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Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Kristen is away at a conference in San Francisco….so that means today, you get ME! And despite what the title implies, I’m not here to talk about the failed New Year’s diet (ask me if I even bothered).

diet, fantasy, food, writing

No, today, you get a super special fun rant from me about food in the fantasy genre. Why? Because I can. But also, because it’s a real problem.

Not to mention that our characters are going to end up with some serious nutritional and health issues if all they ever eat are bread and cheese.

Don’t get me wrong, I love me some bread and cheese as much as the next person. But…even if the story is loosely Ye Olde Faux Medieval, there seriously has to be more than just bread and cheese in the larder. 

It seems like such a small thing, doesn’t it? Of course Our Heroes™ are going to pack food for their quest or steal it along the way (or buy it...why do they never have money to buy stuff?). Bread and cheese seems simple and safe to use. Yet, these details, as seemingly throwaway as they are, define the difference between amateur hour and professionals.

Because why have bread and cheese when you could have dried figs and honey, sweet spiced mead, smoked meats with cracked pepper crusts, and hard savory biscuits that soften when used to soak up the juices of any meat or stew cooked over the campfire?

The Locavore Diet

If we are dealing with a fantasy setting that is pre-any-kind-of-industrialization (magic notwithstanding), then there are certain things we have to keep in mind.

Good world-building includes consideration of climate and geography. Do characters live in tropical mountains regions or cold mountain regions? This question naturally leads us to comparisons with more familiar, Earthly parallels. For example, tropical mountains could easily be the rain forests and mountains of Rwanda and the Congo. Cold mountain regions could be Scandinavian or maybe Inuit.

diet, fantasy, writing

While we might not be writing an exact transposition of those cultures into our fantasy world, there are some hard facts about climate, farming, and resources that we need to understand, and real information about those regions can help us. Year-round farming may be possible in the tropics, but food spoils faster in the heat. Farming is a bigger gamble in cold climates as there is just one shot at a growing season. On the other hand, characters have a refrigerator right outside their door for nine months of the year.

Geography and seasonality also determine the nutritional profile of a character’s diet. Colder climate settings could mean increased meat and dairy, possibly with fish and root vegetables. This is a diet that also happens to suit the body’s ‘insulation’ and energy expenditure needs to survive the cold. Warmer climates provide an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, all which have high water content which help keep the body regulated and healthy.

Locals might drink well water and be okay, but Our Question Heroes From The Kingdom Next Door™ probably shouldn’t. Without indoor plumbing, sewage systems, and water filtration, I’m pretty sure that giardia would also still be a thing. And magical springs are a whole other headache. I mean, what is the bacteria in our digestive tract supposed to DO with enchantments?

Too much? TMI? Whatevs.

Ye Olde Tupperware

Going back to the whole pre-industrialization thing, let’s stop for a moment to consider food storage.

On the one hand, it’s kind of awesome to think of a world that’s by default 100% organic and 100% non-GMO (mostly because they don’t have any other choice). Also, there’s no low-fat anything unless it’s a vegetable or straight-up starvation. And there’s the eternal toss-up between dying of hypertension/heart disease because of all the salt used to preserve food or dying of some really nasty gastro-intestinal parasite (that wears a little wizarding hat because hey, magic!) because Guidwyfe Jellichoe wanted to try this new-fangled thing the traveling physick had mentioned called a ‘low-sodium diet.’

diet, fantasy, writing

In very general terms, food preservation breaks down into a couple of processes: salting, smoking, spicing, and sun-drying. There are probably more, but let’s just roll with these for now. The mains goals of preservation are to remove moisture or change the chemical balance to slow sensitivity and decay. Each has pros and cons that are dependent (you guessed it!) climate and geography.

Salting gives us delicious things like salami and bacon, but there was a time when salt was either hard to come by or fairly expensive if you didn’t live close to the ocean. Smoking works, but it’s pretty miserable to do when you live in 100F heat with matching humidity. Sun-drying is only as good as the number of hot, sunny days that coincide with a harvest. Using spices is one of the ways people change the chemical balance of food. An example of this would be making curries – which, incidentally uses spices that only grow in those climate regions…which is kind of a neat trick on nature’s part, though I still take issue with covering 2/3 of the world in UNDRINKABLE water. LOL

diet, fantasy, writing

If Our Heroes™ need to take food with them, how are they going to carry it? What kind of pre-industrial packaging are we going to have? Leaf-wrapped lembas? Hard, smokey cheese wrapped in linen? Wax-sealed clay jars for wine? Again, think about the impact of geography and season on the food storage and transportation options for Our Heroes™.

Have a Snickers, Cait

I know that I tend to be a little over-enthusiastic about going down research rabbit-holes. It’s the frustrated ivory tower academic in my soul. And the beautiful part about fantasy is that it really doesn’t require all that much research.

But, it DOES require the time and effort to think things through. Just because we are writing fantasy doesn’t mean we get a pass on facts, logic, and realism. If anything, it SHOULD hold us to an even higher standard of rigor in order to help the reader become fully immersed in the world and invested in the characters.

Thoughtful, unique details can make a moment come alive. Illogical or trite details can turn a reader off faster than Gollum can say, “Sssssally sssssellsss sssseashellssss.”

Just a little time spent with Dr. Google, Professor Wikipedia, and Head Librarian Google Books (all free except for some parts of Google Books) will be worth its weight in cursed dwarvish gold when it comes to creating a fantasy world that readers want to visit again and again and again…

Have a Snickers, Cait (Redux)

No matter how ranty I seem, teaching about fantasy world-building is one of my favorite things to do (no joke). And, this Friday, I’m teaching one heck of a class on it. Three hours live (plus recording) of 1,001 things you can do to make your fantasy world stand out from the crowd (something that no amount of newsletter advertising or Rafflecopters can do for you long-term…).

 

Wizards, Wishes, and Washboards–Next Level World-Building for Fantasy

Taught by USA Today BSA Cait Reynolds February 22nd, 7-10 PM EST ($99)

THIS IS A 3-HOUR CLASS BECAUSE THERE IS LITERALLY SO MUCH TO COVER! (Remember, you also get a recording of this class to keep forevernevernevernever)

Come prepared to take LOTS of notes and ask lots of questions!

This class will cover a REALLY wide range of topics, including (and certainly not limited to):

  • WTF is etymology, and why does it matter?:  What are the fundamental rules of creating names, vocabulary, and language;
  • This land is your land…: We will dig into geology, geography, cartography, and probably some other ‘graphy-s’, and how to use them literally in world-building;
  • Keeping it real: Tips and tricks for keeping your characters relatable to readers, even if they have tentacles/magical powers/chip implants;
  • Trope is as trope does: What elements of fantasy are ‘required’ for the genre, and how to separate those from the eye-roll-inducing tropes (I’m looking at you, servant-girl-turned-magical-warrior-princess!);
  • Thinking it up vs. thinking it through: Just because it seems like a cool idea to have glow-in-the-dark dragons doesn’t mean it actually is, and who knew it would come back to bite you in chapter 17, stalling out your book, and…yeah…or, how to spot ye olde speed bumps before they wreck the carriage;
  • DETAILS ARE FUN!: This is the motherlode of all the different nitty-gritty details that either lure the reader into the deep end of immersion or leave them cold in the kiddie pool;
  • AND SO MUCH MORE…

More Classes from Kristen!

Story Master: From Dream to Done

Taught by Kristen Lamb, February 28th, 7-9 PM EST ($55/$349 GOLD)

Social Schizophrenia: Building a Brand Without Losing Your Mind 

Too many voices telling ALL THE THINGS! AHHHHHHHH! Taught by Kristen Lamb, Thursday, February 21st, 7-9 PM EST ($55 General Admission/ $195 GOLD)

Yes, I will be teaching about Instagram in this class.

