Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: sales

A couple weeks ago, I started The Road to Success series with The Road to Success Part One–What Kind of Author are You? Then I apparently saw something shiny, and so last week we talked–passionately–about Blog Trolls. How to spot them and how to handle them. Thus, I thought it would be a nifty idea to get back on track with this series. Today we are going to talk about book sales.

*cringes* I feel your pain, but as professionals we do need to talk about this stuff.

I’ve been doing this “social media for authors thing” for quite some time and have taught thousands of people. In my experience, most writers, in the face of having to “sell books” have fairly predictable reactions. They either unwittingly turn into spam bots because they are trying to be “good little marketers”…or they run away screaming to the nearest liquor store. Those remaining either live in denial that writers don’t need to know about sales…or they change the subject to Chris Evan’s pecs.

Okay. Sally forth. Nothing to see.

So today I am gonna help y’all out, no matter what your opinion of book sales happens to be. I am going to give a little insight that will save tons of time, effort and embarrassment.

First, a little story….

Years ago, when I was in college at T.C.U., I was blessed enough to get a job at Successories. They were a wonderful company that treated their people as if they mattered, and it didn’t hurt that they paid better than most retail jobs. I loved going to work there because I always felt that I was serving some higher purpose. What could be a better job than helping people be inspired? To reach for the stars? A motivational store is like Disney Land to an ENFP.

The thing about working in a mall is that there can be a lot of down time, especially during the week. I am not a person to be idle, so after everything was sparkly clean and neat and organized, I would read…until I’d read every book in the store. I read all kinds of stuff. I read everything they had by Zig Ziglar, Vince Lombardi, Anthony Robbins, Dale Carnegie and on and on. I studied Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin. I read books about leadership, sales, business and marketing. I read every quote book until I knew them by heart.

Why did I do this? Aside from filling in the long hours of nothing, I did it with a motive to serve. See, every worried mom who came in looking for the perfect graduation gift, every employee looking for the right poster to hang in the employee lounge, and every teacher hoping to inspire her kids to reach higher got precisely the perfect tool for the job. When I came to work for this store, the sales had been so low that it was on the block to be closed. Within two months, we had the highest sales in the region.

So why am I talking about this and why does it matter?

MOTIVE.

When it comes to sales, any kind of sales, people can sense motive. I didn’t make any commission off those sales at Successories. I didn’t have daily quotas to meet. In fact, I think the company would have probably been fine if I just showed up on time, kept the place clean and didn’t steal out of the cash register.

Yet, I did more.

Not because they made me or threatened me, but because I wanted to serve. I loved the company and loved their products (still do) and I longed to help because I liked THEM. In serving others and being authentically interested in others, I had the highest sales, because customers liked ME.

Was my goal the highest sales? No. My goal was to help others, and, by helping others, the end result was that I had the highest sales. Customers sensed that my objective was to serve them and they responded favorably with purchases.

Zig Ziglar was one of my favorites to read when I worked there. My favorite quote by him is, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” In fact, this quote affected me so powerfully that I base all of my WANA teachings on this maxim. So how does motive affect an author’s approach to social media?

Brave New Publishing World

These days a lot of authors are going the indie route or even self-publishing, and that is fantastic. Yet, when you are the sole person who can make or break your book sales, it is easy to fixate on sales numbers. This is where things can go sideways, especially in the business of selling books. People can sense a motive. If our motive is primarily to sell more books, other people sense that and it turns people off.

Why do you think we dissect everything a car salesman says? Every compliment he gives us is like a move on a chess board. It is a maneuvering to part us from our hard-earned cash.  We think, “This dude wants my money and that’s the only reason he’s being nice” whether that is the truth or not.

NO ONE cuts the car sales guy a break.

Books are Not Tacos, and Writers are Not Car Insurance

One of the reasons I feel a lot of self-published authors have gotten a bad reputation is due to their approach to book sales. I cannot count the number of times I received a simply beautiful compliment, and, when I responded favorably…I immediately was sent a link or a DM to buy this writer’s book or “Like” their fan page. What they call “good marketing” I felt as “emotional manipulation.”

Tactics like this are a perversion of Dale Carnegie. Tactics like these make me feel used. They make me feel duped. It isn’t a pleasant emotional experience so it certainly isn’t an experience I long to share, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this. I have no want or need for phoney-boloney compliments to get to my wallet.

So the trick in social networking is to be able to build a platform that will translate into sales…without thinking about the sales. I admit, the WANA way is a challenge and can be quite counter-intuitive…but it works. Why does it work? Because we are selling to flesh-and-blood-people. WANA methods appreciate the WHY behind the BUY:

People don’t buy for logical reasons, they buy for emotional reasons. ~Zig Ziglar

To be able to sell books, we must understand that what will sell non-fiction will NOT work for fiction. There is a good reason that The South Beach Diet can effectively use an infomercial, but a novel cannot.

Why is this? They are two different types of products selling to fill two very different needs.

Why do readers buy fiction?

One of the reasons readers are so loyal to authors is because of how that author’s stories made them feel. James Rollins makes me feel like I’ve had an exciting adventure. Sandra Brown makes me feel love is worth fighting for. Amy Tan makes me feel hope and power. J.K. Rowling’s stories make me feel heroic.

