When The New York Times reports on the recent trend of parents self-publishing the books their kids write, they present both sides of the argument. Well, kind of. You've gotta love the way they rain all over the parade of Ben Heckmann, an eighth grader who was profiled by his local news.
As the camera rolled, Ben described how "the first time I held my own book, it was just this amazing feeling." Then he shared a lesson for other young people, saying, "You can basically do anything if you put your mind to it."
But his two "Velvet Black" books, detailing and depicting the antics of a fictional rock band, were not plucked from a pile of manuscripts by an eagle-eyed publisher. They were self-published, at a cost to Ben's parents of $400 — money they have more than made up by selling 700 copies.
Ouch. Guess you can't "basically do anything," huh, Ben?
All snark aside, the article makes some salient points about self-publishing, particularly when it's done by parents on behalf of their children. While pro-publishing parents say there's nothing wrong with encouraging kids and boosting their self-esteem, those against suggest that these parents are giving their children unrealistic expectations and a false sense of pride.
And skipping the valuable editing process doesn't allow young people to receive and respond to criticism. Perhaps they need to have their manuscripts torn apart to develop a healthy sense of humility. Alternately, all of that negative feedback could completely dash their dreams and make them never want to write again. Not to put any extra pressure on parents who are deciding whether or not to publish their kids' books.
Regardless of which side of the debate you fall on, hopefully you can appreciate the horrified reaction by serious adult novelist Tom Robbins.
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.
Yeah, fair point: kids probably aren't producing the next Freedom. I'd ask, what makes fiction "publishable"? To some, like Robbins, it must be polished, engaging work. But then, ask parents if they find their children's writing "engrossing" and "meaningful." This sort of thing is subjective. Much like the expression "a face only a mother could love," maybe these kids are writing manuscripts only a mother could publish.