Why Gatekeepers Aren't Evil

Photo credit: Army Man Chaz on Flickr
Not every book you write is meant to get published. I know it sounds harsh, but the hard truth is that not every book you put your heart and soul into is destined for the limelight.

And that’s ok.

It doesn’t sound like a good thing and it’s far from encouraging, but guys, this is why gatekeepers are a good thing.

Because when you’re writing—whether it’s your first novel or your fifth—it feels like the one. The book that’s going to break out and be a success. The one that people will talk about—the one that will finally get published. But the truth is, although every book feels like the one, not every novel will live up to that expectation.

No one is born ready to write fantastic books. It takes time to learn your craft, to figure out what works in a novel and what doesn’t, to discover how to write a voice different from your own, how to pace, write great dialogue and edit. Those things don’t come naturally. It takes hard work and practice and practice and more practice.

But how do you practice? You write. You go through the months or years or however long it takes to write a novel and create characters who haunt your every thought and build a world you’ll never forget because it’s a part of you. You write and you rewrite and you dream and when you finish you celebrate because you’ve done something incredible—you’ve created a story that is uniquely you. A story that only you could have written.

And that’s amazing. You’re amazing.

But that first novel you write? It’s not always going to be ready. And maybe neither will your second, or your third or fourth or sixth. And maybe it will, but that’s not the point—the point is that you practice and you keep going and you write even after you realize the time has come to put down that WIP and start again.

And it’s hard. It’s hard to shelf a manuscript you put months—even years—of your life into. It’s hard to put it away and give up on those dreams of seeing it flourish. But it’s necessary. It’s part of the process. It brings you one step closer to writing the one, the real one that will be ready for the spotlight.
But until then, we need gatekeepers.

Guys, I’m glad self-publishing wasn’t around the way it is today five years ago. Frankly, I’m relieved. Because the novels that I wrote then—they felt like the one. And I loved them—I still do—but I loved them so much I might have uploaded them long before they were ready.

Because honestly, they weren’t ready. I wasn’t ready. I thought I was ready—I convinced myself that my books were ready—but looking back at them now I can clearly see that I had a long way to go. And the only thing that stopped me from releasing them way before it’s time were gatekeepers. You know, agents.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying if you can’t find an agent for your work it’s definitely not ready. There are countless books out there that were rejected time and time again only to go on and become a bestseller. I get that. Agents can’t tell the future, and they aren’t always right.

But sometimes they are. Sometimes those rejection letters are really a blessing in disguise—sometimes they stop you from launching before you’ve had the time to really develop your craft.

Things are different now. We don’t need to use the gatekeepers like we did. We have the option to self-publish whenever we want and for some of us, it’s the right thing to do. But it’s not right for everyone, because not everyone is ready.

Don’t publish your book just because you can. Publish it because you’ve really thought about it, because you’ve lost count of how many times you’ve rewritten it and you’ve had others look at it, then you rewrote it again, then you gave it some time and when you came back to it, it still felt ready. Publishing should never be a spur-of-the-moment decision. Never.

Because sometimes we need the gatekeepers. Sometimes we need someone to tell us to hold off, to say you’re not quite there yet, keep going.

And as long as you keep going, as long as you don’t give up, I promise you the one will come. Then you’ll be glad you waited as long as you did.

So those are my thoughts. What do you think—are gatekeepers evil?  


Krista said...

Gatekeepers are not evil. I totally agree with you. I have read some great self-published books. And I have started (but not finished) some real self-published drivel. The ability to get your work out there on your own is a gift that should not be abused.

Abby Fowers said...

Fabulous post here. I just found you on inkpageant and I'm so glad I did. I don't think agents are evil. In fact, I feel kind of bad for them because their jobs wouldn't be easy. I am grateful for gatekeepers even though at moments you always forget the gratefulness. :)

Ava Jae said...

Thanks for stopping by! I understand why agents get a hard time, but they have a very difficult (and often necessary) job. 

Robert French said...

This is another excellent post, Ava. As I have said in several of my own blog posts, if you are an indie author, you need to employ the services of a good editor, one who specializes in your genre. A good editor acts as a gatekeeper in lieu of a publisher. Sadly, so many of the indie books I read suffer from the lack of a gatekeeper.

Ava Jae said...

I haven't read any indie books myself so I can't comment on that, but I've heard that before and it doesn't really surprise me.   The temptation of jumping in and bypassing the gatekeepers is certainly a great one, but gatekeepers are there for a reason and it shows. 

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