I know we are supposed to be talking about the third person you need to know to be successful on social media–the Salesman. But, over the weekend my Great Aunt Iris (who might as well have been my grandmother we were so close) slipped into a coma and then passed away on Sunday morning. She had just turned 98, so yes it is sad, but it is amazing that she lived such a full and long life. Anyway, I have not had time to finish the Salesman post, so rather than rushing and slapping up a less-than-stellar blog, I decided to post a lesson from early this year.
Most of us have slept since Spring, so a refresher is always refreshing. *drum roll, snare* Yes, I’ll be here all week. Drinks are half-price.
I have been doing social media for a number of years, and it has been wonderful to see how writers have embraced technology. I remember back in 2006 I had a hard enough time getting many writers to learn to use e-mail, let alone join Facebook. Yet, it was really only in 2009 that I started thinking of myself as an expert. Namely I watched a lot of social media people teach tactics that were more likely to give writers permanent hair loss than anything. They were trying to overlay a Corporate America template on to a writer’s career. Not a good fit.
Kind of like watching me try to put on size zero skinny jeans…lots of grunting and pain and the end result ain’t pretty.
Anyway, writers finally did perk up to the fact that they needed to be on social media, yet we had an information vacuum. Many writers took off doing the best they could, and, in the process, made a lot of errors. Hey, I was one of them. Need I remind you of texaswriterchik?
The thing is, I am teaching writers how to do this social media platform thing the correct way. This is all great and wonderful if you are new and haven’t started building. For others? I see the digital blood drain from your face when I give the bad news:
I’m sorry, but your platform needs major reconstructive surgery. I need to put your brand in a temporary coma so it doesn’t die while we do the transplants. Do you have insurance?
Some people suck it up, bite on some leather and resolve to get it over with. Others? Denial is more than a river in Africa.
I hear a lot of, “Writers just need to do what works for them.”
Yes….but, um, no.
I will use an example to illustrate. Say I want to make chocolate cake. My end goal is a chocolate cake. So I set out cooking, but I don’t want to use butter, and I don’t like eggs, and definitely no flour and I just can’t bring myself to use chocolate. Instead, I want to use vanilla pudding, and slices of bananas and top it off with vanilla wafer cookies and LOTS of whipped cream.
So you say, “Wait, but you aren’t making chocolate cake.”
And I say, “Well this is how I make chocolate cake.”
And you say, “But, you just made banana pudding. That’s NOT chocolate cake.”
And I get huffy and reply, “Stop judging me. Maybe YOU make chocolate cake differently, but everyone needs to do what works for them.”
You would think I was a lunatic. Yes, I made a dessert….but I didn’t make a chocolate cake.
If our end goal is to brand our name, which it should be…then there are right and wrong ways to go about this. My lessons are to make our name alone a bankable asset. Our NAME will have the power to drive book sales so we have more time to write, or prank call or even make origami monkeys.
There is a HUGE difference between having a social media presence and becoming a brand. And I know I am about to do some sacred cow-tipping, but it needs to be done.
My second book, Are You There, Blog? It’s Me Writer is a great book to teach you all you ever wanted to know about blogging to build an author brand. There is little point to contributing content to the Internet if it doesn’t build our brand.
Tweeting under a cutesy moniker. We have discussed this one before, but some people are new (here is the post). Every time we tweet, that is an “advertisement” that contributes to building our brand. The only acceptable Twitter handle is the name that will be on the front of our books. Period. If we are tweeting under @FairyGirl, we are contributing great content—blogs, articles, conversation—but we have the WRONG name top-of-mind. Readers cannot buy a book by Fairy Girl, so all that tweeting is wasted effort.
Writing on Group Blogs at the Expense of Our Author Blog I have run into writers who were very prolific, contributing to multiple group blogs. Group blogs are wonderful. They can help us learn to blog better and can offer accountability. Yet, if we are writing for three different group blogs, but then not blogging on our own site? That is BAD. Group blogs will not brand an individual author. Yes, we will have a social media presence…but that isn’t a brand.
I read a lot of WONDERFUL group blogs, but the name of the group is what will be top of mind. Writers in the Storm, Adventures in Children’s Publishing, and Writer Unboxed are three of the best group blogs, but I would be hard-pressed to give the names of the contributors. And, the ones I can name have their own separate blogs that buttress their brand.
I care very much about you guys, and I want all of you to be successful. But part of caring is giving the truth. When we decide to go from hobbyist to professional, we sometimes have to make the tough choices. We have to say no to friends, family, kids and pets. We have to spend time working when we would rather play. If we are contributing to a bunch of group blogs, but our own blog is infested with dust bunnies and spam bots? We might need to make a choice. Hang out with friends? Or build our career?
Our own brand is paramount. The more bankable our name, the more books we sell. The more books we sell, the more successful (and enjoyable) our writing career will be.
There are right ways and wrong ways and smart ways to build a brand. Can we brand ourselves by only blogging on group blogs? Sure. Anything is possible. I could theoretically take I-35 south from Texas and get to Canada. It involves a very tedious journey through South America over Antarctica, up the other side of the globe and over the North Pole. The Earth IS round. I will get to Canada eventually, BUT the odds of me giving up and going home are far more likely than me reaching Canada.
Is my taking I-35 South WRONG? Technically, no. But it is a formula to give up.
Many writers find social media to be a huge time suck, namely because they either have no plan or they have a flawed plan. I used to think it was a time-suck, too. But I wasn’t approaching social media correctly. I have made all the dumb mistakes so you don’t have to :D.
My two books have hit the top of multiple best-seller lists using the methods I am teaching. And I am not the only one who has experienced this kind of dramatic success. I have a stack of testimonials. Yes, we are free to do social media any way we please. No Facebook police will drag us to digital jail. But I think most of us would rather spend more time writing and less time trying to Bond-O a faulty platform.
What are some tough choices you guys have had to make for your writing? What are some tough choices you face, but maybe don’t know what to do? Have any advice or suggestions? Put them in the comments!
I do want to hear from you guys!
And to prove it and show my love, for the month of October, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
NOTE: For those of you who haven’t yet gotten your pages back, please resend to my assistant (if you haven’t already). I get about 500 e-mails a day, so I am redoing things so submissions don’t get lost in the ether. Thanks for your patience.
Gigi at gigi dot salem dot ea at g mail dot com. Gigi will make sure I get your pages.
I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of October I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.
I was saddened to see this on your Facebook page earlier, and I want to express my sympathy again for how much you are going to miss her. I’ll bet she’s very proud of you.
So sorry to hear that, Kristen. My great grandmother lived to be 98, it’s a stella age to get to. x
Alright, I just started following you so I needed the refresher. I hear ya loud and clear. By the end of this week, I’m going to get rid of my monkey twitter name @LawyerMommy and change it to the real me @SusanDiMickele. How’s that for results? Next, I’m on to rebrand my blog — but one thing at a time. I’ll be back. And sorry about your Aunt — hope you have her genes.
I am standing on the edge of the cliff right now. Do I turn around and go back to my safe existence of of 75 loyal readers, no published material, and friends on twitter? Do I jump off the cliff into the great unknown of facebook fan pages, finishing my firsy novel while i’m writing another, and start “marketing” myself. The more I read you, I more I need to jump.
Sincere sympathies at the passing of your Great Aunt, it is difficult to lose the special people in our lives, especially when they are ones that impacted our lives deeply and personally.
~Best wishes for you and your family during this time~
I want to thank you. In the short time I have been following you, I have created a better presence in facebook and twitter. My blogs are slowly increasing views.
I’m so sorry to hear about your Great Aunt Iris, Kristen — it sounds like she will be greatly missed. I’m glad you reposted this one…missed it the first time, and there’s some great stuff here.
Deepest sympathy. And thanks for the great reminders. A whole new crop of writers needs to read these. Group blogs are growing. They’re great as long as you have your own, too.
I am sorry too to hear about your Great Aunt/Grandmother. My Great Aunt is like my Grandmother so I know where you are coming from.
I’ve been following your blog for about a month (thanks Kait Nolan for pointing you out!!) and I’m past the 1/2 point in writing my first. I really want to follow your advice and I will as soon as I can make a final decision on a pen name, OMG, never thought it would be harder than writing the book.
