The emphasis is on publishing, not on creating. On being a writer, not on writing itself. The publishing industry -- always the nerdy distant cousin of the rest of media -- has the same blockbuster-or-bust mentality of television networks and movie studios. There now exist only two possibilities: immediate and large-scale success, or none at all.Bleak? Yes. Truthful? Absolutely. Sure, a major house can support the literary equivalent of Arrested Development, and keep saying, "Everyone loves it! It'll break out!" But eventually, all those jerkwads who looooove the show but don't bother to actually watch it while it's on (or buy the book when it first comes out) snowball and everything goes out of business. And, for realsies, the Arrested Development model almost never happens, in books or on TV.
This brings me to the inevitable question: if you're not doing it for profit or being published, voluntarily or otherwise, are you still a writer? This question is posed in relation to Salinger--he wrote a handful of books and then stopped publishing (but we can now assume kept writing). Can you quit being a writer, or is it like being in the Mob? And is it the act of writing that makes you count, or the recognition of credibility through being published?