I’m coming up on my fifth year as a published author. Although it seems like yesterday I began this crazy journey, I know that I’ve grown creatively and professionally. I thought I’d take a blog post to write about all the things I’ve learned as an author. If you have anything to add, feel free to post in the comments.

Thing #1: Take All Advice with a Grain of Salt

This is an ironic first thing for a blog post full of advice, but hear me out. There are certain authors who post anecdotes and dole out advice as if they hear the word of God. You must do X, you must do Y, you must, you must, you must! But the problem is that book publishing is a widely variable business. Even within the genres – what sells in Urban fantasy doesn’t sell for Epic fantasy.

Basically, listen to your gut. If someone is telling you something that doesn’t jive with your experience, feel free to ignore them.

Thing #2: Comparison is an inefficient use of time

I’m an incredibly petty person. To wit, I spend a lot of time comparing myself with other authors – traditionally published, self-published, the whole gamut. I spent a lot of time and money trying to compete with these people, and ended up falling short every time. Social media has a lot to do with this – I’d release books and get so wrapped up in why I wasn’t getting the same number of shout-outs as my traditionally published colleagues.

What I’ve come to accept is that I have to focus on my own stuff. I can’t worry about what everyone else is doing because then I won’t have any spoons available to keep myself afloat. I block a lot of social media, and limit my time to 30 minutes a day. Instead of worrying about why no one is sharing my stuff, I’ve taken action (more in thing #3). And so my sales and happiness have improved dramatically.

Thing #3: You have to spend money to make money, but spend it wisely

If there’s one thing I’d go back and change, it would be the dumb things I spent money on early in the publishing career. By the time I understood the best ways to advertise, I had already found myself very far in the hole. Things are improving, but it’s put me at a disadvantage in how much money I can spend and how much wiggle room I have.

I ended up spending money on the Ads for Authors course by Mark Dawson, which has been one of the best investments I’ve made to date. I’ve completely changed my strategy from hoping for sales to actually getting sales. For The City of Veils, I’ve seen a marked improvement in early reviews, preorders, and overall conversations. And for my backlist, sales are up across the board. Highly recommended course.

Thing #4: You will improve, but people will still love your old stuff

I ran into this a little bit with my failed attempt at writing the Razia spin-off. As any artist should, your writing will improve with time and experience. That’s not to say you should never publish anything, because after all, if we waited until we were perfect, we’d be waiting forever. But you will notice a marked improvement in your work as you move through your career.

But at the same time, you’ll also have fans who hold true to your earlier works. In fact, my most ardent fans seem to love Razia more than anything else I’ve written. This is odd to me, because it’s my weakest series (in my opinion). But I continue to promote it heavily, as books are subjective.

Thing #5: Nothing is constant

Technology moves so fast that everything is always changing. One tweak to a Facebook algorithm makes your page obsolete. Groups and stories and Snapchat filters are all new features that we didn’t have back in 2014 when I started this thing. You could truly make yourself miserable and get nothing done if you spent your life trying to keep up with the latest trends.

My most important advice (if you choose to take it, see Thing #1), is that you have to do what’s right for you at this moment. If you can’t figure out Snapchat? Let it be. Don’t want to write reverse harem? Something else will come along. Trying to pivot and twist yourself into whatever the current trends are will result in a lot of twisting and not a lot of success. Just be true to yourself and do what feels right. That’s the best way to be.