);

Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Categorized: Success

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

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

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

On and on and on.

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

Publishing existentialism is soooo 2013 *flips hair* .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A REAL Writer WRITES

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

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

Write BETTER books.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But too many “writers” are playing writer.

A REAL Writer Has High Standards

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

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

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

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

Case in Point

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

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

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

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

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

RULES help us sell more books.

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

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

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

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

This is a craft.

It’s a profession, not a playpen.

A REAL Writer is ALWAYS Learning

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

Come on….LAUGH! Lighten up 😛 .

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

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

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

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

Might.

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

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

A REAL Writer Studies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Real Writer is ALWAYS Reading

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

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

I get it. I’m mean and cruel.

I can live with that.

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

And bear with me.

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

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

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

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

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

They’re willing to honor the profession.

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

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

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

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

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

A REAL Writer Owns It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1) Never underestimate the power of showing up.

2) You can’t DO THIS alone.

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

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

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

Real writers make mistakes. We fail. A lot.

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

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

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

What This ALL Means

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

Dr. Who’s “Empty Child” via K. Lamb.

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

Roll up our sleeves and the DO THE WORK.

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

You are a REAL WRITER. It’s a CHOICE.

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

The kids can wait 😛 .

What Are Your Thoughts?

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

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

I love hearing from you!

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

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

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

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

Go Fish: Finding the Right Beta Readers

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

REGISTER HERE

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

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

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

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

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

This class will cover:

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

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.


MORE CLASSES!

(Check out our page of current classes!)

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


When Your Name Alone Can Sell

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

REGISTER HERE

LEARN TO BE A BRAND BOSS!

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

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

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

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

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

Can you say “James Patterson”?

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

This class will address:

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

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

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

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


More Than Gore: How to Write Horror

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

REGISTER HERE

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

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

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

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

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

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

In this class we will cover:

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

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.


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

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

REGISTER HERE

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

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

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

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

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

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.


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

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

REGISTER HERE

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

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

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

This class will cover:

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

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.


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

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

REGISTER HERE

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

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

But, what do we do when…

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

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

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

This class will cover:

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

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.


Beyond Planet X: Mastering Speculative Fiction

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

REGISTER HERE

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

Basically, all the weird stuff.

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

 

 

In this class we will cover:

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

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


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

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

REGISTER HERE

Recordings of all three classes is also included with purchase.

About the Instructors:

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

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

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

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

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

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

#MaybeJustMe

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

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

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

YOU COULD ONLY COMPLAIN TO PEOPLE YOU ACTUALLY KNEW.

Before Web 2.0 life was ugly, brutish and short.

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

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

#GoBigOrGoHome

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

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

We had to own the crazy O_o .

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

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

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

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

Old School Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brave New Buying

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

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

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

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

#TrueFactIJustMadeUp

Thing is?

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

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

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

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

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

Example:

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

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

That seems obvious, right?

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

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

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

Don’t Cross the Streams!

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

Another observation to point out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

…unless you’re Brad.

It’s All in Our Head

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

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

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

Technology changes, but humans remain the same.

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Targeting? So WHAT Do We DO?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t judge me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ideally, these conversations will lead to conversions.

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

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

What Are Your Thoughts?

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

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

I love hearing from you!

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

NEW CLASSES!

steampunk, writingClass Title: Building a Believable Steampunk World

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $50.00 USD Standard

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

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

REGISTER HERE

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

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

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

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

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

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

This class will cover a broad range of topics including:

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

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

DYSTOPIA!!


Class Title: World-Building for Dystopian Fiction

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $50.00 USD Standard

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

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

REGISTER HERE

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

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

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

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

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

Topics covered in this class include:

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

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

About the Instructor

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

 

BRAND NEW CLASS IN AUGUST!

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

Instructor: Kristen Lamb

Price: $50.00 USD Standard

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

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

SIGN UP HERE

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

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

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

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

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

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

This class will cover:

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

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

 

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

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

Oops.

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

You’re welcome 😀 .

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

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

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

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

All My Friends Have Newsletters

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s that factor?

Traction

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

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

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

Don’t argue, it’s ‘science.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Got Traction?

