Because I have been a published author since the late 80’s my hackles rise when I recognise something untoward. I am of course talking about the ‘Book Business’ because that is my territory. What I am saying may pertain to other areas. I’m sure it does.
Publishers these days are mostly run by marketing departments who seek ‘fresh young new voices’ easy to promote. Finding that new face, whether male or female, is as important as the actual ms. It is assumed that a young person is familiar with TV, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. No problems there. But there is also the assumption that older writers will find social media too difficult to handle. And there’s all that hectic activity surrounding the promotion of a book older writers mightn’t be able to handle. By all means don’t ask for trouble and choose someone fresh and young. Preferably, someone photogenic.
So why do certain publishers request that a date of birth be filled in on their submission forms? The answer is obvious. Knowing the age of the writer removes those who have been around too long. Are too old. Or are not considered media worthy. Above all, it removes ‘midlisters’.
What seems to have been forgotten in this ever diminishing publishing market is that older lesser known writers have a wealth experience behind them. They deliver on a due date and most of the time they know what they are doing. Most handle social media quite expertly. Most have had years of experience dealing with distributors, festival organisers, booksellers. librarians, schools, and the public.
Ethnicity and feminism have long been recognised and fought. But ageism hides under a multitude of umbrellas. Ultimately all a publisher needs to know is that the entrant is over 18. For far too long we have lived with the idea that age should stand aside for youth, that growing old is something to be feared. That is why we spend so much money on trying to look young. But we are living longer healthier lives and those wrinkles tell interesting stories. The Chinese have long respected their aged as repositories of wisdom. In our society they either become invisible or dismissed as ‘out of date’. I recently came across a 90 year old woman who still works as a check-out chick. She was wealthy and certainly didn’t need the money. What she wanted was to still feel useful.
Thus having joined the war against feminism and racism, I am now fighting the final battle.