Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: branding for authors

Okay so last time we talked about experts and why we need to be careful who we are listening to. Sure some “experts” are really predators. Others mean well, they just aren’t a good fit for what an author needs.

Here’s a simple truth that a lot of writers miss and this is so fundamental. Marketing and advertising are NOT brand and platform. These are not all synonyms and interchangeable.

Brand/Platform and Marketing/Advertising are distinctively different activities and when writers don’t understand this? They have panic attacks, get overwhelmed and start requesting information on-line for dental hygienist schools while drinking straight from the spout on the boxed wine.

You can do this. Calm down. Breathe.

My expertise is in helping you guys build the brand and the platform. I am NOT an expert on advertising and marketing. I have no interest in being one either. But what can often happen is that writers believe they need marketing and advertising experts when in fact, they are not yet ready for that.

Brand and Platform

Brands can be built any number of ways. In the olden days, brands and platforms for novelists could only be built ONE way. Books. Good books. And the more the better. Since there was no regular interface with an author, the singular interaction one could have with an author was through the stories he/she wrote.

This is STILL the strongest way to create a brand and platform and the reason is this. It takes an average of 12-15 hours of undivided attention to complete a novel. This is a LOT of intimate time with a person. I can’t remember the last time I spent 12-15 hours of undivided attention with my husband or child. This immersion creates a profound intimacy in regards to the feelings a reader has for the author.

One of the reasons that the mega authors don’t have to work terribly hard at social media is they already put in their time through lots and lots of BOOKS. I am finishing the unabridged version of Stephen King’s “It.” This means once I finish I will have spent (just with that one book) FOURTY-FIVE HOURS of time with King (and this is not the first King book I have read).

Thus the successful authors of the pre-digital age came onto the social media scene with an established brand and platform.

And all social media does is help keep that thriving. Ads and marketing also do very well for these authors because they are already household names. One does not have to be an avid reader or member of a book club to recognize the name J.K. Rowling. Walk through any airport and all you see is James Patterson books.

For the author emerging onto the digital scene who cannot already put NYTBSA in front of her name, who does not have an extensive backlist, there is some work to be done regarding building a brand and platform since you don’t have one. This is where I come in.

Other than books, how can you establish a brand (what people think when they see your name) and a platform (people who will eventually be interested in buying books). My training is to cultivate that following (those who know you, your voice, your books) and those relationships (those who care) and you can get all of that in one book, Rise of the Machines. I also offer training to make your books (product) as strong as possible thereby enhancing your BRAND.

BRAND—> WHAT IS IT?

PLATFORM—> THOSE WHO KNOW AND CARE WHAT IT IS

Original image via Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of FEMA

The problem with some “experts” we mentioned last time is they want to skip steps. We can’t blast out newsletters to people who don’t know us let alone care to hear from us. We need to do some relationship building and establish trust and rapport.

This is not something that can be outsourced or automated. We need to do the work. And any expert who tries to skip this fundamental step of brand and platform-building? I’d think twice before handing over money.

Regular companies offering services or products (restaurants, bars, computer services, vegan body wash) can do this, but that is because they have the big budgets to saturate with ads and marketing. Yet, I will point out that most of these ventures fail. When we rely on ad saturation it is expensive and risky.

But we (authors) obviously don’t stop with just the brand (books/blogs) and platform, and this is where experts REALLY come in handy.

If brand is WHAT IS IT? And platform is WHO CARES? Then marketing and advertising are simply magnifying these two things that already exist.

Marketing & Advertising

AHHHHHHH!

As I just mentioned, marketing and advertising can only enhance what already exists. Ads work for Starbucks because there is one on every corner and they have a known reputation.

Marketing works for Kia because people need cars and see Kias on the road all the time. We know what they are. We KNOW what a Starbucks is. We know what Levis are. We know what all these “things for sale” are and probably have formed an opinion or impression…which is why it makes sense to use advertising and marketing.

As writers, will eventually need marketing and advertising and I am here to deliver a simple yet possibly uncomfortable truth.

Money and time are in a reciprocal relationship. The more time we spend cultivating the brand and the platform, the less money we will have to fork out on marketing and advertising. The less time we spend cultivating the brand and platform the more money we will have to fork out in marketing and advertising.

See, when we try to make marketing and advertising take the place of the platform and brand? That can get REALLY expensive.

We can feel free to write the book on our own, never be on social media then hire a marketing team, but the sheer volume of ad saturation it will take to garner attention? That’s gonna cost big.

I love marketing and advertising people, but here’s the deal, they are marketers not magicians. The more we do our part (write books, build a social media following, blog), the more they have to work with. The more people already KNOW us. We get a lot more bang for our buck.

A lot of writers are paying lots of money for these large email lists to blast out newsletters to people who don’t know them and who never signed up to hear from them in the first place.

