jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)
( Jan. 5th, 2015 09:30 am)

About seven years ago, I started doing a yearly blog post on my annual writing income. Yeah, it’s a weird and sometimes uncomfortable thing to talk about, but I also think it’s important to get some facts out there. It’s hard to get any real data on what authors earn, where the income comes from, and so on. Of course, I’m only one data point, so don’t go drawing any broad conclusions. But one is better than none, eh? And I’ll link to any other authors I see posting similar info. My background: I’m a U.S. author and have been writing science fiction and fantasy since 1995. My first novel with a major publisher came out in 2006. Since then, I’ve been averaging about one book/year. I have a few short collections and one odd novel project that I’ve self-published, but I’m primarily published through a traditional/commercial/whatever-you-want-to-call-it publisher. I’ve also got about fifty published short stories. I’ve hit the Locus bestseller lists, but I’ve never made the New York Times or USA Today lists. I still work a full-time day job, and I’ve got two kids at home, which means I probably devote about 20 hours/week to the writing career. My income posts from previous years are here: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. 2014 Income - Cumulative 2014 was a good year. Not my best, but I didn’t expect it to be — I had sold three books in 2013, and spent the next year actually writing two of them. This means I got a chunk of all three advances in 2013, but the rest of the money will be spread out through 2014 and 2015. All total, I earned $50,900 as a writer last year. This is after my agent takes his commission, but before expenses and taxes. Here’s how it roughly breaks down:

  • Novels (U.S.) – $39,840
  • Novels (Foreign) – $4130
  • Self-published Work – $1400
  • Short Fiction & Nonfiction – $2300
  • Other – $3200

2014 Income Breakdown The “Other” category includes the advance for The Goblin Master’s Grimoire, my short story collection from ISFiC Press, as well as things like honorarium payments for speaking engagements, a T-shirt royalty payment, and other miscellanea. Expenses for the year were probably between $3000 and $4000. (I haven’t calculated everything yet.) Mileage and convention costs, primarily hotel rooms, were the largest chunk, followed by hiring an artist to do the cover for Rise of the Spider Goddess (which I haven’t yet seen any income for, since that book only came out last month). I also paid another artist to do the banner art for my website. I’m very happy with both of these decisions. In the “Novels (U.S.)” category, I’ve got nine books in print with DAW. (Number ten comes out on Tuesday, but that’s another blog post.) Looking back, all nine of those books have earned out their advances and are now paying royalties. Those royalties account for a little under half of the novels income in the U.S. I should also note that because DAW purchased English language rights, the accounting for the UK edition of the Magic ex Libris series flows through them, and gets counted as part of the U.S. deal’s income. Novel advances are generally broken down into multiple payments. For my most recent books, they’re split into an on-signing payment, delivery & acceptance, and publication. For Unbound and Revisionary, the on-publication payment is further split into hardcover and mass market. What this means is that in 2015, I can expect to see the hardcover on-publication payment for Unbound, the D&A on Revisionary, and the D&A and publication payments for the Secret Novel Project of Doom. Though the on-publication payment for that last might not show up until 2016, depending on when exactly the book comes out. I’m also hoping to pitch and sell some new books this year, which would hopefully bring in some on-signing money and make sure I’ve got authorial job security for another year or two. I hope this was useful, and I’m happy to answer questions. Here’s to a successful 2015 for all of us. ETA Related Posts:

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)
( Oct. 14th, 2014 08:10 am)

A tweet from Damien Walter led me to Amazon’s Kindle Scout page, which I hadn’t heard about before. It looks to me like an Amazonian hybrid approach to publishing.

Basically, you submit your unpublished book of 50K words or more. After a short review period (to make sure your book is acceptable), you get a Kindle Scout “Campaign Page,” that includes the first 5000 or so words of the book. Readers nominate their favorites, and at the end of the 30-day campaign, the Kindle Scout team selects books to publish. From the FAQs:

“Nominations give us an idea of which books readers think are great; the rest is up to the Kindle Scout team who then reviews books for potential publication.”

If a book you nominated gets a Kindle Scout contract, you receive a free copy of the ebook. But you can only nominate up to three books at a time. Basically, Amazon is crowdsourcing their slush pile. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Baen does something similar at the Baen Bar, as I understand it. But I wince to think of the campaigning and clumsy self-promotion Amazon’s approach will likely create.

The publishing contract is for five years, and includes a $1500 advance and 50% ebook royalties. No indication of whether or not the terms are negotiable. For that $1500 advance, Amazon gets “the exclusive, irrevocable, worldwide right to publish e-book and audio editions of your Work, in whole and in part, in all languages, along with those rights reasonably necessary to effectuate those rights” for the duration of the contract.

(Data points: $1500 isn’t a bad advance for a small press, though I’d want to negotiate the rights grab. However, $1500 would be unacceptably low from a major publisher. Also, it’s not at all unusual to get a $1500 advance for a book’s English language audio rights alone.)

I find it curious that the ebook royalty rate is 50% for direct sales, lower than the 70% rate most self-published authors get for their e-books on Amazon. That royalty rate is definitely better than most traditional publishers offer. However, Kindle Scout royalties for third party sales are 75% of net, which is less desirable.

Clause 13 makes me rather nervous. “You acknowledge that we have no obligation to publish, market, distribute or offer for sale your Work, or continue publishing, marketing, distributing or selling your Work after we have started doing so. We may stop publishing your Work and cease further exploitation of the rights granted in this Agreement at any time in our sole discretion without notice to you.”

So the author gets a small advance with a good royalty rate for direct sales (though not as good as you’d get by publishing it yourself). You may receive some Amazon marketing, which is potentially helpful and important. But then again, you may not. Amazon also has the right to give up on you at any time, per clause 13. The author is stuck with the contract for at least two years, at which point you can request the reversion of your rights.

What I don’t see is any indication of what Amazon provides when they publish the book. Do you get an editor? A copy-editor? How much will they invest in cover art, if anything? What sort of publicity might they offer, and will that publicity extend beyond the borders of Amazon?

That makes me very uncomfortable. The whole thing feels a bit like a chimera of traditional and vanity publishing, combined with a manuscript display service.

I could be wrong. It looks like they’re just rolling this sucker out, so it’s possible the terms will be revised, or that more information will be forthcoming. But right now, I definitely wouldn’t recommend this as a top choice for new writers looking to get published.

ETA: Author Beth Bernobich contacted Amazon, and passed along the following information: “The book and cover must be ready to publish when you submit. So, they do not provide any editing, copyediting, or proofreading. Nor any cover art or design. And that contract? Non-negotiable. If you submit, it means you agree to the contract as is, and you cannot back out.”

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


We start this service with a reading from The Book of Maass:

“…because some authors are now—voluntarily!—willing to bear the expense and undertake the effort of building an audience by themselves, print publishers have the luxury of culling the prize cattle from the herd. Even print-only distribution deals with a handful of successful e-published authors are terrific: easy pickings and effortless profit. Most authors are still knocking at the gate, too, since after all seventy percent of trade book sales are of print editions. In many ways these are good times for print publishers.”

