Yes, I would hope I’d listen to my own advice, but that doesn’t always happen. So easy to go your own way and make your own mistakes, even if there’s a chance you won’t have to.
So what would I do?
Of course, when I sold my first two books there was very little information out there for authors. There was no RWA and you relied heavily on your agent and editor or if you could meet another author. I didn't meet another author for over a year and I attended the very first RWA National conference and discovered "wow, more like me!"
I would make sure to have an agent who would look out for my interests and if that person weren’t, then I’d be on the hunt for someone who did. Yes, listen to your agent, they know the market in ways you don't, but there also has to be give and take and hopefully, they'll listen to you too.
Learning about the creativity side of writing can be easy and talking to other authors can even help there. But the business side is just as important if not more at times. Back then I could read and understand a contract, but I still didn’t know the ins and outs of publishing contracts. If you don’t understand a clause, ask questions.
The best piece of advice I’ve carried with me since high school is “If you don’t understand something, don’t pretend you do. Ask questions.” And after all these years, I still do.
I would tell myself back then that change is good even if it means venturing into new territory. That I can’t be afraid of the prospect. That I should embrace that new territory as a challenge and just go for it.
I would sit myself down with the talk, “Foremost, this is a business, even if you’re doing what you love. But if you keep on learning and doing what it takes, you’ll have the experience of a lifetime.”