Can You Get Published if You're a Teenager?

Q: I’ve been a writer since junior high (not a very good one) but now I’m 16 years old in High School and I feel very strongly that my work and skill has gotten a lot better. So much better that my work might just be publishing material. I was wondering would my age keep me from being published or should I just not mention it? —Angie P.

A: While there are plenty of things you can’t do when you are 16—vote, drink a beer, watch an R-rated movie, be seen in public with your parents—there are plenty of things you can do, and that large bucket includes getting published.

The basic proof lies in the facts: There are several teenagers who have scored book deals and have found success, like S.E. Hinton (The Outsiders), Christopher Paolini (Eragon) and Zoe Trope (Please Don’t Kill The Freshman). In fact, being a teen could be an advantage—yes, an advantage—to landing a publisher. Let me explain.

Publishers constantly look not only for great books to publish, but also look for authors who have a platform. Being a teenage author who wrote a great book immediately makes you marketable to news outlets, therefore giving you a built-in platform.

Now before you go spending that six-figure advance, keep in mind that the reason published teenage authors are newsworthy is because they are very, very rare. Why? Teenagers typically lack two important elements that adult writers tend to have: experience and high-level writing skills. Most folks competing with teenage writers to get published have studied the industry for years, have written many manuscripts (published and unpublished) and understand the business side of the writing world. This is experience gained over time, which puts anyone under the age of 20 at an unfortunate, but natural, disadvantage. Also, while a 16-year-old’s writing skills may be better than every other 16-year-old in the country, that doesn’t necessary mean it’s on par with the best of the best adult writers—and it certainly needs to be to stand any chance of getting published. In fact, very few teens measure up to that level, which is why so few receive publishing contracts.

So where does that leave you, the teenage writer? Motivated to work even harder, I hope. Continue to improve your skills and your understanding of the industry. If you’ve finished a manuscript at 16, you’re already ahead of the game. Stay that way by staying determined.

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About Ben Sobieck

Benjamin Sobieck is a Wattpad Star and 2016 Watty Award winner. He’s best known on Wattpad for Glass Eye: Confessions of a Fake Psychic Detective, the Watty Award–winning sequel Black Eye, and When the Black-Eyed Children Knock & Other Stories. Four of his titles have appeared on Wattpad Top 100 Hot Lists, all at the same time.

4 thoughts on “Can You Get Published if You're a Teenager?

  1. Song of the Dawn

    I was 13 when I wrote my first copy of my book, now at 14, I have 5…& 1/2…& a prequel… in two different series… written. I’ve been contacting publishers for a full year & Haven’t stopped writing or giving up hope. 13 publishers have turned me down (One sent me magazines that publish stories by teens, that really ticked me off! My books are FIFTY THOUSAND+ WORDS!!!!) But there’s more publishers out there! If you’re old enough to write a book, you shouldn’t be turned down for your age!!! When a publisher turns me down, I fight harder! It makes me work harder on m books! Cuz I’m gonna make ’em regret it!!! Remember the name Catherine Larson! You’ll see it on your book shelf some day! 😀

  2. Katie

    I was really happy when I saw this. I’m thirteen years old and just finished my manuscript. I’ve been trying to find a literary agent, but I haven’t had much luck yet. I have to agree, it is a great disadvantage because I know little about the publishing market, all I know is that I just want to write.

  3. Lizzie Jones

    WHOO! You go girl! I’m a teenage writer, pretty much in your same situation. The thing everyone says to do is read like crazy, and it’s true, you can pick up a lot of technique by reading, it just screws up pleasure reading when your inner editor is telling you to take note. =P Good luck!!

  4. Laura Marcella

    It’s so weird you answered this question today! My blog post today lists five writers who first published before age 24 (and 4 writers who first published over 50, but that doesn’t pertain to this question). You make some excellent points, but age really IS just a number!


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