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The Elements of Authorship:
OK, so, of the 82,000 "employed" authors in the United States, about 50 command seven-figure advances. So what? Who needs to be a millionaire? But for every three Stephen Kings earning $5 million a year, says Arthur Plotnik in The Elements of Authorship (originally published as Honk if You're a Writer), "figure 1,470 hopefuls earning nothing." That's right. Nothing. Writing, says Plotnik, "is a bumper-to-bumper crawl through hell with an occasional jolt to the next level of anguish."
If you belong to the group of people publishers categorize as either "bankable" or "slime," or even if you just daydream of being a writer, Arthur Plotnik is one fine companion to have along for the ride. He's full of information, much of which he imparts via the travails of his "character" Plotnikov, who has vast experience on both sides of the writer-editor relationship, from writing pulp fiction to editing Ray Bradbury. While Plotnik's tips on dealing with editors may not be so different from those of the many other books of this ilk, his modes of expressing them are unforgettable. Where others advise that you not cold-call publishers and say "I'm a writer," Plotnik says that to do so is like saying, "Hello, I am risen from the fetid slime of the Black Lagoon." Where others say that you have to make your query stand out, Plotnik recommends you "say just about anything that will get attention, if it's not too sick." And, unlike the other, cheerleaderly writer-book authors out there ("YOU, TOO, CAN MAKE MILLIONS!"), Plotnik is stridently realistic. He imparts tricks of the trade that "can improve one's odds from Hopeless to Who Knows." He warns that "like their protagonists, serious writers never have a nice day." And even when all is said and published, there is still the struggle to get paid, he says, referring to writers as "mini-collection agencies." A hilarious read, though one wishes the text had been adjusted to accommodate both its new title and the passing of Iris Murdoch. --Jane Steinberg [via]