Okay, I’ve written before about how much I love Donald Westlake’s Dancing Aztecs. I was reading it (again) today and I ran across one of my favorite bits that is every bit as relevant as it was in 1975 when Westlake wrote it. Only the prices have changed.
WRITING IS NOT ENOUGH
Of course, you’re a writer. You know that. But it isn’t enough merely to write, you need to be published as well. Success in writing is really yours only when you have reached the great Public with your ideas.
But how can you “break into” print? Is publishing really the closed world that people say? Do you really have to “know somebody”? Or, can talent “make it” on its own?
I say you can make it. I’ve seen others who made it, and I’ve helped some of them along the way, and I can help you, if you have the talent, and the desire, and if you’ll trust me.
For a limited time only, the Zachary George Literary Agency is seeking to expand its client list. Send me your short story, your novel, your magazine article, your poem. If it’s salable, I’ll find the right market for it. If it isn’t quite “up to snuff,” I’ll write you a personal letter, telling you where I think you went wrong.
Once you’re successful, I’ll take only the standard 10 per cent commission from my sales of your work. Until then, of course, it will be necessary to charge an advance against those commissions—fully refundable when you begin to sell—at the following rates:
Short story or article $10.
Novelette or TV script $25.
Novel or film script $50.
Get in touch with me today. Why wait for success any longer?
Mel wrote that ad in a burst of literary inspiration one cool Sunday afternoon in October three and a half years ago, since when it had appeared frequently in the gamier men’s magazines, the loonier women’s magazines, and the more tolerant writer’s magazines. And didn’t the stories come in. Short stories combining two or three recent television shows, novels imitating 1960 paperback originals, articles on fluoridation and Reinhard Heydrich, film scripts about people inadvertently taking LSD, poems about sunsets, novelettes about a young girl’s first sexual experience (“awakening,” in the language of the authors), TV scripts about youth gangs terrorizing subways—oh, the stories came in, right enough. Everybody in America, it seemed, had glared at the TV set and said, “I can write better than that.” It was amazing how many of them were wrong.
–Donald E Westlake, Dancing Aztecs