Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: digital age publishing

My impression of writers on social media….
My impression of writers on social media…. #tinfoilhat

I am an “Old Dog” of the digital publishing paradigm. When I started out on social media, I did not want to be a social media expert. I enjoyed editing and teaching and longed to write fiction. But every a$$clown with a Twitter handle was a “Social Media Expert” and much of the teaching was nothing short of ridiculous.

Some of the advice was downright predatory (or, in my book, cheating).

In my estimation, most of the tactics were more likely to increase author suicide rates than book sales, so I finally decided to become a Social Media Expert Jedi 😉 .

I’ve been through all the fads. The FREE BOOK Rush of 2010, The Great .99 Book Deal of 2011, The Amazing Algorithmic Alchemy, The Magical Metrics and the Automation Invasion of 2012-2014 (there are still skirmishes along the front).

Guess what? I’m still here.

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

Not a job for the faint of heart.

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

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

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

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

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Guess what? I agree! The writing always, always comes first. But why is there an almost automatic assumption we must choose?

Social media, done the way I teach in Rise of the Machines, takes maybe 10-15 minutes a day and feel free to take off weekends. I offer no get-rich-quick advice. My author platforms take time (and discipline) to build, but they are virtually indestructible.

And the writer who tells me she doesn’t have ten minutes a day to work on her brand isn’t serious about being successful.

Whether we like it or not, social media is necessary for our job. Yes writing is fun, but it is still a profession.

Writers are in the entertainment business. Note that half that word is business. We are in the business of selling books. When I was in sales, we had a saying. Fish where the fish are. And the fish are schooling on social media. Makes sense to drop some lines.

The writer who is willing to tackle doing social media well is making a transition from hobbyist to professional. Celebrate! This means you are going places!

Thus, if the career has been sluggish, it might be time to go polish some other types of skills that are now required in this profession. Many times, the problem isn’t with the tool. We simply don’t know how to use that tool well.

#2—YES!!! The Product is All that Matters

When it comes to a brand, the surface perception is only part of the equation. I can have a fabulous website, great author pics, charming tweets and be a downright likable gal, but if my books stink?

No amount of social media magic can salvage literary dog poo.

This is one of the reasons I have written over 900 blogs. I blog a lot on craft because the product is essential. It is the most important part of the equation. Yes, write first. Take classes. Hone your art. Because your social media brand must be able to deliver an excellent product. It is okay to believe that your writing is important because…it IS.

So yes, we do need to work on our platform but you do have my “expert” opinion to focus on that end product. Relax about the social media, stuff. Really.

#3—Embrace the Social Media Trickle Down Effect

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

Instead, I recommend you reframe what you’re doing and how beneficial that time really is. It’s an investment in you, in your success beyond simply selling books. There are all kinds of other benefits many writers never even consider.

Networking

Virtually every profession benefits from professional networking, why would writing be any different? Where else can you have 24 hour access to publishing professionals all over the world? Follow your heroes and make them mentors. What are they reading? What are they doing? How do they manage their time?

Where else other than Twitter could I start my day chatting with the former editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine (and one of my FAVORITE authors)?

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I used Twitter to follow James Rollins. It’s how I got to know him well enough to eventually contact him about giving me a blurb for my second book.

While an in-person writing group is great, often they can be a bit heavy with new writers. Places like Twitter or Facebook allow us access to the seasoned pros. We can chat with people we’d have to otherwise wait a year or more to see at a conference. Take advantage!

Research

Every writer out there gripes about not having enough time to write. Okay. Twitter helps us work smarter not harder. Twitter can make research much faster and far more accurate.

For instance, if you want to write a sexy new story with a Navy SEAL and don’t want to lose weeks researching, hop onto #NAVY and make some connections. Experts are always eager to help writers get the facts correct. The fastest and easiest way to find them?

Twitter.

Being Brave

And, for the shy folks, I know social media is forcing you to do something afraid. That is good. Use this time to hone being brave. Be brave in the small moments on-line and it might make you braver in your writing.

In the end, remember that there are mega-successful authors who are using social media to reap major advantages. This notion that we must choose writing or networking is short-sighted and an excuse. We all must learn simply to use time well and be disciplined.

If we assume that platform-building is this awful horrible time-intensive thing, then we psych ourselves out of some truly fantastic benefits that can really fire up our careers. We have to remember that it is very possible to write books and be on social media. Just like we can bathe and brush our teeth. No need to choose 😉 .

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

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

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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For many writers (me included), we don’t start off with the confidence to yell to the world, “I’m going to be a professional author!” Heck, I wrote a 178,000 word “novel” and still didn’t believe I was a writer. Later, I had over a year and a half of consistent blogging under my belt, multiple short stories, and newbie novels that had been at least good enough to win prestigious contests and yet….

