Tips to Make Us Stronger Authors—Both Fiction & Non-Fiction—Part 2

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sin Amigos.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sin Amigos.

Yesterday, WordPress (for some reason—I suspect evil elves) published my notes and many of you were sent my “Blog Haiku.” For those who missed it? Here it is:

Fill a Need

Go Niche

Get a Thick Skin

***

Now to expound…

Non-Fiction and Fiction Authors Have Similar Goals

Good non-fiction informs and entertains. Fiction entertains and fills an emotional vacuum.

Fill a Need

If we are writing non-fiction, the first thing we need to ask, is “What need is this filling?” Do people need to learn how to eat healthy, heal from divorce, manage time, balance their checkbooks? Do they want to understand and explore information left out of the history books? Do they want an informed opinion about economics, politics, or disease? Do they have a need to be intellectually stimulated?

Maybe readers want to learn about a subject that is beyond their intellectual grasp. I love documentaries about astrophysics, but whenever the alphabet (particularly the GREEK alphabet) enters MATH? I’m lost.

Doesn’t mean I might not be interested in sub-atomic particles and The Big Bang. I love writers skilled enough to take an unintelligible subject and then (through their writing) enable me to connect, understand, and appreciate something so complex.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of NASA.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of NASA.

Whenever we contemplate a subject, we must remember we are selling a product.

Secret Deodorant fills my need to smell nice at the gym and not offend those close (or sweat through my blouse and embarrass myself). A nifty car fills my need to travel from point A to point B, pay less for gas and have a sensor that tells me I’m about to run over the neighbor kid’s bike.

Insurance fills a need to prepare and feel secure that, if and when disaster strikes, I have a company watching my six and promising to make things right. Febreeze fills a need to make my home smell like autumn leaves. In Texas, this is an important need because in September, it is still 100 degrees and I need some promise it is REALLY fall.

With fiction, we are filling emotional needs. A need for excitement, adventure, love, intimacy, triumph, closure, healing, or even escape.

Go Niche

In non-fiction, this is particularly important, especially in the beginning. When we go niche, we minimize competition. We can establish expertise, grow deep roots and gain authority. Eventually, if we desire, we can use the niche success to broaden our platform.

For instance, when I started blogging about social media, I was trying to be like other experts because I was new and insecure.

Then I noticed the tactics other experts were teaching weren’t very author-friendly. Most of us aren’t IT people or power-marketers. Also, many of the experts were speaking to businesses who could simply employ someone to do their social media.

The owner of the business wasn’t in charge of creating the product, too.

Thus, I went niche. I made my content different and for a very specific audience—writers. Sure, WANA methods actually work for any small business. They are ideal for artists, photographers, stylists, lawyers, and any profession where the owner is required to also produce the product/service and lacks a department to delegate social media duties.

Yet, I remained focused on writers. One day I might expand. That’s the plan. But if I’d tried to compete with Guy Kawasaki in the beginning, I’d have been in a losing battle. I picked a field I could cultivate.

I defined my audience and dedicated everything I had into serving, informing, preparing and entertaining THEM.

If I want to write a diet book, a diet “that works” is a lot of competition. But what about a diet book for the woman who is breast-feeding and wants to lose weight, feel better, combat post-partum depression naturally and have a waistline again?

Niche.

This same principle applies to fiction. Many new writers are hesitant to pick a genre. We want to write a book everyone loves. In trying to please everyone, we please no one. Focus is key with fiction. Ask what you want your readers to feel and then focus on that. It will make your writing tighter and it will give it a greater chance of connecting to a willing audience.

We all recognize pizza in all its amazing and varied forms. Some weird casserole with a fancy name? Might taste better, but the pizza is an easier sell. Pizza CAN be creative. Yes, we can blend genres and use artistic abilities to offer “same but different” yet there needs to be a grounding point or audiences are left scratching their heads saying, “I know you SAY it’s good…but what IS it?”

Look for the vacuums. Demographics not being served. This is why I am so excited about Baby Boomer Romance. Still fills a need (love, excitement), it’s recognizable (romance), but it’s different. It can appeal to the 58 year-old who wants to read about a woman in her age group finding love.

Get a Thick Skin

Whether we are writing non-fiction or fiction, this is imperative. There are people out there who have nothing better to do than tear others down. Yes, I’m excited to now be blogging for The Huffington Post. It was a wonderful promotion as NF expert. Yet, a new level, new devil. I can’t moderate comments, and it didn’t take long to get the comment bashing me for using the word “Awesome.”

Um...thanks.

Um…thanks.

