Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: Kristen lamb Branding Expert

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Ken.
Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Ken.

Very often when I write about brand and platform, writers assume I am talking about promotion and marketing (ads) and that is not only a false assumption, it can be a fatal one. When we hop onto Twitter or Facebook and are barraged with book spam, a big reason it annoys us (though not the only) is because the author is engaging in these activities with no solid brand or platform.

It then either becomes white noise (invisible) or worse an irritation (negative branding). Writers trying to create a brand by serving up copious book promotion will have a brand all right. The brand of self-serving asshat.

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

Why? What went wrong?

We have to look at what a brand actually IS.

What’s in a Name?

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Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Pierre Lognoul

The formula for a brand is simple:

NAME + PRODUCT + EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE

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

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

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

Nowadays? Different story. Once we found out the top execs have been giving themselves HUGE pay raises while hiking the cost of the only drug of this kind from $100 in 2007 to over $600 today?

Consumers are now seeing RED.

Seriously all it will take is one competitor to offer something comparable and it might just be enough to bury Mylan because greed is now part of their brand. That will be a tough stain to remove.

Even though they had an amazing product, they took advantage of having a monopoly and fattened their paychecks. I don’t know if there is a PR firm who can ever undo that damage. I’m fairly sure they’re going to be relegated to the Food Lion Dimension of Shame.

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

It isn’t just about a good book anymore.

Why Are Brands So Important?

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

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

We are willing to order ahead of time and pay full price and even ridiculous prices for Coach, Ralph Lauren, Prada, Versace, Harley Davidson, Porsche, BMW, Mac Computers, John Deer, etc. So on and so forth.

Starbucks is hardly the best coffee, yet they’ve become almost synonymous with “coffee.” They also have branded a “coffee experience.”

But all of these companies (brands) did the same thing. They began with a name. Of course the name means nothing without a product. The name Harley Davidson would be just a name unless it came with motorcycles. But a name and a product alone are not enough.

Harley Davidson then had to go about crafting a unique emotional experience that was unlike its competition.

All of these brands we love have something in common, though. They built the brand and the platform first. Then any advertising or promotion is already advertising an existing brand. When we get a flyer that Levis are on sale, we know what Levis are. How do we know what they are? Levis is a brand.

All of these companies also have a platform.

What is a Platform?

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Alex Santosa.
Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Alex Santosa.

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

Trust me, Harley Davison is not worried about consumers who love Vespas. Sure, they are both motorized bikes, but they are selling vastly demographics and experiences.

Authors are doing the same.

We know who Stephen King is because of his brand. Because of his brand (tons of books) we know if we are part of his platform or we aren’t. If we are the type of reader who loves a sweet romance? King isn’t trying to court us. Why? We might know his brand, but we are not part of his platform.

In the old days, there was only one way to create a brand (and consequently a platform) and that was the books. Lots and lots of books (brand) cultivated a body of people who liked our writing/voice (platform). Today that is still a great plan. With so much junk floating around, when readers find a writer they enjoy, they stick like glue.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Craig Sunter
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Craig Sunter

This is one of the main reasons that we need to keep writing. Stop promoting ONE book. ONE book is not enough to create a strong brand/platform.

Remember:

A brand is a collection of emotional experiences.

A platform is simply those who will enjoy that experience.

Modern writers hold the advantage here.

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

Readers rarely had contact with an author beyond the books. Book signings, maybe magazine or radio interviews gave only slight glimpses of the author beyond the book. Today, with social media? That is no longer the case. Every blog, tweet, post, video and interaction serve to create the overall brand.

This is how bloggers like Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess) were able to become runaway successes. Lawson already had a huge fan base from her blogs and her Twitter following before the first book was ever released.

Since we are writers our product is our words. This is how blogging can become such a vital part of our brand. But beyond that, it is also going out on social media (platform of your choice) and connecting. Create a positive emotion that goes hand in hand with our name. 

