Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: how to sell more books

Image courtesy of Randy Heinitz via Flickr Creative Commons.
Image courtesy of Randy Heinitz via Flickr Creative Commons.

How do we sell our stories? That is the big question. It is the reason for craft classes and editing and cover design and agents and editors and all the time on social media. And while platforms and covers and algorithms do matter, there is one tried and true way to sell more books.

Write a great story.

And not just any story, but a story that hooks from the very beginning and only continues to hook deeper.

Think of great stories like concertina wire.

The danger of concertina wire is not just in one hook, but hundreds. And it isn’t even in the hundreds of hooks. It is the tension created by the coiled structureIf a person is snagged even a little, every effort to break free (turning a page for resolution) only traps the victim deeper in a web of barbed spines.

Now granted, this is a morbid visual, but y’all are writers and there is a good reason our family doesn’t like us talking at the dinner table.

So I was researching sucking chest wounds today and, hey, pass the spaghetti please?

Moving on…

We’ve talked about this before, but it bears repeating. Many new writers finish their first novel and I know as an editor that odds are I am going to chop off the first 50-100 pages. We dream killers editors call this the fish head. What do we do with fish heads? We toss them (unless you are my weird Scandinavian family who makes fish face soup out of them).

Image courtesy of David Pursehouse via Flickr Creative Commons
Image courtesy of David Pursehouse via Flickr Creative Commons

Often, when I go to do this kind of cutting, new writers will protest. “No, but you need this and the story really gets going on page 84.”

My answer? “Then let’s start on page 84.”

Too many stories fall flat because they lack the barbs necessary for snagging the modern reader who has the attention span of an ADD hamster with a meth habit. Additionally, a lot of us writers fall into bad habits of assuming readers are stupid, that they need all kinds of brain holding to “get” what we are talking about which means we not only lack barbs…but necessary tension.

I will prove readers are really smarter than we give them credit for 😉 …

Hooking with a Problem

One morning, on my way to take Spawn to school, as I stopped at my stop sign at a major business highway, a VW van passed at 50 mph and another car pulled out in front. BAM! Car parts, exploding glass, tearing metal, right in front of me. One driver screaming because his legs were crushed and he was pinned. All of this in less than 15 seconds.

Do you think I was hooked?

Did I need to know the history of the drivers, where they were going, what had the one driver so distracted that he would pull out into traffic? Did I need a description of the balmy, normal morning and a weather report? A description of the pale azure sky? Nope.

Now this is an extreme example, but it shows how even in life, we stop everything in light of a problem. A scream, a child crying, someone falling over a curb. We immediately halt everything.

Good fiction always begins with a problem because that is ALL fiction really is. Prose and descriptions and symbol and theme are all various delivery mechanisms…for PROBLEMS.

I cannot count the number of new manuscripts I read where the author spends most of her opening playing Literary Barbies. We really don’t care as much about your protagonist’s flaming red hair as much as we care about that warrant for her arrest. This is drama not a doll house.

Go look at books that have launched to legends and you will see this.

Andy Weir’s The Martian:

I am pretty much f**ked.

That is my considered opinion.

F**ked.

Six days into what should be the greatest two months of my life, and it has turned into a nightmare.

We don’t start the book on Earth or in the astronaut program at NASA. We don’t even start when they land on Mars and hint that trouble eventually will come. Nope. Weir tosses us face first into a problem.

Hooking With a Question

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I have a mantra that all modern novelists must live and die by.

Resist the urge to explain.

One of the reasons emerging writers get that fish head is they do a lot of flashbacks and explaining and “setting up” the story and they are unwittingly destroying the single strongest propulsion mechanism for their story—curiosity.

If we look at the opening page of Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone, the opening paragraph has a small character hook but six lines down we read:

The Dursleys had everything they wanted, but they also had a secret, and their greatest fear was that somebody would discover it.

When we craft any story, we are wise to harness the power of human nature. Humans are curious. Heck, we are downright nosey. Imagine sitting at a Starbucks and prepping the computer to write. Two women sit nearby chatting and one has obviously been crying (hooking with a problem). We might eavesdrop a little, arrange Post Its, set out our lucky thesaurus but the second one of the women says, “He would kill me if he ever found out.”

There went the writing.

Then we would be doing “research” 😀 .

Hooking with Question and Character

What the HELL, HANNAH?
What the HELL, HANNAH?

