December 9th, 2012

Susan Zakin concludes:

What’s a writer to do? Agent Barer’s oft-quoted advice is: “Don’t quit your day job.” For many writers, it might be: “Don’t quit your three jobs: the one you work to make money and get health insurance, the one you work to make contacts and leverage your own writing, and, yeah, the one you do for love: writing.” In other words, raid Lance Armstrong’s medicine cabinet.

More and more writers are hedging their bets, writing for Big Box publishers but laying the groundwork for a career with smart, feisty new media of one sort or another. They’re not the only ones trying to figure out their next move, according to journalist Jack Hitt. Hitt’s recent book, “Bunch of Amateurs: A Search for the American Character,” casts the tinkerer in the garage who turns out to be Steve Jobs as a foundational American myth. Amateurism emerges when “the culture around you won’t let you out of where you are or into where you want to go,” writes Hitt. In his estimation: “The cyclical turn to the garage is happening now as Americans sense that some great turn in history has come.”

In “The Long Tail,” Anderson notes that the average book in the U.S. sells 500 copies. For writers and editors hoping to improve those odds, the best strategy may not be Fordism—the mass production embraced by big publishers—but a return to traditional American values; in the words of Bill Henderson of Pushcart Press, “happy, cranky individualism.”

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