A Ripple in Time: Mastering Non-Linear Plotting: ON DEMAND

Taught by Kristen Lamb, $55

Fiction ADDICTION: The Secret Ingredient to the Books Readers CRAVE

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Saturday, March 2nd 1-3 PM EST $55

SALES: For Those Who’d Rather Be Stabbed in the Face

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Thursday, March 7th 7-9 PM EST $65

The Business of Writing

Taught by Kristen Lamb on Thursday, March 7th 7-9 PM EST ($55)

drudgery, Atomic Habits, James Clear, Atomic Habits James Clear, boredom, Kristen Lamb, success

Drudgery—enduring the tired, tedious and unremarkable chores—is what makes the difference between those who dream and those who do.

Why am I talking about this? Because recently I saw some quote scroll past on social media. It was something (of course) posted by one of those super happy ‘life coach’ people.

Though I’m certain the quote was meant to inspire, it hit a sour note with me. It seemed dismissive of the pain, sacrifice and—yes, suffering—of those willing to dream, and then stick to that dream.

I don’t recall the quote’s exact wording (they’re all so similar), but the saccharin essence was the same. Apparently, if you don’t LOVE every single moment of what you’re doing, then maybe you don’t have the right career.

Keep searching! Dream! You have a right to be HAPPY! If it isn’t making you HAPPY, then MOVE ON!

As a social media expert, my role is to guide creative professionals and train y’all to get the most out of social media (without selling your creative souls). My mission has always been to help writers use their imagination along with digital tools to craft their brand.

I have zero desire to lobotomize creative people and turn y’all into sales bots.

The ‘brand’ serves to help writers curate content most likely to attract those who dig what they have to offer. This is working smarter, not harder. It’s simple, Stephen King’s fans are NOT the same as Amy Tan’s.

The content eventually evolves into what we call ‘our author platform.’ From there (our platform), we can create relationships/friendships and cultivate a passionate audience who might not only buy our books, but who might also eagerly spread the word. Yay!

Words like brand, platform, sales, audience, etc. might be dirty words for some people, but I don’t have such luxuries. I doubt many people do. Even mega-authors whose NAMES ALONE sell millions/billions of books use social media.

If Sandra Brown sees value being on Instagram, Anne Rice actively engages with fans on Facebook, and J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) uses Twitter, suffice to say we could take a lesson or five.

See, writing—much like any worthy undertaking—comes part and parcel with a lot of drudgery and loads of stuff we’d rather not do.

Learning Curve Drudgery 

drudgery, Atomic Habits, James Clear, James Clear Atomic Habits, Kristen Lamb, success

A lot of folks believe that just because they’re proficient in their native language, they are then automatically qualified to write amazing fiction. Yeah…no.

Not judging at all. I used to be one of those people. I had zero concept how ridiculously hard it was to craft a readable story, let alone a good one.

Writing a novel that could span anywhere from 50K to 150K words (depending on genre) that manages to grab then hold a reader’s interest? AHHHH! Balancing plot points, plot arc, character, dialogue, scene and sequel, A-lines, B-lines, on and on?

It doesn’t take too long to understand why many great authors turned to booze and drugs.

*gives Poe a pass on the whole ‘heroin addiction’ thing*

Far too many writers start out believing the first novel they write is perfect, and if anyone counters this? They fall apart. Some give up. A few hire ‘editors’ who are happy to tell them ‘the other meanie editor was totes unprofessional and it’s fiiiine to have fourteen POVs all from cats.’

Others double-down on the denial and write a sequel or—God help us all—a series of equally crappy books that don’t sell.

Why?

Because learning to write novels is hard.

I’ve been through this, myself. My two main mentors both made me cry…a LOT. And I am NOT a person who cries.

These mentors were nothing like my writing group. My writing group was so encouraging!

Bob and Les didn’t tell me my writing was unicorn tears, they told me it was more like what might come out of the other end of a unicorn.

No, not a unicorn. A hyena with tapeworm and a bad case of mange.

*weeps*

I didn’t love writing the same stuff over and over. Guess what? Didn’t love reading and rereading the books they recommended I study.

Come to think of it, I didn’t love putting out my best only for it to come back with so much red I wondered if it had been hit by a bus then SHOT before they returned it.

Sure I could have quit. Thought about it a lot. A lot.

Because shouldn’t I LOOOVE every moment of what I do? But, I didn’t quit because I wanted to become an excellent writer. I’m still a work in progress.

My critique group were fantastic cheerleaders, which we need…but not necessarily to make us better.

Cheerleaders look super pretty, but cheerleaders don’t train touchdowns.

Coaches who call out bad form, terrible plays, and awful habits create winners. These experts are hired to criticize, make a player watch footage over and over and, if warranted, do cherry-pickers until the player wants to DIE. Might seem ‘mean’ but THIS is what will help that player make touchdowns.

Drudgery. Not pom-pom waving.

Writing Drudgery

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There’s drudgery in the actual writing. Oh no! Yes, you heard it here first. Writing, while one of the BEST jobs in the world, contains more than its fair share of suckage.

The first draft can be loads of fun, until the mire of Act Two where you find yourself contemplating sudden and unexpected alien abduction—either for yourself to spring you from writing, or for your characters because you’ve messed up somewhere in the plot and written yourself into a corner.

Becoming successful in writing (or anything really) is never in the BIG things we do. It’s the compilation of a lot of small acts that build up over time.

It is showing up day after day even when we’d rather get a root canal than figure out what went sideways somewhere between page 1 and page 400.

We have to research, proofread, edit, revise, and all of this takes focus and time and pain. By the time a book is ‘ready’ to be published, odds are you’ll hate your own book and hope you never have to read it again.

***FYI: The feeling passes…eventually. Most of the time. Maybe.

Publishing Drudgery

drudgery, Atomic Habits, James Clear, James Clear Atomic Habits, Kristen Lamb, success

For those who want to traditionally publish, there is the drudgery of writing synopses and query letters and researching agents. Add the drudgery of the actual querying and subsequent waiting.

Meanwhile, most of us have day jobs and laundry and family members who expect to be fed every day #HighMaintenance.

Oh, and make sure to start writing the next book 😉 (refer to the love-fest above).

For those who choose a non-traditional path, we have to locate and hire the best people. There may be multiple iterations of a cover. Then, if you believe you’ve found all your typos in your seventeen passes? *clutches sides laughing*

And if you believe the proofreaders and editors caught all them too? Maybe, but..

drudgery, publishing, success, Kristen Lamb, Atomic Habits, Atomic Habits James Cleary, boredom

On top of this, add in bookkeeping, record keeping, accounting, building a platform, understanding keywords and SEO and blah, blah, blah.

Suffice to say that YES, writing is a WONDERFUL job! I wouldn’t be here fifteen years later if it was all bad. Yet, I do have to confess that choosing to become a writer showed me the worst parts of my character…in Technicolor.

I didn’t start blogging because I EVER believed my blog would be what it is today with millions of unique visitors. Want to know why I began blogging? I had ZERO self-discipline.

I’d become a person who didn’t want to do anything that I didn’t LOVE. If I wasn’t having FUN, then clearly I’d chosen the wrong career, right?

Wrong.

The Drudgery Delineation

drudgery, atomic Habits, James Clear, Atomic Habits James Clear, boredom, success, Kristen Lamb
Is it REALLY closed?

