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Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: author brand

Johnny Cat wants to write his memoir...
Johnny Cat wants to write his memoir…

We writers are kinda weird…okay, a LOT weird. We can drift to extremes if we aren’t vigilant. Either we are the non-stop All-Writing-All-The-Time Channel or we’re afraid to mention we have ever read let alone written a book lest we offend anyone. I get it. I struggle, too. We are artists and “selling” feels…ookey.

Yes, ookey is a word.

Marketing feels especially weird in The Digital Age. But why? Also, why is the ROI (Return on Investment) so dismal with traditional marketing tactics? Facebook ads are a notorious waste of money and I doubt the guy who programmed his Twitter to mention his new book five times an hour has seen a massive uptick in sales.

Perhaps death threats, but not sales 😀 .

I feel that, as we shift from the TV-Industrial complex of the past century and into the Digital Age, we are becoming more of a global village. Information no longer runs one direction, from sender to receiver.

Why?

Because the medium has changed. The medium always affects communication, and a lot of well-intended advice fails to account for this shift.

We Heard It the First 20 Times

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As much as I rail against it, we still see the relentless book spam. Yet, we are wise to appreciate that as the communication mediums changed, society, culture and values shifted as well.

For instance, we never had America + Television. Once television became a part of our everyday life, America was different. It could not go back to the way it was before television. The change was like a chemical change, a cake that could not be un-baked. The culture changed. Our habits, language, expectations and definitions of “truth” all shifted.

Same with social media.

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In the traditional paradigm, “air space” cost money. To put out an ad, a commercial spot on television or even an ad on radio cost money. Even printing off flyers and paying someone to stuff paper under windshield wipers cost money. This “cost barrier” was a sort of gatekeeper that naturally decreased the number of people who would be “advertising” their products.

Then came the Internet and social media.

Now it is FREE! for everyone to talk about goods and services non-stop. The sheer volume of people all pitching their services renders them invisible at best and highly annoying at worst. There is a lot about the new publishing world that I love, but it also has created some serious problems.

How I feel checking e-mail. Remember when we LIKED getting e-mail?

This GORGEOUS image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Aimannesse Photography
This GORGEOUS image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Aimannesse Photography

Now that everyone can be published, we are inundated with constant pitching to buy books or download free books or read reviews for books. We can’t escape it.

Posting multiple times a day about our book for sale is like us going to a cocktail party and opening a card table to take book orders. The medium has changed and so have the rules.

Yes, it is important to let people know we have a book to offer, but how we do that has changed.

In the TV-Industrial complex, people merely received information. There was no dialogue, so no social rules applied. We didn’t take offense when we saw a commercial on TV…but the TV wasn’t our “friend.” We were strictly grounded in market norms. Market norms govern commerce. We pay the price on the sticker. We use coupons. Market norms are not personal.

Yet, social media seeks to harness social norms. Social norms are governed by relationships. They are more nebulous and emotionally driven.

I open the door for you and it’s implied I don’t expect a tip.

Where social media gets sticky is that yes, we can get the benefit of social norms. For instance, many people who know and like me from social media might choose to read my book above others even though it isn’t normally a genre they’d read. Yet, we must be careful mixing marketing norms with social norms or people feel used and manipulated.

Thanks for being my friend! Here is a link to my fan page and a free book! Please leave a good review, since we are friends *wink, wink*

Yeah, not creepy AT ALL.

Language Matters

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In the Golden Age of TV and Advertising, we accepted that commercials were just part of having entertainment on television. We didn’t “own” any of that airspace, so we willingly acquiesced. Social media changed this dynamic, and, for the first time in human history, the Internet gave us virtual territory.

Tom Anderson was highly intuitive when he called his new social network (2003) MYSPACE. Humans are territorial. Our Facebook wall is literally OUR WALL. When strangers post ads in “our space” it is irritating and personal.

Don’t be a personal space invader.

“Careful, Jim. I think it has a book for sale.”

We cannot get the benefits of social norms unless we respect social norms. On social media, we use terms like “friend” and “Likes.” To humans, these words have meaning, whether we consciously acknowledge this or not. When I “befriend” someone on Twitter and they immediately DM me with a spammy message to buy their book? I am offended.

Why?

Because social norms regulate social media.

Social norms don’t mean we are against buying stuff from “friends,” but it does mean we are part of a social dance that we should respect. For instance, how many of you have kids? How many of you have had your kids come home with boxes of candy to sell for school? Who did you go to first to offload overpriced crappy candy? Family. Then friends. Then probably some coworkers.

Why?

Because no one wants to go door-to-door selling anything, let alone $4 stale candy bars.

But see how the social norms guided who you would ask, and in what order, and even how you would ask for a sale? Many of those closer relationships are happy to buy overpriced candy, but only because they know you.

Let’s look at this scenario instead.

What if I complimented a woman in the grocery store, then got her chatting about the items in her basket and what she was cooking for dinner? At first she is hesitant but as we chat she lets down her guard and talks about her cat Muffin, and how she likes to bake cookies for the church.

