Irrefutable Law of Success #3—We Learn By Doing

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Gabriel Amadeus

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Gabriel Amadeus

Theory is great, but it may or may not jive with reality. My goal as a blogger, author, teacher is to equip you guys for success from all angles—craft, brand/platform, and business. Yet, want to know what all these have in common?

We have to DO them to get better.

We can read all the craft books in the world, but we only grow as writers by writing. We improve on Facebook or Twitter with practice. As authors, we are corporations of ONE. We need to make business decisions. The more decisions we make, the more we grow.

One of the biggest business decisions we’ll make is which publishing path to take. This is why I dedicate a lot of time to educate you guys about how all forms of publishing work in my new book. We have to choose a path that fits our personality, our lives, how much time we have, and any operational constraints (four kids, day job, genre, budget, fear of clowns).

Writing can feel a little like THIS...

Writing can feel a little like THIS…

Sometimes our plans can have the best of intentions, but we don’t know what’s going to work until we try. For instance, my first books were published indie and I’d hoped this would translate into a traditional deal. I wanted to experience all forms of publishing so I could connect better with my readers.

After two years of a proposal going nowhere in NYC? Time to change plans. Thing is, I didn’t know it wouldn’t work until I TRIED.

Some Things Can ONLY Be Learned By DOING

As an author and business owner, I can tell you that hindsight REALLY IS 20/20. I look back at dumb moves, missteps, mistakes and go, “Yeah, that was stupid.” Yet, here’s the thing, it seemed like a good idea at the TIME.

Any of you who’ve ever DATED know the feeling.

We learn by DOING. We can’t learn to ride a bike reading Internet articles. We have to hop on and expect a lot of skinned knees and elbows.

Blogging is one of the best (and most stable) forms of social media. Yet, we only get good at it by doing it. Yes, readers love this blog (and I SO THANK YOU for that), but I’ve written over 700 blogs. My first blogs?

*insert crickets chirping*

I remember not wanting to delete spammers, because it meant I’d have NO comments.

This is the best infermentation ever. You are change my mind. What is your browser? You are brilliant person! My brother recommended me here. Your site has great spam filter.

He could just be foreign, right?

As I mentioned yesterday, plan your work, then work your plan. Plans are only good if we are using them. By using them, we see the flaws, the stuff that doesn’t work and then we can CHANGE direction. That author (I mentioned Monday) who was sniveling about spending a bazillion hours on social media and his book wasn’t selling?


All of us start with great ideas and intentions. That’s the prototype. Yet, once we build the prototype, we need to try and wreck it. Some flaws only come to the surface when rubber meets the road.

Do Stuff that Makes Sense—CONTEXT

All righty, we’ve talked about making a plan and testing a plan, but let’s start with not making a STUPID plan. I can’t count the number of times that social media, PR and marketing experts have cited examples of success that are OVER TEN YEARS OLD. If something was successful ten years ago? Likely NOT a good plan in a completely different paradigm.

Recently I had a conversation with an Old School PR person (A BIG PR person). I was trying to impress the importance of an author blog. Actual conversation:

Expert:  Well, sure a blog is great. It worked for Julia & Julia. Blog a topic and get a book deal.

Me:  Blogging a topic will pigeonhole a modern author and burn them out. Blogs need to be more dynamic. The Julia & Julia example is outdated.

Expert:  What do you mean outdated?

Me:  Okay, the blogger had to start the blog. Then she had to blog for well over a year to capture enough interest for a book deal. So that’s another year to two years to write the book and get it to market. Then the book needed time to take off in order to be optioned by Hollywood and, last I checked, films take time to make. Another year to two years to turn the book into a script, cast and then produce the film. And aside from all of that, it’s already a four year old film. The example isn’t relevant because it’s easily eight years old. Modern audiences have been spoiled by Reality TV and want to connect emotionally as people. They want to talk about cats and zombies and laundry with their favorite authors.

Expert: Yeah *laugh* I don’t see how blogging about cats is going to get you very far.

Me: Haz Cheezburger just sold for a couple million dollars and it’s simply cat memes. Also, Jenny Lawson not only hit the New York Times best-seller list, her readers crashed Goodreads when she tried to do a Meet the Author. She blogs about cats, zombies and her fetish for taxidermy.

Expert: Jenny Who?

After the conversation, we were on the same page and the expert was awesome and generous and grateful for the help, but this illustrates a point. When people (experts) cite what worked for The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood? Use critical thinking skills. Remember that success happened in THE 1990s.

