The television news feature about Ben Heckmann, an eighth grader from Farmington, Minn., was breathless in its praise. “At 14 years old, he has accomplished something many adults can’t achieve,” the reporter said. “Ben is a twice-published author."
As the camera rolled, Ben described how “the first time I held my own book, it was just this amazing feeling.” Then he shared a lesson for others his age, saying, “You can basically do anything if you put your mind to it.”
But his two “Velvet Black” books, depicting the antics of a fictional rock band, were not plucked from a pile of manuscripts by an eagle-eyed publisher. They were self-published, at a cost to Ben’s parents of $400 — money they have more than made up by selling 700 copies.
Over the past five years, print-on-demand technology and a growing number of self-publishing companies whose books can be sold online have inspired writers of all ages to bypass the traditional gatekeeping system for determining who could call himself a “published author.”