Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

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Posts Tagged: B&N

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The big news in publishing this week is Barnes & Noble’s plan to ax the Nook. After losing over a billion dollars trying to make the Nook a contender, it seems B&N’s new CEO is ready to just cut bait. According to Michael Kozlowski over at Good E Reader:

The NOOK segment (including digital content, devices and accessories) had revenues of $52 million for the 4th quarter and $264 million for the full year, decreasing 39.8% for the quarter and 47.8% for the year. Device and accessories sales were $13 million for the quarter and $86 million for the full year, declining 48.2% and 66.7%, respectively, due to lower unit selling volume. Digital content sales were $40 million for the quarter and $177 million for the full year, declining 36.5% and 27.8%, respectively, due primarily to lower device unit sales.

All I have to say is…OUCH.

I’d like to say I find this news shocking, but I don’t. Of course the question will be, what happens next? As an expert, often others ask us to offer up some predictions. Back in 2009 the Nook was new and doing fairly well, so I gave Barnes & Noble ten years before it would be gone.

If B&N did survive, it was going to be through the Nook which I figured would probably just be bought out by Kobo or Sony or some bored Saudi American prince. I adjusted my prediction in 2012 to five years or less and with the recent news, sadly, I might be correct.

So why is B&N still hemorrhaging?

Understand Your Consumer


One reason many major brands have become casualties in the Digital Age is that they failed to understand that customers now expect business (products and services) to come to them, not the other way around. Consumers liked downloading a song instead of traipsing to a music store. Consumers preferred digital photos over dropping off film. Instead of Tower Records and Kodak leading the way to a new model of service, they became casualties.

We are either architects of the future or artifacts in the future.

Now books…

Before e-books, if we wanted to read a book, we made a trip to the bookstore (or library) because that’s where we could buy books.

Complicated stuff, right?

B&N was very predatory in the 90s until about 2007. They made sure to build fancy mega-structures on every corner complete with coffee shops and discounts as deep as their chairs and they didn’t lose sleep over the independents they drove into bankruptcy.

Yet, this was smart. Consumers of the time were fascinated with megastores and this was a good plan that worked for a while. But, business is organic. It grows and contracts and changes and shifts and anyone in business is wise to remember this.

Bigger is better…until it isn’t.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Keith Nerdin...
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Keith Nerdin…

What is REALLY an Advantage?

Malcolm Gladwell has a really cool book called David & Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants where he explores how elements we perceive as advantages are often serious disadvantages.

The bible story David and Goliath is the ultimate underdog story. Back in the day armies, in order to avoid suffering major casualties, would agree to simply pit their best fighters and winner took all.

Most of you know the story. Goliath the Philistine was highly trained, heavily armored and the size of a TRUCK, who also happened to be armed with a javelin, spear and sword. Yet, he was beaten by a shepherd boy with a slingshot. At first glance, this seems nothing short of miraculous, but if we dive a bit deeper?

Not so much.

If David had taken King Saul’s armor and sword and fought conventionally we likely would never heard this story. David would have been toast…or more like the jelly smeared across the toast. BUT, David refused to fight in a conventional way. A slingshot might not seem like that big of a deal but slingers were the precursors to our modern concept of an “artillery.”

In the Old Testament Book of Judges, slingers are described as being accurate within a “hair’s breadth”. An experienced slinger could kill or seriously injure a target at a distance of up to two hundred yards. ~Malcolm Gladwell, David & Goliath

This is a long way of saying that sure, Goliath was heavy infantry, but David’s sling and stone had the equivalent effect of Goliath being shot in the face with a fair-sized handgun. David refused to play by conventional rules and he won. Goliath’s fatal mistake was in assuming the conventional rules of engagement would apply.

In a marketplace governed by being leaner, meaner, faster and more convenient, propping up Goliath-sized stores was just a bad plan. Sure, Nook had the potential to rescue B&N out of their predicament, but it didn’t. Why?

Because the Nook was still acting like a Goliath.


The company had an identity crisis and failed to make the full transition away from being BIG. Instead of leading the charge to being small and lithe, they tried to use Nook only to prop up the same old way of doing business.

