Opportunity Comes in Overalls


Many writers panic when they are told they not only need to write, but to create a social media platform as well. Hey, I feel your pain. In fairness, we don’t HAVE to do anything but write the book. But, we do need to ask ourselves if we are doing everything in our power to help our career…and be honest.

Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

The paradigm is shifting in publishing and yes there is a lot of work put on our plate…BUT with this extra work, we will enjoy advantages no other writer in the history of publishing has ever enjoyed. We exercise much more control of our destiny than any writer…EVER.

We can only control two things—product and platform.

Product reigns supreme. I don’t care how many millions you spend launching fish-flavored ice cream with caviar sprinkles, it’s going to flop (no pun intended). We must focus on the product and that our book is something others want to consume.

But, not to be a smarta$$ … we always had control over that.

We always had control over writing a great book and yet 93% of novels sell less than 1000 copies (per BEA statistics). Why? Did 93% of writers write a crappy book? I doubt that. This hellish statistic, I feel, was due to that fact that until very recently fiction writers had little to no control over building a platform. They were throwing a damn good product into the night and hoping to hit something. Only a small percentage could expect to survive and thrive long-term.

For ages writers have griped and complained (justifiably) that they didn’t get enough marketing support. Well, now we have a way to generate word-of-mouth and build a brand for FREE. We have to ability to spread word about us and our books to thousands of people…but it is too hard.

We won’t have time left over to write, we whine.

Yes…yes we will. We just have to make key decisions and some sacrifices. But with a solid plan, hard work and time-management, it is doable.

Anything in life worth having takes hard work. Some people feel that I am on here telling people to blog away their day and ignore the book. I don’t know why anyone would think that since I blog every Monday to help writers with craft. But, hey, misunderstandings happen.  When it comes to writing fiction, if I don’t know something or it is beyond my realm of expertise, you can count on me to at least point you guys to books, speakers and workshops to fill in the gaps.

Good writing is essential, but social media is critical as well.

Writing and social media are like…eating healthy and working out put together.

To let you guys in a little into my world.

I had a baby last year. I worked out every day I was pregnant until the very end…and I was 11 days past due. I spent 45 minutes on the elliptical, then went to the hospital to have my son. I had been so good.

Now you guys need to understand a little about Kristen. I was the WORST…the biggest lazy sloth on the planet. The only way you might see me run more than a mile would be if there was a psycho swinging an ax behind me. Even then, after a mile or two I would probably have let said ax murderer just end my suffering. I have always struggled with laziness.

Can’t I just take a nap?

I would start to the gym, go hot and heavy, then get too sore, injured or bored. Then I would give up and eight months later be back at it. When my husband and I found out a baby was on the way, I cleaned up my act. I ate perfectly and exercised every day. I didn’t want to gain a bunch of weight that I wouldn’t be able to get off. Let’s say I was very motivated.

11 days after I had my son I began working out…but I wasn’t as good about watching my diet. Though I worked out all the time my weight dropped at a snail’s pace…if the snail was a heavily sedated snail weighted with barbells.

So I flipped the other direction. I started eating really healthy, but I started putting off working out. Again, my weight dropped at glacial speed. At the rate I was losing weight all my clothes would be long out of style before I could wear them again.

But I had to ask myself the hard questions. Was I comfortable being fluffy for good? I could eat whatever I wanted and work out OR eat healthy and sit on my butt, but then I had to be happy being 30 pounds heavier.

Was I cool with that? Um…no. I am too cheap to give away all my clothes.

I had to deal with BOTH if I wanted back in my old clothes. I had to discipline my diet AND be active. *But it’s not faaaaaiiiiiiirrrr. Why do I have to have a slow metabolism? It’s so haaard. Why can’t I keep up with the Kardashians? Whaaaaaaaa!!!!!* I had to make a choice. Whine about the injustice of it all and waste precious time…or get to work. Be disciplined in BOTH areas.

