As Dean Wesley Smith points out in his latest blog post, it's especially important to think through as the publishing business is undergoing such tremendous upheaval. Even a decade ago, there was one path and only one to a professional writing career. It involved sending your stories and novels out to one after another editor's slush piles, trying to get them accepted for publication. So a lot of things, like getting an agent, made sense at the time.
Right now everything is in flux. Some obvious leaders are appearing: Amazon's Kindle and the Kindle Direct Publishing system, for example. But there are a lot of other companies trying different approaches, trying to see what might work.
Which means the old verities aren't necessarily valid. So it behooves you to pause and think through the logic of the course of action you're taking. Does it make sense in this volatile new world of changing technology? Or are you just following the Way It Has Always Been Done?
I have to admit that I waited a long time to get into indie publishing, mostly because I started back in the days when your choices were traditional publishing and vanity publishing. So it had been pretty thoroughly drummed into my head that self-publishing was the mark of the loser, an admission to all and sundry that you couldn't cut it. It was only after my brother told me how much success he was having serializing a novel that I finally decided to poke a toe into the waters, and then very cautiously.
And even with all the changes that the publishing world is undergoing, success is still hard. You may not have to go through the years of endless rounds of submissions, of accumulating rejection slips by the bushel, filing one story after another away as it runs out of markets. But eliminating the gatekeepers and hoops doesn't mean eliminating the problem of finding an audience for your work. If anything, it makes it harder. In the old days, once you'd finally gotten past the gatekeepers, you were plugged into a system that would find an audience for your work. People knew that stories published in magazine such-and-such would be the sort of thing they would enjoy reading. They knew that the books in a particular section of the bookstore would appeal to their tastes. Now you have to figure out how to pick keywords that will help readers find your books in search engines, how to get people to review your books so they will become more visible in Amazon's suggestion system, etc. Even if you get one book to sell well, there's no guarantee the next won't flop, hard. Or the one after that. And while you don't have to worry about your publisher dropping you because your Bookscan numbers aren't good enough, there's still the risk of becoming collateral damage in Amazon's battles with the Kindle Unlimited scammers and having to struggle uphill to prove your innocence and get your account reinstated.
It's a brave new publishing world out there, no country for old men.