Advice From Every Side

Photo by marrycunningham on Flickr.

A short one today.

Even the most well-meaning friend can unwittingly undermine you with a destructive or demoralizing piece of advice — even when it’s technically sound.

By way of example: I recently started passing around a fantasy novella I’ve been working on to some beta readers, with the intent of releasing it for free as a promotional piece for my book. Here is the full range of the advice I got:

1) Don’t release it for free, people will devalue your work.
2) Don’t sell it, people love free.
3) Release it now, it’s totally ready!
4) Don’t release it now, it’s totally not ready.
5) Don’t release it at all, it will sabotage your later efforts.
6) Your novella has to be BETTER than your next book because of [some sales principle I don’t really understand] 7) Your novella can’t be better than your next book because people don’t expect an author’s quality to go down over time.

In terms of the narrative, advice was equally split. Everyone had a favorite character. None of them picked the same one. Too much romance. Not enough romance. Tone down the action. Crank up the action. And so on.

Now, all my friends are fine people. And clearly, they all want to be supportive. But if I tried to implement their suggestions equally, I’d quickly lose my mind, because it can’t be done.

This sort of contradictory advice is all over the blogosphere, too. I’ve read more vehement debates about the free / 99 cent Kindle issue than I care to think about. Some of it is market-driven. Some is just cynical. Most is utterly subjective.

All any of us can do is stick to our convictions, move forward, and always keep learning. And that’s no real revelation, but sometimes it’s easy to forget.