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Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Categorized: Business

Kristen Lamb, George Becker Photographer, Pexels, Play to Win, Amazon Killing Big Publishing, writing, publishing

Play to win. For me, this is a tough phrase. Maybe it’s culture or society or sunspots, but ‘winning’ feels like a suit cut for someone else. No, worse.

Playing to win feels more like the pants I once wore to a conference. Even though they were too tight, I wore them anyway believing they’d ‘stretch out’ once I moved around a bit.

But they didn’t, and after a while they were uncomfortable…no, they were cutting me in HALF.

I couldn’t breathe, my kidneys hurt, and my lower back ached so much I didn’t hear a single word of the lecture.

All I wanted was to rush to the restroom, unbutton the pants and use my hair tie for some give so I could breathe (women know what I’m talking about).

I didn’t feel pretty in those pants I’d worked so hard to ‘fit’ into. Didn’t feel confident or sassy. No, I was miserable and beating myself up for not choosing the stretchy pants I usually wore.

Stretchy pants would never betray me like this. Lycra doesn’t judge. Spandex understands.

We’ll get to Amazon, Legacy NYC publishing, the book industry, etc. But, we can’t understand why any organization is failing (or winning) unless we take time to understand the people who comprise that organization.

***Fair warning. This is a longer post, but a vital one. Creatives are at a critical turning point in our industry where we must make tough and educated decisions if we hope to make it.

Too many of us want to remain comfortable because fitting into something new is uncomfortable…no, excrutiating. Often it will take a lot more work, work we don’t want to do. Perhaps work we feel we shouldn’t have to do.

Maybe we shouldn’t. Maybe it’s unfair, but sadly fair is a weather condition and guess what?

A storm is coming.

Play to Win (at Letting Others Win)

Kristen Lamb, Suzy Hazelwood photographer, Pexels, publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I can’t speak for men, but as a female the whole ‘play to win’ thing was almost always discouraged when I was growing up. First, I was the oldest and thus almost always in charge of entertaining a little brother and (usually) three smaller cousins. Mainly keeping them alive.

Standards for childcare were far lower in the 80s. Thank GOD.

Anyway, being far older, it was kind of a dirtbag move to go all aggro on a six-year-old during a game of Candy Land.

Not that I didn’t try.

I joke I’m NOT Type A. I’m Type A+, because I did the extra credit unlike all y’all other slackers 😛 .

***’All y’all’ is correct grammar in Texas, FYI.

This said, my competitive nature was not always appreciated. There were plenty of times some adult figure chided me, instructed me to let the younger ones win once in a while.

Kristen’s Brain Even at 10: *LET them win? This…is…SPARTA!*

School wasn’t much better. I was reading Tolkien by fourth grade. I’d finish my work in a fraction of the time it took my classmates, and apparently that was not a good thing.

If I tried to read or draw, I got in trouble even though I was being quiet. Apparently, I was supposed to sit still and do nothing instead of cracking open the Heinlein book I’d swiped off my dad.

*face palm*

One time, I worked my entire reading workbook during the forty-five minutes allotted for a single assignment. My teacher, upon discovering my infraction, sent me to the place I would spend most of my growing up years…the hall.

True Story: I don’t even recall what my 3rd grade classroom looked like, but I DID figure out innumerable ways to entertain myself by making out patterns carpet.

It didn’t take long to figure out that I needed to wait a certain amount of time before I turned in my test. If I turned in my test when I actually finished, there was hell to pay from the teacher.

Teacher: Stop showing off. You are making the other kids feel bad.

Me: No, I am not showing off, I was finished. Also, for the record, ‘I am making the other kids feel BADLY.’ It’s an ADVERB. You JUST taught this. How are you a teacher?

*just heads to hall to my spot*

I was terrible at the whole inside words staying inside back then, too.

Play to Win (at Your Own Risk)

Kristen Lamb, Play to Win, Amazon, publishing, legacy publishing, writers

School taught me to hide any academic excellence. If I wanted to learn at the speed I craved, I had to work around the system. Learn on my time, not school time. Makes total sense.

And I did. I had all kinds of hobbies growing up—reading encyclopedias, reading the dictionary, playing with my microscope, using my chemistry set.

Sorry about that chlorine gas.

Being a complete nerd, I was socially awkward (and not much has changed). I never understood the nuanced ways of girl tribes, only that they generally required an outcast (usually me).

Since I didn’t fit in with the girls, I tried sports. Very confusing. Apparently when a boy nailed someone in the face in a ‘game’ of Dodgeball that was winning.

If I did it? I was being ‘mean.’

HUH?

The only team sport I was any good at was soccer. Problem was, there was no girl’s team. Much to the coach’s chagrin, he had to let me try out for the boy’s team, and it was brutal.

Hazing.

Loved…every…second…of…it.

Those boys tossed everything they could at me. I was bruised, bleeding, and even knocked out once when I blocked the opposing team’s shot into the net…with my face (NOT intentional, but hey it worked). Yet, I pressed on through tryouts.

When it came time to see who made the team, however, the coach cut only one player.

Me.

On the bright side, the boys on the team nearly mutinied over me being cut. They’d thrown everything at me and I was one of them, part of the team. I’d earned the spot because I was someone who played to win no matter what. The boys tried to protest, but it was 8th grade and—again—the 80s.

I’d like to say it got better in the 90s, but not really. In college, I encountered several professors who chastised me for being the only one to answer questions in class.

Me? I fired back that they really should have been shaming the rest of the class who didn’t respect them enough to do the assigned reading.

When I graduated, I went to work in sales (as much of a meritocracy as one can find in the workforce…usually). However, I once stepped up to present our product line to an audience of waiting (and agitated) clients because the manager in charge no-showed.

Afterwards, even though the customers were thrilled, another manager (female) pulled me into a back office. She informed me I was never to do that again if I wanted to remain at the company.

Me: Never again do what? Sell a lot of stuff?

Her: Women aren’t taken seriously in business, especially in the South. Leave the corporate stuff to the men. In the meantime, you’re pretty. Be affable and make others feel at ease and leave the presentations to the guys.

Horrified, I told her she needed to get out of her time machine. It was the 90s not the 50s, and quit that day.

Play to Win vs. Play to ‘Not Lose’

Kristen Lamb, Amazon, publishing
My Jiu Jitsu hands.

My mom was and is a hardcore Scandinavian woman (tough). When I was seven, a male visitor didn’t get his way. He raised his hand to slap her (big mistake)…

…while she was cooking.

Good way to DIE mistake.

Without blinking, she swung that hot cast iron frying pan into him like she was going for a grand slam. Whooped him with that pan THROUGH the screen door and all the way to the street. He never returned and my mom was my hero forever and ever.

My father loved strong females. He enrolled me in martial arts when I was four, was the one to rig his old Navy sea bag for me to use to train to fight and toughen my hands. Being former military, he believed I needed to be able to protect myself. That and…we’re from Texas.

According to my parents, there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do or be. Thus, the world was a very confusing place when it kept putting me in the penalty box for doing my best.

Odd message. Playing to win is for others. If you play to win, expect to pay a price.

Be nice. Be sweet. Share. Winning is not nice to others.

And you know what? I bought that pile of bull sprinkles until very recently.

But no more.

We don’t get what we work for, we get what we negotiate.

Death by Nice

Notice I used the word nice. Nice and kind are different. Kind has a spine. It IS possible to play to win and not be a jerk, bully, thief, etc. In fact, when we diminish our own light so as not to ‘outshine others’ everyone suffers.

Nice snuffs out the light so others don’t notice they are in darkness. Kind lends a flame so everyone can live in the glow.

Playing to WIN is good and you want to know how I know this?

Amazon is damn near taking over the globe in almost every arena from movie-making to groceries to music.

Personally, I’m fairly sure Amazon IS actually the foretold SkyNet. Good news is when Amazon finally assimilates the human race, I have Prime, so I get free shipping.

Meanwhile, the Big Six have steadily become the Not-So-Big-Five and I believe might even be down to the Spiffy Four.

While Amazon is expanding at a record-breaking pace, NY Publishers are condensing, shrinking, reorganizing, and living on the grace and passion of those sainted professionals who will work UNGODLY hours for crap pay solely because they love books.

***Bless you agents and editors.

Meanwhile, Amazon isn’t having to rely on volunteers willing to give up their lives, work for a fraction of what they’re worth for ‘the cause.’

Wanna know why?

Business has been in a cage match since the rise of Web 2.0., and while Steve Jobs (Apple), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), and Bill Gates (Microsoft) and others have been throwing punches, the former contenders have been too busy shaking 20th century snow globe, too mesmerized by the past to even protect their face.

While bloggers like me have shouted warnings for over a decade, the industries we love have refused to get in the fight and play to WIN.

We kept begging for someone to step up and get into the 21st century, for publishers to recognize they were (are) in the story and information business…not the PAPER business. 

Play to win. Better, still?

Play to Win in the Business You’re Actually IN

Amazon didn’t care HOW consumers wanted to consume a book: print, hard-cover, soft-cover, digital, used, new, audio….JAZZ HANDS. If the customer wanted a story acted out by mimes and was willing to PAY for it? And it could be profitable?

Amazon was ON it.

All the while, the big publishers clung to the Big Box model even as Borders was collapsing. After it died, not much changed. I detailed a lot of this in a post in January of 2018 when I AGAIN laid it all out:

From 2008 to 2017 B&N was forced to close an average of 21 stores a year. In 2008, they had 798 stores and as of September 2017 B&N was down to 634 stores, according to Forbes.

The latest CEO in a string of failures has come up at least one answer to what ails them. Barnes & Noble needs…smaller stores.

*sounds of Kristen railing at the heavens*

Excuse, me. Did I stutter?

So in 2016, Barnes & Noble hired the former C.E.O. of the office supply giant Staples (Demos Parneros) even though he had ZERO book industry experience. This was also the guy whose business expertise launched Staples to unprecedented success….

…wait, no that’s wrong.

Mea culpa.

No, Staples had to hire another C.E.O. to save the company upon Parneros’ departure, because according to The Street:

As of May 17, 2017, Staples held $526 million in long-term debt and had total liabilities of $3.2 billion, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

Sounds like JUST the kind of business visionary B&N needed to hire; one with the skills to lead an already flailing company(Staples) billions more into the red.

In all fairness, these numbers are a year after the C.E.O. left, but I feel it’s reasonable to extrapolate that the company didn’t go from raging success to the 8th Circle of Business Hell in less than a year.

Oh, but there’s more….

Granted, Parneros did have the bright idea that B&N needed smaller stores. Points for him.

But these days, instead of B&N planning how to WIN in the book BUSINESS (or any business), they’re embroiled in so much drama they should have their own reality show Big (Box Store) Brother.

Hmm, kinda catchy.

B&N fired Parneros for ‘alleged sexual misconduct.’ Sighs. Parneros claims this is all a smear campaign and untrue and the only reason B&N wanted to oust him was for something I’ve already forgotten.

Anyway, according to an August 2018 article in The New York Times explicating the Parneros drama of ‘alleged sexual misconduct,’ the mudslinging and lawsuits over wrongful termination…THIS is what stood out to ME (and probably SHOULD have stood out to B&N, too):

Barnes & Noble’s stock price has fallen 60 percent over the last three years, and the chain has struggled to reverse years of declining sales and foot traffic. In the last decade, the company has closed more than 150 stores, leaving it with a base of 633. It waged a losing battle with Amazon, losing more than a billion dollars on its Nook e-book business.

Even as independent bookstores have bounced back and Amazon has expanded into brick-and-mortar retail (which, incidentally, I predicted would happen in multiple 2012 blogs), Barnes & Noble has still failed to recover ground.

After ALL this, Barnes & Noble is considering just selling itself.

Doesn’t sound like playing to WIN at all.

Playing to ‘Not Lose’

In my not-very-humble opinion, NYC was so accustomed to being THE Publishing Pantheon, that they didn’t do so well when the rise of e-commerce and Web 2.0 cast them down to Earth.

Instead of being on the offense, sticking and moving and learning how to play the new game and dominate it?

They wasted precious time trying to rekindle ‘The Good Old Days’ and protect their besties Borders and Barnes & Noble at all costs. They couldn’t fathom a world where they weren’t the leviathans…and Amazon used their Big Box BFFs’ bulk to crush the life from all of them.

How ironic that the movie You’ve Got Mail has now come full circle.

Joe, you really SHOULD have listened to her. And AMEN, Kathleen!

Hollywood…I mean Amazon (or Netflix) should make a You’ve Got Mail 2.

In it, Kathleen Kelly reopens her indie bookstore Shop Around the Corner. She stocks the new store by buying the (ironically) bankrupted Fox Books’ store inventory for pennies on the dollar. But she is NOT a jerk.

She’s thoughtful enough to offer Joe a job purchasing office supplies, furniture, decor and specially requested books for her shop…from AMAZON.

😛

Back to US

Anyone who’s read my blog over the years knows I have ranted, raved, offered suggestions and ideas to help legacy publishing and even big box bookstores. I’ve begged NYC to play to WIN.

Yet, here we are, the business landscape eerily similar to the late 19th century and early 20th century (when we transitioned from the agricultural age to the industrial age).

Once again we teeter on the edge, risk falling into the grip of ‘New and Improved’ trust giants and robber barons (as we transition now from the industrial age into the digital age).

From my post in 2012, Amazon: Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts:

Amazon right now is in the courting phase with writers, and it is using us (writers) as a weapon to kill our former masters. Ah, but if Amazon really gets its way…what then?

When NY is razed and Amazon has no real competition, do they have to keep giving us the same sweet royalty rate? And they already have a nasty reputation. They pulled that little stunt with a publisher who dared to cross them. Two years ago, they removed all the ‘Buy Buttons’ off all the Macmillan titles. 

So, if Amazon will use the brass knuckles on a major publisher that crossed their path…what about us? The little guys? What happens when a writer miffs them and they unleash the gorilla?

The giants are rising and why? Because they play to win. Or as Joe fox would have said, they’re willing to…

Go to the Mattresses

As writers, do we play to win or play to ‘not lose?’ Tell me any game, any sport where one can WIN playing strictly defense.

We’ve got to start taking this seriously. If you’re a writer, then you are a business. Trust me, Apple doesn’t work for exposure dollars and neither does Amazon.

Why should we?

Writers PAY to hear marketing experts tell them that, to be successful and make money, they should give away free bookmarks, free bags, free flair, free downloads, and free books. Give a FREE prize for someone giving them a free email.

They should speak for free, blog for free, give interviews for free, and work for free. Oh, one suggestion and I actually heard this from a promotion expert. 

Give a FREE bottle of wine with your book.

I wish I were making this up.

In what universe do ANY of these ideas make mathematical sense?

Last I checked 0 + 0= 0. And 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0= 0.

And zero is the least of our problems since bookmarks and prizes and books and time all have a cost. If these folks can’t grasp that no matter how many zeros one adds together, the SUM is STILL ZERO?

I can’t even broach the concept of how one adds negative numbers.

Besides, isn’t that how 21st century Apple became the mega giant it is? It gave away iPods and iPads for enough exposure and THEN consumers suddenly were willing to stand in line for ten hours and drop $900 for a new iPhone?

….maybe not.

FREE Should Never Really Be FREE

Some free is fine, even necessary. FREE can be an amazing business strategy when used properly. When we play to win, FREE is NEVER actually FREE. It’s built into the price, or it’s actually a quid pro quo (something for something).

FREE can be a way the seller rewards the consumer in exchange for the consumer’s willingness to agree to a greater financial commitment (e.g. all purchases over $100 and shipping is FREE).

FREE is also something used to entice consumers into a longterm financial commitment. Apps do this all the time. Get a week free of all the meditations you could ever want, and after that FREE week, the app will be $7.99 a month (charged via iTunes). Cancel when you no longer want the service.

Your first trial month of Netflix is free, but after that Netflix costs money every month. On and on.

These are examples of FREE with a plan, FREE with dignity and design and a goal toward a profit.

Free without strategy is just begging sans the obvious tin cup.

Y’all are SO MUCH better than that kind of free.

We Have a Write to WIN

Yes, creating art takes time, work, training, tears and a lot of hard work. It takes love that surpasses reason along with stretching ourselves and learning new things.

Sacrifice, self-discipline and all the tough stuff. Pretty much like it’s always been. Only we now have new roles, roles we are wise to learn either so we can a) do them ourselves or b) be educated enough to spot talented teammates from smooth-talking cons.

We’ll be able to discern experts from “experts” (those folks still pushing marketing and social media strategies older than my favorite yoga pants).

This is how we play to WIN.

And yes, maybe this seems all doom and gloom, but I’m not in the candy business. It’s a Brave New World where artists (currently) have little to no protection.

But, good news is—as is usually the case—the pendulum is swinging back the other way with some things moving in our favor (I’ll talk about these in some of my upcoming classes, not my blogs).

Other good news? Legacy publishing still has a pulse and a place, but they have got to start playing offense. Play to WIN. PLEASE!

***Seriously, call me.

There are new business models emerging where creative professionals are being paid. Additionally, there are ways to Amazon-proof ourselves. Again, not bashing Amazon. Yet, while Amazon is great for the moment, but we need to have a structure in place that does not rely on us needing Amazon (or any ONE entity).

If Amazon fails to remain a good business partner/decision, we should be in a position to move on and have a plan for exactly when and how to do that.

For the traditional publishers, this IS your Rocky IV. 

Amazon is Drago. Drago killed Creed (Borders) and you’re down. I get it, and totes understand. And Drago has the advantage of all this scientific equipment and super high-tech training, but suck it up, get in the snow and drag some logs.

Y’all didn’t rule the world for a century for nothing. Remember who you were.

Champions.

As for the writers. Excellent authors (creatives) deserve an audience of givers, fans, and die-hard supporters. We deserve better than a race to the bottom of who can give away the most for the least. To do this, though?

Play to win. I know you can do it. It’s going to be uncomfortable and possibly scary, terrifying and painful. For a lot of us, this is new or not new but still terrifying. But we can change, grow and train how to be in it to win it.

Now, go play some Eye of the Tiger and get back to writing that book.

MARCH’S AWESOMENESS (CLASSES)

ON DEMAND: A Ripple in Time: Mastering Non-Linear Plotting

Taught by Kristen Lamb, $55 Delivered to YOUR computer to enjoy at your leisure.

SALES: For Those Who’d Rather Be In Witness Protection

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Thursday, March 12th 7-9 PM EST $99

Social Schizophrenia: Building a Brand Without Losing Your Mind 

Too many voices telling ALL THE THINGS! AHHHHHHHH!

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Friday, March 15th, 7-9 PM EST ($55 General Admission/ $195 GOLD)

***Yes, I will be teaching about Instagram among OTHER new business developments in this class.

Harnessing Our Writing Power: THE BLOG

Taught by Kristen Lamb Saturday, March 16th 2-4 PM EST $55 General Admission/ $165 GOLD)

Story Master: From Dream to Done

Taught by Kristen Lamb, March 28th, 7-9 PM EST ($55/$349 GOLD)

Fiction ADDICTION: The Secret Ingredient to the Books Readers CRAVE

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Saturday, March 30th 2-4 PM EST $55

 

 

 

 

drudgery, Atomic Habits, James Clear, Atomic Habits James Clear, boredom, Kristen Lamb, success

Drudgery—enduring the tired, tedious and unremarkable chores—is what makes the difference between those who dream and those who do.

Why am I talking about this? Because recently I saw some quote scroll past on social media. It was something (of course) posted by one of those super happy ‘life coach’ people.

Though I’m certain the quote was meant to inspire, it hit a sour note with me. It seemed dismissive of the pain, sacrifice and—yes, suffering—of those willing to dream, and then stick to that dream.

I don’t recall the quote’s exact wording (they’re all so similar), but the saccharin essence was the same. Apparently, if you don’t LOVE every single moment of what you’re doing, then maybe you don’t have the right career.

Keep searching! Dream! You have a right to be HAPPY! If it isn’t making you HAPPY, then MOVE ON!

As a social media expert, my role is to guide creative professionals and train y’all to get the most out of social media (without selling your creative souls). My mission has always been to help writers use their imagination along with digital tools to craft their brand.

I have zero desire to lobotomize creative people and turn y’all into sales bots.

The ‘brand’ serves to help writers curate content most likely to attract those who dig what they have to offer. This is working smarter, not harder. It’s simple, Stephen King’s fans are NOT the same as Amy Tan’s.

The content eventually evolves into what we call ‘our author platform.’ From there (our platform), we can create relationships/friendships and cultivate a passionate audience who might not only buy our books, but who might also eagerly spread the word. Yay!

Words like brand, platform, sales, audience, etc. might be dirty words for some people, but I don’t have such luxuries. I doubt many people do. Even mega-authors whose NAMES ALONE sell millions/billions of books use social media.

If Sandra Brown sees value being on Instagram, Anne Rice actively engages with fans on Facebook, and J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) uses Twitter, suffice to say we could take a lesson or five.

See, writing—much like any worthy undertaking—comes part and parcel with a lot of drudgery and loads of stuff we’d rather not do.

Learning Curve Drudgery 

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A lot of folks believe that just because they’re proficient in their native language, they are then automatically qualified to write amazing fiction. Yeah…no.

Not judging at all. I used to be one of those people. I had zero concept how ridiculously hard it was to craft a readable story, let alone a good one.

Writing a novel that could span anywhere from 50K to 150K words (depending on genre) that manages to grab then hold a reader’s interest? AHHHH! Balancing plot points, plot arc, character, dialogue, scene and sequel, A-lines, B-lines, on and on?

It doesn’t take too long to understand why many great authors turned to booze and drugs.

*gives Poe a pass on the whole ‘heroin addiction’ thing*

Far too many writers start out believing the first novel they write is perfect, and if anyone counters this? They fall apart. Some give up. A few hire ‘editors’ who are happy to tell them ‘the other meanie editor was totes unprofessional and it’s fiiiine to have fourteen POVs all from cats.’

Others double-down on the denial and write a sequel or—God help us all—a series of equally crappy books that don’t sell.

Why?

Because learning to write novels is hard.

I’ve been through this, myself. My two main mentors both made me cry…a LOT. And I am NOT a person who cries.

These mentors were nothing like my writing group. My writing group was so encouraging!

Bob and Les didn’t tell me my writing was unicorn tears, they told me it was more like what might come out of the other end of a unicorn.

No, not a unicorn. A hyena with tapeworm and a bad case of mange.

*weeps*

I didn’t love writing the same stuff over and over. Guess what? Didn’t love reading and rereading the books they recommended I study.

Come to think of it, I didn’t love putting out my best only for it to come back with so much red I wondered if it had been hit by a bus then SHOT before they returned it.

Sure I could have quit. Thought about it a lot. A lot.

Because shouldn’t I LOOOVE every moment of what I do? But, I didn’t quit because I wanted to become an excellent writer. I’m still a work in progress.

My critique group were fantastic cheerleaders, which we need…but not necessarily to make us better.

Cheerleaders look super pretty, but cheerleaders don’t train touchdowns.

Coaches who call out bad form, terrible plays, and awful habits create winners. These experts are hired to criticize, make a player watch footage over and over and, if warranted, do cherry-pickers until the player wants to DIE. Might seem ‘mean’ but THIS is what will help that player make touchdowns.

Drudgery. Not pom-pom waving.

Writing Drudgery

drudgery, Atomic Habits, James Clear, Atomic Habits James Clear, Kristen Lamb, success

There’s drudgery in the actual writing. Oh no! Yes, you heard it here first. Writing, while one of the BEST jobs in the world, contains more than its fair share of suckage.

The first draft can be loads of fun, until the mire of Act Two where you find yourself contemplating sudden and unexpected alien abduction—either for yourself to spring you from writing, or for your characters because you’ve messed up somewhere in the plot and written yourself into a corner.

Becoming successful in writing (or anything really) is never in the BIG things we do. It’s the compilation of a lot of small acts that build up over time.

It is showing up day after day even when we’d rather get a root canal than figure out what went sideways somewhere between page 1 and page 400.

We have to research, proofread, edit, revise, and all of this takes focus and time and pain. By the time a book is ‘ready’ to be published, odds are you’ll hate your own book and hope you never have to read it again.

***FYI: The feeling passes…eventually. Most of the time. Maybe.

Publishing Drudgery

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For those who want to traditionally publish, there is the drudgery of writing synopses and query letters and researching agents. Add the drudgery of the actual querying and subsequent waiting.

Meanwhile, most of us have day jobs and laundry and family members who expect to be fed every day #HighMaintenance.

Oh, and make sure to start writing the next book 😉 (refer to the love-fest above).

For those who choose a non-traditional path, we have to locate and hire the best people. There may be multiple iterations of a cover. Then, if you believe you’ve found all your typos in your seventeen passes? *clutches sides laughing*

And if you believe the proofreaders and editors caught all them too? Maybe, but..

drudgery, publishing, success, Kristen Lamb, Atomic Habits, Atomic Habits James Cleary, boredom

On top of this, add in bookkeeping, record keeping, accounting, building a platform, understanding keywords and SEO and blah, blah, blah.

Suffice to say that YES, writing is a WONDERFUL job! I wouldn’t be here fifteen years later if it was all bad. Yet, I do have to confess that choosing to become a writer showed me the worst parts of my character…in Technicolor.

I didn’t start blogging because I EVER believed my blog would be what it is today with millions of unique visitors. Want to know why I began blogging? I had ZERO self-discipline.

I’d become a person who didn’t want to do anything that I didn’t LOVE. If I wasn’t having FUN, then clearly I’d chosen the wrong career, right?

Wrong.

The Drudgery Delineation

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Is it REALLY closed?

People who reach their goals and dreams are different for sure. Are they more gifted? Talented? Unusually good-looking? Perhaps. But, more often than not, these folks excel at handling the boring parts of the dream.

Recently, I finished James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits (which I HIGHLY recommend), and he said something that piqued my attention:

The greatest threat to success is not failure but boredom. We get bored with habits because they stop delighting us. The outcome becomes expected. And as our habits become ordinary, we start derailing our progress to seek novelty. Perhaps this is why we get caught up in a never-ending cycle, jumping from one workout to the next, one diet to the next, one business idea to the next. As soon as we experience the slightest dip in motivation, we begin seeking a new strategy—even if the old one was still working.

~ James Clear, Atomic Habits

Everyone wants the ripped body, but few are willing to show up every day, month after month and year after year, even when the weather is miserable. The same can be said for writing.

You have NO idea how often I hear, ‘If I only had the TIME, I’d write more.’ As if time is laying around in the couch cushions with the petrified Cheerios and the TV remote no one’s seen Twilight was big.

Hey, I have been guilty here, too. Still can fall into old (bad) habits if I fail to remain vigilant.

The reason they believe they must FIND TIME? It’s likely because they’ve hit the part of the writing process that’s actual WORK. It’s ceased to be a glorious high.

And, if they don’t start a new book (chasing the high), then they put off writing altogether using excuses more creative than their plot ideas.

Hey! Told y’all I have been guilty too…so no hating 😛 .

Yet, when we look at anything worth achieving, from writing an amazing book to being a great parent to running a profitable business, we see that it is how these individuals handle the millions of unremarkable unexciting and downright soul-crushing (but necessary) tasks that makes all the difference.

We see the same common denominator in every success story, from the legendary athletes willing to do the same drills over and over until perfected to the entrepreneurs who mined drudgery for the edge they needed to outpace all competition.

Can You Handle Being BORED?

drudgery, Atomic Habits, James Clear, Atomic Habits James Clear, Kristen Lamb, success, boredom
Nope. No cake.

Everyone loves new beginnings. The new relationship with no baggage and all hugs and kisses, the smell of the fresh notebook, the empty page waiting for all of our brilliant ideas. We love the new blog because it holds so much promise.

Then there is the new workout from YouTube, the new diet we found on Instagram, the new craft project we saw on Pinterest….

A lot of us fixate on whether we can handle the BIG moments, the MAJOR crises but I’d actually offer different advice. Back at the start of the year I recommended that, before we made any New Year’s Resolutions, we ask the hard question.

Could we fall in love with pain and process as much as the end result? Everyone loves the summit selfie but few want the climb. It comes with hypoxia and pretty good odds you’ll die and no one will be able to claim your frozen corpse…ever.

#MotivationMonday

😀

Many of us LOVE the idea of six-pack abs…but we LOVE tacos more. We struggle after a few weeks. Why? Because we are tired, sore, and even though we’ve been working out for a WHOLE MONTH, we still don’t have a ripped physique.

Heck, we can’t even see a muscle. We’re tired of the pile of smelly clothes, the aches and pains and having to measure all our food. It isn’t FUN. In fact, it’s downright tedious.

We don’t LOVE the gym, the job, the book, the YouTube channel anymore because it’s day after day of nothing all that special…and pain.

Lots of that.

Catching Fire

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Yet, all these small actions add up over time. When we embrace the dull actions and commit, we will eventually ignite. Ray Bradbury poetically asserted paper had an ignition point of 451 degrees Fahrenheit. The actual number is about thirty degrees higher.

Paper will burst into flames at about 480 degrees Fahrenheit (without being directly exposed to flame).

Using this analogy, let’s take our metaphorical paper and heat it to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, then 250, then 300, then 440, then 451. Boy, this is boring and taking a LONG time and taking energy. Nothing is happening.

Heat it to 460, then 470, then 477 and then throw up your hands because paper NEVER sets on fire without a high-budget marketing plan…I mean match.

Or, maybe there is a marked transformation somewhere between 477 degrees and 482 degrees. At 477 degrees Fahrenheit all looks the same. Oh but add in a little more energy and IGNITION. And this ignition all occurs within a range of a couple degrees.

The same goes for becoming a successful author (as in a professional who’s PAID to play with our imaginary friends). A major key to success largely rests on how we handle the boring parts. Can we keep going, keep putting on the heat when it looks as if nothing is happening?

‘Success’ doesn’t have a canonized ‘ignition point.’ If it did, being successful would be easy.

If I knew I had to write five books, three series, add in a hundred blogs and forty three good reviews to reach literary stardom? Dang skippy I’d stick with it. There wouldn’t be ANY drudgery, because I’d have certainty.

But that’s the problem.

The ignition point for succeeding in anything is anything but certain (and might not even exist in some cases). It differs between people, generations, goals, industries, abilities, etc. We DON’T KNOW and THAT is precisely why drudgery can so easily undo us if we let it.

In the End

I want all your dreams to catch fire—your dreams to write, create, to be an excellent parent or partner, to achieve the remarkable.

If you can appreciate that every masterpiece began as a blank canvas, a hunk of marble, an ugly cement foundation, a sketch, or an idea and that IN BETWEEN there was a lot of wash, rinse, repeat? You’re on your way to reaching those goals.

We’re rarely limited by our talent, yet we’re all too often hobbled by impatience. Drudgery makes us cave in too soon. It takes time to hone skills, learn a craft, build an audience, etc. Just keep pressing and hopefully you’ll see your ignition point and it will be the most beautiful light you’ve ever seen.

Then you get to do it again for the next goal 😀 . *smoochies*

But, you’ll be better and stronger because you know to expect the span of suck before the breakthrough!

Again, I read pretty much every book published on self-help, business, entrepreneurship, so it’s SUPER tough to impress me. Atomic Habits did contain a lot of the standard success principles, but there were also PLENTY of moments that made me stop and really think. Angles I’d not seen explored before.

If you get a chance, pick up a copy of James Clear’s Atomic Habits.

What Are Your Thoughts?

I love hearing from you! Do you struggle with the doldrums in your dreams? Is it hard not to just start something new? Have you been starting over so much that maybe that’s why you aren’t further along? Are you so sick of your book you want to cry? #GotTheTShirt

Don’t you wish we had the magic ‘temperature’ where our dreams LIT UP? Some way to know if we were close? Or even heading in the correct direction? Have you struggled with learning to finish what you start? Been too easily distracted?

Talk to me! Oh, by the way…

Kristen Lamb, Cait Reynolds

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

MARCH’S AWESOMENESS (CLASSES)

ON DEMAND: A Ripple in Time: Mastering Non-Linear Plotting

Taught by Kristen Lamb, $55 Delivered to YOUR computer to enjoy at your leisure.

SALES: For Those Who’d Rather Be In Witness Protection

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Thursday, March 7th 7-9 PM EST $99

Social Schizophrenia: Building a Brand Without Losing Your Mind 

Too many voices telling ALL THE THINGS! AHHHHHHHH! Taught by Kristen Lamb, Friday, March 15th, 7-9 PM EST ($55 General Admission/ $195 GOLD)

Yes, I will be teaching about Instagram in this class.

Story Master: From Dream to Done

Taught by Kristen Lamb, March 28th, 7-9 PM EST ($55/$349 GOLD)

Fiction ADDICTION: The Secret Ingredient to the Books Readers CRAVE

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Saturday, March 30th 2-4 PM EST $55

 

promotion, book ads, does advertising sell books, promotion and marketing for books
Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Ken.

Often, when I mention brand and platform, writers assume I am talking about promotion and marketing (ads). That is not only a false assumption, it can be a fatal one.

When we (regular people) hop onto Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook or whatever social site, only to get barraged with book spam, a big reason it annoys us is because the author hasn’t taken time to build rapport, earn our trust, and gain permission to sell us stuff.

I kid you not, I signed in to LinkedIn for the first time in like a YEAR the other day and, in less than an hour, some author sends me PM with a link to buy his book. No introduction or hello or liking my stuff or asking if I had pets…

HERE! BUY MY BOOK!

….sure. Right on that. Nice to meet you, too.

*grumbles* *now remembers why I hated LinkedIn*

When approached this way, the promotion either becomes white noise (invisible), or worse, an irritation (negative branding). Writers trying to create a brand by serving up copious book promotion will create a brand all right.

The brand of self-serving @$$hat.

The sight of the author’s face or book might even be enough to spike our blood pressure. We are far more likely to block than buy.

Why? What went wrong?

For promotion to be effective, we have to understand what a brand actually IS.

If we don’t understand what a brand is, then promotion becomes an exercise in futility. Why? The most effective use of promotion—marketing, ads, contests, etc.—is to extend the reach, visibility of an already existing brand.

Sure, some companies will flood the market (prime the pump, so to speak) to launch a new product, service, business that no one knows about, but this is ridiculously expensive and extremely risky. It’s also being done less and less even by companies who have the cash to take this approach.

Brand is not what it used to be.

As Seth Godin said back when the entire concept of branding was being tipped on its head, ‘A brand used to be something else. It used to be a logo or a design or a wrapper. Today, that’s a shadow of the brand, something that might mark the brand’s existence. But just as it takes more than a hat to be a cowboy, it takes more than a designer prattling on about texture to make a brand.’

Even BIG companies these days are going to social media to create the stories, memories, interactions, sets of expectations, conversations and interactions that—taken as a whole—comprise a brand.

Once the brand is defined, the audience cultivated and a rapport established…THEN promotion and ads can be an asset.

Before all this prep work though?

Fuggetaboutit

The days of dropping tens of millions for promotion and ads are gone. It doesn’t work in our modern culture.

In fact, static marketing and traditional promotion had already begun declining in effectiveness with the rise of direct marketing (junk mail).

The barrier to entry for ‘marketing’ fell away with the invention of cheap laser printing.

This opened up advertising and promotion to companies that didn’t have a bazillion dollars to spend on promotion. Right after the inception of Web 2.0 (birth of social media), this decline in effectiveness compounded exponentially.

Even though experts like Seth Godin (and upcoming experts such as myself) wrote post after post discussing how the nature of brands had changed and promotion had to evolve as well, this didn’t stop the big boys from throwing their weight around.

Because if a crap-ton of expensive promotion had worked for a hundred years or more, why wouldn’t it keep working?

Um, because the world was (is) different. The audience had changed and promotion had to change in order to reach an audience that had long moved on.

Alas, it took losing $10 MILLION advertising on Facebook for GM to learn what they could have gotten off my blog for free. Ads without an established relationship (platform and brand) don’t work.

What’s in a Name?

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Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Pierre Lognoul

The formula for a brand is simple:

NAME + PRODUCT + EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE

The last part is critical. In fact it might be the most critical.

Why do you think corporate empires pay so much for image consultants? Sure, Mylan once had a great reputation as a pharmaceutical company until they got greedy and decided to line their pockets at consumers’ expense.

A few years ago, if we heard the term ‘epi-pen,’ we might have experienced good emotions. Oh it is a life-saving drug. Helping kids with peanut allergies. My cousin had an epi-pen and it saved her life.

Nowadays? Different story. Once consumers found out the top execs had been giving themselves HUGE pay raises while hiking the cost of the only ‘known’ drug of its kind from $100 in 2007 to over $600 by 2017? Everything changed.

See, the company had a great product and had managed to create a rapport with consumers and build a relationship founded on trust. But then Mylan got greedy and took advantage of their consumers, which destroyed the relationship, obliterated trust and—in short—destroyed their brand.

No amount of promotion in the world can repair this. Why? Because this is an excellent example of the order of operations: product–> relationship (platform/audience) which leads to–>promotion–>sales.

I use this example to demonstrate that, while product is essential, brand is more than just the product. Promotion can’t take the place of building and maintaining a strong relationship.

This example is also to illustrate how important emotional experiences with a brand can be, that it has never been just the product.

It isn’t just about a book anymore.

Why Are Brands So Important?

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Most of us don’t have time to research each and every purchasing decision and thus, we as consumers, are prone to rely heavily on brands. Brands let us know what to expect.

When we buy Dolce & Gabbana shoes, we expect a certain quality. We go off the name and do far less inspecting and road-testing than we would for a designer/manufacturer we’d never heard of.

We are willing to order ahead of time and pay full price and even ridiculous prices for Louis Vuitton, Ralph Lauren, Prada, Versace, Harley Davidson, Porsche, Tesla, Apple products, John Deer, etc. So on and so forth.

But all of these companies (brands) did the same thing. They began with a solid product linked to a name that promised a unique experience. The name Harley Davidson would be just a name unless it came with a very distinctive type of motorcycle (LOUD).

But a name and a product alone are not enough.

What is a Platform?

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Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Alex Santosa.

Platform is tethered inextricably with brand. If brand is the product, then platform consists of those most likely to consume that product because they emotionally identify with the brand.

Trust me, Harley Davison is not worried about consumers who love Vespas. Sure, they are both motorized bikes, but they are selling to members of vastly demographics and also delivering very different experiences.

Authors are doing the same.

We know who Stephen King is because of his brand (which is a direct result of his products–stories). Because of his brand (tons of books, screenplays, short stories) we know if we are part of his platform or we aren’t.

If we are the type of reader who loves a riveting women’s fiction? King isn’t trying to court us. Why? We might know his brand, but we are not part of his platform.

Stephen King is not worried about Liane Moriarty and Liane Moriarty isn’t worried about Stephen King. Different products, different audiences.

In the old days, there was only one way to create a brand (and consequently a platform) and that was the books. Lots and lots of books (brand) cultivated a body of people who liked our writing/voice (platform). Today that is still a great plan.

With so much junk floating around, when readers find a writer they enjoy, they stick like glue.

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Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Craig Sunter

Consumers (code for readers) still do this. This is one of the main reasons that we need to keep writing. Stop promoting ONE book. ONE book is not enough to create a strong brand/platform.

Remember:

A brand is a collection of emotional experiences.

A platform is simply those who will enjoy that experience.

Modern writers hold the advantage here.

Before the digital age, it was practically impossible to create a brand outside of the books, because the book was the only source of emotional experiences with the author.

Readers rarely had contact with an author beyond the books. Book signings, maybe magazine or radio interviews gave only slight glimpses of the author beyond the book. Today, with social media? That is no longer the case.

Every blog, tweet, podcast, Instagram post, YouTube video, etc. collectively serve to create the overall brand.

Yet, I want to stop here because there are two HUGE problems I want to discuss.

Problem #1: Please, STOP WRITING

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One thing that’s really begun to stand out to me is that far too many writers are…writing. Bear with me. Writers, or authors, are storytellers. Great, you have 80,000 words. That doesn’t mean you have a story.

Writers don’t only write words. We create profoundly emotional experiences…and happen to use words to do this.

Yes, this section is a bit of a segue, but trust me. This small side trip is vital.

I cannot count how many editing samples I receive that are writing, but are NOT stories. This is a BIG DEAL. Authors are in the business of selling stories, not word count.

Let me illustrate, and bear with me. I am riffing this:

Example One (Writing):

Fifi woke up at six in the morning. She reached out her hand to turn off the alarm on her phone, then she pulled off her covers. Sitting up, she put her feet on the floor, stood and walked over to her closet to pick out what to wear today. She caught a glimpse of her auburn hair and peridot eyes in the closet mirror and chose a purple sweater with a gold scarf.

Turning, she walked over to the bathroom, turned the knob and opened the door. Reaching out her hand, she turned on the water, then turned to hang her clothes on the back of the door. Turning back, she stepped into the spray and used her new shampoo, the one that smelled of jasmine and periwinkles.

She washed her long hair twice, because the directions said so, and followed with a deep conditioning treatment because she needed the extra three minutes to go over all she had to do at her new job in customer service at MyNet today.

Example Two (Storytelling):

The ear-splitting blare of a foghorn dragged Fifi from Chris Evan’s embrace right as he was about to kiss her. She did everything she could to remain in the dream, the one where Captain America had somehow fallen madly in love with the newest customer service representative for MyNet, but it was no use. Fifi reached for Cap one final time, and a split second before she could plant one on him…Cap was crushed by an ocean-liner that fell from the sky.

She bolted up in bed, now wide awake and wondering if she was now scarred for life.

Poor Cap.

Cursing, she rifled through her duvet and through the piles of clothes on the floor. She had to find her phone and turn off that god-awful noise before she lost it. A fog horn? Why on earth had she chosen a fog horn?

Then that small, annoyingly responsible voice in her head reminded her how she’d slept through the Zen wind chimes, the less-Zen piano riffs and the birdsongs? Why had she even bothered? It was either the fog horn—turned up to max volume—or be fired two weeks into her new customer service job at MyNet.

Product MATTERS

Example One is writing. A lot of words and nothing happening. Were any of you hooked? TONS of stage direction.

Hint: We all know how the whole ‘door opening thing’ works. We don’t need a ‘writer’ to tell us she reached out her hand, turned the knob and opened the door. 

Sure, this is GREAT for making a daily word count that makes us feel all productive, but this is a section of words, NOT a sample of a story.

Stories are about people who have PROBLEMS. Plots are how the core problem (and all the smaller related problems) are solved. Stories are about beating the odds, overcoming adversity.

Our modern world is being BURIED in ‘books’ with more filler than a dollar menu burrito. We’ve got to do BETTER if we hope to stand apart.

Problem #2: Too Good to Mingle with the Masses

I cannot tell y’all how many ‘writers’ I encounter who do not want to do social media…at all. When I mention how vital a platform is, how we need some form of a grassroots movement of people vested in our success, they dismiss me with a knowing smile.

They explain how they already have budgeted for ads, marketing, and promotion. All of this, obviously, will be automated so they have time for ‘more important activities’ than authentically interacting people they want to buy their books…

*stabs self*

Here’s the problem with this line of thinking.

Let’s even assume the book is better than unicorn tears. This isn’t 2001. Ads are so ineffective the print medium has almost gone extinct. The reason ads are ineffective is for a number of reasons.

First, back before 1990, the barriers to entry were so cost-prohibitive only the major players got a voice (we’ve mentioned this). If you opened a magazine, it was pretty much the same brands—big ones with lots of money.

With web 1.0, one had to know how to write code or have the cash to hire someone who knew how to write code. Again, only brands with a lot of capital could even have a website. Only whales had the cash to pay some I.T. nerd to code an ad or code an on-line promotional campaign.

This, again, meant the players were limited.

Fast-forward to 2019. There are web design sites so easy my mother (who was once afraid she’d delete the internet) can build her own site for less than $100. We can use Canva and PicMonkey to make our own ads for free.

Everyone is on social media for free. Zillions of writers are published because there are no gatekeepers. With some free/cheap software and time?

Bada bing bada boom…published author.

This said. After NINE years of book spam, why is anyone still considering spamming people as a viable plan?

After NINE years of writers killing themselves in a race to the bottom (who can give away the most stuff for cheap or free), why is anyone considering solely relying on marketing, ads, promotion and automation?

When was the last time you bought a book from someone who filled your favorite Twitter hashtag with automated ads for their book? Name a book you bought from a person who, minutes after accepting a friend request, PMed you a link to buy their book. Or posted an ad on your page.

#NotRudeAtALL

Promotion: Skip Steps at Your Own Risk

I’ve been around since before Web 2.0 was born. I’ve grown this blog from three hundred visits a month to three million a month.

And I’m not saying I’m anything special. I really should have named my first book I Did All the Dumb Crap So You Don’t Have To. But, suffice to say, I’ve stuck it out long enough to reasonably claim to know a thing or ten.

When I started out, we’d entered an entirely new world of communication, one humans had never experienced…EVER.

There were no rules when it came to the Internet. But, as I learned over time, there were actually rules all along. Why? Who uses the Internet? HUMANS. Social media platforms come and go, trends change, gimmicks skyrocket and then crash…but people don’t change.

Humans still want a good story. They wanted it when Shakespeare was all the rage and they want it now. Humans don’t like people who only pop by to chat when they want something (money). They didn’t like that crap in 1919 and don’t like it in 2019.

Thus, if we get target fixation (learn ALL THE THINGS about promotion) we risk ignoring the factors that truly matter—quality of the book, establishing a platform, choosing the right place to find and cultivate OUR unique audience, etc.

Just because Instagram is all the rage right now does NOT mean it’s a good fit for you, your books, or your brand. Sure, it MIGHT be popular, but it doesn’t mean your potential audience hangs out there.

The prudent author takes time to learn about the various mediums, define their ideal audience, and then plan accordingly. This is how effective promotion has been done for decades.

It’s why fashion magazines and blogs don’t reach out to advertisers pushing synthetic motor oil, racing tires, or laser-guided saws (or vice versa)

Working Smarter NOT Harder

Once we realize promotion is only something we can do effectively AFTER a lot of other steps in this process, it’s easier to relax. We know what to do and in what order and what should take priority.

History and massive amounts of data have demonstrated time after time that ads and marketing (alone) don’t sell books. Never have and never will.

When we understand WHY (read this post) and fully appreciate that books are a wholly unique product that requires a different approach than, say…organic dish soap, we can begin working more effectively.

If we appreciate the distinction between brand, platform, promotion, marketing, etc. then we work smarter, not harder and use resources wisely. Yes, feel free to do the ads and the marketing, just know that it isn’t a Golden Ticket.

If you’re curious about learning more on this topic, February 21st, I’m teaching Social Schizophrenia: Building a Brand Without Losing Your MIND. We’ll go over all the platforms, what each one does, how to use them, and how to determine which is the best fit for finding and growing your audience. Use the code #BlogLove for $15 off.

My goal has always been to help writers do what they love. Y’all can’t write for a living without that platform and a powerful brand that drives sales.

So let’s make a LOVE CONNECTION 😛

And for those who love the weird stuff, I’m teaching A Ripple in Time: Mastering Non-Linear Plotting this SATURDAY.

***All classes come with a free recording.

THANK YOU SO MUCH for your enthusiastic support! Y’all ROCK! I LOVE HEARING From YOU!

Comments, questions? Are you tired of being told you need to be on every social site all the time? Do you just want to get back to writing STORIES? Does the idea of promotion and ads make you hyperventilate?

What are your thoughts?

JANUARY’S AWESOMENESS (CLASSES)

Self-Publishing for Professionals

Taught by USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynold’s on Friday, January 11th 7-10 PM EST PLUS EXTRA GOODIES ($100 for THREE hours of training plus bonus material). The LIVE class has passed, but the recording and bonus material is available with the BUNDLE.

The Business of Writing

Taught by Kristen Lamb on Saturday, February 2nd 1-3 PM EST ($55)

***GET ALL THREE (Self-Publishing for Professionals Jan. 11th, The Business of Writing Feb. 2nd & Pitch Perfect Feb. 7th) IN THE PUBLISHING TRIPLE THREAT BUNDLE for $155

Story Master: From Dream to Done

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Saturday, January 12th, 1-3 PM EST

Social Schizophrenia: Building a Brand Without Losing Your Mind 

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Thursday, February 21st, 7-9 PM EST ($55 General Admission/ $195 GOLD)

Yes, I will be teaching about Instagram in this class.

A Ripple in Time: Mastering Non-Linear Plotting

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Saturday, January 19th from 1-3 PM EST $55

Harnessing Our Writing Power: The BLOG!

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Thursday, January 24th 7-9 PM EST $55 General Admission/ $195 GOLD

Fiction ADDICTION: The Secret Ingredient to the Books Readers CRAVE

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Saturday, January 26th 1-3 PM EST $55

SALES: For Those Who’d Rather Be Stabbed in the Face

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Thursday, January 31st 7-9 PM EST $65

The Business of Writing

Taught by Kristen Lamb on Saturday, February 2nd 1-3 PM EST ($55)

Pitch Perfect: How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS

Taught by Kristen Lamb on Thursday, February 2nd, 7-9 PM EST ($55)

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

 

writer, what makes a real writer, Kristen Lamb, writing, how to be published, how to sell more books, writing fiction, how to write fiction, how to write non-fiction, best blogs for writers, publishing, the business of writing, DIY MFA

Those who’ve followed my blog long enough know I’m no fan of the Schrodinger’s Writer Game. Is the writer real or unreal? What IS a real writer?

For ages, we quibbled that a real writer had an agent. A real writer scored a legacy publishing deal. One had to pass the NYC gatekeepers to be a real writer.

On and on and on.

Now that writers no longer regard self-pub and indie as publishing mutations that escaped an Amazon basement (mostly), the debate has lost heat.

Publishing existentialism is soooo 2013 *flips hair* .

Yet, I wonder if this new publishing paradigm is hurting more than helping. And that is a hard thing for me to say since three of the five books I’ve published never would have made it to print if legacy remained the only model.

Even though I signed with one of the most prestigious literary agencies in NYC (in 2012), the big publishers regarded a book on author branding and social media with as much enthusiasm as Ebola.

writer, what makes a real writer, Kristen Lamb, writing, how to be published, how to sell more books, writing fiction, how to write fiction, how to write non-fiction, best blogs for writers, publishing, the business of writing, DIY MFA

Maybe I was ahead of my time. Perhaps the stars were not in alignment. It doesn’t matter.

The only thing I know is that I would never have become a “real” writer without the other forms of publishing. Indie and self-pub are highly effective for “test marketing” new concepts, voices, and genres.

Alas, despite so many incredible benefits, I’ve been around long enough to see the long-tail. How has the digital age changed the WRITER? Some changes have been for the good. Others? Don’t bode well for our kind.

Before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, full disclosure. I might have a finger pointed at y’all, but I also have THREE pointed back at myself.

Entropy is alive and well. We all slip if we fail to maintain vigilance. Excellence is tough, and can be easily mistaken for the shill…perfectionism.

writer, what makes a real writer, Kristen Lamb, writing, how to be published, how to sell more books, writing fiction, how to write fiction, how to write non-fiction, best blogs for writers, publishing, the business of writing, DIY MFA
Um…OUCH. *hangs head*

A REAL Writer WRITES

Seems so simple and yet, it is the hardest part of what we do. I know social media is a powerful tool. TRUST ME, it is why I wrote a book about how to do it well.

I wrote Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World to be evergreen so a writer could build a brand that actually sold books…and have time to do the most important part of our job. WRITE MORE BOOKS.

Write BETTER books.

My premise was that, if writers understood people—what makes them tick—then branding and social media is a piece of cake. Why? People don’t change.

Read Shakespeare or look up your ex if you don’t believe me.

If, however, we writers had to keep up with every time Google tooted a new algorithm, or InstaSnapFace added a gizmo? We’d burn out. Writing good books was tough enough without adding fruitless distractions.

I find it comical and depressing that in 2008 I had to BEG writers to even use email. Facebook was the devil and “nobody blogged anymore.” These days? It seems like writers contribute more word count to book spam, current events ranting, and pointless Facebook fights than to their novels.

November is the only month I can count on seeing writers actually WRITING a novel.

writer, what makes a real writer, Kristen Lamb, writing, how to be published, how to sell more books, writing fiction, how to write fiction, how to write non-fiction, best blogs for writers, publishing, the business of writing, DIY MFA

It’s as if we’ve caught digital ADD and have the attention spans of a fruit bat on crystal meth. With self-publishing being an ever-present option, deadlines don’t mean what they used to. Might not mean anything at all, actually.

The modern writer must be extremely self-disciplined. I’d venture to say the modern writer has to be even MORE self-disciplined than 15 years ago, because there is no agent that will drop us or publisher who’ll hand us a pink slip if we tweet more than type.

The point I want to make here is that the self-discipline required to set aside all other fun and chores to actually finish a book or novel is ridiculous. Rank it up there with running a full marathon or competing in triathlons.

But too many “writers” are playing writer.

A REAL Writer Has High Standards

writer, what makes a real writer, Kristen Lamb, writing, how to be published, how to sell more books, writing fiction, how to write fiction, how to write non-fiction, best blogs for writers, publishing, the business of writing, DIY MFA

Years ago, when I started blogging, I was unpopular (and probably still an acquired taste). In the early years, I was hard—really hard—on writers, especially anyone who wanted to take a nontraditional path. Our work had to be as good if not BETTER than anything coming out of NYC.

Indie and self-publishing could offer us a lot of benefits, but we needed to take the new powers we’d been granted seriously. Many writers did, and that is exactly WHY these routes have thrived.

Thing is, I’ve been editing since before the Kindle was invented, and have witnessed a steady decline in the overall quality of writing. What writers deem acceptable to turn in as their best.

Case in Point

I regularly run editing specials so writers can get professional feedback on their stories. This saves time and aggravation for a number of reasons.

For instance, a writer might be fixing something that isn’t even broken (description) while ignoring serious problem areas (no plot). Or, a writer may possess talent, but be WAY too green to even consider querying let alone publishing.

The story might be nebulous when it comes to genre, or breaking genre rules in unforgivable ways.

writer, what makes a real writer, Kristen Lamb, writing, how to be published, how to sell more books, writing fiction, how to write fiction, how to write non-fiction, best blogs for writers, publishing, the business of writing, DIY MFA

YES, unforgivable ways (like making the love interest the main villain in a category romance). I get many folks don’t care for words like “rules” but rules exist for a reason.

RULES help us sell more books.

If we have no idea what genre our book even is, how do we sell it? How can we connect it to readers? FYI, rules also keep readers from hurling our books across the room.

Yet, the same people who grouse about rules and constraints are often the same ones complaining to me about lackluster book sales.

I’ve been running my pages contest (for comments) for ten years now. I’ve discovered no less than six writers with talent who I then connected to agents I knew (who then scored these writers contracts). I do the same sort of scouting with my editing specials.

If I see REAL talent and promise? I pass it to an agent (*makes note to ask for commission*). The problem? These days I am lucky if a writer takes time to properly punctuate. I can’t even make it to the STORY because the grammar issues alone are giving me seizures.

This is a craft.

It’s a profession, not a playpen.

A REAL Writer is ALWAYS Learning

writer, what makes a real writer, Kristen Lamb, writing, how to be published, how to sell more books, writing fiction, how to write fiction, how to write non-fiction, best blogs for writers, publishing, the business of writing, DIY MFA

Come on….LAUGH! Lighten up 😛 .

Writer Unboxed, Jane Friedman, Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi over at Writers Helping Writers , Joanna Penn at The Creative Penn, Icy Sedgwick’s Blog, Anne R. Allen’s blog, and Elizabeth Craig’s blog are GOLDMINES of information and professional help.

I can never thank all of these people enough for how much they helped ME in my developmental years. How they CONTINUE to inspire me and help me grow as a professional.

When I decided to become a “real” writer myself back in the dark ages, publishing hadn’t changed since radio shows were the hottest form of entertainment. Seriously, publishing had NOT changed in almost a century. The formula was exactly the same.

Write, query, get rejected, drink heavily, question one’s existence, and try harder. Repeat this process enough and eventually the “publishing gods” might grant favor.

Might.

writer, what makes a real writer, Kristen Lamb, writing, how to be published, how to sell more books, writing fiction, how to write fiction, how to write non-fiction, best blogs for writers, publishing, the business of writing, DIY MFA

I remember breathlessly waiting for the new Writers’ Digest Magazine to hit shelves and hope the magazine was covering something salient to what I wanted to learn or write. I collected dogeared magazines in binders. Gathered photocopied articles, punched holes in them and added them to my resource list.

A REAL Writer Studies

I bought and read every craft book I could find. My personal favorites include (but are not limited to) Les Edgerton’s Hooked, James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure, Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering, Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat, Aristotle’s Poetics, David Mamet’s Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama , Jack Bickham’s Scene and Structure, Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art,  and Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel.

Before Web 2.0, the only way an unpublished “aspiring writer” had a hope of connecting with the pros was to sacrifice and save money to attend a conference. The Internet wasn’t bursting with quality blogs, affordable classes, and on-line conferences or Gabriela Pereira’s amazing DIY MFA.

If we wanted to learn from professionals, the price of entry started at around $500. Unless one went for the Old School M.F.A. and that cost the same as a CAR. Yet now that it’s finally affordable and the quality is INCREDIBLE, how much do we take this treasure for granted?

writer, what makes a real writer, Kristen Lamb, writing, how to be published, how to sell more books, writing fiction, how to write fiction, how to write non-fiction, best blogs for writers, publishing, the business of writing, DIY MFA

Now that becoming a “published author” is so easy anyone can do it, how hungry are we to learn more about the craft? How much time and money are we investing in being better…or even the BEST writers?

Not investing in being the best at marketing or promotion, or in learning how to sell books using InstaSnapFace, but the best at telling an amazing story.

How much has Web 2.0 made us comfortable, complacent, or dare I say…lazy?

A Real Writer is ALWAYS Reading

writer, what makes a real writer, Kristen Lamb, writing, how to be published, how to sell more books, writing fiction, how to write fiction, how to write non-fiction, best blogs for writers, publishing, the business of writing, DIY MFA

So many of the samples I’ve received over the past two years have left me shaking my head wondering if the contributor has ever even read a book. Not only craft books but novels IN the genre they’re writing and—God help us all—the genre where they are publishing.

I get it. I’m mean and cruel.

I can live with that.

Yet, I cannot for the life of me imagine how anyone could be an avid reader and yet have NO idea how to use the most basic punctuation.

And bear with me.

I understand there are writers with learning disabilities, dyslexia, etc. and we all rely on editors for where we’re weak (and even where we’re strong). We become so immersed in a work we cannot see the forest for the trees and need fresh eyes (skilled fresh eyes).

This isn’t what I’m talking about. I’m referring to a blatant disregard for the craft.

writer, what makes a real writer, Kristen Lamb, writing, how to be published, how to sell more books, writing fiction, how to write fiction, how to write non-fiction, best blogs for writers, publishing, the business of writing, DIY MFA
Yep. This has been me.

Because in samples with poor grammar or spotty punctuation, I should at least detect a STORY if this is ONLY a result of being new. In fact I’ve run across samples where authors were weak in technical areas, but showed real promise with a strong storytelling voice.

I was willing to invest in developing these writers (and still do) because a) voice usually is a sign the person has at least inherent talent and b) and voice demonstrates a person who might be new, but who READS.

They’re willing to honor the profession.

Though loathe to mention this, it is not uncommon for me to encounter writers who want to be mega-authors yet will loudly boast they never read books (and don’t even like reading). Brag about never reading craft books.

***So who wants to hire an attorney who brags he’s never read a law book? Just uses Google, trial and error, and is really great at advertising. No takers?

This is, in large part, why traditionally published authors suffered such horrific apoplexy in the emerging years of self-publishing. One can only take the likes of John Locke comparing books to cheap cheeseburger so many times before we SNAP.

(Granted, Locke made a sound business point—and a small fortune—and good for him and his success.)

Yet, how much has this mega-capitalization diminished novels as art? We’ve lowered the bar so low most of us no longer can see if one exists. A bar (standard) that once required heroic efforts to hurdle, now? Doesn’t even register as a speed bump.

A REAL Writer Owns It

writer, what makes a real writer, Kristen Lamb, writing, how to be published, how to sell more books, writing fiction, how to write fiction, how to write non-fiction, best blogs for writers, publishing, the business of writing, DIY MFA
Aaand…this had been me, too.

Excuses are for hacks, poseurs and amateurs. Just so y’all know, this is what I say to myself when I hear excuses tumbling from MY lips. So I am no harder on you guys than I am on myself. I don’t serve anything I won’t eat.

Yes, life is hard and things happen. Trust me, I get it. For those who don’t know, I’ll be brief. In 2012 I had a very large (but aging) family. We had to RENT space large enough to fit us all. It’s now 2018 and I can count on one hand who’s left.

And you should have seen some of the pity parties I’ve thrown.

To be clear, I’m not minimizing. Being a caregiver for terminal loved ones is brutal. Death is painful. Losing a job can crack your world in two. Grief and loss should be acknowledged and tended with the greatest care.

But I’m all about transparency and so I’ll be honest.

I’ve often used my losses as an excuse to hide, my pain as permission to be a pessimist. I spent a long time being—feeling—completely discouraged and STUCK with no clue how to get UNSTUCK.

But I’ve learned two crucial lessons in my journey from wanna-be-amateur-know-it-all-hack to being a professional. The lessons?

1) Never underestimate the power of showing up.

2) You can’t DO THIS alone.

No, I didn’t have the answers and was hurting but I kept showing up on-line (W.A.N.A.Tribe sprints mostly). There, I had accountability. There were other writers I could encourage or who could even encourage me. I wouldn’t have made it without this strong support system.

In the meantime—in the middle of the pain—I kept reading craft books, kept reading authors in all genres, writers far more skilled than I was. Even when it felt like pulling frog’s teeth, I kept blogging, studying, kept doing SOMETHING trusting one day…I’d wriggle free.

Pain isn’t permanent and I knew one day I’d heal enough to use it. But I HAD to stay in the game, even if it meant being stationed at the @$$ end of literary left field.

Real writers make mistakes. We fail. A lot.

If you aren’t failing, it means you’re not doing anything interesting. You’re taking up space.

But, while we screw up…we OWN that we screwed up. We admit when we could have done better, then we do.

Part of being a REAL writer goes beyond never giving up. We must evolve and grow and learn and improve and that only comes with humility, hard work, and (if we have any sense) professional training. Oh, and a TON of practice. Writing stories. Finishing them.

What This ALL Means

There is nothing wrong with writing for fun, for a hobby. That’s what I do with drawing, painting, knitting and crochet.

Dr. Who’s “Empty Child” via K. Lamb.

It’s play, a release. But I’m not expecting people to buy my art or my scarves. We need to make a choice. Are we in or out? Stop griping about Amazon and algorithms and how it was so much more awesome before Amazon. Value those who are taking time and investing resources to make us better.

Roll up our sleeves and the DO THE WORK.

I believe in you guys and I know this transition in publishing has been NO cake walk. There have been times even I wanted to throw in the towel. But most of being successful in anything takes place in the mind because the mind forges the will and will is what yields results. Keep your eyes on the art and remember who you are.

You are a REAL WRITER. It’s a CHOICE.

Now go check out some of those incredible blogs I linked you to and treat yourself to some books or classes. Sure, I’d love you to take our classes (listed below and on classes page). But, if I’m not offering what fits your needs, go check out the other people I linked to. They’re the best of the best. Invest in yourself for a change.

The kids can wait 😛 .

What Are Your Thoughts?

Have you grown jaded over the past several years with the changes in publishing? Feel like it doesn’t mean much of anything to be “published writer”? Have you found yourself steadily lowering your own bar without even realizing it? All because it seems TOO MUCH? Hey, I have. No shame here.

Are you excited to get back to writing as a craft and an ART?

I love hearing from you!

What do you WIN? For the month of AUGUST, for 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, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

UPCOMING CLASSES! Scroll down or click over to the Classes tab.

NEW CLASS! Beta readers are crucial, but how do we find good ones…when they are pretty much as rare as unicorns? Cait is teaching a class on that TOMORROW NIGHT.

***Remember all W.A.N.A. classes come with a FREE recording included in purchase price.

Go Fish: Finding the Right Beta Readers

beta readerInstructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Friday, August 24, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m.

REGISTER HERE

Whoever said that writing a book is a solitary job is an idiot.

It takes a village (or at the very least a Facebook group, some friends, and possibly a bottle of wine) to write a book. As writers, we need other writers…and non-writers. But, how do we find the right mix of people to support us? What do we do when they don’t? How do we communicate what we need effectively to beta readers and crit partners? And what the heck is an alpha reader?

What’s more, how do we take the feedback from beta readers and use it correctly?

It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of spinning our wheels on endless edits of the draft of the first draft, to react big and badly to criticism, or to drown in the obligations of reciprocating beta reading for our seventeen new best friends and their manuscripts.

Fear not! This class is going to show you how to hunt down beta readers like big game, befriend them in a way that puts Dale Carnegie to shame, and create long-lasting, mutually-beneficial beta and crit partnerships that are so Hufflepuff/Gryffindor, it makes my Slytherin soul cringe.

This class will cover:

  • Wherefore art thou?: Where to find beta readers;
  • Alpha betas, beta betas, omega betas: The different types of beta readers, and why we need them;
  • Fish or cut beta: What to do when a beta reader relationship isn’t working – fix, fight, or flight?
  • I’m looking at the beta reader in the mirror: Are you the best beta reader you can be, and why improving your own skills will make you a better writer;
  • Gospel vs. grain of salt: How to balance thoughtful consideration of critique with Pavlovian instant tweaking, and why beta readers should never be the one holding the map on the hike.

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.


MORE CLASSES!

(Check out our page of current classes!)

Also, a small house-keeping note: if you’d like to see more of our shenanigans, check out our video page


When Your Name Alone Can Sell

Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: General Admission $55.00 USD/ GOLD Level $175
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Thursday, SEPTEMBER 13th, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

LEARN TO BE A BRAND BOSS!

All authors need a brand, so this class teaches how to locate and cultivate your audience into passionate fans who BUY YOUR BOOKS!

How can you grow your platform and turn your name alone into a bankable asset? Not as hard as you might have been led to believe.

You DO NOT need to be a tech guru/mega-high-pressure-sales person to excel at this. In fact, best you aren’t.

Yet, the reality is that in the digital age of commerce, consumers rely on brands more than ever in human history. They’re overwhelmed and we can help them out….by finding US.

Consumers (which is code for readers) buy from who they know, like and trust. In a sea of infinite choices a powerful NAME is a tremendous asset.

Can you say “James Patterson”?

The single largest challenge all writers face in the digital age is discoverability and connecting with our audience is a challenge but nothing we can’t handle.

This class will address:

  • What is a brand? How to make one uniquely your own.
  • How to BE YOU! You’re a writer, not an insurance salesman!
  • Harness your imagination & creativity for better results (No one likes SPAM, so don’t serve it!).
  • How to use this information to locate, engage and cultivate an audience.
  • Myths about exposure.
  • Common scams that will wreck your brand and earning ability.
  • Why most promotion is a waste of money.
  • A list of expensive and not-so-bright ideas for reaching readers.
  • Knowing when and HOW to promote.

Overall this class is about working smarter not harder. This class is to teach you to think strategically so all energy is focused. Sure, we have to hustle, but why not hustle and there be an AUTHENTIC PAYDAY for all that hard work?

GOLD LEVEL AVAILABLE: This is you working with me (Kristen Lamb) for 90 minutes building, defining, refining your brand and putting together a PLAN! Time is money and professional consulting saves BOTH.

****A FREE recording is included with purchase of this class.


More Than Gore: How to Write Horror

Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $40.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: THURSDAY, August 30th, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

Humans have always been fascinated with what scares them which is why horror fiction is a staple genre. It is also, quite possibly, the most challenging genre to write. Giant bugs and chainsaws just don’t get the screams they used to.

Blood, guts, gore and shock factor are low-hanging fruit (and always have been) and worse than that? They simply don’t have the impact they used to.

Audiences are too desensitized. This means we need to work harder to dig in and poke at what REALLY frightens/disturbs people.

Though this genre is extremely challenging to write well, there is an upside. The horror genre lends itself well to the short form (novellas and short stories).

Believe it or not, some of our staple horror movies–and the BEST horror movies—were actually adaptations of short stories and novellas (1408 by Stephen King and Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker being two examples).

Meaning, if you want to go Hollywood? Hollywood loooooves horror.

In this class we will cover:

  • The science behind fear and why people crave it. Why fear is even healthy!
  • Psychology of fear, thus how to locate the pain points.
  • Why audiences are craving MORE horror (Yes, this actually does go in cycles).
  • The different types of horror fiction.
  • The importance of character in horror.
  • How horror can actually resonate much like literary fiction.
  • How to generate page-turning tension that will leave readers with a story they can’t stop thinking about…and that might even give them nightmares.

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.


Keywordpalooza: Tune in, mellow out, and learn to love keywords for Amazon

Instructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Friday, September 7, 2018. 7:00—9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

It’s one of the universe’s great mysteries… the same word can both boost and drown your book in a category (mind BLOWN, man!).

Keywords also seem to evolve every five minutes…or are we the one evolving, like a butterfly having a dream of SEO (trippy, dude!)? Like gravity and Jane Fonda’s hair in ‘Barbarella,’ the popular rules for using keywords value over-inflation and the slavish following of fads.

But, like Talbot’s tweed and mother’s pearls, certain marketing strategies and techniques are enduring classics that stand the test of time. They’re not flashy like bellbottoms, nor do they yield dramatic overnight results like ironing your hair. Yet, ignore trends, and we risk getting left behind…kind of like buying electric typewriter ribbon because that whole ‘computer word processing’ thing will never take off.

This class won’t just help you turn on, tune in, and drop out of the keyword rat race. We’ll also cover:

  • Fully body contact SEO: when and where to use keywords, and what publishers know that you don’t;
  • Fantastic keywords and where to find them: which websites, lists, search engines, and Magic 8 Balls yield the best keyword research results;
  • Mix and match like a Parisienne: no, seriously, how to mix consistent ‘classic’ keywords with the latest trends like a Frenchwoman wears a crisp white shirt with this season’s Hermes scarf;
  • Same bat genre, same bat book, different bat keywords?: learn the differences between keywords for ebooks, print, and audio;
  • And so much more!

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.


Building Planet X: Out-of-This-World-Building for Speculative Fiction

Instructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Saturday, September 8, 2018. 10:00 a.m.—12:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

Speculative fiction may be a way of seeing the world ‘through a glass darkly,’ but it can also be one of the clearest, most pointed, and even most disturbing ways of seeing the truth about ourselves and our society.

It’s not just the weird stuff that makes the settings of speculative fiction so unnerving. It’s the way ‘Normal’ casually hangs out at the corner of ‘Weird’ and ‘Familiar.’

But it’s trickier than it seems to get readers to this intersection without letting them get bogged down in the ‘Swamp of Useless Detail’ or running them into the patch of ‘Here be Hippogriffs’ (when the story is clearly about zombies). How do we create a world that is easy to slip into, absorbingly immersive, yet not distracting from the character arcs and plots?

This class will cover:

  • Through the looking glass darkly: How to take a theme/issue/message and create a world that drives it home to the reader.
  • Ray guns and data chips: The art of showing vs. telling in world-building.
  • Fat mirror vs. skinny mirror: What is scarce in the world? Valuable? Forbidden? Illegal? What do people want vs. what they have vs. what they need?
  • Drawing a line in the sand: What are the laws, taboos, limits of this world? What is unacceptable to you/the reader/the character? How are they the same or different, and why it matters.
  • Is Soylent Green gluten-free and other vital questions: All the questions you need to ask about your world, but didn’t know…and how to keep track of all the answers.

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.


Populating Planet X: Creating Realistic, Relatable Characters in Speculative Fiction

Instructors: Cait Reynolds & Kristen Lamb
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Saturday, September 8, 2018. 1:00—3:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

It’s a time-honored tradition in literature to take an ordinary person out of his or her normal life and throw them into a whirlwind of extraordinary circumstances (zombies/tyrants/elves/mean girls optional). After all, upsetting the Corellian apple cart is what great storytellers do best.

It’s also that very same ordinariness and normalcy that first gets the reader to identify then empathize with the characters and stick with them (and the book) through to the end.

But, what do we do when…

Our ‘ordinary’ protagonist lives with a chip implant and barcode tattoo, and our antagonist happens to be a horde of flesh-eating aliens…or a quasi-fascist regime bent on enforcing social order, scientific progress above ethics, and strict backyard composting regulations (those MONSTERS!)?

How the heck is the reader supposed to identify with that? I mean, seriously. Regulating backyard composting? It would never happen in a free society.

This leaves us with two challenges in creating characters for speculative fiction: 1. How to use the speculative world-building to shape the backgrounds, histories, and personalities of characters, and 2. How to balance the speculative and the relatable to create powerful, complex character arcs.

This class will cover:

  • Resistance is futile: What does normal look like for the characters? What’s different or strange, and how to get readers to accept that retinal scans and Soylent Green are just par for the course.
  • These aren’t the droids you’re looking for: What are the discordant elements around the characters? What are their opinions about it? What are the accepted consequences or outcomes?
  • You gonna eat that?: Whether it’s running from brain-eating zombies or fighting over dehydrated space rations, what is important both physically and emotionally to the character? What is in short supply or forbidden?
  • We’re all human here (even the ones over there with tentacles): The basic principles and techniques of creating psychological touchpoints readers can identify with.
  • Digging out the implant with a grapefruit spoon: In a speculative world, what are the stakes for the character? The breaking point? The turning point?
  • And so much more!!!

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.


Beyond Planet X: Mastering Speculative Fiction

Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Saturday, September 8, 2018. 4:00—6:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

Speculative fiction is an umbrella term used to describe narrative fiction with supernatural or futuristic elements. This includes but it not necessarily limited to fantasy, science fiction, horror, utopian, dystopian, alternate history, apocalyptic fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction.

Basically, all the weird stuff.

Gizmos, gadgets, magic, chainsaws, demons, fantastical worlds and creatures are not enough and never have been. Whether our story is set on Planet X, in the sixth dimension of hell, on a parallel world, or on Earth after Amazon Prime gained sentience and enslaved us all, we still must have a core human story that is compelling and relatable.

 

 

In this class we will cover:

  • Discovering the core human story problem.
  • How to plot these unique genres.
  • Ways to create dimensional and compelling characters.
  • How to harness the power of fear and use psychology to add depth and layers to our story.
  • How to use world-building to enhance the story, not distract from it.

***A recording of this class is also included with purchase.


The XXX Files: The Planet X Speculative Fiction 3-Class Bundle

Instructors: Cait Reynolds & Kristen Lamb
Price: $110.00 USD (It’s LITERALLY one class FREE!)
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Saturday, September 8, 2018. 10:00 a.m.—6:00 p.m. EST.

REGISTER HERE

Recordings of all three classes is also included with purchase.

About the Instructors:

Kristen Lamb is the author of the definitive guide to social media and branding for authors, Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World. She’s also the author of #1 best-selling books We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer. She’s just released her debut thriller The Devil’s Dance.

Kristen has written over twelve hundred blogs and her site was recognized by Writer’s Digest Magazine as one of the Top 101 Websites for Writers. Her branding methods are responsible for selling millions of books and used by authors of every level, from emerging writers to mega authors.

Cait Reynolds is a USA Today Bestselling Author and lives in Boston with her husband and neurotic dog. She discovered her passion for writing early and has bugged her family and friends with it ever since. She likes history, science, Jack Daniels, jewelry, pasta, and solitude. Not all at the same time. When she isn’t enjoying the rooftop deck that brings her closer to the stars, she writes.

Kristen Lamb, targeting readers, how to target readers, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to sell more books, author branding, social media for writers, sales for writers

How many times have we been told we should be targeting our readers, audience, and customers? Am I the only one disturbed by this advice? Targeting seems like it should involve a Predator Drone…or at least a trebuchet.

For the record, I imagine many authors would view sales (and targeting) with far more enthusiasm if book launches involved a trebuchet.

#MaybeJustMe

In the olden days—before Web 2.0—the world was vastly different. It was a horrible existence rife with uncertainty, anxiety and dread.

Case in point, for most of the 20th century, if the phone rang? WE HAD NO IDEA WHO WAS CALLING.

Planning a Friday night? Want to watch a movie at home? You had to bribe that pimply-faced kid at Blockbuster to squirrel away the NEW RELEASE of Speed 2 before they were all gone. Then, after you watched Speed 2 and wondered why Hollywood didn’t just…STOP?

YOU COULD ONLY COMPLAIN TO PEOPLE YOU ACTUALLY KNEW.

Before Web 2.0 life was ugly, brutish and short.

Kristen Lamb, targeting readers, how to target readers, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to sell more books, author branding, social media for writers, sales for writers

As if pay phones, shoulder pads, and the regular onslaught of boy bands weren’t bad enough? When you went on a date and he/she said they had a good time and would call you, and they didn’t? Two options. Move on like a mature, confident person or engage PSYCHO mode.

#GoBigOrGoHome

There was no ‘checking online activity’ to see Brad really WAS working late like he said when you called him for the 37th time. No, you had to dress up, hop in your 1987 Mazda and find his workplace using the YELLOW PAGES and a PAPER MAP.

Oh and on the way over, you had to make up some reasonable explanation of how you just ‘happened to be in the area’ in that new outfit from Express. The one exactly like Paula Abdul’s—giant hoop earrings and all. #ForeverYourGirl.

We had to own the crazy O_o .

Kristen Lamb, targeting readers, how to target readers, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to sell more books, author branding, social media for writers, sales for writers
Me in the 90s…okay until yesterday.

This said, language frequently reflects the emotional state of the times. Words mirror the collective ennui of a culture. Back then? Needy and codependent behaviors couldn’t be properly measured with metrics (I.e. ‘Likes’).

We had to TRUST our hair looked great or that skirt didn’t make our @$$ look like we had two @$$es…all on our own. No posting, getting votes, feedback, and digital flattery to boost our confidence.

Before Web 2.0, we were a skittish bunch. Every moment waiting, wondering…

Old School Marketing

Kristen Lamb, targeting readers, how to target readers, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to sell more books, author branding, social media for writers, sales for writers

Suffice to say, in a world where we were largely flying blind, it makes sense why so many military words and phrases crept into the marketing vocabulary.

**It’s also the only logical explanation for harem pants.

Terms like strategy, bombshell, media blast, marketing blitz, ad campaigns, and targeting buyers were common, and consumers didn’t take it personally. We didn’t take it personally because business was business and personal was personal.

Back in the day, it was perfectly fine for businesses to think in terms of blitzing, blasting, or targeting because we understood we were consumers, not FRIENDS. 

We didn’t mind kitschy slogans to make us feel a company cared because, deep down, we knew they were only pretending to care.

In the 90s, when Budweiser repetitively asked us ‘WASSUP?’ we were pretty sure that was a rhetorical question. No one at Budweiser was waiting for our answer…except Sheila.

This, of course, is no longer the case. Now, in 2018, if Budweiser asks us ‘WASSUP?’ They’re likely hoping we WILL answer. The reason is because branding and buying behaviors have changed.

Brave New Buying

Kristen Lamb, targeting readers, how to target readers, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to sell more books, author branding, social media for writers, sales for writers

A lot of writers (and companies) gripe that social media is ineffective because there’s no way to trace what, which, and how much activity translates into sales. You know, like a formula or recipe that’s simple, scalable and easily replicated.

Something you could train a weasel to do, because studies have shown ferrets will work for cat food (though raccoons are cool with exposure dollars).

***Note: Remember raccoons are NOT weasels (which are often preferred for direct marketing). Raccoons are marsupials and DO have those adorable opposable thumbs. BUT they’re also attention addicts that require management to ensure they’re not gaffing off texting and posting selfies on Instagram.

#TrueFactIJustMadeUp

Thing is?

Social media is not direct marketing, though the two are often confused. 

See, in direct marketing, activity can be measured. Businesses can put out an ad, monitor click rates and see how many clicks led to a purchase. Companies can send out so many coupons and then measure quantitatively how many of those later translated into a purchase.

Kristen Lamb, targeting readers, how to target readers, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to sell more books, author branding, social media for writers, sales for writers

Why Web 2.0 has been so vexing for marketers is they keep trying to treat social media the same way as direct marketing…and they can’t. Because this isn’t 1999. And, if we do social media correctly (keeping it social) there’s no way to accurately measure, control or quantify results.

It also becomes way too obvious we’re mixing social and market norms and that creeps people the hell out.

Example:

Market Norms are when a prostitute expects money in return for *wink wink nod nod* ‘favors.’

Social Norms are when a wife does those same ‘favors’ for her beloved husband out of love because getting paid for it would be seriously strange.

That seems obvious, right?

But what if wife has a wonderful and romantic evening with her husband, but then early the next day, she asks him to fill out an on-line survey rating how he enjoyed his night? And tells him that, when he completes his survey, he will be texted a code he can then redeem for free pancakes?

Yes, I just took that to a WHOLE NEW LEVEL of weird!

But y’all see what I mean when I say that you just can’t sneak that stuff in there! We SEE it. We FEEL it.

Don’t Cross the Streams!

While many businesses still use direct marketing tactics, these methods are becoming increasingly less effective when used exclusively. Companies need to be on social media.

Another observation to point out.

Unlike a company, authors are humans. When we don’t act like a human…people grow quickly suspicious.

A lot of authors rightfully feel dirty when told they need to be targeting their readers. Are we selling a book or doing a mob hit?

***Because if this is a mob hit shouldn’t we get paid better? Asking for a friend.

Kristen Lamb, targeting readers, how to target readers, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to sell more books, author branding, social media for writers, sales for writers

We’re writers, which means we appreciate words have power. If we are targeting people so we can bait, blitz, or bundle them, it’s tough to hide our less-than-authentic motives.

Words impact thoughts, thoughts directs actions, and actions create results. If, behind the scenes, we view people as resources only to be plundered for personal gain (by targeting them), it makes us feel ookie when we try to pretend like we really care.

…unless you’re Brad.

It’s All in Our Head

Kristen Lamb, targeting readers, how to target readers, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to sell more books, author branding, social media for writers, sales for writers

I’ve spent the last several posts working to make ‘sales’—which is pretty critical to success—far less icky. It doesn’t need to be icky at all, actually.

As mentioned, words hold tremendous power, and a simple mental shift can make a massive difference. This is why I dedicated a lot of my branding book (Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World) to neuroscience. How is the human brain impacted as technology shifts?

Technology changes, but humans remain the same.

How does the human brain operate in a virtual world? What factors can render content invisible? Why do humans SEE certain types of content and yet remain oblivious to other types?

Words play a massive role in first, being visible and then, making a positive connection. For instance, did you know the human brain only begins listening at the first active verb?

When we tell people, ‘Don’t forget to buy my new book,’ their brains hear, ‘Forget to buy my new book.’

This is one of the reasons negative goals are virtually useless and produce terrible results. Try this simple exercise in your everyday life. I make it a point to phrase as much as possible in the positive. State what I want, as opposed to what I don’t want.

‘Remember to pick up the dry cleaning’ or ‘Remember you put your keys in the side pocket of your gym bag’ yields far better results than lecturing myself on all the stuff ‘I don’t want to forget.’

Why I take time to mention this is because a simple adjustment in vocabulary can ease our own anxiety, allow us to feel authentic, and thus we’ll come across to others in a far more genuine way.

No Targeting? So WHAT Do We DO?

When we are targeting our audience, the core objective is for us to do all we can to ensure we’re respecting our audience’s time (I.e. Don’t repeatedly pitch people who rent an apartment about the benefits of vinyl siding…unless you want to be stabbed).

These days when we’re all about social, community and friending, I recommend we define then identify our audience.

If I write books about dragons and sorcerers, what kind of people are likely going to like these kinds of stories? What do we share in common? Maybe they like WoW, or GoT or ASOF, OMG!

I write suspense thrillers. We share a love for Dateline, podcasts about serial killers, and a morbid and socially unacceptable sense of humor. In my case, targeting my audience could be fatal. But identifying them is pretty simple. If they laugh at my memes and add additional morbid commentary? We’re peeps! If they report me to FB? Likely not my audience.

Kristen Lamb, targeting readers, how to target readers, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to sell more books, author branding, social media for writers, sales for writers

I give ways and specific exercises for how to find ‘friends’ in my book. Why? Because I was a nerd with paralyzing social anxiety and no social skills. Meaning I had to break all this down using science.

Don’t judge me.

***There was a good reason I was single until I was almost 35.

Anyway, what I realized (while researching ‘how to make friends without using chloroform’) was that ‘identifying our audience’ is something we’ve been doing since we were kids.

You love Dragonlance books? Me too! Did we just become best friends?

***Kids who liked Dodgeball, conversely, ‘targeted’ their audience. 

When we identify our audience and all the hobbies, topics, interests we’re likely to share, then it’s far simpler and more authentic to strike up a conversation and connect. Instead of targeting victims to pummel with BUY MY BOOK, we can locate others who like what we like.

We can talk about video games, movies, hobbies, crochet, pets, unicorns and untraceable poisons… You know. FUN STUFF!

Ideally, these conversations will lead to conversions.

Using common ground and shared emotional touch points, we can make loose connections that then foster relationships and perhaps grow into actual friendships. This means that one day—when we have a book (or another book) for sale—we’ve already done the ‘hard’ work.

We’ve cultivated an audience of friends, advocates and hopefully fans eager to see and help us succeed. Since we’ve created a micro-community, we come across as vested because we are. We have a reputation for giving more than we take.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Do you hate the Old School marketing jargon as much as I do? I hated it back when I was in sales. Always made me feel greasy, as if I had to view people with dollar signs over their heads.

Do you see the value of simply rephrasing targeting to identifying? Does that notch the terror down to maybe low-level-eat-some-chocolate anxiety?

I love hearing from you!

What do you WIN? For the month of JULY, for 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, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

NEW CLASSES!

steampunk, writingClass Title: Building a Believable Steampunk World

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $50.00 USD Standard

Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom

When: FRIDAY, July 20, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

Who doesn’t love some steampunk cosplay? Corsets, goggles, awesome hats…

Steampunk has become one of the hottest genres today, crossing the lines of YA, NA, and adult fiction. It seems like it’s fun to write because it’s fun to read.

However, there’s a world of difference between the amateur steampunk writer and the professional steampunk author, and the difference lies in the world they create.

Is your steampunk world historically-accurate enough not to jar the reader out of the narrative with anachronisms? Does your world include paranormal as well as steampunk? Are the gadgets and level of sophistication in keeping with the technologies available at the time?

Steampunk is not an excuse to take short-cuts with history. Good writing in this genre requires a solid grasp of Victorian culture and history, including the history of science, medicine, and industry.

This shouldn’t scare you off from writing steampunk, but it should encourage you to take this class and learn how to create a world that is accurate, consistent and immersive.

This class will cover a broad range of topics including:

  • Not-So-Polite Society: Just how prim and Victorian do you want to get?
  • Grime and Gears: How to research Victoriantechnology, science, medicine, and industry without dying of boredom?
  • Putting the ‘Steamy’ in Steampunk: How to obey (and more importantly, break) Victorian rules of romance;
  • Keeping it Real…ish: How to drop in historical details without info-dumping, and how to describe and explain your steampunk innovations without confusing.

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

DYSTOPIA!!


Class Title: World-Building for Dystopian Fiction

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $50.00 USD Standard

Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom

When: Friday, July 27, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

There’s no greater fear than fearing what dwells deep in the dark corners of human nature. Dystopian literature, for all its bells and zombie whistles, shines an unforgiving light on all those shadows.

Can’t think of any dystopian-genre books off the top of your head? How about:

Farenheit 451, The Hunger Games, The Handmaid’s Tale, 1984, The Lorax, The Stand, Neuromancer, Ender’s Game, Divergent, World War Z, Underground Airlines, Brave New World, Ready Player One, A Clockwork Orange, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (just to name a few…)

Still, it’s a challenging genre to write. Done badly, dystopian fiction is the equivalent of that emo kid down the hall in your dorm who drinks way too much coffee and just won’t quit playing The Cure.

Done well? We get the dangerous thrill of skidding close to the edge of moral insanity, looking through a mirror darkly and seeing ourselves and our neighbors, and a hyper-creative outlet that combines the dubious fun of post-apocalyptic totalitarianism (zombies optional) with chilling truths about human nature.

Topics covered in this class include:

  • Having fun with things you shouldn’t: why destroying society is just so much fun!
  • ‘First Fright’ vs. ‘True Fright’: sure, we’re afraid of enforced barcode tattoos because totalitarianism!…but maybe we’re really afraid because it really sounds so seductively convenient;
  • Picking and choosing ‘normal’: how to balance having enough familiarities with society today with creating shocking changes that go right to the heart of our fears;
  • Fear leads to the dark side (unless you’re already there): creating dystopian characters that invite both shock and sympathy;
  • To apocalypse or not to apocalypse: do we really need nuclear fallout or an alien invasion…or can we do it all ourselves?
  • Playing with your food: how to put a new and unique spin on zombies, aliens, and food shortages (i.e. asking critical questions like whether Soylent Green is gluten-free).

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

About the Instructor

Cait Reynolds is a USA Today Bestselling Author and lives in Boston area with her husband and neurotic dog. She discovered her passion for writing early and has bugged her family and friends with it ever since. She likes history, science, Jack Daniels, jewelry, pasta, and solitude. Not all at the same time. When she isn’t enjoying the rooftop deck that brings her closer to the stars, she writes.

 

BRAND NEW CLASS IN AUGUST!

Kristen Lamb, W.A.N.A. International, business for authors, selling for writers, sales for writers, how to sell more books

Instructor: Kristen Lamb

Price: $50.00 USD Standard

Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom

When: Thursday August 9th, 2018 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

SIGN UP HERE

Writers are in the entertainment business. Notice the second half of our job title is business. The lifeblood of all business is sales.

But, to be blunt, most creative professionals would rather be stabbed in the face than ‘do sales.’ Yet, if we don’t sell books, our career is doomed (regardless of how we publish).

One of the MAJOR reasons so many people are afraid of sales is because what’s being taught as ‘sales’ is actually ‘direct marketing.’

Direct marketing is NOT sales. It IS, however, pushy, icky, and hasn’t been effective since The Spice Girls were cool.

Sales can be fun. In fact, believe it or not, humans are wired for sales. It’s part of our biology. Problem is, humans are also wired to overcomplicate things…which is why so many of us freak out over sales.

This class is to remove the fear factor and clarify what selling entails for the professional author. Not all products are sold the same way…which is why there are no late-night infomercials hawking Hadron Colliders or F-16 fighter jets. Our sales approach must align with the product we’re selling, or we’re doomed before we begin.

This class will cover:

  • Why direct marketing doesn’t sell books;
  • Tame wasters versus time savers;
  • How to be paid what we are worth;
  • Ways we can make ads, promotions and marketing far more effective;
  • The unique way books must be sold;
  • How to set goals and create a scalable strategy;
  • Explore the S.W.O.T. analysis and why we need one;
  • How to differentiate our brand and product in an over-saturated marketplace;
  • AND MORE!

***A FREE recording is included with class purchase.

 

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