Who

<p>Every author must endure one of two common irritants in their writing lives:&nbsp; For the published, it's people asking where they get their ideas from; for the unpublished, it's people confessing their desire to write a novel too, if only they had the time.<br />
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The frequency of this terrible aside looks set to increase - a recent <a href="http://books.guardian.co.uk/news/articles/0,,2153330,00.html">YouGov poll </a>has found that almost 10% of Britons aspire to being an author, followed by sports personality and astronaut.&nbsp; With the current population of the UK at 60 million, that's 6 million wannabe scribblers.&nbsp; What if just 10% of those did produce a manuscript? That's 600,000 manuscripts heading towards agents and publishers.&nbsp; What then? Piles would go from slush to mush; spilling out into the streets. The entire West End and certain parts of <a href="http://www.christopherlittle.net/">Fulham </a>would have to be closed off.<br />
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There is a serious point to be made here:&nbsp; The limited resources of publishers and agents are already stretched. A trend like this will only increase the pressure and mean that promising manuscripts from people serious about writing fiction, who have worked hard for years on their craft, will find it even harder to get noticed.<br />
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Bitterness towards agents and publishers from rejected authors would also balloon. It was bad enough at the London Book Fair's <a href="http://www.londonbookfair.co.uk/page.cfm/link=152">'How to get published' masterclass</a> this year, during the Q&amp;A session. <a href="http://www.pfd.co.uk/blogs/simon_trewin/welcome/">Simon Trewin</a> handled them like a master, but it's a professional hazard.&nbsp; I felt embarrassed to be there. We can't have a situation where talented professionals are terrified of bumping into unpublished authors. There should be openness and dialogue.&nbsp; The disgruntled give us all a bad name.&nbsp;&nbsp; <br />
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So what on earth is going on? Is it Richard and Judy? The JK effect? That Jordan is now writing novels? That <a href="http://www.randomhouse.co.uk/minisites/kerrykatona/">Kerry Katona</a> is now writing novels? I think it's something more malignant - this country's increasing obsession with achieving fame without talent.<br />
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The trade, to its credit, has responded to the increasing competition amongst the unpublished with initiatives such as <a href="http://www.panmacmillan.com/imprints/Macmillan%20New%20Writing/">Macmillan New Writing</a>, <a href="http://www.snowbooks.com/weblog/2007/08/snowcase.html#more">Snowcasing</a> and <a href="http://www.writewords.org.uk/">WriteWords</a>.&nbsp; Some might argue that with all the emerging technology for self-publishing and self-marketing at the unpublished author's disposal, now is a fantastic time to be writing your first novel.<br />
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But as the ineffable <a href="http://www.thebookseller.com/blogs/44377-job-swap.html">Clare Alexander</a> said, issuing a book is not the same as publishing a book. Publishing is more than the sum of its parts - editing, marketing, sales - it's the mark, the gold standard, the gold medal. Self-published authors might cite famous precedents, but deep down they all want to be published by a publishing house. Not for the increased sales from big-budget marketing, but for the validation - to be able to say, I am published.<br />
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The reality of being an unpublished author in 2007 is this:&nbsp; It's tough.&nbsp; And getting increasingly tougher. An astronaut seems like a more viable, less risky career choice. You also get a nifty jumpsuit. In all this, one thing is certain:&nbsp; We need publishers and agents now more than ever.</p>