Actual entrance to Random House
(not shown: snipers)
floating around the internet a lot these days is “the gatekeepers.” On the off chance you’re not familiar with
it, it’s a handy, catch-all term some folks use for editors and agents, both in publishing and
sometimes in Hollywood, too. The idea is
that these are the people who decide if a writer’s work should be published or
produced. The gatekeepers either let me
in the world of big publishers or keep me out.
course, my work is genius and should be published. But for some reason or another—usually
because they’re idiots—those gatekeepers won’t let me past the entrance. I say this because it’s a key point when
talking about this subject. A huge
percentage of people who use the term gatekeepers—the vast majority, I’d
say—are people who aren’t being allowed through those gates.
So, in a
very real way, “gatekeepers” is being used as an insult. A slur.
It’s like that old joke about the difference between a nymph and a slut. A nymph sleeps with everyone, a slut sleeps
with everyone... except you. So what’s
the difference between an editor and a gatekeeper...?
thing no one likes to admit about those gatekeepers.
just keeping me out. They’re also
keeping out all those other people whose work is complete crap. Dull stories, predictable plots, flat
characters, poor spelling... we can all agree that those people should be kept
out. We don’t want to deal with their
crap. No one does.
of that applies to me, naturally. My
work, as I mentioned, is genius. And
deserves to be published.
I stop thinking about me and insulting them, it’s pretty clear that what the gatekeepers are doing is
vetting material. They’re weeding out
all the stuff that’s dull or predictable or would take far too much work to become
a sellable product (this is a business, after all).
Now, a lot
of those same folks who slam the gatekeepers also say the market will
decide if something’s any good or not.
If a million people want to put their epic sci-fi/horror/fantasy/steampunk
trilogies on Kindle, power to them. And
on one level I’m okay with that and I agree with it.
However... What I find ironic is that then they talk
about how they’ll find their way through those thousands and thousands of dull,
flat, poorly written manuscripts.
They’ll check to see Amazon ratings.
They’ll see what bloggers have to say.
They’ll see what has the best reviews.
words, they’ll let someone else vet the material for them. Someone else can sift through all the crap so
those readers only need to see the good stuff.
The things that deserve to make money.
Thing is, if
people really wanted a completely fair and equal marketplace, one with
absolutely no gatekeepers, there would be no reviews. No ratings.
No word of mouth. No one would be
allowed to influence whether or not a book gets seen. We’d all just pick titles at random and hope
for the best.
And let's be honest--the
best would be few and far between. There’s
a lot of awful material out there these days.
God-awful. Probably three out of
five, if I had to guess, because there are no restrictions or guidelines about
who can reach the marketplace. Maybe as
high as four out of five.
we’re all glad when someone else is willing to take one for the team and weed
those awful books out. To vet the
material for us. To make sure some
things get our attention and others don’t.