Fiction authors are brokers of passionate emotion.

This was one of the reasons that—before social media—it was impossible to build a platform for fiction unless one already had a book in print. WHY? Because the author had no way of making an audience feel anything because the book wasn’t yet in print. There was no effective way to attach an emotional context to the product before it hit shelves.

Why do readers buy non-fiction?

On the other hand, non-fiction authors are selling to solve a problem or to educate or inform. They are selling a method, a service, a diet, a trend. Non-fiction authors are brokers of knowledge. Who cares if the diet book makes me feel a certain way? I care that it can give me thighs like Heidi Klum. Results are all that matter. Consumers buy to LEARN. This is why a logical, strategic, cerebral approach will sell books.

Why does this difference matter?

Non-fiction authors deal information and solutions. Fiction authors? You guys are selling an emotional experience. People read fiction to feel passion, love, triumph, happy, moved, inspired. They buy to FEEL.

To sell an emotional product, one must have an emotional approach, and if others (potential readers) enjoy the emotional experience we bring to social media, they are more likely to trust the emotional experience we bring to the page.

These days consumers are being BLITZED with a zillion choices, so to cull through them, often we will default to the Old School methods…we go off our gut and choose who makes us “feel” a certain way. Why do you think even insurance companies like Geico and Allstate try so hard to make us laugh with funny commercials? Even they appreciate how important emotion has become in this digital age.

How does this work for fiction authors?

Protagonists (that a reader has to spend a minimum of 12-15 hours with in a novel) are very often a reflection of the author. Subconsciously we (humans) know this. Thus, it stands to reason that, if the author is pushy, cold, self-centered and unlikable, there is a part of us that expects their “hero” will be more of the same…so we steer clear.

Yet, conversely, if a writer can be someone we like and root for in person, we are more likely to feel good about spending time with this writer’s protagonist. We are going to assume that if we like the author, then we will like her books. And, if the book isn’t all that great, we will still feel good about the purchase because we like the author. It may not make logical sense, but since when have emotions been logical?

This is one of the reasons good author blogs can be such powerful drivers for sales. Readers are more likely to buy from an author who has already provided a positive emotional experience (if not a book, then a thoughtful comment, a compliment, a fun & witty blog). In fact, I would be so bold as to say that they will choose this author ahead of authors who are rude or absentee. This is why using automation is dangerous. It makes potential readers associate our names with being spammed.

How can we speak a “heart language” in a digital world?

Every tweet, every blog post, every comment is an opportunity to create a positive emotional experience. This might not translate into instant sales (which is why some writers get twitchy) but it will pay off in the long-run.

Likeability is good social media sense for any kind of author.

The key to being successful in social media rests in the exponential…NOT the linear. Social media is NOT direct sales. We are wanting more than to connect to one person. We are wanting to connect and then have THAT person SHARE our information with THEIR networks. If that doesn’t happen, it is virtually impossible to be successful with social media.

How do we do this? We do this the same way humans have for tens of thousands of years. We are likable. People feel good when they are around us. We are now in the digital age and now it IS possible to attach an emotional context capable of driving sales. Consumers judge the book by the way they feel about the author.

This isn’t that hard, but often writers panic that they aren’t being good responsible little marketers if “every tweet doesn’t serve a business agenda.” Every tweet that serves a business agenda is, by definition, spam. People create fake e-mail accounts to avoid that stuff, so why serve it?

Understand the why behind the buy. People are on Twitter and Facebook to make friends, connect and to have fun. If they wanted a non-stop commercial to buy more stuff they’d be on the Home Shopping Network, not the social network.

So what are your thoughts? Do you disagree? Agree? I don’t know about you guys, but I buy more books than I can ever read…usually to support writers I like. What about you guys? Do you do the same?

Does an author’s likability not matter? Would you buy a book you knew was not that great to support a writer you loved as a person? Have you ever liked an author’s books, but then met him/her on social media and they were a horse’s butt? Did this keep you from buying books, even if the author was an excellent writer (no need to name names, btw)? Will you buy from a writer who is a phoney? Does it not matter and you only care about story?

Come on! Let’s play armchair psychiatrist.

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!

Last Week’s Winner of 5-Page Critique is Ed Griffin. Please send your 1250 word Word document to author kristen dot lamb at g mail dot com. Congratulations.

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!

This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness

You guys simply MUST follow Porter Anderson’s Writing on the Ether. This is a fantastic way of keeping on top of all the changes and trends in our industry. Follow him @Porter_Anderson. One of the best tweeps in the Twitterverse and a tremendous resource.

Since you will already be at Jane Friedman’s place, seriously stay and check out her blogs. LOVE this one How to Know if Your Literary Agent is Any Good

One of my favorite new bloggers on the scene is Ingrid Schaffenburg. She is running a really amazing series on Dreams. Following dreams, defining dreams, reaching dreams. It is all just simply…awesome. But I want all of you guys to realize your dreams so this gets me excited.

What to know how to get more traffic to your blog? Great post here.

5 Screenwriting Tips that Will Make Any Story Better by Jeff Goins

Have you ever had a writer epiphany? Over at Wordbitches. Love their blog.

