Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

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So last week I discussed the new and fairly grim reality for many creatives. I pointed out the big picture of what’s really going on in the New Publishing Paradigm—The Matrix. Playing a short, blonde, sassy Morpheus from Texas…I offered a choice…

The Blue Pill—get paid in exposure dollars and empty promises.

OR the Red Pill—tough truth, hard work, but a way forward for authentic PAID success.

If you’re the Red Pill crowd, Wonderland is gone and now I’m telling you the game is rigged and it’s all a hustle. The MEGAs (big brands, I.e. Huffington Post) are using us as human batteries to power their brand.

And once you recover from envisioning a female middle-aged Morpheus in yoga pants…your next question might be, “Fine, no how do we get PAID?”

We beat the hustle 😉 .

*hands paper bag* It’s fine. I am here.

I want y’all to HUSTLE…not GET HUSTLED. Big—no HUGE—difference.

Step One: Best way to beat a hustle is to know we’re being hustled in the first place.

That’s what I hopefully did in my post Welcome to the Matrix—You Work for Free and there IS NO Payday.

I’ve known the hustle existed for a long time and my first time calling it out involved blood, guts and being called the “c” word more times than ever in my life.

Creative is not the word I am referring to. Nope, not clever either. Compassionate? Um…nope. Not that one either.

Anyway…

Almost two years ago, I blew up the Internet with my first Pay the Writer post, but at the time, I only knew enough to be royally ticked off…ok, blind with rage is more accurate.

In hindsight? Not the best approach, but a start.

I’ve grown a lot since then. I’m wiser and have had more time to study the “game.”

Though back in 2016 I knew writers (creatives) were getting shafted, I hadn’t figured much of anything out beyond that. It’s taken me eighteen months to unravel HOW those exploiting us were doing what they were doing (and HOW they’re still doing it).

HOW were/are they getting us to so eagerly go along, calm as Hindu cash cows?

The Hustle

If we look to the slang definition of hustle it is an inducing by fraud, pressure or deception, especially of inexperienced or uniformed persons to buy something or participate in an illicit scheme. It also means to fraud or to deceive.

Please keep in mind that the best hustles are completely legal.

Everything we creatives have endured by and large is completely legal and we willingly consented.

Yet, with new information, we now have the option to revoke our consent.

All this said, blame games and being a victim aren’t my thing, so I take the mea culpa. In defense of all parties involved we knew this was uncharted territory and well…mistakes were made.

Whether this behavior continues, by and large is up to author education. Here’s where I come in.

If being paid in feel-goods and participation trophies is cool with you? Rock on. Keep on posting. Not all writers have the same goals. But for those who desire a paid career, we need to get street smart.

What POWERS the Hustle? BLOOD IN THE WATER

All hustlers from con men to that deadbeat ex we fell for sophomore year all work the same way. Like sharks, they can taste blood in the water. Blood in the water means something/someone is injured or damaged.

They must select the perfect mark in order for the hustle to offer the largest payoff for the least effort (MAX ROI).

Even in completely legal “hustles.” Okay especially in legal hustles.

A family member of mine recently went through a nasty divorce. I begged her to let me help her with searching for a new house. She didn’t want to be a burden and fell victim to a real estate agent with no scruples.

What this agent did was technically legal. But the agent spotted an angry, deeply wounded female with no work history and no real world experience on her own alone and unguarded…who could be cajoled into a seriously BAD deal.

The real estate agent probably “deeply cared” about my family member…until the commission check cleared. Sadly my family member is now in for a rough road.

Emotion, desire, longing, fear, doubt, insecurity are all blood in the water for any kind of hustle.

The MEGAs use our fear, lack of knowledge, our insecurity coupled with our desire for approval against us. They know a lot of creatives over the age of thirty-five are scared of the Internet, used to the old world, and desperate for a helping hand to guide them.

They don’t believe they can go it alone.

Us older writers are also are most likely to want to believe we’re still playing the same game with the same rules only in digital form and the MEGAs are happy to let us believe that lovely lie and pray we take the blue pill.

We are the perfect mark—target—for blogging for free (exposure dollars).

The MEGAs know the money is and always will be IN THE ADS (and are counting on us not putting this all together).

MEGAs convince us we cannot possibly make it without them and we need them and are better working for them even if it is for free (“temporarily” of course).

Patently 100% false.

Millennials?

Snowflake Honey Badger Don’t Care

Millennials grew up on-line teething on keyboards and have paved the way we can follow. Sure Millennials might be “delicate” in other ways, but ON-LINE?

*backs away slowly and makes notes*

Millennials are like the honey badgers of social media. Honey badger don’t care!

***linked to the video I am referencing but warning you there are curse words…yet SO APROPOS****

They bite into stuff, chase social media snakes, take what they want, get stung, then bitten by digital cobras, pass out and sleep off the venom…then eat the cobra that just bit them and resume digging and working and move along unfazed.

It’s why a lot of Millennials have become the new MEGA brands of the 21st century.

Millennials have been able to be the honey badgers of social media because they were never the ideal target for the hustle.

Why do I need you to make me a star? I ALREADY AM ONE!

Money? Meh, I live at home.

Exposure? Wikipedia says people die from that.

Because the Millennial MEGAs started out young and fearless with technology, they held an advantage. They never knew a world with gatekeepers or rules and if there were rules, then they didn’t matter. Rules didn’t apply to THEM. Since they didn’t have bills to pay they had a lot of freedom to work for free…authentically.

Keep that in mind.

The Game Has Changed and SO HAVE THE RULES

We keep thinking we are playing the old paradigm publishing game. Write, get exposure, build a CV, pass gatekeepers and POOF paid work comes our way.

Not so fast.

Remember it’s a different game entirely. The old rules NO LONGER APPLY.

Just try playing Monopoly using the rules from RISK with Tiddly Winks on a Chinese Checkers board and see if you aren’t ready to start drinking heavily by noon.

Yet that’s essentially what we older writers have been doing since 2006. We allowed the MEGAs to guide us because they had the power, brains and resources and they said they would help us learn the new game. Right?

Right?

The Honey Badger Hustle

In my POV, making this simple, there are three options for writers who want to be PAID.

Option One: Refuse to Play

Some writers simply refuse to get on-line. They write books and have no want for social media, and that’s cool if you can write a book a month and simply bombard Amazon with so many books something eventually sticks (though without social media this is a tough way to get paid, but doable).

Option Two: Play Our Own Game

We build our brand. If we’re going to work for free then it will be for OUR BRAND. We build our brand any number of ways (my preference is the blog because no one can arbitrarily shut down your site). But whether it is videos, blogs, images, it is under OUR NAME.

We cultivate our own audience and eventually they will know us, hopefully like us and buy books and such.

Option Three: The Honey Badger Hustle

Option two can naturally dovetail into this. In fact, it is on my business plan. I hope more of you join us. The more honey badgers, the better for creatives. We must stop caring so much.

Trust the process. Build a brand, cultivate an audience and THEN approval and money eventually will come, but only if we are fearless and selfish. We must rabidly guard our dreams and HUSTLE.

Millennials inherently or accidentally understood that if they built it (the audience) the MEGAs would come…to THEM with MONEY.

We can learn from this. A lot of bloggers already have.

I know a mommy blogger who’s making $15,000 a month…off ADS ALONE.

Trust me, she started at ground zero and didn’t waste time or content on any MEGA to “launch” her. They pay HER to help THEM.

The Honey Badger Hustle is when we understand the hustle and use it to OUR advantage—out-hustle the hustler, so to speak. We still can write for MEGAs but in a symbiotic way. Everyone wins.

Now, I’m off to eat some snakes 😉 ….

In the End

We’ll unpack this grift more as we go along. This is a system over a decade in the making, and I can’t unravel it with one or two posts.

Yet, if you Honey Badger UP, learn to be fearless. You can be tough, but social media is NOT tough. Teenagers can figure it out. A toddler with an iPhone can do better than a lot of us.

I can help you. We are all worth being paid for what we do well and anyone shaming you for wanting to be paid is a user.

Honey badgers don’t care.

What are your thoughts? Have you been afraid of social media? Confused and thinking you were playing the old game and the old rules? Are you scared? It’s cool. Shows you are onto something. I am here. Haven’t abandoned y’all in eight years, so y’all are stuck with me.

I LOVE HEARING FROM YOU! And I am NOT above BRIBERY!

What do you WIN? For the month of OCTOBER, for everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

I hope you take the red pill, and I am here to guide you.

