Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

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Posts Tagged: platform

Image from Street Art Utopia.

One of the words writers hear a lot of is “platform.” What is it? How do we get one? How much time do we need to put in on social media for it to count? Do we get time off for good behavior? All good questions, but before I address them, I’d like you guys to understand something very important:

Author platforms are not the same as they used to be.

If we fail to understand how author platforms have changed, we will look as ridiculous as the guy trying to hitch horses to the front of an automobile. Not only will we look silly, but it will only be a matter of time before we give up in frustration, because nothing we do seems to work.

Platforms Once Were Easy to Control, Thus Easy to Measure

Back in the day, platforms were generally only available to those who could afford one. Hiring a PR expert, distributing a newsletter and even building a web site were all extremely cost-prohibitive. Sure, one could also build a platform by doing speaking gigs or writing articles for publication, but one had to establish credibility before getting a toe in the door, so we are right back to platform went to only a handful of individuals.

And if we happened to be fiction authors, then just forget about building a platform. It was simply too expensive. The only way we had of building a platform or brand was through publishing our books…and that, too, only went to a slim percentage of people who made it through gatekeepers.

Additionally, platforms used to be built in ways that were easy to quantify and measure–I.e. how many clicks on a web site, how many attendees for a speech, etc. In The Old World—B.F. (Before Facebook)—it was easier to measure our influence because our brand/platform was relatively static. It was easy to measure how many people tuned into a radio show, a morning show, and how many “clicked to buy” after these types of events.

PR experts would create an image and that image remained largely unmodified unless it wasn’t working…or the “subject” decided to go crazy and create a Kardashianesque scandal worthy of hiring a spin doctor.

Ah, but Times, They Have Changed

These days, platforms are organic, especially those platforms built using social media.

Is there any other kind?.

We can’t control what happens to the content once we let go. Additionally, social media is a two-way exchange. If Bed, Bath & Beyond sends me a mailer, they aren’t expecting me to like it, then photocopy it and distribute it to my friends. Yet, that is exactly what we are after when it comes to social media. We are trusting others to take in what we offer (content), like it and then pass it on to their networks.

The Upside & The Downside

What is wonderful about social media is that we always have the potential for world-wide exposure, to go viral, etc. We also have a lot more fluidity than years ago. We can write in different genres or dabble in transmedia or become hybrid authors because followers are interacting with us daily and real-time.

Yet, the downside of the new paradigm is that social influence is virtually impossible to measure. For more about why, go here to my post The Dark Side of Metrics—Writer Friend or Ticket to Crazy Town? Not only is social influence virtually impossible to  measure…but it is accessible to everyone. In the old days B.F., we were only competing against a slim few with the cash or tenacity to build a platform. Now? To quote The Incredibles

When everyone is special then no one is.

In a time when everyone has access to the same tools, how can we ever hope to stand apart?

So all of this is to say that platform and brand have changed as much as publishing has. If writers want to survive and thrive in the new paradigm, they must let go of the old and embrace the new.

A New Attitude

One of the largest hindrances I see to authors building a great platform has to do with their attitude toward being required to build one. It’s just another chore, a drudgery. It makes us feel weird and dirty, like we are selling out and compromising who we are. I totally appreciate these feelings, because I have felt them, too.

I felt them before I really understood what author platform meant.

In a world where most writers are moaning and groaning about being required to have a platform, the only chance we have of standing apart from the masses, is we must change our attitude and our approach. Sure, easier said than done, right?

No. Not really. I think if we take a moment to peel back why we feel the way we do, it will be easier to enjoy this new leg of author evolution.

So Why Does Building a Platform Make Most of Us Feel Icky?

How many of you ran out and bought John Locke’s book, How I Sold a Million Books in Five Months? Hey, I did. I can always learn, and Locke actually had some really great ideas, but I did have to ask myself some hard questions. Why didn’t his methods resonate with me? Why did many of Locke’s tactics make me feel queasy, as if I had escaped one sales job just to land another one? After a lot of thought, I realized it had to do with intent.

When experts throw around phrases like “target your audience,” I must confess that all I can think of is a red-dot laser site landing on someone’s chest.

