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Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

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Posts Tagged: Kristen Lamb

self-editing, Kristen Lamb, revision, editing, content editing, how to edit a novel, self-publishing, how to revise a novel

Editing has always been a critical factor regarding any book’s success. This has NOT changed. If anything, proper editing is a complete game-changer now more than ever in the history of publishing.

Why?

Because too many writers fail to appreciate just how vital proper editing is. They skimp on the editing for the sassy cover and the cool promotion material.

Problem is, no one can get through Chapter One without risking a brain bleed.

Who cares how amazing the story is if we (the reader) keep getting jerked out of the fictive dream?

More importantly, in a world drowning in bad books, those rare jewels—books well-written and properly edited—shine like polished jewels scattered on chunks of asphalt.

Readers glom onto authors they know they can TRUST for great stories, professionals who went the extra mile to make their product the best it could be.

Alas, there is a common fallacy among many emerging writers. They believe (very mistakenly) that authors only write the books. Then, once finished, agents will fall in LOVE and someone else will do ALL the editing.

*clutches sides laughing.*

Yeah…no. And woodland creatures don’t help with housework. Sorry to break the news. Bummed me out, too.

The hard truth is the onus is on us (writers) to make certain our manuscript is properly edited before sending a query. Remember, agents are actively searching for reasons to STOP reading. Self-editing skills can mean the difference between a sweet deal or a spot in the slush pile.

Even if the story is amazing, agents know editing is time-consuming and costly. This means they’re more likely to wait for another ‘amazing story’ that doesn’t cost as much as a Caribbean cruise to get bookstore ready. They’ll be far more likely to sign an author who possesses solid self-editing skills.

But what was that old saying?

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Applies to agents and to readers.

Self-publishing is a whole new level and new devil. If we’re doing our job, the self-published novel should be at least as good as anything legacy published. This means we bear the burden (and cost) of making sure our manuscript is the best it can be.

Superior editing makes the difference between releasing a novel versus unleashing one. Many emerging writers—once the novel is ‘finished’—make some major errors when it comes to ‘editing.’

Here are a few biggies:

  • The writer actually believes the novel is finished and hits PUBLISH (Ahhhhhhh! NO!);
  • Emerging authors fail to understand proofreading is NOT synonymous with editing. Proofreading is merely one type of editing;
  • New authors don’t research how much good developmental editors/substantive line-editors charge for services.

self-editing, Kristen Lamb, revision, editing, content editing, how to edit a novel, self-publishing, how to revise a novel

The above guidelines are from the Editorial Freelancers Association.

Since all novels require editing, the more we know how to do ourselves, the lower our costs will be. Trust me. Y’all do not want to pay a developmental editor to turn a 90,000 word mess into something readable (forget publishable).

Feel free to do this, but be ready to cough up a few thousand dollars and part of a kidney.

A more cost-effective option is to understand plot and the mechanics of story so we can repair the flaws ourselves. Sure, a good developmental editor will spot the massive plot holes and guide us how to repair them, but (again) it’s gonna cost us.

A lot.

Additionally, we can pay someone to insert all our proper punctuation and correct poor grammar, OR we can learn how to do this stuff ourselves. Then we’re only paying for a proofreader to catch what we missed or goofed.

Trust me, no matter how good the writer, we ALL miss/goof stuff.

Self-Editing and ‘Cost vs. Value’

As I already mentioned, good editors are NOT cheap. There are also many editors who charge by the hour. If they’re spending their time fixing oopses we could’ve easily repaired ourselves?

We’re burning cash and time.

Self-editing can be a real life (and cash) saver.

Yet, correct the problems we’ll be discussing today, and editors can more easily get to the MEAT of our novel. This means you will spend less money and get far higher value.

Over my career I have literally edited thousands of works, most of them written by emerging writers. My particular specialty is content and developmental edit. Though I’ll correct punctuation and spelling as I go (because I am OCD and generous) MY job is to make a STORY the best it can possibly be.

Problem is, most of the time I can’t even get to the story because it’s obscured under layers of bleh the writer could have removed in revision.

#1 DIY Adverb Removal

Despite what you might have been told, not ALL adverbs are evil. Redundant adverbs are evil. If someone shouts loudly? How else are they going to shout? Whispering quietly?

***Wow, glad the author explained how ‘whispering’ works.

Ah, but if a character whispers seductively? The adverb seductively gives us a quality to the whisper that isn’t inherent in the verb. Check your work for adverbs and kill the redundant ones.

Either we need to choose a stronger verb, or we’re treating the reader like an idiot.

If a character walks quickly to the train platform, then choose a verb that means ‘to walk quickly’ (stride, jog, hurry) and use that one instead. If a character yells loudly, ditch the loudly. 

We understand how yelling ‘works.’

#2 Cut the Cray-Cray

First and foremost, readers want a STORY. Stories are more than loads of ‘pretty writing’ using thousand-dollar words. Stories are about problems. A character thinks life is fine, then PROBLEM. The character then must struggle, grow, evolve, make choices to eventually SOLVE the problem (win, lose, draw).

Pretty description is optional. Big words are also optional. Alas, if we want to be a writer who uses description then we need to wield with economy.

Few things make me as giddy as a glorious line of description or a new vocabulary word. Many readers (and writers) are like crows.

We see the shinies and tuck them away because they’re THAT cool. The last book I read was The Devil in the White City.

When describing a miserable afternoon in late 19th century Chicago, the author had many options of how to do this. Instead of, ‘The day was humid and stifling,’ Erik Larson wrote, ‘The air hung with the heavy stillness of a tapestry.’ 

There’s nothing, per se, wrong with the first description. But Larson’s line was far more visceral because he made use of multiple senses simultaneously.

But some writers take similes too far.

I’ve seen writers who’ve used so much ‘wordsmithery’ that I had no idea what the hell they were even trying to say. The goal of a novel is to hook readers into a dramatic narrative, not prove we own a thesaurus.

