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Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: google

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Mr. Muggles.
Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Mr. Muggles.

I promised yesterday, I’d offer up some predictions for publishing in 2014. I don’t know if these are “predictions” or “suggestions” but I am, at heart, an eternal optimist. As I’ve said many, many times, this is a WONDERFUL time to be a writer. It’s a Golden Age of Publishing if we’re willing to embrace the new. Yes, there are challenges. I might be an optimist, but I’m not a moron (okay, that time I accidentally drove to Missouri doesn’t count).

There are new perils ahead, ones we won’t know about until we step both feet in them. In ways, writers are The Lewis and Clark Expedition Literary Edition unfolding in 0s and 1s. This part of why I implored yesterday for writers to be involved in their social media communities. This new paradigm is awesome, but predators abound.

Sadly, there will be more wanna-be publishers, more bad books, more phony reviews, more bullying, more competition, and discoverability will only get tougher…exponentially. But, the flip-side is that writers are making more money, novelists can finally make a living, moth-balled novels are seeing new life and creating new fans, and unique and creative genres are being born. Additionally, forms of writing nearly rendered extinct (poetry, novellas, etc.) have been given new life and authors have a lot more choices and control. We trade one set of problems for new advantages (and…yes…new troubles).

Like the dot-com burst of the 90s, this paradigm will eventually find its way. New gatekeepers will emerge and the market will stabilize…until the next revolution. But until that time…

First, Consolidation is King

Back in The Olden Olden Days, humans went to the butcher for meat, the baker for bread, the smithy for nails, and the tailor for clothes. Then Super Walmart was invented (okay grocery stores then supermarkets might have “paved the way” *rolls eyes*). As humans became more pressed for time, consolidation became vital for competitive edge. Now, we don’t have to trek to the liquor store for the New Year’s Eve champagne when we can simply pick it up at the supermarket with the very last fattening food we’re eating EVER….

….okay, until February.

Consolidation is everywhere. Gaming systems no longer just play games. Try ordering a movie on your 1986 Atari. Want to post on Facebook or peruse You Tube? A Nintendo 64 probably won’t do the trick. In 1990, if we said, “Wow, I need to take Christmas pictures. Let me get my phone!” Men in white coats would show up uninvited and take us away for a “vacation.”

Want to take pictures with your PHONE? Might we suggest one of these...
Want to take pictures with your PHONE? Might we suggest one of these…

Gaming consoles (XBox) now stream video, allow us to access movies, Amazon, social media, and even shop. Phones are no longer just phones. They play music, manage bank accounts, surf the web, take pictures and video, and entertain toddlers (um, Angry Birds?). We can even run a business remotely using various applications. Try that on THIS.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Robert Huffstutter.
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Robert Huffstutter.

Aside from calling people and generating a seething hatred for those unfortunate souls with too many 0s in their phone numbers? THIS bad boy (above) was good for calling people and letting them call US…and maybe braining a burglar or dazing a Florida cockroach long enough to shoot it with a GUN.

These days, more and more people rely on smart phones and tablets for everything. 

Why do I mention this? Because the future of physical bookstores relies on partnering with other types of retailers. Um, consolidation?

The closest Barnes & Noble to me is in the heart of the BUSIEST FREAKING MALL in DFW, Texas. I am simply not that motivated. What if indie bookstores or Barnes & Noble took the path of Starbucks? Tuck that sucker (a mini-version) in a Target, supermarket or a Costco. I NEED food. Books? Eh, shop on-line. Stick them TOGETHER and lure me with the SHINY. I am SO THERE!

Much like I can buy wine at my local Krogers, why can’t I have a choice of more than a handful of books on one aisle? Make life easier. Gas is expensive and I don’t OWN CLONING TECHNOLOGY, BUT MY LAUNDRY DOES.

*left eye twitches*

This dovetails into my first prediction.

Prediction #1—Kiosks and Microstores Will Gain Traction

Blockbuster is dead. Alas, Red Box remains.

The trade paperback is fairly standard, so digital kiosks are a great alternative. Make the Espresso technology a lot like Red Box. A touch-screen panel to peruse recommended books then pay for either a) a download or b) a rental (limited e-book that expires—integrating the library into this business plan) or c) a printed book (with a coupon for 15% off a latte or grocery purchase over $50, of course).

A “rental”? Yup. Wouldn’t that be great for those books we were forced assigned to read in high school and college? And, if we “rent” the book, this can count towards the purchase of the book if we do want to actually keep and reread Moby Dick. Win-win.

If Best Buy will do this, why not B&N?
If Best Buy will do this, why not B&N?

Microstore? YES.

Think of the small stores in airports. I’d much rather have a small store with an educated and well-read staff to help guide what to read than to throw chance to the wind on-line. Microstores can still stock the most popular paperbacks/hardbacks/collections, but then they can guide consumers what to load on their new devices (and maybe even help) or print on the Espresso machine.

The largest consumer group is the Baby Boomers. An educated bookseller could not only guide what to read, but also demonstrate how to upload books to the new device. Maybe even load some freebies for great customer service? *wink, wink*

These booksellers can act as gatekeepers to help modern consumers avoid the digital slush pile. Indies, self-pub and traditional would be on a level playing field. Good books would be recommended by staff members who READ and who are PASSIONATE about BOOKS. Pay the book salespeople a flat commission. Who cares if they recommend James Patterson or Joe Schmoe Patterson? They sold a book and if they want customers to return and offer more commission? They’ll probably want to recommend good books.

Prediction #2—Booksellers Cultivate a Culture of Reviewers

Microstores can also encourage reviews in a way authors can’t. I’d love to offer sweet prizes for reviewing my book, but it’s just too…what’s the term? Creepy. Sure, I want reviews as much as the next author, but it’s a fine line that can get writers in ethical trouble. A microstore wouldn’t have this issue. They could actually cultivate a culture of reviewers.

