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Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

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Posts Tagged: Amazon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A storm is coming.

Play to Win (at Letting Others Win)

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

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

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

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

Not that I didn’t try.

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

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

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

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

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

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

*face palm*

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

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

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

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

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

*just heads to hall to my spot*

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

Play to Win (at Your Own Risk)

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

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

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

Sorry about that chlorine gas.

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

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

If I did it? I was being ‘mean.’

HUH?

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

Hazing.

Loved…every…second…of…it.

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

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

Me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Play to Win vs. Play to ‘Not Lose’

Kristen Lamb, Amazon, publishing
My Jiu Jitsu hands.

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

…while she was cooking.

Good way to DIE mistake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But no more.

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

Death by Nice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***Bless you agents and editors.

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

Wanna know why?

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

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

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

Play to win. Better, still?

Play to Win in the Business You’re Actually IN

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

Amazon was ON it.

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

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

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

*sounds of Kristen railing at the heavens*

Excuse, me. Did I stutter?

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

…wait, no that’s wrong.

Mea culpa.

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

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

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

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

Oh, but there’s more….

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

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

Hmm, kinda catchy.

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

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

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

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

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

Doesn’t sound like playing to WIN at all.

Playing to ‘Not Lose’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

😛

Back to US

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go to the Mattresses

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

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

Why should we?

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

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

Give a FREE bottle of wine with your book.

I wish I were making this up.

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

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

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

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

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

….maybe not.

FREE Should Never Really Be FREE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Have a Write to WIN

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

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

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

This is how we play to WIN.

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

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

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

***Seriously, call me.

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

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

For the traditional publishers, this IS your Rocky IV. 

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

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

Champions.

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

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

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

MARCH’S AWESOMENESS (CLASSES)

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

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

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

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

Social Schizophrenia: Building a Brand Without Losing Your Mind 

Too many voices telling ALL THE THINGS! AHHHHHHHH!

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

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

Harnessing Our Writing Power: THE BLOG

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

Story Master: From Dream to Done

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

Fiction ADDICTION: The Secret Ingredient to the Books Readers CRAVE

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

Amazon, authors, digital age authors, writing, self-publishing, how to sell more books, Kristen Lamb, how to write better books, story

Last time, I brought up a subject I never believed would warrant discussing—cockygate.  I wish this was the first time a writer did something epically misguided to gain advantage. Some drama to sell their ‘story.’ But, I’ve been around too long. Seen too much.

Yes, I was there for the BIG BANG (dot.com implosion). I also witnessed Web 2.0 shoot out of the dying Web 1.0’s ribcage then skitter up into the vents.

Where did it GO? What is it up to? What does it WANT?

Good Question

Amazon, authors, digital age authors, writing, self-publishing, how to sell more books, Kristen Lamb, how to write better books, story

As early as 2004, I projected the digital tsunami that was going to obliterate the world as we knew it.

Why is ‘Age of Aquarius’ suddenly stuck in my head?

Anyway, it began with Napster and Tower Records, then Kodak, blah blah and starting in 2006 I began blogging and predicting the next industry to fall…and the next…and even how and roughly when it would happen. All along I insisted publishing and writers needed to be prepared because we were also in its path.

Over the course my first years as a ‘social media/branding expert’ (an occupation widely regarded as a made-up job like ‘unicorn groomer’) I noted a trend.

Pretty much every year, new and evolved ‘bright idea fairies’ (BIFs) hatched with frightening regularity. This trend continues because shortcuts are tempting. Um…cockygate.

Enough said.

BIFs masquerade as a super cool idea, when in reality they’re total gimmicks that do more harm than good.

***Which is why I dedicated a year of research to write Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.

Social platforms change all the time.

Know what never changes? People.

Just read Shakespeare, watch Dateline, or go look up your ex on FB. People don’t change. This is why I wrote Rise of the Machines to be evergreen.

Only now I may need to update because cockygate sucker-punched us all. I feel like Proctor & Gamble now having to warn teenagers not to eat Tide Pods *sighs*.