Sometimes the problem or question isn’t so obviously stated and there is a lot left between the lines. We humans love to fill in the blanks, so LET US.

We will use an example from my all-time favorite book Luckiest Girl Alive.

I inspected the knife in my hand.

“That’s the Shun. Feel how light it is compared to the Wustof?”

I pricked a finger on the blade’s witchy chin, testing. The handle was supposed to be moisture resistant, but was quickly going humid in my grip.

First of all, this is a great opening line. It hooks, but then it leads to another hook and another and another. The character is testing the blade. Why? A blade being moisture resistant obviously is a plus if you are planning on stabbing someone because less chance of slippage (Stuff Writers Know).

Who is she planning to stab? How is she planning on using the blade? What has her so nervous her hands are going moist?

And on PAGE ONE we realize the protagonist is out looking at knives with her fiancé. Why? That is unusual. China? Normal. Curtains? Normal. Knives? Not normal.

Especially since in paragraph FOUR, we read:

I look up at him, too: my fiancé. The word didn’t bother me so much as the one that came after it. Husband. That word laced the corset tighter, crushing organs, sending panic into my throat with the bright beat of a distress signal.

Don’t Eat Your Own Bait

There are any number of reasons we as writers are failing to gut hook with our stories and often it is because we are falling prey to the very bait that is going to trap a reader. Problems bother us (because we are human) so we feel a need to “lead up to” something bad. We don’t like questions. We want to know…which is why we feel the urge to explain.

Just know that that clawing feeling inside that is driving you to pad the text is a good sign you are probably doing something right 😉 . For more on how to hook the reader, I am once again holding my First Five Pages class with upgrades available to get me shredding through your pages to help you start strong and stay strong.

The tricks we use to hook on page one we should continue to use until the final page. Coil that barbed story all around and no escape until you’re cut free.

Ain’t no rest for the wicked 😉 .

What are your thoughts?

I LOVE hearing from you! And REMEMBER TO SIGN UP TO HANG OUT AND LEARN FROM HOLLYWOOD PRODUCER JOEL EISENBERG! Details are below. This is EIGHT hours with one of the hottest producers in Hollywood teaching everything from craft to how to SELL what we write! Recordings are included with your purchase for FREE!

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

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!

NEW CLASS!!!! Hollywood Producer Joel Eisenberg’s Master’s Series: HOW TO MAXIMIZE YOUR EARNING POTENTIAL AS A FULL-TIME AUTHOR (Includes all classes listed below) Normally $400 but at W.A.N.A. ONLY $199 to learn from Joel IN YOUR HOME.

OR, if it works better, purchase Joel’s classes individually…

Potentially Lucrative Multi-Media Rights $65 February 21st, 2107 (AVAILABLE ON DEMAND)

How to Sell to Your Niche Market $65 February 28th, 2017

It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who Knows YOU $65 March 7th, 2017

Making Money Speaking, Teaching, Blogging and Retaining Rights $65 March 14th, 2017

Individual Classes with MOI!

Blogging for Authors $50 March 30th, 2017

Plotting for Dummies $35 February 17th, 2017

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter and Synopsis that SELLS! $45 March 20th, 2017

NEW CLASS!!!! The Art of Character $35 February 24th, 2017

Hooking the Reader—Your First Five Pages $40 March 18th, 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

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Before we get started, a quick announcement. I want to let you know that I begged, pleaded and bartered for Hollywood Producer Joel Eisenberg to offer a Master’s Series and being the AWESOME human being he is, he is doing How to Maximize Your Earning Potential as a Full-Time Writer just for us. This is three two-hour classes learning from a big name in Hollywood in your own home and it is recorded if you can’t make it live. He normally runs this series for $399, but he is super helpful and generous and giving it to us for $199.

The film industry is BOOMING and filmmakers need writers who can create excellent content. Joel is going to teach you how to tap into that massive emerging market.

Valentines Day gift. *wink wink* Just sayin’.

Okay, let’s sally forth…

One of the reasons I love blogging is I get an opportunity to have the crucial conversations with you guys that are going to make all the difference in your writing career. When I started out, I didn’t have such luxury and I bumbled around in the dark with what I “thought” professional writers did.

Back in 1999 I didn’t have the same access to experts as we all do today, so I had to wait almost four years until I could save enough money to attend conferences to get the dose of reality I needed if I hoped to go pro.

