Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Categorized: Self-Publishing

Faleena Hopkins, Cocky, Cockygate, trademark abuse, publishing, author branding, trademark trolling, amazon, RWA

Call me cocky for even weighing in on this issue (at your own peril). But, seriously, folks. It’s rare to run across something so epically wrong AND foolish and…ironically, cocky. As an author branding expert, I’d be remiss NOT to say something about Cockygate (though I seriously hate having to).

Cockygate.

Yes, folks, it’s a real thing. A subject—cocky—we’ll touch on today (with gloves).

I’ve dedicated over ten years, three branding books and close to thirteen hundred blogs to help my fellow authors. Why? Because this job is brutal. We take crap from countless vectors.

For instance, even though our culture spends the lion’s share of their disposable income (and free time) consuming entertainment…apparently creating this entertainment is not a ‘real job.’

*face palm*

Writers are often paid last and the least (if at all) even in legacy publishing…which is why we need agents. Regardless of pedigree, most writers write for love not money (though we universally agree money is AWESOME).

Why I’m Cocky Enough to Care

I didn’t set out to become a branding expert or blogger, but I tend to have a crusader personality. Which is why my coauthor mocks me and calls me a Griffendork. And I’m cool with this because I know what it feels like to have the world against you and feel (or even actually BE) all alone.

When we step out to become novelists, it’s normal to get pushback. When I announced I was leaving sales to become a writer, my family made the natural assumption I was joining a cult.

Then didn’t talk to me for two years.

Writers deal with a lot of BS, so I’ve spent YEARS stepping into protect other authors from said BS (especially the newbies). Like a fluffy middle-aged superhero, with yoga pants covered in cat fur.

Anyway…

When one adds up the BS from Goodreads trolls, regular trolls, sockpuppets, algorithm scams, piracy, plagiarism, and ‘reviewers’ who fail to appreciate there might be an ACTUAL HUMAN WITH FEELINGS on the other side of the review, you know what you have?

Enough stress to turn Tommy Chong into a cutter.

Then there’s the rampant (and unrepentant exploitation) from MEGA MEDIA BRANDS all using the ‘Exposure Dollar Ponzi Scam’ to rake in millions using creatives as free labor and yeah….

I’ve had a full dance card.

Writers are incredibly brave. They willingly endure an incredible amount of cruelty and sacrifice time and their own money to do what? To entertain. To ideally make some stranger’s day just a bit better. That’s a hell of a noble goal.

And this is precisely why I’m so rabidly protective.

A Caveat

In fact, I am so protective of my fellow authors, I wish I had a time machine so I could go back and stop this author, explain to her how branding really works so I might have saved her from herself. This gal wrote and published seventeen novellas in two years. That’s a hell of a work ethic and there’s a lot about that to be admired.

It’s just the next part that puts me in a weird position.

While I do possess a modicum of compassion for this singular author, her ill-conceived and poorly thought out actions have done untold damage to countless others. Damage that will take months to even fully realize.

And, FYI, for anyone who thinks I’m mean? Calling out a dirtbag move, mocking what deserves mocking, and using a$$hattery as a cautionary tale is not ‘trolling.’

Kind of like when those Olympic swimmers in Brazil claimed to have been robbed and held at gunpoint? Only for us to find out they were piss drunk (literally) and vandalizing a store? And that the ‘evil men with guns’ were not robbers, rather security guards and police?

When the public openly denounced this behavior?

Not trolling.

Anyone who threatens legal action to confiscate honestly earned royalties from innocent authors doesn’t get the victim card, any more than a drunk Olympian urinating all over a gas station then filing a false police report does.

What’s the Deal with Cocky?

Funny, I asked the same thing. In fairness, a lot of other bloggers have done a WAY better job explaining what’s come to be known as Cockygate (like Jami Gold’s Branding: The Right Way vs. The Wrong Way).

But I’ll give the Spark Notes of the scandal we never thought we’d see, let alone be discussing.

In a nutshell, indie author Faleena Hopkins trademarked the word ‘cocky.’ Yes, a word commonly used since the 16th century. A word very commonly used in the romance genre.

This might not have been a big deal, except the author then used her newfound power to threaten and bully fellow authors who’d used ‘Cocky’ in their titles.

I WISH I Were Joking

To make this worse (if it could be worse) Ms. Hopkins took it upon herself to personally e-mail her competition with her ‘reasonable’ demands and spell out the legal consequences for those who failed to comply.

Let’s take Jamila Jasper, for instance…whose book The Cockiest Cowboy to Have Ever Cocked I just bought on a) principle and b) to show actual-money-spending-support for the wronged Jamila Jasper and c) to express my gratitude for her sharing THIS with my other new hero Jenny Trout ,whose post on this entire cock-up is sheer GENIUS…

Exhibit A:

How benevolent! Makes me all misty-eyed. Wait, no…not seeing mist. Seeing more like…red?

To threaten to sue, forcibly take another author’s hard-earned royalties and also make said target PAY for being screwed…then follow it with how seriously you take your victim’s hard work?

Just…wow.

What’s next? Car-jackers demanding gas-money in polite thank you cards? Hand-delivered by large ex-cons with tire-irons and a thing for breaking kneecaps?’

Legal Z…Doom

Ms. Hopkins isn’t the first person to NOT ‘get’ how the whole trademark thing works. We can pay and apply to own the trademark on pretty much any word. If you want to own the word ‘snollygoster’ because it’s a super fun word that should be used more often and this word makes you (okay, me) laugh every…single…freaking…time?

Knock yourself out. You just kind of can’t do anything with it other than maybe brag you own the word snollygoster.

If memory serves me from when I applied for a trademark, you fill out a bunch of forms, wait ninety days and if no entity, person, organization raises a fuss and files to contest? TM granted!

In fact, one might imagine the aforementioned attorney name-dropped in the threatening letter could be rather miffed with how this Cocky TM has played out (though this is total supposition on my part).

One can hire an attorney to TM a word. Since attorneys like money, they go, ‘Um, okay. Cocky? Sure you don’t want to own snollygoster?’

Then they file the paperwork and make their money. Done.

Or not.

Unwanted Weaponizing

Could be wrong, but I’m fairly sure this firm never anticipated anyone weaponizing the word ‘cocky.’ Or using their name and BRAND to do it. I have no way to know for sure. But logic dictates this firm didn’t consent to being the brute squad used to terrify honest hard-working writers into dismantling their livelihoods out of fear.

*makes weird ‘pondering’ face*

Never seen a law firm rufied.

Well, Cockygate is proving there is a first for everything.

Then since the Federal Trademark Office and Amazon have an act-first-then-sort-this-crap-out-later policy, they’ve also been rufied/weaponized. I can’t imagine the FTO or Amazon being very thrilled with being wielded to kill off competition for one author’s personal gain.

Oh to be a fly on the wall….

Trademark Trolling

But I OWN ‘COCKY’, and here is my TRADEMARK! 

Hmm, yeah owning the trademark for a word doesn’t mean as much as this author apparently hoped (mainly because there are no permanent legal teams in place defending every word in the dictionary against BS trademarking for profit).

See, if writers (or anyone else for that matter) could rampantly trademark common words then sue anyone who used the words they ‘owned’ and take their money by force? Publishing would pretty much implode.

Besides, if this sort of plan worked? Go big or go home! If making money by ‘owning’ words were a legit business plan, I’d totally TM all conjunctions…and y’all just lost ALL FUNCTION 😛 .

But I wouldn’t do that, namely because that would be a jerk move and also, one only has to war-game this out about three steps to see it wouldn’t ever work. To be certain though, I consulted MY attorney.

Hey, Mr. Eight, can I go TM all the conjunctions? Then sue anyone using compound sentences?

