Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

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Posts Tagged: Amazon

lies, what are you worth, how to price a book, working for exposure, pay the writer, Kristen Lamb, how to sell more books, make money writing, Amazon and Kindle Unlimited, Amazon, author branding

Today we’re going to have a talk about LIES. Deception, half-truths, misinformation, and twisted realities. In my post about the success paradox we discussed how thoughts impact us in very real and tangible ways.

Our belief systems are like our ‘programming’ but malware abounds, very often in the form of lies. If we fail to recognize the lies and internalize them as ‘truths’ it’s akin to opening that infected PDF in our e-mail….

Welcome to the Blue Screen of Doom. Only it’s in our head.

For those who read the post, I suggested some exercises at the end to get a bead on what you really believe regarding success. Before I dive into this, I want y’all to grasp one fundamental fact about the human brain.

The mind cannot tell the difference between truth and lie. What we tell it, it simply accepts and obeys. Keep that ‘in mind’ as we continue.

A World of Lies

Why are you really doing this writing thing? If it’s for fun or a hobby then read no further. For those who want to be professionals? Take heed.

Lies can come in the form of all-or-nothing-thinking. Cute sayings that sound noble, self-effacing, humble and make us appear super nice. They seem innocent, but they’re progress poison.

Let’s use some common examples. Every time I write any post regarding wealth or success, inevitably I get responses in the comments like:

There are more important things in life than success.

Money doesn’t matter the most. What about love?

I’m here to write great stories, not for the money.

All three? LIES. Utter and complete garbage. Bear with me as we unpack these.

There Are More Important Things Than Success

lies, what are you worth, how to price a book, working for exposure, pay the writer, Kristen Lamb, how to sell more books, make money writing, Amazon and Kindle Unlimited, Amazon, author branding

Um…no kidding.

Just because success isn’t the most important thing doesn’t automatically make it therefore unimportant.  Prioritizing our dreams doesn’t immediately necessitate we a) abandon our families b) give no figs about world issues or c) seek to GUT anyone who might stand in our way faster than Cersie Lannister on bath salts.

If we’re constantly declaring success isn’t the most important thing in life, then why are we shocked when we can’t seem to get ahead? Success IS extremely important.

No one starts anything—a marriage, a family, a business, a novel—and thinks, ‘OMG, I cannot wait to fail at this. It will be AWESOME. My goal is to spend a ton of money, time and energy on my dreams for…NOTHING.’

When we say stupid things like, There are more important things than success we’re unwittingly programming in self-sabotaging behavior. We’re far more likely to put off our writing and treat it like a cute little hobby. We won’t invest money in learning to be better because who invests in the unimportant?

Also, we’re inadvertently dooming ourselves to amateur/hobbyist status because guess what, my sweeties….

To professionals? Success is VERY important.

Money Isn’t THAT Big of a Deal

lies, what are you worth, how to price a book, working for exposure, pay the writer, Kristen Lamb, how to sell more books, make money writing, Amazon and Kindle Unlimited, Amazon, author branding

*cough* Bu!!$#!* Yes, I know love, joy, happiness and self-fulfillment are important and matter. But here again we’re back in the same dumb@$$ thinking we had with success.

Which ‘matters most?’ Your heart or your lungs? Come on! Tick tock. Choose!

Money matters. Despite what people might say, money’s a pretty big deal. In fact, the lie that money doesn’t matter has been one of the main ways MEGA MEDIA brands have gotten away with using writers as their personal serfs. Convince writers money is bad and that asking to be paid for their work is dirty…and they’ll line up to work for likes, feel-goods, and ‘exposure dollars.’

When money matters, we start thinking like professionals. A hard lesson I am still learning:

You don’t get what you work for, you get what you negotiate.

Plenty of bloggers churn out amazing content for absurdly wealthy brands for free (exposure). If we claim money doesn’t matter, this sets us up to be preyed on by those who value money…a lot.

Um…the hell? No offense Mr. Editor, but…

lies, what are you worth, how to price a book, working for exposure, pay the writer, Kristen Lamb, how to sell more books, make money writing, Amazon and Kindle Unlimited, Amazon, author branding

Blogging aside, let’s talk books. A lot of authors work hard and are still broke. Even authors with great books. Why? Because when we claim ‘money isn’t all that matters’ we’re less likely to learn the business side of our business.

This leads to a) ignoring it b) delegating it. Delegating our business isn’t necessarily bad but unless we’re educated we’re unable to discern a good plan from a bad deal.

When writers prioritize being paid, we’re more likely to invest time, energy, money in areas where we’ll eventually benefit financially (I.e. blog on our own website). We’ll also step up our game, value our work and believe we’re entitled to reap the rewards.

That is What Businesses DO

lies, what are you worth, how to price a book, working for exposure, pay the writer, Kristen Lamb, how to sell more books, make money writing, Amazon and Kindle Unlimited, Amazon, author branding

Businesses want to be successful and also believe money is a super huge deal. Even non-profits prioritize money! The Red Cross doesn’t run on thoughts and prayers. We writers need to reevaluate what we believe about money and how it relates to US.

Why is it okay for the owners of websites like Huffington Post to make hundreds of millions off the hard work of unpaid labor? And to act as if they’re doing some benevolent service by grifting thirteen thousand creatives in the UK alone?

What other industry could get away with this? Can you imagine engineers, surgeons, or even construction workers being paid in exposure? NO. Why then is it okay to do to us? Why are we enabling profiteering parasites?

Fear Factor

The reason writers aren’t calling out this injustice is we’ve been groomed to believe their LIES. Too many of us believe big brands are doing US a favor by posting our work to their vast audience, but riddle me this….

If our writing is so shoddy we need to give it away for free (and be grateful), why do the big brands want our posts in the first place? How are these MEGA MEDIA brands raking in hundreds of millions of dollars (via ads) off writing that isn’t even worth paying the creators a single solitary dollar for?

The fundamental difference is businesses believe a) success matters b) money is important and c) they’re offering a product consumers want. The mega media brands know those surfing the web are in search of great content. Readers want to click on blogs about fashion, dating, family, gardening, pets, etc.

Yet, be careful. These brands also want writers posting for THEM so THEY make the money…which means they’ll also post a bunch of blogs about how blogs are dying and no longer popular.

How the hell does that make any sense on any level? Critical thinking here.

If blogs are dying, then what the heck are we reading when we’re being told blogging is a dying form? Smoke signals? Jazz hands? No, we are reading a BLOG telling us BLOGS are dying.

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It’s a mental game to make us insecure, a lie to convince us we can’t do it on our own. The mega brands know if we blog on our site and create our own following, we (eventually) make the money and not them.

I Just Want to Write Great Stories 

Wonderful! All the more reason to take success seriously. Professionals hone their skills. They read and study and take classes and seek out mentors. Also—just pointing this out—why are we acting like this is an ‘either-or’ scenario? Why not both? Why do we believe we must choose?

FUN FACT: We can write great stories and also make money. #MindBlown

In fact, the more money we make, the more time we can dedicate to writing even better books. The more capital we have on hand to invest in training, refining our skills, and creating a better product…the more good books there are in the world.

Society likes to promote this caricature of the ‘starving artist’ when, in reality, the highest paid people in the world technically don’t work ‘real jobs.’ Last I checked J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Nora Roberts, James Patterson and George R.R. Martin aren’t panhandling at stoplights for spare change.

Our culture spends billions on entertainment, but the entertainers making money aren’t working for free. These entertainers (authors included) believe they have a right to be paid for what they create.

Also, if Amazon can make billions of dollars of profit, writers can make bank, too. Write excellent books and price them to reflect actual value. If our book honestly is good enough to be published at all, then we don’t need to cat-fight over fractions of KU pennies. And, if we are playing that ‘game’? Then deep down maybe our book wasn’t quite ready to be published after all.

Food for thought.

What Do You Believe?

lies, what are you worth, how to price a book, working for exposure, pay the writer, Kristen Lamb, how to sell more books, make money writing, Amazon and Kindle Unlimited, Amazon, author branding

Why are writers blogging for super wealthy brands for free? Why are so many writers churning out a gazillion hastily scribbled books for Amazon? A number of reasons.

As we mentioned, we’ve been groomed to be nice. It’s bad manners to self-promote and gauche to talk about money. We’re afraid of business because we don’t understand it and thus the ‘starving artist facade’ allows us a pass when it comes to learning skills and subjects that scare the crap out of us.

We want someone else to do that icky stuff so we can create *hair flip*.

Truth Bomb

Get good at the icky stuff and make money? We’ll have time to write more books and make even more money. Make enough money and eventually we can PAY people to do that icky stuff 😉 .

Another reason writers (and creatives) are so willing to work for free or for pennies is deep down we don’t really believe what we’re writing is worth paying for.

And *grimaces* sometimes we might even be correct. There is a learning curve to this. First we must LEARN, then later we can drop the L.

It’s easy to self-publish on Amazon then blame the lack of a marketing budget or our poor promotional skills for shoddy sales. You know what’s hard? Brutal even? Taking an honest look at our work admitting it needs to be better…a lot better.

Hey, I’ve been there. Y’all have NO idea how happy I am self-publishing wasn’t an option when I wrote my first ‘novel.’

The one that pees on the carpets and bites.

Yes, I want writers to understand the business of our business because it improves odds of success and protects y’all (and me) against predation. A MAJOR part of business involves brutal honesty about the product. If something isn’t selling, WHY?

If it can be fixed, then how? Fix it. If not? Then stop throwing more money at it. Nobody wanted New Coke no matter how many celebrities promoted it. If our book sucks, write a better one. Up our game and hone our skills. More promotion isn’t going to sell a crappy book nobody wanted in the first place.

Want to BE Free? Stop Being FOR Free

lies, what are you worth, how to price a book, working for exposure, pay the writer, Kristen Lamb, how to sell more books, make money writing, Amazon and Kindle Unlimited, Amazon, author branding

I’d like to posit a friendly challenge. Take some time and consider what you’re worth. What is the actual value of your writing? The MEGA MEDIA brands have almost all jumped on the exposure dollar bandwagon, paying writers with bragging rights while using euphemisms like ‘contributors’ so that profiting off a massive unpaid workforce seems less ‘icky.’

Tossing out a challenge.

Is that post you created for X MEGA BRAND worth at least one dollar? If it is, then they need to pay you that dollar or don’t post. This all has to begin with us. If we don’t value our work, no one else will either.

And yes, I blog ‘for free’ here, but free is part of a larger strategy that serves my goals. I own my content. My blogs build MY brand, MY following, MY SEO, MY credibility. I’m here cultivating MY future fans by serving them. My blog is a mechanism to drive class sales and book sales.

Anyone who guest posts here usually is teaching a class where they are paid generously BY ME. Because I VALUE them. Also, because I’m able to make money with classes, this means I can afford to tip the photographers at Pexel (a site that’s created ways their ‘contributors’ can be rewarded financially).

Our books? What are they truly worth? Might be time to get brave and raise the price. We had a saying in sales: Value perceived is value achieved. 

The Lies END HERE

We should be grateful for exposure (LIE). Exposure is a worthless currency and has been since Paris Hilton was cool. We need the power of big brands to build our tiny brand (MAJOR LIE). Major brands will use our own writing to destroy our brand by cannibalizing our SEO. Notice there’s no place for a shopping cart to sell our BOOKS where we might make money, but plenty of space for ads where THEY make millions.

When we blog for free for a MEGA MEDIA brand we enhance our resume and up our value (LIE). We are a battery. 

Amazon, iBooks and the Big Five have all the power (LIE). Write excellent books and cultivate a following (via social media/blog/multiple books) and you can bring your terms to the table.

I need to price my books low because of competition (LIE). Last I checked George R.R. Martin was not the only epic fantasy writer, so why aren’t his books 99 cents?

Yes, I have on my sassy pants today. I know this is scary but we can do this. Do it afraid, but do it. According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2018 is the year of the Dog. Don’t know about you but, while I’m willing to work like a dog, I’m nobody’s b*tch 😛 .

I love hearing from you!

And am not above bribery!

What do you WIN? For the month of JANUARY, 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!

Master Class: How to Write a Series

Taught by Kristen Lamb AND Cait Reynolds…together…in same room. It’ll be fun! Class is NEXT FRIDAY January 19th, 7-10 PM EST in our W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom. $75 for a three hour class of intensive education and lots of shenanigans.

A free recording is included with class purchase…though we reserve the right to edit out anything that can and will be used against us in a court of law.

Your Life as a Story: How to Write a Memoir

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $65.00 USD

Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom

Date: Friday, January 26th, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

We all have a story to tell, something worth preserving or even sharing. This might be the tale of our own life, or the life of someone dear to us.  Maybe we long to capture oral histories of relatives before the living past disappears forever.

Regardless, the memoir is a genre that requires an approach, voice, and technique vastly different from fiction.

Topics we cover in this class include:

  • Developing the thematic frame of the memoir;
  • Creating a compelling narrative structure out of facts and timelines;
  • The art of the follow-up question: going beyond the generic questionnaires to dig deep and mine memories to get the extraordinary details and important information;
  • Developing and refining your memoirist voice;
  • Knowing when extra research is needed, what is needed, and how to find it;
  • Filling in the gaps when no information exists;
  • Understanding legal constraints (i.e. libel) and how to maneuver around them yet maintain story integrity;
  • Recreating dialogue and excerpting from original documents (letters, journals, etc.);
  • Positioning your memoir for multiple markets.

****As always a free recording is included with class purchase.

 

 

Amazon, legacy publishing, changes in publishing, demise of Barnes & Noble, independent bookstores, Kristen Lamb, publishing, the book business, Publishing Cold War

Ah, the book business. So many shifts and changes since the day I set out to become a novelist…and ended up a social media expert, blogger, teacher and self-appointed author crusader. I’ve dedicated millions of words and countless hours of research to guide y’all through the massive changes in the publishing industry.