This has the same ROI as those folks who blast out messages that we have an inheritance in Ghana somewhere if only we will wire five grand via Western Union. Sure, some people DO bite, but you have to send a LOT of emails to get any return.

What then happens is the writer blows through a lot of money needlessly for no real results.

Very often I hear disenchanted authors who gripe the their book isn’t selling because they don’t have the mega marketing budgets of the NY heavy hitters. Here’s the deal though. NYC spends that kind of cash on Stephen King, and George R.R. Martin, and James Patterson because most folks in the Western world recognize the brand.

One doesn’t have to be an avid reader to know Stephen King writes the scary stuff. These authors have a brand and that makes the ads have a good ROI. To do this for an unknown author? Better to pile cash in the floor and set it on fire (my POV).

Thus, when we are looking for experts we will fare better if we appreciate that brand/platform is separate from ads/marketing. There are some really brilliant book marketing people out there and even dedicated experts like Rachel Thompson who teach writers how to do a lot of this for themselves.

She’s also a great person to go to to find those folks with the marketing mojo you need for your book and I strongly recommend checking out her blog Bad Redhead Media.

In the end, remember, experts are great when we find the right ones. The cool part about the digital age is we can look around, make friends and get opinions and referrals from those we trust. And yes, “goofing off” on Facebook or Instagram is platform building. You are forging relationships. Write the books, make the connections and then, once you are ready? These marketing mavens will be happy to dazzle you!

What are your thoughts? Do you have any pressing questions?

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

****The site is new, and I am sorry you have to enter your information all over again to comment, but I am still working out the kinks. Also your comment won’t appear until I approve it, so don’t fret if it doesn’t appear right away.

Talk to me!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of MAY, 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).

***Will announce April’s winner next post.

SIGN UP NOW FOR UPCOMING CLASSES!!! 

Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it in person? No excuses! All you need is an internet connection!

BUNDLE DEALS!!! 

Book Bootcamp  $99 ($130 VALUE)

Book Bootcamp GOLD $269 ($430 VALUE) This includes the log-line class, antagonist class, the character class AND a three-hour time slot working personally with ME. We will either plot your idea or, if your novel isn’t working? Fix it! Appointments are scheduled by email. Consults done by phone or in virtual classroom.

Individual Classes with MOI!!! 

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter and Synopsis that SELLS! $45 May 25th, 2017

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist $50/$200 (Gold) May11th, 2017

The Art of Character $45 May 18th, 2017

NEW CLASSES/INSTRUCTORS!!! 

Growing an Organic Platform on Facebook $40 May 6th, 2017 Lisa Hall-Wilson is BACK! She is an expert on Facebook so check out her class!

Method Acting for Writers: How to Write in Deep POV $85 for this TWO WEEK intensive workshop with editor and writing instructor Lisa Hall Wilson.

Shift Your Shifter Romance into HIGH Gear $35 May 19th with powerhouse editor Cait Reynolds.

Researching for Historical Romance (How to NOT Lose 6 Hours of Your Life on Pinterest) $35 May 20th

 

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

 

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Enrico Petrarolo

All right, so Monday we talked about The Single Best Way to Become a Mega-Author, which is—in a nutshell—write a LOT of (good) books. They key is being prolific and this applies no matter what type of publishing we choose. If you go browse a local used bookstore (which is almost pure legacy press) trust me, you will see the same names over and over and over and over.

Readers have always had a tendency to be parochial when it comes to their reading choices. We tend to find a writer we like and stick like glue until we have exhausted their titles. Why? Because reading a book is a HUGE investment of our most precious commodity—TIME.

We don’t want to spend an average of 12-15 hours of undivided attention with just anyone. We also are in an age where we are inundated with choices, which tends to short circuit the brain cells.

But many writers want the magic for selling a lot of books and frankly, that doesn’t exist. Huge success with such a subjective commodity is still, to an extent, trying to capture lighting in a bottle.

Ah, but we can improve our odds. First with, as mentioned, multiple good books. Then there is social media and building a platform.

Our Foundation Matters

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Carlpenergy

The foundation for all goods and services (brands) is the relationship. Nothing sells without establishing, building and improving the relationship. Relationships take time, effort, energy, prayer and patience. They can take years to build and moments to destroy, so we must always value that relationship.

This is ALL commodities from restaurants to grocery stores to soap to shoes to electronics. Samsung was and is a strong brand, but how much damage did the Galaxy 7’s exploding battery do? Consumers no longer could trust the product so they lost faith in the brand.

The same goes for authors. One of the many reasons I love for authors to have a blog is that it is an excellent way to create a relationship and build trust. You guys come to this blog because you trust that you will be educated, enlightened and entertained. Over 1100 blogs and still going and still improving. You don’t come here and get frustrated with a sea of typos, poor grammar, etc.

