Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

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Posts Categorized: Kristen Lamb

Kristen Lamb, how to sell more books, do author newsletters work, book marketing, book promotion, promotion for authors, do newsletters sell more books, how to get newsletter subscribers

Today we’re tackling author newsletters. Do we need one? Do they sell books? Does a human sacrifice help?

Oops.

Last time I posted at length about sales, namely what it is, what it isn’t, and why we shouldn’t be afraid of it. Science proves that, the better writers are at sales, the more books they sell. Sort of like studies show that people who have more birthdays live longer.

You’re welcome 😀 .

Alas, whenever I blog about marketing or sales, inevitably a commenter or five mentions author newsletters. How other authors swear by them and so why oh why do I hate them?

First of all, I don’t hate newsletters. Correction. I don’t hate ALL newsletters. More on that in a bit.

Newsletters are a tool, and tools are neither good or bad. Should you want to cut down a dead tree, chainsaws are awesome. Want to settle a dispute with that coworker who keeps stealing your lunch from the company fridge? Chainsaws are BAD…and HR is far scarier anyway.

Before we get into pros and cons, dos and don’ts, think long and hard about why you’re considering a newsletter at all.

All My Friends Have Newsletters

Kristen Lamb, how to sell more books, do author newsletters work, book marketing, book promotion, promotion for authors, do newsletters sell more books, how to get newsletter subscribers

In my book Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World, I take a lot of time explaining the various ways we now can publish—legacy, indie, small press, self-pub, hybrid, etc. All publishing paths have pros and cons.

How we publish is a business decision only we can make. Newsletters are the same. Like all other business decisions, newsletters require forethought and honesty.

Just like we shouldn’t rush out to self-publish because a member of our writing group is suddenly bathing in crisp Benjamins, we shouldn’t dive into creating a newsletter simply because another author swears they sell books faster than a donut shop across from a police station.

We only have 24 hours in a day. Time is a nonrenewable resource, which means we’re wise to use the time we have effectively. For writers, our priority is to dedicate time to writing books. The more books, the better. This said, the ways we then cultivate a fan base—actual humans who will BUY those books—should be selected with care.

Most authors will still have to work a day job, care for family, needy pets and also build a social media platform. A successful newsletter requires one critical factor to make it anything other than one more reason to take up heavy drinking.

What’s that factor?

Traction

Kristen Lamb, how to sell more books, do author newsletters work, book marketing, book promotion, promotion for authors, do newsletters sell more books, how to get newsletter subscribers

In my last post, I also talked about the trust gap. Too many businesses (and writers) want to skip building relationships and get right to selling. The problem is that, in the 21st century marketplace, relationships ARE our business. People buy from who they KNOW and who they LIKE.

We’re in an age of unprecedented abundance and choice, and most consumers are overwhelmed. This means the consumers’ comfort zone contracts at twelve times the rate the number of choices expands.

Don’t argue, it’s ‘science.’

For instance, when faced with seventy-five different pasta sauces at the nearby Central Market, my brain vapor locks. Though I could have chosen the organic, non GMO, vegan, cruelty-free marinara made with only free-range heirloom tomatoes, I grab a jar of whatever I bought last time.

And make a mental note to google what the heck an ‘heirloom tomato’ actually is, aside from pretentious and ‘meta.’

Pasta sauce companies hire smiling people in hairnets to hand out samples in order to bridge the trust gap. They KNOW there’s a ton of competition and that, unless they want to compete on price, they’re going to have to make the first move to connect with US.

Also, that connection is going to COST them…because charging for free samples defeats the purpose of a free sample.

One taste of a free-range heirloom tomato might be all I need to forgo Ragu forever, making Meta Sauce my new go-to when I fall off—then under the wheels of—the low-carb bandwagon.

Anyway, the free sample of Meta Sauce serves a purpose other than propping up the hairnet industry. The company uses the sample to gain advantage through connection. Since I’ve tasted Meta Sauce, it holds a major advantage over the wall of UNKNOWNS and increases the odds I’ll buy a jar.

Got Traction?

Kristen Lamb, how to sell more books, do author newsletters work, book marketing, book promotion, promotion for authors, do newsletters sell more books, how to get newsletter subscribers

Without traction, what happens? We’re left spinning our wheels going nowhere. Or we careen into oncoming traffic and everyone dies.

Congratulations, your newsletter is now a French film.

I hope you’re happy.

Many authors sing the praises of the newsletter, yet if we pay close attention, the newsletter in and of itself isn’t the whole picture. Authors who have successful newsletters have built some sort of relationship with those on their mailing list.

They FIRST established rapport and built relationships via a blog, speaking engagements, social media, a backlist of books readers enjoy, or a combination of any of these.

THEN they created a newsletter.

There’s an excellent book I highly recommend by Scott and Alison Stratton called UnMarketing. Though Scott and Alison aren’t specifically teaching writers, their methods are spot on (namely because they’re a lot like what I’ve been preaching since 2007).

Scott and Alison mention the idea of traction –> momentum –> expansion. Which was why I was all YES…THIS!

I get a LOT of emails (usually after conference season) from new and now panicked writers who believe they need to create a newsletter RIGHT AWAY! My job is to talk them off the ledge and explain they’re suffering PCSD—Post Conference Stress Disorder.

Kristen Lamb, how to sell more books, do author newsletters work, book marketing, book promotion, promotion for authors, do newsletters sell more books, how to get newsletter subscribers
How I feel about marketing ‘gurus’ who like to scare writers.

Odd are, some marketing guru informed them social media was a total waste of time and that NEWSLETTERS were the Golden Ticket. Maybe newsletters are the Golden Ticket. To me, they feel more like the Golden Tickets Willy Wonka handed out.

You know, there’s a nasty catch.

Instead of a day of sweets and fun, kids disappear one by one on a tour led by a psychopath. Instead of selling a bazillion books, writers disappear one by one.

The reason writers go missing is they grow weary of failure. Many who message me about how to write a newsletter haven’t even finished the BOOK. Funny how so many gurus fail to mention that having a finished book first is A PRETTY BIG DEAL.

*left eye twitches*

Newsletter Love

Kristen Lamb, how to sell more books, do author newsletters work, book marketing, book promotion, promotion for authors, do newsletters sell more books, how to get newsletter subscribers
Looks legit.

Building a strong, healthy newsletter that people love is a lot like dating. The results are far better when the other party goes along willingly.

Sure, chloroforming a hot college coed and chaining her to a radiator guarantees she’s not going anywhere. But as my mother always told me, ‘Kristen, relationships built on duct tape always require more duct tape’ …which now seems like really odd advice.

But it works for our lesson today, so we’re rolling with it.

Newsletters are most effective when people on our list made a deliberate choice to BE on our list. We reached out to others, established a bond over kitten videos and a mutual love for serial killer documentaries, and then mentioned subscribing to our newsletter.

And they did.

This is traction. Once we gain traction, we can then build momentum and momentum is essential to expansion.

The problem with many newsletters is they’re too often viewed as shortcuts. Social media requires we invest time, energy, and emotional capital over a period of months or years. Newsletters are there to help bypass that icky job of talking to people before asking for their money.

FYI…NO!

It’s much faster to plunk down cash for a list of emails and blast a newsletter far and wide. In case y’all haven’t seen the transition, this is no longer a newsletter. It’s morphed into direct marketing (spam).

Spam is the inbred cousin of the newsletter. It’s about as welcome as the distant relative who moves in uninvited, drinks all the good whiskey and pawns your electronics to buy lotto tickets.

