Writers in a Gilded Cage–Only Art Can Set Us Free

 

There are a lot of blogs out there that I love and respect for the best information. Any of you who have been following this blog for any amount of time know I am a huge fan of NYTBSA Bob Mayer. He really does go out of his way to help writers, and I can say that I have learned a ton from his books and workshops. Frankly, I would never have made it as a writer without his teachings about conquering fear (another blog for another day).

Last week, Bob had a post, The Secret Handshake of Success that, in part, sparked my last Wednesday blog The Modern Author–A New Breed of Writer for the Digital Age of Publishing. I believe that, in the Digital Age, we have to up our game, and knowledge is power. But the most powerful knowledge of all in this new paradigm?

Knowing our craft.

We are in the Age of the Artist, and we have a choice what type of writer we want to be. Do we desire to be an assembly-line writer cranking out cheap 99 cent commodities? Or do we desire to be artists? There are only two choices for writers of the Digital Age–win by being more ordinary, standard and cheaper, or win by being more creative and more remarkable.

There is a race to the bottom going on over at Amazon. We writers traded our day jobs that made us feel like cheap, interchangeable cogs in a faceless machine for a new promise that if we worked hard enough we would be rewarded. Many are grasping the promise of being able to make a living doing what they love, being artists…and Amazon is feeding that dream.

But here is what I see.

Amazon will be more than happy to make us cheap, interchangeable cogs in a faceless machine. They make money off quantity. If millions of first-time writers are willing to slave for hundreds of hours just to sell their art for 99 cents to all their friends and family, Amazon is still happy, because if a million writers sell their books to a hundred people, that is still a really healthy chunk of change. Thus, in effect, we traded one cage for another.

And Amazon will even come up with programs like KDP select to help artists give their wares away for FREE! in return for the ever-elusive “exposure” as if this alone is the magical element that will free us from our gilded cage.

A better cover, or a Goodreads campaign or more tweeting and we will be able to quit the day job…or not.

And this is how Amazon will keep authors on the treadmill, the carrot always just out of reach. Eventually most will wear out and give up, but no worries. There will be new hopefuls there to take their place. Amazon doesn’t care about us as artists. They care about getting a commodity (books) to consumers as cheaply as possible. Does this make Amazon evil? No. It is business.

Ah, but here is where writers have a choice. Do we desire to be part of the Chinese cheap plastic toy business, where we rely on mass quantities to make our profit? Or are we in the business of Faberge eggs? Or are we somewhere in between?

What will make Amazon respect us and readers more willing to part with more money to read our books is simple…execution. The better we are at our art, the more our words change people and transform them, the more power we hold.

The difference is in the art, and art is refined by practice and….training.

Writers line up for the latest social media class that is guaranteed to get them “exposure,” yet the craft classes languish. I have seen this at conferences. My blogging class has a line out the door (and I am grateful), and the agent panels are standing room only. But what about the class designed to hone dialogue or develop multi-dimensional characters?

*insert crickets chirping*

This past weekend, I dissolved my writing workshop. Every Saturday I would drive an hour and a half and give up 2-4 hours to train and develop writers from idea to completion–so roughly 5.5 hours of my time. I have not had my Saturdays free in four years. Yet why did I have to shut down my workshop?

Lack of interest.

Members of the group were busy with their lives, and the workshop just never seemed to be a priority that could outpace helping friends move or showing a house or cleaning out the garage or attending a nephew’s birthday party…and I grew weary of showing week after week for a nearly empty room. It was a tremendously sad day for me. I’d worked very hard to put together a system to train authors who could take an idea, make it original, then plot and write an excellent manuscript in less than six months. In three years of running the workshop, TWO members have listened and done all the steps in my process…and one has one of the top agents in the world, and the other is being considered by the Maass agency.

Craft matters. Yes, I am a social media expert, and I believe that we need a platform, but we must remember we are artists first. Artists can learn in all kinds of ways. We can learn by doing it wrong… a lot and then one day we “get it.” Something clicks and we stop writing dreadful books and go to merely writing crappy books, but one day actually land on writing a good book OR we can go to those who are willing to share their knowledge and train us in our art. Both methods work.

Being an artist is what will make publishing respect us. It is what will make Amazon value our contribution. Trust me, the authors that sign with Amazon as Publisher get treated very differently. If we are selling thousands of books a week, Amazon will play nicer, because, when we take our business elsewhere, it will hurt. But if we are only selling 500 books? A thousand? What bargaining power is that? It isn’t, and the gilded cage will grow smaller as Amazon helps itself to a higher and higher percentage of the royalties because they can.

It is our choice how we unlock the gilded cage, but only art will set us free.

Below is another vlog–WRITING 101. Yes, BONUS! Here are more of my thoughts and what craft means to the Digital Age Author…

watch?v=OnAbPbuFohw&context=C48bcf57ADvjVQa1PpcFMCFmtmol1hTuBYwFIy-TmWSTqw583JwD4=

So what are your thoughts on craft? Do you feel that I am out of line? By the way, I am NOT bashing Amazon. It is a business and it is up to us to do our part to make sure they don’t take advantage, because ANYONE is capable of taking advantage of us if we don’t put down boundaries and make them appreciate our value…which is why I closed my workshop. But how do you feel as artists? What resources would you recommend?

I LOVE hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

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

Last Week’s Winner of 5 Page Critique is Victoria Lindstrom. Please send your 1250 word Word document to kristen at kristen lamb dot org.

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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  1. #1 by Colin Falconer on March 12, 2012 - 6:15 am

    As always Kristen, you’re spot on. I have taken your blogging class and it was absolutely invaluable. But at the end of the day we have to keep working on our content, year in and year out. Another great post, Kristen.

  2. #2 by Mark Williams international on March 12, 2012 - 6:20 am

    That’s incredibly sad that someone with your name-recognition can play to an empty house when it comes to teaching the writing craft. What chance the unknown tutor trying to make a living?

    It does suggest the worst-scenario predictions about the impact of cheap and free are proving right. That less and less people are bothering to hone their skills because they can throw out a second-rate product and the sheer volume of bargain hunters and freebie-grabbers will make it pay off. Short term.

    But will those bargain hunters and freebie-grabbers come back and buy that writer’s next book, even if it’s as cheap?

    Free and cheap can be used as an effective short-term marketing tool, but for many it’s becoming part of their brand, and that can only damage them and the industry long term.

    But sometimes it’s not the writers fault. Amazon have discounted two of our best-sellers so they now look desperate. So much for self-publishers having control over pricing. If the Big Six started giving our books away for pennies like this there would be uproar.

    • #3 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 12, 2012 - 6:48 am

      Traditional publishing is a different machine, but we will talk about that on Wednesday ;).

    • #4 by Kevin O. McLaughlin on March 13, 2012 - 1:50 am

      Actually, I don’t think bad books will even sell in the short term. Sure, 99 cents is a great way to get some visibility for your work. But even at that price?

      Readers don’t buy crap.

      Readers sample, especially for writers they have not read before. As time goes on, I think the mode of “pop on website, download a dozen interesting looking samples and read the samples at your leisure” is going to be the new normal.

      They like the sample? They’ll buy the book, right then, on the spot.

      They don’t like it? Your book doesn’t grab them and make them want to read the rest of the story? Delete.

      Quality books sell. Bad books don’t. All those bestsellers out there? They might or might not be your taste. But best-selling ebooks hit that list only if they’re genuinely good stories. Sure, some good books might not be selling as well as they could. That’s where the social media comes in to help. ;)

      But to have even a chance, the price to throw your hat in the ring with even a prayer at gaining good readership is to write good stories.

