A Freelance Editor's Take on Gatekeepers, Literary Snobs, and Naysayers

You don’t have to look far for a blog post by an angry author or listen long at a writer’s event to hear someone complain about “gatekeepers,” “literary snobs,” and “naysayers.”

That’s nonsense. It’s a linguist temper tantrum pure and simple and demonstrates willful ignorance.*


Literary agents and traditional publishers only make money when their clients do. They invest up-front with no guarantee of a payday. While there’s no guarantee of making money attached to any one project, there is a guarantee of making no money if they don’t publish anything.

So literary agents and publishers absolutely are looking for authors and books to bet on.

Saying no gives them no pleasure. It means they’ve spent precious time on something (someone) that offers them no future benefit.

If you’re not getting the attention you want, it’s worth looking at how you’re approaching people in positions to help you reach your goals.


40% of queries are rejected for being poorly written or unprofessional. (1) Just queries. The approach and required documents or components. We haven’t even gotten to the actual manuscript yet.

Submission and contact guidelines are there for reasons that benefit the receiver (editor, agent, publisher, etc.). When people following the guidelines, the selection process is more efficient for the receiver.

Time = Money

Money is math.

If Author A can follow directions better than Author B, that author saves the publishing professional time and energy.

The more time and energy a publishing pro has to focus on their contracted clients—the ones they’ve bet on (which you hope to be someday)—the better results they’re likely to get for those clients. If they waste their time and energy, their clients lose. They lose.

So, Author A who pays attention and stays in the lines passes the first test. Author B, who hasn’t read and followed the directions, fails. And if you can’t pass the first test, you won’t have the opportunity to take the ones that follow.

Related: Quick-Reference Publishing Stats You Need to Know!


I’ve been around a while now, and one thing I’ve observed and experienced is that the longer you stay in the race, the greater your chance of placing well.

I’ve never been fast. I’m not a fast runner. I’m not a fast biker. I’m not a speed writer either. But I’ve studied the course and know the rules, including what will get me disqualified. And most importantly, I know how to do the next right thing.

Most people aren’t willing to do what it takes to win. They resist growth, avoid pain, and underestimate the competition. They can sprint, but they can’t go the distance.

They burnout, quit, or disqualify themselves. They lose.

And when they lose, you and I are one step closer to finish line.


Next time you read or overhear a rant about gatekeepers, literary snobs, and naysayers, smile to yourself and do the next right thing: Take one big step away from that person, and take pride in the fact that you know how to write, how to math, and how to race.

And then find others who know how to do the same.

Related: Which Publishing Model Is Right for You: Traditional Big 5, Traditional Indie Press, Self-Publishing, or Hybrid/Partner?


Need help before taking your next step? Let’s connect.

*Reliable information by and about literary agents and the publishing industry is readily available online and in print.


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