Sunday, March 9, 2014

Anyone Can Be a Gatekeeper

Today, I read an article titled “Self-Publishers Should Not Be Called Authors” by Michael Kozlowski. In the article, the blogger states: “Just because its easy to upload your written word, so that it can be downloaded to another machine does not make you an author, any more than me buying a stethoscope allows me to be called a doctor.” This attitude is not uncommon in the publishing world. As more and more self-published authors emerge, there are some in the industry who scoff and say, “Anyone can be an author these days.”

Well, as it turns out, anyone can be a gatekeeper–or, at least they can try. In the past, agents and traditional publishers acted as gatekeepers to the literary world. Now that self-publishing is a viable option for thousands of authors, a few authors and bloggers have decided to be unofficial gatekeepers to the industry. They can’t prevent authors from publishing, so instead they use snobbery and disdain to try to discredit self-published authors. They aren’t the only gatekeepers. Certain professional organizations have rules about who can and cannot join, and most of these rules come down to money. How much of an advance did the author receive? How much money did they make in royalties?

Yes, there are still gatekeepers. It’s still difficult for authors to make their way in the world. And when a blogger writes, “Indie authors and self-published authors who claim they are real authors makes me laugh,” it can be very disheartening to be a self-published author.

While I agree there are some authors who publish before they’re ready and end up publishing a product that could be better, who am I to say they aren’t a “real” author? Who has the right to decide whether or not someone is a legitimate author? Money and earnings cannot be our only guide. Since quality is subjective, a novel that one reader views as well-written, might be utter crap to someone else.

According to Merriam-Webster, an author is “a person who has written something; especially : a person who has written a book or who writes many books.” I don’t know about you, but I like this definition.

If you’ve written something–whether it’s a self-published novel or an article on your blog–you are an author. Michael Kozlowski is an author, even if by his own definition, he would not be able to properly label himself as such.

What do you think? Can anyone be an author? What does it really mean to be an author?

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