Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: Rise of the Machines Human Authors in a Digital World

As digital age authors we have challenges and responsibilities unique to the time we are in. Namely, our job has become vastly more complex. This is why it is really important to get the right information from the get-go. If y’all hadn’t noticed, this blog is now on my author web site. FINALLY!

So happy y’all are here!

The site is a work in progress and will continue to evolve, but I want my journey to be a lesson because I love you and I want you all to be super successful.

It Started Out Harmless Enough

I am a Generation Xer through and through, in life and in regards to my profession. I didn’t “come of age” as a writer in the digital world. I decided to become an author in a world with typewriters and snail mail, where we went to libraries to research and the only way to connect with an agent was to drop several hundred bucks to go to a conference.

I had to struggle to find my way in a world I’d only believed was possible in science fiction, which was super fun namely because NO ONE knew what the hell they were doing. Back in 2006 we really had no good way of discerning solid advice from sheer BS.

Many of y’all know my story. I did NOT set out to become a social media guru. In fact the word guru makes me itch. It just kind of happened because I am a know-it-all and a meddler. I joke that my first social media book should have been called, I Did All the Dumb Sh%$ So You Don’t Have To.

I bitched so much about people doing it wrong (or teaching it wrong) that I finally just wrote my own book 😛 .

Then another….

And then another….

Y’all can probably tell when I took over decisions on the cover, LOL.

Anyway, as I was saying…

If we want to sell books we must have a social media platform and brand. It is no longer a choice. But I will be blunt. You do NOT want to waste time by starting off wrong, and I will also tell you that there are still a ton of “experts” who have zero business teaching this stuff.

Seriously, I thought we would be past these yahoos teaching social media by about 2011 but they are still around so BEWARE. Just last year (2016) I went to a conference and there were five social media classes, which I was eager to take since I am always learning. I walked out of every single class so angry I couldn’t see straight.

In the blogging class, the instructor was teaching the very same stuff that landed me in a major mess, which we are about to talk about…

Kristen as a Cautionary Tale

I started blogging on a free WP site back in 2008. I went to a conference and listened to an “expert” who claimed the only difference between the paid and the free was the paid offered more options on fonts and backgrounds. Basically cosmetic stuff.

This expert also claimed that once you decided to upgrade to the paid site, it was easy to transition all your content over. Since I was starting out on a shoestring budget at the time? FREE was exactly in my price range.

Huge mistake. HUGE. HUGE!

By the time I was making enough money I could upgrade to having my own website, I had over 400 posts and easily 35,000 comments. I also had 20K+ followers. I couldn’t move ANY of that and I literally would have to start over. It took until last year for the technology to catch up and move all my posts and my comments and my followers to my website.

And even then? In this move I lost over 21,000 followers *clutches sucking chest wound*.  I am still trying to figure out where they went. My best guess is that in the free version there is a WP “Follow” button that a paid site doesn’t have. This is so others on WP get your blog delivered in their feed and since I am no longer there?

Yeah. Just shoot me.

But there are still experts teaching writers that it is okay to start out on a free site.

NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!

JUST NO!

If your plan is to eventually be a professional author who sells books, you have no business with FREE. You do not want FREE ANYTHING. Trust me.

The cost of free is far too high.

Just suck it up and get your own site.

Social Media for Authors

See I am not just a social media expert. I am a very unique expert. I don’t teach social media. I teach social media for authors. I don’t teach blogging. I teach blogging for AUTHORS.

There is a huge difference.

I have the task of training introverted neurotics with social anxiety who’d rather be drawing unicorns how to build a platform and brand.

This is SO me.

I’m tasked with teaching my fellow weird kids how to be popular 😀 .

But beyond the whole social aspect, I want you guys to plan for success. This means the second you make a decision to do this writing thing for REAL, you need to start building a platform and brand. You do not want to try and pull a platform out of the ether a month before your book debuts.

Trust me, I have done that. Not fun. Though my first social media book later went on to be a best-seller, my first royalty check was enough to pay for dinner if no one super sized anything. Why?

No one knew me.

So seriously, invest $15 and get a copy of Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World. I wrote the content to be evergreen, so even though it was published back in 2012 it is still all relevant. Start today and a little effort every day will pay off BIG later.

The next thing I want you to invest in is a web site with YOUR NAME in it. You can get clever like I did and put “author” or “writer” in it if you can’t specifically get your name as a domain. Invest in yourself and this is going to save you a ton of headaches down the road.