Exhibit A:

self-editing, Kristen Lamb, revision, editing, content editing, how to edit a novel, self-publishing, how to revise a novel

***Word on the street is the NSA is contemplating either revoking Sean Penn’s permission to own a thesaurus OR they want to weaponize his writing.

Metaphors and similes are fantastic literary devices, but need to be used with intention. Yes, in school, our teachers or professors didn’t ding us for using forty-two metaphors in five pages, but their job was to teach us how to properly use a metaphor or simile, NOT prepare us for commercial publication as professional novelists.

self-editing, Kristen Lamb, revision, editing, content editing, how to edit a novel, self-publishing, how to revise a novel

When we use too much of this verbal glitter, we can create what’s called ‘purple prose.’ Go through your pages and highlight metaphors and similes.

Pick THE BEST and CUT THE REST.

Any kind of description must serve the story and propel the dramatic action forward. If it doesn’t do this? CUT!

#3 Cut the Stage Direction

Again, the more time an editor devotes to a project the higher the bill. Also, if an editor charges by the page, we could be paying for a lot of filler we could have removed ourselves.

Alfred Hitchcock said, ‘Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.’ Readers don’t need every single step of a day. We live it, why would we read it?

Yet, I see a lot of samples like this:

Fifi opened her eyes at dawn. She pulled back her covers and placed her feet on the floor. Padding across the room, she reached for a robe hanging on her door. Her stomach growled, so she went downstairs and opened the fridge for the carton of orange juice, then grabbed a glass from the cabinet. Turning around, she searched for a granola bar….

OH, GET ON WITH IT!

An editor is going to cut all of this because NOTHING IS HAPPENING. Also, readers pretty much know how the whole ‘getting juice’ phenomenon works. They don’t need a blow-by-blow.

Fifi reached out her hand to open the door.

NO KIDDING.

Unless Fifi has telekinetic powers, do readers need the direction?

Filler pads the word count, but it also pads the editing bill. The verbs turn, look, grab, pull are possible red flags you’re doing too much stage direction. My advice is to do a Word Find and search for these verbs and their variations (I.e. look, looked, looking). See if the action is necessary or if you’re holding the reader’s brain.

If you’re holding the reader’s brain? Return it, please.

#4 Beware of Painful & Alien Movement of Body Parts

Her eyes flew to the other end of the restaurant.

His head followed her across the room.

Um…ouch.

Make sure your character keeps all body parts attached. Her gaze can follow a person and so can her stare, but if her eyes follow? The carpet gets them fuzzy with dust bunnies and then they don’t slide back in her sockets as easily.

self-editing, Kristen Lamb, revision, editing, content editing, how to edit a novel, self-publishing, how to revise a novel

#5 Ease Up on the Physiology

Fifi’s head pounded. She ran for the door, her heart hammering and wild pulse beating relentlessly in her head. Her breath came in choking sobs. All she could do was gasp. Panic made her throat clench and stomach heave. Mind numb, she reached for the door, fingers trembling.

GET TO IT ALREADY!

After a page of this? I need a nap. After two pages? I need a drink. We can only take so much heart pounding, thrumming, hammering before we just get worn out. That and I read a lot of samples where the character has her heart pounding so much, I’m waiting for her to slip into cardiac arrest at any moment.

Physiological reactions can become echoes. If every page the character has her stomach churning, roiling and rolling, our reader will need an antacid before finishing the chapter (provided she finishes at all).

I strongly recommend a copy of Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi’s Emotion Thesaurus to help you vary physiology. Also, if someone’s heart is pounding, that’s okay. We just don’t need to be told this over and over and…over.

We (readers) assume the character’s heart is still pounding until she’s out of danger.

No need to remind us.

Really.

#6 Odd Sentence Construction

In an effort to break up and vary sentence structure, many emerging writers will craft sentences like this:

With the months of stress pressing down on her head, Jessie started ironing the restaurant tablecloths with a fury.

First, this is backing into the action. Though technically correct (enough), it’s easy to lose a reader if we have too many sentences like this. Active sentences are the easiest on the brain and keep the reader immersed in the fictive dream.

Then there are the picky issues with the example above. For instance, when we use the word ‘down,’ then ‘on’ is redundant.

Also, Jessie is either ironing or not ironing. ‘Started’ is overused and makes sloppy writing (this actually goes back to the whole stage direction thing).

Jessie ironed the restaurant tablecloths with a fury, months of stress pressing on her shoulders.

Another way writers will vary the beginning of sentences is they’ll default to what’s known as passive voice.

Passive:

The door was kicked in by the police.

Active:

Police kicked in the door.

If you go through your pages and see WAS clusters? That’s a HUGE hint that passive voice has infected your story.

Many writers end up with strange sentence construction because they realize every sentence is starting with the character’s name or the appropriate pronoun. They’re trying to ameliorate the repetition of Jessie, Jessie, Jessie, she, she, she. The problem, then, is not sentence construction, rather the writer needs to open the lens of the storytelling.

Remember our character doesn’t need to be the subject of every sentence. We’re telling a story. This means we can work with setting, other characters, etc.

#7 Get Rid of ‘Clever’ Tags

Ideally, if we do a good job with our characters, the reader should know who’s talking without tags because speech patterns differ. If all our characters ‘speak’ the same way, that is an issue we need to remedy.

Yet, we can’t always do this, which means we can use a tag. Tags are fine, but keep it simple. This isn’t the place to get clever.

‘You are such a jerk,’ she laughed.

A character can’t ‘laugh’ something. They can’t ‘spit,’ ‘snarl,’ or ‘grouse’ words either. They can SAY and ever so often they can ASK. Said used properly becomes white noise.

NOTE: Use said as a tag…just don’t get crazy. If you beat it up it gets distracting and annoying.

