10. Any Age Discrimination: Are agents and publishers scared of first time authors over the age of 50?
Not in my experience, but I've probably heard some of the same rumors you have, and I can see where it might happen.
First off, age discrimination is illegal in the United States. That said, we all know that it is practiced widely throughout the entertainment industries. We've watched it happen to writer friends who are also performers, like Beth Ciotta (who after getting hit with age discrimination on the stage turned around and sold three books, if I remember correctly.)
Our society places great value on youth and beauty, and almost none on age and wisdom. Young workers are almost always going to get preferential treatment over older workers. We may see that change as America's age demographics change, although that's not always going to be a good thing.
Because writers are not personally in the public spotlight nearly as often as actors and musicians, we're probably least affected by this type of discrimination, but you hear enough stories to make it reasonable to assume that it's still out there. Some agents and editors may, like society, gravitate toward younger writers and in the process actively discriminate against older writers. I was 37 years old when I sold my first novel, and I haven't personally encountered any age discrimination since then, but I'm in my mid-forties now, so that may also change.
Age and wisdom apparently does get you on the bestseller lists more often than youth and beauty. Last May Lulu.com created a bit of a stir when they put out a press release stating that literary life begins at 50, evidently the best age to write a bestseller.
Ronni Bennett's post on Advantages of Older Workers.
James Challenger's article Barriers to Hiring Older Workers Falling.
Dave Simanoff's article Gray Matters.
The Senate Special Committee on Aging Forum on the Older Workforce met on September 3, 2003 to discuss the needs of older workers. You can download a .pdf file of "Older Workers" by Debra J. Cohen, Ph.D., who appeared before the Senate Committee, here.
Professional authors, editors and writers, find out about the PTC meme here.