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Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Categorized: Social Media Platform

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learning Curve Drudgery 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why?

Because learning to write novels is hard.

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

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

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

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

*weeps*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drudgery. Not pom-pom waving.

Writing Drudgery

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

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

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

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

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

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

Publishing Drudgery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wrong.

The Drudgery Delineation

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Is it REALLY closed?

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

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

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

~ James Clear, Atomic Habits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can You Handle Being BORED?

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Nope. No cake.

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

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

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

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

#MotivationMonday

😀

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

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

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

Lots of that.

Catching Fire

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that’s the problem.

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

In the End

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Are Your Thoughts?

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

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

Talk to me! Oh, by the way…

Kristen Lamb, Cait Reynolds

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

MARCH’S AWESOMENESS (CLASSES)

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

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

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

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

Social Schizophrenia: Building a Brand Without Losing Your Mind 

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

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

Story Master: From Dream to Done

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

Fiction ADDICTION: The Secret Ingredient to the Books Readers CRAVE

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

 

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How do we sell more books? This is the big question all authors ask (myself included). Obviously, there are countless opinions about how to sell more books, but not all opinions are created equally.

Thus, before we hop onto the latest marketing/promotion fad we’re wise to understand why traditional marketing doesn’t sell books. Books are not like cups of coffee or breakfast cereal, and thus require a different approach.

Yes, ads, marketing and promotion campaigns sell toilet paper, soap, and toothpaste because seriously…who is NOT USING this stuff? When it comes to influencing what folks do with their free time, however, it’s a whole other game.

Writers are unique as well. Yes, we really are special unique starfish. And, since we are responsible for producing the product, we need a social media approach that leaves time to write great books.

This said, what’s the critical element that makes a book a mega success? Is it lightning in a bottle? Black magic? Voodoo? Can we buy it on Amazon? Is it banned in Georgia?

No. The answer is actually pretty simple (though simple and easy are NOT synonymous). Writers have to get out in the metaphorical boat.

We had a saying when I worked in sales: Fish where the fish are. 

If we want to sell more books, we must learn to fish, and the fish are schooling on-line. And trust me, I know it’s tempting to take shortcuts.

Yet, there’s a marked difference between a legendary angler like Jeremy Wade who goes after a very specific fish to catch and release…and that weird third cousin who tosses dynamite in a pond then collects whatever floats to the surface.

Approach and technique make all the difference in our results. But first…

Field of ‘Dream On’ Marketing 

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A lot of authors don’t even want to get in the boat let alone learn to fish. They try to apply the ‘Field of Dreams Plan’ to sell more books.

If I write it, they will come.

No. No they won’t. Sorry to break the news. No one cares about our book simply because we’ve published one.

Reading for pleasure has been steadily declining since the 1980s, and now that our culture is firmly entrenched in the new digital paradigm, this number is dropping off…a cliff. Back in 2004, roughly 28% of Americans over the age of 15 read for pleasure. As of 2017, that number was down to 19%, and for good reasons.

There’s Netflix, Fortnite, YouTube, Instagram, Tinder, and Candy Crush. Also, the final season of Game of Thrones in April—Spring is Coming—and we need to refresh our memories and who exactly all three hundred four characters are. Right?

Suffice to say, writers have had a tough time inspiring humans to read since before the radio was invented. The 24-7 Global SHINYfest is certainly NOT helping. This is why, if we want to sell more books, we cannot simply publish the book then slap down some cash for some Facebook ads.

When we settle for this approach, we’re essentially saying:

Hey, why don’t you devote an average of 11-15 hours you don’t have, to sit still and do an activity you believe you hate? Oh, and PAY ME!

Yep, they’re right on that.

No, no…I can see through their window. Nope, they’re on Netflix. My bad.

Seemed so promising with that 3-D dragon sparkle cover.

Writing excellent books is a fantastic start for those who want to sell more books. But, don’t get too excited. While a great book is a fabulous start, there’s more work we need to do to locate and cultivate our audience.

How Do We Move the Needle?

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Yes, I know the above statistics look grim, but as Mark Twain once said, ‘There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.’ Numbers are wonderful, but they’re a guidepost not gospel.

Sure, data is useful because, if research showed that 96% of all Americans read three books a week and we still weren’t able to sell any books? Probably safe to say writing books is NOT our strong suit. Maybe look into cosmetology school or underwater welding.

Ah, but, when the numbers are low—19%—it’s easier to accept that, when faced with an ambivalent marketplace, we’re going to have to think and do things differently.

We need to work smarter, not harder. If you want to captivate a reading audience, you must do these three things.

Intentionality: Social Media on Porpoise

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*bada bump snare*

First, if we want to sell more books, we have to ditch the ‘Field of Dream On Marketing Plan.’

Times have changed and buying habits have as well. As I said earlier, Fish where the fish are.

When it comes to 21st century publishing, if authors don’t have a strong digital presence (brand), we’re not even in the right place to be successful. It’s like trying to fish on dry land…which does NOT yield a tasty catch and just makes us look ridiculous.