Last time we talked about basic, basic stuff. It seems so simple and yet it really isn’t. Most emerging writers don’t have a novel. They have a ton of pretty sentences and a lot of “stuff” happening, but they lack a core story problem. No core problem? No novel.

And again, if you are struggling with your book and you can’t whittle it down into ONE sentence, sign up for the Pitch Perfect class THIS SATURDAY (all you need is an internet connection and the recording comes with purchase).

I am teaching about query letters and how to write a synopsis, and this is a critical skill that can make sure you have a story and if you don’t? How to easily see what needs fixing so you aren’t wasting precious time repairing the wrong stuff. I will help you get that one sentence. I have a lot more practice doing this than you guys 😉 . It’ll be fun!

Anyway…

So once we have an idea for a story this is not enough, unless we are just writing for a hobby. If we actually one day hope to sell what we are writing we need to ask the hard questions.

What is the Genre?

All books have a genre. We must choose. Even folks who claim they don’t write “genre fiction” what they are meaning is they don’t write “commercial” fiction. Literary fiction IS a genre and it is going to have parameters and expectations we need to keep in mind while writing.

***And sure I guess there is “General Fiction” but how unsexy is that? Also, General Fiction is usually where literary is shelved and genre fiction misshelved. Seriously Goodreads? The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is NOT general.

Some people don’t want to choose a genre. They shiver and feel it is base, that somehow by committing to a genre they are admitting their book might actually be like other books. How gauche! They will have to admit that is isn’t the world’s most unusual snowflake, a work that has never been seen before.

Hey, I used to be that person.

I felt that choosing a genre diminished my book, that it made it “like” others and thus somehow not “as good.” I was dead wrong. First of all, because I didn’t choose a genre, my book not only was NOT a special snowflake..it actually sucked pretty badly. I’d crafted some Frankenstein monster out of all genres to please (sell to) ALL readers. But, here’s the deal.

No one wants to read a “book by committee”.

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Each genre has rules, guidelines and expectations. If you want a quick rundown on what they are, go to THIS POST.

Because I didn’t choose one genre? I was just mucking up every genre.

For instance, I get writers who come to me and they say they have a Romance BUT the core antagonist is the love interest. NOPE. Romance has rules and there must always be an HEA (happily ever after). Guy and girl must get together by the end. They must unite together to solve the problem greater than themselves (defeat the core antagonist).

If this doesn’t happen? Sorry it might be a good book, but romance it ain’t. And if the book is then placed in the wrong genre? That genre comes with an audience that has expectations the work has not met. So a book that might have gotten rave reviews as a Women’s Fiction gets slayed when shelved as a Romance.

Genre can impact everything from plot to character to word count. If my book is a 120,000 words and a High Fantasy? No problemo. If it is a YA? Going to be a seriously hard sell.

What are Audience Expectations?

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Once we nail what genre our book is in, we then can keep audience expectations in mind when writing…THEN blow them away. Again, tending genre expectations is not “formulaic”. “Formulaic” has to do with execution.

For instance, if I go to a Mexican restaurant I have expectations. If they try to serve me schnitzel and lasagna not only am I going to be seriously confused, I might even get angry. Why? Because I did NOT expect schnitzel and lasagna at a Mexican food restaurant.

Now, I am a Texan and in Texas Mexican food has it’s own layer on the food pyramid. It can be a very simple cuisine. Lots of corn, beans, some kind of meat and cheese in various combinations and that is all great. Many Texans just want a plate of good old-fashioned cheese enchiladas with red sauce.

Yet, just because Mexican food carries expectations does NOT mean a chef cannot then mix up the rules and use a ton of imagination.

The chef knows we want enchiladas but instead of the tried and true versions? How about sweet potato enchiladas in blue corn tortillas with goat cheese and a mango chutney? Okay now I’m hungry.

But we are STILL within the expectations, just we are delivering an unexpected variation. Instead of alienating and potentially ticking off the patrons, we are WOWING them.

And remember, like food, there are all kinds of fusions. It is easy to add Southwestern food to a Mexican food menu. They are cousins. Same with genres like mystery, thriller and suspense. It is easy to have a mystery thriller. Or even a romantic suspense. We know the rules of suspense, but also can expect a nice love story as well.

Christian Inspirational Erotica? Yeah, not so much. Kind of hits us like a Polish Mediterranean restaurant.

