There’s a New Gatekeeper in Town

In every profession, trade, or craft, there is a gatekeeper, and there are barriers to entry. A lawyer has to finish law school, and he has to pass the Bar exam. Some people never do. A similar barrier exists for doctors, accountants, nurses, plumbers, hairdressers, EMTs, etc. Just because you want to ply a certain trade, doesn’t mean that you should be allowed to do it without learning that trade, and showing that you are qualified to engage in it.

In other words, there must be barriers to entry and gatekeepers in any trade or profession. You want an EMT who doesn't know CPR? You want a plumber who doesn't have a butt crack? You want a doctor with good penmanship? Of course you don't. Likewise, you don't want a "writer" who doesn't know how to write.

Up until the advent of Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) program, the gatekeepers with respect to the writer were literary agents and acquisition editors. These days, large publishers don't accept manuscripts or queries directly from authors. That means you have to have an agent.

Well, it ain't easy getting an agent. Even if you've mastered the craft and have a well-written and engaging story. A lot goes into an agent's decision whether to represent you, but the bottom line is, well, the bottom line. No matter how much they like the story, if they don't think they can sell it, they won't take it.

That leaves millions of frustrated writers, and even more people who would like to be writers, who have written something, but they lack the basic skills to actually pull it off. They don't understand it. Their mommy has told them it's brilliant. So, the problem is in the system. So, they self-publish.

Historically, self-publishing was not a viable option. It was expensive, because you actually had to buy a bunch of printed books and try to hawk them. And who was going to buy them?So, the model was that you wrote until you put out something good enough to get past the gatekeepers.

When KDP came along, that all changed. Suddenly there was no gatekeeper. Anyone could publish just about anything, instantly, with no one to say it’s not good enough. The legacy of that is a world deluged by poorly written and poorly edited ebooks. Sure, there were plenty of good books published this way, but for the most part, self-published books are not very good. Dare I say crap?

The gatekeepers still guarded the sacred halls of the big five, and even some of the smaller publishers, but there were no guardians at the gates of Amazon. All the shit was stirred right in the the gold. This told me that somewhere along the line, a new gatekeeper was going to be needed.

Amazon forced this issue about a year ago (whether they realized it or not). For a few years, an author sold books merely by being on Amazon. But Amazon appears to have changed their algorithm to relegate indie authors to some backwater. 

This meant that indie authors would have to market their books themselves, or they wouldn’t sell any. This pushed all the indie authors to social media, which is free, where they hound all their friends and family to buy their books.

They go to Goodreads and g+ and annoy the shit out of everyone.

But social media is a very slow tool, and must be used properly. And we still had all that chaff in with the wheat.

Indie authors need a way to market their books that is effective, but relatively inexpensive.

What about blog tours? For a fee, the operators of these tours will hook the author up with a number of blogs with followers who would be interested in the type of book the author is selling. They do reviews, giveaways, interviews, guest posts, and such. But there is still no gatekeeper, and I’ve read that they are largely ineffective, probably because of the lack of a gatekeeper.

So, how do you get good books in front of those who would like to read them, and do so at a reasonable price?  

The other day I realized who the new gatekeepers were going to be, at least for the self-publishing world. Someone in one of my groups on Google+ posted a link to a site that sends notices of discount books to a list of subscribers. I checked it out. Their restrictions are so stringent that none of my books qualify. Not even the one with all five-star ratings. (I'm not providing their name or a link because I don't qualify, so why should I promote them?)

That's it, then. You need a marketing service that is selective as to the books they list. That's the new gatekeeper. That gatekeeper right now is BookBub, and its imitators, such as the one I mentioned above.

They do not take all comers. They vet the books. They consider reviews; they look for a professionally designed cover; they go to the product page for the book and read the blurb. It must be error-free; they only pick about 20% of those submitted.

In that respect, they don't control whether you can self-publish, but they certainly affect whether you can sell.

Companies like BookBub serve both the author and the reader. Readers know that whatever is offered there is good (artfully written and professionally presented), and good authors, i.e., those who have mastered the craft, can rise above the rabble and market their books. Books they have had professionally edited, with professionally designed covers. 

So, yes, we need gatekeepers in the self-publishing world. Hail the new gatekeeper.