Tuesday, June 29, 2010

As literary world's floodgates open, who must wade through the slush? Yes, us
Writers are self-publishing to get around the gatekeepers

    * Richard Rogers
    * The Observer, Sunday 27 June 2010

The current revolution taking place in publishing is much celebrated. But Laura Miller pointed out in Salon.com last week it is worth looking at who exactly is "lining up to dance on the grave of traditional book publishing". With a plethora of self-publishing options now open to aspiring authors, anyone with the will to type can simply upload their cherished titles on to the lists of high-profile online booksellers such as Amazon, Apple and Barnes and Noble. A far cry from the world of literary agents, publishing houses and junior editors tasked with wading through thousands of manuscripts.

This is, of course, fantastic news for the many authors previously crushed by rejection letters from – in their eyes – short-sighted publishers unable to appreciate their genius. The gatekeepers' rule is at an end, or so runs the line. It goes without saying that said gatekeepers are none too chuffed about this and the victims of the revolution are all too easy to spot as literary agents, editors and traditional booksellers find themselves struggling to adapt. As well as these hated oppressors, however, Miller warns of another potential victim of revolution: the readers themselves.

Though the author is now free of the necessity to be approved by the "establishment", the reader is now also free of the establishment's editorial judgment. People unconnected with the coalface of publishing, the mounds of manuscripts that must be mined to find anything of value, will be unaware of two facts; firstly, just how much of it there is, and, secondly, just how bad most of these manuscripts are. Which, according to Miller, is very bad indeed. Wading through this mountain of awful, unsolicited writing, known in the industry as "slush" is currently the job of junior editors. It is soul-crushing work, she writes, undertaken for little pay in the hope of a future career. With these jobs, and the very industry, now under threat, there is no one to wade through the slush but the readers themselves. But how long can our desire to read last before it is crushed under the sheer weight of slush?

And this story on the same subject from PublIshing Perpsectives:
The Death of “Submit-Wait-Pray”: Self Publishing as a Cottage Industry

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