How to SELL What We Have Written

Another HUGE reason for choosing a genre before we write is…

Eventually we WILL have to choose a genre anyway.

So we might as well do it ahead of time. A big reason for genre is to help readers find our work. Where will the sucker get shelved? Once we upload the book onto Amazon, we will have to declare what genre it falls into so readers can find it. Also we WANT our book to be like other books. When anyone buys a book on Amazon, we get this…

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Trust me, I WANT people who loved Gone Girl to see my book in the list of “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought.” I DON’T want to do this all myself. I WANT if someone is looking for Gone Girl they see MY book or vice versa. It means I am in good company.

Also remember that readers…wait for this…often buy more than one book. I KNOW! So when they finish that traditional mainstream novel, they are going to go back for another dose of what they love to consume and genre is going to help them find YOU.

Even if we want to traditionally publish, genre is a huge deal. First, how can we query? We need to look at what an agent is looking for then pitch THAT. Also if an agent likes the book, she is going to have to be able to know how to SELL that book. Granted, she might do some tweaking—pitch a suspense as a romantic suspense but you get the idea.

Sometimes agents will reject a book because the author didn’t settle on a genre and so the agent already knows she won’t be able to SELL it.

I hope this clears things up for you if you didn’t before understand them, which is OKAY. We are not born knowing this stuff! What are your thoughts? Questions? Concerns? Remember Pitch Perfect is on SATURDAY and my NEW class The Art of Character is TOMORROW! How to create layered and compelling characters. If you want to take both, seriously just treat yourself and sign up for the Craft Master’s Series and you get a FREE class (Plotting for Dummies) .

I love hearing from you!

And 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, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

SIGN UP NOW FOR MY 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!

NEW CLASS!!!! How to Maximize Your Earning Potential as a Full-Time Author Learn from Hollywood Producer Joel Eisenberg in your HOME. This series is normally $400 but W.A.N.A. is offering it for $199.

Branding Master’s Class Series with Kristen Lamb THREE social media classes, ONE low price. Only $99. It is literally getting one class for FREE!!!! 

Craft Master’s Class Series with Kristen Lamb THREE craft classes, ONE low price. Only $89. One class is FREE!!!! Includes my new class The Art of Character.

Individual Classes with MOI!

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS January 28th

When your Name Alone Can SELL—Branding for Authors February 10th, 2017

Social Media for Authors February 11th, 2017

NEW CLASS!!!! The Art of Character January 27th, 2017

Blogging for Authors February 3rd

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

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We are THANK GOD bringing a close to 2016. Though I’ve survived, I feel like I’ve dragged myself out of a Dumpster fire. Is it me or did 2016 actually last three years?

But as Robert H. Schuller once said…

Tough times never last but tough people do.

Many who read this blog desire to be professional authors and that is a great goal and it is attainable but there are some practical realities we need to appreciate. The road to becoming a pro is long and brutal and treacherous and this post is to help you prepare accordingly.

Think of it like this. If you wanted to take a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood with your dog and kids, would you pack MREs, gallons of fresh water, portable water filtration systems, tents, sleeping bags and a med kit? Would you hire a personal trainer to get you in pique condition for the journey? Would you hire a team of sherpas?

Likely not…unless you’re my husband but he just wants sherpas.

Conversely, if you wanted to summit Everest, would you just slip on the running shoes and leash the dog? You haven’t exercised since Paris Hilton was cool, but why not? Fresh air in the Himalayas might do you some good, right?

Unless you wanted a lonely frozen death on a mountain? Yeah. Again, NO.

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Yet sadly, a lot of writers fall into the secondary category. They have a dream of scaling one of the toughest goals in the Western World without fully appreciating what is required for such a journey. An idea only gets us so far and if we fail to properly prepare for what we are wanting to do, we are making an already long journey far longer and harder than is necessary.

I don’t think anyone who has ever summited Everest believes it was easy-peasy, but without the right planning, prep and gear it would surely have been impossible.

Unfortunately, I began my journey seventeen years ago with nothing more than BS and glitter and have done my share of falling off the mountain.

*long scream* *bounce bounce OUCH*

So here are some tips to help you with your journey into 2017 and though I am downloading a lot onto you, these fundamentals will make EVERYTHING work better, especially any New Year’s Resolutions…

Guard Your Dream

Often when we get a new shiny dream we are so excited and we want to go tell everyone so they can be super excited too. That is not always a good plan because humans are weird creatures who all have baggage (and not just carry-on).

When I was new, I thought others would be happy for what I wanted to achieve, that they would be supportive and we could do this together! And what I am about to say is going to be very unpopular, but it is unfortunately true.

Most people will settle for less than what they are truly capable of. But, here’s the kicker…

They really don’t want to believe they settled.

***Denial is more than a river in Africa 😉 .

These folks will have all kinds of good reasons they can’t do X, Y and Z and they will honestly believe them. So, when you come bee-bopping along all excited and start showing them they really could do better if they really wanted to? They are going to resent you. Just expect it.

Bear with me….

I want you to think back to every frigging group project you ever had to do in school. Be there. Think about it. Feel the emotions. Let the anger flow through you….

All right.

Now back to your writing dream. Do you really want it to be a group project?

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When I was new, I thought every person who said he/she wanted to be a successful writer really did. I stayed in writing groups for years with people who had no time to do any writing but plenty of time to start a lot of back-stabbing drama.

I kept trying to make it work because I really didn’t want to be alone. Being alone was terrifying. But the more I pressed and the harder I worked, the more pushback there was from those who should have been on my side (YES, even especially FAMILY).

I had to choose between pleasing others or reaching the goal I’d set out to attain.

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The problem with group dynamics is that water will find its level. If we are fortunate enough to find a group with similar aspirations and work ethic, that is wonderful. But make sure you are being honest about who you are surrounding yourself with.

Actions speak louder than words and sometimes, to summit? We need to cut some ropes.

NO Lies

One of the big lies you will hear from people (and maybe even yourself) is the I just can’t find the time lie. Here’s the deal. Time isn’t hiding in the couch cushions with the TV remote. We don’t find time, we make time. People make time for what they find important and if you don’t believe me here is an example.

You drop a buck on a lottery ticket on a whim and win twenty million dollars in the Power Ball. Would you really have to find time to go turn it in and get the cash?

So if you find yourself saying those words, “I can’t find the time” just be honest and say, “It isn’t important to me.”

Being a successful author will require time. The more time we invest, the quicker and the better the payoff. We need time to write, research, train, and build a brand. Compromise any of those and the goal is harder to reach. So be honest with yourself in 2017. If your writing dream is really important, then actions should reflect that.

***Goes for me, too 😉

Time to Write

Image via Drew Coffman courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons
Image via Drew Coffman courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

We need to write. I have been running writing sprints every weekday morning on my Ning WANATribe for well over a year so that any writer willing to invest the time will get to write alongside me and experience a professional pace. I pay $70 a month out of my own pocket and out of almost 3,000 members, want to know how many regularly show to sprint?

Fewer than ten.

We do sprints 40 minutes at a time all morning every morning (sometimes all day). Even if a person did one sprint a day and only eked out a single page (250 words), that person would have a finished draft in less than a year. And while that seems like a long time to write a book, how many people have been futzing with the same novel for five or more years?

Never underestimate the power of simply showing up.

If our goal is to publish a book in 2017, we have to actually write it. I know. Hard stuff.

Time to Read

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Craig Sunter
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Craig Sunter

Reading is how we hone our skills and learn. I do a lot of editing and one of my biggest complaints with new writers is it is clear they do not read. They beat up a lot of the same words, the same tired descriptions and their dialogue sounds like a bad soap opera. Often I can tell in less than ten pages they have no plot.

But these are the same folks who will claim they have no time to read.

I read about three books a week. No I don’t sit with a nice hard back the way I would prefer. I listen to audio books and it isn’t my preference but it works with all I have to do. I can’t sit and leisurely page through while folding laundry. I can, however, listen to an audio book and with Kindle Unlimited and an Audible membership I can afford my habit.

No, not all writers are plotters, but I will be blunt. Pansters really are plotters but the reason they can get away with not sitting and outlining is they literally have read so many books that structure is hardwired into their brains and they can navigate a 60,000-110,000 word story intuitively.

Successful pantsers are extremely well read (plotters too but pantsers even more so).

If we don’t spend time reading, we will probably spend way more time with crappy drafts. Most people are not born writing savants. Stephen King didn’t become Stephen King without reading fiction and using others to refine his craft.

