It’s back to school for everyone – not just kids. Vacation’s over. Fun’s over…or maybe the fun is just beginning.
This fall, W.A.N.A. is back with new classes, new instructors, and lots of exciting announcements coming up. Bookmark W.A.N.A. and make sure to subscribe to my blog to stay up-to-date with all the news!
Don’t forget to hop on over to the W.A.N.A. Tribe to join in our daily writing sprints in the chat room! The Tribe is a thriving community, and we are planning on some awesome upgrades to the entire Tribe experience this fall.
NEW CLASSES FOR SEPTEMBER 2017
More than Gore - How to Write Horror. $35.00 USD. Tuesday, September 5, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Bullies and Baddies - Understanding the Antagonist. $50.00 USD. Thursday, September 7, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. Click the image to register!
Backstory: The Yarn Behind the Book. $45.00 USD. Friday, September 8, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Historical not Hysterical: Creating Authentic Female Characters. $45.00 USD. Saturday, September 9, 2017. 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. EST. Click the link to register!
Beyond Lipstick and Swords: Writing Strong Female Characters. $40.00 USD. Saturday, September 9, 2017. 2:00-4:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Villains & Anti-Heroes: The Characters We Love and Hate. $45.00 USD. Tuesday, September 12, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
From the Ground Up: Putting the "World" in World-Building for Fantasy. $60.00 USD. Wednesday, September 13, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Hooked: Catching Readers in the First Five Pages. $40.00 USD. Thursday, September 14, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
How to Dominate Your Sex Scenes (No Safe Words Here). $45.00 USD. Friday, September 15, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Painting With Words: Using Description and Sensory Details. $40.00 USD. Saturday, September 16, 2017. 2:00-4:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Elements of Literary Fiction. $40.00 USD. Tuesday, September 19, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Getting to Work: Professions, Politics, and Production in Fantasy World-Building. $60.00 USD. Wednesday, September 20, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Social Media for Writers. $35.00 USD. Thursday, September 21, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Blurb Writing Blows - But, It Doesn’t Have To. $45.00 USD. Friday, September 22, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Turn Your Passion Into A Business: Making Money As A Writer. $40.00 USD. Monday, September 25, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Guilty Pleasures: Writing Suspense, Thrillers, and Crime. Tuesday, September 26, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Romps and Revels: Entertainment, Leisure, and Culture in Fantasy World Building. Wednesday, September 27, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
When Your Name Alone Can Sell: Branding for Authors. $35.00 USD. Thursday, September 28, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Outside the Box: How to Read More, Write Less, and Up Your Fiction Game. Friday, September 29, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Humanity has been gifted with this lovely new invention…the internet. For the first time in human history, we can connect and even befriend people all over the world. We can easily research, whether that is for a novel we’re planning or to figure out why we broke out in weird spots after eating pistachios. There is also a never-ending supply of entertainment and we never have to ever be bored again…
Okay, that alone could be a whole book (my POV is that us being bored more often might be good for us) but that isn’t what I’d like to talk about today.
Today? *takes deep breath and dives in*
On Monday, a cover model who’s posed for numerous covers had well, he…ok he lost his ever-loving MIND. As I was watching the scenario unfold, I kept wanting to type a message to him.
For the love of chocolate…SHUT UP.
But he didn’t and his career is over. And please understand what I’m saying here. Blizzard Man was completely out of line and what he said (threatened) is even unforgivable. If we are going to use the internet to build our professional brand, then we need to treat cyberspace for what it is…our place of work.
Now, granted it is the coolest place of work ever and it has yoga pants and snacks and is very casual. No one minds us sharing cute kitten videos so long as we get our work done…
But it IS still a place of work and he forgot that.
And so did a lot of other people.
As I watched the reaction to this model’s comments, I grew more and more concerned for what the Internet is doing to us as human beings. Where is the kindness or even grace? When someone acts really badly, why is there a need to not just shame the behavior…but to obliterate the person on the other side?
Why must cyber bullies be met with even more vicious cyber-lynch mobs? Does anyone really win?
Is on-line outrage out of control?
All I could think of when I saw video after video being posted calling this model names and just going after him on a deeply personal level was… Dear GOD, please don’t let him commit suicide.
I wish I were joking.
I’ve witnessed this behavior happening more and more in cyberspace to people who haven’t even committed as grievous of an offense as said cover model. There was a comedian several months ago who did a funny video but it was regarding a dicey subject. There was nothing in that video that warranted the reaction that followed. Comments on her YouTube channel that said things like:
Bit*&, I hope you are raped and then hit in the head with a brick.
And the cover model, as awful as he was…got a similar comment. Someone hoped he was raped.
Please tell me we are better than this. Because if not?
This universal connectivity has created the ability to create cyber-lynch mobs. Something ignites and people just go crazy. Instead of simply disagreeing, they start typing in threats that in person? They could go to JAIL for saying something like that.