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Sodanie Chea
Original image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Sodanie Chea

Micro Indie Booksellers could offer incentives to the best reviewers who write ACTUAL reviews (no matter what book it happens to be, thus removing problem of favoritism). If people act like trolls or play sock puppet? Doesn’t count. The more the customers review, the better (educated) reviews they post? The more bonuses they receive. Booksellers can reward consumers for being active and ethical citizens of the reading culture.

This helps the microstore, the bigger retail outlet (who rents space and partners with discounts), the consumer struggling to save time and who needs guidance, and it helps authors get REAL reviews. Not this, pay us to read your stuff and say something nice nonsense. It’s a positive way to combat bullying and encourage thoughtful, genuine reviews.

Prediction #3—The Boutique Boom

We already touched on this when we discussed micro-trends, but part of why Big Publishing is hemorrhaging is because small is the new big (thanks, Seth Godin). Big Publishing makes most of its profits off the mega-trend, but mega-trends are dying. Amazon has grown exponentially because it harnesses the momentum of millions of micro-trends. Authors don’t have to reach millions of people to make a good profit/living (if one takes away the needless waste of the old paradigm). Publishers don’t either ;).

Prediction #4—Strong Indie Houses Will Replace Big Publishing

Granted, we live in a time when everyone can be an author and everyone can be a publisher, but this business is tough. It requires capital, business savvy, organization, innovation and raw tenacity. This means a lot of indie publishers won’t last, and the ones that do will add increasing value. Because these new publishers are innovative, lean, offer higher royalties, and aren’t married to massive Manhattan overhead and paper, they’ll eventually replace NY publishing (and we hope they’ll learn from The Big Six’s mistakes).

When one considers the current business trajectory? Bookstores, libraries and foreign markets are becoming increasingly friendly to indies. They have to in order to survive. Loyalty to NY only goes so far when one is facing extinction. What will NY do when indies can do everything they can and offer lower prices to consumers and higher pay for authors?

Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Robert Ellsworth Tyler
Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Robert Ellsworth Tyler

Prediction #5—AP Reviewers Will Be Forced to Take ALL Authors Seriously or Perish

As is stands, it’s almost impossible for a self-published author to score an AP (Associated Press) review. Yet, when we’re now in a time when non-traditional authors are matching or outselling traditional authors? How long can the AP remain silent about the books people are reading? If they don’t dive in? Book bloggers will happily replace them, and maybe they should. The press was never meant to solely be a mouthpiece for conglomerates.

Prediction #6—Social Norms Will Trump Market Norms

Freebies, give-aways, contests, algorithms, coupons, are fine, but alone? Invisible. Writers must be engaged personally and create community or it’s Career Roulette. We (consumers) don’t want any more deluge of free stuff. We are drowning in FREE. We don’t want more newsletters crapping up our In-Box. We don’t want link spam.

We want connection.

The 18th-20th century world was actually a historical anomaly. The factory model, the TV-Industrial Complex, the World of Big Business and Bigger Gatekeepers is GONE. We’ve returned to our human roots. We want to laugh, talk, klatsche, and we gravitate to who we know and like. We humans are returning to our tribal roots.

Algorithms will be harder to manipulate, reviews tougher to fake, and promotions will grow increasingly invisible, especially as new emerging markets add even more competition to the din.

Prediction #7—Age of the Artist

Multimedia is the future. Books eventually have to be more than books (much like phones became more than phones). Consumers will gravitate to e-books with sound, music, images, quick reference, video, similar reading suggestions, etc. Artists working together will thrive. E-books can create communities where fans can become friends, talk, argue, and hang out.

Musicians? Make friends with writers and offer short music selections. Photographers and graphic artists? Writers need cover art and internal images. Videographers? Writers need book trailers that don’t suck. Also, short video clips can enhance the reading experience. Heck, team up and put together music videos for a book. Get creative!

We are ARTISTS. This means we cannot be automated or replaced by robots. ENJOY!

No, I am not saying paper will go away. It won’t. But when I bought an IPad for business, it was soon abducted by a two-and-a-half-year-old and I haven’t seen it since. The Spawn reads. A LOT. But he reads off the IPad, because he loves interacting.

Prediction #8—A New Breed of Reader

I mention the IPad, then quickly hear the cry of the, “But you’ll damage their BRAINS” crowd. Uh huh. Just like those record players paired with books damaged me when I was four. The interactive experience has always been there. In cave times, it was around a fire listening to a storyteller/bard. Later, book clubs, records, tapes, blah, blah, blah. Interactivity has always been there, only today, it’s been heightened to new levels.

And when I was that nerdy teen reading a paper book ALONE, what I would have given for a crowd of likeminded teens all over the world who shared my love for Dragonlance books and my passion for The Pawn of Prophesy. I love how detractors decry that technology makes people less able to socialize, because I was SO SOCIAL with my stack of paper books hiding in a corner of the lunchroom praying no one would notice me.

The new paradigm has finally accomplished what Big Publishing couldn’t. It’s made reading COOL and this trend will continue to grow.

Prediction #9—Barnes & Noble Needs a Sugar Daddy Bail-Out

Barnes & Noble has been on the downward spiral for a while. What I find funny is people feel sorry for them. Remember the 90s when they all-but-demolished the indie bookstore in Darwinian fashion? Seems like karma is coming back to bite, Blockbuster-Style. B&N is facing serious comeuppance now that the bully has met with someone capable of bloodying their nose. If they do survive, they’ll have to marry well. My bet is on two major suitors.

Suitor #1? Microsoft. And I am not alone in this assessment. Microsoft operating systems still dominate tablets, personal computers, and smart phones, so the Nook can be easily integrated into the operating systems of all Microsoft devices. Microsoft would take over the e-books and B&N would survive. Yes, Microsoft has dated dabbled, but never offered a ring.

