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Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: book promotion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Field of ‘Dream On’ Marketing 

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

If I write it, they will come.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yep, they’re right on that.

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

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

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

How Do We Move the Needle?

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

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

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

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

Intentionality: Social Media on Porpoise

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*bada bump snare*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the problem? Basic MATH.

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

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

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

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

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

Put out better bait.

***Cat videos are marvelous, FYI.

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

Every dark horse runaway success has one common denominator:

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

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

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

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

Change Tack for the BIG Haul

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

This should be awesome, right?

Hold on there, Sparky.

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

Conversely…

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

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

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

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

No one in the history of ever enjoyed being catfished.

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

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

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

Hint: It isn’t.

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

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

In The End

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

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

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

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

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

What Are Your Thoughts?

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

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

Come to the Dark Side. We have cookies… 😀

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

FEBRUARY/MARCH’S AWESOMENESS (CLASSES)

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

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

Shift Your Shifter Romance into HIGH Gear

Taught by USA Today BSA Cait Reynolds February 8th, 7-9 PM EST ($55)

Blurb Writing Blows (But Doesn’t Have To)

Taught by USA Today BSA Cait Reynolds February 15th, 7-9 PM EST ($45)

World-Building for Fantasy

Taught by USA Today BSA Cait Reynolds February 22nd, 7-10 PM EST ($99)

Story Master: From Dream to Done

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

Social Schizophrenia: Building a Brand Without Losing Your Mind 

Too many voices telling ALL THE THINGS! AHHHHHHHH! Taught by Kristen Lamb, Thursday, February 21st, 7-9 PM EST ($55 General Admission/ $195 GOLD)

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

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

Taught by Kristen Lamb, $55

Fiction ADDICTION: The Secret Ingredient to the Books Readers CRAVE

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Saturday, March 2nd 1-3 PM EST $55

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

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Thursday, March 7th 7-9 PM EST $65

The Business of Writing

Taught by Kristen Lamb on Thursday, March 7th 7-9 PM EST ($55)

 

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Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Ken.

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

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

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

HERE! BUY MY BOOK!

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

*grumbles* *now remembers why I hated LinkedIn*

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

The brand of self-serving @$$hat.

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

Why? What went wrong?

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

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

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

Brand is not what it used to be.

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

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

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

Before all this prep work though?

Fuggetaboutit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s in a Name?

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Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Pierre Lognoul

The formula for a brand is simple:

NAME + PRODUCT + EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It isn’t just about a book anymore.

Why Are Brands So Important?

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

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

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

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

But a name and a product alone are not enough.

What is a Platform?

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Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Alex Santosa.

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

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

Authors are doing the same.

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

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

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

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

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

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Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Craig Sunter

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

Remember:

A brand is a collection of emotional experiences.

A platform is simply those who will enjoy that experience.

Modern writers hold the advantage here.

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

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

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

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

Problem #1: Please, STOP WRITING

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

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

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

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

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

Example One (Writing):

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

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

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

Example Two (Storytelling):

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

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

Poor Cap.

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

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

Product MATTERS

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

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

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

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

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

Problem #2: Too Good to Mingle with the Masses

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

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

*stabs self*

Here’s the problem with this line of thinking.

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

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

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

This, again, meant the players were limited.

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

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

Bada bing bada boom…published author.

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

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

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

#NotRudeAtALL

Promotion: Skip Steps at Your Own Risk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Working Smarter NOT Harder

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

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

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

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

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

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

So let’s make a LOVE CONNECTION 😛

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

***All classes come with a free recording.

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

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

What are your thoughts?

JANUARY’S AWESOMENESS (CLASSES)

Self-Publishing for Professionals

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

The Business of Writing

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

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

Story Master: From Dream to Done

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

Social Schizophrenia: Building a Brand Without Losing Your Mind 

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

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

A Ripple in Time: Mastering Non-Linear Plotting

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

Harnessing Our Writing Power: The BLOG!

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

Fiction ADDICTION: The Secret Ingredient to the Books Readers CRAVE

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

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

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

The Business of Writing

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Oops.

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

You’re welcome 😀 .

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

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

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

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

All My Friends Have Newsletters

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s that factor?

Traction

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

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

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

Don’t argue, it’s ‘science.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Got Traction?