Time With Pros

Reading is our time with pros. We can see how J.K. Rowling or Neil Gaiman or whatever writing hero we have executed plot, character, tension, pacing, etc. We can also take classes or read books to shorten the learning curve instead of spending far more time figuring it out on our own.

You can spend ten years and three bad books figuring out all the intricacies of how to plot or take my class and get ten years of MY work in an hour.

Feel free to blog unsuccessfully for a couple years OR take one of my classes and I already did the hard work for you.

The thing is, you will spend time but there is a choice on how you spend it 😉 .

****New classes are listed below.

Time to Brand and Build a Platform

Lots of writers want to whine about social media and that it is too hard and it takes too much time. All right. But discoverability is an absolute nightmare and most people are not buying books at bookstores namely because bookstores are getting about as rare as unicorn tears. Of the remaining point of sale outlets only a small fraction of titles are available and for only short periods of time.

You really think Costco is going to let titles sit on their ONE table long enough to cultivate readers? No. They are only stocking authors who already cultivated readers. They are going for proven sellers and even those guys have a brief shelf life.

Barnes & Noble is dedicating more and more shelves for knick-knacks, toys, music and gadgets because they have a higher profitability. B&N, to me, has become less and less of a bookstore and more and more The Borg—a haphazard compilation of all the businesses their predatory behavior rendered extinct.

Just cobble a coffee shop a toy store a music store and a Hallmark together and sprinkle on some books and VOILA!

B&N 2.0.

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I know. Reality sucks. Reality dictates I can’t live on pizza and Ding-Dongs and be skinny. Reality dictates I can’t pay my power bill with my looks. When it comes to being a writer? Reality dictates we build a brand capable of driving sales and the brutal truth is this was ALWAYS the truth even before social media.

Go to any used bookstore and whose books do you really see? I mean REALLY see? Authors with multiple multiple titles. Don’t believe me? Blindfold yourself and spin around three times and see how many steps it takes to hit a James Patterson, Stephen King or Nora Roberts book.

In the olden days before social media, that was how an author became a household name. They wrote a crap ton of books.

Frankly? This is still how it is done, though social media and blogging can make name recognition that drives sales happen far sooner and with fewer titles. But branding and social media has to be done in an effective way.

There are no shortcuts. Book spam is NOT branding. Friending people on FB and spamming their wall is NOT branding. Blogging about your own book is NOT branding. Ranting about politics nonstop like a pit bull with Tourettes is NOT branding.

Well, it is. Kind of. It’s called negative branding and it is guaranteed to make people avoid us more than a Jehovah’s Witness who just joined Amway.

And I know the new trend is to buy into these services that promise newsletter nirvana but read my lips…

Without a brand it is only spam.

Authors who are successful with ads, Bookbub, newsletters, etc. are successful because they first took time to cultivate the audience.

They built a foundation with either multiple books and or meaningful social media branding. We skip that step at our own peril.

Trust me. I’ve been through all the fads. I was on Gather in 2004 when I first realized social media branding would eventually be crucial for authors. I was laughed at by agents and editors and tarred and feathered by traditional authors for years.

So I did something about it.

I very literally wrote the book on social media branding for authors, and I have stood the test of time through all the “experts” who’ve offered shortcuts. I withstood the 99 Cent Book Blizzard of 2010, the Free Book Free For All of 2011. The Triberr Tsunami of 2013, the Algorithm Alchemy of 2012-2013, the Automation Avalanche of 2013-2014 and on and on and on.

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So back to newsletters….

I’ve seen all the hype.

Forget Facebook! No blogging! No time required! Social media no longer works! A big newsletter mailing list is the ticket to fame and fortune! Build that list! We can HELP!

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No.

Just….stop.

Unsolicited offers from authors we don’t know? It’s called spam. Do newsletters work? YES. But only with a solid foundation. Without that? Mass numbers and blind luck.

So all of this goes back to my point to guard our time. Quick fixes are never quick so we buy into the Social Media Shake Weight at our own risk 😉 .

Make 2017 count and just ignore the fads. Consistent meaningful effort in small doses over time is far more effective than anything some guru will sell you. Need a manual? Pick up a copy of Rise of the Machines

My methods have literally sold tens of millions of books and even launched unpubbed newbies to NYT status. My methods aren’t fancy but they do work and they work on any social platform in any given year because my approach is not based on technology or gimmick or trickery. My approach is based on humans and humans don’t change.

I have zero interest in turning you guys into high-pressure salespeople or mega-marketers. Just be YOU and still have time to write.

Honest.

And yeah yeah I am promoting my book and classes. But I’ve also written over a thousand blogs and spent almost $6,000 of my own money maintaining WANATribe with NO fees and no ads, so I think it is safe to say I want to help you guys succeed 😀 .

So there you go! All you need to rock 2017. Guard your dreams and guard your time. Success is simple but it isn’t easy. We must spend time but if we spend it well and consistently, rewards are there.

What are your thoughts? Have you been bad about guarding your dreams? Have you allowed toxic friends, family, writing groups to drag you down? Do you get overwhelmed and forget that small actions do add up? Are you going to MAKE time in 2017?

I love hearing from you!

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

November’s winner of my 20 page critique is Nancy Segovia. THANK YOU for being such an awesome supporter of this blog and its guests. Please send your 5000 word Word document (double-spaced, Times New Roman Font 12 point) to kristen@wana intl dot com.

Check out the 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!

NEW!!!! APPROVED USE FOR CHRISTMAS MONEY!!!!

Branding Master’s Class Series with Kristen Lamb THREE social media classes, ONE low price. Only $99. It is literally getting one class for FREE!!!! 

Craft Master’s Class Series with Kristen Lamb THREE craft classes, ONE low price. Only $89. One class is FREE!!!! Includes my new class The Art of Character.

Individual Classes with MOI!

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS January 6th

Plotting for Dummies January 7th, 2017

When your Name Alone Can SELL—Branding for Authors January 13th, 2017

Social Media for Authors January 14th, 2017

NEW CLASS!!!! The Art of Character January 27th, 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-2016-08-12-at-3-27-07-pm

There are two essential components all great writers possess and unfortunately these are highly unnatural abilities. Most of us have to hone and refine and strengthen these skills because they are so counter to human nature. First, most humans run from conflict. Great writers go straight for it. Secondly, most humans really don’t pay attention to or explore the motivations of others. Great writers master what makes other people tick.

Conflict

We humans are hardwired to avoid conflict and that makes sense. Wandering around in the brush gathering berries, fruits and small game left one exposed and vulnerable. For our ancient ancestors? Every day the goal of “not dying” was preeminent among the Things To Do. But the problem is this. Just because we now have high-rises, smart cars and Facebook, it doesn’t mean that our biology has caught up.

It’s why modern humans are struggling with so many neuroses and stress illnesses. We are wearing out our fight or flight mechanisms because the body cannot tell the difference between outrunning an angry bear or taking on a Facebook troll.

Rejection very literally meant death for thousands of years. We had to have the safety of a tribe to keep us fed and safe. Isolation was a death sentence.

So fast-forward to modern times and there is always this every-present voice to keep the peace. To not make waves. Problem is? Fiction is the wave-making business.

Understanding Other Humans

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of DualD Flip Flop
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of DualD Flip Flop

Most people operate from a perspective that is highly self-centered. I am not meaning this to be disparaging, but we do. If someone won’t talk to us or avoids us, we often assume that person is mad at us. This goes back to that fear of rejection thing. Another human avoiding us is less often about them and more about us.

What did I do? Did I say something wrong? Why doesn’t she like me?

It is a rare person who automatically thinks, “Wow, I bet that person is very shy.”

Whenever we encounter those who are naturally gifted authors, I believe it has less to do with the ability to write, to string words and lovely prose together. It is more that those folks naturally dive headfirst into conflict without hesitation. They also are acutely aware of the goals, conflicts and motivations of others.

The rest of us? We simply have to train these.

How Conflict is Birthed from Understanding Weakness

I do a lot of editing and very often it’s the work of new writers. As I read pages I often can see this is a person who likely made As in English (only college was not training us to write commercial fiction).

On the surface there is nothing wrong…except that everything is surface. Too often new writers are far too nice. They hesitate to exact authentic suffering and instead settle for a shill…the bad situation.

Bad situations don’t say anything about who we are. It highlights nothing about our failings as people, about our flaws. Anyone can be attacked by a band of blood-thirsty marauders, get caught in a hurricane, singed by a dragon or attacked in an alley. This is all external and says absolutely nothing about people, about who these characters are. Because it’s surface. The bad situation alone is not enough.

