The Road to Success Part Two–Understanding the Why Behind the Buy

A couple weeks ago, I started The Road to Success series with The Road to Success Part One–What Kind of Author are You? Then I apparently saw something shiny, and so last week we talked–passionately–about Blog Trolls. How to spot them and how to handle them. Thus, I thought it would be a nifty idea to get back on track with this series. Today we are going to talk about book sales.

*cringes* I feel your pain, but as professionals we do need to talk about this stuff.

I’ve been doing this “social media for authors thing” for quite some time and have taught thousands of people. In my experience, most writers, in the face of having to “sell books” have fairly predictable reactions. They either unwittingly turn into spam bots because they are trying to be “good little marketers”…or they run away screaming to the nearest liquor store. Those remaining either live in denial that writers don’t need to know about sales…or they change the subject to Chris Evan’s pecs.

Okay. Sally forth. Nothing to see.

So today I am gonna help y’all out, no matter what your opinion of book sales happens to be. I am going to give a little insight that will save tons of time, effort and embarrassment.

First, a little story….

Years ago, when I was in college at T.C.U., I was blessed enough to get a job at Successories. They were a wonderful company that treated their people as if they mattered, and it didn’t hurt that they paid better than most retail jobs. I loved going to work there because I always felt that I was serving some higher purpose. What could be a better job than helping people be inspired? To reach for the stars? A motivational store is like Disney Land to an ENFP.

The thing about working in a mall is that there can be a lot of down time, especially during the week. I am not a person to be idle, so after everything was sparkly clean and neat and organized, I would read…until I’d read every book in the store. I read all kinds of stuff. I read everything they had by Zig Ziglar, Vince Lombardi, Anthony Robbins, Dale Carnegie and on and on. I studied Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin. I read books about leadership, sales, business and marketing. I read every quote book until I knew them by heart.

Why did I do this? Aside from filling in the long hours of nothing, I did it with a motive to serve. See, every worried mom who came in looking for the perfect graduation gift, every employee looking for the right poster to hang in the employee lounge, and every teacher hoping to inspire her kids to reach higher got precisely the perfect tool for the job. When I came to work for this store, the sales had been so low that it was on the block to be closed. Within two months, we had the highest sales in the region.

So why am I talking about this and why does it matter?


When it comes to sales, any kind of sales, people can sense motive. I didn’t make any commission off those sales at Successories. I didn’t have daily quotas to meet. In fact, I think the company would have probably been fine if I just showed up on time, kept the place clean and didn’t steal out of the cash register.

Yet, I did more.

Not because they made me or threatened me, but because I wanted to serve. I loved the company and loved their products (still do) and I longed to help because I liked THEM. In serving others and being authentically interested in others, I had the highest sales, because customers liked ME.

Was my goal the highest sales? No. My goal was to help others, and, by helping others, the end result was that I had the highest sales. Customers sensed that my objective was to serve them and they responded favorably with purchases.

Zig Ziglar was one of my favorites to read when I worked there. My favorite quote by him is, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” In fact, this quote affected me so powerfully that I base all of my WANA teachings on this maxim. So how does motive affect an author’s approach to social media?

Brave New Publishing World

These days a lot of authors are going the indie route or even self-publishing, and that is fantastic. Yet, when you are the sole person who can make or break your book sales, it is easy to fixate on sales numbers. This is where things can go sideways, especially in the business of selling books. People can sense a motive. If our motive is primarily to sell more books, other people sense that and it turns people off.

Why do you think we dissect everything a car salesman says? Every compliment he gives us is like a move on a chess board. It is a maneuvering to part us from our hard-earned cash.  We think, “This dude wants my money and that’s the only reason he’s being nice” whether that is the truth or not.

NO ONE cuts the car sales guy a break.

Books are Not Tacos, and Writers are Not Car Insurance

One of the reasons I feel a lot of self-published authors have gotten a bad reputation is due to their approach to book sales. I cannot count the number of times I received a simply beautiful compliment, and, when I responded favorably…I immediately was sent a link or a DM to buy this writer’s book or “Like” their fan page. What they call “good marketing” I felt as “emotional manipulation.”

Tactics like this are a perversion of Dale Carnegie. Tactics like these make me feel used. They make me feel duped. It isn’t a pleasant emotional experience so it certainly isn’t an experience I long to share, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this. I have no want or need for phoney-boloney compliments to get to my wallet.

So the trick in social networking is to be able to build a platform that will translate into sales…without thinking about the sales. I admit, the WANA way is a challenge and can be quite counter-intuitive…but it works. Why does it work? Because we are selling to flesh-and-blood-people. WANA methods appreciate the WHY behind the BUY:

People don’t buy for logical reasons, they buy for emotional reasons. ~Zig Ziglar

To be able to sell books, we must understand that what will sell non-fiction will NOT work for fiction. There is a good reason that The South Beach Diet can effectively use an infomercial, but a novel cannot.

Why is this? They are two different types of products selling to fill two very different needs.

Why do readers buy fiction?

One of the reasons readers are so loyal to authors is because of how that author’s stories made them feel. James Rollins makes me feel like I’ve had an exciting adventure. Sandra Brown makes me feel love is worth fighting for. Amy Tan makes me feel hope and power. J.K. Rowling’s stories make me feel heroic.

Fiction authors are brokers of passionate emotion.

This was one of the reasons that—before social media—it was impossible to build a platform for fiction unless one already had a book in print. WHY? Because the author had no way of making an audience feel anything because the book wasn’t yet in print. There was no effective way to attach an emotional context to the product before it hit shelves.

Why do readers buy non-fiction?