“…the self-publishing movement has produced gold-rush hysteria in the writing community. While not exactly a mass delusion, questionable beliefs have been widely accepted. True believers sneer at doubters. So what is the real truth? High success at self-publishing has happened only for a few who have mastered the demanding business of online marketing. A larger, but still small, number of authors have achieved a modest replacement income from self-publishing. Growth from there will be hard for them, however, because wide print distribution still is needed.”

“…the position of the vast majority of self-publishing authors is no better than it ever was, though probably there are fewer cartons of books in their garages. Consultancy to self-publishers is a new job category, however, and that has to be good for the nation’s employment stats.”

And now, a reading from The Book of Konrath:

“…The royals vs. the peasants. The bourgeoisie vs. the proletariat. The establishment vs. the revolutionaries. The haves vs. the have-nots. The gatekeepers spouting bullshit vs. the new breed of writers calling them on their bullshit.

“…for those countless midlist authors stuck with unconscionable contracts because they had no choice, and the multitude of authors kept out of the industry by gatekeepers such as yourself, it didn’t work. It actually sucked wheelbarrows full of ass. Your industry f***ed the majority of writers it provided services for. And that same industry was built on the sweat, tears, toil, and blood of those very writers it exploited.”

“…we talk to each other. We read each others’ contracts. We know how much we can earn on our own. And more and more of us believe the publishers you work for are, indeed, evil f**ks.”


The emphasis in the above excerpts was added by  me. I recommend reading the full posts if this is a conversation you’re interested in.

Personally, I find it frustrating and tiresome. Look, I’ve been the author who got crapped on by a major publisher, and I’ve been the author who got book deals in the mid five figures. I’ve hung out with New York Times bestselling authors. I’ve hung out with self-published authors who have moved hundreds of thousands of books. I’ve watched friends move from self-publishing to traditional publishing, and I’ve seen traditionally published authors move into self-publishing.

This whole Us vs. Them thing? It’s bullshit. Traditional publishing isn’t Evil. (Certain individuals within that system, well, that’s another blog post…) Self-publishing and e-books aren’t asteroids coming to wipe out the Dinosaurs. And there’s no One True Path to success as an author.

I’m doing rather well as a mostly traditionally published author, but I’ve had people come along to tell me how stupid I am for not self-publishing. They lay out math full of ridiculously flawed assumptions and generalizations to “prove” how much more I’d be making if I published my own e-books. It’s possible they might be right — maybe I would do even better — but it’s in no way a sure thing. They assume everything my agent and publisher do for me, either I could do just as well myself, or else it isn’t really necessary.

You see it from the other side too, the idea that self-publishing doesn’t count. I haven’t personally seen as much of this side, but I suspect I’d see it a lot more if I was a primarily self-published author.

You want “the real truth”? Here’s some truth for you.

  • There are authors doing ridiculously, amazingly well with traditional publishing.
  • There are authors doing incredibly, mind-blowingly well with self-publishing.
  • There aren’t a hell of a lot of people in either category.
  • Being a writer is hard work, no matter what path you choose.

It’s that last bit I want to stress. There are plenty of paths out there, which is wonderful, but it’s also nerve-wracking. Which way is the right way for me? What if I make the wrong choice? What if those people are right, and I really would be doing better if I’d self-published all of my stuff instead of going through a traditional publisher? What if I self-publish my stuff and nobody ever finds it?

I wonder if that anxiety is part of why so many people are quick to cling to that false Us vs. Them framework. Personally, I think Maass’ view of writers as cattle is insulting and ridiculous, but if I tell myself that he’s representative of all of Them, then clearly I’m on the side of Right by self-publishing. When I see a self-published author repeatedly spamming people online and desperately shoving self-promotional material into people’s hands at conventions, all to promote a book with a cover that looks like it was done in MS Paint, a part of me wants to cling to that as proof that I’m better off with my publisher. I have to remind myself that this isn’t The Awful Truth of self-publishing.

I love reading folks like Tobias Buckell and Chuck Wendig, or watching what the authors over at Book View Cafe have been up to. These are people who avoid the Us vs. Them trap, who admit there’s more than one way to succeed as a writer. They try different things, and they acknowledge different paths.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t read what Maass or Konrath have to say. Just don’t fall into the trap of believing there’s One True Path. We’re all figuring this out, and the path that’s worked for me might not be the right one for you. In fact, it probably isn’t, since mine started almost two decades ago.

Do your research. Learn about the different possibilities. And make your own path.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


My 2013 writing income post brought up a number of good questions in the comments. And one odd question about my bedroom habits and whether or not I was a first-rate lover … but that might have been spam. Either way, I’m not going to address that one here. But I did want to talk about the rest.

First off, some relevant links:

And now, on to the questions.

“I’d be curious to see how the income breaks down over time across income types too: advance, d&a, residual…”

A lot depends on the contracts. Advances are often broken into multiple payments. For books three and four of the Magic ex Libris series, I get part of the advance on signing (once DAW has received and processed the signed contracts), part upon the delivery and acceptance (D&A) of the final, revised manuscript, and part on publication. I’ve gotten the on-signing money for books three and four, but that’s all so far. I’ve turned in the manuscript for Unbound, and once my editor gets back to me, I’ll do another revision. When that’s accepted, I’ll get the second portion of the advance (D&A) for that book.

How everything breaks down depends on the size of the advance, too. Say Author X is getting 90% of their money as royalties and only 10% as advance money. This could mean they have a very small advance. It could mean a big advance but the book sold a lot more copies than expected. It could mean a large backlist of titles that have earned out and are generating royalties. If someone never earns out and gets any royalties, does that mean their books don’t sell, or does it mean they got huge advances?

With that said…

  • All of my books have earned out their advances, with the exception of Codex Born. (And since Codex Born came out in August 2013, I haven’t seen a royalties statement yet, so it’s possible that one has also earned out. But I doubt it.)
  • I signed contracts for three new books in 2013, which means there’s a higher-than-normal proportion of on-signing advance money.

Here’s how the $55,000 or so of U.S. novel income (before taxes) breaks down for 2013.

“Is any of the variation due to publishers paying irregularly?”

DAW operates on six-month royalty periods, 1/1 – 6/30 and 7/1 – 12/31. Since most of my books have earned out their advances, this means I get royalty checks on a fairly regular and predictable twice/year schedule (usually around April and October). The payment process isn’t quick, by any means, but I haven’t had trouble getting paid by the major publishers. I’ve occasionally had smaller checks get delayed or forgotten, but in general, a nudge from either my agent or myself has been enough to shake those loose.

You listed your self-published income. How many titles have you self-published vs. your traditionally published work?

