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Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: book sales

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb

Sales can be one of the most terrifying words in the English language. If one happens to be a creative professional, let’s just multiply that fear level by ten…or a thousand.

In fact, many writers long to sign with legacy publishers for the sole reason they believe a major publisher will tend to all that vulgar sales business for them so they can simply write and create!

*clutches sides laughing*

It’s cool. I once thought the same. We’re all friends and philistines here.

The hard truth is that, even if we are fortunate enough to score a contract with NYC, if our book doesn’t sell, the publisher will eventually have to cut their losses (‘losses’ being code for ‘writers who fail to sell enough books’).

Publishing houses are businesses not charities, and throwing good money after bad is better left to Hollywood. This said, the idea of having to ‘do sales’ is still enough to make many creatives break out in hives.

Deep Breaths

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb

We writers have a nasty habit of black-and-white thinking in regards to sales. In our minds, there are only TWO approaches to selling.

One approach is to be on every single social site running marketing blitzes, promotional campaigns, holding contests, and blasting people with emails/newsletters until they buy a book…or file for a restraining order.

The other option is we never tell anyone we’re an author or—GASP—that we have a book(s) for sale. Short of applying for WITSEC, we do everything and anything to hide that we’re a writer, including our NAME (refer to The Problem with Pen Names).

In an effort to avoid ‘sales’ we pretty much guarantee we’ll never sell any books…thus fulfilling the societal assumption that writers are all broke losers.

***We’ll tackle that bugaboo later.

I believe most writers are afraid of sales because they don’t understand what sales actually IS. Remember, we writers are in the entertainment business. Notice half that word is business and I dare you to name any business that will last very long without any sales.

And before y’all have a panic attack, what’s the title we authors covet most? New York Times Best Selling Author. Notice the title isn’t New York Times Best Writing Author. 

Even though it should be *grumbles*.

Evolution is Real

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb

Before we tackle misconceptions about sales, I want to point out that we’re no longer in the 20th century. I know, time flies, right? The audience (customer base) of 2018 has evolved and what worked in the 90s no longer works today. Doing MORE of what doesn’t work is…well, stupid.

Alas, I cannot count how many sales books, training programs, etc. still push tactics that are almost twenty years out of date.

Our customers have evolved, which means sales, promotion, marketing, branding, etc. must evolve as well or it will be virtually impossible to create meaningful connections that yield results.

Think of the English language. Have you ever tried to read the original Beowulf in Old English? To spare your eyes and WordPress from a cascading font meltdown, just listen to this for 15 seconds.

Or five.

YES, THIS IS ENGLISH! Brought to us courtesy of Realm of History who apparently got someone drunk enough to be able to pronounce the words properly (as if anyone other than Cait would correct them *rolling eyes*)…

Can you imagine if we tried to hold a conversation speaking this way? Good luck getting a date, a job, or ordering a hamburger.

If the world has evolved, we’re wise to keep pace.

Sales Has NOT Evolved…Much

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb

This profession is as old as time. In fact, sales has been around since Og first realized others wanted the pointy sticks he’d become rather adept at crafting. #TrueStoryIJustMadeUp

Once Og grasped that others were willing to give him berries, nuts, and shiny rocks in exchange for one of his pointy sticks, the concept of business/trade emerged and an entrepreneur was born!

Og, being the clever Homo ergaster he was, eventually realized a fellow tribe member might even offer a couple of hot daughters in exchange for a large order of extra-pointy sticks. So, he recruited his drinking buddies Ag and Ug to help.

In doing this, Og unwittingly discovered scalability.

Og understood that, the more pointy sticks he could fashion and the pointier the pointy stick, the better. This meant he also needed to find ways to let others know about his pointy sticks. Maybe even demonstrate some advantages of owning a pointy stick on say a fish, a squirrel, or an annoying neighbor.

Welcome to SALES!

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb

Once we appreciate sales has been around since the dawn of time and is vital and necessary, we can relax a little. While sales in and of itself is a permanent societal fixture, tactics have to evolve. Don’t believe me? Try stabbing an annoying neighbor to demonstrate that knife you’re trying to sell and…point made.

*Bada bump snare*

Now that we’ve settled that sales is a good thing that’s here to stay, let’s do some myth-busting. I feel once we separate facts from fiction, it will be far easier to face our fears.

***Bonus points there for alliteration 😛 .

Myth #1: The high-pressure, fast-talking, aggressive personality is necessary to be good at sales.

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb
AHHHHHHH!

Wrong.

There seems to be this cultural idea of what ‘personality’ is required in order to be successful in sales. Usually this is the fast-talking, Type A ‘extrovert’ willing to pummel any prospect into a purchase.

This is total bull sprinkles.

Yes, this type of salesperson exists and, odds are, we’ve all run into one…then run away from one. Good news is we’re now in the digital age.

The high-pressure, fast-talking, aggressive salesperson is a relic best left in the 90s with shoulder pads, fanny packs, the McPizza…and these things.

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb

In the old days, badgering had no consequences. Now? We now can unfriend, unfollow, block, and unsubscribe. Or, if nothing else works, we can post on social media that this business or product is to be avoided more than The Black Death pandering a litter of rabid kittens in need of a loving home.

Myth #2: Salespeople Sell Stuff & Good Salespeople Sell A LOT of Stuff

Yeah, no. Not exactly.

Salespeople solve problems. Good salespeople solve a lot of problems or solve bigger problems.

That’s it.

The better a person solves problems, the more money they make. Why? Because happy customers LOVE to share a win because it makes us feel super smart, and we like to brag. Also, humans dig being helpful.

This is called ‘word-of-mouth.’

Simple.

Why so many ‘sales tactics’ fail is the seller fixates on selling the product (their needs) instead of focusing on the best way to solve problems (the consumer’s needs).

I get that newsletters, automation, and email marketing are all the rage. Somewhere, somehow my business email was rufied and taken hostage. I’m relentlessly bombarded with emails from authors (or ‘PR firms’ representing authors) all wanting something FROM ME.

Read MY FREE book. Review MY FREE novel. Share MY FREE series with YOUR friends!

This is NOT SALES.