On the other hand, non-fiction authors are selling to solve a problem or to educate or inform. They are selling a method, a service, a diet, a trend. Non-fiction authors are brokers of knowledge. Who cares if the diet book makes me feel a certain way? I care that it can give me thighs like Heidi Klum. Results are all that matter. Consumers buy to LEARN. This is why a logical, strategic, cerebral approach will sell books.

Why does this difference matter?

Non-fiction authors deal information and solutions. Fiction authors? You guys are selling an emotional experience. People read fiction to feel passion, love, triumph, happy, moved, inspired. They buy to FEEL.

To sell an emotional product, one must have an emotional approach, and if others (potential readers) enjoy the emotional experience we bring to social media, they are more likely to trust the emotional experience we bring to the page.

These days consumers are being BLITZED with a zillion choices, so to cull through them, often we will default to the Old School methods…we go off our gut and choose who makes us “feel” a certain way. Why do you think even insurance companies like Geico and Allstate try so hard to make us laugh with funny commercials? Even they appreciate how important emotion has become in this digital age.

How does this work for fiction authors?

Protagonists (that a reader has to spend a minimum of 12-15 hours with in a novel) are very often a reflection of the author. Subconsciously we (humans) know this. Thus, it stands to reason that, if the author is pushy, cold, self-centered and unlikable, there is a part of us that expects their “hero” will be more of the same…so we steer clear.

Yet, conversely, if a writer can be someone we like and root for in person, we are more likely to feel good about spending time with this writer’s protagonist. We are going to assume that if we like the author, then we will like her books. And, if the book isn’t all that great, we will still feel good about the purchase because we like the author. It may not make logical sense, but since when have emotions been logical?

This is one of the reasons good author blogs can be such powerful drivers for sales. Readers are more likely to buy from an author who has already provided a positive emotional experience (if not a book, then a thoughtful comment, a compliment, a fun & witty blog). In fact, I would be so bold as to say that they will choose this author ahead of authors who are rude or absentee. This is why using automation is dangerous. It makes potential readers associate our names with being spammed.

How can we speak a “heart language” in a digital world?

Every tweet, every blog post, every comment is an opportunity to create a positive emotional experience. This might not translate into instant sales (which is why some writers get twitchy) but it will pay off in the long-run.

Likeability is good social media sense for any kind of author.

The key to being successful in social media rests in the exponential…NOT the linear. Social media is NOT direct sales. We are wanting more than to connect to one person. We are wanting to connect and then have THAT person SHARE our information with THEIR networks. If that doesn’t happen, it is virtually impossible to be successful with social media.

How do we do this? We do this the same way humans have for tens of thousands of years. We are likable. People feel good when they are around us. We are now in the digital age and now it IS possible to attach an emotional context capable of driving sales. Consumers judge the book by the way they feel about the author.

This isn’t that hard, but often writers panic that they aren’t being good responsible little marketers if “every tweet doesn’t serve a business agenda.” Every tweet that serves a business agenda is, by definition, spam. People create fake e-mail accounts to avoid that stuff, so why serve it?

Understand the why behind the buy. People are on Twitter and Facebook to make friends, connect and to have fun. If they wanted a non-stop commercial to buy more stuff they’d be on the Home Shopping Network, not the social network.

So what are your thoughts? Do you disagree? Agree? I don’t know about you guys, but I buy more books than I can ever read…usually to support writers I like. What about you guys? Do you do the same?

Does an author’s likability not matter? Would you buy a book you knew was not that great to support a writer you loved as a person? Have you ever liked an author’s books, but then met him/her on social media and they were a horse’s butt? Did this keep you from buying books, even if the author was an excellent writer (no need to name names, btw)? Will you buy from a writer who is a phoney? Does it not matter and you only care about story?

Come on! Let’s play armchair psychiatrist.

I LOVE hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of January, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. 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.

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

Last Week’s Winner of 5-Page Critique is Ed Griffin. Please send your 1250 word Word document to author kristen dot lamb at g mail dot com. Congratulations.

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 the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books!

Happy writing!

This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness

You guys simply MUST follow Porter Anderson’s Writing on the Ether. This is a fantastic way of keeping on top of all the changes and trends in our industry. Follow him @Porter_Anderson. One of the best tweeps in the Twitterverse and a tremendous resource.

Since you will already be at Jane Friedman’s place, seriously stay and check out her blogs. LOVE this one How to Know if Your Literary Agent is Any Good

One of my favorite new bloggers on the scene is Ingrid Schaffenburg. She is running a really amazing series on Dreams. Following dreams, defining dreams, reaching dreams. It is all just simply…awesome. But I want all of you guys to realize your dreams so this gets me excited.

What to know how to get more traffic to your blog? Great post here.

5 Screenwriting Tips that Will Make Any Story Better by Jeff Goins

Have you ever had a writer epiphany? Over at Wordbitches. Love their blog.

And you guys KNOW I am a total fangirl of Chuck Wendig. Seriously, he cannot start a writer cult or I might just pack some Nikes and gray PJs. The man is AWESOME and his blogs are laugh-out-loud amazing. DO NOT drink liquids or suck on hard candy while reading…unless you have a thing for choking. He is THAT funny. Fave post of late? 25 Things Writers Should Start Doing

Fantastic post by Elizabeth Craig about how to eliminate word echoes in our manuscripts. Great tips I’d never heard or thought about.

Truthiness–Raising the Bar in the Blogosphere by August MacLaughlin


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    • heatherishither on January 18, 2012 at 9:17 am
    • Reply

    I’ve read several books by authors I followed on Twitter because I liked them. And they weren’t “marketing.” You’re exactly right about being genuine.

