This week I had a friend of a friend who’s a new author reach out for some writing advice. And of course there are always folks finding their way to the various forums who want advice as well.
And it’s tricky.
Because I’ve found my path and how I want to approach this. (Subject to change, of course.) But it isn’t how I started out and I don’t know that telling someone to do things the way I do them is necessarily appropriate.
Especially since this industry is changing so much and so fast.
For example, one of the folks who was looking for advice on self-publishing was looking for advice on how to get their first novel into print. Now, I could have a lengthy discussion with that person about whether print is the best choice. And point out to them that a large majority of their sales will (likely) be in ebook if they self-publish and talk about how once you put that book out in print that listing will be on Amazon probably longer than they’re alive and that maybe that’s something worth considering when you’re new and not yet good at figuring out your book’s title and cover, etc. and are probably going to publish it under your real name.
I could just point them to CreateSpace instead of having them pay a few grand for something that should cost less than $500 and could actually be done for free if they want to put in the effort.
If that’s all that person wants–to see their book in print–who am I to try to turn them into a full-blown self-publishing business looking to make a profit? Will they later start to learn more about self-publishing? Maybe. Or maybe all they ever wanted was physical copies of their book to give to friends and family.
So be it.
Same with the newer writer who approached me. Right now that writer wants to go the trade publishing route. So I told them how to do it and that money should flow to the writer in that case. Could I have launched into a lengthy discussion about contract terms from the Big 5 and agent pitfalls, etc, etc.? And maybe even suggested that self-publishing was the better option for that novel given what they’d told me about it?
But that’s not where that author is mentally. And I don’t think it’s my place to drag them down that path. Hopefully they’ll learn and either adapt to fit into the path they do want to take or choose a different path, one better suited to what they’ve already written. That’s up to them, not me. All I can do is give them that starter bit of knowledge that will let them decide.
Or so I think.
Hopefully I’m right.
One thought on “Giving Advice”
As someone who actively crafts their questions in an attempt to get answers to a specific situation rather than an overview of something that might not be the same area (UK IP law is different from US IP law for example, so specific or general advice to US-based authors is rarely pertinent to my issue), I find answers that set out lots of options that I haven’t asked about to be an obstacle to finding the answer I do want: especially online where an irrelevant answer can spawn an ongoing thread of discussion, thus derailing my question.
However, after many years in law, I’m also aware that sometimes the biggest obstacles to a good strategy isn’t balancing the options in front of you: it’s not knowing all the options.
So, perhaps the best answer strategy is to include a brief statement of assumptions/queries with the answer to the question they’ve asked; then, if they’ve already narrowed their investigation they don’t have lots of irrelevant discussion to wade through, but if they’ve just mistaken one approach for the only way then you have let them know there are other ways.
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