Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

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Posts Tagged: indie author

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Today, we have a holiday treat. My friend Liz Crowe (A.K.A. The Beer Wench) is here to help us make it through the holidays with our egos in tact. Liz is cool…like that zany cousin who let you watch Jaws when you were 5 and scarred you for life but then also taught you the proper was to  apply eyeliner (more always better), how to make a temporary tattoo last…and look real enough to freak out your parents.

She’s the friend who will dare then double dare you and might get you in trouble but who will also give you the best memories and help you learn to love you for YOU and feel good about telling haters to get bent.

Take it away, LIZ!

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We’ve all been there. The highly anticipated dreaded Holiday Office Party. Or—even better—the Holiday Family Gathering.

We love ‘em. We hate ‘em. Kinda like jogging or ironing. No matter your chosen career path, they can be an exercise in one-upmanship that rivals any Kardashian backyard barbeque. Because try as we all might to deny or quash it, the innate human need to one-up each other will not be denied, especially if there are in-laws and booze in the same general vicinity.

Never fear, Grasshoppers. Liz is here to help you.

So settle down, take some notes and prepare to Be Awesome.

CAVEAT EMPTOR Moment: Because this is a Liz Crowe/Beer Wench advice post you can be assured that virtual alcohol and grossly overblown familial stereotyping is involved—for literary bloggy effect, you see. For anyone sensitive to this particular vice and sarcasm, you might just go ahead and hit the “next blog” button instead of lecturing Kristen for allowing her space to be corrupted in such a manner.

The first thing we have to accept as a pre- or eve post-published author is this: “Nobody gets what we are doing or (in the case of parents) why.”

Period. Full Stop.

During The Holidays there is a lot of dead conversational space to fill, thanks to the fact that a bunch of people are shoved together for hours at a time with nothing in common but a bit of DNA (or the fact of their marriage into said DNA string). And sometimes, these folks try to understand it by asking you questions.

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Be ready. These questions may force you to grind your teeth, grip your rocks glass so hard you break it or even…attempt to answer them.

Sure, while your body is in the overly warm room with a bunch of folks you are related to whether you want to be or not, your mind is back with your work. You’re grinning around the rim of your third glass of cheap box wine and mentally altering a Major Plot Point.

You’re sipping your over-poured, badly mixed gin drink and counting up all the word repetitions your recent editing torture session conjured. You are slamming crappy beers and quietly reliving your latest critique session—you know, the one where you cried and accused everyone of being against your future success?

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In short, you are “working,” kind of like you always are, whether you’re physically wandering the grocery aisle, at a PTA meeting full of helicopter parents, or now, at a Holiday Party—and your skinny, over-achieving sister-in-law is headed your way with a bit of a wobble in her gait and a half empty Cosmo.

“So,” she says, coming too close and breathing booze in your ear. “That book of yours…I went ahead and checked it out of the library.” She winks, guzzles the pink liquid in her glass then tucks her arm into your elbow companionably.

“Thanks,” you whisper, wondering how much closer to the bar you can stand and not be lying on top of it.

“I don’t really…you know… read all that much but thought I’d try and support the fam. Hey, hon, get over here and congratulate the Big Time Author with me!” She screeches across the room but given the general level of drunken loudness, her spouse, your super successful ER physician brother with a PhD in engineering and a Juris Doctorate on top doesn’t hear her…at first.

But finally, he leaves the group of kids enthralled by his balloon bending and banjo skills and makes his sober way over to you, still trapped by his social X-ray wife.

“Hey there,” he booms, smacking you so hard on the back you stumble and recall how much he teased you when you were kids. “So tell me about this…’job’ of yours. Writing, is it? You know, I love those Jack Reacher books, right hon? You know that guy, that Lee person? That’s one creative guy. Hey, when can I get your book at the bookstore anyway?”

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“Well,” you begin, mistakenly honestly believing you can explain the intricacies of the ‘indie publishing life’ to these people. “You see…”

“But your book was in the library,” sister-in-law slurs, hanging off her husband, your brother who is giving you that horrific, “Please explain it to me in ten words or less, I’m busy,” patient stare.