  1. Wow! Great post! Yes, I absolutely buy way more books than I’ll be able to read in my lifetime, unfortunately for me. In part, it’s because I want to support other writers. I am genuinely thrilled when I see friends of mine (people I’ve met online) publish their books, their hardwork, their dreams.

    Likeability isn’t too much of a factor for me if I’ve already read something someone wrote and enjoyed it. If, however, I have never read something by that author and hear through the grapevine how rude/snotty/conceited/whatever negative adjective you want to put here that author is, I will not buy anything they write.

    Thanks for those links to those blogs! Checking them out now!

  2. The emotions behind selling I agree with totally. I think it also brings up why new writers are so there’s elves emotionally attached and invested. Creating an emotional response in a person beyond yourself is a great responsibility.

    Now as for auto posting. I’m on the fence here. I have auto posts for my blogs when I have a new post to social media and those that follow by email.

    In addition I’ve created posts where I share part of a review someone created of one of my books and then I have one post once every three days or so.

    But in between all that are posts like how I had a flat tire yesterday, of how my children of the corn looking first grader uppercut a 5th grader and sharing other blogs or articles I read.

    I believe for me it’s a good balance and far from spam.

  3. I love your explanation of readers “reading” for an emotion. It’s so true.

    I also love the idea that readers believe (true or not) that a protagonist is a reflection of the author. I remember back in the days when I was a reader only, before I began writing, when I would read a book, studying the protagonist, truly believing that the author had to be like the protagonist!

    Which is why I believe authors who have books with wonderfully drawn heroines sell a little better!

    susan meier

  4. I usually buy books for 2 reasons–I either know the author online and have a positive impression of them, or it’s a series I’ve been reading for years (and it’s an author I don’t know.)

    Thanks so much for the mention in your mash-up, Kristen! 🙂

  5. Very good post and a lot for all authors to consider.

  6. In that case, this INTJ is doomed. I love people. I like being around them and have always been helpful and nice, but I’m the one people come to when they want something and not the person they come to when they want to have fun. If sales are based on likability; then extroverts who are fun and really connect with people will drive sales while introverts will lag behind.

    1. As an introvert, I can’t help but feel the internet bridges the divide between introverts and extroverts.

    2. Not necessarily. Introverts are often better with people. Extroverts gain energy FROM crowds, so if they aren’t careful, they can drain those around them. Introverts, conversely, GIVE energy to crowds. It’s why being around people wipes them out. Some of the best social media mavens I know are INTJs.

  7. You’ve successfully explained why doing a lot of that crap they tell you in the social media marketing guides just felt sick and wrong. And why pix of my kids – especially ones where we have a mild chuckle – always get the best response. At first I was afraid ppl would think I was using them or shallow or something. But those who know us enjoy hearing what we’re up to. I also enjoy Chuck Wendig’s 25 Things, reposted and got great feedback. Thanks, Kristen!

    And yes, I’ve purchased and re-gifted books by my author friends because I like them as ppl. I’m sure they’ve done the same with me and I’m FINE with that! A book finds its reader, I say.

  8. Such fantastic points, Kristen. People definitely do sense motive. I heard a woman say she “never gets blog comments” recently, when she does “everything right.” As it turns out, she was clicking on people’s blogs and commenting without reading a darn word of the post—her sole priority was gaining comments and followers herself. As a result, her comments laid flat and, in some cases, made little sense or contradicted the post. If we support other writers’ work with similar care and passion we put into our writing, it seems a win-win.

    I LOVE the notions of brokering emotional experiences through fiction and knowledge through nonfiction. With that in mind, I can see our writing quality going up. (And like our characters, we need to know what we’re striving for and why…motivation.)

    Thanks so much for including my post!

  9. Great post. I agree with most of it. I just disagree in one area. I think an author’s likability plays only a small factor. When I look at my personal buying habits, I only purchase books that I’m interested in whether I like the author or not. There are many awesomesauce authors with great personalities who’s blogs and twitters I follow, and yet I’m just not interested in their books at all whatsoever. The only reason I’d ever buy their books is out of support because they’re great people.

    I’m not so sure if that’s such a great business model for an author to rely on (and that’s not to imply that you were making that case though). But I agree with you in that the author’s who go in the opposite direction (spamming) is even worse. And people do make purchase based on emotional appeal. But I think that emotion is tied more toward the work itself and has less to do with the author’s personality. You mentioned several reasons why in your post:

    “James Rollins makes me feel like I’ve had an exciting adventure. Sandra Brown makes me feel love is worth fighting for. Amy Tan makes me feel hope and power. J.K. Rowling’s stories make me feel heroic. ”

    Those authors may or may not be nice people (I’m sure they’re all nice actually, but I’ve never met any of them so I can’t speak from personal experience), but their stories are engaging and that’s what attracts readers. We’ve all read stories/watched movies/listened to music and fell in love with them despite not having any concept of the true personality of its creator(s). And it continues to not matter to you after all this time. Think about it. Plus, I can recall a few butt-muches who sell lots of books by playing up their bitchassness. Sometimes that could actually serve your platform and make you Internet famous. Also, people can play nice in Internet public and be dicks offline (and oddly enough, vice versa). And likability is subjective. It means something different to each observer.

    It’s tricky. Likability is good and it does matter…to an extent. But reader’s would also like to know what else do you have to offer besides likability? If you have the likability factor and you write great books, you increase your chances of “winning” of course. However, if you’re likable, but your books don’t connect with readers, your chances of winning decreases. And if you’re unlikable and you write terrible books, well, you’re screwed.

    Being courteous, polite and respectful is ideal and highly recommended for all people, but mostly, I think we all should just be ourselves and focus on writing the best damn stories we can dream up! The universe has a way of finding it’s own balance.

    tl;dr – Be likable. But also write stuff that people like equally or more than they like you.

