Lee Goldberg posted his reaction to a comment from James W. Hall, talking about how horrible it would be for everyone to self publish, because what about the quality check that gatekeepers do? How could readers possibly deal without being told what’s good or not?
As I said in my comment to his post, as someone who’s really new to this whole business, I find that sentiment ridiculously insulting. I was, and still am, a big-time reader of fiction of many varieties. Before I decided to try my hand at this writing thing, that’s all I was, to the publishing industry.
I don’t know where this notion that somehow readers are too incompetent or stupid to figure out what’s good or not, or what they like or not, on their own came from. But it sure as hell didn’t come from the readers. How often have you read a book from a best-seller, or that got great reviews, that you thought sucked? I’ve read plenty. It seems to me the vaunted gatekeeping that publishers do amounts to little more than the personal opinion of some nameless guy or gal who works there. Granted, that guy or gal has to then sell the marketing and other teams on the books they like, but still, it all comes down to personal opinion. Why does the opinion of someone who works in a publishing shop become more valid, or better, than the opinion of the average reader? It only is more valid if the publisher is the real customer, and not the reader. And I think, for the longest time, that was the case for writers. But no longer.
But Mike, but Mike! The readers will have to wade through the slushpile! What will they do?
Well excuse me, but customers in every business have to wade through a ton of crap that sucks. Whether it’s the junky shit that gets sold on late-night TV infomercials or the decision between Volvo vs Hyundai, customers are ALWAYS trusted to make the right decision. The decision that works for them. Except, apparently, in publishing. That is, until very recently.
This notion that somehow readers need to be shielded from making a decision about quality reeks of the pseudo-intellectual, nose-in-the-air condescension that I’ve come to expect from people who call themselves “artists”. They know better than the plebes, you understand. Which, of course, is why I will NEVER refer to myself as an artist. Well, it’s not the only reason. But it’s a big one. Most who have this attitude wouldn’t know good taste if it walked in the door and hit them in the face, so where do they get off lecturing the rest of us? Seriously, it’s a very insulting, and highly inaccurate view of the rest of humanity. And it’s piss-poor business.
Trust your customers to decide for themselves what’s good or not. The crap will get left in the dustbin of the marketplace. It’s worked for every other industry quite well, up until now. It’s time it was allowed to work in publishing as well.
But that’s just my opinion. And no, it sure ain’t humble. Not this time.