Social media is and should be super fun and that while you might need solid training, you DO NOT need a team of professionals paid a never ending stream of cash to “manage your brand”. You also DO NOT meed MEGAs to “launch you.”

I can train you what to do and how it all works. How you can create something where MEGAs come to YOU…

I have two upcoming classes Social Media FREEDOM–Harnessing Passion & Creativity to Cultivate Fans & Harnessing Our Writing POWER–The Blog

I highly recommend you sign up for one of our upcoming classes listed below, especially to properly prep for Nano.

Fail to plan, plan to fail 😉 .

****Note, those who subscribe by email, the visual gallery doesn’t show, so please click through and sign up! We look forward to seeing you and serving you in class! Helping you be the best you can so your work can stand apart 😀 .

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BRAND BOSS! When Your Name Alone Can Sell. $45 USD. Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
PLOT BOSS: Writing novels readers want to buy! $40 USD. Thurs., Nov. 16, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Bad Boys. $45.00 USD. Friday, November 17, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of John Seb Barber

This post is for creative professionals (namely writers) who desire to make a living writing full time being paid real money. If you’re writing simply for fun or enjoyment or love, then that’s wonderful! But if you long to be paid to do what you love, then read on because you work for free and there IS NO PAYDAY.

Sorry to be the one to break the news. Nah, not really.

Today’s post is one of those crucial conversations we need to have because the creative world is at a crisis point.

While New Publishing has offered us a lot of new freedom, freedom is always scary and even dangerous. It’s especially scary for those of us who grew up in a pre-digital world.

So let me say this…

Millennials often get a bad rap. They’ve been called “the most selfish generation ever.” They’re enamored with social media and obsessed with personal brands. Surrounded by participation trophies and emojis, these young people have a developed a sense of bulletproof “specialness” that rivals Steve Jobs’ famous “reality distortion field.”

BTW…this is not entirely a bad thing 😉

By the end of this post, I hope you see how much we have to learn from this insane, passionate and yes, often “deluded” generation. How maybe, just maybe these crazy kids know a hell of a lot more than we do and why we’d be wise to take some lessons.

Since this is a longer post, I am breaking into clear sections. I feel breaking this into separate posts would hurt the overall integrity of the lesson. So read all at once or in segments. But I do hope you read it though since your future is at stake and no, I am not just being dramatic.

PART ONE: Birth Of a STAR (Web 2.0)—Yeah This MATTERS

TADA! I am HEEEEERE! And I am SASSY! Call me “Internet.”

Most of us older folks were around when Web 1.0 (the Dot Com Revolution) went up in flames—along with our hopes of getting a job (*Gen X fist bump*). Yet, Millennials were too young to understand the chaos, too busy playing Nintendo to notice that their parents suddenly took up drinking while they stared, weeping, at their investment portfolios.

Then an odd thing happened, an event completely and utterly unplanned.

From the liquified remains of Web 1.0’s decaying parts something stirred in the primordial ooze of 0s and 1s. It wriggled a bit then skittered up from beneath. By sheer accident, a creation unlike anything witnessed in human history was born. Web 2.0 poked its head up from beneath the debris and it had evolved.

Evolved how?

Web 1.0 was fundamentally powered by PAID content. Web 2.0, however, was and continues to be powered by user-generated content (or UNPAID content).

This was a radical shift. Trust me, none of the dot.com investors were ever keen on the idea of anything being free. EVER. Like, how can we get stamps for email? They HATED free. Free couldn’t be controlled, measured and monetized. Free…was well FREE. Nobody gets rich with FREE? WTH?

The dreamers who envisioned the world they longed to build in Web 1.0 rejoiced at Web 2.0. Meanwhile those who were in the investing and making money business had more this reaction…

***And as a warning, I’ll be mixing metaphors more than a 90s DJ, but y’all are smart, so roll with it.

Anyway, to grasp what a HUGE deal this shift really was, think of it this way:

Web 1.0 was fossil fuels. Fossil fuels can be controlled, restricted and given a PRICE. This paradigm makes a small sector of people obscenely rich, and even more powerful.

Web 2.0, conversely, is more like fusion. Never ending energy and self-sustaining. Fusion, however, is impossible to control and a %$#@ to monetize. No business wants our cars or homes powered by fusion because we’d have all the power we needed…forever and they’d be irrelevant and broke.

Businesses don’t get rich unless they can control and monetize. Keep this in mind.

This, however, does NOT change the simple fact that Web 2.0 has the power of a star, or rather stars give it power 😉 .

Stars like our sun burn bright because of the constant fusion of two molecules of hydrogen that bond (share valences and electrons) to create helium. That bonding then releases energy in the form of light and heat. Sure one day the sun will burn out but that won’t be for a seriously long damn time.

Web 2.0 is powered in a similar fashion, though fusion is between people.

Users share valences, but instead of electrons, we share memes, pictures, videos, blogs, and gluten-free cherry cobbler recipes.

For instance, when one person shares a a funny meme, there is a reaction of energy (laughter) and this is then shared again–>setting off the reaction and constant energy that is the dynamic and powerful Web 2.0.

Made you laugh, right?

Without sharing of content, the energy would disappear much like a star winking out because it no longer had hydrogen (memes) to share.

This is a major reason why a lot of stuff needs to be shared for FREE. The more sharing, the more energy. If people had to pay a fee for every blog or picture they shared, they’d lose interest and likely rediscover a lost love for vinyl records and hanging out in mall food courts.

Initially this whole FREE was terrifying for the powerful and mega-rich who wanted to remain powerful and mega-rich. How could they keep and even increase their status and wealth in a world powered by FREE? Newspapers and magazine sales were plummeting and people were no longer paying attention to ads and commercials.

The RICH…they were suffering. This whole FREE thing threatened all they’d worked so hard to….wait a minute….

Never mind. Nothing to see.

PART TWO: YOU ARE A BATTERY

So how DID the mega-rich media brands (the MEGAs) talk us into making them even richer? They cooked up a business model that is pure (evil) genius and they did this by working together.

See, we all thought The Matrix was a movie *falls over laughing*. Nope. The MEGAs created their own Matrix and we (content creators) are the batteries.

Useful, necessary, disposable and easily replaced.

The entire MEGA business model hinges on content creators being ignorant because that’s how they can keep using us as a power source. The MEGA media brands needed content and the MEGA other brands (McDonald’s, GEIKO, Starbucks) needed to remain top of mind.

To accomplish this, though, they had to pull off a magic show that Criss Angel couldn’t pull off if he sewed himself to David Copperfield.

The MEGAs counted on basic human nostalgia and bet that we would hold on to outdated thinking of how success actually happens. If we did this, we’d make perfect and compliant batteries.

The MEGAs are counting on us working like it’s 1999, like we are in Web 1.0 (paid content) and not in Web 2.0 (unpaid content).

Batteries don’t work with near the gusto when they realize they’re being used up. How have the MEGAs been able to convince us to enslave ourselves? Same way as in The Matrix.

The MEGAs use our ignorance and fear of authentic freedom to keep us compliant. They manipulate the rules of how the world really works. How business and success works.

They feed us outdated advice we grew up on because that’s the world we know and that keeps us obedient.

We Need Exposure to Succeed—Wait….WHAT?

Back before Web 2.0 exposure was highly valuable. Writers could often get their start writing for free or nearly free for a small publication like a local paper. The point of taking the temporary monetary hit was that working for free was an investment in our future.

Exposure was a great idea. Why?

Because before Web 2.0 there was no other cost-effective way for the small fish to reach a large audience. Exposure gave us access to an audience we had NO OTHER WAY TO REACH.

With strict gatekeepers in play, we had to earn our stripes and build an impressive CV by working for free or close to free to get the paid work then the (ideally) BIG PAYING work. Can you say syndication?

Writers needed publishers, magazines and major media outlets for exposure, for the simple reason we had no other way to expose ourselves…that didn’t generally involve handcuffs, a hefty fine and court-ordered therapy.

Times have changed, yet many content creators haven’t realized this.

Gatekeepers are pretty much gone, everyone can be published, very few media outlets PAY, and exposure is a useless currency.

Yet many content creators still take it as payment. Why?

Because we are like the humans plugged into The Matrix, unaware what’s truly going on. We are operating as if we are in a world where a CV is vital, where some big brand is going to launch our careers and where all this exposure will eventually pay off.

The MEGAs saw what the Millennials saw. The MEGAs used (and continue to use) our ignorance to their massive advantage.

How? Hope you guys are ready to get unplugged. Expect some wobbly legs but you will be free.

The Red Pill or the Blue?

Today, I get to be Morpheus. The red pill or the blue? You can choose reality or the fiction of reality.

The MEGAs are counting on us a) remaining ignorant batteries who don’t understand how Web 2.0 really works or b) that we will swallow the blue pill and remain in Wonderland.

Wonderland is what we grew up with…that had no power to get big on our own and required the blessing of a MEGA if we hoped to make it BIG.

The blue pill reinforces that attention from a MEGA will catapult us into fame and fortune faster than you can say “Oprah’s Book of the Month.”

But that is no longer reality.

The Blue Pill World

We’re now in a world where the rich are getting richer by selling us (content creators) dreams and paying us in “exposure” dollars even though they know that currency is akin to paying us in Monopoly money.

The MEGAs know what Millennials knew all along. They SAW the door, too.

MEGAs know Web 2.0 works best when your brand can churn out great content. The more the better.

Unlike Web 1.0 where the content (I.e. an article) was the product for sale, now the content is merely the bait for paid advertising, products or services which is where the actual money is made.

The MEGAs are using our hard work, gifts and talent to make themselves richer and enhance THEIR brand at the expense of our dreams and futures.

The Matrix created by the MEGAs is NOT a symbiotic relationship. It is fundamentally parasitic. The MEGAs get stronger by using up compliant content creators paid in feel-goods and bragging rights.

Down the Rabbit Hole

What if we take the red pill though? What is really happening? What is going on?

If you’ve followed my blog long enough you know exactly what I feel about Huffington Post and the creator Arianna Huffington.

I’m using Huffington Post because *shrugs* it’s used writers for years. What? Seems only fair to me.

A.H. created Huffington to give unknowns a platform, where by some “exposure magic” writing entrepreneurs would eventually get paid writing jobs. Hey, maybe in the beginning that was the goal. Who knows?

Don’t care because the HuffPo goal, agenda, and business model shifted from symbiotic to parasitic faster than you can say CLICK FOR MORE!

See, Huffington Post figured out there were a lot of eager content creators dying to get their work out there and this presented a ripe business opportunity. With Web 2.0 Huffington Post knew it needed lots and lots of AMAZING content churned out everyday to make money…off ads and clicks.

But, like I said, this wasn’t 1999 and the money wasn’t in the actual content. #DUH

Consumers weren’t buying papers and magazines and were increasingly on-line looking for the same information. Why not give it for FREE?

Great idea!

The MEGAs saw this shift from paper to digital and knew people would gravitate to free. But therein lies the pickle. How can a MEGA brand increase profits?

Cut costs. What was the easiest cost to cut?

US.

How did Huffington Post do this? They built a Matrix.

Give writers some prestige, tell them they are building their CV and their brands just like the good old days. String them along with the promise this free work and “exposure” would eventually lead to a true payoff…and BOOM!

I now present countless worker bees making the sweetest honey ever made—but they will die before ever tasting a single drop.

Huffington Post made hundreds of millions of dollars (and still does) without actually having to pay most of the contributors. This of course, created an even BIGGER problem for the content creators (many still unaware of what’s really going on).

Other MEGA media outlets couldn’t compete if they continued to pay all of their content contributors, which led to these guys embracing the “Exposure Dollar Business Model” and creating their own Matrix.

Thus, any “platform” writing for unpaid MEGA brand for exposure simply led to even more unpaid (or low paid) work for another MEGA for even more exposure….

Welcome to THE MATRIX!

But How Do They Get Away With It?

***NOTE: I have hyperlinked all my assertions to show I am basing my arguments on facts, yet be aware every click feeds the very beast I want to starve.

Over time content creators gave and gave and gave, but the payoff never seemed to come. That was a serious problem, which required some quick thinking to remedy. The MEGAs were faced with two options.

Option One: Pay the content creators.

Scratch that. What kind of nonsense-crazy- mumbo-jumbo-talk is that? NO!

Option Two: Appeal to emotions.

Creative people dig emotions. Use words like “self-fulfillment” “giving” “contributing” “better world” and they’ll totally buy it.

Seriously, watch *giggles*. It works. Look at ’em GO!

I cannot make this stuff up.

Arianna Huffington, in an interview on Forbes encouraged entrepreneurs to focus less on money and power and more on giving and personal fulfillment. This interview was ironically right around the time she sold Huffington Post to AoL for $315 million.

I’m uncertain what dictionary A.H. used for her definition of “entrepreneur” but my definition of “entrepreneur” says nothing about yoga and also claims money and power are a pretty big deal.

Yep, looked up business plans and no diagrams of downward-facing-dog.

A.H. goes on in the interview to basically claim that lack of money and power is not our problem…stress is. We don’t need more money, we need meditation, a balanced meaningful life and more sleep.

Don’t know about you but give me more money and empower me and magically stress goes away. I also sleep way better when I’m not terrified of losing my home.

A.H. also continues to be paid big bucks to give lectures about liberating ourselves from desiring money and power and instead “embracing the third metric.”

…which just leaves me feeling dirty and used. #TouchIt #TouchTheThirdMetric

As mentioned Arianna Huffington sold Huffington Post to AoL for $315 million. Granted Business Insider rallied to her defense that she only made $21 million since a lot of other people (MEGAs) got a piece of the pie.

I feel so much better now t—NO! I don’t. Because of statement like this:

Aren’t you ready to unplug? I sure am!

PART THREE: Collapsing The Matrix—Just Say “NOPE!”

My goal is and always has been to empower authors (creative professionals) and show you that you are valuable and worthwhile.

I’m here to show you the door and help you unplug from the MEGAs that are using you up faster than a Dollar Store battery.

To do this, we’re going to inject you with a BS antidote. This might sting. I’m vaccinating you with a little Business 101.

This is how it all REALLY works.

Content Creators Eagerly Work For Exposure Dollars to Build MEGA BRANDS—> MEGA BRANDS Make MEGA Profits

Content Creators Work for Actual Dollars to Build MEGA BRANDS—> MEGA BRANDS Make WAY LOWER Profits

Content Creators Fed Up Being USED Tell MEGA BRANDS to Embrace Their Own Third Metric—> MEGA BRANDS Forced to Pay Content Creators or Write/Create Their Own $#!*

Content Creators Realize THEY ARE & HAVE ALWAYS BEEN the Brand & Do NOT NEED the MEGA BRAND—> Content Creators Finally Making REAL Money and Living a DREAM NOT an ILLUSION Because MEGAs NOW NEED THEM & PAY THEM

The revenue stream in the digital age is the pay per click, the ads, the products or services for sale. While this isn’t at all bad, why don’t we start doing some of this for ourselves?

I mean, if we’re going to invest months or years creating content for free, shouldn’t it pay off eventually for US?

Just leaving that there….

TRUTH: We don’t NEED the MEGAs. They NEED US.

Arianna Huffington at one point (no date listed on article) was making $2,330,000 per month off Huffington.

Off the blogs she personally crafted.

BWA HA HA HA HA!!!! #Kidding

The blog and brand (Huffington) makes the money and then proudly proclaims that writers working for free forever is “authenticity.”

Sadly this is more and more common. I blogged last year about Revolva and how Oprah’s conference paid in exposure dollars while not even offering so much as parking money for the performers. Exposure is impacting a lot of creatives, like the UK baker who refused to bake a FREE cake for the X Factor in exchange for “exposure.”

Pretty sure Simon Cowell isn’t paid in exposure dollars, and one would think a show as popular as X Factor would have a budget that accounts for expenses like…paying bakers for their cakes.

#LetThemEatCake

The thing is this. A lot of BIG BRANDS think like a business and work hard to plug us into their Matrix to increase profits.

This way we will sing, dance, write, bake cakes and on and on and on and all for free, while we take the third metric up the keister and claim it was fun!

Meanwhile, the MEGAs laugh all the way to the bank.

To be clear…

I WANT the MEGAs to make money! 

I want us ALL to make money!

We can HELP each other and that is actually happening…as in now. Go look on YouTube.

I have zero issue with us all walking away happy and well PAID. GIMME MO!

I DO, however, have a MAJOR issue with MEGAs making billions off using us, then shaming us for wanting to be paid in real money just like they are. 

We can be business partners, but partners in a mutually beneficial relationship. To do this? UNPLUG! Start valuing and building OUR brand.

Remember I told you Millennials were crazy smart?

The GREAT NEWS…

We have the ability to unplug and to tell any parasitic MEGAs they need to pay their power bill or they are CUT OFF!

#LightsOUT

Embrace “Special Snowflake” Thinking

Thank you you crazy-deluded-fearless-special-often-annoying-but-awesome-Millennials! It would figure your childlike enthusiasm, passion and raw fearlessness would give us the answer.

Don’t get crazy, though. Y’all aren’t the first special snowflakes to exist 😛 . *smooch*

Every MEGA in history started out with special snowflake thinking. It was their “reality distortion fields” that gave them their dreams and their drive that changed the world. This “specialness” fueled the will and passion to keep going no matter the pushback.

The MEGAs can still thrive, but how they continue to do business from here is up to US. Red pill or blue? Parasitic or symbiotic? What are you WORTH?

Web 2.0 does involve a lot of FREE but it works BEST when people come together in mutually beneficial ways. For instance famous YouTuber Lilly Singh a.k.a. IISuperwomanII gets to do what she was born to DO. What she LOVES!

To entertain.

The more she does what she loves, the better she gets at it. The more she improves, the larger her audience. The larger her audience, the more big brands want to be part of her world (and PAY HER to reach HER audience).

The Bloggess, Pioneer Woman and on and on started with simply reaching out and cultivating an audience and building their brand. They focused their talent, will, passion and love on THEIR DREAMS.

My new favorite book is The Power of Broke by Daymond John (known as The People’s Shark). Part of why I like it so much is he preaches a lot of what I’ve been hammering into writers since MySpace had a pulse.

WE ARE THE BRAND. YOU…YES YOU ARE THE BRAND.

The book I mentioned is a must read for writers. We need to value what we do and learn to think like a business.

Trust me, anyone who set foot on the set of Shark Tank and promised to pay in “exposure” and “warm feelings” would be laughed off the stage. That isn’t business. Don’t know what it is, but know it is NOT business.

Daymond’s book is filled with examples of entrepreneurs bootstrapping from nothing and using grit, imagination and creativity to eventually MAKE MONEY.

He highlights highly successful entrepreneurs of all ages and backgrounds to make his point (many who are in creative fields). His core concept, however, is the same one I’ve been preaching to writers for years.

The path to success is VASTLY different in the 21st century and buying into outdated ideas costs us BIG.

Millennials always understood they didn’t need MEGA brands to launch them. They always knew they were stars *hair flip*. They believed they just needed to build enough pressure to ignite and shine!

They didn’t use angel investors or banks or the idea of riding on MEGA coattails.

They used what they had on hand. Technology, social media, creativity and their insatiable desire to connect and share with passion and enthusiasm. Millennials grasped that if they kept at it, learned, grew, failed, retooled, and kept pushing in their relentless, fearless, and often annoying way…it could and would pay off.

If they created content people loved sharing…eventually MEGAs would come to THEM and PAY THEM.

Same with you guys! Too many writers are terrified of social media or blogging. Too many of you believe you need the magic feather of the MEGA, or a major marketing budget or lots of ads to make money. You aren’t a “real” writer without some MEGA stamp of approval.

You’re strung out, depressed and can’t get out of bed, not because you need meditation…you need money. And that is OKAY. Ignore the Matrix.

Really. It’s a scam. Just walk away.

Yes, it is scary, there is a learning curve and you’ll probably fail…a lot. But in the end? Don’t know about y’all, but I prefer authentic failure over fake success.

What about you? What are your thoughts?

I LOVE HEARING FROM YOU! And I am NOT above BRIBERY!

What do you WIN? For the month of OCTOBER, for everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

I hope you take the red pill, and I am here to guide you.

Social media is and should be super fun and that while you might need solid training, you DO NOT need a team of professionals paid a never ending stream of cash to “manage your brand”. You also DO NOT meed MEGAs to “launch you.”

I can train you what to do and how it all works. How you can create something where MEGAs come to YOU…

I have two upcoming classes Social Media FREEDOM–Harnessing Passion & Creativity to Cultivate Fans & Harnessing Our Writing POWER–The Blog

I highly recommend you sign up for one of our upcoming classes listed below, especially to properly prep for Nano.

Fail to plan, plan to fail 😉 .

****Note, those who subscribe by email, the visual gallery doesn’t show, so please click through and sign up! We look forward to seeing you and serving you in class! Helping you be the best you can so your work can stand apart 😀 .

Blurb - Cait Reynolds
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BRAND BOSS! When Your Name Alone Can Sell. $45 USD. Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
PLOT BOSS: Writing novels readers want to buy! $40 USD. Thurs., Nov. 16, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Bad Boys. $45.00 USD. Friday, November 17, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!

Image courtesy of Hoard Lake on Flickr Commons
Image courtesy of Hoard Lake on Flickr Commons

You aren’t famous until someone famous calls you an idiot 😛 . As I was finishing up Monday’s post about how to support writers with reviews, I found out I’d hit the big time. Thus I went over and checked out the counter to my scandalous assertion that writers should be paid.

Aaaand, yeah. Still not wavering in my opinion.

Also think my critics have missed the point. Instead of protecting the old ways that well, for lack of a better term… suck and don’t benefit writers (or readers, publishers or even bookstores)—how about we start doing things differently?

GASP!

So long as we protect sacred cows because that’s what we have always done? Nothing changes. But agents and editors and authors and pundits will all have fun blogging that I hate used bookstores (untrue) and how all of us should be grateful for the system as it is.

Sure.

As for me? I may not change things, but I will break my neck trying 😛 .

First, this bugged me.

Please Stop Assuming All Customers are Broke

Image via GrandmaLow WANA Commons
Image via GrandmaLow WANA Commons

Here’s the deal. I get that there are readers who’d be homeless if they bought books full price and new. I happen to be one of them. This is why I have an Audible membership, Kindle Unlimited and I love digital. Also, I never once stated to buy all books new. I said if you liked an author to do him or her a solid and strive to buy something new.

Yes, there is the avid reader who can’t buy every book new. There is also the dead broke reader. I’ve been that reader too. I kid you not, I was so poor when I became a writer I lived off Vienna sausages, generic saltines and ketchup packets from Wendy’s…so I could use that extra cash for the bargain rack at Half Price Books.

*fist bump*

To this day, if I walk in the house and the lights are off? I panic and wonder if my power has been shut off. So yeah. I totally get being that broke.

But that isn’t everyone.

And we live in a world of abundance and if people can afford an iPhone 6 they sure as hell can afford a digital copy of your next book if they loved the used copy. Because if our entire customer base is living in a refrigerator box, then we all just need to go get retail jobs and stop trying to make money.

Look around. Plenty of people live in nice homes and drive nice cars and carry nice handbags. They can shell out $10 for a book so stop being insulting.

Consumers with Conscience

Some of my critics said I was “reader shaming.” Fine. You are welcome to your opinion.

I disagree.

I feel most people don’t know how our industry works and how would they? Most of US are confused how it works since it changes every frigging month. Publishing barely changed for over a 100 years and now it looks almost nothing like it did 6 years ago.

Hell, we work here and half the time have to look up how we’re paid. Oh! But the average consumer! I guess she should just get that through osmosis.

My critics have pointed out that people are going to do what people are going to do.

The War on Piracy didn’t work! The War on Drugs didn’t work! You are an idiot for trying to fight it! Here get my books from THIS piracy site! Here!

Oh-kay…

*backs away*

All right. But those were policies of control. No one is suggesting federal laws making it illegal to go to Half Price Books or make people buy new. I am only asking we as writers educate our consumers because educated consumers change the market all the time.

Sometimes this has to do with the product itself. For instance a BPA-free water bottle is going to be way more expensive than a regular water bottle. But, because of education, consumers learned that paying more for a water bottle was in their favor if they didn’t want to end up with cancer. Education.

Commenters railed on the Passive Voice repost of my blog about paying more just so workers could be paid? What idiot would do that?

In fact my loudest critic in his comment section went for my throat using my own background in jewelry sales.

Did you go to a customer and say, “Here, pay $10,000 for this diamond instead of $6,000 so the miners get paid more money?” Huh? Huh? Did you? DID YOU? How did that work out on the sales floor, Kristen?

Actually, funny he should use that example. I once had a customer who was incensed at our diamond prices. He’d found a much higher quality diamond from another source for a fraction of the cost and demanded to know why we were charging more and ripping him off.

The reason?

When I looked at the “other source.” There was no guarantee that other diamond wasn’t a blood diamond.

Yes, in jewelry we do educate customers they’re paying more in part to ensure their diamonds weren’t mined by slaves and used to fund military warlords.

Education can guide consumers to pay more for a water bottle (product) and a diamond (conscience).

Fair Trade and Social Responsibility

Our consumers have a lot of power. No I don’t feel anyone owes me anything I haven’t earned. Never said that. I said I am tired of people acting like I should be grateful for “exposure” en lieu of being paid and if I say anything I’m a whiny jerk.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with writers asking for the sale. All people can do is say….no.

When I was in sales, the single largest reason most salespeople failed to make a sale? Never asked for it.

Simple.

But what are people saying to writers?

It is okay to have “exposure”…just don’t ask for the sale. Just be happy being exposed.

Huh? WTH? NO!

What good is a used bookstore for exposure if I then don’t tell people, Hey, if you find a book of mine there and you really love it, please buy my next one NEW? It’s how I get PAID.

OMG! How could you? You broke the cardinal rule of being a writer!

I will starve eating exposure sandwiches, okay? Thank you OATMEAL for this. Check out his comic on it.

And this notion that our books are SO expensive. Really?

I took a look at some really common items I buy all the time. Now, consumers buy these for two reasons. First, superior quality. Secondly, it supports the workers, the industries, the resources and the environment. I feel it’s a huge fallacy to believe all consumers only want more and cheap.

Many of us will do just fine with less and are just fine paying more.

Fair Trade Tea

Hubby’s favorite tea. We work to buy as much as we can organic, non-GMO and fair trade. We might not eat out as much. I cut a lot of coupons. Hubby picks on me that I can make a penny scream. But I spend my money on good quality products and industries I support.

Zhena’s Gypsy Tea promotes social responsibility in its business model.

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Fair Trade Coffee

I got this for my mother for her birthday because she is big into organic and loves coffee. BUY HERE. Purchases support coffee farmers of Nicaragua.

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THIS I am drinking as I write this because I’m too lazy to brew my own coffee and yes it’s yummy and buy some!

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Hubby’s FAVORITE! Fair Trade CHOCOLATE

Not only is the chocolate a far superior quality, we prefer to spend our consumer dollars supporting what we believe in. We don’t want cheap crappy chocolate because we can have more of it. We want THIS and yes it does cost much more but we think it’s worth it. BUY Zola.

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 10.13.46 AM

We love this brand of chocolate the best (even though it is usually $3.99 per bar on sale). A percentage goes to wildlife and rainforest preservation as an added bonus to being fair trade.

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Support chocolate addiction, workers AND critters!

Madecasse is another company we buy from. LOVE their story of what they are doing in Africa to change the economy. Such a wealthy nation should not be so poor. The only reason it is is because of the way business has historically been done.

Sound familiar?

Just because something has always been doesn’t mean it has to always be.

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 10.12.38 AM

I began buying Fair Trade years ago and as more people are doing it, the choices are expanding and prices are coming down from being ridiculous.  But what if people like me hadn’t been willing to pay $7 for a bar of chocolate?

Additionally, what if these companies used the same arguments as all my critics?

People on a limited income won’t be able to afford COFFEE. We can’t possibly do anything differently. That is consumer shaming!

No, if you’re on a limited income, buy the cheap stuff. If and when you can? Splurge and get the Fair Trade stuff and do the coffee workers a solid.

And if enough people buy Fair Trade? Maybe the major players will change their business models. It does happen. And money talks way louder than legislation. Hershey’s just announced its plan to become 100% Fair Trade.

The thing is, no not every person who buys coffee or chocolate or tea or bananas will buy from these companies. But just because everyone won’t buy from them, does it then mean it shouldn’t be an option at all? What if no one ever asked for the sale?

Hey, will you spend $7 to support a cocoa farmer in Madagascar?

*shrugs* Sure. Why not?

And if lunatics like me hadn’t been willing to buy Fair Trade…would Hershey’s have seen the need to change? Maybe. Odds are they wanted to make money and rock on!

Thus, if we can create a market for fair trade chocolate and fair trade coffee—both arguably items that people can live without and that do have far cheaper substitutes—then why is it such a stretch to believe readers can’t and won’t pay more for a book if we take the position of education and social responsibility?

Look, we’ve tried the other way. Toss a few million free books against a wall and hope something sticks. Heck, throw in pirated books for a million more! Social media! EXPOSE ME! EXPOSE ME!

Don’t ask for a sale. That is gauche. You’re an artist.

Yay! More exposure??? Awesome! No, I don’t need money. I do this for just…love.

We do have that option. Keep using it. Knock yourself out.

I’m Scandinavian. We loathe waste. I think it’s genetic. I don’t support companies that waste resources. I prefer to support companies that value resources. I think consumers could change publishing if we let them. If we stopped assuming they didn’t care, that all they wanted was cheap books no matter the consequences.

Guess what? Writers are resources. No matter what my critics say, you matter. You are not interchangeable cogs in a machine. And all the people railing that no one owes you (writers) a living. Guess what? No one owes the bookstores one either.

But maybe together we can make it better for all of us 😀 . I prefer to believe that Fair Trade Fiction can thrive. Instead of promoting pirate sites, why not promote sites and bookstores that are GOOD to authors?

These days, social responsibility is a bankable asset. If Starbuck’s, Apple, BMW and Google apply this and they’re worth billions, why not publishers/bookstores? Why not at least…try?

Reward bookstores who are Fair Trade Fiction Stores.

Roberto Ventra
Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Roberto Ventra

Hey, you bought used? Great! Did you love it? Awesome! Could you help out and buy the next one new? Wonderful! *fist bump* Now, you’re supporting the arts and the bookstore.

***Bookstores can’t pay rent off exposure either. I checked.

And if used bookstores wanted to add that extra touch of bohemian cultural to their “cultural center” then add some fair trade chocolate to serve with that fair trade coffee and maybe even promote some fair trade fiction at the checkout counter 😉 .

What are your thoughts? Do you feel guilted when someone shows you a rainforest on a chocolate bar or do you go…mmm, not today. I think I will just get the cheap stuff. Do you prefer to buy quality over quantity? Do you like companies that exhibit social responsibility?

Do you think this is a niche bookstores (used and new) could fill? Or publishers? Fair Trade Fiction. I kinda like the ring to that. But, in a world filled with cheap and free books that suck and are a torture to read…what is the consumer’s time worth? Get the vetting of a legacy publisher but with the pay scale of the indies. Just putting it out there. Are you tired of the attitude that we just can’t change anything?

Me? I’m sick of people (writers) being far more willing to promote pirates than other authors. What the hell is wrong with the world when people  will write a whole blog trashing me for saying you deserve to be paid while promoting pirate sites? Did I just fall down a rabbit hole?

Anyway. To each his/her own. I believe in you 😀

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of JANUARY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Y’all are going to have to give me time to tabulate December. Sorry. I am good, but not THAT good. Love you!

Remember to check out the new classes listed at W.A.N.A International. Your friends and family can get you something you need for Christmas. Social Media for Writers, Blogging for Writers, and Branding for Authors. 

Also, I have one craft class listed. Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line. Our stories should be simple enough to tell someone what the book is about in ONE sentence. If we can’t do this, often there is a plot problem. This class is great for teaching you how to be master plotters and the first TEN SIGNUPS get their log-line shredded for free, so you will be agent ready for the coming year.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

NOTE: Since there has been confusion about this article, I’m editing areas of confusion in another color to clarify and hopefully refine the conversation back to the original intent. It’s okay to promote used bookstores without bashing digital and Amazon and reader-shaming those who like e-books. It is okay to promote used bookstores without slamming the remaining ways we are paid. Writers cannot keep working for free and for “exposure.” 

All righty. I’d vowed to take off for the holidays but *laughs hysterically* sure. Like THAT was going to happen. No, seriously, I’m working on resting more. I’m also working on learning to shut up. Clearly those two goals are getting re-slated for 2016 resolutions because the whole “Inside words stay inside…”

Not working out for me. So why not leave 2015 with a bang? Haters gonna hate.

To quote the great Tywin Lannister, Lions do not concern themselves with the opinions of sheep.

Today I’m going to say something that could quite possibly be grossly unpopular, but whatever. It’s for your own good. I’m feeding y’all broccoli to offset all that fudge and alcohol you’ve consumed during the holidays.

There’s a trend that just makes me see red and I’m calling it out today because if we do not address this 500 pound used paper elephant in the room, then it’s going to be really, really hard for you guys to reach your dreams, which I assume is to work as a full-time PAID writer.

For those of you who do NOT want to be PAID to write? The following does not apply. If you are content to work a full-time regular job AND slave over a manuscript as a second job and your ONLY reward is simply nice reviews, compliments, hugs, cuddles, and the joy your stories might create in the hearts of others?

I am NOT talking to you.

If, however, you have ever complained about “an evil day job” that you really wish you could leave because it is sucking out your soul and your very will to LIVE day by day and you would rather be lobotomized than return to Satan’s Cube Farm after the holidays?

Then probably want to pay attention.

Readers ARE Excused

Readers are different. Readers are excused from what I am about to discuss. Readers are NOT writers. Yes, I understand that many writers began as readers. But there is a difference. We have progressed past the point of consuming an intellectual/creative property and now we are producing this intellectual/creative property.

We now have something at stake.

So why am I in a tiff?

Yesterday, I was on Facebook and it would have been one thing to see one writer post this link. But I saw like TEN writers post this link and they were excited…as if this Washington Post article were announcing a GOOD thing for our profession.

In an Age of Amazon, Used Bookstores Making an Unlikely Comeback.

Here’s the deal. I don’t care about bookstores. I care about writers. In fact, readers should care about writers more than bookstores because no writers? Well no real point in bookstores now is there? Because if a bookstore has no inventory, no point to its existence, so I feel we are wise to care about writers first…bookstores next.

Want to support the arts? Pay artists. Want to support books? Pay writers. It is simple. Do this? Bookstores will do just fine. Before we go any further, some education…

How Are Writers Paid?

This seems a bit silly, but we all need to learn this when we decide to do this writing thing as a job.

First of all, I am not against doing stuff for free. But the thing is? Writers already do all kinds of stuff for free. Every friend, colleague and family member expects us to be an on-call resume-writing, essay writing and editorial service.

Most of the time? We oblige.

Often, we blog for free (though if you do it the way I teach you actually DO get a return on that investment). Once we are published? We do interviews and guest posts for…FREE.

So please. Do not expect to ALSO get our books for free. We are frankly DONE with free.

How can a writer get PAID?

So happy you asked.

Digital pays writers the best. Then print copies. NEW ones. Buy on-line or in a bookstore or at an event in person. We writers get a royalty. Depending on the contract, writers can even get paid if a book is checked out of a library. That library PAID for the book and the writer was then, in turn, paid a royalty.

Upon so many times checked out? The writer is then PAID again for a new “copy” of the book.

Want to support a writer in the new year? BUY BOOKS.

Writers are NOT PAID for the purchase of used copies. So while I LOVE used bookstores I want to make a point here. Writers make no money.

As a professional, I treat my fellow writers-at-arms the way I want to be treated. I do not buy used books as a first choice. If I DO happen to buy a used book, I make sure to purchase at least a digital copy so that writer is PAID for his or her hard work.

But that article? That article in The Washington Post was beyond the pale. I was livid. Ripping off artists is not cool. It is not cultural, not avant garde. Why did I feel ripped off? Because the article was shaming digital and Amazon sales….the best ways writers earn a living. It was possible to hail the used bookstore without also further undermining writer’s earning abilities.

To be clear, I do not mind used bookstores. What I mind is the attitude that somehow digital is bad and Amazon is bad whereas “paper” and used bookstores are “cultural” and therefore GOOD and preferable for writers.

And unfortunately, I witness a lot of this among writers. I “get” that many of you love old books and browsing dusty old shelves and discovering old treasures. For out of print books? No argument from me. Rock on. But…

We have to be really, really careful that as artists we are not perpetuating the very behavior that pisses us off.

We like getting paid for our work. We work really really hard and expect (rightfully) that we should be rewarded for doing so.

Surgeons work hard and they expect to get paid. No one gripes when the sales clerk gets paid. Heck, no one gripes when the UPS driver gets paid or the barista who makes the triple-shot espresso peppermint soy cappuccino with half foam and vanilla sprinkles in a special red holiday cup and does not commit MURDER gets paid.

Oh, but it is artsy and bohemian to rip writers off because old books are cool? It’s okay to denigrate digital and hurt our best earnings?

No. And again, let’s keep the debate clear here because I can already hear the blogs now, “Kristen Lamb hates bookstores!” No. Pay attention.

I love old books. Have stacks of them. Want to buy old copies of Jane Eyre? Be my guest. I doubt Charlotte Bronte is counting on that Amazon royalty check to pay to upgrade her Scrivner or unscrew Windows 10 or, I dunno, eat.

Want to support civilization? Buy old books. Want to support a writer and his/her family and career? Buy new ones or e-books.

Encourage and educate readers to do the same. Because here is the deal. If we writers go around cheering how AWESOME used bookstores are without also asking for a new sale? How the heck are readers going to know they are benevolently gutting our careers?

They (readers) see us posting the links. They ASSUME we are benefitting. They have no idea how we get paid. Why not direct them to places where we might make money?

I will parse this article in a moment but first? Let’s look at some of the common reasons people defend the used bookstore.

Used Bookstores Allow Readers To Discover New Authors for a Smaller Investment

Okay, so does digital. Difference is? The writer actually gets paid from an e-book.

Know who else claims they are doing writers a favor by letting readers “discover” new authors on the cheap?

Pirates.

Writers are the first to grab digital pitchforks when their work is pirated because they don’t get paid any royalties. GASP! The horror!

Some site offering their books and they don’t get a royalty. Burn them! Take down the site! They are stealing! Oh, but when a used bookstore does the exact same thing also sells a book where a writer earns no royalties?

It’s okay. Because, well, it’s paper. It’s “culture.”

*head explodes*

Why? That pirate used bookstore gave you “exposure.” Shouldn’t you be happy that a reader could…”discover” you. That pirate used bookstore is doing you a favor really.

Just to be clear, piracy is a whole other blog and not the topic of today and I KNOW used bookstores are not actually stealing. I am only using this to point out how Janus-faced we writers can be about the “Ooh! Exposure!” crap. Exposure in and of itself is not always a good thing.

The Author Can Get “Exposure”

Will Wheaton took Huffington Post to task on this. Again, what I am seeing is a Digital Versus Paper Bias. Huffington is a Pulitzer-winning news outlet that when it sold last year, sold for over $300 million dollars. Why can’t it then PAY writers who submit? (Hint: It can. Just doesn’t want to because it doesn’t have to).

Oh but you get “exposure.”

Granted, I bit. I allowed Huffington to repost a couple of my blogs that had already gone viral. I was flattered to be asked to write for them and then wrote a couple of pieces just to be able to add “Huffington” to my resume of accomplishments.

But, I’m ultimately a businesswoman. I had to ask the HARD question. What were they doing FOR ME?

Truth was? Not all that much. It wasn’t worth being troll food, because, when you post for Huffington, you have no control over comments and you have to be nice to people whose sole purpose in life is to crap in your Cheerios.

Here? I am benevolent dictator and do not have to be nice.

If you want to comment here and write something like this:

Kristen, you are a talentless hack and a hopeless amateur. Every time you speak a kitten dies from the sheer stupidity you spew into the ozone layer.

I have this wonderful thing called “edit function.” I can delete. OR, I can change your comment to read.

OMG, Kristen. You are supreme writer of all that is genius and I want to be JUST LIKE YOU one day. I have even started dressing JUST LIKE you, which is weird because I am a dude! <3 <3 <3

Probably shouldn’t have told y’all that. Oh well. Sally forth…

Yes, here I blog seemingly for “free.” But I trust me, I don’t. Not wholly. Because this is MY blog. I own the content. I make money off my hard work. Which, by the way, is as it should be.

By the way. YOU work hard and guess what? I believe YOU should be paid, too. Wow! Imagine that.

Heresy!

And writers seem to have no problem getting very indignant that so many blogs and digital outlets expect them to work for free.

Oh, but sell my paper books and make all the profit? Go ahead! That’s “culture.” 

And before anyone gets too ticked at me, yes, Amazon sells used books, but the difference is that there is ALSO an active promotion of that author’s OTHER books that are NOT used where the writer CAN be paid. On Amazon, it is also extremely easy for a browsing reader to discover and purchase other titles by that particular author.

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So maybe I do buy a used book because it is out of print, but then I CAN buy something IN print so the author can…I dunno. EAT.

Back to This Article…

I think why this article aggravated me so much (aside from writers promoting the heck out of it) was it was treated as it it was some “grand thing” for the arts and some big favor to authors. It isn’t. It helps readers. YES. Writers? Eh, not so much. Passive exposure is not nearly as effective as it once was. Sure, before the Internet when our only option to get more books was to go to B.Dalton? yes, exposure was great. Now? It isn’t near enough though writers keep getting told it should be.

