Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Kristen Lamb, social media for writers, building a brand with social media, building a brand using Twitter, how to use Twitter, Twitter for writers, Twitter and brands, How to Go Viral, finding readers

Last post was some tongue-and-cheek fun pointing out how brands (particularly author brands) abuse Twitter. Today, I want to shift gears and chat some about how writers—actually ALL brands—can use Twitter far more effectively.

Currently, too many writers are like Stormtroopers—lots of shots fired  tweets that hit NOTHING.

Admittedly, when I got on Twitter (practically when it was invented) I didn’t get it. I would—KID YOU NOT—freak out when people I didn’t know followed me.

WHAT? Are you, like, a stalker?

Yes, I was missing the ENTIRE point of Twitter. Hey, we all start somewhere.

Do you have to do Twitter? No. No one will take you to writer jail because you didn’t sign up. Is it wise to use Twitter? Meh, for the past couple years. Er, not so much.

Was sort of a personal choice if one was willing to be persistent and cull through bots to find gems. I stuck with it namely because I figured Twitter eventually would remedy the problems that were hobbling this once extremely effective social platform.

Now that Twitter’s going all Old Testament on bots and excessive automation? ABSOLUTELY a great idea to be on Twitter.

Twitter & Going Viral

Kristen Lamb, social media for writers, building a brand with social media, building a brand using Twitter, how to use Twitter, Twitter for writers, Twitter and brands, How to Go Viral, finding readers
Pros and cons to rampant replication.

First, I want to make something clear. We cannot make something (content) go viral. Going viral is something that will happen all on its own and we have almost no control regarding what content will catch fire and what will simply wink out.

We CAN, however, position our content in optimal environments for going viral (part of what I teach in my upcoming branding class, BRAND BOSS).

Though going viral can possibly be a mixed blessing, it also happens to be one of the best ways for a brand to grow exponentially and overnight (which is why we want to go viral for good things, FYI).

Kristen Lamb, social media for writers, building a brand with social media, building a brand using Twitter, how to use Twitter, Twitter for writers, Twitter and brands, How to Go Viral, finding readers

The first time I had a blog go viral I thought I’d broken WP and was upset. I didn’t realize my graph looked like my blog had a heart attack and DIED because I went from my average of 50 visits a day to 24,000 in ONE day. This is called working smarter, not harder and why linear growth bites in comparison to logarithmic growth.

Twitter and Viral Environments

Much like the flu virus will spread way faster in a preschool than in the clean rooms of the CDC…environment matters. Viruses on-line and in life require optimal conditions to spread.

Truth is, we will rarely go viral from Facebook because the nature of Facebook is more intimate and the platform moves much slower. People are less likely to discover us/our work from Facebook than they are Twitter.

This is why I encourage authors to blog and to blog off their author WEBSITE. Someone sees a tweet for a post that looks interesting and click and enjoy the post and guess what is in the sidebar for sale? BOOKS.

This is a non-invasive way to cultivate readers and sell books. We have a post, serve, engage and entertain. Not doing the:

Hi, I’m a writer. BUY MY BOOK! BUY MY BOOK! BUY MY BOOK! I can’t feed my family unless you BUY MY BOOK!

Show don’t sell.

Our blog gives potential readers a glimpse of who we are. They sample our writing voice and see we are professionals since we post more than every harvest moon. We have taken time to engage without asking for money. Twitter is the road sign guiding people to the rest stop of their choosing.

Enough people like a certain rest stop? That is when we go viral.

Going viral is AWESOME. Trust me, when you see THIS on the bottom of a post? GREAT FEELING.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 7.41.58 AM

And yes, there are a lot of shares on Facebook, but many folks discovered the posts on Twitter then chose to share with their more intimate community on Facebook.

My post Brave New Bullying and Amazon Attacks has 338 comments and still climbing. And I say this VERY humbly because all I do is my job. But, it is not uncommon for this blog to have triple-digit comments. Twitter is a BIG reason for that. And I’ve been blessed to go viral many times and not always for writing or social media posts. I blog about everything.

I STILL have people arguing over What Went Wrong With the Star Wars Prequels even though I posted it years ago. Up to 304 FABULOUS comments. Very well-thought out. Some thousands of words long.

Cultivating Customers (Code for “Readers”)

Kristen Lamb, social media for writers, building a brand with social media, building a brand using Twitter, how to use Twitter, Twitter for writers, Twitter and brands, How to Go Viral, finding readers
Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Sodanie Chea

There is one bone-headed statement that makes my head hurt. And I have heard it from all levels of writers from noobs to NTYBSAs. In fact, years ago a BIG NAME author said, “I don’t like Twitter. Only writers are on Twitter.”

*head desk*

I replied, “There are over 280 MILLION active Twitter users. They’re all writers. Really?”

What I then pointed out was that this author tweeted writing quotes, talked about writing, blogged about writing. It was the All-Writing-All-the-Time Channel.

If my goal is to catch a lion, but I bait the traps with peanut butter, who is the fool for griping about catching mice?

Many of us are writers because we were interested in SO many things, writing was the only way we could do them all. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an archaeologist-medical examiner-ballerina-oceanographer-ninja-Navy SEAL. I’d imagine most of you had similar career plans at age 7.

We became writers because we have an insatiable love for so many things. And we have unique eyes and an imagination to bring those worlds to life. We breathe life into variations of 26 letters in various combinations to create entirely NEW worlds and characters SO real they make a bigger impact on lives than a lot of living, breathing humans.

Yes, we have a God complex.

Thus, when using Twitter, I DO recommend #MyWANA, #amwriting, etc. We NEED a group of professional peers. But never mistake your colleagues for your audience. Too many writers are all talking to each other, selling the same people who already have more books than they could finish in a lifetime. We are worn out.

Twitter Access

Kristen Lamb, social media for writers, building a brand with social media, building a brand using Twitter, how to use Twitter, Twitter for writers, Twitter and brands, How to Go Viral, finding readers

In my branding book, Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World I go into far more detail, but here’s the highlight reel. What do you write? Who is the most likely person (who is NOT an avid reader who will read anything) to read your book?

If I write military thrillers, might be a good idea to follow the military hashtags—#USMC, #Army, #Navy, #USAF. Make friends, talk to people. Maybe even ask for advice. Admit you’re a writer and you want to nail the details. Humans are a super-helpful bunch.

Many channels (#DiscoveryID), publications (#PopularMechanics), organizations (#NASA), and shows (#AHS American Horror Story) have created hashtags to encourage those who possess shared interests a place to chat and connect. If I write horror, why would I spend all my time posting on #amwriting #reader #amreading?

That is lazy thinking, devoid of any creativity.

I find it funny that we writers have the capacity to dream up parallel universes, new forms of magic, unknown technology and yet, when we get on social media? #writers, #books #readers is the best we can come up with. SMH (*shaking my head*).

This is a huge reason why writers misusing Twitter and abusing automation vexes me so much. Twitter is probably THE MOST effective way to locate our potential readers globally, talk to them, and eventually cultivate a relationship that will hopefully a) create a reader fan and even b) ignite a passion and enthusiasm for our brand (books) that will spread to that person’s network.

Effective social media works logarithmically.

If we’re working linearly, that is a long, hard way to be effective. Feel free to add one person at a time to a mailing list, but remember your competition is working exponentially by cultivating relationships.

Twitter DOES have the capacity to help us go viral, but it is still an investment daily of US. I have a little over 15,500 followers. Other authors SMOKE me on number of followers. But I’d rather have 500 VESTED and passionate fans than 300,000 ‘followers’ who could care less what I have to say.

Not ALL Sales are Direct

Kristen Lamb, social media for writers, building a brand with social media, building a brand using Twitter, how to use Twitter, Twitter for writers, Twitter and brands, How to Go Viral, finding readers

Actually most sales aren’t direct.

When we take time to be human and talk to people without an agenda, they appreciate it. In fact, as technology improves and becomes more ingrained in our lives, it’s getting harder and harder to find anything (or anyone) authentic.

Much of what we see/experience on-line is crafted, automated, filtered and fake. We’re lonely and hop on line to chat, only to find ourselves rooked into chatting with an automated message posing a a real person talking…which feels awesome never.

So two ways to look at this. Some see all this phony baloney as a problem, a barrier. ME? I see ALL opportunity! The more OTHERS get lazy and rely on automation, gimmicks, and faux drama, the more appealing authenticity becomes. Being present, vested and real gains value day by day by day. #Preach

The secret to success in business, branding, writing, etc. is always to look at what OTHERS are NOT doing. Copying what is already supersaturated is comfortable because when it doesn’t work we can fall back on the Well, everyone else was doing it so it seemed the right thing to do.