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

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

Congratulations, your newsletter is now a French film.

I hope you’re happy.

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

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

THEN they created a newsletter.

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

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

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

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

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

You know, there’s a nasty catch.

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

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

*left eye twitches*

Newsletter Love

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

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

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

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

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

And they did.

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

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

FYI…NO!

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

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

News About Newsletters

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

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

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

*Ponders how many AoL emails are captured this way*

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

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

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

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

Tips for Newsletter Success

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

What Are Your Thoughts?

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

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

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

I love hearing from you!

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

NEW CLASSES!

steampunk, writingClass Title: Building a Believable Steampunk World

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $50.00 USD Standard

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

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

REGISTER HERE

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

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

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

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

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

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

This class will cover a broad range of topics including:

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

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

DYSTOPIA!!


Class Title: World-Building for Dystopian Fiction

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $50.00 USD Standard

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

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

REGISTER HERE

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

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

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

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

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

Topics covered in this class include:

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

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

About the Instructor

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

 

BRAND NEW CLASS IN AUGUST!

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

Instructor: Kristen Lamb

Price: $50.00 USD Standard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This class will cover:

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

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

 

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

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

Meh, I have no pride.

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

Fraud Dreams

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

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

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

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

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

All this was my own fault.

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

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

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

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

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

Bad news? It can make life hell.

Fraud Thoughts

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

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

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

No.

So where’s this garbage coming from?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Numbing Out

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

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

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

Case in point…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fraud Seeds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fraud Alert

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

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

***FYI, I am still in recovery.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uncouple from the Cray-Cray Train

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

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

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

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

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

Liar.

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

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

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

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

Just Ask, W.T.H.?

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

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

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

What am I really feeling?

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

Have a good laugh, cry, or fit.

You’re NOT a Fraud, You Are HUMAN

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

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

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

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

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

Avoiding pain and seeking joy are two completely different goals.

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

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

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

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

What Are Your Thoughts?

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

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

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

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

BWAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

#Triggered

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hey! I’m a work in progress, too!

I love hearing from you!

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

 

free, free books, F.E.C.A.L., new publishing, self-publishing, Amazon, Smashwords, being a real writer, Kristen Lamb, selling books, quality of books, how to write, digital publishing
New publishing houses? Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of WIDEHAUS.

FREE! For the love of all that is chocolate, free us from FREE! *takes soothing breath* I’ve been blogging for over ten years, a witness to the terrifying and extraordinary changes in publishing.

Initially, I was NO fan of self-publishing because entropy is alive and well…even with books. I knew once we opened Pandora’s Publishing, there would be no turning back.

Sometimes I really hate being right.

Amazon (and others) weaponized on-line shopping and launched us into an age of FREE, EASY, CHEAP, ACCESSIBLE and LEGAL.

Or, as I like to call it—Operation F.E.C.A.L.

Amazon wanted to implode traditional publishing. Their goal was to dominate on-line retail and raze the big-box model in order to make room for new brick-and-mortar Amazon stores (smaller and smart-stocked using algorithms). What better way to obliterate publishing than by handing out author participation trophies?

Yet, there have been plenty of consequences. Namely, LOTS of F.E.C.A.L. material out there.

A lot. *swats flies away*

It began innocently enough…

Authors Longed to Be FREE

free, free books, F.E.C.A.L., new publishing, self-publishing, Amazon, Smashwords, being a real writer, Kristen Lamb, selling books, quality of books, how to write, digital publishing

Before social media, Amazon, self-publishing, etc. authors had little to no control over the business of their business. Only two viable publishing options existed—traditional and vanity press.

So let’s make that ONE viable publishing option. Vanity press published anyone willing to pay to play author.

Vanity publishers had a singular standard writers needed to pass—a credit check. If the check cleared or the credit charge went through? Bada bing bada boom! Welcome to being ‘a published author.’

Alas, on the other end, traditional publishers were hardly a panacea. For brevity’s sake, I recommend my posts Real Writers Don’t Self Publish Part One and Part Two.

I want to make it CLEAR that I hold no allegiance to any one form of publishing. All paths have advantages and disadvantages.

