Ten Reasons Why The Gatekeepers Of Self-Publishing Have Become… You

The Gatekeepers Have Become YOU
One of the biggest driving forces behind authors who self-publish has been the declaration that writing has become stifled by “the gatekeepers of the publishing world.” Many writers now go straight to self-publishing. Be self-published? Sounds great! Let’s do it! We can all help each other, right? Right? Guys?

The online self-publishing clique has become incredibly judgemental of its own kind.  These didacts are scaring the heck out of those wanting a nice gentle, creative, inclusive experience. Simply, self-published authors have become dictators of their own industry. Here’s why.

1. Online Herdism
Thou shalt not pay for any kind of professional promotion. Thou shalt not pay for book formatting. Thou shalt only use your peers with no knowledge of editing a book to – um, edit your book. If you pay for services, you are dumb. Yeah! 
Just look at the herd go off on paid book reviews without even understanding the different types of paid review or how to use them!  Come on, people. Any book needs promotion.  After all, you just spent years of your life writing the damn thing. Give it a life. Building a professional book and marketing it with assistance is nothing to be ashamed about, and this truly has to stop being a “thing.” Forum comments start with “I COMPETELY AGREE WITH YOU!!!!” Or “I HATE paid reviews!” or “NONSENSE!!!!”  (I noticed it’s always capital letters, many punctuation marks and absolutes, just to be THE MOST AGREEING PERSON!!!!) I always look up the naysayers’ books on these forums, and 9/10 have sold no books whatsoever. But they are “being true to the spirit of indie publishing.” Pffff…

2. Everyone Is A Self-Publishing Expert – And Get It All Wrong
Blogs about “indie publishing” are springing up everywhere with new “business models”. Looking into the people who blog on them there are very few actual experts who have solid professional experience in publishing and books and worse still, many are just hoping to sell their own books via blogging about books. Remember, a blogger is just an opinion-giver. Go to well-known sources of info such as our website (we only publish proven professionals and experts with experience), The Guardian, ALLi, Out:think or BookBaby to garner real information about self-publishing, and learn to distinguish between solid, cited and truly informative content, and given consumer opinion and comments in forums, which is mainly people who half-know flailing in the dark trying to connect.

3. Self-Publishers Are Blaming Their Audience – And Coming Off As Jerks
When books don’t sell, self-publishers are blaming their readers. The literary agents couldn’t recognize their talent, and now neither can the audience they were so sure they could sell to. Everyone in the world is mad except me! they cry.  One forum comment, after the author got a series of low-star reviews, sums this up, “My book is fab so if you haters dont(sic) like it, thats(sic) yr(sic) probblem(sic).” It’s getting like the auditions for Pop Idol…

4. Writing A Book Is The New Blogging
Some people are writing twelve books a year. They call it a series, I call it blogging. Donna Tartt took eleven years to write the Pulitzer-winning “The Goldfinch” and Karl Ove Knausgaard seven years to write “My Struggle.” Occam’s Razor needs to be applied. If the highly successful and powerful literary skills of these top authors are anything to go by, it seems doubtful that the quality of all these other books written by untrained writers rushing them out without a proper edit is going to be that high. Even if the books sell, are they read? If they are read, do they have any integrity? Do they make any great creative impression on the world of books? Does it matter? I think it does. Self-published books should be as if they are not self-published. Quality Assurance should continue, even if you do it yourself. Anything else is pure narcissism.

5.  Audiences Are Being Gatekept Too
Authors can be immensely upset when they get a negative review to the point of buying services that eliminate bad reviews from your Amazon page. These services are getting more and more popular, and promise to keep your book in the four and five-star review realm for a price. Google it. I’m not linking. But this means that audiences are being gatekept too. There’s no way of knowing the truth any more.

6. Everyone Is Viewed As A “Corporation” Trying To Profit From Self-Publishers
In the same way there are self-publishers, there are self-publishing companies like ours (a small family team at the core of a handful of trusty reviewers and bloggers) that are being put in the same bucket as corporate ventures such as Barnes and Noble, Author Solutions, Kirkus or Amazon. We’re as indie as it gets!  Not every company is looking to pull a buck out your ass, although many are. There’s a lot of disinformation on blogs and forums about how you shouldn’t get involved with corporations who charge for editing, and it would be best to get some friends to do it for you. Well, you get what you pay for. Use this page from Writer Beware to check services for yourself. We also have a bunch of service reviews here from Mick Rooney. Don’t miss out on great ways to market and improve your book.

7.  Everyone’s So Damn Entitled
Who are these “gatekeepers,” and why are they “stifling masterpieces?” When I first heard the word “gatekeeper” being bandied about, my first thought was, “A gatekeeper defends a city to stop the riff-raff from getting in…” so since when was gatekeeping a derogatory slur? Take what you like from that thought. I think publishers and agents are just doing their job. The problem is that criticism or rejection is hard to swallow in this day and age.  Put up a photo of yourself on Facebook and twenty people you hardly know will tell you you’re “beautiful”. What hope is there for honesty when it comes to talent? You’re not going to cope with a four-star review, let alone a downright “no.”

8. Schadenfreude
Despite wanting everyone to like your own masterpiece, some authors are happy to criticise the hell out of anyone else who’s trying. Gatekeepers all, forums bristle with criticisms so trite that they may as well be randomly generated. “This book – Ugh!”, “This book is so bad I had to put it in the trash.” It doesn’t stop there. Bloggers, those oh-so-expert book industry people I mention above are there too. Here are some “rules” I found online for free review submission, “I will review your book only if it has twenty five-star reviews.” Or, “We will review your book for free if you have plenty of reviews on Amazon and your book is a romance or adventure featuring women.”  Really? Gatekeeping, eh?

