Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What about the Gatekeeper?

One of the advantages—and disadvantages—of self-publishing has always been that there’s no “gatekeeper,” no team of industry professionals who have checked the manuscript to make sure it’s really worthy of becoming a book. As self-publishing explodes, this becomes a greater concern. But not everybody agrees that the loss of the gatekeeper is a bad thing.

Literary Agent Jenny Bent said in a blog post, “Today, I am somewhat gleefully celebrating the fact that electronic publishing is really blowing apart the thinking that we in publishing somehow know better and have better taste than the average reader….

“What I’m loving most about the success of independently published e-books is that many of them didn’t pass the “gatekeeper” test—the individual author tried and failed to get an agent or publisher and decided to do it themselves. And now lots of these authors are getting lucrative book deals as publishers struggle to catch up. AND, many of them are turning down agents and publishers because they want to keep doing it on their own terms.”

So does that mean that gatekeepers aren’t necessary—even that they are bad, preventing great writing from reaching hungry readers? Not necessarily. Many traditionally-published authors praise their editors for making their books much better. Most people agree that the majority of self-published books today were not ready for publication. Readers complain about being overwhelmed by too many choices or discovering that even free e-books often aren’t worth the price.

Writers don’t benefit from a shortcut to getting in print if it just means they are releasing work before it’s ready. Those who use self-publishing to avoid getting rejections from publishers may face much harsher rejections in customer reviews.

Romantic suspense author Anne Allen said in her blog, “There are some unspoken benefits to the old query-fail-query-fail-submission-fail-editorial meeting-fail, fail, fail system. It not only gives us numerous readers to help hone that book to perfection--it also teaches us to deal with rejection, failure and bad reviews.

“If you choose to self-publish because you can’t handle the rejection of the query process, you’re setting yourself up for worse pain later on. If those form rejections in your email sting, think of how you’ll feel when very personal rejection is broadcast all over the blogosphere.

“So there’s a lesson here: don’t publish until you’re psychologically prepared to take the heat. Always keep in mind this is a business, and business can be nasty.”
If you're not sure if your work is ready for self-publishing—or traditional submissions—consider hiring a professional editor. You can find out about my rates on my website.

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