The traditional publishing model pretty much tossed authors against a wall like spaghetti noodles. If you ‘stuck?’ Go you! You get another contract.

For more on how the publishing business ACTUALLY works, I’ve already explained, in detail, the ugly truth about traditional publishing and how to actually support the authors we love.

The Book Borg

Anyway, once the big-box bookstores arrived on scene like the Borg suddenly warping into sensor range, writers took the hardest hit. Publishers looooved the big-box concept because their business model relied on massive pre-orders to fund the machine (and still does).

****Take a gander at HOW many books it takes to FILL bookstores that had an average size of 26,000 feet (going as HIGH as 60,000). Can you say KA-CHING?

Publishers reveled in the boom. Meanwhile, many authors who’d previously made an excellent living during the Indie Bookstore era, had to dust off the resume.

Big-box stores bought books in volume. Yet, they ordered a TON of what books were most likely to SELL in volume. Thus, many mid-list authors who’d previously enjoyed a healthy income off twelve, twenty or even forty books now only made royalties off ONE (their most current novel).

Authors who were already household names did better than ever because of simple math and Business 101. What Borders or Barnes & Noble wasn’t going to carry every single Stephen King book ever written?

Nothing personal. Only business.

Problem was, virtually the entire author middle class stood shellshocked, ears ringing, arms loaded with a backlist of excellent books now rendered worthless.

Publishers—smitten with paper—didn’t even consider releasing these titles solely as e-books. Instead, they blithely handed seasoned authors their rights to these mothballed backlists.

Unchained

Amazon (and other self-publishing outlets like Smashwords) breathed life back into great books that HAD passed the gatekeepers. Many could legitimately claim New York Times Best Seller or USA Today Best Seller status.

Self-publishing provided authors who’d passed the gauntlets and invested years cultivating a vetted backlist a fresh way to breath new life into ‘old’ books.

In Christmas of 2009, when e-readers finally tipped into mainstream, readers were dying for titles to load on the new Kindle. Authors who’d defected made bank. These authors also improved self-publishing’s image problem.

Before 2009, most viewed self-publishing as a cheap version of vanity press. It certainly was not seen as a viable publishing path.

But, then writers got creative and soon success stories emerged. The dark horse authors like Hugh Howey and Wool, Andy Weir and The Martian, and Amanda Hocking emerged.

Yet, something ‘else’ emerged.

The Authorpreneur

free, free books, F.E.C.A.L., new publishing, self-publishing, Amazon, Smashwords, being a real writer, Kristen Lamb, selling books, quality of books, how to write, digital publishing

Before Amazon, Smashwords, social media, algorithms, etc. most writers became writers because they loved to WRITE. Sure, I think it’s fair to say most of us wanted to be successful and make money, but cash was not our primary motivation.

Then folks like John Locke changed the literary landscape. In my POV? This is where everything changed (and NOT for the better). Granted, kudos to Locke and his success. I even (tried) to read his How I Sold a Million E-Books in 5 Months, but there were not enough antacids in the world for me to finish.

See, Locke wasn’t writing because of any love for the written word. A book, to him, was a commodity like a cheap cheeseburger (his words). To his credit, he saw and capitalized on a rare alignment of the stars and won big.

Yet, he made bank only because he hit the ground hard with ebooks right as people were starting to use e-readers and there was a dearth of e-books on the market.

Since traditional publishers refused to lower prices, readers swarmed to FREE and .99 books faster than a cloud of Alabama gnats into a fresh glass of sweet tea.

With pretty much the same results.

Readers stuck, mired and drowning and trying to escape the very thing that lured them in. Readers swarmed in for the FREE, only to realize they were trapped in bad writing, terrible formatting, and did I mention bad writing?

Plenty of other authors followed suit with FREE books! And CHEAP books! These writers sold a lot of books and earned some impressive titles.

Yet, it took time for consumers (readers) to catch on that FREE was almost ALWAYS a giant waste of time.

Over the next few years, various other gimmicks caught on. Free books, cheap books, box sets, juking algorithms, and even authors who relied on flat out deception—brand confusion—to garner sales.