I’m primarily a traditionally published author. My nine fantasy novels are all in print from DAW Books.

I’ve self-published three short collections, which you can see at the bottom of my Bookstore page. I also self-published my non-genre novel Goldfish Dreams.

Given that the majority of my work is published by DAW and other major publishers, it should come as no surprise that most of my income is from those same sources. When those books go out of print with DAW, I certainly plan on self-publishing them myself in order to keep my backlist available.

Personally, I think the whole Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing argument is rather silly, but that hasn’t stopped people from using my initial blog post to show why one side or the other is the Right way to publish. All I’ll say is that this way is working pretty well for me right now.

“How much of that upfront payment do you give away to taxes? If you were to make, say, $60K, would you lose 1/3? 1/2?”

The numbers I posted were pre-tax, which means a chunk of it will be going right back out.

Last year, I paid estimated quarterly taxes that totaled around $5000 (based on my 2012 income) against what I expected to make in 2013. I also have a pretty high deduction on my income from the day job, so some of that spills over to pay for taxes on the writing.

I honestly won’t know how much I’m paying in taxes until I get the rest of our W-2s. A bit of hunting around online for self-employment tax calculators suggests that for self-employment income of $60,000, I could expect to pay a total of about $8500 in federal taxes, and an unknown-but-smaller amount in state taxes. But so much depends on other factors, which means I honestly don’t know.

What about your agent’s cut?

The numbers I posted are after my agent takes his commission.

Why are your expenses so low? Are you forgetting to take some tax deductions?

I messed up a bit on this part, and I apologize for that. The expenses I listed were only those that I had dollar amounts for in my annual writing budget spreadsheet: hotel costs, postage, etc. They omitted things I don’t calculate until I start doing my taxes, like mileage or meal allowances. And I was indeed missing a few deductions — thank you to folks who pointed those out. I’ve always been a bit conservative about taking deductions, though I’m moving away from that.

Having started working on taxes, here’s a better accounting of my writing expenses for 2013, which come to a total of $6,861. Yeah, I really messed up the initial estimate there.

  • Mileage: 4,290, which comes to a mileage deduction of $2,424.
  • Meal Allowance: $2,517, of which I get to deduct half.
  • Parking, tolls, taxi, etc: $684
  • Website-related costs: $146
  • Postage: $241
  • Internet/wireless: $766
  • Other: $83

What exactly do you mean by foreign sales? Does your UK deal for Magic ex Libris count?

Good question. I was not counting the UK deal, in part because of how my contracts work. My agent negotiated a deal with DAW wherein DAW gets the rights to publish the books in English in the U.S. and Canada. DAW also gets certain other rights that they can sublicense, including things like putting them out in audio, selling them to a book club (in English), or licensing the UK edition to a UK publisher. I get paid when any of these things happen. As I understand it, these payments are usually applied against the advance, but since Libriomancer earned out pretty quickly, money for the book club, audio books, and UK deal just got bundled in to the royalties payment from DAW.

DAW did not get non-English rights, which means when we sold the Magic ex Libris books to Germany, for example, that deal was directly with me and my agent. When I get paid for those, the money comes from the German publisher to my agent and then to me, instead of going through DAW.

“Do you think your writing income would rise meaningfully if it were your sole job?”

Yes. I don’t know how much, but my hope is that I’d be able to consistently produce at least two books a year, as opposed to the one/year schedule I’ve been on for so long. If I could do that — especially if I could branch out a bit with some of those books — I think it would lead to a significant increase in the writing income.

Or maybe I’d just spend more time blogging and posting on Twitter.

Hopefully someday I’ll be able to put that to the test.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)
( Jan. 14th, 2014 11:00 am)

I was a guest speaker at the Write on the Red Cedar workshop last weekend, talking to other writers about fantasy and publishing and different aspects of the writing career … it was a fairly small group, so I ran it as more of an open Q&A. A lot of the questions were about what was hot in the market. What’s popular right now? What’s the next Big New Thing? What are agents and editors looking for? What do the kids want to read?

These are valid questions. Heck, the Andrew Lownie Literary Agency just posted an article about what sixteen American editors are looking for in 2014. It’s worth reading this sort of thing and learning what editors and agents are seeing too much of, and what they’re particularly interested in acquiring. But I think we place far too much weight on this sort of question, especially when we’re starting out.

What do publishers and agents and readers want? They want good, interesting stories.

That’s a total cop-out answer, I know. What does “good” or “interesting” mean? Was The Hunger Games the most interesting book to come out in its year? Was Twilight the best? Come on, Hines. Tell us the truth. Aren’t YA and Middle Grade hot right now, so shouldn’t we all be writing in those genres?

Okay, fine. You asked for it.

Remember, my opinion is obviously THE RIGHTEST, SMARTEST, COOLEST OPINION ON THE WHOLE INTERNET. However, I’m forced to acknowledge that plenty of authors with WRONG and UNCOOL opinions on how to build a career seem to have somehow succeeded as well, despite not doing everything exactly the way I think they should.

With that said, particularly for new writers, trying to write what’s hot probably isn’t the best way to go. For one thing, publishing is slow. For most people, it takes time to write a good book. If you publish traditionally, you’re looking at an additional few years of submitting your stuff, getting it edited and marketed, and so on, before it finally hits the bookstores. By which time you’ve totally missed the Sexy YA Were-Jaguar boat, which has now been replaced by Goblin/Leprechaun Romance. And sure, you could self-publish the book to try to speed things up a little, but you still need to write the thing. And if you’re trying to do it right, you still need to get it edited, get your cover art created, etc.

Another problem is that for most of us, the stories we write when we’re starting out are pretty derivative. We haven’t found our own voice and style. Which means if I see that Blue-Green Love: When Jig the Goblin got Lucky made the bestseller lists and decide to chase that trend, I’m a lot more likely to try to end up writing a weak imitation of that story instead of coming up with a truly new and original twist on hot goblin/leprechaun love.

My advice, for whatever it is or isn’t worth, is to write what you love. Write the kind of stories you want to read. Write things that excite you. Write what you’re passionate about. Chasing trends and writing stories you don’t care about just because you think they’re hot seems like a quick path to depression and burnout.

Goblin Quest [Amazon | B&N | Mysterious Galaxy] was the fourth book I ever wrote, but it was one of the first times I said screw it, I don’t care about the market, I’m just going to write something fun, something that makes me happy. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Goblin Quest is in many ways the book that launched my career.

And as it turned out, monster-themed books were the Hot Trend in Germany when my goblin books came out. If I’d added David Hasselhoff to the story, I could have retired a millionaire. But even without the Hoff, I was able to ride that trend, not because of anything I had planned, but because I happened to have the right books at the right time, with an agent who could make that deal happen. It was awesome, and I’d love to catch another wave like that, but I don’t think that’s something I have a lot of control over.