What is even scarier is that a cyber-lynch mob can form over even seemingly innocent stuff. Anyone can become a target. I’ve been on the other side of them, myself (sadly, more than once). The most memorable time? I made the fatal mistake of positing that bookstores could do a better job of supporting authors (for our mutual benefit, btw). The HORROR!
I seriously had writers who commented and called me everything but a writer. The favorite name for me? C*nt.
What? Are you THREE? Do you even own a thesaurus?
It is the JOB of authors to point out flaws in the system, in society and the world. We do this to make it a better place and sometimes that might even involve going after some sacred cows. We are supposed to question everything. Everyone doesn’t need to agree all the time.
Once in tenth grade I disagreed with someone and guess what? I lived to tell the tale 😛 .
If we have been on-line any amount of time, we’ve heard tales of people who’ve been targeted by cyber-lynch mobs. What is sad is that often this cruelty has come on the heels of a badly executed joke or a tweet taken out of context.
There was a man in Santa Clara, CA who was at a conference for tech developers when a silly joke popped in his head. According the the NY Times:
It was about the attachments for computers and mobile devices that are commonly called dongles. He murmured the joke to his friend sitting next to him, he told me. “It was so bad, I don’t remember the exact words,” he said. “Something about a fictitious piece of hardware that has a really big dongle, a ridiculous dongle. .?.?. It wasn’t even conversation-level volume.
Right after making the joke to a friend, a woman nearby stood and took a picture of him then tweeted to her 9K+ friends that he was making sexist jokes about big dongles right behind her. The next day he was fired.
And it gets worse…
After he posted about being fired, an even more vitriolic backlash ensued against the woman who started the incident, which included enough death threats to make her leave home and sleep on friends’ couches for the next year.
This is freaking RIDICULOUS.
We Used to Take It for What it Was
Trust me, every day I am super glad I was an adult by the time social media came along. I think of all the dumb crap I would have done or said or written and how that could have made my life turn out very differently. In the 90s if a joke bombed and came out offensive instead of funny? The worst I probably got was an eye-roll or maybe even a quick chewing out and I knew to correct my behavior.
I didn’t fear my entire world would be nothing but ash by lunchtime. I also didn’t expect a barrage of death threats or people hoping I was raped and hit in the head with a brick (like the poor comedian). In fact, I am pretty sure that would have been grounds for a police investigation.
And if we crossed that uncrossable line? Sure there were consequences but these days? DAYUM.
All I can think of is if Blizzard Man had made the comment he did in 1993, he surely wouldn’t have had 745 people who had already directly taken a swing at him by dinner time.
Crime & Punishment
When I see these on-line debacles, it always brings to mind one of my favorite scenes from the movie Demon Knight. Two main characters in the opening scene collide in a fiery crash on a remote road. The sheriff and his deputy arrive to work the scene and are inspecting the wreckage.
The deputy is incensed and, waving his ticket book says, “They had to be doing over a hundred miles an hour!”
The sheriff looks at him and replies, “Well you can shoot their ashes if it makes you feel better.”
What all of us are wise to remember is that in life, when an alleged crime is committed, there is intense evidence gathering to make sure there was really a crime. Then punishment befitting the crime is meted out. But on-line? So often people jump to right a wrong without any such evidence-gathering and the consequences can be devastating.
Case in point, I once got a really offensive sexual message from another writer. Instead of copying and pasting and railing against how tacky and disgusting this woman was, how she was using Facebook to sexually harass me…I stopped and thought.
Hmmm, that’s odd. I’ve never had this person act in such a way. Let me message her back.
And it turned out her account had been hacked. She wasn’t even aware such messages were being sent from her profile and catastrophe was averted simply because I gave another human the benefit of the doubt.
On the other side of this coin, I was once publicly shamed for liking an off-color meme that was politically explosive. Thing was? I’d accidentally hit it while scrolling on my android phone. Instead of the public shaming, why didn’t I get a PM that said, Hey, Kristen. You go out of your way to be funny and kind and this awful meme has your “like” on it. Did you do that?
But that didn’t happen and let’s just say it’s a good thing I have rhino skin.
***Oh, and btw, people also have a right to have poor taste in the event I DID actually like the meme 😛 .
Yes, there are times (like Blizzard Man) that there is a direct offense, but we also need to remember that technology does have glitches. Toddlers DO get ahold of phones. Accounts can be hacked. And—to be blunt—everyone has a bad day.
I get that we are all over this “everything on the Internet is FOREVER” schtick and maybe that was acceptable before we all lived more on the Internet than in the real world.
But is this reasonable?
In life if we lose our minds, say something awful or even offend people, we don’t fear a permanent death sentence and banishment from the human race.
