Saturday’s New York Times featured an article on teens who self-publish their books with financial help from Mom and Dad. The parents of the young scribes interviewed say it’s a great way to encourage their kids to keep writing and to reward the months of work their children put into their manuscripts. Some in the publishing industry, however, see this as a negative thing. They argue it doesn’t teach children anything about perseverance or the real struggles involved in getting published.
The article quotes novelist Tom Robbins, who sounds somewhat bitter:
“What’s next Kiddie architects, juvenile dentists, 11-year-old rocket scientists? Any parent who thinks that the crafting of engrossing, meaningful, publishable fiction requires less talent and experience than designing a house, extracting a wisdom tooth, or supervising a lunar probe is, frankly, delusional. There are no prodigies in literature. Literature requires experience, in a way that mathematics and music do not.”
The article doesn’t actually assert that the parents interviewed think anything of the sort. But while we’re on the subject: Why compare writing to dental work and architecture? It is, resorting to cliché, comparing apples to oranges. One can’t say that writing a novel requires as much talent as designing and launching a lunar probe. They require two completely different skill sets. I’d say successfully sending a rocket to the moon requires an incredible amount of specialized talent. Or, maybe I’m being delusional.
I’ve stated my thoughts on self-published works before. While I’m not opposed to people publishing their books themselves, I think too many self-published authors rush to get their work out there and inundate the market with sloppy material. Then again, traditional publishing houses hit the public with a fair amount of garbage, too—so give these kids a break. Are they really causing any bestselling authors and powerful editors grief by putting their work out there? No. But what about the argument that “literature requires experience”?
The kids profiled in the article range from a 12 year old to a high school junior. While adults may stay clear of books written by teens, we can assume other teens may show interest in stories crafted by their contemporaries. I would venture to say these young authors have channeled teenage experiences into their fiction–experiences other teens would more likely identify with than someone who graduated from high school 20-plus years ago.
Not every piece of writing that’s published has to be a deeply moving experience for the reader (look at James Patterson). It can be something lightweight, written with the sole intent to entertain. Authors can think that what they do is deeply profound—but, in the end, their main job is to entertain. So let these kids self publish their books and enjoy the moment. Life only gets more stressful as one grows older, so let them enjoy the fulfillment of a dream . . . even if it’s only for a short while.