Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome—Writers of the Digital Age

Image vis Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi.

Okay, what now? (Image vis Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi).

Tomorrow I leave for NYC to speak at CraftFest then attend Thrillerfest. This conference (for me) is simultaneously exciting and terrifying. I’ve always held a deep love for NY (and still do). This is one of the challenges I’ve faced when it comes to being a social media expert for authors.

My goal is to connect each author with the publishing path that is best for that artist. 

In the meantime, I also strive to help NY innovate. Amazon is great, but healthy competition is best for all of us in the end. Monopolies are only good for said owner of the monopoly. As I said in Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World, “NY brings balance to The Force.” Any help I can offer to help them raise their game? I’m here.

Thriving in the Digital Age

One of my all-time favorite movies is Heartbreak RidgeIt’s a movie about a drill instructor who has to take command of a spoiled  recon platoon with a bad attitude. Part of how Gunny Highway whips these bad boys into shape is by constantly changing the rules so they have to learn to be predictive, to think three steps ahead and anticipate changes.

The best line in the movie?

Improvise, adapt and overcome! ~Gunny Highway

Know The Territory

My mission is to give you guys a plan that is within context of the shifting paradigm. One of the keys to being successful is to understand the market territory and how best we fit into that territory so we can accomplish our objectives. It’s how we improvise and adapt (then overcome).

For instance, the ancient Greeks ruled the seas. The Romans? They were better fighting on land. When Greeks knew they needed to resolve a conflict or retake a territory, they worked very hard to bring the battle onto the water. Mainly because they ROCKED on water…and also it was far harder to have a party boat on land :D.

The Internet has a wealth of information to help us understand where we fit. The smart writer gets educated and knows where she maneuvers best. I hope NYC will grow more comfortable innovating for the Digital World because that’s where a lot of the “battle” is now taking place. Can they adopt techniques that can help them maneuver this new territory with the same ease?

One of the reasons Rome remained an EMPIRE for a few thousand years is they learned to assimilate the tactics and tools of their adversaries. When the Spanish kicked their tails with the Gladuis Hispaniensis (the Gladius)? The Romans became MASTERS at forging and wielding that sword. They didn’t keep running into battle with the same sword that lost them the battle in the first place, because “Well, we have always used that sword.”

They adapted and changed to accommodate new and superior technology to gain the advantage. Writers and publishers who can learn and grow and harness new technologies are the ones who will dominate the field.

Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Not everyone has the ability to be an entrepreneur. Self-publishing and indie publishing are not a panacea. Are you ready to learn to be a publisher? Are you willing to learn the business side of the business? Are you okay with failing? A lot?

I wish I could tell you I’ve never made any bone-headed decisions, but I have. More than I care to admit, in fact. But, I am grateful I did some stuff wrong because failure is a great teacher. Failing SUCKS, but it will teach you to improvise and adapt.

No matter which path you choose, failure will be there. That’s okay. Learn from it. Harness it. Grow stronger. OVERCOME.

It’s a Great Time to Be a Writer

This is the beauty of the new paradigm. We now have choices. Some of you are natural entrepreneurs. Every time I get around RWA people I feel like a babe who knows NOTHING. So many of their authors not only have an unparalleled work ethic, but the sheer business-savvy they possess leaves me speechless.

….and I’m Kristen Lamb. NOT an easy feat :D.

Yes, I self-published. It was the best option for my personality and content. Yet? My dear friend Susan Spann negotiated a three-book traditional deal for her (Shinobi Mystery Series) Claws of the Cat. Why?

First, her books are awesome, but secondly, she has a law practice. She didn’t have the time or energy to do all the stuff a publisher does. For her, traditional was an ideal fit. This goes back to knowing strengths and weaknesses and what terrain we feel we can be strong.

Are you better fighting writing on solid land traditional or out at sea non-traditional? This is why I never offer a One Size Fits All Platform for writers.

WANA supports all types of writers and all types of publishing. The cool thing about books? They are not so cost-prohibitive that people won’t buy more than ONE. Thus, we really aren’t each other’s competition, and that places us in a unique position to work together to improve the terrain all around.

Traditional publishing brings over a century of gatekeeper experience and the indies are forging ahead and innovating in the digital world. We are wise to look to each other and learn. The traditionals can help us improve the overall quality of our product, but the indies can help us reach more readers faster and better. Indies are great at streamlining and innovating.

The good news is we are living in an amazing time to be writers (and publishers).

What are your thoughts? Do you like that writers finally have a career path? Do you like being an entrepreneur? Have you enjoyed being traditionally published? What do you think we can learn from each other?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of July, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

NOTE: My prior two books are no longer for sale, but I am updating them and will re-release. My new book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE.