 

I am writing a book. Prepare to be targeted.

Maybe it’s just me *shrugs*.

See, Locke will even tell you in his book that he is a born capitalist. He worked in sales for years and started all kinds of businesses. To him, books were just a new way of making money. He saw a tremendous marketing opportunity in the shifting paradigm, and he used his talents and went for it and it paid off. He spent $25,000 figuring out what tactics worked and what failed. He experimented with all kinds of genres and tactics, but not because his art and love happened to be writing.

Locke’s art and love was capitalism and marketing. 

You can see Locke’s excitement coming off the page as he relates his stories of how he tried all kinds of tactics to see where the numbers went. Locke’s art form happened to be numbers. Writing was just the medium, much like a sculptor might choose marble or clay. The reason Locke has such passion is he is doing his art.

But is Their Art Your Art?

For writers who have a love of sales, Locke’s book will really resonate because you will be doing your art. OR, you will at least be blending two arts you love together—sales and writing. Yet, for writers who break out in hives at the mention of the word sales and who are in this for the art of writing?

Hasta la vista, Baby.

Same thing with the PR & social media marketing people. They love to offer suggestions of how to help writers. They are lovely people who are sharing their art, and they want us to love it as much as they do. Some writers do love their methods and find PR and social media marketing is their art, too and that is why these classes have a lot to offer even if they differ from mine.

But what about the rest of us?

What if Sales/Marketing is Not My Art? Am I Doomed?

No. Not at all. But I will challenge you to stop trying to make their art your art. Think of it this way. Some of you, if I said you would be required to also design your own book covers would squeal with joy. Why? Because you also have a love for drawing or graphic design in addition to being a writer. You have more than one art. 

Our art is not our skill; our art is where our heart and passion rests.

Some writers do wonderfully learning marketing and sales skills because it is congruent with an existing passion. Some writers didn’t even know they had  a passion of on-line marketing, but, after a class at a writing conference, they were hooked once they had the know-how.

For the rest of us?

You could teach PR and on-line marketing until the end of time, and we would still hate it with every fiber of our being. We’d hate it just as much as a kid who loves building model airplanes being forced to learn to play the piano. For this kid who is forced to learn an instrument, piano would be a chore, and because it is a chore, any music he makes would always be robotic. It would always lack the essential ingredient that makes music art—passion. 

This is the same reason that writers who hate sales and marketing will always fail. Because it is a chore, it will lack the critical ingredient to connect—passion.

But, Kristen! All of us have to get out there and sell and market!

No, you don’t. I know many well-meaning people have told you this is the case, but it is a false syllogism. A false what? A false syllogism.

Example 

All people who dig ditches sweat profusely.

You are sweating profusely, therefore you must be digging a ditch.

For Writers?

All master salespeople and marketers have platforms that sell lots of books.

Writers need platforms that sell lots of books, therefore writers need to be master salespeople and marketers.

Or…

All social media technology experts have a large platform.

Writers need a large platform, therefore writers need to be social media technology experts.

NO!

We Can’t Fake Passion

If we hate what we are doing, people feel it. Conversely, when we interact with passion, people feel that, too. Why do you think I am so against automation? People who pre-program all their tweets do not love Twitter. They don’t LOVE interacting and thus there is no passion, so no connection.

This is why doing social media this way takes such HUGE numbers to be effective. It is the same ROI (return on investment) we would get with sending out spam e-mails or junk mail–about 1-5%. Thus, for every 20,000 followers, only about 200-500 will listen and fewer will care.

Words are Our Art

Social media is nothing but words. We writers use words to create feeling and emotion. We use 26 black letters in various combinations to spark passion and interest. Social media can be a drudgery when we aren’t connected to our muse. Yet, when approached with the correct attitude, social media a new canvas for the writer-artist.

We will talk more about platform and ways to make social media our art next week. In the meantime, I want you to answer some questions:

What is it I fear the most about social media?

What do I believe it is taking away from me?

What are the emotions I want readers to feel when reading my work?

