It’s no secret that the publishing industry has changed a lot over the past five years. Advances in technology have made the publishing process easier than ever before — and taken a lot of the power away from large traditional publishing houses that effectively controlled what material reached the reading public. All that is now changing, and kids (and their parents) are taking advantage of their growing options.
Self-publishing has grown into a huge industry that makes it easy for anyone to get his or her manuscript professionally edited, marketed and printed into a book. While industry professionals still look down on self-publishing and most self-published work rarely gains a large following, for kids and teenagers aspiring to be writers, it provides a much-wanted service: instant publication. What could be wrong with that?
The New York Times ran an article about kids and self-publishing recently and raised some valid questions about the value of self-published work and whether parents provide the funds for this service (which can range into thousands of dollars per book) more to make their kids feel good about themselves rather than as a reward for a truly monumental effort. The Times says:
The mothers and fathers who foot the bill say they are simply trying to encourage their children, in the same way that other parents buy gear for a promising lacrosse player or ship a Broadway aspirant off to theater camp.
But others see the blurring of the line between publishing and self-publishing as a lost opportunity to teach children about adversity and experience.
But is self-publishing really the same as providing sports equipment? Kids who play sports don’t get to join the NBA or play in Wimbledon right away. It takes years and years of dedicated practice before they have any hope at competing at such a high level — and even so, few of them succeed in that goal. In many ways, writing is the same. It takes a long time to become confident in your skills. What motivation does a 12-year-old who has already published a book have to improve her writing? She has already achieved the highest pinnacle.
While having a printed book made from a child’s manuscript may be initially rewarding, I wonder whether that feeling of accomplishment will fade over time. If the aspiring writer continues to follow his or her passion and develops stronger writing skills, the earlier published works may become something to be ashamed of — an embarrassing childhood relic.
Apart from the questionable wisdom of paying to self-publish your child’s work from an emotional standpoint, such endeavors may actually endanger the child’s future chances of actually publishing with an established company. Like I said before, self-publishing is not regarded favorably in the industry, because most self-published authors are ones who tried and failed to get published through the traditional path. Having 5 titles that sold 15 copies each on Amazon does not help you when you are trying to find an agent or land a book contract.
What do you think? Is self-publishing just a way for parents to show support for their aspiring children? Or does it encourage self-importance and instant gratification? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Photo credit: ralphunden