I’m going to go out on a limb in this blog and propose something that everybody will almost certainly reject. I think blogging and self-publishing need some sort of gatekeeper.
The explosion in self-publishing by electronic format is going to open the door to some of the most bilious writings you ever cast your bleary eyes on. Self-publishing is fine, if you know what you’re doing, but it shouldn’t be a catchall to allow writers with little or no training in writing to flood the market. Traditional publishing has always had a gatekeeper of one sort or another such as an agent or editor or other individual whose job was (and still is) to pass judgement on a new manuscript and make a decision about whether it meets minimal standards for legitimate publication. With e-publishing we’ve opened the gates to everyone, and I’m sure the number of books that normally wouldn’t pass muster as a manuscript in a traditional venue will proliferate exponentially as everyone and his grandmother decides, “Hell, I can write a book that’ll be a lot better than that last f***ing Pulitzer prizewinner!”
There are editors at publishing houses, there are editors at newspapers and magazines, people who make the hard decisions about what gets out and what doesn’t. That’s the way it’s been for centuries, ever since the printing press was invented, probably even before. Someone had to decide what got printed and what didn’t. Even in today’s world, printing a book takes time and money, paper and ink, and a willingness to take a risk that the book will sell. Electronic publishing has eliminated paper and ink, but the risk still remains. Just because a book is published doesn’t mean it will be any good, or that it will sell. At the very least, the presence of an editor or publisher has cut out the really crappy stuff.
The real problem is, of course, the internet. Anyone can now express his/her opinion, regardless of violence, depravity, mental illness, you name it. Opinions that wouldn’t see the light of day in a legitimate print magazine now come blaring at us in full color and CinemaScope, even surround sound. In some respects that’s good, of course. It gives everyone an equal platform from which to bellow his views. But we also have to waste our time wading through tons of mindless crap just to get to the important and reasonable. Just look at the comments on news stories on electronic news sites.
Someone needs to decide which manuscripts at the electronic publishing “houses” get published and which do not. With the ease of availability and use that electronic publishing gives us, it’s to our advantage to insist that anything that gets out is of the same quality that we have insisted on all along.