Are You The Gatekeeper – A Guest Post by Neal Litherland

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Neal Litherland is a blogger, editor, freelance writer, and genre-hopping author whose work has been featured in anthologies such as “Sidekicks” and “Big Damn Heroines”. A graduate of Indiana University he holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Follow him on Facebook at
Neal has done some freelance work for me, as well as writing a story for Sidekicks! earlier this year.  He’s definitely been dealing with the rough-and-ragged world of freelancing and doing-it-yourself, and he has some words of advice and encouragement for the rest of us still wondering if we’re “really” doing it.
Are You The Gatekeeper?
By Neal F. Litherland

There’s a lot of talk about whether someone is a “real” writer or not. Some people say if you can’t buy the author’s book in an established bookstore, then that person isn’t legitimate. Others claim that authors whose work only appears in e-book format are just pretenders. Still more people say that if a writer doesn’t have an agent and a big-name company, then that author is a pretender to the title.
So who’s right? All of them? None of them? Unfortunately the answer isn’t a simple one.
A Publishing Panalopy
In the past authors had only a few options available to them. Novels would have to go to a big publishing house, or to one of a select few, smaller publishers. The only other choice was to self-publish the book, essentially taking on all the costs and profits of the publisher. Then came the Internet, and with it the publishing world changed forever.
Today writers have a bigger array of options. They can self-publish physical books, or digital ones. There is a slew of independent, small, medium, and large publishing houses out there to submit to. Writers willing to put in the time and effort can also set up their own publishing companies, thanks to the advantages and low overhead offered by desktop publishing and digital commerce. Because of all these options more and more writers are getting published, and the marketplace is overflowing with new voices.
Lingering Doubts, “The Gatekeepers”
Practically speaking authors have never had more opportunity than they do now. Publishing culture has been slow to change, though. All you need to do is say the words “self-published” and watch the reaction people have.
There’s still a cultural feeling that if a book isn’t published by a traditional, established publisher that the author failed some kind of test. Despite the extremely small numbers of manuscripts accepted by big publishers, and the requirement for those who submit to often have an agent, there’s an all-or-nothing mentality many people possess. Conventional wisdom says if a book is good enough, and an author persistent enough, then they’ll eventually be given the success the manuscript deserves.
The Truth of The Matter
Books are, traditionally, judged on how well they sell. A book’s popularity, when combined with its critical acclaim, is what decides if a book is good or bad. The truth is, contrary to what gatekeepers have said throughout the years, no one knows which books will become smash hits and which ones will fade into obscurity. No publishing house, big or small, has a magical formula that lets them decide which stories are more legitimate as products or as art than any others. Every publishing method is completely viable; authors have to find what works for them.
With that said though, no one publishing method guarantees success. Big names at Random House and self-publishing smash hits have one thing in common; readers had to show their support. Whether an author’s publishing company runs a successful PR campaign, or the author simply plugs the book in places where it will be seen by the public, success largely depends on getting the word out and intriguing the public. Once the public is paying attention an author can watch the sales shoot through the roof, regardless of the particular method of publication.
For more industry insights and writing rhetoric by Neal F. Litherland visit his author blog, The Literary Mercenary!