Story Matters

Amazon, authors, digital age authors, writing, self-publishing, how to sell more books, Kristen Lamb, how to write better books, story

Yes, really.

We writers are wise to remember a few fundamentals. Stories are for the reader. Story is our product. Readers are our customers who pay money for our product. Readers want a good…story. They really want a superlative story.

Far too many authors don’t need better marketing skills, they need better storytelling skills.

This is simple, though simple is rarely easy. Superior stories are more crucial than ever if we take a quick peek at our industry.

See, when Amazon scope-locked on publishing, they knew exactly how to dismantle the establishment. According to the ancient self-help inspirational guru Sun Tzu, there are only two forms of warfare—direct and oblique.

Amazon is all about the oblique.

Who wanted to go head-to-head with The Big Six? Like, be a real publisher who discovers and cultivates awesome books? How derivative *flips hair*.

Nope. Amazon was not about to face off with NYC where legacy publishing had over a century of dominance. Besides, too much work. Instead?

Get rid of gatekeepers. Open the market to anyone who wanted to string a bunch of sentences together and call it a story. In turn, they get to call themselves ‘published authors.’ Win-win!

Not all of it was bad.

Amazon was banking that excellent books had fallen through the traditional model cracks (very true). They also gambled that some authors not only had a good book, but also possessed sound business skills (also true). Then, there were all these hungry, innovative writers eager to be cut loose and try new ideas like the blog-to-book.

The Martian never would have happened under the old regime.

There were also plenty of traditionally published New York Times best-selling authors and USA Today best-selling authors with HUGE backlists…that NY mothballed. #OUCH

Paper was heavy and expensive and the big-box-bookstore only had so much shelf-space. This meant making royalties off only the most recent title (instead of compounded royalties off 10, 20 or 50 titles).

Amazon offered a place to get these already vetted stories back into reader hands.

The only major advantage traditional publishers ever had was distribution. Yet, in a world of 0s and 1s, this advantage disappeared.

Tough truth.

Amazon doesn’t invest in authors or books. They don’t make money off one book selling a million copies. It’s far easier to make money off a hundred thousand ‘writers’ selling ten books. And, Laws of Probability dictate that, out of that hundred thousand writers, a runaway hit will emerge and with that?

A DREAM.

Between mid-list defectors and undiscovered gems, Amazon has reinvented the American Dream for writers. They also reasonably wagered it would only take a few years before legacy publishing would no longer be the first choice for many emerging authors.

The lure of these success stories would be too much to resist.

Problem was, this meant the slush-pile landed square in the readers’ laps.

Story Solutions

Amazon, authors, digital age authors, writing, self-publishing, how to sell more books, Kristen Lamb, how to write better books, story

In this new business model we do have options. We can chase the next ad/promotion/algorithm/writing gimmick like a cat after a red dot. Or we can get back to basics, the ‘stuff’ that’s worked since the beginning of time.

Earlier I mentioned humans don’t change. If we fully grasp this, building a platform becomes far easier. So does writing.

Humans have longed for great stories since the HUGE stick and ‘ability to make fire’ was the most advanced tech available.

Sadly, in the digital age, too many writers rush, either out of newbie enthusiasm or veteran panic. Emerging authors often rush the learning curve (how to actually WRITE a good story). Veteran authors who know how to write, frequently cave to rushing the process.

Faster isn’t always better. It’s like microwaving a turkey. Takes only a fraction of the time, but who wants to eat THAT?

Tips for Better Stories

Ditch the Derivative

Readers want the same but different. Bad copies of stories that are ‘hot’ are simply bad copies. My challenge is for all of us to use that robust imagination for the powers of good. Amateurs retool stories. Artists reimagine them 😉 .

A Thousand Acres—King Lear on an Iowa farm.

Wicked—The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West—There’s always more than one point of view. Let’s hear from the ‘other’ side, shall we?

The Wife Between Us—Fantastic mind-bending story. It’s as if the famous play (movie) Gaslight and Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train had a baby. But namely, it’s Gaslight reimagined in the modern world.

