Children & Self-Publishing: Why Not?

Dear Sirs:

Enclosed please find my diary. I can’t give you my return address as I’m in hiding with my family. If you chose to publish this please don’t tell anyone who I am.

Sincerely yours,

Imagine if Anne Frank’s diary was never published.  She received the diary as a present from her father Otto on her 13th birthday.  

Days later, she and her family went into hiding and she chronicled her life in the famous attic in her diary. She died in a concentration camp two and a half years later in 1945, a few months short of her 16th birthday.  Her father had her diary published in 1947.   By 1952, it was published in English and has since been published in 67 languages, printed over 100 million copies, and adapted into a Pulitzer Prize winning play and several movie versions. 

Imagine if her father never bothered to have her story published. The world wouldn’t have heard the account of this young girl, uprooted from her friends, her school, her carefree life, and thrust into hiding in an attic during a war she didn’t understand, living with strangers, unsure of her future.

Today Anne Frank could opt to self publish. She or her father could research through the Internet all the options, selecting a company that would turn her manuscript into a book, available for sale as a paperback and ebook.

That’s what some parents are doing.  Taking their children’s work—stories, poems, and novels, and paying to have them published.

And traditional authors aren’t too happy.  “There are no prodigies in literature,” said novelist Tom Robbins, (Even Cowgirls Get the Blues), “Literature requires experience, in a way that mathematics and music do not.”  (NYT, 4/1/12)

Sounds like a bunch of sour grapes to me.  Parents support their children’s passions – ranging from archery to zydeco and a gazillion activities in between.  I’ve done my share: karate x2, piano x3, ballet, tennis, cello, chess, trumpet, oboe, boy scouts.

Why not writing? Our eldest son, Jacob, self-published a book of poetry he co-wrote with a friend. They conducted their own writers’ workshop, waking at 5 am before school, writing and editing. Their book, The Water Will Not Vanish (2003) is available as a Google ebook. 

I don’t remember investing that much money in their project, and know they didn’t make much. But they loved doing it.

Maybe one of these children self-publishing now, will become the next writer to be discovered by a traditional publisher, to be read widely. And for every parent that indulges a child’s dream to publish a book, there are millions of stories, poems, and art projects left in desk drawers or hung on refrigerators. I hardly think teen authors are a threat to the adult writers.

Ironically, the obituary of Patience Abbe, 87, appeared the same day. Abbe, at age 12, published  Around the World in Eleven Years, about her family’s travels between the world wars. Published in 1936, the book was praised as “uncannily shrewd” and “exceedingly funny” and became a best seller.

Children have been writing books for decades. And it seems they have something worth reading.


About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. ( I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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8 Responses to Children & Self-Publishing: Why Not?

  1. Maggie says:

    Why not indeed? Always encourage a child’s passion. It’s a good lesson to teach – that publishing and writing is something you must do out of love – not because it’s a get-rich-quick scheme… because it isn’t.


  2. Barbara klein says:

    Whatever happened to “Pasey Taller?” Mom


  3. It is amazing how well they wrote and how well each child was able to pull us into their sadness, joy and fear. I remember the first time I read Anne Frank. It was chilling for me. I was in elementary school and read it over the summer. I was never a great writer. I had to work hard to get there.


  4. Leah says:

    Nice post. I really like how you posed the question about Anne Frank’s diary and what if it wasn’t published. Or they chose to self-publish. To me that will always be one of the best works of literature written by an amazing young writer. It does make you think more about children writing and publishing.


  5. Pat Skene says:

    This is an excellent post and oh so true. As you well know (and as a published author myself) the publishing industry is an incestuous battle ground filled with a desperation to find the next Harry Potter or Celebrity book to make the bottom line sizzle. The industry has to change, but it will be a slow and painful process. Self-publishing projects and the advent of some excellent POD publishers allows writers like your son to publish wonderful stories we would otherwise never see. That’s also what I love about blogging. We meet talented writers of all sorts who may never make it to the paper page. There has always been a stigma among writers, (perpetrated by publishers) to negate the value of self-published works. It’s time to kick that idea out of our brain buckets and take notice. If the writing is good and the edits have been properly attended to – the work should speak for itself. Cudos for you for bringing this subject up.


  6. Patti Winker says:

    Why not indeed!

    And a big “huh?” to this – “Literature requires experience, in a way that mathematics and music do not.” Seriously. What a bunch of crap.

    We’re talking about kids expressing themselves in words, just like kids expressing themselves in math, physics, music, and art. Why not? The very word “literature” in that quote seems to swell and boast some sort of separatism. Us vs. Them. Sounds ugly if you want my opinion.

    Anyway, thank you for this great post. I didn’t know there was that sort of snobbery in the writing world. The snobs must absolutely despise bloggers like me! Ha!

    I will continue to encourage my grandkids to put their feelings AND experiences (yes, they have them, Mr. Robbins) down in words. Who knows? Maybe they will want them published, and that would be just great.


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