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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Gatekeepers

I borrowed this link from my friend, Rachel, who had it posted on Facebook. (Hope you don't mind, Rach, but this was such a good post. It's entitled When Anyone Can Be a Published Author and is all about the future direction of publishing. You can check it out at: http://www.salon.com/books/laura_miller/2010/06/22/slush. (Forgive the lack of highlight - for some reason, the link feature isn't working on Blogger.)

With the rise in self-publishing going on, I predict a new type of Gatekeeper will emerge - the readers, themselves. Readers will resent spending money on inferior work. They'll start to take notice of the established publishing houses, both large and small. If they run into a publisher they don't recognize (because the self-published author has created a fake publishing house, for example), they'll think twice before buying a book.

I don't worry that established agents, editors, and publishers might be replaced. They won't be; there will always be a place for them and even more so, in the future. It may, however, take another ten years for readers to become astute.

2 comments:

  1. I disagree -- I think most regular readers are there now.

    There have always been two types of readers -- the impulse buyer who grabs a book at the airport or in a drugstore because they need a quick read on the plane or coffee break. These people cannot tell you the name of their favorite author because they do not pay any attention to any of that -- they buy books by the cover. And they are protected from absolute rubbish by the fact that there is no chance whatever of a self published book making it into airport or drugstore shelves. Even if they did stumble across a self-published book by accident somewhere, since they are buying books by the cover, it is highly unlikely that the self-published author has a professional artist or book designer working for them.... The consumer may not know what precisely is turning them off from picking up that volume, but at a subconscious level, they can spot amateur from professional.

    Readers who shop at bookstores or online for particular authors are already well clued into importance of real publishers and are able to spot the self-published amateurs -- it's different and okay when well established authors re-release their backlist as self-published or ebooks, because the readers already know and are seeking more of their work. But it takes a very smart, professional writer to figure out the importance of editing, book design cover art etc in selling their book, and people that clued into marketing are likely also professional, if not necessarily outstanding, writers. Even if the vanity self published writer can find an artist friend to do the cover, the reader picking up the volume will read the first paragraph, and by the end of the first page, will place the unedited badly written book back down.

    Nevertheless, I see an increased role for reviewers. Those of use reading a particular genre are probably already reading reviews in the genre mags; but increasingly important are the rankings on the online booksellers -- amazon has plugged some of the more obvious holes in its reviewing system to reduce the amount of shilling, and that seems to be working a bit better. So when you see that book has been rated by 300 people and the ratings average out to 4 out of 5 stars, you have a pretty good idea of what you're buying.

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  2. Robert, thank you for that thoughtful response. You give me hope that the average reader out there does have some sense about what he or she is buying. However, I do know one writer who has self-published and has personally sold her books in drug stores. I suppose that shouldn't have shocked me, but it did. She and I obviously have very different approaches as to what is appropriate and what isn't.

    As for self-publishing, I have no problem at all with an established writer selling his out-of-print work. To me, that makes a huge amount of sense. The book has already enjoyed some success and has been previously vetted by professionals.

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