Saturday, 23 August 2014


This isn't advice for writers. No. This is advice about advice.
   What happened to prompt the blog post? The blank page. That's all I need. But it's true, there is more to it than the desire to fill a blank page this time around.
   Behind the scenes, I offered a warehouse of assistance to a writer. All the goodies. Here's what you should know about publishing for Amazon Kindle...
   I rambled, meandered, and waffled as I talked the talk. All of this painless advice was pain-filled for me when I walked the walk and learned the hard way.
   And I made that plain. This piece of advice comes from making that mistake. And so on.
   If you can help a writer, help that writer. You'll receive help in return. If the writer doesn't help you directly, you'll find all kinds of indirect help comes from giving advice to scribblers.
   Was I thanked for my assistance? Yes. I was also called an encyclopaedia of publishing knowledge, or something like that. The word encyclopaedia was used. I was too busy blushing to take in the exact phrasing.
   I am, without question, a grumpy bastard. At my absolute best, I feel utterly charmless. Yet I am told, repeatedly, that I am charming, helpful, useful, a do-gooder, and all those other insults I won't waste time listing. Writers think I am useful.
   Here's the thing about giving advice. I know enough to know that I need to know much more about publishing. That's the attitude I brought to the task.
   Next thing you know, I have a blog out. And books. I publish old stuff and write new material. Writer contacts are made. Mistakes occur with alarming f-words.
   I'm useful. The damage I've caused is unknowable. I should be glad of that. Insomnia's bad enough, without adding guilt-trips to the nightly fun.
   How useful am I, as a writer? I thought of that...not after helping a scribbler and being told I was an encyclopaedia. No. I thought of that after catching sight of an article on writing.
   Who wrote it? Didn't care. What was the title? Doesn't matter. This writer promised to talk about all the good things related to publishing. Why we shouldn't be in a froth to self-publish.
   It was a rubbish article. Not because it set out a contrary view. It was wishy-washy, that was all. The article came across as pushing self-publishing instead of the traditional method.
   Not as advertised.
   I'd have preferred a solid article with a contrary view. Instead, I was sold mush on the promise of something substantial. I ordered steak. Why did you bring me soup? I like soup, true. But I ordered steak. Didn't like the soup you served, though, and, hell, I told you I like that stuff.
   Advice. Yes, advice always has an agenda. The simplest agenda is to help someone solve a problem. After that, things grow complex. Someone gives advice to push a service.
   Well. That's understandable. You have a service to sell, and must show that you can walk the walk as well as talk the talk.
   Unless you are Midas, hell, even if you are Midas, don't sell me on promises of turning lead into gold. Or baguettes into gold, if you are Midas.
   I'm thinking of an industrial-strength agenda I tripped over recently. Candidate for the worst piece of advice I'd seen on writing. A proofreader pushed an agenda.
   The selling of proofreading services. Nothing wrong in that. The proofreader was so keen to drum up work that this gem came out...
   Don't spellcheck your work.
   I became a cartoon character. Eyeballs bulged across the room. I turned into a flip-lid bin and the top of my head opened so that my brain could yell...
   The notion behind this was simple. The electronic checker will let certain words slip through. Are you in sheer pain? That's severe. If you are in shear pain, you've been stabbed with scissors. That kind of agony is also severe, I'd imagine.
   The agenda?
   Don't fuss and bother over that electronic checking. Hire my services, and I'll see to that pesky button on the screen. And charge you money for doing something you can do at the click of a fucking mouse.
   That was a half-arsed way of fishing for customers. Promoting advanced services by offering to take care of the most basic function available. I walked away, not sure if I should double in pain or fold with sarcastic laughter.
   Anyway. Look for the agenda in advice. I picked up a free book on self-publishing. Much of the advice revolved around other services. Available at a premium rate.
   Space was given over to formatting. I looked at this poorly-formatted book and wondered how useful the formatting advice was. Answer. Hard to say. I was put off by broken hyperlinks. And other things. But mostly, the hyperlinks.
   I check my own out-of-book hyperlinks less-often than I should, I know. But I do fucking check them. I've updated the annoying bastards so that readers are not inconvenienced.
   Advice. Is everywhere. If a guy writes a book on how to churn out great novels...where are his great novels on the Amazon listing that only seems to list his how-to book?
   Must be the shift in the weather. Lately, I've been seeing piss-poor advice everywhere I turn.
   Doesn't mean my advice is great.


I took a break to check out that how-to book on publishing. No, I didn't pay for it. Except in terms of the time I mistakenly invested. In attempting to read the damned thing, I was torn away from coffee and cake and international women of mystery.
   It was difficult to navigate this supposedly fantastic tome. The end.
   Okay, I checked the reviews. The negative comments were visceral. Services are plugged to excess. I could have told you that. Wait. I did mention the point earlier in this blog post.
   I should add that one scathing review appeared to be by an author with an agenda to counter the book's agenda. Let us stop up that hole and cease hunting rabbits.


So what of my advice on advice? It hasn't changed.
   Advice freely given is free to be ignored.
   The advice I give may change as more information comes in.
   What works for me may not work for you.
   And what works for both of us may not work this time next week.
   Paid-for advice may not be any better than free advice.
   Shares rise as well as fall.
   Eat the yellow snow if you have a craving for it. Don't expect others to join you. All the more for you.
   Everything written on computer must be spellchecked by computer. My spellchecker doesn't like the word spellchecker. I gave up hyphenating the construction.
   That happens to words, from time-to-time. Today we write today, whereas people wrote to-day in yesteryear. They probably wrote yester-year, too.
   Stay flexible. Unless it is important to be inflexible. You know. That one time.


Formatting advice appeared here on my blog. Based on experience. Rather, based on many many many many bad experiences. Is the advice still relevant? At the time of writing, yes. Viewer results may vary, depending on the time of reading.
   I'd recommend after midnight, some time this century. Failing that, catch me most afternoons in the next century over.


Context. The writer who thought my publishing knowledge encyclopaedic? She started talking and soon put forth an argument that ran counter to my views.
   I changed my views.
   True story. This is what happens. I give advice, and receive help in return. Go thou, and do likewise.


  1. I think that's a lot of reason why we authors give other authors advice on writing and publishing because in the process, we learn as we try to teach.

    1. Yes. It's important to learn in the same breath as we offer up our little bit of learning to others. In replying to this comment, I found all sorts of wrong ways to reply. And I learned those the hard way. Damn. If I learned one thing today, it's how to post this reply. ;)


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