I’ve worked hard to create a relationship. I give first. Yes I mention classes and my books, but no one is required to buy. But because I give first and often, no one is offended that I list a class because I am not just taking, taking, taking.

Same with social media. Those who follow me on Facebook know what to expect. Most of the time, I share funny memes or engage people in conversation. I comment on their stuff, “Nice dress!” “Love the new profile pic!” Small acts every day. Again giving.

So when I finally DO post something about a class or a book or a conference I already have a foundation. I have a base of people who know me and who hopefully enjoy my company and so when I “advertise” the response is more positive because, out of everything I post, the “taking part” is far less than the giving. Instead of….

AHHHHHHH!

Yet how many writers don’t want to be on Facebook, they don’t like Twitter and they only join to blast people with ads and free books and giveaways. They only get on their author page to talk about themselves, their signing, their event, their book. They don’t take five minutes to care about anyone else, but we’re all supposed to drop everything to serve them?

They don’t even give their time. Rather they cheat with automation, but they want MY time?

Sure. Right on that,

A Little Goes a LONG Way

The shocking thing is that we really don’t need to give all that much for it to matter.

For instance, if someone emails me with a question of a favor, and I recognize that name from comments on my blog, I will often move heaven and earth to help, and often for free. Yet, I can’t count the number of people who email me with a copy of their book for me to review or edit and they’ve never taken two seconds to say so much as hello.

So I am supposed to part with my money and 15 hours of time I don’t have?

Same on Facebook. They IM me to vote for their book or buy their book or for me to promote their book and they have never taken two seconds to so much as comment on a post, say hello or talk to me.

These people are TAKERS.

But the people who always post comments or share or promote me? Again, it is ridiculous the hoops I will jump through to help a giver.

Newsletters are the same deal. My email is absolutely flooded with lazy writers who paid some company to somehow get my email. 99% of newsletters instantly go in the trash, and in a way those newsletters offend me. This writer couldn’t take two minutes to talk to me to even see if I READ that genre? Oh, but they’re happy to take.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

This is one of the reasons my book Rise of the Machines focuses so much on the day to day building of the brand and platform. Writers always assume I spend vast amounts of time on social media.

Nope.

Aside from the blogs? I pop in randomly throughout the day for a few minutes and that’s it.

If we don’t have those small everyday actions that accumulate into a relationship of depth, then it is a craps shoot. Additionally it is a race to the bottom of who can give away the most stuff and for the cheapest or FREE. That is the price of wanting the fruits without the roots and perks without the works.

Marketing & Advertising

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Faye

All marketing and advertising works better with an established relationship. Why are we more inclined to actually use a Starbuck’s coupon? Because Starbucks has created a relationship with its product and service. Their coupon is far more likely to be used than Joe’s Joe Shack because we don’t know Joe from Adam.

Unless Joe offers us a coupon so ridiculously cheap we cannot ignore it? It’s far more likely to go in the trash or be forgotten. And even if Joe succeeds in getting us in the door, he is still starting from ground zero building our trust. If his coffee sucks? It won’t matter if he gives an even steeper discount the next time.

In the beginning almost all writers are like Joe’s. Legacy gets a bit of a pass but not much. Most readers don’t buy books by publishing house. In fact they might be hard-pressed to name one of the Big 5. But, if a book is on shelves at B&N, that book (author) is then using B&N’s relationship (brand) to kindle its own.

But since most readers aren’t going to B&N? As I said, a small pass.

Even in a bookstore the writers we know will almost leap off the shelves at us. I can’t count the number of times I bought books I hadn’t planned on buying because I knew the author from Facebook, Twitter or their blog (the GIVERS).

The rest of us (indies in particular) are going to have to do a lot of giving to establish the rapport, proving we are a good investment of TIME.

I did this with my blog. Y’all know my style, my voice and can trust I produce content you enjoy. Not a huge stretch to imagine my books probably would be at least as well written as my blog. So when I have a book for sale, I’m building off an established relationship (brand).

Additionally, if I told you guys that one day next week, I was giving Rise of the Machines away for free, I guarantee more people would grab a copy of ROM than if I just popped out of the blue and ambushed you with free books.

Or if I said ROM was on sale for $2.99 I would have far better ROI than some stranger foisting a cheap book at you.

See, any marketing or ads or giveaways or sales now will work better because I’m not just assaulting you from the ether with free and or cheap books. That giveaway or freebie is just more value added to something already valuable to you.

There are a lot of wonderful book marketing people out there, but the stronger that base platform and brand, the more they have to work with. They’re marketers not magicians.

Ads are a failure if no one clicks it and no one buys. I don’t care if we get a newsletter list of a million. If no one opens it and no one acts and buys the book, again it is a failure.

How we improve those odds is first creating the relationship on-line with our blog or social media. Then eventually the books. If they trust us in a blog and we impress them with a book? We are golden so long as we keep nurturing that relationship. Ads and marketing work better.