People who reach their goals and dreams are different for sure. Are they more gifted? Talented? Unusually good-looking? Perhaps. But, more often than not, these folks excel at handling the boring parts of the dream.

Recently, I finished James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits (which I HIGHLY recommend), and he said something that piqued my attention:

The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom. We get bored with habits because they stop delighting us. The outcome becomes expected. And as our habits become ordinary, we start derailing our progress to seek novelty. Perhaps this is why we get caught up in a never-ending cycle, jumping from one workout to the next, one diet to the next, one business idea to the next. As soon as we experience the slightest dip in motivation, we begin seeking a new strategy—even if the old one was still working.

~ James Clear, Atomic Habits

Everyone wants the ripped body, but few are willing to show up every day, month after month and year after year, even when the weather is miserable. The same can be said for writing.

You have NO idea how often I hear, ‘If I only had the TIME, I’d write more.’ As if time is laying around in the couch cushions with the petrified Cheerios and the TV remote no one’s seen Twilight was big.

Hey, I have been guilty here, too. Still can fall into old (bad) habits if I fail to remain vigilant.

The reason they believe they must FIND TIME? It’s likely because they’ve hit the part of the writing process that’s actual WORK. It’s ceased to be a glorious high.

And, if they don’t start a new book (chasing the high), then they put off writing altogether using excuses more creative than their plot ideas.

Hey! Told y’all I have been guilty too…so no hating 😛 .

Yet, when we look at anything worth achieving, from writing an amazing book to being a great parent to running a profitable business, we see that it is how these individuals handle the millions of unremarkable unexciting and downright soul-crushing (but necessary) tasks that makes all the difference.

We see the same common denominator in every success story, from the legendary athletes willing to do the same drills over and over until perfected to the entrepreneurs who mined drudgery for the edge they needed to outpace all competition.

Can You Handle Being BORED?

drudgery, Atomic Habits, James Clear, Atomic Habits James Clear, Kristen Lamb, success, boredom
Nope. No cake.

Everyone loves new beginnings. The new relationship with no baggage and all hugs and kisses, the smell of the fresh notebook, the empty page waiting for all of our brilliant ideas. We love the new blog because it holds so much promise.

Then there is the new workout from YouTube, the new diet we found on Instagram, the new craft project we saw on Pinterest….

A lot of us fixate on whether we can handle the BIG moments, the MAJOR crises but I’d actually offer different advice. Back at the start of the year I recommended that, before we made any New Year’s Resolutions, we ask the hard question.

Could we fall in love with pain and process as much as the end result? Everyone loves the summit selfie but few want the climb. It comes with hypoxia and pretty good odds you’ll die and no one will be able to claim your frozen corpse…ever.

#MotivationMonday

😀

Many of us LOVE the idea of six-pack abs…but we LOVE tacos more. We struggle after a few weeks. Why? Because we are tired, sore, and even though we’ve been working out for a WHOLE MONTH, we still don’t have a ripped physique.

Heck, we can’t even see a muscle. We’re tired of the pile of smelly clothes, the aches and pains and having to measure all our food. It isn’t FUN. In fact, it’s downright tedious.

We don’t LOVE the gym, the job, the book, the YouTube channel anymore because it’s day after day of nothing all that special…and pain.

Lots of that.

Catching Fire

drudgery, Atomic Habits, James Clear, Atomic Habits James Clear, boredom, success, Kristen Lamb

Yet, all these small actions add up over time. When we embrace the dull actions and commit, we will eventually ignite. Ray Bradbury poetically asserted paper had an ignition point of 451 degrees Fahrenheit. The actual number is about thirty degrees higher.

Paper will burst into flames at about 480 degrees Fahrenheit (without being directly exposed to flame).

Using this analogy, let’s take our metaphorical paper and heat it to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, then 250, then 300, then 440, then 451. Boy, this is boring and taking a LONG time and taking energy. Nothing is happening.

Heat it to 460, then 470, then 477 and then throw up your hands because paper NEVER sets on fire without a high-budget marketing plan…I mean match.

Or, maybe there is a marked transformation somewhere between 477 degrees and 482 degrees. At 477 degrees Fahrenheit all looks the same. Oh but add in a little more energy and IGNITION. And this ignition all occurs within a range of a couple degrees.

The same goes for becoming a successful author (as in a professional who’s PAID to play with our imaginary friends). A major key to success largely rests on how we handle the boring parts. Can we keep going, keep putting on the heat when it looks as if nothing is happening?

‘Success’ doesn’t have a canonized ‘ignition point.’ If it did, being successful would be easy.

If I knew I had to write five books, three series, add in a hundred blogs and forty three good reviews to reach literary stardom? Dang skippy I’d stick with it. There wouldn’t be ANY drudgery, because I’d have certainty.

But that’s the problem.

The ignition point for succeeding in anything is anything but certain (and might not even exist in some cases). It differs between people, generations, goals, industries, abilities, etc. We DON’T KNOW and THAT is precisely why drudgery can so easily undo us if we let it.

In the End

I want all your dreams to catch fire—your dreams to write, create, to be an excellent parent or partner, to achieve the remarkable.

If you can appreciate that every masterpiece began as a blank canvas, a hunk of marble, an ugly cement foundation, a sketch, or an idea and that IN BETWEEN there was a lot of wash, rinse, repeat? You’re on your way to reaching those goals.

We’re rarely limited by our talent, yet we’re all too often hobbled by impatience. Drudgery makes us cave in too soon. It takes time to hone skills, learn a craft, build an audience, etc. Just keep pressing and hopefully you’ll see your ignition point and it will be the most beautiful light you’ve ever seen.

Then you get to do it again for the next goal 😀 . *smoochies*

But, you’ll be better and stronger because you know to expect the span of suck before the breakthrough!

Again, I read pretty much every book published on self-help, business, entrepreneurship, so it’s SUPER tough to impress me. Atomic Habits did contain a lot of the standard success principles, but there were also PLENTY of moments that made me stop and really think. Angles I’d not seen explored before.

If you get a chance, pick up a copy of James Clear’s Atomic Habits.

What Are Your Thoughts?

I love hearing from you! Do you struggle with the doldrums in your dreams? Is it hard not to just start something new? Have you been starting over so much that maybe that’s why you aren’t further along? Are you so sick of your book you want to cry? #GotTheTShirt

Don’t you wish we had the magic ‘temperature’ where our dreams LIT UP? Some way to know if we were close? Or even heading in the correct direction? Have you struggled with learning to finish what you start? Been too easily distracted?

Talk to me! Oh, by the way…

Kristen Lamb, Cait Reynolds

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

FEBRUARY/MARCH’S AWESOMENESS (CLASSES)

Blurb Writing Blows (But Doesn’t Have To)

Taught by USA Today BSA Cait Reynolds February 15th, 7-9 PM EST ($45)

World-Building for Fantasy

Taught by USA Today BSA Cait Reynolds February 22nd, 7-10 PM EST ($99)

Story Master: From Dream to Done

Taught by Kristen Lamb, February 28th, 7-9 PM EST ($55/$349 GOLD)

Social Schizophrenia: Building a Brand Without Losing Your Mind 

Too many voices telling ALL THE THINGS! AHHHHHHHH! Taught by Kristen Lamb, Thursday, February 21st, 7-9 PM EST ($55 General Admission/ $195 GOLD)

Yes, I will be teaching about Instagram in this class.

