"Becoming a writer is easy -- simply write. Becoming a published writer, well ... that's another game entirely. The most recent statistics from market studies suggest that 400 novels a year will be written by first-time novelists. Of those, only 10 will see publication, and of those 10 only 1 will stay in print more than a year." -- Jon Guenther
"The average author had been writing for 7 years and had 7 completed novels before they made their first sale. Although (those statistics were for) romance, science fiction is probably similar." -- Lillie Ammann
"Perhaps eighty percent of all first-time novelists never publish a second book. We have learned just enough to realize how much further we need to go. We know just enough to respect and marvel at other writers work and wonder why we ever thought we could write as well as they, or even as well as we did last year. So we cover it up, try to bury our doubt in craft." -- Sandi Sonnenfeld
"There's a huge fall off between the number of first novelists and the number of second novelists, and I think that's something important for young writers to understand. I think it's something like 50% of first novelists don't publish a second novel, and 50% of second novelists don't publish a third, and the drop off is the same after that. It keeps going down." -- Tom Fleming
You don't mind if I call you Sammy, do you? Good. You don't know me, but you met my husband last Friday after you and the temple's other college students did your group Shabbat presentation. Good job, by the way. I'd gotten off work early and was lurking in the background, waiting for my husband to finish his shift so we could go home.
You had my respect ... then.
So out of the 6 of you, 4 are in undergraduate creative writing programs at various universities around the country. You, Sammy, are enrolled at an expensive private college in on the East Coast. You were all standing around in the foyer talking about your courses and how you were all going to be famous authors after you graduate. You were the only boy in the group of student writers and a little older than the others, so of course you were puffing for the girls.
You were bragging about having an aunt who is an acquiring editor at a major publishing house -- she's sure to get both your feet in the door when you plop your first novel on her desk after you graduate.
It's all gonna be cocktail parties and tweed jackets and readings before audiences of rapt, sexy college girls after that, right?
The temple coordinator heard the group of you talking about how it's great to be a writer and she said, "Oh! One of our night staff members is an author ... you all should meet him!"
So the bunch of you filed into the kitchen where my husband was sweeping the floor.
You looked at my husband, and all you saw was the broom in his hands. I saw your eyes roll and a superior smirk cross your 20-year-old face. You couldn't believe the coordinator was introducing you to the janitor. Your father is a bank president and you've gone to private schools your entire life; didn't she know a mere janitor is beneath you socially and therefore unworthy of your attention?
"So you've published some stuff someplace?" you smirked at my husband. "'Cause I had two stories in my school's literary magazine last fall."
"Yes, I've had a few things published," my husband said slowly, setting aside his broom.
"What, like in ezines?" you asked.
"No. In print magazines. And in books," he replied.
"Oh, so you write for those pulp magazines." Your face said it all: pulp fiction's beneath a literary man like yourself. It's easy, all you'd have to do is get drunk and jot some shit down and those pulp publishers would be dying to print your stuff. But that would be beneath you, wouldn't it?
"He's published six novels and over 200 short stories. He sold two more novels just last month," the coordinator said. She went to the mail slots in the back of the kitchen and pulled out the rabbi's copy of Fear in a Handful of Dust. "And he's got this very nice hardback on how to write fiction. He teaches classes at a college in Pennsylvania sometimes. He won an international award for one of his stories last year ... what was that award, Gary?"
"The Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction," my husband replied.
At that moment, I saw the smirk on your face fade.
This whole meeting was really messing with your sense of Golden Boy entitlement, wasn't it?
The lowly janitor you'd dismissed without a thought 'til now is not only just as intelligent as you ... he's published real books and won real awards.
Makes your publications in the student lit mag look kinda puny, doesn't it?
No. It couldn't be that a janitor was better than you at something. No way, man.
"So you make a living at writing? I guess not, since you're working here."
There. You sure put my husband in his place, didn't you? You glanced down at your watch, then stuck out your hand at my husband, playing the Alpha Male for the girls. "Hey, I gotta go. It's been cool talking to you."
My husband put on his biggest, cheeriest smile, shook your hand and said, "I wish I could say the same. Kiss my ass, kid."
Your expression didn't change.
It probably didn't register what my husband said until you were halfway to your car.
I searched you when I got home, just to see what exactly you've published.
I found you.
A wannabe's a wannabe whether he's penniless with a dogeared manuscript or has a Porsche and a BFA.
And you're worse than a wannabe -- you're a poseur. You don't have the writing cred of any of the novices here at E2. You've got nothing to warrant your feeling that you're morally, artistically, or intellectually superior to anyone ... especially not the people who clean your toilet. At the very least, they know how to put in an honest day's work.
The cold statistics say my husband's published more than you ever will. It doesn't matter if your aunt's an acquiring editor; even if she bows to nepotism and gets your first novel on the lists with a bunch of marketing behind it ... you've gotta write and sell to get that second novel out there.
And then you're going to have to do it all over again. And again.
You're going to have to work so hard you sweat blood. Do you have it in you to struggle like that, considering that so far you've had most everything handed to you courtesy of your family's money? I doubt it.
I figure that if it ever dawns on you that you were cordially invited to lay lips to buttocks, you'll complain to your daddy, who will complain to the rabbi and demand that my husband be fired for his insolence.
And you know what?
You can kiss both our asses. Long and hard.