Sure, discuss what’s going on. Maybe even make light of it. Joke. I do. Heck! Even criticize. Nothing at all wrong with this. Unless we want a world where foaming-at-the-mouth bullies are the only ones shaping social and political change, regular folk need to feel okay sharing more than kitten memes.
The internet can be as amazing or as awful as we make it. Like anything it is a tool. We can use a shovel to dig a grave or plant a garden. The choice is ours.
What are your thoughts? Have you been on the wrong end of a social media dog-pile? That something innocent got way out of control? Do you think that the cyber-lynch mobs are starting to shape how people are acting in person? Do you think that now that humans are spending more time in cyberspace we need to learn to lighten the hell up?
I LOVE hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of MAY, 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.
Remember that all WANA classes are recorded so if you miss, can’t make it or just want to refresh the material, this is included with purchase price. The classes are all virtual and all you need is a computer and an Internet connection to enjoy!
Hooking the Reader—Your First Five Pages MAY 14th. The first five pages are one of our best selling tools. We fail to hook the reader and that is a lost sale. In this class, we go over the art of great beginnings. Additionally, the upper levels Gold and Platinum I actually LOOK at your pages and critique your actual writing. I am offering DOUBLE PAGES for FREE so this is a fantastic opportunity to get feedback from a pro.
When Your Name Alone Can SELL—Branding for Authors MAY 16th. The single largest challenge all writers face in the digital age is discoverability. In a sea of infinite choices, connecting with our audience can be a nightmare. Our brand is our lifeline. What is a brand? How do we create one? How do we entice an overwhelmed and distracted audience to connect and care? How do we develop this brand over time? How can we make this brand resilient to upheavals? How can this brand then grow and evolve as we grow and evolve?
Blogging for Authors MAY 20th. 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.
We’ve been talking about social media and building a platform the past couple of posts. I know this is a topic that makes most of us break out in hives, especially when you don’t yet have a book for sale. Been there, done that. Got the t-shirt. It’s sort of like credit. You can’t get any credit because you don’t yet have any credit but you don’t yet have any credit because no one will give you credit because you don’t have credit.
My head hurts.
Thus, today is for all levels of authors. Yes, even Jane Newbie who hasn’t yet finished the first book. We are going to talk about the bare essence of branding.
The thing is, humans have always had a “brand.” Brand in its simplest form is what adjectives we attach to another person. Before the digital age and social media this idea of “branding” simply extended into our social realms in places like school or church or clubs. Why? Humans dig labels. It’s how we make our larger world manageable. Thus, people might be tethered to words like “band geek” “jock” “prep” “gossip” “jerk” “soccer mom” etc.
As we grew older our personal brand included our occupation and this was a good way to do business. I was a member of Rotary for seven years. I was friends with “Ken the Stock Broker,” “Mike the Plastic Surgeon,” “Tom the Orthopedic Surgeon” “Debbie the Realtor” “Kim the Physical Therapist” and on and on and on.
Not one of these people needed to drop a flyer in my lap when we met for lunch. I knew who they were and what they did and I relied on their “brand” when I needed their service(s). It was far preferable for me to go to Dan the Dentist (who I knew and liked from Rotary) than it was to go on-line and hope I scored a dentist I liked.
But why did I “like” these people? Did I really need to get a full resume of their experience to at least give them (their services) a try? Not really. “Gene the Money Manager” was a nice family man and I enjoyed his company and that was good enough. He made the “sale” without ever “selling.” It was probably less about what he did and more what he didn’t do, but this is where we start getting into some neuroscience.
The Neurological Shortcut
Our brains are remarkable organs that have the ability to adapt to our environment. Before the invention of the written word, our memory centers were far larger because we had to pass down information orally. In fact, if you took an MRI of an tribesman from some South American tribe, his brain would look and act very different from yours or mine.
Then, with the advent of the written word, our memory centers shrank but we gained even larger areas for abstract thinking. This is around the time we start seeing major explosions in science and engineering.
Now we are in the Digital Age, and we’re bombarded with stimuli. Internet, television, radio, smart phones, pop-ups, etc. etc. We’ve lost our stellar memory centers and our ability to focus for long periods of time and have gained an unprecedented ability to multitask. We process massive amounts of information faster than ever before.
Think about it. We see ads on Facebook all the time. Or do we? Our brains have literally learned to un-see. We cannot manage all the input. So, if we (authors) are eventually going to advertise our books, how do we make our content visible?
Since our brain is much like a computer processor, it must come up with ways to effectively manage all this input in order to maintain efficiency. To do this, it relies on what are called somatic markers.
Somatic markers are neurological shortcuts and are one of the most primitive functions of the brain because they are uniquely tied to survival and procreation. It’s the same shortcut that tells us the stove is hot. We don’t need to sit and ponder the stove. We likely learned when we were very small not to touch.
