There's a lot of people in the writing world claiming to be experts. Many are. But there are equally as many that aren't. There's also a lot of people who want to offer their advice and opinions. By and large most mean well, but unfortunately there's quite a few people out there who either don't know what they are talking about, or they can only talk to their specific situation and experience. The latter isn't always a bad thing, but it also doesn't make the person an expert on all things writing, editing, and publishing. It makes them an expert on their individual process.
So when it comes to writerly advice, we as writers really need to do our homework. There's some awesome advice out there, but how do we find it? And how do we know if it's really sound advice we should follow?
Google is your friend! Go to sources - publishers, agents, editors, national writing organizations like SCBWI etc. Even still not all publishers, agents, editors etc. are created equal. Just because someone says they are an agent, editor, publisher, doesn't mean they are a good one with good advice. If you can't find anyone else willing to back up the advice you're seeing, be wary of it. There's also wonderful sites like Preditors and Editors that list agencies, editors, and publishers and state whether they are reputable or not.
Get a second opinion
Just because someone says something doesn't make it true. I don't care what part of the publishing process they are in, they may be misinformed or have been given bad advice themselves. Talk to as many people as possible. Get a wide range of opinions before you make a decision on whose advice to follow.
Understand what you are signing
If there is any sort of contract involved READ IT! Read every single word, read it till your eyes bleed, and read it until you have it memorized. If you don't understand something, ask your agent, or higher a lawyer or other professional to explain it to you. Make sure you understand what you are responsible for, how this deal will benefit you, what kind of rights you are signing over, and what each party is getting from this deal.
If you aren't sure about something, ask questions until you feel comfortable with it. There's no such thing as a dumb question so don't be afraid to ask. If someone refuses to answer a question it may be a red flag. But if you aren't sure about something ASK!
Go with your gut
If all else fails go with your instincts. If something feels off then it probably is. If it seems too good to be true, it just might be. There's a lot of people out there looking to take advantage of writers, so be vigilant and trust your gut.
By in large there's a lot of great advice out there online, just make sure you really look into it before you leap and rush into a decision. You'll save yourself a lot of headache in the long run if you take your time and do your homework.
Does anyone else have any suggestions on how to vet the good advice from the bad? Feel free to add them in the comments.