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The final decades of the nineteenth century witnessed new opportunities for authors through expansion in the market for fiction. The literary establishment thought this imperilled literature by making it a trade. This article considers the question of professional authorship at the fin de siècle not from the perspectives of “established” writers but those of Richard Marsh and Guy Boothby. They captured the public imagination with stories of crime, adventure and the supernatural and were astonishingly prolific, which attracted fierce censure from the elite. Marsh and Boothy portray characters who aspire to succeed in this new life of letters. This article considers these fictions as self-conscious reflections on the pleasures and pains of professional authorship through which Marsh and Boothby respond to their critics. The discussion offers a richer view of the complexities of the debate by looking beyond the more familiar accounts of the self-consciously “highbrow” authors.