Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: business

Welcome to WANA Wednesday, based off my best-selling books, We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media  and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer.  This is the day I dedicate to teaching you guys how to rock it hard when it comes to social media. Writing is hard. Building a platform is hard. Some days it will feel as if you are doing all this work, and yet it’s all for nothing. So, today I want to share some social media successes with you to keep you encouraged.

There are all kinds of social media gurus who claim to have the answers. There are books to show how Such-and-Such-Author sold a zillion books in five months. All that is great. We can always learn something, but, before we commit to any social media strategy, we need to ask some tough questions.

First, can the methods be duplicated? Just because one person sells 1000 books a day with his hands tied behind his back means little if that method hasn’t worked for others. Other questions we might ask are, “Can the approach work for an unpublished no-name author who has never recieved the traditional publishing seal of approval? Can the approach work for a new author with only one or two titles? Can this method work for the writer who breaks out in hives at the mention of the words sales or marketing?”

I can’t speak for any other methods, but I am here to give good news. Yes, WANA methods have put my books at the top of the best-selling list. That’s good news for me, but what about you guys? The GREAT news is that WANA has worked for others as well. Authors with good books that no one wanted and that no one noticed until social media completed the success equation. We will hear from one of those WANA success stories in a moment.

There are those who will say that all that matters is a good book. For the past four years, I have said that we live in a society inundated with too many choices. I felt a good book was not enough. I deeply believed that we had to find a way to generate word of mouth, too. Writers needed more. We needed a good book AND a social media approach that 1) was more than just a new way to spam people 2) that would generate a community vested in our success 3) that could offer us exponential exposure 4) that left time to write more books and have a life and 5) that didn’t try to change our personality.

So I created WANA.

The big news in world publishing this past week has been that a British writing duo, Louise Voss and Mark Edwards, have signed a six-figure, four-book deal with Harper Collins. So what?

What makes this team interesting is that this deal was not earned the traditional way through the query process. This was an indie writing partnership with two books that the UK agents and publishers didn’t want. Rejected so many times these guys actually gave up writing. For over ten years! Then, earlier this year they gave it another shot and self-published. No agent, no publisher, no hype. The books the gatekeepers didn’t want to know shot from nowhere to, literally, #1 and #2 simultaneously, in the Kindle UK chart. In June alone they sold over 40,000 e-books.

And when they hit the top spot the gatekeepers suddenly forgot these books were rubbish and came running, cash at the ready. Louise Voss and Mark Edwards, congratulations! Read their story here.

Ah, keep reading. I have more good news. Voss and Edwards weren’t the first to use social media to launch their books up the charts. Bizarrely another writing partnership, writing under the pen-name Saffina Desforges, had led the way with another novel the gatekeepers rejected time and time again. Sugar & Spice  hit #2 in the Kindle UK charts no less than three times, and is on target to sell 100,000 e-books by the end of summer. That’s with just one title! They are currently in discussion with one of New York’s most prestigious agents.

But apart from being indie thriller-writing male-female partnerships with two guys called Mark who have conquered the Kindle UK charts with books the gatekeepers rejected, what do these two writing teams have in common?

Their success was down to the way they used social media to beat the odds and achieve sales most authors can only dream of. Mark Williams is here today to explain how the Saffina Desforges team have achieved nearly 100,000 sales with just one book using social media, with a little help from yours truly and We Are Not Alone. Thank you, Mark for sharing your story…

***

Saffina who? If you’re reading this in the US then you probably haven’t yet heard of Saffina Desforges. If you’re a regular on Amazon’s Kindle UK site, on the other hand, it will have been hard not to have heard of her. Our e-book has dominated the British best-seller charts, with sales not far short of 100,000, has been # 1 in six genres, and has reached # 2 in the main Kindle UK chart three times.

And it’s all Kristen Lamb’s fault.

Let me explain. It all began last year when two writers over in England, Sarah Griffiths and I, completed a gritty crime thriller we had been co-writing, and sent it off to the UK agents in eager anticipation.

Now of course we weren’t complete amateurs. We occasionally dipped into Kristen’s blog and had stolen a few ideas. For instance, establishing a brand.

Sarah created the pseudonym Saffina Desforges for us. Google Sarah Griffiths or Mark Williams and a thousand different people show up with that name. Google Saffina Desforges…  First page all the way! So Sarah became Saffina.

We set up a website as per Kristen’s advice, and thought about buying WANA. But hey, let the publisher do all that promo stuff later. We’ve got a name and a website. The rest is easy. Agent. Publisher. Fame and fortune. Sorted!