Or perhaps, one day we will tell our grandchildren of grand two-story buildings with coffee shops inside and “business hours.”

In my day we had to get in a car and drive and find PARKING and look on actual SHELVES for a book *waves cane*.

Suitor #2? GOOGLE.

Apple’s relentless innovation has slowed since the death of Steve Jobs, and Android is taking them on. The Google-Android partnership has Apple on its toes in regards to automobile iOS systems. It’s the Siri-Google Smackdown! While Apple is fighting on that front, Microsoft could take a chunk out of iBooks with a B&N bailout (and give Amazon some competition at the same time).

Or, if we want to go for the most interesting Bailout-Marriage, why not Google Books? A SEARCH ENGINE marrying a BOOKSTORE? If Google can partner with Android, B&N isn’t exactly as wild of a partnership as it might sound. If Google-Android does win the Computerized Car Business, cars are now big into downloading entertainment. AUTOTAINMENT. Want to listen to an audio book on the commute? Want to synch your reading device while stuck in traffic or on a long road trip (not while driving, please)? Want to download a new book for the kids fighting in the back seat?

Nooble…

Um, Goo-Barnes…

Um…Boogle….

NOBLE GOOGLE is HERE!

Hmm, Noble Google. Kinda catchy :D. Though Nooble is cute.

Prediction #10—Agents Will Have to Innovate, Too

Agents. Yeah. I recall the days when conferences would pay big bucks for agents to attend…and then the agents refused to talk to authors. I can personally attest to enduring the brunt of daring to talk to those who’d come down from Mt. Olympus NYC to talk to me, a lowly mortal…writer. *shivers* They sneered that we made a typo in a query, yet couldn’t be bothered to even spell our names correctly in a rejection letter (been there). Agents tweeted lines out of queries as jokes. They laughed and mocked writers on-line worse than a den of high school Mean Girls, but now?

Wait.

Writers still have a job.

REVELATION! Agents need writers. Whouda’ thunk? Now, make no mistake, I think agents are awesome. We are wise to have a good agent. Many agents are tireless champions who should be paid better, but the old paradigm birthed a lot of prima donnas who forgot who paid their wages.

Some of the BEST people I know are agents. Laurie McLean (of Forward Literary) is not only a FABULOUS agent, but a marvelous human being and my friend. BUT, Laurie is there for WRITERS. She’s a warrior for good writers and great books, and there are many agents like her. In the new paradigm? Agents like these will thrive and they SHOULD.

Authors need allies and agents can help even the self-pubbed or indie author. Laurie is extremely forward-thinking and always has been. When I first taught social media in 2008? She was the only agent out of TEN who attended. She’s AMAZING at planning author careers. She can tell you when to self-pub (if it’s right for you/your work), then guide you to the best indie or traditional house (and deal) and then take your work as far as it can and should go.

She’s always on the lookout for the perfect path for each writer and every work (Red Sofa Literary, established by Dawn Frederick, is another fab choice). These folks do what agents should do! Agents like Laurie, Dawn and their teams will thrive and the others? Well, let’s hope they can learn and innovate ;).

What are your thoughts? Do my predictions make you happy or break out in hives? What do YOU see in the future? HOW do you do it? Because I had to drink three packs of Red Bull to see the future. What would you LIKE to see coming down the pipeline?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of December, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. 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). Comments for guests get extra POINTS!

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!!!!

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yosi Lazarof
Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yosi Lazarof

I do a ton of reading and research for all my books and blogs. Recently, I discovered a GEM of a book that I highly recommend; The Age of Speed—Learning to Thrive in a More-Faster-Now World by Vince Poscente.We all feel overwhelmed. It seems the more time-saving devices we have, the more that’s expected of us. We dash between e-mail, text, social media, housework, work, writing, family and feel like we’re drowning.

The WANA Way has always striven to be unique, unlike any other social media/business approach. Our focus is quality, not quantity, community, not “customers.” I recognized early that if writers (or businesses) weren’t having fun on social media or with work? They either wouldn’t do it or would do it poorly.

Time Redefined

In my newest book, Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World, I go to great lengths to explain how changes in civilization not only alter the biological structure of the brain, but they also shift our values. Any significant advance transforms how we order space and time and what we find important. As society evolves, we must also evolve or we’ll be left behind (or our heads will metaphorically explode).

For instance, if we could access a time machine and go back to the year 600 A.C.E., we wouldn’t be able to communicate the same way with fellow humans. The clock wouldn’t be invented for a few more hundred years and we “time travelers” would experience lives governed by seasons and the sun (not a wristwatch).

Time had not yet been sliced, diced and parceled out. Thus, if we said, “Meet you in an hour” or “See you at 1:30” we’d likely get a blank stare…then be burned as witches.

I just said meet me for coffee at 9:00 a.m.
I just said, “Meet me for coffee at 9:00 a.m.”

Changes in the Life-Time Pie

Poscente brought up a remarkable point I hadn’t consciously seen. How we order time has been changed with technology. When we shifted from an agricultural society to an industrial society, humans began to define work in spacial terms. Work was a place we went. Home was the place we relaxed. The garage was the place for chores and the TV room was the place to chillax.

This was all well and good before the advent of the Internet, cell phones, texting, social media, and e-mail. Now we feel guilty when we text an I love you to a spouse or partner at work or when we answer a business e-mail or check Facebook at the park with family. It’s like life just got thrown in a Vita-Mix and whiiiiirrrrrrrrrr……

As Poscente says, “The framework that gave us discipline over our time and kept work in a neat little box has been rendered obsolete.”

This is one of the biggest reasons many author social media campaigns fail. Many well-meaning marketers advise writers to keep public life (authorly stuff) and personal life (fun/human stuff) in two separate spaces—a work space (fan page) and a personal space (profile page). They recommend multiple Twitter accounts—one all author and one as a human.

