All right, so Monday we talked about The Single Best Way to Become a Mega-Author, which is—in a nutshell—write a LOT of (good) books. They key is being prolific and this applies no matter what type of publishing we choose. If you go browse a local used bookstore (which is almost pure legacy press) trust me, you will see the same names over and over and over and over.
Readers have always had a tendency to be parochial when it comes to their reading choices. We tend to find a writer we like and stick like glue until we have exhausted their titles. Why? Because reading a book is a HUGE investment of our most precious commodity—TIME.
We don’t want to spend an average of 12-15 hours of undivided attention with just anyone. We also are in an age where we are inundated with choices, which tends to short circuit the brain cells.
But many writers want the magic for selling a lot of books and frankly, that doesn’t exist. Huge success with such a subjective commodity is still, to an extent, trying to capture lighting in a bottle.
Ah, but we can improve our odds. First with, as mentioned, multiple good books. Then there is social media and building a platform.
Our Foundation Matters
The foundation for all goods and services (brands) is the relationship. Nothing sells without establishing, building and improving the relationship. Relationships take time, effort, energy, prayer and patience. They can take years to build and moments to destroy, so we must always value that relationship.
This is ALL commodities from restaurants to grocery stores to soap to shoes to electronics. Samsung was and is a strong brand, but how much damage did the Galaxy 7’s exploding battery do? Consumers no longer could trust the product so they lost faith in the brand.
The same goes for authors. One of the many reasons I love for authors to have a blog is that it is an excellent way to create a relationship and build trust. You guys come to this blog because you trust that you will be educated, enlightened and entertained. Over 1100 blogs and still going and still improving. You don’t come here and get frustrated with a sea of typos, poor grammar, etc.
I’ve worked hard to create a relationship. I give first. Yes I mention classes and my books, but no one is required to buy. But because I give first and often, no one is offended that I list a class because I am not just taking, taking, taking.
Same with social media. Those who follow me on Facebook know what to expect. Most of the time, I share funny memes or engage people in conversation. I comment on their stuff, “Nice dress!” “Love the new profile pic!” Small acts every day. Again giving.
So when I finally DO post something about a class or a book or a conference I already have a foundation. I have a base of people who know me and who hopefully enjoy my company and so when I “advertise” the response is more positive because, out of everything I post, the “taking part” is far less than the giving. Instead of….
Yet how many writers don’t want to be on Facebook, they don’t like Twitter and they only join to blast people with ads and free books and giveaways. They only get on their author page to talk about themselves, their signing, their event, their book. They don’t take five minutes to care about anyone else, but we’re all supposed to drop everything to serve them?
They don’t even give their time. Rather they cheat with automation, but they want MY time?
Sure. Right on that,
A Little Goes a LONG Way
The shocking thing is that we really don’t need to give all that much for it to matter.
For instance, if someone emails me with a question of a favor, and I recognize that name from comments on my blog, I will often move heaven and earth to help, and often for free. Yet, I can’t count the number of people who email me with a copy of their book for me to review or edit and they’ve never taken two seconds to say so much as hello.
So I am supposed to part with my money and 15 hours of time I don’t have?
Same on Facebook. They IM me to vote for their book or buy their book or for me to promote their book and they have never taken two seconds to so much as comment on a post, say hello or talk to me.
These people are TAKERS.
But the people who always post comments or share or promote me? Again, it is ridiculous the hoops I will jump through to help a giver.
Newsletters are the same deal. My email is absolutely flooded with lazy writers who paid some company to somehow get my email. 99% of newsletters instantly go in the trash, and in a way those newsletters offend me. This writer couldn’t take two minutes to talk to me to even see if I READ that genre? Oh, but they’re happy to take.
Ain’t nobody got time for that.
This is one of the reasons my book Rise of the Machines focuses so much on the day to day building of the brand and platform. Writers always assume I spend vast amounts of time on social media.
Aside from the blogs? I pop in randomly throughout the day for a few minutes and that’s it.
If we don’t have those small everyday actions that accumulate into a relationship of depth, then it is a craps shoot. Additionally it is a race to the bottom of who can give away the most stuff and for the cheapest or FREE. That is the price of wanting the fruits without the roots and perks without the works.
Marketing & Advertising
All marketing and advertising works better with an established relationship. Why are we more inclined to actually use a Starbuck’s coupon? Because Starbucks has created a relationship with its product and service. Their coupon is far more likely to be used than Joe’s Joe Shack because we don’t know Joe from Adam.
Unless Joe offers us a coupon so ridiculously cheap we cannot ignore it? It’s far more likely to go in the trash or be forgotten. And even if Joe succeeds in getting us in the door, he is still starting from ground zero building our trust. If his coffee sucks? It won’t matter if he gives an even steeper discount the next time.
In the beginning almost all writers are like Joe’s. Legacy gets a bit of a pass but not much. Most readers don’t buy books by publishing house. In fact they might be hard-pressed to name one of the Big 5. But, if a book is on shelves at B&N, that book (author) is then using B&N’s relationship (brand) to kindle its own.
But since most readers aren’t going to B&N? As I said, a small pass.
Even in a bookstore the writers we know will almost leap off the shelves at us. I can’t count the number of times I bought books I hadn’t planned on buying because I knew the author from Facebook, Twitter or their blog (the GIVERS).
The rest of us (indies in particular) are going to have to do a lot of giving to establish the rapport, proving we are a good investment of TIME.
I did this with my blog. Y’all know my style, my voice and can trust I produce content you enjoy. Not a huge stretch to imagine my books probably would be at least as well written as my blog. So when I have a book for sale, I’m building off an established relationship (brand).
Additionally, if I told you guys that one day next week, I was giving Rise of the Machines away for free, I guarantee more people would grab a copy of ROM than if I just popped out of the blue and ambushed you with free books.
Or if I said ROM was on sale for $2.99 I would have far better ROI than some stranger foisting a cheap book at you.
See, any marketing or ads or giveaways or sales now will work better because I’m not just assaulting you from the ether with free and or cheap books. That giveaway or freebie is just more value added to something already valuable to you.
There are a lot of wonderful book marketing people out there, but the stronger that base platform and brand, the more they have to work with. They’re marketers not magicians.
Ads are a failure if no one clicks it and no one buys. I don’t care if we get a newsletter list of a million. If no one opens it and no one acts and buys the book, again it is a failure.
How we improve those odds is first creating the relationship on-line with our blog or social media. Then eventually the books. If they trust us in a blog and we impress them with a book? We are golden so long as we keep nurturing that relationship. Ads and marketing work better.
But, skip the foundation? Skip the relationship building? Skip the day to day? It is a long, unpleasant and all too often unsuccessful battle that, in the end, will cost far more time, effort and money than if we just did the little stuff day in and day out.
For more help with that, grab a copy of my book and check out my blogging and newsletter class (listed below) 😀 . Oh an I also am giving away an AMAZING free gift to those who sign up for classes. It’s a secret but I PROMISE you it rocks.
What are your thoughts? Do you get those writers who you add as a friend and the first thing they do is spam your wall? Has that EVER worked?
I LOVE hearing from you guys!
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I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
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Be a Better Hooker (How to Write a Compelling Newsletter)
April 29th $45
In this class, learn how to compose a newsletter that is entertaining and compelling—and all without stealing most of your writing time. Learn how to get your hooks in your readers and keep them until the end.
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Just bought your book Rise of the Machines and anxious for it to arrive. I’m so looking forward to reading it. Thanks for the newsletters. Lots of good information.
I know you know it, but I see sooo many authors do it wrong. I have a pile of “What Not to Do” people on my Facebook 🙂 The person who shares every blogpost on her friends’ timelines and in groups, but doesn’t interact other than those spammy posts. The person who adds all her friends’ friends so she has the numbers for “platform.” The person who posts ads and promos only. The arguer, the poor speller, the taker, yep yep.
I much prefer (don’t we all?) those who are personal. Not all about writing, or reading, or selling. I love finding those authors and learning from them. I’m working toward being like that on my blog and social media. Always growing here 🙂
Well TRUST me, I always enjoy your comments and appreciate you taking time to be so thoughtful. I REMEMBER people who do this.
Relationship, relationship, relationship! That’s what good marketing is about. I keep reminding myself of that. I’m no good at self-promotion, but relationships . . . after thirty-five years of ministry, I think I know something about that! (P.S. – I can’t believe I’m the first to comment. That has not happened before.)
This is on point. I especially love the part about popping out of the blue and ambushing with free books. It’s one of the reasons I rarely give my books away for free. I want to but something about it annoys me. I hear how helpful it is to authors but I get turned off by the volume of books that are free or 99 cents. They be coming out the woodworks. I’d rather just purchase something I think I’ll like.
Yes!!! I have had this conversation countless times with writers who think they *need* the latest gimmick to sell their books (touted by people who claim they sold a million books in one hour with this *ahem* not-too-costly book/plug-in/doodad). This is such a perfect post that it makes me happy. 🙂 I can refer to it and say, “Here, confirmation and wisdom from a successful pro.” Thank you!
I’m a long-time reader and I wanted to say that this blog post was OUTSTANDING. I shared it with two of my author friends who are celebrating their debut releases soon and are wondering how to reach readers.
Thanks for all the hard work you do helping authors!!!
Love this post, very inspiring and informative.
Timely reminder, thanks Kristen, it’s been 5 years since I did your course. . and though it is a struggle to find the universal to write about sometimes I am glad to be reminded that it’s really about relationships and giving.. and get writing the next blog. 🙂
I enjoyed the post.
I confess my blogging is lacking but my FB with others is there and my branding is there too. Right now, my health is the only thing standing in my way.
So what you’re saying is that we should actually comment instead of lurking and reading everyone else’s comments. 😉 Not that I would do such a thing. Of course not. *shiftyeyes*
LOL. You know I don’t even mind lurkers. If I get a message that starts with “OMG I love your blog and read it all the time I just don’t comment and so sorry…” I trust it. Pretty easy to spot people who’ve never read my blog (I.e. Would you review my book on your blog? Um…no. NOT a book blog). But it is funny how just that little bit—Hey I read your blog—makes ALL the difference.
Glad you quit lurking though. Wonderful to meet you 😀 .
Thank you! I have your posts emailed so I don’t miss any, and checking on my Kindle Fire (not at work, oh, never, that couldn’t possibly be why I’m using it instead of my laptop) makes it difficult enough to comment that I just read. 🙂 Tappity tappity on a auto correcting touchscreen is crazy making!
I feel lucky to have stumbled upon your blog today of all days. I suck at social media. My introversion plagues me with anxieties, and I cannot wrap my head around it. The idea of building relationships, and giving a little time every day really makes so much more sense. I feel less intimidated by this now. Thank you.
And we should most definitely not hit submit without setting up notifications for others’ comments. This isn’t a drive by. Oops!
Joe’s Joe Shack. Now there’s a brand that speaks to me.
This made me laugh so hard! 😀
You don’t have to be a Blog posting genius, a Facebook pro, a Twitter techie, or an Instagram guru to be successful. But you do have to do one new thing every day. Over time it adds up and one day, there you are. That is my game plan; every day, one day at a time. Thanks for the encouragement.
I still refer to my notes from your log line/synopsis class all the time. Especially when I forget what the book is about : )
Since you ask (so nicely) for suggestions regarding blogging topics . . . would you perhaps think about doing a round-up of author websites that in your opinion work well? And, here’s the kicker: could you focus on authors who are still emerging, as in those who don’t have a big backlist (or maybe any backlist) yet but are on the right path? I’m trying to find good examples of sites from authors who are beyond where I am (short stories pub’d, one collection self pub’d, one novel in the query process, another novel struggling to be born), but who aren’t yet Stephen King or, say, Kelly Link. Or you 🙂
Thanks for considering!
I love your blogs and am an avid fan. I hear you on the relationship building. I comment on FB posts. I rarely talk about my writing life. Seriously it’s as interesting as a sponge. I try and blog at least once a week, but finding fun topics can be a challenge.
My jaw-dropping moment was when an author I’d barely met on FB sent me her manuscript to critique without asking. Hmmm. Well, no.
This is fantastic! I appreciate the honesty. As well as the reminder that it’s worth it to actually participate in a community (I tend to be more of a lurker, sorry). Having proof that it works here is good, too.
Eee! Eee! Eee!
Years of commenting have finally paid off 😀 and at just the right time! Which is to say, if I’d sent you 5,000 words of what I had when I first started reading your blog, I’d be getting extradited to the US to face charges 😀 I’ve learned a lot since then.
Excitement! Terror! More excitement! Formatting… I suddenly understand what people mean when they say they feel like they have to clean before the cleaning lady comes – because oh law, what if she sees?
Thanks for this post Kristen. This week I’ve been listening to some of the audios of your social media classes that I took recently, so this post is very timely. I feel less stressed at the thought of social media now after hearing all the different ‘advice’ out there. Yours is one of the few that makes sense and is completely ‘doable’. I might still have a love/hate relationship with Facebook right now, but I’m hoping with time it will get better. 🙂
Mad keen follower on Facebook. I love your posts. As a blogger I know I don’t do enough, but I do like the opportunity for interaction that social media provides. I don’t always comment, but I do ‘like’ and ‘heart’ a lot 😀 Finding the balance between marketing and interacting is the key. Thanks for sharing this post.
Hey, another lurker here :O I have been a member of WANAtribe for quite a while now and always love the posts but this one really resonated. Yes, yes, yes I am totally fed up with spammy posts from people who have taken no time to cultivate a relationship, to even bother to find out if I would be interested in their book, their story. I love that ROM offers a different path, a more authentic (and less greasy car salesman) path to connect with people.
What I am struggling with right now is being a children’s author and feeling a bit creepy (that’s too strong, maybe unsure is better) about reaching out directly to my readers. It’s middle grade so these kids mainly do have emails and most have social media but somehow I feel weird about cultivating these relationships. I would love you too do a blog on that problem and I promise I will share it with every children’s and YA author I know x
You aren’t reaching your readers directly. You are cultivating with adults who buy and choose the books (parents, moms, teachers, librarians). So don’t fret about it 🙂 .
Great question, Jessica! Some of my shorts are aimed at this age group, and I feel the same queasiness about directly promoting to them. And since I have a part-time thing as a middle school roving teacher, I have opportunity to connect with real live middle schoolers . . but I’m there to teach them, not to, ick, exploit them.
Still, they’re old enough to make their own buying decisions about books. So, I’m right there with you: let’s see what Kristen can teach us!
I’m reading “Rise of the Machines” now — when I first heard about it I thought it was sci-fi because of the title — and am finding it both helpful and therapeutic! Thanks for all your terrific advice, Kristen.
Dear Ms. Lamb;
I have been reading your informative lessons for some months. Thank you for the help and humor you’ve provided.
Hello Kristen. I bought your book ROM about a year ago, and I honestly have to say that I’ve only read about half of it. It feels overwhelming to me. Yes, I’m a social media introvert, so I’ve decided to following your blog instead. You’ve asked us to provide ideas on what we would like you to write about. So, I have two questions. 1) In your opinion, if my book (which is a fiction novel) is still only in manuscript form, and I have nothing yet to sell, (I’m pursing the traditional publishing route at this time) how do I start a following on social media?
2)Next month, I’m attending a writer’s conference, and have two appointments with literary agents for a 10 minute pitch. When I meet with the literary agents, what are some good questions I should ask them, rather than just make a pitch?
Thanks for your witty sense of humor and keeping it real. We have to laugh at ourselves or we’ll all go crazy.
I sometimes feel like social media is all about popularity. And even though I have stories I want/need to tell, I’m intimidated by the numbers game. Just saying hi and being friendly is enough? I can just be my insecure self? That takes off a lot of pressure.
Every time I read one of your posts, I share it on Twitter with my opening comment being something along the lines of, “Yup, Kristen’s right again.” You are awesome!
By the way, I don’t know if anyone else caught it, but this line made me giggle:
“But, if a book is on shelves at B&N, that book (author) is then using B&N’s relationship (brand) to kindle its own.”
Was the play on words (the last three in the sentence) intentional?
Love you, Kristen!
LOL! I wish it were intentional. Probably more Freudian though since a lot of us use B&N as showrooms for what to buy on ebook 🙂 . Thanks for the AWESOME support ((HUGS)).
Love your posts, Kristen. You’re one of the real ones, not like pie-in-the-sky advice givers! I know I don’t do enough social media, but I do try to encourage those who do and am trying to do better. And yes, I resent those who (mostly) just push their books. If I really like a book, I post an Amazon review and have gained some author friends I would never have had if not for the review. Keep on encouraging us with your real world advice!
Sound advice, Kristen – I’m knew to your blogs but loving them!
I rarely comment but am an avid Lamb reader, and I’d add, I very picky reader of blogs. I have also bought ROM and appreciated the wisdom there as well. I recently changed publishers (small but rising press), expect to have the 2nd edition of my first book released soon and have the second in the series out now, with plans for the third later this year. I hope to really push when I have three available, and I’m avidly studying what works. Thanks for the useful insight!
I’ve emailed you to ask a question, but I don’t believe I’ve ever commented on one of your posts before. I am always so impressed and appreciative of your generosity and expertise but because I’m a newbie I can’t think of anything intelligent to add. But I look forward to your posts, I always learn a lot, I loved your book You Are Not Alone, and I’m working on building a platform now that I’ve released my first book. And I’m using much of your advice. Just a shout-out to let you know I’m a fan. 🙂
You are so generous with your advice and teaching us the ins and outs of this crazy writing business, and in the process we’ve come to love you. Especially your humor. You always make me chuckle. Your books never disappoint, so you’ve proved your point in this post. I feel I know you. Heck, you’re the WANA Mama, so you’re family. And I have to say your classes rock. I always learn so much.
Hey Kristen, did you know that this blog post is featured in the ACX newsletter round up? Check it out! https://blog.acx.com/2017/04/14/this-week-in-links-april-10-14/
This reminds me of the old adage people will forget what you say, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
I’ve been building my brand & platform for a couple of years now. My MS is in the submission phase. I don’t yet have anything to sell but I’m building bridges and paving my way forward by connecting and sharing. I haven’t started a newsletter yet, I know I should. But I’m stumped, what do I put in the thing. How did you start out?
You don’t need a newsletter yet. I recommend a blog.
Kristen, I always find something of value in your blogs, even if I’m behind in reading them. You are describing me–social media introvert who blogs but has few readers/followers. So today I bought your book because I obviously need help. You made me think of an author who offered me a guest blog slot and then inundated me with commands to follow, share, Tweet, etc., about HER books. She actually said since she had helped me she expected me to help her. But we had no relationship. She never reciprocated to guest post on my blog. Her entire attitude turned me off and every time I see her name I’m reminded of her behavior.
Thank you for breaking down the promotion process. Writing is the easy part! I much prefer building relationships in person, but the great thing about blogging is that it is publishing and anyone anywhere in the world can read what you write.
Thank you so much for all your great post. I always read and get so much from what you have written.Keep writing, you are helping so many of us in ways you probably never knew 🙂
I need to follow your advice to do a little social media each day. Case in point, today is May 7; I am an entire month behind in reading your blog. I bought ROM, but haven’t started it yet. A friend told me to use a calendar to schedule these things. Think she has a point!
You are so right on taking time to build relationships. A thing most people forget doing and usually because of some “expert” advice.
It might work on short term but not for long. From my experience people just want to feel human and know they are appreciated.
So glad I’ve stumbled upon your blog!
Treat others as you want to be treated. My facebook is mostly for talking with my family and friends. I have a few book groups I like, I follow a few authors (I’m going to follow you next time I log into Facebook.)
But hell not it’s for spamming people. !@$% I can’t stand that stuff. I can’t stand people posting too many memes in a row (I’m talking like 15+) Or those annoying image postings that say try guilt trip people into giving likes over some opinion they have. Or worse gamers on cafeland treating people with being taken off their friends list if they don’t right now be as active as that person want’s them to be so they can have some virtual hearts. People like that get muted so fast.
I have no problem sharing a writers book that just came out, we need to stick together after all! I haven’t had any problem with authors spamming me so, am lucky with that so far. But then again I follow Stephen King and Mike Wells. They know better.
As for me once in a great, while I might post lots of youtube videos to my favorite songs, pictures of my son, our cat, and very rarely a link to my wattpad book. And that’s only when a new chapter has been finished. So that’s not going to happen for a while as the duct tape (as you say is coming off so it’s fallen apart.