Let’s take a look, shall we? From the article…

Quote #1

Sierra, like ­other book lovers, has read articles about slowing e-book sales and watched as independent bookstores such as Politics and Prose thrive, catering to readers who value bookish places as cultural hubs and still think the best reading device is paper.

First of all, Sierra, e-book sales are NOT slowing. That is a patently FALSE claim that does not account for the explosion of indie and self-publishing. Yes, e-book sales have slowed for traditional publishers and print has picked up for traditional publishers, but namely because when publishers insist on charging the same for a PAPER book as an e-book? Readers will just go ahead and buy paper because $14.99 is just simply ridiculous for a digital book.

But even if that were the case, if you really do love books? Be a sweetheart and try supporting those who write them. Thank you.

Quote #2

And it’s a business with good economics. Used bookstores can beat Amazon and other online booksellers on price, offering shoppers both a browsing experience and a money-saving one. Also, profit margins on used books are better than new ones.

That part I outlined in red was my favorite.

It is amazing how much profit margins increase when you don’t actually have to pay the person who worked long and hard and sacrificed to create the product you are profiting from. The sky is the limit! Again, why are they insisting on bashing the best ways writers get paid new? Yes, I was hot.

Then there is THIS gem.

Quote #3

“It’s (the used bookstore) like having a museum or a theater. It’s a cultural center.” ~Gottwals

Except that museums are supported by private donations, government funding, grants and patrons PAYING A FEE to walk around and look at the collections. And theaters? Same thing. Try going to Phantom for free, Mr. Gottwals. Good luck getting a seat NOT in the nosebleed section for under $250.

Quote #4

“I can find these books online, but I don’t want to…and if you don’t support the little guys, they won’t be around anymore.” (Customer)

Exactly, dear customer. If you don’t support the little guys they won’t be around. They will have to give up writing and work retail and then saw open their wrists with a spork while listening to Bjork and I hope you are happy #writerkiller  😛

We Must Take Ourselves Seriously

Yes, I admit it. I’m ranting today. Why? Because if writers don’t take themselves seriously, why would anyone else? When I protested the article on social media, writers argued with me. They acted as if a book is the same thing as a house or a car.

NO.

A car is a tangible property, not intellectual property.

I have no problems with people reselling books to used bookstores. I do it. I buy books from used bookstores. BUT, I also actively go out of my way to make sure writers are PAID. 

Because here’s the thing. We cannot cheer that used bookstores are “socking it to Amazon” and at the same time bemoan we aren’t making any money.

We cannot collectively cheer the “return of paper books” when they are in the used form and then also cry that we can’t leave the day job because we are not being paid for our work.

We can’t promote articles like these that reader shame people who like digital and Amazon, directing readers to outlets where we don’t make royalties and then stand mystified that no one takes our career seriously. Why are we promoting businesses who brag about not paying us? Again *head explodes*

We cannot say, “Well I am just happy when a reader discovers my story” if we are not in fact simply okay with just that. If cuddles and compliments are enough? Then good. But do not let me hear any complaint. I do not want to hear ONE word about how much that day job sucks.

And if we ARE going to promote used bookstores (which IS fine) then by GOD educate readers and ask for the sale. Let them know that you will not be paid off that sale and to please also buy a full-price version if they like your book.

Educate your readers because the bookstores aren’t going to. Clearly they do not care if writers get paid because they make money either way. In fact bookstores make MORE money if writers don’t. That’s just math.

Working for free while others are sole profiteers is NOT okay. It is exploitation. And we’ve done enough being expected to work for free. 

No one else works for free. You shouldn’t either.

You don’t fill up gas and expect it for free. You don’t expect cashiers to work at the grocery store for free. You don’t expect people who cut your hair to do it for free. You value others and what they contribute to your life. And maybe I’m a jerk because all I am asking…all I am imploring is that you give the same honor to yourself.

Because in the new year? It won’t matter one whit what resolution you make. WE are the first step. WE have to draw the line and say that what we do has value. And we have to call people out when they devalue what we do.

And when bookstores go around bragging to The Washington Post about how much profit they make because the margins are so much better on used books than on selling NEW books (which is code for:We don’t have to pay royalties) and expect me the author to bite on some Book-Buying-Trickle-Down-Economics wrapped up with an “It’s Culture” ribbon?

NO!

Yes, I love paper books too. I buy them NEW.

Honor yourself. Honor your fellow authors. I love all of you. I believe in you and hope you see that I DO support bookstores, but dammit…it is about %$#ing time they returned the favor and supported those who are bleeding to line their pockets. You can promote used venues without hamstringing the artists who are supplying inventory. It IS possible to promote a used bookstore without undermining authors making a living wage.

You matter. Your dreams matter. Your work matters.

What are your thoughts? Have I finally gone too far? She is MAD! Mad it tell you! I would blame it on alcohol but I haven’t started drinking…yet. I needed to drink after that article. What are your thoughts? Do writers need to stand up more? We already do way too much for free. We needed to with the expansion of Web 2.0 But now that the Internet and social media has hit a critical mass, do you think we need to step back and start saying NO more? What are your thoughts? Were you unaware how writers were paid?

Do you think use bookstores need to do more to support the actual WRITERS instead of this cop out of “exposure”? Maybe take some of those “high profits” and invest in apps or tablets with links to NEW works by the authors? Maybe let authors come in and talk and promote NEW works so they can continue to WRITE? What are your thoughts? Are you dressing just like me? 😀

By the way, I LOVE this short film. There IS STRONG adult language so you are warned. But THIS!!!!!!

I love hearing from you!

Make SURE you sign up for my upcoming classes! This is part of how I fund my plans for global domination. Purchase a class! Buy a book! OR ignore all that follows but DAMN sure buy all your books NEW or I WILL FIND YOU O_o ….

Remember to check out the new classes listed at W.A.N.A International. Your friends and family can get you something you need for Christmas. Social Media for Writers, Blogging for Writers, and Branding for Authors. 

Also, I have one craft class listed. Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line. Our stories should be simple enough to tell someone what the book is about in ONE sentence. If we can’t do this, often there is a plot problem. This class is great for teaching you how to be master plotters and the first TEN SIGNUPS get their log-line shredded for free, so you will be agent ready for the coming year.

Enough of that…

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of DECEMBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kenny Louie
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kenny Louie

We live in a really strange time and technology has altered the publishing landscape into something we could never have imagined in 1999. The changes have been nothing short of science fiction. Well, buckle your seat belts because it is about to happen again. Just about the time we kind of get the knack of things, it seems there is yet another upheaval and we have to adapt.

This is why I wrote my social media branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.  My methods keep us from having to tear down and start over every time something in the tech world goes topsy-turvy and we can maintain brand momentum no matter what. But this time it isn’t social media throwing the curve ball.

It is Amazon.

I’ve worked hard to be balanced in all my opinions about publishing. Yes, New York had (has) its problems, but when many authors were railing to tear down traditional publishing, I worked hard to show that there are two sides. Amazon might favor authors and genuinely be on our side, but that could change so be wary. I detailed a lot of my concerns a couple years ago (2012!) in a post, Amazon—Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts.

Just so y’all know, sometimes I scare myself with my predictions because science fiction easily becomes dystopian fiction. Just a slice…

Amazon is the 500 pound gorilla in the room, only we can’t see it because it is hidden neatly inside a giant digital Trojan Horse. Don’t get me wrong, I buy plenty of stuff off Amazon, and they have done a lot to help shake up the industry and get New York hopping. Without them, I don’t believe we would have seen so many miraculous changes so quickly.

Ah, but every fairy tale has a dark side…

…once the competition falls away and Amazon burns New York to the ground? What happens to the writer? What happens when we fall asleep and it is safe for Amazon’s Trojan Horse to unleash the gorilla?

When NY is razed and Amazon has no real competition, do they have to keep giving us the same sweet royalty rate? And they already have a nasty reputation. They pulled that little stunt with a publisher who dared to cross them. Two years ago, they removed all the “Buy Buttons” off all the Macmillan titles. So, if Amazon will use the brass knuckles on a major publisher that crossed their path…what about us? The little guys? What happens when a writer miffs them and they unleash the gorilla?

Lord Acton so eloquently said, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and that statement is as relevant today in 2012 as it was in 1887, because while industries change and technology changes, humans are timeless. So what happens when it’s Amazon’s turn to hold all the keys to the kingdom? Will they use them any differently than those they crushed to gain them?

