Writing Thoughts: Is 28 Too Old to be a debut author?

Is 28 Too Old to Be a Debut Author?

Posted January 11, 2018 by Amber in Writing / 19 Comments


For the last few years, I have struggled with the idea that my ship has sailed, metaphorically speaking.  Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to write books.  I’ve written enough stories that I have my own little shelf with first draft mockups and I’ve got a grand list of other ideas.  I never stop writing, not completely.  And yet, only two of my manuscripts have made it to Draft Two.  I’ve been out of high school for ten years and I’m getting a bit fuzzy on what I remember from my Creative Writing classes at the undergraduate level.  The publishing world has changed – drastically.

Simply put… am I getting too old to publish a novel?

This is a question that troubles me all the time.

When I was a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed senior, I thought I had the world at my feet.  I was working My Novel, a story about a group of runaway mages tasked with saving their land from the powers of the Seven Deadly Sins without getting killed by paranoid monarchs or villagers (The Sin Series, still working on it).  My father used to tell me that the fiction market was dying, that there was no hope to publish a book.  I didn’t believe him.  I dutifully read Rachelle Gardner and Nathan Bransford’s blogs, eager to pick up tips on The Biz.  It was just a matter of time, I told myself.  I’d wait until it was perfect, then I’d get an agent.

Ten years later, that manuscript still isn’t perfect.  After revising it to Draft Two, I wrote Strange.  I did revise that to Draft Two as well, but then there was The Secret of Treacher’s Creek and Sprite and Sparky Jones and the list goes on and on until I reached where I am today – eight completed first drafts, two completed second drafts, six running WIPs and fifteen ideas.  All of them going nowhere.

Ack.  I didn’t realise there was quite so many until I wrote them out just there.  Oy.

Having all these ideas is great, but I’m really worried that if I start the ball rolling and really focus on turning these Word Docs into proper novels now, I’m already too late.

When I was in high school, even college, it was unheard of for someone my age to publish a book.  There was Christopher Paolini, but Eragon was a fluke (so said the internet) since his family was already involved in publishing.  I didn’t take it seriously enough back then, figuring I had time.  These days, authors are finding agents while they’re still in high school.  And now, at 28, I’m no longer a young adult.  I’m ten years older than the characters I’m writing, at least.  How can they possible be relatable?  How can I be a good risk for an agent?

Someone must have this list handy… is there a list?  Is there any hope for a writer nearly 30 these days?


Are you an aspiring author?

Are you already in the process of publishing your novel?

Would you read a YA book by an older author?

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19 responses to “Is 28 Too Old to Be a Debut Author?

  1. Is 28 too old? My gosh, I sure HOPE not! I hope to publish my debut novel later this year, and I’ll be…well, um, well I’ll be older than 28! But I definitely understand what you mean 🙁 In the book blogging community, it’s easy to feel ancient if you’re a minute older than 23. Still, I try to remind myself that in the grand scheme of thing, nearing 30 is NOT really that old, and we still have plenty of time to pursue our dreams! FWIW, I’ll be self-publishing, which, while a bit more work, helps speed up the process a bit 🙂

    • Amber

      Oh my goodness, congratulations on your upcoming novel!

      I think you’re right… I’ve actually been trying really hard to seek out more bloggers closer to my age, not because the younglings aren’t wonderful (they are), I just need someone who remembers corded phones. LOL!

      I think it’s wonderful so many people younger than me are watching their dreams come true. I do think that there’s a transparency to the publishing process that wasn’t present when I was in my late teens, early twenties (and I was actively seeking it out, believe me). I have to keep plugging forward! 🙂

  2. I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently. I just turned 27 and am starting to panic about being TOO OLD and not having gotten a book out yet!

    I know logically it’s fine, J.K. Rowling didn’t get hp out till she was 32, but like in my heart it’s really starting to bum me out. Especially since I’m seeing so many young 22 year olds excitedly publishing their novels.

    I don’t gave any advice for you other than that I am right there with you! And I would actually prefer a YA novel written by an older person because like….I’m an older person and I still love YA?

    • Amber

      I’ve got a year and change on you! *high five*

      I try not to think about it too often, but there’s that shadow in the back of my mind. I worry about getting too far displaced because I write YA (my oldest characters are college students) and because sometimes I feel like I spend so much time on my Actual Job and wanting to start a family that opportunities to practice my hobbies and passions are fewer and fewer.

      I totally forgot about Jo and I’m a little embarrassed. I would have no problem reading from any age author! YA has so much hope and passion in it that are empty in most adult books.