But again, used properly readers don’t generally see it. It keeps them in the story and cooking along. If we want to add things like laughing, griping, complaining, then fine. It just shouldn’t be the tag.

“You are such a jerk.” She laughed and flicked brownie batter onto Fabio’s white shirt.

Notice how sentences like the one above also keep us from beating said to death.

I swear the funniest instance of bizarre tags was a new writer who just would NOT listen to me and she insisted on using all these crazy@$$ tags. So instead of exclaimed when her character yelled something she tagged with, he ejaculated.

*Editor Kristen falls over laughing*

self-editing, Kristen Lamb, revision, editing, content editing, how to edit a novel, self-publishing, how to revise a novel

Okay y’all ALL sniggered at that one. So yeah be creative just not in the tags, ya dig? 😉

There you go!

SEVEN easy tips for self-editing. We all make these mistakes and that’s why God invented revision (that and to punish the unfaithful). If you can get rid of these common offenders on your own, then good editors can focus on the deeper aspects of your fiction.

Have you had to ruthlessly slay your favorite metaphors? Are you a recovering adverb-addict? What are some other self-editing guidelines you use to keep your prose clean and effective?

And we should always be growing, learning and sharpening those skills, so please check out the upcoming classes. Remember, a recording of all classes is included in purchase price 😉 .

MARCH’S AWESOMENESS (CLASSES)

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

Taught by Kristen Lamb, $55 Delivered to YOUR computer to enjoy at your leisure.

SALES: For Those Who’d Rather Be In Witness Protection

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Thursday, March 12th 7-9 PM EST $99

Social Schizophrenia: Building a Brand Without Losing Your Mind 

Too many voices telling ALL THE THINGS! AHHHHHHHH!

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Friday, March 15th, 7-9 PM EST ($55 General Admission/ $195 GOLD)

***Yes, I will be teaching about Instagram among OTHER new business developments in this class.

Harnessing Our Writing Power: THE BLOG

Taught by Kristen Lamb Saturday, March 16th 2-4 PM EST $55 General Admission/ $165 GOLD)

Story Master: From Dream to Done

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

Fiction ADDICTION: The Secret Ingredient to the Books Readers CRAVE

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Saturday, March 30th 2-4 PM EST $55

 

Kristen Lamb, George Becker Photographer, Pexels, Play to Win, Amazon Killing Big Publishing, writing, publishing

Play to win. For me, this is a tough phrase. Maybe it’s culture or society or sunspots, but ‘winning’ feels like a suit cut for someone else. No, worse.

Playing to win feels more like the pants I once wore to a conference. Even though they were too tight, I wore them anyway believing they’d ‘stretch out’ once I moved around a bit.

But they didn’t, and after a while they were uncomfortable…no, they were cutting me in HALF.

I couldn’t breathe, my kidneys hurt, and my lower back ached so much I didn’t hear a single word of the lecture.

All I wanted was to rush to the restroom, unbutton the pants and use my hair tie for some give so I could breathe (women know what I’m talking about).

I didn’t feel pretty in those pants I’d worked so hard to ‘fit’ into. Didn’t feel confident or sassy. No, I was miserable and beating myself up for not choosing the stretchy pants I usually wore.

Stretchy pants would never betray me like this. Lycra doesn’t judge. Spandex understands.

We’ll get to Amazon, Legacy NYC publishing, the book industry, etc. But, we can’t understand why any organization is failing (or winning) unless we take time to understand the people who comprise that organization.

***Fair warning. This is a longer post, but a vital one. Creatives are at a critical turning point in our industry where we must make tough and educated decisions if we hope to make it.

Too many of us want to remain comfortable because fitting into something new is uncomfortable…no, excrutiating. Often it will take a lot more work, work we don’t want to do. Perhaps work we feel we shouldn’t have to do.

Maybe we shouldn’t. Maybe it’s unfair, but sadly fair is a weather condition and guess what?

A storm is coming.

Play to Win (at Letting Others Win)

Kristen Lamb, Suzy Hazelwood photographer, Pexels, publishing, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

I can’t speak for men, but as a female the whole ‘play to win’ thing was almost always discouraged when I was growing up. First, I was the oldest and thus almost always in charge of entertaining a little brother and (usually) three smaller cousins. Mainly keeping them alive.

Standards for childcare were far lower in the 80s. Thank GOD.

Anyway, being far older, it was kind of a dirtbag move to go all aggro on a six-year-old during a game of Candy Land.

Not that I didn’t try.

I joke I’m NOT Type A. I’m Type A+, because I did the extra credit unlike all y’all other slackers 😛 .

***’All y’all’ is correct grammar in Texas, FYI.

This said, my competitive nature was not always appreciated. There were plenty of times some adult figure chided me, instructed me to let the younger ones win once in a while.

Kristen’s Brain Even at 10: *LET them win? This…is…SPARTA!*

School wasn’t much better. I was reading Tolkien by fourth grade. I’d finish my work in a fraction of the time it took my classmates, and apparently that was not a good thing.

If I tried to read or draw, I got in trouble even though I was being quiet. Apparently, I was supposed to sit still and do nothing instead of cracking open the Heinlein book I’d swiped off my dad.

*face palm*

One time, I worked my entire reading workbook during the forty-five minutes allotted for a single assignment. My teacher, upon discovering my infraction, sent me to the place I would spend most of my growing up years…the hall.

True Story: I don’t even recall what my 3rd grade classroom looked like, but I DID figure out innumerable ways to entertain myself by making out patterns carpet.

It didn’t take long to figure out that I needed to wait a certain amount of time before I turned in my test. If I turned in my test when I actually finished, there was hell to pay from the teacher.

Teacher: Stop showing off. You are making the other kids feel bad.

Me: No, I am not showing off, I was finished. Also, for the record, ‘I am making the other kids feel BADLY.’ It’s an ADVERB. You JUST taught this. How are you a teacher?