A Ripple in Time: Mastering Non-Linear Plotting: ON DEMAND

Taught by Kristen Lamb, $55

Fiction ADDICTION: The Secret Ingredient to the Books Readers CRAVE

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Saturday, March 2nd 1-3 PM EST $55

SALES: For Those Who’d Rather Be Stabbed in the Face

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Thursday, March 7th 7-9 PM EST $65

The Business of Writing

Taught by Kristen Lamb on Thursday, March 7th 7-9 PM EST ($55)

 

sell more books, Kristen Lamb, how to sell more books, publishing, Brent Keane, Pexels

How do we sell more books? This is the big question all authors ask (myself included). Obviously, there are countless opinions about how to sell more books, but not all opinions are created equally.

Thus, before we hop onto the latest marketing/promotion fad we’re wise to understand why traditional marketing doesn’t sell books. Books are not like cups of coffee or breakfast cereal, and thus require a different approach.

Yes, ads, marketing and promotion campaigns sell toilet paper, soap, and toothpaste because seriously…who is NOT USING this stuff? When it comes to influencing what folks do with their free time, however, it’s a whole other game.

Writers are unique as well. Yes, we really are special unique starfish. And, since we are responsible for producing the product, we need a social media approach that leaves time to write great books.

This said, what’s the critical element that makes a book a mega success? Is it lightning in a bottle? Black magic? Voodoo? Can we buy it on Amazon? Is it banned in Georgia?

No. The answer is actually pretty simple (though simple and easy are NOT synonymous). Writers have to get out in the metaphorical boat.

We had a saying when I worked in sales: Fish where the fish are. 

If we want to sell more books, we must learn to fish, and the fish are schooling on-line. And trust me, I know it’s tempting to take shortcuts.

Yet, there’s a marked difference between a legendary angler like Jeremy Wade who goes after a very specific fish to catch and release…and that weird third cousin who tosses dynamite in a pond then collects whatever floats to the surface.

Approach and technique make all the difference in our results. But first…

Field of ‘Dream On’ Marketing 

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A lot of authors don’t even want to get in the boat let alone learn to fish. They try to apply the ‘Field of Dreams Plan’ to sell more books.

If I write it, they will come.

No. No they won’t. Sorry to break the news. No one cares about our book simply because we’ve published one.

Reading for pleasure has been steadily declining since the 1980s, and now that our culture is firmly entrenched in the new digital paradigm, this number is dropping off…a cliff. Back in 2004, roughly 28% of Americans over the age of 15 read for pleasure. As of 2017, that number was down to 19%, and for good reasons.

There’s Netflix, Fortnite, YouTube, Instagram, Tinder, and Candy Crush. Also, the final season of Game of Thrones in April—Spring is Coming—and we need to refresh our memories and who exactly all three hundred four characters are. Right?

Suffice to say, writers have had a tough time inspiring humans to read since before the radio was invented. The 24-7 Global SHINYfest is certainly NOT helping. This is why, if we want to sell more books, we cannot simply publish the book then slap down some cash for some Facebook ads.

When we settle for this approach, we’re essentially saying:

Hey, why don’t you devote an average of 11-15 hours you don’t have, to sit still and do an activity you believe you hate? Oh, and PAY ME!

Yep, they’re right on that.

No, no…I can see through their window. Nope, they’re on Netflix. My bad.

Seemed so promising with that 3-D dragon sparkle cover.

Writing excellent books is a fantastic start for those who want to sell more books. But, don’t get too excited. While a great book is a fabulous start, there’s more work we need to do to locate and cultivate our audience.

How Do We Move the Needle?

sell more books, Kristen Lamb, mali maeder, Pexel, book marketing

Yes, I know the above statistics look grim, but as Mark Twain once said, ‘There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.’ Numbers are wonderful, but they’re a guidepost not gospel.

Sure, data is useful because, if research showed that 96% of all Americans read three books a week and we still weren’t able to sell any books? Probably safe to say writing books is NOT our strong suit. Maybe look into cosmetology school or underwater welding.

Ah, but, when the numbers are low—19%—it’s easier to accept that, when faced with an ambivalent marketplace, we’re going to have to think and do things differently.

We need to work smarter, not harder. If you want to captivate a reading audience, you must do these three things.

Intentionality: Social Media on Porpoise

sell more books, Kristen Lamb, book marketing, Pexels

*bada bump snare*

First, if we want to sell more books, we have to ditch the ‘Field of Dream On Marketing Plan.’

Times have changed and buying habits have as well. As I said earlier, Fish where the fish are.

When it comes to 21st century publishing, if authors don’t have a strong digital presence (brand), we’re not even in the right place to be successful. It’s like trying to fish on dry land…which does NOT yield a tasty catch and just makes us look ridiculous.

So please, get on-line. Your future fans are there and waiting to discover you.

Secondly, stop devoting huge efforts marketing to people who would define themselves as ‘avid readers.’

Why? Because every author out there is trying to sell books to the same limited population, a limited population only capable of buying and reading so many titles.

Additionally, marketing to ‘readers’ is a doomed plan when we apply basic logic.

I just mentioned there are fewer ‘avid readers’ than ever before, but—thanks to self-publishing and indie press—there are more ‘published authors’ than ever before. Fewer readers compounded with exponentially more titles for sale.

See the problem? Basic MATH.

These digital waters have been overfished to the point that anyone who’s still fishing there is likely starving.

Our odds of success will vastly improve if we learn how to make converts, which brings me to my third point.

Thirdly, ditch the misconception that non-readers don’t read AT ALL.

Remember, the 19% stat only represents people who don’t need to be coerced to read. 

The other 81% of literate humans in need of being informed or entertained CAN read, they’re simply choosing NOT to read. This group just needs convincing. A little seduction. Build a relationship. Tell them they’re pretty and ask about their day.

Put out better bait.

***Cat videos are marvelous, FYI.

Yes, it’s more ‘work’ but what (legal) long-term relationship doesn’t require consistent emotional investments?

Every dark horse runaway success has one common denominator:

These authors/books were able to convert millions of fans from the ‘NON-READER’ population into the ‘THEIR READER’ population.

There are converts who will claim they ‘don’t like to read,’ but they own every Harry Potter book (in hard cover) and will read anything and everything J.K. Rowling publishes forever and ever AMEN.

Fifty Shades of Grey didn’t launch to stratospheric success because it scored rave literary reviews from elite book critics. 50 Shades did what other books didn’t or couldn’t.

E.L. James’ books moved the needle in a MAJOR way because 50 Shades converted disinterested ‘non-readers’ into ‘die-hard devotees.’ Devotees that then set suburban bedrooms and sales records on fire.

Change Tack for the BIG Haul

sell more books, Kristen Lamb, book marketing

When we want to sell more books, converts are key. Yes, avid readers are wonderful to have as fans, because they (we) read all the time. We enjoy books, buy books and most of us need a twelve-step program and a sponsor because of our book-buying habit.

This should be awesome, right?

Hold on there, Sparky.

While us avid readers inhale books faster than a line of cocaine at a West Hollywood party, we’re not exactly blown away when we find a book we can finish. We don’t feel our world just tilted on its axis because we enjoyed a novel. It takes a ridiculously amazing book to get us amped up.

Conversely…

For the person who believes she hates reading and doesn’t understand why anyone would read a book unless there was a mandatory test at the end? When SHE finishes a book and LOVES it? This person becomes positively EVANGELICAL and tells everyone who will listen to buy it.

***Oh, and this sort of ‘catch’ is easily caught with kitten videos, funny memes and just talking about what y’all have in common. No ookie ‘self-promo’ required. People buy from who they know and LIKE.

Alas, what frustrates so many authors (and traditional marketing/advertising/PR people who still think it’s 1997) is that social media is the modern version of ‘word of mouth.’ Unlike direct marketing, social media efficacy can’t be precisely measured or controlled.

