Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: author success

author success, how to sell more books, how to find readers, book marketing, Kristen Lamb, book promotion, social media for authors, author branding, Kristen Lamb, author business

Publishing is a business, and—SURPRISE—so is being an author. By definition, anyone who decides to go pro is automatically an author business. ‘Business’ is what separates the hobbyists, dabblers, amateurs and wanna-be’s from true professionals.

I can already hear the great gnashing of teeth. Calm down. *hands paper bag* Breathe. 

One of the main reasons emerging writers fail to see any fruits from all their efforts is a lack of foundational knowledge. What does the author business actually entail?

Not nearly as much as one might be led to believe, which we talked about in my last post What Chef Ramsay Would Say About Writing.

Think LIKE a BUSINESS

When we add the word business to author our thinking shifts. To succeed in business it’s critical to first define it (known as a mission statement). What IS our business, and what does it DO?

Writers need to do the same. What kind of author do we want to be? It matters. As we mentioned last time, Louis L’amore had a very different operational tempo than Michael Crichton. So decide. It isn’t set in stone. We can change our minds, so relax 🙂 .

Suffice to say too many authors (I’m guilty too) get mission drift because we fail to focus and keep this SIMPLE.

These days it’s easy for emerging writers (actually all writers) to become confused and overwhelmed. Why? Digital age authors now have the ability to perform roles that were off-limits before Web 2.0.

Yet, just because we CAN perform these roles doesn’t automatically mean we MUST.

Feel free to learn formatting and cover design. Want to become a mega-marketer/promoter? Go for it. Is this all essential? Nope. All we need are the Three Bs—Books, Brand and Buds. Focus on these THREE first because all that extra stuff is a waste of time and resources without the Trinity of Success.

Fortune Favors the Prepared Not the Perfect

author success, how to sell more books, how to find readers, book marketing, Kristen Lamb, book promotion, social media for authors, author branding, Kristen Lamb, author business

No matter what business we’re in—including the author business—education is critical. A quick caveat, though. We don’t need to know every single last little bit of everything before acting.

There’s a fine balance between diving head-first into a lake without testing if the water’s only three feet deep versus believing we need to map the world’s oceans before ever learning to swim.

A happy medium is all good.

Be wary of any expert who gives you a panic attack with all the stuff you ‘must know’ or ‘must do’ to succeed.

Any ‘expert’ who tells you (especially as a beginner) that the author business is so vastly labyrinthine we can’t possibly comprehend it has an agenda. Yes, there will come a point where there is far too much for us to manage (complexity)…which is why God created editors, and literary and film agents.

My training company offers classes from top professionals on the finer points of this business, but nothing we teach will work without the BIG THREE B’s—books, brand and buds.

Author Product—Books

author success, how to sell more books, how to find readers, book marketing, Kristen Lamb, book promotion, social media for authors, author branding, Kristen Lamb, author business

All businesses have a service or a product. As authors, our products are BOOKS. Not spam. Please leave that to Hormel.

Our top priority is to write great stories people want to pay to read. That is all. Start simple. Every mega-author-success started SIMPLE. Begin with a great story and simple goal.

J.K. Rowling

Began with a goal of writing young adult fantasy fiction with a boy as her core protagonist. At the time, this was crazy talk! Boys didn’t read books. Girls did. Yet, Rowling stuck to her core simple goal and look at what Harry Potter eventually evolved into.

She didn’t begin with a detailed plan for merchandising, fan fiction, and sketches for a theme park at Universal Studios. This all evolved from something inherently simple—the saga of a boy who was really a wizard.

Andy Weir

For a more recent example, let’s look at Weir. After a string of failures and meh writing successes playing by the ‘rules’ Weir figured he had nothing to lose being different. His goal? Write a hard science book on his blog about an astronaut stranded on Mars. Then? Crowd-source experts for accuracy.

Every agent would have told him this was a dumb use of time and he’d never get a book deal. No reader would buy a book already posted for free on a blog.

Andy didn’t care and pressed on with a story and idea he was passionate about, and The Martian broke all the rules and the records (the book and the movie).

Author Business—Brand 

author success, how to sell more books, how to find readers, book marketing, Kristen Lamb, book promotion, social media for authors, author branding, Kristen Lamb, author business

Brand is also super simple and you can do it yourself. In fact, ONLY you CAN do it. We’re in an age of authenticity, so outsource and pay people to ‘be you’ at your own peril. That’s called…cat-fishing.

Which just ticks people off.

Branding is not complicated. A brand is simply what comes to mind (impressions/emotions) at the mention of a name.

When I mention Tiffany’s no one thinks coupons and deep discounts. It evokes a specific color, the iconic Tiffany blue box with a white bow. Luxury, indulgence, special.

What about Walmart? Starbuck’s? Levis? Apple? Porsche? All these businesses and products evoke images and emotions. Celebrities are a brand. Samuel L. Jackson conjures up a very different impression/emotional response than Amy Pohler.

We Are the Brand

author success, how to sell more books, how to find readers, book marketing, Kristen Lamb, book promotion, social media for authors, author branding, Kristen Lamb, author business

In life, all people have a personal brand—the jock, the tech geek, history buff, gym rat, Pinterest mom, etc. These will also come tethered to emotional impressions which can be good, bad or neutral.

We humans label people based on behavior/impressions. Maybe this is unfair, but fair is a weather condition.

There are people in life and on-line we can count on to make us smile, to laugh, to encourage, inspire, uplift, and generally make our day just a bit better.

Then there are those who are high-maintenance, manipulative, hotheaded, depressing, critical or nonstop complainers. They use the term ‘spreading awareness’ when we all know they’re really spreading poison. We don’t like these people in life OR on-line.