*just heads to hall to my spot*

I was terrible at the whole inside words staying inside back then, too.

Play to Win (at Your Own Risk)

Kristen Lamb, Play to Win, Amazon, publishing, legacy publishing, writers

School taught me to hide any academic excellence. If I wanted to learn at the speed I craved, I had to work around the system. Learn on my time, not school time. Makes total sense.

And I did. I had all kinds of hobbies growing up—reading encyclopedias, reading the dictionary, playing with my microscope, using my chemistry set.

Sorry about that chlorine gas.

Being a complete nerd, I was socially awkward (and not much has changed). I never understood the nuanced ways of girl tribes, only that they generally required an outcast (usually me).

Since I didn’t fit in with the girls, I tried sports. Very confusing. Apparently when a boy nailed someone in the face in a ‘game’ of Dodgeball that was winning.

If I did it? I was being ‘mean.’

HUH?

The only team sport I was any good at was soccer. Problem was, there was no girl’s team. Much to the coach’s chagrin, he had to let me try out for the boy’s team, and it was brutal.

Hazing.

Loved…every…second…of…it.

Those boys tossed everything they could at me. I was bruised, bleeding, and even knocked out once when I blocked the opposing team’s shot into the net…with my face (NOT intentional, but hey it worked). Yet, I pressed on through tryouts.

When it came time to see who made the team, however, the coach cut only one player.

Me.

On the bright side, the boys on the team nearly mutinied over me being cut. They’d thrown everything at me and I was one of them, part of the team. I’d earned the spot because I was someone who played to win no matter what. The boys tried to protest, but it was 8th grade and—again—the 80s.

I’d like to say it got better in the 90s, but not really. In college, I encountered several professors who chastised me for being the only one to answer questions in class.

Me? I fired back that they really should have been shaming the rest of the class who didn’t respect them enough to do the assigned reading.

When I graduated, I went to work in sales (as much of a meritocracy as one can find in the workforce…usually). However, I once stepped up to present our product line to an audience of waiting (and agitated) clients because the manager in charge no-showed.

Afterwards, even though the customers were thrilled, another manager (female) pulled me into a back office. She informed me I was never to do that again if I wanted to remain at the company.

Me: Never again do what? Sell a lot of stuff?

Her: Women aren’t taken seriously in business, especially in the South. Leave the corporate stuff to the men. In the meantime, you’re pretty. Be affable and make others feel at ease and leave the presentations to the guys.

Horrified, I told her she needed to get out of her time machine. It was the 90s not the 50s, and quit that day.

Play to Win vs. Play to ‘Not Lose’

Kristen Lamb, Amazon, publishing
My Jiu Jitsu hands.

My mom was and is a hardcore Scandinavian woman (tough). When I was seven, a male visitor didn’t get his way. He raised his hand to slap her (big mistake)…

…while she was cooking.

Good way to DIE mistake.

Without blinking, she swung that hot cast iron frying pan into him like she was going for a grand slam. Whooped him with that pan THROUGH the screen door and all the way to the street. He never returned and my mom was my hero forever and ever.

My father loved strong females. He enrolled me in martial arts when I was four, was the one to rig his old Navy sea bag for me to use to train to fight and toughen my hands. Being former military, he believed I needed to be able to protect myself. That and…we’re from Texas.

According to my parents, there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do or be. Thus, the world was a very confusing place when it kept putting me in the penalty box for doing my best.

Odd message. Playing to win is for others. If you play to win, expect to pay a price.

Be nice. Be sweet. Share. Winning is not nice to others.

And you know what? I bought that pile of bull sprinkles until very recently.

But no more.

We don’t get what we work for, we get what we negotiate.

Death by Nice

Notice I used the word nice. Nice and kind are different. Kind has a spine. It IS possible to play to win and not be a jerk, bully, thief, etc. In fact, when we diminish our own light so as not to ‘outshine others’ everyone suffers.

Nice snuffs out the light so others don’t notice they are in darkness. Kind lends a flame so everyone can live in the glow.

Playing to WIN is good and you want to know how I know this?

Amazon is damn near taking over the globe in almost every arena from movie-making to groceries to music.

Personally, I’m fairly sure Amazon IS actually the foretold SkyNet. Good news is when Amazon finally assimilates the human race, I have Prime, so I get free shipping.

Meanwhile, the Big Six have steadily become the Not-So-Big-Five and I believe might even be down to the Spiffy Four.

While Amazon is expanding at a record-breaking pace, NY Publishers are condensing, shrinking, reorganizing, and living on the grace and passion of those sainted professionals who will work UNGODLY hours for crap pay solely because they love books.

***Bless you agents and editors.

Meanwhile, Amazon isn’t having to rely on volunteers willing to give up their lives, work for a fraction of what they’re worth for ‘the cause.’

Wanna know why?

Business has been in a cage match since the rise of Web 2.0., and while Steve Jobs (Apple), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), and Bill Gates (Microsoft) and others have been throwing punches, the former contenders have been too busy shaking 20th century snow globe, too mesmerized by the past to even protect their face.

While bloggers like me have shouted warnings for over a decade, the industries we love have refused to get in the fight and play to WIN.

We kept begging for someone to step up and get into the 21st century, for publishers to recognize they were (are) in the story and information business…not the PAPER business. 

Play to win. Better, still?

Play to Win in the Business You’re Actually IN

Amazon didn’t care HOW consumers wanted to consume a book: print, hard-cover, soft-cover, digital, used, new, audio….JAZZ HANDS. If the customer wanted a story acted out by mimes and was willing to PAY for it? And it could be profitable?

Amazon was ON it.

All the while, the big publishers clung to the Big Box model even as Borders was collapsing. After it died, not much changed. I detailed a lot of this in a post in January of 2018 when I AGAIN laid it all out:

From 2008 to 2017 B&N was forced to close an average of 21 stores a year. In 2008, they had 798 stores and as of September 2017 B&N was down to 634 stores, according to Forbes.