So please, get on-line. Your future fans are there and waiting to discover you.

Secondly, stop devoting huge efforts marketing to people who would define themselves as ‘avid readers.’

Why? Because every author out there is trying to sell books to the same limited population, a limited population only capable of buying and reading so many titles.

Additionally, marketing to ‘readers’ is a doomed plan when we apply basic logic.

I just mentioned there are fewer ‘avid readers’ than ever before, but—thanks to self-publishing and indie press—there are more ‘published authors’ than ever before. Fewer readers compounded with exponentially more titles for sale.

See the problem? Basic MATH.

These digital waters have been overfished to the point that anyone who’s still fishing there is likely starving.

Our odds of success will vastly improve if we learn how to make converts, which brings me to my third point.

Thirdly, ditch the misconception that non-readers don’t read AT ALL.

Remember, the 19% stat only represents people who don’t need to be coerced to read. 

The other 81% of literate humans in need of being informed or entertained CAN read, they’re simply choosing NOT to read. This group just needs convincing. A little seduction. Build a relationship. Tell them they’re pretty and ask about their day.

Put out better bait.

***Cat videos are marvelous, FYI.

Yes, it’s more ‘work’ but what (legal) long-term relationship doesn’t require consistent emotional investments?

Every dark horse runaway success has one common denominator:

These authors/books were able to convert millions of fans from the ‘NON-READER’ population into the ‘THEIR READER’ population.

There are converts who will claim they ‘don’t like to read,’ but they own every Harry Potter book (in hard cover) and will read anything and everything J.K. Rowling publishes forever and ever AMEN.

Fifty Shades of Grey didn’t launch to stratospheric success because it scored rave literary reviews from elite book critics. 50 Shades did what other books didn’t or couldn’t.

E.L. James’ books moved the needle in a MAJOR way because 50 Shades converted disinterested ‘non-readers’ into ‘die-hard devotees.’ Devotees that then set suburban bedrooms and sales records on fire.

Change Tack for the BIG Haul

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When we want to sell more books, converts are key. Yes, avid readers are wonderful to have as fans, because they (we) read all the time. We enjoy books, buy books and most of us need a twelve-step program and a sponsor because of our book-buying habit.

This should be awesome, right?

Hold on there, Sparky.

While us avid readers inhale books faster than a line of cocaine at a West Hollywood party, we’re not exactly blown away when we find a book we can finish. We don’t feel our world just tilted on its axis because we enjoyed a novel. It takes a ridiculously amazing book to get us amped up.

Conversely…

For the person who believes she hates reading and doesn’t understand why anyone would read a book unless there was a mandatory test at the end? When SHE finishes a book and LOVES it? This person becomes positively EVANGELICAL and tells everyone who will listen to buy it.

***Oh, and this sort of ‘catch’ is easily caught with kitten videos, funny memes and just talking about what y’all have in common. No ookie ‘self-promo’ required. People buy from who they know and LIKE.

Alas, what frustrates so many authors (and traditional marketing/advertising/PR people who still think it’s 1997) is that social media is the modern version of ‘word of mouth.’ Unlike direct marketing, social media efficacy can’t be precisely measured or controlled.

Also, as authors, our social media activity can’t be outsourced. We aren’t a faceless company like GEICO or Starbucks. People expect they’re interacting with US on-line, thus paying someone else to pretend to ‘be’ us is a bait-and-switch that smacks of catfishing.

No one in the history of ever enjoyed being catfished.

Social media activity also can’t be solely automated, because that’s called rude…I mean spam.

How many of us have emails dedicated for the stuff we don’t want? We use spam filters, and gripe to anyone who’ll listen when forced to sit on the phone interacting with a robot.

So then WHY would this be a good plan to do to our (potential) readers?

Hint: It isn’t.

Why would we serve what even we don’t want to consume? Exactly. An automated tweet or post here and there? Fine. But go easy on this.

If we wanted to try to connect with an automated message and never a human? We’d call our cable provider’s customer service line. At least there we could mock the irony of the name…and drink heavily.

In The End

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Selling more books becomes simpler when we open our minds to who makes up our potential audience. Once we’re brave enough to venture into uncharted waters and plumb new depths, our odds of success improve dramatically.

The more niche we can become, the less competition we have to outmaneuver and outdo.

Me trying to connect with and catch ‘readers’ is heck of a lot harder than trying to locate then connect with ‘people who love true crime, binge-watch Dexter, and quote Fight Club way more than is socially acceptable.’

Dare to do more than hook ‘a fish.’ Instead, be bold and go after that ‘perfect catch.’

Yes, it takes more time, finesse and patience, but it’s worth it. You’ll sell more books, and get to enjoy a colorful, diverse, and enthusiastic ‘school’ of followers who will continue to grow and bring you joy long after the first sale.

What Are Your Thoughts?

