Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Categorized: Technology

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A platform offers major advantage when it comes to selling books. Before social media, non-fiction authors had an edge. These authors already had an existing audience by the time their books were ready for sale.

Novelists, conversely, found themselves relying on a lot of pure luck, prayer, and alignment of the stars. The fiction author had little to no control regarding the business side of their business. The only way to build a platform was to not completely FAIL with book one.

Great.

Non-fiction authors, however, were not nearly as vulnerable because they had ways to cultivate a following ahead of time. Those ways also permitted them to KEEP growing the platform even bigger as they continued to publish more works.

For instance, if one happened to be an expert of some sort, it was far easier to build an audience interested in your topic. Therapists, psychiatrists, physicians, personal trainers, business owners, etc. obviously could begin with their ‘job’ (I.e. a private practice). Then these experts progressively expanded their platforms in a logical fashion.

They might broaden to speaking engagements, guest appearances on television and/or radio, serve as ‘experts’, and maybe even fold in lectures and seminars. With every expansion, the NF author added more numbers to their ‘platform.’

What IS a Platform?

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When we think of a platform for the NF author, it’s simple. Dr. Jane is an expert pediatric psychiatrist with a thriving practice. She graduated from Super Fancy School. Dr. Jane has successfully treated X amount of children for social anxiety for fifteen years. You may have even seen Dr. Jane on daytime television or listened to her on NPR. Dr. Jane knows what she’s doing because look at her c.v.!

If we have a kid whose shyness is to the point of a neurosis, we (audience) feel confident Dr. Jane might have an answer. We buy her book(s).

For the NF writer, the platform is far more cut and dry. The point is to be an expert people trust to answer a question or solve a problem. If I want to learn how to start a business, cook French cuisine, lose twenty pounds, or train my cat to stop terrorizing my bed skirts, I look for an expert. Right? Thus the NF platform, in a nutshell, is measured by how many people trust you for information and guidance.

Again, What IS a Platform?

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Right now I know a lot of you are scratching your heads (or panicking). Um, Kristen, I write paranormal. Am I supposed to be an expert in summoning demons?

No. First, because all writers know more than they want to about demons. They live in Windows 10 and Printer Possession is unusually common.

It’s why we creatives all marry or partner with ‘engineer’ personalities who seem to be able to coax possessed printers into cooperation. I no longer even try. My printer just shouts profanities at me, then uses up all the green and yellow ink so I’m rendered unable to print something in BLACK.

Squirrel…

I’ve seen many ‘experts’ answer this question, ‘What is a platform?’…badly. They’ll claim the novelist needs to blog (I agree) and become an expert in a topic (NO!).

To the first point, novelists are entertainers. Stories are RIGHT BRAIN. It makes no sense to sell a right brain product with a left-brain tool.

Blogging about writing, doing book reviews, conducting interviews is a useless time-suck. Yes, I blog about writing and social media because my audience is mostly writers. I’ve spent a decade demystifying the blog for the writer who’s solely an entertainer.

For the author who’s a pure storyteller, the blog is merely the watering hole where you can craft content appealing to your ‘tribe.’

If I write fantasy, then blogging on all things nerdy is a good idea. What are people who read fantasy interested in? CosPlay, ComicCon, Dr. Who, Dungeons and Dragons, etc. Talk about the same stuff you would with your other fantasy ‘geek’ friends.

That’s it. The platform then simply becomes the number of people who recognize your name and attach descriptors and emotional experiences to it (also known as a brand, which we discussed last time). If brand is what people know, then platform is how many people know 😉 .

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Story Solutions

If our brand is our story (narrative) then platform is simply how many people have heard, know about, and follow our stories. How many people connect to us enough that they’d be likely to buy our books? In a world where consumers are drowning in choices, they’re gravitating more and more to people they know, like and trust.

Our goal is to gather as many of them into our virtual community as possible—platform. This way, once we DO have a book(s) for sale, other people KNOW about us and are vested in us.

Otherwise, we’ll have to pay for enough ad space to break through the din and that, my friends, is NOT cheap (and doesn’t work that great anyway).

For authors, the blog affords the most bang for the buck. First, writers write. It plays to our strengths. It trains self-discipline, which is essential for success. Blogging regularly makes us leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner writers.

We can cultivate our fan base before our first book is even finished because we’re posting merely to start a dialogue, create community, and chat about something we (and our audience) enjoys. Visitors aren’t feeling all weird that we’re only interested in trying to score a sale.

If we DO have a book for sale? It’s off in the side-bar. Followers can look…or not.

I wrote a post What Went Wrong With the Star Wars Prequels? seven years ago. People are still commenting. I get it. I am an ‘expert’ but I am also a free-range nerd. The brand is me—KRISTEN LAMB—and so I have flexibility to talk about other stuff, too. Topics I find fun. Like Star Trek, Wonder Woman, and Atomic Blonde.

Trust me. Nerds? We all feel very passionately about imaginary universes.

And like to argue about them.

A lot.

