I just read a book called THE CAREER NOVELIST, A Literary Agent Offers Strategies for Success, by the literary agent Donald Maass, and I posted it on Amazon. For your review and comment, here's what I said.

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This is not your typical "how to become a writer" book. It is not aimed at the novice writer who is certain he/she will be the next J.K. Rowlings. It is for those who have already proven their skill as a writer but want to know more of the hard and sometimes depressing facts about the business end of writing.

With 50,000 titles being published every year, bookstores simply don't have the shelf space to accomodate them all. That fact results in a competitive mindset that makes a term like "back-stabbing shark" seem mild in comparison. And for a writer to enter this book-publisher/book-seller world, he/she needs to be aware of a few indisputable facts.

The competition is fierce. The struggle is difficult. The progress is slow. And the financial rewards -- for most non-blockbuster writers -- are depressingly small. Nevertheless, it is a world that the career writer must be aware of, accept, and learn how to cope with.

Maass explains and defines terms like "publishers' profit," "returns," "sell through," "voodoo numbers," "ship-in," "100,000-copy first printing," "the $25,000 advance," and "rate of sales," among others. These are the terms that serious writers need to know about and understand, whether they write book-length fiction or book-length non-fiction.

Maass also discusses the value of self-promotion, press kits, publicists, media connections, advertising, etc. He also explains why "trash" usually sells big and "literature" usually doesn't.

In short, this is an excellent book for any writer who wants to make a career out of novel writing -- or any other kind of book writing -- but also wants an honest, objective, realistic, and insider's view of the real world of Big Business Publishing.

Russ Heitz

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That book was published 11 years ago. Has he updated it? If not, I'm not sure all the info in there is still relevant, or that Maass would still stand by everything he said then. As he says near the end of the book, "Nothing is permanent in this business."
Thanks for your comment. Maass is still giving talks that include a lot of what was in the book, plus his Writing the Breakout Novel book. Both still, I think, provide some interesting insider views. But you're right about one thing. "Nothing is permanent in this business."


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