The Inspiring Story of a 14-Year-Old Self-Published Writer

It isn’t a secret that getting traditionally published is becoming harder. My novel Essence was rejected thirty-nine different times when I started sending out query letters at the age of fourteen. Almost three years were spent compiling rejections only to become discouraged even though I knew my novel was getting better with each passing draft.

From the very beginning I had my future of being traditionally published planned out: signing tours, speaking engagements, starting a second novel, all before I graduated high school. It wasn’t until 2013 that I realized how impossible this plan was in reality. I was waiting for an agent to believe in me and take on my novel, but how could I do that if I was only fifteen or sixteen with nothing to show for writing credentials. To all the agents I wrote to, I was just an overly ambitious teenager wasting their time.

In February I picked up Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing by Catherine Ryan Howard and now August, my novel is published.

I had set out my plan: get my manuscript professionally edited, design my book cover, make a book trailer, continue to build my following on YouTube by talking about writing and self-publishing, and begin to count down the days until my book was officially published. The thing I said I would never do—self-publish—was happening, and it was by choice. In all my three years of writing I had never been as happy as I was when I decided to self-publish. I wasn’t waiting weeks to hear back from agents that were going to reject me.

I had two editors at BubbleCow. Gary Smailes (structure edits) and Denise Barker (copy edits). Every time I submitted my manuscript to get edited I was frightened for the simple fact that I had never received professional feedback before. I was going by the simple motion that I was told my manuscript was good and that I felt pretty confident after working on it for three years. Both editor’s notes where the most encouraging things I’ve ever read. That little paragraph you receive at the end of the report? I kept it and whenever I feel like I’m in over my head, I read that paragraph to remind me I can do this.

Self-publishing is increasing in its popularity and if I can do it at the age of sixteen while keeping up with school and a job to pay for the expenses of self-publishing, anyone who has the determination can do it also.

About the Author

By Gary Smailes - Co-founder at BubbleCow, helping writers to write, get published and sell more books. Google+ Twitter

  • allrighters

    Mandi you are a great inspiration to all us oldies … well done. You have reached the top of the publishing mountain so now shout as loud as you can to tell the readers down below you have something good for them to read. I cannot hear you … I am a bit, well more than a bit deaf … shout again …. best of luck from Alexander of the Allrighters see Gary helped us with our writing too. Our first book called Ywnwab - You Will Never Write A Book - also self published is due out in September and we will be up on the mountain with you shouting too! They said it would not happen. The other publicationers do not like all the shouting from the self publishers as it gives them bad dreams about the future.

  • The GIYM Center

    Very inspiring Mandi. Keep moving forward :)

  • Janna Shay

    Terrific post. Give yourself credit for not giving up and going self-published. You have your whole life ahead of you to pursue your dreams. Never give up.

  • mohadoha

    You go girl (as we say). Completely inspiring Mandi. My first book was in
    middle school. And yet no one - not even the teacher who read it and
    said he loved it - asked me if I wanted to be a writer. Same for the
    language arts teacher who I loved and wrote a short story for her
    birthday. Seems shocking now but it took me almost 15 years to realize
    all the scribbling I was doing meant I loved the written word. Not only
    reading it - I’m a literature professor now - but also writing it.

    I’m so excited for you and readers to learn about Essence. Well done Bubble Cow!

  • WritersareAwesome

    Great job! I looove writing and though it’s only a few chapters, I only get a few people to read it. You are really lucky to get the privilege to do all these things.=)

  • Cassandra Black

    Congratulations to you! Self publishing is not easy, but the rewards faaaar outweigh the toil! Keep up the great work. :) Cassandra Black

  • J. Abram Barneck

    Thanks for these links.

    I finally started writing my novel Fire Light, in 2012 form a short story I’d finished and stewed over for a while. Other than doing an pitch for fun at a conference (I was going to a conference anyway) I never even considered getting a publisher.

    After finishing, I spent 16 months improving my novel. I paid for an editor, I went through a couple cover concepts, and four waves of proof-readers. Now it is out.

    Not only is do-it-yourself publishing possible, but blog tours are simple forms of advertising that any indie author can access without a publisher.

    J. Abram Barneck