This by Patrice Caldwell, is a good way to approach being a better gatekeeper but it is still simply posing the question “How do we be better gatekeepers?”
The book industry’s problem is not just this one book. The problem is that the industry is too comfortable with not being uncomfortable. We don’t ask ourselves questions, and we don’t question ourselves. We aren’t doing the work of going out into the communities around us and getting to know the people there: their lives, the books they truly want, and the stories they need to tell. We don’t ask ourselves, How can we help people tell their own stories?
American Dirt is getting backlash because we have better access to the criticism than we did before. Myriam Gurba’s review for Ms. Magazine was killed because she was “not famous” enough to criticize. In 1995, that would have been the end of that. In 2005, there would have been a blog post shared about but easily dismissed. Now, with the flattening of media and publishing, it is not so easy to ignore.
Eventually, more people will see that they do not necessarily need publishing houses to “help tell their own stories” as they can reasonably do it themsleves.
There are a lot of self-published authors out there, but the existing book industry does have the best editors and professionals with the most experience. Not all of it is good – as Caldwell notes in her post about people lamenting the low sales with “black girls on the cover”.
We do not need that “wisdom”, we need people that can help authors better craft their stories and tighten up some sentences. We do not need the existing book industry especially if they will not learn from past errors.