News About Newsletters

Kristen Lamb, how to sell more books, do author newsletters work, book marketing, book promotion, promotion for authors, do newsletters sell more books, how to get newsletter subscribers

Yes, they can be effective if the list is populated with actual fans who wanted the newsletter in the first place. I already mentioned the folly of buying subscribers. But there are also sites that will force us to give an email before we can see the thing we clicked to see.

This reminds me of college and the guy who wouldn’t go away until I gave him my phone number. Poor Domino’s.

*Ponders how many AoL emails are captured this way*

Numbers of emails alone are no great indicator of anything but…um, numbers of emails. There’s this thing called an ‘open rate.’ It doesn’t matter if a million people receive our newsletter if no one opens it.

Also, if they do open our newsletter, does the content inside compel a click-through and purchase?

If you’re killing yourself with a newsletter and no one’s opening, or if they’re opening they aren’t buying? That’s a waste of time spent better ways. Like writing more books. OR being present on our social platform of choice strengthening relationships.

If you’ve subscribed to a newsletter you love, can’t wait to receive and always open and act…take time to consider WHY. Can you replicate what they’re doing in your own unique way?

Tips for Newsletter Success

  • Finish the book before starting a newsletter (otherwise it’s kinda…weird);
  • Create relationships before asking for subscribers;
  • Real friends can’t be bought. Earn subscribers instead of buying email lists;
  • Offer something of value that can ONLY be accessed via your newsletter;
  • Go easy on how often we hear from you. How can we miss you if you won’t go away?

What Are Your Thoughts?

Do you enjoy doing a newsletter and have some tips? Are there newsletters you can’t wait to see in your In Box? Why? What makes them special to you? But for those who dig newsletters, tell us why. We’d love to hear your perspective, tips, advice, etc.

Or are you like me and afraid of your email? I’ve given up changing emails to escape the newsletter spam. I blog, so for now, a newsletter not in my immediate game plan.

Do you prefer free-range tomatoes or ones kept in cages?

I love hearing from you!

What do you WIN? For the month of JUNE, 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 2nd, 2018 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST,

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.

 

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb

Sales can be one of the most terrifying words in the English language. If one happens to be a creative professional, let’s just multiply that fear level by ten…or a thousand.

In fact, many writers long to sign with legacy publishers for the sole reason they believe a major publisher will tend to all that vulgar sales business for them so they can simply write and create!

*clutches sides laughing*

It’s cool. I once thought the same. We’re all friends and philistines here.

The hard truth is that, even if we are fortunate enough to score a contract with NYC, if our book doesn’t sell, the publisher will eventually have to cut their losses (‘losses’ being code for ‘writers who fail to sell enough books’).

Publishing houses are businesses not charities, and throwing good money after bad is better left to Hollywood. This said, the idea of having to ‘do sales’ is still enough to make many creatives break out in hives.

Deep Breaths

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb

We writers have a nasty habit of black-and-white thinking in regards to sales. In our minds, there are only TWO approaches to selling.

One approach is to be on every single social site running marketing blitzes, promotional campaigns, holding contests, and blasting people with emails/newsletters until they buy a book…or file for a restraining order.

The other option is we never tell anyone we’re an author or—GASP—that we have a book(s) for sale. Short of applying for WITSEC, we do everything and anything to hide that we’re a writer, including our NAME (refer to The Problem with Pen Names).

In an effort to avoid ‘sales’ we pretty much guarantee we’ll never sell any books…thus fulfilling the societal assumption that writers are all broke losers.

***We’ll tackle that bugaboo later.

I believe most writers are afraid of sales because they don’t understand what sales actually IS. Remember, we writers are in the entertainment business. Notice half that word is business and I dare you to name any business that will last very long without any sales.

And before y’all have a panic attack, what’s the title we authors covet most? New York Times Best Selling Author. Notice the title isn’t New York Times Best Writing Author. 

Even though it should be *grumbles*.

Evolution is Real

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb

Before we tackle misconceptions about sales, I want to point out that we’re no longer in the 20th century. I know, time flies, right? The audience (customer base) of 2018 has evolved and what worked in the 90s no longer works today. Doing MORE of what doesn’t work is…well, stupid.

Alas, I cannot count how many sales books, training programs, etc. still push tactics that are almost twenty years out of date.

Our customers have evolved, which means sales, promotion, marketing, branding, etc. must evolve as well or it will be virtually impossible to create meaningful connections that yield results.

Think of the English language. Have you ever tried to read the original Beowulf in Old English? To spare your eyes and WordPress from a cascading font meltdown, just listen to this for 15 seconds.

Or five.

YES, THIS IS ENGLISH! Brought to us courtesy of Realm of History who apparently got someone drunk enough to be able to pronounce the words properly (as if anyone other than Cait would correct them *rolling eyes*)…

Can you imagine if we tried to hold a conversation speaking this way? Good luck getting a date, a job, or ordering a hamburger.

If the world has evolved, we’re wise to keep pace.

Sales Has NOT Evolved…Much

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb

This profession is as old as time. In fact, sales has been around since Og first realized others wanted the pointy sticks he’d become rather adept at crafting. #TrueStoryIJustMadeUp

Once Og grasped that others were willing to give him berries, nuts, and shiny rocks in exchange for one of his pointy sticks, the concept of business/trade emerged and an entrepreneur was born!

Og, being the clever Homo ergaster he was, eventually realized a fellow tribe member might even offer a couple of hot daughters in exchange for a large order of extra-pointy sticks. So, he recruited his drinking buddies Ag and Ug to help.

In doing this, Og unwittingly discovered scalability.

Og understood that, the more pointy sticks he could fashion and the pointier the pointy stick, the better. This meant he also needed to find ways to let others know about his pointy sticks. Maybe even demonstrate some advantages of owning a pointy stick on say a fish, a squirrel, or an annoying neighbor.

Welcome to SALES!

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb

Once we appreciate sales has been around since the dawn of time and is vital and necessary, we can relax a little. While sales in and of itself is a permanent societal fixture, tactics have to evolve. Don’t believe me? Try stabbing an annoying neighbor to demonstrate that knife you’re trying to sell and…point made.

*Bada bump snare*

Now that we’ve settled that sales is a good thing that’s here to stay, let’s do some myth-busting. I feel once we separate facts from fiction, it will be far easier to face our fears.

***Bonus points there for alliteration 😛 .

Myth #1: The high-pressure, fast-talking, aggressive personality is necessary to be good at sales.

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb
AHHHHHHH!

Wrong.

There seems to be this cultural idea of what ‘personality’ is required in order to be successful in sales. Usually this is the fast-talking, Type A ‘extrovert’ willing to pummel any prospect into a purchase.

This is total bull sprinkles.

Yes, this type of salesperson exists and, odds are, we’ve all run into one…then run away from one. Good news is we’re now in the digital age.

The high-pressure, fast-talking, aggressive salesperson is a relic best left in the 90s with shoulder pads, fanny packs, the McPizza…and these things.

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb

In the old days, badgering had no consequences. Now? We now can unfriend, unfollow, block, and unsubscribe. Or, if nothing else works, we can post on social media that this business or product is to be avoided more than The Black Death pandering a litter of rabid kittens in need of a loving home.

Myth #2: Salespeople Sell Stuff & Good Salespeople Sell A LOT of Stuff

Yeah, no. Not exactly.

Salespeople solve problems. Good salespeople solve a lot of problems or solve bigger problems.

That’s it.

The better a person solves problems, the more money they make. Why? Because happy customers LOVE to share a win because it makes us feel super smart, and we like to brag. Also, humans dig being helpful.

This is called ‘word-of-mouth.’

Simple.

Why so many ‘sales tactics’ fail is the seller fixates on selling the product (their needs) instead of focusing on the best way to solve problems (the consumer’s needs).

I get that newsletters, automation, and email marketing are all the rage. Somewhere, somehow my business email was rufied and taken hostage. I’m relentlessly bombarded with emails from authors (or ‘PR firms’ representing authors) all wanting something FROM ME.

Read MY FREE book. Review MY FREE novel. Share MY FREE series with YOUR friends!

This is NOT SALES.

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb

Sales is when someone solves my problems, not when some stranger ambushes me to solve a long@$$ list of their problems.

Some random writer’s lackluster sales are NOT my problem. When the author (or their ‘PR firm’) craps up my email with fresh lists of demands guised as doing me some kind of a favor (I.e. Offering ME a chance to interview THEM about THEIR BOOK…on MY BLOG?)…

*deep cleansing breaths* ….they’re not a solution to ANY of my problems.

They’re an additional problem.

Because when I get an average of twelve of these kinds of emails a day, it makes it a bugger to find messages salient to doing my job. This doesn’t make me want to buy their books.

It makes me want to save that money to fund anyone willing to develop technology that delivers a non-lethal but painful electrical shock to anyone who spams me.

Myth #3: More is MORE

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb

I mentioned earlier that we were no longer in the 20th century, but many marketers and promoters simply don’t grasp this. Or they don’t care to because being lazy and uncreative is easier.

See, it wasn’t until the late 90s and early aughts that computers and laser printers lowered the barrier to entry for businesses who wanted to use printed material for advertising.

This might seem like no big deal, but Kinko’s (and their ilk) started a small trend that’s turned into an unrelenting MONSTER—direct marketing.

Y’all have to understand that, before roughly 1998, printing was ridiculously expensive. Only big companies with massive budgets could afford to print anything on a large scale.

***This is why business cards used to actually impress people. Also, if you lost your cat, you only put up fliers if you liked (or feared) that cat…a lot.

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb

Anyway, cheap printing breathed life into the golem we know as direct marketing (a.k.a. junk mail). Then, once more people owned computers and used email, direct marketing simply migrated to another place to bug the $#@! out of us.

Now? Social media is experiencing this same devolution. Too many authors (mistakenly) believe they need to be on all sites all the time to sell, sell, sell which is why there’s so much automation.

But riddle me this.

If we didn’t want the spam served as paper in our mailbox, and we didn’t want it served virtually in our email, why would it magically become appealing when plastered on our Facebook wall?

Hint: It doesn’t.

Capitalism 101

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb

We live in an age with countless choices, unlimited options, lower and lower prices, and in every color we could want. Even with SPARKLES! Cheap and FREE are invasive species glomming up the business ecosystem and making us all sick.

To succeed in any business, the goal is not to replicate what’s already abundant, but rather to take time and zero in on what is scarce.

So what’s scarce? For the sake of brevity I’ll name a biggie.

Trust

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb
I’m just watching you. Honest!

All brands, businesses, services and products must earn the customer’s trust. The reason spamming ‘readers’ with free books is so ineffective is that FREE alone is insufficient to close the trust gap, especially in areas the customer stands to lose more than they gain.

There are many instances where FREE has zero impact and perhaps a negative impact on the purchase decision.

For example, would you hire a nanny to watch your children while you went to work because she offered her first week on the job FREE? A new skydiving business opens and first jump from 16,000 feet is FREE! New tattoo artist, and first tattoo is FREE!

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb

Granted, my examples sound crazy but why is FREE not super valuable in these instances? Because whoever is offering the FREE product or service is a stranger we don’t know or trust. We (customers) also stand to lose more than we gain. This is the important difference when considering FREE as a sales strategy.

The COST of FREE

If I’m in the store and a smiling rep offers me FREE a sample of sparkling juice, cool! Costs me nothing and the worst case is I dislike the taste. But, when an author who’s never so much as said hello to me offers me a FREE book, this costs my most valuable resource and the one that’s nonrenewable.

TIME.

And, since the book is being handed out to total strangers FREE, this makes me question why. If the book was actually good, why are they giving it away for nothing? This is when I deduce that FREE will cost me and I decline.

My decision might have been different had the author done something ahead of time to close the trust gap between us. This is why the social media platform and brand is essential if we hope to sell books.

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb

Social media isn’t a new and improved way to spam people and push ads.

Used properly, social media is one of the most powerful ways to close the trust gap between unknown author and potential readers by establishing then growing relationships.

Too many writers are using social media ‘for business’ and then hang out with their ‘real friends’ elsewhere. They’re mystified why their books aren’t selling yet they’re failing to recognize they’ve skipped a crucial step.

In their rush to promote, they never created rapport with their potential audience and thus remain an unknown. The harder they market and the more they promote, the more they widen the trust gap into a trust chasm.

What is Our BUSINESS?

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb

We writers are in the business of storytelling. Great stories are our business, our product and our single greatest selling tool. Outstanding books solve a lot of life’s problems.

Just ask anyone stuck in an airport with no wifi.

The best ‘sales strategy’ for selling a lot of books is to take the time, effort and money one might be tempted to pour into a steady stream of ‘promotional campaigns’ and write excellent stories instead. LOTS OF THEM. Write books people enjoy so much they can’t wait to share their experiences.

Delighted readers are the best salesforce of all…and they not for sale 😉 .

What Are Your Thoughts?

***Sorry to be away so long. Got summoned for jury duty and NO they didn’t pick me *shock face*.

Does this post make you feel a little bit better about sales? Clearer about what to DO on social media? Yes, it is OKAY to have fun and YES, post the kitten videos. It is also perfectly okay to advertise, promote and market…eventually.

Just that whole horse ahead of the cart thing.

Are you afraid of your email, too? I have three that I finally let go feral. There has to be a name for ‘fear of email.’ Do y’all have a theory why I wasn’t picked for jury duty? Bonus points for creativity 😀 . Let’s have some FUN!

I love hearing from you!

What do you WIN? For the month of JUNE, 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.


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.

 


 

feel, feelings, negative impact of technology on emotions, emotional connection, Kristen Lamb, emotions and writing, depression and technology, negative impact of social media, dealing with grief and loss

Last time, we talked about Impostor Syndrome, how many of us struggle with feeling like a fraud. This often dovetails into a nasty cycle of over-achieving as a coping mechanism to shield us from feelings, failure, pain, etc. But, like many coping mechanisms, they can be great for the short-term but a living hell if we allow them to become a habit.

Habits can be particularly insidious because its behavior so ingrained it’s subconscious. Add on top of this a world that keeps pushing us to go faster, do more, be more. This adds fuel to the proverbial fire.

Our modern world trains us to never hit the ‘OFF’ switch because there’s money to be made if we’re constantly plugged into the Matrix.

Perhaps we work at a computer all day. How do we take a break? We hop on-line, dive into social media, watch Netflix or play on-line games. We’re never taking time to ‘get out of our own head’ which is often why we lose touch with our emotions.

As a consequence, our capacity to ‘feel’ atrophies.

The data’s already piling up. Technology is wreaking havoc on our emotional, psychological and physical health. As technology becomes more ingrained in our everyday world, part of culture, we’re wise to pay attention. Technology is increasing codependency, anxiety, and depression, while also wrecking memory, social skills, and our ability to empathize.

Our Western culture already had an unhealthy relationship with emotions, and it seems technology is making this worse. We’re addicted to distraction.

Socially Acceptable Emotions

feel, feelings, negative impact of technology on emotions, emotional connection, Kristen Lamb, emotions and writing, depression and technology, negative impact of social media, dealing with grief and loss

As humans, we’re naturally imbued with a vast pallet of emotions. No emotion is inherently good or bad but all are necessary and serve a purpose.

When we repress one emotion, it’s like plugging a geyser. That will only work so long until there is an eruption of some sort. For instance, if we believe we don’t deserve joy and shuffle past this emotion to go onto the ‘next’ achievement, it can eventually manifest as grief.

Why?

Playing armchair shrink, we’re grieving the moments of joy that have come and gone that we failed to grab hold of. We lose sense of purpose because if there is no joy, no sense of I DID IT! Why are we even bothering?

There’s this odd social dogma that being happy is good, and, that if we aren’t happy something is wrong with us. Anger, sadness, disappointment, disillusionment, rage, fear, etc. are ‘bad.’ If we can’t be any of these, then busy works just fine and comes with lots of kudos.

When someone is sad, angry, upset, it makes us uncomfortable. We switch into trying to make the person ‘feel better.’ But is this always the best course of action? It is (perhaps) for us, because ‘bad’ emotions make us uncomfortable. Additionally, since we’ve been reared unprepared for these emotions within ourselves, how can we help anyone else?

Grief and Loss

feel, feelings, negative impact of technology on emotions, emotional connection, Kristen Lamb, emotions and writing, depression and technology, negative impact of social media, dealing with grief and loss

On the last post, I mentioned I’d recently come unstitched because I use work and achievement and being responsible to numb out. Yet, if we study human history, we’ve gotten away from many of the traditions and practices which used to accommodate the ‘bad’ emotions.

For instance, let’s dial back a century and look at death and loss. I recently listened to an excellent Southern Gothic, Black Water by Michael McDowell (the unabridged saga). In the book, when there’s a death, those impacted hung black wreaths on their doors. They also hung black wreaths on the front of the cars. Women wore black and men wore black arm bands.

Grief and loss possessed a physical outward expression, a bold honesty to the world claiming pain. Oh and wonders of wonders! This was OKAY.

The community respected, honored and nurtured those hurting. There used to be a mandatory time period for grieving.

Yet, how many of you have lost a loved one and work wanted to know if you’d be back within the week? How many of you have experienced a loss and YOU expected YOU to be back at work within the week?

Modern World & Loss

feel, feelings, negative impact of technology on emotions, emotional connection, Kristen Lamb, emotions and writing, depression and technology, negative impact of social media, dealing with grief and loss

I spent most of my growing up years with my grandparents, meaning my grandmother served also as a mother. I lost my grandmother July 4th two years ago. Problem was she died when July 4th happened on a Monday. No long weekend to get over that one.

Also, since her death was ‘only’ one in a long series of losses, I didn’t mention it a lot. I’d already ‘burdened others’ with four deaths in the previous year. Don’t want to be too needy. Then, after she passed, I lost four more loved ones in the next six months.

To be clear, no we weren’t hit by bad luck or plague. I was extremely blessed with a large family I loved very much, who lived VERY long lives. This meant these great aunts and uncles and grandparents had been a fixture in my world since I could remember. Problem was they were all hitting their 80s and 90s at about the same time…meaning I was losing them at about the same time.

Yet, what complicated my grieving (or lack thereof) was that even if I’d lost ONE person, our culture rushes past death.

To be blunt, our culture rushes past loss in general. Breakups, divorces, job loss, kids going off to college, getting dumped, losing a business, etc. are all ‘deaths.’

Yet, how often are we encouraged to ‘forget about it,’ ‘move on,’ ‘get back on the horse that threw ya,’ and so forth? Worse, how often do we encourage others the same way? *cringes* Our kids cry because they lost a game, fought with a friend, or broke a toy, and immediately we comfort…and distract them. Again, guilty as charged.

Why can’t someone feel sad? Maybe WE can feel sad. Calm down. Baby steps.

How Does It FEEL?

feel, feelings, negative impact of technology on emotions, emotional connection, Kristen Lamb, emotions and writing, depression and technology, negative impact of social media, dealing with grief and loss

Experiences, good and bad, are meant to be FELT. Yet, how often are we thinking when we should be FEELING? Part of me is sad that there are not a lot of pictures of my growing up years.

Cameras, film, processing film cost money. Most regular people couldn’t afford home movie cameras to ‘document’ the birthday, graduation, birth, baby’s first steps, etc.

Yet, I’m also happy about this. The handful of old pictures evoke far more emotion than the 1700 images on my current iPhone. Why? Because BACK THEN, I was fully present in the vacation, party, family reunion, etc. I was free to feel.

I watch those around me (and I’m guilty, too) so busy taking pictures (to post on Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, or to ‘remember’) they’re actually not present in the PRESENT. Left brain (analytical) is so busy documenting the joy, we’re not slowing down to FEEL the joy because right brain is told to wait.

It was tough for me when I visited New Zealand last year. I wanted to take pictures of everything! Film ALL THE THINGS so I could REMEMBER!

I had to chastise myself to stop, put down the iPhone and BE PRESENT. Experience the majesty, the elation, the beauty and FEEL them all.

Imprint the moments in my bones and my mind. Viewing mountains through a small screen was a shill for stopping to simply enjoy the view.

We’ve turned into a world of documentary-makers. Yet oddly, what good is the film or picture to recall a moment where we failed to be fully present?

If we’re not experiencing emotions during the graduation or the wedding, then what is that short video truly going to bring back? What will we feel?

Paralysis of Analysis

feel, feelings, negative impact of technology on emotions, emotional connection, Kristen Lamb, emotions and writing, depression and technology, negative impact of social media, dealing with grief and loss

If we’re numbing and avoiding grief and emotionally absent from joy, this has a cumulative effect. Over time, we drift away from what makes us human (our feelings). When we are hurt or angry or sad, we analyze it away.

Google a blog about how to handle being dumped. Enjoying a good time? Grab the phones and DOCUMENT.

It’s fair to say most of the population over thirty is growing increasingly concerned with how much people are staring at their phones all the time.

We see families at dinner in a restaurant talking to people on-line, ignoring the ones across the table. Couples on vacation busy taking pictures of ‘moments’ instead of making real moments.

I’m old enough to remember when beauty parlors (salons) were hives of talk, chatter, gossip and laughter. Now, when I go get my hair done the women all sit staring at tablets and phones, checking email and Facebook.

I’ve made it a point to interrupt them, especially the young ones.

One time, I interrupted a young 20-Something on her phone to talk. I asked her about what she was doing, why she was there to get her hair highlighted…and she gaped at me like a deer caught in headlights. Smiling, I said, ‘Facebook will be there in an hour. Promise. But I won’t be. Tell me where you’re going to college?’

Initially she seemed on the verge of apoplexy, but over time was smiling and telling me about how she was going off to UT Austin and was hoping to go to law school. Within minutes, she was laughing and excited and had forgotten all about her phone.

Put the Phone DOWN

feel, feelings, negative impact of technology on emotions, emotional connection, Kristen Lamb, emotions and writing, depression and technology, negative impact of social media, dealing with grief and loss

This seems like strange advice from a social media expert, but it’s actually okay to put the phone away and to not document every moment for posterity 😉 . That image posted on Facebook will be gone in a couple days. Yet, make an authentic memory and that’s there for life.

When my nephew graduated and everyone had phones aloft, I simply watched, listened, and enjoyed. Let myself feel. I guarantee that memory will be far more visceral, hold exponentially more emotional weight than the times I was ‘busy’ taking pictures of every minute. I was too distracted to take in the smells, sounds, textures, and feelings.

We only have so much time, and we have a choice. Reality or virtual reality? I believe the more willing we are to be present, the more comfortable we’ll become with our emotions. If more of us do this, the more comfortable we’ll grow with other people’s emotions.

Let Them Cry

feel, feelings, negative impact of technology on emotions, emotional connection, Kristen Lamb, emotions and writing, depression and technology, negative impact of social media, dealing with grief and loss

Ever hear that advice for babies? Crying is good for us. We need to let ourselves CRY. Crying releases stress hormones and increases the feel-good hormones. Besides, the emotion will be there in one form or another. If we fail to feel it real-time and at full strength, we hammer it flat.

Flattened emotions take up more metaphorical surface area. Thus, instead of gut-wrenching grief that lasts only a month or six months, we might be left with dull, aching depression spanning years.

If we don’t dive into joy so intense we feel we might burst, we could be left with saccharin memories (artificially sweet and not quite ‘the real thing’).

As writers, being emotionally attuned is critical for superlative writing. Empathy is our greatest tool, but empathy demands we’ve experienced an emotion. If we keep numbing, avoiding, documenting, and checking out, it shows in the writing. We end up with talking heads, plot puppets and ‘bad situations’ instead of drama.

We remember great stories for one reason and one reason only: How they made us FEEL. Want to be a great writer? Less thinking, more feeling 😉 . Pay attention to feelings (ALL of them) because it will make you healthier as a person and stronger as a writer.

In the End

Moderation is key. I love social media, blogging, chatting with people all over the world. Yet just because the world doesn’t have boundaries doesn’t mean boundaries aren’t a good idea.

My goal with this post is to challenge us to FEEL, because what makes us humans and not robots is we FEEL. We feel happy, sad, elated, crushed, proud, jealous and we NEED to feel those emotions and MORE.

I, too, am a work in progress. But, I believe if I work on slowing down, learning to feel the good and bad and ugly I will get better at it. Like all things, practice makes perfect. Setting down my iPhone for more of the iFeel 😉 .

What Are Your Thoughts? (Then Feel FREE to Go OffLine!)

Do you seem to struggle more in our modern age with being able to feel? When a negative experience hits, are you (like me) quick to go look up a blog, binge-watch HBO, or scroll Facebook? Are you afraid to feel? Unused to being able to feel? Have you turned into a mini-documentary maker, too?

Have you become addicted to distraction? Are there childhood memories that are SO REAL (even decades later) because you didn’t have any technology to interrupt? So you remember the smell of the grass and Coppertone, the feel of the sand, the bite of saltwater up your nose when you first dove into the ocean…

If you do? SHARE! I’d LOVE to hear about these authentic moments!

I love hearing from you!

What do you WIN? For the month of JUNE, 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).

 

Fraud, Self-Help, Impostor Syndrome, overachieving, numbing, success to numb, Kristen Lamb, hiding from pain, enjoying life

Yes, I know the title is total click-bait, but GOOD. It means you’re here and might even read on. I may be the only person who thinks this: Stop lying! Everyone knows you’re a fraud (fake, poseur, hot mess, etc.). Or, perhaps I am the only one willing to admit it, on-line, in words, preserved for posterity…or posterior. Showing my posterior, at least.

Meh, I have no pride.

But wait, maybe I do. Maybe I have a lot of pride, too much even. And that’s a huge part of my problem.

Fraud Dreams

Fraud, Self-Help, Impostor Syndrome, overachieving, numbing, success to numb, Kristen Lamb, hiding from pain, enjoying life

For years, I’d have the same sort of nightmare over and over. In the dream I’d be a successful whatever (doctor, lawyer, author) and my high school guidance counselor would show up to inform me all my credentials were worthless, because I never truly graduated high school.

I’d failed to complete ONE class (usually something stupid like Health or P.E.).

Since I’d gained entry to my advanced education by lying about having a high school diploma, I had to go back to high school and do everything all over since none of it counted.

In the dream, I’d be thirty or forty years old, yet put back in the tenth grade. Why the tenth? Because, DUH! It had been so many years since I’d attended high school that most of my credits were no longer valid.

All this was my own fault.

If I hadn’t lied my way through life, I wouldn’t be sitting in a room with a bunch of fourteen-year-olds reading The Great Gatsby for the seventh time (and still hating it).

This was the punishment a fraud like me deserved. I’d spent most of my life fooling people, lying, convincing them I was someone I wasn’t and this was my penalty. After years of ‘covering this up,’ they’d found me out.

What’s really odd about all these dreams was…I agreed.

How had I managed to make it decades with no one suspecting it was ALL a charade? Did I really expect to ‘get away’ with it?

There is a name for this, by the way: Impostor Syndrome. Good news is it mainly afflicts those who are high achievers—GOLD STAR FOR YOU!

Bad news? It can make life hell.

Fraud Thoughts

Fraud, Self-Help, Impostor Syndrome, overachieving, numbing, success to numb, Kristen Lamb, hiding from pain, enjoying life

Going out on a limb here, but I’m assuming I’m not the only person who’s had these sorts of dreams, thoughts and feelings.

When I pay attention to the junk I tell myself, it’s enough to give me pause. Would I EVER talk to another person, even a stranger, the way I (often) talk to myself?

No.

So where’s this garbage coming from?

It can stem from a lot of areas, but today we’re going to hone in on one. The feeling of being a fraud is a toxic byproduct of overachieving. Overachieving, as I’m learning, is my main go-to defense mechanism. If I’m red-lining day after day to DO ALL THE THINGS, I never have to slow down…and feel.

Feelings are scary. Not simply some feelings but ALL feelings. I don’t dare cry because I’m terrified I might never stop. That and, who likes weak, needy people, right? I can’t bear to feel anger because it’s too much. I’ve stuffed down so much rage, it feels like a peat fire that’s been burning for a thousand years.

What’s worse is that, not only have I avoided ‘bad’ feelings, but I’ve also avoided any good feelings (joy) because I don’t want to get too attached.

God forbid I relish in a great moment, because the longer I stay there the more it will hurt when it’s gone. These happy times are sort of like farm animals.

Don’t name them or you’ll get too attached.

What makes this toxic approach particularly insidious is that being a super high-achiever is a socially encouraged. It’s also a socially rewarded coping/escape mechanism.

Numbing Out

Fraud, Self-Help, Impostor Syndrome, overachieving, numbing, success to numb, Kristen Lamb, hiding from pain, enjoying life

Our culture rewards over-achievers. Why? Well *flips hair* first, we get $#!@ done. Secondly, we are (over)responsible, (over)dependable, and guaranteed not to burden anyone else by having any ‘needs.’ We’re an inspiration, a role model, and SO, SO STRONG!

Which is why everyone is surprised when we finally fall apart. Why? Pain is a signal we need to TEND something. We either need to fix it, face it, flush it or just FEEL it.

Case in point…

Years ago, I fractured my back. The doctors refused to give me any pain meds (which was a BLAST!)…or not. The reason? They wanted me to feel pain. If they gave me drugs that numbed all pain, the break would never heal. Since I’d be incapable of FEELING my limitations, the break would never heal or I’d likely make it worse.

Same with over-achieving. But being a high-achiever is far more dangerous. Broken bones we can see. Broken hearts? Not so much. Crushed discs show up on an MRI, whereas crushed dreams do not.

Alas, there is pain and so we get BUSY BEING AWESOME…and numb. In fact, everyone around us cheers us on, which is odd if we look at the behavior for what it is, and what it’s related TO.

If we started our day with a couple shots of vodka in our orange juice, society would judge us…harshly. If we smoked a joint, gambled away our rent money on-line, or snorted a few lines of cocaine using our kid’s Capri-Sun straw, we’d be a MONSTER.

Oh, but wake at 4:00 a.m. to go to the gym, pack GF-dairy-free-soy-free-non-GMO lunches for the kids, journal/meditate, and have all the emails returned before sunrise? Then work full-steam ten hours, write novels, blog, do all the laundry, and volunteer for every school event and never need help?

We’re a SUPERSTAR…which is we why HAVE to document all this on Instagram. 

The snorting cocaine? Not so much. Yeah keep that off Instagram.

Sure, life is hard and there’s pain, sickness, death and loss. Nothing a great inspirational quote can’t fix.

***Remember to post it on Facebook, though 😛 .

No matter how much we might need to stop, to feel, to rest, we simply…can’t. We’re too strong to be so weak.

Fraud Seeds

Fraud, Self-Help, Impostor Syndrome, overachieving, numbing, success to numb, Kristen Lamb, hiding from pain, enjoying life
Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of frankieleon

My parents divorced when I was ten, during a time when it was NOT common for people to divorce. My father, who was a super fun guy—but about as useful as ice trays in hell—did what any self-centered man-child would do. He took off for parts unknown where he could get out of paying a dime of child support.

Mom sent me to counseling, where the seeds of fraud could open and take root. Everything was fine. I was a straight-A student (all Honors classes), a first-chair clarinetist, teacher’s pet, did all my chores (and my little brother’s), cleaned the house and helped pay the bills. Sure I was only a kid, but childhood was overrated.

No, I didn’t miss my dad at ALL and I was SUPER GREAT!

Weird thing was the counselors bought it. All the adults bought it. I was only eleven years old and had them totally fooled. Better still? I’d fooled myself as well.

Why did I do this? First, my mom was in pain and I didn’t want to add to her pain. Besides, there were starving children in Africa, families caught in genocide, and innocent animals with no homes *plays Sarah McLauchlan*.

No one cared to hear my whining. What began as a childhood coping mechanism eventually became so ingrained in me, I no longer even noticed it. Had no clue how HORRIBLE my thinking was.

I know my grandmother just died, but who has time to cry when the closets are all such a mess? Not like crying is going to bring her back.

Fraud Alert

Fraud, Self-Help, Impostor Syndrome, overachieving, numbing, success to numb, Kristen Lamb, hiding from pain, enjoying life

Social media has SO many incredible benefits. Blogging has helped me grow as a writer and a human being. I’ve even been brave enough to write posts about—GASP—being a recovering jerk.

***FYI, I am still in recovery.

Yet, I find it fascinating and heartbreaking how we are more ‘connected’ than ever in human history, but more isolated than ever before. The potential for deeper relationships is there, but so often we’re afraid. If they knew who I REALLY was (fill in blank here).

It’s why so I feel so many of us writers struggle to feel the joy of authentic achievement. We’ve been shoved into a world of ‘author participation trophies’ and are uncertain if our writing is any good or if the algorithms had a glitch that day. Sun spots? Hackers?

My book hit #3 in mystery! …for three minutes. WHY did I refresh the page? It DID hit #3 right? I should’ve taken a screenshot.

Sure, I’ve written 1400 blogs and four books, but I’m not a REAL writer because I haven’t bought a beach house in cash.

My book is doing great, but not because the writing is excellent. It sold because I did a TON of social media marketing and promotion.

*head explodes* *brains in keyboard with chip crumbs*

Uncouple from the Cray-Cray Train

Fraud, Self-Help, Impostor Syndrome, overachieving, numbing, success to numb, Kristen Lamb, hiding from pain, enjoying life

Why did I write this post? …good question. Why DID I write this post? Oh, yeah. Recently, I heard a cool analogy from Andrea Owen that made me stop amidst my ugly crying about what a failure-loser-jerk-horrible-person-fraud I was (am).

I’ll confess. I can be pretty ba—positively ridiculous. Who cares that I wrote 4,000 words and edited 60 pages in one day? My kitchen is a wreck, there’s cat fur on everything, I can’t even FIND my organizer, and…have I washed my hair?

Anyway, Andrea’s analogy stopped me in the spiral of I-So-Suck long enough to breathe. Paraphrasing Andrea, say you hosted a HUGE party at your home with all the food and fun and drinks and games. You wake the next day to what? A mess. What’s the first thing you start doing?

Relish in the JOY of what a fantastical night and how you made marvelous memories for you and all the guests!

Liar.

I imagine many of you answered ‘cleaning’ (or going back to bed).

All right, cleaning is great, but maybe turn the LIGHTS on first? Yes, maybe we have a mess, but until we shine a light on what’s around us, we have no way to discern what needs to be tossed, washed, saved or stored. Too many of us have on the rubber gloves and are cleaning away…in the dark.

As long as we are moving, we’re fine. Yet, we are anything BUT fine.

This is why I’d like to introduce you to my new way of coping in a healthier way. I’m calling it WTH therapy.

Just Ask, W.T.H.?

Fraud, Self-Help, Impostor Syndrome, overachieving, numbing, success to numb, Kristen Lamb, hiding from pain, enjoying life

Since overachieving and being busy has been our go-to for so long, many of us spiral into self-hate and feeling like a fraud if we don’t ‘have it all together’ (whatever that means). Sometimes, organizing, working, writing, cleaning, learning Swahili while folding socks is the drug of choice that calms us (numbs us). Yet, all this hustle is simply masking what’s causing such unease.

Thus, I challenge all of us to stop, drop and ask W.T.H.?

What am I really feeling?

Think about why X seems like such a priority, disaster, setback, etc.

Have a good laugh, cry, or fit.

You’re NOT a Fraud, You Are HUMAN

Fraud, Self-Help, Impostor Syndrome, overachieving, numbing, success to numb, Kristen Lamb, hiding from pain, enjoying life

Crazy, right? Humans are imperfect and surrounded by other humans who are ALSO imperfect. We mess up. There is no way we can do ALL the things. We have to choose or we will drive ourselves and everyone around us insane. Besides, when everything is important, nothing is.

Many of us over-achievers have to let go of some deeply ingrained cray-cray.

First, numbing only works so long. Like any drug, we’ll require increasing doses to maintain the numb. We grow so accustomed to ‘achieving’ that we no longer even feel any kind of high because we’re onto the next thing.

Eventually we burn out. Because we’re ‘crushing goals’ for the wrong reasons, our accomplishments won’t bring us joy. Why? Because joy was never the goal.

Avoiding pain and seeking joy are two completely different goals.

We’re feeling like a fraud because we keep setting a standard we can never reach (or if we DO reach it, then it was a fluke so notch that baby HIGHER).

This means we lose before we even start. The hard part of all this is realizing we can change by being more intentional and slowing down. Perhaps work, achieving, ‘keeping it all together’ has gotten out of hand, exacerbated when life is falling apart.

But, sometimes it’s better to let ‘whatever’ fall apart. Maybe it’s time it does. Perhaps X keeps falling to pieces because it’s dead and we’re unwilling to face we’re holding onto something that died a long time ago (like a friendship, family relationships, a business, that first novel, etc.).

Maybe we are, maybe we aren’t. Thing is, we won’t know unless we let go.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Fraud, Self-Help, Impostor Syndrome, overachieving, numbing, success to numb, Kristen Lamb, hiding from pain, enjoying life
My FAVE meme EVER!

Are you ridiculously hard on yourself? If you stopped to really ponder the standard you hold yourself to, what would it look like? *Release the Kraken!*

Have you used work, achievement, To Do Lists, cleaning, volunteering as a way to distract from pain you have NO idea how to feel, let alone face?

Yesterday, I finally fell apart on the phone with a long-time friend. In my defense, it was completely Jay’s fault. He said something like, “Hey, how’s it going?”

BWAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

#Triggered

Eventually, Jay talked me off the ledge and got me to fess up. I said I felt like the people in Joplin, Missouri after that big tornado in 2011 that leveled the city—just shellshocked, ears ringing, unsure if I was injured, with no idea what to feel first, where to begin, what to do.

My head was chaos with so much I’d stuffed down over the past few years. Since I hadn’t said them all aloud, confessed them to anyone fully… I was imploding.

My inner critic was getting louder and louder with nonsense like, ‘Sure, you cleaned the kitchen, but what about the BATHROOM? How can you write novels when you can’t even find the bottom of your CLOSET?’

Yeah, that’s SUPER helpful *rolls eyes*.

My inner critic was also distracting me with dusty baseboards when I REALLY needed to grieve some pretty HORRIBLE events our family has endured (including, but not limited to, now FIFTEEN deaths in FIVE years).

Perhaps there were some BIGGER issues to face than dusty baseboards?

Do you use achievement, perfectionism, goals, business to hide and numb? Is it getting harder and harder to please, appease or even silence that inner critic? Do you have a hard time accepting a compliment, enjoying a good moment, embracing an achievement? Struggle with feeling you’re a fraud?

When others try to help, are you terrified to let them? OR—HORRORS—ASK?

I’m the first to move heaven and earth to help anyone anytime, but am terrified of asking for help. Seriously, this is me…

Fraud, Self-Help, Impostor Syndrome, overachieving, numbing, success to numb, Kristen Lamb, hiding from pain, enjoying life

Hey! I’m a work in progress, too!

I love hearing from you!

What do you WIN? For the month of JUNE, 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).

 

Road House, nice, kind, the difference between kind and nice, victim mentality, setting boundaries, codependency, Kristen Lamb, setting boundaries with users, learning to say no, toxic people and nice

Our culture trains us to be ‘nice.’ No is a two-letter ‘four-letter word.’ Boundaries are ‘being mean.’ We should all strive to ‘understand, be flexible, and all get along.’  It’s as if there’s no middle ground between jerk and b$#@ versus someone with a healthy sense of boundaries.

Besides *chirpy voice* good deeds add up. If we’re nice to others, they’ll be nice to us! In fact the NICER we are, the better.

*gags*

The problem with this thinking is it’s utter and total bull sprinkles. It’s propaganda for the takers to groom eager givers, to keep us in line and happy to give more and more…even when its killing us.

Part of how predators (takers) maintain the grift is to fool us into believing that effort and results always have direct correlation.

What they don’t want you or me (or anyone else brave enough to confess to being a sucker) is this: The one-to-one ratio regarding effort and reward only applies in certain areas.

We’re bombarded with the notion that if we work twice as long, we can expect twice the results.

This IS true, just not universally true.

More is Not Always MORE

Road House, nice, kind, the difference between kind and nice, victim mentality, setting boundaries, codependency, Kristen Lamb, setting boundaries with users, learning to say no, toxic people and nice

Let’s use an example. Say I work twice as long and twice as hard cleaning my house. Yes, my house will be twice as clean. Say, I make a clean spot and work four times, five times, ten times longer and harder to make my house SHINE.

I organize every drawer and closet, touch up ugly dings in the floorboards with leftover paint, and scrub and polish everything in my house that doesn’t move fast enough to evade my Swiffer (I’ve never done this *whistles innocently*) then sure, my home will look AMAZING.

My results will reflect time, effort, and vigor in direct proportion to effort vested.

If, however, I work twice as hard to get people to like me, the more likely my enthusiasm will simply make others run away while mumbling words like ‘needy,’ ‘clingy,’ and ‘stalker.’

Most reasonable folks would agree that taking a shower daily is a good thing. Taking thirty showers a day? This doesn’t make me ‘cleaner,’ it makes me a classic case of OCD and prime candidate for behavioral therapy and psych meds.

But This Isn’t ME

Okay, okay I get it. Some of you are laughing at me right now. Kristen, I don’t take thirty showers a day. I’m lucky take one. I barely have time to call my friends once a month, let alone ten times a day. This just doesn’t apply to me.

Fair point, but bear with me.

See, when I focus the effort-reward correlation on ONE activity, the insanity is far easier to see. No one needs a degree in clinical psychology to discern that mowing our yard twice a day is…well, crazy.

But how many of us overcommit? We say yes to everything and everyone believing the more we DO, the better person we are. The more we are nice to others, the more OTHERS will be nice to us. More NICE expended equals more NICE returned.

Right?

An Example

So I don’t hurt any feelings, I’m going to make up an example I believe many of us ‘nice guys/gals’ can relate to.

Let’s say your boss assigns your colleague a very important task. She’s to host a dinner party for the out-of-town investors your company wants to impress. You’re stoked because you’ve been eagerly looking forward to networking with the movers and shakers in your industry.

Four days before the event, your colleague calls frantic and asks you to help. You say yes, because you’re so nice. You assume maybe she needs help making seating arrangements or folding napkins into swans.

It’s only after you agree to help that your colleague confesses she hasn’t even started.

She’s gonna get fired! Your desperate colleague is in crisis and begs for your help (while ugly-crying). She might say things like:

You’re the type of person who can handle this! Why did Mr. Boss pick me and not you? What will the investors think? How will this impact the company image? I can’t believe I messed up so badly *sobs*.

And you comfort her and agree to help because you’re so incredibly nice. Worse, you’re beyond nice (you’re pathologically nice).

Since this colleague failed to book a venue or hire caterers early enough, you know the bill for something so last-minute will be staggering. It’s fine, though. You can host at your in-law’s large home and do the cooking yourself. Then the company will see how much money you saved them and all you did to pull off—a frigging miracle—an incredible party.

Sure it sucks you had to hire a professional cleaning service to detail your in-law’s home and took three vacation days to cook a gourmet spread that catered to paleo, vegan, and vegetarian preferences (all organic and gluten-free).

But it will all pay off.

Besides, you gave your colleague the receipts so she can make sure you’ll be reimbursed.

Alas, during the dinner party, instead of networking as planned and boosting your career up a few rungs, you’re too busy in the kitchen making sure there are enough clean wine glasses.

Meanwhile, your ‘desperate’ colleague is remarkably at ease. She’s happily chatting away in her new designer dress while you hide…since you smell like a turducken had a one night stand with a Bananas Foster.

As you’re cleaning the red wine stain off your MIL’s cream carpet, you overhear your boss praising your colleague for such ingenuity. She put together a fabulous event, and did so by applying imagination, creativity, delegation and using only half the allotted budget!

*Boss gaping at the receipts she hands him*

Just as you’re contemplating whether your colleague’s body will fit in the trunk of your Honda, she comes and hugs you and tells you how you are the BEST! She couldn’t have done it without you and you’re a magician.

Funny thing, though. If you’re the magician, how is she the one who disappears when the party ends and it’s time to clean up?

Any guesses on who got the promotion?

Hint: She ain’t the one washing dishes.

We’re Called to Be KIND Not NICE

nice, kind, Road House, the difference between kind and nice, victim mentality, setting boundaries, codependency, Kristen Lamb, setting boundaries with users, learning to say no, toxic people and niceAs a writer, I’m particularly picky about words. There are far too many words used as synonyms, when they really aren’t. Kind and nice are my peeves because our culture uses them interchangeably. Yet, kind and nice are NOT the same thing. Not even close.

We’ve likely all heard Nice guys (gals) finish last. But who’s ever heard, Kind guys (gals) finish last?

Ever heard Kill em with niceness? Yeah. Me neither.

What’s the difference?

Nice people are nice. They place everyone and everything as a priority ahead of themselves. When we’re nice, we’re people-pleasers and approval addicts. We seek reward via a proxy, instead of hustling it for ourselves (I.e. Trusting the colleague to make sure credit went where credit was due).

In my made-up example, the nice gal ends up doing the dishes. If she’d been a kind gal, she would have said a loving, but firm NO the second she realized her colleague hadn’t even started planning the party.

The colleague then would either a) be fired b) learn how to make her own magic in four days or c) fallen on her sword and gone to boss and explained the help she needed so everyone received proper credit (and appropriate workload).

But, since nice people get a rep for saying yes, we end up prime targets for users. Users loooove people who can’t set boundaries, because then it’s easier to take all they want and never give back, largely because ‘nice’ people wouldn’t hear of it.

We ‘nice folks’ say dumb crap like, Oh no, it’s fine you damaged my favorite blouse, broke my weed-eater, ‘forgot’ to come help me move (even though I’ve helped you move six times), etc. I understand.

Be Nice…Until It’s Time NOT to Be Nice

The 1989 movie Road House with Patrick Swayze is a brilliant illustration of the difference between kind and nice. Swayze plays Dalton, a professional bouncer and the best in the business. Tilghman, the owner of a sleazy bar in Missouri—The Double Deuce—hires Dalton in a last ditch attempt to clean the place up.

Tilghman is desperate. Everyone is out of control—customers, servers, staff, bouncers, and bartenders. Tilghman, being a ‘nice guy,’ has been unable to rein in the chaos and terror. He’s sunk a lot of money into a place where ‘you have to sweep the eyeballs off the floor at night.’

When Dalton makes an initial visit, it’s clear what’s going so horribly wrong. There are no boundaries or consequences for bad behavior. Some bouncers are more hot-headed than the patrons they throw out the front door. Other bouncers are too timid and allow customers to walk all over them. This then escalates into brawls and a lot of broken glass and blood.

Probably the best part of the movie is when Dalton lectures the bouncers and staff about being ‘nice.’

***Warning. There is brief profanity in this clip.

Dalton understands how important it is to be kind in order to deescalate tension, allow potential troublemakers to save face, and eventually attract the right sort of clientele. A higher quality patron won’t tolerate a bar where the staff is rude and disrespectful.

Yet, in this clip, Dalton brilliantly illustrates the difference between kind and nice.

Kindness is Power

The main difference between nice and kind is nice is a byproduct of weakness, fear, uncertainty, and low self-esteem. Kindness, by contrast, is a byproduct of confidence, peace, and respect for others as well as for oneself.

A kind person sets boundaries, commands respect, and learns when and how to say no. Kind people are comfortable with consequences. While happy to loan out an air compressor, if the borrower breaks it? They buy it or pay for it to be repaired. If they don’t? They lose the privilege of borrowing anything ever again.

Users pull a fast one…once.

No-ing What You’re Worth

Road House, nice, kind, the difference between kind and nice, victim mentality, setting boundaries, codependency, Kristen Lamb, setting boundaries with users, learning to say no, toxic people and nice

It’s easy to claim we have dreams and goals. But do we? REALLY? I challenge y’all to check where exactly those dreams and goals sit on the priority list. Lemme guess, they haven’t even made the list.

STOP BEING NICE. Nice people indiscriminately say yes. Problem is, while we’re saying yes to everyone else, we’re constantly telling ourselves no.

Actually, we tell ourselves ‘later’—which is is ancient Aramaic for NEVER #TrueFactIJustMadeUp.

I get the house is a mess, but guess what? It can wait. Science has proven others can figure out how to use a vacuum, even teenagers. Send them a YouTube video, if need be. Hide the car keys in the garage and they’ll clean that sucker OUT.

It is also possible to put words on a page or in a blog…with dirty laundry present in your domicile. Dust will not negatively impact tweets and dingy whites have exhibited no measurable impact on story structure.

We are also—brace for it—under zero obligation to orchestrate/supervise so many play dates and ‘fun’ activities our kids grow up believing ‘Lido Deck’ means ‘Mom’ (or ‘Dad’) in Spanish, and that life is a never-ending Carnival Cruise.

How many of us are getting up before dawn or staying up after midnight because our dream might just inconvenience someone else? Let them be inconvenienced for a change.

So many of us creative people bend more than the karma sutra and…well, that’s perfectly okay! But, if our spouse or kids are forced to make a PBJ instead of enjoying a home-cooked meal, that’s asking too much?

No. It isn’t. So stop feeling guilty.

Feel free to spend all day or all week cleaning that house, baking cookies for the church bake sale, helping your brother-in-law write his resume (which is code for you writing his resume for FREE) and I’ll tell you what to expect. You’ll be lost, hurt, burned out, stressed, and feeling like a failure.

Why? Because none of that ‘other stuff’ endures. A finished novel remains even while clean laundry disappears faster than Tupperware lids cross-bred with men’s socks.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Finished being nice? I confess, I blog on all the stuff I struggle with. I’m a work in progress. I wondered if I might need tattoo removal to get WELCOME off my forehead. Still wonder at times.

Have you put everyone and everything ahead of your dreams and goals? This isn’t only for writers. Have you set aside going to college, getting an advanced degree, taking a vacation, buying underwear without holes because everyone seems to rank higher on the list?

Have you been conditioned to equate boundaries with being ‘mean’ or ‘selfish?’ Ever nearly killed yourself to help a friend, coworker, family member in crisis only to later realize you were completely used?

Been there more than a few times. Sigh.

Yet, I hope this post helps y’all can see you can be strong, powerful AND kind. In fact, *quick plug here* that is a HUGE part of what I’m going to be teaching in my new class Beyond Bulletproof Barbie. Making a woman bitter and mean doesn’t automatically make her stronger.

Oh, and Cait’s teaching Beyond the Princess Prodigy because chronic RBF offers no magical advantage. We can write a kick@$$ warrior with the strength to be imperfect.

Scroll down for our new classes on how to write POWERFUL FEMALES! Get the BUNDLE!

Treat yourself (at least half as well as you do others 😉 .

I love hearing from you!

What do you WIN? For the month of JUNE, 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! ALL About the KICK@$$ FEMALES! 

Beyond the Princess Prodigy: Strong Females in Fantasy & Historical

Class starts the morning of 6/16/18 with USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds 11:30 AM EST to 1:30 PM EST ($45)

Beyond Bullet-Proof Barbie: Strong Female Characters for a Modern World

The NEXT class starts the afternoon of 6/16/18 with ME, Kristen Lamb 2:00 PM EST to 4:00 MP EST ($45)

WANT DOUBLE THE DAME DANGER? Get the BUNDLE and SAVE!

Dangerous Dames Bundle: Pirate Princess to Bulletproof Barbie

Both Cait AND me for FOUR AND A HALF HOURS! Squeee! SAVE $15 for the alcohol you might need afterwards to…celebrate 😀 ($75)

***Recordings included with purchase to reduce chances of ODing on AWESOME.