Anyway, here are a few titbits from the twenty-first century.
John Baker is an established crime writer with an informative web site and also a blog. Here is some of his advice for writers:
Don't listen to other writers. Plough your own furrow. Oh, yes, and make sure there's nothing else you'd rather do. Being a writer has its compensations but you'll be very lucky to make much money out of it, so make sure you've tried everything else first. And read. Read everything you can find.Next, Joseph Wambaugh. Former cop and formidable novelist. Publishers Lunch reports that 'Among projects to be shopped at London, Joseph Wambaugh has taken on representation for the first time, and just delivered the manuscript for HOLLYWOOD STATION, his first new novel in 10 years, to agent Nat Sobel.'
Does this mean what it appears to mean? Joseph Wambaugh has never previously had an agent? Of course he did start out a long time ago, when it may have been possible to gain the attention of an editor without actually having a heavy puncher to press your case. And, preferably, a large number of incriminating photographs of said editor, taken at a drunken orgy.
In a recent comment, Lynne W. Scanlon has an interesting take on royalties and contracts. To hell with IP, she says. Consider me a gun for hire. Pay me some money, I do the job, and that's it.
This is not a new idea. Thirty years ago I knew a man called Kenneth Hudson. He was an academic when I knew him, though I see that he is described in one online document as 'an anti-academic intellectual', and he was chiefly interested in industrial archaeology, museums, and the preservation of historical sites. He wrote a whole pile of books, but as I recall he didn't bother with royalties either. He negotiated a set price for a book, wrote it, and forgot it. Not, in my opinion, a bad deal in the majority of instances. Particularly non-fiction.
Meanwhile, should you be thinking that all your problems will be solved if you can just have one bestselling book, go see what Tess Gerritsen has to say over at M.J. Rose's Buzz Balls & Hype. Tess, it seems, is a Chinese American, and because she consciously chose to write about mainstream characters and mainstream themes, rather than stick to Asian American plots, she got attacked in public by the Association of Asian American Journalists -- a group of people who really ought to know better. As with Jeffrey Archer, here we have an avowedly commercial writer being criticised for making sure that her books are commercial. But then, as we all know, the book world is full to the brim with fuzzy thinkers.