And just about the time she is comfortable talking to me, I ask, “Wow, if your church likes cookies, they would LOVE chocolate bars. Would you like to buy some candy?”

I bet she couldn’t get to her wallet the door fast enough.

What To Do?

All right. Some of you might be panicking a little right now. But Kristen, how can we ever sell our book if we can’t TALK about it? I never said we couldn’t talk about our books. I said we had to adjust our approach. Sure, tweet about your book but don’t feel the need to camp on top of it 😉 

It should be clear to anyone looking at our interaction history that we are on social media primarily for the purpose of being social, NOT using Twitter of Facebook as free ad space.

We just need to apply the Golden Rule here.

Don’t just blast out a bunch of links all day. Are you lacking for stuff to read? I know I’m not. How many of you woke up this morning and said, “Gee, you know what I need? MORE information. I don’t have enough. In fact, I have far too much free time I need to fill. I hope I get some more e-mail.”

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Most people are on social media because humans are wired to be social. We are looking for connections, not another news feed with commercial breaks. If we wanted that, we’d just watch TV. I joke that social media was invented to fill a need. Many of us were seriously ticked off that Show-and-Tell was canceled after Kindergarden.

We’ve never gotten over the hurt.

We like Show-and-Tell. We love participating and we love watching and sharing in return. Hey, check it out! I baked a CAKE! Look at my new BIKE! I taught myself how to make a TREBUCHET!

Strangely enough, we haven’t changed much since childhood. Making friends is easier over something nonthreatening like a pic of our cat who has shredded the new ten-pack of toilet paper. People can relate. It generates the foundation of all relationships…a conversation.

Meet my fur-baby, Odin the Ridiculously Handsome Cat (who, upon popular demand, got his own fan page)….

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I’ve even memed him:

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Y’all get the idea. But see how a random picture of my cat, became fun for ALL? A regular pic of my cat taking a nap transformed into something interactive. Suddenly, people who might never have before spoken to me were coming up with captions for Odin the Ridiculously Handsome Cat. Thanks Diedre Dykes!

This has nothing directly to do with selling a social media book, but it IS fun and it IS memorable and it IS the kind of content people love to contribute to and then share. These actions add up over time to create what we call “BRAND.”

Interruption Marketing DOESN’T Work

When was the last time a writer tweeted several times a day about her book and that prompted you to drop everything and go buy? When was the last time you clicked on a Facebook ad to buy something?

One of the reasons I encourage writers to blog is that a blog is very useful for passive selling. Every one of you who follow this blog know I have a book for sale (and even teach classes) even though I have never tweeted about them and never posted about them on Facebook.

How is this?

I serve first with a blog and then, at the end of my post, I mention my books or any W.A.N.A. International classes that might be of interest. So I am promoting my books and classes, thousands of times a day…but I am not doing so intrusively.

Most of you are not offended that I mention my books (I hope), namely because I gave freely, and thus reciprocation on your part feels natural. You don’t feel like I am ramming book ads down your throat.

No one likes a personal space invader.

My attitude is that some of you will read, click and even buy, but those not interested can simply quit reading at the end of the blog post. You might not buy one of my books today, but you know about them. So when the day comes that you decide you need to blog, hopefully my book will be in your mental databanks.

Since you have come to my corner of cyberspace it doesn’t feel invasive when I mention my books and classes, because I mention them in MY space, not YOURS. Also, like the picture of my cat, my blogs are interactive. I tell my thoughts, then look forward to yours. I am super blessed that my comments are a vibrant and interesting community. 

See how the experience now no longer only flows one direction? Content-recievers are now content-contributors and social media is far more fun because we are all engaged.

What are your social media pet peeves? Do you see red when people post ads on your walls? Or does it not bother you? Do you buy books from people who promote a lot on Twitter? Or do you not see the tweets? Do they irritate you or make you unfollow? What are some of the areas where you see the most personal space invasion?

Do you have any ideas for future installments of Odin the Ridiculously Handsome Cat? 

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of APRIL, 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).

***Note: I have been out of town and need time to calculate March’s winner, so will announce that NEXT BLOG POST.

Also, for more help on how to use characters to ratchet anxiety to the nerve-shreding level, I am finally back teaching and offering my Understanding the Antagonist Class on April 18th and YES, it is recorded in case you miss or need to listen again because this class is jammed with information.

I LOVE teaching this simply because our antagonists are pivotal for writing a story (series) readers can’t put down. Yet, too often we fail to harness characters for max effect. I look forward to seeing you there! I also offer the Gold level for one-on-one. Maybe you’ve hit a dead end. Your story is so confusing you need a GPS and a team of sherpas to find the original idea. Instead of wasting time with misguided revisions, I can help you triage your WIP and WHIP it into fighting form 😀 .

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

Image courtesy of cellardoorfilms WANA Commons...
Image courtesy of cellardoorfilms WANA Commons…

We’ve been talking a lot about social media lately and I am always grateful for your comments and thoughts. This kind of feedback not only helps me improve my blog, but my also books, because I get a glimpse of your worries, weaknesses, fears, loves, and strengths.