My advice on writing for the market? Know what’s out there. Read what’s come before, and read what’s selling right now. Then go and write your own stories. Write something new. Tell stories that make you laugh and cry. Write the scenes that make you want to call up your best friend and say, “Holy shit, you won’t believe what I just did in this story!!!”

Those are the stories that will make you and your work stand out.

I’d love to hear other writers’ opinions on this one … even if those opinions are WRONG ;-)

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)
( Jan. 8th, 2014 09:30 am)

ETA: I did a follow-up post addressing some of the questions people asked about how the income breaks down, expenses, etc.


I’ve been blogging about my writing income since 2007. It’s an odd thing, and feels tacky at times, but I also think it’s important. There’s very little data out there about how much money writers make, and a lot of folks — both new writers and muggles — have unrealistic ideas about the authorial lifestyle. I blame Castle.

My income posts from previous years are here: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012.

From a financial perspective, 2013 has been the best year I’ve ever had as a writer. I sold three novels — books three and four in the Magic ex Libris series to DAW, and another project I can’t talk about yet. All total, before taxes and expenses, I earned about $60,800 — enough that I was able to pay off my wife’s student loans and put a little bigger dent in our mortgage.

While the year-to-year income is much more erratic than what I’ve made at my day job, the overall trend makes me happy. I expect I’ll probably make less in 2014 than I did last year, in part because I’ll be busy writing those novels I sold last year, and I highly doubt I’ll sell three more before the end of this one. On the other hand, there will be the D&A (delivery & acceptance) for at least two of those books, along with the on-publication payment … I have no idea what 2014 will look like, but it shouldn’t be too bad.

The writing expenses for the year actually dropped to a little over $1000, thanks to a number of Guest of Honor and Toastmaster invites, which reduced my convention costs. (Thank you!!!) My income tax payments are going to take a much bigger chunk out of things, but that’s to be expected.

The income breakdown is a bit different this year.

  • Novels (U.S.): $55,350
  • Novels (Foreign Editions): $1,000
  • Self-Published: $1,650
  • Short fiction and Nonfiction: $1,500
  • Miscellaneous: $1,300

This is by far the least I’ve ever made from foreign language sales. (I’m not including the U.K. deals for Magic ex Libris here, because while U.K. English is indeed a foreign and confusing tongue, that deal was done as a sublicensing thing through my U.S. publisher, and I’ve only ever included non-English income in that category in prior years.) I honestly have no idea what happened here. It’s the second year in a row I’ve seen a significant dropoff in foreign income, and it’s something I’ll be following up with my agent about.

The income for my self-published stuff remained pretty constant. I don’t make a lot of money there, but considering I do zero work, I’m not going to complain!

Looking at the last few years, if it was just me, I’d be giving serious thought to quitting my day job, signing up for insurance through the ACA, and writing full time. But with a family of four to support, all of whom have health issues of one form or another, I’m not ready to make that jump quite yet.

For a little more background, I’m a U.S.-based author, and I started trying to write back in 1995, so realistically, it’s taken me 18 years to get to this point. I have nine fantasy novels in print with DAW. The first came out from DAW in 2006. The last two were published in hardcover. Most of my books have made the Locus bestseller lists, though I don’t hit the NYT or USA Today lists. (Yet.) I’m primarily — almost exclusively — a “traditionally” published author.

As always, please keep in mind that I’m a sample size of one. Trying to draw any broad, sweeping conclusions from such a sample would be … illogical.

With that said, I hope this is helpful, and as always, I’m happy to answer any questions folks might have.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


The other day, I wrote that my candidacy appeared to have annoyed the folks over at The Write Agenda. They’ve written to explain that no, not only have I not annoyed them, they’re actually pleased with my candidacy, wishing me the best of luck and describing me as “a potential Moses.”

Okay, I admit this was not what I was expecting, and even threw me off-balance a bit. So I went back and checked the comments that referenced my “bad reputation” at TWA.

First of all, I was shocked to discover that, despite having three different names, those comments appeared to have come from the same person! What a shocking twist. And the IP address puts this individual on a computer at Matawan Aberdeen Library–

HOLY CRAP, IT’S ANOTHER TWIST!!! By an incredible coincidence, Matawan also happens to be the home of “literary agent” Barbara Bauer:

Barbara Bauer Literary Agency, Inc.
[Street Address Removed]
Matawan, NJ 07747-2944

Some of you might recall Ms. Bauer from such blog posts as Making Light’s Dumbest of the Twenty Worst, the discussion at Absolute Write, alerts from Writer Beware, and more.

Now, according to a great deal of research by Writer Beware, The Write Agenda appears to be associated with Robert Fletcher and Strategic Book Publishing, a.k.a. Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Agency, along with a number of sockpuppets.

While the Write Agenda seems to have a fairly cozy relationship with Ms. Bauer, it’s also true that The Write Agenda have their own sockpuppets, like “Nick Caruso” and “Lizzy Greenberg” and “Michael Sigvagni.”

Ms. Bauer–or whoever from Mattawan, NJ happened to be posting those comments–seems to have adopted a different approach, using the names of authors and others she feels have wronged her for her sockpuppetry.

I’ve watched enough Criminal Minds to realize what this meant. The signatures didn’t match, and I was accusing the wrong unsub!

Man, do I have egg on my face or what? I MIXED UP THE SOCKPUPPETS! Mea culpa, and I apologize to Robert and everyone else at The Write Agenda for getting their sockpuppets confused with those of Ms. Ba–I mean, the “anonymous” commenter from New Jersey.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

jimhines: (Default)
( Jan. 26th, 2012 09:30 am)

Quick Announcement: I came across the German cover art for Snow Queen’s Shadow yesterday. Click the thumbnail to check that out.

Quick Thanks: My Fantasy Poses post has now been viewed well over 100,000 times, which is awesome. But I’ve noticed that as this continues to spread, I’m seeing a larger number of comments that … well, let’s just say I sometimes take for granted the mostly thoughtful, respectful, and fun comments and discussions from people here on the blog. Glancing at these other sites has been a reminder to 1) STOP READING COMMENTS ON UNMODERATED SITES! and 2) thank everyone here for being generally excellent people.


It always feels weird to talk about money. Partly this is because we’re taught not to do so. It also feels uncomfortably like boasting. I know a lot of people are struggling right now, and the last thing I want to do is rub their noses in the fact that I had a good year.

At the same time, there are so many misconceptions about writers and how much they make… I continue to run into people who assume I’m rich because I’ve got some books out, people who expect me to live in a mansion with solid gold robokittens and nuclear powered toothbrushes and so on. And I think it’s important to bust some of the myths about writing and writers.

I’ll put this behind a cut tag. If you’re interested, then read on…

Read the rest of this entry » )

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


One of the unusual things about Sanchin-Ryu is that the class meets only once a week, through the local community ed. program (which helps keep the cost down). But you’re allowed to visit other classes, which I’ve tried to do on a fairly regular basis. Last week, I was at the Lansing class, where Master Barnes was working us through the basics, presenting them in a way I hadn’t seen before.