Of all those emotions, which one is the most important? Do I want people to feel love, passion, inspiration, courage?

So what are some questions you guys have? Do you feel better now that you have permission to hate sales? Can you spend some time defining your own art and think of ways to infuse it into your social media? For those already doing this, can you share with the rest of us?

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of March I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I will announce last week’s winner later this week. I am having problems with my web site and e-mail and my web people are working to remedy the problem. Thanks for your patience.

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.

This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness

50,000 Inimitable Smiles by Margie Lawson over at More Cowbell

How to Get Media Coverage for Your Book over at Jane Friedman’s place

Was March 2012 the Day that Traditional Publishing Died? by the ever-brilliant Bob Mayer

Amazon Signs Up Authors Writing Publishers Out of the Deal by the NYT

Beautiful Breakups–What the Revision Process Can Teach Us by August McLaughlin

How Can Modern Writers Become and Stay Visible? by the fabulous Jody Hedlund

Ten Things You Should Know About Setting by the awesome-sauce Chuck Wendig

 

On Wednesday, we talked about the evolution of the writer. As the paradigm is shifting, writers must evolve or they simply will not survive. Those who want to moan and wish for the gone-by age will be replaced by writers who are hungrier and better trained and who are willing to outwork the competition.

Evolution of the Brand

One of the reasons writers have so much more power these days is that the definition of an author brand has changed radically. Until a couple years ago, an author brand could ONLY be created by books. Readers’ only interaction with an author was through her works of fiction.

These days, the Modern Author is much more dynamic. She can write in different genres and experiment with different types of writing. There are more and more Hybrid Authors emerging in the new paradigm–writers who have NF, short fiction, different genres for sale some traditionally published and some indie or self-published. Writers have a LOT more flexibility. How did we gain this flexibility?

Social media.

Writers with a social media platform have a far more dynamic platform than the writer that is relying solely on books to construct the brand. This is because readers (followers) interact with the author daily and real-time, so the brand becomes the person–the author. Thus every tweet, every status update, every picture, every comment, every blog post and finally every book are all part of our brand. Think of it like adding bricks of all different sizes to construct a massive wall–the brand. Yes, the books will likely be larger bricks, but this doesn’t mean the other stuff doesn’t add up.

It All Counts

This brings me to what I want to talk about today. Sacrifice. The Internet and social media offer us tremendous power and control over our author career, but with great power comes great responsibility. Sometimes we need to make tough decisions. We must remember that everything we say and do on-line serves as part of our brand. Social media is a loaded gun that can be used to feed our family or to shoot ourselves in the foot.

When Are We Getting in the Danger Zone?

All of us have a faith and a political affiliation, but unless we are a religious or political writer we need to be VERY careful. We are counting on our fellow writers to help us, to share and RT and they are less likely to lend support if we spend half our time calling them names.

I had one writer I finally unfriended this morning on FB. He was a sci-fi writer who COULD NOT stop with the political ranting. Every post was about how X party (my political affiliation, btw) were all morons and thieves and creeps and how people of X faith (my faith) were radical haters and bigots and dogs.

In fact, I will just be honest. I am getting to where I don’t even want to look in my FB home stream. SO many writers are ranting on and on about politics, and it all just gives me indigestion. I don’t “friend” a fantasy author so I can listen to a non-stop political rant. If I wanted that, I would friend Ann Coulter or Jesse Jackson and at least I would know what I was in for.

If we hope to build a platform that will reach out and include readers, we need to remember that if we spend half our time calling them idiots, they probably won’t be terribly supportive. Additionally, if we have to hide other writers from our feeds because they make our blood pressure spike, then we can’t easily support them because we can’t SEE them.

What Brand are We After Anyway?

We must be aware that we can be friends with all kinds of people, and non-stop ranting and name-calling is uncool and a bad way to build a platform…unless our goal is to be known as a political-ranting-hater-jerk. If our goal is to be the next Howard Stern, Bill Maher or Rush Limbaugh then sally forth, but don’t send me a friend request. I have no time for people who cannot be respectful of others and their beliefs.

So if we are NOT political or religious writers, we need to be mindful that we aren’t bludgeoning part of our support network.

