Selling Books in the Digital Age—We ALL Have an Image Problem & Here's What To Do

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 11.30.47 AM

Original image courtesy of Phillip Capper Flickr Creative Commons

We live in a wonderful age to be a writer but a terrifying one as well. It’s wonderful because there was a time when we could have gone to our graves without ever seeing our work published and holding our work physically in our hands. Now? Good news is everyone gets a chance. Bad news is everyone gets a chance.

Before self-publishing took off, I was not a fan of the whole idea. The reason? I knew the problems it was going to create. We were opening a door we could never close.

When we had gatekeepers, there was an assumed standard. To say we were “published authors” actually meant something. Now? It means next to nothing.

Great you’re a published author. So is my cat.

Johnny Cat wants to write his memoir...

Johnny Cat wants to write his memoir…

With barriers to entry removed, we’ve created a problem with public perception when it comes to how they view our product—BOOKS and by association? Us (authors).

Perception is Reality

Ever heard the saying “Power perceived is power achieved”? Works for value too. “Value perceived is value achieved.” Therein is a lot of our problem. The sheer volume of books paired with the ability for everyone to be published has diminished the perceived value of our product. It is now up to authors to actively demonstrate value to the consumer.

See, in the “olden days” a book alone meant something. A book had inherent value. A book in and of itself represented more than just a story. A physical book in your hand represented countless other authors who tried and failed, but this author, this author got an agent, landed a contract and was…published. This author was worth a publisher’s investment. This book was worth shelf space at a bookstore.

Fast-forward into the digital age and now what is a book? Heck, what is a “real” author?

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Since self-publishing was not a viable model until very recently, most of your average consumers really had no idea it existed…until now. These days, even regular people, if you say, “I am a published author.” The next question often will be, *weird face* “Yeah but are you self-published?”

This is because the very nature of the product has changed. Now in a world of infinite “shelf space” with no real barriers to entry, anyone can be published and the public has caught on to that. So “books” mean far less to them than ever before and for good reasons.

I am not here to pick on self-published authors because I am one. I have actually published all three ways (traditional, indie and self-pub). Sometimes, there are excellent business reasons to self-publish.

For me? I had one of the top agents in NYC. I was with Russ Galen. Love Russ. Great agent. But it turned out that a social media book just was not a good fit for traditional publishing. Russ worked his tail off because he saw a book like mine was necessary.

Though my agent loved my book, traditional publishing was at that time, simply not as open to the idea as Russ was. So? I published on my own. But Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World was guided and had the oversight of the best set of eyes in New York. I hired the best cover designer in the industry and the best interior designer and formatter money could buy.

Meaning? Not all self-published books are junk.

Problem is? Too many of them are.

What does all this mean? It means that twenty years ago selling a book was very different than selling a book today. Customers had a far different perception of the product twenty years ago.

Why the Struggle?

Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons

Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons

One of the reasons writers are struggling and will continue to struggle is that everyone thinks they can write.

See, the arts have always been vulnerable to people, consumers, corporations, etc. taking advantage of us. There is nothing new about that. But, for musicians, it’s different. The average person at least recognizes that they can’t play a guitar like Slash, the piano like Billy Joel or sing like Beyonce. The regular consumer for the most part doesn’t believe they can do what the musician does.

Now? We writers are in a real pickle. A lot of people honestly believe that simply having command of your native tongue qualifies you to be a writer. I can’t count the number of times I have heard people say to me, “I’ve always wanted to write a book. I just never had the time.” As if TIME is the ONLY factor separating that person from George R.R. Martin.

Could you imagine us saying, “Yeah I have always wanted to cut open a person’s head and do surgery. But wow I just never had the time.”

Before self-publishing, sure folks believed they could write a book, but they didn’t all believe they had what it took to get published. So at least we had that in our favor.

But now that everyone has the ability to claim the title, “published author” let’s just say we have to approach our careers very differently because “When everyone is special then no one is.”

Books Are No Longer Enough

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, via Mikko Luntiala

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, via Mikko Luntiala

When I first started this blog years ago I said this would happen and here we are. We have to have a brand and a platform capable of driving sales. It is not enough to have a book. Even if you want to traditionally publish, it doesn’t matter. Agents won’t even look at you of you don’t have a platform and for good reasons.

Platform and Brand Aids in Discoverability

There are millions of books for sale. Millions of choices and this is overwhelming for consumers. Our greatest enemy is obscurity.

Before the digital age, shelf space was limited and finite. Thus, the infinite shelf space of the web is a double-edged sword for authors.

If you read my post The Ugly Truth About Publishing then you know that one of the major problems created by the arrival of the megastores like Borders and Barnes & Noble was that they didn’t leave authors on the shelves long enough to cultivate an audience. Also, since shelf space was limited, authors no longer had their backlists available and this seriously impacted the earning ability of many writers.

The Digital Age helped this tremendously. Now, a new writer can publish a good book and maybe it only sells a handful of copies. But, because there is no expiration date for it being on the shelf, the writer has time to cultivate an audience and be discovered.

I had this happen with a writing duo who bought my first social media book. Saffina Deforges and Mark Williams (her coauthor and silent partner) went from selling a couple of books a month to selling a hundred of thousand copies in only a few months and breaking all kinds of records. Sugar & Spice, a book no agent would rep and no one would publish went from complete obscurity to one of the biggest selling e-books in UK history.

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 11.09.11 AM

Same book that sat at #1,372,760,092 on Amazon later shot to #1 in multiple categories. Same book that sold no copies later broke records. Only difference was they applied my methods and gained discoverability using social media.