  3. #5 by Michi on March 12, 2012 - 6:25 am

    Wow, still processing. Merci for the red pill, Kristen. ;)

    My husband actually mentioned selling essays on Amazon this past weekend while we were at a teashop. I told him there was no way I would sell my work as such (and besides, who the heck would buy essays from an unpublished amateur on Amazon when there’s so much better stuff to buy), and that I would feel robbed. But I couldn’t quite explain why. And then I read this line on your post:

    “ANYONE is capable of taking advantage of us if we don’t put down boundaries and make them appreciate our value.”

    Here’s to cracking open my gilded cage in a way that will make me proud.

  4. #6 by Adele on March 12, 2012 - 6:28 am

    Gutted about your writing group – what an opportunity, no longer available. If you were in London… I’d be In Like Flynn. Can’t agree more about the craft. Good perspectives on Amazon too – I appreciate the way you put clearer lenses on the writing world. Thanks again x

  5. #7 by Richard Snow on March 12, 2012 - 6:29 am

    Boy was this a powerful post! I’m sorry you had to close your workshop. And I fear you are right about Amazon. But for those who have tried and tried the traditional agent/physical book route, and not had success, the appeal of Amazon will be overpowering.

  6. #8 by Ellen Gregory on March 12, 2012 - 6:30 am

    Oh, I so agree with this. A writing teacher once said to me that if you write a novel that is truly wonderful, then you’re almost assured of getting (traditionally) published. That has stayed with me as I persevere and work on improving my craft, although sometimes I feel that there are too many facets for me to possibly master. And that’s maybe why so many writers are so focused on publishing, rather than writing… because now the (self) publishing part has become relatively easy, and craft is HARD. But (*raises glass*) here’s to art!

    PS – So sorry you had to dissolve your workshop. I love writing classes, and there don’t seem to be enough of them at different levels. Most classes I come across (here in Melbourne, Australia) seem to be focused on complete beginners, whereas I’d really like to take some classes that focus on extending writers in specific areas a bit beyond that first level. Maybe this is where online courses come in…

  7. #9 by Teresa Noelle Roberts on March 12, 2012 - 6:40 am

    Thank you. Just…thank you.

  8. #10 by tracikenworth on March 12, 2012 - 7:04 am

    Great post!! Refreshing our craft is very important. Thanks for the reminder!!

  9. #11 by Catherine Johnson on March 12, 2012 - 7:07 am

    Great post, Kristen. It’s very sad about your classes, but you deserve more time for you, it might have been fate. Putting down the boundaries is a great message, thanks Kristen.

  10. #12 by Shawn MacKENZIE on March 12, 2012 - 7:08 am

    Thanks for this, Kristen.
    Amazon–yes, they are a business, they look to their bottom line. But we don’t have to simply roll over and accept being the cogs they deign to make us.
    Writing is a craft which on rare occasions soars to the heights of art. But we’ll never get there withour learning the basics. We’re wordsmiths and must know how to take advantage of every tool in our kit. And, like all craftpeople, this take a lot of hard work–we start as apprentices, move on to journeymen, and, with luck and dedication, a few of us might even become masters of our craft. No short cuts, but it’s well worth the journey.

  11. #13 by David Kazzie on March 12, 2012 - 7:22 am

    Kristen,

    I was fortunate enough to have tremendous success with the Amazon’s KDP Select program, as my book spent 10 days on the Top 100 Paid bestseller list last month.

    I always believed that I had a good book (or I wouldn’t have published it), and the book reviews that have come in on it, by and large, support my belief.

    But my “art” wasn’t enough by itself. For the first 7 months my book was available, I sold less than 300 copies. It took the push from Amazon’s program to get me to the next level (to get to any level, actually).

    It was Amazon’s machine that helped my book become a success, that helped put it in front of enough eyeballs that I could move the needle on sales. For someone else, it might be word of mouth, or a social media platform, or a big publisher push or just flat-out luck. But in every case, something more is needed.

    I’m struck by this quote in your post: “Being an artist is what will make publishing respect us. It is what will make Amazon value our contribution.”

    I’m not sure I agree with this. I wrote the best book I could. A book that I really believed in. And despite that — forget respect — virtually no one even knew my book existed. It took brute force marketing (giving away 35,000 e-Books via the Select program, which in turn, has helped me sell thousands of books) to get “respect” and to get the book in front of the people that matter to me the most — people looking for a good read.

    Now granted, it may be that I caught lightning in a bottle, and this approach probably will not work for every single writer out there. But I find that virtually no two writers’ journeys are the same.

    And in the end, if Amazon sees me as a valuable commodity, then I’m not particularly worried about whether they see me as an artist. Like you said — Amazon is running a business. BUT I’m running a business too, and I need to take advantage of any opportunity that I’m given — whether it’s KDP Select or something else.

    -David

    • #14 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 12, 2012 - 7:25 am

      But KDP select won’t work for crappy books is my point. Amazon isn’t in the business of developing artists. They are in the business of getting books to customers. So we cannot expect Amazon to do anything other than what it does is my point. “Exposure” won’t do anything for a crappy product. And you and I actually agree. If I didn’t believe in exposure at all I wouldn’t bother teaching social media. But what seems to be happening is that writers all want the magic feather and it doesn’t exist.

      So happy for your success!

      • #15 by David Kazzie on March 12, 2012 - 7:48 am

        I would hope that NOTHING works for crappy books (and I suspect you and I agree on the definition of crappy — poorly edited work with homemade covers, which is much different than saying X book is crappy because I didn’t like it, which is a subjective thing).

        And I do agree that writers all want the magic feather. Hell, I want a pet bird that sheds a magic feather twice a day.

        I will say one thing, and this is based on my own anecdotal evidence. Of the self-published books that have taken off, it seems that if you dig down, you’ll often find that those authors have come close in the past — and just needed a little extra push that these new tools provide. For the most part, this isn’t these authors’ first time at the rodeo. There’s always been a lot of good stuff out there, and now more of that stuff can rise to the top.

        • #16 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 12, 2012 - 8:00 am

          I agree and it is why I dedicate so much time to training authors about social media. People believe that traditional publishing is the panacea but the rate of failure is STAGGERING. When I saw the numbers in 2006 (before indie and e-books) I was STUNNED. A 93% failure rate. Only 1 in 9 traditionally published authors would ever see a second novel in print. I refused to believe that 93% of writers all wrote bad books…which is why I took up the social media for writers torch.

          So yes, I think you and I agree. And social media just helps bad books fail faster ;).

          • #17 by David Kazzie on March 12, 2012 - 9:06 am

            Also, I love that self-publishing has taken off for the reason you cite — those huge failure rates.

            I no longer need to worry that a book I write will never see the light of day. I will always have the option to SP it, and use these other tools to help it take off.

            In the past, there was NOTHING more discouraging than the prospect of spending 9-12 months on a book and knowing there was little chance of finding an agent or getting it published traditionally, no matter how good it was.

  12. #18 by mobyjoecafe on March 12, 2012 - 7:24 am

    I agree that we, as writers, should seek to improve our craft for it’s own sake. The only way to do so is practice and constructive feedback, as painful as that can be. However, as a fledgling writer, it’s hard to dismiss the idea of bypassing the traditional path to publication when the industry communicates through it’s actions that it doesn’t necessarily care about quality writing in commercial fiction. I can’t blame a consumer for being happy to shell out $.99 for a “meh” book, since he or she can walk into Target, pay $12 and have exactly the same experience.

    • #19 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 12, 2012 - 7:27 am

      Oh, I think indie and self-publishing is wonderful and I also love traditional publishing. Both have pros…and cons. Traditional publishing is making us cogs, too, just in a different way that we will explore another day ;).

      • #20 by mobyjoecafe on March 12, 2012 - 8:20 am

        Disintermediation can also be a great source for growth. It just might take a while for things to shake out. I consulted to the music industry when MP3 technology was first available, and the everyone sounded the death knell for the business. Then the IPod arrived. The music industry dragged their heels, and the technology industry took the lead. It’s a great opportunity for an independent publisher to establish a brand that stands for quality literature from lesser known or new authors. And when they do, please ask them to call me.

