The Right Way, the Wrong Way & the Smart Way

I have been doing social media for a number of years, and it has been wonderful to see how writers have embraced technology. I remember back in 2006 I had a hard enough time getting many writers to learn to use e-mail, let alone join Facebook.  Yet, it was really only in 2009 that I started thinking of myself as an expert. Namely I watched a lot of social media people teach tactics that were more likely to give writers permanent hair loss than anything. They were trying to overlay a Corporate America template on to a writer’s career. Not a good fit.

Kind of like watching me try to put on size zero skinny jeans…lots of grunting and pain and the end result ain’t pretty.

Anyway, writers finally did perk up to the fact that they needed to be on social media, yet we had an information vacuum. Many writers took off doing the best they could, and, in the process, made a lot of errors. Hey, I was one of them. Need I remind you of texaswriterchik?

*slaps forehead*

The thing is, I am teaching writers how to do this social media platform thing the correct way. This is all great and wonderful if you are new and haven’t started building. For others? I see the digital blood drain from your face when I give the bad news:

I’m sorry, but your platform needs major reconstructive surgery. I need to put your brand in a temporary coma so it doesn’t die while we do the transplants. Do you have insurance?

Some people suck it up, bite on some leather and resolve to get it over with. Others? Denial is more than a river in Africa.

I hear a lot of, “Writers just need to do what works for them.”

Yes….but, um, no.

I will use an example to illustrate. Say I want to make chocolate cake. My end goal is a chocolate cake. So I set out cooking, but I don’t want to use butter, and I don’t like eggs, and definitely no flour and I just can’t bring myself to use chocolate. Instead, I want to use vanilla pudding, and slices of bananas and top it off with vanilla wafer cookies and LOTS of whipped cream.

So you say, “Wait, but you aren’t making chocolate cake.”

And I say, “Well this is how I make chocolate cake.”

And you say, “But, you just made banana pudding. That’s NOT chocolate cake.”

And I get huffy and reply, “Stop judging me. Maybe YOU make chocolate cake differently, but everyone needs to do what works for them.”

You would think I was a lunatic. Yes, I made a dessert….but I didn’t make a chocolate cake.

If our end goal is to brand our name, which it should be…then there are right and wrong ways to go about this. My lessons are to make our name alone a bankable asset. Our NAME will have the power to drive book sales so we have more time to write, or prank call or even make origami monkeys.

There is a HUGE difference between having a social media presence and becoming a brand. And I know I am about to do some sacred cow-tipping, but it needs to be done.

My new book, Are You There, Blog? It’s Me Writer is a great book to teach you all you ever wanted to know about blogging to build an author brand. There is little point to contributing content to the Internet if it doesn’t build our brand.

Tweeting under a cutesy moniker. We have discussed this one before, but some people are new (here is the post). Every time we tweet, that is an “advertisement” that contributes to building our brand. The only acceptable Twitter handle is the name that will be on the front of our books. Period. If we are tweeting under @FairyGirl, we are contributing great content—blogs, articles, conversation—but we have the WRONG name top-of-mind.  Readers cannot buy a book by Fairy Girl, so all that tweeting is wasted effort.

Writing on Group Blogs at the Expense of Our Author Blog I have run into writers who were very prolific, contributing to multiple group blogs. Group blogs are wonderful. They can help us learn to blog better and can offer accountability. Yet, if we are writing for three different group blogs, but then not blogging on our own site? That is BAD. Group blogs will not brand an individual author. Yes, we will have a social media presence…but that isn’t a brand. I read a lot of WONDERFUL group blogs, but the name of the group is what will be top of mind. Writers in the Storm, Adventures in Children’s Publishing, and Writer Unboxed are three of the best group blogs, but I would be hard-pressed to give the names of the contributors. And, the ones I can name have their own separate blogs that buttress their brand.