There are way too many tired tropes so have fun. Can you change time, setting, perspective or characters and create something fresh and new, but rooted in pedigree? What about a new story that gives the ‘real’ scoop on an old one?

Jack the Ripper as a female, a virtuous wife betrayed. The killings are motivated by a woman scorned and shamed. Could happen 😛 .

Cinderella as a serial killer. Red Riding Hood as an Old West outlaw. The Little Mermaid as a vengeful stalker (Fatal Attraction) *wink wink*. ALL THE FUN!

Y’all get the gist and Cait has a class coming up that can teach y’all how to think in new and perverse…creative ways in her class Once Upon a Plot: Retelling Myths & Fairytales.

Leave the Low-Hanging Fruit

All stories need some amount of description. Yet, I’m challenging ALL OF US to try harder. I see all kinds of samples where the hero/heroine has emerald, jade, amethyst, sapphire, onyx, (pick any precious or semi-precious stone) eyes. Hair color is like a bad drop-down menu—raven, copper, spun gold, etc.

Her eyes were blue as the Western sky.

Never read that before *rolls eyes*.

To an extent we ALL do it. I’ve done it, too. So one judgy finger pointed at y’all and THREE back at me. Yet, here’s the thing.

We are wordsmiths, and wordsmiths should be able to write a better description than any random non-writer challenged to pen a description.

His eyes were like dazzling emeralds.

Wow. Bet that burned some brain cells to come up with.

Dig deeper. Sure, sometimes we want to keep it simple so we don’t wear out a reader being super clever all the time. On the other hand, can we do a better job than penning a description we might give to a police sketch artist?

He had a shaved head, scars, big nose and ears…

Be CREATIVE!

He had the face of a man who loved to pick fights, but wasn’t any good at fighting.

Just leaving that there 😉 .

Throw a Wrench in Everything

Stories are about problems. PERIOD. Three hundred pages of pretty sentences is not a novel. It’s three hundred pages of pretty sentences. Using a crap ton of fancy words only proves we know how to use a thesaurus…and maybe should be banned from owning one.

Description is not story.

Everyone getting along is not story…it’s a sedative.

All stories have ONE core problem that must be resolved. Until that happens? Welcome to hell. No one agrees and nothing comes easily and anything that can go wrong does…twice. The MC must solve the core story problem and the crucible is never curved.

No one respects someone who wins without working for it in life…or fiction 😉 .

***Scroll down to On Demand classes for hardcore storytelling training from MOI!

What Are Your Thoughts?

I love hearing from you!

Do you struggle being a sadist to your characters? Did you do like me and look at your descriptions and go, ‘Wow, I should totally try harder’ *face palm*?

Did I maybe get the brain percolating? Mine is.

I now want to write Hansel & Gretel in the 1920s as Bonnie & Clyde-style gangsters and candy is a metaphor for BOOZE and SEX….

*Cait slaps me hard*

OWWW! *rubs back of head*

Or not.

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

Also NOW OFFERING MORE CLASSES PLUS ON DEMAND…

Retelling Myths & Fairytales

Instructor: USA Today Best-Selling Author Cait Reynolds
Price: $65 USD Standard (Cool Upgrades Available)
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: FRIDAY May 25th, 7:00 PM E.S.T. to 9:00 P.M. EST

Myths and fairytales are as fundamental to human existence as communication itself. We grow up hearing these stories, being formed by them, and often rebelling against them.

One of the hottest trends in publishing right now is bringing these stories back and giving them new life with creative interpretations and retellings.

Done right, a retelling can capture the public imagination, give us new insights into our society and ourselves, and sweep us away to a time and place where everything, including justice and happy endings, is possible. Get your spot today! HERE.

The Yarn Behind the Book: Backstory

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $55.00 USD

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

When: Friday, June 1, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

Behind every good book is an entire story that happens before the reader ever opens to page one. This is the backstory, and done right, it is what sets the stage, provides clues and cues, and rescues you from writer’s block.

