Publishing Young Authors, Yes or No?

When a young person displays a talent for writing, it’s wonderful to support them in their endeavors. Your positive influence could spark a life-long love for the craft and possibly a lucrative career down the road. But how far should you go?

I recently had someone ask me to help in publishing her child’s manuscripts and I had to give it serious thought.  Publishing a children’s book is quite a lengthy process for any author, let alone a pre-teen! Even if the adult in the picture is the one doing all the negotiating, it’s the child’s work, so like it or not – they will be involved.

Consider the fact that once a book is published, it’s out in the world. You can’t “take it back” or have a “do-over”. Once copies are being sold, there can be both amazing and/or terrible consequences, no matter what the author’s age might be.

The “amazing” results are obvious to everyone who wishes to become a published author. The book is now available for sale, and if you are able to market it well, you will sell many copies and acquire a fan base for any future books that the author may produce. Becoming a published author awards one a great sense of accomplishment, as many people aspire to do it – but few ever follow through successfully.

As for a young author, publication can be a great ego booster, but if not handled well – it can launch a life-long need for continued accolades and public approval in order to feel successful. Consider what publication means…it means putting your child’s heart-felt, hard work and talent in front of everyone they know or will ever know. If it’s not professionally edited or proof-read prior to publication, will people forgive the errors or will they be quick to point them out? (As they always do in my blog entries -lol!)

Negative comments are difficult for adult authors to handle,

but for a child author it can be brutally painful

and even dissuade them from continuing to write – even for enjoyment.

Every manuscript that has ever crossed my desk has needed work before it was truly ready for publication. Ninety-eight percent of them were written by adults who had a great amount of writing experience. About seventy-five percent of them already had other published books in the marketplace. They all needed content editing and proofreading, which can be costly. Every writer I’ve ever known learned the value of revising their manuscript over and over, until reached a sense of perfection. Few children have the patience for that, yet once their work is in the public arena, it is subjected to the same scrutiny.

So, should you publish your child’s manuscript? That really depends on his/her personality, strength of heart, and their own desires. I recommend that you sit down with them and have a chat. Children prefer instant gratification, so the long process of publication will be tedious for them. When you ask, “would you like to me to help you publish your book?”, his/her immediate thought is that it will happen overnight. We all know that’s not possible, so if you don’t explain it properly, you’re setting your child up for disappointment and frustration.

Most importantly, think about WHY you’re considering this. I mean, are you looking for brownie points with the child (I always do!) – or – are you thinking that this could be a launching point for a life-long love of writing? Maybe you just want to show your loving support in a grandiose way.

“Supporting” our little ones in their creative endeavors can be done in many ways that are equally gratifying to the child. Because of the time and money involved, publishing his/her raw work publicly is extreme, when (most likely) they would be just as thrilled if you passed around copies of the story and read it out loud at the next big family get-together.

You could consider paying a professional illustrator to do a single, simple illustration (cost’s between $50-$100) to accompany the story, and frame it alongside the text as a keep-sake that would permanently mark this moment in your child’s evolution as a budding writer! It would have the same impact, would be beautiful on the wall, much more cost-effective and it would take far less time. Not to mention, no-one would EVER dare say anything negative about it! And for you – major brownie points would be awarded.

We all need the love and support of our family. In my opinion, loving someone also means protecting them from potential harm. I wrote and illustrated my first picture book at the age of 40 and submitted it to publishers. My loving family and friends thought it was brilliant, but it was never accepted for publication. At the time, self-publishing was much more difficult – almost impossible for a novice. Looking back, I am SO GRATEFUL that publishers rejected it! After twenty years in the business, I NOW know that it was far from ready for publication – it was cute, but it was a MESS for so many reasons!! At the time, I would not have believed it, which is why I had the guts to submit it in the first place!!

Since then, I have learned a LOT and gone on to publish many, many books, using the knowledge that I gained through my studies, research and mistakes. If that first book had been published, by now it would have been hatefully picked-apart by book reviewers, teachers and my peers – and it would have tarnished the reputation for excellence that I now enjoy.

My family and friends are very proud of me. No matter how they chose to show their support, it has meant the world to me! Just knowing that they were in my corner, pushed me to explore all the creative sides of my personality and talents…in my own time.

So there. I thought it through. I’ve spent many years working with children’s book writers and I know how difficult it is produce a truly well-written children’s book. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think a child is ready for the often harsh world of today’s publishing. I’m sure there are a few exceptional, technically savvy in social media kids who could handle it, but at what price? One’s childhood should be protected and enjoyed as long as possible. Creativity and talent should grow with time and be gently coaxed into maturity.

Instead of impressive gestures, I think love is all that kids really need. If they’re going to be a writer, they’ll write. The stories will keep coming and they’ll be even better. One day they’ll get published without your help and imagine their sense of accomplishment! When the reviews come in, their skin will be a bit thicker. Timing is everything.

2 thoughts on “Publishing Young Authors, Yes or No?

  1. First off, I am proud of all the children who write and wanted or dreamed to be published. They say it’s better to dream than not to dream at all but there are requirements with dreams to write and get published- commitment, passion, perseverance, patience etc. and the emotional, mental, physical, financial and social factors that go with it (did I miss anything) I agree that they may not be ready for each factor yet so I suggest that they take their time for now and just enjoy writing on their own leisure, time and enjoyment sharing their manuscripts with loved ones. Keep those writings in files and one day, you can go back to those writings and see which ones you wanted to pursue and nourish until it grows into something you will be proud of to submit with that confidence that it will get published one day. Won’t it be wonderful to look back and say, “I made it because I took my time as a child writer.” To those who succeeded and will succeed, congratulations! I wish you all the best! Long live children writers!

    1. I agree that children should write, and dream of being published someday, I just dont think it should be at a very young age. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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