Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Categorized: Blogging

writing exposure, Exposure dollars, Pexel, Kristen Lamb, writers working for free, writers working for exposure

Writing exposure. A phrase that makes my left eye twitch. For over a decade, many writers have been killing themselves (and their careers) believing a lie, an illusion, and a flat out SCAM. Countless writers have been giving their best to launch their brand and their career, trusting those who claimed to be helping them…doing them a favor even.


Writers and other creatives truly believed good content, diligence and hard work would pay off…and it does. Writing exposure doesn’t have to be dirty and predatory. Getting our name and work out there is critical in Web 2.0 (a brand/platform).


We’ve been taken unfair advantage of, and this nonsense ends NOW. We’ve been part of an illusion. We knew writing was a gamble, yet many of us fell for a grift.

We thought we were a contender, never realizing we were actually the mark.

Yet, knowledge is power. There’s nothing wrong with risking and losing. In fact it’s necessary. We learn more from failure than success. We grow and mature and get better.

There are no sure wins, no sure-fire paths to success with an express elevator. Every path to being a contender is a gamble.

But if we keep losing and losing and losing…and losing, something is going horribly wrong. My goal today is to take yet one more step toward righting the wrongs committed against hard-working creatives and showing them a way to be free.

writing exposure, Exposure dollars, Pexel, Kristen Lamb, writers working for free, writers working for exposure
Image courtesy of Eflon via Flickr Creative Commons

Eighteen months ago, all I knew was I was angry—okay foaming at the mouth pissed OFF. I knew creatives were being used, just was unsure how. It’s taken me over a year and a half to figure out the hustle, to understand exactly what game the MEGAs are playing and how they’re using this to (often) play us for suckers.

***NOTE: For anyone new to this blog or series of posts, when I use the term MEGA, I’m referring to very large wealthy brands who are super fond of paying creative professionals in “exposure dollars”…all the while knowing that currency hasn’t been valuable since Abercrombie and Fitch was cool.

These brands are also wealthy enough to pay contributors, but why should they if content creators are so eager to work for free, for the golden writing exposure?

Yes, still looking at you Huffington Post.

As mentioned in my last post Pay the Writer 2–Out Hustle the Hustlers, the key (aside from realizing we’re being hustled in the first place) is to study the hustle long enough to unravel how it all works.

This important because we must know our weaknesses and how they’ve been used against us.

The LOVE of the GAME

writing exposure, Exposure dollars, Pexel, Kristen Lamb, writers working for free, writers working for exposure

In Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, one of the main characters, Wednesday—who’s a shameless con man and a grifter—relates the story of the infamous 19th century gambler, Canada Bill Jones, who was in a small town doing what he loved to do.


Of course Jones was also steadily losing. A friend tried to intercede and told him, “The game is rigged.” Jones’s famous reply was, “I know, but it’s the only game in town.”

Thing was, Jones loved to gamble. It was who he was, and his gambling was a passion that drove him and gave him some kind of pleasure, even while losing.

We writers can be the same way, blinded by a similar passion, which is why we can make easy marks paid in exposure dollars.

We love to write. It’s who we are and we’re often willing to do it for FREE. We are willing to keep writing even when we’re being taken unfair advantage of…because we love it so much.

Thing is, those who are most likely to prey on creatives know that about us. They use this love—our passion—to keep us playing a losing game.

We might not see this weak spot, but predators will and do. The MEGAs couldn’t get away with the grift as successfully as they have if writers got smarter.

Which is where I come in. My first revelation is this:

The MEGAs are not the only game in town.

writing exposure, Exposure dollars, Pexel, Kristen Lamb, writers working for free, writers working for exposure

We might be gamblers, but we can refuse the grift.

We do have better and smarter options that pay out real money not “exposure dollars.”

The MEGAs have been playing the odds, wagering that writers would fail to see the grift and keep on hitting PUBLISH with the raw enthusiasm of a hamster randomly rewarded with a cheap sugar cube. 

When (or if) a writer complains about never being paid, the MEGA is there to gently remind the writer that the entertainment business is a gamble…which is not exactly a lie.

But it isn’t entirely the truth, either.

