Monday, February 13, 2012

Elitism: Quality Control or Suppression?

The insightful and divergent comments I received on my last post, along with some rather strong opinions from friends (all of whom are avid consumers of fiction), gave me a bit of a pause and I thought I'd continue to share my opinions (or, rather, quest for answers) about various issues in publishing and the world of writing in general.

More specifically, some comments I received emphasized that self-publishing is a great tool as it will finally allow people to decide what they want to read, as opposed to the elitist publishers and agents deciding what we should read (or what is worthy of being read).  Others commented that traditional publishing will retain its use as it provides a good filter for weeding out those works that really have no business being in print.

As with most things in life, I suppose both arguments have merit.

Agents and publishers do, to some extent, ensure that the work published is of good quality.  But what exactly is good quality?  Proper grammar?  Good sentence structure?  Excellent flow between chapters?  Fully-developed characters?  Aren't at least some of these factors in the eye of the beholder?  Agents and publishers often "see" that certain something in novels that baffles the minds of many of us readers, and push their favorites no matter what - here comes that potential for elitism.  Do they not have the "obligation" to put books on the market that people want to read or do they really know what is best for us to read?

I am sure that there is a significant overlap between what agents/publishers see as publishable and what people buy, read, and actually enjoy.  Simple example - works of Laurie Halse Anderson.  Or Kathryn Stockett.  Perhaps there is no elitism after all - some may argue the Twilight Saga provides  a unique twist or two that results in an enjoyable story, but one that is not well written.  Still, the series was published to exceptional success.  In that case, and in many others I am sure, the agents and publishers saw what they thought the public would like and went ahead despite certain holes in grammar or character development or whatnot.  Since I am "ripping" on Twilight, I fess up and admit that I did like the books...and the movies were quite entertaining as well (for me, I think it was the hair and the house, really).

What do you think?  Has your work been rejected because of what you see as elitism in the industry?  Or, in your view, is there no such thing?


  1. I have been rejected many, many times but most of the greatest writers in the world were rejected.
    Right now I think it's fear of risk rather than elitism--but my confidence is pretty shaky now so I don't really know what to say.

  2. Two short stories were rejected which I submitted for a speculative fiction anthology. The guidelines were that you may submit another story if your original was rejected. The third story I submitted was accepted and the letter I received from the editor was a really nice letter. I did not make the final cut for the anthology, but making the first cut just made my year. :)

    I believe there is the elitism and it occurs as a natural evolution of a process controlled by those who are at the top who have the power to control what gets published. They know what sells and so they can afford to cut the fat, no matter what diamonds in the rough cross their paths. It's a shame too, because I've read a few stories lately that just blew my mind and they were self-published books. One is "Ignorance Ain't Got No Shame" by Lenore Jackson. I sent her an email after I read it and she published it on her website.

    That shows appreciation, sure just getting started you do take the time to appreciate the readers. Had I written an email to Dean Koontz, it'd probably wind up in someone else's inbox who rarely has time to keep up with their own emails, let alone Koontz's fanclub emails. Can't blame them rich folk for being so busy writing their next book that they can't return millions of emails. :)

    Wow, did I just rant away here? lol

  3. Thank you both for your insights and opinion. And Diane - congratulations!!