At the end of July I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

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  1. #1 by Bryan Reeves on July 8, 2013 - 1:01 pm

    This is great, Kristen … I’m finishing the 2nd draft of my first book (non-fiction – “Tell The Truth, Let The Peace Fall Where It May”) and am in the midst of that exploration right now. To publish or not to self-publish? … THAT is the question! I’m eagerly looking forward to learning more from you. THANK YOU!!!

  2. #2 by Ruth Hartman Berge on July 8, 2013 - 1:04 pm

    Great article, Kristen. I do think we’re lucky to have options.

    For me, being one foot in both worlds works fine. I self-published “Betty Tales: The True Story of a Brave Bobblehead Cat” because it was a short, illustrated book intended as a tool for teachers. It’s gone beyond that, but that’s another story. I’m preparing the application/query to submit my next book, a non-fiction memoir/history short story collection, to a traditional publisher. The novel I’m just starting will be submitted for traditional, too. But the sequel to Betty Tales will go the self-published route as will the young adult novel I have kicking around in my crowded head.

    It’s a perfect world for someone who likes variety on her plate!

    • #3 by hcfbutton on July 8, 2013 - 1:11 pm

      Ruth, I love that you’re trying the hybrid route. I hope you’ll keep us posted on how things turn out!

  3. #6 by Richard Abbott (@MilkHoneyedLand) on July 8, 2013 - 1:06 pm

    “One of the reasons Rome remained an EMPIRE for a few thousand years is they learned to assimilate the tactics and tools of their adversaries. ” Kristen I do agree with the sentiment you are expressing about adaptation, but in fact Rome was relatively short lived as an empire (unless you count in its successors of more remote connection such as the Eastern orthodox, Holy Roman, and (arguably) German and American empires! The Roman empire itself – as in the one based in Rome – started around 27BC, began to disintegrate in the 4th century AD, and is held to have ceased in 476AD

    If you want to look at a culture that lasted a few thousand years, ancient Egypt would be a better choice – broadly unchanged from rather before 3000BC until just about into the AD period. They also assimilated things that they felt appropriate from surrounding cultures, so your point would remain valid.

  4. #7 by Dennis Langley on July 8, 2013 - 1:23 pm

    I thought I recognized the title of this post. Standard Marine Force Recon slogan. I am still trying to learn what works best for me. It is mostly trial and error. I’m leaning toward the traditional route.

  5. #8 by Elke Feuer on July 8, 2013 - 1:48 pm

    Great post, Kristen! (They all are!) :-)

    I love that authors have more choices today both in tradtional publishing and self-publishing, not to mention using skills from another career to forward your writing career! You can dictate what you do yourself and what you want to outsource. How awesome is that?

    Being adaptable is necessary in anything you do. If you’re not, you’ll get left behind or become stagnant. I love what you said about not giving authors a ONE SIZE FITS ALL platform. Too many authors think they have to do it all and their brains explode at the thought, but the truths it they can find one that works for them!

  6. #9 by Lawrence Grodecki on July 8, 2013 - 1:52 pm

    I’m a little surprised at today’s post, with all it’s subtle references to “The Art of War”.

    When I studied strategic planning at McGill, the very first lecture was about how everyone does it, whether they realize it or not. A mom and pop store basically goes through very much the same planning process as a large multinational, just a simpler one, call it intuition if you will.

    I’ve recently read in a few places how it’s a bit of lottery gamble for authors, whether self-published or traditionally published. I know what you are doing is trying to change the odds, make it less of a lottery, and that’s great.

    What I appreciate most about the traditional publishing industry is the filtering process, where a published book has to meet a certain standard, a basic one, that is woefully lacking in self-publishing. From the marketing end and so on, I couldn’t agree more that it is not a “one-or-the other” proposition.

    What is going with reading as form of leisure (in terms of fiction) is that there is currently a huge battle in terms of who controls the channels of distribution. That is a little-known, but key, component to any industry analysis. At the same time, there is also a great deal of confusion among a lot of readers.

    Incidentally, everything a person needs to know about strategic planning can be collapsed into one page, a model based on the “The Art of War”. However, that simplicity is somewhat deceptive, especially when our civilization moves toward greater complexity. As a final tidbit, while you mention the Romans, it is worth noting that they too understood “The Art of War”, as did Napoleon and many other historical figures, including Hitler.

    • #10 by Author Kristen Lamb on July 8, 2013 - 2:10 pm

      And we have to keep in mind that the battlefield is shifting. Traditional has wielded great power because of entrenchment in the bookstores. Ah, but Border’s is gone and B&N is reporting record losses. Target signed a deal with Apple to distribute iPads. How long will Target leave valuable floorspace to paper books that sell for $20 max and shift that, instead to e-readers, tablets and iPads which promise far higher profits?