The first punch was slightly higher. The second and third extended out further. The heel-palm strike was targeted more to the center. I’ve been doing these moves for four years … but not like that.

This has been an ongoing thing with Sanchin-Ryu, the idea that there’s no single way to do a technique or a form. Throwing basic ten with a chop to the shoulder and a heel-palm to the ribs is totally valid … but so is throwing the chop to the temple and following up with a heel-palm to the eye socket.

We talked about that some last week, and this time I got a new answer. Instead of talking about how there isn’t a single right way, Master Barnes suggested that there is in fact a right way to perform a technique: the right way is the way that works, that allows you to get out of the situation alive.

I like that. And writing, to me, is the same way. The right way is the way that works, the way that allows you to most effectively tell the story you want to tell.

Which isn’t to say there are no rules. If I try to throw a kick while standing on my head, it’s going to be pretty ineffective. Stances and techniques are taught that way for a reason. But the more you study, the more you learn how to take the idea of a certain stance and apply it to different situations. An “Open L” stance might be longer or shorter depending on where you are, what you intend to do, and so on.

Writing is the same. There are certain rules and techniques that pretty much every published author I’ve met has learned to use. But as you continue to study and grow as a writer, you learn to adapt those rules, when to take risks, and so on.

And you are taking risks. If I modify the throw in one form, maybe I can do a bit more damage, but I also open myself up to a strike to the ribs. Likewise, if I adjust the techniques of storytelling, I might produce a more effective scene … but I might also jar readers out of the story.

Writing has rules, but those rules are fluid. A white belt writer breaks the rules because s/he doesn’t know any better. A black belt writer adapts those rules deliberately, to achieve specific ends.

Discussion is welcome, as always.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

I received the following question by e-mail earlier this week:

It’s been a couple of years since I got serious about writing, and I feel a little stuck. I was wondering if you have any insights on how to improve as a writer. I write pretty much every day, as much as I can … But I feel like I’m not getting much better. I think at a certain point, I might need some guidance. Do you have any suggestions? What helped you? A class? A teacher? Any particular con that has great workshops? A book?

Yep, I’ve been there more than once. There were years I was writing away, submitting to every paying market I could find and getting nowhere. I felt stuck, like I had become a pretty good writer, just not good enough … whatever that meant.

It’s frustrating, it’s discouraging, and it’s normal. It’s not limited to writing, either. I’ve hit plateaus in everything from karate to yo-yo tricks. Here are a few of my thoughts on getting past them…

1. There’s a difference between “I feel like I’m not getting much better” and “I’m not getting better.” It’s hard to see improvement, especially when it’s gradual. But read one of your trunked stories from five years ago. You might be shocked at the contrast. (You might not, too. All of this is individual, and my experience is mine alone.)

2. Writing groups. In 2001, I started workshopping with four other local writers, and it helped a lot. I think the things that made the group work for me were:

  • We were all in roughly the same point in our careers, with one or two professional sales each.
  • We had similar goals: we wanted to sell fiction. (As opposed to wanting warm fuzzies or a mutual lovefest.)
  • We met regularly, giving me built-in deadlines.
  • I submitted work regularly, meaning they were able to see and point out trends in my writing.

The writing group eventually dissolved, and I don’t think a group would be as helpful to me today. But one way or another, most of us need feedback from people who know what they’re talking about.

2b. Other feedback. These days, I get that feedback from my agent, my editor, and a handful of other professionally published authors. It helps. How-to-write books can be useful (I started reading Maass’ book a while back), but I think in-person feedback helps more. And one-time feedback (such as a convention workshop) wasn’t as helpful to me as longer-term, ongoing feedback from someone who could see the patterns in my work.

3. Write something different. Challenge yourself. A few things I tried include:

  • Collaborating with a friend on a SF story
  • Writing a research-intensive historical fantasy
  • Trying to write tear-jerkers (I was most comfortable with humor)

The downside of these experiments is that sometimes you’re going to fail hard. But you’ll also learn from them.

4. Take risks. Avoid the “safe” stories. Write what scares you. Write what you’re passionate about. Write what you love. Rip open your heart and smear it all over the page. Heck, Goblin Quest might be humorous fantasy fluff, but I love that little goblin, and I’ve got an awful lot of empathy for the runt who gets tormented by the crowd. The story meant a lot to me, and I think that strengthened the book.

5. Other suggestions include reading widely, hanging out with other authors (for the energy, if nothing else), and remembering to think of it as a marathon, not a sprint. It can take ten years or more to sell that first novel. Be patient with yourself.

I hope this is helpful, and folks are more than welcome to chime in with other ideas and suggestions.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

jimhines: (Default)
( May. 5th, 2011 09:30 am)

I was feeling a bit … let’s call it “feisty” … at some of the panels this weekend. I found myself jumping in to argue with several of my fellow panelists. (But only when they were wrong, of course!)

During the humor panel, it was put forth as a truism that you can’t force humor. It must come naturally. Organically.

I would like to point out that passing a kidney stone is also an organic process.

So I got feisty. Because you can force humor and make it work. You know who does it all the time? Professional humorists. Howard Tayler (of Schlock Mercenary) was in the audience, and we chatted a bit after the panel. SchlockHoward has been producing a daily webcomic since June of 2000. Not because Schlock flows organically from his–

Ack. Very Bad Image. Strike that.

The point is, I guarantee there are days Howard doesn’t feel funny, and doesn’t want to work on the comic. But he does the work anyway.

As I write this post, it also occurs to me that of the panelist who said you can’t force funny and Howard in the audience who in fact does exactly that, only one of these two people currently makes a living from their humor.

I’m not trying to bash my fellow panelist here. I disagree with them, but I understand where their assumption comes from. Because while you can force humor, that humor will fail if it feels forced. We’ve all seen the guy who tries too hard to tell a joke and ends up flopping. Heck, I’ve been that guy more times than I like to think about.

One sign of skill is the ability to make it look easy. I watched Jef Mallett draw his character Frazz last month. He sketched a bit, then began inking lines, making it look so easy and natural I’m sure a lot of us were thinking, “Hey, I could do that!”

And maybe I could. With years of practice and work.

Ask a professional comedian how many times they’ve practiced their routine. Ask them how often they bounce jokes past other comedians to learn what to keep, what to change, and what to discard.

I think this one pushed my buttons so hard because not only do I disagree, but I’ve heard similar claims about writing. “You can’t force the writing to come.” “The story has to flow naturally, when the muse is ready.”

Well, my muse is ready every Monday through Friday at 12:00 sharp, because that’s the only time I’ve got. Some days I don’t feel like writing, but I force myself to do it. As a result, I’ve written at least one book a year for close to a decade now.