Also, as authors, our social media activity can’t be outsourced. We aren’t a faceless company like GEICO or Starbucks. People expect they’re interacting with US on-line, thus paying someone else to pretend to ‘be’ us is a bait-and-switch that smacks of catfishing.

No one in the history of ever enjoyed being catfished.

Social media activity also can’t be solely automated, because that’s called rude…I mean spam.

How many of us have emails dedicated for the stuff we don’t want? We use spam filters, and gripe to anyone who’ll listen when forced to sit on the phone interacting with a robot.

So then WHY would this be a good plan to do to our (potential) readers?

Hint: It isn’t.

Why would we serve what even we don’t want to consume? Exactly. An automated tweet or post here and there? Fine. But go easy on this.

If we wanted to try to connect with an automated message and never a human? We’d call our cable provider’s customer service line. At least there we could mock the irony of the name…and drink heavily.

In The End

sell more books, Kristen Lamb, book marketing, Pexels, Chevanon Photography

Selling more books becomes simpler when we open our minds to who makes up our potential audience. Once we’re brave enough to venture into uncharted waters and plumb new depths, our odds of success improve dramatically.

The more niche we can become, the less competition we have to outmaneuver and outdo.

Me trying to connect with and catch ‘readers’ is heck of a lot harder than trying to locate then connect with ‘people who love true crime, binge-watch Dexter, and quote Fight Club way more than is socially acceptable.’

Dare to do more than hook ‘a fish.’ Instead, be bold and go after that ‘perfect catch.’

Yes, it takes more time, finesse and patience, but it’s worth it. You’ll sell more books, and get to enjoy a colorful, diverse, and enthusiastic ‘school’ of followers who will continue to grow and bring you joy long after the first sale.

What Are Your Thoughts?

I love hearing from you! Does this make ‘marketing’ and ‘promotion’ seem a tad less terrifying? Do you struggle with the idea of selling your book because it feels too smarmy? Have you been approaching your promotion from the perspective of an avid reader instead of a person to be converted?

Maybe most people don’t read books, but they might read YOUR books…

Come to the Dark Side. We have cookies… 😀

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

FEBRUARY/MARCH’S AWESOMENESS (CLASSES)

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

Taught by Kristen Lamb on Thursday, February 7th, 7-9 PM EST ($55)

Shift Your Shifter Romance into HIGH Gear

Taught by USA Today BSA Cait Reynolds February 8th, 7-9 PM EST ($55)

Blurb Writing Blows (But Doesn’t Have To)

Taught by USA Today BSA Cait Reynolds February 15th, 7-9 PM EST ($45)

World-Building for Fantasy

Taught by USA Today BSA Cait Reynolds February 22nd, 7-10 PM EST ($99)

Story Master: From Dream to Done

Taught by Kristen Lamb, February 28th, 7-9 PM EST ($55/$349 GOLD)

Social Schizophrenia: Building a Brand Without Losing Your Mind 

Too many voices telling ALL THE THINGS! AHHHHHHHH! Taught by Kristen Lamb, Thursday, February 21st, 7-9 PM EST ($55 General Admission/ $195 GOLD)

Yes, I will be teaching about Instagram in this class.

A Ripple in Time: Mastering Non-Linear Plotting: ON DEMAND

Taught by Kristen Lamb, $55

Fiction ADDICTION: The Secret Ingredient to the Books Readers CRAVE

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Saturday, March 2nd 1-3 PM EST $55

SALES: For Those Who’d Rather Be Stabbed in the Face

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Thursday, March 7th 7-9 PM EST $65

The Business of Writing

Taught by Kristen Lamb on Thursday, March 7th 7-9 PM EST ($55)

 

Image vis Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi.
Image vis Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi.

Quitting. Not a popular word when it comes to motivational quotes. Those of us who are driven achievers often end up overwhelmed, burned out, living in a blanket fort afraid to leave the house. Why? Because we’ve ALL heard that winners never quit and quitters never win.

Which is complete and utter bull sprinkles.

Since we don’t want to be “quitters” we keep going even when we shouldn’t.

So, want to know the secret to success? Quitting. Yes, you read correctly. And, if you’re a creative professional or entrepreneur, it is in your best interests to learn to get really good at quitting.

Maybe you’ve felt like a loser or a failure, that your dream to make a living with your art/idea was a fool’s errand. We have to be careful. Never giving up might keep us from ever succeeding.

Ignore the motivational fluff and understand…

Winners Quit All the Time

I posit this thought; if we ever hope to achieve anything remarkable, we must learn to quit. In fact, I’ll take this another step. I venture to say that most aspiring writers will not succeed simply because they aren’t skilled at quitting.

Ooooohhhh.

Learning Discernment

One reason we might not recognize that quitting is our wisest option is because we lack discernment. It’s easy to get trapped in all-or-nothing thinking. If we defy family in pursuit of our dream and something stops working properly—out of pride—often we’ll persist even when the very thing we’re attempting is the largest reason we will fail.

We keep reworking that first novel over and over. We keep querying the first novel and won’t move on until we get an agent. We keep writing in the same genre even though it might not be the best fit for our voice.

We keep marketing the first self-published book and don’t move forward and keep writing more books and better books.

For the entrepreneurs (and being a creative professional falls under entrepreneurship), we can start throwing good money after bad. We started with an idea and, instead of hot-washing our results and being brutally honest? We (mistakenly) believe more money will fix a flawed plan.

Hint: It won’t.

If you are tangled in a book that isn’t working, never ends, keeps getting rejected, ask for help. Sometimes the story (plot) is there only we can’t see it. We’re too vested and emotionally blinded.

***This is why I do plot consulting 😉

Strategic Quitting & Failure Insurance 

I like to say, “Persistence looks a lot like stupid.”

The act of never giving up is noble, but never giving up on the wrong things is a formula to fail.

We have to learn to detect the difference between quitting a tactic and quitting a dream.

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

If I’m trying to climb Mt. Everest, but I’m repeatedly failing at climbing the one side, which is a sheer rock face with no way to get a footing, then it is suicide to keep trying the same thing. If, however, I regroup, hike back to the bottom (hire some experts, a.k.a. sherpas), and take another way up the mountain, I am a quitter…but I am NOT a failure.

In fact, in order to “win” I must “quit.”

Learn to Quit from the Best

Most of us are lousy at knowing how and when to quit. This is one of the reasons it is a good idea to surround ourselves with successful people, because successful people are expert quitters.

***Even if “surrounding” means following on social media, reading their books, listening to podcasts, etc.

Read any book from super successful people from all different backgrounds and in all different fields and one thing stands out. These folks learned then adopted some mad quitting skills

Just read Daymond John’s The Power of Broke, mega-blogger Jenny Lawson’s memoir Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, bazillionaire Mark Cuban’s How to Win at the Sport of Business: If I Can Do It You Can Do It, comedian Kevin Hart’s memoir I Can’t Make This Up and you’ll see what I am talking about.

This list is filled with men, women, entertainers, entrepreneurs, and business tycoons yet they all began small and experimented. With time and experience they learned when quitting was the only way to make it to the next level.

For instance, if business mogul and Shark Tank celebrity Daymond John had kept his ‘taxi’ business we might never have even heard of him.

Good Business versus a Good Start

For those who don’t know, Daymond John got his start with a small scale fashion business (that we now know as FUBU) that he ran out of a large van. Being business savvy, though, Daymond John got as much bang for the buck with that van as possible.

So, when he wasn’t delivering and selling fashion, he made additional money shuttling people from their bus stops to their doorsteps for a small fee.