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb

Sales is when someone solves my problems, not when some stranger ambushes me to solve a long@$$ list of their problems.

Some random writer’s lackluster sales are NOT my problem. When the author (or their ‘PR firm’) craps up my email with fresh lists of demands guised as doing me some kind of a favor (I.e. Offering ME a chance to interview THEM about THEIR BOOK…on MY BLOG?)…

*deep cleansing breaths* ….they’re not a solution to ANY of my problems.

They’re an additional problem.

Because when I get an average of twelve of these kinds of emails a day, it makes it a bugger to find messages salient to doing my job. This doesn’t make me want to buy their books.

It makes me want to save that money to fund anyone willing to develop technology that delivers a non-lethal but painful electrical shock to anyone who spams me.

Myth #3: More is MORE

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb

I mentioned earlier that we were no longer in the 20th century, but many marketers and promoters simply don’t grasp this. Or they don’t care to because being lazy and uncreative is easier.

See, it wasn’t until the late 90s and early aughts that computers and laser printers lowered the barrier to entry for businesses who wanted to use printed material for advertising.

This might seem like no big deal, but Kinko’s (and their ilk) started a small trend that’s turned into an unrelenting MONSTER—direct marketing.

Y’all have to understand that, before roughly 1998, printing was ridiculously expensive. Only big companies with massive budgets could afford to print anything on a large scale.

***This is why business cards used to actually impress people. Also, if you lost your cat, you only put up fliers if you liked (or feared) that cat…a lot.

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb

Anyway, cheap printing breathed life into the golem we know as direct marketing (a.k.a. junk mail). Then, once more people owned computers and used email, direct marketing simply migrated to another place to bug the $#@! out of us.

Now? Social media is experiencing this same devolution. Too many authors (mistakenly) believe they need to be on all sites all the time to sell, sell, sell which is why there’s so much automation.

But riddle me this.

If we didn’t want the spam served as paper in our mailbox, and we didn’t want it served virtually in our email, why would it magically become appealing when plastered on our Facebook wall?

Hint: It doesn’t.

Capitalism 101

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb

We live in an age with countless choices, unlimited options, lower and lower prices, and in every color we could want. Even with SPARKLES! Cheap and FREE are invasive species glomming up the business ecosystem and making us all sick.

To succeed in any business, the goal is not to replicate what’s already abundant, but rather to take time and zero in on what is scarce.

So what’s scarce? For the sake of brevity I’ll name a biggie.

Trust

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb
I’m just watching you. Honest!

All brands, businesses, services and products must earn the customer’s trust. The reason spamming ‘readers’ with free books is so ineffective is that FREE alone is insufficient to close the trust gap, especially in areas the customer stands to lose more than they gain.

There are many instances where FREE has zero impact and perhaps a negative impact on the purchase decision.

For example, would you hire a nanny to watch your children while you went to work because she offered her first week on the job FREE? A new skydiving business opens and first jump from 16,000 feet is FREE! New tattoo artist, and first tattoo is FREE!

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb

Granted, my examples sound crazy but why is FREE not super valuable in these instances? Because whoever is offering the FREE product or service is a stranger we don’t know or trust. We (customers) also stand to lose more than we gain. This is the important difference when considering FREE as a sales strategy.

The COST of FREE

If I’m in the store and a smiling rep offers me FREE a sample of sparkling juice, cool! Costs me nothing and the worst case is I dislike the taste. But, when an author who’s never so much as said hello to me offers me a FREE book, this costs my most valuable resource and the one that’s nonrenewable.

TIME.

And, since the book is being handed out to total strangers FREE, this makes me question why. If the book was actually good, why are they giving it away for nothing? This is when I deduce that FREE will cost me and I decline.

My decision might have been different had the author done something ahead of time to close the trust gap between us. This is why the social media platform and brand is essential if we hope to sell books.

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb

Social media isn’t a new and improved way to spam people and push ads.

Used properly, social media is one of the most powerful ways to close the trust gap between unknown author and potential readers by establishing then growing relationships.

Too many writers are using social media ‘for business’ and then hang out with their ‘real friends’ elsewhere. They’re mystified why their books aren’t selling yet they’re failing to recognize they’ve skipped a crucial step.

In their rush to promote, they never created rapport with their potential audience and thus remain an unknown. The harder they market and the more they promote, the more they widen the trust gap into a trust chasm.

What is Our BUSINESS?

sales, book sales, how to improve book sales, book marketing, marketing for authors, marketing for writers, how to promote your book, Kristen Lamb

We writers are in the business of storytelling. Great stories are our business, our product and our single greatest selling tool. Outstanding books solve a lot of life’s problems.

Just ask anyone stuck in an airport with no wifi.

The best ‘sales strategy’ for selling a lot of books is to take the time, effort and money one might be tempted to pour into a steady stream of ‘promotional campaigns’ and write excellent stories instead. LOTS OF THEM. Write books people enjoy so much they can’t wait to share their experiences.

Delighted readers are the best salesforce of all…and they not for sale 😉 .

What Are Your Thoughts?

***Sorry to be away so long. Got summoned for jury duty and NO they didn’t pick me *shock face*.

Does this post make you feel a little bit better about sales? Clearer about what to DO on social media? Yes, it is OKAY to have fun and YES, post the kitten videos. It is also perfectly okay to advertise, promote and market…eventually.

Just that whole horse ahead of the cart thing.

Are you afraid of your email, too? I have three that I finally let go feral. There has to be a name for ‘fear of email.’ Do y’all have a theory why I wasn’t picked for jury duty? Bonus points for creativity 😀 . Let’s have some FUN!

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.


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.

 

AUGUST CLASSES

 

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

SALES…for those who’d rather be stabbed in the face.

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

REGISTER HERE

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

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

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

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

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

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

This class will cover:

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

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

About the Instructor

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

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


steampunk, writing

CLOCKWORK & CORSETS: BUILDING A BELIEVABLE STEAMPUNK WORLD

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $50.00 USD Standard

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

When: FRIDAY, August 3, 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.

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.

 


When Your Name Alone Can Sell

Instructor: Kristen Lamb

Price: General Admission $55.00 USD/ GOLD Level $175

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

When: Thursday, August 16th, 2018. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST

REGISTER HERE

LEARN TO BE A BRAND BOSS!