And you know, there are some damn funny bits in those books, too.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

In late 2000, I was looking at two job possibilities. One was computer support for a private company. The other was an equivalent position with state government, which paid about $15K less each year. On the other hand, the state job would have very little overtime (leaving more time and energy for writing), and it was a unionized position, meaning I would get a one hour lunch break pretty much every day.

In February of 2001, I accepted a job as a government employee here in Michigan. It was a deliberate choice to give up that higher salary in order to take a job better suited to my goals as a writer.

That choice was a turning point for me, and it meant I had to decide whether I was truly serious about this writing thing.

Taking this job was a risk. There was no guarantee I’d succeed as an author. But it turned out to be the right choice for me. It’s not the most satisfying or fulfilling position, but it allows me to support my family and do what I love.

Ten years later, I have six books in print with a major publisher, with a seventh on the way and two more under contract. I’ve sold forty-plus short stories. I’ve gone through three departments and four managers at work, but I’m still writing almost every day from noon to one o’clock, churning out a book a year and a few short stories.

Writing is a marathon, and very  much about long-term persistence. But there are turning points and milestones too, and it’s strange to realize it’s been ten years since I made that choice.

I talk about writing and the day job a bit more in an interview at the Booklife blog.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

jimhines: (Default)
( Jan. 5th, 2011 09:30 am)

There are an awful lot of myths and misconceptions about writing, and one of the biggest is that writers are all rich, hanging out in their mansions and sipping champagne and role-playing with dice made from etched diamond.  So for the past few years, I’ve been posting my writing income and expenses to provide what I hope is a more useful data point.

Posts from previous years are here: 2007, 2008, 2009.

I ended 2010 with a last-minute check from my agent for the French on-signing advance for Red Hood’s Revenge.  With that added to the total, I made $25,718 in writing income in 2010, down about $3000 from the previous year.

Here’s the graph going back as far as I have data for:

2008 was a fluke.  A nice fluke, but a fluke nonetheless, with a big spike due to the success of the goblin books in Germany.  The princess books haven’t been as popular, and I think the ongoing decline of that particular income stream is part of the reason for the drop from 2009 to 2010.  But let’s break down the 2010 numbers a little further:

Novels (U.S. Sales): $9297
Novels (Foreign Sales): $15876
Short Fiction: $200
Nonfiction: $120
Speaking Fees: $225

I still make the majority of my income through foreign sales (Thank you, Joshua!), but the balance shifted a bit this year.  Foreign sales were a smaller percentage of the overall income, with the money from DAW here in the U.S. climbing a bit higher.  I have no idea what this means for the long term, but it’s interesting.

That foreign income includes novel sales to France, Germany, and the Czech Republic, along with royalties from Germany and Poland.  In general, individual foreign sales tends to be less than their equivalent U.S. deals … but those foreign sales add up.

Expenses were about $2000, with more than half of that going into conventions.

Of course, this is all before taxes.  I have a higher deduction at the day job, which balances out a lot of the self-employment taxes I owe for the writing, but even so the numbers here don’t exactly represent the amount I put in my pocket at the end of the day.

So that’s 2010.  A pretty good year, and I’m expecting 2011 to be even better, at least with the U.S. income stream.  No clue what to expect with the overseas sales.  And to answer a commonly asked question, no I am not planning to quit the day job any time soon.

Questions and comments are very much welcome, as always.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


Over at Making Light, James MacDonald explains How to Get Published.

Before I go any further, let me state for the record that MacDonald knows his stuff.  He contributes good writing advice at Making Light, Absolute Write, and elsewhere.

That said, I’m gonna argue with a few of his points now, ’cause what fun would it be if we all agreed with each other? :-)

To be a writer, you must write.  Absolutely, 100%, yes!  However, MacDonald goes on to give the oft-repeated advice, “Write every day.”  Good advice, but not an iron-clad rule.  I write five days a week, but generally don’t write on weekends.  I believe writing every day is a good goal, but ultimately, it’s important to find the schedule that works for you.  The important thing is that you’re writing.

On the day you reach THE END, put the book aside for six weeks.  Let me put it this way: I wrote, revised, and started submitting Goblin Quest [B&N | Mysterious Galaxy | Amazon] over the course of six weeks, and that seems to have worked out pretty well for me.  Distance can be a very good thing, and these days I usually try to do a short story or something else between drafts/books as a palate-cleanser.  But once again, writing is like the Matrix: some “rules” can be bent, while others can be broken.1

Now find a publisher.  This is exactly what I did when I finished Goblin Quest, actually.  It’s not the path I’d follow if I had to do it all over again today.  Publishers are slow to respond (2.5 years in one case), and they ask for exclusivity.  Personally, I would go directly to querying agents, and let them submit to the publishers.  Authors have sold books both ways, as you can see in that First Book Survey someone did earlier this year.

I remember being a new author trying to break in, and assuming that Advice = Law.  If a pro said I had to sell short stories before selling a novel, then by Asimov’s Sideburns, that was what I must do!

It messed me up more than once.  So while I think it’s incredibly important to listen to authors who have this sort of knowledge and experience, it’s also important to remember that none of us have the Gospel of Getting Published.  (And I don’t believe MacDonald is trying to preach Publishing Gospel, but I know how easy it is for new writers to take things as such.)

That said, MacDonald gives some good advice, and those working to break in could do much worse than to take a few minutes to read his post.

  1. With most rules, things generally turn out better if you make sure you understand the rule before you break it.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

jimhines: (Default)
( Nov. 18th, 2010 09:30 am)

As folks know, I just landed a two-book deal.  On top of this, I’ve got two short stories to write, and I’ve got my revision notes from my editor on Snow Queen’s Shadow.  So how is the writing going?  Here’s a peek into Jim’s brain…

STUPID STORY!  If you don’t stop screwing around and give me an actual plot, I’m going to punch you so hard your font goes sans serif!  I’ll set your clock back to pain o’clock!  Keep it up, and I’m carving roast plotbunny for Thanksgiving dinner.  That’s right, welcome to McAsskicking — would you like to supersize your order?

Thus endeth the writing update.

Here, have a LEGO Stitch to keep you busy. This is by Sir Nadroj. Click the pic for more.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.


So I’m working on book four of a series, and I’m struggling with is how to provide all of the background information.  I’ve now got 300,000 words worth of “what came before.”  Not all of that information is relevant to the current book, but some of it is.  So how do you work that in?

There’s the “Our story so far…” approach, where the author presents a prologue that sums up the previous books.  I can see where that might be useful in an ongoing story, like book four of Lord of the Rings or part two of a Star Trek episode.

But personally, I’m not too fond of the Prologue of Summarized Backstory, and my books are a bit more episodic, meaning I don’t think there’s a need to sum up everything that’s come before.

With the goblin books, I went for the silly.  Book two had a song to the tune of Sweet Home Alabama, which summed up the events of Goblin Quest.  Book three opened with “The Recitation of the Deeds of Jig Dragonslayer,” a quasi-religious goblin-style list of events.