A good backstory will help with logic and consistency in the plot, developing complex motivations for characters, and sorting out exactly what needs to happen going forward as you either plot or pants your way to the end.

This class will cover the following topics – and much more:

  • The elements of a backstory;
  • How to take your current plot idea and work backwards into a backstory;
  • Integrating character profiles and the backstory;
  • How the backstory relates to the logline and synopsis;
  • Using the backstory to dig yourself out of corners and shake off writer’s block;
  • Why a backstory is crucial to writing a series.

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

About the Instructor:

Cait Reynolds is a USA Today Bestselling Author and lives in the 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. When she isn’t cooking, running, or enjoying the rooftop deck that brings her closer to the stars, she writes.

On Demand Training!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story Boss Bundle (ON DEMAND).

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

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

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

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

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

Cockygate.

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

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

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

*face palm*

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

Why I’m Cocky Enough to Care

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

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

Then didn’t talk to me for two years.

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

Anyway…

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

Enough stress to turn Tommy Chong into a cutter.

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

I’ve had a full dance card.

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

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

A Caveat

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

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

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

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

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

When the public openly denounced this behavior?

Not trolling.

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

What’s the Deal with Cocky?

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

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

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

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

I WISH I Were Joking

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

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

Exhibit A:

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

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

Just…wow.

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

Legal Z…Doom

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or not.

Unwanted Weaponizing

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

*makes weird ‘pondering’ face*

Never seen a law firm rufied.

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

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

Oh to be a fly on the wall….

Trademark Trolling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But It’s NO BIG DEAL

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

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

Just get a new cover *hair flip*. 

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

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

And demanding these changes literally right before CONFERENCE SEASON?

*breathes in paper bag*

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

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

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

*bangs head on table*

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

Community 

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

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

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

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

Beyond the Social Media Mess

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

Yep, that’s gonna come back to bite.

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

*backs away slowly*

Making a Cocky Contribution

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

Just a teensy singularity.

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

Multiple black holes.

***No Hadron Collider required.

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

Count the Cost

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

SMH.

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

Or maybe just this post feels like that.

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

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

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

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

What Are Your Thoughts? 

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

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

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

And, of course, it’s called…COCKY.

 

 

 

 

lies, what are you worth, how to price a book, working for exposure, pay the writer, Kristen Lamb, how to sell more books, make money writing, Amazon and Kindle Unlimited, Amazon, author branding

Today we’re going to have a talk about LIES. Deception, half-truths, misinformation, and twisted realities. In my post about the success paradox we discussed how thoughts impact us in very real and tangible ways.

Our belief systems are like our ‘programming’ but malware abounds, very often in the form of lies. If we fail to recognize the lies and internalize them as ‘truths’ it’s akin to opening that infected PDF in our e-mail….

Welcome to the Blue Screen of Doom. Only it’s in our head.

For those who read the post, I suggested some exercises at the end to get a bead on what you really believe regarding success. Before I dive into this, I want y’all to grasp one fundamental fact about the human brain.

The mind cannot tell the difference between truth and lie. What we tell it, it simply accepts and obeys. Keep that ‘in mind’ as we continue.

A World of Lies

Why are you really doing this writing thing? If it’s for fun or a hobby then read no further. For those who want to be professionals? Take heed.

Lies can come in the form of all-or-nothing-thinking. Cute sayings that sound noble, self-effacing, humble and make us appear super nice. They seem innocent, but they’re progress poison.

Let’s use some common examples. Every time I write any post regarding wealth or success, inevitably I get responses in the comments like:

There are more important things in life than success.

Money doesn’t matter the most. What about love?

I’m here to write great stories, not for the money.

All three? LIES. Utter and complete garbage. Bear with me as we unpack these.

There Are More Important Things Than Success

lies, what are you worth, how to price a book, working for exposure, pay the writer, Kristen Lamb, how to sell more books, make money writing, Amazon and Kindle Unlimited, Amazon, author branding

Um…no kidding.

Just because success isn’t the most important thing doesn’t automatically make it therefore unimportant.  Prioritizing our dreams doesn’t immediately necessitate we a) abandon our families b) give no figs about world issues or c) seek to GUT anyone who might stand in our way faster than Cersie Lannister on bath salts.

If we’re constantly declaring success isn’t the most important thing in life, then why are we shocked when we can’t seem to get ahead? Success IS extremely important.

No one starts anything—a marriage, a family, a business, a novel—and thinks, ‘OMG, I cannot wait to fail at this. It will be AWESOME. My goal is to spend a ton of money, time and energy on my dreams for…NOTHING.’

When we say stupid things like, There are more important things than success we’re unwittingly programming in self-sabotaging behavior. We’re far more likely to put off our writing and treat it like a cute little hobby. We won’t invest money in learning to be better because who invests in the unimportant?

Also, we’re inadvertently dooming ourselves to amateur/hobbyist status because guess what, my sweeties….

To professionals? Success is VERY important.

Money Isn’t THAT Big of a Deal

lies, what are you worth, how to price a book, working for exposure, pay the writer, Kristen Lamb, how to sell more books, make money writing, Amazon and Kindle Unlimited, Amazon, author branding

*cough* Bu!!$#!* Yes, I know love, joy, happiness and self-fulfillment are important and matter. But here again we’re back in the same dumb@$$ thinking we had with success.

Which ‘matters most?’ Your heart or your lungs? Come on! Tick tock. Choose!

Money matters. Despite what people might say, money’s a pretty big deal. In fact, the lie that money doesn’t matter has been one of the main ways MEGA MEDIA brands have gotten away with using writers as their personal serfs. Convince writers money is bad and that asking to be paid for their work is dirty…and they’ll line up to work for likes, feel-goods, and ‘exposure dollars.’

When money matters, we start thinking like professionals. A hard lesson I am still learning:

You don’t get what you work for, you get what you negotiate.

Plenty of bloggers churn out amazing content for absurdly wealthy brands for free (exposure). If we claim money doesn’t matter, this sets us up to be preyed on by those who value money…a lot.

Um…the hell? No offense Mr. Editor, but…

lies, what are you worth, how to price a book, working for exposure, pay the writer, Kristen Lamb, how to sell more books, make money writing, Amazon and Kindle Unlimited, Amazon, author branding

Blogging aside, let’s talk books. A lot of authors work hard and are still broke. Even authors with great books. Why? Because when we claim ‘money isn’t all that matters’ we’re less likely to learn the business side of our business.

This leads to a) ignoring it b) delegating it. Delegating our business isn’t necessarily bad but unless we’re educated we’re unable to discern a good plan from a bad deal.

When writers prioritize being paid, we’re more likely to invest time, energy, money in areas where we’ll eventually benefit financially (I.e. blog on our own website). We’ll also step up our game, value our work and believe we’re entitled to reap the rewards.

That is What Businesses DO

lies, what are you worth, how to price a book, working for exposure, pay the writer, Kristen Lamb, how to sell more books, make money writing, Amazon and Kindle Unlimited, Amazon, author branding

Businesses want to be successful and also believe money is a super huge deal. Even non-profits prioritize money! The Red Cross doesn’t run on thoughts and prayers. We writers need to reevaluate what we believe about money and how it relates to US.

Why is it okay for the owners of websites like Huffington Post to make hundreds of millions off the hard work of unpaid labor? And to act as if they’re doing some benevolent service by grifting thirteen thousand creatives in the UK alone?

What other industry could get away with this? Can you imagine engineers, surgeons, or even construction workers being paid in exposure? NO. Why then is it okay to do to us? Why are we enabling profiteering parasites?

Fear Factor

The reason writers aren’t calling out this injustice is we’ve been groomed to believe their LIES. Too many of us believe big brands are doing US a favor by posting our work to their vast audience, but riddle me this….

If our writing is so shoddy we need to give it away for free (and be grateful), why do the big brands want our posts in the first place? How are these MEGA MEDIA brands raking in hundreds of millions of dollars (via ads) off writing that isn’t even worth paying the creators a single solitary dollar for?