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

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

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

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

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

Can you say “James Patterson”?

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

This class will address:

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

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

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

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

About the Instructor

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

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

 

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Enrico Petrarolo

All right, so Monday we talked about The Single Best Way to Become a Mega-Author, which is—in a nutshell—write a LOT of (good) books. They key is being prolific and this applies no matter what type of publishing we choose. If you go browse a local used bookstore (which is almost pure legacy press) trust me, you will see the same names over and over and over and over.

Readers have always had a tendency to be parochial when it comes to their reading choices. We tend to find a writer we like and stick like glue until we have exhausted their titles. Why? Because reading a book is a HUGE investment of our most precious commodity—TIME.

We don’t want to spend an average of 12-15 hours of undivided attention with just anyone. We also are in an age where we are inundated with choices, which tends to short circuit the brain cells.

But many writers want the magic for selling a lot of books and frankly, that doesn’t exist. Huge success with such a subjective commodity is still, to an extent, trying to capture lighting in a bottle.

Ah, but we can improve our odds. First with, as mentioned, multiple good books. Then there is social media and building a platform.

Our Foundation Matters

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Carlpenergy

The foundation for all goods and services (brands) is the relationship. Nothing sells without establishing, building and improving the relationship. Relationships take time, effort, energy, prayer and patience. They can take years to build and moments to destroy, so we must always value that relationship.

This is ALL commodities from restaurants to grocery stores to soap to shoes to electronics. Samsung was and is a strong brand, but how much damage did the Galaxy 7’s exploding battery do? Consumers no longer could trust the product so they lost faith in the brand.

The same goes for authors. One of the many reasons I love for authors to have a blog is that it is an excellent way to create a relationship and build trust. You guys come to this blog because you trust that you will be educated, enlightened and entertained. Over 1100 blogs and still going and still improving. You don’t come here and get frustrated with a sea of typos, poor grammar, etc.

I’ve worked hard to create a relationship. I give first. Yes I mention classes and my books, but no one is required to buy. But because I give first and often, no one is offended that I list a class because I am not just taking, taking, taking.

Same with social media. Those who follow me on Facebook know what to expect. Most of the time, I share funny memes or engage people in conversation. I comment on their stuff, “Nice dress!” “Love the new profile pic!” Small acts every day. Again giving.

So when I finally DO post something about a class or a book or a conference I already have a foundation. I have a base of people who know me and who hopefully enjoy my company and so when I “advertise” the response is more positive because, out of everything I post, the “taking part” is far less than the giving. Instead of….

AHHHHHHH!

Yet how many writers don’t want to be on Facebook, they don’t like Twitter and they only join to blast people with ads and free books and giveaways. They only get on their author page to talk about themselves, their signing, their event, their book. They don’t take five minutes to care about anyone else, but we’re all supposed to drop everything to serve them?

They don’t even give their time. Rather they cheat with automation, but they want MY time?

Sure. Right on that,

A Little Goes a LONG Way

The shocking thing is that we really don’t need to give all that much for it to matter.

For instance, if someone emails me with a question of a favor, and I recognize that name from comments on my blog, I will often move heaven and earth to help, and often for free. Yet, I can’t count the number of people who email me with a copy of their book for me to review or edit and they’ve never taken two seconds to say so much as hello.

So I am supposed to part with my money and 15 hours of time I don’t have?

Same on Facebook. They IM me to vote for their book or buy their book or for me to promote their book and they have never taken two seconds to so much as comment on a post, say hello or talk to me.

These people are TAKERS.

But the people who always post comments or share or promote me? Again, it is ridiculous the hoops I will jump through to help a giver.

Newsletters are the same deal. My email is absolutely flooded with lazy writers who paid some company to somehow get my email. 99% of newsletters instantly go in the trash, and in a way those newsletters offend me. This writer couldn’t take two minutes to talk to me to even see if I READ that genre? Oh, but they’re happy to take.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

This is one of the reasons my book Rise of the Machines focuses so much on the day to day building of the brand and platform. Writers always assume I spend vast amounts of time on social media.

Nope.

Aside from the blogs? I pop in randomly throughout the day for a few minutes and that’s it.

If we don’t have those small everyday actions that accumulate into a relationship of depth, then it is a craps shoot. Additionally it is a race to the bottom of who can give away the most stuff and for the cheapest or FREE. That is the price of wanting the fruits without the roots and perks without the works.

Marketing & Advertising

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Faye

All marketing and advertising works better with an established relationship. Why are we more inclined to actually use a Starbuck’s coupon? Because Starbucks has created a relationship with its product and service. Their coupon is far more likely to be used than Joe’s Joe Shack because we don’t know Joe from Adam.

Unless Joe offers us a coupon so ridiculously cheap we cannot ignore it? It’s far more likely to go in the trash or be forgotten. And even if Joe succeeds in getting us in the door, he is still starting from ground zero building our trust. If his coffee sucks? It won’t matter if he gives an even steeper discount the next time.

In the beginning almost all writers are like Joe’s. Legacy gets a bit of a pass but not much. Most readers don’t buy books by publishing house. In fact they might be hard-pressed to name one of the Big 5. But, if a book is on shelves at B&N, that book (author) is then using B&N’s relationship (brand) to kindle its own.

But since most readers aren’t going to B&N? As I said, a small pass.

Even in a bookstore the writers we know will almost leap off the shelves at us. I can’t count the number of times I bought books I hadn’t planned on buying because I knew the author from Facebook, Twitter or their blog (the GIVERS).

The rest of us (indies in particular) are going to have to do a lot of giving to establish the rapport, proving we are a good investment of TIME.

I did this with my blog. Y’all know my style, my voice and can trust I produce content you enjoy. Not a huge stretch to imagine my books probably would be at least as well written as my blog. So when I have a book for sale, I’m building off an established relationship (brand).

Additionally, if I told you guys that one day next week, I was giving Rise of the Machines away for free, I guarantee more people would grab a copy of ROM than if I just popped out of the blue and ambushed you with free books.

Or if I said ROM was on sale for $2.99 I would have far better ROI than some stranger foisting a cheap book at you.