  13. #21 by Mary Incontro on March 12, 2012 - 7:24 am

    Kristen, you nailed it!

  14. #22 by Kelly O'Sullivan (HILWD) on March 12, 2012 - 7:58 am

    I was directed to your blog recently and am thrilled my first read is this post. I have much to learn (so much) about social media and self-promotion but I have much more to learn about writing.

  15. #23 by Tom B on March 12, 2012 - 8:00 am

    Hi, Kristen, great blog and vlog!

    When I was 14-16 I wrote my first novel. Can’t bear to read it now. But that was a looooooong time ago. How much have I learned? Well…sometimes I wonder if I’ve learned as much as I think I have.

    I absolutely agree that as writers we must be artists and constantly hone the craft aspect of our writing. If we are not growing as writers — which, as you so humorously point out, entails sometimes falling flat on our faces! — then we probably aren’t doing much worthwhile.

    That said I want to weigh in just a little in favor of “hack” writing. Not because I want to do it or because I think anyone else should unless they just want to, but I remember the pulp magazines of the 1920s and 1930s. Modern science fiction wouldn’t exist without the pulps — and for those of you who like sword-and-sorcery (think Robert E. Howard) today, well, it wouldn’t exist either. None of the “serious” markets would publish that stuff!

    My point is this: the $0.99 market might have its uses, especially if it supports the “pulp fiction” of the future.

    Otherwise I’m with you 110%.

    Well — maybe one more point of contention: Other than from the very strictly limited POV of what constitutes the skill set for writers, I’m not sure I can completely agree that New York knows what it’s talking about when it comes to writing. I’m not talking about “skill sets” here, I’m talking about something much more elusive: content and story. My uncertainty arises from the fact that New York publishing has been geared around profit-making — no, correction, the BEST SELLER — for so long that the “mainstream” judgment on content and story has become warped. Granted, this is my perception/conclusion; I don’t know everything; I’m willing to be shown that I’m wrong.

    But we’ve all read good stories that succeeded despite fairly elementary mistakes by the writer, and we’ve all seen or heard of editorial changes that were market-driven rather than aesthetic. I’ll agree that a good New York editor knows her stuff — my only question is, in what market?

    I stopped reading fiction about ten years ago because no one was publishing anything I wanted to read. Maybe that’s because I’m middle-aged and studying to be an elderly curmudgeon and getting set in my ways and all that, but aside from a very few contemporary writers, especially in science fiction (and believe me, I’ve looked, because I miss my fiction fix!), the “content and story” part of it is missing. But of course that’s just me and what I like, but in the end, as artists, for that thing that comes from deep inside us that’s going to pick up the tools in that box marked “Writer Skill Set” — what else is there?

    Looking forward to your next post!

    • #24 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 12, 2012 - 8:05 am

      Actually, you bring up a point that I am going to develop on Wednesday. I do feel NY makes errors and we will talk more on that later. But there are also a lot of writers who are just grossly unskilled. So if we just ignore NY and rush off to publish, we can really be embarrassed. It is better to get the work checked out seriously by an editor or beta readers or a critique group first to make sure that we aren’t publishing a train wreck.

      I have critiqued pages for writers who had already published the work and had to e-mail and tell them their work was amateurish and horrible (though I was far kinder and more tactful) and to recommend they take down the book and revise before reviewers got a hold of it.

  16. #25 by lindseyjparsons on March 12, 2012 - 8:12 am

    Another very interesting blog thank you. I feel that because self-publishing has become more respected and Amazon has made it so easy to get your work out there, there is a real danger of thinking that’ll do. If your work doesn’t blind an agent or publisher with it’s absolute brilliance you can still easily get published and the danger is you don’t stop to think why didn’t they want it? How can I improve my skills to make my work shine? It’s not Amazon’s fault, they are just providing a service, as you say they are a business. If we just want to see our books printed well fine, but if we want a writing career it’s up to us to get ourselves as well qualified as we can.

  17. #26 by Juliana Brandt on March 12, 2012 - 8:16 am

    I could not agree more about this. I think people get excited when they finish a book and don’t realize it’s quite there yet…kind of like querying too early. They get the book on paper and then hurry to publish without putting in the dirty work. The dirty work is what makes us good.

    Thanks for putting up this post :)

  18. #27 by Renée A. Schuls-Jacobson on March 12, 2012 - 8:18 am

    Fantastic, and I have every faith that you are Alll. Over. This.

    Please don’t dissolve WWBC. Oh, Obi Wan Kinobi. You are my only hope. ;-)

  19. #28 by April Plummer (@April_Plummer) on March 12, 2012 - 8:21 am

    Fantastic post, but as always a lot to absorb. No, Amazon doesn’t care about our craft. That’s up to us. They care about the bottom line, and that is always money. Because, as you said, they are a business. But I do think Amazon has helped us self-publishers despite their bottom line. They’ve opened up avenues that may otherwise have been closed and encouraged us to practice our craft. How? By allowing us to publish. By allowing us to place our stories in others’ hands. That is my greatest joy (so long as the reader likes my story, of course). Because of the ease with which I can publish, I have motivation to keep writing. To keep publishing. To keep practicing my craft. Rather than deal with rejections from agents over and over, rejections that lead to disappointment and discouragement, I can see my finished product. And that spurs me to keep going.

  20. #29 by Amy Kennedy on March 12, 2012 - 8:39 am

    Many great points.

    But I want to talk about your writing workshop…why don’t you offer it online? Or maybe you do and I’m horribly ignorant.

    • #30 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 12, 2012 - 9:10 am

      I do have an on-line version, but the process is painfully long because everything has to be read and typed. I am brainstorming ways to make it more efficient. Right now it makes me want to slam my head in a door and the on-line group has been wonderful and patient and frankly more deserving of my time.

      • #31 by Jennifer Jensen on March 12, 2012 - 10:14 am

        I wonder if you could offer it in the same format as your Saturday classes, with the same enrollment limits, and do it as a video chat? I love on-line craft classes, but they miss the synergy that takes place in an in-person class.

      • #32 by Jennifer L. Oliver on March 12, 2012 - 10:22 am

        Just a thought about your workshops. I’m wondering if your vlog abilities could be used for lessons as well? Or if there is a deadline for everyone to send their work to you (and or each other) and then meet up on a video conference? Or even Skype?

  21. #33 by Betty Gordon on March 12, 2012 - 8:39 am

    Kristen, an informative blog that provides a lot of food for thought. Improving craft is a ‘must’ for all of us and it never stops. We can always learn and improve. Thanks again for a great post!

  22. #34 by Emma Burcart on March 12, 2012 - 8:58 am

    I think you are right. It really does all come down to craft. I hate when I find a blogger I like and then I read an exerpt of their book and it’s bad. Or worse, when I hear someone speak at a convention and really like them and then their book is crap. It makes me a little sad. And reminds me that I don’t want to be that person who disappoints a potential fan. You have inspired me to find another craft class, after I finish the non-fiction class I’m taking right now.

  23. #35 by Miranda Hardy on March 12, 2012 - 9:02 am

    It amazed me you didn’t have the interest in the workshop. I’d kill for something like that near me. Craft is so much more important to me than just getting a book out there, which is why I have two novels shelved. I could have forced them out there, but I’d rather have a well crafted book I was confident with.

  24. #36 by Kristin Wallace on March 12, 2012 - 9:12 am

    I do think some people see Amazon as the magic bean that is going to turn them into a bestseller overnight. Put your book up there & “poof” you’re a bestseller like Amanda Hawking. But then they don’t take the time to get their work edited properly or the book cover looks bad. Or they don’t want to believe that there might be a reason why their book was rejected and that they have to work on their craft.

    I think social media is certainly a vehicle to reach a new audience, but it can’t take the place of craft.

  25. #37 by SJ Driscoll on March 12, 2012 - 9:49 am

    Dang. I was trying to figure out when I could scoot up to DFW and sit in on your workshop. Should’ve just shown up one Saturday, hat in hand (or chocolate? coffee?). Is your method something you could get across in an online class or a book? Say yes!

  26. #38 by ChemistKen on March 12, 2012 - 9:57 am

    Sorry about the workshop. If your workshop would have been here in Michigan, I would have most certainly attended.

  27. #39 by Yolanda on March 12, 2012 - 10:04 am

    There seems to be a lot of pressure on new writers to push something out the door. Every time I tell someone what I do, the first thing out there mouth is “What have you published?” When they find out I haven’t yet, the next question is, “When is the book coming out?” It seems that craft takes a backseat to getting publishing cred.

    I recently completed reading “Dune”. I would much rather write a piece of art like that and take my time and learn the craft, than to write something quick and dirty just to have a buck and cred. Not enough can ever be said about the importance of learning the craft.

  28. #40 by Pauline Baird Jones on March 12, 2012 - 10:12 am

    Once more wise words of truth! One of my favorite writing books is a playwriting book by Sam Smiley. Playwriting: The structure of action. Great stuff on scene construction and character creation. But my first love is Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande. When I first found it, it was only available in the library. Was so glad when i could buy my own copy. And I am so grateful to many authors ahead of me who took the time to read and comment and teach me!

  29. #41 by Jennifer Jensen on March 12, 2012 - 10:24 am

    So true – craft MUST come before publishing. I “helped” a friend of my father’s work on her book. It needed a ton of work – it rambled, the premise needed some help, it was too teachy-preachy within its adventure format. I couldn’t give it a lot of time for free, but I took one chapter, edited it to show her what it could be like and gave specific suggestions as to how to take the “teachiness” out, make things more plausible, and yet still keep her main story intact. She was immensely grateful, loved how it read after the changes, and yet went and self-pubbed exactly as it was, with my edited chapter included (sticking out like a sore thumb, I’m sure). She sold about a hundred copies and loved the comments. Only problem was that they came from women saying “oh, my granddaughter will love this,” “all teenagers should read this”, etc, instead of from the teenagers!

    My problem is that I *know* what it should be like, but it’s hard to get right! So I muddle on, reading and re-reading about craft, studying good fiction, and cheering when something finally clicks in a way that makes it into my subconscious instead of just a “must-do” checklist.

    Thanks for a great post (as always), and especially for the story of your first book in the vlog. You’re right, we are NOT alone, even in mistakes!

  30. #42 by Running from Hell with El on March 12, 2012 - 10:36 am

    I am frankly surprised and saddened that your writing workshops weren’t as well attended as the blogging and agent workshops; then again, our art is an arduous one. Most people want to hide from the painful side of writing: it is hard work.

    As far as selling books for $.99, that defies belief and makes me shake my head. Then again, if folks aren’t willing to put the time in to write a decent product, then they are reaping what they sow I reckon.

  31. #43 by KM Huber on March 12, 2012 - 10:47 am

    The knowing and appreciation of the craft of writing opens up worlds, not only book drafts but any and all social media. To me, you have brought the elephant to the front and center of the room; I cheer you, Kristen, truly.

    Like so many others, I look forward to your upcoming workshops; it is not an exaggeration to say that your workshops are life changing, which are extraordinary words for a lifelong curmudgeon. And once more, your authentic belief in service is so refreshing. It makes this old woman tear up.

    In our online workshop, we’re struggling for a workable, workshop structure, although we haven’t admitted that yet. I’m posting today’s blog to generate discussion; I am arrow-proof except for….

    Karen

    • #44 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 12, 2012 - 10:50 am

      I think the best is maybe to pair up and then converse by phone or on Skype. The only on-line people in my workshop who have done well are ones I could talk to and work with them. Content critique works wonderfully in person because it is a giant creative brainstorming session and the synergy is amazing…when people bother to show up. It saddens me that I had to shut down the in-person group because this type of critique works WONDERS in person.

      So I am researching alternatives. Just bear with me and I will take care of my peeps ;).

      • #45 by KM Huber on March 12, 2012 - 11:07 am

        Oh, Kristen, never a doubt about you assisting any of us. That in itself is inspiring.

  32. #46 by Jennifer L. Oliver on March 12, 2012 - 10:58 am

    Once again, you’ve brought wisdom through your words, Kristen!

    I’m sorry that you had to shut down your workshop. I would love to have been able to take that class from you. Your workshop on building an author platform was such an eye-opener for me that I have no doubt I would learn a ton from you in one on craft.

    I agree that authors, especially new ones, need to focus on the craft. Make your product the best it can be before giving it to fans. I don’t to put my work out there if I haven’t done everything in my power to make sure it is worthy of being read. I want to learn as much as possible so that I can put forth my best.

    I have been trying to take as many courses as possible to improve my writing, but unfortunately I just don’t have the money to do many. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come across classes that I would like to take and they are several hundreds of dollars. Right now, that’s just out of my budget. I’ve been lucky enough to find places like SavvyAuthors.com who offer workshops for under $50 as well as the ones from Who Dares Wins Publishing (which totally rock, in my humble opinion). I’ll continue to take classes from these two places and I’ll continue to learn and do my absolute best, because I don’t want to just be published. I want to be the author of a great book too!

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom and ideas with us Kristen!

  33. #47 by Victoria Lindstrom on March 12, 2012 - 11:04 am

    Thanks for the gift of a five page critique, Kristen!

  34. #48 by Donna Brown on March 12, 2012 - 11:20 am

    I agree with you, Kristen. It seems like everything that is popular goes through a time when everyone seems to want to get rich quick doing whatever it is that is popular at the time. From the invention of the printing press, through the pulp fiction era, through the dot.com era, to blogging, until now, there are those who simply want to get rich quick from what ever is the new thing. A few make it big in the beginning, but for the most part, it has been the true artists who study their craft whose craft outlives the artist. that was why I went back to get my degree.

  35. #49 by wckedwords on March 12, 2012 - 11:23 am

    I’m in literal pain. I had no idea you had a workshop and I’m in the DFW area!! My entire critique group would have been there for every class with eager faces, manuscripts ready for restoration, and snacks (my editing skills may need refining but my cupcakes are awesome sauce). If you decide to bring it back, please let me know.

  36. #50 by granbee on March 12, 2012 - 11:37 am

    So sorry to hear your Saturday writing workshops fizzed out! You definitely made the right decision to shut that one down! Glad about those two wonderful successes, of course! Yes, writing in my life absolutely must be an art, a work of love and passion! Everytime I get an invite to get paid $5/600 words to write blankety-blank “filler” for pamphlets, etc., I just huff once and go “delete”!

  37. #51 by suzanna williams on March 12, 2012 - 11:57 am

    Sorry you had to shut your workshop – people can be so disappointing but good to hear about your successes :-)

    • #52 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 12, 2012 - 12:05 pm

      Frees me up to do more for you guys *shrugs* :D. And actually write my own fiction…one day. Only so much of me to go around. Sigh. Thanks!

  38. #53 by klynwurth on March 12, 2012 - 12:06 pm

    I’m still reeling from the part where you said you had to cancel your workshops. Yikes! I live in a veritable literary desert. The closest bookstores are 20 and 50 miles away. I know no other serious, working writers interested in craft within 300 miles of my home, and I’ve been looking. I love the rural life, but I sure would give all my pencils and pens to have someone like you willing to show me how it’s done. Thanks for what you extend via the Internet. You help me more than you can know, Kristen.

  39. #54 by Darlene Steelman on March 12, 2012 - 12:13 pm

    Great post! This frightens me a little. On one hand, I want to get my book out there and get it published… on the other… I am only only on my second edit and I don’t know where to go from there! I have heard of people self-publishing and how some of those are a disaster (poorly edited and formatted).

    I am sorry about your workshops, Kristen. :( It really stinks when you want to help people and you build it but they don’t come.

  40. #55 by mahervolous on March 12, 2012 - 12:20 pm

    I live in western Canada, and the workshops for actual writing, not blogging or creating your platform, or getting your name known, are few and far between. You’re absolutely right, the only way to be good at your craft is by practicing. The Amazon world is a dangerous beast, as is the traditional publishing route.
    I may be playing the tired drum here, but it’s always easy to tell when someone’s in it for the money. Obviously it’s a business, but the love of story always shines through.

  41. #56 by Anne R. Allen on March 12, 2012 - 12:23 pm

    Such a shame about the workshops. I wonder if it’s related to the steep increase in gas prices? An online version might be the answer. Writers certainly still need to work on craft–more than ever because there’s more competition. I think short, intense seminars like yours are a much better way to learn craft than an expensive college creative writing course that may cost thousands of dollars and don’t necessarily teach good storytelling. I’m with you that people are self-pubbing too early and trying to substitute intensive marketing for quality product. I’m constantly being asked to help promote freebie books for online “friends” whose work isn’t ready for prime time.

  42. #57 by annstanleywriting on March 12, 2012 - 12:41 pm

    I cannot believe that you had to close your workshop down due to lack of interest! I took a couple of workshops in my local area, and they were good, but they did not really get into the issue of craft. They both focused on getting creative juices going through various prompts. That is not what I need. I need to learn craft!
    Please figure out an online version of your workshop! I will get my butt there.

  43. #58 by tomwisk on March 12, 2012 - 12:44 pm

    Great post. You continue to be a guiding light through the slippery road to fame and fortune as a writer. Please keep it up.

  44. #59 by Kriston Johnson on March 12, 2012 - 12:59 pm

    Thank you for the reminder. It is so easy to get sucked into blogging and making friends that I forget the real reason I started it all. Being a writier is what is important and I need to figure out how to balance both.

  45. #60 by Jennette Marie Powell on March 12, 2012 - 1:57 pm

    I think it’s a matter of supply and demand. There are a lot of indie writers whose work is indeed not ready. But there are so many indie writers who’ve been writing fiction for years, and have a good mastery of craft, yet struggle to find a readership. These writers know they don’t know it all, and continue to develop craft, and they know where to go for those learning opportunities. But finding their readership is a black box, hence why they flock to WANA and other workshops they hope will help in that area. There are a lot of good, effective craft workshops out there. Marketing and readership-building? Not so much – at least not many with a reputation for efficacy. WANA has been great, and it’s helped, but I know am still looking for something, anything, to help find that elusive readership. And yes, while always trying to improve craft, too. :)

    • #61 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 12, 2012 - 2:15 pm

      Yes, I am grateful I get to teach both and there is a dearth of good social media classes for writers so I know that contributes to the popularity. But even before the self-publishing boom this was an issue. When I met Bob Mayer, he was teaching craft and the class wasn’t terribly full…but the “How to Get an Agent” class was standing room only and those agents were so new they still smelled like a mix of mail room and college, LOL.

  46. #62 by EllieAnn on March 12, 2012 - 2:14 pm

    this is so awesome, and a great reminder. Sometimes I want to kick open the self-publishing door with my boot and throw my story out into the world.
    And then I realize that my story isn’t ready for human consumption yet.
    So I go back to my writing and practicing and learning. A slow process, but one I don’t want to rush.
    LOVE your thoughts on this. Thank you, Miss Lamb. :)

  47. #63 by Judy on March 12, 2012 - 2:22 pm

    Kristine while I agree with you on valuing our craft I differ from you on Amazon. AS one who has beat the turf with traditiona publishing game….agent and editorsl and dealt with their arrogance eliteism, I am so grateful for what Amazon offers. For fifteen years I queried and nada. I read what is my genre and know now that I am as good as what I’m reading. And then I asked myself what am I doing wrong? And the answer always came back…the cause was ME. I wasn’t good enough for THEIR standards. I didn’t fit INTO THEIR mold.
    Now Amazon offers me the opportunity to see my dream come to life. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but it’s my work and I reap 70% of MY efforts as opposed to 15% of a Traditional royalty check I won’t may not ever see or wont’see for at least a year. I am in control of what happens to MY work. Thanks to Amazon I am NOT limited to only a three month shelf life.With Amazon, it’s there as long as I want it up for sale. What’s more, I continue to own and control MY Rights. I don’t have to wait five to fifteen years and then beg to get them back. I see myself as a slave to my own business not Amazon’s treadmill and certaily not with a Traditional publisher.
    I know others who have gone this route with Amazon. They are now self sufficient and profting with their books…thanks to Amazon. Thanks to Amazon, they have been approached by agents not the other way around. And they are uncertain if they will sign with an agent now because why? What is their profit motive. What does an agent offer? Where before writers begged for an agents to even consider them. Thank youAmazon and Smashwords and Lulu. Respect is now returning to US. We don’t have to go begging for attention and hope a traditional will notice us.

    • #64 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 12, 2012 - 2:27 pm

      Actually you and I agree but I am addressing that later in the week. Amazon isn’t evil; it is a delivery mechanism. But they are not in the business of developing artists, that is up to us to do. They just offer us a stage. But I will say that we should not get too comfortable with the royally rates. That can and likely will change. But the best defense we have is to write great books, because then we can take our art elsewhere ;).

  48. #65 by corajramos on March 12, 2012 - 3:00 pm

    Craziness that writers wouldn’t show up for your writing class! I think you will have to clone yourself to be where all the writers above can reach you–or I guess I can wait for your internet writing class.
    Great post today, and always, thanks.

  49. #66 by UnrestrainedFancy on March 12, 2012 - 3:09 pm

    You are DEFINITELY NOT “way off base.” In fact, not even a tiny little bit off base. Every time I go into rewrite mode, my husband stares at me with this, “Again???” look on his face. But I keep learning, and once I know something, I just can’t stand the idea of putting my work out there when I believe it could be better. I know people wonder about me being a “writer” (the quotes are theirs–not mine) when I have no books on the shelf yet. My answer is, who cares what they think.

    Craft is so important. When things aren’t right, it’s like listening to a symphony with the violin in the third seat, second row, playing completely out of tune. Sure, we might be able to follow the melody, but good grief, would somebody, please, please… PLEASE, either tune that guy’s fiddle or kick him out of the band??? If not, I doubt I can stand sitting through the next concert.

    Personally, I’m not willing to put on a show like that… or publish a book like that… and I’m thankful for people like you who continue to push others to the next level. Thanks!

    • #67 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 12, 2012 - 3:13 pm

      We all need excellent people to make us reach higher. Kudos to you and keep your artist’s heart!

  50. #68 by Rachel Funk Heller on March 12, 2012 - 3:48 pm

    Kristen, thank you for saying what has been on MY mind for months. Now I’ll add my two cents. Crappy writing is lazy writing. Yup, there I said it. And as you have mentioned, Amazon is more than happy to reward lazy writing with lousy money. There is also an industry out there, I won’t name names, but you’ll figure it out, that knows 99% of aspiring writers will fail, but before they give up, they are happy to offer them the classes and that help keep the dream alive – write your novel in a month, land that agent, etc. without ever telling the aspiring writers the truth — The writing life is a MARATHON there are no sprints, there are no short-cuts. I have been paid to write for television for over twenty years, and I have been teaching myself how to write novels for the last TWELVE years. yes, you heard me. I have written crappy books that will never see the light of day. I have my “heart” novel that is still waiting as I know I’m still not a good enough writer to craft that story the way it needs to be told. But I am getting there. And thanks to your help, I have built up a great support team that has been instrumental in keeping me sane and keeping my butt in the chair. Don’t shed any more tears about closing your workshop, your destiny has other plans for you. Thank you so much for all that you do for us. We Are Not Alone.