I used the word “awesome” ONCE, so I am guessing this is now a word banned from the English language? And I wonder if the commenter realizes she doesn’t look smart, just like a jerk. It took practically duct-taping myself in another room not to respond:

Awesome comment. It’s awesome you could take the time to make such an awesome observation. It’s awesome feedback like this that makes future blogs even MORE AWESOME. Thanks for being AWESOME.

But this goes with the territory *shrugs*.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Paul Hudson

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Paul Hudson

Fiction authors? You cannot please everyone and if you try to? You start wearing your underwear on the outside of your clothes and take up collecting beer cans in a stolen Wal Mart cart as a hobby. Just don’t go there.

Fiction is subjective, so probably far more vulnerable.

One person LOVES description, and another hates it. One person LOVES lots of subplots, and others are confused. Just hone your craft, put out the best work you can and keep moving. Many of the bullies out there have been bullies since they were in fourth grade teasing the poor kid with the KMart clothes and a lisp.

Look at the bright side, we could be THEM.

What are your thoughts? Have you been on the other end of a bully? A Goodreads bully? Did you use duct tape to keep from hunting them down and burning dog poo on their porch? In your writing, has going niche offered focus? Do you have a clear vision of the “needs” your works should be filling?

I love hearing from you!

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

Winner of 20 page edit. Troy Lambert. Please send your 5000 word Word Document to kristen at wana intl dot com.

Since it was such a HUGE success and attendees loved it, I am rerunning the Your First Five Pages class SATURDAY EDITION. Use the WANA15 code for 15% off. Yes, editors REALLY can tell everything they need to know about your book in five pages or less. Here’s a peek into what we see and how to fix it. Not only will this information repair your first pages, it can help you understand deeper flaws in the rest of your manuscript.

My new social media book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE. Only $6.99.

WANACon, the writing conference of the future is COMING! We start with PajamaCon the evening of October 3rd and then October 4th and 5th we have some of the biggest names in publishing coming RIGHT TO YOU–including the LEGEND Les Edgerton. 

If you REGISTER NOW, you get PajamaCon and BOTH DAYS OF THE CONFERENCE (and all recordings) for $119 (regularly $149). Sign up today, because this special won’t last and seats are limited. REGISTER HERE.

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  1. #1 by Dawn Montgomery on September 5, 2013 - 7:42 am

    <3

  2. #2 by Jack Flacco on September 5, 2013 - 7:45 am

    Third point. Brilliant. :)

  3. #3 by Tima Maria Lacoba on September 5, 2013 - 7:51 am

    Third point? Spot on!

  4. #4 by Don M. Winn on September 5, 2013 - 7:52 am

    Great advice….and perfect this dyslexic…just a few simple words to sum it up. :-)

  5. #5 by prudencemacleod on September 5, 2013 - 8:01 am

    And keep on truckin’

  6. #6 by Sydney Jane Baily on September 5, 2013 - 8:03 am

    Thank you for this pithy post today, so I can get back to work. It’s like a small gift.

  7. #7 by Elke Feuer on September 5, 2013 - 8:20 am

    All great points. Filling someone’s need can inspire and encourage and not just others, but yourself.

  8. #8 by paulahathaway on September 5, 2013 - 8:21 am

    I am in real estate; I know of what you speak…I needed to see this today, right now.

  9. #9 by Amy Shojai on September 5, 2013 - 8:27 am

    Yep, made a career out of filling a need with my niche writing–and my skin got pretty darn thick as a result (beneath the fur!).

    • #10 by Gry Ranfelt on September 9, 2013 - 12:49 am

      What niche? :)

  10. #11 by saundrafox on September 5, 2013 - 8:28 am

    Is that it??? Ok…

  11. #12 by kks21 on September 5, 2013 - 9:04 am

    Sometimes the best posts are the shortest (not like your other ones aren’t great)

  12. #13 by tony lavely on September 5, 2013 - 9:15 am

    Hi, Kristen. 404 when I click the link.

    Thanks, tony

  13. #14 by ktinti@aol.com on September 5, 2013 - 11:25 pm

    oh yeah, Word Press has gone wackadoo.

  14. #15 by corajramos on September 6, 2013 - 8:27 am

    Love this encouragement! Just what I needed. Cora J Ramos http://www.coraramos.com

    http://coraramos-cora.blogspot.com/ http://www.amazon.com/Cora-Ramos/e/BOOBAKLGXO http://pinterest.com/coraramos/boards/

    ________________________________

  15. #16 by sharonhughson on September 6, 2013 - 11:04 am

    Your would-be response to the snarky commenter was….dare I say…awesome! I laughed and laughed. Yes, we could be that person, but it’s nice to know we aren’t lowering ourselves to that level of…non-awesomeness (sorry, couldn’t resist)
    Thanks for more fantastic encouragement. Time to get to work.

  16. #17 by Stephanie Beavers on September 6, 2013 - 11:45 am

    Oh man, I laughed so hard at your “awesome” reply!

  17. #18 by rookswriter on September 6, 2013 - 12:42 pm

    Love it!

  18. #19 by angelaackerman on September 6, 2013 - 12:44 pm

    Great post! No…an AWESOME post. (LOL) I think you and I have very similar thinking as far as niche. I figure as long as I don’t become complacent and always think ahead on how I can better serve my audience, I’m on the right track.

    • #20 by Author Kristen Lamb on September 6, 2013 - 1:21 pm

      AWESOME! So AWESOME that you would say that. Just proves you are an AWESOME person :D. Meet my NEW favorite word. Okay, second. @$$clown is my favorite.

  19. #21 by Shea Ford on September 6, 2013 - 12:49 pm

    Like you said, people who comment bully-style like that tend to come across as jerks more than as being smart. I had someone bully me in a literature forum. The conversation had turned into a debate and she kept using debating terms. I’m not a debater. I had to look them up. When I did, I found all the rules that she was breaking (and there were many), but her biggest mistake was not fully understanding my position. She never read all of my posts and accused me of things that I was not guilty of, and others actually spoke up for me even if they opposed my stance. She lost a lot of respect at that time.

  20. #22 by Sandra Wagner-Wright on September 6, 2013 - 1:40 pm

    The skin is thick; the brain is strong, but too often the heart is a marshmallow. I write anyway. :-)

  21. #23 by standonthewall on September 6, 2013 - 3:24 pm

    What a jerk. I’m sorry that you had to deal with that less-than-awesome critic.

  22. #24 by myselfishdream on September 7, 2013 - 5:37 am

    After writing 1000′s of words I had a mini crisis of faith – due to an article written by a blogger at Huff Post actually and his subsequent comments to my POLITE comment about the article. My current project is very niche. It’s a matter of perspective I suppose. Thanks for pointing that out I needed a boost of moral and this article supplied it. Awesome!

    • #25 by Gry Ranfelt on September 9, 2013 - 12:47 am

      In a would with 6 billion people a niche with just 0,05% is still a lot of people :D

  23. #26 by seanpaulmahoney on September 7, 2013 - 10:31 pm

    I love what you said about getting a thick skin. So very true. In addition to being a non-fiction writer, I’m a playwright. Audience members falling asleep, texting or (gulp) leaving during a show helped me get a thick skin really fast. Writing for an entertainment website helped too. We’ll just say Hell hath no fury like a Claymate scorned and we’ll leave it at that. – S.

  24. #27 by markneu on September 8, 2013 - 10:38 am

    “Fiction is subjective.” What an awesome point!

    The epiphany that helped me the most in developing a thick skin was realizing that I don’t like everything I read so why should I expect everyone else to like what I write?

    • #28 by Gry Ranfelt on September 9, 2013 - 12:46 am

      Good point. One of the reasons I stopped force feeding myself “litterature” and just started reading whatever looked appealing. Been reading a lot more since making that duh-bvious decision.

  25. #29 by Sarah Brabazon on September 8, 2013 - 9:42 pm

    I assumed post #12965 was designed to make us do some thinking, a’ la Seth Godin :-)

  26. #30 by Gry Ranfelt on September 9, 2013 - 12:45 am

    I was an AMV maker on youtube and did a lot of constructive criticism. I would say “this is great because this and this but I think you can work on this in order to this and this”.
    Often I would get grateful replies because I took the time. Rarer, but also often, one of their fans would bash me, or maybe just a troll, telling me I couldn’t do a better job myself. Sometimes it was true but even if it was always true I’m still the audience and as long as my opinion is polite it matters.
    I ended up having a reputation as “The Critique” among the ones I was subscribed to so when I left a comment simply saying “Awesome” they would write back and say “wow, thanks so much. I know that’s a lot coming from you.”
    Constructive criticism is the best of all :D

  27. #31 by Topaz on September 9, 2013 - 6:15 pm

    Before I think about publishing my book, I am blogging about my two main topics. There is definitely a need for it; however, the niche may be too narrow. On WordPress and other blogs, I haven’t found anything similar to mine.

    In my case, I wonder if that is good or bad. It would be great to emulate a blogger who has blazed the trail, but I guess I’m the one who must do the blazing!

  28. #32 by Raani York on September 17, 2013 - 5:44 pm

    These tips are really amazing. thanks for sharing them!

  1. Writing Resources 07 September 2013 | Gene Lempp ~ Writer
  2. Mind Sieve 9/9/13 | Gloria Oliver

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