I care very much about you guys, and I want all of you to be successful. But part of caring is giving the truth. When we decide to go from hobbyist to professional, we sometimes have to make the tough choices. We have to say no to friends, family, kids and pets. We have to spend time working when we would rather play. If we are contributing to a bunch of group blogs, but our own blog is infested with dust bunnies and spam bots? We might need to make a choice. Hang out with friends? Or build our career?

Our own brand is paramount. The more bankable our name, the more books we sell. The more books we sell, the more successful (and enjoyable) our writing career will be.

There are right ways and wrong ways and smart ways to build a brand. Can we brand ourselves by only blogging on group blogs? Sure. Anything is possible. I could theoretically take I-35 south from Texas and get to Canada. It involves a very tedious journey through South America over Antarctica, up the other side of the globe and over the North Pole. The Earth IS round. I will get to Canada eventually, BUT the odds of me giving up and going home are far more likely than me reaching Canada.

Is my taking I-35 South WRONG? Technically, no. But it is a formula to give up.

Many writers find social media to be a huge time suck, namely because they either have no plan or they have a flawed plan. I used to think it was a time-suck, too. But I wasn’t approaching social media correctly. I have made all the dumb mistakes so you don’t have to :D.

My two books have hit the top of multiple best-seller lists using the methods I am teaching. And I am not the only one who has experienced this kind of dramatic success. I have a stack of testimonials. Yes, we are free to do social media any way we please. No Facebook police will drag us to digital jail. But I think most of us would rather spend more time writing and less time trying to Bond-O a faulty platform.

What are some tough choices you guys have had to make for your writing? What are some tough choices you face, but maybe don’t know what to do? Have any advice or suggestions? Put them in the comments!

If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of May I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

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

Important Announcements

Make sure you join our LOVE REVOLUTION over on Twitter by following and participating in the #MyWANA Twibe. Read this post to understand how this #MyWANA will totally transform your life and your author platform.

My book We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media hit THREE best-seller lists on Kindle yesterday. #2 in Computers & Technology, #13 in Authorship and #17 in Advertising. THANK YOU!!!!! This book is recommended by some of the biggest authors AND agents in New York, so make sure you pick up a copy if you don’t have one already.

Also, if you want to learn how to blog or even how to take your blogging to a level you never dreamed possible…get your copy of Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer  today. This book hit #1 on the best-selling list in less than 48 hours thanks to all of YOU!!!!! Not only will this book help you learn to blog, but you will be having so much fun, you will forget you were supposed to be learning.

Happy writing!

Until next time….

This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness

The peeps on MyWANA found this nifty little site. A Writer Thesaurus to help us ALWAYS find the right word.

The Red Shoes–A Fairy Tale of Addiction and Compulsion

You guys just KNOW I had to list the wonderful blog, 5 Reasons Kristen Lamb Rocks

Screenwriting Guru Michael Hauge on Character Development

Finding a balance between showing and telling by the AWESOME Jody Hedlund

Writing with Passion–How that Led to My First Book by the wonderful Natalie Markey

In the world of e-publishing, where is Microsoft?

Villains Dissected by Terrell Mims

On Muderati–Characterization–Controlled Hallucination or Craft?

Great blog by Albert Berg on the Fear of Failure

For more AMAZING posts, make sure you connect with #MyWANA for the best people and posts in the industry :D

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  1. #1 by Bob Mayer on May 11, 2011 - 3:19 pm

    There are things you mention in We Are Not Alone: The Writers Guide to Social Media, that I see many ‘experts’ do wrong again and again. I love watching the tweets from some conference on digital publishing and seeing ‘expert’ panelists who have my 80 twitter followers, who have their dog as their avatar and frankly don’t know what they’re doing. But they’re more than willing to tell other people.
    Also, I still see the big publishers trying to figure out how they can brand themselves and mine metadata, when the reality is that each other is a distinct product and publishers need to work with authors. Unfortunately, that concept is very foreign to them; as foreign as selling books to readers instead of distributing books to consignment outlets.

