Monthly Archives: March 2010

Jim C. Hines’ Terrific Survey on How Novelists Broke In

Writer Jim C. Hines has done a very helpful survey of 246 novelists to explore the following questions:

1) Do you have to sell short stories first to sell a novel?

2) Is self-publishing the way to go to sell a first novel to a publisher?

3) Are most first sales of a novel an overnight success story?

4) Do you have to have personal connections to the publishing industry to sell a first novel?

I’m not going to tell what the answers are, because I think it’s important to visit Jim’s website to read his detailed answers and analysis there.

Here’s what Jim says on his website about his survey:

For this study, I was looking for authors who had published at least one professional novel, where “professional” was defined as earning an advance of $2000 or more.  This is an arbitrary amount based on SFWA’s criteria for professional publishers.  No judgment is implied toward authors who self-publish or work with smaller presses, but for this study, I wanted data on breaking in with the larger publishers.

247 authors from a range of genres responded.  One was eliminated because the book didn’t fit the criteria (it was for a nonfiction title).  A random audit found no other problems.

The first part of the survey is Novel Survey Results, Part 1 (answers questions 1 & 2).   Second part has just been posted today as Novel Survey Results, Part 2 (answering questions 3 & 4).  There will be a third part next week.

Backup the writing files or documents, or suffer the consequences

The hard drive in my ancient Apple 17″ Powerbook G4 laptop finally began to die about a week ago.   I should have replaced the hard drive years ago (the laptop will be 7 years old this June, bought it in June 2003), but I never got around to it.  So it’s been slowly dying, making noises when it gets too hot lately.

Thankfully I paid attention to those noises, and 1) did almost daily backups of my writing-in-progress, 2) did backups of all my writing files every two weeks, and 3) bit the money bullet and ordered a refurbished Apple 17″ MacBook Pro laptop to replace the old laptop.   So when my old laptop hard drive crashed in a spectacular way last Wednesday (*almost* got the new laptop in time–it arrived on Friday), I was in a position to recover with over the weekend.  So take it from me, backup all your writing files every 2-4 weeks, and backup your work-in-progress nightly.

And make sure you keep some of those backups in a place safe from fire and theft.  Buy a firebox specifically designed to protect software backups, and store the disks in there.  Also, get a safe deposit box at a bank, and every 1-2 months put a backup in that box.

If you don’t use a computer for your first draft writing (i.e. you write everything by hand), get a firebox big enough to put your work-in-progress in there at night.

Whenever I started to feel like “these backups are too much hassle,” I asked myself “how would you feel if  your laptop breaks down, is destroyed, or stolen?”  That question always drove me to backup my writing.  And as a result, my laptop’s hard drive failure was a (relatively) painless process to recover from.

I’ve known writers who’ve lost years of writing work in a fire because they didn’t have copies of their writing files in a fire-safe location.   Anyone who makes their living from their writing, or hopes to do so, needs to have a plan for backing up their work on a regular basis.  Make sure the backup plan covers hard drive failure, fire or flood, and theft.

I’m very fond of that old laptop, and plan to keep it.  The current plan is to get a replacement hard drive, then give it to my spouse to use as a a test machine for running the Linux operating system.