That doesn’t really work for the princess series, which doesn’t have the same kind of goofy humor.  So I’ve been taking the approach that I’ll just write the story and include background info when and if it becomes important, just as I would with any other information.  Even with a brand new story, there’s always “what came before,” and the author has to work that in.

But how much do I have to tell?  Do I assume most everyone has read the first books, and I don’t have to explain — again — where Danielle’s sword came from, or what happened to Charlotte, or who Captain Hephyra is?  Or do I assume there will be new readers which each book, meaning it’s important to add a paragraph or two to explain various details to the new readers … even though people who’ve read the rest of the series might roll their eyes and say, “I know this already.  Get to the good part!”

The latter is a complaint I’ve seen in a few reviews lately.  Not a major criticism, but a minor annoyance, especially for people who picked up all three books and read them at once.

I don’t know.  It’s important to me that the books stand alone as much as possible, so that anyone can pick up any of my books and start reading.  For that reason, I’m thinking it’s important to include some explanation for things from prior books that come up in this one.

Maybe the trick is to find a new way to present the same old information, so that even people who know the background will be entertained, or at least not bored.  Or maybe I shouldn’t worry about explaining, trusting that those gaps won’t throw new readers out of the story.  That they’ll either figure it out from context, or if they’re worried, that they’ll go back and get the earlier books.

What do you think?  Examples, both good and bad, are more than welcome.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

jimhines: (Default)
( Aug. 4th, 2010 09:30 am)

One of the frustrating things about being a new writer is that you get different advice depending on who you ask.  I remember my confusion that the wisdom of Big Name Pros, the people who had been doing this for decades, was sometimes completely off-base.  But it makes sense — publishing is a changing field, and some of the rules of 20 years ago are different from the rules today.

Imagine my shock when it occurred to me that I started writing 15 years ago … that my own experiences were different than those of new writers today.  (Not to mention the fact that many of my fans hadn’t even been born when I started writing.  Eep!)

I sat down to take a look at some of the things that have changed since I penned my first story in 1995.

1. Electronic submissions.  All of my early stories were printed and mailed.  I went through boxes and boxes of manila envelopes.  Submitting by that new-fangled electronic mail?  Unheard of.  International submissions were sent with an IRC (International Reply Coupon).

2. Electronic markets.  There were few online ‘zines and publishers, and those that did exist were small and often amateurish.  (Strange Horizons showed up in 2000, and was the first professional-looking online ‘zine I knew of.  Happy 10th Anniversary, SH!)

3. Web sites. A web presence wasn’t required, though some of us were experimenting with pages and online journals. I put up my own page on that fancy new Geocities site.

4. Submission guidelines advised you to always use a fresh ink ribbon in your printer.

5. Market Research. You still had to do your research, but my first round of agent hunting involved several hours in the MSU library, reviewing the current Literary Agent Guide.  (I can’t recall the actual title of that tome.)  I also subscribed to Speculations, a print publication, to keep up with the short fiction markets.

6. E-books.  Wait, e-what now?

7. Standard Manuscript Format was 12-point Courier.  Two spaces after periods.  Underline to show italics.  Does anyone even use Courier anymore, or is it hanging out with other forgotten fonts, drinking and talking about the good old days?

8. I could walk into a bookstore and introduce myself as an author, and the staff wouldn’t instinctively flinch or hide.  (Also see: Vanity presses, explosion of.)

9. SFWA pro rate for short fiction was 3 cents/word.

10. My hair came down to the middle of my back.  (I maintain that the hair loss is writing-related, caused by stress!)

11. There were agents charging a 10% commission.  I’m not sure exactly when the switch to 15% happened, but pretty much every agent is working for 15% these days.

12. People were bemoaning the Imminent Death of Publishing, as opposed to the present day, when … um … never mind.

Strange to realize that even though my first book with DAW came out a mere four years ago, much of my experience as a new writer trying to break in is already a bit outdated.  And if that’s true, imagine what it’s like for someone who broke in even further back.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t listen to professional authors who talk about this stuff.  However, it’s good to be aware that publishing is constantly changing, and some advice from ten years ago might not hold today.  It’s also good to pay attention to whether the author giving the advice is aware of and in touch with those changes.

So what’s changed since you started writing?  Contributions to the list are welcome (as are regular old comments and discussion).

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

jimhines: (Default)
( Jul. 28th, 2010 09:30 am)

Assuming nobody interrupts my lunch break today, I should be able to finish up the third draft of The Snow Queen’s Shadow.  Not the final draft, mind you.  I’ve made plenty of notes about things I have to go back and fix.  But I’m hopeful that draft #4 will be the one that gets sent to my agent and editor.

This is the second time I’ve wrapped up a series.  You’d think it should get easier.  Much like each new book you write should be easier than the last, because you’re getting better, right?  Yet it seems to work the other way around.  The more skilled you become as a writer, the more ambitious you get, and the more aware you are of the flaws.

From the start, endings and the lie of happily ever after have been a central theme of the princess series.  I’m not saying people can’t be happy, but the idea of endings … unless you destroy the universe on the last page of your book, there is no end.  There’s only the point where you stopped writing.

Usually that point should bring closure to the conflicts of the book.  But if everything is wrapped up too neatly, it ruins the suspension of disbelief, at least for me.  Life is messy.  Solving one problem often leads to others.  So when I end a book or a series, I want to make sure I convey a sense that these characters and their stories will continue — even if I’m no longer writing them.

I also look for change.  If everyone and everything is the same at the end as they were in the beginning, what’s the point?  Sure, the journey might have been fun, but a story where the status quo never changes?  No thank you.

And of course, the author has to follow through on his/her promises.  For example, I introduced an unresolved romantic relationship in Stepsister Scheme.  I have to go somewhere with that tension.  Likewise, there are other character conflicts I’ve been planting and need to resolve … one way or another.

I don’t believe an author’s job is to make all the readers happy.  In part because there’s just no way to do it.  I know some readers really want to see those two characters end up together; other readers have said they don’t want that.  One way or another, some people will not get the ending they were hoping for.

For the past year, I’ve been searching for the ending that feels true.  Some things have changed a lot from my initial outline; others haven’t.  Some plotlines I had hoped to include were cut because they just didn’t fit.  And don’t get me started on trying to decide who lives and who dies…

I’ve got a lot of work left, but I’m getting there.  For the most part, this ending feels right.  It feels honest.  It answers questions … but not all of them :-)  It provides closure, but also points toward a future (and leaves me something to work with if I someday decide to return to this series).  It is — I hope — powerful without being manipulative.1

Is it perfect?  Probably not.  But I’m proud of what I’ve written, and I can’t wait to share it with everyone.