Hint: Spamming the crap out of people does NOT create a positive experience.

Write More Books

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Thus, whenever I mention building a brand/platform I’m in no way talking about promoting or advertising. Those are separate activities that come later and their success will rest largely on how well we’ve done our job with the brand/platform.

Once we realize this, we can breathe easier and know it is OKAY to keep writing books even if we have no mega-super-duper promotion/marketing/advertising campaign for that first book. It is okay to blog or even just hang out on social media connecting. That is a VITAL part of our job and if we skip it, then any marketing later will fall on deaf ears. In fact premature promotion can actually harm or even KILL a brand.

So relax 😀 .

What are your thoughts? Do you feel a little better that you don’t need to rush out with an ad campaign? Did this clear up the differences in brand and platform versus promotion?

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

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

 

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Ah, I love this picture, namely because getting kicked in the face apparently is the only way I can get Angelina Jolie lips for FREE 😀 . Seriously, I found out yesterday that I am on the list to get my blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Most people who start Jiu Jitsu never get that far. They quit because, unlike other forms of martial arts, in Jiu Jitsu, you stay a white belt for a year and a half and most people can’t endure that long without the outside validation of “changing colors.”

For me? A broken nose, busted lip, three broken toes and a case of Shingles later?

HA! I AM STILL HERE!

Am I any good? Eh, who knows. See, a lot of being successful at anything really goes back to what we talked about not too long ago in the “real” odds of success. That pit bull tenacity of never giving up. Just keeping on and keeping on and keeping on while the competition falls away. That’s a game changer.

But this dovetails into what I’d like to talk about today…

On Monday I talked about what it means to be a rainmaker. Rainmakers are those folks who get things done no matter what. I love that my blog can inspire you because frankly our souls need refreshing. Yet, I will say that passion is not going to cut it. This job is really really hard. It requires digging deep and doing a lot of un-fun stuff.

That is the difference in the real writers and the wannabes. The wannabes all love playing with their imaginary friends and doing the fun stuff. Fiction is WAY more exciting than making sure all my social media is tended and gutting through revisions and answering a gajillion e-mails.

But, this is a profession, not a playpen.

The difference in mediocre and magnificent is always in the details. In doing the work others don’t want to do.

In a world of equally good books, readers will default to the writer they know and recognize over the awesome writer (books) they’ve never heard of. It is up to us (the rainmakers) to make it rain.

We do the extra that makes the difference. All rainmakers do.

In the 2011-2012 professional basketball season there was a major NBA lockout. No one knew when the season would start. When it did, there were a lot of games crammed into a far shorter span of time and, strangely, a lot of injuries. Why? Because many of the players didn’t continue training. Since they didn’t know when the season would start, they relaxed. Thus, when they finally did return to the game, they were soft, ungainly and out of shape.

The handful who didn’t take time off, who kept pressing and training day after day after day went on to have record-breaking seasons. Why? Because they did the extra. They did what others were unwilling to do.

To them?

Every day was game day.

 

For us, every day is game day.

I haven’t taught social media for a long time, but I have put together some new classes over at W.A.N.A. International that will be held in January to get you started off the right way. I’ve put this together to make it easy for you to get started in your New Year and maybe *hint hint* at loved ones for your gift 😉 .

Enjoy the holidays, but I hope you will treat yourself to the right start in 2016. Thing is, social media can drive book sales and it can be a huge game changer…if done correctly.

But, for those not yet convinced…

Social Media is a TOTAL Waste of Time (or not)

Write more books instead of tweeting or blogging. Social media is a giant time-suck better spent writing great books.

I don’t know how to answer this besides, Er? *screeching breaks* Personally, I can think of no larger waste of time than researching and reading and spending countless hours crafting a wonderful book of 60,000-110,000 words and then?

No one knows the book exists so few people ever read it, enjoy it or are changed by the author’s story.

It’s like spending six months to a year on an oil painting to hang it in an attic.