As a teacher/mentor/expert, it’s my job to address those fears and put you at ease or reinforce when you’re headed the right direction and give you tools and tips to take what you’re doing to another level.

There’ve been some comments that have piqued my attention lately. Namely this notion to give up on social media completely to write more books (out of vexation for the medium and the task).

Oh-kay….

Social Media is a TOTAL Waste of Time

Write more books instead of tweeting or blogging. Social media is a giant time-suck better spent writing great books.

I don’t know how to answer this besides, Er? *screeching breaks* Personally, I can think of no larger waste of time than researching and reading and spending countless hours crafting a wonderful book of 60,000-110,000 words and then?

No one knows the book exists so few people ever read it, enjoy it or are changed by the author’s story.

It’s like spending six months to a year on an oil painting to hang it in an attic.

 

These days, any agent worth their salt will not sign an author who doesn’t have a social media brand and presence. Rarely, they will take a book from an author who doesn’t…but usually it will come with the requirement the author get on-line and get to work.

I ADORE Dawn Frederick at Red Sofa Literary and once shared a panel with her. She told the story of a book she LOVED and took even though the author wasn’t on social media. She was so impressed with the book she signed the author but told her she needed to get on social media and start building a platform.

After six months, the author refused. Dawn gave an ultimatum. Get your tail on social media or we drop the book and cancel the contract.

Myth-Busting

It used to be that an author who wanted to completely avoid social media went traditional. Well, traditional publishing has now seen the value of social media and almost all of them require it. They require it even if they allot budgeting for marketing. Why? Because social media helps them gain a FAR greater ROI on the marketing dollars spent.

How?

I’ll give an example. I once read a traditionally published craft book that changed my life. At the time, my platform had grown fairly large and I’ve worked very hard to create a solid reputation for recommending only the best resources. I tried to contact the author not only to promote the book, but to get this author to present our conference (which sells A LOT of books).

The web site was an outdated clumsy mess and the contact e-mail at the bottom was no longer any good. The author wasn’t on FB or Twitter and I think I finally located this writer—of all places—on LinkedIn. Four months later the author replied, but by then the window of opportunity had closed.

I was…vexed.

 

Additionally, since I’d had such a bear of a time connecting to the author, I wasn’t going to recommend this tedious experience to others.

Publishers have since recognized this problem and they want to remove as much friction from a potential sale as possible. Their goal is not only to sell a book but to captivate and cultivate a FAN who will buy that book, the next and the next. This is simply smart business.

Though I’m not a huge fan of ads, it makes sense that if a publisher (traditional or indie) is going to pay good money to create and launch one, that anyone interested should be able to easily connect with the author. Same with coveted AP reviews, interviews, or events. Even if we self-publish and pay for promotion, an existing platform will make the most of that investment.

A LOT of any sales is the follow up then the follow-through.

If social media is new, scary, overwhelming? Welcome to being NEW. Most of us start like this…

 

Social Media is for the CONSUMER

I come from a background in sales. Cardboard. Not glamourous but everyone uses it. Being the cheapest or mailing out flyers or calling non-stop was not what sold my product over other choices.

And trust me, we had BEAUTIFUL ads. I also had competition offering a far cheaper product. They also had products virtually IDENTICAL to ours. But ads and price and even selection weren’t the major driving factor in sales.

Rather, it was the customer’s ability to quickly and easily connect with ME.

Maybe the company didn’t need corner board the day they met me. But then, that purchaser I’d spoken to in the spring signed a contract with a client in the autumn who wanted to ship truckloads of water heaters STAT. Water heaters that needed protection during shipping.

Because that purchaser had my personal cell number (back in the days when most salespeople didn’t have one and I paid for my OWN), guess who closed the sale?

Most salespeople didn’t want to pay out of pocket for a cell phone. They liked the old ways, the way business had always been done. Call the office. Leave a message with the receptionist, and then they’d return the call when they got back in off the road (which could be DAYS).

Even if the salesperson got the message once they checked into their hotels, it would be late in the evening. The earliest a customer could get an answer would be the next day.

Me? They talked to the minute the idea flitted across their brains (or within the hour if I was in a meeting).

It cost me $400 a month of my own money to have a cell phone with enough minutes. Back then, 2000 minutes a month was the max one could buy in a package, but I had a nine-state territory and also all of northern Mexico and believed it was a wise investment.

Work smarter, not harder….

 

I put out my own effort and money to make it easier for a customer to find and connect with me instantly. I didn’t have to. But it sure made that $2.5 million a year quota a lot easier to meet. Of ALL the cardboard reps vying for the SAME SALE, I was the one who was Johnny on the Spot to solve a problem. I was the one they could dial and get an almost-instant response and solution.

Though cardboard and novels are different products, that tether of personal connection is powerful.

A large number of agents, especially those at the prestigious agencies, will not even consider a query if they can’t google our name and see we’ve been working to at least connect and begin cultivating a community that can become readers.