  10. I wrote a blog post very recently called Why I Won’t Try To Sell You My Book and it was all about how I feel so spammed by people overusing social media to market their books, and how they just need to dial it back and quit calling me a friend when all they see is a potential sale. I have no room in my life for fake ‘friends’ and people who see me as merely a marketing tool to their own gain.

    I love what you said here about how people are on social networks to be social otherwise they’d be on the home shopping network. That totally sums up what I have been thinking for so long.

    It all becomes so much noise- and like most people, when the commercials come on, I fast forward, or hit the mute button.

    Great post!

  11. I agree with 99% of this, Kristen. Pushy doesn’t sell anything, I agree. But I think it’s not helpful to avoid all “business tweets” like the plague (and I’m not sure they’re really “spam” by the legal definition?). I’d suggest that the “prove my love” paragraphs you have above are good examples of “business tweets” that are not pushy and are not spam. It seems to me the trick is to do it as well as you’ve done it here, and not as poorly as some of those automators you’re warning us about. Am I wrong?

    I’ve sold a lot of fiction by personal appearances in bookstores, at conferences, and such. I totally agree that people don’t buy fiction (or anything else) from people they don’t like. And I’ve spent thousands (literally) of hours helping others with no commensurate return because people didn’t realize what I wanted them to do because I never asked them (nicely or otherwise).

    One of the things I figured out by trial and error is that people are very busy and focused on their own lives and they don’t always “get” that you’ve got a book, even after you’ve told them a couple of times and given them every clue imaginable.

    I’ve found it helps to specifically make people aware. Some people are savvy about such things, but many are not. In my experience, both online and off, people need to know what you’re offering. And it doesn’t always work to just put the info in your signature line or in your bio or whatever. I can’t tell you how many times I hear from people who know me and like me and would buy my books: “Oh! I didn’t know! You’re a writer! You have novels! How cool is that! Where can I get them?”

    1. I am against relying on automation. There are authors who have Twitter profiles that when I click and look at the stream, it screams “HI! I am generated by a bot!” If someone cannot take time to hang out and give, but they have time to program to TAKE, that is risky business, especially when one writes the tweets “to appear” as if the person is on-line and interacting. I don’t like being treated as if I am stupid and I remember people who assume I am too dumb to pick out a bot from a real person…and I don’t buy from them. Auto-tweets are fine if we also offer a heavy dose of authenticity. But rely on them and you take a chance.

    • cory lang on January 18, 2012 at 10:51 am
    • Reply

    Hi Kristen,
    My name is Cory Lang, and I’m one of those aspiring panzies. Just wanted to say thanks. Your blog has been more than helpful to me in this crazy process. Keep up the good work!

  12. Yeah, I used to work for Zales. Spot on. That’s why they emphasize “overcoming objections” so much in sales – people want to have like a minor catharsis when they buy. That’s why so many people get addicted to shopping – they like being sold because of the emotional release, the endorphins, etc.

    However, people don’t like it when they feel sold. Sales pitches. Hard-selling/closing, etc. That’s a major turn-off because it’s not a progressive build of overcoming objections, of pacing. Really with the right translation of the grammar, good storytellers are already equipped to be good, ethical salespeople. Salespeople with true motives and the methods to back it up.

    Normally I scoff at self-help posts, but you got me to read this one all the way through. You get 50 Gaiman-Day awesome points for that.

    • Amanda on January 18, 2012 at 11:13 am
    • Reply

    I definately won’t deny that I go for series’ before any other kind of book. I like the anticipation u get when ur waiting on pins & needles for the next instalment. & yes I really love how some authors write & it would make sense that the way u write would be the same everywhere u write not just ur blog. So whichever came first for the reader; the egg (the blog) or the chicken (the book) I think that readers (the audience) should be privilaged to see the same person shining through the work.
    I wait with baited breath for your next blog, really.

  13. Great post, Kristen. You show a great example of talking the talk and walking the walk. If you had more books out, my library would have more Lamb books 😉 When I really enjoy someone’s book or blog, I check out all their work and buy it if it seems something I’d enjoy concept and genre wise. When I really like the writer, I buy their books even if they don’t really interest me.

    Most recent case was being so impressed with Heather Seller’s writing guide Page After Page that I bought her memoir too even though I rarely read memoirs. I heartily recommend the writing guide, btw. It’s the best book about psychological barriers writers face that I’ve read.

  14. As always, this is really good reading. However, this time I am wondering what to do to implement this. For years I have been told how horrible my first impression is.

    “I hated you for the first six months until I realized you were being sincere.”

    “I couldn’t stand talking to you, I always thought you were being condescending until I realized you were serious.”

    “I wouldn’t have touched you with a ten foot pole” ~ That one came from my wife, btw.

    So, how do I work on providing a good first impression with my blog? I won’t get three to six months to show people who and what I am. I get one or two shots and that’s it.

    L. E. White

    1. Oh dear! I have written a post about likeability and I will repost. There are things we can do that put people off that we might not think about.

      1. Ooh, please re-post that Kristen, will you? I think we can all use that information. First impressions can make all the difference. And thank you so much for this post! One of your best! And I don’t think you could have said it any better! 🙂

  15. Oh Kristen,
    Now I am doubting myself…
    Did Kristen see the twitter thank you with the link to my children’s book site and book trailer as spam. Darn it!
    I sent three personal tweets (how I hate that word) to three people whose advice I followed quietly.
    They were sincere. Kiwis as a nation are very understated. Telling everyone about the cool thing you are doing is next to drinking poison…in fact most kiwi’s would reach for the cup first….
    So um….Thanks for the post.
    I try to always retweet great links or I write about them in my weekly blog roundup…but I am no good on the emotional stuff…(why am I writing fiction????)
    So now I’m thinking about cultural differences and wondering how much this has a part to play in our marketing.

