A few months ago, I wrote an article for Huffington Post Teen about the ins and outs of self-publishing with innovative companies such as CreateSpace. I adore the freedom that self-publishing offers the author--we can edit whatever we want, create our own cover art, and market any way we choose. However, the down side is that self-published books often get no attention because the weight of an established publisher is not anchoring down our novels with credibility. Sure, your words may induce liberating and exhilarating thoughts into your readers, but that doesn't matter if no one has mainstream access to your book. In short, self-publishing is a burgeoning field with high rewards if your title does hit the audience jackpot, but that token of success is rare and unrealistic for the everyday writer. I recently finished writing and editing my first full length novel entitled The Queen of All Colors. Filled to the brim with emotional characters, teenage drama and jargon, and enough wanderlust to satisfy even the most ambitious travel blogger, this novel is similar to other popular young adult books currently flooding the market. Personally, I chose YA because I am a young adult and understand the complicated and backwards minds of teenagers. I think that way on a daily basis, so writing about young characters and their "misunderstood" lives is a walk in the park for me.
My novel is done. My editing is finished. My query letter begging established publishers to fall in love with my literature was picked over by my favorite teacher at my high school. I googled "book agents" for days, writing down every wayward name and email address that I encountered, thinking that emailing just one more person might be the difference between being a highly disappointed author and an ecstatic young writer entering the publishing world with excitement and vitality. Now, with twenty+ query emails having bit the dust in my Gmail and no acceptances whatsoever, those long repressed feelings of frustration have welled up like ink in a flowing calligraphy pen. I expected to receive my fair share of rejections--after all, I'm a newbie author with a tendency to use the words "enamored" and "wanderlust" too much. However, the credentials I listed for my writing career thus far (in my short life of eighteen years, I mean) seemed viable enough to me. I've maintained my own successful website for over a year, have guest written for numerous sites relating to traveling and news, and published my own collection of thrilling Ancient Roman short stories through CreateSpace. In a nutshell, it wasn't like I was a basement blogger with a few sporadic posts about Jane Austen and Crime and Punishment to my name. To me, writing fiction and spinning beautiful words of fantasy and make-believe characters is addicting, empowering, and lethal. Being thrown away like an ugly cable knit sweater at a second hand shop by the publishers stings!
I've always entertained the notion that some book agent, somewhere, would endorse my work because I'm a spry little writer still fomenting my talent in high school. Truthfully though, I believe that my age is the one factor that is hindering the success of my novel (which may not be superb, but is certainly comparable with other YA books on the market). After all, what adult is really going to take the fiction words of an eighteen year old seriously? Although I haven't yet had the wholesome life experiences necessary to craft a great American novel, I do know how to write engaging stories about teen angst and troubles (after all, I am a teenager). I would love for book agents to take my work seriously because my voice, not just those of adults with a few years and gray hairs on me, deserves to be articulated among the masses as well. I want to grovel on my knees before Knight Literary Agency or The Seymour Agency and proclaim "I know how to write! Take me seriously like any old adult! My characters have just as much merit as Stephanie Perkins or Gale Foreman!"
Also, maybe I just chose the wrong genre for my complex characters to inhabit; Young Adult is so flooded with teen flicks and doomed romance stories (ahem, John Green) that there isn't room for a novel ACTUALLY written by a young adult trudging through high school, petty drama, and awkward romances every day. To conclude, teenagers are often misguided, wayward, stubborn, socially inept, overconfident, dramatic, and hotheaded, but our emotions and in-the-moment experiences color our words with a realistic and often childlike touch not accessible by adults. They've had their time as wild youths and are past their prime of passion and vigor, at least in the young adult sense. It's time for the new generation of talented writers to be heard and introduced to the literary world with conviction and seriousness.