But now many authors are going indie or self-publishing. Indie houses I can guarantee will likely ignore anyone who doesn’t want to be on social media. Those who self-publish? WE ARE THE PUBLISHER. What responsible publisher with a hint of business acumen ignores any kind of interaction and follow-up with potential customers (readers)?

It reminds me of the cardboard salesmen who didn’t want a cell phone. They’d missed the point that their job was to serve the customer’s schedule and needs, not the other way around.

Golf is NOT Golf and Dinner is NOT Dinner

Hubby and I had an interesting debate a few days ago. He kinda turned his nose up about wining and dining and entertaining clients (we have two small businesses). But Hubby has spent most of his professional life as a procurement person and is a long-lost cousin of Mr. Spock.

But then I explained that those off-site relaxed endeavors were actually investments in relationships and even friendships. When I took customers to lunch, I never talked business. I wanted to know (genuinely) about their wives, kids, or hobbies and let them have some fun talking about the things they enjoyed. It was personal.

It’s far more important to be interested than interesting.

When I would call to follow up, I asked about how their son’s Little League game went or how the wife was and simply told them I’d be in the area during a certain time. Never asked for money or talked about cardboard.

I also never chastised them or was hurt if they bought from another source. I’d say, “Well, that was a smart business decision. Can’t blame you for being prudent. Just hope I am there to help you next time. You know how to reach me.”

Over time, because of the relaxed atmosphere, I found that customers gravitated to calling me because they knew me, could reach me, and rather enjoyed not being pitched to non-stop. They’d even pay more.

What was really cool was that certain customers eventually refused to deal with any other company but ours, no matter how cheap the competitor’s price. They would even recommend me (and my product) to other companies, because I ignored the ABCs (Always BE Closing) and trusted the power of relationships and consistency.

The same can be said for social media. Blasting spam and bargains and free stuff might work for a while and on a few people, but it doesn’t generate the long-term loyalty money can’t buy.

Sure, back in my cardboard days, it cost me time and money and effort. My hard work rarely paid off immediately and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t harshly criticized.

But, eventually, when customers had to choose between going to lunch with someone who jammed flyers and price lists in their faces, who never shut up talking about themselves and who insisted on a signature on the dotted line by the time the check came?

Versus me?

I was far less exhausting and annoying to deal with.

Social Media is NOT a Sales Pitch

Social media is like all those lunches or quick, relaxing trips to a driving range to just unwind and chat and become friends. People should know we have a book, just like all my cardboard customers had a fancy folder filled with all our products and a sample box.

But the product wasn’t my focus, people were.

To refuse to do social media would have been akin to me never traveling and sitting by the phone in my office hoping it would ring. That our cardboard would sell itself. I imagine I wouldn’t have lasted long.

To misuse social media is a formula for a customer (reader) to gravitate some place they don’t feel like prey. Social media used properly doesn’t take much time to do, but it will take time to grow roots.

Just like it only took five minutes for me to call a buyer, ask how his kids were and let him know I’d be in the area and ask if he and his receptionist would care to join me for a bite to eat. But, though it took minutes to make the invitation, it took months of care and authentic follow-up to build a foundation of trust that created a loyal customer.

Direct Sales is Almost Universally ANNOYING

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How many of you have gone to having a cell phone because the only people who called the landline were selling something? How many times have any of you said, “Sure, I’ll pay for that cruise right now” after getting a random phone call. Or, “Yes, sign my up for that credit protection plan. TAKE MY MONEY!”

How many times have you found a flyer on your windshield or front door and immediately called for that product or service? Or answered the spam in your e-mail with credit card in hand?

Think of this when using social media 😉 . Relax, have fun and trust this is a process and a really fun one with the right attitude.

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of JANUARY, 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).

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

Holy Moly! Yes, folks. We are officially closing in on Christmas and the beginning of a New Year. If you guys are anything like me, about half your 2011 resolutions were forgotten two and a half weeks in when you were so hungry you contemplated holding up your local Cinnabon with a shotgun.

I might not be able to help you keep your resolution to lose weight, but I CAN help you reach the goal of creating a successful author blog with the power to SELL BOOKS.

Today I am going to explain why you need my Blogging to Build Your Author Brand Class. Tell your family you want this for Christmas. Two months of class for only $40!!!! In the comfort of your own home!!! You can even wear that dreadful Snuggie you will almost certainly get as a White Elephant gift.

My class will teach you about author branding and how to blog in ways that leave you time to go to the gym watch all the Firefly reruns. But, if I haven’t convinced you to sign up for your own good, then how about this?

Sign up or the Pixies win.

Pixies? Yes, Pixies.

Every day is a challenge for us to manage time, to learn to say no, and to focus. We do best learning ways to get the most output for the minimal time input. *cough* Which is why you need my class. That and January 15th is when the Procrastination Pixies hatch and come to feed….on your dreams.

Oh, I’ll start a blog on Monday after I clean up the tinsel the cat puked all over the guest room.