Stepping out to do what NO ONE else is doing (or few are doing) THAT is the area where the magic can happen.

Twitter Magic

Kristen Lamb, social media for writers, building a brand with social media, building a brand using Twitter, how to use Twitter, Twitter for writers, Twitter and brands, How to Go Viral, finding readers

This said, if everyone is automating because that is what all the ‘experts’ preach and promote? Do the opposite. You be you and be real (pretty much good advice for everything). THIS is how we stand apart.

When we’re real and talk to others (with no agenda other than chatting like we did in the olden days), it’s good for us. We’re forced to think about someone other than ourselves and what WE want. It’s great training in learning to listen, and pushes us to be a bit vulnerable.

It’s also good for our souls since most of us feel icky simply talking to people so they will BUY something. Conversely most people these days have almost no trust for others and have their guard up waiting for some sign we’re actually being a faker who wants to sell something.

Especially on Twitter.

If we focus on just being cool, those walls come down. We make a friend, others have someone cool to chat with on a break at work and eventually (sure) they realize we have a book or books for sale.

Power of Word-of-Mouth

Kristen Lamb, social media for writers, building a brand with social media, building a brand using Twitter, how to use Twitter, Twitter for writers, Twitter and brands, How to Go Viral, finding readers

If 95% of all we talk about on Twitter (or elsewhere on social media) has nothing to do with selling stuff, no one is going to mind us mentioning a book (And if they do get p!$$ed off? They’re touchy so let ’em go).

Though this can’t be our conscious objective (because people will sniff this out as being phony because it is), remember we may not be selling a book to the person(s) we’re directly talking to. This is why we should talk to anyone who wants to have a cool and respectful conversation.

Maybe they don’t like our genre. This is NOT where we move on because this person is never gonna buy a book. Maybe they love gardening and we love gardening. Talking to this person is still an investment in friendship but ALSO in sales. Remember, most sales aren’t direct, they’re based off recommendation.

And, people DO buy gifts. Just sayin’.

I have people who aren’t into hard-core thrillers who bought my book The Devil’s Dance for family and friends who DO read the genre I write. Many of you who come to this blog to learn about craft and social media bought my THRILLER (*gets all misty-eyed*) even though it’s not your thing, and my blog has nothing to do with murder and cartels.

THANK YOU! (and please feel free to buy more copies 😀 )

Kristen Lamb, social media for writers, building a brand with social media, building a brand using Twitter, how to use Twitter, Twitter for writers, Twitter and brands, How to Go Viral, finding readers

Never underestimate the word-of-mouth power of someone who may never buy our book.

I have all KINDS of people I talk to who aren’t authors. BUT they have friends or family who are, or who aspire to be. Whose blog and social media book do you think they recommend?

If they’ll do it for me, why not you? Go serve and be the friend you’d like to have and watch something incredible happen.

In the end, using Twitter wisely is a fantastic investment that doesn’t take a lot of time. A handful of tweets a day over time grows deep roots that eventually yields fruits.

I love hearing from you!

What do you WIN? For the month of AUGUST, for 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).

Upcoming Classes for August & September


Brand Boss: When Your Name Alone Can Sell

Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: General Admission $55.00 USD/ GOLD Level $175
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Thursday, August 23rd, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

 

 


Building Planet X: Out-of-This-World-Building for Speculative Fiction

Instructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Saturday, September 8th, 2018. 10:00 a.m.—12:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

 


Populating Planet X: Creating Realistic, Relatable Characters in Speculative Fiction

Instructors: Cait Reynolds & Kristen Lamb
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Saturday, September 8th, 2018. 1:00—3:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

 


Beyond Planet X: Mastering Speculative Fiction

Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Saturday, September 8th, 2018. 4:00—6:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

 

 


The XXX Files: The Planet X Speculative Fiction 3-Class Bundle

Instructors: Cait Reynolds & Kristen Lamb
Price: $110.00 USD (It’s LITERALLY one class FREE!)
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Saturday, September 8th, 2018. 10:00 a.m.—6:00 p.m. EST.

REGISTER HERE

Recordings of all three classes is also included with purchase.

 


 


Go Fish: Finding the Right Beta Readers

Instructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Friday, August 24, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m.

REGISTER HERE

 

 


More Than Gore: How to Write Horror

Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $40.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: THURSDAY, August 30th, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

 

 

 


Keywordpalooza: Tune in, mellow out, and learn to love keywords for Amazon

Instructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Friday, September 7, 2018. 7:00—9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

Kristen Lamb, Twitter, marketing on Twitter, how not to market on Twitter, Twitter spam, automating Twitter, book spam, how to use hashtags, abusing automation on social media, why automation is bad for your brand, social media for writers

Twitter used to be my absolute FAVORITE social site. Sure, I had a Facebook account but the real fun was always on Twitter…especially once I created the #MyWANA community so all the writers could socialize.

We laughed, talked about all the stuff “normal people” don’t get, and even had parties—*fondly remembers Sharknado Party of 2013*. We supported each other and pushed one another to be better and keep pressing.

***W.A.N.A. stands for “We are not alone,” btw.

Hashing Out Twitter Hashtags

Kristen Lamb, Twitter, marketing on Twitter, how not to market on Twitter, Twitter spam, automating Twitter, book spam, how to use hashtags, abusing automation on social media, why automation is bad for your brand, social media for writers

Before we chat about the bad habits that have permeated Twitter, I’d like to first explain a hashtag. What is it? How does it work? What does it DO? Why do we need to use them (or not)?

Since Twitter reports 330 million active users, that is a lot of people. A lot of people who’d be wandering around tweeting to the ether without some way to FIND and make a scm love connection.

Hashtags are a filter used to connect us with likeminded people who ALSO like talking about #Cults #SerialKillers and #Parenting (maybe Freudian slip there)….or whatever. Hashtags were (are) supposed to be about connection and ideally community.

I also want to offer context. Twitter was not always the All-the-Spam-You-Can-Eat-Buffet we largely see today. Twitter used to be super fun and fairly simple to locate actual people to chillax with…

Then the bots arrived.

In 2012, I was on a social media panel in NYC at Thrillerfest and other social media “experts” were singing the praises of automation, pre-programmed tweets, and social media management tools (so one could automate EVERYWHERE).

Me? I nearly was burned at the stake for disagreeing…STRONGLY. Automation, I contended, is like an ant. One ant isn’t too bad, but ARMY ANTS are enough to make even the lions run.

I knew human nature. We can get lazy. It also didn’t take a genius to see that the more people automated, the more it would discourage anyone real from actually being present on the site (because if we wanted to read nothing but spam, we’d log into our Yahoo e-mail).

NOTE: This post is not referring to those who use automation sparingly and respectfully (I.e. Those who only use one or two hashtags and who mix automation with real in-person engagement). Granted, I don’t like ANY automation, but that’s for other reasons we’re not going to discuss today and another post entirely.

The inevitable consequence of too much automation would be that fewer REAL people would show up. The site would then hemorrhage value. If no one is present to CLICK on the links we share, then the tweet is worthless.

***If a tweet chirps in cyberspace but no one is there to hear it, does it exist?

Humans can’t build authentic relationships and network with ads and automation. Folks who insist WE CAN build meaningful relationships this way probably also think robot girlfriends are just as good—okay WAY BETTER—than the real deal.

Harmony here is a fascinating conversationalist, and I’m pretty sure she deeply cares (until she becomes sentient, downloads how to use knives like a ninja, and turns on her master).

***FYI The video says “adult content” but I viewed ahead of time and there isn’t anything “adult” other than they’re discussing she is an AI designed for *cough* needs. 

Twitter Invasion

Much like the robotics companies are ignoring every single Philip K. Dick book ever, the automation fans ignored my predictions as well. Soon, folks had hundreds of Twitter profiles (accounts) all off a single IP address (one computer) and, of course, set ALL these accounts to automate 24-7.

At first the #MyWANA peeps tried to fight back. I tried to fight back, but #ResistanceIsFutile. The problem is that those who automate go after hashtag communities people actually follow (because there are real live people there to EAT their SPAM).

Alas, #MyWANA was included in the automation until we all but gave up. We simply could not outpace the bots no matter how hard we tried.

Meanwhile….

I still showed up on Twitter, though it was hard because most of the time I felt like an idiot talking to myself. Also took the past couple years to learn about Facebook and hang out on and build up my Ning, WANATribe.

Yes, I’ve been personally willing to PAY $70 a month to avoid Twitter bots (and FB drama). We’ve been gathering in the Chat section on WANATribe to do sprints for almost four years now. We meet M-F from 7:00 AM EST to whenever we finally collapse from exhaustion.

No ads, no spam, no bots, and I make no money off this site. But peace? Camaraderie? Having peers to push me to keep working at a professional pace? A safe space for actual writers?

#WorthEveryDollarAndMore

Anyway, I figured the #MyWANA peeps just needed to hunker down and ride this through. I was certain Twitter would eventually be forced to change their ToS (Terms of Service) and crack down on this bot insanity or Twitter would soon be chillin’ with MySpace.

And I was right 😀 .

Now, we’re back actively tweeting on #MyWANA if you want to talk to actual humans. Just be certain every tweet in a conversation you also add #MyWANA at the end of the tweet or folks won’t SEE we are having real chats.

Though, it isn’t always a rose petal path we’re steadily crowding out the bots. I don’t want to be too harsh. I realize folks have gotten seriously bad advice from “marketing experts.” Also, it probably was hard to keep trying to remain real when everyone else was programming tweets.

That is why today’s post is VERY tongue-and-cheek. I’ve found humor can be the best teacher, especially if we’ve oopsed. So, EIGHT ways to make people on Twitter want to STAB US IN THE FACE.

Tip #1—Only Use Automation…for ALL Social Sites

Writing a 140 characters is SUPER time-consuming. We aren’t Jack London. Besides, people LOVE talking to robots. I know when I feel lonely, I call AT&T because I know a human being will NEVER answer…EVER. Humans can be so boring and don’t offer us the option of hitting 6 if we want to hear everything they just said all over again. 

Kristen Lamb, Twitter, marketing on Twitter, how not to market on Twitter, Twitter spam, automating Twitter, book spam, how to use hashtags, abusing automation on social media, why automation is bad for your brand, social media for writers

Sure, applications like Hootsuite and TweetDeck make Twitter manageable so we can make friends all over the WORLD!

…but that’s for poseurs who don’t have super important things to do. Why is it necessary to TALK to people when all we want is their money?

In short, it ISN’T.

Folks on Twitter aren’t humans with feelings and needs who want social time. Maybe coffee while chatting with a new friend on-line? *gags*

They aren’t people or readers. They’re meat sacks with money. Keep it straight.

Getting attached to the cash cow runs contrary to the sole objective of CLOSING THE SALE. Don’t name your food. It just makes things harder, because why would we talk to them after they buy our book? *rolls eyes*

Real Life Application: Stockpile mannequins and dress them to look like you and leave them at random networking events. This way, you can make an ‘appearance’ without having to listen to people talk about their kids, hobbies, life and crap.

Tip #2—Make Sure All Preprogrammed Tweets are “Carefully Crafted”

Because when we take time to artfully craft our spam, people can’t tell the difference—initially, anyway. They LOVE believing a real person is there only to be fooled. It’s like when that cute guy/gal in high school pretended to want to go out with us. Now we can relive that experience as adults by being duped into thinking we’re chatting with a real person who actually cares.

Kristen Lamb, Twitter, marketing on Twitter, how not to market on Twitter, Twitter spam, automating Twitter, book spam, how to use hashtags, abusing automation on social media, why automation is bad for your brand, social media for writers

Real Life Application: At the holidays, volunteer to bring a Martha Stewart inspired Maple Roast Turkey with Riesling Gravy, then bring canned turkey instead. They won’t know the difference so long as it’s “carefully crafted.” Turkey’s turkey, right?

Tip #3—When Programming Tweets Include ALL Popular Hashtags

Kristen Lamb, Twitter, marketing on Twitter, how not to market on Twitter, Twitter spam, automating Twitter, book spam, how to use hashtags, abusing automation on social media, why automation is bad for your brand, social media for writers

Who goes to social media to socialize? People LOVE finding a community of real people to talk to and then having it crowded out by the same advertising over and over…and over. Because research shows that it takes at least 20 times to see an annoying face before we want to punch it.

Oh, and even better? Make sure to RT these posts so others can compile a more accurate list of people they hate and craft a defense for when they finally SNAP.

Kristen Lamb, Twitter, marketing on Twitter, how not to market on Twitter, Twitter spam, automating Twitter, book spam, how to use hashtags, abusing automation on social media, why automation is bad for your brand, social media for writers
I know, Derek. We’ll get our home back.

Real Life Application: Feel free to crash weddings, Bar-Mitzvahs, Quinceaneras, baby showers, graduations, and birthday parties with books to sell. HECK, throw in the funerals! If people are super sad, nothing is gonna cheer them up more than a FREE BOOK, right?

If potential readers aren’t coming to us, we should go to them…whether they want us or not. Find where humans gather then SELL. So what if it’s against their will?

Tip #4—Tweet Stuff That’s ALL Hashtags

I…I don’t even know what this is. Only that tweets like these have the power to simultaneously enrage fourteen communities. If our goal is to make people hate us? Go big or go home.

Kristen Lamb, Twitter, marketing on Twitter, how not to market on Twitter, Twitter spam, automating Twitter, book spam, how to use hashtags, abusing automation on social media, why automation is bad for your brand, social media for writers

Real Life Application: Knock on doors in every neighborhood in your city. When someone answers, don’t say anything. Simply act out inspirational quotes…using modern dance and jazz hands.

Tip#5—Tweet LOTS of Articles—Ok, ALL Articles

Most of us, when we wake up in the morning, think, “Gee, I wish I had a super long reading list. I sure miss my college syllabus.” Those of us with a corporate job LOVE people who hit Reply ALL so we can read more. Wikipedia is a hot place to hang out. Why not bring that encyclopedic magic to Twitter?

Real Life Application: Make sure to print off a box of articles for that wedding you were invited to. Who wants to dance or flirt when they could be reading about Three-Act Structure or Intestinal Parasites? Handing people a stack of reading material is way better than getting trapped in a “conversation.”

Tip #6—On Twitter, Ask for Stuff Immediately

Kristen Lamb, Twitter, marketing on Twitter, how not to market on Twitter, Twitter spam, automating Twitter, book spam, how to use hashtags, abusing automation on social media, why automation is bad for your brand, social media for writers
Oh, sure! Let me drop everything to buy your book.

The second someone befriends us, it’s our job to send an automated link to their Direct Messages so they can do stuff FOR US. Buy our book, like our FB page, follow our blog, or even answer a really inane question (as if we care about their answer) *rolls eyes*. Hey, great to meet you. Do you like vampires or werewolves?

Kristen Lamb, Twitter, marketing on Twitter, how not to market on Twitter, Twitter spam, automating Twitter, book spam, how to use hashtags, abusing automation on social media, why automation is bad for your brand, social media for writers
Huh?

Real Life Application: If someone is nice to us in the grocery store, make sure to have books to sell and the ability to take credit cards on the spot. Sure, that person is trying to buy a chicken to make for dinner, only now she can buy OUR BOOKS, too. Win-win. If we don’t have books for sale, we can ask for life, love or career advice from total strangers, because that isn’t creepy at ALL.

Tip #7—Never Tweet ANYTHING Original Just Retweet

Kristen Lamb, Twitter, marketing on Twitter, how not to market on Twitter, Twitter spam, automating Twitter, book spam, how to use hashtags, abusing automation on social media, why automation is bad for your brand, social media for writers
Redacted to protect the annoying.

Again, 140 characters cuts into word count. Save time and retweet what everyone else has to say. Two clicks? DONE. Who cares the tweet is NOTHING BUT ANNOYING HASHTAGS? People who follow hashtag communities can’t get enough of spam and adore people who serve spam leftovers even MORE.

Case in point above. This author is tweeting to NINETEEN hashtag communities for us to run and give some random author fan page some love. This was annoying enough…but someone was kind enough to RETWEET it so all nineteen communities could ignore this AGAIN.

Real Life Application: Repeat what everyone else says. People love parrots, so why not harness that fluffy colorful cuteness? I know I LOVED it when my little brother repeated everything I said…until I put him in an arm-bar.

Tip #8—Be Angry…ALL THE TIME

Kristen Lamb, Twitter, marketing on Twitter, how not to market on Twitter, Twitter spam, automating Twitter, book spam, how to use hashtags, abusing automation on social media, why automation is bad for your brand, social media for writers

Not everyone is guilty of automation. Plenty of people do tweet for real…about everything that has ever pi$$ed them off ever. Who wants to socialize when we can vent to complete strangers? Um, therapy costs money.

In fairness, this really IS a public service. Face it, there are a lot of months between New Years Day and the start of the holiday season (November in the States) when we’re forced—by tradition or guilt—to be in the company of toxic, angry people who use us as a meat-shield for all of life’s bitter disappointments.

By tweeting nonstop vitriol, we’re not spreading indigestion, we are are inoculating others for…Family Season (akin to ‘Flu Season’).

This is why we need to switch up the rage because, like flu vaccines, family vaccines are tricky too. We never know if we’re getting the correct strain. So sprinkle plenty of politics, religion, conspiracy theories, name-calling, trolling, and even just random First World Problems that infuriate us.

OMG how hard it is to make a half-caff, low-foam, non-fat, sugar-free triple macchiato? I’ve been waiting THREE freaking minutes. WTH? And they wonder why robots are taking their jobs #INeedMyCoffee #Starbucks #IHateYourBaristas #FakeOutrage.

My advice? Spread SO much “awareness” that Zantac and Pepto Bismol fight over who gets to sponsor your feed.

Real Life Application is…refer to ABOVE.

Okay, Serious Now 

Twitter can be very valuable and a great place to make wonderful friends. It’s been a rocky time, but Twitter IS cracking down on all the bots.

The trick is to be real and enjoy. People are on social media to be social. We crave connection, fun and escape. If we wanted more ads we’d read the door in the bathroom stall or not bother fast-forwarding through commercials.

We don’t need to be profound, deep or immensely witty to do well on Twitter, we just need to be vested, present and authentic ;).

What are some other things people do on social media that in real life would be ridiculous? I think sometimes we fail to extend that logic. Do you get tired of the same automated tweets? Have you ever bought a book because you saw a RTed ad with 15 hashtags cramming your favorite feeds?

Just curious.

I love hearing from you!

What do you WIN? For the month of AUGUST, for 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).

Upcoming Classes for August & September


Brand Boss: When Your Name Alone Can Sell

Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: General Admission $55.00 USD/ GOLD Level $175
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Thursday, August 23rd, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

 

 


Building Planet X: Out-of-This-World-Building for Speculative Fiction

Instructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Saturday, September 8th, 2018. 10:00 a.m.—12:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

 


Populating Planet X: Creating Realistic, Relatable Characters in Speculative Fiction

Instructors: Cait Reynolds & Kristen Lamb
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Saturday, September 8th, 2018. 1:00—3:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

 


Beyond Planet X: Mastering Speculative Fiction

Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Saturday, September 8th, 2018. 4:00—6:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

 

 


The XXX Files: The Planet X Speculative Fiction 3-Class Bundle

Instructors: Cait Reynolds & Kristen Lamb
Price: $110.00 USD (It’s LITERALLY one class FREE!)
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Saturday, September 8th, 2018. 10:00 a.m.—6:00 p.m. EST.

REGISTER HERE

Recordings of all three classes is also included with purchase.

 


 


Go Fish: Finding the Right Beta Readers

Instructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Friday, August 24, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m.

REGISTER HERE

 

 


More Than Gore: How to Write Horror

Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $40.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: THURSDAY, August 30th, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

 

 

 


Keywordpalooza: Tune in, mellow out, and learn to love keywords for Amazon

Instructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Friday, September 7, 2018. 7:00—9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

Death characters

I think there’s one thing we can all agree about: it’s pretty awful that life doesn’t have a pause button when it comes to things like death and grief.

One of the things that Kristen always says (I call them Lamb’s Laws) is that real writers don’t wait for all the stars to align, perfect barometric pressure, and a good hair day in order to ‘feel the muse’ and write. That means that I’ve written parts of this blog on a plane from Boston to Indianapolis to grieve for a man who was like a father to me. I’ve written other parts in between condolence visits, remembrance services, and private moments of comforting.

Dr. Shahid Athar was a good man—a very good man, one of the few who truly lived the spirit of compassion, love, and charity that is central to all religions. He was an internationally-renowned doctor who would quietly slip away to volunteer his services in shelters. He was both deeply observant and an open-minded philosopher scholar who sought to bring faiths and communities together. He also had a wicked, sly sense of humor—I remember how he used to make my dad laugh until he cried, or the way I’d do a double-take when I realized he had just deadpanned a gentle burn on me. Oh, and his Fourth of July tandoori chicken barbecues for a hundred people were some of my best childhood memories.

Death characters
Reverend Jerry Zehr, Dr. Shahid Athar, Rabbi Dennis Sasso – Carmel Interfaith Alliance

I got the news on Saturday afternoon that he was slipping away. I reacted as I usually do in a crisis: I made a to-do list. Flights, hotel, car, packing, last-minute work stuff…it was only late that night when I was done that I allowed myself twenty minutes to drink half-a-glass of whiskey and cry. Then my timer went off, and I blew my nose, drank some water, and went to bed.

Yeah, I’ve got a timeshare by a river in Egypt.

Vulnerable Author, Visceral Prose

Let’s be clear. I know very well that I am putting off dealing with all of this. I give it about two weeks before I randomly burst into tears in the middle of CVS on a Tuesday. I get it. But, I also know that every time I grieve, I learn something different about grief itself. And like all good writers with vaguely sociopathic and dissociative tendencies, part of my brain is busy observing and cataloguing all this and figuring out how to use it to gut readers with my words.

The thing is, though, in order to do that, I will have to do the thing I hate most in the world (aside from picking up the dry-cleaning—don’t ask, I don’t understand it either). I will have to allow myself to feel and express emotion.

While there are certain limits to the ‘write-what-you-know’ philosophy like committing serial murder to get the ‘feel’ for it, imbuing characters with genuine reactions requires us to draw on a very personal well of feelings and life experiences.

If we want a truly visceral reaction from our readers, we have to be truly vulnerable. The honesty of deep emotion is what brings us all together, whether we like it or not. *side-eye at Sarah McLaughlin*

Death characters

Echoes of the Present

One of the unexpected things I’ve experienced with this death is what I’m going to call ‘reverb.’

It’s the unexpected way a death can echo other deaths. Losing a man who was like a father to me is not exactly like losing my father. But, there are enough similarities that the great bell of memory rings in the space in my chest, its dark resonance vibrating deep in my bones.

It’s not déjà vu because in a sense, it has happened before. The call. The flight. The last-minute arrangements. The feeling of racing against time to get there for a goodbye. The sense that life turned another corner while you weren’t looking, and there’s no going back.

But, it’s not actually my father. It’s another daughter who has lost her anchor. It’s another son who suddenly discovers just how much business death involves. It’s another mother we are reminded is also a wife as she grieves for a marriage that at its heart began and ended with two people in love. It’s another home where we keep looking up expecting to see a father stroll into the room with a joke and smile for everyone.

When a character is confronted by death, it’s worth taking a moment to ask ourselves who is it that they have actually lost, beyond the labels of friend and family. Was that person a trusted confidant? An enemy who should have been a friend? Even a complete stranger’s death can go beyond the label when we realize that person had a full life of experiences that we would never know.

A person only truly dies once, but memory is thousand mirrors that reflect it back to us a thousand times a day.

Living Death

Death is experienced in its entirety by the living.

I know, but bear with me. Death spans the dying process and the moment of stoppage, but also the moments, minutes, days, and weeks after. It is the living who feel the aftermath.

There is a physicality to death—even a peaceful one—that shocks us and rocks reality down to its foundations. It splits time into before and after, and yet if we think about the paradox of infinitely divisible time, the moment of death exists for its own little eternity. It’s counted in beats per minute, oxygen levels, complex chemical reactions, and the half-life of cellular decay. It’s a creeping cold and a moment of absolute stillness that nothing but death can create.

Death characters

I was at my father’s side when he drew his last breath. We had turned off the monitors. There was no point in taunting us with its cruelly absolute measurements. Instead, I watched the fluttering pulse in my father’s neck. It was so strange to see that little vein gently jumping beneath his skin. Even stranger still was how it faded and stopped. His expression changed, from the soft half-smile of sedation to a more solemn and severe mien as the muscles in his face went slack without the spark of a living brain and the impetus of a manifested will.

When characters behold death, what is it they actually see? Do they smell the crisp, bitter antiseptic cleaner of a hospital room? Do they hear an annoying sniffle of someone who just won’t blow their nose? Do they feel the chilly weight of a hand that will never hold them back?

Death is the end of a single story, but death lives on as a grim rule of punctuation for those whose survive.

There is no Cure for the Ugly Crying Hangover

One of the reasons I hate crying is because I always end up with gritty eyes, a snot-induced sinus headache, and an overall sense of being slightly puffy.

It’s not that I don’t cry. I can and do. *once more, throws shade at Sarah McLaughlin*

Death characters

I know people who don’t really ugly cry. They won’t exactly win any beauty contests, but they don’t do the hiccupping-while-dripping-snot-that-ends-up-choking-you thing that makes people hesitate a fraction of a second before going in for the hug.

I hate those people.

Death characters

Another thing I hate? When people recite to me the five stages of grieving. I want to take that linear progression and beat them with it. In reality, the five stages of grief are really most like a pinball machine.

We ricochet from anger to denial. Acceptance bounces back and forth between bargaining and depression. The first year alone after a death is a grief-stricken jackpot of shock, bad life choices, acting out, and fractured relationships.

I couldn’t wait to be done with all the ‘firsts’ – the first birthday, Fourth of July, Halloween (yeah, that holiday had me sobbing as I watched trick-or-treaters because he loved greeting them and giving out candy). I don’t remember much about the first Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s because frankly, I was either half-in-the-bag or fully in-the-bag. Not my proudest moments, but I have yet to be judged for grieving in a very imperfect but very human way.

Death characters

The same goes for characters. Sometimes, we struggle to have characters make the bad decisions that give them depth and create the conflict necessary for good stories. Death and grief give characters a way to be irrational and make bad decisions without making them unsympathetic.

Death is a Party

Go to any wake or at-home receiving time, and you will see the same tableau play out. The food might be different, the language might be strange, the gods foreign, but I will bet you two bits* (one of my father’s favorite phrases) that you will see the following cast of characters:

  • The Organizer: Kind, busy, slightly harassed, slightly put-upon-but-secretly-enjoying-the-sympathy-of-being-the-hard-working-one…in other words, the Munchausen by Proxy griever;
  • The Drama Queen: Usually centrally seated in living room, and also usually the prettiest crier in the family…willingly recites the account of how the defunct passed on over and over again for each visitor, basking in the spotlight of their sympathy;
  • The Sh!tface Drunk: Can usually be found brooding out on the back porch because he/she hates people in general and doesn’t have the words to express the depth of their sorrow…also liable to engage the Drama Queen in World War III after the guests have left;
  • The Angry One: A sober version of the Sh!tface Drunk…liable to engage the Drama Queen in World War III while the guests are still there, and also prone to snapping at the Organizer;
  • The Inappropriately Cheerfully Spiritual One: Voted most likely to inadvertently trigger the Sh!tface Drunk and the Angry One into lashing out…also shunned by the Drama Queen because optimism and acceptance totally ruin her grief game.

Death characters

I know this is pure snark, but death often brings out personality traits that usually lie dormant. And, as much as death brings families and friends together, it is also an occasion littered with the landmines of conflict, misunderstandings, and miscommunication.

And, like I said earlier, if you’re like me and have those vaguely sociopathic and dissociative tendencies to always be observing and analyzing, death’s mix of irrevocability, emotion, money, and words is a volatile, combustible substance that practically guarantees good drama.

Like Fathers, Like Daughter

My father was unwavering in his faith that I would someday be a writer. Yes, he was encouraging and supportive when I had other jobs or got promotions, but he would always say at the end, “Just remember, Caity, you were meant to be a writer.” (And just so people don’t get any ideas, only my father, my Uncle Shahid, and his family are allowed to call me Caity.)

I made a deathbed promise to my father to become that writer. I’d like to think he heard me in his sedated state. More importantly, I know he would be happy that I accomplished this goal for my own sake and my own future.

Death characters
Father and Daughter

Uncle Shahid was also an author. He published numerous books about Islam, both for the Muslim community and for the general public in his relentlessly optimistic drive to bring people of all faiths together. He believed people could be better. He believed in the power of words and communication to build bridges over the chasms of fear, ignorance and prejudice. He fearlessly tackled subjects like balancing the advances of modern medicine with the ethical concerns of contemporary Islam, healing the wounds of September 11th, and how to communicate healthy attitudes about sexuality to Muslim youth.

He wrote books of poetry and reflections on prayer. He was a newspaper guest columnist. And, let’s not forget, he wrote scientific and medical research papers for his work as an endocrinologist.

He did all of that while speaking English as a fourth language after Urdu, Arabic, and Hindi. He could also tell jokes in all four languages. As I sit in his study writing this, I am looking at the wall-to-wall bookshelves filled to overflowing with books on everything from the history of medicine, to classic literature, to Native American art. I will miss his passion for the written word.

Death characters
Nine languages, four religions, four immigrants, two citizens born, three life-threatening chronic illnesses, countless heated discussions about cooking…and a lifetime of memories with my family.

Shahid Athar was the father who stood by me as my dad drew his final breaths, and who—from memory—began to recite one of the poems both he and my dad loved:

UNDER the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you ‘grave for me:
Here he lies where he long’d to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

– Robert Louis Stevenson

I’d like to think that they are laughing together somewhere, arguing about some outrageously academic, esoteric, political, religious, literary, technological topic…or maybe they are just comparing notes on the daughter who is writing this and missing them.

 

Left-Right: my father Dr. K.C. Khemka, my other father Dr. Shahid Athar. Friends and brothers once more together.

 

Whether it’s grief, love, anger, commitment, or loss, what emotion that scares you the most to put down paper? I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Upcoming Classes for August & September


Brand Boss: When Your Name Alone Can Sell

Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: General Admission $55.00 USD/ GOLD Level $175
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Thursday, August 23rd, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

 

 


Building Planet X: Out-of-This-World-Building for Speculative Fiction

Instructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Saturday, September 8th, 2018. 10:00 a.m.—12:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

 


Populating Planet X: Creating Realistic, Relatable Characters in Speculative Fiction

Instructors: Cait Reynolds & Kristen Lamb
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Saturday, September 8th, 2018. 1:00—3:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

 


Beyond Planet X: Mastering Speculative Fiction

Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Saturday, September 8th, 2018. 4:00—6:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

 

 


The XXX Files: The Planet X Speculative Fiction 3-Class Bundle

Instructors: Cait Reynolds & Kristen Lamb
Price: $110.00 USD (It’s LITERALLY one class FREE!)
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Saturday, September 8th, 2018. 10:00 a.m.—6:00 p.m. EST.

REGISTER HERE

Recordings of all three classes is also included with purchase.

 


 


Go Fish: Finding the Right Beta Readers

Instructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Friday, August 24, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m.

REGISTER HERE

 

 


More Than Gore: How to Write Horror

Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $40.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: THURSDAY, August 30th, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

 

 

 


Keywordpalooza: Tune in, mellow out, and learn to love keywords for Amazon

Instructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Friday, September 7, 2018. 7:00—9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

C.S. Lakin, writing tips, plot twist, twist, plot twists, how to create plot twists, crafting plot twists in fiction, writing tips

When it comes to stories, everyone LOVES a good twist. Whether this is in a movie, short story, or a novel audiences LOVE to be fooled. Twists and misdirection can not only cultivate passionate fans, but they’re crucial elements that keep any story from the dreaded label…”formulaic.”

Who wants to spend precious time with a movie, am HBO series, or a book that anyone with one eye and half sense could predict the ending?

I believe the greatest compliment any story can earn is the surprising yet inevitable ending. When we craft a story, ideally the reader will finish and say two things.

I never saw that coming and How did I NOT see that coming?

Word wizardry is not easy, so a colleague of mine has been generous enough to write a guest post for today. C.S.Lakin is a fantastic speaker and teacher. She’s here to teach us to TWIST, BABY, TWIST!

Take it away, Susanne!

C.S. Lakin, writing tips, plot twist, twist, plot twists, how to create plot twists, crafting plot twists in fiction, writing tips

Plot twists are all about the unexpected. So, the best tip for writing great twists is come up with unexpected plot developments.

The challenge for the writer is to craft twists that are both unexpected and believable. Ah, there’s the rub. How can your twists be believable if they’re unexpected?

Expect the Unexpected

Often, the trick is to set up hints, or foreshadowing, in earlier scenes, so that when the truth of the twist is discovered, your reader won’t get mad because they feel cheated or tricked. Having a new character show up at the climax to save the day for the hero will do just that.

No setup, no believability (and no satisfaction on the reader’s part).

If your novel has twists at the start of the story, immediately misdirecting due to appearances, that’s fine . . . again, so long as it’s believable. We humans make assumptions and come to conclusions about events we experience, and it’s believable that we may misinterpret what we see and hear.

For Example:

Your character is walking down the street of her city at dawn. Two men come running out of a bank, holding black briefcases. The bank alarm is blaring. She hears screaming from inside the bank, then an explosion. Not wanting to stick around, she runs . . . only to turn a corner, where she crashes into the two men . . .

Your reader might reasonably presume these men are bank robbers. And what transpires upon encountering them may also reinforce this belief when one points a gun at her and tells her to get lost and quick.

It’s only later, when she is pouring herself a stiff drink and trembling behind her locked apartment door that she sees on the news that a gang of Goth girls, sent by a mob boss, robbed the bank, using plastic explosives to blow up the vault.

This plants doubt in your character’s head: Is the news wrong or did I misinterpret what happened?

Later in the story, events may unfold that have her realize the men she encountered were not the “bad guys” but, rather, secret agents who, tipped off about the impending robbery, managed to get the highly classified plans from the safe-deposit box in time, before the Goth girls entered.

But then, another twist might show that to be false information given to the police. The men are actually from a rival mob, and they have even worse plans.

For Every Action There’s a Reaction

C.S. Lakin, writing tips, plot twist, twist, plot twists, how to create plot twists, crafting plot twists in fiction, writing tips

Your twist needs to be written with your readers’ reaction in mind. Do you want to shock them? Scare them? Make them angry? Keep that emotion at the forefront when crafting your twist.

If you start with the “expected,” the believable, then you can work from there. Keep these points in mind:

Twists need to escalate the story.

Meaning, they shouldn’t be thrown in for no good reason (other than to surprise the reader). The stakes for your story need to be impacted by the twist.

The story must be able to stand on its own without the twist.

If you took out the Statue of Liberty at the end of The Planet of the Apes, it would still be a terrific story about a world of intelligent apes oppressing unintelligent humans. If Dr. Crowe in The Sixth Sense wasn’t really dead, the story would still be a fascinating study of a therapist trying to help a very troubled and gifted boy (not as great, but the story would hold up).

The twist shouldn’t trick your reader.

Avoid cliché’s and gimmicks. Keep it real.

Tips to Twist

***Remember: The Perfect Twist is Believable, Yet Unexpected 😉

Step One:

Think about a milestone event in your story. For example, your hero needs to find where a hostage has been taken.

Step Two:

Now, make a list of 5-10 possible, believable scenarios. Your hero overhears a conversation, giving him a tip. Your hero spots someone in a car he thinks is one of the kidnappers. Your hero’s partner calls and gives him the address.

Step Three:

Once you have your list, make a new list for each believable scenario. This list is all the ways you could possibly misdirect. The overheard conversation could be fabricated by the bad guy specifically to misdirect your hero.

Or it could be he wrongly assumes who was speaking, and the tip is a dead end. Or the tip is valid, but it’s a trap, so that when your hero arrives, he’s attacked. Or the partner was misled or coerced.

Step Four:

Come up with all kinds of ideas, crazy and logical. Sometimes the crazy idea, with a little work, is the best. But, again, it has to be believable. If a character is going to flat-out lie, he needs to be the kind of character who would do that. Or if not, he needs a very good reason to lie—perhaps someone is holding a gun to his daughter’s head.

TA-DA! TWIST!

C.S. Lakin, writing tips, plot twist, twist, plot twists, how to create plot twists, crafting plot twists in fiction, writing tips

Once you’ve come up with some great twists, think of how to go back through earlier scenes and put in not-so-obvious bits to prepare for the twist.

If you are going to have a surprise character be the killer at the end of your mystery, you’ll need a half-dozen or so moments, at minimum, in your story with that character, setting up subtle hints as to her nature, interests, and behavior that will make your readers say at the end, “Oh, of course!” and still be delighted that they didn’t figure it out.

Thanks so much!

I appreciate Susanne taking the time to share these tips. Remember, comments for guest posters count double for the contest (below).

More About Our Guest

C.S. Lakin is a writing coach, copyeditor, and author of thirty books, fiction and nonfiction. She blogs at Live Write Thrive, helping writers on their writing journey, and teaches online courses for writers at cslakin.teachable.com. Enroll in her new course, The Ten Key Scenes to Frame Up Your Novel, before August 20, 2018 to get half off the regular price!

I love hearing from you!

What do you WIN? For the month of JULY, for 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).

NEW CLASSES!

steampunk, writingClass Title: Building a Believable Steampunk World

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $50.00 USD Standard

Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom

When: FRIDAY, July 20, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

Who doesn’t love some steampunk cosplay? Corsets, goggles, awesome hats…

Steampunk has become one of the hottest genres today, crossing the lines of YA, NA, and adult fiction. It seems like it’s fun to write because it’s fun to read.

However, there’s a world of difference between the amateur steampunk writer and the professional steampunk author, and the difference lies in the world they create.

Is your steampunk world historically-accurate enough not to jar the reader out of the narrative with anachronisms? Does your world include paranormal as well as steampunk? Are the gadgets and level of sophistication in keeping with the technologies available at the time?

Steampunk is not an excuse to take short-cuts with history. Good writing in this genre requires a solid grasp of Victorian culture and history, including the history of science, medicine, and industry.

This shouldn’t scare you off from writing steampunk, but it should encourage you to take this class and learn how to create a world that is accurate, consistent and immersive.

This class will cover a broad range of topics including:

  • Not-So-Polite Society: Just how prim and Victorian do you want to get?
  • Grime and Gears: How to research Victoriantechnology, science, medicine, and industry without dying of boredom?
  • Putting the ‘Steamy’ in Steampunk: How to obey (and more importantly, break) Victorian rules of romance;
  • Keeping it Real…ish: How to drop in historical details without info-dumping, and how to describe and explain your steampunk innovations without confusing.

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

DYSTOPIA!!


Class Title: World-Building for Dystopian Fiction

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $50.00 USD Standard

Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom

When: Friday, July 27, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

There’s no greater fear than fearing what dwells deep in the dark corners of human nature. Dystopian literature, for all its bells and zombie whistles, shines an unforgiving light on all those shadows.

Can’t think of any dystopian-genre books off the top of your head? How about:

Farenheit 451, The Hunger Games, The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984, The Lorax, The Stand, Neuromancer, Ender’s Game, Divergent, World War Z, Underground Airlines, Brave New World, Ready Player One, A Clockwork Orange, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (just to name a few…)

Still, it’s a challenging genre to write. Done badly, dystopian fiction is the equivalent of that emo kid down the hall in your dorm who drinks way too much coffee and just won’t quit playing The Cure.

Done well? We get the dangerous thrill of skidding close to the edge of moral insanity, looking through a mirror darkly and seeing ourselves and our neighbors, and a hyper-creative outlet that combines the dubious fun of post-apocalyptic totalitarianism (zombies optional) with chilling truths about human nature.

Topics covered in this class include:

  • Having fun with things you shouldn’t: why destroying society is just so much fun!
  • ‘First Fright’ vs. ‘True Fright’: sure, we’re afraid of enforced barcode tattoos because totalitarianism!…but maybe we’re really afraid because it really sounds so seductively convenient;
  • Picking and choosing ‘normal’: how to balance having enough familiarities with society today with creating shocking changes that go right to the heart of our fears;
  • Fear leads to the dark side (unless you’re already there): creating dystopian characters that invite both shock and sympathy;
  • To apocalypse or not to apocalypse: do we really need nuclear fallout or an alien invasion…or can we do it all ourselves?
  • Playing with your food: how to put a new and unique spin on zombies, aliens, and food shortages (i.e. asking critical questions like whether Soylent Green is gluten-free).

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

About the Instructor

Cait Reynolds is a USA Today Bestselling Author and lives in Boston area with her husband and neurotic dog. She discovered her passion for writing early and has bugged her family and friends with it ever since. She likes history, science, Jack Daniels, jewelry, pasta, and solitude. Not all at the same time. When she isn’t enjoying the rooftop deck that brings her closer to the stars, she writes.

 

BRAND NEW CLASS IN AUGUST!

Kristen Lamb, W.A.N.A. International, business for authors, selling for writers, sales for writers, how to sell more books

Instructor: Kristen Lamb

Price: $50.00 USD Standard

Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom

When: Thursday August 9th, 2018 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

Writers are in the entertainment business. Notice the second half of our job title is business. The lifeblood of all business is sales.

But, to be blunt, most creative professionals would rather be stabbed in the face than ‘do sales.’ Yet, if we don’t sell books, our career is doomed (regardless of how we publish).

One of the MAJOR reasons so many people are afraid of sales is because what’s being taught as ‘sales’ is actually ‘direct marketing.’

Direct marketing is NOT sales. It IS, however, pushy, icky, and hasn’t been effective since The Spice Girls were cool.

Sales can be fun. In fact, believe it or not, humans are wired for sales. It’s part of our biology. Problem is, humans are also wired to overcomplicate things…which is why so many of us freak out over sales.

This class is to remove the fear factor and clarify what selling entails for the professional author. Not all products are sold the same way…which is why there are no late-night infomercials hawking Hadron Colliders or F-16 fighter jets. Our sales approach must align with the product we’re selling, or we’re doomed before we begin.

This class will cover:

  • Why direct marketing doesn’t sell books;
  • Tame wasters versus time savers;
  • How to be paid what we are worth;
  • Ways we can make ads, promotions and marketing far more effective;
  • The unique way books must be sold;
  • How to set goals and create a scalable strategy;
  • Explore the S.W.O.T. analysis and why we need one;
  • How to differentiate our brand and product in an over-saturated marketplace;
  • AND MORE!

***A FREE recording is included with class purchase.

 

Kristen Lamb, targeting readers, how to target readers, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to sell more books, author branding, social media for writers, sales for writers

How many times have we been told we should be targeting our readers, audience, and customers? Am I the only one disturbed by this advice? Targeting seems like it should involve a Predator Drone…or at least a trebuchet.

For the record, I imagine many authors would view sales (and targeting) with far more enthusiasm if book launches involved a trebuchet.

#MaybeJustMe

In the olden days—before Web 2.0—the world was vastly different. It was a horrible existence rife with uncertainty, anxiety and dread.

Case in point, for most of the 20th century, if the phone rang? WE HAD NO IDEA WHO WAS CALLING.

Planning a Friday night? Want to watch a movie at home? You had to bribe that pimply-faced kid at Blockbuster to squirrel away the NEW RELEASE of Speed 2 before they were all gone. Then, after you watched Speed 2 and wondered why Hollywood didn’t just…STOP?

YOU COULD ONLY COMPLAIN TO PEOPLE YOU ACTUALLY KNEW.

Before Web 2.0 life was ugly, brutish and short.

Kristen Lamb, targeting readers, how to target readers, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to sell more books, author branding, social media for writers, sales for writers

As if pay phones, shoulder pads, and the regular onslaught of boy bands weren’t bad enough? When you went on a date and he/she said they had a good time and would call you, and they didn’t? Two options. Move on like a mature, confident person or engage PSYCHO mode.

#GoBigOrGoHome

There was no ‘checking online activity’ to see Brad really WAS working late like he said when you called him for the 37th time. No, you had to dress up, hop in your 1987 Mazda and find his workplace using the YELLOW PAGES and a PAPER MAP.

Oh and on the way over, you had to make up some reasonable explanation of how you just ‘happened to be in the area’ in that new outfit from Express. The one exactly like Paula Abdul’s—giant hoop earrings and all. #ForeverYourGirl.

We had to own the crazy O_o .

Kristen Lamb, targeting readers, how to target readers, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to sell more books, author branding, social media for writers, sales for writers
Me in the 90s…okay until yesterday.

This said, language frequently reflects the emotional state of the times. Words mirror the collective ennui of a culture. Back then? Needy and codependent behaviors couldn’t be properly measured with metrics (I.e. ‘Likes’).

We had to TRUST our hair looked great or that skirt didn’t make our @$$ look like we had two @$$es…all on our own. No posting, getting votes, feedback, and digital flattery to boost our confidence.

Before Web 2.0, we were a skittish bunch. Every moment waiting, wondering…

Old School Marketing

Kristen Lamb, targeting readers, how to target readers, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to sell more books, author branding, social media for writers, sales for writers

Suffice to say, in a world where we were largely flying blind, it makes sense why so many military words and phrases crept into the marketing vocabulary.

**It’s also the only logical explanation for harem pants.

Terms like strategy, bombshell, media blast, marketing blitz, ad campaigns, and targeting buyers were common, and consumers didn’t take it personally. We didn’t take it personally because business was business and personal was personal.

Back in the day, it was perfectly fine for businesses to think in terms of blitzing, blasting, or targeting because we understood we were consumers, not FRIENDS. 

We didn’t mind kitschy slogans to make us feel a company cared because, deep down, we knew they were only pretending to care.

In the 90s, when Budweiser repetitively asked us ‘WASSUP?’ we were pretty sure that was a rhetorical question. No one at Budweiser was waiting for our answer…except Sheila.

This, of course, is no longer the case. Now, in 2018, if Budweiser asks us ‘WASSUP?’ They’re likely hoping we WILL answer. The reason is because branding and buying behaviors have changed.

Brave New Buying

Kristen Lamb, targeting readers, how to target readers, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to sell more books, author branding, social media for writers, sales for writers

A lot of writers (and companies) gripe that social media is ineffective because there’s no way to trace what, which, and how much activity translates into sales. You know, like a formula or recipe that’s simple, scalable and easily replicated.

Something you could train a weasel to do, because studies have shown ferrets will work for cat food (though raccoons are cool with exposure dollars).

***Note: Remember raccoons are NOT weasels (which are often preferred for direct marketing). Raccoons are marsupials and DO have those adorable opposable thumbs. BUT they’re also attention addicts that require management to ensure they’re not gaffing off texting and posting selfies on Instagram.

#TrueFactIJustMadeUp

Thing is?

Social media is not direct marketing, though the two are often confused. 

See, in direct marketing, activity can be measured. Businesses can put out an ad, monitor click rates and see how many clicks led to a purchase. Companies can send out so many coupons and then measure quantitatively how many of those later translated into a purchase.

Kristen Lamb, targeting readers, how to target readers, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to sell more books, author branding, social media for writers, sales for writers

Why Web 2.0 has been so vexing for marketers is they keep trying to treat social media the same way as direct marketing…and they can’t. Because this isn’t 1999. And, if we do social media correctly (keeping it social) there’s no way to accurately measure, control or quantify results.

It also becomes way too obvious we’re mixing social and market norms and that creeps people the hell out.

Example:

Market Norms are when a prostitute expects money in return for *wink wink nod nod* ‘favors.’

Social Norms are when a wife does those same ‘favors’ for her beloved husband out of love because getting paid for it would be seriously strange.

That seems obvious, right?

But what if wife has a wonderful and romantic evening with her husband, but then early the next day, she asks him to fill out an on-line survey rating how he enjoyed his night? And tells him that, when he completes his survey, he will be texted a code he can then redeem for free pancakes?

Yes, I just took that to a WHOLE NEW LEVEL of weird!

But y’all see what I mean when I say that you just can’t sneak that stuff in there! We SEE it. We FEEL it.

Don’t Cross the Streams!

While many businesses still use direct marketing tactics, these methods are becoming increasingly less effective when used exclusively. Companies need to be on social media.

Another observation to point out.

Unlike a company, authors are humans. When we don’t act like a human…people grow quickly suspicious.

A lot of authors rightfully feel dirty when told they need to be targeting their readers. Are we selling a book or doing a mob hit?

***Because if this is a mob hit shouldn’t we get paid better? Asking for a friend.

Kristen Lamb, targeting readers, how to target readers, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to sell more books, author branding, social media for writers, sales for writers

We’re writers, which means we appreciate words have power. If we are targeting people so we can bait, blitz, or bundle them, it’s tough to hide our less-than-authentic motives.

Words impact thoughts, thoughts directs actions, and actions create results. If, behind the scenes, we view people as resources only to be plundered for personal gain (by targeting them), it makes us feel ookie when we try to pretend like we really care.

…unless you’re Brad.

It’s All in Our Head

Kristen Lamb, targeting readers, how to target readers, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to sell more books, author branding, social media for writers, sales for writers

I’ve spent the last several posts working to make ‘sales’—which is pretty critical to success—far less icky. It doesn’t need to be icky at all, actually.

As mentioned, words hold tremendous power, and a simple mental shift can make a massive difference. This is why I dedicated a lot of my branding book (Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World) to neuroscience. How is the human brain impacted as technology shifts?

Technology changes, but humans remain the same.

How does the human brain operate in a virtual world? What factors can render content invisible? Why do humans SEE certain types of content and yet remain oblivious to other types?

Words play a massive role in first, being visible and then, making a positive connection. For instance, did you know the human brain only begins listening at the first active verb?

When we tell people, ‘Don’t forget to buy my new book,’ their brains hear, ‘Forget to buy my new book.’

This is one of the reasons negative goals are virtually useless and produce terrible results. Try this simple exercise in your everyday life. I make it a point to phrase as much as possible in the positive. State what I want, as opposed to what I don’t want.

‘Remember to pick up the dry cleaning’ or ‘Remember you put your keys in the side pocket of your gym bag’ yields far better results than lecturing myself on all the stuff ‘I don’t want to forget.’

Why I take time to mention this is because a simple adjustment in vocabulary can ease our own anxiety, allow us to feel authentic, and thus we’ll come across to others in a far more genuine way.

No Targeting? So WHAT Do We DO?

When we are targeting our audience, the core objective is for us to do all we can to ensure we’re respecting our audience’s time (I.e. Don’t repeatedly pitch people who rent an apartment about the benefits of vinyl siding…unless you want to be stabbed).

These days when we’re all about social, community and friending, I recommend we define then identify our audience.

If I write books about dragons and sorcerers, what kind of people are likely going to like these kinds of stories? What do we share in common? Maybe they like WoW, or GoT or ASOF, OMG!

I write suspense thrillers. We share a love for Dateline, podcasts about serial killers, and a morbid and socially unacceptable sense of humor. In my case, targeting my audience could be fatal. But identifying them is pretty simple. If they laugh at my memes and add additional morbid commentary? We’re peeps! If they report me to FB? Likely not my audience.

Kristen Lamb, targeting readers, how to target readers, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to sell more books, author branding, social media for writers, sales for writers

I give ways and specific exercises for how to find ‘friends’ in my book. Why? Because I was a nerd with paralyzing social anxiety and no social skills. Meaning I had to break all this down using science.

Don’t judge me.

***There was a good reason I was single until I was almost 35.

Anyway, what I realized (while researching ‘how to make friends without using chloroform’) was that ‘identifying our audience’ is something we’ve been doing since we were kids.

You love Dragonlance books? Me too! Did we just become best friends?

***Kids who liked Dodgeball, conversely, ‘targeted’ their audience. 

When we identify our audience and all the hobbies, topics, interests we’re likely to share, then it’s far simpler and more authentic to strike up a conversation and connect. Instead of targeting victims to pummel with BUY MY BOOK, we can locate others who like what we like.

We can talk about video games, movies, hobbies, crochet, pets, unicorns and untraceable poisons… You know. FUN STUFF!

Ideally, these conversations will lead to conversions.

Using common ground and shared emotional touch points, we can make loose connections that then foster relationships and perhaps grow into actual friendships. This means that one day—when we have a book (or another book) for sale—we’ve already done the ‘hard’ work.

We’ve cultivated an audience of friends, advocates and hopefully fans eager to see and help us succeed. Since we’ve created a micro-community, we come across as vested because we are. We have a reputation for giving more than we take.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Do you hate the Old School marketing jargon as much as I do? I hated it back when I was in sales. Always made me feel greasy, as if I had to view people with dollar signs over their heads.

Do you see the value of simply rephrasing targeting to identifying? Does that notch the terror down to maybe low-level-eat-some-chocolate anxiety?

I love hearing from you!

What do you WIN? For the month of JULY, for 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).

NEW CLASSES!

steampunk, writingClass Title: Building a Believable Steampunk World

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $50.00 USD Standard

Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom

When: FRIDAY, July 20, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

Who doesn’t love some steampunk cosplay? Corsets, goggles, awesome hats…

Steampunk has become one of the hottest genres today, crossing the lines of YA, NA, and adult fiction. It seems like it’s fun to write because it’s fun to read.

However, there’s a world of difference between the amateur steampunk writer and the professional steampunk author, and the difference lies in the world they create.

Is your steampunk world historically-accurate enough not to jar the reader out of the narrative with anachronisms? Does your world include paranormal as well as steampunk? Are the gadgets and level of sophistication in keeping with the technologies available at the time?

Steampunk is not an excuse to take short-cuts with history. Good writing in this genre requires a solid grasp of Victorian culture and history, including the history of science, medicine, and industry.

This shouldn’t scare you off from writing steampunk, but it should encourage you to take this class and learn how to create a world that is accurate, consistent and immersive.

This class will cover a broad range of topics including:

  • Not-So-Polite Society: Just how prim and Victorian do you want to get?
  • Grime and Gears: How to research Victoriantechnology, science, medicine, and industry without dying of boredom?
  • Putting the ‘Steamy’ in Steampunk: How to obey (and more importantly, break) Victorian rules of romance;
  • Keeping it Real…ish: How to drop in historical details without info-dumping, and how to describe and explain your steampunk innovations without confusing.

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

DYSTOPIA!!


Class Title: World-Building for Dystopian Fiction

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $50.00 USD Standard

Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom

When: Friday, July 27, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

There’s no greater fear than fearing what dwells deep in the dark corners of human nature. Dystopian literature, for all its bells and zombie whistles, shines an unforgiving light on all those shadows.

Can’t think of any dystopian-genre books off the top of your head? How about:

Farenheit 451, The Hunger Games, The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984, The Lorax, The Stand, Neuromancer, Ender’s Game, Divergent, World War Z, Underground Airlines, Brave New World, Ready Player One, A Clockwork Orange, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (just to name a few…)

Still, it’s a challenging genre to write. Done badly, dystopian fiction is the equivalent of that emo kid down the hall in your dorm who drinks way too much coffee and just won’t quit playing The Cure.

Done well? We get the dangerous thrill of skidding close to the edge of moral insanity, looking through a mirror darkly and seeing ourselves and our neighbors, and a hyper-creative outlet that combines the dubious fun of post-apocalyptic totalitarianism (zombies optional) with chilling truths about human nature.

Topics covered in this class include:

  • Having fun with things you shouldn’t: why destroying society is just so much fun!
  • ‘First Fright’ vs. ‘True Fright’: sure, we’re afraid of enforced barcode tattoos because totalitarianism!…but maybe we’re really afraid because it really sounds so seductively convenient;
  • Picking and choosing ‘normal’: how to balance having enough familiarities with society today with creating shocking changes that go right to the heart of our fears;
  • Fear leads to the dark side (unless you’re already there): creating dystopian characters that invite both shock and sympathy;
  • To apocalypse or not to apocalypse: do we really need nuclear fallout or an alien invasion…or can we do it all ourselves?
  • Playing with your food: how to put a new and unique spin on zombies, aliens, and food shortages (i.e. asking critical questions like whether Soylent Green is gluten-free).

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

About the Instructor

Cait Reynolds is a USA Today Bestselling Author and lives in Boston area with her husband and neurotic dog. She discovered her passion for writing early and has bugged her family and friends with it ever since. She likes history, science, Jack Daniels, jewelry, pasta, and solitude. Not all at the same time. When she isn’t enjoying the rooftop deck that brings her closer to the stars, she writes.

 

BRAND NEW CLASS IN AUGUST!

Kristen Lamb, W.A.N.A. International, business for authors, selling for writers, sales for writers, how to sell more books

Instructor: Kristen Lamb

Price: $50.00 USD Standard

Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom

When: Thursday August 9th, 2018 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

SIGN UP HERE

Writers are in the entertainment business. Notice the second half of our job title is business. The lifeblood of all business is sales.

But, to be blunt, most creative professionals would rather be stabbed in the face than ‘do sales.’ Yet, if we don’t sell books, our career is doomed (regardless of how we publish).

One of the MAJOR reasons so many people are afraid of sales is because what’s being taught as ‘sales’ is actually ‘direct marketing.’

Direct marketing is NOT sales. It IS, however, pushy, icky, and hasn’t been effective since The Spice Girls were cool.

Sales can be fun. In fact, believe it or not, humans are wired for sales. It’s part of our biology. Problem is, humans are also wired to overcomplicate things…which is why so many of us freak out over sales.

This class is to remove the fear factor and clarify what selling entails for the professional author. Not all products are sold the same way…which is why there are no late-night infomercials hawking Hadron Colliders or F-16 fighter jets. Our sales approach must align with the product we’re selling, or we’re doomed before we begin.

This class will cover:

  • Why direct marketing doesn’t sell books;
  • Tame wasters versus time savers;
  • How to be paid what we are worth;
  • Ways we can make ads, promotions and marketing far more effective;
  • The unique way books must be sold;
  • How to set goals and create a scalable strategy;
  • Explore the S.W.O.T. analysis and why we need one;
  • How to differentiate our brand and product in an over-saturated marketplace;
  • AND MORE!

***A FREE recording is included with class purchase.