Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Tag Archives: Gatekeepers

#Authorship and #Publishing ~ “Tell Me I’m Pretty”

Should authors decide how their book should be promoted?


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Are the agents and editors of traditional publishing (and their industry cohorts) the only people on the planet who know what’s best for an author?

To begin to answer those questions, I’ll share excerpts from an article by Gene Doucette—best-selling author, screenwriter, and playwright—but first, I’ll quote from one of my own articles—Are Readers Going To Be The New Gatekeepers?:

“Should more readers demand that authors forget about genre and write what the unique combination of theme, plot, and character demands of their creativity?”

“Is it conceivable that the reading public could select books based on plot characteristics or character interactions or theme arcs?”

“I do believe that, eventually, readers will have an exceedingly easy time in finding exactly what they desire; and, that they will become the primary ‘gatekeepers’ in the Book-World.”

Gene’s article is oh, so appropriately called, Tell Me I’m Pretty.

Here are a few excerpts:

“The argument is that the gatekeepers in the traditional publishing path are important because they know what’s actually of good quality, but the industry they man the gates for is interested in what will actually sell.”

“They’re there to pick books they think will sell, and it turns out ‘quality manuscripts’ and ‘books that will sell’ aren’t always the same thing.  And that means the marketplace itself makes for a better gatekeeper.”

Here comes the part where authors want someone to tell them they’re “pretty”:

“Writing can be terrifyingly feedback-free, and we’re not necessarily the best ones to ask if we have talent.  We want someone else to tell us, and we want that someone to be a person whose opinion actually matters.

“In traditional publishing, the people whose opinions matter are called agent, editor, or publisher, and it wasn’t so long ago that theirs was the only opinion that mattered, because if they didn’t think you were pretty, nobody else got an opportunity to weigh in.

“That’s no longer true, because self-publishing doesn’t require the advance opinion of anyone in the traditional publishing industry.”

Any author who’s agonizing over whether to (very likely) suffer through massive rejection from the traditional gatekeepers or learn what’s necessary to self-publish needs to read Gene’s full article.

Also, you might want to check out the 145 articles on self-publishing that I’ve written—this article will also be at that link since I must tag it with “self-publishing” :-)

I’ll end this post with a powerful statement from Gene:

“What I’m saying is, let the marketplace tell you you’re pretty.  In the end, it’s the only opinion that matters.”

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Is “Literary Fiction” Just Another Genre?

I ran into a thorny patch of articles that speculate on why literary fiction authors don’t self-publish.

Self-Publishing Literary Fiction

Image Courtesy of Mikhail Lavrenov ~

My first question was: Where are your statistics?

It’s so common for folks who write about books to draw their arguments from the straw pile of narrowly-focused opinions.

I’ll list 5 links to an intertwined set of articles discussing the supposed fear of “literary fiction” authors—they won’t ever be published because the Big Houses won’t pay them enough and they don’t dare self-publish

I don’t expect the readers of this blog to follow those links but I feel I need to have them as references, in case my own opinions in this post draw serious doubts.

First though, here’s a definition of “literary fiction” (don’t feel bad if it seems to not make much sense…):

Literary fiction is a term principally used for certain fictional works that are claimed to hold literary merit.

Despite the fact that all genres have works that are well written, those works are generally not considered literary fiction. To be considered literary, a work usually must be “critically acclaimed” and “serious”. In practice, works of literary fiction often are “complex, literate, multilayered novels that wrestle with universal dilemmas”.

Literary fiction is usually contrasted with paraliterary fiction (e.g., popular, commercial, or genre fiction). This contrast between these two subsets of fiction is highly controversial amongst critics and scholars who study literature.

Let’s not forget that the meaning of “Genre” is:

a kind of literary or artistic work

It seems to me that those critics and scholars want a type of fiction that rises above all other “kinds” of literary work because they have “acclaimed” it and judged it to be “serious”.

I’ve read “literary fiction” that seemed to me to be insipid and tortuously self-contained—hardly wrestling with universal dilemmas; more like whining about over-valued pet peeves

And, I’ve read “genre fiction” that met every qualifier of that “definition” of “literary fiction”.

So, just before I list those links—the impassioned discussion about what I consider to be a non-issue—let me give you a few quotes from an article by Hugh HoweySelf-publishing will save literary fiction (I think Howey is using “literary” in the sense of “well-written” and dealing with “universal dilemmas”…):

“What goes unsaid but seems implied in the message that literary works will die without a publishers’ support or bookstores in which to shelve them is that we write literary works for the pleasure of publishers and bookstores.”

“Artists have relied on the largesse of patrons for centuries. Increasingly, those patrons will become the general public.”

“Soon (this is already true for many) self-publishing will be seen as the purer artform. No tampering with style or voice. No gatekeeper. No need even for monetization.”

So, here come those 5 links to the articles about why “literary fiction” authors don’t self-publish—please only read them if you want an education in how “issues” can be created from “imagined” “facts”—imagining that a few authors and a few critics can set some “standard” for what should be considered “literary”:

Genre lines: Why literary writers won’t self-publish

A re-post of the above article—interesting for it’s 63 comments

From bestseller to bust: is this the end of an author’s life?