9. Self-Publishing Should Be A Choice, Not A Political Movement
Many self-published authors (who work for mainstream magazines and newspapers these days by the way) have this big revolutionary idea that self-publishing is the only model for publishing a book that makes sense. It’s a very macho, man-infested water mostly carried out on Blackberries and Androids, with plenty of buzzwords such as “gatekeeper” floating about. The trouble is one size does not fit all, and what might be good for one tech-savvy, marketing-savvy young man may not be the right way forward for an older woman with no blogging experience with a niche non-fiction book that needs to be published by a publishing house. Nor should the person who chooses an expensive self-publishing route because it means they don’t have to design their own cover be criticized for it. Not everyone is worried about income, and sales. It shouldn’t be politics. It should be creation, and new choices.

10. We Don’t Even Realize We’re Gatekeeping Ourselves
Writing a book is a huge enterprise, and a good book needs to be treated like a business, and/or a work of art. Treat it with good, positive energy and do your own thing. If you stop worrying about what other self-publishing writers think, you may just stand out in the crowd. So let’s start a new self-publishing mantra: The only gatekeeper is YOU. What are you stopping yourself from doing for fear of being judged by the self-publishing community?

  • DED

    Makes me glad that I don’t hang out in these circles.

    • Cate Baum

      Yup. Shame, isn’t it?

  • I love almost everything about this article; and recently have been defending paid reviews myself (even though I don’t offer a paid reviewing service, other than 1starbookreviews.com which is mostly a joke). Politicizing indie publishing down to ethical judgments which impede publishing professionally and successfully is a mistake; I think SPR has grown into its own place very well as a legitimate option for paid reviews.

    That said, the article comes across a little defensive, which brings out my skepticism… I’m not sure SPR is really “as indie as it gets” anymore. If you’re charging for author services, even if you’re doing a great job and providing a much needed service, you’ve crossed over from being an indie author to being a business that runs on the sweat of indie authors. No judgment – most of my businesses work that way as well – but you’re no longer leading the revolutionary charge into battle or stoking up indie enthusiasm… now you’re the trusted and wise adviser who stays out of the bloody fray and gives council and battle strategy.

    You are a gatekeeper, because you’ve built a platform and people trust you. And that’s not a bad thing, indie authors desperately need advice from people who know what’s really going on. It’s upsetting when they call you names and you’re just trying to help them, but it happens. Keep your chin up. You are stewards and shepherds. The world needs you.

    • Cate Baum

      Thanks. I don’t agree with “I’m not sure SPR is really “as indie as it gets” anymore. If you’re charging for author services” – well that would mean anyone making money from their books is not indie, that would mean anyone selling their book is not indie. Which of course, is not the case. I am currently in my home office, slippers and imaginary pipe, writing to you. I work, not on a salary, but dependent on how many authors we work with each month – sometimes 20 hours a day, and at weekends. We are not a corporation like Author Solutions or Kirkus. If we were, I’d be in a rented office downtown, with an outsourced team in India or somewhere, in a suit sipping my corporate Crapaccino thinking of 1001 ways to increase profitability. Instead, we make a small wage just as any indie business does, and still manage, despite growth, to answer each and every client individually and keep inhouse. We’re indie! Sorry. And yeah, I don’t mind being seen as a gatekeeper. We’re more in the gatehouse, feeding hungry minds that enter unfettered. I hope…:) I really need to write a new post on what “indie” means. Nearly did this time, but it seemed too off-subject…

  • Great article! The options out there for self-publishers to choose from can make one seem like they’re cutting their way through the jungle. To each his own! It takes a great deal of research and individual assessment of one’s particular needs before anyone should take that first plunge into the self-publishing world. There are a lot of helpful sites out there and there are a lot of scams, and there is certainly no one-size-fits-all solution. Authors are as unique as the books they offer, and any dedicated writer is already familiar with the necessity of “research.”

  • I’m sorry to say that this article bothers me. Firstly I had assumed from the title it was aimed at readers (who may also be authors), who are the new gatekeepers. The first thing I read was ‘Thou shalt not pay for any kind of professional promotion. Thou shalt not pay for book formatting. Thou shalt only use your peers with no knowledge of editing a book to – um, edit your book. If you pay for services, you are dumb. Yeah!’ There is a risk that the people won’t read any further and that you will have helped to reinforce the impression that self-publishing is a place for amateurs. I am out there, pairing up with trad published authors, talking about the rapid changes in self-publishing, trying to encourage libraries and bookshops to stock self-published titles. I have read plenty of serious arguements aout the ethics of paying for reviews. (I pay for accreditation services and endorsements, but not reviews.) I have heard plenty of authors say that they cannot afford the services of a copy-editor (in which case using friends and peers as extra pairs of eyes may be better than nothing). I have never heard this practice endorsed by those who can afford professional services, except by a couple of extraordinary writers who genuinely believe that editing is another form of censorship, and want their writing raw and pure. There is excellent content further down the page. I just hope people get that far.

    • Cate Baum

      You read this completely the other way around. The heading refers to what other judgemental writers are saying about self-publishers, and how they shouldn’t engage professionals, not what we believe! Please read it again and you’ll realize we’re on the same side here…