Writing to sell, part five (The Final Chapter!)

The last pages of the most excellent 1951 Writing to Sell brochure, from Writer’s Digest via the archive of my dad. (Earlier installments: one, two, three, four.)

First up: student testimonials!



An adorable critic, armed with pencil, cigarette, and star-shaped ashtray. “The good ones are pie.”

My favorite from the Questions and Answers below:

Q. How long does it take to succeed?
A. It depends on how quickly you start.


Dig Mr. Mathieu’s tie, also his shoes. “Sometimes the struggle gets you down, and you sweep the floor with your chin.”

So after all this advice, all these glowing testimonials and winning photographs, how does Writer’s Digest end its brochure? By plunging us into angst. Look at that photo! Tiny bleak man in gigantic, lonely city.


I like to think that this final page was written by someone with past-due rent who has just found out they weren’t invited to an important literary party. Picture them, lip quivering, writing the following:

“There are no advantages to living in New York City that are not outweighed by its disadvantages: getting tied up in cliques, being rebuffed by unthinking people who are very busy, hurting your chances by figuratively grabbing the lapel of an editor, and getting influenced by phonies. Most writers do not work in New York because they hate the place. A few hundred locate there and revel in it. It’s your cake.”

Yeah, it’s your cake, bucko! Just go and…revel in it, why don’t you?

This concludes the “Writing to sell” series. Whatever passes for regular posts around here will return shortly.

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  • Katie
    July 8, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Thus spake Holden Caulfield.

    • Sara
      July 8, 2010 at 10:26 am

      Snicker. True, he’s the only literary creation I know who’s quite so fond of the word “phonies.”