What was worth it

<p>What&rsquo;s the point?&nbsp; Am I wasting my time?&nbsp; I&rsquo;ve been asking myself these questions all week.<br />
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<p>Now, you might be asking yourself, what&rsquo;s his problem?&nbsp; He&rsquo;s young, handsome (thank you) and he&rsquo;s got an iPhone (get one, they&rsquo;re great) - what&rsquo;s he got to moan about?<br />
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Well, I&rsquo;ll get to that in a minute. <br />
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First, some well-worn statistics that every unpublished author knows -&nbsp; that only a half of a quarter of a pico-percent of novels written and submitted every year ever get published. <br />
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Not great odds.&nbsp; You certainly wouldn&rsquo;t back a horse with that kind of forecast.&nbsp; In fact, a horse with odds like that is probably a dead horse.<br />
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But the reward if you make it!&nbsp; The reward if you are published!&nbsp; It&rsquo;s . . . !&nbsp; It&rsquo;s . . . !&nbsp; Well, it isn&rsquo;t what it used to be, apparently.&nbsp; I&rsquo;ve just read <a href="http://www.thebookseller.com/blogs/48671-making-writing-pay.html">Harry Bingham&rsquo;s insightful but bleak blog</a> and it&rsquo;s depressed the hell out of me.&nbsp; Sucked out my juice.&nbsp; Rendered me - dare I say it? &ndash; limp.<br />
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If you haven&rsquo;t read it, you should.&nbsp; If you don&rsquo;t have time (too busy keeping an eye on the <a href="http://www.thebookseller.com/news/48346-low-salaries-lead-to-facebook-re... masses sharpening their pitchforks on Facebook, eh</a>?) Harry&rsquo;s point is this:&nbsp; Even if you&rsquo;re a successful novelist, published several times over, awards making the mantelpiece bow, you&rsquo;ll still never make enough money to stop eating beans on toast.<br />
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Now, my problem is not with beans on toast.&nbsp; I happen to eat beans on toast every lunchtime out of choice, not poverty.&nbsp; It&rsquo;s a fine dish (low fat, too, health fans).&nbsp; And my problem is not that I&rsquo;m an unpublished novelist.&nbsp; I happen to think that if you&rsquo;re talented, determinded and lucky enough, then you stand a good chance of being published (although there&rsquo;s very few of the first, too many of the second and who knows about the third).&nbsp; My problem is that I&rsquo;m an unpublished novelist writing in 2007 and we seem to be entering into some kind of Dark Age for English literature.&nbsp; <br />
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Books on celebrities?&nbsp; Fine, in moderation (like Chicken McNuggets), there&rsquo;s a market.&nbsp; Books by celebrities?&nbsp; Unforgivable:&nbsp; Kerry Katona should be smothered with a bag of Iceland frozen peas. <a href="http://www.thebookseller.com/news/48674-bestsellers-tyranny-attacked.htm... Alexander argued that this kind of culture has &ldquo;tainted publisher&rsquo;s minds&rdquo; at a recent Royal Society of Literature debate on the &lsquo;tyranny of the bestseller&rsquo;</a>.<br />
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Publishers, listen:&nbsp; You are all exceptionally talented people.&nbsp; You need to trust yourselves more.&nbsp; When Steve Jobs isn&rsquo;t making revolutionary devices you want to lick, he comes out with some great quotes.&nbsp; A favourite of mine is this:&nbsp; &lsquo;People don&rsquo;t know what they want until you give it to them.&rsquo;&nbsp; What is true of iPhones is also true of books.&nbsp; The world didn&rsquo;t know it needed <i>Catch 22</i> until it arrived.&nbsp; If you&rsquo;d sat the book buying public down in 1961 and asked them what kind of book they wanted, you can bet your last crate of Milo&rsquo;s Casaba melons that they wouldn&rsquo;t have asked for a novel about a World War II bombardier caught in a world of absurdity and modern economics, with repetitive, circular prose and narration that appears to be machine-gunned to pieces. <br />
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This is how it should work:&nbsp; Writers decide what to write.&nbsp; Publishers decide what to publish.&nbsp; Readers decide what to read.&nbsp; Naturally, there&rsquo;s winners and losers; bestsellers and flops, but this is a well-balanced market running in harmony.&nbsp; It&rsquo;s wise to have an eye on the market, but if you start messing with this simple truth too much (publishers trying to give readers what they think they want, or writers trying to give publishers what they think they want) it leads to disaster.&nbsp; It is leading to disaster.&nbsp; On a long enough time-line, English literature will fall apart.<br />
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Why?&nbsp; Because it was worth it before - giving up the career, writing for hours before dashing off to the mundane day job, the beans on toast, the inevitable rejections, the shameless self-promotion writing a blog for The Bookseller - for the infinitesimally small chance of making it.&nbsp; But I&rsquo;m not sure it is now.<br />
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Can anyone convince me otherwise?<br />
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