See, any marketing or ads or giveaways or sales now will work better because I’m not just assaulting you from the ether with free and or cheap books. That giveaway or freebie is just more value added to something already valuable to you.

There are a lot of wonderful book marketing people out there, but the stronger that base platform and brand, the more they have to work with. They’re marketers not magicians.

Ads are a failure if no one clicks it and no one buys. I don’t care if we get a newsletter list of a million. If no one opens it and no one acts and buys the book, again it is a failure.

How we improve those odds is first creating the relationship on-line with our blog or social media. Then eventually the books. If they trust us in a blog and we impress them with a book? We are golden so long as we keep nurturing that relationship. Ads and marketing work better.

But, skip the foundation? Skip the relationship building? Skip the day to day? It is a long, unpleasant and all too often unsuccessful battle that, in the end, will cost far more time, effort and money than if we just did the little stuff day in and day out.

For more help with that, grab a copy of my book and check out my blogging and newsletter class (listed below) 😀 . Oh an I also am giving away an AMAZING free gift to those who sign up for classes. It’s a secret but I PROMISE you it rocks.

What are your thoughts? Do you get those writers who you add as a friend and the first thing they do is spam your wall? Has that EVER worked?

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.

Also know I love suggestions! After almost 1,100 blog posts? I dig inspiration. So what would you like me to blog about?

Talk to me!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of APRIL, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Deborah Makarios is the WINNER for MARCH. Please send your 5,000 word WORD document to kristen at wana intl dot com. One-inch margins, double-spaced, Times New Roman font and CONGRATULATIONS!

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!

Be a Better Hooker (How to Write a Compelling Newsletter)

April 29th $45

In this class, learn how to compose a newsletter that is entertaining and compelling—and all without stealing most of your writing time. Learn how to get your hooks in your readers and keep them until the end.

With a mailing list of over 15K subscribers, mystery/thriller author Jack Patterson will share some of his tips that will spice up your newsletter and get your subscribers opening it up every time you send one out.

Individual Classes with MOI!

Blogging for Authors $50 April 27th, 2017

Plotting for Dummies $35 April 7th, 2017

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter and Synopsis that SELLS! $45 April 13th, 2017

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

 

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 10.22.38 AM
Original image courtesy of Juhan Sonin via Flickr Creative commons.

The writer’s worst nightmare. You researched, you wrote, you finished, and then published your book. You wait for the sales and……….*crickets*. This is something that can happen to any kind of author, traditional or nontraditional. We think we have a hit on our hands only to later be checking it for a pulse.

What happened? Why is the book just not selling?

The Market

Remaindered Titles
Remaindered Titles

In the not so distant past, there was only one way to get published and that was traditional publishing. Though many authors cheered when they were finally able to cast off the chains of New York, let’s at least respect that agents and editors might have known a thing or three about the book business.

Writers would often get vexed at the stack of rejection letters, believing they couldn’t actually write well. This was not always the case. Agents make their living off books they know will sell, which means they just don’t have the bandwidth left over to take on pro bono work. Yes, the book might be lovely, but they are agents, not charities.

A large part of their expertise is predicting market changes and trends. They look at what is already out, what is to be released, what is selling, what isn’t, what is saturated, etc.

This is where it can get tricky for writers. Yes, write what you love. We shouldn’t write for the market…but we have to write for the market.

*bangs head on wall*

Sometimes a book might not be selling simply because there are too many titles that are too similar. Readers just don’t want yet another sparkly vampire.

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If you are traditionally published, this could still happen. Agents are making an educated guess and sometimes they miss the mark. For the self-published folks? If the book is good, just leave it alone and keep writing. The great part about the digital paradigm is the book can remain there indefinitely and when the trends change? So could the sales.

The Product

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Bad Pun Dog

I hate saying this, but sometimes it’s the book. Obviously this is more the case with indie and self-published books. The problem is that the market has just been inundated with amateur writing. I go into this in more detail in Five Mistakes Killing Self-Published Writers, but here are the Spark Notes.

Bad Writing

No one wants to hear they are not ready. Worse still? No one wants to hear the words, “You just are not a good writer.” Too many newbies want to skip the unfun training and go right to the title, “Author.”

Sadly, the slush pile has been handed off to readers. I can’t count the number of times I have gotten pages for a contest win and absolutely slayed the writing, only to get an e-mail back that the book was already for sale.

Shoot…me…now.

Even more common is that the writing is not per se bad, it just isn’t anything remarkable. Folks these days have a lot of competition for their time and attention and they simply won’t devote 12-15 hours of undivided attention to a blasé book.

Bad (No) Editing

Our story might be the best thing since pumpkin spice lattes, but if it is rife with errors it won’t sell. Additionally, editing is not simply looking for typos. That is line-editing. A good content editor will be able to help you shape the overall flow of the novel.

When I edit I can tell writers if they are starting the book in the correct place. Are there scenes that need to be cut because they are bogging down the momentum? Are there redundant characters? Are there plot holes? Is the ending a knockout or a fizzle?

Great editing can take a book from mundane to magnificent.

Bad Cover

There really is no excuse for a bad cover these days. Technology has come a long way and many experts offer fabulous covers at affordable prices. I would love to say people don’t judge a book by its cover, but that is untrue. Of course we do.

One thing many new writers don’t appreciate is that when you hire an expert, you are gaining a lot more than that one skill. Yes a graphic artist knows how to use Photshop (or whatever) but they also have a knowledge of what sells. 

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For instance, I have seen authors post images of their new book cover and cringed. The cover itself was lovely, but we have to remember how we are selling. That book isn’t going to be on a shelf where a potential reader is seeing a full-sized version. Likely it will be on Amazon and that beautiful full-sized image, when shrunk to thumbnail size looks like a Rorschach ink blob.

Do you see a butterfly?

No, I see Satan eating kale chips.

If a writer tells me they can’t afford to hire an expert, my response is they cannot afford not to.

Boring Title

This goes along with a bad cover. New writers are notorious for titles that we have to read the book to “get” the title. NO. The title is the hook and we will move on to other writers who don’t make us think.

The Platform

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Discoverability is a nightmare. There is a lot of noise and part of our job description now entails branding. This is all writers.