NYC, however, caught on—namely from all the complaints from taxi companies—and the city started ticketing him to the point that the great idea was a no-go.

Again, fabulous concept—OBVIOUSLY since Uber eventually came along and did the EXACT same thing. But for Daymond John, it was a fabulous concept that could only work short-term to get him to the next level on a totally different playing field.

For him it was a means to an end not the end (as was the eventually the case for Uber).

As for ME…

When I started out, I had all the wrong mentors. I had writer pals who quit writing when it was boring or who quit querying after a handful of rejections. They quit attending critique because they got their feelings hurt when people didn’t rave their book was the best thing since kitten calendars.

All this wrong kind of quitting is easy to fall into.

Excuses are free, but they cost us everything.

My Life Changed When I Changed the Quitters in My Company

For me, I stalked people I admired on social media. I read a lot of books, memoirs, self-help, business books from people I admired.

I had to change my thinking and, to do this, I had to immerse myself with people who had what I wanted. It was crucial to adopt their thinking, attitudes, and, ideally, benefit from their wisdom.

A good example of savvy quitting? I turned in a hundred page proposal for Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World in the winter of 2011 to a premiere agent, a DREAM agent. But, after NYC passing on it for over a year? I thanked my agent for his efforts, then went ahead and published it myself.

Yes, I self-published Rise of the Machines in 2012. Wasn’t in my plans, and yet….

My book remains a top social media branding resource because I chose to focus on humans and not technology. Technology changes, people don’t.

When we understand what people like, hate, what makes them loyal, why they bond or flee, then it doesn’t matter whether we are using Instagram, SnapChat or any other platform. Because we know what makes our potential audience/fans/customers excited, we have an edge.

We need to always be moving forward, and sometimes pressing on requires letting go.

We can’t grab hold of the new if we are hanging on to the old. If I’d remained entrenched in my old circle of peers, that book would have never seen the light of day.

And sure, letting go of a NYC deal sucked. What author doesn’t want a contract with major house? It was heartbreaking for me to walk away from the ‘hope’ that maybe NY would one day see the value of my book.

Yet? It had to happen.

The NYC plan was a a no-go and it came time to do something different. I wasn’t quitting my dream (publishing an evergreen social media guide), I simply was quitting my approach.

If something isn’t working QUIT. Move on!

If we have to defend and justify what we are doing there’s something wrong.

Everything is Our Enemy

quitting, Kristen Lamb, productivity, success

It’s hard to know when to quit. I’m a loyal person. I’m loyal to a fault and I struggle every day with this lesson. But I’ve recently come to a conclusion. People who reach their dreams don’t get there by doing EVERYTHING. Everything is dead weight. Everything will keep us from focusing. Everything gets us distracted.

Everything is the enemy.

Sometimes we need to let go of inefficiencies or false trails, and if we don’t let go, then failure is just a matter of time.

We Actually Need More Quitting

Quit your day job. Today. This moment. Now, by quitting, I don’t mean you should throw your laptop in a waste can and take a bat to that copy machine that’s eaten every presentation you’ve tried to photocopy since the day you were hired….though that might be fun.

No, I mean mentally QUIT, then hire yourself to the dream.

Screw aspiring. Aspiring is for the amateurs and wannabes. It takes guts to be an author.

It takes guts to be any kind of creative professional. Hire yourself to the job you dream about. TODAY.

No aspiring writers, only pre-published writers. If you want to be a professional author, you must quit to win. The day job is no longer the ends, but rather the means. The day job is just venture capital funding the successful art-making business…YOU.

You are a pre-published author…who happens to also be a stay-at-home-mom, a computer programmer, a salesperson, a whatever.

Learn to Quit Being “Everything”

quitting, Kristen Lamb, success, productivityAgain, Everything is the enemy. Friends and family will want you to keep being the maid and the taxi and the babysitter and the buddy who can spend all day shoe-shopping.

Many of us will try to keep being Everything to everyone and we’ll just try to “fit in” writing, but that is the lie that will kill the dream. We can’t be Everything!

A new quote I have etched in my brain is:

I can be respected or popular. I can’t be both.

We must learn when to quit and to be firm in quitting. Others have the right to be disappointed, but they’ll get over it. And, if they really love us they will get over it quickly and be happy for our resolve to reach our dreams.

If they don’t? They’re dead weight and it’s better to cull them out of our life sooner than later.

Yes, this is hard stuff. Reaching our dreams is simple, but it will never be easy ;).

I LOVE HEARING from YOU!

So what are some of your quitting stories? Did it work? Were you better off? Tell us your quit to win story! Do you need help sticking to your guns? Hey, your family doesn’t get you, but we do! Do you have a problem and you don’t know if you should stick or quit? Put it in the comments section and let us play armchair psychiatrist!

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

***All classes come with a free recording.

THANK YOU SO MUCH for your enthusiastic support! Y’all ROCK! I LOVE HEARING From YOU!

Comments, questions? Are you tired of being told you need to be on every social site all the time? Do you just want to get back to writing STORIES? Does the idea of promotion and ads make you hyperventilate?

What are your thoughts?

JANUARY/FEBRUARY/MARCH’S AWESOMENESS (CLASSES)

The Business of Writing

Taught by Kristen Lamb on Saturday, February 2nd 1-3 PM EST ($55)

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

Taught by Kristen Lamb on Thursday, February 7th, 7-9 PM EST ($55)

Shift Your Shifter Romance into HIGH Gear

Taught by USA Today BSA Cait Reynolds February 8th, 7-9 PM EST ($55)

Blurb Writing Blows (But Doesn’t Have To)

Taught by USA Today BSA Cait Reynolds February 15th, 7-9 PM EST ($45)

World-Building for Fantasy

Taught by USA Today BSA Cait Reynolds February 22nd, 7-10 PM EST ($99)

Story Master: From Dream to Done

Taught by Kristen Lamb, February 28th, 7-9 PM EST ($55/$349 GOLD)

Social Schizophrenia: Building a Brand Without Losing Your Mind 

Too many voices telling ALL THE THINGS! AHHHHHHHH! Taught by Kristen Lamb, Thursday, February 21st, 7-9 PM EST ($55 General Admission/ $195 GOLD)

Yes, I will be teaching about Instagram in this class.

A Ripple in Time: Mastering Non-Linear Plotting: ON DEMAND

Taught by Kristen Lamb, $55

Fiction ADDICTION: The Secret Ingredient to the Books Readers CRAVE

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Saturday, March 2nd 1-3 PM EST $55

SALES: For Those Who’d Rather Be Stabbed in the Face

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Thursday, March 7th 7-9 PM EST $65

The Business of Writing

Taught by Kristen Lamb on Thursday, March 7th 7-9 PM EST ($55)

 

promotion, book ads, does advertising sell books, promotion and marketing for books
Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Ken.

Often, when I mention brand and platform, writers assume I am talking about promotion and marketing (ads). That is not only a false assumption, it can be a fatal one.

When we (regular people) hop onto Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook or whatever social site, only to get barraged with book spam, a big reason it annoys us is because the author hasn’t taken time to build rapport, earn our trust, and gain permission to sell us stuff.

I kid you not, I signed in to LinkedIn for the first time in like a YEAR the other day and, in less than an hour, some author sends me PM with a link to buy his book. No introduction or hello or liking my stuff or asking if I had pets…

HERE! BUY MY BOOK!

….sure. Right on that. Nice to meet you, too.

*grumbles* *now remembers why I hated LinkedIn*

When approached this way, the promotion either becomes white noise (invisible), or worse, an irritation (negative branding). Writers trying to create a brand by serving up copious book promotion will create a brand all right.

