Recently I traveled to Indiana to teach blogging to the IRWA. OMG I love speaking to RWA groups! Romance writers are my absolute favorite people and it’s always such a joy to teach for them. The downside always is I have to go home and apparently “keeping” the attendees is called “kidnapping” and is a “federal offense.”
The FBI are such party poopers *rolls eyes*
Anyway, one challenge I face whenever I teach social media and branding and blogging is I have to undo a lot of really bad and frankly WRONG teaching. This presents some challenges for me in that often, many writers attend my lectures out of obligation. They are there because they are biting a bullet.
*writer slogs in with a half-written suicide note*
And frankly, the way a lot of folks teach social media? I’d want to toss myself off something high as well.
What I want to do today is to help you discern a real expert you should listen to (because there are plenty other than me) versus someone to either avoid like the plague or to at least use some more discernment before taking what the “expert” says as gospel. Often when we go to conferences and listen to lectures, we are trusting the expert blindly but these days we need to be educated consumers. If we aren’t? I can cost us BIG.
So my goal is to help you guys go into the conference season and onto the interwebs better informed.
Without further ado, beware of…
Some “experts” frankly, are not. I hate saying this, but it is the truth.The digital age of publishing reminds me of the Gold Rush of the 1800s. There were plenty of folks who popped up on the scene to take advantage of an immigrant with a dream. They sold plots of land they knew had no gold. They sold maps and tools, and services knowing all along that the “miner” had about as much chance of hitting gold as flying to the moon.
We need to be vigilant in this new age because these people do exist, though these folks tend to pop up on-line (not at a conference). They are happy to sell some new fad or gimmick or plan and in truth? It’s snake oil. Thus if you see a shortcut that seems too good to be true? Likely is.
Feel free to run it by me if you are unsure, but I have been doing this social media thing since MySpace was big and I’ve never seen a gimmick that lasted long. Often there will be some trick, a few writers make a LOT of money, the “expert” then picks up this trick and sells it and the fact he/she can cite real success stories adds validity to what is being sold.
But here’s the deal. If this “trick” is being packaged? Odds are it is obsolete already. Someone is trying to make a buck off a ship that already sailed.
And don’t get me wrong, gimmicks do work. They just don’t work long term. If there is some magic way of doing algorithms so we sell a gazillion books on-line? By the time we buy the step-by-step plan then apply it? Amazon, Facebook, or Google’s IT people likely have already corrected the glitch that gave the mass advantage.
The big guys don’t like loopholes or shortcuts they aren’t charging us for.
Remember that 😉 .
If there is some special time of day to tweet while rubbing yourself in glitter and that sold a million books? Twitter has adjusted to be glitter-proof by the time we employ it.
*looks for receipt to return glitter*
Beware of Greeks Bearing Convenience
There are also some who teach social media simply to be able to sell services, and when I say “services” I mean you guys paying someone to do what you can easily do yourself (and I do see a these folks at conferences). Thing is, though, these folks will make it seem that it isn’t easy at all. In fact, it might even seem downright impossible. Their job is to overwhelm the audience because that is what sells services and writers make easy marks because many of us are intimidated by social media.
Most of these services are not only completely unnecessary, they can actually damage a brand…which means we are paying to damage our own brand.
We live in an age of authenticity and if Stephen King, Reese Witherspoon, and Samuel L. Jackson can write their own tweets? We can too. 140 characters should not be that big of a deal for a writer.
If Anne Rice can find the time to post and talk to fans on Facebook? We can too.
We don’t need to be everywhere and we certainly don’t need to pay anyone to post for us. The trick is meaningful activity which is something I have addressed in other posts, and that is something easily done in 15 minutes a day.
People would rather hear from US, not someone posing as us (even if that “someone” is a robot). *stabs automation in the face*
Any level of automation that requires outsourcing? That’s too much automation. Just saying.
Not All Experts Know What They Are Talking About
The bad thing is that often the expert is unaware of his/her own ignorance. They mean well, but they’re woefully misinformed. Years ago when I first started out, I fell prey to a lot of this well-meaning (yet completely inaccurate) instruction and it can create a huge mess.
It is also why I became a social media expert/watchdog for writers.
Do I think these folks are infiltrating conferences for the sole purpose of distributing misinformation? Lol, of course not.
Often they really believe they know what they’re doing, but they’re either new (thus to sound more authoritative than they really are, they pass on marketing information that sounds cool, but actually hasn’t been relevant since 2005) or they simply are not schooled in the unique needs of the author platform.
When in doubt? Google the expert and see for yourself. Is their FB page nothing but a string of adds? Is Twitter a non-stop self-promotional infomercial?
If this person is teaching you how to blog, what does his or her blog look like? Do they have a good amount of subscribers? A robust comments section? Lots of shares? If this expert doesn’t blog, no problem. Do they have writers they’ve taught who have solid blogs?
If they do blog, do they even have a blog that is relevant to an author? Not everything cross-applies. One vet may be fantastic at tending a cat, but not have near the knowledge base to tend a champion racehorse. Doesn’t make him a bad veterinarian, just not his specialty.
Same in blogging and social media.
If I am a business expert and my blog is all on financial advice and I sell books on how to get out of debt, what makes my blog successful might be great for the non-fiction author but a complete disaster for the high-fantasy author.
The problem is a lot of folks believe what works for one will work for all. They give a class with lots of advice about being on LinkedIn and doing interviews and “becoming an expert” and signing up for HARO *rolls eyes*, but if you look at their client list? LOTS of non-fiction authors and experts. All that advice, while great for the doctor who wants to write a diet book, is a good way to turn creative people into cutters.
In the end, a lot of this boils down to getting educated and that takes away the fear factor. It is harder to take advantage of us if we are calm and informed. I recommend (duh, obviously) my book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World or take a class (Lisa has a Facebook class coming up). But, though I am a huge fan of money, my first priority is to help you guys.
I work very hard to make sure y’all are prepared and armed against those who might take unfair advantage. So feel free to peruse my archives for all the social media information you require to be savvy and make good decisions.
What are your thoughts? Do you have any pressing questions?
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Still hate social media, but I’m getting better at making myself do it. The blog class helped, as did the word cloud.
Still trying to figure out Facebook without being consumed by it.
As always insightful. I’d also add always try to convert to email your social media connections. Not to spam them, but social media isn’t forever. Look at Myspace!
If we have email and internet we can still reach our peeps!
Content (marketing) and social media seem to be two of the most searched phrases on Google and there are no shortage of “giving people” on Twitter that I see selling advice and services to help build your brand.
I wanted to comment briefly, that I’ve never read another book that talked about social media (whether for authors or any other business), more helpful and easy to read than “Rise of the Machines.” Highly recommend this book (and Kristen’s blog) to everyone I meet. 🙂
Great post, Kristen. I am so tired of hearing from the experts, telling us what we have to do, then ask for money. Piff! And overworked writers are good pickings – thanks for keeping the light on. Some services are good, we just need to discriminate and be vigilant.
Perfect information for many of us. I receive tons of great ideas, from experts and not-so-much experts. Some, if I click on the site, say FREE TO YOU! and give us your credit card number for the program that is only 200 bucks! A class worth 2500 buckaroos!
So, that being said, these show up in my email and facebook page, and… twitter. I check them out. Then if they say free, and want to charge, I usually come back with ‘how is that free?’
Some famous authors purport to know all. They push ads on the TV, twitter, FB like they know everything. I have had friends drop a gazillion dollars to have a manuscript evaluation and rip apart. Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Some things must go. But when the voice, story is attacked and the author becomes disenchanted, that gives me ire.
Have you read Strunk and White lately? That was written in 1919? Let’s kill creativity! Check out the Chicago Manual of Style. Great material to help ya nap. And then, wildly popular Stephen King … what? No adverbs? Posh. Okay, so he is published to pieces, and I do read his work. Yawn.
I avoid that purple prose like crazy, but not all adverbs are evil. Maybe tired, overused and adverbs that don’t add… such as … “I ran really fast to win the race.” Huh. But what about something like … “Black-eye Susans, daisies and purple coneflowers popped at the same time, confused with the withering heat.”
Heat works. But if you’ve ever lived in Palm Springs, the heat is not heat. It is withering heat. Heat to make the brain addle.
So I avoid these schemes like a third-world ‘relative’ who promises three-million dollars… I also avoid writers who claim expertise without a single book written in 20+ years. Argh.
I opened my email just now: “How to Write a Novel: Everything You Need to Know in 15 Simple Steps” Get Free Report! Click here to buy one!
http://pred-ed.com used to be my go-to source to separate the good from the scam. Alas, the last time I went there to vet someone, this was (and still is) the message:
P&E Seeks New Caretaker
Unfortunately, much of the data on the P&E site has become stale and outdated, and needs a new caretaker with the time required to update the site. The listings are being removed until they can be updated by a new caretaker.
I now have several “experts” cluttering my email. At least they think they are experts. Who are they and are they experts? Bookbaby, Tim Grahl (sp), somebody named Lelia, I think. I know what Lightning Source is and now they have, “everything you need as a newbie author”. Are any of them knowledgeable?
Experts. I’ve been reading historical fiction for a while now. Some authors seem such experts(Jack Whyte for instance) on details of people, places, things, and even everyday routines they seem to have lived in the place and time period in which they write. That is very impressive.
Every time I feel weary and think why can’t I just pay someone to magically sell my books, I need to come back and read this post. Remind myself it’s part of the job.
Dang, I missed out on Twitter glitter! I’m always late to the party. I like the line about Anne Rice. It’s so true. The “trick” is to find the outlet that appeals to you and you can have fun with.
PS: Us Urban/Contemporary Fantasy authors are awesome too. (Not that the Romancers are great too)
“aren’t” great too ?
The problem with experts isn’t just limited to social media. There’s a lot of writing “experts” out there who don’t know what they’re talking about, but talk a good game and some who don’t.
Maybe it’s just me, but lately I’ve been seeing a number of people on Twitter mention in their bios that they are ‘social media experts’. I find these as tedious as the ‘buy my book’ tweets and ignore them. There seems to be so many ‘experts’ these days, it’s no wonder writers get confused.
After regularly reading your blog for years, I had no hesitation in buying your book and taking your social media classes. I highly recommend these to any writer as your advice is one of the most helpful I’ve found. And by the way, I love that header picture Kristen. 😉
I’m still working on my book and I’m doing research on social media. I’m so glad I came across your site. I look forward to using your advice when my book is finally ready.
I’m looking forward to hearing you talk social media at the Romance Writers of New Zealand conference in August. Keeping attendees is not a federal offence because we’re not a federation, but it is still illegal. Sorry.
I was in the class in Indiana and it was awesome. I may have made a similar ‘joke’ about kidnapping but it was aimed at Kristen;0) It was awesome and if anyone has the chance to see her speak, you should jump on it. In addition to being super smart, she’s wicked funny.
I’m on facebook and Instagram, and my blog is being built, but I haven’t bitten the Twitter bullet, as yet. I don’t know why exactly. I keep thinking it’ll die soon. LOL I wish it would die soon. Yeah, totally wishful thinking there. sigh.
I pretty much hate the hashtag world. I hate the way the conversation *looks* if it even becomes a conversation. It’s ugly! And if it doesn’t become a conversation, it’s ugly and seems like yelling into the void.
Clearly I have a bad attitude about Twitter. At least on Instagram, you’re seeing pretty or interesting pictures. But with Twitter… yeah, a little birdie doesn’t make it cute, or remotely aesthetically pleasing to my eye.
My name is Cathy, and I have a Pretty-problem.
Great info, as always. Your blog is my must-read. Thanks! As a side note, the shot of the creepy clown in the hillside was taken a few miles from my home in WI. We are a friendly Midwestern bunch. LOL
Thanks Kristin. I am so tired of experts sending us to other experts (from whom they obviously get a kickback) who promise the moon, take two hours to wear us down, and then hit us with “their” promo package. It’s like the “1 funny trick to reduce your belly” ads.
What I’ve learned from you has always been solid and given me a standard by which to measure others. I think the main thing to remember is that every “expert” has their own biases for pet platform-building techniques and one must judge that expert’s experience against your own ability and schedule. It also helps if they allow that you may have a different favourite SM platform than they do.
You teach “principle” over specifics, and that is what I look for in other teachers, too. A great teacher gives you the blueprint and lets you choose the tools that work best for each aspect of the project, not just hands you a hammer and insists you use it for everything. Cheers.
Hello Kristen! I’m fairly new to your blog, even though I am not a writer yet but more of a reader, I do enjoy the information and expertise you have to offer. I was wondering about something not necessarily related to this post.
I have noticed from my own behavior that I am more inclined in general to read posts by authors (and others)and follow them on Medium platform rather than their own websites. Could you possibly give us your thoughts on how useful that could be; its relation to having a blog; to gaining readers, etc.
Kristen, sharing this post as part of my presentation on blogging for Jackson WordCamp. Great example.
My social media rule of thumb is “Did I get excited reading this and I know others will too? Then SHARE”. Be present, be yourself, and be interesting. Luckily it applies to offline life too!
Excellent advice. I’m terrible when it comes to social media, which I suppose limits my success (duh????). I’ve taken courses on social media from reputable vendors (Writer’s Digest mostly), but my approach is SO haphazard, it’s amazing I get anything out of it. Really like your blog posts. They are witty and helpful, a winning combination.
Hi, Kristen! Great post, as always.
As an author (5 books) and book marketer myself, I do offer services to authors (though I never refer to myself as a guru — no sitar playing up in here) — mostly, to help them learn how to do it all themselves. In fact, my tagline is ‘helping authors help their damn selves since 2011″ lol. With 30 years of marketing experience, it’s helpful for me to share what I’ve learned in my blog posts so authors don’t have to make my mistakes (I’m my own guinea pig), saving them time and money.
Practical advice is always helpful. If we can’t put specific, actionable steps in place with easy to follow instructions, why bother? That’s just annoying.
That’s also why I started my weekly #BookMarketingChat on Twitter — and would still love to have you as a guest if any of your Wednesdays at 6pm pst free up! Any of your readers are welcome to join — I share my own experiences and bring on tons of expert guests. All free, and all designed to help boost writers’ knowledge. No strings, no ads, no promos. 🙂
Thanks for being such a great voice of reason. xx