I recently had a distraught writer contact me. The author was recently dropped by a well-known agent because the book simply wasn’t selling. Yet, I could tell with a quick google search what a big part of the problem was.

The author didn’t have platform/brand capable of driving sales. Simply puttering around on Facebook isn’t enough. That isn’t a brand.

My first royalty check would have covered dinner if no one super-sized anything. Why? My book came out before my platform could drive sales. Once my platform improved? My sales skyrocketed.

What does it say in front of every big author’s name? Best Selling Author. Not Best Writing Author.

The writing alone is not enough. Frankly, it never was. Before 2006, writers had a 93% failure rate. Most first books sold less than a thousand copies (even traditionally published books). Only one out of ten published authors ever saw a second book in print. Most were dropped.

In the old days, we just had no control over the brand and the platform. Now, we do. And authors want to complain that it is too hard. Yes, it is hard and there are many reasons this profession is not for everyone.

Less Marketing/More Writing

AHHHHHHH!
AHHHHHHH!

Traditional marketing does not sell books. Never has. For more on why, check out Why Traditional Marketing Doesn’t Sell Books. I have had to unfollow writers on Facebook who do nothing but promote one book over and over and over.

They tweet non-stop about their book.

They even dedicate their blogs to selling books (and that is never the direct objective of a blog).

They deluge us with newsletters we never signed up for and can’t figure out how to escape.

Thing is, we don’t care about you or your book. We didn’t want to see that crap in our feed, we sure aren’t going to subscribe to a blog/newsletter that is nothing but self-promotion.

Writers often become the equivalent of that sales clerk in the department store who ambushes us with perfume.

Here is the blunt truth. The odds of breaking out with our first book are about the same as being hijacked by a terrorist after we’ve been hit by lightning while holding a winning lottery ticket.

Most writers are not going to break out with one book. Or even two. An author might never break out, but the odds certainly improve the more titles we have. This was always true. It’s why you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a James Patterson title.

Marketing and building a platform/brand are two completely different activities. But writers believe they are the same. They aren’t. If you want to promote and market without a platform, I suggest piling money on the floor and setting it on fire. Same end result and you can get to the self-loathing and binge drinking far faster that way.

There are no shortcuts.

Obviously there are many many other factors to why a book might not be selling, but these are the top offenders. Good news is most of this, we can do something about. In fact, I have classes addressing most of these issues (listed below).

What are your thoughts?

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

Check out the other NEW classes below! Now including a log-line class! Can you tell me what your book is about in ONE sentence? If you can’t SIGN UP.

All W.A.N.A. classes are on-line and all you need is an internet connection. Recordings are included in the class price.

Upcoming Classes

Blogging for Authors  (August 26th)

This class will teach you all you need to know to start an author blog good for going the distance. Additionally I would also recommend the class offered earlier that same week (August 22nd) Branding for Authors to help you with the BIG picture. These classes will benefit you greatly because most blogs will fail because writers waste a lot of time with stuff that won’t work and never will and that wastes a lot of time.

I am here to help with that 😉 .

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist September 2nd–September 2nd

All fiction must have a core antagonist. The antagonist is the reason for the story problem, but the term “antagonist” can be highly confusing. Without a proper grasp of how to use antagonists, the plot can become a wandering nightmare for the author and the reader.

This class will help you understand how to create solid story problems (even those writing literary fiction) and then give you the skills to layer conflict internally and externally.

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist Gold

This is a personal workshop to make sure you have a clear story problem. And, if you don’t? I’ll help you create one and tell the story you want to tell. This is done by phone/virtual classroom and by appointment. Expect to block off at least a couple hours.

Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line

September 7th

Log-lines are crucial for understanding the most important detail, “WHAT is the story ABOUT?” If we can’t answer this question in a single sentence? Brain surgery with a spork will be easier than writing a synopsis. Pitching? Querying? A nightmare. Revisions will also take far longer and can be grossly ineffective.

As authors, we tend to think that EVERY detail is important or others won’t “get” our story. Not the case.

If we aren’t pitching an agent, the log-line is incredibly beneficial for staying on track with a novel or even diagnosing serious flaws within the story before we’ve written an 80,000 word disaster. Perhaps the protagonist has no goal or a weak goal. Maybe the antagonist needs to be stronger or the story problem clearer.

In this one-hour workshop, I will walk you through how to encapsulate even the most epic of tales into that dreadful “elevator pitch.” We will cover the components of a strong log-line and learn red flags telling us when we need to dig deeper. The last hour of class we will workshop log-lines.

The first ten signups will be used as examples that we will workshop in the second hour of class. So get your log-line fixed for FREE by signing up ASAP.

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

 

Image from Street Art Utopia.

One of the words writers hear a lot of is “platform.” What is it? How do we get one? How much time do we need to put in on social media for it to count? Do we get time off for good behavior? All good questions, but before I address them, I’d like you guys to understand something very important:

Author platforms are not the same as they used to be.

If we fail to understand how author platforms have changed, we will look as ridiculous as the guy trying to hitch horses to the front of an automobile. Not only will we look silly, but it will only be a matter of time before we give up in frustration, because nothing we do seems to work.

Platforms Once Were Easy to Control, Thus Easy to Measure

Back in the day, platforms were generally only available to those who could afford one. Hiring a PR expert, distributing a newsletter and even building a web site were all extremely cost-prohibitive. Sure, one could also build a platform by doing speaking gigs or writing articles for publication, but one had to establish credibility before getting a toe in the door, so we are right back to platform went to only a handful of individuals.

And if we happened to be fiction authors, then just forget about building a platform. It was simply too expensive. The only way we had of building a platform or brand was through publishing our books…and that, too, only went to a slim percentage of people who made it through gatekeepers.

Additionally, platforms used to be built in ways that were easy to quantify and measure–I.e. how many clicks on a web site, how many attendees for a speech, etc. In The Old World—B.F. (Before Facebook)—it was easier to measure our influence because our brand/platform was relatively static. It was easy to measure how many people tuned into a radio show, a morning show, and how many “clicked to buy” after these types of events.

