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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 39 pages of information about The Man of Letters as a Man of Business.
Sometimes it may be years before he can satisfy himself that his readers are sick of Smith, and are pining for Jones; even then he cannot know how long their mood will last, and he is by no means safe in cutting down Smith’s price and putting up Jones’s.  With the best will in the world to pay justly, he cannot.  Smith, who has been boring his readers to death for a year, may write tomorrow a thing that will please them so much that he will at once be a prime favorite again; and Jones, whom they have been asking for, may do something so uncharacteristic and alien that it will be a flat failure in the magazine.  The only thing that gives either writer positive value is his acceptance with the reader; but the acceptance is from month to month wholly uncertain.  Authors are largely matters of fashion, like this style of bonnet, or that shape of gown.  Last spring the dresses were all made with lace berthas, and Smith was read; this year the butterfly capes are worn, and Jones is the favorite author.  Who shall forecast the fall and winter modes?

XI.

In this inquiry it is always the author rather than the publisher, always the contributor rather than the editor, whom I am concerned for.  I study the difficulties of the publisher and editor only because they involve the author and the contributor; if they did not, I will not say with how hard a heart I should turn from them; my only pang now in scrutinizing the business conditions of literature is for the makers of literature, not the purveyors of it.

After all, and in spite of my vaunting title, is the man of letters ever am business man?  I suppose that, strictly speaking, he never is, except in those rare instances where, through need or choice, he is the publisher as well as the author of his books.  Then he puts something on the market and tries to sell it there, and is a man of business.  But otherwise he is an artist merely, and is allied to the great mass of wage-workers who are paid for the labor they have put into the thing done or the thing made; who live by doing or making a thing, and not by marketing a thing after some other man has done it or made it.  The quality of the thing has nothing to do with the economic nature of the case; the author is, in the last analysis, merely a working-man, and is under the rule that governs the working-man’s life.  If he is sick or sad, and cannot work, if he is lazy or tipsy, and will not, then he earns nothing.  He cannot delegate his business to a clerk or a manager; it will not go on while he is sleeping.  The wage he can command depends strictly upon his skill and diligence.

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