Faleena Hopkins, Cocky, Cockygate, trademark abuse, publishing, author branding, trademark trolling, amazon, RWA

Mr. Magic Eight Ball Esq. gives pretty amazing legal advice.

But It’s NO BIG DEAL

This author, instead of backing off and apologizing, keeps insisting this is no big deal. Yes, but it IS. It is a VERY, VERY BIG DEAL for all authors (which is why I’m talking about this).

As an author who’s self-published two out of five books, myself, I was astonished that someone who’s self-published seventeen titles would claim these changes are no big deal.

Just get a new cover *hair flip*. 

Seriously? Covers can run hundreds of dollars. The authors would need a cover for paperback AND e-book. Then you need whole new ISBNs (not cheap). You’d have to trash any inventory, swag, ads, promotions and pull and then pay to reproduce any audio books.

If this is a SERIES with ‘cocky’ the costs of Ms. Hopkin’s ‘minor’ changes just made ME want to cry…and I don’t even write romance.

And demanding these changes literally right before CONFERENCE SEASON?

*breathes in paper bag*

The ripple effect of Ms. Hopkins’ demands are way bigger than what little I just laid out. For the aerial view of the Cockygate devastation, go read Jenny Trout’s post for the full run-down of what Faleena keeps asserting is ‘no big deal.’

As a wise man once said,“You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.”

She keeps insisting no authors are being harmed, because retitling only takes ONE day.

*bangs head on table*

You know what else takes one day? Tanking a brand. Where’s a Hot Tub Time Machine when you need one?

Community 

Part of why I’ve worked my tail off to create author communities is so we can support each other, give advice, and even act as designated drivers…only for dumb@$$ ideas. Instead of taking away car keys, we lovingly mock our friend’s stupid plan until this friend wizens up.

Which is why I don’t own a full-sized trebuchet.

My writer friends all know me. Which means they also know I’m highly unlikely to use that power for good.

Being part of a group of fellow authors who care has benefits. They’ll do anything short of break the law (or break the law without getting caught) to save us from evil bright idea fairies. Educated, loving groups could’ve explained how it’s simple to protect a brand…without nuking it from orbit.

Beyond the Social Media Mess

Anyone who uses the FTO and Amazon to kneecap competition, has more than social media backlash to contend with. Authors guilty of nothing more than using an extremely common word in their romance titles are now embroiled in a legal nightmare, some possibly facing financial ruin.

Yep, that’s gonna come back to bite.

This ‘Cocky’ plan also has awoken RWA to take legal action and protect innocents caught in the cocky cross-fire. I could almost hear the collective voices of romance authors crying, Release the Kraken!

*backs away slowly*

Making a Cocky Contribution

I find it vastly amusing that Switzerland has spent roughly thirty years and $6.5 billon for what? To build the Large Hadron Collider. The goal of the LHC? Possibly create a small black hole.

Just a teensy singularity.

CERN has long been searching for ‘The God Particle.’ They also longed to be the first to create a spot of infinite density here…on Earth. In a bizarre twist, more than a few misguided authors have already done this. One can look HERE, HERE, and DEFINITELY HERE.

Multiple black holes.

***No Hadron Collider required.

Granted, these authors didn’t create ‘The God Particle,’ only the slightly-less-sexy-and-yet-far-more-perplexing ‘I Think I’m God Particle.’ The bugger of all this, was how preventable all these incidents were.

Count the Cost

It really pains me this is even a discussion, but is what it is. I know, some discussions we never thought we’d need, like why teenagers shouldn’t eat Tide Pods.

SMH.

Trust me, I was hesitant to even weigh in on this issue but crucial conversations are called crucial for a reason. Not all writers have been around since AoL was cool, and may be unaware that, in the social media age, branding has evolved. Sometimes it can feel like juggling nitroglycerine.

Or maybe just this post feels like that.

Suffice to say, there are a lot of ‘things’ we writers CAN do, just it’s wise to stop and ask if we should. Better still, ask other friends who are unafraid to lovingly call us an idiot. Writers, overall, are some of the most helpful, selfless, and supportive friends we can make.

Which might explain why we can go a tad psycho when one of our own crosses what should be an obvious LINE. You know, like setting a legal precedent that could collapse our entire industry faster than Kanye West’s fashion line.

My heart goes out to authors impacted by this…this….I don’t even know what to call it. If there’s any way I can help, I’d be happy to do what I can.

For those romance authors who’ve been cocky-blocked? We are on your side and rooting for you. You shall prevail!

What Are Your Thoughts? 

Other than most common thoughts like, ‘What the hell just happened?’ ‘Is this for real?’ ‘Can people DO this?’ Though, you know? Feel free.

I do love hearing from you because it’s how I learn and grow as well.

Meanwhile, I’m going to go do something productive, like work on my comedic screenplay about a struggling male exotic dancer who ‘loses his shirt’ and determines to win back his fortunes by becoming a professional boxer.

And, of course, it’s called…COCKY.

 

 

 

 

Outlaster, outlasters, Craig Groeschel leadership, Kristen Lamb, tips for success, self-discipline, how to develop habits for success, habits of successful people, traits of successful authors

It’s only human to want a drive-thru breakthrough, a dream in a box, the winning lotto ticket to life. Yet, I posit instant success is about as healthy as instant rice (and just as suspicious).

To achieve anything remarkable, it’s critical to become an OUTLASTER (a term I learned from Craig Groeschel, who happens to have a fabulous leadership podcast, btw).

Dreamers are born, but Outlasters are forged 😉 .

Outlasting

I had years of honing this skill. Some of you may not know, but I dropped out of high school twice. 

***Note: I am the reason for the current Texas truancy laws 😀 .

Returning to high school and graduating at 19 was seriously humbling. My GPA was so low, my classes (very literally) were one step above Special Ed. When I took my SAT, the scores were so bad, I thought they might check me for a pulse.

Super glad they gave me some points for spelling my name correctly.

After a year and a half of junior college I won an Air Force scholarship to TCU to become a doctor. Six months in, the school didn’t close when we had a bad ice storm and I slipped and fractured my back…losing my scholarship.

This was before the days when places were required to have handicap access, so for two semesters, I trudged up stairs on a cane and had to stand during all my classes because I couldn’t sit.

Not awkward at all.

It took me six years of working crap jobs, but I finished. Maybe not with the best grades, but I finished. In the years that followed, I drifted without purpose working sales and I got in a really bad habit of making way too many excuses and quitting when anything got too hard. It took yet another health disaster to show me my poor character in Technicolor and remind me to become a finisher.

Outlaster, outlasters, Craig Groeschel leadership, Kristen Lamb, tips for success, self-discipline, how to develop habits for success, habits of successful people, traits of successful authors

Time in a Bottle

We all have heard the saying, ‘DaVinci had the same 7 days and 24 hours.’ I would actually make a different point. Folks like DaVinci, Mozart, Shakespeare actually had LESS time.

There was no electric lighting and pulling all-nighters was a good way to go blind by candlelight. Thus, I’d say the difference is that these artists lived intentionally.

We all want to know the secret to success. First of all, I am going to add a caveat. Success is a very personal thing. What is success for you isn’t success for me.

***Mine includes a secret lab, bouncy house and trebuchet.

Yet, study after study shows that people who write down their goals are far more likely to reach them.

Why?

Mission Impossible–> Mission I’m Possible

Mission statements help our subconscious guide us where we want to GO. A mission statement also helps us know what activities are a time-suck, time-waste, what can go, what needs to stay, what should be added, etc. All this helps us be proactive instead of reactive. We’re thinking, acting and deciding with intent.

Living intentionally requires we learn to be OUTLASTERS.

Outlaster, outlasters, Craig Groeschel leadership, Kristen Lamb, tips for success, self-discipline, how to develop habits for success, habits of successful people, traits of successful authors
Original image courtesy of Flickr Creatinve Commons, courtesy of Ali Samieivafa.