The latest CEO in a string of failures has come up at least one answer to what ails them. Barnes & Noble needs…smaller stores.

*sounds of Kristen railing at the heavens*

Excuse, me. Did I stutter?

So in 2016, Barnes & Noble hired the former C.E.O. of the office supply giant Staples (Demos Parneros) even though he had ZERO book industry experience. This was also the guy whose business expertise launched Staples to unprecedented success….

…wait, no that’s wrong.

Mea culpa.

No, Staples had to hire another C.E.O. to save the company upon Parneros’ departure, because according to The Street:

As of May 17, 2017, Staples held $526 million in long-term debt and had total liabilities of $3.2 billion, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

Sounds like JUST the kind of business visionary B&N needed to hire; one with the skills to lead an already flailing company(Staples) billions more into the red.

In all fairness, these numbers are a year after the C.E.O. left, but I feel it’s reasonable to extrapolate that the company didn’t go from raging success to the 8th Circle of Business Hell in less than a year.

Oh, but there’s more….

Granted, Parneros did have the bright idea that B&N needed smaller stores. Points for him.

But these days, instead of B&N planning how to WIN in the book BUSINESS (or any business), they’re embroiled in so much drama they should have their own reality show Big (Box Store) Brother.

Hmm, kinda catchy.

B&N fired Parneros for ‘alleged sexual misconduct.’ Sighs. Parneros claims this is all a smear campaign and untrue and the only reason B&N wanted to oust him was for something I’ve already forgotten.

Anyway, according to an August 2018 article in The New York Times explicating the Parneros drama of ‘alleged sexual misconduct,’ the mudslinging and lawsuits over wrongful termination…THIS is what stood out to ME (and probably SHOULD have stood out to B&N, too):

Barnes & Noble’s stock price has fallen 60 percent over the last three years, and the chain has struggled to reverse years of declining sales and foot traffic. In the last decade, the company has closed more than 150 stores, leaving it with a base of 633. It waged a losing battle with Amazon, losing more than a billion dollars on its Nook e-book business.

Even as independent bookstores have bounced back and Amazon has expanded into brick-and-mortar retail (which, incidentally, I predicted would happen in multiple 2012 blogs), Barnes & Noble has still failed to recover ground.

After ALL this, Barnes & Noble is considering just selling itself.

Doesn’t sound like playing to WIN at all.

Playing to ‘Not Lose’

In my not-very-humble opinion, NYC was so accustomed to being THE Publishing Pantheon, that they didn’t do so well when the rise of e-commerce and Web 2.0 cast them down to Earth.

Instead of being on the offense, sticking and moving and learning how to play the new game and dominate it?

They wasted precious time trying to rekindle ‘The Good Old Days’ and protect their besties Borders and Barnes & Noble at all costs. They couldn’t fathom a world where they weren’t the leviathans…and Amazon used their Big Box BFFs’ bulk to crush the life from all of them.

How ironic that the movie You’ve Got Mail has now come full circle.

Joe, you really SHOULD have listened to her. And AMEN, Kathleen!

Hollywood…I mean Amazon (or Netflix) should make a You’ve Got Mail 2.

In it, Kathleen Kelly reopens her indie bookstore Shop Around the Corner. She stocks the new store by buying the (ironically) bankrupted Fox Books’ store inventory for pennies on the dollar. But she is NOT a jerk.

She’s thoughtful enough to offer Joe a job purchasing office supplies, furniture, decor and specially requested books for her shop…from AMAZON.

😛

Back to US

Anyone who’s read my blog over the years knows I have ranted, raved, offered suggestions and ideas to help legacy publishing and even big box bookstores. I’ve begged NYC to play to WIN.

Yet, here we are, the business landscape eerily similar to the late 19th century and early 20th century (when we transitioned from the agricultural age to the industrial age).

Once again we teeter on the edge, risk falling into the grip of ‘New and Improved’ trust giants and robber barons (as we transition now from the industrial age into the digital age).

From my post in 2012, Amazon: Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts:

Amazon right now is in the courting phase with writers, and it is using us (writers) as a weapon to kill our former masters. Ah, but if Amazon really gets its way…what then?

When NY is razed and Amazon has no real competition, do they have to keep giving us the same sweet royalty rate? And they already have a nasty reputation. They pulled that little stunt with a publisher who dared to cross them. Two years ago, they removed all the ‘Buy Buttons’ off all the Macmillan titles. 

So, if Amazon will use the brass knuckles on a major publisher that crossed their path…what about us? The little guys? What happens when a writer miffs them and they unleash the gorilla?

The giants are rising and why? Because they play to win. Or as Joe fox would have said, they’re willing to…

Go to the Mattresses

As writers, do we play to win or play to ‘not lose?’ Tell me any game, any sport where one can WIN playing strictly defense.

We’ve got to start taking this seriously. If you’re a writer, then you are a business. Trust me, Apple doesn’t work for exposure dollars and neither does Amazon.

Why should we?

Writers PAY to hear marketing experts tell them that, to be successful and make money, they should give away free bookmarks, free bags, free flair, free downloads, and free books. Give a FREE prize for someone giving them a free email.

They should speak for free, blog for free, give interviews for free, and work for free. Oh, one suggestion and I actually heard this from a promotion expert. 

Give a FREE bottle of wine with your book.

I wish I were making this up.

In what universe do ANY of these ideas make mathematical sense?

Last I checked 0 + 0= 0. And 0 + 0 + 0 + 0 + 0= 0.

And zero is the least of our problems since bookmarks and prizes and books and time all have a cost. If these folks can’t grasp that no matter how many zeros one adds together, the SUM is STILL ZERO?

I can’t even broach the concept of how one adds negative numbers.

