Too Young to Publish—A New Musing

I’ve just put up a new musing. Yeah, yeah, it’s been a long time between drinks, but I’ve been busy, okay?

Too Young to Publish

Recently I’ve had a number of letters from teenagers wanting advice on how to get their novel published and wondering whether their age will make it harder for them to get it into print. Specifically, would they be discriminated against because they were only thirteen or fourteen or fifteen or sixteen or whatever?

The simple answer is no. When you submit a query letter to a publisher or agent you don’t have to tell them how old you are. You’ll be rejected or accepted on the quality of your submission.

Continue reading Too Young to Publish.


  1. Didi on #

    Thanks for writing this. I expect I’ll be sending young writers to read this in the future.

  2. Jenny D on #

    Good musing. I could use a gold koala bear stamp!

  3. Sherwood Smith on #

    Hoo boy this is so scary, I could have written the entire thing. Except I had stories published, not poems. But I sure as heck want to link to this, because I get the same letters very frequently.

  4. Vera Nazarian on #

    followed this through sherwood’s link — thanks for a great post!

  5. Didi on #

    justine, would you mind if i had this translated and published online in hebrew? with credit and link, of course.

  6. David Moles on #

    I am so glad I never finished the fantasy novel I was working on at seventeen.

  7. Gillian Polack on #

    Thanks for writing that essay and your timing is just perfect!! I’m part of the August Writers’ online festival for school children and I am puttting a link to the essay in my section because an awful lot of the kids involved are asking those exact questions. If this is not desirable, or if you want to add comments, please email me.

  8. Justine Larbalestier on #

    Wow, thank you everyone for such an enthusiastic response. Didi, Gillian and anyone else: feel free to use it in anyway you feel fit. Didi, I’d be delighted for it to be translated into Hebrew! How fabulous.

    I confess that the musing was really aimed at the fifteen-year-old me. Though of course fifteen-year-old me would have laughed in current me’s face. “But I’m different,” I’d have insisted.

    Sherwood: the child prodigy thing sure is weird, isn’t it? The transition from being amazing for your age to competing with the adults is quite the trauma. And I lived only a very mild version of it.

  9. Gwinevere on #

    Justine my heart stopped a beat when I saw the topic of your musing. I was happy to see that you are tackling the topic of writing and teenagers. I wrote my first nonfiction book at 16 and it was accept right around my 17th birthday. Subsequently I have author two more nonfiction guides for young adults. I often receive questions from teens about writing. I have learned so much in this business it is a lot more challenging than it appears from the outside. I wish more writers would stand up and say “it is so hard.” Especially with after contract issues that come up. You are never “home free.”

    Although, I didn’t agree with everything in your musing. I really do think its okay that teens write and aspire to be published (with lots of help in the editing department). However, I think one of the most important elements you wrote was “Learning to take criticism is one of the major prerequisites of being a professional writer.” This is very true. Its not being a push over but instead becoming open enough to realize that your writing can change for the better with constructive criticism.

    I will send people to this musing whenever the topic comes back up. By the way, I recently created a page on my site for aspiring young writers. In case your interested in a different point of view.

  10. Savannah on #

    Thank you for writing this. It’s helped me. I know what I need to do now, maybe I will be able to get out my book. Thanks again.

  11. Justine on #

    Gwinevere: Of course there are talented young writers who I’m very glad found their way into print. S. E. Hinton’s a great example. And of course I think it’s fabulous that there are teen writers. I was one! Be great if there were even more than there are. I just wish that when I was a teen I’d been half as obsessed with improving my writing as I’d been with getting published.

    To be honest, I’d give the same advice to a writer of any age. Too many are caught up with wanting to get published at the expense of working on their craft.

    I’m glad you liked the musing. And yes, I agree, learning to take criticism is essential if you want a career as a writer.

    Savannah: I’m dead pleased you found it helpful!

  12. Tevans on #

    Hi Dr. Larbalestier I’m fifteen and I’m about to finish up the first draft of my novel. I heard the some writers put away there first books because they are horribel, they call them trunk books. Do you think it is a good idea for a young author to publish there first book at an early age?

  13. Tevans on #

    I’m so sorry I forgot the s in Mrs.

  14. Justine on #

    That’s okay, Tevans, I fixed it for you. (I’m a Dr not a Mrs or a Ms. In case you’re wondering—in Australian English we don’t put a full stop after Dr or Mrs—not unless it appears at the end of a sentence.)

    First drafts by writers of any age are—nine times out of ten—pretty hopeless. This is especially true if it’s your first novel. Your first novel is all about learning how to write a novel. Many, many well-known writers never manage to publish the first novel they write. Particularly not the first draft of the first novel.

    I finished my first novel in 1999. I thought the first draft was perfect and tried to get it published in that state and failed. I’ve rewritten it many times since then and it’s still not published. In fact, I’m in the middle of my latest rewrite of it right now. I honestly could not tell you what number rewrite it is. I also have no idea if it will ever be published. I hope so, but who knows? Maybe it’s irretreviably a first novel.

    I guess what I’m saying is that it doesn’t matter how old you are—it matters how good your work is. It’s also important to know that your writing will get better. One of the wonderful things about being a writer is that it makes no difference what age you are. Some of the best writers are very, very old. Some are middle aged, some are young.

    My advice is always to work on your craft, work on making whatever you’re writing as good as it possibly can be, and then, and only then, when you’re satisfied with it (and people you trust are too) send it out for publication. But prepare yourself for rejection. The one constant of a writer’s life is lots and lots and lots of rejection.

    I hope that answers your question.

  15. Tevans on #

    It does, thanks dr. Larbalestier

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