Are trade publishers gatekeepers?

First quarter books

In a book cover designer LinkedIn group, the question came up, Do you think publishers are “gatekeepers?”[1] (For reference, please read this blog post provided by Dave Bricker.[2])

Too often I read self-publishers complain how the Big Six dominate retail/distribution options. Or trade publishers denigrate self-publishers as buffoons. In Dave Bricker’s blog post, he  offers that it is not an “us versus them” scenario. It is a competitive marketplace. Both publishing options are viable. Additionally, both options are equally challenging.

One contributor offered that publishers are like brands. While another contributor reminded the group that publishing is a business.

The article sparked additional thoughts in a different, yet related, line of thinking. First, if trade publishers are brands, should they publish inferior quality literature simply because it’s good business? Next, if publishers do pursue that path, what does that say of their brand?

Dave responded to my questions in this manner:

We indie publishers enjoy the luxury of indulging in a bit of artistic snobbery, but we don’t have conglomerates to support and we’re rarely presented with the opportunity to grow rich by “selling out.”

Ultimately, I suppose we’re all trying to make money and offer the highest quality books we can. One could make a compelling argument that a single “less than excellent” blockbuster could finance a whole lot of artistic expression. It’s a bit like wildlife advocates supporting zoos. A little captivity is acceptable if it supports a certain amount of conservation in the wild.

I love that line: “It’s a bit like wildlife advocates supporting zoos.”

What are your thought about publishers as gatekeepers?

NOTES:
[1] Dave Bricker, LinkedIn group, book cover designer, “Gatekeepers and Self-Publishing,” December, 2012 accessed October 13, 2013 Gatekeepers and Self-Publishing
[2] Dave Bricker, TheWorldsGreatestBook.com, “Gatekeepers and Self-Publishing,” November 25, 2012 accessed October 13, 2013 Gatekeepers and Self-Publishing

Two reasons why not to self-publish your book

Confession: I am an advocate of self-publishing. I have been for years. But my views are changing on the matter due to the glut of poorly written self-published books being released each year.  Serendipitously, I found this article in the London Evening Standard that offers two reasons why not to self-publish: 1) publishers and 2) editors.

Authors need publishers more than ever when there are so many voices out there competing for our attention. As Horowitz rightly says, the main raison d’être of a publisher is to provide the author with a skilful editor who can turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.

Editors are the midwives of great literature. T S Eliot’s The Wasteland wouldn’t have been the masterpiece it is if it hadn’t been edited by Ezra Pound and his wife, Vivien.

The death of publishing is greatly exaggerated. We will still need publishers as long as we read books, just as we still need critics to review those books. It is part of the great filtering process of literature and culture. (link: Self-publishing makes us think we can write)

Any questions?