Through social media I have noticed an awesome trend brought about by the Self Publishing Revolution: authors are publishing younger. I mean really young: tweens and teens are now grasping “published authordom”. I have met a couple of these younger authors in social media, namely Twitter.
I know apart from writing, these young authors probably have a lot of support from parents and others in areas of finding editors, cover art, or other technical stuff they haven’t learned yet–definitely financially. Social media comes almost naturally since all their peers are on too.
Even if a young writer doesn’t choose to publish yet, they feel empowered to begin their writing careers sooner. They don’t have to worry about their work sitting in a hard drive or a desk drawer for another 30 years before someone will even “look” at it just because the author is a teen or tween. They can publish when they are ready!
The digital age has made it possible for younger authors to emerge. I can speak for myself. However when I was a teen and tween, self publishing as we know it today didn’t exist. It was barely in existence at all. Unbeknownst to me that was when it was considered as “incorrect publishing”.
I began my writing career as a novelist at 16. However, I had been creating stories since I was 4 or 5–I just wasn’t writing them down on paper. For one thing I didn’t know how to write yet. I hadn’t learned my ABC’s yet, but I did learn how to identify animals and things before school–I just had the imagination and ability to create worlds and characters with inanimate objects and her favorite toys. A stick with “arms” and “legs” could become a monster or a person. I would build towers and fortresses with cement blocks or books (if I was indoors). I could build towns with toy houses, tree houses, and barns. Elementary school was where I learned how to construct small stuff like short stories and poems which I loved.
So, since self publishing didn’t exist, we had the old system in place during my tween and teen years (the ’90’s). When I went to a writer’s conference with a lady, I had learned that there was an understood bias that authors don’t begin “trying” to get published until they hit their 40’s and the list of other things you had to do to even be “considered”. There were a few outliers who made it through, but not enough to count on.
From that understood bias I drew this conclusion from the legacy publishers: Young people can’t write. Young people can’t produce “high literary quality.” What does “high literary quality” even mean anyway? I’ll write an article on my book blog as I tried to find a definition what that means–what I find or didn’t find is pretty surprising. Whatever happened to just telling a good story? Whatever happened to just using your imagination and creating an original instead of following what’s in style?” I suppose the stories told around campfires that entertain are not considered “high literary quality”. From a young person’s POV this bias means exactly that “You think we can’t write.” It doesn’t have to be said. We can see it is implied. It’s not the same thing as allowing a 13 year old to work at the CDC (risks and hazards involved). Why can’t we try to publish like everyone else if we learn the ropes and have support?
Anyway, back to the point here. The assumption that “Young people can’t write” is far from true. Of course, they may not have reached their pinnacle and they will continue to improve their craft, but that can be said of any author out there. The truth is that everything has been jump started to much earlier and their career experience is more profound by the time they reach 40.
Needless to say that a 13 year old author isn’t going to be able to foot the marketing bill and sell tens of thousands of books in two months on their $5 a week (or less) allowance or mom and dad pay the bill. Could that be another reason? Another thing, that young writer with a legacy publisher would have NO negotiating power. Unknown authors in general don’t have any or hardly any leeway in publisher negotiations in the first place, so factor in their perception of young people.
The only teens and preteens who have a better shot at a contract with a legacy publishers is the child of a celebrity.
Until I found out about self publishing I assumed, “Well, I can’t try to publish until I’m 40, so I guess I have to wait. I won’t stop writing though.” That was until I found out about self publishing. Then I was able to publish a lot sooner (at 28) and get a good start on learning the industry. It’s just my first publisher was a sleazy one, but it happens to a lot of others. If self publishing like it is today was around, would I have done it even sooner? Probably, without a doubt. I’ve been pretty much on my own now and even back then so that’s not so different either.
The reality is that you are NEVER too young to start writing! Starting early is actually better for you! I can tell you this from my own experience.