  51. #69 by Yvette on March 12, 2012 - 4:12 pm

    You go ahead Kristen. I appreciate the reminders from you and Bob that it’s all about craft. These days it’s awfully easy to get hypnotised by the glittery sparkle of lights (the digital age) and forget what we are really here for, which is to learn how to write to the best of our ability.
    Speaking of which, must go to Facebook now and see if you’ve replied to my query re how to submit my work for your critique….
    Yvette Carol

  52. #70 by Brock on March 12, 2012 - 4:17 pm

    Sometimes I feel like an idiot for worrying more about my craft than my social media presence and getting eyeballs on my blog. There’s a lot of noise out there about how important those things are to success, but I still hang on to this (naive?) idea that craft matters most and that if I’m a writer of quality then the readers will come. Now, I don’t use that attitude to excuse myself from “the game,” but it does change the way I prioritize my day. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do EVERYTHING. If I have to choose, I’d rather be an excellent writer than a well known hack.

  53. #71 by Richard Snow on March 12, 2012 - 4:48 pm

    Kristen, when is your next online course about blogging and social media?

  54. #72 by Julie Farrar on March 12, 2012 - 5:21 pm

    I didn’t have time today to read all the responses (b/c #amwriting), but I agree 100% and I’m assuming most of the responses do as well. I’m writing for the long haul, although I’d like to make money now as well. There are true word artists out there who I worship and I write, hoping one day that one of them will read a sentence I produced and say “well done.” I want to believe that my writing will be worth more than 99 cents.

  55. #73 by MaLinda Johnson on March 12, 2012 - 5:33 pm

    I agree with you that getting more exposure for a weak piece will not make it a better piece. A glittering arena will not make a poor player better. It is not the arena’s fault if you spend a lot of time and money to get in, only to not have a weak product sell.

    Great post and objective view of Amazon!! :)

  56. #74 by plaintain1 on March 12, 2012 - 5:58 pm

    Hi
    Just wondered if you have read the The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron? If you have, I would love to know what you think.

    Take care!

  57. #75 by Nikki on March 12, 2012 - 6:18 pm

    Another great post. I’ve had a lot of instances lately where someone mentions that I write books and I get the “what have you published?” question. When I say I’ve had short stories published, but am still working on my novels, half the time I get the story of their friend so and so who published on Amazon and then I get disregarded. It is a bit disheartening and I have to admit that I am sometimes tempted to just throw it out there. That said, I can’t bring myself to do that. I’ve spent most of my life writing and the last several years have been spent on hardcore craft improvement. I’m even getting encouragement from agents now (though no takers on the book yet). No matter how I publish, I want it to be the best it can be and I am encouraged to see that a lot of the people commenting here seem to feel that way.

    I think people sometimes get so excited about finishing a book that they forget that story tellers are entertainers. If no one is entertained, it doesn’t really matter how cheap your book is in the long run. When people publish bad work, it hurts the credibility of all authors.

    Oh, and if you ever offer your class in whatever format it may take, count me in!

  58. #76 by nightsmusic on March 12, 2012 - 6:32 pm

    Were you in my area, I would have been sitting front row center for your class! What good does social media do for me, what good is focusing on a platform if I have no well honed craft to offer?

    I think too many aspiring authors focus on the social aspect; get their name out there, be seen, meet other authors via internet social media, and forget that if they can’t author a compelling novel, all the social in the world won’t help them.

    I’ve taken online classes. I’m taking Bob Mayer’s now. My problem with any online class is, I don’t learn well. I need face-to-face, audible interaction and I just don’t get that online. Sometimes, I take a class two or three times before one little thing in it will click.

    So what a sad day that you had to call it quits because of lack of interest. It doesn’t surprise me, but it’s still sad.

    However, all that said, I read your instructive posts several times over and am learning! So thank you for that and don’t stop. Don’t make me post a sad LOLCat picture! ;o)

  59. #77 by Julie Glover on March 12, 2012 - 6:47 pm

    Interestingly enough, when I attended the DFWCon last year, I was interested in query, business, and platform classes. After all, I knew how to write! This year when I go, I will be loading my schedule with craft classes. Sure I know how to write, but the trick is to write really WELL — as in REALLY GREAT. It’s true that the older you get and the more you learn, the more you realize what you don’t know.

  60. #78 by Linda on March 12, 2012 - 8:04 pm

    I’m headed to my first writer’s conference in May (D/FW, YEA!!!!), and since my first novel is still in draft stage, I’m not even thinking of the agents yet. I’ve been lurking here for a few weeks and purchased both your books to read before the conference to have questions ready in case I’m blessed enough to run into you there.

    I haven’t totally decided on classes yet (I don’t think the entire list is finalized), but I had already decided that craft classes would come before marketing classes–after all, I have to have a finished/polished work before I can market it right? Maybe my age is showing, but I don’t want my name attached to poorly written drivel…

    Thanks so much for everything you share and how you hope for all of us to succeed.

    • #79 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 12, 2012 - 8:20 pm

      Yay! Linda, I can’t wait to meet you and yes I will be easy to spot. I am teaching social media AND craft, so you can get the best of both worlds. I am so proud of you for taking this step. Go you!

  61. #80 by patgarcia on March 12, 2012 - 8:16 pm

    Hi,

    Thank you so much. I do agree with you. Living as an American in Germany, I do a lot of self study in writing by buying the books and working through them alone. Good writing really matters, and I do not want to be just another writer, I want to be a writer who write well.

    Ciao,
    Patricia

  62. #81 by successbmine on March 12, 2012 - 10:34 pm

    I love your article, Kristen. I agree about the free and $.99 books. I have been part of this discussion on LinkedIn but so many disagree. I think if we undervalue our work, why would anyone think it worth reading? And of those who only download free or $.99 books, I wonder how many read them. Or whether they are any kind of a judge what is good and what is not, what is assembly line and what is art.

  63. #82 by J. L. Mbewe on March 12, 2012 - 10:50 pm

    It is definitely about the art and the craft. Art is subjective, but I agree we need to refine it, develop our voice/style/etc. It is sad to hear that you had to close your workshop due to lack of interest and that people aren’t taking advantage of the classes offered at conferences. I would, once I am able to attend one. :-)

  64. #83 by CC MacKenzie on March 12, 2012 - 11:15 pm

    Nope, you’re not out of line and you’re not bashing anyone. You are telling it like it is. What I cannot work out is where has the hunger for improvement and continual improvement gone?

    I’ve seen this trend in the headlong rush to publish come hell or high water in the last twelve months in particular. It seriously scares me. Will the reading public become desensitized and tar everyone who goes down the indie route with the same brush. Or will they? Will the reading public begin to make a very loud noise about what they are prepared to accept and what they will not? Readers will come together, they’ve already started on Goodreads and on Amazon threads – scary places those Amazon threads – where they take no prisoners and I know other facebook reader groups are gaining momentum too. One of the most interesting developments has been in certain high profile reviewing sites where the public do not agree with reviews. I saw one where the book reviewed was slashed and burned and it’s now number one. Go figure? The power of the reader has arrived. Interesting times, Kristen.

    One of the places new writers are hanging out and learning their craft is in fan fiction sites and Wattpad who has ten million readers reading serialised stories every week. The writers on these sites are listening and learning from their readers. I’m not saying this the right thing to do of course, because it’s like writing by committee which would have me foaming at the mouth and speaking in tongues, but it’s certainly an interesting development.

    First and foremost,if we take our writing seriously, work incredibly hard to keep improving our craft diligently and with discipline, we may just have a rollicking good story for readers to lose themselves. That’s my goal anyway. I don’t know how many people are pushing me to publish and I keep chanting, the work’s not ready.

    I always liken writers to brain surgeons – if a surgeon stopped learning and developing new techniques to heal patients how would he progress and move forward to achieve something miraculous. We are exactly the same, we need to keep learning, keep moving and be the very best we can be. Our readers deserve no less and neither do we.

  65. #84 by Kevin O. McLaughlin on March 13, 2012 - 2:15 am

    Couple of other thoughts on this great essay. ;)

    Get some outside perspective on your work. Not your spouse or mom. ;) Use a critical group, or a good editor, or something. Get a little outside perspective on where you are at. Before I self published, I had a trad pub book and some short stories already out. I’d won awards for short fiction. I will hopefully always remember I still have a lot to learn! But I had cause for faith in the quality of my work. Beta readers, crit groups, fan fic sites, whatever. Get some outside perspective.

    Don’t be afraid to dump a bad book. If you ask around, most writers produced 2-5 bad books before they wrote a good one. If you wrote a bad book, move on and write another book. It wasn’t wasted. It was learning your craft. Most of the best experience you can get at writing comes from putting new words together, not from stirring around the old ones.

    Related thought: revision helps most books. But revision can usually only make a decent story better, or a good story excellent. Rarely can it make a bad story good. Revise/edit, sure. But if you’re finding yourself stirring your words around for the tenth time, maybe it’s a good moment to ask yourself why. Too much revision can be as bad for a story as too little, ripping the heart out of your words. At some point, it’s time to move on.

    Last thought (promise!). Someone above commented she was worried about formatting. Pretty easy, either for trad pub submission or self pub ebook. Lots of sites tell how to format for trad pub. And ebook formatting is simple enough that quite literally my five year old can do it. If you can export a PDF file from Word, you can probably convert a novel to ebook formats. It’s not much harder. Jutoh and Scrivener are both excellent and inexpensive tools which will export professional quality results with a very short learning curve. Formatting is the easiest part. Don’t stress about it.

    Like Kristen said, it’s writing a good story in the first place that’s both the hardest – and most important! – part of what we do.

  66. #85 by Tahlia Newland on March 13, 2012 - 2:58 am

    Great post, a little scary too in the sense of trading one role of being a meaningless cog in a machine for the same role just in a different machine. The other aspect of being an artist is also writing what you want to write, something that is uniquely us. If we’re not writing something we think Trade publishers could sell, but something that bursts from our very soul, then we might see more writing that we could really call art.

  67. #86 by Team Oyeniyi on March 13, 2012 - 5:34 am

    I liked this article very much. The craft part is where I personally feel very under done. Oh, I write wonderful technical training manuals and I’m not too bad at writing training courses either – but neither of those genres prepare a writer for writing a memoir. I recognise you concentrate on novels/fiction, but there are similarities – the characters still have to created on paper, even though the people exist in real life – painting those people with words is a challenge, especially when one of those people is myself. I find it hard to “draw” myself. I do have the protagonist, of course, the faceless giant, but I don’t want to characterise THAT too much for fear of spending the next 20 years in court fighting to be allowed to publish! I’ll be dead by then!

    I’ve finished my first draft: it is very much a draft but I achieved the objective I set for the first draft, which was to get down the timeline and the basic elements of the journey. My focus for my second draft is to flesh out the detail from the perspective of the other main characters. This is also difficult for they prefer not to remember the details or emotions they experienced, yet I need that information to write about it.

    Getting craft help/training is not easy for me. There is a great group in Sydney, but they run very few workshops/courses in Melbourne and then there is the time issue. Something on-line would be perfect, but it has to fit around my crazy schedule.

    Beta readers is another challenge for me. How do I find them? Some things I haven’t even worried about yet, such as the technical side of what software do we use to even create an e-book, if I go that way. I figure there isn’t a software system I can’t conquer, so that is the least of my worries.

    Then again, if I panicked about not having the craft skills, I’d not write anything at all, so I’d have nothing to make better!

  68. #87 by ciderenterprises/Claudette Redic on March 13, 2012 - 7:45 am

    You raise important questions for me to consider as I write my first blogs. Yes, I want to write my story, starting with points of views. Yes I am seeking ways within the blog to give quality information and combine the current loves of my heart – book club conference calling, community village building, family growth and well being, etc. I will build my craft skills – my ultimate story is yet to be written. Thanks for your insights and experience sharing. What you do has much value.

  69. #88 by edrevets on March 13, 2012 - 7:45 am

    Wow this was awesome to hear.

    It doesn’t matter how big your platform is, how well connected you are, or how many hits your blog gets if you’re just putting more crap out there and adding to the noise.

    Art comes first.

  70. #89 by davdjones (@davdjones1) on March 13, 2012 - 7:52 am

    Did not know you had a Saturday morning workshop, and I live in Dallas TX. I would have been there. I agree with what you have to say, and I am working to make my writing stronger. My fear is that one day Amazon will take over the publication business, and we as writers have no were else to go. Google and iTunes are are now viewing this business, and I think will sooner rather than later jump in to challenge Amazon. If the Big Boys of publishing do not wake up soon, they will be nothing but small potatoes.

  71. #90 by Heather Marsten on March 13, 2012 - 10:11 am

    Excellent article – sending to my Facebook friends who are writers. I agree I don’t want to turn out books fast and feed Amazon, I’d rather take the time to take classes, learn skills and turn out a quality book. Have a blessed day.

  72. #91 by Stuart Matthew Davis on March 13, 2012 - 11:07 am

    Very inspring post.

  73. #92 by katmagendie on March 13, 2012 - 12:33 pm

    I’m proud of what I write. I take it very seriously. It’s all about the language and characters. I know I can’t squeeze out perfection, but I sure as danged try to. I love what I do and I want to do it well – it’s my career, my life, my . . . well, love. Whether my books sell thousands, or millions, or somewhere in between, I write with all the guts I have. Guts on a plate.

    That’s where the magic is.

  74. #93 by Karen Cunningham on March 13, 2012 - 12:54 pm

    Thanks for the reminder that basics (craft) are where everything starts. I’ve been reading a lot about craft in the last week, especially Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. Very eye opening and totally useable.

    It’s hard to resist the siren call of Amazon when the “gate keepers” to the traditional publishers are still in place. I would like to make the jump from writer to author before I hit my sixties!

    Sorry to hear about your Saturday class. Have you thought about packaging it as an online course? You have a unique voice and perspective.This blog is a pleasure to read and I look forward to it every week, even if I don’t have a chance to look at it right away. I would imagine any course taught by you would be stellar!

  75. #94 by Karen Cunningham on March 13, 2012 - 1:09 pm

  76. #95 by James Loscombe on March 13, 2012 - 2:13 pm

    Great post as usual. I’ve been thinking a lot about the craft recently and how important it is. I wrote an article about it here (http://jamesloscombe.me/post/19244923720/how-to-be-a-great-writer). Also you’ve got me thinking more about what to charge on Amazon and how the $0.99 price point completely undervalues a work.

  77. #96 by John Hayden on March 13, 2012 - 3:33 pm

    Reblogged this on Dispatches From ConsterNation and commented:
    Here’s an extremely thought-provoking post about the rapid evolution of publishing, the potential for a “race to the bottom,” and the central importance of the writer’s craft.

  78. #97 by Marvin Mayer on March 13, 2012 - 3:57 pm

    I’m somewhat confused. As you acknowledge, you are the guru of social media. Social media, almost by definition, is taking advantage of the opportunities available to reach people quickly and effectively, and almost always, those people will be ones who want their reading material in the latest format, i.e., e-books. As I read this blog, you almost seem to be saying “shame on you” for bypassing yesterday’s process of seeking to get your masterpiece in ink and paper form, and charging full speed into the less exclusive, less restrictive, less EXPENSIVE world of Kindle. John Locke wrote about his selling over 1 million e-books using a system largely dependent on the [effective] use of social media. His books sold for anywhere from 99 cents to $3.99, and he spoke of rejecting the major publishers now that he has built his loyal following via his blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

    I follow your blogs because I was “hooked” by your books (both of them!) and still believe in everything you said in those books. Am I living in a dream world to believe that by using social media, I can build a following of loyal supporters who will buy my ink-on-paper books? That is my goal for wanting to learn how to best use social media. By the way, I write books for young children – easy reader “chapter” books and for the pre-schoolers, picture books. By using social media, I will want to “connect” with parents, grandparents, boomers, seniors, etc., and even though they may find and get to “know” me by using social media, I am hopeful that they will be the ones who buy “hold-in-your-hands-and-turn-the-pages” books for the children in their lives. I’d love to hear your thoughts on my comments.

    • #98 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 13, 2012 - 4:37 pm

      I am not saying that at all. I am saying no amount of social media can sell a bad book. We must remember we are writers and artists FIRST…then everything follows after. Amazon is a book distributor. That’s it. They don’t care what we write or if we even sell any books, it doesn’t make them bad at all. But while traditional publishing will MAKE us reach a certain standard–their standard–Amazon has no standards. Thus, it becomes our responsibility to make sure we are reaching the highest personal mark possible. Social media can connect us, but we still have to make sure we are producing great content.

      We are going to explore this more tomorrow. You will like it ;).

  79. #99 by Paul Philip Carter on March 13, 2012 - 4:36 pm

    I’m nearly done with final polishing of my debut fantasy novel. As a new ePub author the initial price point has been a vital consideration for me.

    Recent feedback has it that many folks will not pay much more than $0.99, especially for debut writers.

    So what to do, what to do?

    I think I will go with $1.99 and see where that leads. But I do NOT want to become just another slave or a cog in the great machine.

    Sigh…

  80. #100 by amberdover on March 13, 2012 - 5:16 pm

    Reblogged this on amberdover and commented:

    Happy Hear the Writer Roar! Tuesday :) This is reblog week….I’m sitting at Krystals to write my book. love to you all! Remember the High King Lives~Amber Dover
    PS: Kristen if you’re reading this I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award. Here’s my post about it: http://amberdover.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/versatile-blogger-award-kewl/

  81. #101 by Sue Ann on March 13, 2012 - 6:23 pm

    “I’d worked very hard to put together a system to train authors who could take an idea, make it original, then plot and write an excellent manuscript in less than six months.”

    Could you teach or run that writing workshop online? I think many people would be interested.

  82. #102 by athomewithgod on March 13, 2012 - 7:07 pm

    I really appreciate your post. I’m getting excited about publicizing my writing and building my platform with my blog, so this is coming at just the right time. You gave me significant direction. I would love to read your book. I definitely need to be able to have time left to write my book(s) while I’m working the social media world.

  83. #103 by Marvin Mayer on March 13, 2012 - 8:14 pm

    If YOU’re writing, Kristen, I KNOW I will like it! Bring it on!

  84. #104 by Hildie McQueen on March 13, 2012 - 10:02 pm

    I am so overwhelmed by the changes in the few years I’ve started writing. I hear so many different opinions about the constantly changing writer’s world and I think to myself– Do you really want to stay on the train? And if so, why? Because I love writing, I want to learn and be the best writer, so that my stories will be better. I’m saddened to hear about your class ending. IMHO everyone wants to do it fast, take shortcuts and not put in the work that takes to polish the art of writing. Even if none but my friends read my books, I will keep writing and learning. Thank you for your dedication to us.

  85. #105 by David St. Albans on March 14, 2012 - 12:05 am

    I am a published author. And by that I mean I have been published in many forms over the years. I started in the world of paper however. I have this friend who keeps writing wonderful stuff and it keeps showing up on Kindle for 99 cents. I sell hardly any of my massive 760 page Dracula novel at 24.99, but I am a stickler for ART over insubstantial garbage. In a way, if you offer it for 99 cents, whatever you write is insubstantial garbage in an existential way. It ruins your soul. I can’t write “just to sell.” It’s like this. I am an artist as well. My mother once asked me: “Why don’t you paint sad clowns? You’d make so much money painting sad clowns!” I went to my bedroom and drew two of the most angry, maniacal clowns ever! I still sell the prints now and then. I hate clowns. And I felt, even at 16, I would never sully my talents by pandering to what the public felt it was willing to pay for. I will go to my grave not being famous. But I know this. I have written brilliantly. When the world catches up, they may find me on some dusty bookshelf, just like found Poe and Verne and Lovecraft…And I will smile in my grave. I choose art. But I still buy my friend’s books at 99 cents, so he knows I love him.

    • #106 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 14, 2012 - 8:24 am

      But the wonderful part about Amazon is it is the ARTIST who compromises for the 99 cents…not the publisher ;). Food for thought.

  86. #107 by Char on March 14, 2012 - 8:18 pm

    What a shame those folks didn’t take advantage of your expertise! I feel lucky to be in a critique group that offers me guidance on plotting, character, etc. I know I’ve grown tremendously the last 3 years because of my little cohort (and my first novel may still suck!), but how do others find GOOD teachers of the craft of writing? Where else can you go to get good critiques? Should authors pay for editing – and if yes, how do you know who is good or bad?

  87. #108 by Danielle Beith Ruschena on March 17, 2012 - 12:26 am

    The problem is, social media IS selling bad books. Lots of them. I’ve bought them. Again and again, I’ve been attracted by a blurb, and read a sample which shows promise and a decent writing style, but the STORY falls apart after the opening. The characters don’t have the depth that seemed to be there, there is no structure, no emotional roller coaster (which is not the same as action) for the reader. More often than not it turns out that the book is a “series” with some “cliff hanger” ending which should, frankly, have been the second, or perhaps third turning point in a single novel.
    It’s almost as though people are only taking the courses on loglines/blurbs/queries and carefully writing and re-writing their beginnings and then not caring about the rest of the book. The cynic in me suspects that they are deliberately working on what is needed to con readers into buying a book – it can’t be returned, so why not?
    And yet, they sell. Sometimes very well. It’s disheartening to a writer who is really doing their best to be good at their craft, before they submit each time. I’m often told not to hold myself to such high standards, but I don’t think I do – I’m just trying to be good, not great. How do you even hold yourself to less than what you think of as good, anyway?

    • #109 by Yvette on March 17, 2012 - 3:31 pm

      I say keep learning and striving. At the end of the day you’ve got to live with who you see in the mirror!
      Yvette Carol

  88. #110 by danisidhe on March 18, 2012 - 5:08 am

    Very true, writing-wise, but how do I find something to read that will be good all the way through? :) Since Kindle is the easiest way for me to get books, living in Bangkok, for the time being I am searching in the printed books section and hope for a kindle edition, it’s working so far. I know I’m missing some good, self published, ebook only stuff but I’m not ready to get burned again, yet!

    • #111 by Kevin McLaughlin (@KOMcLaughlin) on March 18, 2012 - 11:16 pm

      Kindle samples are 10% of the book. *Generally*, I think one can tell if a book is an absolute stinker after reading 5-10 thousand words of the story. ;)

      On the off chance that you get a book that has 5000 words of great story, followed by two hundred pages of goobledygook, you CAN return Kindle books for several days after buying them for a full refund.

      Also – and this is key – most indie writers have one or more works at a low price, 99 cents or so, which is a “loss leader” to let new readers try a book out at a low price. Not every reader will like every writer. I know I don’t like every writer’s work – even some writers I know are outstanding at their craft simply aren’t my style. So trying out a 99 cent story is sort of a lower investment way to check a new-to-you author out.

      But I always sample folks before I buy a book from them. That’s your first and best line of defense against dreck. I will often browse the “popularity” list for the genres I read, scan the first several pages for anything that looks fun, and grab samples for each. When I have time, later, I read a sample. If the book grabbed me enough that I just have to read the rest by the end of the sample, I buy it. Otherwise, I delete it.

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