      “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

  7. #11 by Jen on July 8, 2013 - 2:09 pm

    2012 was my year to “Improvise, adapt and overcome”. The new state of publishing, a paradigm i thought I understood, had changed dramatically and abruptly (so it seemed). I had become complacent, resting on the knowledge I’d gained from six years of publication.
    2013 is my year to come back swinging. I love this post, because it voices the very thing that took me a whole year to get through my thick head: PUBLISHING HAS CHANGED.

  8. #12 by Mike Crape on July 8, 2013 - 2:41 pm

    Great piece Kristen – I like the notion that writers today as entrepreneurial both in where they place themselves in the writing world and how they place themselves. It is a year of figuring things out for me and your post provides more food for thought. Thank you.

  9. #13 by Lawrence Grodecki on July 8, 2013 - 2:56 pm

    Thanks Kristen. Now I really understand why there is such a difference between writing a story about love, and the publishing of it.

    By the way, I think “The Art of War” stinks in many ways, and I do agree with Nietzsche, “Art without love is nothing.”

    Finally, given that I’m my own worse enemy, you make it sound like I can’t lose! :-)

  10. #14 by Lucy Lit on July 8, 2013 - 3:17 pm

    Great post as always, Kristen! I am a real newbie making the transition from business writer to fiction. My day job? Teaching entrepreneurs. I’ve been involved with small business ownership for 20+ years so that aspect of being a writer doesn’t scare me. Like you, my personality seems to be better suited for the self-pub route, but who knows? I like the idea of options should my work find an audience.

  11. #15 by C.E. Schwilk on July 8, 2013 - 4:05 pm

    Great info (as always)! I do like the “openness” now available to writers that didn’t exist even 10 years ago. The idea of being traditionally published is still a dream, but the stigma of the indie route (and, more importantly, the shoddy editing I’ve seen) makes me excited and scared. :) I like having the ability to reach my readers directly rather than hoping an agent picks me up and can find a niche for my work, if there is one.

    I’m hoping I can learn everything I can! I’m new to all of this!

  12. #16 by ontyrepassages on July 8, 2013 - 4:16 pm

    Great post. No matter my fears and apprehensions, I always think to myself that, yes, this is a great time to be a writer. I like your attitude that it’s better for us to go into combat, not with hard and fast rules, but with adaptable skills.

  13. #17 by Joe Owens on July 8, 2013 - 4:39 pm

    Your comment about writers not being each other’s competition is something i guess i never considered, but you are right. I do try to support and assist other authors in getting eyes on their work. i consider it a two fold approach. Number one I am helping someone, perhaps paying it forward, but also i can learn through them the good and bad, dos and don’ts and so on.

  14. #18 by danielocceno on July 8, 2013 - 4:51 pm

    New York City and the Big Apple and the city that never sleeps, have fun.

  15. #19 by merryfarmer on July 8, 2013 - 6:02 pm

    Great post, Kristen! And thank you for inadvertently validating writers like me! I fiddled around with submitting traditionally for a few years, but it never “felt right”. I just didn’t like the process. But the moment I heard about self-publishing, how it was done, its potential and its future, I KNEW. That was the path for me. Yep, it’s hard, hard, work, but I’m one of those RWA people … and I made PAN this Spring with my self-published efforts. But sometimes I still feel that tiny bit of scoffing from NYC and those who believe it should be the only way. Far less than I used to, but it’s still there. Here’s to hoping that in a few years that way of thinking will go the way of the dodo!

  16. #20 by merryfarmer on July 8, 2013 - 6:04 pm

    Reblogged this on Merry Farmer and commented:
    This is an awesome article! I particularly love the way Kristen Lamb talks about how readers don’t buy just ONE book ever, therefore we writers are not actually in competition with each other. I also love her shout-out to RWA. Go us!

  17. #21 by V.L.M. on July 8, 2013 - 7:20 pm

    Great post, Kristen. I really enjoy your site. What I like about today’s digital publishing world and self-publishing opportunities is the chance for the little guy to get out there and make a name for him/herself. I am amazed on a daily basis at how many incredibly talented authors have work available for me to read. It’s not just the big few, it’s everybody. It’s very heartening to know that you can write your poetry or your story, whether long or short, and then stick it out there for the planet to see. What a joy and sense of accomplishment! I just downloaded your “Rise of the Machines…”. Looking forward to studying it. Thanks again for this great educational site.

  18. #22 by Sydney Jane Baily on July 8, 2013 - 7:22 pm

    Ooh, “Improvise, adapt and overcome!” Almost as good as my dad’s wonderful utterance: “Spark, spark, spark.” No, seriously, it will be my mantra for a week until my overworked brain forgets it as it no doubt will. Very thoughtful post. Thanks.