 This approach takes a lot of time. I can’t eat whatever flies my direction. I can’t order Gluten-Free pizza from Palio’s every other night so I don’t have to cook. I have to make lists and shop and cook meals ahead. I had to figure out that my crock pot was good for something other than a place to stash extra napkins. Who knew? But, with planning and a routine, it isn’t nearly as hard as it was in the beginning.

We don’t have to do social media if we write fiction. We don’t even have to blog. We can rely on just the quality of the book.

Yet, if we pair a great book with a great platform, we vastly improve our odds of reaching or exceeding our career goals faster. Just like I could lose weight with only exercise or with only healthy eating…IF I wanted to lose the weight in four years. If I wanted to lose it in 8 months, I had to do both.

Whether it is working out or writing or social media, one of the things I’ve noticed is that all my bad habits bubble to the surface the second I dare to strive for a life of excellence. When I decided to really do this writer thing, I had to face my fear, my insecurity, my ugliness. I had to take a hard look at my character.

I used to be an instant gratification gal. I wanted to write a book, find an agent on the first round and be retired in the French Riviera by the end of the year.

Writing has taught me patience.

When I started my first novel, I thought I knew everything about writing.

Rejection has taught me humility.

When I began blogging I felt very alone.

Followers taught me community.

There are social media people who will sell you 20 Ways to Rule the World and have a Zillion Followers. To me, I think those folk appeal to the people who buy the Shake Weight and the Chocolate Diet.

*Nudges Shake Weight under desk and out of sight.*

There is no magic pill to give us a beautiful body, and there is no social media magic that can make us best-sellers.

But, to dismiss social media is like trying to get in shape without the benefit of a gym. Treadmills, barbells and StairMasters will get you in shape faster. But they require WORK, sacrifice and time management. Blogging will build your name, brand and reputation, but it too requires sweat equity. It will force us to look at our schedule and ask the hard questions.

Do I really not have enough time? Or is that just an excuse?

Today I sent my resignation to my Rotary Club. I have been a Rotarian for almost 7 years. I love Rotary…but I love writing more. It hurts to tell those friends that I won’t be spending every week with them.

As Baby Writers we want the freedom to choose. When we mature, we make choices that bring freedom.

In the beginning of my writing career, I didn’t want to tell anyone “no” and would work myself into the ground to please others. Eventually, though, I had to get to a point that I could make the tough decisions knowing that I would reap benefits later.

No, we can’t go eat pizza with our pals…but we will be able to fit in our clothes and won’t have to take heart medicine.

We can’t shop until we drop…but we will be able to go on nice vacations and retire before we’re 100.

We can’t go to as many movies…but we will have a platform that increases our odds of a successful career.

We have to make a choice; either the freedom to choose or the choices that bring freedom. One is short-term and the other likely won’t see harvest for years to come.

It is hard to do without that $100 a week we put into savings, but trust me that it is far harder to go to work every day at age 70 and try to scrape a living out of a Social Security check.

Hard work dedicated to our books and our platform is an investment. Good investments require sacrifice. It will be worth it, and I am here to support you guys and encourage you every step of the way.

What are some sacrifices you guys have made to become successful in your writing career? What are some things that you think you might be able to give up to free more time? Any suggestions? Advice? Triumphs to inspire us?

I love hearing from you guys, and to prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention WANA in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end on March I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

February’s Winners for the Grand Prize

Jesswords10 AND K.B. Owen

I goofed up when mixing all the names in a bowl and some had gotten knocked out when I chose the first name. So we have two winners. E-mail me your first 15 pages when you are ready for critique.

March Week One’s Winner

Christine Glover

Send me your first three pages. Readers generally won’t give us more than three. It might not seem like a lot, but we have a lot of competition and need to make a good impression FAST.


Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced). For now, I will draw weekly for 3 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Happy writing!

Until next time…

In the meantime, if you don’t already own a copy, my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books.


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  1. The comparison to exercise and healthy eating is pretty apt. Also, I found (and I wrote about it a year ago) that a healthier lifestyle also made me a more productive writer.