I seriously had an ‘authorpreneur’ who did this and gave me this ‘business advice.’ According to this business-savvy person, I could, say, take the ‘pen name’ of Jane Evonovech then make my covers resemble a real Janet Evanovich. Similar colors, fonts, styling, etc.

Because that isn’t shady AT ALL.

SMH.

Back then, Amazon was far from perfecting algorithms, so these Bait-and-Switch Rotex Authors DID sell a lot of books, make a ton of money, and were able to claim NTYBSA status…riding the tails of a legitimate author’s success.

Of course, when this person gave me said ‘advice,’ I parted with my own council. Save for a good attorney. You’ll need one. And I was right.

Also, I prefer to earn my sales and titles on my own merit, thanks.

BOOK BUSY-NESS

free, free books, F.E.C.A.L., new publishing, self-publishing, Amazon, Smashwords, being a real writer, Kristen Lamb, selling books, quality of books, how to write, digital publishing

Over the past few years, I’ve lost count of the fads and gimmicks. Amazon often tried launching new ways for readers to discover new authors AND for writers (Amazon) to make money.

The fundamental problem with Amazon has always been the same. They think like John Locke. To Amazon, a novel might as well be a selfie-stick, a tent, a push-up bra or a banana slicer.

There’s no inherent reverence for writing as a craft and an art. In the Amazon business model, consumers are the ‘gate-keepers’ for everything. Yet, when it comes to a book, Amazon can’t refund the readers’ TIME. Sure the book was free, but our time was not.

Consequences of FREE

free, free books, F.E.C.A.L, Amazon, writing, Kristen Lamb

Amazon doesn’t care about ONE author selling millions of books. Why? Easier to have half a million wanna-be-authors sell twenty books.

Then coax them to write more and more and more books that only sell twenty copies. All those eager creatives hitting PUBLISH like pulling a lever on a slot machine and praying for triple 7s.

***Meanwhile paying for cover art, interior design, and promotional material.

The big-box store supported one oligarchy at the expense of the mid-list and new authors. We broke FREE! Only to fuel a brand new oligarchy. A handful of people getting rich off the work of the many.

Sprinkle just enough success to keep the ‘many’ trying their luck.

The rest of us regular folks? Well, we’re left with the landfill of toxic waste hoping to find something worth our time. It’s why I only buy fiction off Audible. If a book sucks (and MANY do, even from Big Five publishers), I can return it with no problem. If I like a book, THEN I buy in paper.

For Love or Money?

F.E.C.A.L., new publishing, self-publishing, Amazon, Smashwords, being a real writer, Kristen Lamb, selling books, quality of books, how to write, digital publishing

I’ve been in this business long enough to notice the changes. Early on, writers were adamantly opposed to branding, social media, platform-building, etc. All that mattered was the quality of the book because they LOVED and RESPECTED the written word.

It’s why my merely mentioning on-line branding was enough to induce apoplexy.

The problem (as I saw it in 2008) was that eventually traditional publishers were going to require a brand, platform, social media presence as well as a superior book. They had to in order to keep up with (okay, stay alive in) the new F.E.C.A.L. business model.

Borders had imploded and Barnes & Noble was already bleeding. With fewer POS (Point of Sales) locations more people were shopping on-line.

I knew there was no getting out of building a brand and on-line platform, so might as well get started as soon as possible (without gimmicks and juking algorithms and spamming the crap out of everyone).

The whole reason I created the methods I did in Rise of the Machines was so writers had time to write, to learn and grow and improve. What I teach is EVERGREEN. Technology changes, people don’t.

Alas, the lure of easy money is hard to combat.

Too many ‘published authors’ know everything about promotion, yet not a damn thing about punctuation. I used to advise against a pen name, but now?

If I wrote that badly? I’d hide, too.

Where Do We Draw the Line?

free, free books, F.E.C.A.L., new publishing, self-publishing, Amazon, Smashwords, being a real writer, Kristen Lamb, selling books, quality of books, how to write, digital publishing

Cait’s post last time, Five Things Your Editor Hates About You summed up a lot of frustration. I’ve always loved blogging, teaching craft, helping writers grow from newbies to real artists.