I was not a “real writer.”

Schrödinger Writer? If you put a writer in an office at a keyboard, is the writer alive or dead (real or fake) until the book is published?

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We’ve Come a LONG Way, Baby

The literary landscape has shifted dramatically. More avenues of publishing have opened and become appealing, thus this silly question of, “Are we a real writer?” holds far less power. Believe it or not, when I began blogging, I dedicated countless posts to answering this very question. In retrospect, I did it for me as much as for others.

I’ve always asserted that we are what we do. What is our primary career focus (beyond a necessary day job)? The second we sit at a keyboard and write, we are writers. Yet, as my first “novel” glaringly illustrates, we might not yet be a “good writer.”

To read it, you MUST first recite the sacred words! Klatu! Verata! N…. N-Noun? Nunchuk? Nutmeg? Definitely an “N’ word. 

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Changing Times

What’s fascinating for me was how much this opinion of being a “real writer” varied from 2008 to as late as 2013. I’d post and assert, “If you write, you’re a writer.” This then would spawn a flurry of Kristen Lamb is an Idiot-Hack blogs asserting that we didn’t deserve the title until 1) we had an agent 2) had a contract 3) were traditionally published.

Or whatever.

I see this debate far less, or maybe I’ve just learned to ignore it and my naysayers are smart enough to no longer hyperlink to me.

***By the way, being called an idiot is usually a good sign we’re doing something right. When we challenge the status quo, most won’t throw us a parade. We’re doing what they don’t have the guts to try.

Maybe we fail. I’ve failed A LOT and am very proud of that. Why?

If we aren’t failing we aren’t doing anything interesting.

Thank the Mushroom-Eaters

Change is frightening, but thanks to the mushroom-eaters there are more ways to get our books to readers than ever before in human historyWriters have more freedom, more flexibility than ever. They’re also being PAID.

Mushroom eaters? Yes. Come on. Haven’t you ever seen someone eat a raw oyster and you wondered, “Who was the first?” I guarantee you it was a group of cavemen, and someone lost a bet. Who ate the first sea cucumber? Or determined that snails actually were quite tasty with some butter and garlic? Live squid? Are you serious?

Chuy

Back to the mushrooms. There are 100,000 known species of mushrooms, and only 2000 of these are edible. In fact, many mushrooms are toxic, even deadly. How do we know which ones to eat? Risk. Someone, somewhere took a chance.

Mushroom-eaters are the ones brave enough to try a bite. Innovators are the ones who eat the poisonous mushroom and die, whereas early adopters are the ones who watch and learn. But, we must appreciate that someone had to be willing to take the first bite.

Perhaps we won’t die. Maybe, instead, we can take a bite, throw up and hallucinate and actually live to tell others…yeah, don’t eat the orange ones with the spots.

It’s great to be an early adopter, and there is nothing wrong with that. But, if there are no innovators (mushroom-eaters), then there is no one taking risks that pave the way for the early and late adopters to follow suit.

I was a mushroom-eater when it came to social media for authors. I did plenty of passing out and seeing spots, but continued to press no matter how often I was told social media was a fad. I was deeply convinced we were seeing a fundamental shift in human communication and society, one not seen since the invention of the Gutenberg Press.

***Great. Freaking Gutenberg. Now EVERYONE can be published *rolls eyes*.

Time redeemed me, though I had just as much chance of resembling the person who thought THIS was a great idea…

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Fortunately it all worked out *sigh of relief*. Now those agents who slayed me in comments won’t sign an author who doesn’t have a viable social media brand (no matter how good the book). Writers who believed social media was the Digital Pet Rock had good reason to believe that. Not everyone is an innovator/early adopter and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Even I waited for the third version if the X-Box 360 so they could work out the bugs.

How Are YOU a Mushroom-Eater?

This notion of whether or not we are “real” writers is intertwined with being a mushroom-eater. First, the decision to write and publish a book ALONE is mushroom-eating behavior. My father had a genius IQ (was FAR smarter than me), yet died working minimum wage at a bike shop. He’d always longed to be a writer, but that was “foolishness.” It wasn’t a real job.

Friends and family often offer the strongest resistance, partly because they love us and mean well. Don’t you want to learn medical billing? The pay is GREAT!

Writing professionally IS a tough job. We are entrepreneurs (authorpreneurs) and the failure rate is high. But no risk=no reward. Failing to at least try and give it all we have only leads to unanswered questions. Expect others will be jealous we had the guts to do what they could not.

Why is This SO IMPORTANT?