I love hearing from you! Does this make ‘marketing’ and ‘promotion’ seem a tad less terrifying? Do you struggle with the idea of selling your book because it feels too smarmy? Have you been approaching your promotion from the perspective of an avid reader instead of a person to be converted?

Maybe most people don’t read books, but they might read YOUR books…

Come to the Dark Side. We have cookies… 😀

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

MARCH’S AWESOMENESS (CLASSES)

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

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

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

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

Social Schizophrenia: Building a Brand Without Losing Your Mind 

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

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

Story Master: From Dream to Done

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

Fiction ADDICTION: The Secret Ingredient to the Books Readers CRAVE

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

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Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Ken.

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

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

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

HERE! BUY MY BOOK!

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

*grumbles* *now remembers why I hated LinkedIn*

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

The brand of self-serving @$$hat.

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

Why? What went wrong?

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

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

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

Brand is not what it used to be.

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

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

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

Before all this prep work though?

Fuggetaboutit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s in a Name?

promotion, Kristen Lamb, book promotion, book ads, does advertising sell books, social media platforms for writers
Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Pierre Lognoul

The formula for a brand is simple:

NAME + PRODUCT + EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It isn’t just about a book anymore.

Why Are Brands So Important?

promotion, Kristen Lamb, social media for authors, how to build an author brand

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

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

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

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

But a name and a product alone are not enough.

What is a Platform?

promotion, Kristen Lamb, book promotion, do ads sell more books, author plaforms
Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Alex Santosa.

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

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

Authors are doing the same.

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

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

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

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

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

promotion, social media promotion, Kristen Lamb, do book ads sell more books
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Craig Sunter

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

Remember:

A brand is a collection of emotional experiences.

A platform is simply those who will enjoy that experience.

Modern writers hold the advantage here.

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

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

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

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

Problem #1: Please, STOP WRITING

promotion, book promotion, Kristen Lamb, author platforms

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

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

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

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

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

Example One (Writing):

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

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

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

Example Two (Storytelling):

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

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

Poor Cap.

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

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

Product MATTERS

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

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

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

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

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

Problem #2: Too Good to Mingle with the Masses

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

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

*stabs self*

Here’s the problem with this line of thinking.

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

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

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

This, again, meant the players were limited.

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

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

Bada bing bada boom…published author.

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

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

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

#NotRudeAtALL

Promotion: Skip Steps at Your Own Risk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Working Smarter NOT Harder

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

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

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

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

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

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

So let’s make a LOVE CONNECTION 😛

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

***All classes come with a free recording.

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

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

What are your thoughts?

JANUARY’S AWESOMENESS (CLASSES)

Self-Publishing for Professionals

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

The Business of Writing

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

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

Story Master: From Dream to Done

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

Social Schizophrenia: Building a Brand Without Losing Your Mind 

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

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

A Ripple in Time: Mastering Non-Linear Plotting

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

Harnessing Our Writing Power: The BLOG!

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

Fiction ADDICTION: The Secret Ingredient to the Books Readers CRAVE

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

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

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

The Business of Writing

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

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

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

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

 

No, this is not Kristen having a breakdown. She’s on a boat having fun. This is Cait, talking about why I hate blogging as much as I hate downward-facing dog in yoga.

So, if I hate blogging, why do I do it? What’s more, why do I do it to Kristen’s exacting standards? Well, partly because I’m afraid of her. But, mostly, I blog because she is right about blogging in so many ways. It’s really not fair that she’s always right about this sort of stuff.

Yet, for something that seems so instinctive and intrinsically simple (“Writers write, ergo blogging”), why do we have so much trouble with it? Why does it spike my anxiety, trigger my perfectionist paranoia, and send me in the direction of scrubbing the toilet as a preferable way to spend my time?

I have spent a lot of time pondering this (probably time I should have spent drafting blogs). In fact, I have spent most of this week struggling with this post.

The first thing I had to do is come up with was a solid list of why I hate blogging (again, time that could have been spent writing). After thoroughly psyching myself out, I went back through all Kristen’s reasons that blogging makes sense (reinforcing the soul-eating guilt I feel at having wasted all that time not writing a post).

blogging

Finally, I remembered the corollary to Kristen’s blogging rule…but I’m gonna be mean and force you to read to the end to find out what that is. <insert moderately evil laugh here>

Blogging vs. just about anything else

I could do a whole post about all the reasons I hate blogging, but Kristen would probably jump off that cruise ship, swim all the way back up the Atlantic coast, dodge customs in Boston, and break down my door just to slap me upside the head about positivity. Because she loves me.

But, the truth is, I am more at home using negativity as a motivator and dwelling in the blessed realms of snark, cynicism, and dark things. That’s just the Slytherin in me, I guess. The challenge is finding a way to use my negativity about blogging to motivate myself in a positive way. And, I’m going to stop right there, because I’m starting to sound all self-helpy, and I can’t stand 99% of that ish.

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So, let’s just dive into the top three reasons I hate blogging, shall we?

Supersizing the topic

I come from an academic background. In a parallel dimension, I am a professor of history, still using the Red Pen of Wrath…just on my students instead. Academic writing habits are hard to break when it comes to blogging, even though some do come in handy.