If only…

You all know how the system works. You send off your precious manuscript. The agent falls about laughing and sends it back. You tweak it, send it off to another. Repeat until someone gives in. Give in? Us? Not
a chance.

So now our walls are covered with beautifully-framed rejection slips from some of the most prestigious agents in the UK. At one point we were on course to exceed John Grisham for knock-backs. Stephen King’s legendary fifty rejections was in our sights. We greeted each rejection with faux-joy, reminding ourselves just how illiterate agents are, and then we sat quietly in dark closets and sulked for a few days. All the while quietly joking to ourselves that the next email or phone call would be from a top New York agent.

Hey, we’re writers! Fantasising is what we do!

But after a while we realised the fatal flaw in the send-reject-send-again strategy. If the agent doesn’t tell you why they rejected it (which nine times out of ten they don’t) then what do you tweak before sending it to the next? You might be making it worse, not better. And there comes a time when you think, “There must be another way.”

So we stuck it on Amazon.

Well, why not? It was cheaper than sending out to yet another agent, and this was eight weeks before Christmas. We could be in the top five by then. Or at least the top fifty… Not that we were ambitious or anything. We’d have settled for the top five hundred. Of course by Christmas we weren’t even in the top five gazillion. We were nowhere.  So far out in the charts it was unreal. In fact our book did absolutely nothing for almost three months. It was nine weeks before we even got our first review! So much for friends and family buying up a hundred copies each and writing glowing accolades.

John and Jenny No-Pals, that was us.

Then Saffi got hold of a copy of Kristen Lamb’s We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and excitedly told me how it was going to soar us into the charts.

Yeah, right. I mean, I read Kristen’s blog occasionally, and I had set up an old blog myself (not that any-one knew it existed). But what’s all this stuff about Facebook and Twitter? Don’t we have enough distractions as it is?

So while I tried to sell our rejection slips on eBay, Saffi started out on the WANA route to world domination. New blog; facebook page; twitter account; new shoes; make-over; night out with the girls. Things I just never would have thought were needed to promote a book.

Meanwhile our sales were consistent. Consistently non-existent, that is. With three full months on Amazon you could count our sales on the fingers of a rattle-snake. Then in early February we actually started selling. Not many, sure, but readers were actually finding us. Was Kristen’s WANA actually working? Were the new shoes paying off? All we knew was we were selling a few more than before.

So we looked into WANA again, and took it a bit more seriously. Saffi said she needed two new pairs of shoe and every weekend out on the town with the girls. I wasn’t convinced. Did Kristen really say that? All I knew was, we were selling. Hey, I’ll have some new shoes, too!

Darn. Apparently I was only allowed a new blog. But I was happy. Instead of just Mark Williams, it was now Mark Williams International. No longer a name. Now a brand.

So?

So put Mark Williams into google and get a zillion Mark Williams hits. None of them me. Put Mark Williams International into google…

And Saffi of course went the whole hog, with two blogs, facebook pages, twitter accounts, the works. She started going through WANA page by page, finding out about hashtags and pingbacks and all that stuff. And so many new shoes!

But if Kristen says a girl needs new shoes to sell, who was I to argue? We were selling. That was good enough for me. Of course, having a blog and nothing to blog about is no fun, so we tried out some more crazy WANA ideas, like TEAM. You know, sharing your cyberspace and helping others. What goes around comes around.

We invited guests, reviewed other writers’ works, and wrote about things that might interest fellow writers and readers. After a while I reluctantly signed up to Facebook, and even later Twitter, while Saffi was busy with all the rest of the stuff in WANA.

By mid February we were actually selling in double figures every day, and making some headway in the smaller categories on Amazon. By the end of February we were getting top movers and shakers places. Not just in the charts, but climbing rapidly. We were selling hundreds a week. I emailed Saffi and said, “Re-read WANA and do everything in there, twice!”

So she did.

The owner of the local shoe-shop took early retirement to Barbados. But in between trying on shoes Saffi kept at it with all the other WANA stuff. And we kept climbing. And climbing. And climbing. We were leap frogging big names. Writers we’d actually heard of. Writers we’d paid to read! Suddenly we were in the top hundred across all categories. The top fifty. The top twenty! And still the sales numbers were rising. The top ten! The top five! We actually got to #2. Three times!

As I write this we are still in the top fifty, selling thousands a week. With the debut novel by the unknown author that all the UK agents had rejected! Oh, and that crazy dream about being called up by a New York agent? Out of the blue one of the most prestigious agencies in New York called us! Yes, they called us, on the
other side of the Atlantic! Nothing signed yet, but some very interesting discussions going on about our new series of crime thrillers.