And you guys KNOW I am a total fangirl of Chuck Wendig. Seriously, he cannot start a writer cult or I might just pack some Nikes and gray PJs. The man is AWESOME and his blogs are laugh-out-loud amazing. DO NOT drink liquids or suck on hard candy while reading…unless you have a thing for choking. He is THAT funny. Fave post of late? 25 Things Writers Should Start Doing

Fantastic post by Elizabeth Craig about how to eliminate word echoes in our manuscripts. Great tips I’d never heard or thought about.

Truthiness–Raising the Bar in the Blogosphere by August MacLaughlin

I know we are supposed to be talking about the third person you need to know to be successful on social media–the Salesman. But, over the weekend my Great Aunt Iris (who might as well have been my grandmother we were so close) slipped into a coma and then passed away on Sunday morning. She had just turned 98, so yes it is sad, but it is amazing that she lived such a full and long life. Anyway, I have not had time to finish the Salesman post, so rather than rushing and slapping up a less-than-stellar blog, I decided to post a lesson from early this year.

Most of us have slept since Spring, so a refresher is always refreshing. *drum roll, snare*  Yes, I’ll be here all week. Drinks are half-price.

I have been doing social media for a number of years, and it has been wonderful to see how writers have embraced technology. I remember back in 2006 I had a hard enough time getting many writers to learn to use e-mail, let alone join Facebook.  Yet, it was really only in 2009 that I started thinking of myself as an expert. Namely I watched a lot of social media people teach tactics that were more likely to give writers permanent hair loss than anything. They were trying to overlay a Corporate America template on to a writer’s career. Not a good fit.

Kind of like watching me try to put on size zero skinny jeans…lots of grunting and pain and the end result ain’t pretty.

Anyway, writers finally did perk up to the fact that they needed to be on social media, yet we had an information vacuum. Many writers took off doing the best they could, and, in the process, made a lot of errors. Hey, I was one of them. Need I remind you of texaswriterchik?

*slaps forehead*

The thing is, I am teaching writers how to do this social media platform thing the correct way. This is all great and wonderful if you are new and haven’t started building. For others? I see the digital blood drain from your face when I give the bad news:

I’m sorry, but your platform needs major reconstructive surgery. I need to put your brand in a temporary coma so it doesn’t die while we do the transplants. Do you have insurance?

Some people suck it up, bite on some leather and resolve to get it over with. Others? Denial is more than a river in Africa.

I hear a lot of, “Writers just need to do what works for them.”

Yes….but, um, no.

 

I will use an example to illustrate. Say I want to make chocolate cake. My end goal is a chocolate cake. So I set out cooking, but I don’t want to use butter, and I don’t like eggs, and definitely no flour and I just can’t bring myself to use chocolate. Instead, I want to use vanilla pudding, and slices of bananas and top it off with vanilla wafer cookies and LOTS of whipped cream.

So you say, “Wait, but you aren’t making chocolate cake.”

And I say, “Well this is how I make chocolate cake.”

And you say, “But, you just made banana pudding. That’s NOT chocolate cake.”

And I get huffy and reply, “Stop judging me. Maybe YOU make chocolate cake differently, but everyone needs to do what works for them.”

You would think I was a lunatic. Yes, I made a dessert….but I didn’t make a chocolate cake.

If our end goal is to brand our name, which it should be…then there are right and wrong ways to go about this. My lessons are to make our name alone a bankable asset. Our NAME will have the power to drive book sales so we have more time to write, or prank call or even make origami monkeys.

There is a HUGE difference between having a social media presence and becoming a brand. And I know I am about to do some sacred cow-tipping, but it needs to be done.

My second book, Are You There, Blog? It’s Me Writer is a great book to teach you all you ever wanted to know about blogging to build an author brand. There is little point to contributing content to the Internet if it doesn’t build our brand.

Tweeting under a cutesy moniker. We have discussed this one before, but some people are new (here is the post). Every time we tweet, that is an “advertisement” that contributes to building our brand. The only acceptable Twitter handle is the name that will be on the front of our books. Period. If we are tweeting under @FairyGirl, we are contributing great content—blogs, articles, conversation—but we have the WRONG name top-of-mind.  Readers cannot buy a book by Fairy Girl, so all that tweeting is wasted effort.

Writing on Group Blogs at the Expense of Our Author Blog I have run into writers who were very prolific, contributing to multiple group blogs. Group blogs are wonderful. They can help us learn to blog better and can offer accountability. Yet, if we are writing for three different group blogs, but then not blogging on our own site? That is BAD. Group blogs will not brand an individual author. Yes, we will have a social media presence…but that isn’t a brand.

I read a lot of WONDERFUL group blogs, but the name of the group is what will be top of mind. Writers in the Storm, Adventures in Children’s Publishing, and Writer Unboxed are three of the best group blogs, but I would be hard-pressed to give the names of the contributors. And, the ones I can name have their own separate blogs that buttress their brand.

I care very much about you guys, and I want all of you to be successful. But part of caring is giving the truth. When we decide to go from hobbyist to professional, we sometimes have to make the tough choices. We have to say no to friends, family, kids and pets. We have to spend time working when we would rather play. If we are contributing to a bunch of group blogs, but our own blog is infested with dust bunnies and spam bots? We might need to make a choice. Hang out with friends? Or build our career?

