Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: blog

Two weeks ago, I introduced you guys to the WANA Theory of Book Economics and explained why traditional marketing doesn’t sell books. Books are not like cups of coffee or breakfast cereal, and thus they require a different approach. Writers are unique as well. Since we are responsible for producing the product, we need a social media approach that leaves time to write great books. That was the first lesson to connecting to potential readers. We needed to know HOW to connect, WHAT kind of message to send and WHY.

We also needed to understand the critical element that could make a book a mega success. What was this key variable? We had to mobilize the fat part of the bell curve, that group of people who would not normally define themselves as readers. Harry Potter, The DaVinci Code, Tuesdays with Morrie, Twilight, The Hunger Games, and The Help all tapped into groups of people who normally didn’t read for pleasure. But, once some key non-readers read these books, word of mouth sparked like wildfire and made literary history.

Then, last week we discussed the typical non-reader. There is a misconception that non-readers don’t read. They DO read, they just happen to be highly selective. The benefit, however, is that once one of these guys becomes a fan? He is the most loyal, devoted fan any writer can have. Often this guy is the best salesman a writer can have, too. He is the flint that creates the spark that can start the fire.

Ah, but here comes the problem. Too many writers are getting on social media and hanging out with each other and marketing to each other. It is an over-saturated market full of people who can only buy so many books. Also, since all of us LOVE books, we might not be the best people for starting that wildfire of word of mouth that can push the non-reader population past the tipping point.

Many of you are chomping at the bit. Kristen, for the love of all that is holy, where can we find the magic well of readers?!!!

I would love to give a website. Go to www.loyalbookfans.com . Wouldn’t that be lovely?

Or a formula for success. A + B = Wild Success.

But, unfortunately there is no specific formula and no guarantee….BUT that doesn’t mean that we can’t change some behaviors that will improve our odds.

I did say it was simple to connect and mobilize the fat part of the bell curve, and it is. Simple, however, is not necessarily easy. There are actually a number of components we need to understand, but today we are only going to focus on one, because it is the most important. If we cannot do this, then nothing else matters.

We need to get sticky.

In The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell, Gladwell defines The Stickiness Factor in the following way:

The Stickiness Factor says that there are specific ways of making a contagious message memorable; there are relatively simple changes in the presentation and structuring of information that can make a difference in how much of an impact it makes.

The Stickiness Factor not only applies to our social media message, it applies to who we are as writer personalities. It also applies to our books. Nailing what I will call The Sticky Author Triumvirate is key to publishing success. We need to get sticky on all three to have the best odds of reaching the tipping point.

Let’s take a look at The Sticky Author Triumvirate:

Get Sticky with Social Media Messages–One of the reasons that traditional marketing doesn’t work when it comes to books is because the messages are not sticky. In fact, we are so blitzed with marketing messages in modern society that most static marketing messages become white noise and invisible. Thus, why blitzing about our book non-stop on ten different sites is almost a total waster of time is that the message is rarely seen. Auto-tweets are ignored and are what marketing experts call clutter.

Additionally, it is not enough to have a million people “see” a message/pitch. There has to be a compulsion to SEE then ACT. If a zillion people see my commercial for car insurance, but none of them ever change policies, then the campaign is a failure. It’s a big waste of effort, time and money.

What can make people care? Care about them first. Just talking to people can go a long way to making a sale. People buy from who they know and who they LIKE. Stand apart from all the takers and learn to give.

Beyond that?

Sit and write out a hundred activities, shows, channels you enjoy. Yes, most of us love writing, but we love other things too. We need to extend ourselves and simply start talking to people. We have to learn to be unselfish. Stop demanding that others connect with us via OUR interests–books, craft, writing–and take initiative. We need to find the common ground and extend ourselves and connect where the potential READER feels comfortable.

Surely you have friends, family or coworkers on Facebook who are not writers. Who are they talking to? Who are their friends? Start poaching (befriending) normal people and talk to them. If you meet a pet lover on Twitter who works as an engineer and he is nice? Look at who his friends are and extend yourself. Hey, I am a pal of Jim’s. Thought I would say hello. (DO NOT pitch to them, just talk and be cool).

Just once a day make it a point to add non-writers who are active on social media to your network. Pay attention to them and start a dialogue. Be genuine and positive, and that will be STICKY. People crave attention and positive energy.