Then what happens is this…

The fan page grows at glacial speed and the author gets discouraged and, even if she pays to promote? The ROI (Return on Investment) is dismal. Then, discouraged, the writer grudgingly posts (rarely) because the fan page is no fun when only spam bots and digital crickets are there for company.

Depressed writer then defaults to spending more time on the profile page because it’s fun, active and dynamic…and subsequently feels guilty and levels the Christmas fudge like a biblical plague. Why?

Because she feels she is goofing off and not “working.”

Same with Twitter. The “Author Identity” gets ignored or reported for spam, while the “Personal Identity” is having a blast just chatting with others.

***This applies to most social media, btw.

Work and Fun Play Well Together

We can take a lesson from the corporate world. If we study the businesses that have thrived the most in recent years—Pixar, Google, Patagonia, The Boston Beer Company, Think Geek, NING, Best Buy (you can check some of these companies out HERE)—we see they are doing well because they’ve released the serfs employees and given them loads of freedoms.

There are businesses who haven’t caught up to the changes in our culture. Cell phones are turned in at the door, outside Internet use is prohibited and even punished. Computer keystrokes are measured and outgoing and incoming calls are monitored. Why? Because these businesses value metrics more than people. Employees are reprimanded for taking sick days or vacation (even when allotted), because any time away from “work” adversely impacts The Almighty Metric.

My husband used to work in the defense industry. When he took three days off because we were having a baby, he returned only to be written up (even though he had two weeks of sick time and had never used any of it).

O_o

Companies that are stingy with lunch breaks, benefits, and fun are missing out by not understanding the new way we parse time (and how it can benefit their business). Google encourages play, new ideas, engaging with family, and rewards innovative ideas. They appreciate that time has blurred and if we don’t blend work and fun and leisure?

We suffer.

When we try to keep work, play and home in neat, separate compartments? We waste time. Yet, when we merge these areas, we become more aerodynamic and can harness speed because we are zooming along like a kid riding a bike down a steep hill. Faster doesn’t have to mean harder if we embrace a new way of thinking.

Image via Google.com
Image via Google.com

WANA has been founded on the principle of being HUMAN above all else. Engage and connect authentically, and the sales will eventually follow. WANA never has to pay to promote our fan page because we talk about stuff other than writing. We aren’t the Try to Sell Stuff All the Time Channel.

Do we have stuff for sale? Sure! But we also post funny memes, start silly conversations, and share kitten pics :P.

If people wanted only to shop, they’d be on the Shopping Network not a social network.

The failure to appreciate how our ideas of work-leisure-home-time-ratio have changed is one of the main reasons why building an author platform feels like SO MUCH WORK to so many authors. If we are trying to part out work and fun? We just feel chopped in half, and last I checked? Being chopped in half was the definition of “un-fun.”

Learning to BLEND

I don’t multi-task. Multi-tasking is stupid and inefficient. I DO, however blend. I can talk to a writer friend on my cell phone about a plot problem while folding towels. One activity needs attention and the other I can do on auto-pilot. I talk to my mom while I dust. I listen to an audio book while on a Stair Climber. When I’m writing, I’m writing, but then I reward myself with a quick Facebook or Twitter break…then back to writing.

This keeps me passionate about work because it is filled with play and meaning. I’m streamlined. 

In short, never kill time. Time is the only non-renewable resource. Use it wisely and learn to blend. Carry a book and, when stranded at the bank or the doctor’s office? Relax. Read a good book or my blog ;). If we embrace the notion that strict spaces no longer work? We are free to have fun and pair work and play, making life far more rewarding and speed shifts from enemy to ally.

Do you feel guilty having fun? Are you struggling to stay focused on writing because all these beeping devices are driving you nutso? Did you know you were allowed to be human and have fun on your fan page (and actually, if you do that, you won’t have to pay to promote)? Are there activities you blend and it helps keep you supercharged and balanced?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of December, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. 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).

And, if you get a chance, please check out my newest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World. 

Welcome to WANA Wednesday, the day I dedicate to helping you rock it hard when it comes to social media and building an author platform. Earlier in the summer, I offered my initial thoughts on Google + and introduced you to the Inner Kristen Lamb…who happens to be a 58 year old Jewish woman from Long Island, NY.

 

Long story short, the idea of yet another social media platform had me feeling more than a tad verklempt. Tawk amongst yuhselves.

See, this is the thing. I am not a social media expert. I am the social media expert for writers. HUGE difference. I’m not here to say if G+is good or bad. I am here to relay whether G+ makes sense for writers wanting to build an author platform. So as promised….

More Thoughts on G+

Since all the Internet was abuzz about G+ and how it was going to deliver us to the Digital Promised Land of Milk and Honey, I had to at least take a look.  G+ looks really nice and wonderful, but is it worth writers pulling up stakes on Facebook and Twitter? Is it really worth building yet another platform when we could be doing something productive…like writing more great books that make money?

No.

G+, to me, is Facebook with a different skin and no ads…yet.

Oh, but they have circles.

Yes, and Facebook has lists. Writers have been all excited because they can categorize people and only share certain information with certain people. Well, um, Facebook lets us do that, too. Granted it might not be as fun and primitive as dragging people into circles…

Sorry about the head. I had to knock you unconscious so I could drag you into “People I Really Never Want to Talk to and Who I Wouldn’t Put Out if They Were on Fire Circle” without you knowing.

Am I the only one who feels weird that someone is dragging me anywhere? I think I have a digital wedgie. But that is beside the point.

The circle thing might seem cool and different, but let’s talk about why categorizing people might not work well for writers trying to build an author platform.

Careful. Circles can create cliques.

 

I think that we often underestimate other people. We often feel they wouldn’t care about a certain subject, so we don’t want to bother them with that information. The strange thing is, though, that information you are hiding is the very information that can make you unique.