    I am reading about a third of the way through your latest book. Took it to the dentist today while my son had a tooth removed and to the dermatologist while my daughter had a skin scan. I didn’t get much writing done today, but I took notes. I think I’m starting to get what you’re saying, but I’m also jotting down questions. :) Anyway, loving your blog and your book and sent links to both to my best bud; she’s a crossover from trad pub to self-pub.

    Best wishes,
    Sydney

  19. #23 by Julia Gabriel on July 8, 2013 - 7:38 pm

    I have an entrepreneurial bent (which also means I like being in charge) so I think self publishing is a good fit for me. I enjoy the marketing and pr end of it, as well as testing things to see what works. That said, I also have a book making the rounds of traditional publishers right now. I would like to traditionally publish books that fit there and self publish books that might be a harder sell to publishers. I can see myself doing both.

  20. #24 by Lisa Hall-Wilson on July 8, 2013 - 8:11 pm

    I think it’s important too to distinguish between what’s happening right now, and what is the future trends of publishing. Listened to a publishing expert at a conference a couple of years ago who would only talk about and give advice based on the current trends. In publishing I’ve learned you have to be ahead of curve a lot of the time. Doing what’s popular now means you’re late the game. I appreciate your prognostications.

  21. #25 by Sydney Jane Baily on July 8, 2013 - 8:39 pm

    Kristen, Am I supposed to let you know here that I linked back to your blog on my blog? I don’t want to post my blog’s address on your comments as that seems like I’m hi-jacking. :)

  22. #26 by Nicky Moxey on July 9, 2013 - 2:34 am

    Have a blast at the conference! (And eat well :P )
    Thank you for another prod to look at the business side of writing. It’s the bit that always seems to slide over the edge of my focus…
    And also thank you for an interesting diversion into sword history :D I thought that design was the standard Bronze Age sword – but apparently not! You may have saved my book-after-next from a glaring mistake :)

  23. #27 by Julie Glover on July 9, 2013 - 8:25 am

    I notice it’s already popped up in the comment thread, but I think hybrid author would be perfect. I have written a mystery and have two sequels planned, all of which I want to self-publish. I don’t see a huge benefit to traditional publishing with them. But with my young adult books, I’d rather go the traditional route.

    The way that several self-pubbed authors have been picked up by New York recently makes me wonder if self-publishing isn’t truly going to become the slushpile for traditional publishers. But they have to be careful about that, because plenty of successful self-pubbers won’t have any interest in going traditional. Publishers will have to give them better reasons to make the shift.

  24. #28 by daletallo on July 9, 2013 - 11:18 am

    In times of a revolution it’s always good to look back on the old ways, to remind us why those ways were needed in the first place.

  25. #29 by Marilyn Hudson Tucker on July 10, 2013 - 7:19 am

    Great post, as always. There was even more bad news today about B&N. Your comment on Target made me think. I am putting your link on SAWG and SARA.

  26. #30 by jadwriter on July 10, 2013 - 7:33 am

    I am an indie author self-publishing ebooks. I find this much easier for me having my own deadlines because I have several health issues which give me lots of hospital appointments so have to work round those every year. If my health gets worse then I can stop and not worry about meeting someone else’s deadlines.

  27. #31 by donnajeanmcdunn on July 10, 2013 - 9:38 pm

    Thank Kristen, after reading your post, I now know I made the right choice. I was afraid I wouldn’t live long enough to be noticed by the big guys in NY and as far as self publishing, I don’t believe it’s for me, at least not until I can retire from my job day job in 2 1/2 years I’ll be 65, and then I’ll have more time, so that left small publishers. I found one who liked my book, a paranormal/mystery for Young Adults and now “Nightmares” is now live on MuseItUp Publishing’s website, Amazon, Barnes & Nobel and many other sites that sell e-books. I do my best at marketing. Will it be enough? Only time will tell, but they help with that part too, so maybe.

  28. #32 by Dr. Rakhshanda Fazli on July 11, 2013 - 2:17 pm

    Reblogged this on Jugraphia Slate.

  29. #33 by Raani York on July 15, 2013 - 4:13 pm

    I added your book to my pile, Kristen. Good Luck!! You’re such a talent!

  30. #34 by theworld4realz on July 26, 2013 - 12:42 am

    I have a ways to go before I need to decide whether traditional or indie publishing is the way for me. But I really liked the way you laid it all out here — know your strengths and weaknesses, and adapt to conquer. I’ll definitely keep this in mind when I finally get to the part of my book where I type “THE END”… however far off that may be.

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