Long before I got into this writing thing, I was considered a national expert in a little niche area of securities regulation. Well, not too niche, but niche enough. Part of my job at the time was working with a very small group to decide how serious various violations of those regulations were.
Now what made this really fun is that we weren’t the final authority. We had our own regulators who sometimes informed us of their view of the seriousness of those violations that we then had to follow and convey to our staff.
And, of course, the rules and guidance changed over time, too. What wasn’t a violation one year was the next.
Which all meant that I could tell someone something on Monday and by the next Monday the answer could be different. (Not often, fortunately, but it happened.)
I learned then that what I told people was true at that moment for that situation, but that it could change.
It makes putting yourself out there as an expert on anything a bit fraught. You give the advice you know as you know it at the time, but no one ever knows anything 100%. Ever. And if they do, only for that moment.
Why am I on about this today?
Well, first, after writing a book about CreateSpace just a month or two ago and saying in there that publishing a book in color is cost prohibitive, I just published three books in color.
And I do stand by it being cost prohibitive for a full-length novel. You’d have to list a novel at about $36 to publish it in color while using expanded distribution.
And it was still enough of a bump in cost that I also did black and white versions. (I went with $17.95 for each of the color versions of the books instead of the $12.95 for the paperbacks. And even then one is not going to be available on expanded distribution because it would’ve had to be $21.95 before I was at a point where I didn’t have to pay CreateSpace for each sale.)
But still. It makes me twitch that I made that statement and then turned around and did the opposite.
The fact of the matter is you almost never have time to discuss all the ins and outs and nuance of a question in such finite detail that you’ve covered all your bases. Especially if you want to give people a level of information that they can use without burying them in what they don’t need.
I’ve been thinking about this with respect to AMS recently too. I hope in the book I wrote on AMS that I set forth the mechanics of the ads, how I use them and why, and made it clear that they’re a constantly shifting target and that what works today may not work tomorrow or that what works for me may not work for others.
But still it’s in the back of my mind all the time that I put that book out there. And because of that people will look at my books and their U.S. Amazon ranks and judge what I say in that book based on that.
Even when AMS isn’t the strategy I’m using on my books at the time.
When I was knee-deep in the Excel guides, I actually turned off almost all of my AMS ads. I had been experimenting with a low-bid strategy on a lot of them since that’s been the topic of discussion lately, but I decided the experiments were a failure. I didn’t have time to get new ads up and running, so I shut down the old ones.
But no one would know that. They’d just see the book ranks and think, why listen to that idiot? Which, fair enough. It’s why I tried to spend as much time on mechanics and thought process as I did on what to do. So readers would still have that base of knowledge to work from for their own ads.
Now I’m just rambling. So let me bring this home.
No matter who the expert is. No matter what they say. You need to weigh that against the current environment and their current level of knowledge on that subject.
Especially in publishing where things are changing at lightning speed. Remember that any advice someone gives is very likely true at the time they give it and given what they know in that moment, but it may not be true later or if they had other facts. Your best bet is to learn the fundamentals, find the most up-to-date knowledge you can, and apply that to the fundamentals.
(I know, easier said than done.)