Bear with me.

On G+ I assume most everyone is dragging me into a Fellow Writer Circle. Why? Because ALL I SEE are book trailers, publishing news, blogs about writing and I kinda want to slam my head in a door. One of the things I love about Facebook and Twitter (and especially about #MyWANA) is that I can get a peek into other writer’s LIVES. THAT is what stands out in the din of “What is the Future of E-Books?” and “What is Your Plotting Style?”

You know. Sometimes I just want to see a video of a cat falling in the toilet bowl. I dig baby pictures and tweets about #SockNarnia (the magical land inhabited by missing socks). I like knowing other writers as humans, too.

Frankly, G+ is boring me half to death since others are “assuming” that I don’t care about their family trip to the beach. It is this invitation into your lives that makes you stick out in my head as a person. It makes me LIKE you….and want to support you. I actually DO care about YOU.

***This personal stuff is what makes someone we don’t know eventually become a friend, btw.

I know I’m in my friends’ circles, but they were already my friends. I am on social media to make NEW friends. But I don’t sit at the right table circle.

I assume I might not be the only one who feels this way. Who knows? Maybe you have slated all the agents into an Agent Circle and assumed they don’t want to see a squirrel with its head stuck in a yogurt cup. Hey, they’re agents, not overworked humans who might like a good laugh and who might actually remember us because we talked about something other than writing, publishing, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

Being professional doesn’t mean we have to be boring.

But even though I bring this up, now I feel weird exposing everybody to Spiders on Drugs because G+ is all about the circles and we are supposed to keep people in neat little boxes.

Crap! I need to be organized! Throw them in the tub on top of the laundry and pull the shower curtain. I’ll get to it on the weekend.

Circles can also create chaos.

Of course, with a zillion people all adding me at once, my Circles look like my kitchen drawer…everything is thrown in one place because I am too lazy to go through all that and organize. So if you don’t want to see Cows with Guns then just drag me into the People I Want to Ignore Circle and I will talk about you in therapy.

Oh sure, I am certain there is some G+ video to teach me proper Circle Dragging Form that doesn’t make my computer cough up a hairball, but I have deadlines to meet, blogs to write, and there is this great clip about ADHD HDTV.

Normal people who work regular jobs don’t have a bazillion people in their network, so Circle Organizing is easy. I don’t mean to complain because I am thrilled you guys have come looking for me, but you are all in ONE CIRCLE—Kristen’s Peeps (I.e. Miscellaneous). Yeah, I’m creative.

And, like my closet and garage, I will get organized…one day. Don’t hold your breath, though :D.

We Never Know Who Is Paying Attention

Just like other writers want to see some of our personal life, people in our personal life actually DO pay attention to our writing stuff. Never underestimate who is watching. One of my most enthusiastic fans works in the office of my son’s pediatrician, and she is NOT, btw, an aspiring writer. She’s bought books for all her family members who want to write and she talks about me to anyone who will listen. I am the only writer she knows, and she is thrilled to help me any way she can (Thanks, RaNae).

Oh, but what if I had just assumed she didn’t want to hear about my writing stuff?

Thing is, most people want to write a book or they are at least in awe of those who can. Years ago, before I was a published author, I used to blog on MySpace. A woman I had never met recognized my name at Dillard’s and told me she was a HUGE fan of my blog. She sold Mac cosmetics. She also later bought WANA , because I was the only writer she’d ever met.

See, when we post about writing, it helps non-writers (which is code for potential readers) start to think of us as committed, professional authors and exposes them to our…writing. That is the first step to creating an author brand. It’s also a great step toward our friends and family taking us seriously.

When we post on more personal things, we connect to those in our profession as people. We stand out in the commotion of Smashwords, deadlines, character sheets and Amazon.

Writers are Public Personalities

Oh, but what about the really personal stuff?

My advice? Don’t put it on the Internet. Period. Circles won’t protect us. As Digital Age Authors, we must live transparent lives. If we wouldn’t want our mother to see it, we shouldn’t post it. It is too easy for something to get out of control. I know G+ pops up a nice reminder, but it also tattles on the person who originally posted. So, we are depending on others to have discretion.

That is really risky.

We shouldn’t be ranting about religion or politics anyway, unless religion or politics is our platform. If we happen to be Glen Beck or Bill Maher, we can foam all we like. It helps book sales. That uber-personal stuff that could turn others off? Like whining about another rejection letter? Just don’t post it. Call a real friend. They can bring brownies.

Most people aren’t going to mind a degree of us being personal. It separates us from the bots. So long as we aren’t sharing details best left in conversations at a nursing home, it’s all good. We know you are human, and we kinda dig that.

Final Thoughts

So at the end of the day, I think G+ is nice. I just don’t see any tremendous advantages that make it worth writers pulling up stakes and moving. MySpace? Yeah, people needed to flee. MySpace turned like a crazy ex, and we needed to run away. MySpace was broken. Writers needed to change addresses so people could see our content without crashing their computers (Yes, feel free to igrore all 8 pages about MySpace in WANA–MySpace committed digital suicide 2 weeks after the book was released).

But Facebook? Twitter? I can’t really see anything they are doing so wrong that warrants a mass migration.

I think G+ is fantastic for normal people who need to segment their lives. Writers are not normal. Yeah, shocking. We need to build a massive platform to drive book sales. So our platform has to fit that end goal. Segmenting is seriously counterproductive. If you love, G+, ROCK ON! Social media has different strokes for different folks. Just be careful you aren’t alienating others by going circle crazy.

G+ has yet to deliver anything SO earth-shattering that I would advise moving…yet. I am still working with it, so maybe my mind will change about G+. My mind, however, will not change about grouping people. I think as writers trying to build a platform, we need all the connections we can get. Give people a chance. Most of the time, they will impress you.

