Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

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Posts Tagged: Digital Age Authors

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

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

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

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

Good Question

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enough said.

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

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

Social platforms change all the time.

Know what never changes? People.

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

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

Story Matters

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

Yes, really.

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

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

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

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

Amazon is all about the oblique.

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

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

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

Not all of it was bad.

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

The Martian never would have happened under the old regime.

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

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

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

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

Tough truth.

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

A DREAM.

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

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

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

Story Solutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips for Better Stories

Ditch the Derivative

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

A Thousand Acres—King Lear on an Iowa farm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leave the Low-Hanging Fruit

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

Her eyes were blue as the Western sky.

Never read that before *rolls eyes*.

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

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

His eyes were like dazzling emeralds.

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

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

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

Be CREATIVE!

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

Just leaving that there 😉 .

Throw a Wrench in Everything

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

Description is not story.

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

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

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

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

What Are Your Thoughts?

I love hearing from you!

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

Did I maybe get the brain percolating? Mine is.

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

*Cait slaps me hard*

OWWW! *rubs back of head*

Or not.

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

Also NOW OFFERING MORE CLASSES PLUS ON DEMAND…

Retelling Myths & Fairytales

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

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

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

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

The Yarn Behind the Book: Backstory

Instructor: Cait Reynolds

Price: $55.00 USD

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

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

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

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

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

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

A recording of this class is also included with purchase.

About the Instructor:

Cait Reynolds is a USA Today Bestselling Author and lives in the Boston area with her husband and neurotic dog. She discovered her passion for writing early and has bugged her family and friends with it ever since. When she isn’t cooking, running, or enjoying the rooftop deck that brings her closer to the stars, she writes.

On Demand Training!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Story Boss Bundle (ON DEMAND).

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

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

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

Johnny Cat wants to write his memoir...
Johnny Cat as Evil Editor…

Those of you who follow my blog know that optimism IS my super-power. Yes, The Digital Age can be daunting. We are entering uncharted territories and often we have to learn by trial and error. One of my peeves is when “statistics” compare earnings or “success” of traditional authors with self-published and indie authors.

Traditional has had generations to shape and mold a business model, whereas the new forms of publishing are still in their infancies. But, I promise you those babies are gonna grow up FAST and boy will they have an appetite.

Just to throw my in two cents; one of the LARGEST blessings of social media is we have unprecedented access to experts. Need to know about guns, law enforcement procedures, geography, whatever? SOMEONE is happy to give the answer. I had a writer friend in Europe who wanted to set part of her book in Texas, and I directed her to my Facebook pictures for ideas about what the terrain really looked like. I was also available for any questions regarding culture, food, dress, and dialogue.

Recently, I finished a novel based off a real cartel, but for safety reasons, the cartel name HAD to be fictionalized. The former DEA agent I’ve been working with advised to change the name lest I end up with my head in a bucket.

Since NOT ending up with my head in a bucket is at the TOP of my daily priority list, I needed a cool-sounding cartel name. But *sigh* I was stymied. I went to Facebook and asked my community, and, not only did I get the coolest cartel name EVER, but I had lists of wonderful suggestions for future books. I was able to tap into outside creative reserves and WHAT a time-saver. My FB community came up with ideas WAY better than I ever could have.

Today, I have a generous guest post from Jessica Baverstock to give her reasons why this is the BEST time in history to be a writer.

Take it away, Jessica!

***

All industries go through periods of change. The writing industry is no different. When faced with changes, it’s common to wonder what’s going to happen to the familiar way of doing things. The writing life can be a hard slog some days. With the rise of self-publishing, getting our work into the world and noticed can seem even more daunting.

We’re told that publishers are not taking chances on new manuscripts, that people are reading less and that self-published authors are flooding the online shelves. The term ‘book-saturated market’ makes the situation sound dire. But the truth of the matter is that now is the best time to be a writer. I can think of at least 5 reasons why.

Community

Writing is no longer a solitary endeavor. The advent of technology has connected all our little writing desks from around the world into an incredible online support network. The MyWANA community is a sterling example of this, as we’ve seen just recently. It’s not uncommon for writers to provide emotional, and at times even financial, support to their fellow scribes from the other side of the globe. Just pause for a moment and consider how spoilt we all are.