UK publishing and those poor struggling writer people

Why Literary Writers Have Not Yet Made the Transition to Self-Publishing

Hoping for a few Comments, even if you’ve decided to not follow those 5 links :-)
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Are Readers Going To Be The New Gatekeepers?

I’ve written about gatekeepers a number of times here

In the post Are Readers The Winners In The New Publishing Game? I said:

“Should more readers demand that authors forget about genre and write what the unique combination of theme, plot, and character demands of their creativity?”

“Is it conceivable that the reading public could select books based on plot characteristics or character interactions or theme arcs?”

“I’ve also written about how I’m a maverick author in the way I find my readers

“I do believe that, eventually, readers will have an exceedingly easy time in finding exactly what they desire; and, that they will become the primary ‘gatekeepers’ in the Book-World.”

In the post Where’s The Gate? ~ More Thoughts On Publishing I quoted Joel Friedlander saying:

“The myth of the noble gatekeepers is exactly that, of course. There never were bastions of cultural authority in this country, empowered to pass judgment on their fellow authors. But if you face year after year of rejection, it can be seductive to think there are.

“The problem is that this worldview completely dismisses the fact that publishing is a business, and publishers businesspeople. Books that find a home with profit-oriented publishers can be defined this way: books that might sell enough to make the publisher a profit.

“That’s the reality of gatekeeping, no matter how romantic it may sound. Publishers who make no profit are no longer in business. The business of business is profit, pure and simple.”

And, in the post Does Anyone Absolutely HAVE To Be Between The Author And Their Readers? I challenged writers with this:

“Steal the idea of a lone writer successfully providing books (or, short stories) to a large audience of readers; show what they have to struggle through to achieve the necessary skills beyond producing a manuscript; show them up against those who would judge them harshly; go ahead, write a story that has two protagonists: The Writer and The Reader :-)

Well, I’ll now lead you to yet another perspective from Libby Fischer Hellmann.

She’s written an article entitled Do we still need Gatekeepers? Are the lunatics finally in control and running the asylum?

Here are a few excerpts to entice you to take that link and read the full article:

“I’m not going to belabor how the plummeting price of ebooks has devalued books in general – we know it has. I’m also not going to estimate how many self-published books are never read. We know the number is high. Bottom line: we have millions of books available at bargain basement prices that are never read. Being discovered is more a dream than a reality.”

“Some say readers are already providing the gate-keeping function, democratizing the process and putting it in the hands of the ‘people’. But the sheer numbers of books being released make it impossible for anyone to thoroughly vet what’s out there.”

She also includes other people and methods that are attempting to fulfill the gatekeeping function, then says:

“…there are millions of readers who don’t recognize a well-structured, beautifully written book. They may have a feeling that something isn’t quite right, or that the book isn’t moving along as nicely as others, but if you’re not a prolific reader or writer yourself, how do you know if a book sucks?”

Then, she says something I wish I’d said:

“Of course, I’m just one reader. And one writer. And I’m aware that my taste may be very different than others.’ In fact, when you get right down to it, who am I to judge if a book is worthwhile? And if I’m loath to make myself a gate-keeper, who else should sift through the crap?”


What do you think?

How do you feel about all this?

How do you keep your reading gate swinging?
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Select as many as you like:


The Reader/Author Relationship ~ More Important Than Ever . . .

With self-publishing gaining ground as a Preferred mode of delivering the creative output of writers to readers, readers themselves are becoming the new gatekeepers in the Book World—replacing publishers as the Deciders of who reads what

For anyone who can’t quite see how readers could make informed decisions about book-value that could shape a book’s wider acceptance, consider a few thoughts I shared in the previous post Book > Brain > Heart ~ Literary Magic . . .:

“Ever had a book’s story seem more real than everyday life?

“Ever had fiction teach you a life lesson in three days that had eluded you for years?

“If so, you’ve proven that your interior sense of meaning has creative power that can shape the outer, “real” world

“The Book > Brain > Heart formula is the Reading Journey.”

This completely common reaction to books means that readers are in an excellent position to help authors promote their work.

In fact, traditional publishers have spent their thousands on media blitzes only to hope that enough concerned readers would take over the work and spread interest through word-of-mouth.

These days, word of mouth is exponentially-aided by word-of-‘Net—electronic, world-wide amplification of reader-interest.


If you’re a reader and you love an author and that author isn’t yet widely read, you have a tremendous opportunity to help spread the word!

I’m sending deep thanks out to Donna Galanti for linking to three blog posts that share many ways readers can help the authors they love:

Keli Gwyn in 12 Ways to Help Your Friends’ Pre-Release Promotion Efforts

Deborah Raney in How can you help promote a new book?

Jody Hedlund in 20 Easy Ways Readers Can Help Promote a Book


Bonus Idea: Many of these methods can be used by the author themselves :-)
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