      Good luck to you on your journey! 🙂

  3. I’m only 24 (damn near 25!!!) and I’m starting to question even I want to write novels alone. Ever since I was like 9 or 10, that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. But then you know, life happened and things changed. I still want to write for a living or even a side project. But knowing how hard it is if you don’t know the right people, if you don’t know the business, (if you’re not a booktuber lol ?) then it’s 10x harder to even think about getting published. Idk hopefully I’ll make it happen one day but I’m in no rush like I was when I was younger.

    Danielle recently posted: #BOUTOFBOOKS 21 DAY 2 UPDATE
    • Amber

      This. Yes.

      It is SO SO SO hard if you don’t have connections. I think it’s definitely possible to make those connections in this day and age with authors and publishers and their assistants through things like booktube and blogging, but it is a lot of work. I also agree that the flame begins to die out a bit… and the desire to publish falls second to the desire to simply WRITE.

  4. I don’t think you’re too old at all… I don’t know exactly how old any of the authors I like are, but I’m pretty sure most of them are quite a bit older than 28. You just hear more about the younger ones because their age stands out more to people.

    As for not being relatable, I think the amount of YA you read will help a lot.
    Good luck!

  5. In all honesty, I don’t think 28 is too old to be a debut author or to write YA. I would definitely read and older author in YA, oh wait, kind of all of my favorite authors are already older. I believe I haven’t read any young authors, but I guess that’s fine. But anyway, my point is that you’re never too old to do anything or to make your dreams come true. I hope you don’t give up on being published and that your novel gets to see the light of day someday! Good luck with everything and don’t forget you’re never too old to do anything! ?

    ~L. @ Reviews by Leeve

    Lilivette recently posted: My 2017 Highlights!
    • Amber

      LEEVE! I didn’t realize you were back. And *checks your blog* You’ve been back for two months. I’m a terrible follower. How are things?

      I love the idea of never being too old for anything! Sometimes, I wonder if I’m looking for excuses to avoid having to do the work. :P. I’ve been reading a lot of debuts lately and they are YOUNG. 23 seems to be the sweet spot.

      • Don’t worry about it I’m not officially back so it’s okay. Thing are getting back to normal and changing at the same time. I’m moving to another campus next semester so hopefully, I’ll finally be able to finish my degree (In like 1 1/2 or 2 years)! Also, I’m still without power but thanks to that I’ve been able to read lots of books and catch up with my reviews so I guess that’s fine. In other words: things in my life are changing and I can only hope that it’s for the better! How about you? How are things going on the other side? ?

        That’s actually my life motto. I would love to try so many things that I repeat that to myself everyday! I’m so behind on new debuts that maybe I should try to catch up soon! And that IS YOUNG! But don’t give up, you can still do it even if you’re 30 or 40 or…you get what I’m saying ?

        • Amber

          I hope all your changes are for the better as well. I’m glad to hear you’re moving to a new campus, I hope it works out really nicely for you and you are happy there!

  6. Ali

    Short answer: HELL NO is it too old.
    Long answer: I think we’re in a bubble in the blogging world – a lot of the authors who are notable, who we relate with, whose books we read (especially a lot of the popular YA) are young authors. But my GOODNESS a vast majority are much older and were published for the first time when they were much older! This is definitely an industry where age doesn’t matter. And when you’re querying, they never ask for your age! So you go girl! You’ve still got the world at your feet (:

  7. I think a debut is a debut no matter what your age. I’m sure that Patrick Rothfuss took years working on The Name of the Wind and I think the Norrell and Strange novel took Susanna Clarke about ten years. Best of luck.
    Lynn 😀

    • Amber

      I’m pretty sure that Patrick Rothfuss is simply ageless. XD. But those are really good examples – thank you so much!

  8. O'Malley

    Keep in mind, these young bucks publishing their novels aren’t always very good. Eragon was published when Paolini was young sure, but as many are quick to point out his Inheritance stories flaunted their influences and had numerous missteps that only go unnoticed to the kids who read it at an early age. Young authors are sloppy subconsciously, and it takes decades to work it out to before you eventually sound unique and mature.

    And regardless of debut novel age, typically an author’s most prolific work happens between 35 and 55, and of course there are deviations there too. Quality should always be at the forefront of an author’s mind, not how fast you can beat these kids to the punch.

    For reference, I’m 24 going on 25 next month and I’ve never even completed a project (though my first draft for my current project is approaching finished). At this point, I don’t care when my first novel is published or even if it gets published traditionally. I just want it to be read by someone and for the words to mean something to them.

    Everyone here, keep your head up and keep working hard.

    • Amber

      I really like the pragmatic approach you’ve taken here – you’ve clearly done your research. I agree about the holes that are common in early novels… as with anyone learning. Paolini’s influences are undeniable (although I confess, they don’t bother me the way they do others). I wish you all the best of luck on the draft you are working on!!!