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

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

Congratulations, your newsletter is now a French film.

I hope you’re happy.

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

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

THEN they created a newsletter.

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

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

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

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

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

You know, there’s a nasty catch.

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

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

*left eye twitches*

Newsletter Love

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

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

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

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

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

And they did.

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

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

FYI…NO!

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

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

News About Newsletters

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

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

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

*Ponders how many AoL emails are captured this way*

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

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

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

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

Tips for Newsletter Success

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

What Are Your Thoughts?

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

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

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

I love hearing from you!

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

NEW CLASSES!

steampunk, writingClass Title: Building a Believable Steampunk World

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $50.00 USD Standard

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

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

REGISTER HERE

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

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

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

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

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

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

This class will cover a broad range of topics including:

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

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

DYSTOPIA!!


Class Title: World-Building for Dystopian Fiction

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $50.00 USD Standard

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

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

REGISTER HERE

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

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

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

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

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

Topics covered in this class include:

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

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

About the Instructor

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

 

BRAND NEW CLASS IN AUGUST!

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

Instructor: Kristen Lamb

Price: $50.00 USD Standard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This class will cover:

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

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

 

author success, how to sell more books, how to find readers, book marketing, Kristen Lamb, book promotion, social media for authors, author branding, Kristen Lamb, author business

Publishing is a business, and—SURPRISE—so is being an author. By definition, anyone who decides to go pro is automatically an author business. ‘Business’ is what separates the hobbyists, dabblers, amateurs and wanna-be’s from true professionals.

I can already hear the great gnashing of teeth. Calm down. *hands paper bag* Breathe. 

One of the main reasons emerging writers fail to see any fruits from all their efforts is a lack of foundational knowledge. What does the author business actually entail?

Not nearly as much as one might be led to believe, which we talked about in my last post What Chef Ramsay Would Say About Writing.

Think LIKE a BUSINESS

When we add the word business to author our thinking shifts. To succeed in business it’s critical to first define it (known as a mission statement). What IS our business, and what does it DO?

Writers need to do the same. What kind of author do we want to be? It matters. As we mentioned last time, Louis L’amore had a very different operational tempo than Michael Crichton. So decide. It isn’t set in stone. We can change our minds, so relax 🙂 .

Suffice to say too many authors (I’m guilty too) get mission drift because we fail to focus and keep this SIMPLE.

These days it’s easy for emerging writers (actually all writers) to become confused and overwhelmed. Why? Digital age authors now have the ability to perform roles that were off-limits before Web 2.0.

Yet, just because we CAN perform these roles doesn’t automatically mean we MUST.

Feel free to learn formatting and cover design. Want to become a mega-marketer/promoter? Go for it. Is this all essential? Nope. All we need are the Three Bs—Books, Brand and Buds. Focus on these THREE first because all that extra stuff is a waste of time and resources without the Trinity of Success.

Fortune Favors the Prepared Not the Perfect

author success, how to sell more books, how to find readers, book marketing, Kristen Lamb, book promotion, social media for authors, author branding, Kristen Lamb, author business

No matter what business we’re in—including the author business—education is critical. A quick caveat, though. We don’t need to know every single last little bit of everything before acting.

There’s a fine balance between diving head-first into a lake without testing if the water’s only three feet deep versus believing we need to map the world’s oceans before ever learning to swim.

A happy medium is all good.

Be wary of any expert who gives you a panic attack with all the stuff you ‘must know’ or ‘must do’ to succeed.

Any ‘expert’ who tells you (especially as a beginner) that the author business is so vastly labyrinthine we can’t possibly comprehend it has an agenda. Yes, there will come a point where there is far too much for us to manage (complexity)…which is why God created editors, and literary and film agents.

My training company offers classes from top professionals on the finer points of this business, but nothing we teach will work without the BIG THREE B’s—books, brand and buds.

Author Product—Books

author success, how to sell more books, how to find readers, book marketing, Kristen Lamb, book promotion, social media for authors, author branding, Kristen Lamb, author business

All businesses have a service or a product. As authors, our products are BOOKS. Not spam. Please leave that to Hormel.

Our top priority is to write great stories people want to pay to read. That is all. Start simple. Every mega-author-success started SIMPLE. Begin with a great story and simple goal.