To give you an idea of how somatic markers work, let’s do a little exercise. Is there a perfume or cologne you can smell and it instantly transports you back in time? Maybe to that first love or even *cringes* that first heartbreak? A song that makes you cry? Perhaps there is a food you once ate that made you sick and even though there is no logical reason you shouldn’t eat it now, the mere thought of eating it makes you queasy.
These are somatic markers. When it comes to branding, somatic markers are king.
The Pepsi Challenge
If you are around my age or older you can remember The Pepsi Challenge. For years, Pepsi had been trying to gain an edge over Coca Cola who had dominated the soda industry for generations. So, they came up with the idea of setting up a table in stores and shopping malls and encouraging people to take a blind taste test.
The results were astonishing.
In a blind taste test, people preferred the taste of Pepsi. Coke was rattled by this and they did the same test and it turned out, people preferred the taste of Pepsi…and this led to brilliant ideas like “New Coke” which was one of the most epic failures in history.
Why did New Coke fail?
Coke had reformulated to make the drink sweeter. In blind taste tests, New Coke was a clear winner. So then why did it tank so badly?
Years later, neuroscientists decided to see if they could demystify what happened in The Pepsi Challenge so they conducted the exact same experiment, only this time they hooked participants up to an fMRI machine so they could witness what areas of the brain lit up.
So, they held the taste test the same way it was conducted in the 70s. A blind taste test and to their astonishment, people preferred the taste of Pepsi. According to the fMRI the ventral putamen, the area of the brain that tells us something tastes yummy lit up like Christmas.
*Some have speculated that when it is only a sip, people will prefer the sweeter drink.*
The scientists then decided to try something a bit different. They did the test again, only this time they told the participants what they were drinking. This time, Coke won. Ah, but something strange happened in the brain. Not only did the ventral putamen light up, but so did the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain associated with emotion and memory.
See, when it was based on taste alone, Pepsi won. But, when the brands were compared, Coke won. The human brain was in a wrestling match between two very different regions—taste and emotional. Coke had the advantage because of the vast reservoir of fond memories associated with the brand.
Norman Rockwell Americana, cute polar bears, I’d Like to But the World a Coke, every BBQ, summer vacation, rollerskating parties, Friday nights with pizza and on and on all were part of the Coca Cola arsenal. The fond memories (positive somatic markers) associated with the brand literally changed the taste and gave Coca Cola the winning edge.
Every Bit Adds Up
This is why every interaction on social media matters. Right now you might not have a published novel and thus you don’t have 15 hours or more of an emotional memory to link to your name (yet). But you can get on social media and do a little bit every day.
Start building your own Coca Cola experience.
Even authors who are published. Keep the brand strong in between books a little bit every day,
Every time our name floats by on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. what emotional experience are we tethering it to? There are two types of somatic markers—positive and negative.
Last time I mentioned that it was possible to have a belief system without giving everyone else indigestion. I have people on Facebook who I actually agree with politically and I have had to unfriend because I don’t feel like being hysterical all the time. If I wanted doom and gloom and panic attacks I would watch the news. I don’t like feeling hopeless and powerless. I don’t enjoy being attacked.
This holds true for how we act in person. Would we want to hang out with someone who just ranted and raged and complained all the time? Who called other people names and became belligerent when anyone dared to disagree? And I am not suggesting anything that wouldn’t be prudent in a regular workplace. Social media is simply an extension of the social realm. There is no “magic” to it other than be kind and treat others the way we’d like to be treated. Somatic markers are what make us “likable” in person or “on-line.”
Somatic markers also have the power to give us an edge when it comes to sales.
We see ads all over. More than ever before in human history. But when we have a positive experience, we notice the ad. For instance, I never realized there were so many red Hondas until I bought one. Now, I don’t believe the overall sale of red Hondas changed any, but I noticed them because I had one.
If we see an ad for a book, we may or may not notice. But what about an ad for a book written by someone we know? Someone perhaps we talked to and liked? The ad practically leaps from the page. We might even buy it because we SAW her ad and OMG! I know her!
Ads alone have very little power to compel a purchase. But, couple them with a brand, and the odds greatly improve. We can use some simple understanding of how the human brain works to better guide us in what we should (or should not) post on-line.
Remember last time we talked about kitten memes. Don’t underestimate them. Think about it. If every time my name floats by on Facebook it is attached to something that makes you SMILE, that has an impact. We might not be aware of it, but our brain is attaching somatic markers to a name.
When I see X, it is a good thing.
When I see X, I want to punch things and I feel sick.
At the end of the day, this is a long way to say that brands are simply what we learned in Kindergarten. Every interaction matters and it all adds up. With some planning, discipline and intent, we can better guide what it adds up to 😉 . We will talk more about simple ways to start building a brand. This can be an enjoyable experience.