***Check out my friend Jay Donovan at Tech Surgeons. He has done all my hosting for years and he is amazing and gives my readers a special discount. I changed from GoDaddy to Jay after hackers took down my site and put up a laughing skull. I was not laughing. I was crying. And Jay fixed it and he is amazing.***

Mistakes Were Made…

I have an excuse. I started blogging back when there were no real experts. The only way TO learn was trial and error. But as my mom likes to say…

A wise man learns from the mistakes of others, whereas a fool has to learn from his own.

I was a fool so you don’t have to be.

There are a lot of reasons why you want a paid site beyond cosmetic differences, but I will just touch on the biggest of all.

SELLING STUFF.

On a free WP site (or even Blogger for that matter) you cannot conduct commerce. Sure, when I started blogging I didn’t have books or classes for sale, but eventually? I DID. But on a free site, you can’t have a book table widget. You can’t have a shopping cart RIGHT THERE.

Nope, you have to hyperlink and pray for the best.

But you don’t want to do that. That is called friction. It is an added layer between the initial point of contact and the actual sale. With every layer we increase the odds our reader will see something shiny before buying.

Bad juju.

We DO NOT want any extra clicking if at all possible.

Why this friction stuff really buggered me is that my blog is (was) the popular draw and the primary driver of book and class sales, not my actual author website. But I couldn’t SELL anything on the blog, so I also had to have a website where I could sell stuff. And this made a serious mess. With both a website and a blog, I had two points of contact that were competing for SEO and as I mentioned it was just a major disaster so just please learn from me and start off correctly.

If you already oopsed, remedy it as quickly as possible. Just rip that digital Band-Aid off. You can talk to my web person Laird Sapir owner of Memphis McKay Designs. She can get you set up and moved over and she, too, offers discounts to my readers.

So thanks for following me to the new location and please do a gal a favor and subscribe. I will be your best friend…

And we will have fun in the coming weeks, namely because I am back learning which buttons to never ever touch. I will be adding new features, blah blah yada yada.

So what are your thoughts? Questions? Do you have a similar horror story?

Also, I am sorry you have to enter your information all over again to comment, but that is a ONE TIME deal. After you do it once, WP will recognize you as a regular *sings Cheers theme song*.

Also know I love suggestions! After almost 1,100 blog posts? I dig inspiration. So what would you like me to blog about?

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 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. 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).

I will announce February’s winner next time!

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

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter and Synopsis that SELLS! $45 March 20th, 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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As y’all know I do a ton of reading and this includes lots and lots of blogs and articles. Over the holiday I ran across one article that just had me jumping up and down and yelling, “YES! THIS!” The Business Insider article “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do” is based off Amy Morin’s book (which I highly recommend).

It doesn’t matter if we strive to have a healthy marriage, strong kids or a killer career, these tenets cross-apply to all areas of life. Mental toughness is a key component to being successful. Yes, even for writers.

So I figured I would tinker with this and make it more directly apply to writers and what we must do (or not do) if we long to do well in this career. Thus, today we are going to discuss 13 Things Mentally Strong Writers Don’t Do.

#1 They don’t waste time on self-pity.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of David Rogers
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of David Rogers

This is a tough job with more than its fair share of rejection and insult. Even once we are successfully published, most people don’t take our job seriously. It’s easy to get trapped in doubt and negative self-talk when, for the 10,000th time a stranger asks you what you do and you tell them you’re a writer and their answer is, “No, I meant your real job.”

Mentally strong writers kick the dust from their feet and move on.

Ruminating over rejection letters, bad reviews, blog trolls or insensitive family members wastes valuable creative energy and is toxic to the muse.

#2 They don’t give away their locus of control.

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We are in charge of our attitude and for doing the work. This means we are going to have to get really good at setting emotional and physical boundaries. Successful writers guard their writing time and guard their creative energy. They also know they are the only ones in charge of their dreams.

Years ago, when I decided to go pro as a writer, I had a church elder scoff at me and essentially tell me that I had a better chance of being hit by lightning than being a successful author. I went home, dusted off the resume and was about to give up and get a “real” job when I realized he was not the boss of me. He wasn’t God and didn’t know everything. Instead of giving up, I threw every ounce of energy into proving him wrong.

Really glad I did 😉 .

#3 They don’t hide from change.

