You cant go stumbling through darkness and live at this game. Roughly, here is what you face. There are less than two thousand professional writers in the United States. Hundreds of thousands are trying to write some say millions.
The competition is keener in the writing business than in any other. Therefore, when you try to skid by with the gods of chance, you simply fail to make the grade. Its a brutal selective device. You can beat it if you know your product and how to handle it. You can beat it on only two counts. One had to do with genius, and the other with economics. There are very few men who sell and live by their genius only. Therefore, the rest of us have to fall back on a fairly exact science.
If there were two thousand soap plants in the country, and a million soap plants trying to make money, and you were one of the million, what would you do? Cutting prices, in our analogy, is not possible, nor fruitful in any commerce. Therefore you would tighten up your plant to make every bar count. You wouldnt produce a bar if you knew it would be bad. Youd think about such things as reputation, supply, demand, organization, the plant, type of soap, advertising, sales department, accounting, profit and loss, quality versus quantity, machinery, improvements in product, raw materials, and labor employed.
And so it is in writing. Were factories working under terrific competition. We have to produce and sell at low cost and small price.
Labor, according to economics in general, cannot be measured in simple, homogenous units of time such as labor hours. And laborers differ, tasks differ, in respect to amount and character of training, degree of skill, intelligence, and capacity to direct ones work.
That for soap making. That also for writing. And youre a factory whether your stories go to Satevepost, Harpers, or an upstart pulp that pays a quarter of a cent on publication. Were all on that common level. We must produce to eat, and we must know our production and product down to the ground.
Let us take some of the above mentioned topics, one by one, and examine them.
SUPPLY AND DEMAND
You must know that the supply of stories is far greater than the demand. Actual figures tell nothing. You have only to stand by the editor and watch him open the morning mail. Stories by the truckload.
One market I know well, publishing five stories a month. Five long novelettes. Dozens come in every week from names which would make you sit up very straight and be very quiet. And only five are published. And if theres a reject from there, youll work a long time before youll sell it elsewhere.