    Maureen Crisp
    New Zealand

    1. LOL. You are over thinking. We can promote our stuff. People expect we will talk about our book or our blog. We just have to make sure we steer away from being a non-stop rolling commercial :D.

  16. Another great post, Kristen. What about non-fiction humor writers? We don’t write so that people can learn anything….unless it’s to laugh at themselves and the world around them (and us). Maybe…

    And thanks for the kind shout to Wordbitches. 🙂

    • Amanda on January 19, 2012 at 12:50 am
    • Reply

    Thx so much for this post. It comes at the perfect time for me because I’m almost ready to look in the mirror and call myself a writer. And with that comes the responsibility of learning how to market myself and many of your posts will help me avoid many beginner mistakes. Also speaking for myself I spend hours in the bookstore looking for the perfect book if I have nothing to go by but if you “catch” potential readers (audience) by the egg (blog or recomended or a series) or the chicken (book itself) then more the better.
    And isn’t it only wise to use every avenue available to you to achieve anything. Aswell, like you said in an earlier blog, we (as writers and authors) are like small businesses; in that we really need to market ourselves using many alternate avenues at once wisely.
    Thanks so much for the help and insight. I really look forward to reading your blogs.

  17. People are on Twitter and Facebook to make friends, connect and to have fun. If they wanted a non-stop commercial to buy more stuff they’d be on the Home Shopping Network, not the social network.

    Could not agree more – Twitter is, to me, a constant stream of 140 character infomercials. 🙁

    1. Come hang out with #MyWANA. Best people on Twitter :D.

  18. I dislike friending someone in cyberspace and immediately getting a “buy my book” tweet or DM. The truth is that I have indeed purchased books by friends I met through Twitter, Facebook, and blogs, but not because they marketed to me. They befriended me back and put out excellent content. One example is Tawna Fenske, whose posts were so funny and personable that I purchased her novel, Making Waves, when romance is not even my usual genre. You make such excellent points here, Kristen. I hope your readers take them to heart.

  19. Great post! I especially liked the line “We are going to assume that if we like the author, then we will like her books”, which is why I blog the way I do. Many of the blog posts I find out there from other authors are about craft issues, but what reader cares about those? I tend to blog about my writing experiences, what it felt like to write in general, how or why I developed an idea the way it wanted to be developed. (What can I say, I like the extras on the DVDs too, about how they did a scene, etc. My assumption going in has to be that you are enough like me for what I’m saying to matter to you.)
    I recently unfollowed a person on twitter because almost all of her content was promo. Even worse, it was the same promo. She’s supposed to be a creative writer but she can’t come up with something new to say about her book? I try to come up with new tag lines every day, but I only put out a few per day, compared to my other content. Sometimes I say so little on twitter that I feel like I haven’t earned the right to post a promo tweet.
    One thing to be careful about, is promo v. sales. Tweeting and blogging and all that other stuff is promo. If you aren’t putting the book in their hands and accepting cash in exchange, it’s promo. My big failing is promo. I created a small bookselling operation and I hand-sell every book my publisher makes. My promo skills are virtually non-existent. I read lots of people say they sell thousands of books a month (I find that kind of stuff very discouraging, BTW), but none say how they do it, or maybe they’re just speaking marketing-ese, a language I don’t know or understand. It’s just very hard for me to talk if I’m not talking to someone about something. Marketing is like casting seed all about, and hoping some of it lands on fertile soil.

    • Benjamin Floyd on January 19, 2012 at 11:09 am
    • Reply

    I am new to your blog and one of those writers who has been working on a novel for years and just now making myself write. Looking forward to learning from you.

  20. I’m doing my best to keep the twitches at bay. LOL Reading that reminded me of a joke my son-in-law pulled on me. I always like to be busy, whether in my home or others, when we have gathered as a family. I think I got that trait from an aunt who never sat down during a meal. She was always busy making sure plates were filled and everyone had enough fried chicken. Anyway, when I visit my daughter and her husband, I can always find something to help with in the kitchen, except one day my son-in-law had everything taken care of. “We want you to just sit down,” he said. “Then I can watch you twitch.”

  21. I worked for a brief stint as the director of marketing (in title only) for a small chiropractic firm and one of the first lessons I learned (not that I was taught, but that I learned) was that in order to sell your product you had to sell yourself. If people didn’t remember you, they weren’t going to remember your product. As someone who is terrible at lying, what that meant was that I had to be honest and sincere.

    The harder lesson of marketing that I’m still learning, is that in order to succeed in marketing, you have to be prepared to hear no 99 times and still expect 100 to be a yes. If you couldn’t handle the rejection, you were in the wrong business (which is why I’m trying to become a teacher now.)

    But #1 applies just the same for teaching as well. If you can’t sell yourself as a teacher, you won’t inspire any students. I think in this internet age it’s easy to just try to sell yourself without thought of consequence since it’s all anonymous, but people often forget as well that even across the internet (and I think your trolling post confirms this) one can develop a reputation if they prove to be too annoying.

  22. You know, I believe we always learn life lessons from the jobs we do and they shape us in how we react to other situations/opportunities in life. How cool you had a job that allowed you so much time to read and connect with customers over books and learn all you could about the business, about what makes a story worthwhile and what makes a person buy. That really is something amazing.

    Thanks for sharing this story Kristen!

  23. Thank you for this post. Currently, I’ve been attempting to promote my fiction book, but afraid I was going about it in the wrong way. I try hard not to shove my book down reader’s throats because I hate when it happens to me. Glad to know I’m on the right page. 🙂
    I love seeing the human side of my favorite authors. And now I’m going to focus more on what I love as a reader than need as a writer. Remember when before the social media onslaught, the ‘newsletter’ came in snail mail from your favorite authors? I remember reading them two, three times in a row, just to understand more about the authors. Now it’s instantaneous on all the social media sites. My point is seeing the human side makes the author seem more real than just fantasy
    Your blog has inspired me to strive to be more personable. Because in the end it’s about connecting to everyone, that is what writing, reading, watching movies does… connects us emotionally on a target.
    Thank you for giving me a light-bulb moment.

  24. I think even nonfiction authors have to worry about how they make people feel. When I am buying an information product, I want to feel like I will be successful as I read it. If the author seems like a phony on Facebook or Twitter, I will be less inclined to buy her book.

    1. It is important for both kinds of authors. The main concern is that advertising for a fiction won’t work the same way as it will for a NF. It’s really a waste of time and money more often than not…unless the writer just uses these methods as a supplement to grassroots networking.

    • sam grant on January 19, 2012 at 3:55 pm
    • Reply

    Great post Kristen although I disagree with the whole “likeability” thesis. Come on! How many well known writers in the past were “likeable.” In the political arena, Churchill was certainly not “likeable” but he got the mission accomplished. Same goes for a writer IMHO. As someone who just posted my 1st book on Kindle & Nook (& who is hopeless at social networking)–a series on Al Qaeda under pen name, I’ve had 4 sales (3 family inc. me) & one a friend (the only one I informed). The very notion of peddling my book is obscene and I’m just not comfortable with this brave new world.
    So your thesis that you buy books by people you like is …well…pardon me…a bit shallow. I judge the book not by its cover –as in author’s looks, “niceness” etc– but on his/her written word. Judge on the merit of the work is my mantra. If the author is a jerk but the work is SUPERB than I still want the work!
    Your observation on the importance the protagonist’s character…now that I do agree with wholeheartedly. But does this protagonist reflect the author’s personality/worldview/mindset??
    If the author is a really good writer, then his/her work will reflect this in that the characters will be so diverse (an amalgamation of characters met perhaps) rather than a narcissist exercise in a glamorous “self portrayal” i.e. writing to satiate self rather than the reader(s).

    Lastly, the “fake friends” to promote is, I agree, very crass. But then I don’t do twitter and reluctantly just populated a facebook account since I don’t “do facebook” and now won’t bother with it.
    Ultimately, one’s work in a free market (which we truly are in vis-a-vis competition) will be judged on its merit as it should be.
    Sam Grant

    1. If a person were to come into my booth at a book festival and the thing out of my mouth was “What!?”, I doubt he would buy Shakespeare from me. He won’t get past my attitude to read the book and realize that my work is superb. He’d be too busy trying to keep the metaphorical door from hitting him on the way out.

    2. But this post is about what authors can do beyond the quality of the writing, and even more importantly, what can they do BEFORE the work hits shelves? Writers from years ago could not affect a readership emotionally until the book came out…then the manuscript/story is how the author affects the reader emotionally.

      These days, new writers can start building a platform before the book is finished and I am sorry, being likeable does matter. We are no longer just competing against the 5% that makes it through the traditional doors. We are competing against every writer who has ever finished a book. And you are referring to writers from the early 20th century. In the early 20th century authors didn’t lead transparent lives and they weren’t competing in a world-wide market against every writer out there with a computer and the ability to upload on Amazon. This is comparing apples to oranges. The Author of the Digital Age is an open book and writers who are good at social media and who leave a positive impression are going to have a tremendous advantage over writers who are too good to get on Facebook or who act like trolls. We may not agree with this but it doesn’t change reality.

      Five years ago, agents didn’t care if a fiction author had a platform. That was solely in the realm of the NF author. In the past year? Most agencies will not accept an author that doesn’t have a platform. And if you happen to be an indie or self-pubbed author? We really depend on people liking us because we need favor to extend beyond our own network and the hard truth is that people don’t promote people they don’t like.

        • sam grant on January 20, 2012 at 9:42 am
        • Reply

        Ahhh…the good old days when one could hope for some relative privacy. This whole “business” today unfortunately will turn off some truly gifted writers. Sad. Personally, I don’t do “social networking” for many, good, reasons. But in this discussion there is a Catch-22: “spam” i.e. self promotion is no-no; yet, one MUST be a promoter i.e. rely on the same social networking.
        I have to begin my 2nd book in this 3-4 book series on Al Qaeda. Then I’m done and can move on. That takes much work, time and sweat. I know I’m stating the obvious. So how on earth to “network” and be a competent writer?? That is the crux of this problem in the 21st century. I’ve had to drop my price to under a buck for 8 months of hard work. That’s where this is headed. But “deals” does not make a good book. Its just a “deal.” And, today we all want one (writer, readers & general public). So I’m going to get myself an “agent” (no pun intended) to find a publisher and they can do all the peddling. Now I realize as an ebook publisher, that it really is money well spent (I.e. to share in the profits) to have a good agent.
        Kristen, I really do enjoy your posts even if I don’t agree with every thing you say!

        1. But an agent and a publisher are still going to expect you to have a social platform. If you don’t sell out your book run, you won’t get another book deal. That’s the way it is headed. It’s like in 1985, if you knew how to use a computer you were a special snowflake who got a fat salary for your special skills. Now? Employers won’t even consider a person who can’t use a computer.