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This has been especially critical in the past decade as the digital revolution has changed everything we thought we knew about the industry. A business that hadn’t changed much in over a hundred years was rendered unrecognizable in the span of 6 years.

This world changes fast and we can harness the wave and ride it, or let it toss us into the reefs and drown us.

#4 They don’t focus on what they can’t control.

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We can’t control Amazon’s rules or Smashwords’ terms of service. We can’t control whether an agent accepts us. We can’t control whether Barnes & Noble lives or dies.

We can control getting the words on the page. We can control building a brand capable of driving book sales. I see a lot of writers wasting a lot of energy over issues where they don’t have any control. That energy is better used elsewhere.

#5 They don’t try to please everyone.

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No one will ever write the perfect book that everyone reader loves. This is one of the dangers of critique groups. We work and rework and rework trying to take everyone’s suggestions and all we end up with is an unmarketable mess known as the Book By Committee (a.k.a. Franken-Novel).

Mentally strong writers also realize they can’t please everyone on the home front. Some friends/family are just going to have to get used to you not being available for everything and anything.

#6 They don’t fear taking calculated risks.

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Fortune favors the bold. If you’ve shopped that first book four years and no agent or publisher has signed it? You might want to try self-publishing. Let it go and move forward and let your work be tested. If it sucks? Pull it and learn. But maybe it doesn’t suck.

I had one of the top agents in NYC for my book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital WorldHe couldn’t sell it because NY feared change, but good thing I didn’t. My book has risen to become the definitive guide for authors who want to create an on-line brand and platform and actually have time left to write lots of books.

RoM is still as relevant today as the day I published it, but where would it be had I feared change and waited on permission?

#7 They don’t dwell on the past.

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This can be a tough one. We are wired to learn from failure but failure, frankly, is not pleasant. I’ve made tons of mistakes and in doing so? Learned a lot of ways NOT to do things. There was a time I did too much crying over what I did wrong, of what I’d failed to see. Of people I’d allowed to take advantage of me.

But this is a fruitless use of energy. Energy that can better be used elsewhere.

Dwelling on the past might mean we are holding onto a manuscript we need to just stick in a drawer. Maybe that book was a learning curve and never meant to be published. We can spend another 5 years rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic or we can use what we learned and write more books and better books.

#8 They don’t make the same mistakes over and over.

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Notice in #7 I pointed out we needed to learn from the past. Sure, don’t camp out there but also? Take good notes. I think it is a fallacy to tell writers that the more they write the better they will get.

That is only half-true.

There has to be some guidance and reflection and readjustment. Sort of like if I swing a golf club 10,000 times and do it with terrible form, I won’t be playing pro golf but I likely WILL have blown disks.

If your writing isn’t working? Take classes, get feedback from experts on your areas of weakness. Pros in ALL fields do this yet we writers are notorious for believing if we need help or take classes we aren’t “talented”. That is bunk. Pro athletes have coaches and trainers. Pro musicians go study in conservatories. Pros learn where they can do better and get to work.

#9 They don’t resent other writers’ successes.

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Jealousy is one of many emotions all of us will feel in this profession. It is natural. Feel it then move through it and use it. The great part about our profession is we are really not in competition with other writers. Books are not so cost-prohibitive readers won’t buy more than one.

Just realize success will come in due time and channel envy into inspiration.

#10 They don’t give up after the first failure.

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Or even the 100th. Want to feel better? Check out 20 Brilliant Authors Whose Work was Initially Rejected.

#11 They don’t fear alone time.

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Writers have historically done better at this since many of us are natural introverts. But social media has altered our profession and it is really easy to get caught up in FB drama or Twitter rants and fail to spend enough time alone. We need alone time not just for writing. We need that quiet time of reflection to power up the muse and also to take stock of mistakes and learn to do it better the next time.

#12 They don’t feel the world owes them anything.

All of us have read books that made us go, “WTH? WHY is THAT book a runaway hit?” We have also probably read other books and said, “Why not THIS book? This book is awesome and yet it isn’t popular!” The problem with publishing is it is not a meritocracy.

No one owes us anything, not even a book sale. The more we go back to those earlier habits like focusing on what we can control, the better. I’ve run into more than a couple pissed off resentful writers because the book isn’t selling despite strong reviews and heavy marketing. Again, anger is energy better used to write the next book.

#13 They don’t expect immediate results.