Next week we will talk more about why this is critical and how to use this tactic to reach the tipping point. Not all conversations have equal weight. But in the meantime? Let’s get sticky!

We Need to Be Sticky Writer Personalities–The Stickiness Factor applies to who we are as writer personalities. Chit-chat on social media is actually very valuable. People who repost, compliment, question, serve and are positive are MEMORABLE. We stick. People like us. When they think “writer” we become the first person they think about.

This is one of the reasons that it is beneficial to get out of the comfort zone and talk in other circles. As long as we are all hanging out with other writers we blend into the din. But, if we start talking to other people who love sports, parenting, knitting, the military, politics, animals, horses, celebrities, then we are now injecting ourselves into groups that are not comprised of people just like us. We stand out so we are a bit more “sticky.”

Pick a favorite channel on cable TV, a favorite show, or a video game, and I guarantee there is a Twitter # for it. Start talking to people who love #Lost or #AI, #Glee, #ESPN, #Oprah, #Ellen, #Halo #GoW. Profile your potential reader. What does she do with her day? Maybe she is a #teacher or she plays #WOW. Get creative and get out of that comfort zone.

Sure you can still hang out with writers, but we are your peers, not substitute for a fan base. To be sticky, we need to stick out.

Go to the websites of your favorite channels and shows and find their Twitter # and then make a column for it. Chat with people. I have columns for #GoW (Gears of War) ,#MW (Modern Warfare), #military because I am also an avid gamer and I am military. LOTS of great people in these groups.

We can use blogging to super increase this Sticky Factor. How? First, stop blogging about the same topics as every other writer. Blogging about writing is great, but not necessarily memorable. There are better things to blog about that can make you stick like Super Glue. Author blogs, written properly, are a FANTASTIC way to increase our Sticky Factor exponentially.

If you want to learn to get sticky with your blog, I highly recommend taking my Blogging for Author Brand Workshop. It’s only $40 and TWO months long (one month lessons and one month launch) and it is from the comfort of your home. There are tools and tactics that I am only sharing in my workshops and that I am saving for my next book, so this is a cool opportunity to get lessons I won’t be teaching on the blog.

Finally, We Need to Write Sticky Books–At the end of the day, THIS is why I teach social media for writers. We need to have time to write great books. Great books are STICKY. Sure, if I have a popular blog and a good social media presence I will probably sell some books. But, the only way my book can break past that initial layer of contact is to write a sticky book. Turn politeness into PASSION.

It is not enough for someone to buy our book. They must also love it so much that they can’t wait to tell someone, recommend our book or even buy a gift copy for a pal. THIS is how word of mouth wildfires get started. We will talk more about this next week and I hope you pick up a copy of The Tipping Point. It’s a fun read and highly relevant to all authors serious about creating a long-term fan base.

What are some things that make authors on social media memorable to you? What makes you want to share a message? What turns you off? What are your thoughts? Opinions?  I love hearing from you! And 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. 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 every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of August I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

In the meantime, I 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 . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

Mash-Up of Awesomeness

Fave Stuff

My NEW favorite blog, Penelope Trunk’s Blog Blog Under Your Real Name and Ignore the Harassment LOVE THIS POST. Read THIS blog. “Awesome-sauce” as the brilliant Chuck Wendig would say.

Kait Nolan’s Can Cinderella Save Herself?

This is another gem (well they are all gems but this one is particularly shiny) Terrell Mim’s Living in the Dash. I cannot tell you how important it is that every one of you read this blog.

Writing Stuff

Don’t Be a Cheerleader for Crappiness–25 Things You Should Know about Self-Publishing by Chuck Wendig

Why Your Blog’s “About” Page Matters by Joel Frielander

Are You Keeping Yourself on a Short Leash? Great post about getting outside of the comfort zone by Kerry Meacham

What Do I Look Like, a Protag? Great advice about how to describe our protag without being ham-fisted and obvious.

The Changing Landscape of Publishing for Writers by NYTBSA Bob Mayer

Playing to Your Strengths by Jenny Hansen

Behold the Power of a Nap by Jennifer Hale

The Great Back-Story Debate by the amazing writing teacher James Scott Bell

How I Do It: Ease Into Responsibility by Jody Hedlund

Three Keys to Marketing in the Current Fiction Environment by Michael Hyatt

Three Things that Come First before You Tackle Social Media by the brilliant WD contributing editor Jane Friedman over at the awesome writer resource Writer Unboxed

Is Your Writing Group Helping or Hurting Your Career? by Steenah Holmes

You are Not Tolstoy or Dickens by Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner

How to Get Your Blog Post on Google’s 1st Page by Keli Gwyn

The Anti-Procrastination Diet by Roni Loren

How Much Time Do We Really Need to Write? by Natalia Sylvester

Funny Stuff

The Must-Have Urban Redneck Belt by Natalie Hartford

Planking–Not Just for Pirates Anymore by Piper Bayard

Lili Tufel’s Top Ten Signs You’re Married to an Author

My Dirty Little Secret by Tameri Etherton

Fun and Nerdy Fact Blogs

Who Were the Celts? by Kate Wood

Social media is different for writers.  Yes, we really are special unique snowflakes. I have repeatedly claimed that I am not a social media expert. Rather, I am THE social media expert for writers. There is a HUGE difference. I am a writer first, and the book is always the most important asset we have. There isn’t any point to all this blogging and tweeting and Face-booking (yes, I made up a word) unless we have a finished product to sell.

So which social media platform is the best for writers?

My answer? The one you like and will do well. If the thought of being on Facebook makes you want to drink cooking wine until you black out, then by all means sign up for G+. If you love Facebook and hate Twitter, then at least read my Twitter Tuesday series. You might just hate Twitter because you don’t understand it. BUT, if you totally GET Twitter and it makes you break out in hives and want to punch puppies??? Don’t hang there.

If we hang out places we enjoy, people can feel and respond to the positive energy. The largest benefit we can gain from social media is a vested community of support. We do not need a “presence” on all social platforms. We can have one, but it will likely have little impact on sales. Why? There are a number of reasons, but today we are only going to discuss one.

Name Recognition is Not a Brand

Writers are not Starbuck’s.

Some people believe that if we spew our names across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Flikr, Goodreads…okay, I’m tired…Four Square, Technorati, Digg….that THIS is effective marketing. My opinion? This is a formula to land a writer on a roof with a margarita machine and a shotgun.

Too many writers are trying to have a “presence” on a gajillion social sites. Name recognition alone is not a brand, and it certainly isn’t an author brand. It also doesn’t leave time to write more books. There are a lot of writers getting in trouble with their agents and publishers because they are dedicating too much time to social media. Why? Because this scattergun approach is a massive time suck (and does nothing to brand us anyway).

What is an author brand? My formula:

Name + Fantastic Content + POSITIVE FEELINGS = Brand

If a writer just spams people on 10 different social sites:

Look at ME!

Here’s my blog!

Free download of my book!

Read my reviews!

It really just means that this writer has ten places people hate him and cringe when they see his name. There are certain social sites I no longer visit. I found it too hard to enjoy myself when I was being harassed non-stop by self-published authors.

This goes for sending people form letters on Facebook too. If I “friend” a writer, and within 30 seconds receive a nice long letter that is trying to “look” personalized, that ticks me off, especially when the writer wants something from me.

This person hasn’t so much as said “boo” to me, but they want my time, effort, money and referral. And not only that, but this person is treating me like I am so stupid that I don’t know a form letter when I see one.

NOT a good way to make friends.

Also, please do not start a Why I Am So Awesome Club on Facebook and then sign us up without asking first. I hate it when I open my e-mail’s In Box to notifications for a discussion in a group I have never heard of, yet I am, somehow, a member.

You have 10 e-mails from Friends of Author Buffy Fluffernutter—The Chiropractor’s Assistant—A Tale of Love, Hate and Orthotics.

Huh? What? Did someone rufie my Facebook and she ended up at a party she doesn’t remember?  

Back to our formula:

Name + Great Content +POSITIVE FEELINGS= Brand

When someone spams me, I get annoyed. When they send me form letters where they have inserted my name and a couple of inane details that anyone could get by looking at my bio? I get REALLY annoyed, because now I am not only being treated as if I am stupid, I am being manipulated.

Name + Unsolicited Content+ Seriously ticked off feelings = Spam Toad

I have yet to ever buy anything from writers on Twitter who DMed, “Thanks for the follow. For more of my terribly interesting thoughts buy my book here.”

Yeah, I am right on that. Right after I pick up my Facebook page from victim’s counseling. On the bright side, she has given up digital daiquiris for good.

In fairness, I actually don’t report these writers as spam.  Though I find the approach annoying, I know that there is some “marketing genius” who is telling writers that this is the way to be professional and to sell a lot of books.

NO.

We cannot take what works for Bubba’s Car Wash and cross-apply it to selling books. Traditional marketing DOES NOT SELL BOOKS. It never has, and likely never will. We are going to talk about why next week.

Back to our topic…

Name recognition alone doesn’t sell books, namely because that is a traditional marketing tactic. Brands, especially when talking about author brands, are a product of interaction. I like to say that authors are the new reality stars. We now have the power to become a personality. People like US…so they buy our books.

Spending hours a day blitzing ten different social sites is a waste of time. Spend that time writing more books and blogging. Blogs offer readers a chance to know us, like us, and love our writing voice. If we can get them addicted to 1500 words a week, think when we offer 80,000.

For instance, I started reading Tawna Fenkse’s blog a YEAR before her book was ready for purchase. Let me tell you, the second that puppy was for sale? I was on it like a chicken on a June bug. And I was RIGHT. Her fiction is even better than the blog. I was hooked by her blog and couldn’t WAIT for her book. Buy Making Waves the first chance you get.

Blogs are very useful for creating reader loyalty. If we write a killer blog, we don’t need to be on every last social site. Why? Our following will be sharing our stuff where THEY hang out….which is the purpose of social media. We don’t have to do this alone.

If you don’t want to blog, no problem, just be authentic and likable. If we focus on doing one or two sites well, we start becoming a brand because people can start associating those pink fluffy feelings with our names (the NAME that will be printed on your books–ditch the cutesy moniker if you have one).

Even corporations appreciate the power of emotions. Look at the picture above. We have all laughed at “Peggy.” Capitol One appreciated how we have been treated by other card companies, and they sought to make us feel appreciated…so they poked fun. And it works. We connect emotionally.

Name recognition alone is not enough. To prove my point:

Arne Duncan Vs. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Which name do you recognize? Perhaps both. Duncan is the current U.S. Secretary of Education. You might have heard his name in passing on CNN, but though you recognize it, it holds little mental real estate and his name is not highly emotive (for most people). Schwarzenegger, by contrast, is a name that practically explodes with images, concepts and emotions for people all over the world.

This is the idea behind becoming a brand. Name recognition alone is not enough. We must use our blogs and social platforms to drive the power of emotion behind our names.  This is one of the reasons NYTBSAs can get away with some traditional marketing. Why? Because they have 20+ books supplying the emotional component to their names.

When we don’t yet have a book out, or only one or two books? Our social platform can step in and fill the emotional vacuum until we have more titles under our belt.

We can use our blogs to connect with READERS on common emotional ground. We craft an experience that is so positive that people not only want to buy our books, but they also want to badger friends and family to buy our books as well. Why? Because they feel they know us. They connected with us and so they are vested in our success; so vested, in fact, that they are willing to mobilize their platforms to help us.

THAT is the real power of becoming a brand. Historically, the only way an author could emotionally connect (in a positive way) was through her novels. Now? Social media can act as a meantime supplement between books.

In the end, just understand that name recognition is not a brand.

Seeing a name a bazillion times means next to nothing. Unless that name connects personally and emotively in a positive way, it is very difficult to compel the sale (which is the end goal anyway). People have a lot going on in their lives. Emotion is the best way to power past people’s natural inertia and make them act (purchase a book).  It is next to impossible to connect emotively scattered across 8 social sites. Then people might be seeing our name, but since we don’t have time to be vested, we can easily fall into that Spam Toad mental file, and that is BAD.

So what do you guys think? What makes you connect with an author enough to buy her books (aside from pervious good books)? What are some tactics that make you want to scream? Do you feel better knowing you don’t have to be EVERYWHERE? Or do you disagree and think writers need to be on 10 social sites?

I love hearing from you! And 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. 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 every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of August I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

In the meantime, I 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 . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

Mash Up of Awesomeness

Bob Mayer’s Thriving in the Chaos of Publishing

Why Twister is a Dangerous Game for Dads by Brian Klems

Ellie Soderstrom’s My Three Favorite Weight Loss Tips I Ever Made Up (Caution: Do not eat or beverages while reading this post. Could cause choking.)

Need even more laughter? Prepare to bust a gut. A Time to Receipt by Bayard and Holmes. Yes, the face of Jesus on a Wal Mart receipt. I won’t ruin it for you.

Cosmo Headlines–A Critical Analysis by Tyler Tarver (guest blogger for Clay Morgan). And YES I did funny stuff. I love to laugh.

Why are so many writers plagued with insecurities? by Jody Hedlund

Play it Again–The Top 20 Most Rewatchable Movies by Sonia Medieros

Well isn’t this Smurfy? What cartoons have influenced you? by Kristal Lee

Where God Put the Moon by Jennifer Hale. Awesome, inspirational post.

Camping with Snookie and the Art of Hovering by Lori Dyan

Blogging is probably one of the most powerful ways to build an author platform. The blog gives others a chance to know us and support us because of our writing. Yet, there is one question that I always get when I mention blogging:

How often should writers blog?

Everyone has an opinion, including me. But, before we get to my two cents, I know there are competing theories. Let’s take a quick look at those.

Blogging Every Day or Multiple Times a Day

Some experts recommend micro-blogging—blogging in short burst several times a day or short blogs every day. I think if your goal is to be a famous blogger, this can work. As writers, though, most of us are already balancing a day job, kids, housework, and a WIP. So blogging every day or more than once a day is hard on us and probably hard on our following as well.

Can you blog every day? Sure. It is a great way to saturate the Internet with your content and help fast-track a brand. I don’t think this approach is a good fit for most writers, though. If you can commit the time and be interesting that often, rock on!

Blogging Once a Month

Some experts advise once a month. Whoo-hoo! Yay! Only one blog a month!!!! *happy dance*

Okay, yes, there is that benefit of only having to write one post a month, but there are a lot of advantages we lose with this method.

I think that what we lose in this approach is the ability to build community and relationships using the blog.  Sure, we save time in having to write fewer blogs, but then we need to commit time in other areas, like lengthy e-mail lists. So, do we save time, or do we just shift it elsewhere?

If we post blogs regularly, people are connecting with us regularly and come to feel as if they know us. Why? Because they DO know us.

We are vested, posting content that serves the reader, and we are interacting with those who comment. We aren’t just surfacing once a month, expecting those around us to drop everything to pay attention to us and our blog.

Can the once a month approach work?

Sure. But this approach relies heavily on going viral…which is hard to do without on-line relationships to
propel the momentum.

For instance, my blog has a very large following. But, this blog has allowed me to forge relationships with other bloggers who also have large followings. My efforts now work exponentially instead of linearly. I don’t have to personally connect with 100,000 people. I have a team to help me. What’s better is that when my team promotes me, it is more genuine (psst–it’s also called word of mouth). Traditional marketing cannot compete.

I also think that blogging once a month makes it very easy to lose the top-of-mind with others. People have very short attention spans these days and a month with no content is a lifetime. Also, I don’t know about you, but once a month is really hard for me to remember. I had to get my computer to remind me to give my dog a heartworm pill once a month and I was STILL lousy at remembering. I think if we blog only 12 times a year, the blog is easy to forget all around.

What is the “Magic” Number?

I recommend a minimum of once a week. It is enough to stay top of mind with followers, yet not overwhelm anyone.

Ideally? I recommend three times a week, especially in the beginning. Why? Well, I know this sounds weird, but three times a week is actually easier than once a week. Blogging three times a week holds a number of advantages that are especially beneficial to professional writers:

Regular blogging places us in a professional mindset.

Writers write. Blogging is a great way to warm up those fingers and get the brain in gear. When we are writing a novel, we get little outside validation. Most of the time, friends and family think we are, at worst, lunatics, and at best, hobbyists. In short, others do not believe what we do is work or even a job. Blogging is a great way to demonstrate that we take our craft seriously. How? We wouldn’t spend time building a platform for a book we had no intention of finishing. Also, again, writers write.

When someone asks, “What do you do?” and you say “I’m a writer,” you know the next questions are going to be, “What books have you written? Anything I might have read?”

Blogging helps with confidence. We can say, “Well, I am finishing my first novel but you can go to my blog here.” A blog gives a professional front. It also helps switch us from hobbyists to true professionals.

This transition is vital. What if you decided you wanted to play baseball at a professional level? Would you just wait until game day to pick up a bat? Or would your lifestyle have to change to incorporate regular practice to take this “hobby” to a new level?

Blogging makes us faster cleaner writers.

When I look at some of my early blogs, I cringe. My thoughts are all over the place. Blogging works on our ability to mentally organize content. This helps us become better writers all around. Even plotting for a novel requires us to be able to organize our thoughts efficiently. Blogging is great exercise for that.

Let’s look at sports again. Years ago, I played soccer, and we had to run through a lot of tires. In three years of playing soccer I was never once assailed by a Goodyear tire on the field. So what was the point? It taught me to be quick on my feet so I would play the game better.

Blogging is like running cones or tires, or doing wind sprints. It makes us stronger, faster and better. The more we do it the faster the results.

Blogging feeds the spirit.

A huge part of this business is mental. Stephen King said, “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”

I know of many writers more talented than me, but they won’t ever be published. Why? They gave up. As artists, we need to pay close attention to our mental state. It is easy in this business to get overwhelmed, burned out and give up. Blogging gives us validation in the lean times bewteen books.

The Big Picture

Am I telling you guys to blog because I can give you a magic formula for books sold?

100 blogs x 2 years divided by # comments X Pi = NY Times Best-Seller List

No, I encourage you to blog because it will make you stronger, faster, cleaner writers AND it will connect you to a large community of support so you don’t have to drive your book sales all by yourself. Instead of spending time putting together lengthy e-mail lists, write blogs instead. It takes the same amount of time and yet one approach makes us good at spreadsheets…the other makes us far better, stronger writers which means BETTER BOOKS. We also get really great at obliterating deadlines.

Blogging also keeps our head in the game. Back to sports. The pep rally is critical. All the practice in the world cannot help a team with low morale.

So back to our question, “How many times do we need to blog?”

There isn’t a clear answer. It is up to you and your strengths. Some people come from a sales background and their strength rests in putting together e-mail lists and launching marketing campaigns. If that is your strength, go for it!

For me? I am a writer. It is what I love and do well and I work hard every day to do it better. Blogging allows me to build a platform and strengthen my writing skills simultaneously. It permits me to do my passion WRITING.

My preference? I like three times a week.

Some people are against blogging three times a week because they don’t want to overwhelm their subscribers with fluff. My solution? Don’t write fluff. Blogging is a skill. It gets better with practice. You will get better at hooking readers with titles and content the more you do it. This will help your WIP as well.

Three times a week helps your blog and your skills grow faster. I have recommended this approach to many of my students. They kicked and screamed and whined, but when they started seeing the numbers climb and the subscriptions take off they were believers that three times a week really is easier.

But when we get down to brass tacks…

I recommend that you blog as often as you can be counted upon and still finish the books. The point of blogging is to eventually drive sales for our books. The finished product is paramount.

Back to blogging. There is a bare minimum we need to meet, or just forget it. There are too many writers who post when they feel particularly inspired. Hey, I was guilty once. But that isn’t the behavior of a professional.

Once a month, I think is not often enough for our blog to be much help in our platform. I advise a minimum of once a week or just forget blogging.

What are your thoughts? Do you love blogging? Hate it? What are your biggest challenges? What are some benefits you might have gained blogging?

I love hearing from you! And 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. 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 every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of June I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

In the meantime, I 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 . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

Welcome to the twenty-seventh installment of Twitter Tuesday. In the spirit of Twitter, this blog will be short and sweet and to the point. The tips offered here are all based off my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. If our goal is to build an author platform in the thousands to tens of thousands, then we will have to approach Twitter differently than a faceless corporation or even the regular person who does not possess a goal of becoming a brand. This blog will help you rule the Twitterverse without devolving into a spam bot.

This Week’s Fail Whale–The Traditional Tweeter

The traditional tweeter doesn’t understand the difference between traditional marketing and social marketing. Instead of forming relationships, this tweeter is no better than spam. Oh, is messages might seem to be genuine, but up close they all say the same thing:

Me, me, me, me, me. I don’t care about you, but look at MEEEEEEE!!!!!

There are writers who, when I mention Twitter, say things akin to, “Oh, well Facebook is where I socialize. I am just getting on Twitter to sell books.”

Yeah, good luck with that.

I remember years ago I was in the grocery store in mid-afternoon. The place was practically deserted. I had a song stuck in my head and was singing to myself (believing I was alone). Out of nowhere this man came up to me and told me that I had a really pretty voice. I recall blushing at the compliment and it made me feel really good….that is, until he handed me a business card. He was selling insurance. He asked me to call him and tell all my friends about the great deals he was offering.

I felt sick.

I felt manipulated and embarrassed. See, this man had been nice to me. True. But he wasn’t kind to be kind; he had an agenda. I never gave him my business, and I certainly didn’t rush out to tell all my friends. Worse still, he ruined any trust. Even if this man approached me today in an authentic way, I would never want anything he had to offer.

Twitter is the same way. We will support who we know and like, but we can smell a phony with an agenda from a mile away. Twitter is a powerful tool for selling books. That’s true. But Twitter is ruled by social norms, not market norms. Fail to appreciate the difference and the price to a reputation can be steep.

This Week’s Twitter Tip–Be a Team-Building Tweeter

The team-building tweeter understands the difference between market norms and social norms. The team-building tweeter is all about working smarter, not harder. Last, week NYTBSA Allison Brennan posted a blog blasting social media, and you know what?

I didn’t blame her one bit.

See, the “experts” in her circle were treating Twitter as some free way to advertise. In their minds, a writer had to have in excess of 20,000 followers for there to be any impact on sales. And this is true…if we are “marketing” to people.

Traditional marketing generally has about a 1% return. This approach, most often, will only influence 10 people for every thousand blitzed. This tactic is fine if you are a Nationwide Insurance commercial airing to tens of millions.

It is a formula for a chocolate overdose if you are a writer having to do all this marketing yourself…AND still write books.

Most writers have a day job, children, families and they have to write books. This is why teams are critical. This is about working smarter, not harder. It is about multiplying influence exponentially. How do we do this?

By forging relationships and serving others without an agenda.

Yes, Allison only has 3000 followers. But I LIKE Allison. Not only is Allison an awesome person, but she also writes fantastic thrillers (go here and buy one). Since I LIKE her, I am willing to tell MY network about Allison. Now Allison has just influenced an additional 4000 (my tweeps).

Oh, but it gets better. I have friends who like me and want to help me. So, if I am helping Allison, these friends want to help me help Allison. Many of my friends also have 1,000 to 5,000 people in each network. See how Allison’s influence just exploded? And this method is FAR more effective because it isn’t spam…it is heartfelt, genuine word of mouth. Traditional marketing cannot generate this kind of influence.

WANA methods work. They have put more than a few authors on the best-selling list without working the authors into the ground marketing day and night. No spreadsheets, no mailing lists…just friendships.

Tweet ya later!

In the meantime, I 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 . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

I would wager that most of us do not sit up all night thinking of ways to treat our readers like they’re stupid.  Yet, it is a common problem, especially with newer writers who are still learning the craft. All of us can slip into these nasty habits, if we aren’t mindful. It’s as if we get so wrapped up in our story that we mentally stumble in that brief span from synapse to keyboard, and inadvertently end up treating our readers like they need a drool cup. So today, I put together a list of bad habits to make it easier for you guys to spot when you are coaching the reader.

Offender #1—Adverb Abuse

One of the reasons I am such a Nazi when it comes to adverbs it that they are notorious culprits for stating the obvious. “She smiled happily.” Um, yeah. “He yelled loudly.” As opposed to yelling softly? To be blunt, most adverbs are superfluous and weaken the writing. Find the strongest verb and then leave it alone.

The ONLY time an adverb is acceptable is when it is there to denote some essence that is not inherent in the verb.

For example: She whispered quietly. Okay, as opposed to whispering loudly?

Quietly is implied in the verb choice. Ah, but what if you want her to whisper conspiratorially? The adverb conspiratorially tells us of a very specific type of whisper, and is not a quality that is necessarily implied by the verb.

Offender #2—Qualifiers

It is really unnecessary to qualify. We get it. Using qualifiers is similar to adding in needless adverbs. If we have just written a scene about a heated argument, trust me, our characters don’t need to “slam the door in frustration” (yep…got it) or “scowl with disapproval” (uh-huh) or “cry in bitter disappointment” (gimme a break).

The qualifiers add nothing but a cluster of extra words that bogs down the prose.  If someone slams the door right after a heated scene of arguing, the reader gets that the character is angry, frustrated, upset. We don’t need to spell it out.

Like adverbs, it is perfectly okay to use qualifiers, but it’s best to employ them very sparingly (and only ones that are super awesome). Allow your writing to carry the scene. Dialogue and narrative should be enough for the reader to ascertain if a character is angry, hurt, happy, etc. If it isn’t, then forget the qualifiers and work on the strength of the scene.

Offender #3—Punctuation & Font as Props

You are allowed three exclamation points every 50,000 words—just so your editor can cut them and then laugh at you for using exclamation points in the first place.  Hey, a little editor humor :). 99% of the time exclamation points are not necessary if the prose is strong.

“Get the kids out of the house!” he yelled. (Yep)

I recently read a non-fiction book where the writer used an exclamation point on every single sentence. I felt like I was learning marketing from Billy Mays. At best, the guy was shouting at me for page after page. At worst, he was monotone, because when we emphasize everything, we emphasize nothing.

Ellipses do not make a scene more dramatic, just…make…the…writing…more…annoying. Ellipses can be used but, again, very sparingly.

In fiction, bold font and italics are almost never acceptable. Again, if the prose is well written, the reader will stress the word(s) in his head. Trust me. We don’t need to hold our reader’s hand, or brain, or whatever.

Is it ever okay to use bold font and italics? Sure, if you write non-fiction. In non-fiction we are teaching, so certain key words or points need to stand out.

In the world of fiction?

No bold font. That is the tool of an amateur. And italics? We can use it, just not very often or we run the risk of insulting our reader’s intelligence. If you come to a point where you believe it is absolutely necessary to use italics, I suggest trying to strengthen the scene first.

Offender #4—Telling Instead of Showing

Most of us have been beaten over the head with the saying, “Show. Don’t tell.” There is a good reason for that. Telling is a lazy method of characterization. Most readers are pretty sharp and like figuring things out on their own. Thus, if we spoon-feed information that should be given via the story, we risk turning off the reader.

New writers are almost always guilty of telling instead of showing. Why? Simple. They’re still learning techniques that are going to take time and practice to develop. Yet, all of us, regardless our skill level need to be wary of this narrative crutch. To be blunt, telling is far less taxing on the brain, so our lazy nature will try to take shortcuts if we aren’t careful.

Actions speak louder than words. Yeah, it is easy to just tell the reader our antagonist is a real jerk, but it is better to show our antagonist doing things that make the reader decide this for himself. We accomplish this by creating an antagonist who simply does things jerks do.

Good writers don’t tell readers a character is ticked off. Good writers show she is ticked off. Crossed arms. No eye contact. Clenched jaw. Slamming doors. Remember that over 95% of communication is non-verbal. Use this to your writing advantage. When creating characters, think about what actions will define your character’s nature or mood universally.

For a character’s nature: If you want to create a cad, think what actions cads do that would make everyone in a room label him the same way—checking out every woman who walks by, openly flirting with other women, using breath spray every 5 minutes, telling sexist jokes, etc.

For a character’s mood/mental state: Regardless of culture, we can tell if someone is mad, hurt, sad, or happy by body language. Make a list of all the body language cues for the mood you wish to create. A book on body language can be extremely helpful for the more subtle stuff. For instance, people who lie often rub a body part (wringing hands) or tap. Why? Unless people are sociopathic, it usually causes mental stress to lie, so the rubbing or tapping is a sign of energy displacement.  See, these are the sort of details that make good writing into much better writing.

What are your thoughts? Are there some other pet peeves you guys have that I missed? What makes you put down a book? What methods transport you? What makes you hurl the book across the room?

I love hearing from you! And 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. 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.

Last Week’s Winner–Nina Badzin

Please send 1250 word Word document to kristen at kristen lamb dot org.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of June I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

In the meantime, I 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 . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

Until next time…