could well be that you're perfect capable of fitting it in your schedule and your parents and editor feel confident you can do everything required. Another author about your same age, Amelia Atwater-Rhodes ("Demon in my View") did just that. Her first book came out when she was 14. Great! Then your age doesn't matter at all. I only mention it because the editor will THINK about it before offering you a contract, and may want to discuss the realities of the business with you before making a deal.

As for the average number of publishers queried before the book is picked up, there really isn't any answer. If the book is terrific, everyone will want it and you'll have to fight off the publishers. If it's good, but not "WOW!" then it could take longer to find the right fit. The minimum standard is "good" in this business, BTW. No spelling errors, excellent grammar, strong characters and flowing plot.  So much depends on the book and what editors are looking for at that moment. Look at "Twilight". it had the "Wow!" factor and publishers fought to get it. Other books, even in that same genre, took much longer. It just depends.

If your grandfather knows a publisher, AND that publisher happens to publish Young Adult novels (and isn't a subsidy publisher like PublishAmerica, AuthorHouse, Trafford, or such---all of which you should avoid) then sure, give it a try. It always helps to have an "in" with an editor. If the publisher doesn't sell YA, that might still be okay, because it's actually a really small business. That editor might know someone else at a different publisher and it could be your ticket in. Worth a shot, IMO.

Hope that helps a little. Good luck!

Cathy

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Cathy Clamp

Expertise

I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.

Experience

I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Organizations
Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Publications
Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

Education/Credentials
My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

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