Impressions from the recent TWA Conference on an impressionable new writer

Well, it’s time to jump on the blog bandwagon and put good advice that I got from last weekend’s TWA conference to use.

I’ve found that after writing three novels in two years my thoughts turn to figuring out how to sell these puppies.  I got modestly lucky with the first two since they are targeted at a specific population — cave divers.  I’ve sold a couple hundred copies of those books, which is common wisdom for the most you can ever expect to sell in the vast wild jungle of self publishing.  The third, a young adult novel about a tiny dog that becomes intelligent, has much more lackluster sales.  The Young Adult market is tough to break into, compared to “captive” cave divers.

Well, this post isn’t written to sell more books.  I want to share my take-aways from the conference, especially how it relates to attempting to market self-published novels.

In no particular order they are:

  • I paid $35 for an 8 minute session (supposed to be 10…sigh) with an actual real-life agent just to find out that (in the case of fiction) don’t bother searching for an agent (or at least this agent) unless you’ve sold at least 10,000 copies of your book (preferably 100,000).  There’s just too many writers cranking out books these days, fewer readers and the traditional publishing industry (of which agents are the tip of the melting ice berg) is struggling to survive, only willing to pick known money makers.  It’s a big catch-22 (or catch-10,000 as it were).  I frown, shrug and keep writing away on my fourth book.  Take a page from Doug Dandridge’s secrets and don’t bother looking for an agent until you’ve established you have a market.  Use the $35 on something more productive.
  • Apparently non-fiction books do find homes with agents and traditional publishers, but been there-done that.  Writing non-fiction, for me at least, isn’t as satisfying as creating fiction.
  • The burden is on you, the writer, to market your self-published books.  So, unless all you ever want to do is give your family and friends copies of your work, do it. You can have that advice for free.  [side $35/10 minutes that’s $210/hour! I think I know how agents are surviving the traditional publishing implosion.  I’ve never been much of a lottery player, though].
  • Social media is your ally in self-marketing.  “How to influence buyers and not piss off friends and family” is tough, though.  Still, you gotta start somewhere.  Blog and be blogged.  Share and post.  Repeat, ad nauseam.  This is an example of that.
  • Picked up lots of good writing “basic skills” about improving dialog, plots, characters, etc.  Most of it I’ve heard or read before but repetition is king.  My best advice, though, is to join a writer’s critique group and get a top-notch editor to go through your own words.  You’ll learn real quick how seeing the same glaring errors marked in bright red ink, repeated over 300 pages of a manuscript, can reinforce better writing style.
  • It’s exciting to listen and interact with other authors, especially the ones that have made the 10,000 foot leap to writing fiction for a living.  I’m a “functioning introvert” by nature, which means I like to socialize but it’s draining.  As with my love affair with cave diving, it’s easier to relate when you have a shared experience.
  • I love my writer’s critique group and when it comes to marketing, strength may indeed be in our numbers.  At least we have each other to learn from and commiserate with.


Awesome editing services by:

            Jayne T. Wallace Literary Services
          Proofreading and Copy/Content Editing
        Reasonable rates. Rigorous attention to detail.

        (850) 906-9110        

Awesome book covers from Babski Creative Studios.

And finally, my books.

– Jeff





2 thoughts on “Impressions from the recent TWA Conference on an impressionable new writer

  1. As a fellow “functioning introvert” and Outcast, I salute you for braving that agent pitch. I am really amazed at the response you got there. But I think you are right about the melting iceberg. 10,000+ books is a lot! And in a self-publishing sales model, would we even want to go “traditional” if we had those kind of numbers to begin with? Maybe… I don’t know. If I’m ever even in that predicament, I will be thrilled. 😉

  2. Yeah, the whole agent thing is a conundrum. Our egos and (quite frankly) greed compel us to try and grab for that brass ring. I must admit worrying about it distracts from the writing sometimes (oh, the horror!).

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