Our own brand is paramount. The more bankable our name, the more books we sell. The more books we sell, the more successful (and enjoyable) our writing career will be.

There are right ways and wrong ways and smart ways to build a brand. Can we brand ourselves by only blogging on group blogs? Sure. Anything is possible. I could theoretically take I-35 south from Texas and get to Canada. It involves a very tedious journey through South America over Antarctica, up the other side of the globe and over the North Pole. The Earth IS round. I will get to Canada eventually, BUT the odds of me giving up and going home are far more likely than me reaching Canada.

Is my taking I-35 South WRONG? Technically, no. But it is a formula to give up.

Many writers find social media to be a huge time suck, namely because they either have no plan or they have a flawed plan. I used to think it was a time-suck, too. But I wasn’t approaching social media correctly. I have made all the dumb mistakes so you don’t have to :D.

My two books have hit the top of multiple best-seller lists using the methods I am teaching. And I am not the only one who has experienced this kind of dramatic success. I have a stack of testimonials. Yes, we are free to do social media any way we please. No Facebook police will drag us to digital jail. But I think most of us would rather spend more time writing and less time trying to Bond-O a faulty platform.

What are some tough choices you guys have had to make for your writing? What are some tough choices you face, but maybe don’t know what to do? Have any advice or suggestions? Put them in the comments!

I do want to hear from you guys!

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

NOTE: For those of you who haven’t yet gotten your pages back, please resend to my assistant (if you haven’t already). I get about 500 e-mails a day, so I am redoing things so submissions don’t get lost in the ether. Thanks for your patience.

Gigi at gigi dot salem dot ea at g mail dot com. Gigi will make sure I get your pages.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of October 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 th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

Happy Friday!!!! Today I have a really special treat for you guys. I do have to say that I love being right, but sometimes it kinda sux being right…but then it goes back to being awesome that I am right. Confused? Okay, well I started a ton of controversy surrounding writer blogs with such posts as Sacred Cow-Tipping–Why Writers Blogging About Writing is Bad and More Sacred Cow-Tipping–Common Blogging Misconceptions.

We have big folks in publishing claiming that blogging is dead, that blogging is a waste of time and does nothing to drive book sales. Yet, I counter with, “What if blogging isn’t the problem? What if writers just don’t know how to blog?”

GASP!

I mean if I ran out and spent $2000 on a Mac computer and the promptly used it to swat mosquitos and then loudly proclaimed that Mac laptops were a waste of money, everyone would think I was a lunatic, right? Yet we have the hubris to believe that because we can string together sentences that we instantly have the know-how to write a blog that connects to thousands of readers in a way that creates loyalty and drives book sales??? Hey, I’m not judging. I learned this stuff by making all the mistakes.

Yet, we have this amazing tool–the blog–and think that with NO instruction, we can be successful. Can we? Sure. Are there better approaches that are more effective? YES!!!

Blogging isn’t dead, but blogging is an art and a skill that needs to be learned. It can be learned by trial and error (like me) or it can be learned by those who have made all the dumb mistakes and who are willing to share their knowledge (from me). It feels good to be right, but sometimes it can bum me out, too. Yet, the awesome part is that, if I am right and I offer instruction to writers who want to blog, then there is a path to success and that is great reason to get excited.

Today my pal Susan Bischoff-who is an amazing writer and very sweet/supportive person-is going to share her experience. A couple weeks ago, Susan courageously e-mailed me and asked if she could share her story so that other writers could learn from her mistake. I think that is awesome and very brave and adds one more reason I adore her.

Thanks, Susan for doing this….

***

Kristen’s recent post, The Secret to Selling Books Part I–Let’s Get Sticky, certainly got a lot of people talking. Part of what’s interesting to me about the post and the buzz it’s created is that, in a lot of ways, it’s the same thing Kristen’s been trying to tell us all along. This idea that writers talking to writers about writing is not optimal use of social media if you want to sell fiction is something that’s clear in her books We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media (a.k.a. the WANA Guide) and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer.

So I wanted to talk about why, knowing and understanding Kristen’s advice regarding blogging to and for writers, I basically ignored her and did it anyway. More importantly, I wanted to give you a bit of case study about how that’s worked out for me.

Blog on topic…

From the time I read the WANA Guide, around the same time that I released my first novel, and I determined to get serious, to retake my neglected blog, to make an effort on Twitter, etc., I’ve experienced the frustration of not feeling like I had anything to talk about except writing. Kristen says to blog “on topic.” On something related to your book.

One suggestion she makes is to take the research you did for your book and write articles about that. If your fiction is set in a historical period, write articles about that period, about the clothes, food, events, technology, etc. People interested in that period will find you and may be interested in reading your fictional perspective. Write about ghosts? Then write about ghost hunters, paranormal science, ghost sightings, ghostly legends.

Even for those of us who don’t feel like we do much active research, like what we write comes purely out of our heads (Purely? Really? Not inspired by anything?) we could probably find something in the real world to tie in to our fiction.

I write about teens with superpowers. So I could write about comic book superheroes, superhero TV shows and cartoons, superhero movies, books about kids with abilities…

Yah. If had time to actually take that stuff in. And then analyze it for something to say besides ZOMG Squee! or Thor’s six-pack! :flail:. And then write about it in some way that makes it actually worth someone’s time to read about it.