What are your thoughts? Do you have a perfume you used to love, but then someone you despised wore it and you no longer could stand the smell? Have you had a bad experience with a food and to this day can’t eat it? Do you think of summer vacation whenever you smell Coppertone, too?
I LOVE hearing from you!
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. 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.
For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding bookRise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World onAMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.
Last time we talked a little about our author brand and why, these days, our brand is almost as important as the books we write. It is an awesome time to be a writer, but also a scary one. Why can’t it be like the good old days when all we had to do was write the book?
Because that world no longer exists and, frankly, it wasn’t all that great to begin with.
Granted, in the pre-digital publishing world we authors didn’t need to tweet or blog or be on-line, but it was also a world with a 93% failure rate. According to the Book Expo of America, as late as 2006, 93% of all books (traditionally and non-traditionally published) sold less than a 1000 copies. Only one out of ten traditionally published authors would ever see a second book in print.
These days, anyone can be published. This is good and bad and we can talk about that another time. But with more titles than ever before and bookstores becoming an endangered species? Our brand is our lifeline. Whether we decide to self-publish or traditionally publish is a business decision only we can make, but we still must have a viable author brand if we hope to sell books.
So What is a Brand?
There are all kinds of answers to this question, but my answer is the correct one 😀 .
A brand is when a name alone has the power to drive sales.
In an age where we are deluged with choices, consumers are relying more and more on brands. We rely on a brand because the NAME comes tethered to a promise. There are 753 brands of cereal, but we trust Cookie Crunch…okay, Cheerios.
Author brands aren’t as impersonal as selling cereal, but the idea is similar. In a sea of infinite choices, who do we trust to provide an enjoyable experience?
Brands take time to create, but my way is fun. As I mentioned last time, I have ZERO interest in turning any of you into mega-marketers. I know you didn’t take up writing about spaceships or unicorns or unicorns on spaceships just to hold you until you could land that dream job selling life insurance.
In the book I also show you step-by-step how to create your own unique brand. Not meaning to hawk a book, but I can’t have this blog be 20,000 words so if you desire more “meat” than what is in this blog, y’all know where you can find it 😉 .
How an Author Brand WORKS
In the “olden days” before Instagram and Twitter and YouTube, the only way a novelist could build a brand was through his/her books. Think about it. Why did we (fans) love these authors? Because we felt we were part of the worlds they created.
Dean Koontz, Anne Rice, Stephen King, Tony Hillerman, David Eddings, etc. were all a part of my teenage world. They brought me love, pain, fear, resolution through their characters and stories. By getting to know the author’s characters I felt I knew the author and became emotionally bonded TO that author through story.
If you need a refresher on how that works, go re-watch Misery.
Come on! Admit it. There are some authors you would really creep out of they met you 😉 .
*Drives car over Kardashians because OMG!!!! DEAN KOONTZ!*
When I decided to be the social media expert for writers, I spent over two years studying successful brands. All types. What made a brand iconic? I studied movies, fashion, soda, cars, authors, and pop phenoms.
I also studied the neuroscience behind branding. What made content go viral? Was there something about content that the human brain reacted to positively or negatively? Was all content equal? (NO) Was some content actually damaging? (YES) Is some content WAY better? (YES). I became a student of human behavior and created a step-by-step plan for writers to recreate that magic.
But for the purposes of today’s blog…
Like successful fiction, a successful brand must be HIGH CONCEPT. High concept is RIGHT-BRAINED. It is visceral and emotional.
Authors are in the business of selling feelings. It’s what we do with stories. We sell love, action, adventure, community, and happy endings.
Virtually all successful stories on the page and on the screen have harnessed what is called “high concept.” The reason Titanic was one of the most successful movies of all time is because it was “high concept”. It wasn’t a story about a doomed ship, it was a story about LOVE.
And we hear this term “high concept” in writing class, but what the heck is it?
High Concept has THREE Components:
Gives the Audience Something to Contribute or to Take Away
If virtually every successful story/movie is high concept, doesn’t it make sense that our brands should be high concept, too? We don’t write novels with titles like:
The Virtuous Semicolon
The Sentence that Kept Running
That Amazon Prime Harlot
The Dangling Participle *RAWR*
If we write books about love, why are we trying to connect with “readers” by lecturing them about punctuation?
Writers have the power to create interstellar dynasties and invent entirely new species. With various combinations of 26 letters, writers can travel in time, rewrite history or wipe out a planet, a solar system a universe. But, the second they start a blog? Tweet? Get on Facebook?
All they can talk about is writing.
Why does all this talk of “writing” fizzle? Because “writing” is not high concept.
Trust me, readers do not give a crap about three-act structure unless we screw it up. Readers don’t care about Amazon vs. Smashwords, why we love the Oxford Comma, or how to write deep POV.
Does this mean we can’t blog about writing at all? NO. There is a difference between writing a blog about writing and creating a writing blog.
Even though I teach writing, this is not a writing blog. This is Kristen Lamb’s blog. Yes, I blog about writing and social media, but I have also blogged about zombies, my addiction to Febreze, being ADD, why I hate skinny jeans, and how to deal with bullies. And, frankly, those were the posts that went viral.
Blogging only about writing will wear you out. And the real bummer?
Articles, interviews, and reviews are all informational. This is LEFT-BRAINED content. If all we are posting is left-brained content, we have a left-brained brand. Thus I posit this:
Why are you trying to sell a right-brained product with a left-brained brand?
Writers cannot fathom why a funny kitten meme gets 50 likes, 6 shares and 17 comments, but then a post about their upcoming release gets crickets.
Which topic is high concept (right-brained)?
Is a kitten universal? Yes! People in Japan actually pay money to pet adorable cats. Are kittens emotional? Yes! If you don’t smile looking at this little guy, you likely have no soul…
Does a funny kitten meme allow others to contribute or to take something away? Yes! Odds are, you will get all kinds of comments with people sharing about their pets. Oh, Fluffernutter used to do the same thing!
Does a cute kitten meme offer something to take away? Yes. It brightened our day, so we pass it on.
Now, if I post about a new book I have coming out, is that universal? No. Is it emotional for anyone but me and my mother? Not so much. Does it offer you anything to contribute or take away? Eh, not really.
And before anyone blasts me that sharing cute kittens isn’t “real” branding activity, we need to remember that we are no longer in a world of traditional media. Yes, we need to mention that book for sale, but if it is all we talk about? It turns people off. It is also making our brand reliant on content few people will share.
Hey, my new book “Sexy in Sneakers” is now available! PLEASE SHARE.
Yep, right on that. Not.
But, if most of the time we post fun stuff others enjoy, when we DO post about a book, others are more open to doing us a solid.
Remember, when it comes to social media, content that goes only ONE direction is already dead.
If I share something in a blog on Twitter or Facebook and no one else shares? My reach is limited to the people who are following me. Social media has the best impact when content goes VIRAL. This means lots and lots of other people want to share my content.
Guess what the most likely content to go viral is?
High concept ;).
See, you guys are smart!
This is why my kitten friend above has almost a million views.
We can talk about having a new book out just like we can feel free to blog about three-act structure. But, since these topics are NOT high concept, they will never ever go viral.
We can post this kind of stuff, we just know not to camp on it.
Remember, name recognition alone is meaningless. A name only truly holds power once we tether it to an emotional experience. Which means…
Welcome to High Concept Branding
The key to creating a strong author brand is to understand what we are trying to create. We are creating a positive emotional experience and then tying that experience to OUR NAME.
Do this enough and eventually our name alone will have the power to drive sales. Btw, that is called an author brand 😉 .
If we are able to produce content that 1) resonates with a wide audience 2) creates a positive emotional experience 3) by nature engenders sharing behaviors, we can do a lot more with a lot less. This also elucidates why ranting, name-calling, hyper-politicization, and spam are all behaviors that can and will tank a brand.
We will talk on this more later, but I will say that it is possible to have political, religious and social beliefs without giving everyone who sees our name indigestion. Remember we want to create a positiveemotional experience. This is what ALL successful brands do. Apple, Coca Cola, Corvette, Levis, Harley Davidson, Hershey’s and on and on and on. ALL good brands capitalize on emotion. ALL strong brands use high concept.
Soap companies don’t have a thirty-second commercial about the merits of good hygiene, they show a woman moaning in the shower and having an “organic” experience. Thus, if every single successful brand is relying on the holy trinity of high concept, why are authors still spamming about their books and then confused why badgering strangers for money doesn’t work?
One Last Thing
Aside from possibly going viral, brands built on emotional connection have one major advantage—LONGEVITY. Since our brand is based on relationships and not algorithms, it is far more resistant to change. Facebook can go away and twitter can flitter and your brand will be just fine. I had Shingles and was down for MONTHS. The reason I still had a strong brand when I returned? I built it on people.
I hope this has made you feel less intimidated about creating your own author brand. We writers tend to overcomplicate stuff. A platform isn’t built overnight, but it also isn’t terribly hard. And yes, platforms built on simply sharing funny cat pics are stronger than you might have realized.
What are your thoughts? Do you now see this high concept pattern in your own behavior? The stuff you enjoy sharing? The content that gets the most interaction from others? Did the clouds part and angels sing now that you know why that dog-shaming meme scored WAY more likes than your thoughtfully crafted book review?
I LOVE hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of SEPTEMBER, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel.
For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding bookRise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World onAMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.
We’ve been talking a lot about social media lately and I am always grateful for your comments and thoughts. This kind of feedback not only helps me improve my blog, but my also books, because I get a glimpse of your worries, weaknesses, fears, loves, and strengths.
