The Gatekeeper is dead – long live the Gatekeeper!
In the Shivering Isles expansion of Oblivion (included in the Game of the Year edition, and well worth buying if you haven’t yet) there’s an early mission to kill the Gatekeeper. Later on a new Gatekeeper arrives to keep the riff-raff out, and all is as it was before (well, mostly).
Until very recently the agents and publishers formed an almost impenetrable barrier to publishing. They were the Gatekeepers of the writing world. You could, of course, vanity publish, which involves shovelling money into doing it yourself, but that’s the exact opposite of how writing’s meant to work. To get published, you needed an agent/publisher.
And then came the rise of new technology, and self-publishing became a relatively easy, inexpensive way for anyone with the determination to write a book to get it published. Huzzah! A thousand cheers for technology!
But there came a problem. Writers either turned down by agents/publishers or who simply didn’t want to wait countless months for a response flocked to take advantage of the new opportunity open to them. The market was flooded, and still is. So now the problem isn’t getting published. It’s getting noticed.
The rise of online resources also led to a number of blogs and websites dedicated to books and reviewing them. Hurrah! Now good self-published (or independent, if you like) writers could rely on objective third parties to rate their books, and the cream would rise to the top.
Except the majority of such websites and blogs do not accept self-published books. Because, necessarily, the quality of independent authors varies from magnificent to horrendous they refuse to wade through three feet of muck to find the glittering literary diamonds awaiting them. If you’ve got an agent/publisher and have published the traditional way, you’re ok. One Gatekeeper has nodded approval to the other.
I do understand why so many refuse to review self-published books. Although irksome as a writer it is a legitimate perspective, and if roles were reversed I might well take the same approach. However, it does create a new problem for self-published authors. How do we get noticed for the right reasons, without spending a fortune on advertising?
It’s a knotty problem, and sadly I don’t have a silver bullet answer.
Thankfully, some blogs/sites do take submissions from self-published authors, which can only help. I also think that having more than one book out is beneficial. It lets a reader know you’re not just a one hit wonder, and it also means if they like book 1 they can buy book 2.
Self-published and electronic books are continually rising in popularity, but they’re still pretty new. I’m hopeful that in the future we’ll see increasing numbers of websites that will help readers sort the wheat from the chaff and support writers into the bargain.
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