One of my friends has discovered the dubious joys of Young Writers’ literary competitions for children. Young Writers and similar programmes are well known in some circles, but parents’ knowledge of them tends to begin when their excited offspring tell them they’ve won a writing competition of some sort:
Having been showered with congratulations by her proud parents, your child heads off to school on cloud nine to tell her friends and teachers of her success. But her mood is less jubilant, when she discovers that she’s by no means the only “winner”. Most of her friends’ parents have received the same letter.
Your mood takes a further dive when you read the letter in more detail and find that it’s going to cost you £14.99 plus £2.50 postage to buy the book containing your child’s work. OK, the price comes down the more you buy – “a great keepsake for other family members, capturing a snapshot of Julie’s work at this age in a format that will last for years to come” – and postage is free if you buy four or more. But it seems a ghastly amount to pay for something where your true interest lies in only 50 precious words written by your child – the rest won’t hold quite the same fascination, let’s face it.
I need to word this very carefully, because the child’s inclusion isn’t dependent on buying the book. That means it isn’t vanity publishing, where you have to pay someone to print your (or your child’s stuff). What to call it, then? Cynical, pester-powered publishing? Bastard publishing?