The problem is we believe we’re playing Publishing Poker at the BRAND Bellagio, when it’s more like the Content Cup Shuffle run by some shady dude on a street corner. He rooks us in with an “easy challenge” and a quick “win” that keeps the hustle going.

writing exposure, Exposure dollars, Pexel, Kristen Lamb, writers working for free, writers working for exposure
Image courtesy of oatsy40 Flickr Creative commons

Can we spot the peanut?

Eventually, we’re all hunting for a nut that’s no longer in play—unless you count us, because only a nut would think they could win this game.

The MEGA game (anything paying in only “exposure” dollars) can never be won…because it’s a hustle. The second every creative realizes this and refuses to play, the MEGA house of cards implodes.

Okay, so knowing writing is a gamble, it’s wise to learn how professional gambling operates so we can spot the game from the grift. We can leave Plastic Cup Dude the peanuts and get involved in a real game we can win.

Understanding how to win involves knowing what game to play and with whom. We need our work out there. Writing exposure critical, but we must control the game like pros.

Professional Poker

writing exposure, Exposure dollars, Pexel, Kristen Lamb, writers working for free, writers working for exposure
Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Goeffrey Fairchild

See, folks who make a living playing professional poker understand the casino is a means to an end and vice versaPro gamblers don’t let the crystal and marble and all-you-can-eat buffets go to their heads. Flattery is rampant, but the pro shrugs it off.

It’s a distraction.

No professional gambler wins every single game. They also lose. Yet, in the end, the casino profits no matter what because they are in it for the long game. There are enough games going on for it to all work out. Some win, some lose but ultimately the chandeliers are paid for.

The pro gambler fundamentally understands this:

While the House is friendly, the House is not the gambler’s friend. 

The pro gambler always remembers and respects this difference. Yet, the House remembers and respects this as well. The House knows they need the gamblers, and it’s unwise to use and abuse the guests who pay the bills. They need to let the gamblers win.

Greed is a double-edged sword handled with care by both gambler and the House.

Professional Publishing IS a Gamble

writing exposure, Exposure dollars, Pexel, Kristen Lamb, writers working for free, writers working for exposure
Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Club Paf

Publishers, agents, magazines, and book distributors are not our friend, but this doesn’t make them our enemy either—much like the pro gambler and the casino.

Yet the difference in the street hustle versus the pro game is this:

The hustle is ALWAYS a parasitic relationship (one side works for exposure and the other gets PAID REAL MONEY).

With the pros, it’s a far more symbiotic partnership, with BOTH sides taking calculated risks, playing odds, hedging losses and everyone hoping to win big. BOTH SIDES get PAID REAL MONEY.

Legit publishers appreciate that wins and losses generally balance out over time, so long as they aren’t being stupid. Sure the Big Five give Neil Gaiman the red carpet treatment, because he’s a high-roller.

Mr Gaiman has earned that red-carpet treatment because the House has made serious bank off his work (and even Neil Gaiman started out as a small time player in the beginning). Yet, after years of hard work and calculated risks, Neil Gaiman is a CONTENDER.

Contenders are the household name authors who bring the House enough revenue to cover that newbie who seemed so promising…yet fizzled.

For the pros, it is a game of balancing risk and reward for all.

The rest of us who are NOT yet a contender like Neil Gaiman have a path. We hone our craft, build our audience, build our brand, learn the business of our business.

We work hard and learn to be patient while also being simultaneously relentless….all the while appreciating the deck is stacked against us. Writing exposure vital, but must be done with strategy for the payoff.

writing exposure, Exposure dollars, Pexel, Kristen Lamb, writers working for free, writers working for exposure

Unlike 20th century publishing, there’s now more than one road that leads to being a CONTENDER.

There are a number of paths writers can take…but they are all a gamble. Legacy, small press, indie, self-pub, blog-to-book, crowd-sourcing, hybrid, and on and on. Lots of roads and many paths to being a CONTENDER.

This said some paths are not paths. They are DEAD ENDS where WE (writers) are the other white meat. These “paths” are scams. Writing exposure often means we’re just food for the MEGAs’ insatiable hunger for free content.