Discussion welcome, as always.  What do you look for in an ending?  What are the best (or worst) endings you’ve read?  What makes it work?2

  1. Deus ex machina endings fall into the manipulative category for me, as do most “It was all a dream” endings.
  2. Also, see Aliette de Bodard’s SF Novelists post on cultural expectations of what makes a good ending and a good story in general.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

jimhines: (Default)
( Jul. 26th, 2010 09:30 am)

I’ve talked before about the similarities between writing and martial arts, but the more I study Sanchin-Ryu, the more I appreciate it as a metaphor for writing.  (Or maybe writing is a metaphor for karate, I don’t know.)

One things I struggled with in Sanchin-Ryu is that there’s no blocking.  Oh, you learn pretty quickly to keep your hands up to guard, and there are strikes to intercept an opponent’s attack, not to mention learning to move into your opponent to disrupt their attack.  But no blocks.

Because you’re going to get hit. No matter how long you study blocking, no matter how fast you are.  Bruce Lee, Jet Li, Jackie Chan … they all get hit.  So we focus on acting instead of reacting.  On controlling the confrontation instead of trying to guess and deflect our opponent’s strikes.  On learning to take the hit, minimize the damage, and return that energy.

If you’re going to be a writer, you’re going to get hit.  Some of those hits are going to hurt, as with my very first submission to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine, which came back with a note “You must have had a point to this story … but I have no idea what it was.”  Or learning my French publisher wouldn’t buy the third goblin book because sales had been lousy.

Other hits are easier to shrug off, such as a negative review of The Stepsister Scheme which said “the book goes from happy girl power romp … to a few things that I’m sure could be found in an S&M porno.”

You can’t block every hit.  Some of them are going to knock you on your ass, like the day I learned Baen Books had withdrawn an offer to publish my novels.

Growing up, I remember the kids who would go crazy when hit, flailing about like a cross between Gonzo and the Tasmanian Devil. That happens with writers, too.  It’s not pretty.

You’re going to get hit.  Rejections and bad reviews, not to mention jealous friends or peers, trouble with editors and/or publishers, online trolls, flamewars, and so much more.  And it’s going to hurt.  Part of being a writer is learning to take the hit.

I think the most helpful thing is to regain your stance.  A good hit steals your balance.  Take it back.  Your writing career could span decades.  This is only one review, one rejection, one setback.  In the case of my French publisher, I had to remind myself that other aspects of my career were still going well.  (Happy side note: I now have a new French publisher which has picked up the first two princess books.)

In the case of Marion Zimmer Bradley, I found a way to send that energy right back.  I took her rejection as a challenge to write an even better story, one she would have to buy.  (I sold my first story to her in 1999, four years later.) 

Know which hits require a response, and how to respond.  Random Amazon reviewer?  You have to shrug it off.  Publisher refusing to pay you?  Start with one well-targeted strike from SFWA’s Griefcom.

Keep your focus.  Don’t let an opponent dictate how things are going to go.  One of the reasons I banned an individual from my LiveJournal last week is that I simply don’t have the time or energy for it; I have a book to finish.

And most importantly, remember to breathe.

Other suggestions or advice on how to take a literary hit?  Or how not to?

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

jimhines: (Default)
( Jul. 5th, 2010 09:30 am)

Good morning!  I’m not actually online today.  This week I’m writing these blog posts from the past!

Except for today, because I didn’t actually write this one.  Today’s post was written (also in the past!) by Jon Gibbs, author of the novel Fur-Face, and founder of Find A Writing Group.

Jon also maintains an interesting and useful writing blog, one I’ve been following for a while now.  My thanks to Jon for helping to fill in this week while I’m away.


I’ve been a fan of Jim’s writing and blogging skills for a long time, so you can imagine how thrilled I am to be posting an entry here on his blog.  I hope I can justify his confidence in me.

Savor the Moments

A career in writing is not for the faint of heart.  Writers go through a huge amount of negative before they ever get published, and (I suspect) even more of it afterwards. 

Before he/she ever makes that first short story sale, a writer can expect to receive rejection after rejection from editors and slush readers, most of whom offer little or no feedback or encouragement.  Critiques from fellow writers, however well-meaning, tend to focus on what doesn’t work, and though that’s to be expected (it’s the point of them, after all), they too can be a bit of a downer. 

Then there’s a writer’s family and friends.  I’m fortunate in that the people who matter in my life are incredibly patient and supportive about my fiction habit, but many folks aren’t so lucky.  Spend some time around other writers and you’ll hear plenty of stories about family and so-called friends either belittling, or even mocking their efforts.

“If there’s so much negative, why bother?” I hear you ask, as if we could ever stop making up stories.

In truth, many folks do give up.  You may well know some of them.  They got to a point where they couldn’t take the negative anymore, so they told themselves whatever they needed to hear to justify giving up on their dream, and settled for something less.

How can we avoid that same fate?  I can think of three ways, which I’ll offer in reverse order:

#3  Never refer to yourself as ‘unpublished.’
Whether you’ve just started writing, or you’ve been submitting stories and novels for thirty years without a single publishing credit to your name, you’re not ‘unpublished’ you’re a ‘not yet published’ writer, and don’t let anyone tell you different.

#2  Spend time with other writers.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a critique group, a workshop, a conference, or even hanging out with like-minded scribblers online.  So long as those folks aren’t having a pity party, spending time with them will do your confidence the world of good. 

#1  Learn to savor the moments.
“Moments?” you say.  “What moments?  I’ve never even been published.   I’ve never had a moment.”  Oh, you have them all right, but do you stop to enjoy them?  Remember that feeling you get when a new story idea comes to you, or you come up the first few lines of a new project, or print out a finished first draft?  Most other folks could never do those things (though a surprising number seem to believe they could if they only had the time).  Take a few seconds to appreciate that.

Every time you submit a story, take a ‘moment’ to feel proud of yourself.  Heading out to a writing group or some other writerly-type meeting?  When you pull up in the car lot, sit back awhile and savor the feeling of a dream pursued.  

When you get a rejection with a ‘not this time, but please try again,’ make sure you appreciate what that means.  That editor’s telling you he/she liked your writing.  Your story didn’t suck, it just wasn’t right for that publication at that particular time.  Every now and then you’ll get a hand-written note of advice/encouragement (or the email equivalent), sure, it’s still a rejection, but someone thought enough of what they saw to offer you some encouragement.  Set some time aside to enjoy that feeling.

Non-writer might question why any of the above is worth celebrating.  Ignore them.  Taking pleasure in your minor achievements helps you stay positive and fortifies your dream.  That’s always a good thing.

How about you?

What moments will you savor in the coming weeks?


Born in England, Jon Gibbs now lives in the USA, where he’s the founder and proud member of The New Jersey Authors’ Network and FindAWritingGroup.com.  His debut novel, Fur-Face (Echelon Press) is available from Amazon.com (Kindle) and in other e-formats at OmniLit.com.

When he’s not chasing around after his three children, Jon can usually be found sitting in front of the computer in his basement office. One day he hopes to figure out how to switch it on.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.



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