The brand of self-serving @$$hat.

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

Why? What went wrong?

For promotion to be effective, we have to understand what a brand actually IS.

If we don’t understand what a brand is, then promotion becomes an exercise in futility. Why? The most effective use of promotion—marketing, ads, contests, etc.—is to extend the reach, visibility of an already existing brand.

Sure, some companies will flood the market (prime the pump, so to speak) to launch a new product, service, business that no one knows about, but this is ridiculously expensive and extremely risky. It’s also being done less and less even by companies who have the cash to take this approach.

Brand is not what it used to be.

As Seth Godin said back when the entire concept of branding was being tipped on its head, ‘A brand used to be something else. It used to be a logo or a design or a wrapper. Today, that’s a shadow of the brand, something that might mark the brand’s existence. But just as it takes more than a hat to be a cowboy, it takes more than a designer prattling on about texture to make a brand.’

Even BIG companies these days are going to social media to create the stories, memories, interactions, sets of expectations, conversations and interactions that—taken as a whole—comprise a brand.

Once the brand is defined, the audience cultivated and a rapport established…THEN promotion and ads can be an asset.

Before all this prep work though?

Fuggetaboutit

The days of dropping tens of millions for promotion and ads are gone. It doesn’t work in our modern culture.

In fact, static marketing and traditional promotion had already begun declining in effectiveness with the rise of direct marketing (junk mail).

The barrier to entry for ‘marketing’ fell away with the invention of cheap laser printing.

This opened up advertising and promotion to companies that didn’t have a bazillion dollars to spend on promotion. Right after the inception of Web 2.0 (birth of social media), this decline in effectiveness compounded exponentially.

Even though experts like Seth Godin (and upcoming experts such as myself) wrote post after post discussing how the nature of brands had changed and promotion had to evolve as well, this didn’t stop the big boys from throwing their weight around.

Because if a crap-ton of expensive promotion had worked for a hundred years or more, why wouldn’t it keep working?

Um, because the world was (is) different. The audience had changed and promotion had to change in order to reach an audience that had long moved on.

Alas, it took losing $10 MILLION advertising on Facebook for GM to learn what they could have gotten off my blog for free. Ads without an established relationship (platform and brand) don’t work.

What’s in a Name?

promotion, Kristen Lamb, book promotion, book ads, does advertising sell books, social media platforms for writers
Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Pierre Lognoul

The formula for a brand is simple:

NAME + PRODUCT + EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE

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

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

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

Nowadays? Different story. Once consumers found out the top execs had been giving themselves HUGE pay raises while hiking the cost of the only ‘known’ drug of its kind from $100 in 2007 to over $600 by 2017? Everything changed.

See, the company had a great product and had managed to create a rapport with consumers and build a relationship founded on trust. But then Mylan got greedy and took advantage of their consumers, which destroyed the relationship, obliterated trust and—in short—destroyed their brand.

No amount of promotion in the world can repair this. Why? Because this is an excellent example of the order of operations: product–> relationship (platform/audience) which leads to–>promotion–>sales.

I use this example to demonstrate that, while product is essential, brand is more than just the product. Promotion can’t take the place of building and maintaining a strong relationship.

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

It isn’t just about a book anymore.

Why Are Brands So Important?

promotion, Kristen Lamb, social media for authors, how to build an author brand

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

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

We are willing to order ahead of time and pay full price and even ridiculous prices for Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, Prada, Versace, Harley Davidson, Porsche, Tesla, Apple products, John Deer, etc. So on and so forth.

But all of these companies (brands) did the same thing. They began with a solid product linked to a name that promised a unique experience. The name Harley Davidson would be just a name unless it came with a very distinctive type of motorcycle (LOUD).

But a name and a product alone are not enough.

What is a Platform?

promotion, Kristen Lamb, book promotion, do ads sell more books, author plaforms
Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Alex Santosa.

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

Trust me, Harley Davison is not worried about consumers who love Vespas. Sure, they are both motorized bikes, but they are selling to members of vastly demographics and also delivering very different experiences.

Authors are doing the same.

We know who Stephen King is because of his brand (which is a direct result of his products–stories). Because of his brand (tons of books, screenplays, short stories) we know if we are part of his platform or we aren’t.

If we are the type of reader who loves a riveting women’s fiction? King isn’t trying to court us. Why? We might know his brand, but we are not part of his platform.

Stephen King is not worried about Liane Moriarty and Liane Moriarty isn’t worried about Stephen King. Different products, different audiences.

In the old days, there was only one way to create a brand (and consequently a platform) and that was the books. Lots and lots of books (brand) cultivated a body of people who liked our writing/voice (platform). Today that is still a great plan.

With so much junk floating around, when readers find a writer they enjoy, they stick like glue.

promotion, social media promotion, Kristen Lamb, do book ads sell more books
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Craig Sunter

Consumers (code for readers) still do this. This is one of the main reasons that we need to keep writing. Stop promoting ONE book. ONE book is not enough to create a strong brand/platform.

Remember:

A brand is a collection of emotional experiences.

A platform is simply those who will enjoy that experience.

Modern writers hold the advantage here.

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

Readers rarely had contact with an author beyond the books. Book signings, maybe magazine or radio interviews gave only slight glimpses of the author beyond the book. Today, with social media? That is no longer the case.

Every blog, tweet, podcast, Instagram post, YouTube video, etc. collectively serve to create the overall brand.

Yet, I want to stop here because there are two HUGE problems I want to discuss.

Problem #1: Please, STOP WRITING

promotion, book promotion, Kristen Lamb, author platforms

One thing that’s really begun to stand out to me is that far too many writers are…writing. Bear with me. Writers, or authors, are storytellers. Great, you have 80,000 words. That doesn’t mean you have a story.

Writers don’t only write words. We create profoundly emotional experiences…and happen to use words to do this.

Yes, this section is a bit of a segue, but trust me. This small side trip is vital.

I cannot count how many editing samples I receive that are writing, but are NOT stories. This is a BIG DEAL. Authors are in the business of selling stories, not word count.

Let me illustrate, and bear with me. I am riffing this:

Example One (Writing):

Fifi woke up at six in the morning. She reached out her hand to turn off the alarm on her phone, then she pulled off her covers. Sitting up, she put her feet on the floor, stood and walked over to her closet to pick out what to wear today. She caught a glimpse of her auburn hair and peridot eyes in the closet mirror and chose a purple sweater with a gold scarf.

Turning, she walked over to the bathroom, turned the knob and opened the door. Reaching out her hand, she turned on the water, then turned to hang her clothes on the back of the door. Turning back, she stepped into the spray and used her new shampoo, the one that smelled of jasmine and periwinkles.

She washed her long hair twice, because the directions said so, and followed with a deep conditioning treatment because she needed the extra three minutes to go over all she had to do at her new job in customer service at MyNet today.

Example Two (Storytelling):

The ear-splitting blare of a foghorn dragged Fifi from Chris Evan’s embrace right as he was about to kiss her. She did everything she could to remain in the dream, the one where Captain America had somehow fallen madly in love with the newest customer service representative for MyNet, but it was no use. Fifi reached for Cap one final time, and a split second before she could plant one on him…Cap was crushed by an ocean-liner that fell from the sky.

She bolted up in bed, now wide awake and wondering if she was now scarred for life.

Poor Cap.

Cursing, she rifled through her duvet and through the piles of clothes on the floor. She had to find her phone and turn off that god-awful noise before she lost it. A fog horn? Why on earth had she chosen a fog horn?