  2. #2 by Brett James Irvine on May 11, 2011 - 3:23 pm

    Nice post…I’m pretty new to marketing my brand, as it were, and it’s taken a while to learn the ropes. I’ll definitely check out the book. It’s interesting to watch how various people approach social media as marketing – there’s a fine balance between spamming and active, engaging social media usage. Hopefully I can find the right balance!

  3. #3 by Jess Witkins on May 11, 2011 - 3:34 pm

    You really got me thinking sharing this lesson with the LIRW class. I didn’t even realize I was doing it, but I DO make excuses sometimes, and they’re not going to help me. So, I’m finally starting to think about this as a job, a real job I hope to one day make some money with. It’s focusing my “free” time better now so there’s a payoff later. And since I always keep a gratitude journal, I’ve also started adding my top eye-opening moments about publishing and writing and social media as well as my gratitude for what I’ve accomplished in those fields too. It’s a good progress tracker and keeps things in perspective. Thanks Kristen!

  4. #4 by Viv on May 11, 2011 - 3:35 pm

    Mildly shocked to find the ping back to your blog Kirsten but a nice surprise anyway. Thank you!

  5. #5 by scott on May 11, 2011 - 3:36 pm

    Always bringing the (often painful) truth. I’m looking forward to picking up your book (when payday comes around)! I have learned from working in social media (the day job is social media coordinator for an agency) that scheduling is key! I schedule content for our clients, but I never did that for my own blog. Posting on my personal blog was willy-nilly. Then one day, out of the blue, I applied my day-job practices to my personal blog and it’s been incredibly helpful. I’m still slack a little but I’m much better WITH the a content calendar than I am without it! Gunning for that PUBLISHED status!

  6. #6 by educlaytion on May 11, 2011 - 3:43 pm

    Congrats on more best sellerness! You know what I think of your guruness.

  7. #7 by angela ackerman on May 11, 2011 - 3:59 pm

    I think honing in on the energy efficient angle of doing SN right is so important. One thing all writers have in common is a need for more time. Knowing how to navigate SN well streamlines the process and gives time back to the writer.

    Thanks for the mention! :)

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  8. #8 by Anne R. Allen on May 11, 2011 - 4:09 pm

    Thanks for keeping at people with this. Maybe with #myWANA you’ll finally reach the cutsie-name masses. I keep hammering people with the your name=your brand thing, but 75% of writers seem to think being cute is are more important than branding.

    And THANK YOU for saying this about group blogs. I recently left a group blog because their format didn’t even give my name until you clicked on the article title. But my feeling was I was wasting my time anyway.

    THREE bestseller lists? Major congratulations!

  9. #9 by HannahFergesen on May 11, 2011 - 4:14 pm

    Still working on this! Though I’ve got the using my own name thing down, and I’m trying to post and tweet more frequently! You’ve definitely helped me to see how important that is.

  10. #10 by Piper Bayard on May 11, 2011 - 4:24 pm

    I see so many experts doing things “the way that works for them.” More often than not, the way that works for them is annoying to me. Spammy, self-centered, uninformative, more dedicated to bolstering their own pedistals than to relating to me.

    There is one thread that runs through ALL of your social media advice. Be considerate of others. Don’t spam. Don’t talk about yourself all the time. Don’t take it personally. Give other people your time, attention, and support. It all adds up to, “Be nice, dammit!” And I invariably notice that the people being nice are the people who kick social media butt and take names.

    Great blog, Kristen. Congratulations on the success of your books, and thank you so much for being nice to me and including me in your social media revolution. Vive la Lamb!

  11. #11 by writerwellness on May 11, 2011 - 4:49 pm

    Congrats on the release, Kristen.
    Joy

  12. #12 by Amy Kennedy on May 11, 2011 - 4:58 pm

    Good choice: using my “writing” name as my twitter handle.
    Bad choice: using a vague writerly title for my blog — and then not realy sure what I wanted to do with it.
    Best Choice: signing up for email subscription to your blog.

