There are a lot of myths in the world of writing. You have to know someone. You have to attend writing conventions. You have to get your name out there through short stories. You have to have a degree in English. (This one makes me–and my math degree–shudder.) On and on these tales go, and the writing community eats them up. None of these hurt, of course. Getting your name out there can only help, and everyone can benefit from improving their writing.
Tales of this caliber can be tested, and that’s exactly what fantasy writer Jim C. Hines did. He conducted a survey among 247 writers who had sold a novel with a $2000 or higher advance. This number seems arbitrary, but he explains that he was looking at the larger presses. While the writers skew toward fantasy and science fiction, the results are still revealing. Some highlights:
* You’re not going to become an overnight success. You may sell your first novel (a large minority did), but you might not. You should know this already.
* Almost half the writers surveyed published no short fiction before publishing a novel. Lesson: If you can’t stand writing short fiction, don’t write it. Concentrate on that novel instead. If you enjoy short stories and want to publish them, by all means do so. It won’t hurt when selling your novel.
* You don’t have to be deeply connected to the publishing world. This doesn’t mean to stop making connections altogether because the ones you do make can certainly help you, and you may help someone else out one day.
The survey has its flaws, and Hines acknowledges some of them, but the theme of the results is strong. Connections alone won’t get your name on the cover of a book. Other published works won’t guarantee you an in. The only way to see your name on a dust jacket is to write the book that jacket is clothing, so stop stressing out and start writing.