Then that small, annoyingly responsible voice in her head reminded her how she’d slept through the Zen wind chimes, the less-Zen piano riffs and the birdsongs? Why had she even bothered? It was either the fog horn—turned up to max volume—or be fired two weeks into her new customer service job at MyNet.

Product MATTERS

Example One is writing. A lot of words and nothing happening. Were any of you hooked? TONS of stage direction.

Hint: We all know how the whole ‘door opening thing’ works. We don’t need a ‘writer’ to tell us she reached out her hand, turned the knob and opened the door. 

Sure, this is GREAT for making a daily word count that makes us feel all productive, but this is a section of words, NOT a sample of a story.

Stories are about people who have PROBLEMS. Plots are how the core problem (and all the smaller related problems) are solved. Stories are about beating the odds, overcoming adversity.

Our modern world is being BURIED in ‘books’ with more filler than a dollar menu burrito. We’ve got to do BETTER if we hope to stand apart.

Problem #2: Too Good to Mingle with the Masses

I cannot tell y’all how many ‘writers’ I encounter who do not want to do social media…at all. When I mention how vital a platform is, how we need some form of a grassroots movement of people vested in our success, they dismiss me with a knowing smile.

They explain how they already have budgeted for ads, marketing, and promotion. All of this, obviously, will be automated so they have time for ‘more important activities’ than authentically interacting people they want to buy their books…

*stabs self*

Here’s the problem with this line of thinking.

Let’s even assume the book is better than unicorn tears. This isn’t 2001. Ads are so ineffective the print medium has almost gone extinct. The reason ads are ineffective is for a number of reasons.

First, back before 1990, the barriers to entry were so cost-prohibitive only the major players got a voice (we’ve mentioned this). If you opened a magazine, it was pretty much the same brands—big ones with lots of money.

With web 1.0, one had to know how to write code or have the cash to hire someone who knew how to write code. Again, only brands with a lot of capital could even have a website. Only whales had the cash to pay some I.T. nerd to code an ad or code an on-line promotional campaign.

This, again, meant the players were limited.

Fast-forward to 2019. There are web design sites so easy my mother (who was once afraid she’d delete the internet) can build her own site for less than $100. We can use Canva and PicMonkey to make our own ads for free.

Everyone is on social media for free. Zillions of writers are published because there are no gatekeepers. With some free/cheap software and time?

Bada bing bada boom…published author.

This said. After NINE years of book spam, why is anyone still considering spamming people as a viable plan?

After NINE years of writers killing themselves in a race to the bottom (who can give away the most stuff for cheap or free), why is anyone considering solely relying on marketing, ads, promotion and automation?

When was the last time you bought a book from someone who filled your favorite Twitter hashtag with automated ads for their book? Name a book you bought from a person who, minutes after accepting a friend request, PMed you a link to buy their book. Or posted an ad on your page.

#NotRudeAtALL

Promotion: Skip Steps at Your Own Risk

I’ve been around since before Web 2.0 was born. I’ve grown this blog from three hundred visits a month to three million a month.

And I’m not saying I’m anything special. I really should have named my first book I Did All the Dumb Crap So You Don’t Have To. But, suffice to say, I’ve stuck it out long enough to reasonably claim to know a thing or ten.

When I started out, we’d entered an entirely new world of communication, one humans had never experienced…EVER.

There were no rules when it came to the Internet. But, as I learned over time, there were actually rules all along. Why? Who uses the Internet? HUMANS. Social media platforms come and go, trends change, gimmicks skyrocket and then crash…but people don’t change.

Humans still want a good story. They wanted it when Shakespeare was all the rage and they want it now. Humans don’t like people who only pop by to chat when they want something (money). They didn’t like that crap in 1919 and don’t like it in 2019.

Thus, if we get target fixation (learn ALL THE THINGS about promotion) we risk ignoring the factors that truly matter—quality of the book, establishing a platform, choosing the right place to find and cultivate OUR unique audience, etc.

Just because Instagram is all the rage right now does NOT mean it’s a good fit for you, your books, or your brand. Sure, it MIGHT be popular, but it doesn’t mean your potential audience hangs out there.

The prudent author takes time to learn about the various mediums, define their ideal audience, and then plan accordingly. This is how effective promotion has been done for decades.

It’s why fashion magazines and blogs don’t reach out to advertisers pushing synthetic motor oil, racing tires, or laser-guided saws (or vice versa)

Working Smarter NOT Harder

Once we realize promotion is only something we can do effectively AFTER a lot of other steps in this process, it’s easier to relax. We know what to do and in what order and what should take priority.

History and massive amounts of data have demonstrated time after time that ads and marketing (alone) don’t sell books. Never have and never will.

When we understand WHY (read this post) and fully appreciate that books are a wholly unique product that requires a different approach than, say…organic dish soap, we can begin working more effectively.

If we appreciate the distinction between brand, platform, promotion, marketing, etc. then we work smarter, not harder and use resources wisely. Yes, feel free to do the ads and the marketing, just know that it isn’t a Golden Ticket.

If you’re curious about learning more on this topic, February 21st, I’m teaching Social Schizophrenia: Building a Brand Without Losing Your MIND. We’ll go over all the platforms, what each one does, how to use them, and how to determine which is the best fit for finding and growing your audience. Use the code #BlogLove for $15 off.

My goal has always been to help writers do what they love. Y’all can’t write for a living without that platform and a powerful brand that drives sales.

So let’s make a LOVE CONNECTION 😛

And for those who love the weird stuff, I’m teaching A Ripple in Time: Mastering Non-Linear Plotting this SATURDAY.

***All classes come with a free recording.

THANK YOU SO MUCH for your enthusiastic support! Y’all ROCK! I LOVE HEARING From YOU!

Comments, questions? Are you tired of being told you need to be on every social site all the time? Do you just want to get back to writing STORIES? Does the idea of promotion and ads make you hyperventilate?

What are your thoughts?

JANUARY’S AWESOMENESS (CLASSES)

Self-Publishing for Professionals

Taught by USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynold’s on Friday, January 11th 7-10 PM EST PLUS EXTRA GOODIES ($100 for THREE hours of training plus bonus material). The LIVE class has passed, but the recording and bonus material is available with the BUNDLE.

The Business of Writing

Taught by Kristen Lamb on Saturday, February 2nd 1-3 PM EST ($55)

***GET ALL THREE (Self-Publishing for Professionals Jan. 11th, The Business of Writing Feb. 2nd & Pitch Perfect Feb. 7th) IN THE PUBLISHING TRIPLE THREAT BUNDLE for $155

Story Master: From Dream to Done

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Saturday, January 12th, 1-3 PM EST

Social Schizophrenia: Building a Brand Without Losing Your Mind 

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Thursday, February 21st, 7-9 PM EST ($55 General Admission/ $195 GOLD)

Yes, I will be teaching about Instagram in this class.

A Ripple in Time: Mastering Non-Linear Plotting

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Saturday, January 19th from 1-3 PM EST $55

Harnessing Our Writing Power: The BLOG!

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Thursday, January 24th 7-9 PM EST $55 General Admission/ $195 GOLD

Fiction ADDICTION: The Secret Ingredient to the Books Readers CRAVE

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Saturday, January 26th 1-3 PM EST $55

SALES: For Those Who’d Rather Be Stabbed in the Face

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Thursday, January 31st 7-9 PM EST $65

The Business of Writing

Taught by Kristen Lamb on Saturday, February 2nd 1-3 PM EST ($55)

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

Taught by Kristen Lamb on Thursday, February 2nd, 7-9 PM EST ($55)

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook