A Teenager in Search of a Publisher

Q: My 17 year old daughter has written a book and we are unsure how to proceed. Does she need a literary agent? Should we go with a POD publisher or a more traditional route? The book would be categorized in the “teenage” genre. -Amy


A:
Thanks for writing, Amy, and congratulations to your daughter for completing such a substantial project!

Generally speaking, your daughter’s process of publication is no different than that of an “adult” novelist. Many publishers of young adult novels are still open to unagented submissions, so your daughter doesn’t absolutely have to have an agent unless the publishing house to which she’s submitting requires it. I might suggest that she try sending her book out herself first and if she feels overwhelmed by the submission process or, conversely, if she gets a lot of interest and is ready to negotiate a contract, then she can pursue a relationship with an agent.

With regard to your question of POD vs. traditional publisher, that depends on what your daughter’s publishing goals are. Is this the beginning of her career as a writer or does she just think it would be cool to have a bound book to show her friends and relatives? In my opinion, that’s the difference.

If your daughter is serious about being a novelist long-term, stick to pursuing traditional publishers. If she publishes this novel with a POD or subsidy press, it won’t really “count” as a credential on her writing resume when she goes on to write and attempt to publish other works. On the other hand, if writing is more of a hobby for her and she doesn’t intend to make a career of it, then you can pay to have it published if you want to. I feel compelled to say that except in very few specific circumstances—and this is just my professional opinion—I never encourage serious writers to pay to have their work published. (But that’s a whole different discussion.)

If your daughter does decide to pursue a traditional publisher, she needs to decide whether or not she is going to reveal her age in her cover letter. I asked my friend Alice Pope, the editor of both Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market and a literary journal called Fresh Boiled Peanuts, and she said she would advise your daughter not to include her age right away. Alice admitted that when she receives submissions for Fresh Boiled Peanuts from high school students, she can’t help but make assumptions about quality and professionalism—and she hates doing that—even subconsciously.

If a publisher shows interest in your daughter’s novel and begins to talk about contracts, then she must reveal her age. (You may want to seek the help of an agent or literary law firm at that point. I honestly don’t know very much about what you’ll have to sign for and which decisions your daughter can make on her own until she’s 18.)

Alice also suggested a few books you and your daughter could pick up to give you a little more guidance.

 

  • The Young Writer’s Guide to Getting Published, by Kathy Henderson (Writer’s Digest Books)
  • A Teen’s Guide to Getting Published, by Danielle Dunn & Jessica Dunn (two teens) (Prufrock Press)

 

Hope your daughter finds this helpful. Good luck and have fun!

Lauren Mosko, Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market Editor
Writer’s Digest Books