Self-publishing and indie has had plenty of benefits (I.e. I could publish books on social media for writers, YAY!). But we all need to stop and do a gut check.

Where do we draw the line? What are we willing to do and not do? What is acceptable and what is UNacceptable?

These days, there are so many tricks and gimmicks that the ‘real writers’—those of us in this for the craft and the art—are sinking deeper and deeper into so much F.E.C.A.L. material we cannot outpace it…ever.

If we can’t outpace it, we must OUTSHINE it.

More ‘authors’ know more about how to buy promotional g-strings in bulk than they do POV, pacing, and structure. Operation F.E.C.A.L. has been such a massive success, we’re all eyeball deep in free crap and about to go under for good.

Question is, are we going to contribute more F.E.C.A.L. material? Or will we draw a line and give our craft the respect, time and dedication it deserves? Because a real author writes, reads, learns, grows, takes some lumps from REAL critique, and improves.

Freedom is not FREE.

Real writers learn to spell and punctuate or at least pay or barter with someone who can help them spell and punctuate. AUTHORS learn structure, take classes, and seek mentors.

Real authors push their abilities more than free pens. They don’t shovel out $#!& and call it a series.

Ten years ago, my best advice to writers was to learn the business of their business so they didn’t get fleeced. Now? My best advice is for writers to learn how to actually write.

Spend less time and money gold-plating turds and do the work. Leave the participation trophies to those who’ve ‘earned’ them. The rest of us have real author stuff to do.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Other than I am a super mean jerk? I don’t know about you, but I’m fed up. I don’t want any free books. My in-box is deluged with free.

This is even impacting the Big Five.

I PREORDERED a book five months before release because I loved the author’s first book so much. The second book was….

BEYOND bad.

Of course it ended up a NYT best-seller (probably from pre-sales from people like me who expected better). It was published by Simon & Schuster…and it was a pile of unreadable detritus.

Maybe it’s me.

Do you see traditional publishers seeming to cave on quality to keep pace? Are you tired of having to slog through crap? Is it hard to stick to your guns when so many writers are churning out books like a plastic dog-poo factory?

As for me? I don’t care. I’d love to be a gazillionaire but not if I have to churn out F.E.C.A.L. material.

I love hearing from you!

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

Upcoming Classes!

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $55.00 USD

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

When: Friday, June 22, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Remember Moonlighting? Dave and Maddie were the hottest thing ever…and then they kissed…and it was still kinda hot…and then they really got together and settled down to blissful domesticated bickering. And…we all stopped watching.

Because it was boring.

Remember the X-Files? The lucullan feast of smoldering restraint that was Mulder and Scully? Chris Carter refused to give the fans what they wanted with a kiss at the series end, and while fans gnashed their teeth, it was a kind of pro forma gnashing because we were still interested and could still dream about what might happen.

While the episode-based storytelling of television allows romance to be the B-plot (and only when it feels like it), novels are different. Whether we are writing squeaky clean romance or too-much-wasabi-level-hot erotica, we are always dealing with the same basic principle of THE TEASE.

And for all that romance gets a bad rap and is scorned as being ‘easy’ to write, sustaining the delicious, rippling tension and fizzing chemistry between characters is one of the hardest techniques to master. This class can help you (literally) keep the romance alive well past the 80,000-word mark and beyond!

Topics covered in this class include:

  • ‘So, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want’: recognizing what the reader wants, what the reader really wants but doesn’t know, and what the reader needs;
  • How to Flirt with the Reader: giving an inch but taking a mile when it comes to sweet/romantic/sexy moments;
  • Clean and Mean: putting the spark in sweet romance and fanning the flame without risking the brimstone;
  • Down and Dirty: putting the emotion in erotica so every encounter leaves the reader panting for more…for more than one reason;
  • The Speed Dating Trap: how to balance interest, interaction, and attraction without falling for the trap of insta-love (just add fate/pheromones/booze);
  • Making it Last: how to chart a course for romance and pace it so it lasts…all book long…
  • So much more!…

A free recording of the class is included in the purchase. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER


Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $45.00 USD

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

When: Saturday, June 23, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. EST

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

There’s something dashingly defiant and alluring about a proper young lady who throws caution (and often her petticoats) to the wind and picks up a sword to fight for what she believes in.

