Fantasy novelist Jim C. Hines was thinking about how writers break into the business, and in February of 2010, he decided to go out and create a survey of how authors made their first novel sale. ...Read the whole thing, as well as Hines' study itself. Although I found the points Klima noted fascinating, others also leapt out at me. More than half of the respondents had no prior connections to their agent or publisher, and the average time between when they began writing and eventually landed their first book deal was 11.6 years. Ever catch yourself mawkishly bemoaning your lack of relationships in the industry or how long you've written without much success? I have in moments of weakness. Seems that thinking is flawed. In the end, we get to the publishing houses the same we get to Carnegie Hall -- practice, practice, practice.
Part of why he was thinking about these things was that when he was trying to break into the field in the 1990s he got a lot of different advice, often advice that was in contention. I found Hines' survey completely fascinating. I liked how it picked apart some of the commonly held mindsets about how to break into the business. Like what? Like:• Of 246 authors, 116 sold their first novel with zero short fiction salesAnd of course, there's a lot more at the link above. I point out the three examples above because the first one refutes the advice I always give (i.e. write short fiction first), the second refutes the idea that you can self-publish yourself and then resell to a publisher for wild success, and the third, well the third is really interesting.
• [O]nly 1 author out of 246 self-published their book and went on to sell that book to a professional publisher
• 58 authors sold the first novel they wrote
(Picture: CC 2010 by ChernobylBob)