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Trust Your Instincts

By Debbie Kaufman

Trusting Your Instincts

Gorgeous Hollohaza Tea Set

Gorgeous Hollohaza Tea Set

I have developed a bit of a passion lately for estate sales.  I think, perhaps, I enjoy them so much because they combine my love of history and research with my obsessive passion for hunting down a good bargain.  Since I’ve started this hobby, I’ve had fun and found some interesting and unique items that have turned a tidy little profit for me on resale.  Oh, and I’ve learned a little something about listening to that inner voice, the one you should always trust as a writer/author, and estate saler, or in any area of your life.  The funny thing is, I think estate  sales will ultimately make me a better author.
nat geo


Why on earth would estate sales make me a better author?  Well, there’s the obvious, like this little gem to your right that I picked up for $1.00, a bound copy of National Geographics from 1924 to 1933. Besides the fact that Joseph Conrad authored a couple of the articles, which is way cool in and of itself, the volume is a treasure trove for someone like me who writes exotic locations in the 1920s.
But more than a few research materials, estate sales have honed my instincts.  Like any beginner, I’ve been sucked in by a few items that weren’t really as valuable as I thought, but since I have my own stringent guidelines about what I will pay for something, I’ve usually still managed to get my money back out of them. And from sale to sale, I’ve learned what to look for, what to avoid, and when to take a risk on something beyond my acquired knowledge, things that everyone else, even the estate sale “experts” didn’t think were valuable.  Things that were well outside the mainstream of what most would look for in a quick resale market.  (Okay all you authors out there who are being told that the off-the-wall, not the standard genre story you’re writing won’t sell, take heed.)


scent bags side oneBefore I drive home my point about estate sales and my writing, let me give you a specific example, like the lovely little pair of Chinese embroidered pouches I picked up at a recent sale.  Funny thing is, I almost didn’t buy them because I didn’t know what they were.  Twice I picked them up, handled them, and put them back down as I debated whether to spend any of my estate sale budget on them.  In the end, it came down to trusting my instincts, the gut feeling that drove me back to the table to handle them again for the third and final time.  (Sometimes in life we have to listen to those instincts, take a risk, and believe what our inner voice is telling us.)

$2.00 Plate, Sold for $79.00!

$2.00 Plate, Sold for $79.00!

In the end, I plunked down my $8.00 (Did I mention how much I hate to part with money?) for those two little oddities and headed home to do my research.  After I did my research, I was very happy that I’d listened to that voice inside me insisting that what I held in my hand was something special.  If I hadn’t listened to my instincts, I would have stuck with the usual estate sale finds and missed a great opportunity.  Much like I would have if I hadn’t broken most of the accepted precepts of writing a successful Christian historical novel.  At a time when most all books in this genre were set in the 1880s US, I HAD to write one set in the 1920s in Liberia, Africa, with cannibals no less.  Have I ever told you about the editor who suggested I set that story somewhere else?  Since I couldn’t picture my missionaries and cannibals in, say, Chicago, I stuck to my original vision.

Instincts are important.  Whether you use them to make a purchasing decision, to avoid danger when things just don’t feel right, or when you feel compelled to write a story that doesn’t fit the mold, we have to listen to that voice. Oh, and if you can’t relate to my cannibal story, just ask my friend, Sally Kilpatrick, who had to learn to trust that she really did know what she was doing.  Or better yet go read her recent post on writing the “Eff It” book HERE.

Oh, and before I forget.  I sold those antique 1850s-60s, Chinese scent pouches for a net profit of over $350.00.  Listen to your gut,  trust that inner voice, take a risk in life or in writing.  I’m now on my third Liberian missionary book.

Do you have a story of what following your instincts have done for you?  Or maybe you have a story within you that is burning to be written but others say it won’t sell?  Do share!


cover hi res journey of HopeDebbie Kaufman writes inspirational historical romance for Harlequin’s Love Inspired Historical line. The fact that some of her books contain cannibals should be understood as an element of adventurous romance stories and should never misconstrued as a sign of a warped mind. Debbie insists she is as normal as everyone else.  To decide for yourself, connect with her at her WEBSITELIKE her on Facebook, or go follow her on Twitter.




Piper - June 9, 2014 - 7:16 am

This column is great advice Debbie. I wrote my first Eff It book about three years ago and I seem to have chosen to specialize in that particular genre. And I just got another rejection the other day saying my book was great but the potential sales numbers would be too small. So, thank goodness for the outlet of self-publishing. My chosen word for this year is Risk and I’m taking a Risk on myself to see if the audience is that small. It’s daunting, but I’m looking forward to it. Thanks!

Debbie Kaufman - June 9, 2014 - 8:56 am

Go for it, Piper! Two words to go with the risk: Well edited. Can’t wait to see if a publishing house comes courting after your potential shines through :)

sandra Elzie - June 9, 2014 - 9:20 am

Great article. I’ve gone with you a time or two, but I tend to just buy things I like without looking for period pieces or resale value. (As you probably noted recently when I bought 5 books and a set of Magnolia bookends.) Can’t wait to read your third Liberian book…I know it’ll be as great as the first two.

Connie Gillam - June 9, 2014 - 10:01 am

I’ve always wanted to go to an Estate Sale. How do you find them?

As far as trusting my instincts, I long ago discarded writing for the market. Ten years ago when I first started to write seriously, I was told there was no market for what I wanted to write. Now I write what I love to read and self publish it.

Marilyn Baron - June 9, 2014 - 12:35 pm

Great post. I was told nobody was interested in novels about WW II but I love WW II so I persevered and a publisher finally picked it up. That’s my Under the Moon Gate historical romantic thriller.

Debbie Kaufman - June 9, 2014 - 8:58 pm

Hey Sandy, well, of course, the point is to have fun!

Connie, I usually go to Best place I’ve found with a list of estate sales by area.

Marilyn, just further proof that the “rules” about what is saleable, aren’t always true.

Maxine Davis - June 9, 2014 - 9:37 pm

Debbie, Glad you stuck with it. Enjoy you books! I love to go to these sales, but since I’m really trying to convince myself that I’m into throwing out, it’s hard to pick up something that I’ll just “sit around.” I did get a birthday gift that may have been a regift, but it is a set of napkin rings worth about $300. Nope haven’t tried to sell them, but would love to. Do you sell on eBay?

Susan Carlisle - June 11, 2014 - 7:06 pm

What a wonderful example Of listen to that little voice. More than once I’ve not listened and my editor has called me on the very issue I questioned. I’m going to start paying closer attention to that voice screaming at me.

Sia Huff - June 14, 2014 - 3:08 pm

You’re so right, Debbie. It’s important to listen to our inner voice. Every time I’ve ignored it, I learn the hard way.
Hope you find many more treasures for resale.

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