Elissa Gootman’s article in this Sunday's (March 31, 2012) New York Times, “Young Writers Dazzle Publisher (Mom and Dad)” explores the phenomena of young children - pre-teens, in some cases - publishing their own books using the numerous tools now available for DIY, or do-it-yourself publishing - which today can include print-on-demand services, in which books are printed and shipped on order. Some young authors are actually selling hundreds or even thousands of copies.
Parents and children, of course, find value in the experience - but the article notes that without the traditional gatekeepers (i.e. publishing houses) some see “the blurring of the line between publishing and self-publishing as a lost opportunity to teach children about adversity and perseverance.”
Naturally, the “old school” scoffs at self-publishing. The article quotes, among others, novelist Tim Robbins, “What’s next? Kiddie architects, juvenile dentists, 11 year-old rocket scientists?” He dismisses parents who think their children might have the skill to write a book, calling them “delusional.”
To be fair, it takes time and experience to be a true master at any craft. A twelve year old author might write engaging books that earn her a loyal following - but that doesn’t mean she’s at the top of her game. She’ll grow and develop - and learn not only from teachers and mentors - but directly from her audience to an extent impossible to young writers of previous generations.
While attitudes toward do-it-yourself publishing - whether writing, music or online video - are changing - there’s still a determined arrogance amongst media professionals - and an astonishing lack of empathy toward young or struggling artists that finally have a pathway to the world
A young writer who sells thousands of books is connecting with his audience. A young YouTuber with thousands of subscribers is connecting with her audience. A musician living far from the mainstream can connect with fans around the world.
By using and succeeding at self-publishing and do-it-yourself technology (and sometimes skillfully using social media to promote their work), they are trailblazers. Ironically, they’re providing professional artists with infinitely wider opportunities as we enter a decidedly entrepreneurial future.
Traditional media, on the other hand, may still have a bit of a blind spot: oddly, this New York Times article ignored the greater revolution in self-publishing: the e-book.