Should I stay or should I go?

confused man

Insert white hair here.

I’m in a bit of a conundrum, here; so I thought I’d just write out what I’m conundrumming about, to see if it’ll help me un-conun… dr… um…

Basically, I’m trying to decide whether to attend the 1-day UpublishU conference at the BEA Book Expo at the end of May.  And right now, I’m having a very hard time justifying the trip.

It’s no secret (because I tend to tell people at the drop of a hat) that my writing career has so far been an initial 2 years of whoo-hoo good times, followed by 13 years of crashed, burned and zombie-fied.  I’ve sought to re-animate myself by researching and trying out every marketing idea I could reasonably do, given no advertising budget and no contacts or connections to help forward my cause or promote me.  But so far, nothing has worked.  I’m presently holding out more hope for success from weekly plays of Powerball.

When I’ve tried to ask others what to do, I’ve mostly gotten advice that amounted to little more than platitudes—”If what you’re doing is wrong, it’s because you haven’t gotten it right”—”If what you’re doing isn’t working… keep doing it and someday it will”—”you can’t win if you don’t play”—or ideas that depend on the aforementioned contacts, connections or deep pockets that I, also-aforementioned, don’t have.

The UpublishU program says that it is for authors who have self-published but want to learn how to reach more readers, which I consider myself to be.  However, another thing that I am, is a wall-flower: I am quiet, passive and unassuming, not forward or gung-ho.  In a crowded room, I tend to shrink to the back or hide in the middle of the crowd; when people are trying to get help or ask questions from a source, I tend to end up watching from the sidelines, not stepping forward and pressing my own agenda.

In short, I am a social and professional milquetoast; and if my gaining useful information or making contacts means stepping past the crowd, inserting myself to the front of the line and dominating the conversation, you can be sure I’ll be elsewhere, wondering if there’s a Starbucks nearby.  (I also base this expectation on my past behavior at other conferences where, despite my best intentions, I generally end up doing an uncanny impression of the invisible man.)

And this is why I fully expect that I will walk into the conference hoping to make some connections and, barring an outright holy-choir-singing miracle, walk out empty-handed.

There is also a program, of course—various classes that will provide information on planning, production and marketing.  I can, of course, attend any of them, and some of them sound like they will provide useful marketing information.  But it will mostly be generic information, not tailored specifically to a guy who’s trying to sell serious science fiction ebooks to a largely and paradoxically science-averse public.  I’ve been researching and following such generically-designed marketing advice for years, with so far no success.  Do I really expect that I’m going to get the one or two pieces of generic advice that I’ve never heard before, and that applying them to my specific needs will actually work?  I admit to having low expectations there.

On the other hand, it’s a Saturday conference… don’t have to take time off work for it… and it won’t exactly break my piggy bank to go, even if I stay overnight in NYC to do so.  If I get nothing out of it, the most I’ve lost is $300 and a weekend.

ConfusedSo: After having said all that, I’m still undecided on whether I should stay or go.  Is the risk of $300 worth the admittedly vague chance that I will get something useful from the conference that will actually move my writing career forward?  Or am I better served spending that $300 on a fistful of Powerball tickets and a good meal with my wife?

Feel free to weigh in on my conundrum if you’d like.  Keep in mind that the aforementioned platitudes are unnecessary, but concrete information, direction and tips are always welcome.


3 thoughts on “Should I stay or should I go?

  1. Go. The knowledge gained is worth the expense. You can see if there is something you have missed and the worst that can happen is you discover they don’t know anything you didn’t already.

    To make the most of the trip, go and get yourself some simple business cards (assuming you don’t already have some) from They are inexpensive and make it possible for you to leave your contact data with other people who are attending the event. And the cards can be back before the event at the end of the month.

    The people who are attending are the real potential in the event. This is an opportunity to meet new minds, new perspectives and possibly new connections who can help you figure out what you might be missing. Keep this in mind, YOU SAID IT: You are not a great networking person. It may mean you need to consider finding yourself a co-conspirator, a marketing professional who may offer you insight into how to market your products better.

    You have done the hard work. You have written the books. Now let’s figure out how to get the product out the door. Maybe it will take more aggressive marketing than you’ve been doing? Maybe you need to get your books into libraries, maybe you need more reviewers, more online interviews… Maybe you need a fusion of ALL of the above.

    All I know is, if you have the product, you just need to figure out how to sell the sizzle, not just the steak. And as usual, if there is anything I can do to help, please let me know. I have great respect for your intellect, your articles are insightful and well-realized. I can’t imagine your science fiction would be anything less.



  2. It sounds like an interesting conference. I’d probably go, except I have another commitment that weekend. I’ve always been able to get something out of the conferences I’ve attended. Even the bad ones have taught me lessons about what not to do.

    If you do decide to go, I hope you’ll share your thoughts on how the conference went. Could be helpful for other writers who are thinking of going in the future.


  3. Update: So, yeah, I’m going. I will try to learn something, and if at all possible, maybe make a new contact along the way. Do I expect to accomplish much? Frankly, no, but wherever the breaks fall.

    Edit: And just like that, I’m NOT going. A suddenly-comatose heat pump means I can’t spare the $800 to go to a conference that I really didn’t expect to get anything out of. Well, that’s my luck, all over.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s