So what are your thoughts? Have you found some feature of G+ that totally warrants mass migration and I missed it? Do you think writers should keep their writing private (along with their experiences of a fiber-rich diet)? What is getting too personal? Do you like meeting other writers as people? Or do you think it should be business only?

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

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

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

Mash Up of Awesomeness

Roni Loren’s Getting the Most Bang for Your Blog

Suzan Isik’s On Not Being a Douchebag Writer on Social Media

Terrell Mims Letting Go to Climb Higher

Angela Wallace Propane Torches and “I Told You So

Anne R. Allen What Will Publishing Look Like in 2021?

Ali Dent’s Gifted vs. Hard Work

Naomi Bulger’s What’s Wednedsday Without…Time Travel?

Angela Orlowski’s Celebrate Your Milestones

Elena Aitken’s Do You Dance Like No One’s Watching?

New to WordPress? Check out the Awesome Bling Bitch Herself, Amy Shojai’s wonderful mash-up of the best WordPress How To blogs

Do You Still Want Your MTV? by Barbara McDowell

Do You Have a Pen Fetish? by Lesann Berry

List Making and the Creative Process by WD Editor Jane Friedman

Awesome post by Gene Lempp Superstition, Legend and Mystery

Piper Bayard’s HYSTERICAL Help! I’m Torn Between Two Men

Jenny Hansen’s Do Writers Need Presentation Skills?

OMG! There is SO MUCH GOOD STUFF out there, especially now that I have pried many writers from writing about writing all the time. LOVE IT!!! If I missed some greatness, feel free to post it in the comments.

Actual photo of Kristen Lamb on the inside.

When I first saw Google + pop up on the social media radar, I tried to ignore it. But, as an expert people tend to believe we know what we’re doing. I have tried to convince you guys that I make this up as I go, but alas I some of you sent me messages like this:

So, what do you think of Google +?

Um is… Crap. Is it too early to drink? a viable answer?

I was just kind of hoping they would stop inventing stuff for a week or two so I could get caught up. Can we ever keep up with it all? Social media is not immune to evolution. Some things work, others don’t. People behind the technology are always asking if there is a way to streamline. Can we make this better? More user-friendly? Can we make it easier for people to interact? To connect? To filter out all the white noise? I can’t blame them. It keeps the programmers off the streets, even if it gives us stress hives.

It seems that Google is taking on this challenge with launching Google +. So, as your Social Media Jedi Master, I am taking this bullet for the team. Thanks to one of my blog followers I scored an invitation to be part of the beta testing for the one social network to rule them all…Google +. So I will be pressing buttons and shouting expletives at my computer so you don’t have to.

It is too early to give a good opinion. I don’t quite understand how THIS will be different, wonderful and fantastical. Maybe it will be, but time will tell.

You guys might find this shocking, but I hate anything new. I am really an 58 year old Jewish woman from Long Island, New York at heart, and all this technology makes me seriously verklempt. The fact that I have written two best-selling technology books is proof God has a sense of humor.

I get set in my ways and, like a lot of people, I don’t care for change. And sometimes, especially when it comes to technology, I want to yell ENOUGH, ALREADY!  I feel like I am caught in a digital riptide and drowning in digital daiquiri mix. I have the schmeltz.

The Downside of New and Improved

It is wonderful that the social networking sites want to always be offering something new and shiny, but sometimes? I wish they would leave things alone. For instance, I LOVE Twitter and TweetDeck, yet it seems that every other day there is a new version that I need to install. Really? I just figured out the buttons on last week’s version, and now I need to install a NEWER version? A faster version? A version that allows me to tweet straight from my brain without having to type?

Facebook is no better. Oh we know you just finally figured out version 37, but version 38 WILL BLOW YOUR MIND!

I think that this was a big reason MySpace collapsed. Yes, I mention MySpace in WANA. Feel free to ignore all 5 of those pages.  Yet, MySpace is a lesson in how “new and improved” can go tragically wrong.

MySpace was a force to be reckoned with a few years ago, but MySpace wasn’t happy with prosperity. They had to new and improve and add more and more gizmos, ads, games, apps, gadgets and flashy thingies. Eventually, people had so much crap on their profile that the page loaded slower than Eeyore on Quaaludes. No one could open a profile without risking a computer crash….which defeated why MySpace was so popular. Originally, it was a simple way to connect, hang out and make friends. MySpace “new and improved” so much that you risked a seizure every time you tried to visit a profile.

MySpace also lost sight of what it did well and kept trying to copy Facebook. The irony of this approach was that people who liked MySpace generally didn’t like Facebook. So here MySpace was copying the very place many of us were trying to avoid. In the end, all this copying of Facebook was the source of the hemorrhage of people to Facebook. If MySpace was going to be Facebook, then um, why not just go hang out on Facebook?

A couple of months ago, Facebook decided to force everyone to change the layout of their profile.Oh, they made it seem like it was optional at first (kind of like the Nazi party). Every day when I logged in, Facebook would have a pop up message touting the “new look” and ask if I was ready to change. Every day I said no. I’d finally figured out where everything was.

Then, one day I logged in and … everything was moved. I know they are trying to be nice, but that’s kind of like surprising Helen Keller with an extreme home makeover while she’s away on vacation. The intention is noble, but the result is not pretty when Helen falls into a wine cellar she didn’t have when she left to visit relatives in Florida.

Not all of us work for Facebook. We have other things to do with our time than try to figure out yet another page layout. Leave it alone. Really.

Cell phones….yeah. Don’t get me started.

Are People Wanting to Move Again?

I know that Google + is promising new and wonderful things, but it kind of reminds me of when I was young and used to move every three months. Sure moving to a new place was fun and exciting when everything I owned could be packed in less than two hours…but now? When my crap would fill two moving vans? I am just not that motivated.

I think that maybe some of the younger generations that are new to social media will probably embrace Google + far quicker.  To put it bluntly, they have less crap to move.