Whether it’s Eowyn from Lord of the Rings or Elizabeth (Badass) Bennet from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, we all love that moment when a woman rises up to prove she’s more than society ever expected her to be.

Yet the market today is flooded with fantasy and historical that carry more trope baggage than Marie Antoinette for a long weekend at the Petit Trianon (sheep not included).

In fantasy, there are girls raised in servitude who suddenly discover their magical powers and royal heritage and must (really quickly) learn to wield swords and spells in order to save the kingdom.

Historical often isn’t much better, taking naive nineteen year-olds and turning them into near-legendary brigands, highwaymen, and pirates within the space of a few months.

Lack of believability, lack of character depth and arc, and lack of world-building/historical knowledge are the three major pitfalls when creating Ye Olde Action Heroine.

Luckily, this class will give writers a map with all literary here-be-hippogriffs clearly marked. Whether your gal is besieged by dragons, in a castle under siege, or in a castle under siege by dragons, this class can help!

This class will cover:

  • En Garde! Choosing her weapons wisely;
  • Ye Olde Fight Club: getting real about time & training;
  • Why, How, and When: how to realistically get her on the path from baking to badassery;
  • Hard Knocks: how to use failure and lack of skill mastery to create compelling character arcs;
  • The Joan of Arc trap: how to avoid creating miracles and martyrs (unless you really mean it);
  • The Pirate Bride: defining femininity in fantasy and historical in order ‘rebel’ against it;
  • Consequences: what are the short- and long-term consequences of flouting convention?
  • World Building & Re-Building: getting fantasy and historical settings right for your characters;
  • And so much more…

A recording of this class is also included with purchase. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER


Instructor: Kristen Lamb

Price: $45.00 USD

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

When: Saturday, June 23, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. EST

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Female characters have evolved from ‘damsel in distress’ to the ‘hardcore badass.’ Problem is, fictional females escaped one boring mold only to end up in another even MORE boring mold.

But with lipgloss AND karate!

Strong female characters fascinate audiences on the page and on the screen. From Atomic Blonde to Wonder Woman, Special Agent Scully to Dr. Laura Isles, women can exude power and danger in a variety of ways.

Sadly, the badass female has devolved into a tired trope with the depth of a puddle.

This class is to challenge the concept of the dangerous woman as protagonist and antagonist. Creating a powerful woman involves more than handing her weapons, a black belt, and a terminal case of RBF (Resting B$#@% Face).

    • Expanding ‘who’ the dangerous woman IS;
    • Still waters run DEEP;
    • Broadening backstory;
    • Motives matter;
    • The ‘Tomb Raider’ effect;
    • Combat, weapons, tactics;
    • Expanding her ‘arsenal’;
    • Generating authentic dramatic action/tension;
    • Making the dangerous dame ‘likable’;
    • AND MORE…

As an author, competitive shooter, and former combatives instructor, there are few characters I LOVE more than a kickass female action hero. Conversely, fewer things vex me more than the tired cookie-cutter female action hero trope. Women can be powerful in a myriad of ways, beyond hand-to-hand combat and shooting everyone in the FACE.

This said, while we’ll explore a wide variety of powerful women, if you long to write that female action hero, this class will (hopefully) make sure you do her justice.

A recording of this class is also included with purchase. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER


Can’t seem to choose between pirate princesses and bulletproof Barbies? We don’t blame you…and, you don’t have to!

With the Dangerous Dames BUNDLE, get both classes and SAVE MONEY.

Purchased separately, each class is $45. Go for BOTH and get $90 of instruction for ONLY $75. You also get to spend a HUGE part of the day with ME (Kristen Lamb) and my partner in crime Cait Reynolds.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER

Date: Saturday, June 23, 2018

Price: $75.00 USD 

PRINCESS PRODIGY: 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. EST

BULLETPROOF BARBIE: 2:00-4:00 p.m. EST

*Recordings of both classes included with purchase.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER