Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: author branding

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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

 

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

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

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

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

Why? What went wrong?

We have to look at what a brand actually IS.

What’s in a Name?

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Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Pierre Lognoul

The formula for a brand is simple:

NAME + PRODUCT + EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE

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

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

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

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

Consumers are now seeing RED.

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

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

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

It isn’t just about a good book anymore.

Why Are Brands So Important?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of these companies also have a platform.

What is a Platform?

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

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

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

Authors are doing the same.

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

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

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

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

Remember:

A brand is a collection of emotional experiences.

A platform is simply those who will enjoy that experience.

Modern writers hold the advantage here.

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

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

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

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

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

Write More Books

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

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

So relax 😀 .

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

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

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

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

Upcoming Classes

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

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

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

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist Gold

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

Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line

September 7th

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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When I first became a writer, one of my favorite activities was dreaming what my pen name would be. I’d even practice signing it so that, you know, I didn’t accidentally scribble Kristen Lamb in my runaway best-selling book at my glamorous book signing.

Don’t judge me. Y’all did it too 😛 .

Before anyone gets in a fluff, understand two things. First, I’m on your side. If you want or need a pen name? Rock on! If you already have one? Keep it! If a sexy exotic name makes you write better stories? Go for it!

This is only a decision the author can make. My only goal here is to make sure y’all are making educated business decisions. Thus, I won’t stop anyone from having a pen name, but about 95% of the time? They’re unnecessary.

The modern author already has to take on far more than simply writing, so why volunteer for more work?

In my opinion? Pen names are more hassle than they are worth and they’re a fast way to land in Crazyville. Pen names used to offer benefits, but most of those benefits have evaporated because the world is digital and connected. In fact, pen names can actually hurt book sales and stall a platform and brand.

Let’s look at some of the advantages pen names used to offer that no longer exist.

I Need a Pen Name for PRIVACY

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Here’s the thing. We are in The Digital Age. Privacy is an illusion. In fact, be too private and we fail to connect emotionally with others and thus the platform and brand never gain traction. Social media is social and being social requires a certain level of vulnerability and openness.

Being open and vulnerable doesn’t mean we post our Social Security Number and the names of all our kids. It can be something as simple as, “Hey, I totally dig Dr. Who” or “I like to crochet weapons of mass destruction.”

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Some writers don’t want to do social media at all or they want to hide behind a pen name and only post “writerly things” or “BUY MY BOOK!” because, yeah, that is SUPER creative and we don’t already get enough of that *rolls eyes*.

They don’t want to share anything personal and the pen name is there to help them gain emotional distance and keep their “lives separate.”

The problem with this thinking is that, in The Digital Age, WE ARE THE BRAND.

Before The Digital Age, gatekeepers stemmed the number of books that came to market. Readers only could buy what they discovered browsing a bookstore. Now that there are millions of titles and more being added every day? Those habits and hobbies no one cared about in 1995 are what’s going to help us cultivate our readership. Readers buy from who they know and who they like.

When we try to separate our personal persona from our writing persona, we create layers of friction and a lot of extra work for those trying to discover our books.

This means we can inadvertently undermine our own success seeking the illusion of anonymity/privacy.

I Need a Pen Name to HIDE

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Erotica authors generally run into this problem. If what you write might cost you your job? Then yes, I agree a pen name is probably a good idea. It will be extra work, but y’all probably already knew that. What I DON’T like is often writers believe that just using another name is enough.

No.

First, if you require a pen name for safety, security, etc. hire a pro. I recommend The Digital Dark Knight Jay Donovan at Tech Surgeons. Tell him I sent you and he will give you special rates. If we are just creating social sites under a made up name and thinking this keeps us “safe”? This is akin to locking the screen door to keep out serial killers.

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If someone is motivated to find us, they can (unless you hire a pro like Jay).

You will probably have to look into the legal aspects of using another name and will likely require a DBA (Doing Business As) because, if you have any amount of success, you will need to be able to cash the check under another name, do taxes, etc.

Also, I will say that having to hide an identity is very stressful. Sites like Facebook use facial recognition software for tagging photos and then those photos are searchable.

All it takes is a friend carelessly posting a photo and tagging with the wrong name to implode a carefully crafted alter ego.

As more social networks communicate across platforms and search engines become more ingrained and more advanced, hiding will get harder and harder.

I Need a Pen Name for Each Genre

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NO! For the love of all that is chocolate, NO!

Remember, WE ARE THE BRAND. You guys come to my blog and trust I will work hard and deliver enjoyable content. This means when I have a book out, there is less work or thinking on your part. You know me, hopefully like me and you trust my work.

My name holds a lot of power because it promises to deliver content you enjoy. I write social media books, but I also…wait for it…write fiction.

Did anyone’s reality just fracture?

People “get” we do more than one thing. In fact, those who like my blogs or social media books, might just decide to read my fiction simply because they already trust my non-fiction. With SO many choices out there, we find a writer we like and stick like glue. We don’t want the hassle of trying and testing an unknown.

Readers don’t only read one genre. In fact, I think that is probably fairly rare.

When we use a pen name for another genre, we are back at Ground Zero. We have to build another name without any help from the already existing platform.

I finally sent off my mystery-thriller to the publisher. When that sucker goes to market? I am NOT motivated enough to start ALL OVER. If my followers don’t like stories about murder and cartels? Don’t buy my book. Simple. But, there may be people who might just try a thriller because it’s written by me.

*cute face*

It Doesn’t Take Much to Implode an Identity

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I once had a writer in my branding class who was using a pen name because her family is less than supportive and they trolled her other sites when she tried to use her real name. But what if she becomes successful and crazy family member figures out the pen name and starts trolling that site? Eventually this writer will have to put down a boundary.

Troll my site one more time and you will die in a tragic blow-up doll accident in my next novel.

She is costing herself a TON of extra work to cater to a handful of bullies. She’s losing all those close connections—schoolmates, college friends, colleagues, etc.—who actually will be her best word of mouth sales. I have people who didn’t say three words to me in high school who are now avid fans because I’m the writer they KNOW.

My Name is Too Hard to Pronounce or Spell

NO! That name no one has gotten right since you were a kid is now your digital BFF. If you don’t believe me? Google Janet Evonnivich.

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I see authors with AWESOME names for the Digital Age change it to something utterly forgettable. If your name is Skjolsvik, I don’t have to know how to pronounce it, I just have to be able to recognize it in a lineup. Also, all I have to remember is it starts with Skj—.

Search engines will correct me if I goof it.

I Need a Pen Name Because There is Another Person With My Name

Again, search engines can help with this. Do y’all really think I am the ONLY Kristen Lamb? When I decided to set aside fiction to become the social media expert for writers, I began by googling my name. There was another Kristen Lamb who happens to be a media mogul.

But by producing a LOT of content and properly tagging that content, I now dominate the search for my name. And, even if I didn’t? If someone is searching my name for my blog/books and they get Kristen Lamb the Cake Decorator, all they have to do is add the word “writer” to narrow the search.

I Need a Pen Name Because Using My Name is Pretentious

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I hear new writers say this a lot. Why would anyone care what have to say? They don’t. When I was new, they didn’t care what I had to say, either. But being a writer is fundamentally pretentious and even narcissistic. We have to believe we have something to say that is worth not only reading, but PAYING to read.

Just own it.

And if we pan back, this entire argument is more than a tad ridiculous. So no one would care what Kristen Lamb has to say, but they WILL care what Kristen Lamb writing as an imaginary person and figment of her own imagination has to say? And that isn’t pretentious?

It is YOUR Decision

In the end, all I can do is give you branding and social media advice. Multiple names and pen names are a lot of work that is very often unnecessary. I see writers do this same thing with multiple blogs.

I blog about writing but I also blog movie reviews and funny anecdotes. What if my followers who like my writing posts don’t like kitten stories?

Um, they don’t read your post that day?

I write thrillers, but I also write cozy romance. What if my readers don’t like cozy romance?

Um, they don’t buy them?

If you require a pen name for safety issues, legal issues or even because it could endanger your job? TALK TO JAY. The rest of us? Our time is better spent writing more books 😉 .

What are your thoughts? Questions? Experiences? Do you have a pen name and love it? How do you manage that pen name without going cray-cray? Did you start out with a pen name and now you regret it? Do you have multiple names you now need to merge? I can actually blog about ways to do that another time.

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

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

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

Upcoming Classes

Blogging for Authors  (August 26th)

This class will teach you all you need to know to start an author blog good for going the distance. Additionally I would also recommend the class offered earlier that same week (August 22nd) Branding for Authors to help you with the BIG picture. These classes will benefit you greatly because most blogs will fail because writers waste a lot of time with stuff that won’t work and never will and that wastes a lot of time.

I am here to help with that 😉 .

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

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

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

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist Gold

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

Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line

September 7th

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Ah, I love this picture, namely because getting kicked in the face apparently is the only way I can get Angelina Jolie lips for FREE 😀 . Seriously, I found out yesterday that I am on the list to get my blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Most people who start Jiu Jitsu never get that far. They quit because, unlike other forms of martial arts, in Jiu Jitsu, you stay a white belt for a year and a half and most people can’t endure that long without the outside validation of “changing colors.”

For me? A broken nose, busted lip, three broken toes and a case of Shingles later?

HA! I AM STILL HERE!

Am I any good? Eh, who knows. See, a lot of being successful at anything really goes back to what we talked about not too long ago in the “real” odds of success. That pit bull tenacity of never giving up. Just keeping on and keeping on and keeping on while the competition falls away. That’s a game changer.

But this dovetails into what I’d like to talk about today…

On Monday I talked about what it means to be a rainmaker. Rainmakers are those folks who get things done no matter what. I love that my blog can inspire you because frankly our souls need refreshing. Yet, I will say that passion is not going to cut it. This job is really really hard. It requires digging deep and doing a lot of un-fun stuff.

That is the difference in the real writers and the wannabes. The wannabes all love playing with their imaginary friends and doing the fun stuff. Fiction is WAY more exciting than making sure all my social media is tended and gutting through revisions and answering a gajillion e-mails.

But, this is a profession, not a playpen.

The difference in mediocre and magnificent is always in the details. In doing the work others don’t want to do.

In a world of equally good books, readers will default to the writer they know and recognize over the awesome writer (books) they’ve never heard of. It is up to us (the rainmakers) to make it rain.

We do the extra that makes the difference. All rainmakers do.

In the 2011-2012 professional basketball season there was a major NBA lockout. No one knew when the season would start. When it did, there were a lot of games crammed into a far shorter span of time and, strangely, a lot of injuries. Why? Because many of the players didn’t continue training. Since they didn’t know when the season would start, they relaxed. Thus, when they finally did return to the game, they were soft, ungainly and out of shape.

The handful who didn’t take time off, who kept pressing and training day after day after day went on to have record-breaking seasons. Why? Because they did the extra. They did what others were unwilling to do.

To them?

Every day was game day.

 

For us, every day is game day.

I haven’t taught social media for a long time, but I have put together some new classes over at W.A.N.A. International that will be held in January to get you started off the right way. I’ve put this together to make it easy for you to get started in your New Year and maybe *hint hint* at loved ones for your gift 😉 .

Enjoy the holidays, but I hope you will treat yourself to the right start in 2016. Thing is, social media can drive book sales and it can be a huge game changer…if done correctly.

But, for those not yet convinced…

Social Media is a TOTAL Waste of Time (or not)

Write more books instead of tweeting or blogging. Social media is a giant time-suck better spent writing great books.

I don’t know how to answer this besides, Er? *screeching breaks* Personally, I can think of no larger waste of time than researching and reading and spending countless hours crafting a wonderful book of 60,000-110,000 words and then?

No one knows the book exists so few people ever read it, enjoy it or are changed by the author’s story.

It’s like spending six months to a year on an oil painting to hang it in an attic.

These days, any agent worth her salt will not sign an author who doesn’t have a social media brand and presence. Rarely, they will take a book from an author who doesn’t…but usually it will come with the requirement the author get on-line and get to work.

I ADORE Dawn Frederick at Red Sofa Literary and once shared a panel with her. She told the story of a book she LOVED and took even though the author wasn’t on social media. She was so impressed with the book she signed the author but told her she needed to get on social media and start building a platform.

After six months, the author refused. Dawn gave an ultimatum. Get your tail on social media or we drop the book and cancel the contract.

This is not the agent being mean.

Agents make money when we sell books and agents get that in a world where there are fewer and fewer book retailers, this means more and more shopping is being done on-line. On-line, if we don’t have a brand, we might as well not even exist (and it isn’t much better in the store, either).

Yes social media does matter because on-line is still growing…

No, E-Books are Not In Decline

There was a New York Times article that essentially claimed that the e-book tide was slipping and print was returning but this is not entirely accurate. According to a follow up article in Fortune it has to do with how one looks at the numbers. Yes, for traditional publisher there was a contraction in e-books because this is a pretty clear case of chickens coming home to roost.

Traditional publishers have continually demanded e-book prices remain high and most of us are just not going to pay the same price for the e-book as the paper, so YES of course paper will increase and e-book will decline.

Um…duh.

I know I’ve seen this in my own buying habits. Most of the time I just say, “Screw it, I don’t need the book that badly” and they lose the sale unless I really like the author.

But, if I really, really want the book I will get paper instead. There is something deeply and profoundly cheap about me.

No I am NOT right in the head.
No I am NOT right in the head.

This assertion about the e-book market did not take into account many very smart indies and self-published authors who are doing very…very well and who were smart enough NOT to charge $15 for a freaking e-book. Also the article and its assertions were deduced from AAP data and that’s enough about that.

Long story short. The sky is NOT falling. People still like e-books. Sally forth.

Great time to be a writer. Yes. A challenging one as well.

Myth-Busting About Marketing

So many writers believe they aren’t selling a lot of books because a publisher isn’t spending a whole lot of dough on marketing and ads.

Yeah, no.

Ads actually have a terrible ROI and marketing doesn’t work all that great…unless paired with an existing social media platform. Social media is all about connection.

Though I’m not a huge fan of ads, it makes sense that if a publisher (traditional or indie) is going to pay good money to create and launch one, that anyone interested should be able to easily connect with the author. Same with coveted AP reviews, interviews, or events. Even if we self-publish and pay for promotion, an existing platform will make the most of that investment.

A LOT of any sales is the follow up then the follow-through.

Even if a traditional publisher pays for marketing and advertising, they know the return on investment is far greater if the author has an existing social platform. The stronger the platform the better the ROI.

If social media is new, scary, overwhelming? Welcome to being NEW.

Social Media is for the READER

One of the things that can make social media super terrifying is writers think I am here to change your personality and nothing could be farther from the truth. Here’s a little secret.

Most people do not mind being sold to. Seriously.

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I don’t mind it. I like knowing about a new product or service. I like seeing a new gadget that will make my life easier. What I DON’T like is when advertisers abuse the privilege. When they don’t value my time or they manipulate me.

You probably are the same way.

I don’t think any of us minded retailers sending us an e-mail with coupons, but then they got greedy. They started abusing the privilege and crapping up our in-boxes and ALL of them did it and now most of us have an e-mail that we have allowed to go feral for retailers who insist on getting an e-mail address.

Fine, but I haven’t checked that in-box since Bush was in office.

When we are creating a social media platform we are helping the reader. We all know what it is like to want to get something to read and we end up just closing the screen because we can’t decide. There are just too many options.

I’ve had the same thing happen at a bookstore. Instead of ending up with a book, I check out with three cutesy bookmarks, two bars of chocolate and…a figurine of a cat reading Shakespeare?

Huh?

Either I end up buying junk or…what?

I default to brand names. Writers I just know.

Oh, forget it. I’ll just grab another George R.R. Martin.

Readers love connecting with authors. They love talking with them and getting to know them. That is social. They DO NOT like popups and spam and a constant barrage of ads and free stuff and being force-added to groups and mailing lists .

I’m just here to play matchmaker and help you find each other because too many writers are all talking to each other and doing everything but connecting in ways that are EVER going to potentially reach readers.

Writers can fall into three camps with social media.

The Mega Marketer

Self-explanatory. This author is on every social site, loves automation and will claim she never spams because she personally and carefully “crafts” all of her automated tweets.

Hint: That’s just eloquent spam.

This author knows all the algorithm tricks, and has a newsletter or two and force-adds total strangers to her fan group on Facebook.

I give props for working really hard, but often this writer’s tactics will make people want to set her on fire more than buy her books.

The Writers of Witness Protection

This writer often goes by a cutesy moniker @FairyGurl @ThrillerGuy. There are no existing pictures of this writer anywhere on social media. No website and if there IS a website it is NOT the author’s name. It is likely something like www.magicdragondreams.com or www.writerswillwrite.com.

If you need to contact this author, please light the beacons of Gondor.

Then there is where many writers fall into. Even I get here sometimes because I get so busy helping others that my own stuff needs work.

The Mission Drift Writer

Recently I worked with a team of writers who just made the New York Times Best-Selling list and great book. Problem was there are two authors, plus they have a business consulting firm plus the name of the book, plus their training and they were just trying to brand way too many things and so they were losing focus and power. I could see they were going to wear out and lose momentum.

We all have to step in and reevaluate. It’s why I am currently redoing MY web site.

It happens. Unfortunately social media is like our sock drawer. It will need tending…forever.

So to help with all of this I have put together three classes in January. And yeah, yeah I am selling stuff but I rarely do it and it is Christmastime and at least you can give this list to friends and family and spouses for something you NEED 😛 . Trust me, these classes are going to save you a ton of time and headache later.

Social Media for Writers This class is a 101. What do you need to understand about social media? What do all the sites do? Which ones do you need? What can you ignore? It’s also going to come with a really cool worksheet to help you customize your social media for your goals, your personality and your audience. Trust me, if you write YA, then Facebook may not be a great use of time. If you write high fantasy? Why are you on LinkedIn? Are you more visually oriented? What are your strengths? Weaknesses?

We are going to be smart about our social media because you need time to write more BOOKS. Recording of the class is included with the purchase.

January 9th 3:00 P.M. EST-5:00 P.M. EST $55

The Basics of Author Blogging Again, this is a 101 class. What is a blog? How is being an author-blogger different from being a blogger? Can you monetize your blog? How can you monetize your blog? What are the advantages of having a blog? How can you blog smarter? Because frankly a blog will do us no good unless we KEEP blogging. Recording of the class is included with purchase.

January 16th 3:00 P.M. EST-5:00 P.M. EST $55

Branding for Authors Another 101 class. What is an author brand? How can you create an author brand? How can you make it where your name alone has the power to sell books? This class also comes with a worksheet to help you customize your brand and the recording is included with purchase.

January 23rd 3:00 P.M. EST-5:00 P.M. EST $55

What are your thoughts? Are you excited about 2016? Are you ready to make a plan? Do you feel pulled too many different directions? Do you like ads and wish they would just stop ABUSING THEM? Like really! TELL me about A LIPSTICK…not ALL OF THEM! Do we have to light the fires of Gondor to contact you? Are you happy to know that e-books are NOT dying and actually doing WELL? 😀 Do you have a feral e-mail? I think mine is at 45,000 unread e-mails. I wonder how many I get before Yahoo crashes.

Hey, it is an awesome time to be a writer.

Also, any other suggestions y’all might have for a class you want me to teach, please put it in the comments. I am working on those now.

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

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

My impression of writers on social media….
My impression of writers on social media…. #tinfoilhat

I am an “Old Dog” of the digital publishing paradigm. When I started out on social media, I did not want to be a social media expert. I enjoyed editing and teaching and longed to write fiction. But every a$$clown with a Twitter handle was a “Social Media Expert” and much of the teaching was nothing short of ridiculous.

Some of the advice was downright predatory (or, in my book, cheating).

In my estimation, most of the tactics were more likely to increase author suicide rates than book sales, so I finally decided to become a Social Media Expert Jedi 😉 .

I’ve been through all the fads. The FREE BOOK Rush of 2010, The Great .99 Book Deal of 2011, The Amazing Algorithmic Alchemy, The Magical Metrics and the Automation Invasion of 2012-2014 (there are still skirmishes along the front).

Guess what? I’m still here.

I don’t say this really to brag as much as to make a point. Social media, done properly is not a short-term burst of gimmicky energy. There is no magic to it and it while it is simple, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. We not only have to manage the brand, we also produce the product.

Not a job for the faint of heart.

And with all the tweeting and blogging and slogging month after month and year after year, I know that it is SUPER easy for us writers to get overwhelmed. That’s why today, I’m here to offer some simple ways to inject fire back into your writing and your career.

*plays Eye of the Tiger loudly* *punches at the air*

#1—Appreciate that Writing and Social Media Branding Can Coexist

When I am on Twitter, I often get tweets like these:

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Guess what? I agree! The writing always, always comes first. But why is there an almost automatic assumption we must choose?

Social media, done the way I teach in Rise of the Machines, takes maybe 10-15 minutes a day and feel free to take off weekends. I offer no get-rich-quick advice. My author platforms take time (and discipline) to build, but they are virtually indestructible.

And the writer who tells me she doesn’t have ten minutes a day to work on her brand isn’t serious about being successful.

Whether we like it or not, social media is necessary for our job. Yes writing is fun, but it is still a profession.

Writers are in the entertainment business. Note that half that word is business. We are in the business of selling books. When I was in sales, we had a saying. Fish where the fish are. And the fish are schooling on social media. Makes sense to drop some lines.

The writer who is willing to tackle doing social media well is making a transition from hobbyist to professional. Celebrate! This means you are going places!

Thus, if the career has been sluggish, it might be time to go polish some other types of skills that are now required in this profession. Many times, the problem isn’t with the tool. We simply don’t know how to use that tool well.

#2—YES!!! The Product is All that Matters

When it comes to a brand, the surface perception is only part of the equation. I can have a fabulous website, great author pics, charming tweets and be a downright likable gal, but if my books stink?

No amount of social media magic can salvage literary dog poo.

This is one of the reasons I have written over 900 blogs. I blog a lot on craft because the product is essential. It is the most important part of the equation. Yes, write first. Take classes. Hone your art. Because your social media brand must be able to deliver an excellent product. It is okay to believe that your writing is important because…it IS.

So yes, we do need to work on our platform but you do have my “expert” opinion to focus on that end product. Relax about the social media, stuff. Really.

#3—Embrace the Social Media Trickle Down Effect

Part of embracing the new type of work we must do as digital age writers comes with redefining how we see our work. Feel free to get on social media and trudge through it like some chore, but with that kind of an attitude? I recommend just staying off altogether. We can sense a poor attitude through the screen.

Instead, I recommend you reframe what you’re doing and how beneficial that time really is. It’s an investment in you, in your success beyond simply selling books. There are all kinds of other benefits many writers never even consider.

Networking

Virtually every profession benefits from professional networking, why would writing be any different? Where else can you have 24 hour access to publishing professionals all over the world? Follow your heroes and make them mentors. What are they reading? What are they doing? How do they manage their time?

Where else other than Twitter could I start my day chatting with the former editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine (and one of my FAVORITE authors)?

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I used Twitter to follow James Rollins. It’s how I got to know him well enough to eventually contact him about giving me a blurb for my second book.

While an in-person writing group is great, often they can be a bit heavy with new writers. Places like Twitter or Facebook allow us access to the seasoned pros. We can chat with people we’d have to otherwise wait a year or more to see at a conference. Take advantage!

Research

Every writer out there gripes about not having enough time to write. Okay. Twitter helps us work smarter not harder. Twitter can make research much faster and far more accurate.

For instance, if you want to write a sexy new story with a Navy SEAL and don’t want to lose weeks researching, hop onto #NAVY and make some connections. Experts are always eager to help writers get the facts correct. The fastest and easiest way to find them?

Twitter.

Being Brave

And, for the shy folks, I know social media is forcing you to do something afraid. That is good. Use this time to hone being brave. Be brave in the small moments on-line and it might make you braver in your writing.

In the end, remember that there are mega-successful authors who are using social media to reap major advantages. This notion that we must choose writing or networking is short-sighted and an excuse. We all must learn simply to use time well and be disciplined.

If we assume that platform-building is this awful horrible time-intensive thing, then we psych ourselves out of some truly fantastic benefits that can really fire up our careers. We have to remember that it is very possible to write books and be on social media. Just like we can bathe and brush our teeth. No need to choose 😉 .

What are your thoughts? Do you psych yourself out when it comes to branding and social media? Do you think you need to do everything? Do you see how social media can allow you to take simple steps to fire up your future? What are some ways you add some mojo back into your routine?

I LOVE hearing from you!

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