Yes, I Know It is Hard

We are in an election year, and I know it is hard to not be opinionated. I totally feel your pain. I have a degree in Political Science! I really do understand, but my advice as a social media expert is that we be very selective about what we put on-line. Every post is part of our brand, and, if we do too much ranting about social injustice, we are creating a political activism brand not a fiction author brand…and we can be alienating a lot of people as well.

Are We Running for Office or Wanting to Sell Books?

I support plenty of writers who don’t share my political and religious viewpoints. That is easier for me to do if I am not being called names on a daily basis. There is a reason that politics and religion can be dangerous topics. I know that I am even taking a HUGE risk writing THIS blog. I know that the trackbacks and arguments will surface, but I am willing to risk it so you guys are properly prepared.

Beware of the Frankenstein Monster

One of the biggest reasons we do have to be careful of everything we write on-line is once it is out there…we can’t control it. If we decide to blog about some politically hot topic because we need to get something off our chest, that is fine, but prepare for some consequences. It very well might just be another of many blogs and life continues on as usual…or it could totally dismantle our platform and irreparably alter our brand. We don’t know who is going to read that post, and we can’t control where and how it is spread how it is twisted and…what if it goes viral?

What takes YEARS to build can take only minutes to destroy.

Controversy Never Dies

I posted a blog about What Went Wrong with the Star Wars Prequels? and SEVEN months later I still get mini-debates and have had over 200 comments….over a fictional universe. In this case the controversy is fun…but when it comes to politics and religion???

Prepare to deal with trolls…forever.

Brace for the Backlash

In fact, if we do blog about politics or religion, we should just prepare for at least a half a dozen blogs to spring up with the mission of calling us a moron, and their trackbacks will always keep a fresh supply of trolls coming to that one political blog FOREVER. Not saying it will happen, just that it is pretty likely.

Community Includes “Unity”

Also, we need to remember that our platform is comprised of people who are different than we are. Many of you follow this blog because you expect me to write funny blogs about craft, social media and life. But what if you showed up Monday for my essay about abortion or euthanasia or legalizing marijuana because I needed to get something off my chest?

Many of you would likely never come back, but many would feel compelled to comment–either to tell me I was brilliant or to tell me I’d lost my mind–and this is where we start to see the massive fracture, the fighting in the comments because everyone feels passion and everyone feels differently.

So, now not only have I confused my brand…but now a group that all once had fun and friended one another and enjoyed getting together in my comments section have been divided FOREVER. What was fun and a high point is now spoiled, awkward and downright weird. Not only that, but now I will likely have to step in and referee people who once got along, but who now only see red because I felt the need to take a left-turn with my blog content.

Personally, I care about all of you whether we share political and religious affiliation or not. To me, no venting is worth alienating any of you. That’s just me.

Social Media Requires Respect and Care

I am all for freedom of speech, and feel free to write about or tweet about anything you want. I won’t stop you. The only purpose of this post is to educate writers about the unintended affect being overly political could have. I’m not saying we can’t post a link here and there or a faith quote or an evolution blog. We just need to really be aware of those around us and be prepared to take the consequences, even the unintended ones.

We Are Not Alone…No Really

Think of it this way. Out at our ranch we all carry guns. There are packs of feral pigs that roam our land, rattlesnakes, water moccasins, and all kinds of critters that can kill or maim. Having a sidearm just goes with having a place in the wild country of Texas. But that same gun that took out a six foot rattlesnake near the front stoop is the same gun that could accidentally kill someone.

We can shoot watermelons and beer cans for fun, but it is wise to check that there isn’t a house or a weekend camper on the adjacent land behind the tree line where we are shooting. We have to be aware that we don’t live in a vacuum. Our actions have consequences.

Protect the Brand

Social media is a lot of fun and it has a lot of advantages, but as professionals we need to always remember that our brand is a cumulation of EVERYTHING we do on-line. So if we start Twitter fights and rant and name-call and blog about volatile topics, we take a risk. Even when we don’t rant, ANY political blog can be taken by the opposition as an attack. Why risk it?