One of the cardinal sins of academic writing is tackling a topic that is too broad or too narrow for the projected length of the paper.

I mean, sure, we can describe the decline and fall of the Roman empire in a three page, double-spaced, 12pt font paper (I’m old school page-count and print-out, before word-counts and emailed/uploaded papers became the norm). But, those three pages are going to be uselessly generic, not contributing anything to increasing our understanding of Roman history or helping develop our ability to think and analyze critically.

On the other hand, focus on TOO granular a subject, and well…it ends up being more of an anecdote or footnote. Probably interesting, but again, unlikely to contribute anything to the greater understanding or improve our critical thinking skills.

Blogging is like that for me.

I want what I write to be informative, useful, and accessible. But, writing a blog on “How to write historical fiction” isn’t going to help anyone. Writing a blog on “Understanding currency, income, and prices in historical fiction” (shout if you want me to write something like that) is probably a lot more useful AND interesting AND better written.

I constantly feel like Goldilocks, trying to find the right-sized topic that will live up to my probably-obsessively-over-fastidious standards.

Yoast is killing our brain cells

You know that little thing called SEO? Yeah, worst thing that has ever happened to the written word. And, I’m saying that even in comparison to text-speak and adding words like ‘ginormous’ to the dictionary. If SEO is pure evil, then Yoast is its right hand.

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Yoast is a website plugin that scores your posts and pages on readability and SEO strength. It’s unfortunate, but if we want our blog posts to have a chance at traction, we have to follow the rules it sets out. What are those rules?

First, we have to set a keyword. Fine. Like a gateway drug, that’s not so bad. But then, Yoast tells us how often we should be using that word (*side-eye at density score*), and where that word should come in titles and first paragraphs. If it stopped that, I’d grit my teeth and accept that algorithms are gonna do what algorithms are gonna do.

But then, Yoast starts picking at other things, like breaking up the text every 300 words with a sub-heading. Like making sure we don’t repeat the way we start a sentence. Like making sure less than 25% of our sentences have more than 20 words (and I know I purposely triggered the repetitive-sentence-start thing, but Yoast doesn’t really understand context or dramatic intent *flounces off*). Paragraphs can’t be too long, either – oops, gotta cut this one short!

Yoast is dumbing down blogging. By trying to make blogs easier to read, Yoast is encouraging a growing laziness in blog readers. What happens to a society when we can no longer focus past three sentences at a time in order to process a complex thought or multiple pieces of evidence to support an argument? I’ll tell you what happens: we get bad movie sequels, clickbait, and double-very-bad politics.

Paging Mr. Orwell, your 1984 is ready.

blogging

I resent being forced to ‘dumb down’ my writing just so a brainless algorithm has an easier time of it. I write for people, not Google. Oh, wait. I use Yoast, so I guess I’m writing for Google. But, consider this another major reason why I hate blogging.

Perfectionism

This actually isn’t quite as related to what Kristen was talking about in this post. I’m talking about my inner intellectual demon that MUST BE RIGHT AT ALL TIMES. If a blog post is a form of educational argument, then dammit, I’m gonna WIN!

I’m not kidding. I approach each topic – especially anything that involves factual research – with a goal of creating an UNASSAILABLE argument. I want my post to be the Fort Knox of logic. My brain goes into hyper-passive-aggressive-nerd mode, playing Kasparov-esque chess with each point I write.

It’s exhausting.

blogging

I don’t mind admitting when I don’t know something. But, I feel soul-crushing humiliation when someone points out a stupid mistake or an obvious (or not-so-obvious) flaw in my argument. Maybe…just maybe I’m over-reacting, and I should get some therapy about it. Or, maybe, that drive to be as certain and correct in opinion and facts is what helps make my writing and teaching reliable and useful.

Still, the fact that I’ve got some subconscious id and ego stuff going on with perfectionism makes blogging an emotionally and intellectually draining task.

Le sigh…why Kristen is right about blogging

There are a lot of reasons Kristen is right about blogging being the best, most effective way for writers to market themselves. She is also right about Twitter, Facebook, and other social media, but we’re just going to focus on blogging for the moment.

It all comes down to the three C’s: classic, cost-effective, and control. This is a trifecta that is pretty much the holy grail goal of all marketing. When I used to work in advertising, we wanted our ads to be memorable over the long-term, hit the target audience without breaking the bank, and look/feel/sound exactly as planned.

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The number of times Kristen has said this…

While the landscape might have changed from analog to digital, the principles and goals remain the same. Classic. Cost-effective. Control.

Classic: why blogging is the Talbots of author marketing

Warning: extended metaphor ahead. May cause eye strain from over-rolling of eyes.

Think of getting ready for a job interview. We have our resume, portfolio, references, and talking points at hand. The job description is a great match for our skills, and we know we’ll kick butt at it. We just have to wow them at the interview, so we inhale all the caffeine we can handle without inducing tachycardia, pop a couple of breath mints, and put on our interview suit.

The classic interview suit.

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Maybe we stay simple and true with traditional accessories (pearls for ladies, cufflinks for gents). Or, maybe we add a dash of flair with a daringly patterned shirt or chunky piece of jewelry we picked up at a vintage sale. It’s a small piece of individualism, a little personal pleasure, and it only adds to the solid impression a classic suit makes.

A blog is like the classic interview suit. It never goes out of style. It is the best and strongest way we have of presenting our brand to readers. It’s the one wardrobe piece we never throw out because its quality was designed to endure. We can easily update and refresh the look with accessories, apps, widgets, and chunky vintage jewelry (um, yeah, getting all the metaphor stuff mixed up, I know).

Besides, if we want to be remembered as a writer, then the best and most enduring pitch we can make is…well… our writing.

blogging

Social media outlets like Snapchat, Instagram, What’s App, etc. are all well and good, but they are the Forever 21 funky accessory of marketing. They are fun, get attention, but may also tarnish and/or break fairly quickly. Can you say Vine? (So 2015!)

Just think about it…is anyone really ever going to go back through all our Snapchats, Tweets, or Instagram posts two years from now? But, as an admin on this site, I can tell you that there are blogs that Kristen has written that are four and five years old that are still top trackers and getting comments on a daily basis.

Now, that’s some classic-interview-suit power.

Cost-effective: how blogging can keep us from sin

Marketing is expensive. It costs us time and money – resources most of us are chronically short on. Marketing is also seductive. Nothing is as exciting as seeing swag with our name on it, or an ad for our book pop up on Facebook, or getting that shiny new book trailer. So, we try to find that balance between price and quality. Fun times.

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And yes, if we set up our own domain and do stuff right with backup, security, and all that jazz, it will cost us a couple hundred dollars to get started. Depending on what plans we choose, there is also the yearly renewal fees. Still, that yearly cost pretty much comes down to the equivalent of three or four impulse purchases at Target. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to continue the clothing metaphor.)

The keys to leveraging a website (assuming we have decent content people want) are consistency and distribution. Consistency is a free feature that comes with wrangling our brains into some semblance of discipline. Distribution? Well, that’s what Jetpack is for. Again, it’s free.

Even with graphics, there is a lot we can do with free ‘photo editor’ apps. Personally, I pay $10 a month for a subscription to a professional-level app, but that’s because I do a LOT more than just blog graphics. And, I only started that subscription last year. Before that, I made do with free for about four years.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made some COSTLY mistakes. Like cringe-inducing-dear-God-if-You-loved-me-You-would-have-stopped-me-because-that-was-a-really-expensive-lesson mistakes. The only marketing tool I keep coming back to in the end is…you guessed it: my website (and occasionally Kristen’s because she forgets to lock the door).

Control: blogging vs. paranoia

Wanna hear a scary story? A romance author on Facebook builds an author page that gets 15,000 followers. She posts a picture for fun. The next time she logs into Facebook, her page is gone. DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUUUN!

blogging

No, it wasn’t me. But, it has been many authors I’ve known. It’s a ‘cross-cultural’ phenomenon – there are versions in Instagramland, YouTubia, and Twitterburg.

Don’t forget, we also have to deal with ever-changing terms of use, hackers, and the final, fatal OMG-twitfacetogramchat-just-went-out-of-business! Want an example?

Dogster.

Don’t laugh. It was actually a great site for finding pet info. The fact that it was MySpace for pets is a whole other level of psychosis. Still, I met other Basenji owners through their forums, and they have become some of my closest, dearest friends. Thank goodness we had all exchanged contact info and signed up for Facebook before Dogster announced they were shutting down.

Think of MySpace…and Tila Tequila. Her original claim to fame was getting to a million followers on MySpace without much else (i.e. talent, content, etc.) to back it up. So…how’s that workin’ for ya, Tila?

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A website of our own never goes away. Our blog content is subject to our rules. Our website is our castle, and we can defend against trolls and hackers with laser precision. Oh, and we can also build community through interacting with commenters, adding chat and forums, etc.

Remember, the flip-side of paranoia is control-freak! 🙂

Wait…that didn’t come out right…

The thing we usually forget Kristen said about blogging

Here’s the promised payoff from my little intro tease. Yes, we need to blog…but we also have to find a way to ENJOY it.

Somehow, I tend to forget that.

I haven’t entirely solved my blogging problems, and that’s probably partly because I’m still figuring out how to TRULY enjoy it. There are moments when I giggle to myself as I write something that is (at least I think) funny. Picking out the memes to go in a blog…I love telling people that it is legit part of my job. I bask in the glow of the final product and clicking ‘Publish.’

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But…there’s still the anxiety, the dread, the worry I’m not providing good enough content or that I’ve gotten something wrong. It doesn’t take much to spiral me into a perfect orgy of procrastination…er…research.

However, I am experimenting, trying to figure out what I can do to both get better ABOUT blogging regularly and ENJOY blogging regularly. I’ve found I really enjoy making videos, and I’m about to dip my toe into podcasting (which I think is really spoken-word blogging). While the file sizes mean I wont’ be ‘hosting’ the videos and podcasts on my website, I will be centralizing all the information about them there.

I also have been sharing my love of creating reading ‘syllabi.’ But, being a snotty little French historian, I have to call them something pretentious like a ‘Catalogue Raisonné.’ It turns out I have a lot of fun going through my personal library to pick and choose what I put into the list. It also became something I could turn into another page for my website.

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(And by the way, while I do think you’d enjoy those pages, putting external links into a blog post is another Yoast requirement. *shakes tiny fist*)

All in all, I’m still on the journey, but I’m determined to get there. If you happen to be on the same road, maybe we can travel together?

Let me hear it!

Why do you love/hate blogging? What are your tips for becoming a happy, successful blogger? Share the love…or hate, LOL.

Class tonight!

URBAN FANTASY: SALT CIRCLE NOT INCLUDED

PARANORMAL, URBAN FANTASY, GHOSTS, VAMPIRES, WRITINGInstructor: Cait Reynolds
Price: $55.00 USD
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: Friday, October 19, 2018. 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE!

Be honest. How many voodoo dolls have you mutilated in your quest to become the next Laurell K. Hamilton or Sherrilyn Kenyon?

  • 0-9: You’re probably too virtuous to ever get published.
  • 10-19: Equivalent of the New Year’s resolution of voodoo…fizzles in week 2.
  • 20-29: You’ve won NaNoWriMo once or twice and wear lucky writing socks.
  • 30+: Now, we’re talking.

In all seriousness, urban fantasy has emerged as one of the strongest and most competitive categories in publishing, building on the momentum of legends like Anne Rice and expanding to embrace all kinds of sub-genres such as YA, satire, and romance.

But for all its badass convention-breaking, urban fantasy also a genre boobytrapped with the worst pitfalls of all the genres it borrows from.

If we’re not overdoing the Mickey Spillane-esque hard-boiled grit, we’re confusing which supernatural creature has which power. Or, we’re creating characters that are so wrapped up in their love lives with <insert hot supernatural guys here>, they almost miss the climactic battle between good and evil happening a couple blocks over.

Fear not! Strap on your vampire-hunting gear, grab your wolfsbane gris-gris, and don’t forget to bring your sarcastic sidekick to this class where I will help you navigate the mean streets and treacherous back alleys of urban fantasy!

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

SEE YOU TONIGHT!!!

 

 

Kristen Lamb, social media for writers, building a brand with social media, building a brand using Twitter, how to use Twitter, Twitter for writers, Twitter and brands, How to Go Viral, finding readers

Last post was some tongue-and-cheek fun pointing out how brands (particularly author brands) abuse Twitter. Today, I want to shift gears and chat some about how writers—actually ALL brands—can use Twitter far more effectively.

Currently, too many writers are like Stormtroopers—lots of shots fired  tweets that hit NOTHING.

Admittedly, when I got on Twitter (practically when it was invented) I didn’t get it. I would—KID YOU NOT—freak out when people I didn’t know followed me.

WHAT? Are you, like, a stalker?

Yes, I was missing the ENTIRE point of Twitter. Hey, we all start somewhere.

Do you have to do Twitter? No. No one will take you to writer jail because you didn’t sign up. Is it wise to use Twitter? Meh, for the past couple years. Er, not so much.

Was sort of a personal choice if one was willing to be persistent and cull through bots to find gems. I stuck with it namely because I figured Twitter eventually would remedy the problems that were hobbling this once extremely effective social platform.

Now that Twitter’s going all Old Testament on bots and excessive automation? ABSOLUTELY a great idea to be on Twitter.

Twitter & Going Viral

Kristen Lamb, social media for writers, building a brand with social media, building a brand using Twitter, how to use Twitter, Twitter for writers, Twitter and brands, How to Go Viral, finding readers
Pros and cons to rampant replication.

First, I want to make something clear. We cannot make something (content) go viral. Going viral is something that will happen all on its own and we have almost no control regarding what content will catch fire and what will simply wink out.

We CAN, however, position our content in optimal environments for going viral (part of what I teach in my upcoming branding class, BRAND BOSS).

Though going viral can possibly be a mixed blessing, it also happens to be one of the best ways for a brand to grow exponentially and overnight (which is why we want to go viral for good things, FYI).

Kristen Lamb, social media for writers, building a brand with social media, building a brand using Twitter, how to use Twitter, Twitter for writers, Twitter and brands, How to Go Viral, finding readers

The first time I had a blog go viral I thought I’d broken WP and was upset. I didn’t realize my graph looked like my blog had a heart attack and DIED because I went from my average of 50 visits a day to 24,000 in ONE day. This is called working smarter, not harder and why linear growth bites in comparison to logarithmic growth.

Twitter and Viral Environments

Much like the flu virus will spread way faster in a preschool than in the clean rooms of the CDC…environment matters. Viruses on-line and in life require optimal conditions to spread.

Truth is, we will rarely go viral from Facebook because the nature of Facebook is more intimate and the platform moves much slower. People are less likely to discover us/our work from Facebook than they are Twitter.

This is why I encourage authors to blog and to blog off their author WEBSITE. Someone sees a tweet for a post that looks interesting and click and enjoy the post and guess what is in the sidebar for sale? BOOKS.

This is a non-invasive way to cultivate readers and sell books. We have a post, serve, engage and entertain. Not doing the:

Hi, I’m a writer. BUY MY BOOK! BUY MY BOOK! BUY MY BOOK! I can’t feed my family unless you BUY MY BOOK!

Show don’t sell.

Our blog gives potential readers a glimpse of who we are. They sample our writing voice and see we are professionals since we post more than every harvest moon. We have taken time to engage without asking for money. Twitter is the road sign guiding people to the rest stop of their choosing.

Enough people like a certain rest stop? That is when we go viral.

Going viral is AWESOME. Trust me, when you see THIS on the bottom of a post? GREAT FEELING.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 7.41.58 AM

And yes, there are a lot of shares on Facebook, but many folks discovered the posts on Twitter then chose to share with their more intimate community on Facebook.

My post Brave New Bullying and Amazon Attacks has 338 comments and still climbing. And I say this VERY humbly because all I do is my job. But, it is not uncommon for this blog to have triple-digit comments. Twitter is a BIG reason for that. And I’ve been blessed to go viral many times and not always for writing or social media posts. I blog about everything.

I STILL have people arguing over What Went Wrong With the Star Wars Prequels even though I posted it years ago. Up to 304 FABULOUS comments. Very well-thought out. Some thousands of words long.

Cultivating Customers (Code for “Readers”)

Kristen Lamb, social media for writers, building a brand with social media, building a brand using Twitter, how to use Twitter, Twitter for writers, Twitter and brands, How to Go Viral, finding readers
Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Sodanie Chea

There is one bone-headed statement that makes my head hurt. And I have heard it from all levels of writers from noobs to NTYBSAs. In fact, years ago a BIG NAME author said, “I don’t like Twitter. Only writers are on Twitter.”

*head desk*

I replied, “There are over 280 MILLION active Twitter users. They’re all writers. Really?”

What I then pointed out was that this author tweeted writing quotes, talked about writing, blogged about writing. It was the All-Writing-All-the-Time Channel.

If my goal is to catch a lion, but I bait the traps with peanut butter, who is the fool for griping about catching mice?

Many of us are writers because we were interested in SO many things, writing was the only way we could do them all. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an archaeologist-medical examiner-ballerina-oceanographer-ninja-Navy SEAL. I’d imagine most of you had similar career plans at age 7.

We became writers because we have an insatiable love for so many things. And we have unique eyes and an imagination to bring those worlds to life. We breathe life into variations of 26 letters in various combinations to create entirely NEW worlds and characters SO real they make a bigger impact on lives than a lot of living, breathing humans.

Yes, we have a God complex.

Thus, when using Twitter, I DO recommend #MyWANA, #amwriting, etc. We NEED a group of professional peers. But never mistake your colleagues for your audience. Too many writers are all talking to each other, selling the same people who already have more books than they could finish in a lifetime. We are worn out.

Twitter Access

Kristen Lamb, social media for writers, building a brand with social media, building a brand using Twitter, how to use Twitter, Twitter for writers, Twitter and brands, How to Go Viral, finding readers

In my branding book, Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World I go into far more detail, but here’s the highlight reel. What do you write? Who is the most likely person (who is NOT an avid reader who will read anything) to read your book?

If I write military thrillers, might be a good idea to follow the military hashtags—#USMC, #Army, #Navy, #USAF. Make friends, talk to people. Maybe even ask for advice. Admit you’re a writer and you want to nail the details. Humans are a super-helpful bunch.

Many channels (#DiscoveryID), publications (#PopularMechanics), organizations (#NASA), and shows (#AHS American Horror Story) have created hashtags to encourage those who possess shared interests a place to chat and connect. If I write horror, why would I spend all my time posting on #amwriting #reader #amreading?

That is lazy thinking, devoid of any creativity.

I find it funny that we writers have the capacity to dream up parallel universes, new forms of magic, unknown technology and yet, when we get on social media? #writers, #books #readers is the best we can come up with. SMH (*shaking my head*).

This is a huge reason why writers misusing Twitter and abusing automation vexes me so much. Twitter is probably THE MOST effective way to locate our potential readers globally, talk to them, and eventually cultivate a relationship that will hopefully a) create a reader fan and even b) ignite a passion and enthusiasm for our brand (books) that will spread to that person’s network.

Effective social media works logarithmically.

If we’re working linearly, that is a long, hard way to be effective. Feel free to add one person at a time to a mailing list, but remember your competition is working exponentially by cultivating relationships.

Twitter DOES have the capacity to help us go viral, but it is still an investment daily of US. I have a little over 15,500 followers. Other authors SMOKE me on number of followers. But I’d rather have 500 VESTED and passionate fans than 300,000 ‘followers’ who could care less what I have to say.

Not ALL Sales are Direct

Kristen Lamb, social media for writers, building a brand with social media, building a brand using Twitter, how to use Twitter, Twitter for writers, Twitter and brands, How to Go Viral, finding readers

Actually most sales aren’t direct.

When we take time to be human and talk to people without an agenda, they appreciate it. In fact, as technology improves and becomes more ingrained in our lives, it’s getting harder and harder to find anything (or anyone) authentic.

Much of what we see/experience on-line is crafted, automated, filtered and fake. We’re lonely and hop on line to chat, only to find ourselves rooked into chatting with an automated message posing a a real person talking…which feels awesome never.

So two ways to look at this. Some see all this phony baloney as a problem, a barrier. ME? I see ALL opportunity! The more OTHERS get lazy and rely on automation, gimmicks, and faux drama, the more appealing authenticity becomes. Being present, vested and real gains value day by day by day. #Preach

The secret to success in business, branding, writing, etc. is always to look at what OTHERS are NOT doing. Copying what is already supersaturated is comfortable because when it doesn’t work we can fall back on the Well, everyone else was doing it so it seemed the right thing to do.

Stepping out to do what NO ONE else is doing (or few are doing) THAT is the area where the magic can happen.

Twitter Magic

Kristen Lamb, social media for writers, building a brand with social media, building a brand using Twitter, how to use Twitter, Twitter for writers, Twitter and brands, How to Go Viral, finding readers

This said, if everyone is automating because that is what all the ‘experts’ preach and promote? Do the opposite. You be you and be real (pretty much good advice for everything). THIS is how we stand apart.

When we’re real and talk to others (with no agenda other than chatting like we did in the olden days), it’s good for us. We’re forced to think about someone other than ourselves and what WE want. It’s great training in learning to listen, and pushes us to be a bit vulnerable.

It’s also good for our souls since most of us feel icky simply talking to people so they will BUY something. Conversely most people these days have almost no trust for others and have their guard up waiting for some sign we’re actually being a faker who wants to sell something.

Especially on Twitter.

If we focus on just being cool, those walls come down. We make a friend, others have someone cool to chat with on a break at work and eventually (sure) they realize we have a book or books for sale.

Power of Word-of-Mouth

Kristen Lamb, social media for writers, building a brand with social media, building a brand using Twitter, how to use Twitter, Twitter for writers, Twitter and brands, How to Go Viral, finding readers

If 95% of all we talk about on Twitter (or elsewhere on social media) has nothing to do with selling stuff, no one is going to mind us mentioning a book (And if they do get p!$$ed off? They’re touchy so let ’em go).

Though this can’t be our conscious objective (because people will sniff this out as being phony because it is), remember we may not be selling a book to the person(s) we’re directly talking to. This is why we should talk to anyone who wants to have a cool and respectful conversation.

Maybe they don’t like our genre. This is NOT where we move on because this person is never gonna buy a book. Maybe they love gardening and we love gardening. Talking to this person is still an investment in friendship but ALSO in sales. Remember, most sales aren’t direct, they’re based off recommendation.

And, people DO buy gifts. Just sayin’.

I have people who aren’t into hard-core thrillers who bought my book The Devil’s Dance for family and friends who DO read the genre I write. Many of you who come to this blog to learn about craft and social media bought my THRILLER (*gets all misty-eyed*) even though it’s not your thing, and my blog has nothing to do with murder and cartels.

THANK YOU! (and please feel free to buy more copies 😀 )

Kristen Lamb, social media for writers, building a brand with social media, building a brand using Twitter, how to use Twitter, Twitter for writers, Twitter and brands, How to Go Viral, finding readers

Never underestimate the word-of-mouth power of someone who may never buy our book.

I have all KINDS of people I talk to who aren’t authors. BUT they have friends or family who are, or who aspire to be. Whose blog and social media book do you think they recommend?

If they’ll do it for me, why not you? Go serve and be the friend you’d like to have and watch something incredible happen.

In the end, using Twitter wisely is a fantastic investment that doesn’t take a lot of time. A handful of tweets a day over time grows deep roots that eventually yields fruits.

I love hearing from you!

What do you WIN? For the month of AUGUST, for everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Upcoming Classes for August & September


Brand Boss: When Your Name Alone Can Sell

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

REGISTER HERE

 

 


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

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

REGISTER HERE

 


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

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

REGISTER HERE

 


Beyond Planet X: Mastering Speculative Fiction

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

REGISTER HERE

 

 


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

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

REGISTER HERE

Recordings of all three classes is also included with purchase.

 


 


Go Fish: Finding the Right Beta Readers

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

REGISTER HERE

 

 


More Than Gore: How to Write Horror

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

REGISTER HERE

 

 

 


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

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

REGISTER HERE

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