The only difference in a personal brand and an author brand is our name eventually should become a bankable asset driving book sales.

People won’t remember what we said, but WILL remember how we made them feel. Everyone has an off day but what are we consistently putting out there? When someone says our name, do others smile or reach for antacids? What is their experience?

Brand CAN Make or Break Us

author success, how to sell more books, how to find readers, book marketing, Kristen Lamb, book promotion, social media for authors, author branding, Kristen Lamb, author business

Businesses are very careful about product and brand. A restaurant can have the most amazing food in the world, but if the experience/impression is a disaster, the restaurant as business is doomed.

In this post from a couple years ago, I relayed my experience at a hot NYC restaurant, owned and operated by a chef who’d won Iron Chef. We were stoked to eat at this place and called ahead for reservations and to make sure they could accommodate my food allergies (which they assured they could).

Problem was, this world-class chef forgot the business of his business. Yes, his food was ‘art’ but ultimately his job was to feed the people who showed up to fork over $300 to eat. He was charging those high prices not only for superlative cuisine…but for an incredible experience.

This chef refused to serve me just a steak with vegetables and kept instructing the waitress to push parsnip soup on me.

Why?

Because removing the potatoes (loaded with dairy I was allergic to) ‘….ruined the aesthetic balance of the plate.’

Actual quote.

It was only after this hungry and highly pissed off Texan threatened to ruin the aesthetic balance of a pretentious chef …that I got my steak (probably dropped on the floor but I didn’t care because I was famished).

A year later when I returned to NYC, that restaurant was gone. The steak? Forgettable. A chef refusing to accommodate severe allergies because it impacted how the plating LOOKED? Killed his restaurant, his brand and his dream.

Takeaway here is that the book business is not about us, and ALWAYS about the reader. Feel free to never get on social media or talk to anyone. But how do you feel about people who never engage with you until they want something? 😉

Also, feel free to rant and rave and spout whatever on-line, but again, that’s placing ego over experience. Thus, if we use our on-line followers as a meat-shield for all that ticks us off…we should not be shocked when patrons ‘dine’ elsewhere 😉 .

Why Social Media?

author success, how to sell more books, how to find readers, book marketing, Kristen Lamb, book promotion, social media for authors, author branding, Kristen Lamb, author business

Books used to be the strongest part of an author brand because there was no social media. Ah, but here’s where it can get sticky. Savvy authors are constantly engaging on-line and in person. Interaction with us ideally becomes a regular part of our fans’ days…which can eventually become a stronger component of our brand than the book.

Marketing and ads (alone) don’t sell books. Never have and never will. Word-of-mouth is what sells books, thus the idea of not engaging on-line is pretty much career suicide.

Readers of today discover who and what they love on-line and they’re far more likely to buy from authors they know and like. And, cumulatively, they’re spending a LOT more time with authors on-line than in the 12-15 hours required to read a novel.

Food for thought 😉 .

Even though I firmly believe the small, independent brick-and-mortar is making a MAJOR comeback, algorithms will be a critical determining factor of which books (authors) grace the shelves.

Bookstores need to SELL books to pay for overhead and make a profit. SHOCKING FACT: Bookstores will order boxes of a mediocre novel with a passionate fan base (and strong on-line sales) over a novel so glorious angels sing…only no one’s ever heard of the book (or the author).

If a book isn’t selling on-line, why would a bookstore risk shelving it? They won’t because it’s bad business.

Author Platform—A.K.A. ‘Buds’

author success, how to sell more books, how to find readers, book marketing, Kristen Lamb, book promotion, social media for authors, author branding, Kristen Lamb, author business

True, novels are powerful for a brand (which is why we need an excellent product), but times are a changing. The reader of the digital age is far more likely to factor in how they feel about the author as a person before making a purchase. This is why platforms are vital to success.

What is a platform? Buds. Buddies, peeps, followers, fans, devotees, and friends. Real ones. Yes, it takes some time, but true fans/followers/friends are GOLD and worth every minute we invest in them.

True on-line friends are positively evangelical about our blogs and books. I’d take five hundred devotees over five-hundred-thousand purchased followers who don’t give a hoot.

You Be YOU

author success, how to sell more books, how to find readers, book marketing, Kristen Lamb, book promotion, social media for authors, author branding, Kristen Lamb, author business

You be you…unless you’re a jerk. Then my advice is to fake it until you’re no longer a jerk. I had to, which I relayed in my Confessions of a Recovering Jerk. Social media forced me to learn emotional discipline, discernment, and revealed I was not a very nice person. Over time, my habits changed and with steady practice, eventually I changed.

This said, keep it simple.

The brand is simply YOU (and you’re more than a writer, FYI so talk about something other than writing, please). Social media is social, like a party. Just be present, be fun and be cool.

Yep, that’s pretty much it. Create a relationship. Talk to people. Give, listen, be interested in others. #MindBlown

Humans gravitate to authenticity…just don’t get crazy. It’s okay to have a rough day but followers a) don’t want to be regularly depressed b) dragged into needless drama and c) we aren’t stupid. We can spot manipulation and it ticks us off.

I’m cleaning up my Facebook friends. If you can see this, type in the comments how we met.

I bet no one will give this post even ONE share.

I can’t believe you would say that. You know who you are O_o. Just unfriend me.

The hell? What is this? Sixth grade?

We don’t like Vague-Booking, drama or having to jump through hoops. Authors who are that high-maintenance and we’ve not even MET in PERSON? Buh-bye.

Conversely, don’t feel the need to be super happy all the time. Followers don’t like Pod People fakes either. Folks who are constantly #blessed #blessedlife #keepingitreal #blessedandreal #reallyblessed. We see through it, which is why we are #gone #unfriending #RollingEyes #FeelingGagReflex.

Keeping It Real & Special

author success, how to sell more books, how to find readers, book marketing, Kristen Lamb, book promotion, social media for authors, author branding, Kristen Lamb, author business

Contrary to what some ‘experts’ might proclaim, it’s unnecessary to be everywhere all the time. We can’t do this and also write excellent books. Social media omnipresence is the sloping road to hell. Being everywhere all the time inevitably requires automation to remain sane and also have time to write BOOKS.

Problem is, who wants to eat spam? I don’t. Why would I shovel that garbage onto my fans? I’m not on Twitter to be blasted with ads. If I want to gorge on unwanted spam I can open my Yahoo mail.

I know some people will defend automation to the death. Fine. Opinions vary. Yet, I find the same people with five Twitter identities barking out the same messages want to take MY time and attention, but rarely give of theirs.

Hmmm, once dated that guy in college. Wasn’t fun then either.

This goes for books, too. Other ‘experts’ claim we need to publish a book a month or a novella and have a newsletter and be on every social site and blog every day and get a book blurb and contests and guest posts and run promotions….

This reminds me of an old Country & Western song: How Can I Miss You if You Won’t Go AWAY?

See? SIMPLE

Books, brand and buds. Just because this is simple doesn’t mean it is easy. Writing novels readers want to pay retail for is hard work. Being on-line and engaging regularly requires discipline and robots cannot do it for us.

We can do a little a day, consistently and it all adds up.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Does this help the idea of the author as business seem more doable? For me, three BIG ideas to keep track of help keep me grounded. Trends and fads are exhausting. Great stories, fun and friends are ALWAYS popular. Publishing might change daily but humans don’t. So share those funny memes and cat videos because YES it is great for positive branding 😉 .

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).

CLASSES!

Business of the Writing Business: Ready to ROAR!

Instructor: Kristen Lamb

Price: $55.00 USD

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

When: Thursday, February 15, 2018, 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

Being a professional author entails much more than simply writing books. Many emerging authors believe all we need is a completed novel and an agent/readers will come.

There’s a lot more that goes into the writing business…but not nearly as much as some might want us to believe. There’s a fine balance between being educated about business and killing ourselves with so much we do everything but WRITE MORE BOOKS.

This class is to prepare you for the reality of Digital Age Publishing and help you build a foundation that can withstand major upheavals. Beyond the ‘final draft’ what then? What should we be doing while writing the novel?

We are in the Wilderness of Publishing and predators abound. Knowledge is power. We don’t get what we work for, we get what we negotiate. This is to prepare you for success, to help you understand a gamble from a grift a deal from a dud. We will discuss:

  • The Product
  • Agents/Editors
  • Types of Publishing
  • Platform and Brand
  • Marketing and Promotion
  • Making Money
  • Where Writers REALLY Need to Focus

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

Self-Publishing for Professionals: Amateur Hour is OVER

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $99.00 USD

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

When: Friday, February 16, 2018, 7:00-10:00 p.m. EST

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Are you going to go KDP Select or wide distribution with Smashwords as a distributor? Are you going to use the KDP/CreateSpace ISBN’s or purchase your own package? What BISAC codes have you chosen? What keywords are you going to use to get into your target categories? Who’s your competition, and how are you positioned against them?

Okay, hold on. Breathe. Slow down. I didn’t mean to induce a panic attack. I’m actually here to help.

Beyond just uploading a book to Amazon, there are a lot of tricks of the trade that can help us build our brand, keep our books on the algorithmic radar, and find the readers who will go the distance with us. If getting our books up on Amazon and CreateSpace is ‘Self-Publishing 101,’ then this class is the ‘Self-Publishing senior seminar’ that will help you turn your books into a business and your writing into a long-term career.

Topics include:

  • Competitive research (because publishing is about as friendly as the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones)
  • Distribution decisions (because there’s actually a choice!)
  • Copyright, ISBN’s, intellectual property, and what it actually all means for writers
  • Algorithm magic: keywords, BISAC codes, and meta descriptions made easy
  • Finding the reader (beyond trusting Amazon to deliver them)
  • Demystifying the USA Today and NYT bestselling author titles
  • How to run yourself like a business even when you hate business and can’t math (I can’t math either, so it’s cool)

Yes, this is going to be a 3-hour class because there is SO much to cover…but, like L’Oréal says, you’re worth it! Also, a recording of this class is also included with purchase.

The class includes a workbook that will guide you through everything we talk about from how to do competitive research to tracking ISBNs and distribution, and much, much more!

Time is MONEY, and your time is valuable so this will help you make every moment count…so you can go back to writing GREAT BOOKS.

DOUBLE-TROUBLE BUSINESS BUNDLE

BOTH classes for $129 (Save $25). This bundle is FIVE hours of professional training, plus the recordings, plus Cait’s workbook to guide you through everything from how to do competitive research to tracking ISBNs and distribution and more.

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I hear all the time that “motivational stuff” is crap, that cheerleading is useless, that all those books and speeches are there simply to take our money. What is success? Well, I don’t believe that success is worth giving up everything. Life and love are more important than being the best. And, to an extent I will agree.

Motivational Stuff is Crap

I don’t know about you guys, but I love The Container Store. Every year I set my New Year’s Resolution and it always…always includes this phrase. “Be more organized.” This morning I was hunting for the cat food. I’d apparently hidden it from myself. In the bottom of my pantry I spotted one of those white-board weekly organizers…still in the WRAP.

*hides head in shame*

Exactly how well is that weekly organizer working for me tucked in the back of a pantry? Yes, The Container Store really does exist simply to take my money. They aren’t going to do a home visit and make sure I actually hung that calendar on my WALL. It is not their responsibility to make sure I applied that product for its intended purpose.

Same with motivational stuff.

Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons
Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons

Thing is, motivation alone is useless. Motivation is like food. If I buy a bunch of organic veggies and leave them in the fridge to die a slow, lonely death, they do zilch nada for my health and energy levels. Yet, my health and energy levels will suffer without them. I have to make the effort to ingest this fuel so my body can put it to use.

If I don’t feed my body it gets sick and weak and could eventually die. So then how effective will I be if I never feed my spirit?

Motivation is fantastic, but it is worthless unless applied. It is potential energy that we must convert into kinetic energy.

The Mind and Will are POWERFUL

If motivation wasn’t powerful, then why do we remember Ghandi, Churchill, Kennedy, and Vince Lombardi?

I love crime shows and after you watch a few thousand episodes of Law & Order or Hannibal or whatever, they kind of all blend together. But, there was one episode of Criminal Minds that affected me deeply. It actually wasn’t the goriest or the most gruesome of the killers. In comparison to some of the crime scenes from Hannibal? It paled.

Why did it disturb me so much?

I have looked for which episode it was and can’t find it, so here goes.

The team is discovering victims who clearly were abducted and held captive, but there is no clear reason why they are dead. They simply are.

What the team uncovers is the killer abducts a victim and holds them. Day after day they are fed, given what they need to survive (physically) and the killer brings in the one thing that keeps them hoping. In one case, it is a young mother. He wheels in a TV with video of her children as they are growing up without her. Day after day she sees the one thing that keeps her pressing.

Then, he stops. He continues to bring food and water, but no more footage of her children.

Without hope, the woman simply one day rolls over and dies.

When the team captures the killer and gets his backstory, he talks about being a boy and running across a young woman who’d fallen into a well on their property. She is treading water and screaming for help. He bent over and reached out a hand to help her and her face lit up. Then? He pulls his hand back and simply watches her. The moment she realizes she has no hope of being saved, her eyes change and she lets go and lets herself float down and die.

It was that look, that moment he craved. The moment in his vicim’s eyes when they gave up. When hope simply evaporated and there was no WHY to carry on. He managed to kill all his victims without ever laying a hand on them.

Though I saw this episode at least eight years ago, I still remember it. And it still freaks me out.

Granted, this is an extreme dramatization, but is it? We have all kinds of stories about people who survived POW camps, concentration camps, disasters, etc. who shouldn’t have. Why did they? They kept hoping. The mind and will were far more powerful and able to go beyond the limits of the physical body.

Success is Personal and It WILL Cost Us

When I talk about success, I am using very broad strokes. Success has to be defined by US. I actually have no interest in being a billionaire. Granted, it would be fantastic if it happened, but I am unwilling to have money at the expense of people and relationships. People are my WHY, not money. Success to me is then measured in those around me, not necessarily my bank account.

But that is ME.

Success of any kind has a price. To be a “successful” mother, I have to sacrifice. It is way easier for me to let The Spawn go feral and forage off chips for breakfast. It takes time to make him a healthy meal. It takes time to watch documentaries with him and teach him to swim and help teach his Jiu Jitsu class. But, I am sacrificing to invest in him. In our relationship and in his future.

A great marriage will cost us. A clean house, a tidy yard, a balanced bank account, a trim waist, etc.

If we want to be “successful” at this writing thing, the bare minimum requirement for “being a successful writer” is words written down…which will cost us time we could be spending watching Criminal Minds 😀 .

No One Else Can Define It 

Original image courtesy of Flickr Creatinve Commons, courtesy of Ali Samieivafa.
Original image courtesy of Flickr Creatinve Commons, courtesy of Ali Samieivafa.

First, I will say we have to take the wheel. What my success looks like and what YOURS look like are vastly different things. For years, I allowed others to define my success. I spent years reaching for outside approval that never came.

If you read last post, I told y’all I was a high school drop out twice over. I worked my tail off to win an Air Force Scholarship to become a doctor and I did. Why did I do it? After years of being a disappointment to all those around me, I wanted my grandparents to finally say they were proud of me.

When I came home to tell my grandparents the news I’d won, my grandmother’s first words were, “Well, they must have been short on their quota for women.”

*Kristen dies more than a little inside*

Later, I graduated from TCU with a degree in International Relations. Actually, it was Political Economy of the Middle East and North Africa. You know, one of those easy fluff degrees 😉 .

I did this hoping they’d be proud. Ehhh, no.

Then, I landed a premium job in sales hoping they’d be proud. Nope.

Then I got into law school. Nope.

Finally? I gave up trying to make others give me that atta’ girl and did what I loved. I became a writer. All those years I was reaching for dreams that weren’t mine, I was sick and miserable because I had the wrong WHY. When I finally went after MY dream, eventually I no longer cared if they were proud of me or not.

Definitions are Personal and Ever-Changing

When we read motivational stories or watch videos or movies, it is easy to feel like a loser. But, we all start where we are. When I was a baby writer, I remember thinking, Wow, if I could write 500 words a day, then I will have made it. Now, I write a thousand words before breakfast, but that took YEARS and YEARS.

But if I’d started with a goal of 2-3,000 words a day? If I’d beaten myself up because I only wrote 500? I would have given up a long time ago.

When was smacked with Shingles last year, my definition of a “successful day” had to change if I was ever going to get better. And I would love to say that I didn’t cry and whine and complain and throw tantrums. I did. Shingles involved month after month of pain piled on pain piled on even more pain.

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Actually this is a pic after it was a LOT better….

I hated everyone. I hated myself, my family and probably hated kittens and puppies, too. If Zig Ziglar had visited me? I might have just punched him in the face. It was hard to admit that “success” during that time, might have just involved getting out of bed and wearing a bra (the Shingles were all down my ribs).

But eventually we must adjust what is a “win” or our mind will devour us.

Of course, now that I am in remission from Shingles, I need to adjust. Wearing a bra is a noble goal, but I kinda should be past that 😉 .

No One Else Can DO It

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Crossfit.
Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Crossfit.

We have to do the work. We have to define what we want and why we want it. Then we have to do the work. There is a lot of talk about giving others the right opportunity. I used to believe in that, but now? Not so much.

I was president of a writing group for years. They complained the reason they didn’t attend was the meeting place, so I got us a nice meeting space. None of them showed. Then, these folks griped that they couldn’t attend because we met at an inconvenient time, so I managed to find a second meeting space on Saturday mornings for those who couldn’t make a weekday evening.

Again, none of them showed. The handful of complainers who did sporadically attend never wrote anything.

Members complained when I recommended craft books. Was I suggesting they didn’t know how to WRITE? Most refused to go to conferences or take classes. They groused about the speakers. They didn’t have time to write the novel, but they had plenty of time to craft long e-mails complaining about some new thing I wasn’t doing for them.

Week after week, year after year, I showed and tried to add more “opportunities” to no avail. Finally, I learned a tough lesson I hadn’t wanted to believe. Talk is cheap. Though being part of that group was painful, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I thought I’d overcome my addiction to approval when I told my family to “Pound sand” and became a writer.

Ah, but did I?

Nope, I’d simply shifted my addiction from my family to a local writing group. I was still just as addicted to people pleasing and I needed others to “approve” of me and my dreams.

I had to learn that I could not expect average people to be extraordinary. Also, I could no longer hide behind their lack of approval as an excuse of not moving forward. I had to leave them behind and risk failing alone. I could not hand them enough opportunities and definitely could not motivate them into success.

Motivation is the fuel for the soul, but we have to light the spark and WE have to take charge of using and directing that for forward momentum. Like approval, motivation is wonderful, but not entirely necessary. Sometimes, we simply have to dig deep and keep going even when there is no outward sign we are doing anything right.

Writing is NOT an Easy Job

We don’t clock in and clock out. We don’t have a boss looking over our shoulders who will send us to Writer Jail if we don’t make word count. No one will discipline us if we don’t take any Continuing Education. Most of what we DO, others don’t see (or even value). This is a very unique profession that probably requires us take care of our Spirit Self more than other jobs.

Take time for yourself. Feed your spirit, but then put that fuel to work. Just like craft books do us NO good collecting dust on a shelf, motivation is similarly useless if not put into action. Opportunities are meaningless if we ignore them.

What are your thoughts? Do you find yourself falling into approval addiction or people pleasing? Do you have to revisit your goals because you’ve let others do too much influencing when it comes to what “success” looks like? Do you rely too much on motivation? Heck, I am guilty. Do you forget that your mind and will need nourishing too?

I love hearing from you!

Quick Announcement: 

Due to popular demand, THIS SATURDAY I am rerunning my Hooking the Reader—Your First Five Pages at the end of the month and I am doing something different. Gold Level includes me looking (and shredding your first five) but I have added in some higher levels and will look at up to 20 pages. This can be really useful if you’re stuck. I can help you diagnose the problems. It’s also a great deal if you have to submit to an agent and want to make your work the best it can be.

Again, I LOVE hearing from you!

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

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mage courtesy of HeikoHartsuijker Flickr Creative Commons

Often I blog about things I am going through. Sometimes just writing things down, sketching out a plan of action, recalibrating MY perspective helps a lot. Hey, if nothing else, I have a blog post 😀 .

Lately, I’ve been in what Seth Godin calls…The DIP. In fact, I am even talking about The Dip over on my Dojo Diva blog for those who want more (and also a better chance of winning my 20 Page Death Star Critique).

*dangles carrot*

What is THE DIP? The Dip is that span of suck before the breakthrough. The Dip is where character develops, where dreams grow, where WE grow. Bad news is this is also the place where most people give up.

I’d love to say I’ve never given up when faced with a particularly tenacious Dip, but I am a terrible liar. Dips are tough. Why are Dips so hard?

Dips Come Out of Nowhere

We are zooming along and then it is as if an invisible force field comes out of nowhere. Maybe you started eating healthy and were losing weight steadily. Then…nothing. Another week? Nothing. Another week, I gained three pounds? WTH? And another and another and pretty soon, why bother?

A little story…

Before I got pregnant, I was 130 pounds and a Size 2. When I was pregnant, I did two-a-days the entire time I was pregnant. I did step aerobics in the morning (which was nothing short of comedic when I was almost 10 months in) and swam a mile a day, six days a week even though I felt like I should be a show at Sea World. The night they induced me, I stopped at the gym and did an hour workout before Hubby took me to the hospital.

Eleven days after having The Spawn, I was back in the gym. I’d get up for the 3:30 a.m. feeding then go to the 24-hour gym.

For the most part, I have still kept a strict diet and exercise regimen.

These days I do 6-8 hours of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu a week…and am STILL a size 10-12. No matter how disciplined I am, it doesn’t seem to want to show on the outside. We go to restaurants and I watch people eat onion rings and fried cheese and have dessert while I am GF, dairy-free, low-carb, soy-free, no sugar, etc. etc. I drink water, not soda. And yet?

Sometimes I wonder why I bother.

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Crossfit.
Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Crossfit.

This is the first main problem with The Dip. Sometimes, we can’t figure out why it is there or worse…why it won’t GO AWAY. After blood panels and doctors and experts, they all agree. I am the picture of health, but am overweight.

No kidding.

We might be doing something GREAT that shows nothing on the outside. Granted, I might be a fluffy size 10-12 for the rest of my life. I have amazing flexibility, can run for miles, can outfight and outlast teenagers and my heart and insides are amazing.

Funny, though. I rarely think of my shining cholesterol levels when I have to shrug into Spanx.

I wonder how many calories we burn trying to put on Spanx?

The next problem with The Dip is there are often others who will rub salt in the wound that we are IN The Dip.

On Saturday, I went for an hour of rigorous BJJ training, ran home, cleaned up then attended a 2.5 hour Judo workshop that I paid for. I was feeling pretty good about myself until…

I was in the middle of learning a new throw and could tell I wasn’t pivoting my weight the correct direction. Sure I was throwing my sparring partner, but I was landing in the wrong spot. The teacher comes over and tells me I am doing it all wrong.

Okay, I KNEW that.

But then, he tells me that I need to work out more. That the reason I can’t do the throw is that my legs are weak and then says, “Have you thought about going to a gym? Maybe trying some squats?”

*suppresses urge to stab him in the face*

He corrects my posture and the next throw I did? I nailed it. He probably could tell from the look on my face that I might have been envisioning him.

*growls*

Of course, Judo is all about physics, not about strength. I didn’t point that out. I also didn’t point out that the rest of the attendees had slept in while I was one of the handful who came to the early morning class anyway (even when I knew there were 2.5 hours of additional training ahead). I also didn’t point out what should have been obvious. I was the only older female in the workshop and if the sport wanted to attract more like me? Insinuating we are out of shape is a bad plan.

After the Judo workshop, we had a family day at the zoo and all I wanted was to throw in the towel and eat all I have denied myself for a decade…in ONE day.

I know you guys probably have no idea what I am talking about 😉 .

The Dip is REALLY common in writing. You are working on a novel and it is going great and then? You get stuck. You KNOW you are stuck. Maybe you can’t even figure out WHY you are stuck. Then, when you are about to tap out for good and OD on brownies, someone in your life is there to point out that “Maybe you just aren’t trying hard enough…”

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Yeah, because we didn’t already think of that.

Some Important Things to Know About Dips

First of all, people who don’t attempt anything remarkable, never have Dips. Thus, if we are experiencing Dips, it means we are still pressing for something better. The only way to get out of ever dealing with Dips is to just drift along on the tides of mediocrity and ambivalence. Don’t know about you guys, but I can’t do that. This means I have to take my own advice and Suck it up, Buttercup.

The second thing is that we can more painfully feel Dips when we get our focus on the wrong things. If we stare at Dips we get intimidated. This is partly why I refuse to get on a scale. I found myself obsessing too much. Yes, I would love to trim down and get into my “skinny” clothes, but is that my only objective behind eating and living healthy?

Groceries at our house.
Groceries at our house.

I am extremely fit. Working out helps me release stress. I look far younger than peers because I am healthy. My family is all involved working out together. Spawn  learned to walk in the gym nursery. Now? We do martial arts SIX days a week together. Spawn has been sick ONE TIME in his entire life because I cook super healthy foods. He has to be told to stop eating so many vegetables and eat some protein.

Am I willing to abandon ALL those other benefits because ONE objective—trimming down in size—refuses to cooperate?

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Same with writing. For years I blogged to The Great Nothing. At first, I did it to get “views” but after a year and a half of blogging to the male-enhancement bots, I got seriously discouraged.

Since I’d invested too much to give up, I decided to focus instead on ALL the benefits of blogging that had nothing to do with outside approval.

I learned to write leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner. I learned to eat deadlines for breakfast. I became a better writer because I was TRAINING. I learned to be self-motivated and self-disciplined. Granted, even if NO ONE ever cared about my blog, these traits would serve me well in other areas.

Of course, eventually, when I got my eyes off the numbers and focused on what I COULD control, THIS happened. Can anyone see THAT DIP? When I finally busted past it?

Kristen's Blog Stats Circa 2013
Kristen’s Blog DIP

Dip Happens

The last things we need to appreciate about Dips is that they are not permanent but yet they are. 

One Dip alone is not permanent, but The State of Dippery is. Yes, DIPPERY. It is a word 😛 . Unless we give up, we will face more Dips and bigger and longer Dips.

For instance, as writers, a common first Dip is to finish the book. YAY! Then the next Dip. Getting published. Oh, if I could just be published, THEN I’d be happy. We get published and the next Dip is BOOK SALES. Then there is the next book and the next…and you guys get the point.

I’m not here to discourage you, but we cannot exist in a permanent state of happiness and satisfaction. It is a brief moment of sun and then? Back to work. Anyone who promises us a Dip-Free life is lying and probably selling something…like DRUGS.

Dip Therapy

Dips suck. They are long and painful and necessary. Dips weed out the uncommitted. Many people will give up on something remarkable because there is no instant payoff. Can we still LOVE writing when there is no outside evidence we are going to gain? Can we still keep eating healthy and exercising even if we never get to wear skinny jeans?

NO! Wait, okay fine *rolls eyes* I’ll keep pressing *grumbles*.

Dips make us value what we EARN. One of the reasons I get frustrated with our Everyone is a Winner Society is that is dilutes the genuine feelings of authentic achievement. A black belt is only valuable when it took years of sacrifice (busting past Dips) to earn it.

Dips train us for the mentality of the successful. Often others see what we have. They don’t see what we gave up to get it. And that is the reality of things. Successful people “get” Dips while others give up. In fact, I would be so bold as to say that most of the successful writers I know aren’t necessarily all that more talented, but they are far more tenacious.

When we face Dips, outside circumstances may never change, but we will.

Dips teach us to ignore outside opinions. Where would I have been had I listened to all the people who told me blogging was dead and that it was impossible to be a successful writer? We can choose to take that pushback as an excuse to quit or fire to fuel us forward.

Yes, I am frustrated with a LOT of Dips in my life, namely the “weight thing.” But am I going to let one outside jerk opinion derail me?

No. And the reason is that I have had extensive and intensive Dip Training 😉 .

Tips for Busting Through the Dips

Remember the WHYs. Why are you doing whatever? Why are you correcting your kids when it feels like you just repeat yourself a million times? Why are you eating healthy? Why are you writing that novel? Focus on the why. If we write books simply to become millionaires? Could happen, but burnout probably more likely. Instead, focus on how much you LOVE writing. How much you LOVE your kids. How much you LOVE feeling good because you drank water instead of a 2 liter bottle of Diet Coke.

Baby steps ARE steps. Never underestimate the value of simply showing up. Every sentence is one step closer to a finished book. Small actions over time DO add up.

Remember “Dip Happens.” 

If we know that Dips are inevitable, we are more mentally prepared for the challenge. It is more a sign we are doing something right than a great cosmic plot against our happiness.

I hope you guys feel more encouraged. Remember that the summit is only that beautiful because of the climb.

What are your thoughts? Have you been in some Dips lately? Are you feeling like it will never END? Did you know that this was natural? If not, do you feel a little better about being stuck? Do you have those around you rubbing in that you are in a Dip? Have you ever made it past some particularly tenacious Dip and are better for it? What was it? Share your story! We need the encouragement!

I love hearing from you!

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

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Were you doing something? I’m bored. Can I help? I’m hungry.

I do a lot of reading of other blogs, particularly blogs that aren’t about writing. I think this keeps my information fresh. As many of you might know, financial blogger Steve Tobak is one of my favorites, and he regularly inspires my writing.

This past week he had a neat post What It Takes to Be a Real CEO, and there were so many of the principles that applied to being a Digital Age Author. We are now Author CEOs, no matter what path we take. So what does it take to be a REAL Author CEO?

Passion for Work

We must have a passion for writing and a willingness to work hard. To be blunt, being a professional writer is a lot of HARD work. Writers are CEO of a company of one, and many times our writing work is on top of a day job, family, children, and other responsibilities. Going pro isn’t all floating around on a unicorn cloud hanging out with the muse.

All professional authors have to read, learn the craft, make work count, finish the books, and be ruthless and relentless in our edits until the work is complete. We have to build a platform, promote, keep up with taxes, accounting, deductions, receipts, spending, write-offs, mailing lists, etc.

This means we need to get up earlier and stay up later than most people, and we will have to sacrifice a lot. This is why we need passion. Passion takes the sting out of sacrifice. While others are whining, we are working.

Relentless Pursuit of the Dream, Even When Others Think You’re Nuts

In the beginning, this is particularly important. No one will take you seriously. Accept it and sally forth. Brush the dust from your feet.

Others want us to fail, because if we succeed, then we are proof success is a choice. Others will resent us because they want to believe they aren’t in control of their futures. They want to keep their victim mentality because it’s safe and absolves them of personal responsibility for their own futures.

Expect push-back.

Courage in the Face of Adversity

The new paradigm is changing and can be just as scary as the old one. Those who choose a traditional path know the odds of finding an agent and landing a publishing deal are not the best. Most writers who query will fail.

When it comes to a non-traditional path, we have to learn so many new things and wear frightening and unfamiliar hats. Again, the odds are better, but competition is staggering, discoverability is a growing nightmare, and the workload is daunting to even the best of us. But, we must have the courage to do what scares us if we want the dream.

Stickwithitness

There will be setbacks, and again, there is a lot of hard work ahead. When writers complain that all they want to do is write, I understand. I wish all I had to do is write books, too. Would be much easier. But that isn’t reality and we have a lot of other non-writing work that needs to be done every single day.

One foot in front of the other day after day. We must hold fast to the idea that days become weeks, weeks become months and months become years. We are what we do. Behaviors become habits, habits become character and character becomes destiny.

Willingness to Do Other Jobs that Aren’t Writing

The competition is steep. If we want to stand apart from the crowd, then we need to be willing to do what others won’t. We can’t have everything. This job involves sacrifice.

I’ve had one date night with my husband in a year and a half. Instead of a night on the town, we play XBox together for an hour each evening because it costs less time (I need) and money (we definitely need). I blog 5 days a week here, once a week for my city and once a week for SocialIn (29 major cities) all different content because I am sowing seeds for success.

I run a full-time family business, I tweet, I FB, I write books, teach, travel, speak, and write fiction as well. I give this job all I have, and it has a price. I work 14 hour days, 6 days a week, and I don’t get a lot of days off. I don’t watch a lot of television. I see a mall three times a year, and only when my shoes wear out so much they are no longer wearable. Don’t ask me about the laundry or my closets and yes, my Christmas tree is STILL up. Apparently after Valentines Day, Christmas Trees transform into Bogan Trees.

***Bogan is a word for “white trash” in Australia *waves to Cole Vassiliou* :D***

Stop standing there like a GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE and get me a BEER!
Stop standing there like a GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEE and get me a BEER!

But all of it is worth it because I love my job and am willing to give up the extra stuff to do what I love.

Determinedness to Overcome Never-Ending Obstacles

New level, new devil. It will never get easier, only different. We grow in some areas, cheer 5 minutes then find ourselves tipped head-first again into alien territory. Goes with the job.

Last year, we had someone working for us who was very integral to our family business up and quit with no notice. We nearly lost the business and it cost months of doing double-duty and calling every favor I could to salvage and rebuild. I am better and stronger for it, and though it seriously sucked at the time, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Our job will always have obstacles, often BIGGER obstacles. Get used to it, expect it and train for it. It will toughen you for the next level.

The Ability to Make Smart High-Risk Decisions

As the paradigm shifts we have to be educated to make the best decision for our career. Yes, I am a fan of non-traditional publishing, but it fits what I write. I support all authors, no matter the path. I merely want it to be the path that’s best for YOU. Indies will all think traditional authors are taking a risk going with big publishing. Traditionals will generally feel indies are insane going it alone.

Again, it depends on preparation and the author. Publishing is now no longer a One Size Fits All Snuggie, but no path is a panacea, either. All decisions carry risk and we need to educate ourselves, be honest, and then DECIDE. Choose a path, then give it all you have.

What are your thoughts? Opinions? Experiences? What have you had to sacrifice to live the writing dream? Do you have friends and family who sabotage or give you a hard time? What kind of push-back have you been through? How did you triumph or are you still struggling?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of April, 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. 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 novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of April I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

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There is one failing that will undermine all our efforts, the inability to focus. Years ago, I was on the debate team. I loved debate and spent hours researching, building cases, writing cases, and learning all I could to be prepared.

Most of my nights were spent researching thick dusty law books in the downtown library. Yet, though this information and preparation helped, there was one tactic that worked every time, a mantra I lived by in competition. This move could take out the best cases from the best teams from the best schools.

If you cannot defeat them, distract them.

If I could redirect my opponent into focusing on non-issues and intellectual bunny-trails, then all I had left was to mop up in my final argument. Sounds pretty ruthless, but how did I learn this? By falling victim to it, myself ;).

Distraction Equals Death

All of us, when we decide to become professional authors, must pass through an apprenticeship phase. This is when we are reading fiction, dissecting craft books, attending conferences, writing, and building our skills. One skill that separates the amateur from the professional is the ability to focus.

Others will try to redirect us down fruitless bunny-trails. They will tell you writing isn’t a real job. They will tempt you with settling for day jobs with steady paychecks and 401Ks. Day jobs are great and so are 401Ks, but they must not be the goal, they must support the goal of being a professional author.

The Importance of Goals

Goals give us a place to focus. They also offer critical information about how to change our approach. My husband is on a military shooting team, and frequently we practice together. Whenever we have a new scope, we have to “sight-in” the rifle.

To do this, we set up paper targets. Fire a couple rounds, see where it hits. Is it high? Low? To the left? The right? By seeing where we are NOT hitting, we can then use that information to adjust.

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This past weekend, my husband set up small metal targets so I could practice with the pistol (and I haven’t shot in months). I couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn when normally I am very accurate. At first, I didn’t understand what was going wrong. Then I realized that I always warm up using a paper target.

Though I can see without glasses, I have just enough of a stigmatism that what I “see” isn’t quite true. When I shoot a paper target, I can adjust right or left, high or low. I have enough information to know how my vision is deceiving me.

Yet, with the tiny metal target, I couldn’t see where I was hitting (or, rather not hitting), so it was just a lot of wasted ammo. I was extremely frustrated because I didn’t have enough information to do any better than I was doing (which wasn’t well at all).

Goals help us be able to see where we are hitting, but more importantly, where we are not hitting. We can glean vital information that can get us back on target.

Goals Must Be Specific, Actionable, Accountable and Have Deadlines

Years ago, I took Bob Mayer’s Warrior Writers seminar (the class inspired the name of this blog). Bob, being a former Green Beret is all about goals. He asked us to write down our big writing goal. Being the classic overachiever, I wrote.

I will be a New York Times Best-Selling Author.

Sounds good, right? Um, best-selling author in what? Origami cookbooks? See how broad this target is? There is no focus. No genre. No place. Was I content to “make the list” or did I want to be in the top 20? Top 10? Or even number 1? A goal like that was better than no goal, but…eh, not much. How long did I have to accomplish this? Five years? TWENTY?

Write your big goal, then write as many subgoals as you can, each a step toward that main goal. Put your goals where you can see them. Give them deadlines, then share them with friends who will keep you accountable.

Learn to Ignore the Ants

Ants are all around us. They look like laundry in need of folding, kids who need entertaining, dishes that need to be put away.

Ants always bring friends.

When shooting long-range you have to lie on your belly in the dirt, rock and grass. This is a sign to every fire ant in Texas to build a condo in your boots, but you have to learn to ignore it. Keep looking at the target.

Ignore the bee that is suddenly in love with your hat.

When I first started writing, I believed I needed a quiet, private office with just the right light and the perfect computer to be a productive writer. Now? Life has trained me to be stronger than that. Learn to write with the toddler on your head and the cat who wants to nest on your keyboard.

Not distracting AT ALL....
Can you spot the Attention Whore?

Focus, keep pressing.

View those kids that interrupt you ever three minutes as training. Life will rarely hand us the perfect conditions for premium productivity, so train yourself to work in less-than-ideal situations.

The writer who can focus no matter what else is going on around him is the writer who will succeed long-term. There will always be pets, kids, family, friends, bills, deaths, illness, and drama. We need to learn to work no matter what.

A great way to focus? Get the best information and the most effective methods from experts. Yeah, yeah shameless plug but you have no clue how many experts I had to stalk to make this conference happen. Help me make it worth the restraining orders :D.

Please check out the new Worldwide WANACon. This conference will equip you to pursue any writing dream with laser focus and expert tactics. This is an affordable, on-line conference with some of the top talent in the industry delivered to you right in the comfort of home. No travel, no pile of extra expenses, ALL AWESOME. We even have AGENT PITCH SESSIONS!

What are your thoughts? Do you find it hard to focus? Do you feel guilty for writing? Do you have methods you use to help you keep your eyes on the prize? Please share!

I LOVE hearing from you…

To prove it and show my love, for the month of February, 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. 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 novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of February I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.