    I know I have to make the hard choice of remodeling my blog, but only after I have a definate platform in mind.
    Thanks so much for sharing your cool wisdom with us.

  13. #13 by Maery Rose on May 11, 2011 - 5:09 pm

    That biting the bullet and changing your blog name to your name is something I’m reluctant to do. The people I’ve seen who do that have pretty much lost their followers and never regained. Maybe it was the way they did it or their followers weren’t really following. Perhaps you don’t change the url but just the blog header. Changing your twitter name at least doesn’t lose anyone. I’m still trying to figure out how to add the Share buttons, Twitter link, and so on to blogspot to hopefully draw more traffic. So much to do, so little time.

    • #14 by Author Kristen Lamb on May 11, 2011 - 5:16 pm

      If they lost followers by simply changing the name and not the URL location then those followers weren’t all that loyal to start with. If you simply change the header and put your nam in all your tags, the URL won’t matter. Look at mins *shrugs*. I learned all this stuff the hard way :D.

  14. #15 by Tim O'Brien on May 11, 2011 - 6:37 pm

    I am a newbie to the Social Media wave. I am currently reading your book, “We Are Not Alone” and I’m very thankful for the advice. You state, “The absolute only acceptable username (brand) is the name you desire to publish under.” My question is what if the name you wish to publish under – Tim O’Brien – is taken by an established and incredible writer? There is also another TO’B who is a great bluegrass musician. I obviously can not publish under my own name. Is the solution as simple as adding a middle initial – Tim L O’Brien or T L O’Brien? I would hate to begin the branding and only have to change it later.

    • #16 by Author Kristen Lamb on May 11, 2011 - 6:46 pm

      Your name is only half the brand. YOUR NAME + YOUR CONTENT = BRAND. You don’t have to run out and get a whole new name. Just follow the book and maky your own Tim O’Brien brand. You are just a certain variety. Like. Bertolli is the BIG brand–but they have marinaria, alfredo, vodka sauce. All very difference sauces but Bertolli is on the front. Yet, it unlikely you would pick up a jar of wite creamy sauce and get ticked that it wasn’t marinara. Make sense?

  15. #17 by Leigh D'Ansey on May 11, 2011 - 7:07 pm

    Thanks for another great post. ‘We Are Not Alone’ consolidated a lot of things I sort of knew about social media but couldn’t seem to put into a pattern. Your advice really resonates with me – it’s clear, inspiring and shows me a way foreward. Time is still the killer and I know I’ve got lots more to learn and do, but my blog already shows an upswing. I’m also enjoying it much more. I need to get my head around a lot of the background technical-type stuff – always a struggle for me. ‘Are You There Blog’ is next on my to-buy list.

  16. #18 by Yolanda Early on May 11, 2011 - 7:19 pm

    Im in the process of reading WANA. I had already picked the cutesie name for my blog, but at least I had chosen correctly for twitter. I’m just glad I found you pretty early on in my social media journey. You are saving me lots of DOH! moments.

    • #19 by Author Kristen Lamb on May 11, 2011 - 7:27 pm

      Just slap your name in front of cutesy blog name and put your name in your tags and you are Golden :D. Thanks!

  17. #20 by Irene Vernardis on May 11, 2011 - 8:09 pm

    Great points Kristen :).

    There is something that writers tend or choose to overlook, just as in your example with chocolate cake – Target Audience. As you said, if you want to make a chocolate cake, then you should make a cake that reflects everybody else’s notion of chocolate cake, not yours.

    Many writers write for themselves, at least primarily if not at all. Books however are for readers, not for authors, so an author should take into consideration the characteristics of the group of readers for whom he/she writes.
    Target is one of the most important aspects of a product, if not the most important. Same goes with branding, it must be targeted. When building a brand, one should seriously take into consideration to whom this brand is addressed and all the aspects. It’s different when it addresses doctors from when it addresses business consultants, for example. Thus, the content part of branding should take into consideration the characteristics of the target audience.