Besides, isn’t that how 21st century Apple became the mega giant it is? It gave away iPods and iPads for enough exposure and THEN consumers suddenly were willing to stand in line for ten hours and drop $900 for a new iPhone?

….maybe not.

FREE Should Never Really Be FREE

Some free is fine, even necessary. FREE can be an amazing business strategy when used properly. When we play to win, FREE is NEVER actually FREE. It’s built into the price, or it’s actually a quid pro quo (something for something).

FREE can be a way the seller rewards the consumer in exchange for the consumer’s willingness to agree to a greater financial commitment (e.g. all purchases over $100 and shipping is FREE).

FREE is also something used to entice consumers into a longterm financial commitment. Apps do this all the time. Get a week free of all the meditations you could ever want, and after that FREE week, the app will be $7.99 a month (charged via iTunes). Cancel when you no longer want the service.

Your first trial month of Netflix is free, but after that Netflix costs money every month. On and on.

These are examples of FREE with a plan, FREE with dignity and design and a goal toward a profit.

Free without strategy is just begging sans the obvious tin cup.

Y’all are SO MUCH better than that kind of free.

We Have a Write to WIN

Yes, creating art takes time, work, training, tears and a lot of hard work. It takes love that surpasses reason along with stretching ourselves and learning new things.

Sacrifice, self-discipline and all the tough stuff. Pretty much like it’s always been. Only we now have new roles, roles we are wise to learn either so we can a) do them ourselves or b) be educated enough to spot talented teammates from smooth-talking cons.

We’ll be able to discern experts from “experts” (those folks still pushing marketing and social media strategies older than my favorite yoga pants).

This is how we play to WIN.

And yes, maybe this seems all doom and gloom, but I’m not in the candy business. It’s a Brave New World where artists (currently) have little to no protection.

But, good news is—as is usually the case—the pendulum is swinging back the other way with some things moving in our favor (I’ll talk about these in some of my upcoming classes, not my blogs).

Other good news? Legacy publishing still has a pulse and a place, but they have got to start playing offense. Play to WIN. PLEASE!

***Seriously, call me.

There are new business models emerging where creative professionals are being paid. Additionally, there are ways to Amazon-proof ourselves. Again, not bashing Amazon. Yet, while Amazon is great for the moment, but we need to have a structure in place that does not rely on us needing Amazon (or any ONE entity).

If Amazon fails to remain a good business partner/decision, we should be in a position to move on and have a plan for exactly when and how to do that.

For the traditional publishers, this IS your Rocky IV. 

Amazon is Drago. Drago killed Creed (Borders) and you’re down. I get it, and totes understand. And Drago has the advantage of all this scientific equipment and super high-tech training, but suck it up, get in the snow and drag some logs.

Y’all didn’t rule the world for a century for nothing. Remember who you were.

Champions.

As for the writers. Excellent authors (creatives) deserve an audience of givers, fans, and die-hard supporters. We deserve better than a race to the bottom of who can give away the most for the least. To do this, though?

Play to win. I know you can do it. It’s going to be uncomfortable and possibly scary, terrifying and painful. For a lot of us, this is new or not new but still terrifying. But we can change, grow and train how to be in it to win it.

Now, go play some Eye of the Tiger and get back to writing that book.

MARCH’S AWESOMENESS (CLASSES)

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

Taught by Kristen Lamb, $55 Delivered to YOUR computer to enjoy at your leisure.

SALES: For Those Who’d Rather Be In Witness Protection

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Thursday, March 12th 7-9 PM EST $99

Social Schizophrenia: Building a Brand Without Losing Your Mind 

Too many voices telling ALL THE THINGS! AHHHHHHHH!

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Friday, March 15th, 7-9 PM EST ($55 General Admission/ $195 GOLD)

***Yes, I will be teaching about Instagram among OTHER new business developments in this class.

Harnessing Our Writing Power: THE BLOG

Taught by Kristen Lamb Saturday, March 16th 2-4 PM EST $55 General Admission/ $165 GOLD)

Story Master: From Dream to Done

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

Fiction ADDICTION: The Secret Ingredient to the Books Readers CRAVE

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Saturday, March 30th 2-4 PM EST $55

 

 

 

 

sell more books, Kristen Lamb, how to sell more books, publishing, Brent Keane, Pexels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Field of ‘Dream On’ Marketing 

sell more books, Kristen Lamb, Pexels, publishing, book marketing

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

If I write it, they will come.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yep, they’re right on that.

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

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

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

How Do We Move the Needle?

sell more books, Kristen Lamb, mali maeder, Pexel, book marketing

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

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

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

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

Intentionality: Social Media on Porpoise

sell more books, Kristen Lamb, book marketing, Pexels

*bada bump snare*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the problem? Basic MATH.

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

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

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

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

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

Put out better bait.

***Cat videos are marvelous, FYI.

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

Every dark horse runaway success has one common denominator:

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

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

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

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

Change Tack for the BIG Haul

sell more books, Kristen Lamb, book marketing

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

This should be awesome, right?

Hold on there, Sparky.

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

Conversely…

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

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

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

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

No one in the history of ever enjoyed being catfished.

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

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

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

Hint: It isn’t.

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

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

In The End

sell more books, Kristen Lamb, book marketing, Pexels, Chevanon Photography

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

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

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

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

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

What Are Your Thoughts?

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

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

Come to the Dark Side. We have cookies… 😀

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

MARCH’S AWESOMENESS (CLASSES)

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

Taught by Kristen Lamb, $55 Delivered to YOUR computer to enjoy at your leisure.

SALES: For Those Who’d Rather Be In Witness Protection

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Thursday, March 7th 7-9 PM EST $99

Social Schizophrenia: Building a Brand Without Losing Your Mind 

Too many voices telling ALL THE THINGS! AHHHHHHHH! Taught by Kristen Lamb, Friday, March 15th, 7-9 PM EST ($55 General Admission/ $195 GOLD)

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

Story Master: From Dream to Done

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

Fiction ADDICTION: The Secret Ingredient to the Books Readers CRAVE

Taught by Kristen Lamb, Saturday, March 30th 2-4 PM EST $55

Image vis Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi.
Image vis Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi.