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This is a BIG one. It is very unusual for the first book to be a runaway success. Most authors (traditionally and nontraditionally published) only start really seeing results with compounded sales. Three books seems to be a minimum.

The same thing goes for an author blog. Aside from the actual books there is no stronger way to build a brand and a platform (see class on this below) but a blog is not going to take off overnight. It will take time and consistency….then it will seem to take off overnight.

I blogged to the ether for over a year and a half until I had ONE post that changed everything. One post went viral BUT since I already had hundreds of posts in my archives, I gained MAD subscribers.

Who would have subscribed though if I had ten posts I’d long abandoned to the spam bots?

What are your thoughts? Have you developed better mental toughness over the years? How did you do it? Do you think toughness trumps talent? Do you still struggle with some of these? I know I do. I am a work in progress, too!

I love hearing from you!

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

TREAT YOUR MUSE!!!! 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 because the holidays are crazy? No excuses! Take time to be good to yourself! All you need is an internet connection!

How to Get Your Book Made Into Film

Class Title: How to Get Your Book Made Into Film
Instructor: Writer/Producer Joel Eisenberg
Price: $45 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: WEDNESDAY November 30th, 2016 1:00 PM E.S.T. to 3:00 P.M. EST

How do you cull the essence of your novel into a feature film? How do you expand your short story for a television series? Finally, when the written adaptation is complete, how do you navigate the Hollywood maze for real money and credits?

Joel Eisenberg has been there. As an independent producer of over 20 years, Joel has developed content or sold projects to networks such as TNT, CBS-Decades, FOX Studios, Ovation TV and more. As the former head of EMO Films at Paramount Studios, Joel is also a professional networker, having hosted entertainment network events at the Paramount lot, as well as Warner Brothers, Sunset-Gower Studios and more. His work has been featured in many media outlets, including CNN, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, NBC, The Los Angeles Times, TV Guide and even Fangoria.

Important Class for After NaNoWriMo! You might have a New Year’s Resolution to query a novel. Doesn’t matter. Treat yourself to an early Christmas present!

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

Class Title: Pitch Perfect—How To Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS
Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $45 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: FRIDAY December 2nd, 2015 7:00 PM E.S.T. to 9:00 P.M. EST

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. Synopses are often requested by agents and editors and it is tough not to feel the need to include every last little detail. Synopses are great for not only keeping your writing on track, but also for pitching your next book and your next to that agent of your choice.

This class will help you learn the fundamentals of writing a query letter and a synopsis. What you must include and what doesn’t belong.

So make your writing pitch perfect with these two skills!

Plotting for Dummies

Class Title: Plotting for Dummies
Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $35 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: SATURDAY December 3rd, 2016 2:30 PM E.S.T. to 4:30 P.M. EST

Are you tired of starting book after book only to lose steam and be unable to finish? Do you finish, but then keep getting rejected? Do you finish, but it takes an ungodly amount of time? Sure, great you land an agent for your book, but you don’t have FIVE YEARS to write the next one?

This class is here to help. The writers who are making an excellent income are not doing it off ONE book, rather they are harnessing the power of compounded sales. This class is designed to help you learn to plot leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner (even for PANTSERS!)

Learn the basic elements of plot, various plotting techniques, how to test your seed idea to see if it is even strong enough to be a novel and MORE!

Blogging for Authors

Class Title: Blogging for Authors
Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $50 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: FRIDAY December 9th, 7:00 PM E.S.T. to 9:00 P.M. EST

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

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Consumers and business models have all changed drastically in the past ten years. This demands that we as authors change as well. There were many elements we never had to think about twenty years ago. It was an agent/editor’s job to think about the consumer climate and whether or not our book would be something readers would want to buy.

There have always been writers too clever for their own good, but in the old model, likely they met with enough rejection to 1) give up 2) rewrite or 3) try again. These days? The onus is on us to give readers what they want.

We have to remember whether it is the book or the blog or even social media, that WE are not important. It is all about the reader and what he/she wants to consume.

A Tale of Two Parsnips

I remember being in NYC for Thrillerfest. It was our final day in the city and we were celebrating a member of our group’s birthday. Since I have a bazillion food allergies, we made plans to eat at a ritzy Asian-Australian “fusion” restaurant and the woman on the phone assured me they could accommodate.

This was a super fancy restaurant and the chef had even once won Iron Chef, so I didn’t eat that day, preparing for my first experience with fine NYC dining.