J.K. Rowling

Began with a goal of writing young adult fantasy fiction with a boy as her core protagonist. At the time, this was crazy talk! Boys didn’t read books. Girls did. Yet, Rowling stuck to her core simple goal and look at what Harry Potter eventually evolved into.

She didn’t begin with a detailed plan for merchandising, fan fiction, and sketches for a theme park at Universal Studios. This all evolved from something inherently simple—the saga of a boy who was really a wizard.

Andy Weir

For a more recent example, let’s look at Weir. After a string of failures and meh writing successes playing by the ‘rules’ Weir figured he had nothing to lose being different. His goal? Write a hard science book on his blog about an astronaut stranded on Mars. Then? Crowd-source experts for accuracy.

Every agent would have told him this was a dumb use of time and he’d never get a book deal. No reader would buy a book already posted for free on a blog.

Andy didn’t care and pressed on with a story and idea he was passionate about, and The Martian broke all the rules and the records (the book and the movie).

Author Business—Brand 

author success, how to sell more books, how to find readers, book marketing, Kristen Lamb, book promotion, social media for authors, author branding, Kristen Lamb, author business

Brand is also super simple and you can do it yourself. In fact, ONLY you CAN do it. We’re in an age of authenticity, so outsource and pay people to ‘be you’ at your own peril. That’s called…cat-fishing.

Which just ticks people off.

Branding is not complicated. A brand is simply what comes to mind (impressions/emotions) at the mention of a name.

When I mention Tiffany’s no one thinks coupons and deep discounts. It evokes a specific color, the iconic Tiffany blue box with a white bow. Luxury, indulgence, special.

What about Walmart? Starbuck’s? Levis? Apple? Porsche? All these businesses and products evoke images and emotions. Celebrities are a brand. Samuel L. Jackson conjures up a very different impression/emotional response than Amy Pohler.

We Are the Brand

author success, how to sell more books, how to find readers, book marketing, Kristen Lamb, book promotion, social media for authors, author branding, Kristen Lamb, author business

In life, all people have a personal brand—the jock, the tech geek, history buff, gym rat, Pinterest mom, etc. These will also come tethered to emotional impressions which can be good, bad or neutral.

We humans label people based on behavior/impressions. Maybe this is unfair, but fair is a weather condition.

There are people in life and on-line we can count on to make us smile, to laugh, to encourage, inspire, uplift, and generally make our day just a bit better.

Then there are those who are high-maintenance, manipulative, hotheaded, depressing, critical or nonstop complainers. They use the term ‘spreading awareness’ when we all know they’re really spreading poison. We don’t like these people in life OR on-line.

The only difference in a personal brand and an author brand is our name eventually should become a bankable asset driving book sales.

People won’t remember what we said, but WILL remember how we made them feel. Everyone has an off day but what are we consistently putting out there? When someone says our name, do others smile or reach for antacids? What is their experience?

Brand CAN Make or Break Us

author success, how to sell more books, how to find readers, book marketing, Kristen Lamb, book promotion, social media for authors, author branding, Kristen Lamb, author business

Businesses are very careful about product and brand. A restaurant can have the most amazing food in the world, but if the experience/impression is a disaster, the restaurant as business is doomed.

In this post from a couple years ago, I relayed my experience at a hot NYC restaurant, owned and operated by a chef who’d won Iron Chef. We were stoked to eat at this place and called ahead for reservations and to make sure they could accommodate my food allergies (which they assured they could).

Problem was, this world-class chef forgot the business of his business. Yes, his food was ‘art’ but ultimately his job was to feed the people who showed up to fork over $300 to eat. He was charging those high prices not only for superlative cuisine…but for an incredible experience.

This chef refused to serve me just a steak with vegetables and kept instructing the waitress to push parsnip soup on me.

Why?

Because removing the potatoes (loaded with dairy I was allergic to) ‘….ruined the aesthetic balance of the plate.’

Actual quote.

It was only after this hungry and highly pissed off Texan threatened to ruin the aesthetic balance of a pretentious chef …that I got my steak (probably dropped on the floor but I didn’t care because I was famished).

A year later when I returned to NYC, that restaurant was gone. The steak? Forgettable. A chef refusing to accommodate severe allergies because it impacted how the plating LOOKED? Killed his restaurant, his brand and his dream.