The fundamental difference is businesses believe a) success matters b) money is important and c) they’re offering a product consumers want. The mega media brands know those surfing the web are in search of great content. Readers want to click on blogs about fashion, dating, family, gardening, pets, etc.

Yet, be careful. These brands also want writers posting for THEM so THEY make the money…which means they’ll also post a bunch of blogs about how blogs are dying and no longer popular.

How the hell does that make any sense on any level? Critical thinking here.

If blogs are dying, then what the heck are we reading when we’re being told blogging is a dying form? Smoke signals? Jazz hands? No, we are reading a BLOG telling us BLOGS are dying.

lies, what are you worth, how to price a book, working for exposure, pay the writer, Kristen Lamb, how to sell more books, make money writing, Amazon and Kindle Unlimited, Amazon, author branding

It’s a mental game to make us insecure, a lie to convince us we can’t do it on our own. The mega brands know if we blog on our site and create our own following, we (eventually) make the money and not them.

I Just Want to Write Great Stories 

Wonderful! All the more reason to take success seriously. Professionals hone their skills. They read and study and take classes and seek out mentors. Also—just pointing this out—why are we acting like this is an ‘either-or’ scenario? Why not both? Why do we believe we must choose?

FUN FACT: We can write great stories and also make money. #MindBlown

In fact, the more money we make, the more time we can dedicate to writing even better books. The more capital we have on hand to invest in training, refining our skills, and creating a better product…the more good books there are in the world.

Society likes to promote this caricature of the ‘starving artist’ when, in reality, the highest paid people in the world technically don’t work ‘real jobs.’ Last I checked J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Nora Roberts, James Patterson and George R.R. Martin aren’t panhandling at stoplights for spare change.

Our culture spends billions on entertainment, but the entertainers making money aren’t working for free. These entertainers (authors included) believe they have a right to be paid for what they create.

Also, if Amazon can make billions of dollars of profit, writers can make bank, too. Write excellent books and price them to reflect actual value. If our book honestly is good enough to be published at all, then we don’t need to cat-fight over fractions of KU pennies. And, if we are playing that ‘game’? Then deep down maybe our book wasn’t quite ready to be published after all.

Food for thought.

What Do You Believe?

lies, what are you worth, how to price a book, working for exposure, pay the writer, Kristen Lamb, how to sell more books, make money writing, Amazon and Kindle Unlimited, Amazon, author branding

Why are writers blogging for super wealthy brands for free? Why are so many writers churning out a gazillion hastily scribbled books for Amazon? A number of reasons.

As we mentioned, we’ve been groomed to be nice. It’s bad manners to self-promote and gauche to talk about money. We’re afraid of business because we don’t understand it and thus the ‘starving artist facade’ allows us a pass when it comes to learning skills and subjects that scare the crap out of us.

We want someone else to do that icky stuff so we can create *hair flip*.

Truth Bomb

Get good at the icky stuff and make money? We’ll have time to write more books and make even more money. Make enough money and eventually we can PAY people to do that icky stuff 😉 .

Another reason writers (and creatives) are so willing to work for free or for pennies is deep down we don’t really believe what we’re writing is worth paying for.

And *grimaces* sometimes we might even be correct. There is a learning curve to this. First we must LEARN, then later we can drop the L.

It’s easy to self-publish on Amazon then blame the lack of a marketing budget or our poor promotional skills for shoddy sales. You know what’s hard? Brutal even? Taking an honest look at our work admitting it needs to be better…a lot better.

Hey, I’ve been there. Y’all have NO idea how happy I am self-publishing wasn’t an option when I wrote my first ‘novel.’

The one that pees on the carpets and bites.

Yes, I want writers to understand the business of our business because it improves odds of success and protects y’all (and me) against predation. A MAJOR part of business involves brutal honesty about the product. If something isn’t selling, WHY?

If it can be fixed, then how? Fix it. If not? Then stop throwing more money at it. Nobody wanted New Coke no matter how many celebrities promoted it. If our book sucks, write a better one. Up our game and hone our skills. More promotion isn’t going to sell a crappy book nobody wanted in the first place.