We can take craft classes, join a gym, type on the WIP, start a blog, but the difference between those who make it and those who don’t is that those who make it KEPT GOING, even if it was just a tiny bit of effort daily.

Blogging & Writing

When I started blogging, I was THRILLED to have a hundred hits a day. Granted, most were spam bots, but I was in no position to be picky. At least CheapViagraBargainPrice cared enough to comment.

I so lick your blog. What brilliant words using you do. Must tell my brother.

If CheapViagra had not licked my blog…I very well may have given up.

Anyway….

Now, my blog gets an average of 1.1 million hits a month. My site grew from likely 100 visits from dedicated followers (actual humans) to my website a month to now almost 100,000. This did NOT happen overnight and there was a lot of ugly crying along the way.

Suffice to say, those who started blogging when I did have mostly dropped away. Blogging is crucial for a brand and selling books. It is the strongest and most resilient form of social media and yet?

Most people give up.

I’ve also noticed how many people in 2009 were super passionate about writing. They claimed they’d do ANYTHING to publish and write full-time. Now? Most are gone. New dreamers regularly fill the vacuum. But, how long will they last?

***Refer to The Real Odds of Author Success.

Here’s the thing. Starting is crucial, but also easy—okay, easier. It’s fresh and wonderful and emotional. There might even be all kinds of people to cheer you on.

But how will you fare when the new wears off and those who pledged undying support and loyalty move on to a new shiny because we weren’t an overnight success?

The key to making it in ANYTHING from writing to business to marriage to losing weight is to become an OUTLASTER.

Traits of an Outlaster

Outlaster, outlasters, Craig Groeschel leadership, Kristen Lamb, tips for success, self-discipline, how to develop habits for success, habits of successful people, traits of successful authors
Original image via Lucy Downey from Flickr Creative Commons

Outlasters have clear and achievable goals.

Notice I didn’t say realistic goals. Reach for the stars and we may hit the moon. BUT, my goal to be a NYTBSA is an achievable goal because I’m a writer. If I have a goal to become a professional NBA player? Last I checked short middle-aged women were not in high demand in the sport.

Outlasters write down goals and have CLEAR Mission Statements.

The Mission Statement keeps us focused. We learn where to say yes and where and when to say no.

If my goal is to become a NYTBSA in the next five years, I know it is unwise to volunteer for every church event, school event, and family drama need. It becomes clear that I need to set word count based off MY goals. My word count will be very different if I want to write ONE book a year versus THREE.

Outlasters understand the power of letting go.

Yes, Outlasters MUST hold on, hold on for LIFE! But to the right things.

Often letting go is more important than holding fast. This can involve letting go of hobbies, hangups and habits or even WIPs that just need to be put to bed. But the toughest? Letting go of people.

The best analogy I can think of for this is climbing Everest. If we want to climb Everest, there are teams of sherpas that guide you to the first base camp. As you go to each higher level, the team becomes incrementally smaller and this is necessary.

Outlaster, outlasters, Craig Groeschel leadership, Kristen Lamb, tips for success, self-discipline, how to develop habits for success, habits of successful people, traits of successful authors

Not everyone in our life is meant for the summit. Some might even get us killed.

We will mourn people we need to let go of, but often letting go is a good thing. True friends believe in us even when all outside evidence says we are a failure. Anyone can claim to be our friend when life is all kittens and unicorns, but what about when everything goes horribly wrong? This is where true allies are revealed. We find them (and they reach for us) in the darkness.

Outlasters WORK 

Outlaster, outlasters, Craig Groeschel leadership, Kristen Lamb, tips for success, self-discipline, how to develop habits for success, habits of successful people, traits of successful authors

Luck is fabulous and would LUV me some luck. But I still believe the harder I work, the luckier I get. This said, working smarter is key. Feel free to make all your clothes by hand, but running to Target for new t-shirts might be a better use of time if your goal is to be a pro writer instead of a clothing designer.

There are no shortcuts. We MUST endure. And endurance can be small. It can mean we are so ill we can’t see straight, but we post a couple things on Facebook or ask a friend to guest blog…then go back to sleep. It is the small deposits and investments that accumulate over time.

But we write that book, remove that debt, lose that weight little by little. That’s what endures. Fad diets and quick fixes don’t change our character. Just like eating well and exercise should be a lifestyle, being a writer is a WHOLE new way of living. It isn’t a hobby or a thing or our little fun…it is who we ARE. Writers WRITE.

Outlasters Understand the Long-Tail

If we look at life day by day we will get discouraged. It’s kind of like going back to the gym and then getting on the scale every hour to see what’s changed. Formula for a breakdown. Outlasters just keep writing, keep failing, keep learning, keep trying and they do it over and over and over and over.

Outlasters CANNOT Succeed Alone

Part of why I built and pay for W.A.N.A. Tribe (We Are Not Alone—W.A.N.A.) is that we are who we hang around. We’ve been running writing sprints in the main Chat for over three years, M-F from morning to night. Sure, it costs me money but I’m investing in my success and yours. We can enjoy a place free of ads, spammers, politics, drama, data mining, and distractions.

We are all about hard, focused WORK…with fun and play and goofing off in between the 40 minute sprints.

I view W.A.N.A.Tribe as my office, my workplace, my support team. Trust me, my tribe members will notice if I’m not showing up, if I’m not working.

The committed are there every day, and just knowing this is enough to dissolve excuses that might have derailed me otherwise. If they’re vested enough to show and work, then I need to get my @$$ in gear and honor them.

Beyond this?

Find positive, professional, driven people and you WILL come up higher. Psychic vampires, whiners and complainers need to GO. Take inventory and seek out those you admire. Study them. Listen and learn from them. This is a tough road, but no one ever said we had to do it alone.

We all fall, bump our noses and bloody our knees. That is GOOD. Keep pressing. You got this 😉 .

I love hearing from you!

(And am not above bribery.)

What are your thoughts? Have you been struggling to keep pressing? Discouraged? Do you put everyone and everything ahead of your goals? Have you taken time to even define your goals? Does life seem to stretch you like taffy? Are you overwhelmed? Why? Have you learned to set goals and boundaries? What did you do differently that make the BIG difference?

Or the small difference that eventually grew BIG?

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

Heads Up! May 3rd 7-9 EST I’m teaching Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS.

****Free recordings are included with all classes.

Want to know how to write a synopsis? I will teach you HOW. Synopses are vital for any form of publishing and this class will walk you through how to write a query and synopsis that sizzles!

Also NOW OFFERING…

The first five pages are the most essential part of the novel, your single most powerful selling tool. It’s how you will hook agents, editors and readers. This class will cover the most common blunders and also teach you how to hook hard and hook early. This class is two hours long, 90 minutes of instruction and 30 minutes for Q&A.

***A free recording is included with purchase.

General Admission is $40 and there are some SUPER COOL upgrades! Get your spot HERE.

 

MORE CLASSES!

Ready for Book Beast Mode? I Live to Serve…Up Some TRAINING!

For anyone who longs to accelerate their plot skills, I recommend:

ON DEMAND Plot Boss: Writing Novels Readers Want to BUY. 

Two hours of intensive plot training from MOI…delivered right to your computer to watch as much as you like 😀 .

The Art of Character is also now available for ON DEMAND.

And if you’re ready for BOOK BEAST MODE and like saving some cash, you can get BOTH Plot Boss and Art of Character in the…

Story Boss Bundle (ON DEMAND).

Almost FIVE HOURS with me, in your home…lecturing you. It’ll be FUN! 

I also hope you’ll pick up a copy of my debut novel The Devil’s Dance.

The Devil's Dance, The Devil's Dance Kristen Lamb, Author Kristen Lamb, Kristen Lamb novel, Kristen Lamb mystery-thriller, Romi Lachlan

Kristen Lamb, how to write a synopsis, why do writers need a synopsis, synopsis, querying an agent, how to get a literary agent, narrative structure, writing tips

There is one word known to strike fear into the hearts of most writers. Synopsis. Many of us would rather perform brain surgery from space using a lemon zester and a squirrel than be forced to boil down our entire novel into one page.

Yes one.

But alas we need a synopsis for numerous reasons. First and foremost, if we want to land an agent, it works in our favor to already have a FABULOUS synopsis handy because the odds are, at some point, the agent will request one.

Sigh. I know. Sorry.

A Quick Aside

When it comes to synopses, I lean toward the, ‘Better to beg forgiveness than to ask permission’ camp. This is where already having a seriously spiffy synopsis helps.

Think of it this way. E-mail is necessary, but also tedious. Getting lots of email and having to juggle it all, frankly, sucks. Agents get a lot of email. Since I’m also a person who gets a ridiculous amount of email, I LOVE people who save me work. They save me time when they save needless steps.

Most queries these days are via email and since agents don’t like getting their computers crashed by a virus? This means the query will be pasted into the body of the email (no attachments).

Believe it or not, agents like writers. In fact they need writers. They don’t get paid without a writer (who has a book). Last I checked, agents also really like being paid in money—not adorable pigmy goats. Trust me, you will only make THAT mistake once.

To Boldly Go…

So we are clear, agents need writers. Their goal is to make the authors they represent as successful as possible. When the author wins, so does the agent. This is why they’re very picky who they add to their cadre. Just as much as agents are looking for reasons NOT to read our book, they’re simultaneously looking for reasons TO read our book.

I know it’s a paradox much like time travel. Don’t think about it too long or your brain will cramp.

In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with ending your query with: I have taken the liberty of pasting the one page synopsis of my novel below for your convenience.

Worst case scenario? They don’t scroll down. OMG!

But best case is they DO scroll down and they like it! Better yet, you are off to an awesome start because you just saved them a crap-ton of time. Proper initiative is a great way for us (the writers) to make a good impression. Yes, agents want to discover that fabulous book, but it’s even better if that fabulous book comes with an author who makes their life/job easier.

Why Do We Need a Synopsis?

Kristen Lamb, how to write a synopsis, why do writers need a synopsis, synopsis, querying an agent, how to get a literary agent, narrative structure, writing tips

If you don’t want to automatically include the synopsis that’s fine, but if you write a really good one (which IS possible if the story is strong)? Why the heck not?

All right, so what if you aren’t brave enough to include a synopsis and are praying that the subject never comes up and the agent skips all this and asks for a full. Okay, great! Problem is, if you do get a book deal, often the editor will want you to write a synopsis for the book you’re writing next (for approval of course).

Ugh, so if you go traditional, really no dodging it.

Some of you might be saying, Oh, but Kristen! Traditional is sooo yesterday and I am self-publishing. I don’t need a synopsis.

Technically correct, but actually I do recommend a synopsis for all the reasons writers loathe writing them.

Why All the Angst?

Kristen Lamb, how to write a synopsis, why do writers need a synopsis, synopsis, querying an agent, how to get a literary agent, narrative structure, writing tips
Dramatization of writers off to work on a synopsis.

A big reason writers hate writing synopses with the power of a thousand suns is because we believe every word is precious and every character vital and necessary. We lack perspective, especially if we haven’t had any time or distance away from the work.

This is normal.

But a bigger reason many writers hate writing the synopsis (particularly for first-time novels) is the synopsis makes it painfully obvious we have no story or a terribly flawed story.

The synopsis strips away our pretty prose and all our verbal glitter and it lays our story bare.

Today I want to talk about the BIG PICTURE stuff. What is it our synopsis is really out to reveal? If we don’t first grasp that, no amount of tips I give for writing a great synopsis will help.

Synopsis as Skeleton

The synopsis is the skeleton of our story. What do skeletons do? They support everything else. The skeleton is the guidepost for all that is to come.

We can see the skeleton of a fish and ‘see’ the fish even without benefit of gills and scales. We can see an elephant skeleton and get an idea of scope and size and finished ‘entity/product.’

But most importantly, we don’t have to be a doctor to look at a skeleton and tell that something is horribly wrong.

Kristen Lamb, how to write a synopsis, why do writers need a synopsis, synopsis, querying an agent, how to get a literary agent, narrative structure, writing tips
Image via Wikimedia Commons.

We don’t need a lot of imagination to see how this skeleton above is going to flesh out, pardon the pun. We can see at a glance that this human skeleton is going to have a lot of problems because of the various deformities.

The same holds true with a story skeleton. If the narrative orbital sockets are located in the posterior, we don’t care how pretty the eyes are if they are in the @$$.

Kristen Lamb, how to write a synopsis, why do writers need a synopsis, synopsis, querying an agent, how to get a literary agent, narrative structure, writing tips

There is no amount of witty dialogue or clever prose that is going to rescue a plot that is missing vital parts or has them in the wrong place.

Yes, we are sending a synopsis in hopes of selling a story, but how is the synopsis doing this? Plain and simple? The synopsis is letting the agent see if the skeleton is solid, symmetrical and is of a creature that is rare, cool and maybe never seen before.

Kristen Lamb, how to write a synopsis, why do writers need a synopsis, synopsis, querying an agent, how to get a literary agent, narrative structure, writing tips
Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Steve Starer.

An agent is also looking at a synopsis because she knows it is the fastest way to reveal terminal (deal-breaker) errors.

***For the self-published folks. Technically you don’t need to write a synopsis, but if you can’t for any of these reasons below, the novel might not yet be good to go and this could save a bunch of nasty reviews.

Is the premise weak?

I get pages all the time from ‘finished novels’ but there actually is no story. Just because we have 80,000-100,000 words doesn’t mean we have a story. It means we have a lot of WORDS.

Is it really a novel or just melodrama?

Do we have a solid plot or is it ‘scene’ after ‘scene’ of bad situations?

Does the ‘plot’ rely on trickery? Gimmick? 

Often writers are having a panic attack about writing the synopsis because the entire book rests on a ‘clever’ twist ending that really isn’t a twist but rather a gimmick.

I.e. It was all really a bad dream.

No.

Does it require deus ex machina to resolve?

The protagonist endures plight after plight and all seems lost when she finds…………a journal!

No.

Does it actually resolve?

New writers often don’t understand structure, which naturally means they don’t yet understand that series follow similar structure guidelines to a singular novel.

***And btw, it is OKAY to be new, so breathe!

Even series still follow three act structure. But say the story follows four or even five act structure. Doesn’t matter. The story is not over until the core story problem introduced in the beginning is resolved.

Every book in a series must read as a standalone. Readers should be able to pick up Book 5 in a series and enjoy a complete story and understand what’s going on without having yet read Books 1-4.

If Book 5 blows the reader away, she’ll want to go read Books 1-4. However, if Book 5 makes no sense at all without first reading Books 1-4? We’ll pass.

We read for entertainment, not extra homework.

NO BATMAN ENDINGS.

Stay tuned for next week book!

Often I get, Oh well the reader will have to read the next book to know if she lives. Nope, not how that works unless we write for Days of Our Lives.

No matter the structure we use, our story must come equipped with a satisfying resolution, or that story is missing legs.

In the case of a connected series, often a gatekeeper to the Big Boss is defeated but the journey continues toward that final showdown. No being clever by withholding a resolution.

Is the writer breaking genre constrictions in unforgivable ways?

For instance, romance comes with an HEA (happily ever after) or the more modern HFN (happily for now). No HEA/HFN? It ain’t romance.

If the author is selling the manuscript as romance in the query, but the story ends in a breakup? The agent knows this is a new writer who doesn’t understand genres have rules and expectations.

Is the story just not all that remarkable?

Once the plot is laid bare, is it truly anything unique? A fresh twist on an old idea? Or is it really more of the same?

My book is about a thirty-eight-year-old female executive who decides she wants to have a baby and the struggle of being an older mom.

Okay *falls asleep*.

My book is about a thirty-eight-year-old female executive who finds out she’s pregnant with her first child at the same time her teenage stepdaughter reveals she, too is expecting.

*perks up* Hmmm, interesting.

The Good News

When we can write a concise and interesting synopsis, it shows our level of skill and the strength of our story. If we can write tight and clean here, it bodes well for the book. If your brain is in knots writing your synopsis, relax.

If the story is there the synopsis is too. It’s only a matter of unearthing it.

I love hearing from you!

(And am not above bribery.)

What are your thoughts? Have you been struggling with the synopsis and think it’s because there might be bigger issues going on? Are you a more seasoned writer and remember the nightmare of trying to fit a first-time “novel” into a single page? Any thoughts? Questions? Suggestions?

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

Heads Up! If you need help, on May 3rd 7-9 EST I’m teaching Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS.

****Free recordings are included with all classes.

You’ve written a novel and now are faced with the two most terrifying challenges all writers face. The query and the synopsis.

Query letters can be daunting. How do you sell yourself? Your work? How can you stand apart without including glitter in your letter?

***NOTE: DO NOT PUT GLITTER IN YOUR QUERY.

Good question. We will cover that and more!

But sometimes the query is not enough.

Most writers would rather cut their wrists with a spork than be forced to write the dreaded…synopsis. Yet, after reading this post, you now know why this is a valuable skills all writers should learn.

Also NOW OFFERING…

The first five pages are the most essential part of the novel, your single most powerful selling tool. It’s how you will hook agents, editors and readers. This class will cover the most common blunders and also teach you how to hook hard and hook early. This class is two hours long, 90 minutes of instruction and 30 minutes for Q&A.

***A free recording is included with purchase.

General Admission is $40 and there are some SUPER COOL upgrades! Get your spot HERE.

 

MORE CLASSES!

Ready for Book Beast Mode? I Live to Serve…Up Some TRAINING!

For anyone who longs to accelerate their plot skills, I recommend:

ON DEMAND Plot Boss: Writing Novels Readers Want to BUY. 

Two hours of intensive plot training from MOI…delivered right to your computer to watch as much as you like 😀 .

The Art of Character is also now available for ON DEMAND.

And if you’re ready for BOOK BEAST MODE and like saving some cash, you can get BOTH Plot Boss and Art of Character in the…

Story Boss Bundle (ON DEMAND).

Almost FIVE HOURS with me, in your home…lecturing you. It’ll be FUN! 

I also hope you’ll pick up a copy of my debut novel The Devil’s Dance.

The Devil's Dance, The Devil's Dance Kristen Lamb, Author Kristen Lamb, Kristen Lamb novel, Kristen Lamb mystery-thriller, Romi Lachlan

brain science of branding, branding and the brain, somatic markers and branding, how to make ads more effective, Kristen Lamb, Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon, science of advertising, how to sell more books, how to create an author brand, Kristen Lamb Rise of the Machines,

Branding is a word that seems to have one day—POOF—appeared out of the ether. In fact, when I began blogging in 2006 almost no one in publishing used the term. The rare few who did were hard-pressed to properly/clearly define what a ‘brand’ was.

In fact, many authorities believed authors didn’t need to be bothered with silly passing fads like ‘the Internet’ and ‘social media’ until about 2013. Why would authors need to build a brand?

All a writer needed was a good book. Facebook will last a year at best.

Yep.

Today, in 2018, the words ‘brand’ and ‘branding’ seem to be tossed around daily. Everyone and everything is or has or needs a brand. What’s funny is that branding might seem completely new, yet has been around since…people.

Granted how important a brand is, the need for one as an author, etc. is a fairly recent development. Yes, we need to craft excellent books (product) but we also must begin building our author brand EARLY.

***As in the first day we believe we might one day want to sell a book.

Ah, but calm down. There’s a lot of confusion regarding what a brand actually is. Many assume ads, marketing, and promotional campaigns are ‘branding.’

Yeah…no.

We can build a brand, but alas we cannot buy one. There are no shortcuts. Ads, promotion, marketing can help expand an existing brand, but cannot be substituted for one. This approach is akin to ordering a wife on-line from Russia believing one can buy true love with Visa.

In some areas of life, shortcuts end up a) a waste of time b) a bigger waste of money c) an episode of Dateline.

Branding Basics

brain science of branding, branding and the brain, somatic markers and branding, how to make ads more effective, Kristen Lamb, Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon, science of advertising, how to sell more books, how to create an author brand, Kristen Lamb Rise of the Machines

I wrote my book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World to be evergreen information. In my POV, social media changes daily, but humans never change.

Just read Shakespeare or look at your ex’s Facebook page *rolls eyes*.

That’s why my social media/branding guide focuses a lot more on the science behind what creates what we recognize as a brand. What captures our attention? What turns us off? What renders a brand invisible (thus a non-brand)?

How can one brand launch into the stratosphere with little to no budget when another fails miserably no matter how many millions of dollars are poured into ad campaigns and celebrity endorsements?

Obviously, my book delves into far more detail about the science behind branding. But a little common sense goes a long way. Thus, today we’ll simply touch on why our everyday on-line behaviors collect into a larger pool we call ‘author brand.’

First…

Branding is NOT New

brain science of branding, branding and the brain, somatic markers and branding, how to make ads more effective, Kristen Lamb, Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon, science of advertising, how to sell more books, how to create an author brand, Kristen Lamb Rise of the Machines

The thing is, humans have always had a ‘personal brand.’ Branding, in its simplest form, is what descriptors we attach to another person. It’s an innate habit we use to organize and transition the fuzzy and inchoate into the dramatic and memorable.

In the series I’ve been doing about story structure, I’ve reiterated over and over how we humans are wired for story. Branding is simply an extension of story.

That guy/that gal is too amorphous for us to remember. It also doesn’t provide enough detail for us to know how we should respond.

But, ‘That guy who’s been married four times, loves hunting, and collects sports cars’ provides a narrative (a story) that will either resonate or repel depending on the audience.

Humans dig labels, now more than ever before. It’s how we make our increasingly larger world somewhat manageable. Thus, people we ‘know’ are frequently tethered to a variety of descriptors—vegan, sports enthusiast, triathlete, cat lady, Cowboys fan, craftsy person, the comedian, etc.

There’s the perfect, put-together Pinterest moms and then there’s me….

brain science of branding, branding and the brain, somatic markers and branding, how to make ads more effective, Kristen Lamb, Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon, science of advertising, how to sell more books, how to create an author brand, Kristen Lamb Rise of the Machines

This, in a nutshell, is ‘branding.’ Humans have been doing this ‘branding’ thing since the dawn of time. The only difference in a ‘personal brand’ and an ‘author brand’ is that the ‘author brand’ should eventually drive book sales. Also, branding is now more vital than ever before because of the sheer volume of information, people, choices, etc.

This is why author brands are essential, since a brand is basically a beacon drawing people (readers) to something they find familiar and that they already know they like.

Here is where science comes in handy.

The Neurological Shortcut

brain science of branding, branding and the brain, somatic markers and branding, how to make ads more effective, Kristen Lamb, Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon, science of advertising, how to sell more books, how to create an author brand, Kristen Lamb Rise of the Machines

Our brains are remarkable organs that have the ability to adapt to our environment. Before the invention of the written word, our memory centers were far larger because we had to pass down information orally.

In fact, if you took an MRI of a tribesman from some isolated Amazonian tribe, his brain would look and act very different from yours or mine.

Then, with the advent of the written word, our memory centers shrank but we gained even larger areas for abstract thinking. This was around the time we start seeing major explosions in science and engineering.

Now we are in the Digital Age, and we’re bombarded with stimuli. Internet, television, radio, smart phones, pop-ups, etc. etc. We’ve lost our stellar memory centers and our ability to focus for long periods of time and have gained an unprecedented ability to multitask. Our brains must process massive amounts of information faster than ever before.

Think about it. We see ads on Facebook all the time. Or do we? Our brains have literally learned to un-see. We cannot manage all the input. So, if we (authors) are eventually going to advertise our books, how do we make our content visible? 

Branding with Intention

brain science of branding, branding and the brain, somatic markers and branding, how to make ads more effective, Kristen Lamb, Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon, science of advertising, how to sell more books, how to create an author brand, Kristen Lamb Rise of the Machines

Since our brain is much like a computer processor, it must come up with ways to effectively manage all this input in order to maintain efficiency. To do this, it relies on what are called somatic markers.

Somatic markers are neurological shortcuts and are one of the most primitive functions of the brain because they are uniquely tied to survival and procreation. It’s the same shortcut that tells us the stove is hot. We don’t need to sit and ponder the stove. We likely learned when we were very small not to touch.

To give you an idea of how somatic markers work, let’s do a little exercise. Is there a perfume or cologne you can smell and it instantly transports you back in time? Maybe to that first love or even *cringes* that first heartbreak? A song that makes you cry?

Perhaps there is a food you once ate that made you sick and even though there is no logical reason you shouldn’t eat it now, the mere thought of eating it makes you queasy.

These are somatic markers. When it comes to branding, somatic markers are vital.

The Pepsi Challenge

brain science of branding, branding and the brain, somatic markers and branding, how to make ads more effective, Kristen Lamb, Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon, science of advertising, how to sell more books, how to create an author brand, Kristen Lamb Rise of the Machines

If you are around my age or older you can remember The Pepsi Challenge. For years, Pepsi had been trying to gain an edge over Coca Cola, which had dominated the soda industry for generations. Pepsi—figuring it had nothing to lose—came up with the idea of setting up a table in stores and shopping malls and encouraging people to take a blind taste test.

The results were astonishing…to Pepsi more than anyone.

In a blind taste test, people preferred the taste of Pepsi. Coca Cola was rattled by this news. They performed the same test and it turned out, people preferred the taste of Pepsi…and this led to brilliant ideas like ‘New Coke’ which was one of the most epic brand failures in business history.

Why did New Coke fail?

Coca Cola reformulated to make the drink sweeter. In blind taste tests, New Coke was a clear winner. So then why did it tank so badly?

Somatic markers.

What Happened? Branding Basics

brain science of branding, branding and the brain, somatic markers and branding, how to make ads more effective, Kristen Lamb, Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon, science of advertising, how to sell more books, how to create an author brand, Kristen Lamb Rise of the Machines

Years later, neuroscientists decided to see if they could demystify what happened in The Pepsi Challenge. They conducted the exact same experiment, only this time they hooked participants up to an fMRI machine so they could witness what areas of the brain lit up.

They held the taste test the same way it was conducted in the 70s—a blind taste test. To their amazement, participants preferred the taste of Pepsi in almost the exact same numbers. According to the fMRI, the ventral putamen, the area of the brain that tells us something tastes yummy, lit up like Vegas.

*Some have speculated that when it is only a sip, people will prefer the sweeter drink.*

The ‘Human Factor’ in Branding

brain science of branding, branding and the brain, somatic markers and branding, how to make ads more effective, Kristen Lamb, Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon, science of advertising, how to sell more books, how to create an author brand, Kristen Lamb Rise of the Machines

The scientists then decided to try something a bit different. They did the test again, only this time they told the participants what they were drinking. This time, Coca Cola won BIG.

Ah, but something strange happened in the brain. Not only did the ventral putamen light up, but so did the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain associated with emotion and memory.

See, when it was based on taste alone, Pepsi won. But, when the brands were compared, Coca Cola won. The human brain was in a wrestling match between two very different regions—taste and emotional.

Coca Cola had the advantage because of the vast reservoir of fond memories associated with the brand. In short, Coca Cola had a STORY for sale.

Norman Rockwell Americana, cute polar bears, I’d Like to But the World a Coke, every BBQ, summer vacation, rollerskating parties, Friday nights with pizza and on and on all were part of the Coca Cola arsenal. The fond memories (positive somatic markers) associated with the brand literally changed the taste and gave Coca Cola the winning edge.

Somatic Marker Meets Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon

brain science of branding, branding and the brain, somatic markers and branding, how to make ads more effective, Kristen Lamb, Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon, science of advertising, how to sell more books, how to create an author brand, Kristen Lamb Rise of the Machines

Ever run into a term you KNOW you’ve never heard in your life, then hear it at least four more times in the next week? Or see something you know you’ve never seen before, then suddenly it’s everywhere? Reverse-harems? Punk-Rockabilly-Zydeco? Kombucha?

I’d never heard of Bikram Yoga until a friend told me about it and then…it was everywhere. Following me with sweaty mats…and Kombucha O_O .

The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon is also known as the frequency illusion or the recency illusion. At first glance, one might think this is why it’s a great idea to automate everywhere! Churn out lots of ads! Exposure! The more people see me, my name, my face, my book, the BETTER!

Follow them to the BATHROOM!

Not so quickly.

The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon seems to kick in strongest when there’s some kind of an emotional response tethered to the ‘thing.’ Interestingly, the stronger the emotional response (positive or negative), the more likely we will see that car, food, book, name, that we suddenly believe is now everywhere, surrounding us.

Ah, but when it comes to OUR brand, what emotional response are we creating? Are people seeing our name because of some good encounter? Or do they see it and silently rage because we keep crapping up their feeds with automation? Are we all take and no give?

Ads That Pop-Up & Ads That POP

We see ads all over. More than ever before in human history, which is why our brains are getting so clever with shortcuts. Most ads we literally do not see.

I could take any random person and have them click through twenty pages of BuzzFeed memes and they’ll remember the memes (emotional), but are unlikely to remember most of the ads plastered all along the sides. Though most ads will be invisible, some are not. Some might even leap off the page. Why?

What makes us ‘see’ the advertisement?

When we have a highly positive or vastly negative experience, we’re far more likely to notice the ad.

brain science of branding, branding and the brain, somatic markers and branding, how to make ads more effective, Kristen Lamb, Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon, science of advertising, how to sell more books, how to create an author brand, Kristen Lamb Rise of the Machines

If we see an ad for a book, we may or may not notice. But what about an ad for a book written by someone we know? Someone perhaps we talked to and liked? The ad practically leaps from the page. We might even buy it because we SAW her ad and OMG! I know her!

Ads alone have very little power to compel a purchase. But, couple them with a brand (story/narrative/emotional experience), and the odds of a sale greatly improve. This is why ads and promotion alone do very little to impact sales. Until there is a narrative (emotion) attached to the name?

It’s white noise.

Keeping the ‘Social’ in Social Media

brain science of branding, branding and the brain, somatic markers and branding, how to make ads more effective, Kristen Lamb, Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon, science of advertising, how to sell more books, how to create an author brand, Kristen Lamb Rise of the Machines

Now that y’all have had a Neuroscience 101 crash course—and I guarantee you will see Baader-Meinhof OR Kombucha at least three times in the next week—let’s get down to what’s most essential. Branding is all story. It’s a collection of emotional experiences that tie our name to some set of descriptors (hopefully positive ones).

Eventually, with love, care and nurturing, followers can become friends and even FANS.

So have fun. Relax. Show up. Be present and engage authentically. Find your tribe and bond. And a great tip for on-line as well as in life?

It is far better to be interested than interesting 😉 .

Feel free to ditch the non-stop jazz hands. It’s all good. Go write more books and enjoy the people you meet along the way.

What Are Your Thoughts? 

Do you now feel way better now that you know why you’ve also heard the term ‘reverse harem’ six times in the past week? Feel extra sassy that you know the term ‘Baader-Meinhof phenomenon?’ Are you already planning ways of using this word in everyday conversation?

Does this take some of the pressure off ‘creating an author brand’?

Ready for Book Beast Mode? I Live to Serve…Up Some TRAINING!

For anyone who longs to accelerate their plot skills, I recommend my ON DEMAND Plot Boss: Writing Novels Readers Want to BUY. Two hours of intensive plot training from MOI…delivered right to your computer to watch as much as you like 😀 .

The Art of Character is also now available for ON DEMAND.

And if you’re ready for BOOK BEAST MODE and like saving some cash, you can get both Plot Boss and Art of Character in the Story Boss Bundle (ON DEMAND). Almost FIVE HOURS with me, in your home…lecturing you. It’ll be FUN! 

Have to write a query letter or synopsis? Conference season is coming!

Pitch Perfect: Crafting a Query & Synopsis Agents Will Love. Class is April 19th 7-9 EST and $45 for over two hours training y’all how to do the toughest parts of this job.

For more inappropriate laughs—fine, a totally gallows humor but fast-paced mystery suspense—I hope you’ll pick up a copy of my debut novel The Devil’s Dance.

The Devil's Dance, The Devil's Dance Kristen Lamb, Author Kristen Lamb, Kristen Lamb novel, Kristen Lamb mystery-thriller, Romi Lachlan

I love hearing from you!

And am not above bribery!

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

March’s winner will be announced next post. I know I said this post but have been sick and am a writer so I lie 😛 .

 

odds of author success, odds, Kristen Lamb, what are the odds of being a successful author, the five percent rule of success, winner's mentality, how to become a professional writer, what are the odds of becoming a published author, building self-discipline, achieving goals,

Many new writers have a passionate dream of being a full-time, well-paid, maybe even famous author…until we see the odds of reaching those dreams. Then? All our enthusiasm and optimism suddenly leaks out *farting sound of deflating balloon* leaving space for doubt, anxiety, and defeatism.

Granted, odds of author success will be different depending on the dream, what our idea of ‘success’ happens to be. The odds of ‘being published’ today are far better than when I started out, but ‘being published’ is no longer the single largest challenge we face.

Kristen Lamb, what are the odds of being a successful author, the five percent rule of success, winner's mentality, how to become a professional writer, what are the odds of becoming a published author, building self-discipline, achieving goals
Not quite, but close.

If we want to replace the day job with being a full-time author–whether that is on a self-published, indie, legacy, or hybrid track—we have some tough work and tougher decisions ahead. I do have good news, though. While our mind can be our greatest enemy, it can also be our greatest ally.

Perception dictates reality.

This means we need to get our head in the game and make certain we’re framing our goals in a way that increases our odds of realizing our dreams.

Do Some People Lack the Talent to be Authors? Sure. But, in my eighteen years of experience, I’ve found that’s actually quite rare.

Why most writers fail to transition from amateur to pro has less to do with lack of innate talent and far more to do with a lack of a professional’s mindset and work ethic. We can’t keep amateur hours and hobbyist habits and expect to reap professional rewards. That’s basic logic.

Blind luck is an option. It’s a sucky one. But it is still an option. For those who want more than blind luck, how does this all shake out?

So glad you asked!

What Are the Odds….Really?

Kristen Lamb, what are the odds of being a successful author, the five percent rule of success, winner's mentality, how to become a professional writer, what are the odds of becoming a published author, building self-discipline, achieving goals,

I didn’t even consider becoming a writer until 1999 after my father passed away suddenly. Funny how death can make us take a hard look at life, right? Anyway, I recall feeling soooo overwhelmed. I mean my odds of even getting published were about as good as winning the Power Ball.

And the odds of becoming a best-selling author? Well, mathematically speaking, I had a slightly greater chance of being mauled by a black bear then hit by lightning…on the same day. Plenty of people told me the odds. Encouraged me to get a ‘real job’ instead of chasing rainbows.

Between the negative voices in my head and the dream-killers posing as ‘concerned friends and family,’ it was all I could do not to give up before I began.

Fresh Eyes

Kristen Lamb, what are the odds of being a successful author, the five percent rule of success, winner's mentality, how to become a professional writer, what are the odds of becoming a published author, building self-discipline, achieving goals

After countless rejections, stories that fizzled, and failure after failure I hit a low point. Then, I realized my perspective about my odds of succeeding were skewed in a self-defeating direction.

Often it feels like we are the victims of fate, at the mercy of the universe, when actually it is pretty shocking how much of our own destiny we control.

The good news is that if we can get in a habit of making good choices, it is staggering how certain habits can tip the odds of success in our favor.

Time to take a REAL look at our odds of success. Just so you know, this is highly unscientific, but I still think it will paint a fairly accurate (and encouraging) picture.

The 5% Rule

Kristen Lamb, what are the odds of being a successful author, the five percent rule of success, winner's mentality, how to become a professional writer, what are the odds of becoming a published author, building self-discipline, achieving goals

It has been statistically demonstrated that only 5% of any population is capable of sustained change. In lay terms, we call this GRIT. Though grit is simple enough in concept, training grit into our character is a lot of hard work—which explains why it’s called grit not a sparkle unicorn hug. Developing grit is a bumpy ride with more lows than highs, which is why long-term grit is a rare.

Thus, with that in mind…

When we start out, we’re up against presumably tens of millions of others who want the same dream we do. Yes, tens of millions. It is estimated that over 75% of Americans claim they’d one day like to write a book (and this is just Americans).

That’s a LOT of people.

From one angle, it’s easy to believe our friends and family are right. We DO have better odds of being taken hostage by feral circus clowns than earning the title New York Times Best-Selling Author.

*sobs*

Yet, I believe this generality isn’t entirely accurate because it fails to take into account the choices we make. These ‘odds’ aren’t factoring in how many variables are within our control.

Let’s say we accept we’re up against presumably tens of millions of others who desire to write a book/become a famous novelist.

Ah, but how many even start? How many decide to look beyond that day job? How many dare to take that next step and write even a single page?

Statistically? 5%.

Feeling Lucky? Upping Our Odds

Kristen Lamb, what are the odds of being a successful author, the five percent rule of success, winner's mentality, how to become a professional writer, what are the odds of becoming a published author, building self-discipline, achieving goals

So only 5% of the tens of millions of people who desire to write will ever even take the notion seriously. This brings us to the millions.

But of those millions, how many who start writing a book will actually FINISH that novel? How many will be able to take their dream seriously enough to set firm boundaries with friends and family and hold themselves to a self-imposed deadline?

Statistically? 5%.

Okay, well now we are down to the hundreds of thousands. Looking a bit better. But, finishing a book isn’t all that’s required. We have to be able to write a book that is publishable and meets industry/reader standards. How many who write a novel will hire a seasoned content editor to make sure it really is…a book?

5%.

Or, if they don’t hire a content editor, how many join a critique group for professional feedback?

5%.

Ah, but this is where it gets tricky…the place where many writers who make it this far get stuck.

Aspiring Writers vs. Pre-Published Authors

Kristen Lamb, what are the odds of being a successful author, the five percent rule of success, winner's mentality, how to become a professional writer, what are the odds of becoming a published author, building self-discipline, achieving goals

The best dose of humility I ever received was in my first critique meeting with ACTUAL authors (as in NYC published). I thought my novel was the best thing since puffy kitten stickers, and OMG so did everyone else!

It was AMAZING. They all wept because they’d failed to bring enough star stickers to paste all over my pages! No rose petals to throw at my feet! No lyres to sing songs of my book’s greatness!

….or not.

More like I spent an hour ugly-crying in my Honda, wondering if throwing myself off the library would kill me or merely wing me.

Despite the sound beatings, I sucked it up and returned week after week. I kept at it and improved despite having to sweep up my pride and self-esteem at the end of every meeting.

This said, how many take the step to attend a critique group, and then stick to writing even after a blistering critique? Many blistering critiques?

5%.

This marks a major fork in the road. The critique stage is the dangerous level. We’ve made it SO far…but can end up jammed in the funnel.

Talk is Cheap

Kristen Lamb, what are the odds of being a successful author, the five percent rule of success, winner's mentality, how to become a professional writer, what are the odds of becoming a published author, building self-discipline, achieving goals

As a neophyte, I truly believed everyone who attended a writing critique group would be published. I mean they were saying they wanted to be best-selling authors. I was saying it.

But did they mean it? Did I mean it? Good question. But first a test…

How many of you reading this refer to yourself as an ‘aspiring author?’ Raise your hand. No one can see. Now, if you raised your hand, slap yourself HARD and never use that title again.

O_o

If we don’t take ourselves seriously, why would anyone else? So long as we refer to ourselves as ‘aspiring’ we’re locking into a hobbyist/dabbler mentality. To go pro, we need to think pro.

From now on, I recommend pre-published author or emerging author. I use pre-LEGEND 😛 .

Kristen Lamb, what are the odds of being a successful author, the five percent rule of success, winner's mentality, how to become a professional writer, what are the odds of becoming a published author, building self-discipline, achieving goals

Anyway, for years I faithfully attended various critique groups. I had a blast…once the swelling went down.

Question Everything

Over time, however, I noticed that many of us were more in love with the idea of being a New York Times Best-Selling Author than actually doing the work required to become a NYTBSA.

I was BIG TIME guilty, because I didn’t understand critique groups can become too comfy. I started novels I never finished, complained NYC just was publishing junk, prioritized my writing after laundry, dishes, cleaning behind the refrigerator…feeding orphans in Somalia on and on. After ALL that was finished, THEN I would write.

Sure.

Lots of talk, no walk.

Truth was, I was an amateur because I thought and behaved like an amateur. Since I didn’t approach my craft like a professional, I was at best, a hobbyist and, at worst, hopelessly delusional.

Suffice to say, good critique groups can help us grow in our craft but they can also become a place where activity and productivity are easily confused. This is the most common place for a funnel traffic jam, so stay frosty 😉 .

Back to the REAL Odds

So, of the tens of thousands of writers who write a novel and survive evisceration from a hard-core critique, how many commit to learning the craft and developing their skills? Maybe take some on-line classes, read/study a stack of craft books or—WHOA—perhaps save up to attend a major conference?

You guys are good….5%.

And of those who attend a conference, how many, when an agent asks for their pages, actually follow through?

Believe it or not…5%. Most chicken out.

Alas, of that percentage of writers who rally the courage to send in pages, how many will land an agent right away?

5%.

Out of all of those authors rejected, how many writers, determined to impress, are willing to GUT their novel and wage wholesale slaughter on entire villages of Little Darlings? Maybe even hire a professional hit man (editor)?

5%.

How many are willing to let go of that first novel, take it as a learning experience, and move on? Write until they finish a truly good book?

5%.

Of the writers who land an agent or are brave enough to go indie or self-publish, how many of them get dead-serious about building a large social media platform? Comprised of cultivated followers/fans?

Again? Probably 5%.

***More hard news. Publishing a book is not enough. There is no ‘write it and the readers will come’ no matter which publishing track we choose.

Odds Favor Those Who Suck It Up

Kristen Lamb, what are the odds of being a successful author, the five percent rule of success, winner's mentality, how to become a professional writer, what are the odds of becoming a published author, building self-discipline, achieving goals

Thus far, we’ve weeded out all the ‘aspiring writers,’ which means the competition is not near what it appeared to be when we began. Alas, so many writers make it this far and believe gimmicks, shortcuts and algorithmic alchemy can deliver success.

*shakes funnel* *muffled screams*

Of those published authors on-line, how many are effectively branding their names so their name alone will become a bankable asset? Versus taking the easy way and buying followers and spamming everyone in sight?

5%.

Of those who self-publish, how many will keep writing more books and better books until they hit a tipping point for success (instead of beating marketing one book to death)?

5%.

Of writers who self-publish, how many will invest in professional editing and cover art?

5%.

Funnel Facts

Kristen Lamb, what are the odds of being a successful author, the five percent rule of success, winner's mentality, how to become a professional writer, what are the odds of becoming a published author, building self-discipline, achieving goals

Thus, when we really put this dream under some scrutiny, it is shocking to see how many variables we actually control.

We control:

  • Taking the Decision Seriously;
  • Setting Boundaries;
  • Developing Discipline;
  • Training/Improving Skill Level;
  • Writing the Book;
  • Finishing the Book;
  • Editing the Book;
  • Learning the Craft;
  • Investing Time and or Money Into Professional Training;
  • Networking;
  • Following Through;
  • Pressing On in the Face of Rejection;
  • Writing Another Book;
  • Finishing Even MORE and now WAY BETTER Books;
  • Doing Everything in Our Power to Lay a Foundation for a Successful Career.

I am not saying that finishing a book is easy, because…

None of This is Easy

Kristen Lamb, what are the odds of being a successful author, the five percent rule of success, winner's mentality, how to become a professional writer, what are the odds of becoming a published author, building self-discipline, achieving goals

Just because something is simple in no way makes it easy.

This job is a lot of hard work and sacrifice, which is exactly why most other ‘writers’ will never be genuine competition. If we fixate on all the tens of millions of other ‘writers’ we are up against, we set ourselves up for failure. We place ourselves in danger of becoming overwhelmed and eventually giving up.

If, however, we will choose to focus on decisions and actions we control, our odds of success drastically improve.

Toss in tens of millions of people with a dream, and only a very small number will shake out at the end. Is it because fortune smiled on them? A few, yes. But, for most of us, the harder/smarter we work, the ‘luckier’ we become.

May the odds be ever in your favor.

Yes, I just quoted The Hunger Games…cuz it can feel that way.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Does this dream now seem a bit more achievable with this ‘fresh’ perspective? Have you been psyching yourself out? Bought the lie that your dream was silly? Have you fixated too much on factors outside your control instead of focusing on what you can control?

Hey, I’ve been at this a LONG time and still need the reminder. It’s why I’ve blogged on this exact theory multiple times and updated it. We ALL need a pep talk now and again.

I look forward to helping you guys become stronger at your craft, and next time we’ll resume talking abut structure. Those new to my blog, I hope you’ll check out this series. Look to the column over there–>

For anyone who longs to accelerate their plot skills, I recommend my On Demand Plot Boss: Writing Novels Readers Want to BUY. Two hours of intensive plot training from MOI…delivered right to your computer to watch as much as you like 😀 .

I’m offering The Art of Character (March 22nd 7-9 EST). More advanced material, and lots of FUN! Just because we’re tackling advanced material, doesn’t mean we can’t make it a party. As always, recording is included with all classes FREE of charge 😉 .

Also, my Bullies and Baddies: Understanding the Antagonist is a great follow up, and this class will help you plot faster and tighter than ever. It’s being held March 29th (7-9 EST).

I love hearing from you!

And am not above bribery!

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

***February’s winner is Gabriella L. Garlock. Please send your 5,000 word Word document in a doc.x file, double-spaced, 12 point Times New Roman font, one-inch margins to kristen @wana intl dot com. Congrats!

By the way, yes I also offer classes, and so does my partner-in-crime USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds does, too. We both want y’all to write amazing books because that means more word of mouth sales, and a world with better books.

NEW CLASSES (AND SOME OLD FAVES)!

You can sign up HERE!