Unlike NY, Amazon isn’t searching through all the millions of wanna-bes for a handful of investments. Anyone can publish quickly and cheaply. Writers are running to them! The problem with this is they get all the benefits of being a publisher without any real sacrifice.

A lawyer friend of mine noted that when writers publish on Amazon, we all agree to the same blanket contract. This gives Amazon all the perks of being a publisher without concerning itself with any of the traditional protections for the writer.

And, I understand that writers haven’t been treated all that great in the past, but we need to ask the tough question. Is this future better? Is trading one dictator for another a good plan?

When I wrote this, I had reservations about digital publishing. Granted I love it. When you write books on social media, traditional publishing just doesn’t fit and I would never have been able to publish at all without it. I also love the global distribution. But, the idea that our words are stored in the ether gives me pause. In this post I just cited, I mentioned the pace of expansion, how quickly Amazon was making money. Yes, a 57% gain in one quarter was awesome, but…

As a former salesperson, I knew there would come a time when that windfall would taper off.

What then?

I ran across this article yesterday on Gizmodo. Amazon is launching a new “idea.” They are experimenting with the notion of paying authors based off the number of pages actually read. Yes, it is a real thing. I had to look too. See HERE.

According to Gizmodo’s article:

“Beginning on July 1st, authors who self-publish through Amazon’s KDP Select Program will become part of a new publishing experiment. Currently, Amazon divvies up a pot of money to its native authors each month, based on the number of times their e-Books are “borrowed” through two separate Kindle services: Kindle Unlimited, a standalone, $9.99 / month subscription service, and the Kindle Lending Library, an Amazon Prime membership perk. In the new scheme, authors will be paid for each page that remains on the screen long enough to be parsed, the first time a customer reads the book.”

Before anyone thinks I am anti-Amazon or yelling “FIRE!”, I’m not. In fact, this is too new for me to even fully know how I feel. Right now this only affects books borrowed.

For all we know, this experiment remains in the realms of a narrow section of the overall Amazon model (the lending part) and the impact is not that large or might even work out well for authors. But I do think we have the responsibility to be watchful and if I am really honest? This trend scares me more than a little bit.

Why?

Because businesses are in the business of making money, not giving away money. If they can find a way to increase profit margin, they will. Sometimes this works in our favor. I.e. Efficient distribution. Sometimes? It gets a bit 1984 and paying us by the page seems way tempting to those who are in the business of running publishing empires.

Benefits of Being Paid by the Page

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Yes, I see the “benefits.” As it stands, a writer who publishes an awesome page-turner is paid the same per unit as someone who publishes a book unfit for human consumption. Additionally, writers who publish longer works are paid the same as authors of short works.

Under this plan, the author of a riveting 120,000 word epic fantasy will be paid more than an author of a riveting 50,000 word short. Authors of works so boring it would peel the paint from the walls will get paid the same, no matter the length.

To Amazon’s credit, this is actually a very fair way of doing business with writers.

But this notion of being paid by the page is concerning. Yes, it is all well and good when this “experiment” is part of a small slice of the Amazon publishing model, but what if this expands? What if the test “works so well” that it becomes part of the overall publishing model? In ten years, how will we be making our money? Off books sold? Pages read? A combination of both? Is this good or bad? I don’t know.

But, no matter what, we are wise to pay close attention. It is our future on the line.

Separating the Slush

I can see one major benefit from this notion of “paid by the page.” I think it might be the ultimate playing field leveler. Why? One of the largest problems that has faced the Digital Publishing Paradigm is the slush. In the traditional model, we had gatekeepers to separate “good books” from “bad books” or even simply delay “books that needed more work and weren’t ready”.

In the past few years, the slush pile has been offloaded to the readers. To combat this, we’ve seen the rise of sites like Goodreads to help guide readers to the good stuff. Book reviews and book reviewers have also tried to intervene. Yet, despite these noble efforts, we have also seen book reviews grossly abused (I.e. sock puppets inflating bad books and trolls tanking good books). We’ve also witnessed all kinds of algorithm abuse.

If we trace the trajectory of this idea, how long will potential readers rely on reviews? If I were Amazon, I would start promoting works based of rates of completion. Could we be witnessing the birth of an entirely new form of ranking?

My book has a 87% rate of completion instead of My book was #1 in Western Romance.

If we (readers) can judge off rate of completion, this could change everything. Sure Big Shot Mega Author with a gajillion-dollar marketing budget sold X books, but the book only had a 34% rate of completion. But Jane Newbie who has thus far only sold Y amount of books and has only her social media for marketing has a 97% rate of completion. Hmmm, this might impact my decision.

Ugh, but the dark side of this…

If rate of completion extends into BOOKS SOLD (not just borrowed) as a way of accurate promotion, how long until the world can see that no one made it past Page 50 of our book? Before, we simply had to sell copies of our book. Now? We also have to face another layer of judgement?

I mean, the good side is that trolls and sock puppets will no longer impact us the same and if we write really good books we are rewarded, but am I the only one feeling the need for a drink pressure?

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stoere Schrijfster.
Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stoere Schrijfster.

The Writing Matters No Matter What

This is why for eight years I have worked very hard to train you guys for success in the new age of publishing. In the 21st century publishing world, we must have a brand and a viable platform. But, we also must write excellent books. It is why I have blogged and taught on all aspects of publishing. Social media is limited in power if the book is weak and vice versa. Our writing remains our greatest sales tool.

This first five pages are essential (and now it seems the rest of them are about to be PRETTY important as well).

As an editor, I can almost always tell all that is wrong in a book in 20 pages or less. Usually, within 5 pages I can spot all weaknesses and bad habits that are likely to repeat throughout the work.

I really don’t need to read the whole thing.

For instance, if a writer shifts P.O.V. so much I can’t keep up with who’s head I am supposed to be in? I am fairly sure this is going to continue. If a writer overwrites and drowns me in purple prose? Probably not going to start writing lean and clean after page 25. And, there are more red flags the book is weak, but we aren’t talking about those today. I HIGHLY recommend Les Edgerton’s book Hooked and I am also about to teach my First Five Pages class if you want some more hands-on instruction.

This is also why I have spent so much time discussing flashbacks lately and how to use them well. I know they are a legitimate literary device. I know they can be done well and are done wellBut, I also know that flashbacks used poorly are probably the single greatest reason a reader will stop reading. And, in a world where we are paid by the page? That becomes more than a big deal.

We will continue talking about “bending time” next post. We are going to explore non-linear plotting. My problem with the term “flashback” is we tend to use it to broadly and lump every instance of going back in time into one term. So we are going to unpack some works that seem to “flashback” all over the place, but we will see they really don’t. We will dissect this unique way of delivering story.

In the meantime, does this “paid by the page” freak you out too? Or do you think this might be the great playing field leveler we have all been waiting for? Sure, Big Shot Writer sold X books, but only has a 25% completion rate, where as Small Guy Writer sold fewer books, but has a 90% completion rate? Would this influence your purchasing?

Do you like the idea of being paid by the page? Do you think it rewards good writing? Do you think it is one more reason writers are going to need therapy?

I think it’s hard enough selling copies of books, but if I saw that those who bought only made it 50% through? It probably would depress me, but maybe I could look at the book more closely and fix WHY people weren’t finishing. Maybe it would be the world’s most accurate critique. Maybe I would be grateful. And maybe I am a Chinese jet pilot.

What do you think? This revelation is so new, I am unsure even what I think, so I would appreciate your opinions.

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of JUNE, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Classes:

Before we go, y’all asked for it so here goes. I have two classes coming up. The class on log-lines Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line is $35 and as a BONUS, the first ten sign-ups get to be victims. IF YOU ARE QUERYING AN AGENT, YOU NEED A PITCH. I will pull apart and torture your log-line until it is agent-ready for FREE. 

Beyond the first ten folks? We will work out something super affordable as a bonus for being in the class so don’t fret. I’ll take good care of you. AND, it is two hours and on a Saturday (June 27th) and recorded so no excuses 😛 .

I am also running Hooking the Reader–Your First Five Pages.  Class is on June 30th so let’s make Tuesdays interesting. General Admission is $40 and Gold Level is $55 but with Gold Level, you get the class, the recording and I look at your first five and give detailed edit.

Our first five pages are essential for trying to attract an agent or even selling BOOKS. Readers give us a page…maybe five. Can we hook them enough to part with cold hard CASH? Also, I can generally tell all bad habits in 5 pages so probably can save you a ton in content edit.

 

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook