Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: book sale tips for writers

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sally Jean
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sally Jean

Man, I have missed you guys! Spawn flattened me with a stomach bug #kidsarecutebutevil. But, I am back so let’s get to work. All of us have days where we wonder if what we do even matters. Why did we have to become writers? Especially in these times?

Why couldn’t we have gotten into this gig when wealthy patrons financed our work? And we could seal our manuscript with a fancy wax seal like the kind we bought for ourselves at Barnes & Noble but are too shy to use on our water bill?

I know y’all bought one too, and for those who didn’t, is that a quill and ink set from the Renaissance festival I detect? Do I smell parchment? O_o

Ah the good old days…

I am an “Old Dog” of the digital publishing paradigm. I’ve been through all the fads. The FREE BOOK Rush of 2010, The Great .99 Book Deal of 2011, The Amazing Algorithmic Alchemy, The Magical Metrics and the Automation Invasion of 2012-2015 (there are still skirmishes along the front). Now I am enduring The Newsletter is Gold Rush.

Guess what? I’m still here.

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

Not a job for the faint of heart.

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 9.56.12 AM

Guess what? I agree! The writing always, always comes first.

But why is there an almost automatic assumption we must choose?

Social media, done the way I teach in Rise of the Machines, takes maybe 10-15 minutes a day and feel free to take off weekends. I offer no get-rich-quick advice. My author platforms take time (and discipline) to build, but they are virtually indestructible. It isn’t about quantity, it is all quality and then being consistent.

If we assume that platform-building is this awful horrible time-intensive thing? Then we psych ourselves out of some truly fantastic benefits. Additionally, our own misconception how much time social media takes can be smothering our creative fires.

But that is a lie. Solid branding/platform-building isn’t about large chunks of time, rather it is small consistent effective action. I can assure you, it is very possible to write books and be on social media.

Just like we can bathe and brush our teeth. No need to choose 😉 .

#2—RELAX Regarding Sales

AHHHHHHH!
AHHHHHHH!

For those who want to make a living as an author, appreciate we are in the entertainment business. Note that half that word is business. We are in the business of selling books. Yet how many of you are feeling snuffed out simply because you are terrified of sales?

Guess what?

You already ARE IN SALES.

Because writing a novel is nothing BUT sales. Every aspect from the cover to the title to the concept to every stinking page of writing (just in writing we call them “hooks”). Why do readers stop reading? Because we didn’t “sell” them on the idea of turning to the next one.

Great writers are able to sell the idea that is a better idea to stay up until 2 a.m. than getting to work on time 😉 .

In fact, I think novelists make up the greatest salespeople in human history. Writers have sold us on equal rights, women’s rights, alien worlds, space travel, a thing called a T.A.R.D.I.S. and on and on.

Think about it. Writers have to sell readers on an idea. Why should we spend 10-15 hours reading that story? How are we supposed to believe that sparkling vampires are plausible? Or in this place called Middle Earth?

Writers need to sell readers on characters. Why should we like her? Root for her? Why should we fear/hate him and want him to lose?

Additionally, every single traditionally published author has had to first sell themselves and a manuscript to an agent. Once published, these same authors most often are then required to then sell the next story and the next to an editor or agent via a synopsis of whatever else they have to offer (which is why I have a CLASS on how to do that this Friday).

So let’s just get this notion out of our head that all “sales” is the same and involves vitamins or vacuums. Y’all already rock sales if you write good stories, so ditch the phobia already.

#3—Reframe Perception of Social Media

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of GUV'NOR.
Original image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of GUV’NOR.

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

It is one of the reasons automation is such a turn-off. It shouts, “I want your time and money but I am too busy to talk to you!” And, to be blunt, it’s the equivalent of junk mail.

Junk mail has a 2% return on investment, so if we want better results than a telemarketer, we need to relax about getting engaged.

If you are struggling with enjoying social media, maybe this will help.

I was once on a panel at Thrillerfest in NYC and we were asked, “What is the most important thing to do to be successful of social media?” The edgy blogger next to me snagged the mic and declared, “You must be interesting.”

I disagreed.

My POV? It is far better to be interested than interesting.

Why do readers love our stories? Because if we have done our job well, on some level the story we write is also the reader’s story. It is about them. Same with social media.

We are not organ-grinding monkeys dancing for loose change and, in fact, the non-stop-entertainment-approach will wear everyone out in a hurry. Never underestimate the power of simply liking or commenting on the posts of others. Or asking an opinion or a thought. Humans are dying to feel heard, so do what introverts do best and simply listen.

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

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

Check out the other NEW classes below! Including How to Write the Dreaded Synopsis/Query Letter THIS FRIDAY! I have also included new times to accommodate the UK and Australia/NZ folks! 

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

Upcoming Classes

NEW CLASS!

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

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

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

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

Good question. We will cover that and more!

But sometimes the query is not enough.

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

WEDNESDAY October 5th Your Story in a Sentence–Crafting Your Log-Line

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

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

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

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

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

Those who miss being in the first ten will get a deeply discounted workshop rate if they would like their log-line showroom ready.

SATURDAY, October 8th Blogging for Authors

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

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

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

This class is going to cover:

  • How author blogs work. What’s the difference in a regular blog and an author blog?
  • What are the biggest mistakes/wastes of time?
  • How can you effectively harness the power of algorithms (no computer science degree required)
  • What do you blog about? What topics will engage readers and help create a following?
  • How can you harness your author voice using a blog?
  • How can a blog can help you write leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner?
  • How do you keep energized years into your blogging journey?
  • How can a blog help you sell more books?
  • How can you cultivate a fan base of people who love your genre.

Blogging doesn’t have to be hard. This class will help you simplify your blog and make it one of the most enjoyable aspects of your writing career.

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

 

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 10.22.38 AM
Original image courtesy of Juhan Sonin via Flickr Creative commons.

The writer’s worst nightmare. You researched, you wrote, you finished, and then published your book. You wait for the sales and……….*crickets*. This is something that can happen to any kind of author, traditional or nontraditional. We think we have a hit on our hands only to later be checking it for a pulse.

What happened? Why is the book just not selling?

The Market

Remaindered Titles
Remaindered Titles

In the not so distant past, there was only one way to get published and that was traditional publishing. Though many authors cheered when they were finally able to cast off the chains of New York, let’s at least respect that agents and editors might have known a thing or three about the book business.

Writers would often get vexed at the stack of rejection letters, believing they couldn’t actually write well. This was not always the case. Agents make their living off books they know will sell, which means they just don’t have the bandwidth left over to take on pro bono work. Yes, the book might be lovely, but they are agents, not charities.

A large part of their expertise is predicting market changes and trends. They look at what is already out, what is to be released, what is selling, what isn’t, what is saturated, etc.

This is where it can get tricky for writers. Yes, write what you love. We shouldn’t write for the market…but we have to write for the market.

*bangs head on wall*

Sometimes a book might not be selling simply because there are too many titles that are too similar. Readers just don’t want yet another sparkly vampire.

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 10.02.13 AM

If you are traditionally published, this could still happen. Agents are making an educated guess and sometimes they miss the mark. For the self-published folks? If the book is good, just leave it alone and keep writing. The great part about the digital paradigm is the book can remain there indefinitely and when the trends change? So could the sales.

The Product

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 10.06.20 AM
Bad Pun Dog

I hate saying this, but sometimes it’s the book. Obviously this is more the case with indie and self-published books. The problem is that the market has just been inundated with amateur writing. I go into this in more detail in Five Mistakes Killing Self-Published Writers, but here are the Spark Notes.

Bad Writing

No one wants to hear they are not ready. Worse still? No one wants to hear the words, “You just are not a good writer.” Too many newbies want to skip the unfun training and go right to the title, “Author.”

Sadly, the slush pile has been handed off to readers. I can’t count the number of times I have gotten pages for a contest win and absolutely slayed the writing, only to get an e-mail back that the book was already for sale.

Shoot…me…now.

Even more common is that the writing is not per se bad, it just isn’t anything remarkable. Folks these days have a lot of competition for their time and attention and they simply won’t devote 12-15 hours of undivided attention to a blasé book.

Bad (No) Editing

Our story might be the best thing since pumpkin spice lattes, but if it is rife with errors it won’t sell. Additionally, editing is not simply looking for typos. That is line-editing. A good content editor will be able to help you shape the overall flow of the novel.

When I edit I can tell writers if they are starting the book in the correct place. Are there scenes that need to be cut because they are bogging down the momentum? Are there redundant characters? Are there plot holes? Is the ending a knockout or a fizzle?

Great editing can take a book from mundane to magnificent.

Bad Cover

There really is no excuse for a bad cover these days. Technology has come a long way and many experts offer fabulous covers at affordable prices. I would love to say people don’t judge a book by its cover, but that is untrue. Of course we do.

One thing many new writers don’t appreciate is that when you hire an expert, you are gaining a lot more than that one skill. Yes a graphic artist knows how to use Photshop (or whatever) but they also have a knowledge of what sells. 

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 9.29.19 AM

For instance, I have seen authors post images of their new book cover and cringed. The cover itself was lovely, but we have to remember how we are selling. That book isn’t going to be on a shelf where a potential reader is seeing a full-sized version. Likely it will be on Amazon and that beautiful full-sized image, when shrunk to thumbnail size looks like a Rorschach ink blob.

Do you see a butterfly?

No, I see Satan eating kale chips.

If a writer tells me they can’t afford to hire an expert, my response is they cannot afford not to.

Boring Title

This goes along with a bad cover. New writers are notorious for titles that we have to read the book to “get” the title. NO. The title is the hook and we will move on to other writers who don’t make us think.

The Platform

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Discoverability is a nightmare. There is a lot of noise and part of our job description now entails branding. This is all writers.

I recently had a distraught writer contact me. The author was recently dropped by a well-known agent because the book simply wasn’t selling. Yet, I could tell with a quick google search what a big part of the problem was.

The author didn’t have platform/brand capable of driving sales. Simply puttering around on Facebook isn’t enough. That isn’t a brand.

My first royalty check would have covered dinner if no one super-sized anything. Why? My book came out before my platform could drive sales. Once my platform improved? My sales skyrocketed.

What does it say in front of every big author’s name? Best Selling Author. Not Best Writing Author.

The writing alone is not enough. Frankly, it never was. Before 2006, writers had a 93% failure rate. Most first books sold less than a thousand copies (even traditionally published books). Only one out of ten published authors ever saw a second book in print. Most were dropped.

In the old days, we just had no control over the brand and the platform. Now, we do. And authors want to complain that it is too hard. Yes, it is hard and there are many reasons this profession is not for everyone.

Less Marketing/More Writing

AHHHHHHH!
AHHHHHHH!

Traditional marketing does not sell books. Never has. For more on why, check out Why Traditional Marketing Doesn’t Sell Books. I have had to unfollow writers on Facebook who do nothing but promote one book over and over and over.

They tweet non-stop about their book.

They even dedicate their blogs to selling books (and that is never the direct objective of a blog).

They deluge us with newsletters we never signed up for and can’t figure out how to escape.

Thing is, we don’t care about you or your book. We didn’t want to see that crap in our feed, we sure aren’t going to subscribe to a blog/newsletter that is nothing but self-promotion.

Writers often become the equivalent of that sales clerk in the department store who ambushes us with perfume.

Here is the blunt truth. The odds of breaking out with our first book are about the same as being hijacked by a terrorist after we’ve been hit by lightning while holding a winning lottery ticket.

Most writers are not going to break out with one book. Or even two. An author might never break out, but the odds certainly improve the more titles we have. This was always true. It’s why you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a James Patterson title.

Marketing and building a platform/brand are two completely different activities. But writers believe they are the same. They aren’t. If you want to promote and market without a platform, I suggest piling money on the floor and setting it on fire. Same end result and you can get to the self-loathing and binge drinking far faster that way.

There are no shortcuts.

Obviously there are many many other factors to why a book might not be selling, but these are the top offenders. Good news is most of this, we can do something about. In fact, I have classes addressing most of these issues (listed below).

What are your thoughts?

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

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

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

Upcoming Classes

Blogging for Authors  (August 26th)

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

I am here to help with that 😉 .

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

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

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

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist Gold

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

Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line

September 7th

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

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

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

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

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

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