I think it’s safe to say that the internet has changed the landscape in society, our way of life, and specifically entertainment. Social media, websites, blogs, emails, we’re allowed to have global discussions that once upon a time would’ve been the stuff of sci-fi. For the publishing industry, e-books have been a game changer. While initially met with skepticism by many who believed it was only going to be a fad, e-books have been established as here to stay.

Between e-books and the internet, it’s allowed smaller presses and self-published authors to compete with the big boys and girls.

As the technology continues to improve and self-publishing becomes easier (at least in terms of formatting and producing an e-book), not to mention Amazon entering the mix and potentially dealing a blow to traditional publishers, there are many who are worried about the loss of the gatekeepers.

For those of you who are not in the publishing game, there’s this stigma that self-published authors have to put up with:

-If they’re self-published, it’s because they couldn’t get a “real publisher.”

-The authors are self-published because they aren’t up to par with “real authors.”

-Traditional publishing is “real” publishing because the editors and publishers serve as the gatekeepers to keep out inferior tripe.

Which is interesting because in music, theater, or other forms of art, the standard is that you work and produce your own stuff, build a name until you get the agent, the contract, the distribution deal, etc. But for many, being self-published is almost like being blacklisted. And while I believe that mindset is changing (thanks in part to the flux of the industry and the emergence of ebooks), it still exists.

While I went through an excellent publisher for Hollowstone, I got mad respects for my self-published brothers and sisters. I got mad respect for anyone who gets their hustle on and fight for what they love and makes it happen. The risk is that there is far more riding on the author’s shoulders and it’s all on them but it can be done. I’ve read some incredible self-published books that quite frankly don’t get the credit they deserve.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s merits and disadvantages to both being traditionally published and self-published and it ultimately depends on what the novelist is looking for. And this certainly isn’t a trad. publishing vs. self-publishing debate. There are authors who do both. In fact some of my friends, began as trad. published authors but after they built a name, learned the business, they decided to take the reins of publishing their work.

An aside, there’s been two or three writers (and I use the term loosely) who for years trashed self-published authors and suddenly within the last few years, they’ve been self-publishing themselves. Oh how the tides have changed.

The publishing industry is in a flux right now. It’s shifting. Whether the shift is bad or good, it’s anyone’s call. I’ve read some strong arguments across the board. But between the recession, said industry flux, the emerging technology of e-books, I think people are a lot more open to the idea of self-publishing.

But if everyone self-publishes, who will be the gatekeepers?

There’s another reason why people go the self-publishing route which I don’t think gets discussed enough (if at all): the rampant bigotry in the industry. We’ve seen what happens when authors try to put the gay in YA, we’ve seen the countless times when novel covers featuring protagonists of color are whitewashed like whoa. It’s the same gatekeepers who think that POC, queer and other marginalized stories aren’t “real stories” and that POC and queer authors aren’t “real authors.”

While there are a few marginalized presses out there who are fighting a good fight and doing some incredible work, that’s the problem, there are only a few and many of them have limited resources at best.

Sure there are a few queer and/or POC titles that beat the odds and get published but how many other wonderful books out there are we missing out on? We’ve witnessed the pushback that happens when we expect change in the industry.

Or the few “marginalized titles,” how many of those are written by non marginalized writers for a privileged audience?

How many authors have been told that queer, or POC-centric titles don’t sell or “we just released a book with a black character and we don’t want to publish two because OMG that might eat our sales”?

Again this isn’t a self-publishing vs. traditional publishing post. Again, there are merits to both. This is about why the gatekeepers haven’t always been on the side of the angels.

For many of us, the old way wasn’t working, so with the flux and the change, here’s hoping it leads to something better.

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Speculative Fiction Novelist. Author of Hollowstone, West of Sunset and other cool stories. Wordsmith, activist and nerd seraph. Saving the world and/or taking it over.

2 thoughts on “Gatekeepers

  1. Denny, as you know, we share the same mindset here. I self-published my very first book and made back enough to break even. I knew it wasn’t going to be an instant best-seller, but I was determined to see my work in print. Unless we are painting POC in a negative light, the “gatekeepers” won’t give our work the time of day. So it is up to us authors who truly love the craft and will move heaven and earth for our work to do what they won’t.

    To answer your question, I think we become our own gatekeepers. I think those of us who are really serious about the craft take on the role automatically.

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