As a teacher/mentor/expert, it’s my job to address those fears and put you at ease or reinforce when you’re headed the right direction and give you tools and tips to take what you’re doing to another level.
There’ve been some comments that have piqued my attention lately. Namely this notion to give up on social media completely to write more books (out of vexation for the medium and the task).
Social Media is a TOTAL Waste of Time
Write more books instead of tweeting or blogging. Social media is a giant time-suck better spent writing great books.
I don’t know how to answer this besides, Er? *screeching breaks* Personally, I can think of no larger waste of time than researching and reading and spending countless hours crafting a wonderful book of 60,000-110,000 words and then?
No one knows the book exists so few people ever read it, enjoy it or are changed by the author’s story.
It’s like spending six months to a year on an oil painting to hang it in an attic.
These days, any agent worth their salt will not sign an author who doesn’t have a social media brand and presence. Rarely, they will take a book from an author who doesn’t…but usually it will come with the requirement the author get on-line and get to work.
I ADORE Dawn Frederick at Red Sofa Literary and once shared a panel with her. She told the story of a book she LOVED and took even though the author wasn’t on social media. She was so impressed with the book she signed the author but told her she needed to get on social media and start building a platform.
After six months, the author refused. Dawn gave an ultimatum. Get your tail on social media or we drop the book and cancel the contract.
It used to be that an author who wanted to completely avoid social media went traditional. Well, traditional publishing has now seen the value of social media and almost all of them require it. They require it even if they allot budgeting for marketing. Why? Because social media helps them gain a FAR greater ROI on the marketing dollars spent.
I’ll give an example. I once read a traditionally published craft book that changed my life. At the time, my platform had grown fairly large and I’ve worked very hard to create a solid reputation for recommending only the best resources. I tried to contact the author not only to promote the book, but to get this author to present our conference (which sells A LOT of books).
The web site was an outdated clumsy mess and the contact e-mail at the bottom was no longer any good. The author wasn’t on FB or Twitter and I think I finally located this writer—of all places—on LinkedIn. Four months later the author replied, but by then the window of opportunity had closed.
Additionally, since I’d had such a bear of a time connecting to the author, I wasn’t going to recommend this tedious experience to others.
Publishers have since recognized this problem and they want to remove as much friction from a potential sale as possible. Their goal is not only to sell a book but to captivate and cultivate a FAN who will buy that book, the next and the next. This is simply smart business.
Though I’m not a huge fan of ads, it makes sense that if a publisher (traditional or indie) is going to pay good money to create and launch one, that anyone interested should be able to easily connect with the author. Same with coveted AP reviews, interviews, or events. Even if we self-publish and pay for promotion, an existing platform will make the most of that investment.
A LOT of any sales is the follow up then the follow-through.
If social media is new, scary, overwhelming? Welcome to being NEW. Most of us start like this…
Social Media is for the CONSUMER
I come from a background in sales. Cardboard. Not glamourous but everyone uses it. Being the cheapest or mailing out flyers or calling non-stop was not what sold my product over other choices.
And trust me, we had BEAUTIFUL ads. I also had competition offering a far cheaper product. They also had products virtually IDENTICAL to ours. But ads and price and even selection weren’t the major driving factor in sales.
Rather, it was the customer’s ability to quickly and easily connect with ME.
Maybe the company didn’t need corner board the day they met me. But then, that purchaser I’d spoken to in the spring signed a contract with a client in the autumn who wanted to ship truckloads of water heaters STAT. Water heaters that needed protection during shipping.
Because that purchaser had my personal cell number (back in the days when most salespeople didn’t have one and I paid for my OWN), guess who closed the sale?
Most salespeople didn’t want to pay out of pocket for a cell phone. They liked the old ways, the way business had always been done. Call the office. Leave a message with the receptionist, and then they’d return the call when they got back in off the road (which could be DAYS).
Even if the salesperson got the message once they checked into their hotels, it would be late in the evening. The earliest a customer could get an answer would be the next day.
Me? They talked to the minute the idea flitted across their brains (or within the hour if I was in a meeting).
It cost me $400 a month of my own money to have a cell phone with enough minutes. Back then, 2000 minutes a month was the max one could buy in a package, but I had a nine-state territory and also all of northern Mexico and believed it was a wise investment.
Work smarter, not harder….
I put out my own effort and money to make it easier for a customer to find and connect with me instantly. I didn’t have to. But it sure made that $2.5 million a year quota a lot easier to meet. Of ALL the cardboard reps vying for the SAME SALE, I was the one who was Johnny on the Spot to solve a problem. I was the one they could dial and get an almost-instant response and solution.
Though cardboard and novels are different products, that tether of personal connection is powerful.