One of the most common Procrastination Pixies falls under the genus species name, Activia Pixius Busyworkus. This pixie masquerades itself as a really great use of time, but, in reality, is a total time-suck that can have you scrapbooking by lunch.

What does an Activia Pixius look like? The genus includes, but is not limited to, thank you notes three months after Christmas, watching old home movies, organizing baby pictures, and quality time with the Thigh Master you bought in 1994.

Basically any chore that made you groan and roll your eyes until it came time to sit and write is guaranteed to be an Activius Pixius. You make a vow to start blogging regularly, and suddenly that junk drawer that hasn’t bothered you for the past six months is calling out to you like a siren.

Give in to the Pixies and sure, guests can eat off your floors, but sadly, shiny floors do not impress agents. I know, I asked the one locked in my closet—ha ha ha ha! Kidding. My closets are way too cluttered to fit an agent!

Organized cabinets do not sell books. They might make more room for all the books left unsold, but that’s about it. Clean floors don’t sell books. Organized dressers do not sell books. Heck, traditional marketing won’t even sell books. What will sell books? AN AWESOME-SAUCE BLOG!

Just because we are literate and can string together nouns and verbs in a coherent fashion doesn’t mean we know anything about what makes a successful blog that connects to tens of thousands. Just because we recognize a box of Tide or a Xerox machine doesn’t mean we comprehend author branding.

Yes, I made all the mistakes so you don’t have to. Better than that, I have a track record of proven success to back up what I teach. Not only have I put both my books at the top of the best-selling list, but WANA methods have helped other authors rise from total obscurity to become best-sellers as well (and land some pretty fat six-figure publishing deals).

It is one thing for me to tell you guys that you need to a create a successful author blog. It is an entirely different thing to SHOW you how to build one.

When it comes to blogging, you might be thinking:

What do I say? I’m not an expert. Who cares what I have to say? How do I keep fresh and interesting content? How can I do more with my blog than just journal or talk about writing? How can my blog connect with readers?

How can I afford alcohol, candy and new shoes with this new budget?

ACK!!! See! Procrastination Pixie! *hits with a fly swatter*

Where was I?

Knowledge is power. Now, let me ask you some questions:

How educated are you about social media as it applies to authors? How much is this lack of knowledge hurting you and your platform? How much time is it wasting in being unproductive? What are going to be the long-term effects of building a platform on a faulty foundation?

How much time will a little bit of good education save you? How much more time will you have to work on your next novel? How much more time will you have left over to stop drinking and clean out the garage?

Maybe not on the same day, but you get the point.

How much more success will you have because you took time to learn from the successful?

You guys don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

There is A LOT of misinformation about what constitutes an author brand. Many social media experts don’t understand that writers are different. Yes, we really are special unique snowflakes. Author brands are highly unique and complex. What works for Starbucks doesn’t work for writers and for selling books. Go here if you want to know why traditional marketing doesn’t sell books.

I am a writer first. The brand I will help you create will be with you for a lifetime, will grow as you and your career grows. Blogs need to define our brand, not hold us hostage. Not all blog content will work well for growing your brand. Good content and a solid brand are key to working smarter, not harder.

Order now and shipping and handling is FREE!!!!

The self-made man is a myth. No one is successful alone. If we try to do social media all by ourselves by blitzing out spam and form-letters and collecting neat e-mail lists, we are more likely to wear out and give up than to succeed.

WE ARE NOT ALONE!!!!!

The key to being successful on social media is to learn to work as a team and create community. Our team will keep us focused and the Pixies at bay.

I didn’t become successful alone. I had help. More help than I deserved. Now I am here to teach you guys how to create a community vested in your success. We need to learn how to connect to influential people. We need to connect to more than just other writers.

Don’t let the Pixies steal another year. Stand your ground and choose success. Sign up as soon as possible! There are only 100 slots and last time the workshop sold out. Currently over a third of the slots are already filled so time is running out!!!!

If you have taken my workshop, take a moment and share what you learned and how the workshop helped you, transformed you, or revealed six-pack abs you didn’t even know you had. What are your thought? Fears? Cool recipes for rum balls? I dig hearing from you.

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of December, 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of December I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books!

Last week, we talked about the bright side of using metrics. Writers tend to go pale and look for the scotch when someone mentions analytics. Yet, if we don’t ever look to a standard of measure, then we can float around aimlessly, wasting valuable time on busy-work. We have better things to do than focus on meaningless statistics…like, um, write great books.

Metrics–Helpful Ally or One-Way Ticket to Crazy Town?

Yet, as amazing as social media might be, it presents a a sticky problem…there is no way to accurately measure social marketing. Last week, I mentioned Klout and Jami Gold brilliantly pointed out that it’s measurement rests on game theory. For those of you who have slept since your last economics class:

Game theory is a mathematical method for analyzing calculated circumstances (games) where a person’s success is based upon the choices of others.[1Game theory has been used to study a wide variety of human and animal behaviors. It was initially developed in economics to understand a large collection of economic behaviors, including behaviors of firms, markets, and consumers. The use of game theory in the social sciences has expanded, and game theory has been applied to political, sociological, and psychological behaviors as well. (per Wikipedia).