Many people have been building Facebook pages for years. I have 4000 followers on Twitter. Do I really want to start anew? One of the reasons I kept hoping MySpace would pull its digital head out of its digital butt was because I had a lot of hours invested in that network. I didn’t want to start all….over….again.

I am hoping Google + has learned from these issues and can make transitioning easy.

Change Can Be Good

Okay so I have whined now for a few hundred words and you see what I mean about really being an 58 year old Jewish woman from Long Island, New York. I don’t like change. Again, this is why I am proof that God digs irony. Yet, in ways I think that this is an attribute that has made me better at teaching social media to writers.

Many social media people LOVE gadgets and gizmos and the newest way of doing anything shiny. They are lovely people, but a lot of them have the attention span of a ferret with a cocaine habit. Many of them just don’t get that we still have to write books, too.

Yes, we need change. Change can be great. I hated cell phones and e-mail when they first came out, and now I am tethered permanently to both. But, change for the sake of change is a waste of time and energy. I think it is wise for us to pan back and take a minute to think. See if we really need to change, why we need to change and when we need to change.

Google + is promising to make social media a better experience. I am thinking it might be a meta-program (I think that’s a word. If not, now it is). A meta-program to act as a hub to for all other social media sites. But, I had to give a DNA sample and 32 background references to create a profile so I haven’t started digging under the hood yet.

So, I am tying off to a safety line. I have my backpack full of Red Bull and Dr. Phil books. I’ll go whack it with a hammer and see if it screams then report back. Just because there is a hot new social networking fad is no reason to tear down the tents and set off for parts unknown. But, we also want to make sure we aren’t clinging to a sinking ship.

*cough* MySpace.

Google + might be the new evolution of social media. But it could be a giant brain cramp that we can avoid. I will keep you posted. So what do you guys think? Any of you using Google +? If you are, can you come find me? I’m the series of 0s and 1s wandering around crying. I have a balloon on my arm and am wearing an orange jumper. Are you guys tired of the “new and improved”? What’s your opinion? Are you excited? Do you need a Tums? Are you also an 58 year old Jewish woman from Long Island on the inside? Are you verklempt? We can compare bunions.

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

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

Last Week’s Winner of 5 page critique is Thomas Ross. Please send 1250 word Word document to kristen at kristen lamb dot org.


Mash-Up of Awesomeness

FUNNY Post by Lani Wendt Young Don’t You Dare Breathe on That Baby

The Rules of Social Media Optimization 

Self-Publish–Is It a Dirty Word?

Social Media–Protection from Facial Recognition Software

Failing Doesn’t Make You a Failure by Jen Rothman

60 Tips to Improve Your NF Writing (this is excellent for blogging, too)

Literary Agents: An Endangered Species? by the brilliant and talented Anne R. Allen

Can getting published make you happy? by Michelle Davidson Argyle

Will self-publishing hurt your chances of being traditionally published? by Agent Rachelle Gardner

What’s the difference between plot and story?

Why Understanding Conflict Will Make You a Better Writer by Bubblecow

In the meantime, I 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 recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

2011 is the year of the Rabbit. That rabbit is DYNAMITE! Okay, so I had to find a way to make a rabbit seem badass, and that gave me an opportunity to use a gratuitous Monty Python reference. Making a rabbit seem hard core is not all that easy, you know. I want you guys fired up for 2011. 2010 was the Year of the Tiger. Easy. Then I looked up 2011. Year of the Rabbit? Great.

We dare not risk another frontal assault… ha ha ha ha ha. I’ll stop :D. For those of you who have no clue what I am talking about, here is a clip. You aren’t a true writer until you quote Monty Python way more than is socially acceptable. All right, back to business…

Welcome to WANA Wednesday, based off my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. This is the day I dedicate to making your social media experience more enjoyable and productive. Today we are going to discuss search engine optimization (SEO). I want you guys tearing up the search engines Killer Bunny-style. Don’t panic. I am all about making this fun. And yes, technically I am making this Blogging Part III. Why? Because if you don’t understand how search engines work, no one will FIND you–okay the site that sells Zanex and cheap Prada purses will find you. But we want readers to be able top locate all this lovely content that you guys are going to be posting this coming year.

Most of you following this series understand that you need to be blogging. That’s great! But one of the big problems I notice among writers is there is a chronic failure to understand how search engines work and how to use them in our favor. What good is posting content if no one can find it, right?

What I am going to teach you today is going to help you rise even more above the masses of competition all clamoring for the public’s attention and money. Unless you happen to already be a household name, your social media platform is more critical now than ever.

As a debut fiction author you will be competing against counterparts who have a solid social media presence and a blog following. Are you prepared? If not, the odds are not in your favor. According to the BEA, 93% of novels sell less than 1000 copies. A solid social media platform can make all the difference.  In earlier blogs, we have discussed using our name as a brand. Anything else will cripple a platform and leave an author stressed out and spread too thinly. Our goal is to get our names to do the heavy lifting (sales) so we have time to write.

So why is a name so important?

Today we are going to have a quick lesson on how search engines work, because there is no point in blogging regularly if you don’t gain a large, committed following. By the end of this lesson, I am sure it will be much clearer why your name is so critical. 

Think of search engines like a codependent personal genie bent on making you happy. Meet Google the Codependent Genie. Anything you desire is his will to supply. Google, your personal genie, will rush out and find whatever you require because he wants you to be happy and not have to wait.

The Internet is like one giant master closet full of everyone’s “stuff.” Now some people are like my grandmother and everything is neatly labeled, categorized and organized. Our personal genie can rush into the closet, look at the side of the “box” and know exactly what is inside. Yet, other folks on the Internet are more like my mother (okay, me) and they have all kinds of boxes that would have been labeled “Miscellaneous” if only we could have found the box with the Sharpie markers. So either there is no label or there is one giant vague label “My Crap” or “Writing.”