These days, any agent worth her salt will not sign an author who doesn’t have a social media brand and presence. Rarely, they will take a book from an author who doesn’t…but usually it will come with the requirement the author get on-line and get to work.

I ADORE Dawn Frederick at Red Sofa Literary and once shared a panel with her. She told the story of a book she LOVED and took even though the author wasn’t on social media. She was so impressed with the book she signed the author but told her she needed to get on social media and start building a platform.

After six months, the author refused. Dawn gave an ultimatum. Get your tail on social media or we drop the book and cancel the contract.

This is not the agent being mean.

Agents make money when we sell books and agents get that in a world where there are fewer and fewer book retailers, this means more and more shopping is being done on-line. On-line, if we don’t have a brand, we might as well not even exist (and it isn’t much better in the store, either).

Yes social media does matter because on-line is still growing…

No, E-Books are Not In Decline

There was a New York Times article that essentially claimed that the e-book tide was slipping and print was returning but this is not entirely accurate. According to a follow up article in Fortune it has to do with how one looks at the numbers. Yes, for traditional publisher there was a contraction in e-books because this is a pretty clear case of chickens coming home to roost.

Traditional publishers have continually demanded e-book prices remain high and most of us are just not going to pay the same price for the e-book as the paper, so YES of course paper will increase and e-book will decline.

Um…duh.

I know I’ve seen this in my own buying habits. Most of the time I just say, “Screw it, I don’t need the book that badly” and they lose the sale unless I really like the author.

But, if I really, really want the book I will get paper instead. There is something deeply and profoundly cheap about me.

No I am NOT right in the head.
No I am NOT right in the head.

This assertion about the e-book market did not take into account many very smart indies and self-published authors who are doing very…very well and who were smart enough NOT to charge $15 for a freaking e-book. Also the article and its assertions were deduced from AAP data and that’s enough about that.

Long story short. The sky is NOT falling. People still like e-books. Sally forth.

Great time to be a writer. Yes. A challenging one as well.

Myth-Busting About Marketing

So many writers believe they aren’t selling a lot of books because a publisher isn’t spending a whole lot of dough on marketing and ads.

Yeah, no.

Ads actually have a terrible ROI and marketing doesn’t work all that great…unless paired with an existing social media platform. Social media is all about connection.

Though I’m not a huge fan of ads, it makes sense that if a publisher (traditional or indie) is going to pay good money to create and launch one, that anyone interested should be able to easily connect with the author. Same with coveted AP reviews, interviews, or events. Even if we self-publish and pay for promotion, an existing platform will make the most of that investment.

A LOT of any sales is the follow up then the follow-through.

Even if a traditional publisher pays for marketing and advertising, they know the return on investment is far greater if the author has an existing social platform. The stronger the platform the better the ROI.

If social media is new, scary, overwhelming? Welcome to being NEW.

Social Media is for the READER

One of the things that can make social media super terrifying is writers think I am here to change your personality and nothing could be farther from the truth. Here’s a little secret.

Most people do not mind being sold to. Seriously.

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I don’t mind it. I like knowing about a new product or service. I like seeing a new gadget that will make my life easier. What I DON’T like is when advertisers abuse the privilege. When they don’t value my time or they manipulate me.

You probably are the same way.

I don’t think any of us minded retailers sending us an e-mail with coupons, but then they got greedy. They started abusing the privilege and crapping up our in-boxes and ALL of them did it and now most of us have an e-mail that we have allowed to go feral for retailers who insist on getting an e-mail address.

Fine, but I haven’t checked that in-box since Bush was in office.

When we are creating a social media platform we are helping the reader. We all know what it is like to want to get something to read and we end up just closing the screen because we can’t decide. There are just too many options.

I’ve had the same thing happen at a bookstore. Instead of ending up with a book, I check out with three cutesy bookmarks, two bars of chocolate and…a figurine of a cat reading Shakespeare?

Huh?

Either I end up buying junk or…what?

I default to brand names. Writers I just know.

Oh, forget it. I’ll just grab another George R.R. Martin.

Readers love connecting with authors. They love talking with them and getting to know them. That is social. They DO NOT like popups and spam and a constant barrage of ads and free stuff and being force-added to groups and mailing lists .

I’m just here to play matchmaker and help you find each other because too many writers are all talking to each other and doing everything but connecting in ways that are EVER going to potentially reach readers.

Writers can fall into three camps with social media.

The Mega Marketer

Self-explanatory. This author is on every social site, loves automation and will claim she never spams because she personally and carefully “crafts” all of her automated tweets.

Hint: That’s just eloquent spam.

This author knows all the algorithm tricks, and has a newsletter or two and force-adds total strangers to her fan group on Facebook.

I give props for working really hard, but often this writer’s tactics will make people want to set her on fire more than buy her books.

The Writers of Witness Protection

This writer often goes by a cutesy moniker @FairyGurl @ThrillerGuy. There are no existing pictures of this writer anywhere on social media. No website and if there IS a website it is NOT the author’s name. It is likely something like www.magicdragondreams.com or www.writerswillwrite.com.

If you need to contact this author, please light the beacons of Gondor.

Then there is where many writers fall into. Even I get here sometimes because I get so busy helping others that my own stuff needs work.

The Mission Drift Writer

Recently I worked with a team of writers who just made the New York Times Best-Selling list and great book. Problem was there are two authors, plus they have a business consulting firm plus the name of the book, plus their training and they were just trying to brand way too many things and so they were losing focus and power. I could see they were going to wear out and lose momentum.

We all have to step in and reevaluate. It’s why I am currently redoing MY web site.

It happens. Unfortunately social media is like our sock drawer. It will need tending…forever.

So to help with all of this I have put together three classes in January. And yeah, yeah I am selling stuff but I rarely do it and it is Christmastime and at least you can give this list to friends and family and spouses for something you NEED 😛 . Trust me, these classes are going to save you a ton of time and headache later.

Social Media for Writers This class is a 101. What do you need to understand about social media? What do all the sites do? Which ones do you need? What can you ignore? It’s also going to come with a really cool worksheet to help you customize your social media for your goals, your personality and your audience. Trust me, if you write YA, then Facebook may not be a great use of time. If you write high fantasy? Why are you on LinkedIn? Are you more visually oriented? What are your strengths? Weaknesses?

We are going to be smart about our social media because you need time to write more BOOKS. Recording of the class is included with the purchase.

January 9th 3:00 P.M. EST-5:00 P.M. EST $55

The Basics of Author Blogging Again, this is a 101 class. What is a blog? How is being an author-blogger different from being a blogger? Can you monetize your blog? How can you monetize your blog? What are the advantages of having a blog? How can you blog smarter? Because frankly a blog will do us no good unless we KEEP blogging. Recording of the class is included with purchase.

January 16th 3:00 P.M. EST-5:00 P.M. EST $55

Branding for Authors Another 101 class. What is an author brand? How can you create an author brand? How can you make it where your name alone has the power to sell books? This class also comes with a worksheet to help you customize your brand and the recording is included with purchase.

January 23rd 3:00 P.M. EST-5:00 P.M. EST $55

What are your thoughts? Are you excited about 2016? Are you ready to make a plan? Do you feel pulled too many different directions? Do you like ads and wish they would just stop ABUSING THEM? Like really! TELL me about A LIPSTICK…not ALL OF THEM! Do we have to light the fires of Gondor to contact you? Are you happy to know that e-books are NOT dying and actually doing WELL? 😀 Do you have a feral e-mail? I think mine is at 45,000 unread e-mails. I wonder how many I get before Yahoo crashes.

Hey, it is an awesome time to be a writer.

Also, any other suggestions y’all might have for a class you want me to teach, please put it in the comments. I am working on those now.

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 novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

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