Will it be your turn next? Dare to dream!

Yes, of course having a good book that readers will love is a big factor. But you might have the best novel ever written in literary history. If no-one knows it exists, no-one will ever buy it. Kristen can show you how to make sure people know your book exists.

Oh, and for those still wondering, Kristen doesn’t really suggest new shoes as part of the plan. But buy a pair anyway, along with WANA. It worked for us!

***

Congratulations Mark and Saffy! Thank you so much for sharing your story, and it gives me tears that I could help you realize your dreams. If you guys are the Indie Cinderella Story, then I am thrilled I could be your WANA Fairy Godmother :D.

I hope all of you reading this feel encouraged. I know I ask a lot of you and sometimes it just feels like you are throwing a ton of effort into a black hole. I just have to say that hard work, great writing, and a solid social media platform built on a clear author brand is the formula for success, no matter what publishing route you choose to take. 

Happy writing!

Mash-Up of Awesomeness

Lessons form The Green Lantern and how NOT to plot a story. LOVED this post by Jami Gold.

6 Tips to Avoid Death by Critique by Roni Loren

What Separates Man from Pen Monkey Yes, I am a total Chuck Wendig fangirl, but this man is pure GENIUS

For the romance authors. I highly recommend Anna Destefano’s post about some important changes in the industry. Anna always has great posts and is an awesome teacher when it comes to the craft. Social media is wonderful, but at the core we need to write great books.

The Myth of Having More Time Someday by Jody Hedlund.

3 Tips for Reclaiming “Alone Time” by Tawna Fenske

Actual photo of Kristen Lamb on the inside.

When I first saw Google + pop up on the social media radar, I tried to ignore it. But, as an expert people tend to believe we know what we’re doing. I have tried to convince you guys that I make this up as I go, but alas I some of you sent me messages like this:

So, what do you think of Google +?

Um is… Crap. Is it too early to drink? a viable answer?

I was just kind of hoping they would stop inventing stuff for a week or two so I could get caught up. Can we ever keep up with it all? Social media is not immune to evolution. Some things work, others don’t. People behind the technology are always asking if there is a way to streamline. Can we make this better? More user-friendly? Can we make it easier for people to interact? To connect? To filter out all the white noise? I can’t blame them. It keeps the programmers off the streets, even if it gives us stress hives.

It seems that Google is taking on this challenge with launching Google +. So, as your Social Media Jedi Master, I am taking this bullet for the team. Thanks to one of my blog followers I scored an invitation to be part of the beta testing for the one social network to rule them all…Google +. So I will be pressing buttons and shouting expletives at my computer so you don’t have to.

It is too early to give a good opinion. I don’t quite understand how THIS will be different, wonderful and fantastical. Maybe it will be, but time will tell.

You guys might find this shocking, but I hate anything new. I am really an 58 year old Jewish woman from Long Island, New York at heart, and all this technology makes me seriously verklempt. The fact that I have written two best-selling technology books is proof God has a sense of humor.

I get set in my ways and, like a lot of people, I don’t care for change. And sometimes, especially when it comes to technology, I want to yell ENOUGH, ALREADY!  I feel like I am caught in a digital riptide and drowning in digital daiquiri mix. I have the schmeltz.

The Downside of New and Improved

It is wonderful that the social networking sites want to always be offering something new and shiny, but sometimes? I wish they would leave things alone. For instance, I LOVE Twitter and TweetDeck, yet it seems that every other day there is a new version that I need to install. Really? I just figured out the buttons on last week’s version, and now I need to install a NEWER version? A faster version? A version that allows me to tweet straight from my brain without having to type?

Facebook is no better. Oh we know you just finally figured out version 37, but version 38 WILL BLOW YOUR MIND!

I think that this was a big reason MySpace collapsed. Yes, I mention MySpace in WANA. Feel free to ignore all 5 of those pages.  Yet, MySpace is a lesson in how “new and improved” can go tragically wrong.

MySpace was a force to be reckoned with a few years ago, but MySpace wasn’t happy with prosperity. They had to new and improve and add more and more gizmos, ads, games, apps, gadgets and flashy thingies. Eventually, people had so much crap on their profile that the page loaded slower than Eeyore on Quaaludes. No one could open a profile without risking a computer crash….which defeated why MySpace was so popular. Originally, it was a simple way to connect, hang out and make friends. MySpace “new and improved” so much that you risked a seizure every time you tried to visit a profile.

MySpace also lost sight of what it did well and kept trying to copy Facebook. The irony of this approach was that people who liked MySpace generally didn’t like Facebook. So here MySpace was copying the very place many of us were trying to avoid. In the end, all this copying of Facebook was the source of the hemorrhage of people to Facebook. If MySpace was going to be Facebook, then um, why not just go hang out on Facebook?

A couple of months ago, Facebook decided to force everyone to change the layout of their profile.Oh, they made it seem like it was optional at first (kind of like the Nazi party). Every day when I logged in, Facebook would have a pop up message touting the “new look” and ask if I was ready to change. Every day I said no. I’d finally figured out where everything was.

Then, one day I logged in and … everything was moved. I know they are trying to be nice, but that’s kind of like surprising Helen Keller with an extreme home makeover while she’s away on vacation. The intention is noble, but the result is not pretty when Helen falls into a wine cellar she didn’t have when she left to visit relatives in Florida.

Not all of us work for Facebook. We have other things to do with our time than try to figure out yet another page layout. Leave it alone. Really.

Cell phones….yeah. Don’t get me started.

Are People Wanting to Move Again?

I know that Google + is promising new and wonderful things, but it kind of reminds me of when I was young and used to move every three months. Sure moving to a new place was fun and exciting when everything I owned could be packed in less than two hours…but now? When my crap would fill two moving vans? I am just not that motivated.

I think that maybe some of the younger generations that are new to social media will probably embrace Google + far quicker.  To put it bluntly, they have less crap to move.

Many people have been building Facebook pages for years. I have 4000 followers on Twitter. Do I really want to start anew? One of the reasons I kept hoping MySpace would pull its digital head out of its digital butt was because I had a lot of hours invested in that network. I didn’t want to start all….over….again.

I am hoping Google + has learned from these issues and can make transitioning easy.

Change Can Be Good

Okay so I have whined now for a few hundred words and you see what I mean about really being an 58 year old Jewish woman from Long Island, New York. I don’t like change. Again, this is why I am proof that God digs irony. Yet, in ways I think that this is an attribute that has made me better at teaching social media to writers.

Many social media people LOVE gadgets and gizmos and the newest way of doing anything shiny. They are lovely people, but a lot of them have the attention span of a ferret with a cocaine habit. Many of them just don’t get that we still have to write books, too.

Yes, we need change. Change can be great. I hated cell phones and e-mail when they first came out, and now I am tethered permanently to both. But, change for the sake of change is a waste of time and energy. I think it is wise for us to pan back and take a minute to think. See if we really need to change, why we need to change and when we need to change.

Google + is promising to make social media a better experience. I am thinking it might be a meta-program (I think that’s a word. If not, now it is). A meta-program to act as a hub to for all other social media sites. But, I had to give a DNA sample and 32 background references to create a profile so I haven’t started digging under the hood yet.

So, I am tying off to a safety line. I have my backpack full of Red Bull and Dr. Phil books. I’ll go whack it with a hammer and see if it screams then report back. Just because there is a hot new social networking fad is no reason to tear down the tents and set off for parts unknown. But, we also want to make sure we aren’t clinging to a sinking ship.

*cough* MySpace.

Google + might be the new evolution of social media. But it could be a giant brain cramp that we can avoid. I will keep you posted. So what do you guys think? Any of you using Google +? If you are, can you come find me? I’m the series of 0s and 1s wandering around crying. I have a balloon on my arm and am wearing an orange jumper. Are you guys tired of the “new and improved”? What’s your opinion? Are you excited? Do you need a Tums? Are you also an 58 year old Jewish woman from Long Island on the inside? Are you verklempt? We can compare bunions.

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.

Last Week’s Winner of 5 page critique is Thomas Ross. Please send 1250 word Word document to kristen at kristen lamb dot org.


Mash-Up of Awesomeness

FUNNY Post by Lani Wendt Young Don’t You Dare Breathe on That Baby

The Rules of Social Media Optimization 

Self-Publish–Is It a Dirty Word?

Social Media–Protection from Facial Recognition Software

Failing Doesn’t Make You a Failure by Jen Rothman

60 Tips to Improve Your NF Writing (this is excellent for blogging, too)

Literary Agents: An Endangered Species? by the brilliant and talented Anne R. Allen

Can getting published make you happy? by Michelle Davidson Argyle

Will self-publishing hurt your chances of being traditionally published? by Agent Rachelle Gardner

What’s the difference between plot and story?

Why Understanding Conflict Will Make You a Better Writer by Bubblecow

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 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.

