Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Richard Rohmer's Rich Man, Poor Man

Step #1: Buy a monitor.

Why do I like Richard Rohmer's How to Write a Best Seller? Because it’s so positive! You will write a best seller! You will make a lot of money!

What I don't like is the unstated: You’ve got to spend money to make money. Rohmer encourages, never once warning that the former may well outstrip the latter. Writing the Rohmer way means hiring a researcher, a typist and an editor. Follow Irving Wallace or James Clavell and you'll be travelling a year or six before so much as turning on the Panasonic tape recorder you bought.

More than anything, Rohmer is a businessman. He sees the novel as a commercial pursuit – “Otherwise, why bother writing it?” – so it seems a bit odd that he never talks about return on investment.

I haven’t mentioned postage, which turns up in his advice in wooing agents:
Include a return envelope with sufficient stamps on it. It makes it easier all round, and it’s the polite business-like thing to do if the agent is stupid enough to reject you as an author who could make him a million.
A million. A bestselling author sells 10,000 copies of his latest – let’s say, Starmageddon, (retail price: $19.95) – bringing $19,950 in royalties. This means that at the end of the day his agent receives $2992.50.

I’m willing to wager good money that Starmageddon sold something substantially less than 10,000 copies. Will anyone rise to the challenge?

In interviews – and in the book itself – Richard Rohmer predicted that How to Write a Best Seller would be a best seller. It wasn’t. The market wasn’t there. You'd think a businessman would've recognized that.

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