We get to the ordering and…*screeching brakes*

The chef refused to modify any of the dishes.

He claimed that removing the mashed potatoes (which contained dairy) “ruined the aesthetics of the dish.”

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I wish I were joking.

The waitress kept continually offering me the parsnip soup. I was ravenous and, finally, after fifteen times being offered soup I didn’t want? I lost my temper, scared the waitress and someone somehow convinced the kitchen to create an aesthetically unbalanced plate before I came back there and made an aesthetically unbalanced chef.

Texans. Can dress them up. Can’t take them anywhere.

But this story illustrates my point. We shouldn’t keep trying to serve others something they don’t want to consume.

***Side note: The next year when I returned to NYC? That restaurant was out of business.

Give Customers What They Want to Consume

But I carefully craft all my automated, preprogrammed tweets.

Great, you dressed it up, but it is STILL SPAM.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Neil Motteram
Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Neil Motteram

If I don’t want to talk to a robot? Why would other people? If I hate spam? Why serve it? If I loathe being force-added to groups and newsletters and it ticks me off? Might not be a good plan to do to others.

When I wrote my social media book, it was because all the books out there were highly technical, boring and made me want to throw myself in traffic. I knew I couldn’t be alone. Why not write a book that was useful and fun? Repackage a boring topic into something people enjoyed?

***That’s thinking like an entrepreneur, btw ;).

Same with fiction. I didn’t like being forced to read The Great Gatsby (three times too many), so why write books similar to so many of the classics most of us only read because we had to? Guess what? Entertainers are “real” writers, too.

And inevitably I get an intellectual who wants to argue and it’s fine. If we want to write a modern version of Moby Dick, no one will stop us. If we want to write perspicacious prose only a handful of intelligentcia “get”? Write away!

Just don’t complain about sales numbers.

Readers, by and large, don’t want us to show off how clever we are. They want a good story.

Give Readers What They Want In a WAY They Want

We writers can be a hopelessly romantic lot. I get it. We love bookstores and the feel of paper. We don’t mind toting around a hardback so thick we could brain mugger with it. But WE are not everyone. Humans are busy and distracted and they dig e-books and audio and that is a GOOD thing.

I still have no idea why writers are even taking sides on this issue. If my readers want my stories acted out in interpretive dance? They prefer jazz hands over paper? And that could be profitable enough to finance me continuing to write?

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Presentation Matters

Every Christmas, Spawn opens his new toys then we spend the next hour with scissors and kitchen knives trying to break past all the anti-theft crap.

This is how info-dump, fish heads, needless prologues and extraneous flashbacks feel to readers. We have to get past so much stuff to get to what we want, that we move on to novels that don’t make us work so hard to get to the STORY.

One of the reasons I emphasize understanding the craft of writing is that novel/story structure is mythic. There is actually evidence that narrative structure is hardwired into the human brain. Yes, we can break rules and deviate, but we do this too much? We confuse the reader. It’s like serving them a blue steak. Blue steak is certainly clever. And, it could taste great.

But our minds won’t let us eat and enjoy something so very wrong.

But look how CLEVER it is! Really, it's YUMMY.
But look how CLEVER it is! Really, it’s YUMMY.

Keep Writing

Good books are good books, but I’ll be blunt. There are outside factors we can never anticipate.

I actually have a theory that this is part of why 50 Shades of Grey took off when it did. It was racy, mindless junk food that put readers in a world where someone else told them what to do (allowing them to escape from a real world where they have NO idea what to do). Whether the book was good, bad, or terrible made little difference. It clearly filled a need and a market emerged.

E.L. James gave consumers what they wanted.

This is why writing more books is critical. Maybe Book One isn’t selling well today, but in a digital world where shelf space is infinite? Might do better next year. We get better the more we cook write, and odds are, if we do it enough, we’ll discover our readers and they’ll discover us.

Have you ever had someone try to keep giving you something you DIDN’T WANT? A book? Food at a restaurant, bad mojo at a clothing store? Two words. Skinny jeans. Any sociological theories about the success of 50 Shades? Come on! Let’s play armchair psychiatrist! I am not a doctor, but play one on the Internet :D.

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of AUGUST, 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! 

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!

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.

Sign up early for $10 OFF!!!

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist September 2nd–September 2nd

All fiction must have a core antagonist. The antagonist is the reason for the story problem, but the term “antagonist” can be highly confusing. Without a proper grasp of how to use antagonists, the plot can become a wandering nightmare for the author and the reader.