“Yes, well, I begged the libraries to take a copy. But the bookstores…”

“Hey, sweetie,” your brother says to his wife. “What about that book club you host at the club? Why don’t you offer up…um…what was the title of that book?”

“Oh, we still have to get through the Fifty Shades Trilogy and let me tell you we are having some fun with those! Grab me another, love bug,” she screams as your brother turns to the bar. “Why don’t you write books like those?” she asks, before you can escape. “Now that is some good writing…hot stuff…whew!”

 

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She fans her face before getting distracted by one of the many family spawn milling around your ankles. “Let me know when that happens!” She waves her fingers and moves away toward the sister-in-law cabal in the opposite corner, her be-supportive mission obviously concluded.

You wait a few beats, count backwards from a hundred, then get a refill and resume your mental counting of your Facebook likes and twitter followers, pondering how you’ll be so dry and amusing, recounting this little ego-smushing episode on your blog in a few hours. Just a few…more…hours…

By the time the excruciating day/evening/weekend is over, you’ve started no fewer than a dozen conversations with various family members attempting to explain why it takes “so long” to write, get edited, get cover art, get promoted for a single novel. Or how come you keep submitting to agents and publishing houses despite the growing mound of rejections.

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Or why you can’t write “like” (fill in the blank with the latest serial-flash-in-the-pan writer). Or how come they can’t get your book “for real” (read: in print form, at the local Barnes and Noble store when they buy their giant latte and grab their copy of People or Car & Driver on their lunch hour).

You’ve had to stop too many times before getting to the, “Well, Amazon’s algorithm changes mean I have to re-release every two weeks to get noticed,” bit, noting the general eye-clouding-over nature of whichever relative is attempting to make you feel successful over your little writing projects.

Why bother?

But wait! Before you run to the back bedroom and slam the door, think about it this way: No one is asking your brother to explain much about his job, or your sister-in-law(s) to relate her/their latest adventure in child rearing and crock pot meals after a long day of wage-slaving. What they do is pretty clear.

What you do…is mysterious.

And kinda cool.

Ok…VERY cool.

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Authors get to be GOD….

 

My advice is to OWN that. Crush your cool mysteriousness to your chest and do what you do best as a story-teller: make some sh*t up.

I tried this at a party once. Challenged myself to come up with two-three quick sentence descriptions of the general awesomeness of my life as “Author” – or “Novelist” which is an even more esoteric term.

It sure beats getting into long, dreary, inside-baseball discussions of “rankings,” and “formatting issues,” “crit partners,” and “blogging,” especially with your sister’s drunk boyfriend who hears you say “Amazon” and blurts out something like “I love amazons….they’re so hot!”

People who don’t work with these things every day like you will never, ever understand them. Stop trying to make them, especially at a holiday party.

So leaving out the fact that many days I don’t make it out of my sweats or brush my teeth but have written four books this year and have the entire cast chosen for the (as yet un-optioned) Netflix series, I have had some luck convincing family members that I Am An Author. 

And I Am Cool.

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You are too, be you pre-almost-post published. And even if you are one of the dreaded mid-listers at a “real publishing house,” you know of what I speak here. What you do is creative, internal, and mostly unexplainable to your average brother or sister-in-law. So grab your next cheap, badly mixed cocktail and own it, fellow scribbler!

You can get real sympathy on Facebook later.

Make it a great Holiday season, all no matter what or why you celebrate. I leave you with this, hard-learned lesson: Don’t mix red and white wines and never (ever) start with brown liquor and end with wine unless you want to celebrate a whole day completely out of commission.

You’re welcome.

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Liz Crowe, A.K.A. The Beer Wench
Liz Crowe, A.K.A. The Beer Wench

Amazon best-selling author, beer blogger, brewery marketing expert, mom of three, and soccer fan, Liz Crowe is a Kentucky native and graduate of the University of Louisville currently living in Ann Arbor. She has decades of experience in sales and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as a three-continent, ex-pat trailing spouse.

