It was the same in 1919 as it is now.

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“But a thought that has often occurred to me in selling rare editions may interest you. The customer’s willingness to part with his money is usually in inverse ration to the permanent benefit he expects to derive from what he purchases….. Folks will pay a darned sight more to be amused than to be exalted. Look at the way a man shells out five bones fo a couple of theater seats, or a spends a couple of dollars o a week on cigars without thinking of it. Yet two dollars or five dollars for a book costs him positive anguish.

The mistake you fellows in the retail trade have made is trying to persuade your customers that books are necessities. Tell them they’re luxuries. That’ll get them! People have to work so hard in this life they’re shy of necessities. A man will go on wearing a suit until it’s threadbare, much sooner than smoke a threadbare cigar.”

The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley (1919)

Kurt Vonnegut: Advice on Writing. ALL you need!

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1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things-reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them-in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.