The New Gatekeepers: The Role of Indie Readers

A lot has been written about the surge in independent publishing from the author’s point of view, with the expanded opportunities to get a book out to the public without the intermediary services of agents and editors and accountants and publishing committees who are all looking at a writer’s work from a purely (or, in the best cases, primarily) financial standpoint. The most recent example of this writing about independent publishing can be found in the link I posted yesterday to the Smashwords’ “Indie Author Manifesto” written by Mark Coker.

Often forgotten in these discussions of indie authors’ expanded options is the unprecedented new power of indie readers. A book is, and has always been, among the most private of conversations from one mind to another. The option of independent publishing allows would-be authors to know that there will always be a way to reach readers, which is a great incentive to keep working — knowing that your work won’t end up as an unread file on a hard disk (or, as in the case of my first novel, a pre-computer typescript and carbon copy which may or may not still exist in an attic or basement somewhere). Indie readers are now able to find and enjoy books that might never have been able to run the traditional gauntlet of literary gatekeepers. The down side of that is that readers might have to search through a lot more chaff to get to the wheat. This is a role that even most publishers eschewed, leaving it to agents to whittle the slush piles down to a reasonable height. The up side is that the readers are now the gatekeepers. These readers also have new tools that allow them to spread the word about a new voice they felt was worth spending a few hours with and a few dollars on.

Early in my career, I moonlighted as a freelance reader for a major New York paperback publisher, on the front lines earning $25 to $35 per book for my reading and reports. My small thumbs up on a manuscript (which had already jumped the agenting hurdle) might have meant that someone with an actual title and desk in a New York skyscraper would be reading that manuscript to see if it was worth passing further up the line. If so, then years could separate those original readers’ approvals from the date those pages might actually be seen between covers on a bookstore’s shelves. Those years waiting for answers and then waiting for all the various stages of production before a book hit an actual bookstore might now be spent with an ebook languishing with slow sales on various virtual bookstore shelves, but every day there’s a chance that one of the new gatekeepers — not agents and underpaid editorial assistants, but one of those everyday independent readers — will find your book, read it with pleasure and write an Amazon or Goodreads review, or share it with all her Facebook friends, or recommend it to his book club, or feature it on her well-read and influential literary blog (by the way, if you are a book blogger, please let me know in the contact form below if you would like a review copy of Fire Answers Fire — please provide a link to your website and let me know what type of e-reader you use so I can send it to you in the right format).

Readers of this blog should also check out the pre-publication coupon good for a 50% discount until May 5th.

Remember. Authors write alone and love the reassurance that their readers are sometimes more than imaginary.

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One thought on “The New Gatekeepers: The Role of Indie Readers

  1. Pingback: The Indie Author Manifesto | Words from an Author

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