Takeaway here is that the book business is not about us, and ALWAYS about the reader. Feel free to never get on social media or talk to anyone. But how do you feel about people who never engage with you until they want something? 😉

Also, feel free to rant and rave and spout whatever on-line, but again, that’s placing ego over experience. Thus, if we use our on-line followers as a meat-shield for all that ticks us off…we should not be shocked when patrons ‘dine’ elsewhere 😉 .

Why Social Media?

author success, how to sell more books, how to find readers, book marketing, Kristen Lamb, book promotion, social media for authors, author branding, Kristen Lamb, author business

Books used to be the strongest part of an author brand because there was no social media. Ah, but here’s where it can get sticky. Savvy authors are constantly engaging on-line and in person. Interaction with us ideally becomes a regular part of our fans’ days…which can eventually become a stronger component of our brand than the book.

Marketing and ads (alone) don’t sell books. Never have and never will. Word-of-mouth is what sells books, thus the idea of not engaging on-line is pretty much career suicide.

Readers of today discover who and what they love on-line and they’re far more likely to buy from authors they know and like. And, cumulatively, they’re spending a LOT more time with authors on-line than in the 12-15 hours required to read a novel.

Food for thought 😉 .

Even though I firmly believe the small, independent brick-and-mortar is making a MAJOR comeback, algorithms will be a critical determining factor of which books (authors) grace the shelves.

Bookstores need to SELL books to pay for overhead and make a profit. SHOCKING FACT: Bookstores will order boxes of a mediocre novel with a passionate fan base (and strong on-line sales) over a novel so glorious angels sing…only no one’s ever heard of the book (or the author).

If a book isn’t selling on-line, why would a bookstore risk shelving it? They won’t because it’s bad business.

Author Platform—A.K.A. ‘Buds’

author success, how to sell more books, how to find readers, book marketing, Kristen Lamb, book promotion, social media for authors, author branding, Kristen Lamb, author business

True, novels are powerful for a brand (which is why we need an excellent product), but times are a changing. The reader of the digital age is far more likely to factor in how they feel about the author as a person before making a purchase. This is why platforms are vital to success.

What is a platform? Buds. Buddies, peeps, followers, fans, devotees, and friends. Real ones. Yes, it takes some time, but true fans/followers/friends are GOLD and worth every minute we invest in them.

True on-line friends are positively evangelical about our blogs and books. I’d take five hundred devotees over five-hundred-thousand purchased followers who don’t give a hoot.

You Be YOU

author success, how to sell more books, how to find readers, book marketing, Kristen Lamb, book promotion, social media for authors, author branding, Kristen Lamb, author business

You be you…unless you’re a jerk. Then my advice is to fake it until you’re no longer a jerk. I had to, which I relayed in my Confessions of a Recovering Jerk. Social media forced me to learn emotional discipline, discernment, and revealed I was not a very nice person. Over time, my habits changed and with steady practice, eventually I changed.

This said, keep it simple.

The brand is simply YOU (and you’re more than a writer, FYI so talk about something other than writing, please). Social media is social, like a party. Just be present, be fun and be cool.

Yep, that’s pretty much it. Create a relationship. Talk to people. Give, listen, be interested in others. #MindBlown

Humans gravitate to authenticity…just don’t get crazy. It’s okay to have a rough day but followers a) don’t want to be regularly depressed b) dragged into needless drama and c) we aren’t stupid. We can spot manipulation and it ticks us off.

I’m cleaning up my Facebook friends. If you can see this, type in the comments how we met.

I bet no one will give this post even ONE share.

I can’t believe you would say that. You know who you are O_o. Just unfriend me.

The hell? What is this? Sixth grade?

We don’t like Vague-Booking, drama or having to jump through hoops. Authors who are that high-maintenance and we’ve not even MET in PERSON? Buh-bye.

Conversely, don’t feel the need to be super happy all the time. Followers don’t like Pod People fakes either. Folks who are constantly #blessed #blessedlife #keepingitreal #blessedandreal #reallyblessed. We see through it, which is why we are #gone #unfriending #RollingEyes #FeelingGagReflex.

