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Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

Who Is The Publishing Industry's Gatekeeper?

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


Short answer: YOU.

Long answer:

I've seen much wailing and gnashing of teeth lately over those nasty gatekeepers. Some of it is variations on one sour grapes riff or another, and then some of it is incredibly thoughtful stuff like this. (Please take the time to read the article and enjoy the wonderful illustrations.)

The easy answer is that publishers buy what sells. Yes, I used the word "buy" quite deliberately. Publishers make their money by selling books. They purchase the right to print that manuscript from the author.

That leads to the somewhat justified criticism that publishers are too focused on commercial hits. I'm not into the Twlight series, but I can't argue that Stephenie Meyer writes books that sell. So do a host of midlist authors you've probably never heard of.

Yes, there are some real gems that don't get picked up by the big publishers. Some are even - gasp! - self-published. This is where the idea of you-as-gatekeeper comes in. When you come across a small press gem, you should:

  1. Buy it. We're all on tight budgets these days, and I know that these books are less likely to get discounted. Please, make a space in your budget for one at least once in a while.
  2. Spread the word. Tell people about it. Blog about it. Leave a review.
If we don't seek out and buy the good stuff, what incentive to the large publishers have to add that type of material to their lists?

I liken this to the organic foods movement. A fair segment of the population is willing to pay more for organically-grown foods; free-range fowl; meat, cheese, milk and eggs from animals that haven't been shot up with antibiotics. Eventually those products started to make their way to mainstream grocery shelves because the bean counters saw a profit in it.

Even if the big publishers don't pick up the stuff you like, you're still encouraging the small publishers to acquire similar titles. And of course, by buying small press books you're doing your bit to help stimulate the economy, save jobs, and all that political stuff.

You ARE the gatekeeper because you buy the books. Go forth and do your job. Yeah, reading books. Such hard work. ;-)

Tags: Publishing

Filed under: Publishing            
6/11/2010 11:03:36 AM
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