Writing Exposure: Gamble or Grift? How Can We Tell?

writing exposure, Exposure dollars, Pexel, Kristen Lamb, writers working for free, writers working for exposureGood question and there are a LOT of grifts going on, which we will systematically tackle in other posts. Today, for the sake of brevity, we’ll talk about the one that burns my tail more than any other and is the most common.

The Blog for Our MEGA & Use Our BIG Name & HUGE Audiences Grift

writing exposure, Exposure dollars, Pexel, Kristen Lamb, writers working for free, writers working for exposure

One of the best ways for writers to create a brand and eventually sell books and make money is to blog. That is a fact. How we go about it, however, makes a HUGE difference. MEGA brands, however, as mentioned in my previous post, keep us writing like it’s 1999.

Often a MEGA will come and say something like, “Hey! We saw your post on BLAH and love it! We want to showcase your talent!”

Beware of flattery.

“It’s easy, too!”

Beware of easy.

Often they will come at you with a plan that sounds like sheer genius. We may have blogged to the ether. We are tired and we’d like some help. We don’t want to go it all alone and are looking for some benevolent force to propel us to a new level…and they know that.

The MEGA might say something like:

“We don’t even expect you to write a new post. Why NOT repurpose something you’ve ALREADY written? We can get it to a larger audience. You can still write on your little blog and get our audience too. It’s a favor…really.”

Hmmm, maybe…

“AND you get exposed to our audience which is millions! That and you can link back to YOUR blog and BE DISCOVERED!”

writing exposure, Exposure dollars, Pexel, Kristen Lamb, writers working for free, writers working for exposure

Before you get all excited about writing for exposure, ask the next logical question.

How did the MEGA know to contact you in the first place?

Often a MEGA will contact us because our post was doing well enough on its own to get their attention…meaning it can get the attention of OTHERS as well.

The reason this is a grift is the MEGAs know a couple things many writers do not.

First, they understand your content was good enough for people to notice—FOR THEM to notice–and they want to cash in on opportunity. If they can get our work (excellent & FREE bait) on their site, every click on our good work pays THEM MONEY because they’re optimized in a way we can never compete with.

We’re working for exposure while they are paid in cold hard cash.

writing exposure, Exposure dollars, Pexel, Kristen Lamb, writers working for free, writers working for exposure
Image via Jeremy Noble courtesy of Flickr Creative commons. Text added.

Secondly, they understand how search engines work. The MEGAs know search engines like Google penalize for duplicate content.

They know it is impossible for a writer to serve two digital masters.

What this means is that if I post a blog here on my blog and then the same post at Huffington…the bigger SEO shark wins.

In fact, even if I wrote two completely different blogs…bigger SEO shark would likely win because they beat me hands down with SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

I cannot compete with an entity that has tens or hundreds of writers putting out new content daily…short of cloning myself.

Anyone googling my name would be far more likely to find the MEGA and not me. The reader clicking on MY content will also PAY the MEGA and NOT me.

By blogging for exposure I am unwittingly cannibalizing my own brand and earning ability while building the ALREADY RICH MEGA….for FREE.

writing exposure, Exposure dollars, Pexel, Kristen Lamb, writers working for free, writers working for exposure

This is where we get smart about writing exposure. If I would’ve simply kept plugging along with the content that got the MEGA’s attention in the first place, I’d KNOW I was doing something right…because THEY WANTED IT.

I’d have confirmation I was on my way to having my own audience on my own site where eventually I’d make money off ads, books, merchandise, etc.

Sure I’m going to work for free but when I go it on my own, FREE is only temporary.

It’s a gamble. We all know this! I will have to work hard, hone my craft, put in a lot of time and work and posts. I’ll have to take risks, try new things, and build my audience.

But THAT is the gamble NOT the grift 😉 .

What about you? What are your thoughts?

Have you been overwhelmed with social media? Tired? Worn out and all the love gone? Feel like a hamster in a wheel? Ready to get your power back? YOU ARE WORTH BEING PAID! Don’t know about you, but if we can have fair trade coffee, we can also get fair trade fiction, fair trade content. This nonsense MUST STOP!

Time to take back your power! I have some new classes below to help you out and show you HOW to play to WIN, so make sure to sign up.


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).

Harnessing Writing Power! THE BLOG October 26th, 7-9 EST and comes with FREE RECORDING. $50 for General Admission, GOLD Option AVAILABLE!

BRAND BOSS! When Your NAME ALONE Can SELL! November 9th, 7-9 EST and comes with FREE RECORDING. $45 for General Admission, GOLD Option Available!

PLOT BOSS! Writing Novels Readers WANT TO BUY! November 16th, 7-9 EST and comes with FREE RECORDING. $40 for General Admission, GOLD Option Available!


Today I have on my sassy pants because there’s a messy task ahead. Oh it will be a TON of fun, but messy. We are going to tip over some sacred cows like how fun is evil and misery is awesome.

Granted I am from Texas and have heard stories of those miscreants who’ve sneaked (snuck? snucked?) in under cover of darkness to traipse across pastures littered with steaming cow poo…for the sheer joy of pushing over sleeping bovines.

I, myself, have never indulged in this innocent mischief and remain dubious this “cow-tipping” thing is even real. But supposedly the boogeyman isn’t real and yet–even as an adult–I never sleep with a foot off the edge of the bed.


I can’t see how tipping over innocent cows could be half the fun we hear it is, but I assure you tipping these sacred cows?


Sacred Cow #1—Fun=Ineffective Time-Waster

Remember being a kid and it was actually okay to have fun? Then something weird happened in adolescence and everything got super serious. Teens of course have hormones and the whole “forging a distinctive identity” thing to blame, not to mention *ugh* high school.

But what is our excuse?

As kids we longed to grow up, to be ADULTS, so we could be…FREE.

About that. We humans are weird.

Give us anything that might liberate us and make life BETTER, and we will quickly turn it into a soul-sucking chore. It is simply astounding all the stuff that is fun…that we RUIN.

Bear with me.

We might start at the gym because we know going for a walk is good for us. We also know the gym is climate controlled so we won’t be able to use rain or sun or wind as an excuse to not get some exercise.

We start walking and feeling better. Yay, lower back feels great. Thirty minutes. Happy endorphins and we are very proud of what we have done.

We bask in the glow of our one month of walking five days a week for thirty minutes. In fact, we feel this self-discipline thing really isn’t so hard at all!


A personal trainer notices we’ve been at the gym regularly and steps in to…help.


Sacred Cow #2—TRUST the “Experts”

Mere moments earlier, we felt AWESOME, only now realize how misguided we were. Oh, thank goodness this expert saved us from destruction!

The trainer, deeply concerned for our welfare tells us with all kinds of statistics and studies that our silly walking is not enough.

No, we must add in weight training. Not just any weight training. No, it needs to be high weight low reps. No, high reps low weight. Scratch that, high intensity!

No! You fool! You are overtraining! You need recovery time. Oh, you took recovery time because you can’t sit on the potty without a Life Alert bracelet? You’re just going to have to suck it up.

Did we mention your diet?

Remember, simplicity is KEY.

If you do cardio, eat carbs 90 minutes before aerobic exercise and protein 30 minutes before weight training. Then protein within 90 minutes after doing cardio.

Post-workout, rub your body in coconut oil (unrefined, of course) and stretch but only when Mercury is in retrograde–and within the 123 minute window after cardio–or the stretching and expensive coconut oil all a waste.

Got it? No. Okay, let’s create a plan for you. Mastercard or Visa?

The next thing we know this FUN time at the gym has now turned into a personal hell where we are prodded by macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients all using pointy vitamin-supplement pitch forks.

We cling to that trainer who saved us from our pointless 30-minute walks and toss money at her if only she can help it all make sense (or she will go away)!

More often than not, we return to our blanket fort…where there are snacks.

We adults do this crap ALL THE TIME. Hey I am guilty, too. We know as adults we should want to be better, do better and we start out well-meaning enough.

Yet we fall for it…

Sacred Cow #3—The More It SUCKS the BETTER!

From books on “simple home organization” to “better parenting” to “eating healthier” to “financial freedom” we generally tend to fall into this bizarre belief that the more it sucks, the better it must be.

Like the crappier food tastes, the healthier it is!


Soon, we start shackling ourselves to all kinds of bizarre and UNFUN legalism. We wanted to be free (of extra weight, too much clutter, too many bills).

Yet all these books and courses and virtual tools to save time and make life better…kinda just make us want to drink heavily and OD on brownie batter.

We soon find we avoid the gym we once loved like Ebola, are afraid of our mailbox, and with our spouse and kids? We turn into the HULK only meaner and in yoga pants (because those won’t split when we “turn”).


Hmm, maybe just me.

Why DO We DO This?

Much can be blamed on Western culture (Americans being the most guilty). Many of us are taught from youth that FUN=BAD.

We’re riddled with guilt about pleasure and fun (and sure, we can probably blame those sour-faced Puritans for laying the groundwork).

*stabs Plymouth Rock in my mind*

Yet kids are robbed of recess, daydreaming is forbidden, and only school-sanctioned imaginative activities are allowed (refer to why my son was kicked out of preschool for liking zombies). Put a kid in sports, gymnastics or dance and see how long it takes for all the fun to get sucked right out of THAT.

Why does all this happen?

Because fun-stealing is big business if we allow it.

Cruise lines can sell us a package of joy and harmony and relaxation. Then, the pharmaceutical companies step in to sell us the anti-anxiety meds required for taking a whole week off to have…*gulp* fun.

We return to our day jobs and 547 unread emails is our penalty for being so selfish as to believe we might actually need to rest now and again.

Maybe we should buy that app to check messages at sea.

Many Americans proudly wear the “I Haven’t Taken a Day Off Since Y-2K” badge of honor…even though we all secretly hate them and know if they took a little time for fun, they might actually not be such frigging jerks.

*breathes deeply*

And Ms. I Never Take Vaca is there to sneer at us for our “weakness.” She embodies FUN! Because the sheer joy of leading the PTA, baking a zillion nut-free GF cookies, and zooming her kids to every social event imaginable is fulfillment in and of itself and all the “fun” required for “good mothers.”

*stabs her in our minds, too*

And Mr. I Never Need Holiday is there at work (where else?). He recommends the Intensive Weeklong Fasting and Time-Management-Leadership-Be-Your Best-Self-in-Less-Than-Nine-Minutes-a-Day-Retreat…which is of course, conveniently offered on-line.

Also, he can reach us every minute of the day via text or email…unlike when we were so naughty as to take that cruise.

It’s madness. I know!

Yet here we are. All staring at each other on the crazy train wondering how the heck we keep meeting again.

Follow the Money

Honest truth is authentic fun is not near the moneymaker as the “shill” of fun. Look at all those “activities” I mentioned that should be fun and who’s there to step in? Experts.

Who happen to make money.

Who can help us with our exercise, diet, meditation, and train our kids for the Olympics!

***Even though little Mackenzie just liked doing cartwheels and we thought gymnastics class would be fun—silly us!

When we were kids who simply had FUN, we didn’t count how many minutes of cardio we’d done riding bikes four hours straight. We gave no thought to the carbs or lack of macro-nutrients in that giant cherry Slurpee we inhaled.

Then we grew up and used our larger and more highly developed brains to think all the fun out of well…pretty much everything.

I see this over and over in social media.

The greatest tool writers have been handed to become free, is being used to enslave us.

“Experts” tell us that an author platform is serious business. If we’re having fun, then we aren’t being professional.

We need automation and vlogs and podcasts and to be everywhere on every site all the time contributing mind-blowing content for exposure!

*feels dirty inside*

Then there is the gathering emails, decoding analytics, sales strategies, promotional tactics, targeting our market…

Call me crazy, but does any of that sound like ANY FUN? SERIOUSLY! We all started this writing journey because we are the dreamers and find imaginary people more interesting than real ones (because they are). We wanted to write to be FREE!

To have FUN!

Granted, a brand is important and social media is vital, and selling lots of books way more fun than selling no books. But anyone who’s shoveling out manure from one of those sacred cows we tipped?


Refuse the Kool-Aid

On social media FUN is SUPER effective. People are drawn to it. The world is a dark and dreary place and getting gloomier by the second. Fun stands out.

Authenticity is priceless! We know it when we see it because joy shines bright!

It creates genuine connections (code for relationships). But here is the kicker! Friendship, trust, care, hope, joy and fun cannot be measured in metrics 😉 .

And when stuff is fun–as in truly fun–we ENJOY DOING IT. When we enjoy it, we don’t have to outsource it, set reminders or pay people to do it FOR us.

I am not completely eschewing all experts because um…that would be dumb. Experts who empower us are great! Who teach us how to set up properly to avoid injury, waste or pain? Yay!

But experts who make us into permanent revenue streams because they’ve overwhelmed us and made us hysterical?


Because many will convince us the more something sucks the better it works…but they (benevolently) have an affordable plan to deliver us from this suckage.


Blunt truth is if we don’t tip some of these sacred cows, it just leaves us the cash cow.

In the end, life is short. Enjoy it.

What are your thoughts? Are you like me and struggle with fun? Then try to do something fun and overcomplicate it and wreck it? I know I do. Hey, I am a work in progress too!

Do you feel like “experts” are constantly there to pounce on you and wring cash out of you? Do you fall for the “It only works if I am miserable”?

Hey I write this blog for FREE and constantly look for experts, but to stay on top of scm, trends, business, craft, I have to be SUPER careful. I strive to be better to help y’all be better and that is not always easy *deletes 765 unsolicited emails from experts*


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).

To also prove social media is and should be super fun and that while you might need a little training, you DO NOT need a team of professionals paid to “manage your brand”:

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. ****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 😀 .

Bad Boys. $45.00 USD. Friday, November 17, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!

It’s back to school for everyone – not just kids. Vacation’s over. Fun’s over…or maybe the fun is just beginning.

This fall, W.A.N.A. is back with new classes, new instructors, and lots of exciting announcements coming up. Bookmark W.A.N.A. and make sure to subscribe to my blog to stay up-to-date with all the news!

Don’t forget to hop on over to the W.A.N.A. Tribe to join in our daily writing sprints in the chat room! The Tribe is a thriving community, and we are planning on some awesome upgrades to the entire Tribe experience this fall.


Villains & Anti-Heroes: The Characters We Love and Hate. $45.00 USD. Tuesday, September 12, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Hooked: Catching Readers in the First Five Pages. $40.00 USD. Thursday, September 14, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Turn Your Passion Into A Business: Making Money As A Writer. $40.00 USD. Monday, September 25, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Guilty Pleasures: Writing Suspense, Thrillers, and Crime. Tuesday, September 26, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Outside the Box: How to Read More, Write Less, and Up Your Fiction Game. Friday, September 29, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!



Kristen Lamb made the mistake of giving me admin privileges on her website.

So trusting.

So innocent.

So screwed.

La Revolucion

There’s a little more about me at – but, be aware that my website is under reconstruction because I got hacked by Bollywood porn spammers. Yeah. That’s the same face I made. However, I’ve posted my manifesto, and that should be a start!


****Just FYI, in an effort to combat spammers your comment won’t appear until I approve it, so don’t fret if it doesn’t appear right away.

Talk to me! And MAKE SURE to check out the classes below and sign up! Summer school! YAY!

And 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).


Obviously, I have my areas of expertise, but I’ve wanted for a long time to fill in some gaps on classes I could offer.

Cait Reynolds was my answer.

She is an unbelievable editor, mentor and teacher and a serious expert in these areas. She consults numerous very successful USA Today and NYTBS authors and I highly, highly recommend her classes.

OMG, Like How to Write Fleek YA July 7th $40 with Cait Reynolds

How to Dominate Your Sex Scenes (No Safe Words Here) July 14th $40 w/ Cait Reynolds

Gaskets and Gaiters: How to Create a Compelling Steampunk World July 21st $35 w/ Cait Reynolds 

Lasers & Dragons & Swords, Oh MY! World Building for Fantasy & Science Fiction 

July 28th w/ Cait Reynolds $35/ GOLD $75/ PLATINUM $125

Classes with MOI!

Plotting for Dummies July 13th $35 ($250 for GOLD)

Blogging for Authors July 20th $50 ($150 for GOLD)

Branding for Authors  July 7th $35

OTHER Classes with Cait Reynolds

Research for Historical Romance Writing – Or, How NOT to Lose Six Hours on Pinterest July 8th $35 for Basic/ $75 for GOLD / $125 for PLATINUM

Shift Your Shifter Romance into High Gear June 30th $35 Basic/ $75 GOLD/ $125 PLATINUM

Classes with Lisa Hall-Wilson

Growing An Organic Platform On Facebook June 24th $40



Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Ken.
Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Ken.

Very often when I write about brand and platform, writers assume I am talking about promotion and marketing (ads) and that is not only a false assumption, it can be a fatal one. When we hop onto Twitter or Facebook and are barraged with book spam, a big reason it annoys us (though not the only) is because the author is engaging in these activities with no solid brand or platform.

It then either becomes white noise (invisible) or worse an irritation (negative branding). Writers trying to create a brand by serving up copious book promotion will have a brand all right. The brand of self-serving asshat.

The sight of the author’s face or book might even be enough to spike our blood pressure. We are far more likely to block than buy.

Why? What went wrong?

We have to look at what a brand actually IS.

What’s in a Name?

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 9.36.40 AM
Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Pierre Lognoul

The formula for a brand is simple:


The last part is critical. In fact it might be the most critical.

Why do you think corporate empires pay so much for image consultants? Sure, Mylan once had a great reputation as a pharmaceutical company until they got greedy and decided to line their pockets at consumers’ expense.

Three years ago if we heard the term “epi-pen” we might have experienced good emotions. Oh it is a life-saving drug. Helping kids with peanut allergies. My cousin had an epi-pen and it saved her life.

Nowadays? Different story. Once we found out the top execs have been giving themselves HUGE pay raises while hiking the cost of the only drug of this kind from $100 in 2007 to over $600 today?

Consumers are now seeing RED.

Seriously all it will take is one competitor to offer something comparable and it might just be enough to bury Mylan because greed is now part of their brand. That will be a tough stain to remove.

Even though they had an amazing product, they took advantage of having a monopoly and fattened their paychecks. I don’t know if there is a PR firm who can ever undo that damage. I’m fairly sure they’re going to be relegated to the Food Lion Dimension of Shame.

This example is to point out how important emotional experiences with a brand can be, that it has never been just the product.

It isn’t just about a good book anymore.

Why Are Brands So Important?

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Most of us don’t have time to research each and every purchasing decision and thus, we as consumers, are prone to rely heavily on brands. Brands let us know what to expect.

When we buy Dolce & Gabbana shoes, we expect a certain quality. We go off the name and do far less inspecting and road-testing than we would for a designer/manufacturer we’d never heard of.

We are willing to order ahead of time and pay full price and even ridiculous prices for Coach, Ralph Lauren, Prada, Versace, Harley Davidson, Porsche, BMW, Mac Computers, John Deer, etc. So on and so forth.

Starbucks is hardly the best coffee, yet they’ve become almost synonymous with “coffee.” They also have branded a “coffee experience.”

But all of these companies (brands) did the same thing. They began with a name. Of course the name means nothing without a product. The name Harley Davidson would be just a name unless it came with motorcycles. But a name and a product alone are not enough.

Harley Davidson then had to go about crafting a unique emotional experience that was unlike its competition.

All of these brands we love have something in common, though. They built the brand and the platform first. Then any advertising or promotion is already advertising an existing brand. When we get a flyer that Levis are on sale, we know what Levis are. How do we know what they are? Levis is a brand.

All of these companies also have a platform.

What is a Platform?

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Alex Santosa.
Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Alex Santosa.

Platform is tethered inextricably with brand. If brand is the product, then platform consists of those most likely to consume that product because they emotionally identify with the brand.

Trust me, Harley Davison is not worried about consumers who love Vespas. Sure, they are both motorized bikes, but they are selling vastly demographics and experiences.

Authors are doing the same.

We know who Stephen King is because of his brand. Because of his brand (tons of books) we know if we are part of his platform or we aren’t. If we are the type of reader who loves a sweet romance? King isn’t trying to court us. Why? We might know his brand, but we are not part of his platform.

In the old days, there was only one way to create a brand (and consequently a platform) and that was the books. Lots and lots of books (brand) cultivated a body of people who liked our writing/voice (platform). Today that is still a great plan. With so much junk floating around, when readers find a writer they enjoy, they stick like glue.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Craig Sunter
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Craig Sunter

This is one of the main reasons that we need to keep writing. Stop promoting ONE book. ONE book is not enough to create a strong brand/platform.


A brand is a collection of emotional experiences.

A platform is simply those who will enjoy that experience.

Modern writers hold the advantage here.

Before the digital age, it was practically impossible to create a brand outside of the books, because the book was the only source of emotional experiences with the author.

Readers rarely had contact with an author beyond the books. Book signings, maybe magazine or radio interviews gave only slight glimpses of the author beyond the book. Today, with social media? That is no longer the case. Every blog, tweet, post, video and interaction serve to create the overall brand.

This is how bloggers like Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess) were able to become runaway successes. Lawson already had a huge fan base from her blogs and her Twitter following before the first book was ever released.

Since we are writers our product is our words. This is how blogging can become such a vital part of our brand. But beyond that, it is also going out on social media (platform of your choice) and connecting. Create a positive emotion that goes hand in hand with our name. 

Hint: Spamming the crap out of people does NOT create a positive experience.

Write More Books

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Thus, whenever I mention building a brand/platform I’m in no way talking about promoting or advertising. Those are separate activities that come later and their success will rest largely on how well we’ve done our job with the brand/platform.

Once we realize this, we can breathe easier and know it is OKAY to keep writing books even if we have no mega-super-duper promotion/marketing/advertising campaign for that first book. It is okay to blog or even just hang out on social media connecting. That is a VITAL part of our job and if we skip it, then any marketing later will fall on deaf ears. In fact premature promotion can actually harm or even KILL a brand.

So relax 😀 .

What are your thoughts? Do you feel a little better that you don’t need to rush out with an ad campaign? Did this clear up the differences in brand and platform versus promotion?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of AUGUST, 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).

Check out the other NEW classes below! Now including a log-line class! Can you tell me what your book is about in ONE sentence? If you can’t SIGN UP.

All W.A.N.A. classes are on-line and all you need is an internet connection. Recordings are included in the class price.

Upcoming Classes

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist September 2nd–September 2nd

All fiction must have a core antagonist. The antagonist is the reason for the story problem, but the term “antagonist” can be highly confusing. Without a proper grasp of how to use antagonists, the plot can become a wandering nightmare for the author and the reader.

This class will help you understand how to create solid story problems (even those writing literary fiction) and then give you the skills to layer conflict internally and externally.

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist Gold

This is a personal workshop to make sure you have a clear story problem. And, if you don’t? I’ll help you create one and tell the story you want to tell. This is done by phone/virtual classroom and by appointment. Expect to block off at least a couple hours.

Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line

September 7th

Log-lines are crucial for understanding the most important detail, “WHAT is the story ABOUT?” If we can’t answer this question in a single sentence? Brain surgery with a spork will be easier than writing a synopsis. Pitching? Querying? A nightmare. Revisions will also take far longer and can be grossly ineffective.

As authors, we tend to think that EVERY detail is important or others won’t “get” our story. Not the case.

If we aren’t pitching an agent, the log-line is incredibly beneficial for staying on track with a novel or even diagnosing serious flaws within the story before we’ve written an 80,000 word disaster. Perhaps the protagonist has no goal or a weak goal. Maybe the antagonist needs to be stronger or the story problem clearer.

In this one-hour workshop, I will walk you through how to encapsulate even the most epic of tales into that dreadful “elevator pitch.” We will cover the components of a strong log-line and learn red flags telling us when we need to dig deeper. The last hour of class we will workshop log-lines.

The first ten signups will be used as examples that we will workshop in the second hour of class. So get your log-line fixed for FREE by signing up ASAP.

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