Home > publishing, writing > Don’t quit yer day job revisited

Don’t quit yer day job revisited

In the midst of some promotional bullshit at Galleycat—puppy fatherhood has put paid to my usual tendency to beat around the bush, likewise my patience—I find a nugget of wisdom (notwithstanding the spurious, nonsensical reference to “this economy”) from agent Julie Barer:

I know it’s somewhat of an unpopular opinion, but I think it’s unrealistic to expect that you can support yourself solely as a writer in this economy. Most of the writers I know teach, or have other day jobs to support themselves, so the best way to avoid eating ramen noodles is to not rely completely on your book advance to pay your bills.

Unfortunately, the nugget of wisdom is followed immediately by this nugget of foolishness:

In the end, the better you make the book, the better the chances that you’ll get a healthy advance, and the harder you work with your publisher to promote the book by publishing stories or nonfiction essays to raise your profile, by blogging and keeping your website active, by thinking outside of the box in terms of marketing and publicity, the better your book will do. But at the end of the day it’s the quality of the work that matters the most.


If you’re a good writer you’ll get a good advance … but you’ll have to jump naked through flaming hoops on a motorcycle to sell copies, because nobody else is gonna do it for you. It would help if you could be Cory Doctorow. Can you do that? Well, better make it good, then. And if it doesn’t sell, well, it must not have been good … I guess you really didn’t deserve that advance!

Am I alone in feeling that a circular argument prevails in American publishing these days? If your book is good, it will sell. If it didn’t sell, it must not have been good. Sorry, but we can’t do your next one, because the sales numbers don’t lie: you don’t write good books.

Yes, the needle on the Grumpy-Meter is jammed against the post. Ya wanna make something of it?

Categories: publishing, writing
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