This class will help you understand how to create solid story problems (even those writing literary fiction) and then give you the skills to layer conflict internally and externally.

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist Gold

This is a personal workshop to make sure you have a clear story problem. And, if you don’t? I’ll help you create one and tell the story you want to tell. This is done by phone/virtual classroom and by appointment. Expect to block off at least a couple hours.

Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line

September 7th

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.

Blogging for Authors

September 16th

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.

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 Ken.
Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Ken.

Very often when I write about brand and platform, writers assume I am talking about promotion and marketing (ads) and that is not only a false assumption, it can be a fatal one. When we hop onto Twitter or Facebook and are barraged with book spam, a big reason it annoys us (though not the only) is because the author is engaging in these activities with no solid brand or platform.

It then either becomes white noise (invisible) or worse an irritation (negative branding). Writers trying to create a brand by serving up copious book promotion will have a brand all right. The brand of self-serving asshat.

The sight of the author’s face or book might even be enough to spike our blood pressure. We are far more likely to block than buy.

Why? What went wrong?

We have to look at what a brand actually IS.

What’s in a Name?

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Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Pierre Lognoul

The formula for a brand is simple:

NAME + PRODUCT + EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE

The last part is critical. In fact it might be the most critical.

Why do you think corporate empires pay so much for image consultants? Sure, Mylan once had a great reputation as a pharmaceutical company until they got greedy and decided to line their pockets at consumers’ expense.

Three years ago if we heard the term “epi-pen” we might have experienced good emotions. Oh it is a life-saving drug. Helping kids with peanut allergies. My cousin had an epi-pen and it saved her life.

Nowadays? Different story. Once we found out the top execs have been giving themselves HUGE pay raises while hiking the cost of the only drug of this kind from $100 in 2007 to over $600 today?

Consumers are now seeing RED.

Seriously all it will take is one competitor to offer something comparable and it might just be enough to bury Mylan because greed is now part of their brand. That will be a tough stain to remove.

Even though they had an amazing product, they took advantage of having a monopoly and fattened their paychecks. I don’t know if there is a PR firm who can ever undo that damage. I’m fairly sure they’re going to be relegated to the Food Lion Dimension of Shame.

This example is to point out how important emotional experiences with a brand can be, that it has never been just the product.

It isn’t just about a good book anymore.

Why Are Brands So Important?

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Most of us don’t have time to research each and every purchasing decision and thus, we as consumers, are prone to rely heavily on brands. Brands let us know what to expect.

When we buy Dolce & Gabbana shoes, we expect a certain quality. We go off the name and do far less inspecting and road-testing than we would for a designer/manufacturer we’d never heard of.

We are willing to order ahead of time and pay full price and even ridiculous prices for Coach, Ralph Lauren, Prada, Versace, Harley Davidson, Porsche, BMW, Mac Computers, John Deer, etc. So on and so forth.

Starbucks is hardly the best coffee, yet they’ve become almost synonymous with “coffee.” They also have branded a “coffee experience.”

But all of these companies (brands) did the same thing. They began with a name. Of course the name means nothing without a product. The name Harley Davidson would be just a name unless it came with motorcycles. But a name and a product alone are not enough.

Harley Davidson then had to go about crafting a unique emotional experience that was unlike its competition.

All of these brands we love have something in common, though. They built the brand and the platform first. Then any advertising or promotion is already advertising an existing brand. When we get a flyer that Levis are on sale, we know what Levis are. How do we know what they are? Levis is a brand.

All of these companies also have a platform.

What is a Platform?

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Alex Santosa.
Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Alex Santosa.

Platform is tethered inextricably with brand. If brand is the product, then platform consists of those most likely to consume that product because they emotionally identify with the brand.

Trust me, Harley Davison is not worried about consumers who love Vespas. Sure, they are both motorized bikes, but they are selling vastly demographics and experiences.

Authors are doing the same.

We know who Stephen King is because of his brand. Because of his brand (tons of books) we know if we are part of his platform or we aren’t. If we are the type of reader who loves a sweet romance? King isn’t trying to court us. Why? We might know his brand, but we are not part of his platform.

In the old days, there was only one way to create a brand (and consequently a platform) and that was the books. Lots and lots of books (brand) cultivated a body of people who liked our writing/voice (platform). Today that is still a great plan. With so much junk floating around, when readers find a writer they enjoy, they stick like glue.

