Authors are faced with so many decisions about where, when, and how to publish these days that it has become genuinely daunting to manage even the simplest publishing career.

Do you pursue print publishing with its tiny chance of breaking in to a major publisher…but with the attendant credibility to follow? Do you sacrifice the income to get the big name packaging and distribution?

Do you find a reputable indy publisher and sacrifice a portion of your potential earnings to let someone else do the heavy lifting of editing, formatting, and packaging your book? Is the income you give up worth not dealing with the hassles of doing it yourself?

Do you dive into the ocean deep and self-publish, knowing the chance of being discovered is minuscule, but the potential top-end earnings are staggering? How much of the process do you spend hours learning to do yourself, and how much do you hire out to others?

Do you write in the genre that’s smoking hot right now, or do you put many months of your valuable writing time toward that off-beat book of your heart that will be difficult to market and sell in any format?

Do you take a financial risk in your current work to make more time to write? Do you give up social time, family time, or other important time to devote to writing? Do you spend money on writing training, or do you just keep writing and learn on the fly?

I could go on for hours with the decisions that bombard writers continuously.

The question, then, is how do you make the hard choices?

In the past few years, I’ve made two really big mistakes in my career. The first was standing pat at my publisher and continuing to write the same sorts of books I’d been writing for years. I knew it was time for me to do bigger books, bigger stories, to pursue my first love of writing big, steamy, spy thriller novels. But I let the people around me talk me into staying where I was.

As a result, I burned out, grew cynical and frustrated, and much of the joy in writing left me.

My second big mistake was not jumping into e-publishing when that bandwagon first turned the corner and came toward me. I just KNEW it would be a gold rush–the first few writers to dive in would make piles of money and sell mountains of books and their careers would take off like crazy.

But, again, I let the people around me talk me into staying where I was and going the safe route of doing what I was already doing. I didn’t branch out into something new.

As we all know, the glory days of million-e-book sales are long gone in the e-publishing world for all but a VERY few lucky, talented, and hard-working writers. The same lightning-striking luck it takes to break out in print now pretty much applies to the e-book industry, too. I missed the window to get into that arena early.

The moral of the story is, I should have listened to my gut.

Now, I’m the last person to suggest that authors should base their careers on nothing but the Fuzzy Feels. We all need to understand the market, watch the emerging trends, drill down into the statistics, and know as much as we can before we make any major decisions.

I am suggesting, though, that once you are armed with that knowledge, the only correct decision is to do what feels right to you. What’s that choice that you will go to sleep not fretting over? What choice resonates deep inside you? What choice is the one the little voice in your head is whispering to be the correct one?

There are as many paths to success in this business as there are aspiring authors. There is NO one right way to build your career except the one that you can live with most comfortably.

Do your homework. But then, listen to your gut.

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