The healthiest answer to this is probably no. (Having said that, if you are being commissioned by someone to write a book or an article, then of course the answer should be yes.) These days you may hear authors complaining about the fact that author advances are diminishing and that publishing is in free-fall. There are many reasons why inside the business writers and publishers feel like this – the main one being that in life there is so much more competing for our attention and our spend, whether it’s Twitter or eating out. This is inevitably having an effect on which books are published and how they’re marketed. There are two points I always encourage the writers I work with to think about. 1. Dissociate yourself from the market place. If you’re writing a genre novel or an academic book, then of course you need to have a keen sense of what your audience and the market expect of you. But even then, your book has to have integrity. Editors and agents are not all cynics – they genuinely want to find authentic voices and they can sniff out insincerity a mile off. The author has to believe what he or she is writing. If the idea of great wealth and recognition (a whole new literary award, perhaps, created just for your own particular style of brilliance) is skewing your ability to immerse yourself in your writing, dare to imagine failure. Make the book what it needs to be in the face of that. 2. What would you do if your book didn’t find a publisher? I sometimes work with people who have a life experience they want to set down for themselves and their families – perhaps as a way of dealing with something difficult. It seems so brutal when, during an early conversation, I say, ‘Unless the writing is absolutely brilliant, it is unlikely this would ever make it to a shelf in Waterstone’s.’ But if someone has invested time and effort in writing something this important to them, they are owed an honest picture of how the market works. Occasionally the writing is brilliant enough to overcome the author’s lack of fame or Twitter followship. Occasionally. But it is very useful for the writer in this scenario to acknowledge how much they want to see their book through, to get back in touch with why they started it. And in fact, while we’re having this conversation, we can sometimes identify groups of people outside the family circle who might benefit from reading the book; and then we begin to think, how do we reach them, how do we think about that as we go through the editorial process? As the new Cinderella film comes out, perhaps it makes us think about our literary Cinderella, J K Rowling, shivering in her flat and writing in her local café. Before she found a publisher, she had mapped out the trajectory of each novel in the Harry Potter series. Rowling has recently spoken of this period of her life, and feeling a ‘failure’, being as poor as it was possible to be in the UK without being homeless. Let’s not poeticize her poverty and get back to imagining that every author must suffer in a garrett, but look at her determination in the face of failure. Whether you like her writing or not, you cannot doubt the commitment of her work and the hermetic authenticity of her imaginary world. Any writer – gifted or not – can take a leaf out of that particular book.