PR experts would create an image and that image remained largely unmodified unless it wasn’t working…or the “subject” decided to go crazy and create a Kardashianesque scandal worthy of hiring a spin doctor.

Ah, but Times, They Have Changed

These days, platforms are organic, especially those platforms built using social media.

Is there any other kind?.

We can’t control what happens to the content once we let go. Additionally, social media is a two-way exchange. If Bed, Bath & Beyond sends me a mailer, they aren’t expecting me to like it, then photocopy it and distribute it to my friends. Yet, that is exactly what we are after when it comes to social media. We are trusting others to take in what we offer (content), like it and then pass it on to their networks.

The Upside & The Downside

What is wonderful about social media is that we always have the potential for world-wide exposure, to go viral, etc. We also have a lot more fluidity than years ago. We can write in different genres or dabble in transmedia or become hybrid authors because followers are interacting with us daily and real-time.

Yet, the downside of the new paradigm is that social influence is virtually impossible to measure. For more about why, go here to my post The Dark Side of Metrics—Writer Friend or Ticket to Crazy Town? Not only is social influence virtually impossible to  measure…but it is accessible to everyone. In the old days B.F., we were only competing against a slim few with the cash or tenacity to build a platform. Now? To quote The Incredibles

When everyone is special then no one is.

In a time when everyone has access to the same tools, how can we ever hope to stand apart?

So all of this is to say that platform and brand have changed as much as publishing has. If writers want to survive and thrive in the new paradigm, they must let go of the old and embrace the new.

A New Attitude

One of the largest hindrances I see to authors building a great platform has to do with their attitude toward being required to build one. It’s just another chore, a drudgery. It makes us feel weird and dirty, like we are selling out and compromising who we are. I totally appreciate these feelings, because I have felt them, too.

I felt them before I really understood what author platform meant.

In a world where most writers are moaning and groaning about being required to have a platform, the only chance we have of standing apart from the masses, is we must change our attitude and our approach. Sure, easier said than done, right?

No. Not really. I think if we take a moment to peel back why we feel the way we do, it will be easier to enjoy this new leg of author evolution.

So Why Does Building a Platform Make Most of Us Feel Icky?

How many of you ran out and bought John Locke’s book, How I Sold a Million Books in Five Months? Hey, I did. I can always learn, and Locke actually had some really great ideas, but I did have to ask myself some hard questions. Why didn’t his methods resonate with me? Why did many of Locke’s tactics make me feel queasy, as if I had escaped one sales job just to land another one? After a lot of thought, I realized it had to do with intent.

When experts throw around phrases like “target your audience,” I must confess that all I can think of is a red-dot laser site landing on someone’s chest.

 

I am writing a book. Prepare to be targeted.

Maybe it’s just me *shrugs*.

See, Locke will even tell you in his book that he is a born capitalist. He worked in sales for years and started all kinds of businesses. To him, books were just a new way of making money. He saw a tremendous marketing opportunity in the shifting paradigm, and he used his talents and went for it and it paid off. He spent $25,000 figuring out what tactics worked and what failed. He experimented with all kinds of genres and tactics, but not because his art and love happened to be writing.

Locke’s art and love was capitalism and marketing. 

You can see Locke’s excitement coming off the page as he relates his stories of how he tried all kinds of tactics to see where the numbers went. Locke’s art form happened to be numbers. Writing was just the medium, much like a sculptor might choose marble or clay. The reason Locke has such passion is he is doing his art.

But is Their Art Your Art?

For writers who have a love of sales, Locke’s book will really resonate because you will be doing your art. OR, you will at least be blending two arts you love together—sales and writing. Yet, for writers who break out in hives at the mention of the word sales and who are in this for the art of writing?

Hasta la vista, Baby.

Same thing with the PR & social media marketing people. They love to offer suggestions of how to help writers. They are lovely people who are sharing their art, and they want us to love it as much as they do. Some writers do love their methods and find PR and social media marketing is their art, too and that is why these classes have a lot to offer even if they differ from mine.

But what about the rest of us?

What if Sales/Marketing is Not My Art? Am I Doomed?

No. Not at all. But I will challenge you to stop trying to make their art your art. Think of it this way. Some of you, if I said you would be required to also design your own book covers would squeal with joy. Why? Because you also have a love for drawing or graphic design in addition to being a writer. You have more than one art. 

Our art is not our skill; our art is where our heart and passion rests.

Some writers do wonderfully learning marketing and sales skills because it is congruent with an existing passion. Some writers didn’t even know they had  a passion of on-line marketing, but, after a class at a writing conference, they were hooked once they had the know-how.

For the rest of us?

You could teach PR and on-line marketing until the end of time, and we would still hate it with every fiber of our being. We’d hate it just as much as a kid who loves building model airplanes being forced to learn to play the piano. For this kid who is forced to learn an instrument, piano would be a chore, and because it is a chore, any music he makes would always be robotic. It would always lack the essential ingredient that makes music art—passion. 

This is the same reason that writers who hate sales and marketing will always fail. Because it is a chore, it will lack the critical ingredient to connect—passion.

But, Kristen! All of us have to get out there and sell and market!

No, you don’t. I know many well-meaning people have told you this is the case, but it is a false syllogism. A false what? A false syllogism.

Example 

All people who dig ditches sweat profusely.

You are sweating profusely, therefore you must be digging a ditch.

For Writers?

All master salespeople and marketers have platforms that sell lots of books.

Writers need platforms that sell lots of books, therefore writers need to be master salespeople and marketers.

Or…

All social media technology experts have a large platform.

Writers need a large platform, therefore writers need to be social media technology experts.

NO!

We Can’t Fake Passion

If we hate what we are doing, people feel it. Conversely, when we interact with passion, people feel that, too. Why do you think I am so against automation? People who pre-program all their tweets do not love Twitter. They don’t LOVE interacting and thus there is no passion, so no connection.

This is why doing social media this way takes such HUGE numbers to be effective. It is the same ROI (return on investment) we would get with sending out spam e-mails or junk mail–about 1-5%. Thus, for every 20,000 followers, only about 200-500 will listen and fewer will care.