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

This is one of the main reasons that we need to keep writing. Stop promoting ONE book. ONE book is not enough to create a strong brand/platform.

Remember:

A brand is a collection of emotional experiences.

A platform is simply those who will enjoy that experience.

Modern writers hold the advantage here.

Before the digital age, it was practically impossible to create a brand outside of the books, because the book was the only source of emotional experiences with the author.

Readers rarely had contact with an author beyond the books. Book signings, maybe magazine or radio interviews gave only slight glimpses of the author beyond the book. Today, with social media? That is no longer the case. Every blog, tweet, post, video and interaction serve to create the overall brand.

This is how bloggers like Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess) were able to become runaway successes. Lawson already had a huge fan base from her blogs and her Twitter following before the first book was ever released.

Since we are writers our product is our words. This is how blogging can become such a vital part of our brand. But beyond that, it is also going out on social media (platform of your choice) and connecting. Create a positive emotion that goes hand in hand with our name. 

Hint: Spamming the crap out of people does NOT create a positive experience.

Write More Books

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Thus, whenever I mention building a brand/platform I’m in no way talking about promoting or advertising. Those are separate activities that come later and their success will rest largely on how well we’ve done our job with the brand/platform.

Once we realize this, we can breathe easier and know it is OKAY to keep writing books even if we have no mega-super-duper promotion/marketing/advertising campaign for that first book. It is okay to blog or even just hang out on social media connecting. That is a VITAL part of our job and if we skip it, then any marketing later will fall on deaf ears. In fact premature promotion can actually harm or even KILL a brand.

So relax 😀 .

What are your thoughts? Do you feel a little better that you don’t need to rush out with an ad campaign? Did this clear up the differences in brand and platform versus promotion?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of AUGUST, 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! Now including a log-line class! Can you tell me what your book is about in ONE sentence? If you can’t SIGN UP.

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

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist September 2nd–September 2nd

All fiction must have a core antagonist. The antagonist is the reason for the story problem, but the term “antagonist” can be highly confusing. Without a proper grasp of how to use antagonists, the plot can become a wandering nightmare for the author and the reader.

This class will help you understand how to create solid story problems (even those writing literary fiction) and then give you the skills to layer conflict internally and externally.

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist Gold

This is a personal workshop to make sure you have a clear story problem. And, if you don’t? I’ll help you create one and tell the story you want to tell. This is done by phone/virtual classroom and by appointment. Expect to block off at least a couple hours.

Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line

September 7th

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.

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 Mike Licht
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

I am a huge fan of writers having a blog, but one of the first arguments I get is, “But I did have a blog and it did nothing.” I hear your pain. We live in a world of instant gratification and often it is why we are more inclined to post content on our Facebook or Twitter instead. Instantly we can see other people sharing and responding and it feels oh so good.

The blog? Meh.

The problem, however, is that any “benefit” from Facebook or Twitter evaporates almost as soon as it appears whereas the blog (if we stick to it) will keep giving us rewards for years to come.

Reframe Your Goal

Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons
Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons

I will give you tips for growing your author blog here in a minute, but a simple mental shift will help keep you pumped up in the meantime. My tips can’t help unless you keep blogging.

Instead of focusing on number of followers, I looked at my blog as my author training. Writing is a tough job and most people won’t make it because of one crucial factor…they want a job. Writing is not a “job.” We don’t clock in and out and have some authority figure who tells us what to do.

We can work when we want and how much we want. No one is going to write us up and fire us if we spend all day looking at kitten videos instead of working.

Most adults have been trained in structured environments like school or the workplace. Thus, when they step out into something where they are their own boss? They struggle. It’s why most entrepreneurs fail as well. They never reach their potential because they lack the critical ingredient necessary—self-mastery.

Thus when I began blogging, I knew I had a lot of bad habits. Blogging would teach me to be beholden to deadlines. Perfect is the enemy of the good, so I would learn to let go and ship. I could relax. It didn’t have to be worthy of a Pulitzer. It was just a blog. Blogging could help me learn to write leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner.

Posts that once took half a day now take an hour. Instead of chasing followers, I focused on becoming a stronger writer.

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Blogging would help me stretch those word count muscles. I used to panic at the idea of 1000 words a day and now I can knock that out in about 45 minutes. Blogging taught me to process, analyze and then articulate my thoughts seamlessly (useful for writing books, too). No amount of sharing or liking on Facebook would give me this skill.

