I Became a Self-Published Author as a Teenager During a Pandemic — Here’s Why

Reflections from a writer who can’t vote

Ryver Knight
6 min readJan 5, 2024
Photo by Steven Kamenar on Unsplash

The gig economy has become a world of its own in recent years. Everyone seems to have a side hustle, putting in hours outside of their day-to-day activities to build a small, sustainable business themselves.

I’m part of that group, which is why I can confidently say that side-hustling isn’t as great as it sounds. In theory, sure. But in practice?

It’s freaking hard.

I won’t pretend it was some traumatic, agonizing experience, but it didn’t fit the rosy and idealized picture that I imagined. Authorhood in particular came with a unique set of struggles. Oftentimes, I was unaware of simple ways to improve my writing before diving into the craft. I was unprepared, and that cost me time in editing later. I attempted to accomplish something that many older, experienced, and edified people struggled with.

On top of that, I began this journey during the COVID-19 pandemic. I was already feeling hopeless as I juggled my responsibilities with minimal guidance. Feeling inadequate was, and still is, a familiar feeling for me.

Self-publishing was not all daisies and sunshine for me. Why put myself through it?

If you’re struggling to continue writing, I hope that you can find a bit of light and inspiration in my words. With something as difficult as self-publishing, the desire to give up is strong at times. Coming up with reasons to work with minimal return is a never-ending fight.

So, here are mine.

Following My Dreams

For many people, following your dreams sounds stupid.

For me, it’s reality.

Everyone works for money. I work for money. But I live for my creations. I dream of seeing my books written and printed, high up on my bookshelf as an affirmation of their importance. I dream of knowing that people from all walks of life can read them.

I want to write.

There’s something incredible about knowing that my creations are forever. When I wake up tomorrow morning, my words will still be there, and when I wake up ten years from now, they’ll still be there.

When I wake up fifty years from now, they’ll still be there.

And when I die? They’ll still be there.

My thoughts, immortalized.

If you burned every one of my books and their digital traces, you still couldn’t erase the fact that I wrote it in the first place. Those words were written, even if they aren’t read. If a tree falls in a forest and no one heard it…it still made a sound.

Throughout my journey into writing, I’ve felt discouraged. I’ve wanted to give up on my dream to become an author. At some points, I never wanted to pen down a single word again.

During the pandemic, nearing the publish date of my first book, it was still challenging. I felt enormous adversity blocking my path, and I still do. But I know without a doubt that I want to do this. Despite my endless complaining, I want to do this.

My passion is a fullness in my heart that drives me forward every step of the way, helping me up when I fall down. I can imagine myself doing this for the rest of my life. Whatever world I’m writing in — this one, or one borne of my imagination — I love it.

Finishing What I Started

I started something. Why not finish it?

‘Finished last’ will always be better than ‘did not finish’, which always trumps ‘did not start’.

— Anonymous

I am someone who has oodles of unfinished projects. My files are scattered with ideas that simply never came to fruition. Short stories. The first few chapters of a novel. A whimsical poem here and there.

My first novel, Smoke and Spells, was something I had to finish. To leave it would be a betrayal to myself and my dream. At some points while writing, that was the only thing driving me forward. Dismissing my progress would be dismissing my satisfaction in my advancements. The decision to end my project, throw out my manuscript, and call it a day was simply impossible, because it was so securely tied to my sense of being. To me, it was not just throwing away tens of thousands of words, it was throwing away my time — and isn’t that worth something? Am I not worth something? Is it not commendable that I aimed for the full satisfaction of progression, if only to prove my merit?

In the event that all of my passion for writing and wishes for financial stability were buried into the ground, that was the one consistent theme throughout my journey to publication: Finish what you started.

Being My Own Boss

I wanted to publish a book.

And I knew that every step of the way, I was at a disadvantage.

I was at a disadvantage because I had no experience, I didn’t have the upfront costs to fund my project, I was still trying to get good grades in school, and I was my own boss in the whole venture.

Frankly, I’m still in this position.

According to an annual Bowker survey of the self-publishing market, in 2018, there was a 40% increase in self-published titles — where a whopping 1.6 million titles were published. Comparing this with 2013, where only 461,438 titles were published…

We can all agree this industry has grown. And growth means competition. And competition means I have to climb a lot further and faster to come out at the top.

Being your own boss isn’t conditional. You always have to be there for yourself, even when it’s inconvenient.

As soon as you decide to build your business from the ground up, convenience gets thrown out the window. Yes, it would be convenient to wait until I graduate before finishing my book series. Yes, it would be convenient to give up.

But you know that old adage? The one that goes:

You will never get rich working for someone else.

Being your own boss can suck sometimes, but it gives you the chance to break free from the quota. I want financial security, and I have the opportunity to do so through my writing. Even though the chances I’ll ever make it are slim, my self-confidence is crashing through the floor, and I’m exhausted out of my mind…

At least I can try. Sometimes, that’s all you have.

The Takeaway

It’s been a wild ride for me to get here. But it was worth it.

I can say without hesitation that I’m working toward something that I’m fiercely passionate about. I started a project that I saw through to the end, and learned to manage my own time and money within the context of a business in the process— becoming my own boss.

If you’re reading this as a newbie author and aren’t sure how to feel about self-publishing (or just writing in general), I’d encourage you to take this one message to heart:

There are no right answers.

Maybe it sounds cliché, but it’s the truth. Writing, especially if you’re a self-published author, is a difficult journey. Every time you think you’re doing something right, the table turns and your cards go flying through the air. Life is funny like that sometimes.

The lovely thing about it is that your cards will eventually settle. You’ll pick them up. You’ll set them back on the table.

And you’ll continue playing.

As long as you continue playing, there’s nothing to be afraid of.

Did you like this article? Heck, even if you didn’t (😭), I’d love it if you could let me know what you think. Leave a comment, highlight your favorite passages, or shoot me an email at contact@ryverknight.com.

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Every little bit of support keeps my stories alive and free. Have a lovely day!



Ryver Knight

Student by day, YA fantasy author by night. Obsessed with the space between dreams and reality. In love with coffee, awesome adventures, and epic music.