When I started writing seriously in 2007, the computer I used was a dinosaur. We’ll call him compusaurus. He only had 4GB of memory.
I stuffed that memory full of books—until one day, compusaurus was full.
Compressed the data.
Wrote some more.
Compusaurus was full again.
I was forced to get another computer. (It was time—compusaurus was nearly 15 years old and this was 2011). So I bought a new computer with a terabyte of memory.
End of story, you think.
You may be thinking, too, that I should have backed up all those books before—rather than risk losing them.
You’re right. I now have this back up thingy that holds everything I do (still don’t know how it works) but it’s there.
What about all those other things I wrote?
The geeky guys were able to transfer all my stuff to the new computer, so there wasn’t any problem. But—I did something else all along that ensured I’d still have my stuff.
Every time I make significant changes to a manuscript (including word count), I e-mail it to myself. Nowadays, I also e-mail it to Joe.
Back in the old days of typewriters (and even before that) the practice was to mail a manuscript to yourself so it would be postmarked and then, when you received this package you’d mailed to yourself, you left it unopened. That way, if you ever had to prove to anyone that you wrote what you did, you’d have the proof, dated by a bona fide government agency.
I’ll bet there are still authors out there who have a pile of manuscripts in boxes or envelopes, all unopened.
Just in case.
E-mail is so much easier, faster and cheaper to do exactly the same thing, nowadays.
I don’t know if anybody reading this post is interested in writing, but this is a tip I’m happy to pass along. It also brings me to my next topic:
At times, I actually speak in front of people. I’ve talked to college classes and junior-high classes. In one of those talks, the first thing I was asked was about piracy.
The person who asked had never written a book, because they were terrified somebody would steal it. They were afraid an agent would steal their idea. Or, if they were published, that people would pirate their work willy-nilly.
Here’s my take on that—in order to be pirated, you have to first write something that somebody wants to pirate.
Chances are if that happens, you’re selling well anyway.
Most of you know that I used to work for Borders.
Alas, poor Borders, I knew ye well.
Every year, we had to inventory the books and anything else for sale in the store. After inventory, we always got our shrink numbers.
For those of you who don’t know what shrink is—that’s what you’ve lost during the year due to theft, destruction (people actually ruin stuff you sell) or any other thing that removed an item from your inventory.
Every year, our store would shoot for less than 3%.
3% (or less) stolen, destroyed or otherwise just not there anymore.
Yes—shrink is built into any retail business’ plan. They know it will happen. In the company I worked for, the shrink numbers in your store played a very significant role in any yearly raises employees received. (FYI—When a thief takes something, they’re not just stealing from a big corporation. They’re actually stealing from every employee who works in that store, often for a low hourly wage.)
Yes, it was part of our job to keep shrink from happening.
That doesn’t mean you’re going to catch every thief or potential thief. (I have plenty of stories about how slick some thieves actually are.)
That brings me back to pirated e-books.
If you’ve written something that’s selling well, then somebody is gonna steal it. Sure, there are a few sites that have an actual policy for taking stuff down that somebody tossed onto their site as a free download. I’ve gotten my books removed from a handful of sites that way.
Then there are others. Some of them are likely waiting to hand you a nice computer virus with your free download.
Let the buyer beware.
In other words, you get what you pay for, most of the time. If it’s somebody’s intent to steal, well, they may end up getting stolen from.
What I’m trying to say is this: stop worrying about things like piracy, or somebody stealing your unpublished manuscript, or having to stand in court someday to prove you actually wrote the damn book in the first place.
Write the damn book.
Then e-mail it to yourself.