What good is a book no one knows about?

Even traditional publishers appreciate discoverability is their problem too. Borders and B&N in their greed wiped out the indie bookstore ecosystem. Borders then imploded and B&N has experienced record contraction. Even if you go into one of the handful of remaining B&Ns it’s a lot of books to sift through and you want consumers to find your book, you will need a brand.

Books Have an Image Problem & Brands Can Fix That

Remember a book no longer holds inherent value.

Because the concept of “books” has been contaminated with so much bad writing, now the author also has to be part of the package. Told you guys we were really the oldest profession 😉 .

I have my contest that I hold every month to encourage you guys to comment. It’s my way of giving something back and nudging you out of your shyness. But I’ve gotten 20 page samples that were so bad I nearly could not finish. But when I sent the pages back, dripping RED…the author responded with, “Well, my publisher loved it and it’s being released.”

…and the other half of that sentence is—being released into the world and onto the unsuspecting public.

There are ways to counter this with the product. We write better books. Seek people who will be truly critical. Hire real editors. Invest in good formatting, covers, etc. The problem is, no matter how good the book is? It won’t matter these days. Until that book is in someone’s hands, all that is moot.

Fortune Favors Those Who Hustle

So branding is going to aid your audience in finding your work (they can judge you later). It’s no longer a nice little extra. It is mandatory if you want to make it in this business. One of the reasons I am a huge fan of authors having a blog is that it helps develop trust. Readers need that because a lot of other writers (or “writers”) have betrayed that trust.

You can’t slap lipstick on a pig and call it a super model.

When we claim I am published readers assume a level of quality. Too many writers were so eager for the title they cut corners and didn’t earn the title and relationships with readers have suffered.

Thus, sadly, all of us now feel like we are dating someone who’s broken up with a psycho. We now have this additional burden of proving we are not out to boil their bunnies.

This is where social media comes in and where a blog is super helpful.

These days people are looking for the pros and when they find them they latch on something fierce.

Search engines deliver new fans to me daily, but why I keep fans is because I have content. I don’t just blog when I feel like it. Most of my competition however? Does. Thus, when people find my blog, there are vast archives for them to peruse and get to know me. They learn that I am not “playing author.”

I am doing this for real. I am a pro. I show up no matter what. Also, blogs play to a writer’s strengths. Writers write. People get a taste of your writing voice and can fall in love with it. Even though I blog on writing, social media, pop culture, humor, etc, the unifying feature is my voice. Right now I have a mystery thriller that has been accepted by a traditional publisher. I assume when it is for sale, y’all might give it a go because you enjoy the blog. It is far simpler to go with who you know and like.

By reading this blog you learn so much about me as an author. The writing is clean. It isn’t riddled with typos. It’s coherent. It’s fun. It’s engaging. I’m using my blog to earn your trust. If I earn your trust here? Far easier to then ask for the sale because I have actively demonstrated I am valuing your time. You spend time with me and TIME WITH LAMB = TIME WELL SPENT.

Those who come across my blog and don’t feel time with me is time well spent, well they are clearly brain damaged and have bad fashion sense not my audience. My blog has done us both a favor. My voice connected me with the unusually good-looking and intelligent people out there who are my audience and weeded out the secret nose-pickers who would have possibly left a bad review except Amazon doesn’t let them review in Crayons.


It’s a great time to be a writer. Focus on writing the best book possible no matter which way you publish. There is no bad way to publish, no wrong way to publish. But you do need a platform if you would like to make money. 

For those interested in learning how to create an author blog, I am holding a class on it this Saturday in my W.A.N.A. International virtual classroom so you can attend from home and at your computer #pantsoptional. The recording of the class comes with purchase. Yes blogging is a very unique form of writing especially when you are blogging to build a fan base for fiction. Also you are going to need time to actually write books. We cover all that. Feel free to peruse the old free archives or pick up my book if you would like to know more.

And for some EXTRA FUN! ME! Hey, don’t feel dumb. I did once write crap too!


What are your thoughts? Are you frustrated that everyone believes they can write a novel? They can’t. But whatever. Are you vexed with the hacks and amateurs? What are your thoughts? Questions? Suggestions for what you’d like to see in upcoming classes?

I love hearing from you!

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. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel.

And yes, I am a complete and total slacker. December’s winner will be announced later because I seriously had three posts go viral. Great problem to have…but tabulating a winner? Gonna take a little time. Love you *air kiss*

Remember to check out the new classes listed at W.A.N.A International.  Blogging for Authors THIS SATURDAY.

Branding for Authors (NEXT SATURDAY). This is your best way to get PAID in the digital age. We have to cultivate that 1000 die hard fans. 

Also, I have one craft class listed. Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line. Our stories should be simple enough to tell someone what the book is about in ONE sentence. If we can’t do this, often there is a plot problem. This class is great for teaching you how to be master plotters and the first TEN SIGNUPS get their log-line shredded for free, so you will be agent ready for the coming year.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook


11 pings

Skip to comment form

  1. The greatest problem has been Amazon Kindle’s idiotic free five away. If it’s free, it cannot be any good – or if it costs just 99 cents, the author must be rubbish. That’s what that implies. And the vast majority of readers now don’t have to buy books anymore, they can just download for free, thousands upon thousands of books. Why spend money? The problems in the book market have far less to do with self-publishing – all the Bloomsbury writers were self-published so that says nothing about quality, just that you like to be an independent author.

    1. I agree and will blog more later about FREE. It has been greatly misused.

  2. Hiya! First time commenter, trying to shed the shy: firstly, I’ve been following your blog for ages in the process of building my own brand and platform, and I always wonder about the “expert” question in the discussion on blogging and social media extension for any author’s brand:

    What if, for example, you write in a particular field (let’s run with horror, for example, since that’s the closest to my mandate and easiest for me to dissect): it follows (pun) that you’d be crafting content to cater to that particular subject. You talk about horror movies, and horror books, and elements that worked for you when reading or writing or watching, but what if you’re not carrying around a degree earned from Miskatonic University? What if you’re struggling in the extension to your field as well as the writing itself? (Or maybe you just feel that way. I feel like that a lot, and it doesn’t make for an efficient process when I get home at the end of the day, work on the book, and then try and formulate eloquent blog posts on a similar subject.)

    Do we just bumble forward until we’ve a built audience?

    1. YOU are the brand…not the content. The content supports you and is unique just LIKE you. We go over this in class and I run y’all through various exercises on how to do this and create and manage the content but VOICE is your unifying feature not subject. Your audience comes to love looking at the world through YOUR EYES. THAT is what I teach you to do with your blog.

    2. Whatever you do, I don’t see you bumbling. That is a SERIOUSLY awesome website you have! Just live up to that and you’ll do great.

      1. Thank you for the vote of confidence. 🙂

        1. It reminded me of how powerful an impression a website can make. I’ve put that part on the far-back burner, but now I’m having to reconsider.

    • Hayson Manning on January 14, 2016 at 1:27 pm
    • Reply

    Great and timely blog, Kristen. Thanks. I’m going to pull out some of the 14000 craft books I have and revisit. You can never stop learning…

  3. Sorry, that should say free give away. I tried to correct, but WP wouldn’t let me use the “up” arrow…it just published as if I’d pressed the send button. The other problem is that traditional publishing contracts are no longer worth the paper they’re written on for most authors. In Germany there’s this huge debate going on over the length of contracts offered to authors, many of whom are asked to contribute to the cost of printing for several years, if they’re book contract spans over several books. Some of the biggest authors in contemporary German fiction are among those currently protesting to the German government that the new rulings do nothing to help authors, rather hinder them even more to make a decent living and don’t get ripped off. The real problem with the current state of the book market has more to do with the “must consume now, but don’t want to do or give anything for it” culture and mind-set of readers. A free give-away of ebooks might get you several thousand downloads and spike sales for a week afterwards, but how many of those who download can actually be bothered to leave even a one-liner review? Lazy readers make poorer writers in every sense of the word.

    1. But this is the reason for cultivating an audience. We create a personal connection and then the readers become vested in us as human beings. This notion of MASS EXPOSURE and MASS SELLING only benefits corporations. It does not benefit writers. We have to cultivate our 1000 die hard fans. These are the fans who follow the blog, subscribe to the blog, then buy and READ the books and leave reviews and tell people about the books. They are VESTED emotionally in us because we INVESTED in them. If we keep relying on tossing a million noodles against a wall, I am afraid the ROI on that is only going to get worse and worse. Corporations will just keep replacing us with new writers willing to write okay stories for “exposure.”

      1. Unfortunately, most readers aren’t very interested in forming the personal connection – they just want to consume. If they were interested, they’d at least take the time to click a “like” button or do a one-line review. But they don’t – they were brought up to consumer ferociously and want everything for free. Having already ruined the music industry with this attitude, they are doing it to the book market now. Interestingly, some of the best-selling self-published authors on the platform I use for publishing my own books have said that the moment they did get more sales and reviews on Amazon and Kindle, they were besieged by traditional publishers and literary agents who wanted to suddenly sign them up – the same one, who’d previously turned all of theses authors’ works down. Mass selling can benefit self-publishing authors and many are making a good living out of it. But one really has to give up all other work, because cultivating those die-hard fans you’re talking about is a 24/7 job, leaving no time for creating books anymore.

        1. I agree and disagree. I agree that the book market is next to get consumed with this desire for everything free. But, social media IS still social and humans are naturally collective creatures. We don’t have to convert all the people, simply the right people. And it isn’t a 24/7 job if done properly. Most writers are unfocused in their social media so they waste a lot of time and content. It is about working smarter and not harder. And if what you are saying IS the case, then we all need new jobs.

          But I blog regularly and am active on social media. I write an average of 3-5K words a day. I have a fiction at a publisher and three more books I am finishing now. I am only behind writing books because of my health this past year. I run a business and teach and consult and also run a family business so yes it is a lot of work. This is not for the way and faint of heart for sure.

  4. I’m a newcomer to your blogs and have enjoyed reading your latest so much that I was interested in attending your classes. It would be helpful if you identified the city and state next to the WANA location.

    1. They are on-line so you attend at your computer. I just added that to the post. I guess that would have been important #blondemoment. Pants are optional 😀 .

    • Lanette Kauten on January 14, 2016 at 1:41 pm
    • Reply

    This is why I have refused to self-publish. I need to say to the world, “Look, this novel has been vetted.”

  5. Reblogged this on Let the Ink Run Free and commented:
    I absolutely agree and love is post!!

    ~Let The Ink Run Free

  6. Reblogged this on American Writers Exposed and commented:
    Go Kristen Lamb! ?

    • Loretta Greco on January 14, 2016 at 2:11 pm
    • Reply

    Holy cow did you get the nail on the head with this blog! Self-Publishing can be great, but there is SO much junk out there, I tend to stay away from it! I want to be published, but want to be published traditionally with an agent and see the fruits of my labors (a book) in my hands!!! Love your blog!

    1. Be careful there. There are a lot of excellent self-published books out there, like “Rise of the Machines” 😀 . The problem is we have ALL been hit with a broad brush. And traditional isn’t necessarily the best path to go. You STILL have to do the same amount of branding. So make sure you are choosing it for the right reasons. Remember the best books of our time have come from self publishing. The Martian has pretty much broken all records and that was a self-published book. Then there is Wool. Critically acclaimed and about to have its own TV series. So self-published does not = bad. Traditional doesn’t equal good writing either…um 50 shades?

  7. Quite a few words of wisdom. I especially agree with “Our greatest enemy is obscurity.” Also, when it comes to branding, blogging is the best. My WordPress stat page clearly indicates that it is blogging that causes more people to click in. I would also like to think that they stay there because, “people get a taste for your writing voice.”

    Lastly, to answer your question “Are you vexed with the hacks and amateurs?” Yes!
    I am seriously considering your on-line class for branding and blogging.

    1. I LOVE my blogging class. It is so much fun. That is really where you get to let the muse have some fun and play.

  8. I love reading your blog and I don’t comment often enough. Sometimes I don’t feel like my voice matters. I’ve read enough blogs to realize that my voice will never matter if I don’t use it. I’ve been working in a book for 8 years now. I adore it and I know it takes more than me adoring it to get it published. I know how easy it is to go up and just hit publish on sites like Create Space, but I want more. I don’t want to simply publish a work, I want to publish excellent work. I’ve realized coming up with the idea and developing was the easy part. Unfortunately I’ve realized too late that building a platform is what I should be working on. So I guess my biggest question isn’t how to build it, but rather when to build it. I have had a blog for a few years now and social media for “decades” (sometimes seems like centuries) so when do you start building these platforms? Have I been building without knowing it, and just don’t understand that I’ve been doing it? Do I build after self publishing, after the idea forms, or before all of that?

  9. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    You may not like it, but what Kristen says is fact…

  10. I read Rise of the Machines and loved it! It was so informative and helped me get my blog’s focus on track. One of these days, I’ll probably read RotM again, for I’m sure I’ll get even more from it on with a second pass.

    I’m curious about your thoughts of all those who say blogging is “dead”? A lot of those who say so are “experts”, and in the way that so many people blog irregularly or infrequently or have given it up entirely, I suppose they are sort of right. But beyond that, there does seem to be less interest in long-form reading online among the general public. Of course, it all comes back to the relationship – for example, George R.R. Martin’s blog is immensely popular. But as a blogger myself, I’m finding the blogosphere so much quieter than it used to be. I view my blogging as an investment into the future for when I someday have books on offer to promote. I always thought of it this way, but it also used to be a community of other bloggers and blog readers and now that seems to have changed.

    1. I can’t resist responding to this one, because if nothing else, Kristen has been putting on a demonstration of how vibrant and powerful blogging can be over the past few weeks. She publishes at noon, and by nine has 40 comments, and you want her to respond to a claim that blogging is dead? We could all wish to be so dead! There seems to be a pretty lively blogging community to me.

  11. I wrote a less-detailed version of this for my blog which I have yet to post, but there are past blog rants about the subject. I am APPALLED at what is offered these days. My experience is different from yours, though. When a reader tells me about a book I often ask, “Who published it?” or “Was it self-published?” and the answer is very often, “I don’t know” or “I never look at who publishes something.” The readers I know are less savvy than the ones you communicate with. But I’m also appalled at the number of 5-star reviews these horrible books have. Even worse, is I’ve read some multi-published, award-winning authors who’ve gone on to self-pub and the book is awful. I say book, singular, because after reading one, I swore never to read any more of her work. But these authors have fans who will follow them anywhere and think everything they write is gold. Or something. I don’t get it. I write quality fiction, sell very little and have few reviews. But I’m not bitter. I just keep writing and remind myself I never understood the publishing industry in “the good old days” and I don’t understand it now. I’m a writer. So I write the best books I can. Period. I do love your blog and how well-written it is and also how straight forward.

  12. Must say it’s not everybody’s claiming that they can write that frustrates me. Actually, I’ve only met with appreciation for my efforts, and rarely got told some of the things you talk about here. But I do get terribly frustrated with false praise for bad authors, and mostly in traditional publishing. Big names who befriend lesser ones and call their work “gripping” when it fact it has no substance. For example: some of the thrillers I’ve leafed through in search for a good book (I’m a book junkie). Turns out there was a lot of net woven around a murder, but that murder doesn’t have substance (such as glimpses into the psyche of a serial based on serious research, interesting motive such as stealing some valuable artifact with mysterious history, etc.). I need substance, I’m not interested in Jerry who killed Louise because he hated her cat. See my point? And many such books are being endorsed by big names, because traditional publishing is lately resorting to lies and unorthodox strategies to drive sales. They’ll lose credibility soon, too, wouldn’t you say? I’d love to read your take on this, dear Kristen. Almost finished “Rise of the Machines,” by the way 🙂 Fabulous! Also got 10x that you recommended, thank you 🙂

  13. I think image is important more than ever like you say. I find some authors seem to go down the funny hat image route like terry ptatchett. Most of the time the imsge is awful… But a viking helmet on a blonde lady? Its pretty good.
    Writing this just made me think though, do readers buy a book, or the author?

  14. Kristen, where to begin? I love so much about this post! Every point–spot on!

    Let’s see. I’ll weigh in on blogging. While there’s much debate about whether fiction authors “need” to blog, here’s my two cents. Learning craft and writing the actual book will always come first. All the blogging in the world won’t write our books. What blogging DOES is grow our craft, our audience, and our platform. It hones our voice, develops our writing chops, and fine-tunes our brand. And treated professionally, as well as consistency with our posting schedule, blogging grooms us for future publishing deadlines.

    Also, there’s nothing more frustrating than discovering a new-to-me voice and the writer has no social media presence at all. And no–I don’t believe we need to be on every network known to man, but an author needs to, at the very least, have a landing page and something that tells me what he’s about. And no–he doesn’t *have* to blog, BUT even a consistent once a week blog or update gives me a taste of who he is, and if his voice is compelling, he wins me over as a loyal fan lonnng before his book hits the shelves. In fact, I think that’s what creates the snowball effect–when we can’t wait to share our favorite discoveries with our friends, their friends, and friends of friends.

    Thanks for being a light!

    1. Thank YOU. I love blogging because MAN it is FABULOUS author training. It trains us to ship, trains out perfectionism, trains us to uphold self-imposed deadlines, trains us to act and think like pros and it makes us leaner meaner faster cleaner WRITERS. My fiction is SO much better because of my blogging!

  15. Kristen, I’m reblogging this on Jean’s Writing. It’s a subject I’ve been talking about all week. Branding, selling, content marketing and all that has turned writing into a business. It’s enough to exhaust my muse.

  16. So I went on a trip with my college Editing class to visit a publishing manager at a publishing company (I thought it best to learn a bit what it’s like on the other side. I gained quite a bit of respect for editors, I must say). What I learned there is that I missed the wave where I could be a successful author and also a reclusive hermit burrowed in the high mountains. I must be social now. *sigh*

    And I read your stuff about social media thinking to myself, “Oh look, this is everything I’m bad at. Wonderful.” A regular Negative Nancy, I am. I need to put myself out there some day. Eventually. … I’m also a motivated procrastinator.

    After my class trip, I decided to actively start looking for blogs/vlogs/writers-online-in-whatever-fashion. I came across yours because I finally got a Twitter account and there you were. I find your posts extremely helpful in ordering my thoughts and ideas, and I just want to say thank you for that.

    Now to answer your questions: I always tell people “everyone can write, it’s just a matter of writing well.” People who say they can when they most definitely cannot do frustrate me. I’ve never been fond of or trusted self-publishing for the exact reasons you stated. It’s too easy for people to forego outside perspective and skip to the title “published author.”

  17. Reblogged this on authorkdrose and commented:
    This will upset some people but its also exactly how I’ve always felt.

  18. This is exactly how I’ve always felt about writing and this upsets so many out there, but it’s true. The exact situation happens (just to throw this in) for writing poetry. There is such a thing as craft.

  19. Hi Kristen. Thanks for an informative post. (I came via Chris Graham). My problem is that I seem to be talking via my blog and SM to other writers rather than the readers I want to communicate with. And so many of these writers write genre fiction – SF, Horror, Erotica. Nothing wrong with that, but how do I find readers for contemporary literary fiction – the kind of stuff that wins prestigious awards. Not that I am after the awards, just a small portion of the readers of such material would do!

  20. I’ve been following your blog forever, but never commented (I’m on the shy side in the face of the awesome peoples), but I just had to comment on this to say that I was nodding and headdesking the whole way through it. I’m a self pubbed indie author of four books going on five, and everyone who’s learned I’m a sleezy writer of romantic type stories with an erotic twist has commended me on actually publishing. But! Whenever this happens, a little voice in my head goes, “They don’t know the truth, it’s not actually a big deal.” As a reader, I’ve trudged through the wastelands of 5 second book covers and half baked story blurbs looking for something decent, and it’s always a reminder of this painful truth that the mentality these days seems to be “I wrote a coherent sentence, so if I slap 200 more together, I’m a “writer”!”

    In any case, thanks so much for this blog post. You always manage to hit the nail on the head. 🙂

  21. Excellent and timely blog, Kristen. As a self-published author, I have to keep my bar high. Getting the rest of the world to trust that is another matter. Reading an “unproven” novelist is a time investment, and if the reader has been burned before, my job is that much harder. I don’t know how many times a week I come across social media posts that are along the lines of “I’m never reading another self-published book!” Thank you for the dose of reality, and the reminder to keep my blog updated!

  22. Great post, Kristen. You’ve inspired me to continue blogging. I’m going to have to check out your book.

  23. Oh boy. Love this blog. I went from loving to be a writer, wanting to quit writing altogether, and then just hoping I measure up to be a good writer.

    I am not one of those who always wanted to write a book, but never did. I did like to write, but spent most of my time with poems, short stories, and even 50 or so songs that have melted away to obscurity. Let me correct that. They never made it out of obscurity.

    For whatever odd reason about five years ago I got this incredible urge to write a book. I did so inside six months, found an editor, found someone who made a cover for me and has since gone out of business. The rest is history.

    I wrote a second book, and was halfway through a third when I learned how to write a bit better. I immediately pulled my first book, rewrote it from scratch, found an incredible editor who took great pleasure in tearing me to shreds, and managed to complete what I think is now a reasonably good book.

    I have also totally rewritten the second, and had the same editor perform the same wonderful surgery. A third is now in the works, and I have 50,000 words on a fourth, penned during a wonderful fun month that I had in NANO.

    I have struggled with brand, and I’ve struggled with blogging. I read incessantly all types of books on how to, how not to, hoping to gain a better insight into what makes a good book. As an old geezer, I’m 64, I have a need to maximize my learning curve.

    So, your blog strikes me at the heart of the matter; have I started too late? I sent my first book to maybe five or six publishers. Only one even bothered to turn me down; so it was easy to move to self-publishing. I would hate to think that what I produce is not worth $3.99 to a reader. I make every effort to ensure that what I give a reader is something I would want to read myself. I’m very critical of what I read and I read a lot. I know that one cannot be converted into the other; I only hope that my ability equal my intention.

    The tenacity! Yup, got that!

    • Pena, Peggy on January 14, 2016 at 5:11 pm
    • Reply


  24. Thank you so much. I constantly swing between the enjoyment of improving my craft and panicking because I keep getting asked ‘have you published anything yet?’

    This post reminded me I’m doing the right thing by continuing to learn first.

  25. As someone who has been around publishing for much longer than you have, I have seen the same attitude toward writers and writing since the rise of popular genre, particularly romance, in the mid-Eighties.

    This was also the time when the publishers which had been owned by a bunch of rich Ivy-League families like the Simons were being gobbled up by conglomerates interested in the bottom line instead of Art and Literature.

    Suddenly, books no longer had the cachet they once had.

    The same insulting behavior has been aimed at genre writers, particularly romance writer, then those of us published by e-publishers had to deal with that crap, and the same thing is being heaped on self-pubbed before the book has even book glanced over.

    Yes, there are bad books out there that are self-pubbed, but there are bad books by traditional publishers and big name authors. The trick is finding the good among the horrible.

    As a writer and writing teacher, I’ve written on the subject a number of times, and I’ll add links to the articles if anyone is interested, but one of my big comebacks to those who think they can write a bestseller by sitting down and typing for a few weeks is to compare writing to basketball. A would-be writer may have the imagination to create a good story, but writing is a craft which must be learned. Most writers without training and a long learning process are as likely to produce a publishable or readable novel as someone who has watched a few basketball games can go on the floor of an NBA game and hold their own against professionals.

    And the best way to deal with those who diss is your attitude, not theirs. If you believe in what you do and who you are, they can’t diminish you. You define you, not them.





  26. Well, I’ve come back three times now. I only realize it when I see your faux Viking Helm! Branding! Yeah. Then I recognized Kristen. Half way through the post TIME WITH LAMB = TIME WELL SPENT. Now I have your last name. Better sign up for blog. And post from my blog. I just won tickets to a Big Head Todd and the Monsters concert because I answered an e-mail. I could use a critique of 20 pages. 😉 And I’m lucky, cause I work hard and toss my hat in the ring! Thanks, Kristen ‘VikingHelm’ Lamb

  27. Reblogged this on Jeannie Hall Suspense and commented:
    More great advice for writers…

  28. Link to this via my blog toughlovetrain, FB and Twit. Kristen, you slay me! Great post.

  29. You said in the video that NY knows good writing but they have also passed over some books and authors who have gone on to great success.

    With those two things in mind, how do you know when a rejection from the NY boys is because your writing sucks and how do you know when they just can’t see the brilliance of your work?

    1. Truthfully you don’t. It’s why you need good CPs and or look to people like me who WILL be brutal. We will tell you the truth. Is it that it is a good book and NY just thinks there is no market? Or do you suck? Or are you a niche market that scares them? THAT is when you need to cultivate those @$$hole outside experts 😉 . Remember NYC is about money. Sometimes a work IS good, just not something they want to invest in…at least not initially.

      1. This is what scares me as a writer and it’s the reason I’ve never written more than 5000 words for a single piece. The response I have gotten is unrealistically positive. While I find some flaws, I tend to like what I’ve written as well.

        But then I read something by someone who swears they are just misunderstood or unappreciated for their brilliance and I read the work they are referring to and it is, to be polite, god awful trash.

        I think I write ok. But everyone seems to think they do. How do I know I’m not as delusional as everyone else?

        Guess it’s time to start looking for competent CPs. Thanks for the reply.

        1. Send me five pages. Kristen at wana intl dot com. It may take time to get to. My poor winner from October is still waiting on me for his 20. I got slammed with pneumonia so I am catching up. But I will rip you if you need it.

          1. I not so sure I’m looking for ripped but I won’t turn down honest, even if it’s brutally so.

  30. As always, I love your straight forward wit and humor when examining such content. Thank you for your insights.

  31. Thank you for this post. I always know there’s something great to be learned from your posts and wasn’t disappointed this time either. I’m self-published and even though my first book sold better than I’d hoped, I know I have a lot of room to improve. One challenge for me is that English isn’t my native language so while that stops me from thinking I automatically have all the tools for writing a book, it does create new problems. But that’s why I always look for native English speakers to read my writing. And I try to learn something new every day and become better.

    I had a question about your blogging class (hopefully it hasn’t been answered somewhere, I tried looking). I’m not yet sure if I’ll participate but I was wondering that if I purchase the class and watch the recording later, is there a way to ask you questions? I don’t know if there’s some sort of chatting option during your live class or not, but was just wondering if we’re able to ask questions afterwards.

    1. Yes you can ask questions during the class and if you cannot attend I will be happy to work with you either through e-mail or we can arrange a meet in the virtual room 😀 .

      1. Thank you for the answer! I registered and am looking forward to the class, though I’m probably not going to be able to participate live due to the time difference.

  32. First time reader of your blog, here. Interesting and informative.

  33. If the self-published authors you speak of are really hacks and amateurs then no one will read them, or if they do, they will give bad reviews. So other than clogging up the catalogue they don’t really do any real damage. That is the thing about self-publishing. Everyone can give it a try, but only those who work hard, practise lots and get better will forge a career writing.

    You mentioned musicians, that everyone can tell when a musician can’t play, but that doesn’t stop the poor souls trying out for ‘Idol’ or similar competitions. It doesn’t take long for them to find reality.

    At the end of the day, the public get to choose, which is freedom at its best.

    Thanks for your point of view. I still found some great ideas and your article.

  34. Great advice, and your book really gets to the nuts and bolts of social media. I’m struggling with my blog content and need to dig into the concept. Thanks for giving great content every time you post!

  35. I’m doing it all 🙂 blogging, publishing, sending out monthly newsletters. Just waiting for the big bucks to finally start coming in :0. Enter me in your drawing so I can be ripped to shreds!

    Also, I’ve been reading your blog for a while but can’t remember you saying anything about newsletters and setting up a mailchimp account to capture emails. What is your thinking on this?

    1. I don’t do them just because most people are SO overloaded in e-mail these days and click through rates are awful. It is a lot of work to just add junk mail to your poor readers. I prefer blogs. You get the same information to your active fans and search engines deliver new innocent victims daily 😉 .

  36. Somehow both frightening and encouraging. Small steps for now, but always forward.

  37. Just loved the video. You are so spot on 🙂

  38. Great post! And thanks for the video too. I’ve gotten so frustrated with some of my “friends” who are “published authors,” and then when I go to read their words, I’m so disappointed. I also get so frustrated at the looks of disdain from people when I tell them I’m trying to get published. Those looks are always followed by, “are you self publishing?” as if they have no confidence in my ability to be traditionally published. I work so so soooo hard to learn everything I can. I write every day and purposely write the things I know will be hard to write because I know it’s good for me and it’s just practice right now anyway. Your blog has been a great help and a constant dose of encouragement. Seriously, you are talking directly to me all the time. This is a topic I was actually just thinking about.

    1. Well, self-publishing really has nothing to do with level of talent. Hello? 50 Shades was published traditionally and I am sorry but that was a train wreck that barely counts as writing. Yeah, yeah haters can hate. And Snookie’s memoir was traditionally published. So traditional publishers aren’t always the vanguards of great literature but yes they are a fairly high bar for the most part. Just also remember (and I should blog about this) that some of the greatest books of our time and the most successful have come out of self-publishing. “Wool” and “The Martian” just thinking of two. “Wool” is simply GORGEOUS writing. So self-publishing is not always crap, it just gets ALL the crap because the hacks don’t have to meet any standards.

      1. Very true. Thank you! I’m posted a link to this article on my latest blog post.

  39. Great post, Kristen. I love the video. Thanks for the chuckles. I’ve made all the mistakes, too, and then some. Can’t wait to ready your book when it comes out!

  40. Reblogged this on Book Genesis and commented:
    There is some great information here for authors on branding.

  41. Thank you for sharing your honesty and offering your thoughts on the industry. I hope to take o e of your classes down the road too.

  42. Dear Kristen:
    You’re right, I have to read your blog!
    James M. Copeland

  43. “I can’t count the number of times I have heard people say to me, ‘I’ve always wanted to write a book. I just never had the time.’

    DUDE…totally! The time thing kills me. Every time I hear this from someone, I smile because they’re insane. 🙂

    Your cat’s pretty impressive as a published author. My two are editors. They prefer being behind-the-scenes, so they don’t have to market themselves.

    • Heather W. on January 16, 2016 at 11:54 pm
    • Reply

    Your latest blogs have stirred up a whole nest of wasps, including some authors I really like and respect. So I had to really consider their POV vs. yours, and it was really interesting… both in cases of seeing how people were missing your message because of your writing style and in seeing cases of how people seemed to be able to read what you had written but not actually see what you were saying and instead were arguing in absolutes. I love reading your blog and how it makes me think and look at things in new ways! 🙂

  44. Kristen: In my humble opinion, there’s a huge Grand Canyon size difference between writing fiction and non-fiction in terms of what works with regard on marketing self-published books. Your blog works because you’re selling water in the desert. I’m selling sand (novels). People don’t look down their noses when I say I self-publish, they ask, “Is it available at Barnes & Noble?” Ans. No. “Is it available at the local library?” Ans. No. I either have to carry copies in the trunk of my car or hope they’ll take a minute to order a copy from Amazon or the other online vendors. P.S.: I do have a brand, but so do 100,000 other novelists.

    1. You’d be shocked, Hon. Even though the reason I could not traditionally publish a social media book was because it would have taken them a YEAR (minimum) to get the book to market and that is god-awful slow for a social media book? Folks don’t really consider that. Still can carry a stigma. But that is fading. And no, most novelists have a book, they really aren’t branded. As bookstores continue to disappear and more shopping goes on-line? That won’t be as big of an issue and if B&N doesn’t change their business model I give them 5 years.

      And shockingly, fiction sells WAY better than NF these days. If I really wanted to be making money writing I would get my tail in gear on my fiction (which I have—I just got a mystery thriller to a small press that is run like a traditional but very new and innovative). That is what I am going to work on more this year because yes, it is sand in the desert but it is also NICHE. Just keep pressing 😉 .

  45. Wow! I have been blogging for years; now I know why I haven’t had a new follower in over twelve months.Thank you so much for writing and inviting us to learn from your experience. You have quite literally made my day. Now … if I can just figure out how to re-blog this blog on my blog! Sigh!

  46. Damn … hit the button too soon. My blog is not coming up in the selection available to ‘reblog’ this post. My wordpress babies are still in formatting stage, NOT a good look! The blog I want to post and share these words of wisdom to is, Is it possible to post it there, from here?

  47. Cool @

  48. Great post. I self-published, because I became so fed-up with my book sitting on my desk, the words hidden from the world. I have had great reviews (from people I don’t even know). But I suck as a marketer, and am more interested in writing my next book. Do I regret self-publishing? No.
    As far as my blog goes – I don’t blog every day – and granted I don’t have a gazillion followers, but that wasn’t my goal when I started blogging. I love the blogging friends I have, and I am happy with that. Your post however, does bring up some really interesting points, and I thank-you for that. I must now go away and ponder all of this.

  49. You nearly always say things that resonate with me.

    I always rail against all of the absolute crap that just makes it hard for people to find my genius novel. (Ahem.) I don’t mind when people say they want to write a book, I always tell them to go for it… and then find the best editor they can who doesn’t care about their feelings.

  50. Borders Books used to be my meat and potatoes. I had my books there and in Barnes and Noble. When Borders went BK then B&N got a big head and dropped small-time writers like myself. But I live in an area with lots of tourists so I can go to the beach and sell lots of copies there. But yeah, it’s hard now to sell ebooks for anything more than $0.99 although I have tried some of the cheaper paid promos that use email and have made some money while getting a huge albeit temporary spike in Amazon rankings.

    Stephen Tremp

  51. Reblogged this on Writer's Treasure Chest and commented:
    Here’s another fantastic blog post, written by Kristen Lamb. Her posts are very interesting, educational and in a simply great way humorous. There’s so much to learn from Kristen. Each of her posts is like opening the door to another part of the world. Thank you Kristen.

  52. Great post as always!

  53. I AM a tad tired of the people that say… and think…they can write a novel (a novel that makes sense, has a beginning, middle, end, a plot, alluring characters…a point)
    I once had a woman tell me an e-book isn’t a real book. It was my first publication and her negativity really hurt my feelings. Then she proceeded to tell me that she’d been writing a REAL book ( you know, the paper kind) but, as most people say, she just hadn’t had the time to finish it.
    Not sure what happened to her and if she published or not, but over time I’ve learned to appreciate my talent and not let others bring me down 🙂
    I love your blog, Kristen. Love your wit and wisdom.

    Have a great week!

  54. I have studied fine arts, graphic design and illustration and most of my friends are artists of one sort or another (or many.) One common lament among graphic designers and especially illustrators has been the cheap competition and stock images. Illustrators have been particularly hard hit because publications that used to hire illustrators now use stock images and hope for the best – frequently leaving readers to wonder if the image/photo was truly part of the story or just of the same theme and therefore deemed appropriate. (For instance a photo of a smouldering fire on a story about a house burning down, rather than a photo of that house actually burning down.) (Okay, that’s photography and not illustration, but it’s the same idea.)

    It seems that a lot of the art world is suffering from a shifting paradigm. The ones who make it out alive will be the ones who learn to survive in the new world. Thank you for taking the time to show how that is possible – regardless of the frustrations and/or fears.

  55. This post makes me want to go “OKAY, mom”… 🙂 **hustling**. ‘Bye now!

    • senseiorlando on January 28, 2016 at 12:11 am
    • Reply

    Reblogged this on Nascent Novel and commented:
    Some thoughts on Branding and why it matters. Please read!

  1. […] Source: Selling Books in the Digital Age—We ALL Have an Image Problem & Here’s What To Do […]

  2. […] Kristen says […]

  3. […] account, nor would I suggest that course of action to anyone. I recently read a great post by Kristin Lamb about the nature of books in the digital age. There are quite a few gems of wisdom within her words. […]

  4. […] Selling Books in the Digital Age—We ALL Have an Image Problem & Here’s What To Do | Kristen Lamb’s Blog Kristen’s advice is golden to any writer so if you’re not reading her blog yet, you should definitely give it a try! […]

  5. […] Selling Books in the Digital Age-We ALL Have an Image Problem & Here’s What To Do by Kristen Lamb […]

  6. […] couple of days ago I was reading Kristen Lamb’s blog.  Her most recent post is a good read but it was the video at the end that got me to thinking.  In the video, she says, […]

  7. […] Selling Books in the Digital Age—We ALL Have an Image Problem & Here’s What To Do by Kristen Lamb […]

  8. […] Selling Books in the Digital Age—We ALL Have an Image Problem & Here’s What To … […]

  9. […] As a side note, here’s an interesting article about selling books in a digital age.  I’m not there yet and I will admit that I’m stressing a little bit about this (thus the reason for my post).  Regardless, you might find it interesting.  Selling Books in the Digital Age […]

  10. […] Selling Books in the Digital Age—We ALL Have an Image Problem & Here’s What To Do – Kristen Lamb with a delightful picture of a pig in a tiara. I’m a little torn about this article. Lamb has a little diatribe about how self-publishing has muddied the waters around what it means to be published before launching into reasons why authors need brands and ‘platforms’, and blogging is the way to do that. […]

I LOVE hearing your thoughts!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.