A large number of agents, especially those at the prestigious agencies, will not even consider a query if they can’t google our name and see we’ve been working to at least connect and begin cultivating a community that can become readers.
But now many authors are going indie or self-publishing. Indie houses I can guarantee will likely ignore anyone who doesn’t want to be on social media. Those who self-publish? WE ARE THE PUBLISHER. What responsible publisher with a hint of business acumen ignores any kind of interaction and follow-up with potential customers (readers)?
It reminds me of the cardboard salesmen who didn’t want a cell phone. They’d missed the point that their job was to serve the customer’s schedule and needs, not the other way around.
Golf is NOT Golf and Dinner is NOT Dinner
Hubby and I had an interesting debate a few days ago. He kinda turned his nose up about wining and dining and entertaining clients (we have two small businesses). But Hubby has spent most of his professional life as a procurement person and is a long-lost cousin of Mr. Spock.
But then I explained that those off-site relaxed endeavors were actually investments in relationships and even friendships. When I took customers to lunch, I never talked business. I wanted to know (genuinely) about their wives, kids, or hobbies and let them have some fun talking about the things they enjoyed. It was personal.
It’s far more important to be interested than interesting.
When I would call to follow up, I asked about how their son’s Little League game went or how the wife was and simply told them I’d be in the area during a certain time. Never asked for money or talked about cardboard.
I also never chastised them or was hurt if they bought from another source. I’d say, “Well, that was a smart business decision. Can’t blame you for being prudent. Just hope I am there to help you next time. You know how to reach me.”
Over time, because of the relaxed atmosphere, I found that customers gravitated to calling me because they knew me, could reach me, and rather enjoyed not being pitched to non-stop. They’d even pay more.
What was really cool was that certain customers eventually refused to deal with any other company but ours, no matter how cheap the competitor’s price. They would even recommend me (and my product) to other companies, because I ignored the ABCs (Always BE Closing) and trusted the power of relationships and consistency.
The same can be said for social media. Blasting spam and bargains and free stuff might work for a while and on a few people, but it doesn’t generate the long-term loyalty money can’t buy.
Sure, back in my cardboard days, it cost me time and money and effort. My hard work rarely paid off immediately and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t harshly criticized.
But, eventually, when customers had to choose between going to lunch with someone who jammed flyers and price lists in their faces, who never shut up talking about themselves and who insisted on a signature on the dotted line by the time the check came?
I was far less exhausting and annoying to deal with.
Social Media is NOT a Sales Pitch
Social media is like all those lunches or quick, relaxing trips to a driving range to just unwind and chat and become friends. People should know we have a book, just like all my cardboard customers had a fancy folder filled with all our products and a sample box.
But the product wasn’t my focus, people were.
To refuse to do social media would have been akin to me never traveling and sitting by the phone in my office hoping it would ring. That our cardboard would sell itself. I imagine I wouldn’t have lasted long.
To misuse social media is a formula for a customer (reader) to gravitate some place they don’t feel like prey. Social media used properly doesn’t take much time to do, but it will take time to grow roots.
Just like it only took five minutes for me to call a buyer, ask how his kids were and let him know I’d be in the area and ask if he and his receptionist would care to join me for a bite to eat. But, though it took minutes to make the invitation, it took months of care and authentic follow-up to build a foundation of trust that created a loyal customer.
Direct Sales is Almost Universally ANNOYING
How many of you have gone to having a cell phone because the only people who called the landline were selling something? How many times have any of you said, “Sure, I’ll pay for that cruise right now” after getting a random phone call. Or, “Yes, sign my up for that credit protection plan. TAKE MY MONEY!”
How many times have you found a flyer on your windshield or front door and immediately called for that product or service? Or answered the spam in your e-mail with credit card in hand?
Think of this when using social media 😉 . Relax, have fun and trust this is a process and a really fun one with the right attitude.
I LOVE hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of JANUARY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding bookRise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World onAMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.
When Romi Lachlan's fiancé makes off with a half-a-billion dollars, she finds herself broke, blackballed and the FBI's prime suspect. Forced to take refuge with her crazy-as-a-bag-of-cats family at the Cactus Flower trailer park, Romi's sure her life can't get any worse until Special Agent Benjamin Sawyer shows up, determined to recover the money and put her away.
But persuading the hard-nosed G-man she's innocent is the least of her worries. The body count is rising and Romi must uncover the secret to the town’s newfound prosperity before the secret buries her. read more »
What is a brand? A platform? Why do we need one? How do we get one? Better still how can we crate a brand with the power of driving book sales and still have time left to do THE most important part of our job? Writing more books.
This book demystifies branding and social media and harnesses the same passion and imagination we authors use to write books, then uses that to locate and cultivate a devoted fan base. The methods taught in this book can weather any technological upheaval, and is virtually fad-proof. The new cool social site might change, but your platform will remain. read more »