Yet, if we are kind, respectful, fun, engaging AND we write great books, that is wonderful and can be the formula for a long successful career. No one needs to give up who they are or what they believe, it just doesn’t necessarily all belong on-line. We can feel free to rub ourselves with lime Jell-O and run around in our underwear, but it doesn’t mean it needs a picture on Facebook ;).

So…*braces* what are your thoughts? Am I out of line and the poster child for censorship? Or do you run into the same problem? Are there people you want to support but they won’t stop ranting? How does that make you feel? By the way, I have no problem if any of you wish to disagree with me as long as you do it respectfully. We are people not robots, I get that. I know this is an uncomfortable topic, but it is part of my responsibility as the social media expert for writers to address it.

I really, really do LOVE hearing from you!

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

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of March I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. 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 . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! 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.

 

Last week in What’s the Problem with FREE!? we talked about how giving away FREE! downloads of our books can actually do more harm than good. I also gave an example of the software company that refused to offer anything for FREE! back in the dot.com boom in the 90s when all the competition was handing out goodies left and right. When every other dot.com was giving away golf shirts, trips, goodies and software for FREE! this company stood firm and offered nothing…for nothing.

Don’t get me wrong, this company gave away FREE! stuff. They just didn’t give it away for free ;).

Free! is Best When It Isn’t Free

I read J.A. Konrath’s  and Bob Mayer’s blogs because both of them provide a lot of valuable insight for the writing professional. At first it might seem that Konrath and Mayer and I would disagree, that we would be at odds. Why? Because Konrath and Mayer will be the first to give us writers a digital kick in our digital @$$ to get off Twitter and Facebook to write more books. They make no bones about telling writers to get back to work and WRITE! Me, being a Social Media Expert Jedi, should be aghast.

What? How can you tell writers to get their tuchus off Twitter? Twitter is the best thing since Gummy Bears! And Facebook? What are you communists in league with SOPA to keep writers from sharing that video with the dancing squirrel?

Actually, I agree with Konrath and Mayer and it is one of the reasons WANA methods look VERY different from most social media approaches. See, I am not here to make you guys social media experts. I am here merely to help you use this tool called social media in the most time-effective way, because the best thing you can do to become a successful author or even a brand is to write more books. Write as many books as you can! Good books.

Write! Write like the wind! This is true for ALL authors—traditional, indie and self-pubbed. The more books we have for sale the greater our odds of success. And don’t think I am telling people to churn out crap just to have more books. There is nothing further from the truth. In fact, I dedicate every Monday on this blog to help y’all grow to be better and better writers. But few things can help our writing abilities like…um, writing.

Rocket science, right?

I just taught an on-line class about branding. I had all kinds of questions about Google Ads, Goodreads, Pinterest, blog tours, etc. to sell books and brand. My answer? Don’t become an expert at social media, become an expert at writing good books. Social media is a means not an end. The one critical ingredient to ALL author brands? BOOKS. GOOD BOOKS. The more, the better. Successful authors are not judged on the quality of their fan page. They are judged by the quality of their books.

Okay, you guys got the point. WRITE!

Yes, sometimes it might seem that I am beating a dead horse, but this is really critical. Konrath and Mayer had a distinctive advantage when they decided to self-publish. If, for no other reason? They had a lot of good books to offer. Why does this matter? Well, for today’s purposes, it has to do with FREE!

FREE! has More Power the More Titles We Have to Offer

FREE! is what can hook a long-term commitment. We can give a teaser to gain passion and loyalty. Yet, we can only do this if we have more than one title for sale. A potential customer (reader) sees that we have more than one book for sale. Ah, but one is FREE! This makes a reader a bit more excited since now…

FREE! is in Context of NOT-FREE!

Value is relative. If readers go to a site and an author has her one and only manuscript up to give-away, we might bite for the FREE! download. But, when we go to an author page and there are ten titles for sale, all for 4.99, yet one is FREE!, naturally we feel better about our decision to bite on the FREE!. Also, because this pricing was given in context, as humans, we will place more value on the download so we are more likely to read this one FIRST.

This is one of the reasons that authors like Konrath, Mayer and Eisler have done so well. Not only were they offering vetted titles, but they offered a lot of them, thus their product (the book) could be judged in context. John Locke, the successful self-published author, didn’t have vetted titles, but he did offer A LOT of them. Thus, those who liked Locke’s FREE! book now had a whole list of other his titles for sale.

FREE! is only valued when consumers believe it costs us (the giver) something.

Go back to the example I gave last week. I have a half a dozen magnet calendars I got for FREE! in my junk drawer. Does any of this make me want to do business with any of these real estate agents? No…because in my mind it really didn’t cost them anything. But what about the agent who sent me a $100 Lowes gift card? (Our agent sent us this after we closed on our house). That man will have my loyalty FOREVER, because he gave something that cost him, even though I know he made money off the sale of our house. He didn’t have to send $100 gift card. He could have sent us a calendar and a thank you note like my mom’s realtor did to her. But he didn’t and he now has a customer for LIFE.

This is why multiple books for sale help the impact of FREE! Since we have other titles for sale at a higher price, then it is perceived (by the consumer) that we are taking a loss when we offer something for FREE! This creates the reciprocity that is critical for driving sales. Reciprocity is very often negated when an author gives away her one and only manuscript for FREE!

FREE! is Most Effective When We Maintain Our Negotiating Power

If all we have is one book…then we give it away, the power has just completely shifted over to the reader. We are completely at the mercy that he or she will be compelled to talk about our book. Since we have no other titles for sale, we have nothing else to gain, other than maybe some ranking on Amazon. But even then, that only worked well when everyone wasn’t giving stuff away for FREE! We are in a position of weakness, of need. Not the best place to earn R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

FREE! is Most Powerful as a Part of a Quid Pro Quo

I’m not, per se against giving away books for FREE!, but I do think that there are smarter ways to go about doing this. As I stated earlier, FREE is best when it isn’t FREE!

In fact, FREE! can actually be a wonderful tool to get customers to spend MORE money…but the clincher is we have to have more than one book to offer.

Since it would be almost irresponsible for me NOT to mention Amazon at some point during this discussion, we will use them as an example. A while back Amazon.com started offering FREE! shipping on orders over a certain amount.

Thus, a person who purchased a book for $14.95 might pay an extra $3.95 for shipping. In total, the customer would be out less than $20. But, if they bought another book for a total of $29.95…they would get their shipping for FREE! Many people probably didn’t even want or need the second book, but the power of FREE! proved just too much to resist. And obviously this tactic works because Amazon still offers FREE! shipping when we consumers jump through various hoops (all of which are, of course, profitable for Amazon).

This is why it is critical to write more and more and more books, especially if you are self-published, because then you can use FREE! to its maximum advantage.

Bundled is Better

A good way to gain more sales traction? Bundling.  Buy two books for $4.99 and get a FREE! download of another short story, novel, whatever. This kind of FREE! makes readers very happy. Consumers are then lured to put out money to get the FREE! I happen to be very blessed to be part of Who Dares Wins Publishing and they do these types of deals regularly and it is a win-win for authors and readers.

FREE! Needs a Perceived Value

FREE! doesn’t have to be in the form of books or downloads. Heck, offer FREE! shipping on orders over a certain amount. Why reinvent the wheel? Copy what works, and, if Amazon has done this successfully, then so can we. Yet, again, this only works when we have more than one title for sale.

My Biggest Gripe About FREE!

I think writers, especially self-published writers, get overly fascinated with marketing, and the allure of FREE! only makes this worse. I see far too many writers uploading that ONE manuscript and then spending every spare waking moment, promoting that one book to the point of being viewed as spam. They tweet with every imaginable hashtag, “Come get my book for FREE! FREE NOW! A book for FREE!” ….and after the 40th time we get this tweet, we are willing to pay the writer to stop tweeting.

They remind me of gamblers chasing their losses. Because ONE DAY they had X number of downloads, they are back at the track trying to make that number appear again. If we run around handing our one and only manuscript for FREE! then what good does it gain us? I am sure there is some good that can come from it, but not the real game-changing benefit that I want all of you to enjoy.