Words are Our Art

Social media is nothing but words. We writers use words to create feeling and emotion. We use 26 black letters in various combinations to spark passion and interest. Social media can be a drudgery when we aren’t connected to our muse. Yet, when approached with the correct attitude, social media a new canvas for the writer-artist.

We will talk more about platform and ways to make social media our art next week. In the meantime, I want you to answer some questions:

What is it I fear the most about social media?

What do I believe it is taking away from me?

What are the emotions I want readers to feel when reading my work?

Of all those emotions, which one is the most important? Do I want people to feel love, passion, inspiration, courage?

So what are some questions you guys have? Do you feel better now that you have permission to hate sales? Can you spend some time defining your own art and think of ways to infuse it into your social media? For those already doing this, can you share with the rest of us?

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of March 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 will announce last week’s winner later this week. I am having problems with my web site and e-mail and my web people are working to remedy the problem. Thanks for your patience.

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

This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness

50,000 Inimitable Smiles by Margie Lawson over at More Cowbell

How to Get Media Coverage for Your Book over at Jane Friedman’s place

Was March 2012 the Day that Traditional Publishing Died? by the ever-brilliant Bob Mayer

Amazon Signs Up Authors Writing Publishers Out of the Deal by the NYT

Beautiful Breakups–What the Revision Process Can Teach Us by August McLaughlin

How Can Modern Writers Become and Stay Visible? by the fabulous Jody Hedlund

Ten Things You Should Know About Setting by the awesome-sauce Chuck Wendig

A couple weeks ago, I started The Road to Success series with The Road to Success Part One–What Kind of Author are You? Then I apparently saw something shiny, and so last week we talked–passionately–about Blog Trolls. How to spot them and how to handle them. Thus, I thought it would be a nifty idea to get back on track with this series. Today we are going to talk about book sales.

*cringes* I feel your pain, but as professionals we do need to talk about this stuff.

I’ve been doing this “social media for authors thing” for quite some time and have taught thousands of people. In my experience, most writers, in the face of having to “sell books” have fairly predictable reactions. They either unwittingly turn into spam bots because they are trying to be “good little marketers”…or they run away screaming to the nearest liquor store. Those remaining either live in denial that writers don’t need to know about sales…or they change the subject to Chris Evan’s pecs.

Okay. Sally forth. Nothing to see.

So today I am gonna help y’all out, no matter what your opinion of book sales happens to be. I am going to give a little insight that will save tons of time, effort and embarrassment.

First, a little story….

Years ago, when I was in college at T.C.U., I was blessed enough to get a job at Successories. They were a wonderful company that treated their people as if they mattered, and it didn’t hurt that they paid better than most retail jobs. I loved going to work there because I always felt that I was serving some higher purpose. What could be a better job than helping people be inspired? To reach for the stars? A motivational store is like Disney Land to an ENFP.

The thing about working in a mall is that there can be a lot of down time, especially during the week. I am not a person to be idle, so after everything was sparkly clean and neat and organized, I would read…until I’d read every book in the store. I read all kinds of stuff. I read everything they had by Zig Ziglar, Vince Lombardi, Anthony Robbins, Dale Carnegie and on and on. I studied Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin. I read books about leadership, sales, business and marketing. I read every quote book until I knew them by heart.

Why did I do this? Aside from filling in the long hours of nothing, I did it with a motive to serve. See, every worried mom who came in looking for the perfect graduation gift, every employee looking for the right poster to hang in the employee lounge, and every teacher hoping to inspire her kids to reach higher got precisely the perfect tool for the job. When I came to work for this store, the sales had been so low that it was on the block to be closed. Within two months, we had the highest sales in the region.

So why am I talking about this and why does it matter?

MOTIVE.

When it comes to sales, any kind of sales, people can sense motive. I didn’t make any commission off those sales at Successories. I didn’t have daily quotas to meet. In fact, I think the company would have probably been fine if I just showed up on time, kept the place clean and didn’t steal out of the cash register.

Yet, I did more.

Not because they made me or threatened me, but because I wanted to serve. I loved the company and loved their products (still do) and I longed to help because I liked THEM. In serving others and being authentically interested in others, I had the highest sales, because customers liked ME.

Was my goal the highest sales? No. My goal was to help others, and, by helping others, the end result was that I had the highest sales. Customers sensed that my objective was to serve them and they responded favorably with purchases.

Zig Ziglar was one of my favorites to read when I worked there. My favorite quote by him is, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” In fact, this quote affected me so powerfully that I base all of my WANA teachings on this maxim. So how does motive affect an author’s approach to social media?

Brave New Publishing World

These days a lot of authors are going the indie route or even self-publishing, and that is fantastic. Yet, when you are the sole person who can make or break your book sales, it is easy to fixate on sales numbers. This is where things can go sideways, especially in the business of selling books. People can sense a motive. If our motive is primarily to sell more books, other people sense that and it turns people off.

Why do you think we dissect everything a car salesman says? Every compliment he gives us is like a move on a chess board. It is a maneuvering to part us from our hard-earned cash.  We think, “This dude wants my money and that’s the only reason he’s being nice” whether that is the truth or not.

NO ONE cuts the car sales guy a break.

Books are Not Tacos, and Writers are Not Car Insurance

One of the reasons I feel a lot of self-published authors have gotten a bad reputation is due to their approach to book sales. I cannot count the number of times I received a simply beautiful compliment, and, when I responded favorably…I immediately was sent a link or a DM to buy this writer’s book or “Like” their fan page. What they call “good marketing” I felt as “emotional manipulation.”

Tactics like this are a perversion of Dale Carnegie. Tactics like these make me feel used. They make me feel duped. It isn’t a pleasant emotional experience so it certainly isn’t an experience I long to share, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this. I have no want or need for phoney-boloney compliments to get to my wallet.

So the trick in social networking is to be able to build a platform that will translate into sales…without thinking about the sales. I admit, the WANA way is a challenge and can be quite counter-intuitive…but it works. Why does it work? Because we are selling to flesh-and-blood-people. WANA methods appreciate the WHY behind the BUY:

People don’t buy for logical reasons, they buy for emotional reasons. ~Zig Ziglar

To be able to sell books, we must understand that what will sell non-fiction will NOT work for fiction. There is a good reason that The South Beach Diet can effectively use an infomercial, but a novel cannot.

Why is this? They are two different types of products selling to fill two very different needs.

Why do readers buy fiction?

One of the reasons readers are so loyal to authors is because of how that author’s stories made them feel. James Rollins makes me feel like I’ve had an exciting adventure. Sandra Brown makes me feel love is worth fighting for. Amy Tan makes me feel hope and power. J.K. Rowling’s stories make me feel heroic.

Fiction authors are brokers of passionate emotion.

This was one of the reasons that—before social media—it was impossible to build a platform for fiction unless one already had a book in print. WHY? Because the author had no way of making an audience feel anything because the book wasn’t yet in print. There was no effective way to attach an emotional context to the product before it hit shelves.

Why do readers buy non-fiction?

On the other hand, non-fiction authors are selling to solve a problem or to educate or inform. They are selling a method, a service, a diet, a trend. Non-fiction authors are brokers of knowledge. Who cares if the diet book makes me feel a certain way? I care that it can give me thighs like Heidi Klum. Results are all that matter. Consumers buy to LEARN. This is why a logical, strategic, cerebral approach will sell books.

Why does this difference matter?

Non-fiction authors deal information and solutions. Fiction authors? You guys are selling an emotional experience. People read fiction to feel passion, love, triumph, happy, moved, inspired. They buy to FEEL.

To sell an emotional product, one must have an emotional approach, and if others (potential readers) enjoy the emotional experience we bring to social media, they are more likely to trust the emotional experience we bring to the page.

These days consumers are being BLITZED with a zillion choices, so to cull through them, often we will default to the Old School methods…we go off our gut and choose who makes us “feel” a certain way. Why do you think even insurance companies like Geico and Allstate try so hard to make us laugh with funny commercials? Even they appreciate how important emotion has become in this digital age.

How does this work for fiction authors?

Protagonists (that a reader has to spend a minimum of 12-15 hours with in a novel) are very often a reflection of the author. Subconsciously we (humans) know this. Thus, it stands to reason that, if the author is pushy, cold, self-centered and unlikable, there is a part of us that expects their “hero” will be more of the same…so we steer clear.

Yet, conversely, if a writer can be someone we like and root for in person, we are more likely to feel good about spending time with this writer’s protagonist. We are going to assume that if we like the author, then we will like her books. And, if the book isn’t all that great, we will still feel good about the purchase because we like the author. It may not make logical sense, but since when have emotions been logical?

This is one of the reasons good author blogs can be such powerful drivers for sales. Readers are more likely to buy from an author who has already provided a positive emotional experience (if not a book, then a thoughtful comment, a compliment, a fun & witty blog). In fact, I would be so bold as to say that they will choose this author ahead of authors who are rude or absentee. This is why using automation is dangerous. It makes potential readers associate our names with being spammed.

How can we speak a “heart language” in a digital world?

Every tweet, every blog post, every comment is an opportunity to create a positive emotional experience. This might not translate into instant sales (which is why some writers get twitchy) but it will pay off in the long-run.

Likeability is good social media sense for any kind of author.

The key to being successful in social media rests in the exponential…NOT the linear. Social media is NOT direct sales. We are wanting more than to connect to one person. We are wanting to connect and then have THAT person SHARE our information with THEIR networks. If that doesn’t happen, it is virtually impossible to be successful with social media.

How do we do this? We do this the same way humans have for tens of thousands of years. We are likable. People feel good when they are around us. We are now in the digital age and now it IS possible to attach an emotional context capable of driving sales. Consumers judge the book by the way they feel about the author.

This isn’t that hard, but often writers panic that they aren’t being good responsible little marketers if “every tweet doesn’t serve a business agenda.” Every tweet that serves a business agenda is, by definition, spam. People create fake e-mail accounts to avoid that stuff, so why serve it?

Understand the why behind the buy. People are on Twitter and Facebook to make friends, connect and to have fun. If they wanted a non-stop commercial to buy more stuff they’d be on the Home Shopping Network, not the social network.

So what are your thoughts? Do you disagree? Agree? I don’t know about you guys, but I buy more books than I can ever read…usually to support writers I like. What about you guys? Do you do the same?

Does an author’s likability not matter? Would you buy a book you knew was not that great to support a writer you loved as a person? Have you ever liked an author’s books, but then met him/her on social media and they were a horse’s butt? Did this keep you from buying books, even if the author was an excellent writer (no need to name names, btw)? Will you buy from a writer who is a phoney? Does it not matter and you only care about story?

Come on! Let’s play armchair psychiatrist.

I LOVE hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of January, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. 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 January I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Last Week’s Winner of 5-Page Critique is Ed Griffin. Please send your 1250 word Word document to author kristen dot lamb at g mail dot com. Congratulations.

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

Happy writing!

This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness

You guys simply MUST follow Porter Anderson’s Writing on the Ether. This is a fantastic way of keeping on top of all the changes and trends in our industry. Follow him @Porter_Anderson. One of the best tweeps in the Twitterverse and a tremendous resource.

Since you will already be at Jane Friedman’s place, seriously stay and check out her blogs. LOVE this one How to Know if Your Literary Agent is Any Good

One of my favorite new bloggers on the scene is Ingrid Schaffenburg. She is running a really amazing series on Dreams. Following dreams, defining dreams, reaching dreams. It is all just simply…awesome. But I want all of you guys to realize your dreams so this gets me excited.

What to know how to get more traffic to your blog? Great post here.

5 Screenwriting Tips that Will Make Any Story Better by Jeff Goins

Have you ever had a writer epiphany? Over at Wordbitches. Love their blog.

And you guys KNOW I am a total fangirl of Chuck Wendig. Seriously, he cannot start a writer cult or I might just pack some Nikes and gray PJs. The man is AWESOME and his blogs are laugh-out-loud amazing. DO NOT drink liquids or suck on hard candy while reading…unless you have a thing for choking. He is THAT funny. Fave post of late? 25 Things Writers Should Start Doing

Fantastic post by Elizabeth Craig about how to eliminate word echoes in our manuscripts. Great tips I’d never heard or thought about.

Truthiness–Raising the Bar in the Blogosphere by August MacLaughlin