The fact is that editors at major imprints used to act as gatekeepers and now almost anyone can Indie publish a book. The impacts of this change are many.
The traditional publishers point very loudly at the drop on quality and there's evidence to support their claims. BUT...They are dead wrong and I can prove it.
Indie books don't have to have less quality, it's not automatic. In fact many mainstream books started as indies. Furthermore, mainstream pubs had started pumping out crap books themselves. So the traditional route didn't guarantee the customer a good book.
Why would trad pubs compromise what they vocally touted as their advantage? Because they were dying and they believed it was because indies are more flexible, efficient, and quicker to market.
All those qualities are true of indies but that isn't why trad pubs were dying. The real reason is because of the gatekeepers. Seriously! If you can have quality with or without a gatekeeper then what else do they do?
A few big things. Trad pubs use economy of scale which means they need to sell a lot of each book to keep price down (they have a large overhead). That means they have to go after a market segment big enough to support big sales numbers. So they pub books with mass appeal. Books that don't match anyone exactly but don't offend anyone either.
Who's dying among brick and mortar stores right now? Macy's or Toys R Us? The generalist that's who. Indies niche market and bring product to reader as fast as they can buy it.
So next time you hear woe is me from a trad pub remember they are getting beat by basic business principles. But it gets worse.
The other thing that gatekeepers do is throttle the number of authors. If they allowed too many authors then they couldn't sell enough books. So they turned away good writers to protect sales from existing producers who already had a following.
That's called making artificial demand. Their bubble burst for the same reason the housing market did. It was a giant ponzi scheme. It's happening in every industry.
All our "government regulation" has worked to prevent new startups and protect mega corps who in turn throttle consumer options to keep prices high.
Boom! Put that cat back in the bag big brother.