Thursday, September 21, 2017

Safeguarding Your Livelihood

By Jana Oliver, @crazyauthorgirl

Part of the Indie Authors Series

If writing is your business, protect more than just your words. 

It seems this fall has been one of considerable personal challenges, not only for indie authors but just about everyone in the U.S. (and elsewhere). If you live in the Pacific Northwest or the Southwest, you’re fighting fires. If you’re in the Caribbean, Texas, Florida and Gulf States, you’ve got multiple hurricanes to contend with. In short, it’s been a nasty time for a lot of people.

Though my situation is nothing like those mentioned above—a self-imposed house sale and a move out of the country—there are similarities in the preparation required to keep my business on track. Because no matter how creative we are, it all comes down to keeping our work safe.

We all know that backing up your work is a necessity and should apply not only to our manuscripts, but our financial records as well. The thought of losing even a rough draft to computer failure or some other issue makes any author shiver in horror. That horror is magnified when you’re dealing with a final draft or a typeset book.

I’ve used many different backup methods over the years, usually applying the “more is better” strategy. Back in the day I archived my manuscripts on thumb drives and gave those drives to my husband to store offsite. I’ve burned copies on CDs, stored them on separate computers, and dropped them onto a backup drive in our basement. I’ve even emailed copies to myself, besides putting them out on Dropbox or other Cloud storage sites. One can never be too paranoid, it seems.

I like multiple copies because I can easily imagine a dozen different ways that one backup can fail. Like when we took six inches of water in our basement during Hurricane Ivan. Luckily the backup drive was high enough off the floor not to be compromised, but the threat was real. We’ve also had a terabit backup drive completely fail and so far, that data has been unreachable, despite our best efforts.

I had a friend lose not only her computer, but her external hard drive with all her backups when her house was broken into. Another friend’s computer caught fire. All of these unanticipated events plead for regularly scheduled backups stored in locations other than one’s home.

Besides taking into consideration the ease of scheduling and managing those backups—because our lives are busy enough without trying to remember things like that—you also need to be aware of what degree of security the service you choose offers. It’s not likely hackers will be interested in your latest Chick Lit Fantasy Thriller (unless you’re a Big Name), but if you’re backing up financial files, security must be addressed.

Curiously, PC Magazine’s timing was prescient as they just ran an article about the best online backup services, laying out the pros and cons of each. From my perspective, I want a service that is automated, that offers easy access to the archived files, and one that has some degree of online security. I’d already invested in Carbonite before finding this article, but I will be sure to check out some of the others once my contract comes to an end.

Unlike those facing natural disaster, I had time to consider how best to store my files, both post-production book files and works-in-progress. Since we shipped both our desktops to Portugal, I went on the assumption something bad might happen to that shipment, such as the computers being damaged or missing by the time they reached our doorstep. (We made the decision not to pull the hard drives and lug them over separately, mostly because of carry-on issues.) The computers are password protected, which may prove robust enough should they be stolen along the way.

To ensure I had all the files, I had Carbonite to do a full backup (not including computer programs). This was the first time I’ve tried that service, but I’ve found it easy to navigate and it gave me some peace of mind. Should the computers be damaged (the shipping carton was dockside in Charleston during Hurricane Irma) we’ll purchase new computers and download the files onto them from Carbonite. Either way, we’re up and working with little downtime. Since my next book is due to be published in early November, downtime is not an option at the moment.

Because indie authors are also small business owners, it’s not just the current work-in-progress that’s on the line when things go bad. When a disaster strikes, you may be only given a short period of time to vacate your home. What do you take? Some folks have a Go Bag which contains medical supplies, forms of ID (passports, for instance), spare cash in case the ATMs aren’t restocked or aren’t functioning, necessary medications, keys, insurance and financial papers (besides photos and other items that are irreplaceable). Everything else is left behind, which in the case of a small business owner, is not good news.

If you’re like many indie authors your receipts are probably tucked in a shoebox or a file folder awaiting that end-of-the-year reckoning with the IRS. If you lose those records, that process becomes infinitely harder. Some receipts can be retrieved from third parties, but many will be gone forever.

Because I was relocating out of the country and couldn’t risk (or afford) shipping bankers’ boxes of sensitive documents to my new home, I began archiving my business receipts over a year ago. Though I had records that went back to 2001, I chose only to save those from 2010 on, which is longer than the IRS requires. I scanned those documents using a garden-variety scanner, saving them as pdfs.

Because of the volume, this process was time consuming as it involved scanning every receipt and document that couldn’t be sourced online (like bank and credit card statements.) Each convention I attended required scans of hotel bills, meal and transportation receipts. Since at one time I would attend 10 or more conventions/conferences per year, this was a LOT of scanning, especially when I was covering such an extended period of time.

After each file folder was completed, I shredded the contents, even though some of that wasn’t particularly sensitive information. Usually I would do this at home, but when the volume became too much, I took those banker’s boxes to our local recycling days (held spring and fall) which meant the shredding was free. There are commercial shredding services available, as well,who will ensure your documents are safeguarded until destruction, though they can be costly.

To make this newly-scanned information readily searchable, I organized those pdf files by year, then by quarter, and then by event or tour, if needed. Here’s what the files look like out on Carbonite:


This degree of up-front organization makes it easy to retrieve any needed documents should the need arise, something I’ve already had to do though I’m now out of the country. I also scanned all my sales tax returns and various business licenses, along with our personal financial documents, including our tax returns. Once you’ve caught up on your scanning, it’s easy to stay current. And certainly, you don’t have to do seven years’ worth like I did.

While my situation is extreme and did require a complete purge, it can be used as a roadmap for managing your own documents, not only for day-to-day uses but in case of a catastrophe. Where most people won’t face the anguish of losing either their home or business, instituting a plan to archive your creative work and your financial records before disaster strikes can save hours of lost productivity and many a headache.

What backup services have you used and have you found them to be of value? Do you archive your receipts and other financial records?

An international bestseller and the recipient of over a dozen major awards, Jana Oliver often laments that there are far too many stories inside her head at any given moment.

Best known for her young adult Demon Trappers series, she writes what intrigues her, and spends a good deal of time fretting about whether demons actually exist.

When not wandering around the internet researching exorcisms, or posting on social media (eerily similar, those two), Jana can be found in Atlanta with her very patient husband, and a rapidly dwindling collection of single malt Scotch.

Jana Oliver | Chandler Steele | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound |

About Cat's Paw

After five years in a Louisiana prison, Alex Parkin desperately wants to start over. Even more, he craves revenge against Vladimir Buryshkin, the New Orleans drug lord who framed him for cocaine possession. The second he walks out of prison, Alex is a wanted man, both by the Russian mob, and by Veritas, a private security firm that claims to be "on his side." When his sister is brutally beaten, he has to choose: Join forces with Veritas, or let Buryshkin destroy his family.

Because of the Russian mobster, Morgan Blake lost both her husband, and her career at the FBI. Now working with Veritas, she's eager to take Buryshkin down. So eager, she's willing to do anything to make that happen, even sacrificing a certain ex-con, if needed.

As a load of tainted cocaine hits New Orleans' streets, the body count quickly rises. To prevent more deaths, and a potential drug war, Morgan and Alex must learn that revenge comes at too high a price, and that love always has its own agenda.


  1. Thanks, Jana, for your timely post. Very important information. I currently use Google Drive for auto backups but will definitely read the PC Mag article. Here's the link to the article:
    Good luck and safe travels on your move!

    1. Thanks! I think it's just smart to always consider what's new out there in terms of backup systems, etc. The competition is pretty fierce so innovation is the price of admission.