This year, as I turn <awkward cough> years old, I had trouble making a birthday list for the well-meaning relatives who’ve been badgering me for ideas. At this stage in my life I already have everything I need, most things I want, and an amazing daughter who makes my cup run over every single day. What do I really want for my birthday? The ever-elusive published children’s novel. But that’s not something a relative can wrap up with a bow, no matter how much they want to.
For years I’ve told myself there’s no rush, that I’m way younger than “the average debut author”, that mystical hybrid creature we all talk about but none of us have actually seen. I completely understand how slow the road to publication can be. Writing a novel takes time. Writing a well-crafted novel strangers will actually pay to read takes infinitely longer. Then there’s the tedious tasks of finding an agent, revising the novel, selling to an editor, revising the novel some more, artwork, copy editing, arcs, reviews, marketing, and just plain waiting your place in line in the publishing schedule. If the young adult manuscript I completed this year is destined to be my debut novel, it still wouldn’t hit bookshelves for years. I get it.
But now that I’m well into my 30’s, I’m beginning to wonder what exactly that “average debut author age” is. My google research has produced very vague references to the mid-thirties, a milestone I’m quickly approaching. But I can’t find a single tangible fact or study to support that theory. I can easily assemble lists of debut authors in a given year (and there are hundreds), but tracking down their ages is much trickier. Surprise, surprise, authors are human, too. They typically don’t broadcast their age to the masses in their author bio, on their website, or even in their publication story. I’m not thrilled to list my age on this blog post, either. <Tiny stage whisper: I’ll turn 34 tomorrow>.
So where did this “average debut age” even come from? I’m beginning to wonder if it’s a moving target, always a few years older than the aspiring authors discussing the topic. I’ve heard numbers as low as 30 and as high as 40. Perhaps the average age keeps moving upward until aspiring authors meet peers with publishing contracts or sign one themself. Right now I’d like to think the “average debut author age” is 36. Surely I’ll have my publishing contract by then, won’t I?