If we study the success stories, especially in indie publishing, the winners always had multiple titles—J.A. Konrath, Bob Mayer, John Locke, Amanda Hocking, H.P. Mallory, etc. So Mayer and Konrath are correct—write, then write some more. Less tweeting and more writing.

When we have more than one book to sell, FREE! becomes a pricing strategy, not a desperate cry for attention.

Yes, I am the social media expert for writers, because I will be honest enough to tell you guys that the point to all this tweeting and blogging and FBing is to drive enough book sales that we can lose the day job and do what we love. We can’t do this with one book. The odds of this are about the same as getting mugged and hit by lightning on the same day. If we are spending too much time on social media, then we aren’t writing more books. Thus, social media is no longer a powerful advantage…and neither is FREE!

So what are your thoughts? Opinions? What are your experiences with FREE!? Any thoughts, suggestions? Recipes for killer chocolate martinis?

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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of January I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. 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 . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! 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 book.

Winner’s Circle

Winner of last week’s 5-Page Critique is Tahlia Newland. Please send your 1250 word Word document to kristen at kristen lamb dot org.

Ginger Club is the winner of last month’s 15 page critique. Please send your 3750 word Word document to kristen at kristen lamb dot org.

Congratulations!

Mash-Up of Awesomeness

Porter Anderson’s Writing on the Ether is a WONDERFUL resource for the best information in this industry.

Joe Konrath’s blog is another wonderful resource.

Colin Falconer had an AWESOME blog Historical or Fiction?

Friesen Press has a great post that I need to print and STUDY, Take the Busyness out of Business.

The real way to build a social network by Reid Hoffman over at CNN Money

The Big Reasons Indie Authors aren’t Taken Seriously at Huffington Post

Red Pen of Domm, Why Blog Hits Don’t Matter Though I don’t agree 100% we actually agree on a lot. We can have 10 zillion hits and they are all bots or random clicks. Quality trumps quantity and I agree.

Kristen is a TOTAL Dean Koontz fan-girl!

Last week we talked about why traditional marketing doesn’t sell books and why marketing for writers requires a very different approach. We also discussed what critical event transpires to turn a good writer/good book into a legend—the mobilization of the fat part of the bell curve. Make no mistake, I will never promise to make any author a mega-best-selling household name, but I can give you some fundamental practices that will improve your odds greatly.

I’m here to guide you into higher and higher levels of success.

The tools I offer will help you maximize time on social media to leave you more time to do the most important aspect of your career….write great books. This month, we are going to strike out and explore ways that we can mobilize that fat part of the bell curve to our favor. I believe it is simple, but not at all easy.

Mobilizing that fat part of the bell curve will be a different process depending on what kind of author you are.

The tools I offer work for all kinds of authors, whether you are traditional, indie or self-published. Yet, I will be blunt when I say that indie and self-published authors need these tactics even more.

Why?

All Authors are Entrepreneurs

All authors are entrepreneurs, but we are not all the same kind of entrepreneur. Indie authors? We are the people who strike out with little more than a push cart and mama’s tamale recipe and dream to one day make it big. We are, for the most part, on our own and so we have to work harder, try harder, and perform better than the competition.

Writers who go the traditional route can be likened to the investor who opens a McDonalds. They are part of a franchise that is already branded and has a name already trusted by consumers. McDonalds might not be fine French cuisine, but it sells BILLIONS of burgers worldwide and is an icon.

However, not just anyone can own a McDonalds franchise. It’s an expensive and arduous process, but the chances you will be successful are actually quite good. Not only that, but McDonalds has set recipes that are proven to sell. They take on risk and responsibility by taking you on as a franchise owner. There is all kinds of training and support offered to help ensure your success.

But to say owning a McDonalds is the ONLY way to own a successful burger joint is ludicrous.

As entrepreneurs, we have the option of taking out a loan and opening our own burger joint and striking out on our own. There are multiple advantages. We can cook whatever kind of burger we want. We can decorate any way we like. We can choose to open at noon and only serve until two. We can become a burger & sushi bar, a combination no one has done before.

We can take full credit for any success and not have to share our profits. Ah, but we also have a 65% chance of going under in two years and listening to our family say, “I told you so” for the next 20 years. Not everyone has what it takes to strike out with a dream and a recipe for fried chicken.

Same in publishing. Not everyone has what it takes to be successful as a self-published or indie author. The time, work, focus and energy are as exhausting as trying to sway those sitting in the drive-thru at McDonalds to try out our hot dog stand instead.

Traditional publishing holds advantages. Traditional publishers are Golden Arches. Granted, no one goes into a book store and looks for a Random House or a Penguin, but we would be self-deluding if we didn’t admit that a major house stamped on the spine didn’t offer a writer an advantage. In traditional publishing, there are teams of people devoted to help a book succeed. Ah, but traditional publishers have set recipes of what they will publish. There is a standard of word count and the genre rules are far stricter.

Before anyone gets offended, I am in no way saying that traditionally published books are poor quality assembly-line stories. I’m not comparing the content to fast-food burgers. We all know that traditional publishing has very high standards. Granted, not everything they publish is gold, but most of it meets an amazing standard of excellence. The McDonalds reference is more for how the traditional publishers do business. There are limits to the risks they will take.

As a self-published author, I can totally believe that ferret romance novels with rodents as the main characters are going to be the next best thing. Hey, pets are the forgotten demographic. Think of all the cat and dog owners who can now read Fluffy and Muffin stories that speak to their little furry hearts.

No one can stop me from publishing A Tale of Two Hamsters or Muskrat Love Story. If I hit it big, I will be hailed as a creative genius, and Harper Collins will be hunting me down for a book deal. They had no idea that guinea pigs could be such a hot item!

If I fail? Eh *shrugs* people have short memories these days. I can try with something new because the only brand at risk is my own.

As an indie or self-published author, we have more creative latitude but it does come at a price.

What does this have to do with social media?

Before we do anything we first need to define who we are, what we want and the nature of our product before doing anything. We need to be clear about what kind of author we want to be. This is a critical step. We need to define who we are and what we want because defining the destination affects the journey. It will affect the tools we need, the resources, the mental fortitude.

Planning a trip to Orlando to go to Disney World is a far different trip than a hike to the North Pole. I challenge all of you to be honest and take some time today to write out what you want. Dream big, dream small, but most of all….WRITE IT DOWN.

Granted, my methods work for all kinds of writers, but the real magic from my principles will come in being properly prepared. We need a full appreciation for the journey we are going to take. The journey for all writers used to be pretty much the same. Write, bleed, get therapy, query, drink, write some more, query, maybe drink some more, and, if you didn’t give up or throw yourself off your balcony, you might make it past the gatekeepers.

Today? Lots of different paths to publication and lots of different definitions for success.

What is your definition of success? Is it just seeing your book in print? Is it selling a handful of copies to friends and family? Is it selling enough money to fund building your underground secret lab? Okay maybe that’s just me. No really! I ask of you…When are you going to know you have finally become successful?

Becoming a best-selling published traditional author is like planning a trip to the top of Everest. It is a HUGE undertaking and very few do it successfully.

The good news is that becoming a best-selling indie or self-published author is not like planning a trip to the top of Everest. Whew!

Bad news is it is like planning a trip to the summit of K-2. Yeah, sorry, no passes. Both ways require sacrifice, blood, sweat tears, blisters and good old-fashioned WORK.

We are going to discuss this more in the coming weeks. But I leave you with this exercise. Ask yourself today what kind of author you want to be. What does success mean to you? Define it. Make it real. If you don’t know the end destination, how can you ever properly prepare? How can you know when you’ve arrived? How can you know what roads to take? You can’t! So nail it down. And we will meet next week for the next step in the journey. Same Bat Time, same Bat Channel.

So what are your thoughts? Opinions? Dreams? Recipes for world domination using only a Bedazzler and a rubber chicken?

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of January I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I will announce the December winners on Friday. 

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 . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! 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!

Happy writing!

See you next year!