"Some Writers Deserve to Starve! 31 Brutal Truths about the Publishing Industry," by Elaura Niles

Pros: Brutal truths every writer should hear
Cons: Some people just won’t listen
Rating: 5 out of 5

First posted 2/3/2005
Review book courtesy of F&W Publications

That night, in the library’s basement lecture hall, I lost my writing virginity and realized I was a ‘crackpot writer.’

Elaura Niles, author of “Some Writers Deserve to Starve!” will help you make sure that you don’t peg yourself as the next crackpot writer in the eyes of the publisher or agent you’re trying to impress. In this wonderful book she presents her 31 brutal truths of the publishing industry. This is a fairly small book and a quick read (it only took me a few hours to go through it), but that in no way implies that it isn’t worth its price tag. On each page you’ll find some shard of painful wisdom that could help you avoid making the mistakes that could cost you a writing career before you even get started.

Truth #2: Putting words on a page does not obligate anyone to read them

Unfortunately, this day and age has produced a sense of entitlement among creative types, including writers.

You’ll need to have an open mind in order to read this book; there’s a good chance it’s going to tell you things you don’t want to hear. No one’s obligated to read your masterwork. You aren’t entitled to an audience or a six-figure advance. Publishing is a business like any other, and if you want to survive in that business you’d better get used to that fact–now.

Truth #6: Writers are like popcorn: publishers buy them by the bucket and eat them by the handful

Some of her observations can be quite surprising. Many budding writers think they can hit it big by emulating the latest trend in popular books, but:

Sometimes the phenomenal success of a single best-seller can wipe out the market for similar books for years to come.

Ms. Niles even provides instructions on stealthily and subtly ass-kissing your way to success, otherwise known as how to network without coming across as a yes-man or brownnoser. She’s brutally honest about what it takes to get ahead in the industry. She’s even brutally honest about what can go on at writers’ conferences–including agents having sex with writers who want to get ahead, writers having sex with agents because they think it will help their careers, and so on (“Truth #27: Sex happens”).

Truth #15: We all have a little opera diva in us

The Damsel of Desperation … Get therapy. Get some distance. Your work is NOT you. If you need love, try a dating service. If you want an honest evaluation of your manuscript, suck it up and face down your fears.

If you want someone to hold your hand and tell you everything will be all right, this isn’t the book for you. However, if you really and truly want to be a published writer and are willing to do what it takes to get there then you owe it to yourself to read this book, learn its lessons, and settle down to do some real work.

Best of all, this book is absolutely hilarious. It’s pithy, it’s witty and it’s fun. In fact, it’s probably good practice. If you read this book and feel offended, if you take the author’s comments on needing a thick skin or listening to critiques personally, then you might want to think twice about pursuing a career as a professional writer. If you can’t even handle a distant writer you’ve never met offering generic writing advice that stings your pride, then how will you handle it when an agent rejects you, an editor bleeds swaths of red ink all over your manuscript, or a reviewer shreds your (lack of) talent?

Truth #11: There are a lot of teachers who shouldn’t be teaching

Some teachers refuse to confront reality. … Should you take their class? Absolutely! They might be one volume short of an encyclopedia set, but they are often whizzes at teaching craft. If you run across one of these types, smile kindly at them and remind yourself that it takes a lot of medication to keep them functioning at their current level of optimism.

You won’t just find harsh words about criticism and butt-kissing, however. You’ll find plenty of practical advice on getting the most out of a writer’s conference, finding an agent, looking and sounding like a pro, choosing the right classes and books to improve your skills and, in short, increasing your chances of getting published.

This is an entertaining and informative read, well worth a few dollars from your pocket and a few hours of your time.

Posted in Reviews, Writing

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