Home » Big Publishing, Joe Konrath » Zombie Publishing Memes #3 – Without Legacy Gatekeepers, No One Will Be Able to Find Good Books

Zombie Publishing Memes #3 – Without Legacy Gatekeepers, No One Will Be Able to Find Good Books

2 September 2015

From Joe Konrath:

The thrust of the argument is this: without legacy gatekeepers carefully curating the slush pile and winnowing choice for consumers, the unwashed hordes of self-published authors will unleash a deluge of worthless books that will engulf the good ones, preventing readers from finding anything worthwhile.

Of course it’s true that when there’s too much choice for consumers to sample individually, we need third-party systems to help us winnow the choice down to manageable levels. But it in no way follows from this that legacy publishing is the only or even the best such third-party system.

Here are few things to consider. First, when was the last time you sampled every single book in a bookstore before making a selection? Even in legacy’s heyday, the industry was publishing something like a quarter million new titles every year. Whatever winnowing function legacy provides, it therefore seems not a particularly stringent one.

Second, are there existing third party systems you primarily rely on to help you select the books you want to try? Recommendations from family and friends? Newspaper, magazine, and blog reviews? Search terms? The bestseller racks in bookstores? Amazon customer reviews? Do these means of winnowing choice seem more or less important than the traditional gatekeeping function that results in hundreds of thousands of new titles every year?

. . . .

Fourth, if consumers really needed gatekeepers to help them manage their choices, the Internet itself would be useless. After all, for any given person, it’s a safe bet the Internet is 99.99999999% crap. And yet somehow, every day, each of us manages to find the good stuff amidst all that crap, all without any gatekeepers keeping the unwashed masses from putting their stuff on the Internet.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath and thanks to Stephen for the tip.

Here’s a link to Joe Konrath’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

PG says this is the meme that is closest to the hearts of BigPub minions – they love having the power to gatekeep. They get attention from people who would never talk to them otherwise.

Big Publishing, Joe Konrath

18 Comments to “Zombie Publishing Memes #3 – Without Legacy Gatekeepers, No One Will Be Able to Find Good Books”

  1. I’ll say it again: discoverability is an author/publisher problem. Not a reader problem.

    My problem as a reader is I don’t have enough time to read all the amazing books I find.

    • +1

    • I agree- my problem is also not enough time to read all the Indie books I have on my Kindle.

      I wonder about this meme I keep seeing though. All the readers I know are intelligent people. I’m sure they can use their brains to find something they like.

      To say “we” need gatekeepers is to say “you’re too stupid to find anything good.”

      I don’t patronize anyone who insults my intelligence.

    • Ditto.
      That is what has allowed me to boycott all BPH titles since april 2010. Ditto to the AU letter signers.
      Plenty of fish in the ocean among Indies and non-BPH tradpub.

    • My problem is that my 2 year-old has discovered apps and will no longer let me use my kindle. I guess print is still good for something. 😉

    • What Devin said. 300+ books on my Kindle and phone. More than enough to read for the next 2-3 years, and yet, I’ll buy more.

  2. The closest that they came to truth is with anthologies. The editor of the anthology selected worthy titles that fit a theme and published that. In some cases, like the very popular Martin Greenburg, that editor became a mark of quality for that set of anthologies.

    Though not good for the big publishers, I could see something similar happening in indie country.

  3. In my world, Amazon has replaced trad pub gatekeepers (buyers; aka editors) with crowdsourced gatekeepers (reviewers). My bookbuying process is–
    1. Cover;
    2. Book description; and
    3. Sample.

    If I am still on the fence after step 3, I read the 1-star reviews.

    Joanna Penn had a guest on her blog (sorry, cannot recall the name) who said that the number of reviews was more important than the average of the reviews; that is, 3.5 stars over 50 reviews is better than 4.2 stars over 6 reviews.

    • Yep. What I look for is even distribution of reviews over a fair number of reviews. If about as many people leave each level of review, then something is wrong.

  4. When I was a kid, long before I knew anything about publishing, or bestseller lists or book reviewers, librarians and teachers told me about different books. Once they realized they had a voracious reader on their hands, they were more than happy to steer me towards all kinds of books, without judgment or restrictions.

    Librarians love to talk with people about books, by the way. Just adore it.

  5. Zombie Meme?

    Head shot.

  6. Actually, I used to tour the entire sf/f section every time I went to the bookstore. Did a fair amount of that in the mystery section, too, although it was so much bigger (and included so many subgenres not of interest to me) that you couldn’t really keep up.

    Oh, well. Now the sf/f section is a lot bigger, and the bookstore is online.

  7. Lol PG – and so true.

    The power to decide what people read. The feeling of importance that if you weren’t there to guide them, the reading public would not know the difference between a good book and a terrible one.

    Very seductive.

    This also one reason why BPHs want to keep prices high. Power and a feeling of importance.

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