BREAKING (TWO DAY OLD) NEWS: Equestria Daily officially instituted a new policy recently whereby stories which are sent back to the author for revision twice and still fail to meet posting standards will be permanently rejected. Although it wasn't exactly a secret that this was coming, the announcement has generated a lot of talk--and with it, plenty of drama. My two cents on the whole affair, after the break.
[Full disclosure: I have only submitted three stories to EqD during the pre-reader era, and all three were promptly posted without comment. As such, my contact with the pre-readers in their "professional" capacity has been practically nil.]
Although the majority of readers/writers don't seem to have any problem with the new rule, a vocal minority have been loudly declaring on every forum where I saw the policy being discussed that this change is incredibly destructive and harmful to authors and readers alike. One of the primary arguments I've seen is that by limiting the number of fanfics posted, high-quality stories which are unfortunate enough to fail to pass muster in three submissions will be forever lost to those readers who lack the time, energy, or patience to go to a dedicated fanfic site and find them. This, in turn, will result in lower overall quality among stories that are posted, they claim.
I can't help but think this argument specious at best and profoundly stupid at worst. If something is submitted three times and still isn't of acceptable quality, I find it hard to imagine that a fourth go-round would suddenly see it metamorphosize into a story of such brilliance that its rejection would be a crime. At worst, it seems to me that a few stories which, with an additional revision or three, might have been deemed barely acceptable will now be mercifully put out to pasture. While I'm sure that's very tragic for the author and all, it seems like a blessing to readers (you know, the ones for who's benefit those stories are posted in the first place).
Other complaints seem to be based on misinformation. A few people seem to be under the impression that the three strikes policy applies to authors, and that if a story is rejected thrice then the person who wrote it is forever banned from submitting anything to EqD henceforth and forevermore. Others seem to think that EqD is a full-blown fanfic site, rather than a general blog which, among other things, showcases a small amount of writing.
But from what I've seen, the biggest misconception about the pre-readers is that they are editors. Plenty of complaints have centered around tales of submitting one's fic, only to have it rejected with a few general notes. Apparently these folks are looking for line editors, which is quite explicitly NOT what the pre-readers do. Their job is to determine if a given story meets the quality requirements to be posted; any assistance they chose to give to a rejected author beyond explaining the reason(s) for rejection is a bonus. I know if I were a pre-reader, I'd have no patience for rejected authors complaining that the pre-readers didn't fix up their stories for them.
Apparently the sheer number of stories the pre-readers are expected to handle is becoming overwhelming, and if this helps reduce their workload without compromising the quality of stories they post--which is exactly what it seems like it will do--then I for one think it's a great idea.
Highly Opinionated and Slightly Off-Topic Closing Thoughts:
Personally, I have very high standards for fanfics: I see no reason why they shouldn't be judged by the same standards as original fiction. On this blog, I try to be hyper-critical of the stories I review because I think that's the best way to help readers make an informed decision about whether or not they want to read them. Despite this, I understand that most fanfiction (I'm talking about fanfics as a whole here, not just EqD stuff) just isn't very good by any objective measure. I have no problem with that. Really, I don't. There's absolutely nothing wrong with writing a blatant self-insert authorial wish fulfillment piece of dreck, if that's what you want to do. It's fine if you want to write a crossover with an anime so obscure that only you and your hipster friends have ever heard of it. There's no problem with writing the 8000th story about Rainbow Dash tragically losing her wings. Run the fanfic you wrote in Romanian through babble fish and throw the result into a word doc, if that's what will make you happy. If you think editing your story is a boring waste of time, more power to you.
But doing these things will produce a story that most other people won't want to read. Write them, have fun with them, and if you really must then go ahead and post them to a dedicated fanfiction site (but don't be surprised if they get a negative reaction from honest readers). But for goodness sake don't expect a site like EqD, which is meant to showcase the best (okay, more like the not-worst) stories in the fandom to put it on their front page. Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing a few more stories get through the pre-readers, but you know what I don't want to see them let through? Crap. The pre-readers usually make sure that the stuff being posted isn't crap, even if it isn't necessarily to my personal taste. As a reader, that's an incredibly valuable service that they're doing for me, and dammit, I appreciate it.
So thanks, pre-readers. I thank you as a reader with too little time and too high of standards to read even a fraction of what this fandom produces. Thank you for giving me a place I can go to search for fanfiction without scrounging through a sea of illegible, unoriginal, or otherwise subpar stories for the occasional diamond in the rough. On those occasions when I do want to do a little fishing, I know what sites to visit. The rest of the time, I'm glad you guys are there to do my dirty work for me.