Yes, Rebecca Wells traveled to the indie bookstores and created relationships and did readings, etc. but this was before Borders and Barnes & Noble all but wiped out independent bookstores. Granted, Borders is dead and buried and B&N is hemorrhaging. This means the small bookstore is making a comeback…but it still isn’t the influencer it was in the early 90s (but feel free to pounce if it makes sense for your book). 

Remember, in the 1990s most people couldn’t afford computers, the Internet was in its infancy, and the bookstore was the main point of discovery. That’s no longer the case. When we make any plan, yes look to other successes for ideas. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Yet, at the same time, be smart. Your time is valuable.

This is why it is incumbent upon us to be knowledgeable. What is the market climate? Who are our readers? What do they want? Where are they congregating? Is my plan relevant or am I trying to recreate ten or even twenty-year-old magic?

Then try it. Put a foot in. If The Red Sea doesn’t part? Step…out (thank you, Joyce Meyers).

What are your thoughts? Have you been Wile E. Coyote and tried stuff that just went BOOM! Stuff that seemed like a good idea at the time? Do you look back at some of the people you dated and ask, “Was I on DRUGS? How did I EVER think that was a good idea?”

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of August, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

ANNOUNCEMENTS: I have a class coming up SOON, Creating Conflict and Tension on Every Page if you want to learn how to apply these tactics to your writing. Use WANA15 to get 15% off.

Also, August 21st, I am running a Your First Five Pages webinar. Bronze is $40 and Gold is $55 (I look at your first five pages) and use WANA15 for 15% off.

The webinars are all recorded in case you can’t make the time and a PDF with notes will be sent to you following the class.

Also, my new book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE.


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  1. I like your point on change what you are doing if it is not working. Yet I am stubborn as a mule. No I do not look like a mule but I can be an ass. Just ask my wife. i am a product of 1945. A lustful meeting between my father and mother. Checking on the dates I believe I am a bastard, legitimated by a hasty marriage to cover up that fact. In my old age I find it confusing all the new inventions of communication. I have yet to twitter yet I have twitched. I know little of Ipads, I was aided to learn wordpress because of my desire to write some things down. To my amazement other people have read my work and on top of that I find it pleasing to have someone actually take the time to do so. Will I change? Yes, because you rang a bell in my head to do so. I will use the internet to learn how to and why to. So I humbly thank you.

  2. Can’t let fear of failure keep you from doing, right? And, yes, I dated a couple of different guys that even my family thought I was possessed or insane or stupid. LOL. Great ideas for writing though.

  3. I’ve had too many bad ideas to mention them all. LOL! I use to get discouraged, but now l look at them as lessons I learned to get me where I am today. Not such as bad thing.

    BTW. When is your book going to be available at B&N? I have a Nook. I know, I know, what was I thinking right? My husband made me do it. 😉

    1. I love my Nook. I am doing KDP for now, so it will be October at the earliest before it’s available for Nook. BUT I am finalizing the paper version this week, so that should be for sale pretty soon (*prays*).

      1. Great! I’ll keep my eye open for the printed book.

      2. I also have a Nook. Glad to have an idea of when I can buy it. 🙂

  4. Great…

  5. I remember starting to blog again back in December with only a plan of writing a post three times a week. I wanted to write about what I had discovered while researching for my book. I had all this pent-up energy that needed releasing and my blog is the only thing I thought would give me that release! Well, I went in not expecting anything. In fact, I could hear the crickets. As time went on, folks began coming and I began writing what they wanted to read. It’s been a great ride that I wouldn’t trade in for the world. I think blogging is foremost forum to highlight our writing. If we gain a forum via our blogs, then we’ll more than likely gain an audience for our books. At least that’s what I think!

  6. This is great, especially the part about things that worked “long ago” (even 5 years) that may not work now. Having said that, is it too late to start a blog? Seriously, you started yours how long ago? It’s crowded, very crowded. If one starts a blog, how would you suggest they create a theme? I enjoy and have some expertise in writing and with personal finance, two things no one else ever writes about. 🙂

    1. Invest a few bucks in my new book. I teach you how to blog and how to find what will work for YOU and connect you to YOUR readers. Blogs are timeless though, like books, most fail. Sure a bazillion people start a blog, but how many stick with it? Post regularly? Post good content? Most people blog hot and heavy then burn out and abandon the blog, so there isn’t as much competition as one might think. Start today (or after you read my book, LOL).

  7. Love this post. So true. As for indie bookstores, you’re right, probably won’t be the start to a whirlwind discovery tour, but it sure is fun. I worked for almost a year to get one of the most respected and famous indie bookstores in the country to let me do a signing/reading (I’m self published) and finally won.

    We filled the place, and I got to stand where Bill Clinton, Dan Brown, Stephanie Myers and … eek, EL James stood to talk about their books. Great ego booster. The owner invited me back anytime. Fun stuff.

  8. Hi Kristen,

    I loved this post. It’s what I would say to others if I could say it in the same way you just did. I know of course that’s not possible. I like comparing the the things we do for marketing to dating. Boy, did I ever date some lemons. 🙂

  9. I read this after I sent you an email. I’m in the process of changing the plan, but there’s so many new plans out there and I’m not sure where to go. Everyone gives me their opinion of what they think is best. New Agent, self-pub, small press. I wish this was like that commercial where all you had to do was to follow the green carpet. OR the yellow brick road, maybe. Sure, Dorothy had obstacles, but there weren’t multiple yellow brick roads!

  10. Great advice as usual, Kristen. Sometimes I think we are all like lemmings, blindly following the leader who is long gone. 🙂 As someone who does not even rearrange her furniture, I find change hard to adjust to, but changing the marketing and promoting plan makes perfect sense.

  11. Just a simple ‘Thank you’ I learn so much from what you say.

  12. I’ll admit, I was kind of thinking of trying an indie press and then hoping a big NYC publisher would be eager to pick it up. Guess that doesn’t really work for most. Your advice is priceless!

    1. Actually it DOES…IF you aren’t social media. For fiction? This is a GREAT path and you might even not want to go traditional.

      1. Thank you so much for clearing that up! I was starting to get really bummed at thinking about what it takes to go traditional. The timeline alone is a huge turn off, who wants to wait a year or more before their book gets released? Not me.

        I’ll admit I went a little fan girl when I saw that you replied! With the amount of traffic and comments you get on a daily basis it means a lot to me. Thanks!

  13. You make it sound so easy! Put things in perspective. Thanks.

  14. Reblogged this on Cynthia Stacey and commented:
    Awesome article by Kristen Lamb, author of Rise of the Machines-Human Authors in a digital World.

  15. When we first started blogging, we were petrified about saying the wrong things or not coming across as serious writers. We spent most of our time perfecting the posts, which would take us two to three weeks to finish. And, then we realized we weren’t getting any readers because we weren’t putting anything out there for anyone to read. After a little more than a year, we’ve realized that our fears were preventing us from working. Though we still double check our work and make sure everything’s lined up right and spelled properly, we’re not so uptight about posting light, funny and even weird things on our blog. Matter of fact, the readers almost prefer it when we do that. Great post, Kristen.

  16. My initial FB page was a raging disaster. I didn’t know what to post or even how to do it. But I keep after it and it seems to be performing better. I think maybe I had unrealistic expectations and was overly cautious.

  17. Well, we sure won’t get anything done if we aren’t doing something. Thanks for the pep talk. Back to the rewrite (and you may convince me to do indie yet – I’m hoping for traditional as a means of validation).

  18. Very interesting post. I was on vacation for a month an missed most of your posts. I realized I missed your funny words!

  19. I’m happy with what I’m doing at the moment, more or less. That’s why I make a point to read your blog everyday because if I ever feel the need to change it, you’ve already given me the info I need. 🙂 But if I had my way, I’d attend every webinar too and buy the books you recommend. Hubby gets ‘nervous’ when I spend money on my ‘hobby.’ Till I finish writing more books and have more money coming in from their sales (hopefully), I’ll just have to glean what I can from your blog. 😉

  20. The part about NOT wanting to delete your first few comments…Totally me! The first day i started my webpage i woke the next morning to ELEVEN wonderful comments from complete strangers. I thought, wow, the internet is amazing, my page went out and was seen by people all over the world in only one day, this is so easy! Then i realized they kept writing “KUDOS to you”, over and over. Coincidence? 🙁 I still have them up there for the same reason you did. It looks like SOMEONE is interested in what i do.

  21. This post really resonates with me. In the 3 years since I’ve started my small business, I’ve changed my pricing structure once every three months and changed my procedures and work flows on what seems to be a monthly basis! The key is to get out there and go for it and make it happen and evolve.

  22. Great advice–you’re right that it’s too easy to try to do whatever has worked for others, without trying to figure out WHY it worked.
    What parts of past advice, though, do you think people have wrongly thrown out?

  23. I hope one day it will work for me as well – what I’m doing – when I’m doing it right… I really try my best… *sigh*

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