A Writer Heil are 401
IN his editorial notes for the year
1946, the editor of the Writers' and Artists' Year Book records that one vanity publisher received over £150,000 from gullible clients before he was found out and sent to prison. " Vanity Publisher,'' let me add, is the name given to so-called " publishers" who advertise for MSS., and then ask the writer to pay for the publication of his work. It may seem strange that people can be fooled Ily this sort of thing, but it is nevertheless true. As long ago as 1933 the -editor of The Writer said of these gentry; "If a publisher invites you to undertake, or to share the expense of producing a book and leads you to hope that you will make money by the publication he is by that token a shark."
Another kind of literary shark is the gentleman who advertises for lyrics to set to music and then asks the author to subscribe towards the cost of publication. Of these a Mr. Herbert Harris wrote in The Writer as far back as 1936: "Lyric writers who pay money In certain unserupulous people to have worthless lyrics set to music deserve to be fleeced in this fashion. Leading publishers don't take lyrics without music. and they do not put lyrics to, music." Similar advice but given with even greater emphasis appears in the Writers' and Artists' Year Book for 1946, that is ten years later, proving that in spite of The Writer's warning of 1936, and warnings in numberless other magazines since, sharks still gather a harvest from writers whose anxiety out-runs their good sense.
From 1933 to 1946 is 13 years, and still the literary shark flourishes. Indeed the editor of the Writers' and Artists' Year Book, 1946, finds it necessary to issue this warning to all writers who may have money to lose: " W should remember, too, that the greed " (of the one) "and the inexperience" of the other) "may be greater than usual."
Ex-Servicemen—Be Warned !
There arc many hundreds it not thousands of young people fresh from the Services to-day, with note-books and memories bulging with experiences gained at sea, on land, or in the air during the past six years. Naturally they ale anxious to turn these into print, and perhaps cash, at the earliest possible moment. Well and good! May I say to them, go ahead, and good fortune attend youl But a word of warning ere you go. Twenty-eight years ago I was a lad out of the Forces with notes and ideas like you. Yes, and like you I had a nice gratuity to spend as well. Before you part with yours get wise to some of the people you'll meet who will endeavour, and with no small success, to take your gratuity from you.
Probably you have already been do
ing a bit of writing, but your work comes back to you, and the pile of rejection slips grows astonishingly; meanwhile, your little store of money dwindles rapidly. What are you going to do? You realise that your knowledge of the market is lacking. There is no need to ask, I know what you'll do! You'll scan the advertisements and choose an agent. Beware! Not all agents are honest, and few beginners are experienced enough to be able to assess an agent's advertisement at its true value.
The Literary Agent
There are in my experience two kinds of literary agent, those who demand fees in advance for reading, correcting, and, finally, trying to place MSS., and those who charge no fees at all unless they place the work, when they expect the usual agent's fee of 10 per Cent, of the price they obtain. I make no comment other than this: the second type of agent will not accept work from amateurs or beginners only by special introduction, and be does not as a rule advertise.
Of the literary agent in general the Writers' and Artists' Year Book for 1930 said this: "So far as the amateur author is concerned no agent can sell a book which the author himself cannot sell, no agent can give any reason why the book did outsell, and no agent can teach him, or her to write salcably. The function of an agent is to handle a writer's business affairs, but until a writer places a book, or has made good he has no business affairs." '
What then, the young people may well ask, are we to do? We want to become writers, we have the material, and we think we have the ability. How arc we to get our work published? What did you do? The answer is: Do you know anything at all of the life you propose to live? Contrary to popular belief writing is not an easy, or indeed a quick way of earning a living, nor is it well paid unless you are on top. I think it was James A. Jones, writing ill a London newspaper some years ago. who said there were then some 10,000 young people in bitdon alone writing books. not one ni which would ever see print. Pretty grim, isn't it!
My object is, however, not to discourage but to help, so let me say this and in italics, too, First secure a means of livelihood, theta take up your writing as a spare-tinw study. If you have
• the desire, and the will to stick
the grind you'll win through. If you lack them there'll be little harm done. If you arc in a hurry. choose a good school of journalism—there is more than one but remember this—no School or teacher, however good, can put in what is not already there. Education is a drawing out, not a filling up and if there is nothing to draw out no amount of training will make good the
deficiency A. G.