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 10.42.10 AM

I love this meme because this literally says it all. When we are new, however, we are very uncomfortable with bad decisions. Truly bad decisions. Often our first novels are more of a holodeck for us to play out how our world should have turned out, starring the person we always wanted to be. Dialogue often sounds like eavesdropping on a child playing alone.

I call this Literary Barbie Syndrome (or Literary G.I. Joe Syndrome for the guys 😉 ).

Literally, nothing is happening. Oh characters might bitch at each other and come across as needing a Xanax or three. The girls might want to fall in love or go to the dance. The guys race off for another space battle Pew! Pew! But deep down? Nothing.

And much of this has to do with our fear of acknowledging weakness, because we worry it might be seen as our weakness. It is still a self-protection mechanism for what others might think of us should they read our book.

We must learn to separate from that. Writers create all kinds of characters who are NOT us and if others don’t get that? Meh. Let them wonder.

Great writers understand people other than themselves, then use the power of empathy to crawl into that world and crack it open to the light.

Case In Point

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-9-30-09-am

Right now I am reading The Girl on the Train. Talk about conflict and human weakness!

The protagonist is a raging alcoholic. She is bitter and angry and self-destructive. She drinks until she blacks out and that creates problems…BIG problems. Then she lies to cover up her failures. She is conflicted—the person she is trying to be (sober) versus the person she ends up being despite her best efforts (drunk).

She has very sympathetic reasons for why she is that way and this is what terrifies the reader. Because the way it is written, we all take a breath and know that under the right circumstances, that could be us. Strip enough of us away, lay our world in ruins and we, too might be that drunk asleep on a park bench. Good fiction draws us in because it promises to show us what terrifies us.

Rachels’ flaws shine a light on the dark places of US, the places we fear to go, the places we fear we could go.

But this is also why we root for her. We want her to win. We want her to be sober because if there is hope for her, there is hope for us.

Rachel isn’t some caricature caught up in a bad event (a woman’s disappearance), she is a horribly flawed and broken character whose redemption is being offered through this bad event (core story problem). Thus every setback she encounters is inextricably tied to her path from perdition to salvation.

Yet, what if the author Paula Hawkins worried that people might believe she was a closet drunk if she wrote a character like Rachel? That the vomiting on the stairs and waking up in urine-soaked clothes was some fictionalized version of her real life? And maybe some people do wonder that but thing is? Ms. Hawkins clearly didn’t care.

She wrote for maximum conflict and created raw and riveting characters who are profoundly flawed, thus immensely vulnerable which makes for a story that will last generations.

I understand that not all fiction is gritty like Girl on a Train, but this works for other genres as well. Helen Fielding’s romantic comedy Bridget Jones’s Diary. Michael Connelly’s crime fiction The Lincoln Lawyer. Some other books that do this well? Big, Little Lies and What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty (women’s fiction). Rebecca Well’s The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood.  All of these authors excel at conflict and exploring human weakness/strength and what motivates us all. To read their books is to look deeply inward and see ourselves and that is the heart of great fiction.

What are your thoughts? Do you have to go back and remind yourself to be harder on your characters? I certainly do. Do you struggle making them flawed? Do you worry that the flaws you put in your work might reflect on you? Hey, I’d be lying if I said that didn’t freak me out. What are some works of fiction that really drew you in and why? Do you now laugh at your First Holodeck Novel? Man, mine cracks me up. What was I thinking? Hey, we all start somewhere 😀 .

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 TONIGHT! I have also included new times to accommodate the UK and Australia/NZ folks! 

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

Upcoming Classes

NEW CLASS!

FRIDAY October 14th 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.

FRIDAY October 21st Your Story in a Sentence–Crafting Your Log-Line

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

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

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

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

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

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

SATURDAY, October 22nd Blogging for Authors

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

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

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

This class is going to cover:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Ah the good old days…

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

Guess what? I’m still here.

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

Not a job for the faint of heart.

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-10-19 at 9.56.12 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

#2—RELAX Regarding Sales

AHHHHHHH!
AHHHHHHH!

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

Guess what?

You already ARE IN SALES.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#3—Reframe Perception of Social Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

I disagreed.

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

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

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

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

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

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

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

Upcoming Classes

NEW CLASS!

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

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

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

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

Good question. We will cover that and more!

But sometimes the query is not enough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SATURDAY, October 8th Blogging for Authors

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

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

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

This class is going to cover:

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

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

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