Quitting. Not a popular word when it comes to motivational quotes. Those of us who are driven achievers often end up overwhelmed, burned out, living in a blanket fort afraid to leave the house. Why? Because we’ve ALL heard that winners never quit and quitters never win.

Which is complete and utter bull sprinkles.

Since we don’t want to be “quitters” we keep going even when we shouldn’t.

So, want to know the secret to success? Quitting. Yes, you read correctly. And, if you’re a creative professional or entrepreneur, it is in your best interests to learn to get really good at quitting.

Maybe you’ve felt like a loser or a failure, that your dream to make a living with your art/idea was a fool’s errand. We have to be careful. Never giving up might keep us from ever succeeding.

Ignore the motivational fluff and understand…

Winners Quit All the Time

I posit this thought; if we ever hope to achieve anything remarkable, we must learn to quit. In fact, I’ll take this another step. I venture to say that most aspiring writers will not succeed simply because they aren’t skilled at quitting.

Ooooohhhh.

Learning Discernment

One reason we might not recognize that quitting is our wisest option is because we lack discernment. It’s easy to get trapped in all-or-nothing thinking. If we defy family in pursuit of our dream and something stops working properly—out of pride—often we’ll persist even when the very thing we’re attempting is the largest reason we will fail.

We keep reworking that first novel over and over. We keep querying the first novel and won’t move on until we get an agent. We keep writing in the same genre even though it might not be the best fit for our voice.

We keep marketing the first self-published book and don’t move forward and keep writing more books and better books.

For the entrepreneurs (and being a creative professional falls under entrepreneurship), we can start throwing good money after bad. We started with an idea and, instead of hot-washing our results and being brutally honest? We (mistakenly) believe more money will fix a flawed plan.

Hint: It won’t.

If you are tangled in a book that isn’t working, never ends, keeps getting rejected, ask for help. Sometimes the story (plot) is there only we can’t see it. We’re too vested and emotionally blinded.

***This is why I do plot consulting 😉

Strategic Quitting & Failure Insurance 

I like to say, “Persistence looks a lot like stupid.”

The act of never giving up is noble, but never giving up on the wrong things is a formula to fail.

We have to learn to detect the difference between quitting a tactic and quitting a dream.

Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons
Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons

If I’m trying to climb Mt. Everest, but I’m repeatedly failing at climbing the one side, which is a sheer rock face with no way to get a footing, then it is suicide to keep trying the same thing. If, however, I regroup, hike back to the bottom (hire some experts, a.k.a. sherpas), and take another way up the mountain, I am a quitter…but I am NOT a failure.

In fact, in order to “win” I must “quit.”

Learn to Quit from the Best

Most of us are lousy at knowing how and when to quit. This is one of the reasons it is a good idea to surround ourselves with successful people, because successful people are expert quitters.

***Even if “surrounding” means following on social media, reading their books, listening to podcasts, etc.

Read any book from super successful people from all different backgrounds and in all different fields and one thing stands out. These folks learned then adopted some mad quitting skills

Just read Daymond John’s The Power of Broke, mega-blogger Jenny Lawson’s memoir Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, bazillionaire Mark Cuban’s How to Win at the Sport of Business: If I Can Do It You Can Do It, comedian Kevin Hart’s memoir I Can’t Make This Up and you’ll see what I am talking about.

This list is filled with men, women, entertainers, entrepreneurs, and business tycoons yet they all began small and experimented. With time and experience they learned when quitting was the only way to make it to the next level.

For instance, if business mogul and Shark Tank celebrity Daymond John had kept his ‘taxi’ business we might never have even heard of him.

Good Business versus a Good Start

For those who don’t know, Daymond John got his start with a small scale fashion business (that we now know as FUBU) that he ran out of a large van. Being business savvy, though, Daymond John got as much bang for the buck with that van as possible.

So, when he wasn’t delivering and selling fashion, he made additional money shuttling people from their bus stops to their doorsteps for a small fee.

NYC, however, caught on—namely from all the complaints from taxi companies—and the city started ticketing him to the point that the great idea was a no-go.

Again, fabulous concept—OBVIOUSLY since Uber eventually came along and did the EXACT same thing. But for Daymond John, it was a fabulous concept that could only work short-term to get him to the next level on a totally different playing field.

For him it was a means to an end not the end (as was the eventually the case for Uber).

As for ME…

When I started out, I had all the wrong mentors. I had writer pals who quit writing when it was boring or who quit querying after a handful of rejections. They quit attending critique because they got their feelings hurt when people didn’t rave their book was the best thing since kitten calendars.

All this wrong kind of quitting is easy to fall into.

Excuses are free, but they cost us everything.

My Life Changed When I Changed the Quitters in My Company

For me, I stalked people I admired on social media. I read a lot of books, memoirs, self-help, business books from people I admired.

I had to change my thinking and, to do this, I had to immerse myself with people who had what I wanted. It was crucial to adopt their thinking, attitudes, and, ideally, benefit from their wisdom.

A good example of savvy quitting? I turned in a hundred page proposal for Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World in the winter of 2011 to a premiere agent, a DREAM agent. But, after NYC passing on it for over a year? I thanked my agent for his efforts, then went ahead and published it myself.

Yes, I self-published Rise of the Machines in 2012. Wasn’t in my plans, and yet….

My book remains a top social media branding resource because I chose to focus on humans and not technology. Technology changes, people don’t.

When we understand what people like, hate, what makes them loyal, why they bond or flee, then it doesn’t matter whether we are using Instagram, SnapChat or any other platform. Because we know what makes our potential audience/fans/customers excited, we have an edge.

We need to always be moving forward, and sometimes pressing on requires letting go.

We can’t grab hold of the new if we are hanging on to the old. If I’d remained entrenched in my old circle of peers, that book would have never seen the light of day.

And sure, letting go of a NYC deal sucked. What author doesn’t want a contract with major house? It was heartbreaking for me to walk away from the ‘hope’ that maybe NY would one day see the value of my book.

Yet? It had to happen.

The NYC plan was a a no-go and it came time to do something different. I wasn’t quitting my dream (publishing an evergreen social media guide), I simply was quitting my approach.

If something isn’t working QUIT. Move on!

If we have to defend and justify what we are doing there’s something wrong.

Everything is Our Enemy

quitting, Kristen Lamb, productivity, success

It’s hard to know when to quit. I’m a loyal person. I’m loyal to a fault and I struggle every day with this lesson. But I’ve recently come to a conclusion. People who reach their dreams don’t get there by doing EVERYTHING. Everything is dead weight. Everything will keep us from focusing. Everything gets us distracted.

Everything is the enemy.

Sometimes we need to let go of inefficiencies or false trails, and if we don’t let go, then failure is just a matter of time.

We Actually Need More Quitting

Quit your day job. Today. This moment. Now, by quitting, I don’t mean you should throw your laptop in a waste can and take a bat to that copy machine that’s eaten every presentation you’ve tried to photocopy since the day you were hired….though that might be fun.

No, I mean mentally QUIT, then hire yourself to the dream.

Screw aspiring. Aspiring is for the amateurs and wannabes. It takes guts to be an author.

It takes guts to be any kind of creative professional. Hire yourself to the job you dream about. TODAY.

No aspiring writers, only pre-published writers. If you want to be a professional author, you must quit to win. The day job is no longer the ends, but rather the means. The day job is just venture capital funding the successful art-making business…YOU.

You are a pre-published author…who happens to also be a stay-at-home-mom, a computer programmer, a salesperson, a whatever.

Learn to Quit Being “Everything”

quitting, Kristen Lamb, success, productivityAgain, Everything is the enemy. Friends and family will want you to keep being the maid and the taxi and the babysitter and the buddy who can spend all day shoe-shopping.

Many of us will try to keep being Everything to everyone and we’ll just try to “fit in” writing, but that is the lie that will kill the dream. We can’t be Everything!

A new quote I have etched in my brain is:

I can be respected or popular. I can’t be both.

We must learn when to quit and to be firm in quitting. Others have the right to be disappointed, but they’ll get over it. And, if they really love us they will get over it quickly and be happy for our resolve to reach our dreams.

If they don’t? They’re dead weight and it’s better to cull them out of our life sooner than later.

Yes, this is hard stuff. Reaching our dreams is simple, but it will never be easy ;).

I LOVE HEARING from YOU!

So what are some of your quitting stories? Did it work? Were you better off? Tell us your quit to win story! Do you need help sticking to your guns? Hey, your family doesn’t get you, but we do! Do you have a problem and you don’t know if you should stick or quit? Put it in the comments section and let us play armchair psychiatrist!

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

***All classes come with a free recording.

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

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

What are your thoughts?

JANUARY/FEBRUARY/MARCH’S AWESOMENESS (CLASSES)

The Business of Writing

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

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

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

Shift Your Shifter Romance into HIGH Gear

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

Blurb Writing Blows (But Doesn’t Have To)

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

World-Building for Fantasy

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

Story Master: From Dream to Done

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

Social Schizophrenia: Building a Brand Without Losing Your Mind 

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

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

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

Taught by Kristen Lamb, $55

Fiction ADDICTION: The Secret Ingredient to the Books Readers CRAVE

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

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

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

The Business of Writing

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

 

promotion, book ads, does advertising sell books, promotion and marketing for books
Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Ken.

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

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

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

HERE! BUY MY BOOK!

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

*grumbles* *now remembers why I hated LinkedIn*

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

The brand of self-serving @$$hat.

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

Why? What went wrong?

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

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

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

Brand is not what it used to be.

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

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

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

Before all this prep work though?

Fuggetaboutit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s in a Name?

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Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Pierre Lognoul

The formula for a brand is simple:

NAME + PRODUCT + EMOTIONAL EXPERIENCE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It isn’t just about a book anymore.

Why Are Brands So Important?

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

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

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

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

But a name and a product alone are not enough.

What is a Platform?

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Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Alex Santosa.

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

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

Authors are doing the same.

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

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

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

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

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

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Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Craig Sunter

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

Remember:

A brand is a collection of emotional experiences.

A platform is simply those who will enjoy that experience.

Modern writers hold the advantage here.

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

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

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

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

Problem #1: Please, STOP WRITING

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

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

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

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

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

Example One (Writing):

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

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

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

Example Two (Storytelling):

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

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

Poor Cap.

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

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

Product MATTERS

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

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

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

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

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

Problem #2: Too Good to Mingle with the Masses

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

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

*stabs self*

Here’s the problem with this line of thinking.

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

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

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

This, again, meant the players were limited.

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

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

Bada bing bada boom…published author.

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

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

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

#NotRudeAtALL

Promotion: Skip Steps at Your Own Risk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Working Smarter NOT Harder

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

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

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

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

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

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

So let’s make a LOVE CONNECTION 😛

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

***All classes come with a free recording.

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

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

What are your thoughts?

JANUARY’S AWESOMENESS (CLASSES)

Self-Publishing for Professionals

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

The Business of Writing

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

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

Story Master: From Dream to Done

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

Social Schizophrenia: Building a Brand Without Losing Your Mind 

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

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

A Ripple in Time: Mastering Non-Linear Plotting

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

Harnessing Our Writing Power: The BLOG!

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

Fiction ADDICTION: The Secret Ingredient to the Books Readers CRAVE

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

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

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

The Business of Writing

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

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

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

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