My mother sent me a link to a piece in the New York Times about parents employing self-publishing companies to print books of their children's work ("Young Writers Dazzle Publisher (Mom and Dad)"). Plenty of people are self-publishing these days to sidestep the gatekeepers of publishing houses, and it makes sense that some of these people are under age 18. As the article notes, parents think that this is a great way to reward creativity and encourage persistence. If your child has taken the time to crank out a 50,000 word novel, why not publish it? Kids can play amateur lacrosse and get recognized for it. Why not amateur literature?
Of course, as the article notes, these young authors then often try to get publicity for their books (all authors do! oh, do we try), and newspapers or TV news segments pick up on the "published author at age 14" part of it. But there is a major difference in achievement between having a commercial publisher pick up your work, and having parents who can pay $250-$2500 (depending on the package) publish your musings.
As my mother asked, "Should we have published your early writings? Actually, you were published without our doing it." Which is true. I entered short story contests, won them, and sometimes sent in my work to different places. I had a story published in a children's literary journal at one point in there. I had a ghost story read on the radio. Looking back on my own middle school and high school years, there were other projects that, if my parents and I had been more savvy people, could have made for better college application material. I wrote a "book" of a dozen-plus short stories in 10th grade. I also wrote a lot of different sonnets. That could have made for an interesting book of poems in iambic pentameter.
But I got into college anyway, and I think one thing that's helped me in my writing career is that much of it has been self-motivated. I was also pondering the other day that I'm grateful that the Internet didn't really come into power until I was pretty much writing professionally. My early stuff isn't out there. While some is good or at least salvageable, much of it suffers from the usual problems of early writing. There are very few literary wunderkinds. The older I get, looking back at some novels stuck in a drawer, I realize that one has a better understanding of the human condition the more you live as an actual, you know, human. You can't wait forever to write your opus. We get better the more we write, and one way to get better is to get your stuff out there and get it criticized. But it helps to go through gatekeepers too. Sometimes they're there for a reason.
One middle ground the article suggested is to pay to have your kid's work put through the wringer by a professional editor. Now that is an idea I like.
Would you self-publish your children's writings? Jasper shows a lot of interest in writing. If he starts writing stories, should I pay to publish them?