What I learned picking berries

 A few weeks back my family took a four-wheel ride on some
mountain roads. Along the way, we noticed the trail was lined with green, leafy
wild raspberry and thimbleberry bushes. The fruit growing on them was perfectly
ripe and ready to eat.

All six of us hopped off our machines and began picking. My
two youngest were the most energetic. Yes, there were a number of thorns, and
yes, the berries were not as large as those we buy in the grocery store, but it
felt so amazing to have found this wild fruit that otherwise might have dried
on the vine.
As we continued on our way, my mind started making an analogy
between indie publishing and wild berries. (Yes, I am slightly obsessed.)
Indie-published books are like wild berries growing without
the help of commercial farms (the big six publishers) and fertilizers
(marketing budgets). And while there are “thorns” in the indie publishing field
of which readers must be wary (books published without any thought to professionalism),
there are so many other ripe and delicious 
books ready to be picked.
Many books that are independently published don’t fit into the
major publishers’ “norm,” either in size, genre, or whatever. Without the possibility
of indie publishing, many thriving, non-mainstream books might have dried up on
someone’s hard drive, lost forever.
So what does this have to do with “tween” books? Depending
on what is popular, certain genres don’t get as much interest from agents and
publishers looking for “the next big thing.” Several years ago, it was very difficult
to generate interest in a middle grade book. At least that was my experience
and that of some of my associates. Everything being published was young adult.
(According to an agent I know, tables have definitely turned but that is not
the point of this blog.)
The point is that good books are so vital to the education
of our youth. Reading both non-fiction and fiction at a young age develops the
mind and prepares it for bigger and better things. With independent publishing
alive and well, there will always be a plethora of books for our pre-teens and
teens to choose from, regardless of what the national publishers consider the
“hot” genre at the moment.
By having both successful traditional publishers and flourishing
indie writers, it’s like having a system of checks and balances in the world of
books. Some readers will go to the grocery store for their large, mass produced
berries (which is a good thing, don’t get me wrong.) Others will seek out their
own patch of wild berries at indie book stores and online. And many will choose
to gather from both sources—the best from both words.
What do you think about the vitality of independently
published books and what that means to the “tween” genre?

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