Blogging made social media mentally active, instead of me lazily camping out in passivity. Blogging strengthened the muse and made me a better storyteller.

It taught me that content and ideas were literally everywhere. 

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But while there are countless benefits to writers, we do still want to eventually gain traffic. Duh.

Simply blogging into the ether forever was not exactly a bright plan. So, when I kept blogging and getting nowhere, I began to study blogs. What blogs did well? What blogs garnered hundreds of comments? What blogs had tens of thousands of subscribers? What were they doing that I could learn from?

Elements of a Great Blog

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Countless people start blogs that just get left abandoned in cyberspace, yet the elements of an excellent blog are pretty simple. If your blog is not doing well, often some small changes can make a huge difference.

Simple is Best

Content does matter, but packaging is key. We could have a blog so brilliant angels weep, but if no one reads it?

Yeah.

We must always remember that a blog is for the reader and not for us. When I started out, I became far too fascinated with all the cool layouts and color-schemes. When I was writing my blog, I was in the dashboard area which is, of course, black letters on a white page.

Though I thought that black page with red lettering was so edgy and dark and cool, I might as well have been tossing my readers’ eyes into a digital iron maiden.

Simple and clean is best. Our content is what should be the focus, not a bunch of colorful doodads. Remember to also test how your blog looks on a smartphone. Get an idea of how the post looks on any number of devices your reader might use.

The background we choose for a computer, might be a nightmare when trying to read on a phone.

Break Up that Space

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Many people don’t truly read blogs, they scan them. Yes, my blogs go longer because often I also give examples (I.e. the post about great description). But, because I use bullet points, those who simply want to scan can gain plenty (and the examples are there for folks who want more).

But I have seem comparably short blogs (500 words) that appeared more daunting than my 1300 word posts simply because the writer failed to break up the text. They left NO white space.

Bullet points, white space, headers, and photographs are key. When we have huge blocks of text in 10 point font? Many potential readers will just move on.

Keep Blogging

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Many people start a blog then quit before they ever get to enjoy a harvest. Blogs take time. We can either keep pouring our energy into instant gratification (Facebook) or we can be patient.

Eventually a blog that is generating thousands of hits per day is not generating those visits off the post for that day. Rather, search engines reward attendance. Additionally, evergreen content (content that is always salient) is being picked up through web searches. This is why building archives is extremely valuable.

I still gain new followers from posts I published years ago.

And the truth is, when my blog started being successful was right about the time that I’d accumulated a substantial archive (around 200 posts). Then I was no longer at the mercy of catching attention with the one post just published, I was beginning to gain ROI from the other 199 posts. I started enjoying compounded returns.

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Blogging is about appreciating the long tail, but frankly so is being an author. Just like most bloggers aren’t going to get fame and success with one post, most writers won’t hit it big with one book. We must learn to keep our heads down, to keep putting one foot in front of the other and trust the process.

There is so much more to having a great author blog, so I hope you will check out my Blogging for Authors class!

What are your thoughts? Do you see posts written on wild backgrounds and weird fonts and just run away? Have you ever run across a great post, only to realize the blog had been abandoned?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of AUGUST, 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! Now including a log-line class! Can you tell me what your book is about in ONE sentence? If you can’t SIGN UP.

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

Blogging for Authors  (August 26th)

This class will teach you all you need to know to start an author blog good for going the distance. Additionally I would also recommend the class offered earlier that same week (August 22nd) Branding for Authors to help you with the BIG picture. These classes will benefit you greatly because most blogs will fail because writers waste a lot of time with stuff that won’t work and never will and that wastes a lot of time.

I am here to help with that 😉 .

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist September 2nd–September 2nd

All fiction must have a core antagonist. The antagonist is the reason for the story problem, but the term “antagonist” can be highly confusing. Without a proper grasp of how to use antagonists, the plot can become a wandering nightmare for the author and the reader.

This class will help you understand how to create solid story problems (even those writing literary fiction) and then give you the skills to layer conflict internally and externally.

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist Gold

This is a personal workshop to make sure you have a clear story problem. And, if you don’t? I’ll help you create one and tell the story you want to tell. This is done by phone/virtual classroom and by appointment. Expect to block off at least a couple hours.

Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line

September 7th

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.

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