I am so sorry about your Aunt Iris, Kristin. Celebrating her 98 years is a wonderful tribute.
I am sorry for your loss.
I recently found your blog and am so glad that I did. I’m enjoying your down to earth comments regarding social media and plan to implement your advice.
So sorry for your loss, Kristen. I’m sure she’ll be missed. Sincere wishes go out to you and your family for great memories of your aunt and a celebration of her long life.
and I’m so sorry for your loss
Kristen, you are a dear soul and my thoughts are with you over the loss of your Great Aunt. It never gets easy to lose those we love.
Thanks for the great (and continuous) advice on branding. One of your best ideas was to put our own name as a tag to each post. Each time I come here I learn something new. I appreciate the lessons … and great fun at Thrillerfest in NYC … the best city in the world … or as we call it … The City. Enjoy 🙂
My sympathy for your loss. All the best for you and your family.
And thank you for reposting this. Valuable reminders.
Sorry to hear about your loss, Kristen. And thanks for the repost. It never hurts to have this stuff pounded in our heads more than once. 🙂
So sorry to hear your Great Aunt died, Kristen. I have an Aunt named Iris, too! Anyhow, I just recently discovered your blog and your book. Great stuff, there, that I intend to put to work ASAP!
My only question is that since I can’t readily add tags to my blogger posts, should I be switching to WordPress? I had a WordPress blog ages ago (that was mostly for my family) and found it wasn’t as user friendly. When I discovered blogger, I was so happy, because it was so much easier for my non-techie self to use. Since I want to be serious about my blogging now, though, is WordPress necessary? And if so, what books might you recommend that would help me become more proficient at it so that I’m not stumbling around like a dinosaur in a tea shop on there?
Blogger has lebels. Same thing. I would recommend switching to WP since it is easier for people to comment. Also it is easier to eventually upgrade to a full web site, which you will need eventually as an author. WANA has a walk-thru. Use the free one. It’s easier and, well….free.
I’m so sorry for your loss. I’ve been listening to you say to get rid of the silly twitter handle. TODAY I finally did it. Thanks for the push.
Kristen, I am so sorry for your loss. No need to tell you how proud she must be of you, you already know that. While it is very difficult to continue to live our lives when those closest to us leave us, it is also such a blessing to have had them for what little time we did.
Keep Spawn close to you and give him lots of hugs, his unconditional love will help heal the wound.
My heart goes out to you and yours through this difficult time.
My deepest condolences. May your Great Aunt’s name be a blessing.
I’m with Kathy and Kate here – I’ll bet Aunt Iris brags about you to all her new friends in heaven. You know, MY niece is THE LAMBO, founder of #myWANA and the #pantsofshame… Aunt Iris is gonna be a Maven up there. 🙂
On a more serious note, I am so sorry for your loss. It’s always hard to lose people we love.
Thanks for the uplifting comment. I hope she is. She was a tough nut and she’s the reason I stuck it out to become successful as a writer.
Deepest sympathy for you and your Great Aunt. It’s so sad to lose a loved one, but as you mentioned, WOW, 98, she must have seen and did so much in her very long life.
My grandmother, whom I adore, just turned 93 this month, and she’s still sharp as a tack, She has 6 other brothers and sisters and they are all in their 90’s. Pretty remarkable.
Changing the subject, these words, “There is a HUGE difference between having a social media presence and becoming a brand,” were a sudden aha moment for me.
You’ve basically been saying this all along, but for some reason it took until now to get through my overly thick skull.
I have a social media presence…but am I a brand?
I really need to work on that. I think it’s time to re-read your books, get a refresher and really work hard to reach my goals: Finish next WIP, get an agent, get a contract, get books on shelves, get readers salivating for more.
Doesn’t hurt to dream big:)
Thank you for posting even after your loss. I’ll say a prayer for you and your family.
Have a lovely evening,
I’m so sorry to hear about your aunt. *hugs*
I lost a Great Aunt last year, she was ninety-four and a tremendous character. She terrified most of the family, except me. She thought I was a ‘wonderful woman’ for taming her great-nephew. I told her it wasn’t hard.
But what a fantastic life your Great Aunt led, to be alive at such a time in human evolution. And I bet she was chuffed to bits with your success. You will see her again – in a smile or in a mannerism in your little one – she’ll return to you in a flash. I see Great Aunt Bella in my eldest daughter, it’s just the way she looks at me at times. Life is truly amazing.
And Kristen, hunny, I am building my brand, one brick at a time with your help.
@ Lance – jump in, the water’s fine. We’re all here to keep you afloat.
Sympathies, Kristen! I can imagine your heart is aching, and that ache will be with you. But she clearly left a mark on you that you are spreading to a lot of other people to make the world better.
Thanks for the mention, btw. I have to respectfully disagree a little bit in that for now, Marissa, Clara, and I have made a conscious choice to make the focus on community rather than any individual brand. We want work on craft, help other writers grow, and share inspiration and the joy of the adventure with other writers.
Best regards and much sympathy,
Adventures in Children’s Publishing
Yes, but you guys planned for a community brand and that is wonderful. Obviously you did your job well :D.
I hope we all get 98 years to live it up. Maybe they’ll have PS3 and Gears 47 in the nursing home by then. I hope you and the fam take care.
That totally makes sense and I am following your advice. My issue is content, and figuring out what to blof about. That is why I am taking your class! I also have the same issue with tweeting. I don’t know what content to tweet about, because I know I don’t want it to be about writing. Thanks for re-posting something so important. We need the reminders!
So sorry to hear about your Great Aunt Iris. To be well loved for 98 years is a blessing.
First – I’m very sorry to hear about your Great-Aunt. Even at 98, and with a full life, I know she will be missed and I hope you and your family are doing as well as possible.
On to the post. You are so correct about this. “Do what works for you” leads to madness if some ground rules aren’t followed. Your dessert analogy really hit home for me – my sister in law thinks butter and sugar are evil but tries to make cookies for her children anyway. She substitutes olive oil for almost all of the butter and lemonade for the sugar. (Sadly, I am not kidding.) My son described her cookies as “vile and inedible” – and I don’t doubt that his assessment was accurate.
Nobody HAS to participate in anything, including social media, but writers who opt out should understand that they are making a choice, and that it’s better to do nothing than to do something badly. The choice isn’t “whatever works for me” – it’s “look at all the options, and choose what you will do properly.” Not doing is a form of “properly.” Not the best form, if sales and success are your goal, but better than “doin’ it wrong” for sure.
Kristen, I’m so saddened to read about your aunt. What a lovely life she must’ve led to have such a loving niece in her life. Now you’ve got your own angel watching over you and those you love everyday. As Kate said, hold Spawn close every chance you get, that will help heal the sorrow.
Thanks for the gentle reminder about blogs and cutesy monikers. I used to use just my initials and last name on twitter, but changed it to my full name at your suggestion. A few weeks at a conference, a twitter pal recognized me from the name. Thanks Kristen! If I’d been using just the initials, he probably wouldn’t have said hi.
Your advice is always terrific. Thanks for thinking of us in this difficult time. Sending hugs to you and yours.
Hi Kristen, I enjoyed reading your blog for the first time. I am a reluctant socializer who would rather write or read than post. Building a presence on the Internet is the most difficult part of self-publishing. My first novel addresses obesity and food addiction. On my website, Facebook and Twitter, I call myself a Southern Vegan-Southern Writer. It sounds cheezy but I am Vegan and love to cook and write. Sometimes I wonder if I’m going in too many directions. But then, the recipes appear to be bringing traffic to my pages. Social networking is getting the best of me and I must read your books. I’d like to create an Author page on Facebook, but is that practical with just one book on the market? I have many questions and I must read your books. Thanks for letting me post on your blog.
I’m sorry to hear about your grandmother (in our culture, your great aunt is still considered your grandmother). Texaswriterchick is a fun name. Now I wished you use that as a pen name simply because it sounds fun. 🙂 Maybe add those quotation marks. 😉
So many things to learn about when it comes to author branding….thank you for the info. Such a long way to go!
Love and sympathies….