Want to BE Free? Stop Being FOR Free

lies, what are you worth, how to price a book, working for exposure, pay the writer, Kristen Lamb, how to sell more books, make money writing, Amazon and Kindle Unlimited, Amazon, author branding

I’d like to posit a friendly challenge. Take some time and consider what you’re worth. What is the actual value of your writing? The MEGA MEDIA brands have almost all jumped on the exposure dollar bandwagon, paying writers with bragging rights while using euphemisms like ‘contributors’ so that profiting off a massive unpaid workforce seems less ‘icky.’

Tossing out a challenge.

Is that post you created for X MEGA BRAND worth at least one dollar? If it is, then they need to pay you that dollar or don’t post. This all has to begin with us. If we don’t value our work, no one else will either.

And yes, I blog ‘for free’ here, but free is part of a larger strategy that serves my goals. I own my content. My blogs build MY brand, MY following, MY SEO, MY credibility. I’m here cultivating MY future fans by serving them. My blog is a mechanism to drive class sales and book sales.

Anyone who guest posts here usually is teaching a class where they are paid generously BY ME. Because I VALUE them. Also, because I’m able to make money with classes, this means I can afford to tip the photographers at Pexel (a site that’s created ways their ‘contributors’ can be rewarded financially).

Our books? What are they truly worth? Might be time to get brave and raise the price. We had a saying in sales: Value perceived is value achieved. 

The Lies END HERE

We should be grateful for exposure (LIE). Exposure is a worthless currency and has been since Paris Hilton was cool. We need the power of big brands to build our tiny brand (MAJOR LIE). Major brands will use our own writing to destroy our brand by cannibalizing our SEO. Notice there’s no place for a shopping cart to sell our BOOKS where we might make money, but plenty of space for ads where THEY make millions.

When we blog for free for a MEGA MEDIA brand we enhance our resume and up our value (LIE). We are a battery. 

Amazon, iBooks and the Big Five have all the power (LIE). Write excellent books and cultivate a following (via social media/blog/multiple books) and you can bring your terms to the table.

I need to price my books low because of competition (LIE). Last I checked George R.R. Martin was not the only epic fantasy writer, so why aren’t his books 99 cents?

Yes, I have on my sassy pants today. I know this is scary but we can do this. Do it afraid, but do it. According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2018 is the year of the Dog. Don’t know about you but, while I’m willing to work like a dog, I’m nobody’s b*tch 😛 .

I love hearing from you!

And am not above bribery!

What do you WIN? For the month of JANUARY, 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!

Master Class: How to Write a Series

Taught by Kristen Lamb AND Cait Reynolds…together…in same room. It’ll be fun! Class is NEXT FRIDAY January 19th, 7-10 PM EST in our W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom. $75 for a three hour class of intensive education and lots of shenanigans.

A free recording is included with class purchase…though we reserve the right to edit out anything that can and will be used against us in a court of law.

Your Life as a Story: How to Write a Memoir

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $65.00 USD

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

Date: Friday, January 26th, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

We all have a story to tell, something worth preserving or even sharing. This might be the tale of our own life, or the life of someone dear to us.  Maybe we long to capture oral histories of relatives before the living past disappears forever.

Regardless, the memoir is a genre that requires an approach, voice, and technique vastly different from fiction.

Topics we cover in this class include:

  • Developing the thematic frame of the memoir;
  • Creating a compelling narrative structure out of facts and timelines;
  • The art of the follow-up question: going beyond the generic questionnaires to dig deep and mine memories to get the extraordinary details and important information;
  • Developing and refining your memoirist voice;
  • Knowing when extra research is needed, what is needed, and how to find it;
  • Filling in the gaps when no information exists;
  • Understanding legal constraints (i.e. libel) and how to maneuver around them yet maintain story integrity;
  • Recreating dialogue and excerpting from original documents (letters, journals, etc.);
  • Positioning your memoir for multiple markets.

****As always a free recording is included with class purchase.