          And being on social media isn’t as huge of a time suck as people make it. That’s why my methods help writers work smarter and not harder. My methods (unless one chooses to blog) take less than 20 minutes a day and frankly, if a writer cannot invest 20 minutes a day to connecting with future readers, then he can take a hike. That affects me like sports athletes who are too special to sign a baseball for a kid or a movie star too “famous” to make appearances to meet fans. If we are going to want money from people then we darn sure shouldn’t be too good to get out there and be kind an engage. And writers who are too special and talented to have to talk to us little people better hope their writing is THAT good that we choose them over people who aren’t too good to talk to us nobodies.

          I am happy you like the posts, but I think you are making the social media a bigger time suck or pain than it really is. All it is is getting out and being kind to people a couple times a day. Once people see that we are good, decent people, they WANT to promote us…and then we don’t have to do all the promoting ourselves. And it all just starts with being authentically kind. Any author too busy for that is one who doesn’t need my money.

          So instead of being overwhelmed by this prospect of social media promoting marketing GACK!…think of it as a meet and greet with potential fans and readers. That makes it ever so much more pleasant, don’t you agree? 😀

            • sam grant on January 20, 2012 at 10:48 am

            Kristen, please don’t misconstrue my comments. Hubristic authors no one likes. One has to tame the ego. Your point on 20 minutes of “contact” is well taken. What I have gauged since I finally began to “market” after I published on ebooks, is an unhealthy “frenzy” that seems to characterize ebook writers. It’s not healthy for body or soul. And, my mental health (fragile as it is) is important to my sanity.
            If my writing is good enough to land me an agent and a publisher, AND they guide & help me navigate with my audience (a reasonable amount of time) I have no problem with that at all. In fact, I would love to do this but only if it is of a healthy duration. The book has to sell itself as I’m not selling “me.”
            Temptation is to take the gloves off and “use” my given name and all that comes with it to “market” this series. It would sell much better than as some anonymous “Sam Grant” (a hero of mine BTW). That thought did cross my mind. Call it naive, but I still am old school in that merit is what should count, not name recognition. But if I have to “go public” then unfortunately I do too. Not ready to think/cross that bridge yet.
            Thanks Kristen for your thoughtful response. Much of what you write is enlightening for us newbies. Just as I find Konrath’s musings worth hearing. But I must not get sucked into reading nuggets of wisdom/enlightenment from you folk at the expense of writing!

          1. I TOTALLY agree, and I think this is why it has been my mission to get writers to rethink marketing. The entire point of this post is that MARKETING DOESN’T REALLY WORK. It doesn’t sell books. And now that we are competing against anyone that can upload a manuscript, we have to get creative and we have to get “real.” If marketing has always been limited to selling books when only 5% of writers were published, then why on earth would an already limited tactic work now that EVERYBODY can be published? It won’t. In fact, like television commercials, it is going to work less and less and less effectively. So what do we do? We MINGLE and use “face to face” to sway the tides in our favor. Then we have the power of a network because people like helping.

            Have you checked out Piper Bayard’s blog? That would be a great place for you to plug in. People who follow that blog likely would be interested in your content and Piper’s writing partner Holmes is in the same position you are in. He cannot reveal his true identity because of his work. Her blog would be a great place for you to comment. I would also recommend following any #s that are #military #alquaeda #terrorism #USMC. Profile people who would like your writing then go talk to them :D.

            • sam grant on January 20, 2012 at 12:38 pm

            You are a gem. Thank you much.

  25. This post was great and echoed a comment I got the other day – I just recently became a Twit, but struggle with tweeting, because my random thoughts are rather. . .random – what do people taste like? – If I dye your hair with Kool-aid, will I smell like fruit punch? – Maynard James Keenan is NOT a flight attendant, no matter HOW sure I am that he just sold me M & Ms. I mentioned this in a blog post and got responses telling me that those are exactly the types of tweets that engage people and hook them in – it’s like a peek inside my (addled) mind.


    • Susan Kelly on January 19, 2012 at 5:06 pm
    • Reply

    You always make me think, Kristen. I very rarely buy a book because I like the author. I buy books because the premise intrigues me and the writing is at least decent. I do buy the books of writers who are my friends, even though what they write isn’t exactly what turns my crank, because I want to support them and acknowledge their accomplishment. It makes me feel kind of icky, though, because it feels like it kind of approaches the territory of “pity buy.” Shouldn’t one buy a book because it set you on fire with its awesomeness? Isn’t that the honest thing to do?

    Same for building your social marketing network: why would you “Like” and retweet people unless what they had to say was so amazing you just had to share it? Why would you do it just because you like them as a person? What you retweet and like reflects on your own image out there in cyberspace.

    Some people are much more “emotionally literate” than others, though. This INTP readily acknowledges that she might not “get” it.

    Keep on keeping on, Kristen! I learn a lot from you.

  26. I just bought a book from a writer whom I absolutely love – just because I love her. When I see her on occasion at a conference or something she remembers me, asks how I’m doing, remembers what I’m writing… basically, she cares and it shows. Um… am I a fan for life? Yeah, pretty much.

    Another writer I know whom I love is wonderful at responding and reaching out to people… just because she loves them. She does it in this peaceful, warm, respectful, genuine way, and people adore her because she cares for them. She’s taught me exactly the sort of writer I want to be like, whether I make the big leagues or not.

    I also believe whole-heartedly that being a writer without caring about people is a really, really hollow and lame way to be a writer. That’s the whole joy of life! If you take sales out of the equation completely… well, why wouldn’t you want to connect in positive ways with people?

    So yeah – I agree with this post, 100%. 🙂

  27. Fascinating post, Kristin. I definitely buy books of authors I know or have ‘met’ online (in addition to books that just catch my interest). Even if they stay in my TBR pile for ages, I still feel as though I’m supporting friends. And yes, there are two authors I’ve ‘met’ and didn’t like whose books I will no longer buy / read no matter how good the books are, so I definitely prove your point. The personal connections you make matter just as much as having content that grabs a reader’s attention.