All businesses should begin with a mission statement of what precisely that business IS and what it specifically offers. Goals, objectives, education, planning, execution will ALL be flawed if not first defined.

I’ve done a lot of business consulting over the years. Show me a failing business and I’ll show you a business with an identity crisis. They’ve failed to do that first critical step of claiming what they ARE, defining what they DO, and understanding and communicating why their good/service is RELEVANT and better than the competition.

Fail to plan and plan to fail.

Writers who want to actually sell books are a small business. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it’s tough. But nothing worth having is easy. You guys can do this! Some of you are doing this. Doesn’t mean we don’t have moments of doubt. I do. All the time. But I no longer waste emotional energy wondering if I am a “real” writer and neither should any of you.

Write. That will answer the question 😉 .

What are your thoughts? Are you new and struggling with a writer-identity-crisis? Are you getting pushback from those close? Animosity from peers? For those who’ve been doing this a while, do you have days you wonder if you have what it takes? Are you reinventing a genre? Writing something outside the norm, but it scares you?

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).

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 Norah Wilson WANA Commons

I feel my approach to social media is a lot different than other experts. I strive for a holistic approach. On Mondays I blog about craft to help you guys produce the best “product” possible and, often, on Fridays, I talk about the writer human and give tips for how to develop the character of the professional author. Then, of course, Wednesdays are social media. Yet, these three facets often blend together, and, to me, that is a powerful reflection of the world we now live in.

One of the reasons that traditional marketing doesn’t work well in the Digital Age is that the concept of boundaries has changed. Last week we talked about Personal Space Invaders and how we all resent them, but this week we are going to talk a bit more about that notion of “personal space.” We now live in a world that no longer has the same boundaries. We are steadily becoming the Global Village that Marshall McLuhan envisioned over fifty years ago in his revolutionary work, The Gutenberg Galaxy.

Tribes then Print and then Tribes + Print

If we study the entire history of human communication, we find that Pre-Literate Tribal Human and the Digital Age Human have a lot in common, and the Human of the Typographical Era is fading away.  In the Typographical Age (reliant on the written word), humans were highly reliant on official gatekeepers of information. Information flowed one direction, from top-down. So, in much of the 20th century, we relied on the TV-Industrial complex for all of our news, our opinions, and for recommendations about what goods and services to buy (until the Internet changed all of that).

To understand the big picture, we need to go back in time a bit…

The Gutenberg Revolution

With the invention of Gutenberg’s press, literacy exploded and so did human reliance on written information. The written word fractured the tribal communication system of serfdom and transformed society. We no longer had to be in the village square to get the skinny on what was what. Humans began to rely more and more on the printed word now that literacy was no longer a privilege reserved only for the elite. As a consequence, we drifted apart. The tribe had split, and it seemed it had split for good.

But, in the Typographical Age, as I mentioned, there were gatekeepers. Yes, humans, for the first time in history were facing information glut, but we still had those people in power who could tell us what to pay attention to.

Then came social media and the village square is back with renewed fervor.

As Society Changes, So Does Communication

In a tribal system, we don’t rely on newspapers and fliers, we rely on each other. There are people who always have good advice, great recommendations and who know what is what. In a world that is deluged with information, it is just easier for us to ask our peeps (the other villagers) what they think.

For instance, I ignore most of the news. Why? Well if this were the 1800s then the only news I would get would be what was directly relevant to me. I might hear that Santa Ana was no longer honoring the treaty of 1824 and that conflict was imminent. I might hear that wounded Confederate soldiers were in town and needed care. I would hear if a railroad was going through, but almost every shred of information would have been directly relevant to me or to those I knew and loved. Information could only travel as fast as human, horse, train or boat.

These days information comes instantly from every corner of the globe continually. I have to pull away to maintain my sanity. I cannot equally care about the race for the presidency, school shootings in Colorado, a missing girl found dead in Mississippi, villagers slaughtered in Dafur, or the Russians manufacturing thermonuclear Beanie Babies.

My…head…will…explode.

Too much information will crater me emotionally and psychologically. I don’t withdraw because I don’t care. I withdraw because I have to to stay sane. Humans were not wired to cared equally about everything in the world all at the same time.

This is one of the reasons that experts who recommend we blast out link after link after link are only tossing gasoline on a fire. People are already on system overload and, if we add to their overload problem, they won’t have warm, fluffy feelings for us.

Age of Instant

When the telegraph was invented, the Typographical Age was living on borrowed time. Information could travel almost instantly from anywhere that had a telegraph. Suddenly people in Georgia could get national news right from D.C., or San Francisco. For the first time, humans could get international news while it was still relevant.

This was right about the time we saw the birth of advertisement and the TV-Industrial complex. This system of gatekeepers worked well because it was communicating to a society still bound by Typography (the written word) and not relationships (the tribe).

At the latter part of the 20th century, one device struck a mortal blow to the TV-Industrial complex—the personal computer. The Internet had already been around for a while (the military had been using it), but the Internet alone didn’t have the power to topple the current system. No, so long as we could only communicate via letters or expensive long-distance phone calls, the TV-Industrial Complex ruled unchallenged.

Once the personal computer became affordable and user-friendly, it’s natural partner was the Internet. At this point, the TV-Industrial complex’s days were numbered because, for the first time since before the Gutenberg revolution, people were able to “talk” to one another easily and for free. We started relying on each other again instead of books, pamphlets papers and official gatekeepers of the TV-Industrial complex.

Brave New World

We can see the first aftershocks of this change. The Western world rippled and stretched with a 10.0 magnitude aftershock that toppled Tower Records. The executives were no longer in control of the musicians, thus they no longer could control the music. Shortly after this, another 8.0 ripple took out Kodak. Kodak no longer could control how people shared images. Now? We are in the 6.0 that is shaking traditional publishing.

Yes, each aftershock is smaller because the groundwork for change is already there. We need less “shaking” for the same amount of change.

These “media quakes,” much like natural earthquakes, are taking out the rigid, old structures. Anything that doesn’t bend and move with the ripples of change is going to fall over. There is also another result of all this shaking and destruction.  Old topography is no longer regonizable. We can’t find the streets (paths) that were once so familiar to get us where we wanted to go.

Instead of write a book, query, rejection, repeat 735 times, rewrite 736 times, agent, more rejection, book deal, we have a hundred different pig-trails to take us to our end goal. Yet, the key is we are now far more reliant on each other. We lean on our tribe for emotional support, information, and feedback.

Why did I take you through this brief history of media?

I wanted to give you an idea of how much this world has changed. We can’t use tools that worked in a 1980 world because that world no longer exists. Also, one of the necessary “fallout effects” of all this shaking and global connecting is that boundaries no longer seem to make sense any more. They are no longer clear and this can create problems.

In a 1980 world our boundaries made sense and they had been there for over a hundred years. We didn’t interact with agents all over the country real time. We didn’t talk to other writers all over the world. We weren’t expected to be plugged into a “hive” to “build a platform.” So what’s happened is that we are getting new psychological stress. Humans need boundaries. It stresses us not to know where we stand in relation to others.

When are we being responsible marketers and when are we crossing a line and becoming a personal space invader? How do we set boundaries with ourselves? How do we set boundaries with friends and loved ones who can’t see that writing is working not goofing off?

How do we set boundaries with personal space invaders who want to use our Facebook page to advertise their books? How do we lovingly confront when people get out of line? The upside of social media is we have more access to friends and loved ones. The downside is that toxic people have unprecedented access to us as well, and that can be a nightmare if we are ill-equipped to deal with these types of individuals.

Writers Don’t Exist in a Vacuum

I know that as The Social Media Jedi, I have often served as the Social Media Dear Abby. It is tough to know where we stand and what to confront in the Digital Age. In a world without borders, how do we set boundaries?

I try to be very transparent with you guys and I will admit that I struggled with anger for a long time. I finally realized what the problem was. Yes, I am generally a happy-go-lucky-gal who laughs and smiles all the time, but I wasn’t setting boundaries. When people crossed a line, I told myself and them it was okay when it wasn’t. I wasn’t confronting in love early, so by the time I did confront, I was seeing red. What should have been a “gentle but stern talking to” quickly devolved into a thermonuclear strike followed by salted earth and a curse of seven plagues.

Many of you might fall into the same trap. You are nice, nice, nice, gentle, nice, nice, not-so-gentle, then BOOOOOOM!!!! *screams*

A Solution

Anyway, I finally realized what was going on and found some helpful tools to handle this growing problem. In the Digital Age, we need to master loving confrontation and the art of setting boundaries. I know we all grew up in a world with clear borders and expectations, but that world is buried under a pile of digital rubble and we need to take up the torch.

I go out of my way to help writers in every area of life, so I’m offering a new class I am calling Good Fences–The Writer’s Guide to Setting Boundaries. I have priced this at only $15 because I hope this class will bless you with better relationships, productivity, and peace of mind.

So what are your difficulties? Where do you struggle with setting boundaries? Does your spouse or family refuse to respect your writing time? Do you have a hard time getting off social media? Do you have tips for keeping boundaries with yourself and others? Do you ignore the news and only pay attention to what you hear from friends and family? Or can you keep up with all of it>

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of October, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

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

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

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