In my opinion, this is like a partial heart transplant. Either be fully committed or forget about it.

They remained married to Big Publishing and bloated price models, were less than supportive of indies (even though those were SALES), and they were still scope-locked on brick-and-mortar.

And before anyone laughs, I think it is pretty safe to bet that Blockbuster Video would still be among the land of the living had they introduced the Redbox technology first. But, instead they kept doing the same old same old and tried to use on-line video only to buttress the lackluster stores that were growing weaker by the day.

And now?

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Brave in a Brave New World

We live in amazing times where branding happens at the speed of light. We cannot afford to be idle. A lot of the big brands are feeling this in a major way. This is not limited to publishing. I know this because I work with a branding firm and most of our major accounts have been reinventing what one would think of as firmly established brands.

Sure, in a consumer market where there are only a handful of beer companies, it is safe to use the same kind of marketing. But what happens when the marketplace is deluged with microbreweries and boutique brands? When the young people prefer to enjoy an Ugly Pug Lager or a Buffalo Butt Amber instead of a Miller Lite? How do you not only remain relevant, but convert the youth into being the next generation of loyal consumers?

We have to be brave. We have to fight like a David.

Writers are the ultimate Davids. The indies are responsible for altering the publishing landscape. Writers have unimaginable creativity and resilience. Writers understood the business was about stories, not paper. We didn’t care how readers partook of our books (paper, digital, smoke signals, carrier pigeons), we only cared that they DID. Writers embraced the power of social media and a lot of folks in publishing are now eating the words, “You don’t need social media. All you need is a good book.”

When all the smoke has cleared and B&N either reignites or fizzles out, it won’t matter. Writers will still remain. It just seems funny to me that the very people the Book Goliaths so recently wrote off (writers) probably could have taught them a thing or two 😉 .

And what we can take away from all of this is that we writers have to stay frosty. Books are not about us, they are about the reader (code for consumer). We can look at what might appear to be a disadvantage and look at it in a new way. In the end, it takes grit to do what we do. So stay BRAVE.

What are your thoughts? You think B&N is just buying time until the end? Do you think they could rally back? How could B&N reinvent in a way to gain your loyalty?

Quick Announcement: Due to popular demand, I am rerunning my Hooking the Reader—Your First Five Pages at the end of the month and I am doing something different. Gold Level includes me looking (and shredding your first five) but I have added in some higher levels and will look at up to 20 pages. This can be really useful if you’re stuck. I can help you diagnose the problems. It’s also a great deal if you have to submit to an agent and want to make your work the best it can be.

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of JULY, 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

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 new 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!

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 May I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Important Announcements

Make sure you join our LOVE REVOLUTION over on Twitter by following and participating in the #MyWANA Twibe. Read this post to understand how this #MyWANA will totally transform your life and your author platform.

My book We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media hit THREE best-seller lists on Kindle yesterday. #2 in Computers & Technology, #13 in Authorship and #17 in Advertising. THANK YOU!!!!! This book is recommended by some of the biggest authors AND agents in New York, so make sure you pick up a copy if you don’t have one already.

Also, if you want to learn how to blog or even how to take your blogging to a level you never dreamed possible…get your copy of Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer  today. This book hit #1 on the best-selling list in less than 48 hours thanks to all of YOU!!!!! Not only will this book help you learn to blog, but you will be having so much fun, you will forget you were supposed to be learning.

Happy writing!

Until next time….

This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness

The peeps on MyWANA found this nifty little site. A Writer Thesaurus to help us ALWAYS find the right word.

The Red Shoes–A Fairy Tale of Addiction and Compulsion

You guys just KNOW I had to list the wonderful blog, 5 Reasons Kristen Lamb Rocks

Screenwriting Guru Michael Hauge on Character Development

Finding a balance between showing and telling by the AWESOME Jody Hedlund

Writing with Passion–How that Led to My First Book by the wonderful Natalie Markey

In the world of e-publishing, where is Microsoft?

Villains Dissected by Terrell Mims

On Muderati–Characterization–Controlled Hallucination or Craft?

Great blog by Albert Berg on the Fear of Failure

For more AMAZING posts, make sure you connect with #MyWANA for the best people and posts in the industry 😀