The other day, I made the mistake of reading a blog that tends to speak very authoritatively about what authors need to do to sustain a career. I don’t visit that blog often, because it makes me depressed and anxious. Occasionally, I’ve found useful industry information there, but more often I feel doomed, as if I’m “doing it wrong” and have no future. My writing style is not that author’s style. Our genres and audiences are different; our career goals are different. In fact, one piece of advice from that blog made me miserable when I tried it.
Most blogs about writing and publishing acknowledge that “YMMV” (“your mileage may vary”); I try to do that on my own blog. Whether the issue is how active to be online, how to obtain and use feedback, whether to get an agent, whether to self-publish, whether to use a pen name, or whether to outline, most questions don’t have one-size-fits-all answers. If I’ve learned anything from knowing other writers, it’s that there are many, many paths through this business. If there were only one path, one formula that worked for everyone, we’d all be using it and we’d all be rich.
But it’s so easy to get sucked in by authoritative advice, especially when the source is successful in his or her own right.
Of course, the solution to my own problem here is something I said earlier: “Our career goals are different.” Someone may press a map into my hand and urge me to follow the route marked on it. But if the destination is not where I want to go, why on earth would I follow that map? Even when the destination is also mine, I strongly suspect there are alternate routes.
So I really need to stay away from that particular blog. It doesn’t help me. I imagine it helps many other people, and that’s great. One reason I’m not naming the blog is that I don’t think other people necessarily need to stay away from it. Just me.
And in the spirit of this blog post, please feel free to disregard anything I’ve said that is not helpful to you. YMMV.
Jennifer R. Hubbard (www.jenniferhubbard.com) is the author of Try Not to Breathe (Viking, 2012), the story of a boy’s recovery from a suicide attempt, and The Secret Year (Viking, 2010), about the consequences of a secret relationship.
This is fine advice. Thanks.
Glad you liked it!
Great advice Jenn. As a new author, I can drive myself crazy trying to do or not to do everything other writers tell me. 🙂
Since advice from some sources contradicts advice from other sources, following it all is impossible. ;-D
I so agree, thank you for giving us permission to disregard some of the rigid advice out there! A lot of it is about having the confidence to follow your own path isn’t it. I much prefer to read something which says “This is the way that worked for me” rather than “This is the way you must do it”, but I know some people prefer to receive specific directions – each to their own!
The other thing is that these paths change quickly–for example, there were writers who found the kind of success via Myspace that they wouldn’t find there today. Writing styles and the hot genres change, going in and out of fashion. One more reason that one size may not fit all!
I really like this post! There is so much advice out there and it can be overwhelming. We need to follow the path that is best for us. Sometimes we need reminding about that. Thank you!
Enjoy your own path! 🙂
Very true. Usually the advice that resonates with you is the most helpful. Usually 😉
Sometimes we do need to push ourselves outside our comfort zone and try something new–but that doesn’t mean forcing ourselves into a miserable situation. Often we know in our gut what we need.
great post. i’m so glad i’m not the only one who feels this way.
Yes, there’s a difference between “doing it wrong” and “doing it another way!”
You have to see what advice that works good for you… but the best thing an author could do is get book reviews, they’ll always be sustained if they have ppl to review their works… Great piece 🙂
Thanks! I agree reviews can be very useful. There are also other ways in which authors find large audiences–getting a movie deal, for example, or doing school visits that allow them to interact with large audiences. But then, not all of these are under the author’s control!
I appreciate your humility. I relate to why reading something so rigid on the subject would make you depressed — great piece!
It’s also true that nobody really knows where the industry is going. There are smart people making good educated guesses, but no prediction is perfect.
There are so many “experts” out there. I share writing and editing advice and tips I’ve learned along the say and try to not come off as one of those “know-it-all” experts.
Most tips are going to work for some people and not others, or will work for some books and not others. So if we’re all sharing info, we’re bound to find things that work, even if what we need changes from day to day.
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You are extremely wise – I think authorative (my way or highway) advice does more harm than good, and that you have hit it on the head–we may have the same destination, but we have alternate routes to get there. I love people who are flexible and present their ideas and theories for consumption but do not tell us that we are wrong if we do not do it their way. Happy writing!
Thank you–enjoy your own journey!
Great post, Jennifer.
I’ve often felt this way too. Lots of conflicting advice out there. Eg. I draw some inspiration from Australian action author Matthew Reilly for his success after self-publishing his first novel, Contest. (He has been described as the Chuck Norris of the writing world but I still enjoy his stuff.) Contrasting that, a writing instructor I once had was dead against self-publishing. He said writers who self-published risked their credibility. Maybe, maybe not. This was around 2004-ish. Things may have changed now with the rise of Amazon and the likes.
Then there’s pseudonyms. He had a pseudonym. Apparently that was okay.
Bottom line: I think most of us who have done any amount of writing with dreams of seeing it for sale in a shop, have a fairly good feeling for the nature of the best path to their destination in this industry. Comfort zone boundary speak loudly.
(Not so many) years ago, self-publishing was indeed less viable than it is now–although even then, there were certain markets and authors for whom self-publishing worked well. Now it has really opened up, and I think there are many more books that can thrive in the self-publishing channel. But which road to follow is up to the individual author, and depends on that person’s goals, skills, comfort level, etc.