Another upside to community is the generosity of knowledge. Rather than having to struggle through the haze of writing inexperience, we have fellow authors who freely share the blueprints of how they reached their level of success. Whatever our question, whatever our problem, there’s someone ready to lend a helping hand and encourage us to keep going.

WANAs at play at Huntington Beach...
WANAs at play at Huntington Beach…

Common Goals

More people than ever before are sending their writing out into the world. At times we may view this as a negative but the reality is our fellow writers’ successes are a boon for us all. Why? Because when a reader experiences a compelling read, a book they enjoyed and savoured, that reader is left wanting more books.

As a community, our job is to entice readers into the literary world and convince them that books are just as immersive as other forms of media. We’re not competing against each other, we’re competing against TV and other distractions. Therefore, the more writers we have working towards this common goal the better! Look around you and see all the wonderful books being released. Join the cause and make your book the best read possible.

New Methods to Get Our Writing Out There

New mediums are opening up for sharing our writing. E-books are making short stories and novellas more popular. We no longer need to worry about reaching a certain length for print. Instead, we’ve been given the freedom to choose the best length for our story.

Smartphones and tablets mean far more people are listening to audio recordings.  Audio books and podcasts are becoming easier to produce which increases the potential for new readers – or should we say ‘listeners’? Some writers are even turning their books into aps or experimenting in other ways. What a creative wonderland we live in today.

Meet the Readers of the Future. These kids EAT books, but not in paper ;)
Meet the Readers of the Future. These kids EAT books, but not in paper 😉

Online forums and webinars provide writers with the ability to connect with readers wherever they may be found on the globe. The opportunities are limited only by our imagination and determination.

Ergonomics

Thanks to the technology we have around us today, the actual act of writing couldn’t be easier. I personally would be permanently crippled with repetitive strain injury in my wrist were it not for my ergonomically friendly keyboard. Other writers may have great difficulty writing with pen, but through typing or even voice-recognition software their words have finally found the page.

And think how easy it is to edit a manuscript without having to write or type it out completely afresh each time we want to change a typo. Gone are the days when you could tell a writer by the ink stains on their hands. The next generation of writers might not even know what a ‘writer’s callus’ looks like.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kenny Louie
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kenny Louie

Online Research

While the Internet is likely the single biggest writing distraction ever invented, it’s also the most incredible tool for research. Think of all the information that’s literally at our fingertips now. With a quick search we can pull up details and images that could have taken us months or even years to find in the past.

It puts us in contact with people who can answer our questions and provides us everything from recent weather to historical fashion and even ancient recipes. Photographs, videos, audio recordings and virtual maps give us almost instant access to just about every piece of sensory information needed to bring our characters and worlds to life. I don’t know about you, but I for one am ecstatic to be a writer right now! New opportunities are opening up all the time for us as a community to explore together.

Those are my five reasons as to why now is the best time to be a writer. What are yours? Do you have new technologies that make being a writer easier and more efficient? Are you excited about multimedia and all the creative ways to deliver stories? Do you enjoy audio books? Are you thrilled that forms of writing that were almost rendered extinct (poetry, short stories, novellas, etc.) are now making a big comeback?

***

Thanks, Jessica! I love the new paradigm and thanks for reminding us how richly blessed we really are.

We LOVE hearing from you! And comments for guests count DOUBLE!

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

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 9.28.33 AMJessica Baverstock blogs at Creativity’s Workshop where her creativity writes in purple text. Her latest e-book Creativity on Demand covers how writers can access their creativity whenever and wherever they need inspiration.

Announcements:

WANACon is a virtual writing conference loaded with top-tier industry professionals—authors, agents, editors and best-selling authors. Right now we have an Early Bird Special. Sign Up Here.

I hope you guys will check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World and get prepared for 2014!!!!

Also, TOMORROW, I have a new class, Many Roads to Rome—Which Publishing Path is Best?Use WANA15 for 15% off.