I don’t want to bag on people who self-publish. There are good reasons to do it, and there are people who do it very well and have found great success doing it. That’s excellent for them.
That said, I’ve got a big problem with the zealots who don’t merely preach the gospel of self-publishing, but scream from the mountaintop how traditional publishing– or “legacy” publishing, to use their attempt at a backhanded term– is doomed to die. That’s it’s already dead, and its proponents just don’t realize it.
This is, of course, crap.
The big argument they like to make is that readers don’t need publishers to make decisions about what’s worth reading for them, they can find what they like for themselves. That the people can be their own gatekeepers.
This is an argument made by someone who has never read through a slushpile. Which is a shame, because it is something that every aspiring professional writer should do at least once. To get a little perspective, if nothing else.
So, for perspective, this is what agents and editors do:
Imagine a river of shit. Roiling, torrential rapids of hot shit. And careening through the eddies and currents of this river, there are diamonds. And rocks. Mostly rocks, but some diamonds.
And a few brave souls DIVE IN THERE and swim through that festering flow of feculence, searching for a couple diamonds. They come out with what they find, sort out the rocks from the diamonds, and clean those off and sell them. And by the nature of how things are, yes: some diamonds will not be found. It’s a shame, but that’s a reality.
This is a metaphor, but I’m really not exaggerating.
Really, really not. I’ve read through slush submissions, and it can really be that bad.
Now, if you’re game for diving in and finding your own diamonds: power to you. Seriously. It isn’t easy. I’m pretty amazed that agents and editors are still constantly doing this to find new work.
And I’m glad they do. Because, on the whole, I’d MUCH rather go to the stand by the roadside with cleaned-and-polished diamonds then listen to the guy on the riverbank screaming that there’s diamonds in the shit river and anyone can get. He might be correct, but that doesn’t change the fact that I appreciate the work that the divers do. And if I resent anything– as a reader– its the assumption that I should want to dive in and find the diamonds myself.
I leave that to the professionals.