But, skip the foundation? Skip the relationship building? Skip the day to day? It is a long, unpleasant and all too often unsuccessful battle that, in the end, will cost far more time, effort and money than if we just did the little stuff day in and day out.

For more help with that, grab a copy of my book and check out my blogging and newsletter class (listed below) 😀 . Oh an I also am giving away an AMAZING free gift to those who sign up for classes. It’s a secret but I PROMISE you it rocks.

What are your thoughts? Do you get those writers who you add as a friend and the first thing they do is spam your wall? Has that EVER worked?

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

****The site is new, and I am sorry you have to enter your information all over again to comment, but I am still working out the kinks. Also your comment won’t appear until I approve it, so don’t fret if it doesn’t appear right away.

Also know I love suggestions! After almost 1,100 blog posts? I dig inspiration. So what would you like me to blog about?

Talk to me!

And 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).

Deborah Makarios is the WINNER for MARCH. Please send your 5,000 word WORD document to kristen at wana intl dot com. One-inch margins, double-spaced, Times New Roman font and CONGRATULATIONS!

SIGN UP NOW FOR UPCOMING CLASSES!!! 

Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it in person? No excuses! All you need is an internet connection!

Be a Better Hooker (How to Write a Compelling Newsletter)

April 29th $45

In this class, learn how to compose a newsletter that is entertaining and compelling—and all without stealing most of your writing time. Learn how to get your hooks in your readers and keep them until the end.

With a mailing list of over 15K subscribers, mystery/thriller author Jack Patterson will share some of his tips that will spice up your newsletter and get your subscribers opening it up every time you send one out.

Individual Classes with MOI!

Blogging for Authors $50 April 27th, 2017

Plotting for Dummies $35 April 7th, 2017

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter and Synopsis that SELLS! $45 April 13th, 2017

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-2016-09-07-at-7-18-44-am

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

screen-shot-2016-09-07-at-7-16-41-am

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

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

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

“Pillars of Same” Go Crashing Down

screen-shot-2016-09-07-at-7-10-24-am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Does This Mean for Publishing?

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

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

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

Indies Have Revealed the Micro-Trend

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

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

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

Which is exactly what Amazon has been doing.

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

This is Why Social Media is Vital for Authors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boutique is BIG

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

Everyone wins.

Boutique stores thrive, but so do boutique BRANDS.

But There’s a Catch…

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

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

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

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

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

Check out the other NEW classes below! Including How to Write the Dreaded Synopsis/Query Letter! 

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

Upcoming Classes

NEW CLASS!

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

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

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

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

Good question. We will cover that and more!

But sometimes the query is not enough.

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

Sign up early for $10 OFF!!!

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

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

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

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist Gold

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

Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line

September 7th

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

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

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

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

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

Blogging for Authors

September 17th

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

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

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

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

 

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons via Cortto
Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons via Cortto

The past three weeks have been the weirdest game of telephone ever. In my scandalous post Pay the Writer,knew this would happen but there really was just no getting around it. I knew the second I made any negative commentary about a sacred cow (used bookstore) we’d have problems.

I also knew my post was going to ripple through the web and get redacted down to the juicy and untrue morsel of: Did you hear? Kristen Lamb hates used bookstores.

But this is a really cool lesson in neuroscience and communication and I believe that nothing should ever be wasted. I’m going to use this to show you some cool tricks that will help you reach out to readers, improve your book sales and up the effectiveness of your promotional efforts.

THANK YOU Critics for Proving My Point

So, this all started when I got pissed off at writers (not readers). Writers were sharing an article with a click-bait headline that was bashing Amazon (and by association all on-line retailers) and digital while hailing the great return of the used bookstore. All would have been fine…had the article simply been hailing the return of the used bookstore. I love used bookstores. Need a 12 Step Program for the money I spend there.

But the article wasn’t just hailing the return of the used bookstore. The article was using this as an opportunity to bash the best (and only remaining) ways authors are paid.

Here’s the thing. All that lovely exposure a used bookstore offers does writers no good if you spend an entire article trashing the only remaining places to buy NEW. And not just any article…a Washington Post article.

And yes, I called foul. It was a dirtbag move that was undermining writers and their ability to earn a living. I knew I’d take heat and I would do it again.

Anyway, back to the brain.

If you read my book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World you’re going to find it has a lot of neuroscience in it. The human brain is a really interesting thing and the more you understand it, the more effective your brand and promotions will be.

Did you know that the human brain only begins listening at the first active verb?

So if you say, “Don’t forget your keys.” What your brain hears is, “Forget your keys.”

Seriously, use this with goal-setting and resolutions and I promise it will change your life. I say, instead, “Kristen, remember your keys.

This was why I knew my blog was going to probably come back and bite me. Yes, I knew I needed to construct it better. I had pneumonia when I wrote it and was ticked off, so I really just didn’t care.

For the folks who took time and read the blog post thoughtfully, they were dumbfounded that anyone disagreed with what I said.

I never really attacked used bookstores. I attacked the article.

I repeatedly said buy from used bookstores and that I buy from them. I even said feel free to promote them…but make sure to educate readers that you don’t get paid there so IF they read something of yours they LIKE, please buy something new.

That’s pretty much it.

And it IS okay to disagree with me. But many people who initially believed they disagreed with me, later realized they actually didn’t. We’d run into terrible miscommunication fueled by my NyQuil induced fugue state 😛 .

The problem (I feel) came as a side-effect of the digital age and that people tend to do a lot of scanning material. And while it was all kind of a pain in the @$$, I think some great discussion about authors being paid has come out of it and today we are going to use it for a very different but VERY useful lesson.

What Went Sideways?

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Steve and Shanon Lawson
Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Steve and Shanon Lawson

Because I had to add a caveat to many of my assertions, I knew I was running a huge risk. Any audience member who was not wholly focused? I chanced losing. When I wrote an assertion akin to:

Don’t promote used bookstores, unless you then tell readers at some point they are going to need to buy new. If we don’t educate our reader, they won’t know how to support us…

What do you think most people scanning the article likely saw?

Don’t promote used bookstores.

Every single article later criticizing me completely missed the point of my blog, likely because they scanned it or relied on second hand accounts.

Or worse? The reading comprehension in this country is at an all-time low. This morning I awoke to a blog claiming I was up in arms that writers needed to be paid royalties on used books. WTH? Okay, some people apparently need me to blog in crayon and use way smaller words.

I got this on Facebook last night.

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Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 5.33.26 PM

For the record, all my human sacrifices are on altars constructed of old hardbacks. Paperbacks soak in blood too quickly and then you can’t finish summoning the demon properly…

Moving on.

Another weird trick about the brain is that order dictates emotional weight/importance.

So, if you work for me as my assistant and I tell you, “I need you to get me Tom’s number, an appointment with the dentist and an espresso.”

What will you assume that I probably want the most/first? What are you also most likely to remember?

If the AC guy shows up and your kids start blowing up your phone with texts and you spill coffee in your crotch and you then look at your watch an hour later…which item are you most likely to recall? That I needed Tom’s number.

Thus, when the original article that send me into orbit began with bashing Amazon and digital sales…then later talked about the rise of used bookstores. What do you think was the most lasting impression on the brain, whether readers were conscious of it or not?

If the brain uses order to assign importance, then many Washington Post readers walked away not just feeling good about a used bookstore. They also walked away believing Amazon and digital were bad because the article began with that.

That was part of why I was so angry. It was a blatant manipulation of the audience. See, people like me can spot the man behind the curtain.

***BONUS TIP: When people are emotional, angry or upset, they will reverse the order (emotional distancing). So, if you are in a fight with your wife and she finally tells you what is wrong? And she says, “You forgot the dishwashing soap, left your clothes in the dryer, and we don’t spend time together anymore.” You are wasting your breath arguing about dish soap. She does NOT CARE ABOUT DISH SOAP. Book a B&B. You can thank me later.

Brain Business—ARE YOU KILLING YOUR BOOK BIZ?

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Frankeileon
Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Frankeileon

You, dear writer have gone through all this trouble to build a platform of not just writers, but people who might be readers (code for family friends and regular folks who might buy a book). They look to YOU to be their expert and guide.

Since only about 5% of the literate population are the type who inhale multiple books a week, most of these folks may read a handful of books a year if that.

Who cares if it is your book?

Since they are NOT the type of reader who requires an intervention for their habit, this argument about everyone who reads books being so broke they can’t buy new is crap.

Most regular folks? If they want a book, they buy off Amazon or go to a B&N at their local mall. They’re generally not the reader who’s trolling the bargain bins in front of Half Price Books because they just sold some plasma and can afford a couple new Neil Gaiman books.

Ignore Outliers

The BIGGEST mistake too many writers make is they assume they are selling to themselves. That their best market is the avid reader. Yes, we love the avid reader. But she is rare and not our best market.

The left side of the bell curve (the complete non-reader) is not our market at all. But the far-right, the reader who goes through a book a day? That reader would go bankrupt trying to buy everything new. She’s going to buy mostly used or check out stuff from a library and frankly I don’t blame her.

Also, she’s likely going to be a far pickier reader to please, so reviews are going to be much rarer because she’s a tougher to impress than the person who reads two books a year.

So we ignore the non-reader for the most part. Not a bad plan. But then writers ALL chase after the far right part of the Bell Curve (The White Stag).

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons and courtesy of Richard Fisher
Original image via Flickr Creative Commons and courtesy of Richard Fisher

And THEN we ignore the 90% of the population in need of being informed or entertained. I call those Brown Deer Readers (fat part of the bell curve).

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of John Stratford.
Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of John Stratford.

Yes, the White Stags loooove the used bookstores, but Brown Deer Readers? Not so much. And there are a heck of a lot more of them and guess what?

Brown Deer Readers are the game-changers.

J.K. Rowling did not become a billionaire by landing only White Stags. She became a billionaire by captivating the fat part of the bell curve of folks who didn’t believe they enjoyed books…until her books.

The fat part of the bell curve would rather be trying out pilates or watching Game of Thrones or head shooting buddies on PS4.

THIS is the reader you want. It is the reader I want. Why? Because when you captivate these readers this is when legends are made.

There are people who will tell you they do not read. They do not consider themselves readers, BUT they bought every single 50 Shades book in hard cover. They bought every Twilight, every Harry Potter book. They are the most avid fans any novelist can have simply because they are NOT avid readers.

Many of these folks still believe they hate reading…but they love YOUR books.

These people become an author’s single greatest asset. They will not only buy your books, they will evangelize them.

THIS is OUR CUSTOMER.

Now. Go back to what I was talking about. Modern communication.

You post articles and blogs bashing digital and Amazon. Regular people in your platform see those scroll by and since they are not avid readers, they don’t read further. They don’t want to buy books. They like you so they want to buy YOUR book (maybe).

Later, your books come out. I can tell you (from my background) what very likely will happen.

Wow! I see Penelope’s book is out. Better not get a digital copy or go to Amazon. She said it was bad. 

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of coolio-claire
Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of coolio-claire

And THIS is what started it all. Being aware what we are posting because we are supposed to be guiding our consumers, not confusing them. We cannot take for granted that every person buying our books is an avid reader who understands the book business.

Khaled Hosseini tells a funny story of how his mother bought all the copies she found of his book The Kite Runner in Iran not knowing she was buying pirated copies of his work and that he would never make a dime off her beautiful gesture of support.

Use Our Brains Other Places

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Pierre Olivier-Carles
Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Pierre Olivier-Carles

How we say things has always mattered. Now that we are in the digital age it is probably more important simply because we are dealing with an overwhelmed and distracted audience. The opportunities for miscommunication are endless.

I don’t regret writing the post, but I could have saved myself a lot of time defending misunderstanding if I’d followed my own teachings.

But phrasing stuff in the negative is so common and it’s a killer. I see writers doing promotions all the time and I cringe because they’re shooting themselves in the foot (I see this with businesses too, btw).

Don’t forget to buy my book!

What did you just tell your audience?

Don’t forget to buy my book!

Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter!

Don’t miss this promotion!

Strive to tell people what you do want. It’s far more effective. If you are writing to make a living, you’re going to have to communicate clearly to consumers because it is really easy to confuse them. Yes, I love used bookstores, but I really am fond of being able to pay my light bill even more. So I work hard to promote places I am paid because I appreciate how easy it is to confuse a consumer. Trust me, they can find a used bookstore on their own 😉 .

So what are y’all’s thoughts?

Seriously, now does every fight you’ve ever had with your spouse make sense? Do you now understand why your kid keeps forgetting his backpack? Don’t forget your backpack! Have you spent too much time chasing after avid readers and underestimated the regular folks? What are your thoughts? Aside from wondering why I hate used bookstores 😛

I love hearing from you!

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

And yes, I am a complete and total slacker. December’s winner will be announced later because I seriously had three posts go viral. Great problem to have…but tabulating a winner? Gonna take a little time. Love you *air kiss*

Remember to check out the new classes listed at W.A.N.A International.  

Branding for Authors (THIS SATURDAY). This is your best way to get PAID in the digital age. We have to cultivate that 1000 die hard fans. FIND YOUR BROWN DEER!

Also, I have one craft class listed. Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line. Our stories should be simple enough to tell someone what the book is about in ONE sentence. If we can’t do this, often there is a plot problem. This class is great for teaching you how to be master plotters and the first TEN SIGNUPS get their log-line shredded for free, so you will be agent ready for the coming year.

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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Original image courtesy of Phillip Capper Flickr Creative Commons

We live in a wonderful age to be a writer but a terrifying one as well. It’s wonderful because there was a time when we could have gone to our graves without ever seeing our work published and holding our work physically in our hands. Now? Good news is everyone gets a chance. Bad news is everyone gets a chance.

Before self-publishing took off, I was not a fan of the whole idea. The reason? I knew the problems it was going to create. We were opening a door we could never close.

When we had gatekeepers, there was an assumed standard. To say we were “published authors” actually meant something. Now? It means next to nothing.

Great you’re a published author. So is my cat.

Johnny Cat wants to write his memoir...
Johnny Cat wants to write his memoir…

With barriers to entry removed, we’ve created a problem with public perception when it comes to how they view our product—BOOKS and by association? Us (authors).

Perception is Reality

Ever heard the saying “Power perceived is power achieved”? Works for value too. “Value perceived is value achieved.” Therein is a lot of our problem. The sheer volume of books paired with the ability for everyone to be published has diminished the perceived value of our product. It is now up to authors to actively demonstrate value to the consumer.

See, in the “olden days” a book alone meant something. A book had inherent value. A book in and of itself represented more than just a story. A physical book in your hand represented countless other authors who tried and failed, but this author, this author got an agent, landed a contract and was…published. This author was worth a publisher’s investment. This book was worth shelf space at a bookstore.

Fast-forward into the digital age and now what is a book? Heck, what is a “real” author?

Image courtesy of Wikimedia
Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Since self-publishing was not a viable model until very recently, most of your average consumers really had no idea it existed…until now. These days, even regular people, if you say, “I am a published author.” The next question often will be, *weird face* “Yeah but are you self-published?”

This is because the very nature of the product has changed. Now in a world of infinite “shelf space” with no real barriers to entry, anyone can be published and the public has caught on to that. So “books” mean far less to them than ever before and for good reasons.

I am not here to pick on self-published authors because I am one. I have actually published all three ways (traditional, indie and self-pub). Sometimes, there are excellent business reasons to self-publish.

For me? I had one of the top agents in NYC. I was with Russ Galen. Love Russ. Great agent. But it turned out that a social media book just was not a good fit for traditional publishing. Russ worked his tail off because he saw a book like mine was necessary.

Though my agent loved my book, traditional publishing was at that time, simply not as open to the idea as Russ was. So? I published on my own. But Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World was guided and had the oversight of the best set of eyes in New York. I hired the best cover designer in the industry and the best interior designer and formatter money could buy.

Meaning? Not all self-published books are junk.

Problem is? Too many of them are.

What does all this mean? It means that twenty years ago selling a book was very different than selling a book today. Customers had a far different perception of the product twenty years ago.

Why the Struggle?

Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons
Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons

One of the reasons writers are struggling and will continue to struggle is that everyone thinks they can write.

See, the arts have always been vulnerable to people, consumers, corporations, etc. taking advantage of us. There is nothing new about that. But, for musicians, it’s different. The average person at least recognizes that they can’t play a guitar like Slash, the piano like Billy Joel or sing like Beyonce. The regular consumer for the most part doesn’t believe they can do what the musician does.

Now? We writers are in a real pickle. A lot of people honestly believe that simply having command of your native tongue qualifies you to be a writer. I can’t count the number of times I have heard people say to me, “I’ve always wanted to write a book. I just never had the time.” As if TIME is the ONLY factor separating that person from George R.R. Martin.

Could you imagine us saying, “Yeah I have always wanted to cut open a person’s head and do surgery. But wow I just never had the time.”

Before self-publishing, sure folks believed they could write a book, but they didn’t all believe they had what it took to get published. So at least we had that in our favor.

But now that everyone has the ability to claim the title, “published author” let’s just say we have to approach our careers very differently because “When everyone is special then no one is.”

Books Are No Longer Enough

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, via Mikko Luntiala
Image via Flikr Creative Commons, via Mikko Luntiala

When I first started this blog years ago I said this would happen and here we are. We have to have a brand and a platform capable of driving sales. It is not enough to have a book. Even if you want to traditionally publish, it doesn’t matter. Agents won’t even look at you of you don’t have a platform and for good reasons.

Platform and Brand Aids in Discoverability

There are millions of books for sale. Millions of choices and this is overwhelming for consumers. Our greatest enemy is obscurity.

Before the digital age, shelf space was limited and finite. Thus, the infinite shelf space of the web is a double-edged sword for authors.

If you read my post The Ugly Truth About Publishing then you know that one of the major problems created by the arrival of the megastores like Borders and Barnes & Noble was that they didn’t leave authors on the shelves long enough to cultivate an audience. Also, since shelf space was limited, authors no longer had their backlists available and this seriously impacted the earning ability of many writers.

The Digital Age helped this tremendously. Now, a new writer can publish a good book and maybe it only sells a handful of copies. But, because there is no expiration date for it being on the shelf, the writer has time to cultivate an audience and be discovered.

I had this happen with a writing duo who bought my first social media book. Saffina Deforges and Mark Williams (her coauthor and silent partner) went from selling a couple of books a month to selling a hundred of thousand copies in only a few months and breaking all kinds of records. Sugar & Spice, a book no agent would rep and no one would publish went from complete obscurity to one of the biggest selling e-books in UK history.

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Same book that sat at #1,372,760,092 on Amazon later shot to #1 in multiple categories. Same book that sold no copies later broke records. Only difference was they applied my methods and gained discoverability using social media.

What good is a book no one knows about?

Even traditional publishers appreciate discoverability is their problem too. Borders and B&N in their greed wiped out the indie bookstore ecosystem. Borders then imploded and B&N has experienced record contraction. Even if you go into one of the handful of remaining B&Ns it’s a lot of books to sift through and you want consumers to find your book, you will need a brand.

Books Have an Image Problem & Brands Can Fix That

Remember a book no longer holds inherent value.

Because the concept of “books” has been contaminated with so much bad writing, now the author also has to be part of the package. Told you guys we were really the oldest profession 😉 .

I have my contest that I hold every month to encourage you guys to comment. It’s my way of giving something back and nudging you out of your shyness. But I’ve gotten 20 page samples that were so bad I nearly could not finish. But when I sent the pages back, dripping RED…the author responded with, “Well, my publisher loved it and it’s being released.”

…and the other half of that sentence is—being released into the world and onto the unsuspecting public.

There are ways to counter this with the product. We write better books. Seek people who will be truly critical. Hire real editors. Invest in good formatting, covers, etc. The problem is, no matter how good the book is? It won’t matter these days. Until that book is in someone’s hands, all that is moot.

Fortune Favors Those Who Hustle

So branding is going to aid your audience in finding your work (they can judge you later). It’s no longer a nice little extra. It is mandatory if you want to make it in this business. One of the reasons I am a huge fan of authors having a blog is that it helps develop trust. Readers need that because a lot of other writers (or “writers”) have betrayed that trust.

You can’t slap lipstick on a pig and call it a super model.

When we claim I am published readers assume a level of quality. Too many writers were so eager for the title they cut corners and didn’t earn the title and relationships with readers have suffered.

Thus, sadly, all of us now feel like we are dating someone who’s broken up with a psycho. We now have this additional burden of proving we are not out to boil their bunnies.

This is where social media comes in and where a blog is super helpful.

These days people are looking for the pros and when they find them they latch on something fierce.

Search engines deliver new fans to me daily, but why I keep fans is because I have content. I don’t just blog when I feel like it. Most of my competition however? Does. Thus, when people find my blog, there are vast archives for them to peruse and get to know me. They learn that I am not “playing author.”

I am doing this for real. I am a pro. I show up no matter what. Also, blogs play to a writer’s strengths. Writers write. People get a taste of your writing voice and can fall in love with it. Even though I blog on writing, social media, pop culture, humor, etc, the unifying feature is my voice. Right now I have a mystery thriller that has been accepted by a traditional publisher. I assume when it is for sale, y’all might give it a go because you enjoy the blog. It is far simpler to go with who you know and like.

By reading this blog you learn so much about me as an author. The writing is clean. It isn’t riddled with typos. It’s coherent. It’s fun. It’s engaging. I’m using my blog to earn your trust. If I earn your trust here? Far easier to then ask for the sale because I have actively demonstrated I am valuing your time. You spend time with me and TIME WITH LAMB = TIME WELL SPENT.

Those who come across my blog and don’t feel time with me is time well spent, well they are clearly brain damaged and have bad fashion sense not my audience. My blog has done us both a favor. My voice connected me with the unusually good-looking and intelligent people out there who are my audience and weeded out the secret nose-pickers who would have possibly left a bad review except Amazon doesn’t let them review in Crayons.

Anyway…

It’s a great time to be a writer. Focus on writing the best book possible no matter which way you publish. There is no bad way to publish, no wrong way to publish. But you do need a platform if you would like to make money. 

For those interested in learning how to create an author blog, I am holding a class on it this Saturday in my W.A.N.A. International virtual classroom so you can attend from home and at your computer #pantsoptional. The recording of the class comes with purchase. Yes blogging is a very unique form of writing especially when you are blogging to build a fan base for fiction. Also you are going to need time to actually write books. We cover all that. Feel free to peruse the old free archives or pick up my book if you would like to know more.

And for some EXTRA FUN! ME! Hey, don’t feel dumb. I did once write crap too!

What are your thoughts? Are you frustrated that everyone believes they can write a novel? They can’t. But whatever. Are you vexed with the hacks and amateurs? What are your thoughts? Questions? Suggestions for what you’d like to see in upcoming classes?

I love hearing from you!

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

And yes, I am a complete and total slacker. December’s winner will be announced later because I seriously had three posts go viral. Great problem to have…but tabulating a winner? Gonna take a little time. Love you *air kiss*

Remember to check out the new classes listed at W.A.N.A International.  Blogging for Authors THIS SATURDAY.

Branding for Authors (NEXT SATURDAY). This is your best way to get PAID in the digital age. We have to cultivate that 1000 die hard fans. 

Also, I have one craft class listed. Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line. Our stories should be simple enough to tell someone what the book is about in ONE sentence. If we can’t do this, often there is a plot problem. This class is great for teaching you how to be master plotters and the first TEN SIGNUPS get their log-line shredded for free, so you will be agent ready for the coming year.

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