Keeping It Real & Special

author success, how to sell more books, how to find readers, book marketing, Kristen Lamb, book promotion, social media for authors, author branding, Kristen Lamb, author business

Contrary to what some ‘experts’ might proclaim, it’s unnecessary to be everywhere all the time. We can’t do this and also write excellent books. Social media omnipresence is the sloping road to hell. Being everywhere all the time inevitably requires automation to remain sane and also have time to write BOOKS.

Problem is, who wants to eat spam? I don’t. Why would I shovel that garbage onto my fans? I’m not on Twitter to be blasted with ads. If I want to gorge on unwanted spam I can open my Yahoo mail.

I know some people will defend automation to the death. Fine. Opinions vary. Yet, I find the same people with five Twitter identities barking out the same messages want to take MY time and attention, but rarely give of theirs.

Hmmm, once dated that guy in college. Wasn’t fun then either.

This goes for books, too. Other ‘experts’ claim we need to publish a book a month or a novella and have a newsletter and be on every social site and blog every day and get a book blurb and contests and guest posts and run promotions….

This reminds me of an old Country & Western song: How Can I Miss You if You Won’t Go AWAY?

See? SIMPLE

Books, brand and buds. Just because this is simple doesn’t mean it is easy. Writing novels readers want to pay retail for is hard work. Being on-line and engaging regularly requires discipline and robots cannot do it for us.

We can do a little a day, consistently and it all adds up.

What Are Your Thoughts?

Does this help the idea of the author as business seem more doable? For me, three BIG ideas to keep track of help keep me grounded. Trends and fads are exhausting. Great stories, fun and friends are ALWAYS popular. Publishing might change daily but humans don’t. So share those funny memes and cat videos because YES it is great for positive branding 😉 .

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).

CLASSES!

Business of the Writing Business: Ready to ROAR!

Instructor: Kristen Lamb

Price: $55.00 USD

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

When: Thursday, February 15, 2018, 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

Being a professional author entails much more than simply writing books. Many emerging authors believe all we need is a completed novel and an agent/readers will come.

There’s a lot more that goes into the writing business…but not nearly as much as some might want us to believe. There’s a fine balance between being educated about business and killing ourselves with so much we do everything but WRITE MORE BOOKS.

This class is to prepare you for the reality of Digital Age Publishing and help you build a foundation that can withstand major upheavals. Beyond the ‘final draft’ what then? What should we be doing while writing the novel?

We are in the Wilderness of Publishing and predators abound. Knowledge is power. We don’t get what we work for, we get what we negotiate. This is to prepare you for success, to help you understand a gamble from a grift a deal from a dud. We will discuss:

  • The Product
  • Agents/Editors
  • Types of Publishing
  • Platform and Brand
  • Marketing and Promotion
  • Making Money
  • Where Writers REALLY Need to Focus

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

Self-Publishing for Professionals: Amateur Hour is OVER

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $99.00 USD

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

When: Friday, February 16, 2018, 7:00-10:00 p.m. EST

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Are you going to go KDP Select or wide distribution with Smashwords as a distributor? Are you going to use the KDP/CreateSpace ISBN’s or purchase your own package? What BISAC codes have you chosen? What keywords are you going to use to get into your target categories? Who’s your competition, and how are you positioned against them?

Okay, hold on. Breathe. Slow down. I didn’t mean to induce a panic attack. I’m actually here to help.

Beyond just uploading a book to Amazon, there are a lot of tricks of the trade that can help us build our brand, keep our books on the algorithmic radar, and find the readers who will go the distance with us. If getting our books up on Amazon and CreateSpace is ‘Self-Publishing 101,’ then this class is the ‘Self-Publishing senior seminar’ that will help you turn your books into a business and your writing into a long-term career.

Topics include:

  • Competitive research (because publishing is about as friendly as the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones)
  • Distribution decisions (because there’s actually a choice!)
  • Copyright, ISBN’s, intellectual property, and what it actually all means for writers
  • Algorithm magic: keywords, BISAC codes, and meta descriptions made easy
  • Finding the reader (beyond trusting Amazon to deliver them)
  • Demystifying the USA Today and NYT bestselling author titles
  • How to run yourself like a business even when you hate business and can’t math (I can’t math either, so it’s cool)

Yes, this is going to be a 3-hour class because there is SO much to cover…but, like L’Oréal says, you’re worth it! Also, a recording of this class is also included with purchase.

