Sarah Avery (dr_pretentious) wrote,
Sarah Avery

What I Couldn't Get Anyone At Dan's Company Christmas Party To Believe

Thank goodness for the gatekeepers!

No, really, I'm perfectly happy to give publishing companies a chunk of my book-buying dollar.

I try to explain why to friends and relatives, and they say very kind things like, "The gatekeepers haven't published your novel yet, so they can't be good for much." And I appreciate the sentiment, but really, if you're curious about what the publishing industry is truly good for, read to the end of barbarienne's post about what might save publishing. (This post on why ebooks are not, in fact, significantly cheaper to produce than print books, is also magisterial, in a number-crunching sort of way. If you write to publish, you should rush over to read that one and its whole comment thread, too.)

I tried to explain why to my husband's colleagues, and they offered some pieties about how information wants to be free. Not coincidentally, they also boasted about how few books they read, and how even fewer of them were fiction. (At least it was better than the year I got into an argument about Abu Ghraib with the CEO's wife.)

See, I'm willing to wade through my slush pile for these very important reasons:
1. There will be a book with my name on the cover at the end of this editorial process.
2. There will be royalties. Modest royalties, yes, but they will have the advantage of actually existing.
3. Our anthology is a small enough enterprise (as compared with, say, the entirety of Random House), that we're not getting submissions from every person in the English-speaking world who thinks s/he has something to say. Our slush pile, so far, is something that two people can reasonably hope to keep up with.

If the publishing industry's gatekeepers went away tomorrow, the whole world would be a slush pile, only without Motivating Factors 1, 2, or 3 to make it worthwhile. I don't know what you'd do in that hypothetical world, but I'd probably spend the rest of my days reading only books by people I knew personally and could vouch for, books written by authors who had been published before the demise of the gatekeepers and who were therefore vouched for, and books that had been published before the get the idea.

The publishing industry serves readers not primarily as a system for producing books, but as a system for filtering them, and that's a good thing.
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