Avoid following this advice

Recently, some other authors have been talking about how there’s no such thing as universal mid-career advice. I’d like to take that one step further.

There is no such thing as universal business advice

Okay, well, maybe things like “work hard” or “develop a business plan or goals”, but that’s not what I mean. Let’s use writing and publishing as an example. It’s fairly easy to find people who will offer Pronouncements From On High:

  • Write every day.
  • Write short stories first.
  • You need an agent.
  • Always be professional (e.g. don’t ever talk politics or religion in public)
  • You have to blog/twitter/facebook/lj/whatever.
  • Giving stuff away free is always a way to “make it”.
  • Giving stuff away free is never a way to “make it”>

Okay, the first one’s good. The next two were busted by Jim Hines (and further analyzed by me. I think the “professional” one is conditional (and that’s another day’s topic). I want to concentrate on the last two – whether giving stuff away for free lets you “make it” as a writer.

You can find proponents of each side fairly easily. Both sides have very valid points…sometimes. Sort of. They sure aren’t universal ones.

You have to define “making it”. Does that mean getting your manuscript just “out there”? Does it mean getting your manuscript read by as many people as possible? Does it mean being able to supplement or even replace your income so you have more time to write? 1 Those lead to some very, very different priorities.

Recently, a writer released her entire novel for free in both Second Life and on the web. (Her name escapes me at the moment.) I heard that she bragged of getting over 50,000 downloads, and an offer for someone to translate it into Farsi for her. That might sound good, but…

  • A download does not mean that someone read the book.
  • She gave away rights to her own book, to someone she doesn’t know.
  • Publicity? I can’t remember her name. (More on this later.)
  • The book is almost certainly not going to be bought by a publishing house.

The last two are important enough to look at separately – and I’ll do that tomorrow.

1 Yes, Virginia, THIS is why that filthy lucre comes up. Writing for the “art” of it is great… but it also tends to mean you have to work other jobs in order to eat, which leaves you with less time to create your art.

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