  2. :nudges own Shake weight under the side table: Girl I laughed so hard at this. It’s so true though! I love that quote by Edison. People are, fundamentally, lazy creatures. I see this all the time in my classes–at least until they get their first round of grades back and realize that slackers won’t pass my class. You have to really WANT something and do the work…and sometimes that’s hard. That’s something that keeps floating around in the back of my brain when I’ve put in a 10 hour day already at the evil day jobs and still have to open my WIP and get my words in. If I want to write for a living, I have to put the time in now and earn it.

    FYI, if you’re dusting off your crock pot, I’ve got a huge section of slow cooker recipes over at Pots and Plots a bunch of which are GF.

  3. You are such an inspiration.

  4. I don’t know that I’ve had success enough that I can point to my sacrifices with pride, and I don’t need to be entered in the draw, but I’m here to applaud your decision. It’s very difficult to leave behind a comfortable place, but sometimes these changes have to come. Good for you, and congrats on the baby.

    • Tiffany White on March 4, 2011 at 4:54 pm
    • Reply

    I am new to your blog and absolutely love it. I lost my job a year ago in “Corporate America” and have given up money for my opportunity to write. It’s tough but it’s been the happiest year in a long time. I avoided social media until now but I’m learning by reading you. Your words inspire me!

  5. I really love this post! I especially love the: Writing has taught me patience.

    “When I started my first novel, I thought I knew everything about writing.
    Rejection has taught me humility.
    When I began blogging I felt very alone.
    Followers taught me community.”

    It may possibly go on my wall with the other quotes I have up there 🙂 Or at least the first couple of lines.
    Though I shouldn’t be reading this … I’m supposed to be editing right now, before the parentals return and make me do proper work 🙁

  6. My opportunity sweats a lot too. And drinks lots of Starbucks.
    Nice essay!

    • Michelleb Anderson on March 4, 2011 at 5:01 pm
    • Reply

    Awesome blog Kristen! Thanks for your honesty and willingness to share your personal challenges.

    This really got my mind going and I have been jotting down some ideas for promoting my childrens book.

    My life’s dreams are riding on my ability to be a successful writer, so your seasoned advice is invaluable to me.

    Thanks for the inspiration! So glad I found you!

  7. This whole post spoke to me, but your line: “Writing has taught me patience” practically jumped off the page and bit me. Ouch, but in a good way.

    I have always been an impatient person. In full knowledge of that fact, and the wisdom that comes with age, I’ve put a lot of effort into learning the fine art of patience.

    About a year ago, I prayed for patience (be careful what you pray for, I gotta tell you) and the next thing I knew, I’m stuck in traffic every day, stuck in the longest lines at the store, stuck sitting in a waiting room for hours at every doctor and dentist appointment. I used those experiences to practice patience but even those frustrating occurrences didn’t quite cause the lesson to sink in. Then I started a novel and I finally understood what patience is. Thanks for the reminder.

  8. I’m a great believer in self-rewards and paydays. With dogs and cats, it takes about 3-5 times longer to “extinguish” a bad behavior, but only one or two repeats to teach a good behavior using rewards.

    So my to-do list has paydays built in. “Finish the newspaper column, CLICK! play with the dog. Pitch the next column topics, CLICK! reach Kristen’s blog. Write the daily blog, CLICK! tweet and FB about it half an hour. Write one-more-chapter-please-I-can-do-this-CLICK! watch American Idol.”

  9. Are you telling me my Shake Weight and my Chocolate Diet aren’t going to work? Omg! Next you’ll be dissing my Bowflex machine. Waaahhh!

    For myself? I’ve given up cleaning my house and half the cooking to free up time for writing. I’m actually not joking. Fortunately, I have the world’s most supportive family, and they are happy–behind the grumbling–to take up the slack for me. I figure my teens need to learn to cook, anyway, and if they just clean their own messes, that goes a long way. I’m sad to say I also don’t get to see my friends as often anymore, or take my kids out of school to go have fun at the zoo or the movies. But for now, it needs to be this way, and that’s ok. Especially the not cleaning part.

    1. It must be nice! I’m the stay at home Mom right now and it sucks…lol

  10. Such great advise! Four years ago, I looked at myself at 260 pounds and knew if I didn’t get with it, I wouldn’t be there to write, period. I was trying to kill myself hiding the truth. I joined a group of swimmers (and I don’t swim). I walked, twenty minutes every other day in a regulation olympic pool. I began a healthy diet and over two years I lost 100 pounds. Now if I could just apply the same with social media networking and writing, I be a much ‘happier camper’. I better stop hiding from the truth. I do have time to do both.

    1. WOW! AWESOME! You can SO do this. What an inspirational story. Thanks for sharing :D.

  11. You are the coolest. I could listen to you explain just about anything. There’s always responsibilities that demand our time. The trick for me is to adhere to the old BIC method (butt-in-chair). That means eliminating distractions.

    I have to work at this because I often feel like a kitten with ADHD in a meth lab. Gotta get down to the nitty-gritty!

    So thanks coach. I’m going to the gym.

  12. I’m struggling with this right now. so this post came at a good time. By the end of my day, I’m often too tired (read lazy) to do much besides watch some documentaries on Life Without People. I need to get back at the social media thing and fast. Thanks Kristen!

  13. Ok, so now I’m smiling from ear to ear after reading your post. And you know what that means? It means you’ve inspired me to continue that delicate balancing act of branding-social media-writing.

    I practice all three about equally but the lack of immediate results from my social media stuff makes me want to throw my arms up in the air and say “JUST WRITE”.

    But as you say – the social media aspect is now, and more-so in the future a necessary evil, if you will.

    I keep telling myself, find the balance. Balance all three. It’s hard! Even exhausting. Makes me feel like the heavily sedated barbell laden snail walking back and forth on a toothpaste tube. He gets to the small end and looks back at now the big end and says “ohhhhhhhhh darnnnnnnnnnn”.

    Great post, Kristen!

    1. Thanks :D. I like the description of your heavily sedated snail better, LOL. Keep on keeping on. Focus on the goal ;).

  14. I love this post! I always say life is all about priorities, finding out what’s most important to you and then doing the work to make that (whatever it might be) happen. Plus, I find that when I stay focused on *why* I’m doing something, it makes even the unpleasant tasks more manageable.

  15. Kristen, you rock! This is my most favorite post of yours yet.

    We can be the prisoners of the past, or the architects of our future . . . we choose moment by moment.

  16. Great advice Kristin – I am a newbie following your blog, enjoying the new posts and wading through the archives!

  17. Kristen, Thank you for your leadership and inspiration. I’m at a loss for words, which takes a bit of doing because words usually come very easily to me. My imagination has been in overdrive since this past weekend and I honestly feel like you grabbed me by the shoulders and turned me to face another direction when it comes to my approach to a writing career.

    Whether or not my name falls out of your hat, for the first time in my life, I feel empowered to chase my dreams.

    Thank you!

  18. Oh my goodness – thanks so much for the opportunity to have you critique my writing! Hope I survive the process, LOL. (Also glad I didn’t skip my Zumba class this week when I was tempted to, or I’d be feeling REALLY guilty right about now).

    Love this “slap-you-upside-the-head” post – you always manage to say the things we need to hear in such a way that we don’t feel like worthless groundlings. Or at least like you’re right in there with us.

    Umm, how do I send a file to you? *blush* Can’t seem to find a link.


    1. Congratulations!

      1. Thanks, Marilag! You’re so sweet. 🙂

    • SandySays1 on March 4, 2011 at 8:42 pm
    • Reply

    You sure are right about the electronic world of blogging, f’booking, and tweeting being a challenge to some writers. Take my human. He’s ten days older than dirt, still likes Glenn Miller’s music and feels more at home with a chisel, mallet, and slate tablet than the ‘net. I’ve slowly brought him into the 21st century, though he did kick and scream some. Bbuuuuttttt…. you sure are correct, it’s an imperative if you want a better chance of success in new world of pubing.

  19. Your analogies are great. You really made me think about what is important and why it is important to work towards it.

  20. What have I given up? Years of regular sleep. Countless TV shows (don’t really miss those) and now, a regular paycheck. Yes, I could seek out another job but I’d rather get by on less and focus on my writing. Funny thing is old habits die hard and I still like to write at 5 a.m., but now at least if I start to crash by mid-day I can take a nap and then continue.

    Now, about that eating healthier and exercising… I know, I know.

    Thanks again for reminding me in your wonderfully entertaining yet effective way to keep my priorities (be it writing or staying healthy) in perspective. I think it’s time to take the dogs for a nice walk!

  21. As usual, you hit the nail right on the head. Thanks again for grabbing me and making me face the mirror.

    • Nicole Sheldrake on March 4, 2011 at 10:00 pm
    • Reply

    Two sentences from your post stood out for me today:

    “As Baby Writers we want the freedom to choose. When we mature, we make choices that bring freedom.”

    Inspiring for writing as well as life and love! Thank you.

  22. As you may remember, I was not so keen on getting involved in social media. But thanks to you, I’m feeling better about it and am taking steps to improve my platform! Great post, as usual. Thank you!
    BTW…I will be posting a link to this article on my blog on Monday. Thanks again!

  23. Damn. I need to print, frame, and post this thing right over the computer. Of course, you’re right. And not just about the writing, but about anything that is worth pursuing. Now I just have to master the ‘persistence in the face of sheer bloody exhaustion’ aspect of things. 😉

  24. Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god! I won! I had to read the words grand prize and my name three times, I thought I was seeing things. Breathing, breathing. Ok, can’t wait! But I just totally re-started my story based on pointers from your other posts, so I’ll have to really focus to complete the new pages and send to you soon. Thank you for this opportunity, I couldn’t ask for a better coach in this new journey.

    And today’s post. Once again, so timely. Whenever I need to focus, you help put life in perspective and I can make practical resolutions for my week.

    1. LOL…just send them when you are ready. No rush. Congratulations. You have been super supportive. A lot of you guys have. I just don’t have enough hours in the day to reward you all :D.

    2. Congratulations, Jess!

    • writerwellness on March 5, 2011 at 2:26 am
    • Reply

    Having a baby gets EVERYBODY’S attention! I concur with your points, K. Health writer equals prolific, happy writer. Be well, write well.

    • Patti Mallett on March 5, 2011 at 3:36 am
    • Reply

    Great post! We’ve got to make choices – and in the end, our life will be made up of our choices. How can we whine about that (and not feel silly)?

  25. I love the diet and exercise advice! Both needed the hand-in-hand approach in order to lose weight and keep it off. These choices are tough. Do I write a blog post right now or work on my novel? I’m guessing it would take balance to get satisfactory results with both.

  26. Now I’m inspired to write AND excercise. Can I do both at the same time?

  27. Great post and all very true. Unfortunately, it is very daunting to a mother of three little kids! It’s hard enough to find time to write my book much less try to keep up an active blog and grow it! But, since I am hearing the same on all sides, I am attempting it and am going to do my best to keep up with it in my already overwhelming world! Success is sweeter after hard work, but there is something to be said about instant gratification too! 😉

    1. My spawn spends most of his day actively pursuing death…so I feel your pain :D. You can do it. It ain’t easy, but it’s fun.

  28. Here via my friend’s blog, Sarah Madison and I’m SO glad she recommended this post. So much truth and wisdom here; no, not easy answers, but solutions. Thank you!

  29. How well do I know the laziness. I get so frustrated when I know something will take a lot of effort over a long time. I really, really need to quit whining about it and get to it.

    • Caroline Clemmons on March 5, 2011 at 7:08 pm
    • Reply

    Kristin, I love your blog articles. You are always spot on with your advice and have helped me. I tried to do too much and realize that not being able to go to sleep at night because I’m worried about all the things I didn’t get done is not a healthy life style. I’m extricating myself from some things that detract from my writing. My dear husband is very supportive and helps by cooking (what a hero!) nutritious meals for us. He even does his own laundry. Now I have to focus on my books.

  30. Your ability to always know what I’m struggling with is uncanny. So glad you’re here to give perspective and encouragment. In particular, I loved the sales stat. Whenever I see something like that, it’s nitro motivation so I can say I’m not in the 93%.

  31. Humor and great advice. What a terrific combination! And what a treat to read a blog like this one. You’ve most certainly inspired and encouraged a lot of people, including me. I’m looking forward to reading more of your blogs.

    • Gene Lempp on March 6, 2011 at 7:45 pm
    • Reply

    Ugh! Now I have to go get on the treadmill again, thanks Kristen for the kick! Now if I can find a way to velcro the tablet comp to the treadmill so I can read this blog while I’m walking and watch that youtube of the babies that…well, that would be awesome. Thanks so much for sharing and making it relevant. You are a great teacher by your constant example of life. Hearts!

  32. Thank you for another great post. You say just what I need to hear just when I need to hear it. Thanks again.


  33. You speak such wisdom! Bought your book over the weekend, doing the slow read of 10 pages at a time. Between blogging, tweeting, reading for research, finding tools to make my 2 blogs work as one, I think I might be able to return to work on my book in April. It is a slow pace right now, but I am climbing the learning curve. Big reward thus far, being included with other established bloggers in a feature article on art history. I was SO proud! Thanks for all your positive reinforcement.

  34. Great blog. Marketing is hard and I’ve often said I’d rather write. But, you have to find time and manage your time. Don’t try to do everything in one day or one night. Do what you can and go onto to something else only to come back and do more later. Do not become overwhelmed with marketing, but stay with it.

  35. Great post! I found you on #amwriting and am glad I did! You are so right about so many things. It’s quite a shock when you publish your first novel and suddenly become aware that your work has just begun!

  36. At this point, I think the only thing I could give up to get more writing time is sleep!!!

  37. Hi Kristen!
    Every Wednesday I do a post with a quote that encourages, interests or inspires me. This week I quoted you – a line from this post, so I linked to it.
    Hope that’s ok with you!

    1. Ahhhh, thank you so much!

      1. You’re welcome! Thanks for being so quotable 😉

  1. […] Opportunity comes in Coveralls by Kristen Lamb This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. ← Excellent post on Production verses Social Networking… […]

  2. […] Opportunity Comes in Overalls by Kristen Lamb: She’s a social media expert with a sharp sense of humor who seems to know just when we need a kick in the pants and that’s exactly what she gives us in this post. […]

  3. […] Opportunity Comes in Overalls by Kristen Lamb    Many writers panic when they are told they not only need to write, but to create a social media platform as well. Hey, I feel your pain. In fairness, we don’t HAVE to do anything but write the book. But, we do need to ask ourselves if we are doing everything in our power to help our career…and be honest. Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” The paradigm is shifting i … Read More […]

  4. […] Read More This entry was posted on Monday, March 7th, 2011 at 8:00 am and tagged with agents, blogging, brand, business, choice, fiction, goals, hard work, Kristen Lamb, opportunity, overalls, platform, publishing, readers, sacrifice, social media, success, sweat equity, time management, Who Dares Win publishing, Writing and posted in Blogroll, Conferences, Writer's Toolbox, Writing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. « Does Jillian Michaels Truly Deliver? And Do I Have What it Takes? LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  5. […] Kristen Lamb shares tips about dieting and exercising and actually makes them tie back to writing and author platforms! I kid you not! lol. So here is Opportunity Comes in Overalls. […]

  6. […] “We have to make a choice; either the freedom to choose or the choices that bring freedom. One is short-term and the other likely won’t see harvest for years to come.” Kristen Lamb […]

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