Photo thanks to Jason Bacues of Bacues Billiards 

Welcome to WANA Wednesday, chock full of tips to rock your social media experience and based off my best selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me Writer. One of the biggest complaints I hear about social media is that writers believe they have no time. I am going to share a little secret. We have plenty of time if we do it properly. The problem is that too many writers are approaching social media like traditional marketing instead of social marketing. When we try to apply traditional marketing tactics, we will be spread too thinly to be effective and, truthfully, can do more harm than good. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading my books for a clear understanding of the key differences between traditional marketing and social marketing.

Social marketing capitalizes on networking. Embrace the great news. We don’t have to do everything alone!!! Traditional marketing will tempt you to be on every last social media site and make a bazillion “friends,” yet all those “friends” will likely not be too vested in your success. So please trust me. A smaller network of effective influencers is far more powerful than a thousand followers who add little social media value.

What is social media value?

Well, these are the members of your social grid who participate actively and add good content to the Internet community. We are going to talk about the different kinds of influencers in a moment. Find these key individuals, and there are no limits to your digital reach. These influencers are platform-building GOLD and your most valuable asset.

So how do you find the key influencers?

There are a number of ways to pinpoint our major influencers, but it is tricky. Why? Because unlike direct marketing or old-fashioned PR, the goal of social media is to influence entire groups of people. We aren’t just targeting one individual, but rather the individual and his/her surrounding community. That is one of the reasons that, unlike direct marketing, the overall effectiveness of social media is not as easy to measure. There are some SIM (Social Influence Marketing) metrics that one can run, and companies that can help you locate your referent influencers, but I don’t know that they are all that helpful for authors wanting to build a platform.

Yeah, you are going to have to do some work. Sorry. But I help you make it fun.

Writers are different than companies doing social media. That was the impetus behind me writing  social media books specifically for authors. Not all tools that work well in the corporate world cross over.

Unlike General Motors or Sealy, most of us are a one-man operation. We don’t have a marketing department to do all this stuff for us, and we also have a different kind of product. The CEO of John Deere is not responsible for making every tractor that comes off the assembly line. Yet, most authors are required to write their own books. We cannot outsource our social media content (blogs, articles, excerpts, commentary, group activity, etc.) like, say, All State or Heineken.

The plain fact of the matter is that the more we participate in social media, the better the results. And when I say participate, that means strategized participation (mixed with fun) with clear end goals. This has become far easier to do since I launched the #MyWANA group on Twitter. I liken #MyWANA to the writer’s water cooler. Yes, there is time to chit chat, network, share links and encourage one another, but trust me, you spend too long on there and one of your digital colleagues is guaranteed to threaten to use #thepantsofshame if you don’t get back to your word goals.

But basically, when it comes to building an author platform, we all need to have a plan. In order to have a plan, we must understand the players if we hope to identify those who can maximize our influence, thereby minimizing the time we spend on social media. Not all users are created equally. They are divided into categories that correspond with the influence they exact of their surrounding networks.

Expert Influencer—is just what it says. These are the authorities in a certain subject, and people look to these experts for information, advice, and guidance. The experts are heavyweights when it comes to influencing the decisions of those in their networks. Expert influencers usually have a picture of themselves as their icon. They also generally have huge following that number in the thousands or tens of thousands, depending on the platform. Also, a quick glance to their website (which is usually denoted in the bio) will give you a clear picture that this person is an expert in her field. Oprah. Enough said.

#MyWANA has been very blessed to have a wealth of experts who participate regularly. We have quite a few agents and even NY Times best-selling authors. We also have quie a few people who have been very successful at indie publishing and self-publishing. There is a wealth of expert knowledge out there if we are willing to pay attention. The other benefit of the experts who gather at #MyWANA is these people are actually participating and interacting. The downside of following most experts is the content is often automated. We might get the benefit of their knowledge, but it will be next to impossible to actually network with these folks. Ah, but on #MyWANA @jamesrollins, @bobmayer, and @allisonbrennan are regularly there to share their awesomeness with the rest of us.

Referent Influencer—is in the person’s social network and exercises influence. Referent influencers are a little trickier to figure out. They generally have a fairly large following, but not always. Quality and quantity are not the same thing.

So how do we figure out the referent influencers? We have to participate so we can pay attention. For the most part the referent influencers are highly active on social media and thus usually have a larger following than the casual user, but maybe not as large as the expert. Yet, it is their level of meaningful activity that makes them essential to have in our network. They post a lot of times a day and are well-known, liked, and respected for good content. People around them trust them for good stuff. These are the people you miss when they take a day off.

In my opinion, the referent influencer is the most valuable. Why? First, it is easier to get close to them and befriend them and gain their support. If you write a blog about overcoming substance abuse (as part of your NF book platform), what are the odds of becoming part of Dr. Phil’s inner circle? Referent influencers are far more approachable and, frankly, there are more of them. Also, they are more likely to have followers who are active on social media.

For instance, when I first started helping James Rollins, it seemed almost ridiculous. I had 4,000 followers and he had almost 15,000. What did little me have to offer? Well, many of my followers were very active and had regular blogs and their own platforms. My followers are on Twitter to influence. That is our goal. But what about Jim’s followers? Maybe some of them have influence, but a lot of his followers are on Twitter to chit-chat with family and keep tabs on their favorite author. So in ways, the playing field isn’t as disparate as one might initially think.

Positional Influencer—is often in the person’s inner circle. Friends, family, spouses are all examples of positional influencers. Yes, whether most of us admit it or not, our mothers’ opinions still influence us.

Virtually everyone on social media is a positional influencer to someone else. Positional influencers can be very valuable to a writer, especially in certain genres. For instance, I imagine that most 4-year-olds don’t drive down to Barnes & Noble, slap down a credit card and buy a stack of kid’s books. But moms do. If you happen to write for children, middle grade, teens, or any group that typically would not be the purchaser of the book, then you must target the positional influencers or risk losing a huge percentage of your potential consumers.

What this means is that everyone on social media holds some value. They may not have large social networks (yet), but they hold a lot of influence when it comes to their friends, family and peers. I know last year when Jody Hedlund’s The Preacher’s Bride was released, it quickly rose to the top 20 on the best-seller list and a lot of that had to do with 1) it was a really excellent book and 2) a lot of us couldn’t quit talking about how awesome Jody is and that she had a new book. I think at least 5 of my family members bought copies of Jody’s book just because I wouldn’t shut up about it :D.

At the end of the day, be good to anyone who is being good to you. Networks are hard to build, and we need as much help as we can get from our social community. So if others help “raise your barn,” (repost your posts) make sure you pitch in with theirs. It is just good manners. Yet, it really can help maximize your time and influence if you will be mindful to befriend thos who exercise greater impact on social media. If you get a chance, come join us at #MyWANA. Our sole mission is to support, encourage and promote one another.

So what are your thoughts? Do you find social media overwhelming? For those of you who’ve been on #MyWANA, has it helped?

I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of June, 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.

Important Announcements and Mash-Up of Awesomeness Below

I am teaching TWO workshops at Write It Forward. Sign up HERE. There is a Becoming a Brand class for $20, but if you want to blog and you need my dedicated help to helping you find your own unique brand and develop a plan for blogging, then the $40 Blogging to Build a Brand will fit that need. In this class I will run you through exercises to help find and create a brand as unique as you and then tailor it to connect with your future fans.

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 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

Kicking out a Fast First Draft by Anne Greenwood Brown over at Writer Unboxed

Should Writers Use Excel by Jenny Hansen

7 Deadly Sins of Writing over at The Bookshelf Muse

25 Things You Should Know About Revisions by the HILARIOUS Chuck Wendig (And, yes, I am a total fan girl of Chuck which is why I always mention him. His blogs are THAT great.

Adventures in Children’s Publishing is a WONDERFUL resource for all writers, so I highly, highly recommend this treasure trove of awesomeness.

6 Benefits of Having an Agent in Today’s Publishing World by the talented and brilliant Jody Hedlund (yes, I am a fan of hers, too :P)

Chuck, Jody and then there is Tawna Fenske. If you want a place for a guaranteed good time, seriously gop check out her blog. Tawna is amazing.

Also, check out Camp Cheerful over at Piper Bayard’s blog. Can you tell I love funny blogs? Life is short! Laugh and laugh often.

Welcome to WANA Wednesday, based off my best-selling book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. In case you are curious, there are more sacred cows in need of tipping, but we’ll likely pick that up next week. Today we are going to get creative with the author blog, and I want to open up your minds when it comes to blogging. The first social media sacred cow we tipped was The Writing Blog. Writers are so funny. We have the imagination to create entirely new worlds, but the second we start a blog, we all get the same bright idea.

We all blog about writing.

Why? Because when we don’t have any boundaries, human nature makes us pull inward to our comfort zones. We draw in to the one place we feel safest…talking about writing. Blogging about writing is great, but if not handled properly, it can severely limit our platform and set us up for burnout. More about that here.

So we tipped over that social media sacred cow—MOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

Many writers felt liberated. YAY! They burned their bras and then realized that had nothing to do with blogging. So they burned their notebooks and a handful of dried out pens. They suddenly realized that they DID actually have other things that interested them aside from writing. Ah, but this is where tunnel-vision can creep in yet again if we aren’t careful.  Just because I opened the door to blog about gardening, doesn’t mean it is time to start a Gardening Blog. If you want to blog about wine, do not start a Wine Blog.

Why?

Because then you are almost right back where you started with a Writing Blog. Fiction authors don’t need to become experts on topics…they need to connect. How we connect is we always have engaging topics that generate discussion and eventually all that discussion forges a community. We start an US blog.

I.e. Kristen Lamb’s Blog

Last week, I recommended that if you wanted to talk about different topics, that was just fine so long as they had different days. More about that here. For instance, I blog about craft on Monday, Twitter on Tuesday, Social Media on Wednesday and anything goes on Friday. Readers know that if they want to read about craft, then Friday ain’t the day to find nifty lessons about character arc. I blog on different subjects and yet others live to tell the tale. We don’t have to have entirely separate sites to keep readers from getting confused. Readers are sharp. That is also the reason everything must be under the banner of our brand, which is out name. Read more about author branding here.

Our brand is us as writers and as human beings with interests other than writing and publishing. But don’t feel constrained by subjects. I saw a lot of writers run out and launch a Music Monday or a Finance Friday. Okay, but actually if you will loosen up even more and let your muse breathe, she will give you ways to blog on every topic under the sun…yet still offer a predictable schedule of content.

How can we do this?

We apply a theme. Themes are the playground for our imaginations to run wild. Disneyland for the brain. 

Actual picture of a writer’s brain having fun.

Themes help bundle all kinds of topics and offer the reader a sense of what to expect, yet at the same time afford the author tremendous flexibility. A good example is Shellie Sakai. Shellie was a student of my blogging class and her blog is Shellie Sakai’s Blog—Something Wicked This Way Comes. Shellie is a paranormal romance author, but her theme is all things wicked. She blogs on all kinds of subjects, but they are all tethered to “wicked”—wicked shoes, wicked movies, wicked dark chocolate brownies. Now Shellie has amazing freedom with her blog, BUT readers won’t feel like they are trying to keep up with a caffeinated chipmunk with severe ADD. They will expect her to talk about all things wicked and actually might check in every week to be surprised since the content isn’t entirely predictable.

Another of my favorite blogging-students Tiffany White, launched Tiffany White’s Ooo Factor—Things that Make You Say Ooo. Tiffany actually mixes themes with subjects. She has Tele-Tuesday where she talks about all her favorite shows and even offers reviews for the upcoming seasons of shows. Tiffany has a passion for writing, yes. She is working on her novel. BUT she is also a TV addict and she is using that other passion to connect others and build a platform of fans (writers and non-writers). Ah, but then Tiff has Fabooolous Friday and that is just the day that Tiff highlights some book, author, recipe, movie or anything else that she considers Fabooolous.

Tiff got creative.

Themes help keep your content consistent yet fresh. Recently I noticed an author who got daring and stepped out of the Writing Blog to try something new. She started a Music Mondays but two weeks in was already feeling a tad cornered by her own content. I recommended Magical Mondays, because songs do create a kind of magic in our hearts. If she had a Magical Monday, she could blog on music, but wasn’t pigeon-holed by it. I recommended she dedicate that day to anything that has sparked some magic in her life, whether that is a song, a movie, or even a childhood toy. Then, use that magic to connect with the readers and get them to share.

The trick to blogging for the long-haul is we need content that is refined, yet interesting. We need to make sure that we aren’t cornering ourselves when it comes to topics. That is a formula to get burned out and hate our blogs. It is also very easy to forget we have an Author Blog and devolve into a Knitting Blog or a Movie Blog.

Remember, authors, for the very first time in history, have the ability to connect with others via mutual interests. In effect, we have the ability to become personalities. If we approach all kinds of subjects in creative, fun or interesting ways, then people will want to come to our blogs to read what we have to say. But hasn’t that always been the goal of being a great writer? The goal has always been to take in the world and the limitless possibilities and package it in a way that informs, entertains or inspires.

Why should our blogs be any different?

So maybe a Whimsical Wednesday or a Freaky Friday would breathe some new creative life into your blog. I recommend that with each topic, you brainstorm at least a hundred possible topics. If you can’t hit a hundred, then try another topic. It is very important to write these topics down. You might not have anything to say about them yet, but your subconscious will be working on it in the meantime.

For instance, Magical Mondays. What are some magical topics that might connect with readers?

Summer nights

Drive-In Movies. Remember when?

Vacation

Beaches

First Date

Birthdays

Children

Imaginary Friends

The beauty about being writers is once we get the creativity flowing, it tends to bubble over. The trick is to get it started. With blogging, we tend to believe we need to have this “professional, serious face” in case an agent looks us up. But here is the deal, being professional doesn’t mean being BORING. What will excite an agent is a blog that is connecting to readers and gaining a large, loyal following. A serious, professional blog that we hate and dread writing and tend to neglect won’t do us any good, BUT a creative fun interesting blog that has a growing readership? THAT is a formula for success.

Let your imagination play on your blog as well as your book. Your imagination is your best friend in ALL aspects of your writing career :).

One of the things I do is I run writers through a couple of exercises to get a sense of their unique creative style. I then help them create a log-line. This helps set the tone of the blog. For instance, some of my favorites are:

Christine Ashworth’s Blog–Wicked with a Side of Saucy (Christine writes paranormal romance. She blogs on writing, cooking, wines, romance and life)

Sonia Medieros’ Blog–Not All Who Wander Are Lost (Sonia is a fantasy writer who blogs on movies, myths, and writing. Sonia has a whimsical voice so the log-line gives a clear impression of the blog’s tone.)

Jenny Hansen’s Blog–More Cowbell (Jenny blogs about her garden, business, technology and writing…but they all must have more cowbell ;). Jenny has a fun, snarky blog and that is pretty clear from the log-line.)

Amy Shojai’s Blog–Bling, Bitches, and Blood (Amy is a renowned pet expert, but she also writes thrillers. She has a very fun, sassy voice and that is clear just from her log-line. Finally a place she can bring her fiction and non-fiction personalities together where we can get to know Amy Shojai Author.)

Piper Bayard’s Blog–On Life, Belly Dancing and Apocalyptic Annihilation (Piper is a former attorney and she is funny as all get-out. Her books are post-apocalyptic so she has that as a common theme. There are a lot of ways to define apocalypse–from a bad perm to nukes, Piper pokes fun at it all)

Notice that all of these log-lines could also work if the author wanted to blog about writing. The author would just have to employ some creativity, but that’s what we are good at anyway, right?

After we create the log-line, I then help writers mine their passions and interests for content, then help them shape and plan their author blogs. This is, of course, something you can do on your own, but if you need some help, I am about to be teaching a workshop that will help you harness your imagination to create a blog you love and that will connect with readers and build your author brand. For $40 you have me at your disposal for a MONTH working with you to create a blog as special and unique as YOU are. You can sign up here.  If you are going to blog, why not stand apart form the thousands of other writers? I can show you how. Harness that wonderful creativity you use for your fiction and channel it into blogging. It’ll be FUN :D.

What are your thoughts? Any possible themes floating around in the gray matter now? What are some cool blog topics you have seen? Does this post make you feel liberated? Lost? Tell us your thoughts.

I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of June, 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.

Important Announcements

A BIG HUGE MEGA THANKS to all of you who attended the Devil Colony Launch Party. I had a ton of fun and it wouldn’t have happened without all the wonderful support. Thank you to all of those who wrote blogs, spread the word, posted pictures and handed out digital cupcakes and beer. YOU ROCK!

 Make sure you join our LOVE REVOLUTION over on Twitter by following and participating in the #MyWANA Twibe. Read this post to understand how this #MyWANA will totally transform your life and your author platform.

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 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 twentysecond 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 Emotional Tweeter

We all have bad days and disappointments, but we need to be mindful that our drama doesn’t leak into the Twitterverse. Sometimes others post something that we might find offensive or upsetting, but a Twitter fight is a road better left untraveled. Platforms take months and years to build, but only seconds to destroy.

Writers, in particular, can be more prone to becoming an Emotional Tweeter. We put our writing out for the world to see and that comes with good and bad. If we get a nasty commenter on a blog or even a bad review, it is hard to not bite back electronically.

Don’t.

Type those words, and we can never take them back. Just breathe and call a friend. Take emotions off-line until you are calm. It isn’t worth it…really.

This Week’s Twitter Tip–Learn to T.H.I.N.K.

I didn’t invent this acronym, but it is an extremely helpful tool to help guide all our social media interactions.

Is it True?

Is it Helpful?

Is it Informative?

Is it Necessary?

Is it Kind?

Everything we post, must pass all of these questions before we let our fingers do the talking. Something might be true, but not kind. Other updates might be kind but not true (no one likes false flattery). By learning to T.H.I.N.K., we can always make sure we are putting our best foot forward within our digital community.

Tweet ya later!