Much has been written about the retreat of the publishing advance. Add to the mix this fine letter to the editor of the New York Times, published in response to Michael Meyer's essay entitled "About That Advance (also worth reading)." An excerpt from the letter should give all you toiling writers out there a little lift:
...[M]ost fiction writers -- even those with one or more novels to their credit -- must labor, often for years, sans payment. What's more, in our increasingly doctrinaire publishing climate, even the finest among them labor sans any guarantees of eventual publication or income; one could argue -- and demonstrate persuasively -- that the greater number of literature's real practitioners (those who have not let cynicism and status anxiety eat away their gifts) work under such conditions. Laboring slowly, unhonored and unpaid and bound toward an immaterial prize far more meaningful than ''success'' as New York parlance would have it, these writers have destiny for incentive -- and perhaps the exemplars of bygone literary gods for inspiration. Unsung, they sing, and reap rewards that more than mitigate the annoyances of obscurity. Quietly, faithfully, their late-paid, ill-paid or altogether unpaid works go into the world untrumpeted, unreviewed and unbought, to give the lie to the fallacy denounced by Annie Dillard a quarter-century ago: ''that the novelists of whom we have heard are the novelists we have.''