Writing about writing is easy. It’s accessible to us. We think about it all the time. We discover things that are new to us, and we enjoy sharing those things with people who get it—the people we rarely meet in real life. Writing a writer blog is very gratifying.

In my case, I know that I didn’t see how I could maintain an “on topic” blog because I didn’t want to see it. I really wanted to keep doing what I was doing. And I see this from others all the time, in comments on Kristen’s posts and in what people say on their on blogs.

Just doing what came naturally…

It was very easy to convince myself that my writer blog was totally working for me. I was building a following on my blog. People were subscribing. I was selling a lot of books, in large part due to the Amazon machine. The way it works is that you hit a certain level of sales compared to everyone else, which causes you to achieve a rank, which causes you to hit their charts, which causes you to be easily seen by browsers, which increases your sales dramatically, which causes you to chart higher and more widely, which increases your sales even more, which means that some of those people are actually reading and some of those reading are actually reviewing, adding buzz and credibility to your visibility, getting you some more sales…

And where did I tell myself all of that started? In part, with all of my writer buddies. Every sale counts, and it doesn’t matter why someone bought the book, it still helped its rank.

  • I wrote a whole blog series about marketing ideas that helped me. It was very popular.
  • An article I wrote was published by a company which helps authors market. Many of those authors publish independently as I do.
  • Every time I wrote about a level of success I experienced, people who wanted so support independent publishing would say, “See, she’s sold more than 150 copies!”

And not only did those things send visitors to my blog, it did sell some books because the book itself was very inexpensive and people were curious about my writing. Some wanted to know how good a book has to be to sell like that (not like it was a huge seller) and some wanted to know if I was doing something so right that I was selling even a really crappy book. But they were all sales.

So I was writing about writing and catering to writers and I was doing just fine, thank you very much. I was being supportive and instructive. I was paying back and paying it forward, and getting all kinds of nice comments and blog love. I was building a blog and a solid blog following—something that I doubted I could accomplish. Yay!

When I realized it didn’t work…

So I went to publish my second book. Allegedly I had thousands of readers of the first book. But, uh-oh, I don’t know how to get in touch with them. Even though I offer a newsletter, only a few hundred people signed up for it. And what was really interesting to me about the newsletter, during the year in which I collected subscribers, was the fact that I didn’t know them. They were not the people who commented on my blog or talked to me on Twitter. They were people completely unfamiliar to me.

Oh, look! I think that may be a retroactive clue.

Okay, so I got ready to put the book out. I let everyone know on my blog. I asked for their help to spread the word. I wrote some extra good posts that brought in extra high traffic—posts aimed at writers and indie publishers.

The book went out. I let everyone know on social media. I posted links. My friends supported me with Twitter mentions, liking me on Facebook, carrying the badge for the new book on their blogs, writing whole blog posts mentioning the release. They were awesome. And they probably reached all the same people I reached because we have all the same followers.

Last time I put a book out, I had not built up my social media platform. If a writer friend promoted me, that message reached people I couldn’t reach. A year later, we’re all hooked up, linked in. Homogenized. I think people must get that on some level, which accounts for some of the scurrying about to find new friends and hobbies the wake of the “Sticky” post.

See, of all the people it was in my power to inform, only people who were fans of my books bought my second book. Right now I have a follower base who are fans of my writing/publishing advice.But that’s not what the book is about.

I neither want nor expect fans of the writing advice to buy my fiction if the content doesn’t interest them. I neither need nor expect pity or loyalty sales. The advice I gave, I gave for free. And I don’t regret giving it away in the slightest. I got a lot out of giving it, and that’s a big reason why I kept doing it, to the exclusion of focusing on my fiction/genre/topic stuff.

I built a writer blog. And that in itself is cool. In a financial sense, it would be cooler if I’d monetized my blog, if it carried ads. Then I’d get paid to build that following just for the sake of building it. In a marketing sense, it would be super cool if I also had books about writing or publishing to market. Then my blog would be selling my product. But my product is fiction.

Looking at my blog content as advertising, it’s like I wanted to sell jewelry and so I wrote about sports and ran the commercials on ESPN. Will I hit a few viewers who might be curious enough about me to look more deeply, a few who happen to like jewelry and then become my customers?

Maybe.

But in terms of ROI (return on investment), it is not the best use of my time and creative energy to maintain focus on a topic that has very little to do with my product. Nor to focus on a demographic that isn’t necessarily part of my target, a demographic with lots of book consumers, yes, but consumers who are over-saturated with book choices.

Solid platform, wrong crowd…

When I released my second book, I felt like I was standing on my platform, looking out over my sea of followers. People who respect me professionally or like me personally and care what I have to say about writing. People who have appreciated what I’ve been sharing with them as I’ve learned it. And there I was, ready to make my big announcement. And I said, “Hark, oh ye loyal followers, for now I have NEWS!”

And upon hearing the news, a few of them jumped up and gave me a squee, because a few of them actually like what I write. And some of them took the time to give me a grin and a thumb-up, and even a pat on the back, because they like me. But mostly they just went right back to talking to each other about writing like we always do.

Because we’re all writers. We’ve all got books coming out every week. Big deal.