My goal was (and is) to do everything I could to shelter you (writers) from predators I knew would prey on your fears. Three books and thirteen hundred posts later…

It’s been an honor to serve and shepherd you guys through the largest changes in human history and in publishing. Frankly, without you guys, I might have given up ages ago. Thank you so much for being there for me! We are not alone, right?

After years of upheaval, good news is…I think we’re almost there.

*angels sing*

The Long Road Unknown

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Deep down I knew the little guys would win if we just held our ground. It’s why I’ve gone to the mattresses time after time against predation, fraud, usury, deception, and greed. Why I’ve created strategies that empowered authors in branding, social media, and platform building.

The only side I’ve ever taken has been the writers’.

I think it’s fair to say most of us (writers) have been in a perpetual state of terror (peppered with brief windows of hope) for far too long. If you’re like me, maybe your sparkle’s been dimming.

Would we really ever taste freedom? Was writing even worth it anymore? This ‘new age’ that was supposed to be so wonderful had only managed to crush our childhood dreams.

Don’t know about you, but I dreamed of book signings, launch parties, my novels on pretty displays in an actual store. I imagined a real book signing with devoted fans I’d be able to meet face-to-face. Those were the dreams that kept me going in my darkest hours when it made no sense to keep on writing.

I don’t think a single one of us fantasized about favorable algorithms, a massive mailing list with a solid open rate, or a depressing spot for ten copies of our book on a Costco bargain table. And I sure as hell never dreamed of working like an organ-grinding spider monkey for fractions of KU pennies.

None of us did.

I kept wondering how we could possibly be in a Golden Age for creatives when it FELT like an Ice Age. How was this possible? Now? I believe I know that answer.

It’s because a Publishing Cold War has been raging…and it’s all about to play out.

Clash of the Titans

Since the birth of Web 2.0, two superpowers have been gridlocked in a Publishing Cold War: Amazon vs. Traditional. There have been major upheavals, great wins, and massive casualties. Meanwhile, a lot of writers huddled under our desks doing drills. Here’s how to kiss our @$$es goodbye!

Cheer up!

It’s all on the verge of playing out and it’s an incredibly bright future for writers who can position properly (high-quality books, large vested platform, solid brand). Great news is we writers control all three of these factors ;).

Last time we discussed The Success Paradox, and we’ll continue those lessons. But I can’t help you win a game if I don’t show you the whole board. I think by the end of his post, you’ll see why I believe writers finally have MUCH to celebrate. Bear with me. I’m cramming 20 years of publishing changes into this post so you can fully appreciate the vista we never thought we’d live to see.

I know you’re going to LOVE IT!

Why Listen to Me?

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I’ve called virtually every major market shift in publishing years before said ‘shift’ happened. Among too many other predictions to mention (which came true) I forecasted the contraction of the Big Six and that Amazon would open brick-and-mortar stores on May 2, 2012.

I reiterated this Amazon prediction at the end of 2012 .

Amazon has become a name to be feared when it comes to e-commerce, but there are still limitations to selling on-line. Also, in my opinion, Amazon Publishing is the woman in the red dress who finally wants a ring. She wants to be legit, and the only way to do this is to have a physical presence in a bookstore.

 

Commenters called me crazy. But just because I was crazy didn’t mean I wasn’t also correct. Amazon opened their first brick-and-mortar in Seattle in November of 2015, three and a half years after I blogged this would happen.

*gets cramp patting self on back*

Know the Business of Our BUSINESS

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Now, do I have magical powers or some under-the-table deal with Satan that allows me to see with this kind of accuracy? Nope. My degree trained me as a political analyst then my early career in industrial paper sales taught me to think like a business analyst. I never could have imagined how this job was preparing me for a future I’d never considered.

Back in the day, I had a nine-state territory that also included Northern Mexico, which I drove…in a CAR. On top of that, I had to meet a minimum yearly sales quota of two million dollars. That is a LOT of freaking paper, by the way. A lot of driving, too. I’ve logged more miles than most truckers. Eighty thousand miles in one year.

My job required that I be able to look at the market as a whole then, using countless data points, hazard good guesses. The better my ‘guesses’ the greater my chances of making or exceeding quota. Unless I wanted to waste a lot of time and even more gas, I had to be able to predict where the best business would be that month, in six months and the following year(s).

When It ALL Goes Horribly Wrong

I’d just about hit my stride and figured out my new job when the cost of steel skyrocketed, which shot our largest customers’ operational costs through the roof (the shipping industry). Back then, these companies used our cardboard to protect and stabilize inventory, which they then secured with steel banding.

Super cheap steel banding meant these customers had always been able to purchase regular truckloads of paper. Alas, those big bread-and-butter orders vanished literally overnight.

Dutifully, I redid my forecasting to account for this…setback. I could do it. Keep…pressing….

Then the 9/11 attacks.

*taps out*

I could still forecast, but maybe too well. All my predictions ended with plant closures and me out of a job. With war imminent in the Middle East, it was only a matter of time until the price of gas skyrocketed.

Paper is heavy, meaning it burns a lot of fuel. Didn’t take a genius to see trucking our heavy @$$ product was going to plunge us deep in the red.

This all does a lot to explain the stress illnesses that effectively ended my career in sales.

Blood Lessons

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This experience taught me countless painful but priceless lessons—blood lessons—which I’ve been applying to the book business since 2004. It’s true. Sometimes there are factors we can’t control which will impact our capacity to sell, but that’s no excuse.

To be successful in business, even the book business, it’s critical to do as much as possible to limit the impact of outside forces that control or limit earning ability. I learned this in paper sales and it’s how I could see why and how Amazon eventually was going to take over.

One major reason Amazon has been kicking legacy tail for years is that legacy publishing had/has too many outside forces beyond their control that impact profit. Namely, they’re business model depends heavily on the big-box bookstores.

In the late 90s, Borders and Barnes & Noble, in an act of unrepentant greed, obliterated the small indie bookstores. This move also wiped out the author middle class. The Big Six was all for these giant stores reinventing the book business because literacy and choices and…literacy!

Sure.

Or maybe it had to do with all the 26,000 square foot stores crouched on every corner that required a crap ton of physical inventory. Megastores meant massive preorders and unprecedented control over which authors/books were positioned where. I’m not judging. It was a sweet business move for the time.

Publishing Oligarchy

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Heavy hitter household names obviously garnered premium displays/locations and the largest guaranteed preorders. Didn’t you ever wonder how some mega author’s book could be a #1 New York Times Best Seller when the actual book wasn’t even yet available to READ?

I know I did.

The megastores also made sure to carry these authors’ backlists. Essentially, authors who were already multi-millionaires made even more millions. To be clear, I love it when writers make millions, even if they’re making more millions. My main gripe has always been this ‘success’ came at the expense of those authors who were not yet household names.

And, under this big-box bookstore model, they never would be.

Hell, Tom Clancy DIED in 2013, but ‘Clancy’ is still putting out books as of November 2017.

#NotCreepyAtAll

Let Them Eat Cake

If one happened to be a mid-list author or a new author? Sucked to be you. Mid-list authors who’d been making a good living wage had to get a day job because, in the spirit of a ‘browsing experience,’ most backlists were mothballed (taken out of print).

Readers could get copies but only in secondary markets (used books) where the authors made no royalties. Since the mid-list authors’ backlists were no longer gracing shelves in the primary market (new books), these authors suddenly were struggling to make a decent living.

Also without the market saturation that goes part and parcel with having a robust backlist in circulation, there was little to no chance of ever making mega status the old fashioned way.

The Author Homecoming Court had already been chosen, and apparently even death can’t free up space.

New writers? Spine out on a shelf and pray your last name didn’t start at crotch level or lower. Tragically metaphoric.

Reap What You Sow

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In the 90s, gas was super cheap which contributed to the rise of the big-box store boom. Problem is, what happens when karma catches up?

Was it really necessary for Borders and Barnes & Noble to drive virtually every last mom and pop store and small chain out of business? The answer is NO. No it was not.

Remember, I mentioned paper is heavy? #Irony

Apparently folks in charge forgot Business 101. Markets are not static and operational costs can change in the blink of an eye. Physical books have to be shipped to physical stores. Gas prices go up? Profits plunge.

Then there was this thing board members of Borders and Barnes & Noble probably should’ve paid better attention to in the late 90s: the imminent rise of a user-friendly Internet and the very real threat of viable e-commerce.

While the bookstore moguls might have dismissed these ideas as science fiction Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and Bill Gates took it all very seriously.

*has mental image of these guys coming together like those robot lions that form Voltron*

Anyway…

Borders’ death wasn’t a shock to me. It’s hard for me to be anything but frustrated watching Barnes & Noble continue to bleed out. Oh, and trust me, they are. I ran the numbers and from 2008 to 2017 B&N was forced to close an average of 21 stores a year. In 2008, they had 798 stores and as of September 2017 B&N was down to 634 stores, according to Forbes.

The latest CEO in a string of failures has come up at least one answer to what ails them. Barnes & Noble needs…smaller stores.

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Also, the newest plan to save the Barnes & Noble bookstore is to sell mostly everything BUT books (vinyl records, toys, gifts, etc.).

*silently screams*

The Publishing Cold War

Earlier I mentioned one tenet of business success: Do as much as possible to limit the impact of outside forces that control or limit earning ability.

Amazon did this. By mastering e-commerce, they controlled overhead, were highly maneuverable, and outside forces had limited and manageable influence over them. Borders and Barnes & Noble failed to do this, as mentioned earlier.

Another tenet of business success is to never take on your competition in the area where they hold major advantage. 

Amazon also understood this, which is why they waited until 2015 to open their first brick-and-mortar store. Barnes & Noble, however, decided to duke it out with one of the world’s largest e-commerce companies in the very arena Amazon built.

Amazon, legacy publishing, changes in publishing, demise of Barnes & Noble, independent bookstores, Kristen Lamb, publishing, the book business, Publishing Cold War

Barnes & Noble forgot it was in the book business, and not a tech company. They launched the Nook which has been nothing but a black hole sucking in millions and tanking stocks…a financial hemorrhage that’s been a major factor driving so many store closures.

Barnes & Noble got target fixation and bought Amazon’s feint…hook, line and sinker. Amazon had them (and a lot of other people) wholly convinced most consumers preferred to shop on-line.

Not necessarily…

Consumers are People

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People. Not numbers or data points. Readers are flesh and blood humans. Humans like to browse, touch, hold, feel, etc. We are social and tactile by nature. I knew that, which is why I wagered Amazon had a very different game plan than most folks believed.

All of this is purely conjecture, but I think I make a solid case.

Amazon convincing B&N they had no choice BUT to compete on-line reminds me of Reagan convincing the USSR that America could nuke them from space.

The more money B&N shoveled into e-commerce, the more their physical store presence shrank to cover losses. All of this played right into the Amazon’s long game. From what I can see, I believe Amazon’s objective was to force the competition to cannibalize itself…and vacate the precise market they WANTED.

Brick-and-mortar.

Once the big-boxes were down to a certain number, then Amazon would open their own small bookstores. A lot of them. And they wouldn’t have to cater to the Big Five’s demands or worry about any big-box competition.

***Oh, and they used the time bludgeoning megastores to perfect algorithms to prepare for smart-stocking their future stores.

Humans Never Change

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Why Hubby and I are no longer allowed back at Home Depot….

What Barnes & Noble never realized is that humans generally prefer what’s easiest. If there aren’t any bookstores close to us, then we’ll shop on-line. Again, in 2012, I wrote a post I’d hoped B&N would read and heed, regarding small being the new big.

I pointed out that consumers wanted bookstores that were convenient. We wanted physical bookstores, but we weren’t willing to drive to the next fricking city for a ‘browsing experience.’

Especially since these big guys haven’t been an experience since about 2001. They were Applebee’s…but with books and no french fries. Same look, same books *yawns*. Displays weren’t curated by passionate and autonomous sales clerks. Every inch of real estate was pre-negotiated and mapped out.

Anyway, I’d say Amazon counted on Barnes & Noble’s hubris. The best way B&N could have kicked @$$ years ago was to open up small bookstores in strip malls…just like the ones they’d obliterated.

But, alas, pride comes before the fall.

In the October 21, 2016 article in The New Yorker, What Barnes & Noble Doesn’t Get About Bookstores, Leonard Riggio, the man who bought Barnes & Noble forty-five years ago and turned it into a giant finally conceded this mistake:

The No. 1 consideration of where someone will shop is how close it is to where they are. It has nothing to do with pedigree or branding. If there’s no bookstore close to them, they’re more likely to buy online. If there’s one close, they’re more likely to buy if it’s a block away.

 

Amazon & The Long Game

Amazon, legacy publishing, changes in publishing, demise of Barnes & Noble, independent bookstores, Kristen Lamb, publishing, the book business, Publishing Cold War

Why would I bother trying to help Barnes & Noble time and again despite how they’ve hurt writers? Again, let’s hop in our blog DeLorean and visit—you got it—2012. Something about that year. Mayans maybe? *shakes head*

I wrote a post called Amazon: Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts. Feel free to go read the post in its entirety, but to save you clicking over, I’ve copied the salient parts from a post that is SIX years old.

I really hope New York gets its act together, because, 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?

Amazon right now is in the courting phase with writers, and it is using us (writers) as a weapon to kill our former masters. Ah, but if Amazon really gets its way…what then?

When NY is razed and Amazon has no real competition, do they have to keep giving us the same sweet royalty rate? 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?

Still a good question, which is why that platform is so vital. If Amazon goes cray-cray, we have the power to walk away. Yet, for the record, I support legacy publishers and I’m cool with Amazon. I love great books and don’t care how they’re published or by whom. I buy a lot of books from both of them.

It’s monopolies that give me hives.

Back to Book Business

Amazon, legacy publishing, changes in publishing, demise of Barnes & Noble, independent bookstores, Kristen Lamb, publishing, the book business, Publishing Cold War

While the masses screamed Amazon was killing the bookstore, I was betting differently. Frankly Amazon couldn’t kill something that was pretty much already dead.

Borders and B&N had already decimated indie bookstores and small chains. Amazon wasn’t out to kill bookstores, it was out to kill the big-box bookstores…then replace them.

Why writers need to pay attention to this new shift is that Amazon is about to be top dog in e-commerce as well as brick-and-mortar. This means that platform/branding thing becomes a whole lot more important. So does the writing really amazing books 😉 . But, if Amazon is not your beer, I have wonderful news!

You’ve Got Mail (Alternate Ending)

Amazon, legacy publishing, changes in publishing, demise of Barnes & Noble, independent bookstores, Kristen Lamb, publishing, the book business, Publishing Cold War

Who would have guessed the end of You’ve Got Mail wasn’t the end of The Shop Around the Corner?

Nature abhors a vacuum and while Amazon was doing it’s big power play, little guys slipped in and did what entrepreneurs do best. They got creative. Independent bookstores are exploding in popularity and readers are thrilled to have their local bookstores back…only way better.

The Indie Bookstore 2.0 is a very different creature. Some have wine bars, cocktail hours, flower shops, cafes or even microbreweries. The imagination knows no bounds. There are culinary bookstores dedicated to cookbooks that hold cooking classes and have fully stocked kitchens so customers can try out merchandise.

Some stores are architectural works of art, their owners passionately vested in creating spaces humans want to gather and hang out. Hubs for communities to come together and klatsche.

We agree, Kathleen. Whatever anything is, it ought to begin by being personal and enterprising new indie bookstores concur.

Now these entrepreneurs have actually enhanced the bookstore experience. Check out Novel in Memphis, Tennessee, BookBar in Denver, Colorado, and Read It & Eat in Chicago, Illinois.

Shoppers have wanted bookstores all along (and we’d long ago lost our fascination with cheap). Heck, Amazon has a bazillion crappy books we could download free. No, these next-generation indie stores handcraft their selections. Salespeople are well-read experts who love books, who are empowered regarding book placement. In many of these stores, premium spots are non-negotiable and not for sale.

The books readers want and salespeople love grace the best spots. Don’t know about you, but I’m giddy. It’s like the Chess Club finally has a real shot at the Homecoming Court, LOL.

Raise Your Glass!

Amazon, legacy publishing, changes in publishing, demise of Barnes & Noble, independent bookstores, Kristen Lamb, publishing, the book business, Publishing Cold War

Readers and writers win! This new generation indie bookstore is not chained to the Big Five or beholden to Amazon, though very friendly to both. These bookstores don’t care about pedigree, they care about what books readers want to read. The give no figs if authors are published via legacy, traditional, small press, indie or self-pub. Their sole loyalty is to their customers (readers) and to the authors their customers love.

Kind of like the good old days only now we have nibblies, and wine 😀 .

I LOVE Hearing From YOU

What are your thoughts about the changes ahead in the book business? Me? I’m almost giddy! Imagine all the creative types of independent bookstores. Bookstores with only fitness and nutrition, healthy living and wellness books that hold yoga classes and bootcamps in the parking lot. Science fiction and fantasy bookstores that carry gaming and D&D supplies, Cosplay costume classes, or demonstrations on sword fighting. Mystery bookstores that include a Mind Maze experience, too?

Now THIS is a bookstore future I can get fired up about! Vindication! Good books win! A social media platform that is social and focused on people and relationships matters! (Told you guys to ignore all that newsletter algorithmic alchemy crap). This is fantastic news. Unlike the B. Dalton days, we can cultivate passionate fans willing to pay retail ahead of time instead of relying on BLIND LUCK. *does cabbage patch dance*

I love hearing from you and am not above bribery!

What do you WIN? For the month of JANUARY, 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!

Master Class: How to Write a Series

Taught by Kristen Lamb AND Cait Reynolds…together…in same room. It’ll be fun! Class is NEXT FRIDAY January 19th, 7-10 PM EST in our W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom. $75 for a three hour class of intensive education and lots of shenanigans.

A free recording is included with class purchase…though we reserve the right to edit out anything that can and will be used against us in a court of law.

Your Life as a Story: How to Write a Memoir

Friday, January 26th 7-9 PM EST in the W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom with USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds. Class is $65 and a free recording is provided with purchase.

 

If the cover is an invitation to the party in your book, then the blurb (the back cover description, the summary, whatever you want to call it) is the RSVP card readers check off as attending-with-the-chicken-option when they buy your book.

The trouble is that for so many books, while the cover is invites you to a rave, the blurb reveals it’s really polka night at the VFW.

The Book Cover
The Blurb

So, if the blurb is so important, why is it so hard to write? Raise your hand if you hate writing blurbs. Raise your other hand if you agonize over writing a blurb, and it still feels like it’s awful when it’s done.

Even Tolstoy probably downed a gallon or two of vodka while trying to write the blurb for War and Peace.

Well, for today’s Girl Friday, you get me, Cait Reynolds (you know, the chick who goes on vacation with six books and comes back with, uh, eighteen – no lie!), and my tips and tricks for turning blurb writing hell into blurb writing heaven!

Actually, *I* do.

I used to hate blurb writing with the heat of a thousand suns. Now, I pop them out like Pop-Tarts from a toaster. I used to think blurbs were a challenge set by the Devil (totally on par with that 40 days in the desert thing) to test my resolve in being a writer. Now?

The Lord rewards the righteous, and the way of blurb writing is littered with goodness and manna with sprinkles.

Why is blurb writing so hard?

In order to fully understand the solution, we have to look at the problem.

We write a book. We are so freaking excited about it! It’s such a good story! We want everyone to know what a good story it is! It has all these characters and a quest that is going to change the world! Oh, and then, there’s this really crucial part about…

…aaaaand that’s where we need to stop.

We have come down with a serious case of “KSS” – Kitchen Sink Syndrome. It’s probably safe to say that we have also contracted a secondary infection of “ISS” – Inadvertent Snowflake Syndrome.

The symptomology of Kitchen Sink Syndrome is easy to spot:

  • The urge to make sure the entire arc of the plot is covered;
  • Reassuring the reader that there will be a satisfying resolution;
  • Showing just how exciting the story is by revealing one of the twists;
  • Erupting in a rash of “No Character Left Behind” in the description.

If we can check off one or more of these symptoms, then we definitely need to get tested for Inadvertent Snowflake Syndrome, just to be on the safe side.

Signs of ISS include:

  • Mentioning the age of any character unless crucial to the plot;
  • Including irrelevant physical descriptors (I’m looking at you, raven-haired beauty!);
  • Reassuring the reader that the protagonist has best friends who will go with him/her on the quest;
  • Admitting that any characters fall in love with a 70% chance of happily ever after.

So, now we have a diagnosis that on the surface seems to nix basically anything we want to put in the blurb. It feels like we are further away than ever from that golden moment of revelation of how to write a blurb with ease and panache.

Yet, like chicken soup, antibiotics, and puppy-snuggling, there is a slow-and-steady cure for the blurb-writing blues.

Celebrity Death Match: Blurbs vs. Summaries

The first thing we have to do is stop thinking of the blurb as a stand-in for a synopsis or summary of the book. Stop thinking like a writer, and start thinking like an advertiser.

A summary tells all, reveals all, and has a purpose that is totally different from a blurb. It’s an editorial and production piece that rarely sees the light of day with the public.

A blurb is an advertisement. It’s meant to lure, entice, and tease. It is a selling tool.

And, just like most effective selling tools, absolute accuracy isn’t really necessary. Think of the blurb like it’s an ad for wrinkle cream (Thanks, Kristen!).

It will leave your skin softer and smelling good. Whether your skin is smoother or not is entirely subjective, so the claims of the ad can’t really be proved or disproved.

What I’m trying to say is that we can fudge things a little bit in a blurb if it will make it more exciting and enticing. For example, if Seraphina is learning to become a mage but ends up flunking out of mage school and not being a mage after all, we don’t really have to be honest and up front with the reader in the blurb that Seraphina will fall short of her goals and our expectations.

Just like the old saying, “There are no good lawyers, only lawyers who do their job well,” there are no good blurbs, only blurbs that do their job and sell the reader on the book.

Hokey Pokey blurbs

Good blurbs leave us wanting to know more, thinking about the problem posed, or fascinated with one little detail that was mentioned.

These are the things that lead us to buy the book. I totally get that it is wicked hard to pry ourselves out of the mindset of a being a writer and and into the slightly swampy mindset of being a marketer. So, here’s a little game I play when I sit down to write a blurb:

The Hokey Pokey.

You put your protagonist in. You leave the best friend out. You put the problem in. You leave the twist out. You do the Hokey Pokey and leave ’em on a cliffhanger. That’s what it’s all about.

(Look, I never said I was a poet or good at rhyming stuff.)

Obviously, there are exceptions and tweaks for every genre, and it’s a good practice to browse through both indie and traditionally published books in whatever genre we are writing to study the blurbs. Things to note as we read the blurbs:

  • How long are they?
  • How suspenseful?
  • What are some key words and phrases in the genre?
  • Do they start with a tagline (a one-sentence/sentence fragment that is a tease for the entire book)?
  • Do they end with a tagline?
  • What is the balance between the protagonist’s personal peril and the global peril of the plot?

If we look hard enough, patterns for the blurb emerge (kind of like those 3-D eye puzzles I could never get to come into focus). In all seriousness, the structure of a blurb is super simple and can be summed up by 3P’s made of 2-3 sentences each:

  • Protagonist: Who are we rooting for and where are they in life when the book starts?
  • Problem: What is the main problem of the book?
  • Peril: How does the problem bring the protagonist to the brink of X?

And leave it there. Don’t reassure the reader about anything. EVER. Reassurance is what they get when they buy the book and read it all the way through.

Which is why we write the blurb in the first place…

I’m not gonna lie. The kid has talent. I kinda want to read this. (From Mrs. Baldwin’s Class Blog – http://mrsbaldwin5.edublogs.org/2014/08/14/what-is-a-blurb/)

Blurb writing blows…but, it doesn’t have to

If you want to learn more about writing blurbs and get your blurb workshopped, join my class tonight!

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $45.00 USD

Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom

When: Friday, October 6th, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

The blurb. Back cover description. 150-200 words. Your entire book in 3 small paragraphs.

The heart’s cry goes up from every single writer ever: “THIS IS HARDER TO WRITE THAN THE 90,000 WORDS OF MY BOOK!”

And yet, it shouldn’t be. Approached from a different angle, a blurb should be one of the easiest and most fun things to write. Yes. I went there. I said it. Hopefully, after taking this class, you will be saying it, too. No more blubbering over blurbs. Ever.

This class will cover:

  • Understanding the purpose of a blurb in attracting readers;
  • The top secret formula to structuring a blurb;
  • How to plug-and-play every blurb, every time;
  • Why everything you think is important in your story really isn’t (in terms of the blurb);
  • The secret to keywords, blurbs, and algorithms.

As a bonus, bring a copy of your blurb to the class for group workshopping!

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

GOLD PACKAGE

With the Gold Package, you get a 1 hour consult and hands-on blurb editing session with Cait!

About the Instructor:

Cait Reynolds is a USA Today Bestselling Author and lives in the Boston area with her husband and four-legged fur child. She discovered her passion for writing early and has bugged her family and friends with it ever since. When she isn’t cooking, running, rock climbing, or enjoying the rooftop deck that brings her closer to the stars, she writes.

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Normally my blogs are all about telling y’all you are not a special unique snowflake. But yeah y’all are but don’t get a big head about it 😛 . We just need to discern the places we are not special (I.e. we all have to do the work) and figure out the places we are and then USE that, especially when it comes to creating an author brand.

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We’re now into the Digital Age, and the ramifications of a connected world are still being revealed daily. But, there’s one trend I’d be hard-pressed to argue with. The 20th Century was all about homogeneity. Madison Avenue flourished by telling us which clothing brands made us cool, which car made us special, what foods were “healthy.”

Information was controlled by gatekeepers and commodities restricted by retailers, thus homogeneity was the goal. Homogeneity was simpler and required less paperwork and thinking.

Generations bought Wonderbread because it was “fortified with vitamins” and “good for your kids.” In 1986? Hope you liked stirrup pants. There was a cultural need to “fit in” and be like everyone else, especially those who were the “cool kids.”

“Pillars of Same” Go Crashing Down

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With the advent of the Internet and widespread use of social media, homogeneity is crumbling. Individualism is now revered more than ever in human history (often to the point of being irritating, but that’s another post).

And, no matter how weird, off-beat, or All-American we want to be? There is a subculture to embrace our style. Mega-trends have lost their power.

What this means is that, as consumers are faced with more and more choices, they’re segregating themselves into smaller and smaller subgroups. Love tattoos? Minis? Tattoos of minis?

Can’t get enough of Jackson Galaxy and cat whispering? Are you Stay-at-Home-Mom who kicks butt on a Roller Derby Team each Saturday? It’s all out there, and most of us are a unique mixture that can’t easily be categorized.

Spawn is a part of the gaming, HALO, NERF and Shoes are Evil subculture.
Spawn is a part of the gaming, HALO, NERF and “Shoes are for Suckers” subculture.

What all of this means is that 20 years ago, we knew which table to sit at–Jocks, Preps, Nerds, Geeks, Good Kids, Band Kids, Kid Who Smells Like Old Carpet. The lines were clearer, namely because we had only a handful of networks and limited retail outlets to define our identity.

Now? We have the reins of individual freedom and we like it.

What Does This Mean for Publishing?

Big publishing has a number of limitations. First, their size. Second, massive overhead. Third? 20th Century thinking. They have to find the mega-trend to stay in business, but what does this mean in a marketplace that is rapidly shifting to micro-trends?

NY is less able to spot the micro-trends, because in a world of algorithms, numbers and spreadsheets, one relies on the past to predict the future.

Business is always looking backward in order to move forward. It’s like trying to drive our car using the rearview mirror as the main guide. Says a lot about where we’ve been, but gives limited information as to what’s ahead.

Indies Have Revealed the Micro-Trend

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We’ve talked about the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, yet I will point out that I’ve met agents who turned down the manuscript. It was through E.L. James’ massive volume of independent sales that the micro-trend surfaced and then NY could turn this success into a mega-trend. A genre which received little to no attention has grown exponentially.

This was one of the reasons I recommended NY create e-book divisions as early as 2009 (REAL e-book divisions, not vanity-press retreads). Find a good book, give it a chance and see if the trend emerged. If not? The product cost less to produce and the writer could earn a higher royalty.

Even if the book didn’t sell bazillions of copies, writers didn’t have to sell that many books to make a healthy living and be freed up to write more books. Now instead of NY banking the farm on finding the ONE mega-trend, they could reap the rewards of countless micro-trends.

Which is exactly what Amazon has been doing.

Amazon doesn’t need one author to sell two million copies (not that they are opposed to it), but they can easily have 20 or even a 100 authors sell two million copies. The money spends the same.

This is Why Social Media is Vital for Authors

Social media is vital for keeping our fingers on the pulse of the public (code for “readers”). We can use blogging to define our brand then use content to attract those who share our “subculture” tastes (I teach how to do this in my blogging class 😉 ) .

It’s the main reason it’s death to be the All-Writing-All-The-Time-Channel. That’s a one-dimensional subculture that is overfished and quickly grows stagnant.

Also, any writer worth his/her salt is interested in a lot of things. 

The more we feed our subculture, the healthier it becomes, and the more loyal.

We are all seeking our peeps, our tribe, our “friends” in a world that has become explosively larger.

Modern humans are overwhelmed with the sheer volume of choices, and, as a response, we stick to what we know. Sure, in 1999 we LOVED the megastore because it was new and shiny. Almost fifteen years later? Mega stores are going extinct.

In fact, in 2012…2012! I spelled out a plan to save Barnes & Noble. They didn’t listen, but apparently Amazon did. B&Ns are going under simply because they failed to appreciate the power of being small.

THIS was in our local mall.
THIS was in our local mall.

Boutique is BIG

We’ll pay a bit more to shop at the corner market who appreciates our love for exotic sushi, GF hot dog buns, and foie gras. We can buy Wonderbread at a supermarket or go to the small boutique grocer that sells sprouted grains for those of us in the crowd of Wonder-Why-We-EVER-Ate-Wonderbread.

Everyone wins.

Boutique stores thrive, but so do boutique BRANDS.

But There’s a Catch…

To spot and nourish the micro-trend, we must be present.

This is one of the many, many reasons automation gives me a twitch. Micro-trends can earn us a healthy living. A single writer doesn’t need to sell as many books to keep the lights on as NYC does. Also micro-trends have the potential to grow up to be mega-trends.

Spreadsheets can’t tell us as much as people can. And, trust me, people have a lot to say. Numbers can’t tell us as much about the future as relationships can.

What are your thoughts? Do you love a world where you can define your own style? Create your own genres? Mix in your varied interests? Have you met people on social media with similar hobbies that you’d never have met in person?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of SEPTEMBER, 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! Including How to Write the Dreaded Synopsis/Query Letter! 

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

NEW CLASS!

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS

You’ve written a novel and now are faced with the two most terrifying challenges all writers face. The query and the synopsis.

Query letters can be daunting. How do you sell yourself? Your work? How can you stand apart without including glitter in your letter?

***NOTE: DO NOT PUT GLITTER IN YOUR QUERY.

Good question. We will cover that and more!

But sometimes the query is not enough.

Most writers would rather cut their wrists with a spork than be forced to write the dreaded…synopsis. Yet, this is a valuable skills all writers should learn.

Sign up early for $10 OFF!!!

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist September 2nd–September 16th

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.

Blogging for Authors

September 17th

Blogging is one of the most powerful forms of social media. Twitter could flitter and Facebook could fold but the blog will remain so long as we have an Internet. The blog has been going strong since the 90s and it’s one of the best ways to establish a brand and then harness the power of that brand to drive book sales.

The best part is, done properly, a blog plays to a writer’s strengths. Writers write.

The problem is too many writers don’t approach a blog properly and make all kinds of mistakes that eventually lead to blog abandonment. Many authors fail to understand that bloggers and author bloggers are two completely different creatures.

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

 

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In the spirit of the upcoming holidays, today we are going to talk about something touchy and complicated. No, I am not going to tell you where babies come from.

Okay, fine.

Amazon. With Prime, you get free shipping.

Moving on…

The whole publishing paradigm makes me kinda twitch and we writers are often at the center of a lot of silly complaining. So I’d like to debunk some pretty myths we writers love to perpetuate.

It’s like that ex who we run into on Facebook and we get all nostalgic and remember all the loooove. But, if we took more than 30 seconds to think. Really THINK? We’d remember why we were combing Craig’s List for a hit man willing to be paid in unredeemed Starbucks gift cards to take that person OUT…O_o

Same situation. Let’s unpack this, shall we?

Fallacy #1—Old Books Are Awesome & We Should GO BACK

I just love the smell of old books. The feel of old paper. The nostalgia. I just miss browsing dusty shelves looking for a hidden treasure…

I can completely 1000% get on board with this. Books are foundational for any thriving society and the bedrock of any enduring culture. But this commentary does not belong in a business discussion about the publishing industry.

Why?

Because we (writers) are not being PAID off old dusty copies of our manuscripts unless we happen to be traveling the country selling them out of steamer trunks.

It’s a non sequitur.

In fact, and this is just ME. I will not buy books at secondhand stores or garage sales. And, if I do happen to buy a book this way and I like the title and I find out the book is still in print and the author who worked really, really hard to write that book can still be paid?

I buy a copy.

Often a digital copy to make sure that the writer got PAID for doing her job. It’s a professional courtesy.

Thing is, 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.

Doctors work hard and they expect to get paid. No one gripes when the doctor gets paid. Heck, no one gripes when the UPS driver gets paid or the barista who makes the triple-shot espresso pumpkin soy cappuccino with half foam and vanilla sprinkles and does not commit MURDER gets paid.

Oh, but it is artsy and bohemian to rip writers off because old books are cool?

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

I love old books. Have stacks of them. Want to buy old copies of Moby Dick? Be my guest. I doubt Melville is counting on that Amazon royalty check to pay to upgrade his Scrivner or, I dunno, eat.

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

I also get that paper is not going away, but what makes me a little cray-cray is why authors seem so resistant to e-books at all. I love e-books. First of all because I seriously DIG that giant old lady font.

How Kristen reads ALL her books…

Also, because that is another way readers can buy and consume my work. Want it on paper? Here. Audio? HERE. E-book? Here!

Heck, as writers, I think we should stand behind any kind of R&D that gets more stories into the hands of readers. I am 1000% behind Carrier Pigeon Technology, Smoke Signal Fiction, Books by Morse Code.

Granted, morally, I am on the fence about downloading my book directly into my readers’ brains, but hell the sci-fi folks can just run with that! If the royalties are fat enough? I’m game.

Heck, if there was good money behind me acting out my stories in interpretive dance?

I would so be there.

*JAZZ HANDS*

Who cares how readers get our books so long as we are being paid?

In case anyone was unclear? WE are the oldest profession 😉 .

And this “How Readers Get Our Books” dovetails into my next point…

Fallacy #2 Barnes & Noble Supports All Authors

The whole B&N drama? I am verklempt. Calm down and hear me out. I don’t think Barnes & Noble is as good or even as bad as we believe.

Do I believe B& N is the devil? Of course not. I love B&N. In fact, there was a time I had a loan shark who met me in the hardbacks to front me some Benjamins to keep pace with my habit.

I think competition is GOOD. It is necessary and vital and it keeps everyone playing nice-nice. I even wrote a long piece about the dangers of Amazon becoming a monopoly in case you are worried I am being too biased.

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But, here is the deal. The second I write anything about how Amazon is doing something really brilliant, people love to jump all over Bezos for being predatory and helllooo?

Can we just go back about 15-20 years?

Barnes and Noble (and Borders) are almost singlehandedly responsible for wiping out the indie bookstore ecosystem. They deliberately placed megastores on every corner and willfully drove small bookstores out of business so I guess I am the only one who finds Borders extinction karmic and B&Ns current plight ironic.

Thing is, B&N reinvented the book industry and were rewarded for doing so. They got people really excited about bookstores again and it was bloody and brutal for the indies.

But now that another business has come along that is finally mean and lean enough to hit back comes along? I am not all, “Poor B&N.”

I have popcorn and Red Vines.

Genuine competition is good for them. They can either lay there and take it or they can use the pushback to reinvent the bookstore again. Markets aren’t supposed to remain static. And last I checked, their top officers get paid pretty well to figure this stuff out 😉 .

Barnes & Noble is not good for most authors, lest we forget how they were able to get those rock-bottom prices that drove most of the indies out of business. They thrive off selling in volume and the only authors who are fairly guaranteed to sell in volume are already household names.

Nothing personal. It’s business.

So when Amazon comes along and its business is not driven by a scattergun approach and instead is driven off authentic interest as reflected in genuine buying habits?

We writers might want to take notice.

Yes, as I predicted, Amazon would need a brick-and-mortar store to sell its own imprints, but this is also good news for traditionally published authors who are new with lower print runs or whose last name doesn’t rhyme with Patterson.

Fallacy #3 Social Media is a Dismal Failure

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I’ve had a few comments regarding how so many authors ran to social media and they simply aren’t seeing any of that social media activity translate into sales. Thing is? Yep. Social media is not direct marketing, though the two are often confused.

See, in direct marketing, we can measure. We can put out an ad, measure click rates and see how many clicks led to a purchase. We can send out so many fliers and then measure quantitatively how many of those later translated into sales.

We can measure how many morons individuals were sent an e-mail telling them they had inherited $100,000,000 from some relative they never knew they had in Guana against how many deposits we get of $5000 to spring that “inheritance” from customs.

This gives us our ROI (return on investment). How many e-mails sent in comparison to how much cash is sent via Western Union.

Why it has been so vexing for marketers is they try to treat social media the same way as mass marketing…and they can’t. Because if we do social media correctly (keeping it social) there is no way to quantify it.

It becomes too obvious we are mixing social and market norms and that creeps people the hell out.

Example:

Market Norms are when a prostitute expects money in return for *wink wink nod nod* “favors.”

Social Norms are when a wife does those same “favors” for her beloved husband out of love because getting paid for it would be seriously strange.

That seems obvious, right?

But what if wife has a wonderful and romantic evening with her husband, but then before he leaves for work, asks him to fill out an on-line survey rating how he enjoyed his night and tells him that when he completes his survey, he will be texted a code that he can then redeem for free pancakes?

Yes, I just took that to a WHOLE NEW LEVEL of weird.

But y’all see what I mean when I say that you just can’t sneak that stuff in there! We SEE it. We can tell when we are being manipulated on social media and that is why this stuff cannot be directly measured and quantified.

Word of Mouth is Vital…But Can’t Be Measured

Zuckerberg didn’t invent social media. Social media has always been around. It was just called “word of mouth.” It was also the only thing next to a good book that ever sold books.

The only difference, was that until Web 2.0, it was almost impossible to ignite word of mouth on any level of magnitude. But to think we can measure and control it? Not happening.

As far as authors not seeing any “direct translation into sales”? I can tell you why. They are the same people we likely had to run off #MyWANA with digital pitchforks for book spam.

There are no shortcuts. Period.

Write good books. Work really hard. Make friends and enjoy yourself and hopefully it will pay off. It may not, but think of it this way?

Twenty years ago we could have all gone to our graves without ever getting to hold a copy of our own work in our hands. At least today we get a shot, and that is a heck of a lot more than countless writers in the past ever got.

E-books might take away from that nice quaint little shop on the corner (the ones not razed by B&N), but that little shop on the corner only had room for a handful of authors.

And, Amazon IS looking to reinvent that little shop on the corner. Algorithms, love them or hate them, will make it possible for independent bookstores to thrive since they can stock smartly, and less waste means more profit.

E-books have made it possible for countless writers to finally be paid to do what they love. My opinion? Every digital copy downloaded, should come with the sound of a link of iron breaking…one more link from the day job. You are setting a WRITER FREE!

B&N is great, but again, only helping so many of our brothers and sisters in the inky trenches. I want to help MORE!

Social media. Do it. Don’t do it. If you do it, please at least do it well. Don’t feed us spam and then b$#@ when we don’t want to consume it & reward laziness.

We are NOT stupid. It is STILL SPAM!
We are NOT stupid. It is STILL SPAM!

I hope you all will embrace that we live in a great time and we get to make the future better for ourselves and writers to come. Ditch the old and embrace the new.

Do you love that you at least get to HOLD your book? Would you be willing to act out your novel in interpretive dance if the pay was right? Are you for more ways to get stories into hands of readers? Carrier hamsters? Nah, plague always a concern. Hmmm. I’ll give the ideas over to you guys.

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

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