The class includes a workbook that will guide you through everything we talk about from how to do competitive research to tracking ISBNs and distribution, and much, much more!

Time is MONEY, and your time is valuable so this will help you make every moment count…so you can go back to writing GREAT BOOKS.

DOUBLE-TROUBLE BUSINESS BUNDLE

BOTH classes for $129 (Save $25). This bundle is FIVE hours of professional training, plus the recordings, plus Cait’s workbook to guide you through everything from how to do competitive research to tracking ISBNs and distribution and more.

Okay so last time we talked about experts and why we need to be careful who we are listening to. Sure some “experts” are really predators. Others mean well, they just aren’t a good fit for what an author needs.

Here’s a simple truth that a lot of writers miss and this is so fundamental. Marketing and advertising are NOT brand and platform. These are not all synonyms and interchangeable.

Brand/Platform and Marketing/Advertising are distinctively different activities and when writers don’t understand this? They have panic attacks, get overwhelmed and start requesting information on-line for dental hygienist schools while drinking straight from the spout on the boxed wine.

You can do this. Calm down. Breathe.

My expertise is in helping you guys build the brand and the platform. I am NOT an expert on advertising and marketing. I have no interest in being one either. But what can often happen is that writers believe they need marketing and advertising experts when in fact, they are not yet ready for that.

Brand and Platform

Brands can be built any number of ways. In the olden days, brands and platforms for novelists could only be built ONE way. Books. Good books. And the more the better. Since there was no regular interface with an author, the singular interaction one could have with an author was through the stories he/she wrote.

This is STILL the strongest way to create a brand and platform and the reason is this. It takes an average of 12-15 hours of undivided attention to complete a novel. This is a LOT of intimate time with a person. I can’t remember the last time I spent 12-15 hours of undivided attention with my husband or child. This immersion creates a profound intimacy in regards to the feelings a reader has for the author.

One of the reasons that the mega authors don’t have to work terribly hard at social media is they already put in their time through lots and lots of BOOKS. I am finishing the unabridged version of Stephen King’s “It.” This means once I finish I will have spent (just with that one book) FOURTY-FIVE HOURS of time with King (and this is not the first King book I have read).

Thus the successful authors of the pre-digital age came onto the social media scene with an established brand and platform.

And all social media does is help keep that thriving. Ads and marketing also do very well for these authors because they are already household names. One does not have to be an avid reader or member of a book club to recognize the name J.K. Rowling. Walk through any airport and all you see is James Patterson books.

For the author emerging onto the digital scene who cannot already put NYTBSA in front of her name, who does not have an extensive backlist, there is some work to be done regarding building a brand and platform since you don’t have one. This is where I come in.

Other than books, how can you establish a brand (what people think when they see your name) and a platform (people who will eventually be interested in buying books). My training is to cultivate that following (those who know you, your voice, your books) and those relationships (those who care) and you can get all of that in one book, Rise of the Machines. I also offer training to make your books (product) as strong as possible thereby enhancing your BRAND.

BRAND—> WHAT IS IT?

PLATFORM—> THOSE WHO KNOW AND CARE WHAT IT IS

Original image via Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of FEMA

The problem with some “experts” we mentioned last time is they want to skip steps. We can’t blast out newsletters to people who don’t know us let alone care to hear from us. We need to do some relationship building and establish trust and rapport.

This is not something that can be outsourced or automated. We need to do the work. And any expert who tries to skip this fundamental step of brand and platform-building? I’d think twice before handing over money.

Regular companies offering services or products (restaurants, bars, computer services, vegan body wash) can do this, but that is because they have the big budgets to saturate with ads and marketing. Yet, I will point out that most of these ventures fail. When we rely on ad saturation it is expensive and risky.

But we (authors) obviously don’t stop with just the brand (books/blogs) and platform, and this is where experts REALLY come in handy.

If brand is WHAT IS IT? And platform is WHO CARES? Then marketing and advertising are simply magnifying these two things that already exist.

Marketing & Advertising

AHHHHHHH!

As I just mentioned, marketing and advertising can only enhance what already exists. Ads work for Starbucks because there is one on every corner and they have a known reputation.