Logical. Obvious. But I needed to have this experience for it to really hit home. To really understand what Kristen was saying. I had taken my evidence, my sales figures and my blog subscribers (and other social media numbers), and made them tell me something I wanted hear—that the writing about writing was really working for me. (Must be because I was just soooo good at it.)

(Please, girl.)

I want to continue to serve, to share what I learn, to be kind (and yeah, rack up some good karma). I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to do. But I need to understand that putting too much focus on that doesn’t serve what I say my goals are. That’s me becoming known as Susan: sweet, sensitive, and sometimes insightful writer girl. That’s not me developing a reputation as Susan: author of kick-ass teen paranormal romance.

If I focus on the writer persona to the exclusion or detriment of the author persona, for the sake of serving the writer community instead of my writing career…that seems a little martyrish.

So what now?

In terms of selling book 2, sales will come. I’m a good writer and it’s a solid piece of work. I just have to wait for a slow build that might have been faster if I’d been more linked in to my actual market.

And the platform?

I have a lot of thoughts. I mean, this element of what I did non-optimally is really only part of my recent mind-blowing epiphany. I think I have a better understanding of how I want to use my blog. One hundred topics for my blog that might actually sell my books? Nope. Don’t have those yet. A clue where I’m going to go to find my target demographic and how I’m going to reach out and interact with them without being spammy? Nope. I think I’m going to take Kristen’s upcoming workshop to try to figure it out. After all, it somehow seems like she’s always right.

***

THANK YOU SUSAN!!! And I really look forward to having you in class. For those reading, the class is still open but you need to sign up FAST. Class is about to start. It is $40 for TWO MONTHS. One month is for lessons and the other month is for launch. I help each participant create a brand that is special and unique and designed to connect to more than just writers. My goal is to help you connect to your future readers. 

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 th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

Welcome to WANA Wednesday, the day I dedicate to helping you guys rock it hard when it comes to social media. The tips, tools and tactics are all based off my #1 best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer. We interrupt our normal programming to bring you a special announcement. I will be teaching an on-line workshop Blogging to Build Your Author Brand starting October 1st.

Why am I taking a blog day to talk about this?

Well, in fairness, my Spawn can now scale tall bookshelves in a single bound. I don’t know how many more times I will be able to teach this class. The workshop is only $40 and it’s on-line. It is two months long. One month for lessons and one month for launch. I help each participant harness his background, passions, interests to create an author brand that will grow with the writer’s career no matter what social platform is hot. If Facebook implodes, the brand I help you create will survive and even thrive. Yes, I work with each and every person.

One of the reasons I like to teach these classes is I know that I would have burned out and given up long ago if certain talented people (whose name rhymes with NY Times Best-Selling Author Bob Mayer) hadn’t taken time to help me and educate me…and save me from myself, :D. These workshops are my way of paying it forward. I love doing them, but my workload is steadily increasing. I will teach them as long as I can, but I cannot promise how many more times this type of workshop will be offered.

So why might you need my workshop?

The key principle to all of my teachings rests on one fundamental maxim–WE ARE NOT ALONE. Building an author platform can be overwhelming, terrifying and enough to make even the best of us break out in stress hives. Much of this stress can be alleviated three ways:

Education

Just because we are capable of signing up for Twitter doesn’t mean we know jack about how to build an author platform. Just because we are literate and can string together nouns and verbs in a coherent fashion doesn’t mean we know anything about what makes a successful blog that connects to tens of thousands. Just because we recognize a box of Tide or a Xerox machine doesn’t mean we comprehend author branding.

Too many writers rush on to social media with no real understanding of the tools at their disposal and just start pushing buttons. Hey, I did.

But let me tell you this. There is the hard way and the smart way. The smart writer learns from her mistakes, but the wise writer learns from the mistakes of others…and the REALLY wise, talented and strangely good-looking writer learns from MY mistakes.

Yes, I made all the mistakes so you don’t have to. Better than that, I have a track record of proven success to back up what I teach. Not only have I put both my books at the top of the best-selling list, but WANA methods have helped other authors rise from total obscurity to become best-sellers as well (and land some pretty fat six-figure publishing deals).

It is one thing for me to tell you guys that you need to build a successful author platform. It is an entirely different thing to SHOW you how to build a successful author platform.

When it comes to social media, you might be thinking:

What do I say? How do I keep fresh and interesting content? How can I do more with my blog than just journal or talk about writing? How can my blog connect with readers? How much social media do I really need? How do I dominate a Google search for my name? How can I build a platfom and still have time to write books?

Knowledge is power. Now, let me ask you some questions:

Do you know how to create a brand? Do you know what SEO is? What is a trackback? What are tags? Do you blog? Do you even know how to? How do search engines work?

How educated are you about social media as it applies to authors? How much is this lack of knowledge hurting you and your platform? How much time is it wasting in being unproductive? What are going to be the long-term effects of building a platform on a faulty foundation?

This isn’t to scare you guys as much as it is to free you. We aren’t born knowing everything, and it is okay to admit we need help. You guys have best-selling books to write. Do you really want to figure all this social media stuff out alone, through trial and error? How much time will a little bit of good education save you? How much more time will you have to work on your next novel? How much more success will you have because you took time to learn from the successful?

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

Preparation

Too many writers rush on to social media and just start tweeting and blogging with no prior preparation. Not only is it wise to prepare our brand ahead of time, but we need to know what content is useful for growing that brand (and not wrecking it). We also need to make sure that the brand we choose is clear, that it will resonate with others and be “sticky” (For more on being sticky, go here).

There is A LOT of misinformation about what constitutes an author brand. Many social media experts don’t understand that writers are different. Yes, we really are special unique snowflakes. Author brands are highly unique and complex. What works for Starbucks doesn’t work for writers and for selling books. Go here if you want to know why traditional marketing doesn’t sell books.

I am a writer first. The brand I will help you create will be with you for a lifetime, will grow as you and your career grows. Brands need to define us, not put us in a straightjacket. Not all content will work well for growing your brand. Good content and a solid brand are key to working smarter, not harder.

Community

WE ARE NOT ALONE!!!!

The self-made man is a myth. No one is successful alone. If we try to do social media all by ourselves by blitzing out spam and form-letters and collecting neat e-mail lists, we are more likely to wear out and give up than to succeed. Success doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It takes a team of vested people to open opportunities, offer feedback, spread word-of-mouth, inject our messages into new networks, and on and on.

The key to being successful on social media is to learn to work as a team and create community. I didn’t become successful alone. I had help. More help than I deserved. Now I am here to teach you guys how to create a community vested in your success. We need to learn how to connect to influential people. We need to connect to more than just other writers.

So what are your thoughts? What frightens you about social media? What confuses you? What are your concerns? If you have taken my workshop, take a moment and share what you learned and how the workshop helped you, transformed you, or revealed six-pack abs you didn’t even know you had. I dig hearing from you.

I hope you guys will invest $40 in your writing future. The new year is coming fast and it is a good plan to be ready to hit the ground running. Thanks for indulging me today, and next week we will resume our talk about Mavens (One of Three People You Must Know to Be Successful on Social Media).

I do want to hear from you guys!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of September, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. 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 September 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: GRAND PRIZE WILL BE PICKED THIS MONTH. I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced at the end of September) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

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 th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

 

There are a number of approaches to being successful on social media, but I have a confession to make. I am lazy. Really. If I gave into my nature, I am so lazy I could easily slip into a coma. Don’t let anyone sell you lies. Worker bees didn’t create the wonders of modern society, so don’t go thank the industrious. Go thank the lazy and impatient.

See, the lazy man didn’t want to get up out of his chair to turn the channel, so he invented the remote control. The lazy woman didn’t want to spend each and every moment entertaining her child, so she invented toys that whistle, sing and dance. It was lazy and impatient people who envisioned a world where we could drive a car—FAST— instead of having to bounce around in a carriage and hop several trains to go on vacation. The lazy and impatient invented cell phones so they didn’t have to wait on return phone calls and concocted drive-thru burger joints so they didn’t have to cook.

Okay, so maybe this is a little bit of tongue-and-cheek.

The Big Lie–Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid

Here’s the thing, society—especially American society—sells us a lie. We are basically told that the people who work 90 hours a week are more productive and valuable. Thus, what happens is many of us take this lie hook, line and sinker and then drag it into our writing lives. We believe that if we aren’t spending hours and hours on social media, that we aren’t being productive. We need to be good little worker bees and everything will turn out dandy if we put in enough time.

Wrong.

Working until we are half dead doesn’t mean we are productive. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. It means our approach is grossly inefficient. Lazy Kristen actually helps me be more efficient, crazy as that might sound. More on that in a moment.

Three Main Approaches to Social Media for Writers

The Water Cooler Writer—Many writers fall into the Water Cooler Writer category, especially when first starting out. This writer is on social media, but with no defined purpose and no real activity that will create a meaningful author platform. This writer often tweets using a cutesy moniker like @FairyWriter. She might blog about the writing experience or her daily struggles to be taken seriously, but her actual name is hard to find unless you work for Homeland Security.

None of the Water Cooler Writer’s activities are focused or involve strategy. She is waiting until she has a finished book and an agent to worry about building an author platform.

This is an okay place for any writer to start (though not ideal). This is basically the social media training wheels stage. But, if your goal is to race the Tour de France–*cough* be a professional published author that sells books—then the training wheels need to go.

The Automated Writer—This writer takes efficiency seriously…too seriously. He automates everything he can. He has a web page and a social media account on Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Goodreads, Technorati…..

He is EVERYWHERE…or is he?

No one has ever actually talked to this writer, so he never connects. This is a viable way to do social media, but the ROI (return on investment) is dismal.

Every time I hear someone whine that Twitter doesn’t sell books, I already know what their twitter stream will look like…a perfect row of Spam. This method will sell books eventually, sort of like if we spam 100,000 people with news of their inheritance from a relative they never knew they had living in Ghana some sucker person will eventually click the link and send cash. This is a game of mass numbers.

A lot of writers are wearing themselves out on social media because they are the Water Cooler Writer—they are chatting with friends and don’t have strategic content to build a brand OR because they are the Automated Writer relying on a tactic that takes MASSIVE volume for any return. This is worker bee behavior. Sure, do enough of this and it might pay off…but it sure is a lot of WORK and TIME, time we need to write more great books.

So today, I am going to tell you guys the secret to being a WANA Writer. WANA Writers are smart, charming and known for being strangely good-looking.

Wait…okay, yeah that’s true but not part of what we are talking about today.

WANA Writers work as a team and create communities. WANA writers work smarter, not harder. WANA Writers know that the only way to sell books is to 1) write a good book and 2) word-of –mouth. Thus, the WANA Writer, when she isn’t absorbing every lesson she can about craft and writing an awesome novel, knows that she needs to work on spreading word of mouth. WANA Writers know that being a worker bee is great, but knowing a social butterfly is better.

Last week I introduced you to the three people you MUST know to start a word of mouth epidemic—the Connector, the Maven and the Salesman (per Gladwell’s The Tipping Point). These are the Social Media Social Butterflies.

The Law of the Few

Why do we need to find a Social Media Social Butterfly? Because of what economist Malcolm Gladwell calls The Law of the Few:

People pass on all kinds of information to each other all the time. But it’s only in the rare instance that such an exchange ignites a word-of-mouth epidemic…..the success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular set of social gifts.

(page 32-33 of The Tipping Point)

See, the Worker Bees aren’t who change the world (well, not quickly at least). It’s really up to the Social Butterflies. These are the people who pollinate the world with an idea. Without them, there is no genesis of new thought.

Three Kinds of Social Media Social Butterflies

There are three kinds of Social Butterflies—the Connector, the Maven and the Salesman. These are the people with the social gifts required to spread a message around the globe. Some people are only one type of Social Butterfly, but some are two and some even rarer people are actually all THREE.

Meet the Connector

Today we are going to introduce the first of our Social Butterflies—the Connector. The Connector is that person who seems to know everyone.

Remember we talked about the importance of getting sticky in order to market books. As a WANA Writer, we understand that we might not be a Maven a Connector or a Salesman, but we can get to know people who ARE. WANA Writers know to get sticky by association. WANA Writers don’t waste time trying to change their personality. WANA Writers focus on working smarter, not harder so WANA Writers learn to pay attention for signs of a Social Media Social Butterfly. Today, we will talk about the first one…The Connector Butterfly.

Signs of a Connector:

Connectors are authentically active on social media. Just like real butterflies love flowers, social butterflies LOVE people, and this includes Connector Butterflies. They can’t help themselves.

If you click on a profile and someone has nothing but automated messages, this is not a good sign this person LOVES people. In fact, this connection is almost worthless for the purposes of spreading word-of-mouth. These people might be good to learn from, or a good source of information, but they aren’t going to help us much when it comes to expanding our platform.

Connectors know a lot of people, because they talk to a lot of different kinds of people. Connectors seem to know all kinds of people from all walks of life, professions, backgrounds, etc. They have a foot in all kinds of subcultures and niches, so we don’t have to go through many degrees of separation to all get to this person. Connectors collect friends like a child might collect pretty rocks.

Connectors like…connecting.  This seems a little obvious, but it’s true. The Connector is the person at the cocktail party who is guaranteed to introduce you around and plug you into a group of people with like minds and interests. The Connector is a social media Match Maker. She pollinates flowers (people) and creates the seeds of friendship. People thrive with a Connector in their midst.

Connectors are multi-dimensional. Connectors might be fellow writers, but they are passionate in other areas as well. They aren’t the All Writing All the Time Channel. They have friends in other walks of life and interests beyond craft and publishing.

Many Bloggers are Connectors. Bloggers are the new way of spreading the word. People who blog and are good at blogging are the movers and shakers of the Digital Age. Get to know the good bloggers. Read their blogs, RT for them, comment on their posts. Connectors remember names and faces, so are they seeing yours?

Missing Out on Connectors

One of the reasons that it can handicap us so much by keeping our writing life totally and utterly separate is that we miss a lot of opportunities to meet Connectors. If we have a Facebook page for only writers and only blog about writing and tweet only with people in the publishing industry, then we miss opportunities to fold other worlds into ours. We miss out on possibly connecting with a Connector, because our focus is too exclusive—Writers Only. All Others Keep Out

Spotting a Connector

Probably the best Connector I have witnessed on social media is @PiperBayard. Follow her and watch how she handles Twitter. Read her blog. Piper is friends with all kinds of writers, but she literally knows EVERYONE. Piper was an attorney and she writes humor and post-apocalyptic fiction, and even though Piper is a writer first, this Connector Extraordinaire has a foot in more worlds than I can keep straight. She is kind, authentic and generous to everyone she meets. Watch Piper for a day or two and you will know exactly who to look for when it comes to making friends with Connectors.

@AmyShojai and @GeneLempp are two more prime examples of this rare Connector species. #MyWANA has been a prime watering hole where it is easy to spot Connectors stopping by for a sip of social time. In the coming weeks we will talk more about the Maven and Salesman and I’ll even offer more ways to find and connect with these movers and shakers of social media.

So what are your thoughts? Does this make you feel better? What advice would you add? I love hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of September, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. 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 September 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: GRAND PRIZE WILL BE PICKED THIS MONTH. I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced at the end of September) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

In the meantime, if you want to learn more about how to spread word-of-mouth and build your platform, sign-ups are open for my Blogging To Build Your Author Brand on-line workshop. It’s two months long–one month of lessons and one month of launch and it is ONLY $40.

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 th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.