Her early forays into the publishing world led to a groundbreaking fiction subgenre, “Romance for Real Life,” which has gained thousands of fans and followers interested less in the “HEA” and more in the “WHA” (“What Happens After?”).

With stories set in the not-so-common worlds of breweries, on the soccer pitch, in successful real estate offices and at times in exotic locales like Istanbul, Turkey, her books are unique and told with a fresh voice. The Liz Crowe backlist has something for any reader seeking complex storylines with humor and complete casts of characters that will delight, frustrate and linger in the imagination long after the book is finished.

Check out her first self-published series, coming in January 2015: The Love Brothers. Already garnering raves on Goodreads, book one (Love Garage) is available for pre-order on Amazon now.

Click here for free chapters from all the books and to enter during the final days of a huge, multi-author giveaway (including some goodies from Kristen Lamb!)

Don’t ever ask her for anything “like a Budweiser” or risk bodily injury.

Website

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Rise of the Machines Human Authors in a Digital World, social media authors, Kristen Lamb, WANA, Rise of the Machines

When I began writing I was SO SURE agents would be fighting over my manuscript. Yeah. But after almost thirteen years in the industry, a lot of bloody noses, and even more lessons in humility, I hope that these tips will help you. Self-publishing is AWESOME, and it’s a better fit for certain personalities and even content (um, social media?), but we must be educated before we publish.

Mistake #1 Publishing Before We Are Ready

The problem with the ease of self-publishing is that it is, well, too easy. When we are new, frankly, most of us are too dumb to know what we don’t know. Just because we made As in English, does not automatically qualify us to write a work spanning 60,000-100,000 words. I cannot count how many writers I’ve met who refuse to read fiction, refuse to read craft books, and who only go to pitch agents when they attend conferences at the expense of attending the craft sessions.

Additionally, too many new writers I meet do not properly understand the antagonist. They don’t grasp three-act structure, and most don’t have any idea what I mean when I mention POV, Jungian archetypes, or the phrase, “scene and sequel.”

I see a lot of new writers who believe their story is the exception, that the rules make for “formulaic” writing. No, rules are there for a reason, and, if the writing is too formulaic, it has more to do with execution than the rules.

Three-act structure has been around since Aristotle, and there is a lot of evidence in neuroscience that suggests that three-act structure is actually hard-wired into the human brain. Thus, when we deviate too far from three-act structure, it confuses and frustrates readers. Stories have clear beginnings, middles and ends. Without a clear story objective, it is impossible to generate dramatic tension, and what is left over is drama’s inbred cousin, melodrama. Yet, many writers start off writing a book without properly understanding the basic skeleton of story.

Writing fiction is therapeutic, but it isn’t therapy. Yes, characters should struggle with inner demons, but that does not a plot make. Struggling with weakness, inner demons, insecurity, addictions are all character arc, not plot arc. There should be a core story problem that we can articulate in ONE sentence. The plot arc should serve to drive the character arc. If the character does not grow and change she will fail, but it is the core story problem that drives this change. Without the problem, there is no crucible.

Yes, we are artists, but we need to understand the fundamentals. I played clarinet for years, and yes it was an art. But this didn’t excuse me from having to learn to read music, the finger positions and proper embouchure (the way to position the mouth to play).

The better we are at the basics, the better we know the rules, the more we become true artists.

I’ve received contest winners whose first pages were filled with newbie errors. Yet, when I sent them my critique filled with pages of corrections, I would then receive a reply telling me that the book had already been self-published.

OUCH.

Sometimes there are reasons we are being rejected and we need to take a hard look and be honest. Self-publishing is suffering a stigma from too many writers publishing before they are ready. If you really want to self-publish, I am here to support you and cheer you all the way, but remember, we have to write better than the traditional authors.

Mistake #2 Jumping in Before Understanding the Business Side to the Business

I see a lot of writers rushing into self-publishing without properly preparing to be a small business, yet that is exactly what we are. When we self-publish, we take on new roles and we need to understand them. We need to be willing to fork out money for proper editing, cover design and formatting.

One of the benefits to traditional publishing is they take on all the risk and do the editing, proofing, etc. When we go it alone, we need to prepare for some expenses and do our research. We can be told a million times to not judge a book by its cover, yet that is exactly what readers do. Additionally, we may need to look into becoming an LLC. We need to set up proper accounting procedures and withhold the correct amount of taxes, unemployment, state taxes and on and on.

Mistake #3 Believing that, “If We Write it They Will Come”

There are a lot of writers who mistakenly believe that self-publishing is an easier and faster way to fame and success. Yeah, um no. And those magic beans are really just beans. Sorry.

Self-publishing is A LOT of work, especially if we are starting out this way. I know Bob Mayer and Joe Konrath lecture writers to do less social media and more writing. To an extent I agree, but here is the thing. These guys were branded traditional authors who could slap New York Times Best-Selling in front of their names when they decided to go it alone. If you can’t slap New York Times Best-Selling in front of your name, prepare for a ton of work.

Not only do we need to write good books, but we need to write prolifically. We also need to work our tails off on social media. If you study the successes of the Amanda Hockings and the H.P. Mallorys, they worked like dogs. They wrote a lot of books and also created momentum with social media and newsletters.

When we self-publish, we need a much larger platform because we don’t have New York in our corner. This is one of the reasons self-publishing isn’t for everyone. We need to look at how badly we want the dream, and then ask how many hours are we willing to work? What are we willing to sacrifice?

Mistake #4 Misusing FREE!

There are a lot of problems with giving books away for FREE! We shouldn’t be giving away our work unless it serves some kind of a strategic advantage. There are ways to effectively harness the power of FREE! but too few writers understand how to do this and they just end up giving away their art for no tangible gain. This goes with my above point of us needing to understand the business side of our business. When we do choose to give away stuff for FREE! it needs to serve longer-term business goals.

Mistake #5 Shopping One Book to DEATH

When Joe Konrath and Bob Mayer chastise writers to get off social media and get back to writing more books, they are giving fantastic advice. One of the BIGGEST problems I see with self-published writers is that they publish one book and then they focus every bit of energy on selling THAT book.

They fill up #MyWANA and all the writing hashtags with link spam promoting their books. They keep futzing with the cover, the web site, the promotions. They do blog tours until they drop, and they do everything except what is going to help that book sell a ton of copies…write more books.

Here’s the thing. Self-publishing, in many ways, just allows us to accelerate the career path of the author. Even in traditional publishing, it usually takes
about three books to gain traction. In traditional publishing, this takes three years because we are dealing with a publisher’s schedule.

In self-publishing, we can make our own schedule, but it still takes THREE BOOKS MINIMUM. I know there are exceptions, but most self-published successes hit at about book three. The ability to offer multiple titles is a huge part of why John Locke became successful.

This is why it is critical to keep writing. Not only will writing more books make you a better writer, but once people discover they love your writing, they have a number of titles to purchase. Being able to offer multiple titles is how we make money at self-publishing. It also helps us maximize the whole FREE! tactic. Even I am putting my nose to the grindstone to come out with more books in the next six months. I don’t tell you guys to do anything that, I myself, am unwilling to do.

Remember Why We Do This

Self-publishing is a wonderful alternative. Just because we self-publish doesn’t mean we cannot publish other ways, too. I feel the author of the future will actually be a hybrid author, and I do believe that the ability to self-publish is challenging all of us to come up higher. We are striving to be better writers, to be better entrepreneurs, to get better at organization and time-management and to write more books and better books. If we can learn from these mistakes and grow, then the future is ours for the taking.

A little humor from the fabulous David Kazzle

My own story…

What have been some of your challenges with self-publishing? In what areas is it forcing you to grow? Have you had to outsource? What sacrifices have you made? Tell us your story!

I love hearing from you!

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 novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less). Comments for guests get extra POINTS!

I hope you guys will check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital Worldand get prepared for 2014!!!!