Since animals and humans are complex, the decisions and results of those decisions are complex as well. Game theory is merely a mathematical model that helps glean a “good idea” of what had an effect where. Thus, if there is an uprising in Egypt, analysts have a way of making “good guesses” what will happen when and where and how. If the financial market in Greece is unstable, economists can discern what moves have a better chance of helping the Greeks recover, versus helping them head-first over a financial cliff.

But, at the end of the day, this is all game theory has to offer…a good idea. A guestimation. A die-hard…maybe.

Just a Maybe, Baby

Traditional publishing has many traditional habits. They looooove metrics because it does give a sense of power and control. We can look at a web site and see how many unique visitors we are getting and when they stop clicking and move on to go look at Internet porn instead of our latest cookbook. We can see where we get most of the site’s traffic.

Is that ad we paid for getting anyone to stop long enough to take a look? Better yet, how many are taking a look? And how many are BUYING? And, if sales jumped up in the last quarter, what did we do differently? Can we model this elsewhere?

Metrics can be very handy this way. Ahhhh, but social media (Klout included) is not as neat and clean as “how many clicks is the ad getting us?”  Thus, what can happen is we start treating social media the same as we would a metric that measures how many people clicked to BUY on our book widget.

The number of friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter are virtually meaningless numbers out of context, and Klout is a “good guess of influence” not a biblical truth.

A Slave to the Numbers

Thus, what can happen, even with Klout, is that we start paying more attention to the numbers than to the behaviors that really matter. Social media cannot be measured like a static web site. Thus, fretting over “how many friends” or “how many followers” we have is just a good way to get an eye twitch. When we hover over the numbers like a Jewish grandma, we risk losing sight of the real priority.

There are a lot of writers on social media who are working hard to build a brand and an author platform. This, to me, is WONDERFUL news. But there is a dark side.

Unless vigilant, writers can easily get too fixed on the social platform and forget what the platform is being built to support….finished books/our career as authors. We don’t have an author career to support if we don’t have lots of awesome finished books to SELL. Yesterday, Rachelle Gardner touched on this subject in her post. And, after some time to mull over her points. I do think we are saying a lot of the same things.

Many writers are worrying about creating a brand ahead of time. Yet, we can never fully be an author brand until we have good books to sell.

As a social media expert, I cannot make you an author brand. Don’t trust ANY social media expert who claims she can make you an author brand. Only YOU can make yourselves a brand.

What I am here to help writers do, is to lay the foundation and the support beams to eventually become an author brand. Using our NAMES instead of @BookDiva is like laying rebar to support the finished brand. Rebar is only a part of a building, much like our names, our social media activity and our blogs are only part of a finished brand. I am here to help you guys lay the correct foundation from the wisest, most cost-effective (time) materials. But I can only help with the foundation and framing. The finished product is all up to you as writers.

If we stop at rebar, concrete and support beams, we don’t have a building. We have an unfinished mess that is only useful for racoon habitats and a hangout for homeless people and underage drinking. Agents are like real estate agents and we are the contractors. We (writers) build the structures that agents sell (our books/us). Yet what are we asking them to put on the market?

Where I think agents are getting frustrated is that many writers, eager to be successful responsible professionals, are using social media. Yet, instead of focusing on the final product–fantastic books supported by a solid author platform–many writers are getting fixated on the rebar and concrete, and agents can’t sell that. They are in the business of selling finished structures.

When we become a slave to the numbers, we lose out BIG. Why? We lose sight of the big picture. Yes, having a successful blog will likely help with book sales. But staring at the blog numbers, and changing behavior every time there is a hiccup can get us scope-locked on the wrong thing. We start adjusting behavior to skew the numbers in our favor, and, to the extreme, we become no better than the monkey wearing out a lever to get a banana dropped from the ceiling.

Keeping Perspective

I still think Klout is very useful. Klout measures things that matter in social media. For instance, it measures if people are reposting our content, and, if so, how far is it traveling? Thus, the higher the Klout score, the more influence we are exerting. If we are having an influence on others, then it is safe to say we have a good chance of generating word-of-mouth for us and our books. Thus, if we are on Twitter and Facebook and our Klout score is 25, then we have a problem, and, yes, we need to modify our behavior.

Maybe we need to spend more time on Twitter. Checking in once a week isn’t enough. Perhaps we need to get better at sharing with others, talking to others and perhaps we need to look at WHAT we are posting/tweeting. If no one is finding enough value to pass on our message, we should take a look at what we are serving. Those are good modifications to behavior anyway. If our Klout score is in the toilet, then it shows us that we really are wasting time on social media. Thus, if we don’t change some things, it is best not to be on Twitter at all.

What is Enough?

Creating an author platform is a lot like losing weight and getting in shape. We need goals and we need to push ourselves. Yet, it is psychologically unhealthy to get on the scale every hour on the hour or take our measurements three times a day. It is also doing more harm than good if we are in the gym six hours a day. Balance is key.

As writers, our priority ALWAYS needs to be the book. But the platform is the foundation that will support our success. So my tips to make you successful and keep you sane:

Ignore the number of followers and friends.

I never look at mine unless I have to tell someone the current number. Be kind, supportive and authentic and trust people will respond favorably.

Ignore minor deviations.

I don’t pay attention if someone unfollows me. If they don’t want to hang out with me, their loss. As far as the blog, I check in throughout the day, mainly because I am approving comments and I happen to see them on the dashboard.

Only pay attention to monthly or quarterly numbers on the blog.

I only pay attention to the monthly numbers and, even then, I make no changes unless I see a decline lasting more than three months. There are other influences that can affect the hits. For instance, back in May when Osama bin Laden was apprehended and killed, my blog TANKED. People also apparently cared more about the MASSIVE earthquake in Japan than my witty repartee. Imagine that.

Numbers-wise? May was a HORRIBLE month. But if I was a slave to the numbers, I would have been running scared and changing my blog format and topics. Stuff happens. Keep an eye on the big picture.

We don’t need celebrity Klout (especially fiction authors).

Yes, Snookie got a book deal. I have no explanation for that other than the world is supposed to end in 2012 and perhaps that’s a sign.

If you are a non-fiction author, work to get that number up there, but again, just check in periodically. You just need a ballpark range, and, if you want to publish NF and your Klout score is the same as your mother who can’t work the Internet…then get to work.

Fiction authors? Just look to make sure you are engaging and influencing. If you are taking the time to be on social media, then just make sure it isn’t a total waste of time. If an agent expects you to have the same Klout as Justin Bieber, then maybe look for another agent. Her focus needs to be on the quality of your fiction, and, if she is a slave to the numbers, then that will likely trickle down and affect your career and creativity in a negative way.

Klout is a Best Guess, Not the Bible

Yes, people can manipulate the numbers. But people who use tricks to manipulate numbers that don’t reflect a reality only hurt themselves. Don’t worry about them, just focus on YOU.

At the end of the day, HAVE FUN!!!! Finish the book and write the best book ever written. Then use social media to create a support network of awesome people vested in your success. They hang out at #MyWANA if you haven’t been by.

So what are your fears? Concerns? Do you feel better?

I do want to hear from you guys!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of October, 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of October I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left.

This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness

Some of you might not know, but on top of writing and teaching, I am also running for Vice President of the Unites States of America. I am part of the Piper/Lamb 2012 Ticket–Finally a Pair in the White House.

Follow the campaign at Piper Bayard’s blog. This week, our solution to Health Care. Granny Care–Putting “Care” Back in Health Care

25 Reasons You Won’t Finish That Story by the HILARIOUS Chuck Wendig

Six Prescriptions to Cure the Heartbreak of Being Published by Ruth Harris via Anne R. Allen

How to Get Guest Posts on Big Name Blogs and Land Dynamite Interviews   over at Writer Unboxed

Hands-Free Drink Holder–SHUT the Front Door! by Natalie Hartford

The Undie Chronicles–THUNDERWEAR by the hilarious Jenny Hansen

Why is Your Klout Score Important? by Lauren Dugan

Are Blog Tours Really Worth It? by Jody Hedlund

Healthy, Wealthy and Wise–Lessons from Steve Jobs by Diane Capri

Wagons, Ho! On the Trail with Jody Hedlund Help Bridgette Booth (an amazing woman, person and writer) for a good cause.

I know we are supposed to be talking about the third person you need to know to be successful on social media–the Salesman. But, over the weekend my Great Aunt Iris (who might as well have been my grandmother we were so close) slipped into a coma and then passed away on Sunday morning. She had just turned 98, so yes it is sad, but it is amazing that she lived such a full and long life. Anyway, I have not had time to finish the Salesman post, so rather than rushing and slapping up a less-than-stellar blog, I decided to post a lesson from early this year.

Most of us have slept since Spring, so a refresher is always refreshing. *drum roll, snare*  Yes, I’ll be here all week. Drinks are half-price.

I have been doing social media for a number of years, and it has been wonderful to see how writers have embraced technology. I remember back in 2006 I had a hard enough time getting many writers to learn to use e-mail, let alone join Facebook.  Yet, it was really only in 2009 that I started thinking of myself as an expert. Namely I watched a lot of social media people teach tactics that were more likely to give writers permanent hair loss than anything. They were trying to overlay a Corporate America template on to a writer’s career. Not a good fit.

Kind of like watching me try to put on size zero skinny jeans…lots of grunting and pain and the end result ain’t pretty.

Anyway, writers finally did perk up to the fact that they needed to be on social media, yet we had an information vacuum. Many writers took off doing the best they could, and, in the process, made a lot of errors. Hey, I was one of them. Need I remind you of texaswriterchik?

*slaps forehead*

The thing is, I am teaching writers how to do this social media platform thing the correct way. This is all great and wonderful if you are new and haven’t started building. For others? I see the digital blood drain from your face when I give the bad news:

I’m sorry, but your platform needs major reconstructive surgery. I need to put your brand in a temporary coma so it doesn’t die while we do the transplants. Do you have insurance?

Some people suck it up, bite on some leather and resolve to get it over with. Others? Denial is more than a river in Africa.

I hear a lot of, “Writers just need to do what works for them.”

Yes….but, um, no.

 

I will use an example to illustrate. Say I want to make chocolate cake. My end goal is a chocolate cake. So I set out cooking, but I don’t want to use butter, and I don’t like eggs, and definitely no flour and I just can’t bring myself to use chocolate. Instead, I want to use vanilla pudding, and slices of bananas and top it off with vanilla wafer cookies and LOTS of whipped cream.

So you say, “Wait, but you aren’t making chocolate cake.”

And I say, “Well this is how I make chocolate cake.”

And you say, “But, you just made banana pudding. That’s NOT chocolate cake.”

And I get huffy and reply, “Stop judging me. Maybe YOU make chocolate cake differently, but everyone needs to do what works for them.”

You would think I was a lunatic. Yes, I made a dessert….but I didn’t make a chocolate cake.

If our end goal is to brand our name, which it should be…then there are right and wrong ways to go about this. My lessons are to make our name alone a bankable asset. Our NAME will have the power to drive book sales so we have more time to write, or prank call or even make origami monkeys.

There is a HUGE difference between having a social media presence and becoming a brand. And I know I am about to do some sacred cow-tipping, but it needs to be done.

My second book, Are You There, Blog? It’s Me Writer is a great book to teach you all you ever wanted to know about blogging to build an author brand. There is little point to contributing content to the Internet if it doesn’t build our brand.

Tweeting under a cutesy moniker. We have discussed this one before, but some people are new (here is the post). Every time we tweet, that is an “advertisement” that contributes to building our brand. The only acceptable Twitter handle is the name that will be on the front of our books. Period. If we are tweeting under @FairyGirl, we are contributing great content—blogs, articles, conversation—but we have the WRONG name top-of-mind.  Readers cannot buy a book by Fairy Girl, so all that tweeting is wasted effort.

Writing on Group Blogs at the Expense of Our Author Blog I have run into writers who were very prolific, contributing to multiple group blogs. Group blogs are wonderful. They can help us learn to blog better and can offer accountability. Yet, if we are writing for three different group blogs, but then not blogging on our own site? That is BAD. Group blogs will not brand an individual author. Yes, we will have a social media presence…but that isn’t a brand.

I read a lot of WONDERFUL group blogs, but the name of the group is what will be top of mind. Writers in the Storm, Adventures in Children’s Publishing, and Writer Unboxed are three of the best group blogs, but I would be hard-pressed to give the names of the contributors. And, the ones I can name have their own separate blogs that buttress their brand.

I care very much about you guys, and I want all of you to be successful. But part of caring is giving the truth. When we decide to go from hobbyist to professional, we sometimes have to make the tough choices. We have to say no to friends, family, kids and pets. We have to spend time working when we would rather play. If we are contributing to a bunch of group blogs, but our own blog is infested with dust bunnies and spam bots? We might need to make a choice. Hang out with friends? Or build our career?

Our own brand is paramount. The more bankable our name, the more books we sell. The more books we sell, the more successful (and enjoyable) our writing career will be.

There are right ways and wrong ways and smart ways to build a brand. Can we brand ourselves by only blogging on group blogs? Sure. Anything is possible. I could theoretically take I-35 south from Texas and get to Canada. It involves a very tedious journey through South America over Antarctica, up the other side of the globe and over the North Pole. The Earth IS round. I will get to Canada eventually, BUT the odds of me giving up and going home are far more likely than me reaching Canada.

Is my taking I-35 South WRONG? Technically, no. But it is a formula to give up.

Many writers find social media to be a huge time suck, namely because they either have no plan or they have a flawed plan. I used to think it was a time-suck, too. But I wasn’t approaching social media correctly. I have made all the dumb mistakes so you don’t have to :D.

My two books have hit the top of multiple best-seller lists using the methods I am teaching. And I am not the only one who has experienced this kind of dramatic success. I have a stack of testimonials. Yes, we are free to do social media any way we please. No Facebook police will drag us to digital jail. But I think most of us would rather spend more time writing and less time trying to Bond-O a faulty platform.

What are some tough choices you guys have had to make for your writing? What are some tough choices you face, but maybe don’t know what to do? Have any advice or suggestions? Put them in the comments!

I do want to hear from you guys!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of October, 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

NOTE: For those of you who haven’t yet gotten your pages back, please resend to my assistant (if you haven’t already). I get about 500 e-mails a day, so I am redoing things so submissions don’t get lost in the ether. Thanks for your patience.

Gigi at gigi dot salem dot ea at g mail dot com. Gigi will make sure I get your pages.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of October I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.