Gatekeepers aren’t evil

A couple weeks ago, I was talking to Adam Whitlatch, who has recently found himself wearing an editor’s hat and is refusing to give it back despite the infestation. In his short time reading slush, he has found himself uttering the most despised thing ever heard by a writer: “This is good, but I can’t sell it.” Adam’s not a bad guy, he’s been there himself. He just knew he couldn’t sell the story to the other editors.

I read writing forums, and I see a lot of complaints about gatekeepers.

Amazon has put new energy into self publishing (along with new money), and there is much talk about how books are about the author and the reader, not some third party arbiter. However, I also read a lot of fiction from authors that think they are God’s gift and could use a little more practice, or sometimes much more practice. Some may have to wait for the next lifetime.

Okay, maybe I shouldn’t trash on other writers–even if they are hypothetical writers, but I know how I felt 3 books ago, and 5 books ago, and 7 books ago. I knew I was ready. I just needed to get noticed. Now, I’m not so sure I’m ready. I fear my editor has made a horrible mistake. I wonder if going with a small press which rejects 80% of submission instead of a megacorp which rejects 99.5% of submissions just means I should have waited, that I wasn’t ready.

A weak plot but some of the stuff inside is Caliente

As a reader, though, I enjoy having a gatekeeper. Don’t get me wrong. I know there are good indie authors out there. I know some of those authors. Still, I have to face the hard reality that I don’t always have time to read 10 first chapters so I can find a book I like. I know what I’m going to get from a Tor, Baen, or Harper Collins book.

Wait, I think Harper Collins owns Tor.

Anyway, were were we? Gatekeepers. Right.

I decided to wait until I could at least get a small press to publish one of my books. Yes, some of the reason was that I wanted to make sure I didn’t completely suck. On the other hand, if getting your work published is a Sisyphean effort, I saw no harm in trying to drag my boulder up a somewhat smaller mountain.

Hawkeye Point, Iowa's only mountain. Elevation 1670 feet

I think small press is really going to be the second breakout success story of the bloody e-book revolution. Small imprints have a style, a flavor, which will make them more accessible and brand desirable. In addition, they have an editorial process which guarantees a consistent quality.

Of course, maybe I’m wrong, maybe it will all be anarchy, and the next New York Times bestseller will be a photo book of cute cats.

One thought on “Gatekeepers aren’t evil

  1. D. Moonfire

    I think gatekeepers are very important. Amazon, in many ways, is “too easy” to get published with just Kindle books. On the other hand, there is a ton of books out there in the Kindle markets, which makes it harder to stand out.

    Of course, I’m looking for a gatekeeper, mainly because of my experience with small publishers. I thought I was ready 3, 5, 7 books ago myself. Still don’t think I am. 🙂

    I’ll admit, SDP has already provided more, and with less difficulty, than what I went through.

    I hope SDP works out perfectly for you, you know.


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