So let’s slip into the shoes of our poor little codependent genie, Google.

Oh, my little Google, you are powerful indeed. Here’s my wish…

(You type) How do I write a prologue for a novel?

What your codependent search-engine genie SEES is…

How do I write a prologue for a novel?

So our little genie knows you get impatient and begin smacking buttons on your keyboard if you have to wait more than three seconds. He also knows he has less than a second and a half before his mistress gets testy. And he also also knows that if he takes too long or doesn’t return with quality stuff, that his beloved mistress might decide to use another codependent genie (Bing, Ask, Yahoo) and leave him alone in cyberspace with no one to serve. If enough mistresses do this, he knows eventually he will fade away and die and be banished to the realm of AOL.

Our genie, Google, is very motivated.

So as Google the Codependent Genie whizzes into this giant storage closet known as the Internet, he knows that his fastest approach and the one more likely to return quality goods is that he needs to look at the sides of the boxes (think Internet files). He glances at the labels and brings back the files that have been precisely labeled first.

These “labels” are known as tags. Tags are metadata, which means, “data about data.”

When you add tags to your blogs, you make it easy for other people’s codependent genies to go to your stuff first. The genie will look to the labels first. Only after he has located the “boxes” with labels will he then take the effort to look inside the box for what his mistress has requested.

How do I write a prologue for a novel?

Our genie will look for articles and blogs with those three words—write, prologue, novel—in the tags first, and only after that will our little friend sift through the body of the material for those words.

Tagged items will always be at the top of a search and on the first page. This will be important for later when we continue our lessons about blogging. Who among you go to the second page of a search unless you just absolutely have to? Tagging makes the difference between being first on the page versus being relegated to Internet Limbo on page 4.

Tags are also critical to defining you as an author (your brand), much like the boxes in our closets define us as people. If you went into my closet and noticed stacks of boxes labeled, guns, Guns and Ammo Magazines, ammunition, survival manuals, camouflage, snares, rain gear, this would form an impression.

Similarly if you went in my closet and found crochet, quilting, cross stich patterns, thread, fabric, sewing, batting, needles sewing machine parts, you would also form an impression.

So what if you went in my closet and saw guns, romance novels, dragons, crochet, architecture, self-help, babies, cooking, Dr. Seuss, Martha Stewart, political science, 6-Pack Abs in Three Weeks, Judo, How to Train Your Dog? What impression would you form? Would it be positive?

Or would it be more like seeing a recipe that called for beef tips, chocolate, Marsala cooking wine, marshmallows, yams, jalapenos, corn, and jelly beans? Not too appealing, right?

Our blogs and our tags serve to define our brand. The content and tags associated with our name are important. What potential consumers, an agent and an editor see associated with our name is vital in how they mentally define us. Are they going to define us as Quiche Lorraine or Dear God! Who Let the Kids Cook?

As an example, here’s my list of tags:

Kristen Lamb—Kristen Lamb, writer, author, speaker, teacher, social media, publishing, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blog, blogs, blogging, We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media, branding, marketing.

Notice all the tags were simple. These tags were all nouns that, if typed into a search bar, would serve to help someone else’s little codependent genie find me FIRST. Generally with writers I see one of two errors. Either they don’t use tags (or don’t use enough tags) OR they use tags that are so obscure they are ridiculous.

And yes, notice I put my name in the tags. Why? Because I want to become a brand name. I want that when people think/say, “social media for writers,” Kristen Lamb comes up first.

Like, say “Tiger Woods” and…okay, bad example.

Say, “Warren Buffet” and you think billionaire. Conversely, say, “billionaire” and one of the first names that comes to mind is Warren Buffet. I want my name to do the same. Say, “Kristen Lamb” and people think social media for writers….and vice versa.

Also, what if someone meets me and all they remember is Kristen and a couple random details? But they liked me and wanted to buy my book? I could happen! 😛

If they google… Kristen, writer, social media then who will pop up? See, this stuff is pretty awesome 😉

Here’s an exercise. Free write a list of all the words that you would like associated with your brand name. If someone forgot your name, but was describing your work to a clerk at Barnes & Noble, what words would she use? Write as many as you can think of and highlight your favorites.

You may also want to give a copy of this list to those close to you. Have them highlight their favorites or add any you failed to list. We don’t see ourselves the same way others do and that will help you get perspective and eliminate emotional distancing. Some of us it took years to say, “I am a writer” aloud unless we had wine first. So how do others view you? It’s important.

Also, go back through your blogs if you are already blogging. Do your tags make sense? Are they too vague? Too general? Too obscure? Are your blogs even tagged at all? If, not, then tag them so people can find your content.

We will continue next week with Blogging IV, and tips to help you guys rock the Year of the Rabbit, Killer Bunny Style :D. Taking no prisoners.

Happy writing!

Until next time…

Give yourself the gift of success for the coming year. My best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books!

This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness

Jane Friedman (Editor for Writers Digest Magazine) posted her 10 Best Tweets of 2010

Two New Bloggers that Have Captured MY Interest (I am a raging geek, so I totally dig these)

Manon Eileen is blogging on psychology and philosophy and their influence in storytelling. Simulated Reality in Schitzophrenia & Brain in a Vat 

Another new blogger Peter St. Clair has some awesome posts this past week. Read about Jim Jones and Dexter–Crafting an Anti-Hero all on the same site! Yes, my leg is thumping.

Shennandoa Diaz has an excellent blog. Key Elements of Strong Fiction.

Make sure you stop by for Author Chuck Wendig’s Edit Your Shit Part III–The Contextual Edit

Author Jody Hedlund has a fantastic blog about Finding Your Blogging Voice

Need a great laugh? Holiday Survival with Bayard & Holmes & Tawna Fenske’s Peeing in Front of Spouses, Agents & Readers