  28. I’m at the liquor store as I type.
    I enjoyed your post.
    I believe you are right. But I have two questions:
    How exactly does memoir fit into the picture? (I’m guessing it’s more like fiction.)
    And what to do with a poor introverted writer who worries about being likeable? (Not talking about anyone in particular here. . . a friend wanted me to ask. . .just in case someone wants to know.)

  29. Hi Kristen,

    I just found your blog and I’m loving it! I’m close to sending a first draft to beta readers. While they’re busy with their red pencils, my plan is to study marketing via social media. Admittedly, I’m one of those who will be tempted to “run screaming for the nearest liquor store” at the thought of trying to sell books (or anything else for that matter). But, knowledge is power. Thanks for sharing yours.

  30. This really helps me focus on my goals and what I’m hoping to accomplish. so far I’ve looked at the social media thing as an obligation, and needed for my writing career. But I need to relax- follow those people who I enjoy, have fun reading and writing blogs and focus on making connections instead of good business decisions. Thanks!

  31. THis is another great post Kristen. It came to my inbox at the exact time I needed it. Thanks.

  32. “Zig Ziglar was one of my favorites to read when I worked there. My favorite quote by him is, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.””

    Love, love, love this quote. Thanks for another great post, Kristen!

  33. Good post and as usual I totally agree. However, when I put out my short stories, I was concerned about sales. I did want people to buy my book, (what author doesn’t) so I did tell people about them in a way that I hoped would encourage them to buy them and not be considered spam. ( I tried to give a taste of what was in the stories on facebook & twitter, a sense of what the experience would be) I gave stories away free to my friends too one way or another. I believed that they would enjoy the stories and would tell others about them, just as I do for others, but despite excellent reviews, sales have been slow. I know that short stories have limited appeal, so that is a factor, but in the end people still just don’t know about my work and despite my efforts, that doesn’t look like changing in a hurry.

    On blogs my intention is not to sell books and I rarely mention my work – perhaps I should, but it doesn’t look to me as if this approach is working. However I’m not going to evaluate it in terms of book sales anymore, I’m just going to blog because I like it.

    I really hope my agent finds a trad publisher for my novel so I don’t have to rely totally on my own efforts to get sales for that, because apparently I suck at it.

  34. I have a hard time interacting on Twitter because there is so much spam to filter through to get the “real” people. I only share links occasionally. I’m looking for human connection, not to have information and products shoved down my throat. Love this post!

      • Author Kristen Lamb on February 3, 2012 at 2:34 pm
      • Reply

      Check out #MyWANA. This is where the cool kids gather. Well, if you think reading, D&D, and World of Warcraft are cool. Okay, none of us are cool, but we are cool with that…which makes us cool? I think I just lost myself. Just come hang 😀

  35. Interesting that you mentioned the people who sent you links to buy their books or Like their FaceBook page.

    Interesting because I wonder if what I’ve done is anything similar.
    Here’s the rundown:
    I have two accounts on deviantArt, one for fanfiction and one for original fiction.
    The fanfiction sees more work from me (for copyright reason–not the “is someone going to steal my work” paranoia, but simply that many magazines won’t buy a story that’s been “published).
    The fanfiction account, logically enough, receives more traffic, watches, and faves than the original fiction account.

    Now my question is this:
    Is there anything wrong with asking people who have faved my fanfiction to also give my original fiction a look? (I’ve received a few watchers and faves on the second account after making this request.)
    I usually only do that with people who “watch” my account, though I’ve considered doing it on specific chapters, as well.

    As for your topic about motives:
    I would always like to think my primary “motive” is to tell a story. But no matter what, I benefit from the traffic, and I do need that traffic.
    I’m not sure it’s possible to “not think about the sales,” but I would certainly try to focus on the story.

  1. […] Agent Jenny Bent tells why traditional publishing should stop with the elitist gatekeeper mentality while she praises the new self-publishing avenues that let authors reach their readers directly. In an example of how the new paradigm can work, self-pubbed author Brittany Geragotelis’s novel Life’s A Witch has garnered her an agent and offers from every media and country imaginable. If you want to be like Brittany, follow Kristin Lamb’s advice and understand the why behind the buy. […]

  2. […] Lamb’s The Road to Success Part Two–Understanding the Why Behind the Buy shows us the motivation of why people buy in on authors and then buy their books.  It is about […]

  3. […] #3 – Aside from having my fear of random tweets dismissed by a number of folks, including Kristin Lamb in a well-timed post, I have done very little with this. I have the random thoughts, but I fear […]

  4. […] Road To Success Part Two – Understanding The Why Behind The Buy by Kristen […]

  5. […] Or as author/blogger/marketer Kristin Lamb wrote also last week: […]

  6. […] The Road to Success Part 2: Understanding the Why Behind the Buy: This is a great post by my friend and mentor Kristen Lamb and appeals to anyone who feels icky when they have to sell something. Especially artists who are often put in the position of having to “sell” themselves. She talks about the importance of motive and how this can affect your overall success. […]

  7. […] couple weeks ago, I had a post about how to sell fiction. We explored the WHY behind the BUY. The same tools that will sell car insurance or bank accounts won’t work for selling books. […]

  8. […] couple weeks ago, I had a post about how to sell fiction. We explored the WHY behind the BUY. The same tools that will sell car insurance or bank accounts won’t work for selling books. […]

  9. […] Or as author/blogger/marketer Kristin Lamb wrote also last week: […]

  10. […] For more on how fiction and non-fiction connect to people, read the incomparable Kristen Lamb talking about The Road to Success. […]

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