Just watch.

Loki is hotter than Thor *throws grenade and runs*

Posts that talk about what we enjoy are incredibly fun to write. It also takes pressure off us to sell, sell, sell. Engage, then go back to writing books. Our blog can be a fun place where people can join in on ENJOYABLE debates, discharge pent up psychic energy and have a good time.

Kidding! Cap is hottest *runs with glitter*

Using Time Wisely

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No, you do not have to blog. No one is going to take you to writer jail if you don’t. Tricky thing is we still need a brand and a platform if we want to sell enough books to do this full-time.

I don’t know about y’all, but I prefer working smarter, not harder.

Yes, we can create this brand and platform on any social site, but the reason I remain steadfast in support of a blog is because of the following:

The blog is stable.

The blog has been around since the 1990s and was popular before Web 2.0 even existed. Short of the internet imploding, the blog will remain because it provides what humans have wanted since the dawn of time—information, entertainment, community.

In my opinion, the blog is an ideal way for writers to build a platform because it’s as stable as it gets on-line.

Stability is vastly important for any brand/platform, namely because we want to have control. It makes no sense to spend years building a massive following only for that entire following to one day vanish. I found this out the hard way by starting my blog on MySpace.

I lost a year of blogs and a large following (that took three years to build) when MySpace imploded almost overnight. After that experience, I vowed to never again be that vulnerable.

We control our domain.

If we build our entire platform on a social site, we are sitting ducks praying nothing will go wrong. Our author web site (blog) is very stable because we PAY for it. We own our content, our domain and possess a degree of immunity to outside shifts.

For instance, on a social site, some troll could gather all his/her troll friends and report us for nonsense just for the fun of being jerks. Our page is deleted and either we have to start over or pray whatever social site will let us have our stuff back.

Sometimes people are deleted without the social site even investigating whether the ‘complaints’ are valid or vicious harassment. It takes a lot of time, gray hair and hassle to get your stuff restored if this happens. Bad news is sometimes we lose and don’t get it back…ever. Trolls have a lot more power to do damage in places where we are not in charge.

Ugh, then Twitter. I have an author friend who recently lost SIX MILLION Twitter followers (built over the span of almost ten years) after Twitter changed their ToS. #OUCH

Don’t get me started on Goodreads.

When we are anyplace we do not control, trolls can say and do just about anything and we have no say about being abused.

Shifting trends.

Regardless how many fail-safes we put in place, it doesn’t matter. We could spend years building something HUGE….only for the social site to be sold, change the rules, change Terms of Service, or go cray-cray and finally piss off enough people that they begin to bail like rats off a sinking ship…and POOF.

GONE.

In light of Facebook’s grotesque privacy violations (the Cambridge Analytica scandal and Facebook’s botched plan to access confidential medical records), accusations of censorship, ‘news curation,’ and more, the social media behemoths are hemorrhaging users.

Nothing is ever too big to fail 😉 . In fact, I have been a social media expert so long I now believe I know how Plato felt writing The Republic.

*gets cramp feeling smart*

Cycle of Social Media Rule

Timocracy (Web 1.0) where only super wealthy could afford websites or computers to even look at websites.

Oligarchy—earlier social media where only those who could afford computers/internet could join chat rooms or social sites OR (currently) social sites where we might pay a fee to participate.

***On WANATribe (a Ning I built for writers), we meet every day M-S to sprint pretty much all day. I pay $70 a month of my own money to have a virtual workspace and a drama-free zone where I play benevolent dictator 😀 . There are no ads but that is because I fork out money to keep it that way. Book spammers (all spammers) are smited—smote? smoted?—without mercy. The point is someone is willing to put up CASH for the peace and quiet.

Democracy—FREE! Everyone can join! And do whatever they WANT TO DO! Want to automate 700 identities to post on the hour everywhere? GO FOR IT! You are free to do what YOU WANT, and mob rule is the only rule!

Oh, but remember the social site is free to do what they want to do, TOO! Free! Free to harvest our private information and sell to the highest bidder!

Eventually people (on both sides) go too far with their ‘freedoms’ and those participating need some sense of order and rules so they don’t lose their minds.

Rules start creeping in and the powers that be realize they DIG that kind of power and POOF–>Tyranny. The social site goes all nutso with power. Also, on the other side, jerks/trolls use ‘the rules’ as weapons to unleash mayhem on anyone unfortunate enough to cross them.

We (regular users) rise up against the social site bullying and revolt. Start a NEW site (a republic perhaps?) which won’t have ANY of those problems.

Yep.

Still waiting on the social media philosopher-poets to rule. Not holding breath, though.

Refuse to be an ad mule. Own your SPACE.

Any outside social network trades a FREE service then monetizes US. They use us for data mining, blast us with ads, make us pay to play (open up the algorithm so more than three people see our posts), and more.

FREE is never FREE.

Some social sites are paid to blast us with ads using our data. Conversely, creatives are being blatantly and unapologetically EXPLOITED. We are the ones creating the lure for the clicks that pay REAL MONEY…while we work for free.

Refer to my earlier posts about the exposure dollar grift and how places we can blog for exposure really are companies using us as a massive unpaid labor force. We generate all their content, content which cannibalizes our own SEO and brand. Meanwhile those in power make hundreds of millions…then write books about how money isn’t important.

Either way, whether we are using a social site or creating content for a blogging site, when we do not own our domain? We’re an ad mule.

Blog Gets Bigger With Time and Love

The blog gives back what we invest. I gain new followers daily from stuff I forgot I wrote. I began blogging just because I was a slacker who needed to learn self-discipline. Now? This blog gets 1.1 million hits a month. When I take out those who are likely spammers, I am still close to 100,000 visits a month from actual people.

This isn’t because of one or five blogs. It is because of almost 1,300 blogs. A little bit over time adds up. Search engines send people to my blogs. Google has yet to send anyone to my quippy tweet from June 11, 2011.

Newsletters by and large have the same open rate as direct mail (less than 8%) and unlike a blog, a newsletter can only reach those who subscribe (provided the newsletter doesn’t end up in the spam filter). It has no ability to go viral.

The blog does.

Blogs, unlike social sites, can also be harvested for content and made into books. Sure the content is on-line and FREE, but what is our TIME worth? Don’t know about you, but if I love a blog, I will drop the five bucks for a Kindle version that is neat and edited and easy for me to navigate.

Every angle you look at it, in my opinion there is no better ROI than a blog. And I mentioned the safe and stable thing already. And you can put troll comments in trashcan where they belong. Winner winner, chicken dinner!

Is What It Is

Now, I know I might have y’all feeling down (sorry), but this is just the way our world is shifting right now. I use social sites all the time. I just don’t build my platform on them. While fabulous for reaching others, they make a lousy foundation for my brand.

Too…shifty.

Social networks are great for…networking. Ideally, we can use them to encourage others to visit our site and LOVE it enough to hang out. Our website is OURS. We can monetize it, instead of IT monetizing US. The power dynamic shifts. We can add in merchandise, a shopping cart, or get large enough we might court advertisers to pay us.

Our hard work builds OUR SEO, not some mega-brand who expects us to work for free. If we’re going to work our tails off, then it might as well be for OUR benefit, right? This means we can hop on Pinterest or Facebook or InstaSnapPlus and meet and greet…but the party is ALWAYS at OUR place 😉 .

Then, once the book comes out, it’s far less invasive and weird to mention it. Like if you want to learn about social media, check out Rise of the Machines. Feeling bold? You can try my FICTION—The Devil’s Dance— a mystery thriller with even more inappropriate gallows humor and even higher body count than my BLOG!

AMAZING, I KNOW!

I can even mention classes, like my ON DEMAND Blogging for Authors.

Or the other classes (scroll down).

I dunno. Maybe you want to give it a try blogging or writing a novel and don’t want my ten-year learning curve 😀 . I know we writers are masochists but come on. There’s a limit.

Ready for Book Beast Mode? I Live to Serve…Up Some TRAINING!

For anyone who longs to accelerate their plot skills, I recommend my ON DEMAND Plot Boss: Writing Novels Readers Want to BUY. Two hours of intensive plot training from MOI…delivered right to your computer to watch as much as you like 😀 .

The Art of Character is also now available for ON DEMAND.

And if you’re ready for BOOK BEAST MODE and like saving some cash, you can get both Plot Boss and Art of Character in the Story Boss Bundle (ON DEMAND). Almost FIVE HOURS with me, in your home…lecturing you. It’ll be FUN! 

Have to write a query letter or synopsis? Conference season is coming!

Pitch Perfect: Crafting a Query & Synopsis Agents Will Love. Class is May 3rd 7-9 EST and $45 for over two hours training y’all how to do the toughest parts of this job.

I also hope you’ll pick up a copy of my debut novel The Devil’s Dance.

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I love hearing from you!

And am not above bribery!

What do you WIN? For the month of April, 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).

March’s winner will be announced next post. I know I said this post but have STILL been sick and am a writer so I lie 😛 . Very sorry, but I will make sure I announce it. Been a rough few weeks.

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Branding is a word that seems to have one day—POOF—appeared out of the ether. In fact, when I began blogging in 2006 almost no one in publishing used the term. The rare few who did were hard-pressed to properly/clearly define what a ‘brand’ was.

In fact, many authorities believed authors didn’t need to be bothered with silly passing fads like ‘the Internet’ and ‘social media’ until about 2013. Why would authors need to build a brand?

All a writer needed was a good book. Facebook will last a year at best.

Yep.

Today, in 2018, the words ‘brand’ and ‘branding’ seem to be tossed around daily. Everyone and everything is or has or needs a brand. What’s funny is that branding might seem completely new, yet has been around since…people.

Granted how important a brand is, the need for one as an author, etc. is a fairly recent development. Yes, we need to craft excellent books (product) but we also must begin building our author brand EARLY.

***As in the first day we believe we might one day want to sell a book.

Ah, but calm down. There’s a lot of confusion regarding what a brand actually is. Many assume ads, marketing, and promotional campaigns are ‘branding.’

Yeah…no.

We can build a brand, but alas we cannot buy one. There are no shortcuts. Ads, promotion, marketing can help expand an existing brand, but cannot be substituted for one. This approach is akin to ordering a wife on-line from Russia believing one can buy true love with Visa.

In some areas of life, shortcuts end up a) a waste of time b) a bigger waste of money c) an episode of Dateline.

Branding Basics

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I wrote my book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World to be evergreen information. In my POV, social media changes daily, but humans never change.

Just read Shakespeare or look at your ex’s Facebook page *rolls eyes*.

That’s why my social media/branding guide focuses a lot more on the science behind what creates what we recognize as a brand. What captures our attention? What turns us off? What renders a brand invisible (thus a non-brand)?

How can one brand launch into the stratosphere with little to no budget when another fails miserably no matter how many millions of dollars are poured into ad campaigns and celebrity endorsements?

Obviously, my book delves into far more detail about the science behind branding. But a little common sense goes a long way. Thus, today we’ll simply touch on why our everyday on-line behaviors collect into a larger pool we call ‘author brand.’

First…

Branding is NOT New

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The thing is, humans have always had a ‘personal brand.’ Branding, in its simplest form, is what descriptors we attach to another person. It’s an innate habit we use to organize and transition the fuzzy and inchoate into the dramatic and memorable.

In the series I’ve been doing about story structure, I’ve reiterated over and over how we humans are wired for story. Branding is simply an extension of story.

That guy/that gal is too amorphous for us to remember. It also doesn’t provide enough detail for us to know how we should respond.

But, ‘That guy who’s been married four times, loves hunting, and collects sports cars’ provides a narrative (a story) that will either resonate or repel depending on the audience.

Humans dig labels, now more than ever before. It’s how we make our increasingly larger world somewhat manageable. Thus, people we ‘know’ are frequently tethered to a variety of descriptors—vegan, sports enthusiast, triathlete, cat lady, Cowboys fan, craftsy person, the comedian, etc.

There’s the perfect, put-together Pinterest moms and then there’s me….

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This, in a nutshell, is ‘branding.’ Humans have been doing this ‘branding’ thing since the dawn of time. The only difference in a ‘personal brand’ and an ‘author brand’ is that the ‘author brand’ should eventually drive book sales. Also, branding is now more vital than ever before because of the sheer volume of information, people, choices, etc.

This is why author brands are essential, since a brand is basically a beacon drawing people (readers) to something they find familiar and that they already know they like.

Here is where science comes in handy.

The Neurological Shortcut

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Our brains are remarkable organs that have the ability to adapt to our environment. Before the invention of the written word, our memory centers were far larger because we had to pass down information orally.

In fact, if you took an MRI of a tribesman from some isolated Amazonian tribe, his brain would look and act very different from yours or mine.

Then, with the advent of the written word, our memory centers shrank but we gained even larger areas for abstract thinking. This was around the time we start seeing major explosions in science and engineering.

Now we are in the Digital Age, and we’re bombarded with stimuli. Internet, television, radio, smart phones, pop-ups, etc. etc. We’ve lost our stellar memory centers and our ability to focus for long periods of time and have gained an unprecedented ability to multitask. Our brains must process massive amounts of information faster than ever before.

Think about it. We see ads on Facebook all the time. Or do we? Our brains have literally learned to un-see. We cannot manage all the input. So, if we (authors) are eventually going to advertise our books, how do we make our content visible? 

Branding with Intention

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Since our brain is much like a computer processor, it must come up with ways to effectively manage all this input in order to maintain efficiency. To do this, it relies on what are called somatic markers.

Somatic markers are neurological shortcuts and are one of the most primitive functions of the brain because they are uniquely tied to survival and procreation. It’s the same shortcut that tells us the stove is hot. We don’t need to sit and ponder the stove. We likely learned when we were very small not to touch.

To give you an idea of how somatic markers work, let’s do a little exercise. Is there a perfume or cologne you can smell and it instantly transports you back in time? Maybe to that first love or even *cringes* that first heartbreak? A song that makes you cry?

Perhaps there is a food you once ate that made you sick and even though there is no logical reason you shouldn’t eat it now, the mere thought of eating it makes you queasy.

These are somatic markers. When it comes to branding, somatic markers are vital.

The Pepsi Challenge

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If you are around my age or older you can remember The Pepsi Challenge. For years, Pepsi had been trying to gain an edge over Coca Cola, which had dominated the soda industry for generations. Pepsi—figuring it had nothing to lose—came up with the idea of setting up a table in stores and shopping malls and encouraging people to take a blind taste test.

The results were astonishing…to Pepsi more than anyone.

In a blind taste test, people preferred the taste of Pepsi. Coca Cola was rattled by this news. They performed the same test and it turned out, people preferred the taste of Pepsi…and this led to brilliant ideas like ‘New Coke’ which was one of the most epic brand failures in business history.

Why did New Coke fail?

Coca Cola reformulated to make the drink sweeter. In blind taste tests, New Coke was a clear winner. So then why did it tank so badly?

Somatic markers.

What Happened? Branding Basics

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Years later, neuroscientists decided to see if they could demystify what happened in The Pepsi Challenge. They conducted the exact same experiment, only this time they hooked participants up to an fMRI machine so they could witness what areas of the brain lit up.

They held the taste test the same way it was conducted in the 70s—a blind taste test. To their amazement, participants preferred the taste of Pepsi in almost the exact same numbers. According to the fMRI, the ventral putamen, the area of the brain that tells us something tastes yummy, lit up like Vegas.

*Some have speculated that when it is only a sip, people will prefer the sweeter drink.*

The ‘Human Factor’ in Branding

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The scientists then decided to try something a bit different. They did the test again, only this time they told the participants what they were drinking. This time, Coca Cola won BIG.

Ah, but something strange happened in the brain. Not only did the ventral putamen light up, but so did the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain associated with emotion and memory.

See, when it was based on taste alone, Pepsi won. But, when the brands were compared, Coca Cola won. The human brain was in a wrestling match between two very different regions—taste and emotional.

Coca Cola had the advantage because of the vast reservoir of fond memories associated with the brand. In short, Coca Cola had a STORY for sale.

Norman Rockwell Americana, cute polar bears, I’d Like to But the World a Coke, every BBQ, summer vacation, rollerskating parties, Friday nights with pizza and on and on all were part of the Coca Cola arsenal. The fond memories (positive somatic markers) associated with the brand literally changed the taste and gave Coca Cola the winning edge.

Somatic Marker Meets Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

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Ever run into a term you KNOW you’ve never heard in your life, then hear it at least four more times in the next week? Or see something you know you’ve never seen before, then suddenly it’s everywhere? Reverse-harems? Punk-Rockabilly-Zydeco? Kombucha?

I’d never heard of Bikram Yoga until a friend told me about it and then…it was everywhere. Following me with sweaty mats…and Kombucha O_O .

The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon is also known as the frequency illusion or the recency illusion. At first glance, one might think this is why it’s a great idea to automate everywhere! Churn out lots of ads! Exposure! The more people see me, my name, my face, my book, the BETTER!

Follow them to the BATHROOM!

Not so quickly.

The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon seems to kick in strongest when there’s some kind of an emotional response tethered to the ‘thing.’ Interestingly, the stronger the emotional response (positive or negative), the more likely we will see that car, food, book, name, that we suddenly believe is now everywhere, surrounding us.

Ah, but when it comes to OUR brand, what emotional response are we creating? Are people seeing our name because of some good encounter? Or do they see it and silently rage because we keep crapping up their feeds with automation? Are we all take and no give?

Ads That Pop-Up & Ads That POP

We see ads all over. More than ever before in human history, which is why our brains are getting so clever with shortcuts. Most ads we literally do not see.

I could take any random person and have them click through twenty pages of BuzzFeed memes and they’ll remember the memes (emotional), but are unlikely to remember most of the ads plastered all along the sides. Though most ads will be invisible, some are not. Some might even leap off the page. Why?

What makes us ‘see’ the advertisement?

When we have a highly positive or vastly negative experience, we’re far more likely to notice the ad.

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If we see an ad for a book, we may or may not notice. But what about an ad for a book written by someone we know? Someone perhaps we talked to and liked? The ad practically leaps from the page. We might even buy it because we SAW her ad and OMG! I know her!

Ads alone have very little power to compel a purchase. But, couple them with a brand (story/narrative/emotional experience), and the odds of a sale greatly improve. This is why ads and promotion alone do very little to impact sales. Until there is a narrative (emotion) attached to the name?

It’s white noise.

Keeping the ‘Social’ in Social Media

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Now that y’all have had a Neuroscience 101 crash course—and I guarantee you will see Baader-Meinhof OR Kombucha at least three times in the next week—let’s get down to what’s most essential. Branding is all story. It’s a collection of emotional experiences that tie our name to some set of descriptors (hopefully positive ones).

Eventually, with love, care and nurturing, followers can become friends and even FANS.

So have fun. Relax. Show up. Be present and engage authentically. Find your tribe and bond. And a great tip for on-line as well as in life?

It is far better to be interested than interesting 😉 .

Feel free to ditch the non-stop jazz hands. It’s all good. Go write more books and enjoy the people you meet along the way.

What Are Your Thoughts? 

Do you now feel way better now that you know why you’ve also heard the term ‘reverse harem’ six times in the past week? Feel extra sassy that you know the term ‘Baader-Meinhof phenomenon?’ Are you already planning ways of using this word in everyday conversation?

Does this take some of the pressure off ‘creating an author brand’?

Ready for Book Beast Mode? I Live to Serve…Up Some TRAINING!

For anyone who longs to accelerate their plot skills, I recommend my ON DEMAND Plot Boss: Writing Novels Readers Want to BUY. Two hours of intensive plot training from MOI…delivered right to your computer to watch as much as you like 😀 .

The Art of Character is also now available for ON DEMAND.

And if you’re ready for BOOK BEAST MODE and like saving some cash, you can get both Plot Boss and Art of Character in the Story Boss Bundle (ON DEMAND). Almost FIVE HOURS with me, in your home…lecturing you. It’ll be FUN! 

Have to write a query letter or synopsis? Conference season is coming!

Pitch Perfect: Crafting a Query & Synopsis Agents Will Love. Class is April 19th 7-9 EST and $45 for over two hours training y’all how to do the toughest parts of this job.

For more inappropriate laughs—fine, a totally gallows humor but fast-paced mystery suspense—I hope you’ll pick up a copy of my debut novel The Devil’s Dance.

The Devil's Dance, The Devil's Dance Kristen Lamb, Author Kristen Lamb, Kristen Lamb novel, Kristen Lamb mystery-thriller, Romi Lachlan

I love hearing from you!

And am not above bribery!

What do you WIN? For the month of April, 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).

March’s winner will be announced next post. I know I said this post but have been sick and am a writer so I lie 😛 .

 

Hey everyone! Remember me? It’s Kristen and I’m back and yes of course I missed all of you dearly. In this blog, I’ve always worked to be transparent with you guys so you knew it was okay to be human. Lately, I’ve been very very human as in seriously exhausted and burned out. Working is easy for me. Resting?

That requires an intervention.

Hey, I’m a work in progress too! 😛

I’m bad about having two speeds, GO and GO HARDER. Three years ago I pushed and pushed until I ended up with a nice case of Shingles that laid me out for months.

Yeah nothing to make a gal feel young and sexy like Shingles.

One would think I learned from that. Sigh. No *hangs head in shame* So I’ve been going going going for months. Launched a debut book, blogging, teaching then went to present at a week-long retreat…where I worked 10-12 hour days. I LOVE my work. Sitting alone in the woods in the quiet? When there are writers I can HELP??????

*snorts plotting like line of cocaine*

I love it a bit too much and so it never feels like work. Ergo, easy to overdo it.

To make matters worse, though the retreat catered to food allergies, either they screwed up or I did and I got glutened which means I was viciously ill when I returned home. I would have gone to an ER if euthanasia was an option. But it wasn’t.

Only time, lots of water and sleep would make it right…meaning I spent a week in bed. I would grow bored and instead of permitting it, my instincts were to immediately seek stimulation of some kind.

I’d get on-line, hop on Facebook and, of course, see stuff like this…

 And then I of course would “be forced” to respond with, “Sure, because our ancestors ate THIS!”

*backs slowly away from computer* *returns to blanket fort* I didn’t need to give into my craving for stimulation. I didn’t need to get on Facebook and educate the world about food allergies. I was already exhausted and that was just draining away the tiny little reserves I’d managed to build by resting.

I didn’t need Instagram or Pinterest or Facebook or Candy Crush or an audio book or a movie. I needed rest, QUIET, and a serious attitude adjustment (which would probably come with some rest and quiet time).

Unplugging

I miss being a kid and having three months of vacation. Now THAT was unplugging.

Y’all remember summer vacation? It was all joy and fun and excitement for about a month and then you spent the next two months bored out of your skull? Of course usually, for me, those last two months were when I ended up in the most trouble because nothing will make you creative like being BORED.

This was when it seemed a good idea to see if I could walk along the tops of fences, up over rooftops and make it all the way down the block without ever having to touch ground. This was also when it seemed a good idea to convince my little brother he could jump off the roof with an umbrella and that he’d just float down like Penguin in Batman.

#Oops

We spent weeks building, making up games, exploring and getting dirty, but all of that is gone now. Gone for me because I am an adult but also gone for the new generations.

We are a culture who values entertainment, but I’m going to posit some food for thought. Entertainment is not rest. It is not relaxation. It is also NOT a synonym for play (which is also important but a topic for another time). We are seriously overstimulated then wonder why we can’t seem to think straight.

There’s a lot to say about being bored and with the influx of social media and games and apps and streaming video, when was the last time anyone was really…bored?

As a kid isn’t that when we became our boldest? Like our regular friends weren’t available (probably grounded because they got caught three rooftops down) and so we had to reach beyond our comfort zone. Talk to that kid we didn’t know?

Before I went to the retreat I went to get my hair done (turn my gray back to blonde). Beauty shops when I was growing up were always hubs of chatter. Gossip, advice, laughter, talk, strangers becoming instant BFFs.

Now? It’s gone quiet.

If video killed the radio star then smartphones killed the beauty shop. Fifteen years ago, if forced to sit for 30 minute while my hair processed, I would have walked away with three new friends, dating advice and a couple recipes to try.

Now, it’s a wall of grown women staring at phones and tablets with white cords dangling from their ears. Short of razor wire and a KEEP OUT sign? Yeah. With all the stimulation, no “connections” can be made.

Hold onto that thought.

When I’m not working I’m still working. I read tons of books, listen to audio books, watch documentaries, movies, series and study, study, study to get better and better. Yet, though filling my mind with all this information is necessary and good, it does little good if I fail to get quiet.

And even get a little bored.

A good dose of quiet boredom (quiet) is magic for the imagination. There are many scientific benefits to being bored. It defrags the brain, helps us be able to discern the urgent from the important, lowers stress and cortisol levels (stress is bad juju for creativity, btw).

Our minds need quiet time to be able to think, to imagine, to create. To make connections. Think of all those juicy tidbits of trivia, conversations you’ve overheard, news headlines, stories, pictures, questions, documentaries, things you read. Now imagine they are all sitting together in a beauty shop and this beauty shop is between your ears.

Take away their Candy Crush, their email, their audio books and streaming news. Take out their ear buds and make them sit together in the silence. Give them nothing else to do and guess what? They’ll start talking, and gossiping, and sharing and….CONNECTING.

This is when the magic is gonna happen. This is when all those meaningless scraps are going to start coming together and assembling into order and then…into beauty. Lately, I’ve been putting my phone on Airplane Mode a lot. I don’t need the constant beeping and siren’s call to look at FB. Been making time to just lie in bed in the dark and be quiet even if for only 30 minutes. I even moved a couple classes (AHHHHHHH!) because I was exhausted and to give my best I need to be at my best.

Baby steps 🙂 .

So if you’re stuck, your writing is stuck, your muse is stuck? Maybe it’s time to let her get a bored 😉 .

What are your thoughts? Do you struggle with rest? Do you feel guilty? Is it hard to let yourself unplug? Hey I get it! What are some things you do to unplug? Hey I am all for suggestions!

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

For the month of JULY, 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).

NEW CLASSES WITH CAIT REYNOLDS!

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 On Fleek YA July 7th $40 with Cait Reynolds

Research for Historical Writing – Or, How not to Lose Six Hours on Pinterest July 8 $35 with Cait Reynolds

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

Shift Your Shifter Romance into High Gear July 15th $35 Basic/ $75 GOLD/ $125 PLATINUM

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 27th $35

Classes with Lisa Hall-Wilson

Growing An Organic Platform On Facebook July 22nd $40

By Jay Donovan
Hi everyone,

Kristen is recovering from a couple of all-nighters spent caring for a loved one. I’m sure she’ll have plenty to say about it over the coming weeks. She should be back tomorrow. I take that back, she will be back tomorrow,even if I have to drive to TX and make her write a blog post Weekend-at-Bernie’s style.

Today’s post is an excerpt from a bonus lesson from Lisa Hall Wilson’s six week Facebook course. Lisa is a fantastic teacher and one of my favorite online people. She is currently teaching four classes at WANA Intl:

Building A Tribe Using A Facebook Profile
Using Your Facebook Profile to Build Platform
How To Write In Deep Point Of View (POV)
How To Get Them Talking – Interview Like A Journalist

Thanks Lisa for giving us a sneak preview at this new lesson!

WANA Facebook Maven Lisa-Hall Wilson
WANA Facebook Maven Lisa-Hall Wilson

Facebook Groups

Indie authors especially are very good at innovating and finding creative solutions to problems they face trying to connect with their readers/fans. Recently, former lit agent Nathan Bransford posted about the ongoing bully/gang-mentality that’s become prevalent over on Goodreads. People were leaving bad reviews of books they’d never read, or just didn’t like the title or subject matter of. (Read the post here.)

Authors had no way of policing their Goodreads pages, and real fans were turning away because of the bullies and bad reviews.

So they innovated.

How Authors Are Using FB Groups

I often get people inviting me (or force adding me) to closed groups which are really just book launch announcements. Not cool. That’s just spam. Don’t do that. However, some authors are using groups the proper way with amazing success.

Growing a tribe or community around your writing is usually a common goal for all writers regardless of their genre. Easier said than done. Building a community or tribe takes time, effort and intentionality.

To combat the lack of control over on Goodreads, authors have turned to closed FB groups instead.

 

Street Teams

When an author is about to launch a book, they may create (or fans create for them) a street team. I’ve seen these used as incentive to pre-order books. These are the most dedicated and enthusiastic fans you can have. They are your mavens, they generate word of mouth enthusiasm, share your work, post reviews, buy copies for family and friends. This is marketing gold you can’t buy.

Author Strategies

These closed groups are well organized and only genuine fans of the books are accepted as members. Some authors use these groups to send out information to join a street team, help get the message out about their books, events, coming soon and cover reveals, help name the book, etc. Some of these groups have tens of thousands of members. It’s a vibrant hidden community free of trolls because the author admin has the power to turf those who break the rules of the group. There’s no spamming, and readers find it a much safer environment than Goodreads right now.

Authors show up daily to talk to fans, to give that glimpse behind the curtain – they want to see Oz. Authors are growing these groups by placing links to them in the back of their books – as opposed to their websites. It’s an insider club.

Benefit of Closed Group

The big benefit for a closed group is that you have to be a member to see the content. It may show up in your news feed because you’re a member, but your friends won’t see it unless they’re also members. This way members can also share inspiration photos of guys (etc.) and it doesn’t show up on their walls or their friend’s news feeds. You can’t use a group with your Page though, only your Profile. Many Indie authors have what I call a place-holder Page but are only active on their Profile.

Book Promotion

Authors are inviting fellow Indies into these groups to help promote the upcoming book launch often. So XYZ author is invited to participate. The group members are alerted that “XYZ author will be here to spend time with you all. She’s giving away a copy of her… book.”

The author admin creates a thread linking to the free giveaway. The protocol is that XYZ author never mentions their own books. They talk about their favorite heroes/heroines in author admin’s books, etc. This helps promote author admin’s books and helps XYZ author get new readers – and nobody gets spammed!

Author Cooperatives

Authors are teaming up with others who write in their genres, etc. to offer book promos together, boxed sets, etc. This is all being done in closed FB groups.  Authors are sharing info and insights into marketing, promotions and ads. They’re working together to support each other. That’s the WANA way.

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Lisa has been using Facebook since 2007, and has been a paid administrator, content creator, and consultant for more than three years. She manages Pages for non-profits and small businesses in Canada and the United States. She’s a freelance journalist with nearly 100 articles published, and has counted non-profits such as World Vision Canada as clients. You can find her hanging out on the WANA Intl Facebook Page most days or at her website.

By Jay Donovan
Yes, it’s me again, Kristen’s Tech Guy. Kristen has family issues hitting her hard and has been nursing a loved one back to health. We’ll have to wait for a future blog post to learn if Nurse Kristen is more Florence Nightingale or Nurse Ratchet.

FN
NR

AA
In her seeming desperation, she handed me the keys to her blog. Again…

You’d have thought she’d have learned after I hijacked her site last time. Then again, knowing Kristen, she’s aware that I ‘sampled’ a couple glasses of wine while TechGirl and I made lasagna. Kristen’s call for help at an ungodly late hour is most likely a ploy Sun Tzu would be proud of.

Regardless, challenge accepted!

Actually, this is a fantastic chance to catch everyone up on the goings on in WANAville.

WC

First off, thanks to everyone who joined us for the October WANACon Writers Conference. We appreciate your trust in us and hope you had as good a time as we did. For those who couldn’t join us, the session recordings are available for On Demand viewing here.

The next WANACon will be Friday February 21st and Saturday February 22nd, (hopefully) far enough from the chaos of the holidays that a conference track on what to do next with your NaNoWriMo creation makes sense, and close enough to Valentine’s Day for one on writing romance.

Keep up with all the details by visiting WANACon.com or joining our mailing list.

WI
WANA Classes are going On Demand
SA
We’ve heard you. And finally the technology allows us to bring you an “On Demand” class experience that is good enough to receive the WANA… ->

We’re not moving away from live classes, but with busy WANAs all over the globe, we’re structuring classes to be more flexible for those who can’t attend live.

We’ll be adding dozens of classes by amazing instructors over the next few months. Click for our Current Class List or to join our mailing list.

And a shameless plug…

TS

Book Tours in Your PJs

On Friday, my company, TechSurgeons is adding an new Author ServiceVirtual Book Tours. They’ll use the same tech WANA uses for WANACon and live classes. At an introductory price of $50, you can rent a virtual room for 6 hours for you and up to 10 others at a time.  You’ll be able talk to your readers, share web cams, instant message with the shy ones, display PDFs of sample chapters, extras, and ‘out takes’ or whatever creative ideas you have. Contact me for more details.

WTRemember WANATribe, -the- private social media site by authors for authors.

We have Tribes for all genres and interests. And if you don’t see the one you want, you can create it. Joining and using WANATribe is free.

As a thank you prize for reading putting up with my post, here’s a video of (I believe) George Clooney and Brad Pitt dueling with a flamethrower and fire extinguisher.  Inside sources claimed this was filmed just before they went to their respective makeup artists.

Okay, that was mean. Here’s an amazingly cool video of the Ohio State band performing their “Hollywood Blockbuster” Show.
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Geek in His (un)Natural Habitat
Geek in His (un)Natural Habitat

Jay Donovan is the official WANA Tech Guy and takes care of all WANA’s technology needs. He’s writing an “Expansion Pack” on the proper use of pen names to supplement Kristen’s “Rise of the Machines” and should be working on it instead of hijacking blogs and talking about himself in third person, but where’s the fun in that?

Jay’s company TechSurgeons LLC provides the geeky magic for WANACon and  WANA classes. TechSurgeons also hosts the WANAIntl.com & authorkristenlamb.com websites. He’d love to be your tech guy too.

Find him on Twitter at @jaytechdad or on Facebook