    Thank you for the very interesting post :)

  18. #21 by Terrell Mims on May 11, 2011 - 8:29 pm

    I find out a way that my blog grew is by posting content that is relevant to my brand, but also which is trending in the media. When people search for the trending topic, your blog has better chances of showing up.

    For example, I blog on Myth and Legends on Mondays and Thor came out last week. Perfect! A week of Thor blogs. I am doing a series on Villains and Smallville ends this week. This week’s villain…Lex Luthor TA DA! In my recent blog, I compared the Norse god Balder to Justin Bieber.

    What if you blog on plants? How are plants trending? The Plants of Japan in Light of the Earthquake. Get creative. You won’t be upset.

    Our readers surf the net and watch the news. If they know we are relevant, they will always come back expecting how we can blend our platform into what’s going on.

    P.S. Thanks for the blog shout out.

    • #22 by Pamela Mason on May 19, 2011 - 6:38 pm

      Terrell, you’re a genius!

      Because I was just thinking this same thing for myself — paranormal romance writer here– this morning! Watching a morning news show. (I’m a genius too!)

      Going to do it now! So exciting when the Universe and God affirm your ideas & actions.

  19. #23 by Sharon Louise on May 11, 2011 - 9:17 pm

    Great idea, Terrell! Thanks for sharing that.

    Kristen, I’m so glad I found you before I started blogging. I would have been so lost! Instead, I love my website and blog.

    Thank you, and congratulations on the success of your new book!

  20. #24 by Tamara LeBlanc on May 11, 2011 - 10:42 pm

    To blog or not to blog?
    Actually, the answer is really a no brainer. I’ve learned from you that lone blogging, building my brand, cultivating readers and gaining fans is incredibly important, but I can’t seem to shake the fear.
    What if I have nothing to say?
    What if I have something to say but it sucks?
    What if I have something to say and it’s pretty darn good, but no one reads it?
    Grrr…the crash and burn possibilities are endless.
    I’ve mentioned this before, and you had some great advice, but I’m still worried that I’d do my brand more harm than good. (All though, does anyone really know author Tamara LeBlanc? If you don’t have much of a brand, can it really be harmed?)
    I guess I’m just not quite ready.
    Though your brilliant I-35 south metaphor has coaxed me one step closer to getting over my little blogging phobia.
    Your blogs always speak to me.
    Thank you so much for your wisdom, and have a great evening!
    Tamara

  21. #25 by Leanne Shirtliffe (Ironic Mom) on May 11, 2011 - 10:55 pm

    I’ve read Book #1. I’ll be buying Book #2 tonight.

    I know I have to change my Twitter handle from Ironic_Mom to Leanne Shirtliffe. I’ll do it. I will. And no doubt I’ll thank you.

    • #26 by amy kennedy on May 12, 2011 - 12:55 pm

      But you could use the awesomwness of “Ironic Mom” in your bio. You could start a hash tag with it.

  22. #27 by Jenny Hansen on May 11, 2011 - 11:56 pm

    Hey, Kristen, great blog…I can’t wait to read Clay’s post on “5 Reasons Kristen Lamb Rocks!” You kicked my social media behind into gear (and I appreciate it) – if I could go back and do it over again, I’d pick jennyhansenauthor or Jenny_Hansen but jhansenwrites is working for me.

    I really valued #myWANA today…so much that I wrote a post about it. You go, girl!

    Thanks for the shout out for Writers In the Storm…:-)

  23. #28 by Mary Ann Peden-Coviello on May 12, 2011 - 1:59 am

    My name is so long and unwieldy. But I don’t want to shorten it or use a pen-name. I mean, this name is ME and I earned it. But . . . long. And hard to say. Not to mention long. Anyway, I have used it as the second line on my blog and I use it in tags. But I had to shorten it for Twitter. Shoot, I wouldn’t have had room to say anything if I had tried to use the whole thing for my Twitter handle.

  24. #29 by Gene Lempp on May 12, 2011 - 8:45 am

    Well Kristen reading your blog, “We are not alone” and taking all the great advice has finally moved me past frustrated blogger to begin building something I actually find fun, entertaining and useful.

    Every time I add anything to my schedule I get less sleep, but it has been worth it and day by day I finding better ways to manage my time. Eventually, I know I’ll both have the skills to handle everything and a group of wonderful friends to support those efforts. It’s the long term that benefit that makes the short term trials worthwhile.

    Congratulations on hitting the best seller list! Can’t wait to read “Are you there Blog?”!

  25. #30 by Catherine Johnson on May 12, 2011 - 11:00 am

    That is fantastic, congrats on the best seller lists. I’m not surprised though! I’m so over my book buying budget already this year, but if I tell hubby this will keep me off the computer more, he’ll buy it tomorrow ;)

  26. #31 by Orlando Ramos on May 12, 2011 - 2:41 pm

    I know your way is the right way. Here is my big question concerning all this, would I possibly lose any Twitter or blog followers by changing those names? Or better yet let me phrase it this way. How can make these changes without losing my followers?

    • #32 by Author Kristen Lamb on May 12, 2011 - 2:43 pm

      They should be following for content, not a name. When you change your Twitter handle, just leave the pic as the same and tweet an announcement. Most people won’t even notice, but this way you have the right name top of mind. As far as the blog, don’t worry about the URL. Look at mine. DOH! I didn’t know any better. Just put your name in the title of the blog and make sure your name is one of the tags in every blog. Easy-Squeezy :D.

  27. #33 by Robie Madison on May 12, 2011 - 10:31 pm

    A friend sent me here…probably because I need help. LOL

  28. #34 by Robin Lythgoe on May 12, 2011 - 11:05 pm

    I am pretty new in the Social Media scene. I have read a lot of good things about your book, so I went and got it from Amazon. I’m really looking forward to learning how to do this the *right* way!

  29. #35 by Linda Katmarian on May 12, 2011 - 11:06 pm

    Just discovered your great blog and am anxious to check out We are Not Alone before I dig a hole so deep that I can’t crawl out of it.

  30. #36 by Marilag Lubag on May 14, 2011 - 7:11 am

    Truth is the most bitter medicine you can taste. It’s like a healing medicine. I think that’s Kahlil Gibran. Still haven’t followed your advices to the T. Gotta read We Are Not Alone again to apply other things from the book. Waiting for the paperback of the next book. :-)

  31. #37 by Janice Maddox (@sierrawriter) on May 16, 2011 - 1:22 am

    Seems like a silly question, but I never see this addressed. What if our name is already taken on Twitter? I can’t Tweet as Janice Maddox. Should I really do something like JaniceMaddox4785?

    • #38 by Author Kristen Lamb on May 16, 2011 - 1:26 am

      You can also do a middle intitial, or and underscoure. Janice_Maddox. Give yourself a License to Kill. JaniceMaddox007. I put a TX after my name. We can be creative but not at the expense of our brand :).

  32. #39 by Graeme Smith on May 25, 2011 - 6:26 pm

    Kristen

    Not directly connected, and it may well be I already find and answer once I’ve bought both of your books, but I wondered. And what did I wonder?

    I wondered when an alternate identity is a good udea, or essential, rather than a maybe.

    Yes, I know. ‘It’s a pen-name, not witness protection!’ :-). But here’s the nub, and here’s the rub. If I, hypothetically, were to want to establish a web presence (for any reason), is it a really bad idea to stick with the name I came with (yes, one more Smith among millions)? Or, however much my mother might want to see her son’s name on the cover of a book (well, another book), does the smother of those millions point to adopting some less homogenous brand label/ pen name/ platform tag?

    My current web site was set up some time ago, mostly to provide a vehicle for presenting work to and gathering feedback from alpha and beta readers. So it wasn’t intended as or designed to be a platform vehicle. However, a number of your posts have me thinking. I would be interested in any comment you might offer.

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