Marketing works for Kia because people need cars and see Kias on the road all the time. We know what they are. We KNOW what a Starbucks is. We know what Levis are. We know what all these “things for sale” are and probably have formed an opinion or impression…which is why it makes sense to use advertising and marketing.

As writers, will eventually need marketing and advertising and I am here to deliver a simple yet possibly uncomfortable truth.

Money and time are in a reciprocal relationship. The more time we spend cultivating the brand and the platform, the less money we will have to fork out on marketing and advertising. The less time we spend cultivating the brand and platform the more money we will have to fork out in marketing and advertising.

See, when we try to make marketing and advertising take the place of the platform and brand? That can get REALLY expensive.

We can feel free to write the book on our own, never be on social media then hire a marketing team, but the sheer volume of ad saturation it will take to garner attention? That’s gonna cost big.

I love marketing and advertising people, but here’s the deal, they are marketers not magicians. The more we do our part (write books, build a social media following, blog), the more they have to work with. The more people already KNOW us. We get a lot more bang for our buck.

A lot of writers are paying lots of money for these large email lists to blast out newsletters to people who don’t know them and who never signed up to hear from them in the first place.

This has the same ROI as those folks who blast out messages that we have an inheritance in Ghana somewhere if only we will wire five grand via Western Union. Sure, some people DO bite, but you have to send a LOT of emails to get any return.

What then happens is the writer blows through a lot of money needlessly for no real results.

Very often I hear disenchanted authors who gripe the their book isn’t selling because they don’t have the mega marketing budgets of the NY heavy hitters. Here’s the deal though. NYC spends that kind of cash on Stephen King, and George R.R. Martin, and James Patterson because most folks in the Western world recognize the brand.

One doesn’t have to be an avid reader to know Stephen King writes the scary stuff. These authors have a brand and that makes the ads have a good ROI. To do this for an unknown author? Better to pile cash in the floor and set it on fire (my POV).

Thus, when we are looking for experts we will fare better if we appreciate that brand/platform is separate from ads/marketing. There are some really brilliant book marketing people out there and even dedicated experts like Rachel Thompson who teach writers how to do a lot of this for themselves.

She’s also a great person to go to to find those folks with the marketing mojo you need for your book and I strongly recommend checking out her blog Bad Redhead Media.

In the end, remember, experts are great when we find the right ones. The cool part about the digital age is we can look around, make friends and get opinions and referrals from those we trust. And yes, “goofing off” on Facebook or Instagram is platform building. You are forging relationships. Write the books, make the connections and then, once you are ready? These marketing mavens will be happy to dazzle you!

What are your thoughts? Do you have any pressing questions?

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

****The site is new, and I am sorry you have to enter your information all over again to comment, but I am still working out the kinks. Also your comment won’t appear until I approve it, so don’t fret if it doesn’t appear right away.

Talk to me!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of MAY, 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).

***Will announce April’s winner next post.

SIGN UP NOW FOR UPCOMING CLASSES!!! 

Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it in person? No excuses! All you need is an internet connection!

BUNDLE DEALS!!! 

Book Bootcamp  $99 ($130 VALUE)

Book Bootcamp GOLD $269 ($430 VALUE) This includes the log-line class, antagonist class, the character class AND a three-hour time slot working personally with ME. We will either plot your idea or, if your novel isn’t working? Fix it! Appointments are scheduled by email. Consults done by phone or in virtual classroom.

Individual Classes with MOI!!! 

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter and Synopsis that SELLS! $45 May 25th, 2017

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist $50/$200 (Gold) May11th, 2017

The Art of Character $45 May 18th, 2017

NEW CLASSES/INSTRUCTORS!!! 

Growing an Organic Platform on Facebook $40 May 6th, 2017 Lisa Hall-Wilson is BACK! She is an expert on Facebook so check out her class!

Method Acting for Writers: How to Write in Deep POV $85 for this TWO WEEK intensive workshop with editor and writing instructor Lisa Hall Wilson.

Shift Your Shifter Romance into HIGH Gear $35 May 19th with powerhouse editor Cait Reynolds.

Researching for Historical Romance (How to NOT Lose 6 Hours of Your Life on Pinterest) $35 May 20th

 

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