What Makes You So Special? The Magic to Selling Books

Original Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anurag Agnihotri

Original Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anurag Agnihotri

I’ve worked both sides of the business fence—the creative and the corporate (and continue to do so). The strange things is that all industries are facing the same challenges as our world gets smaller, more integrated, and increasingly populated with competition. All types of businesses, whether we are selling tacos, signs, t-shirts, cardboard, technology or books must answer the same questions or face extinction:

Why YOU?

Why not someone else?

What do you offer ME?

What makes you so special?

WHO ARE YOU and why do I (the consumer) care?

A Lesson from SEARS

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Keith Nerdin...

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Keith Nerdin…

For generations, Sears was a corporate juggernaut. Sears promised quality products at an affordable price. Then, Kmart came on the scene. So, Sears decided to get a bit fancier and more like a higher end department stores like Macy’s in reaction to increasing competition.

Yet, herein grew the confusion. Those who viewed Sears as a place for discount goods simply shopped at Kmart. Those who viewed Sears as a department store just went to Macy’s.

Sears had inadvertently muddled it’s brand. The company lacked focus, and, without focus, they lost domination over their market and have yet to reclaim it.

Why?

They couldn’t answer the above questions.

Why Sears and NOT Kmart or Macy’s? What did Sears offer the others didn’t? Why their products/stores? What makes me (the consumer) care?

There are only three core successful strategies whenever selling books (or even tacos or video games for that matter). Yes, THREE. Hey, I dig simple. Though, I will offer a caveat: There is overlap between corporate business and publishing (writing/selling books), but they’re hardly the same creatures. Yet, the smart writer understands that making a living doing what we love involves good business sense. Why not harness the great ideas both worlds can share?

Cost/Quality

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike V...

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike V…

Okay, some of you might think I am cheating a bit here and putting two in the same category. Yet, I will say that there are many successful authors (indie and self-published) who aren’t writing The Great American Novel, but they turn out a lot of books people enjoy reading. Brain candy.

Sometimes people just want a burger, and they consume Big Macs with a lot more regularity than foie gras. These (burger) authors will never win a Pulitzer, but they frequently do very well because they tell good stories and a lot of them. Thusoffering e-books for $1.99 or $2.99 or $3.99 (for the trilogy) is a sound business strategy. Because when one has fifteen, twenty or more titles to sell (I.e. John Locke)? Those numbers add up exponentially.

If we spend more time on quality, then cost is less of a factor (though don’t get crazy). No one would respect a fine-dining establishment run from a food coach selling escargot for .99 in a paper boat. In fact, we might call the Health Department O_o.

Truth is, quality can command a higher price (because it takes longer to produce) .

Screen Shot 2013-12-02 at 7.09.36 AM

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Herbie’s Vintage 72

My book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is the culmination of two years and over 20,000 pages of reading/research (some of it highly tedious). There’s a ton of information about neuroscience, marketing, advertising, the history of communication and how technology’s very literally changed the structure of the human brain (why ads have lost so much power). I teach how to form a viable, sustainable brand that connects to readers, and the book also include a simple step-by-step plan for branding and blogging that has proven to work time and time again and has helped sell (now) millions of books.

And I’m funny :D.

This is why I won’t be selling this book for $1.99 (aside from, perhaps, a short promotion for the e-book). Why? No one would respect the information I offer.

That and I read Gutenberg Galaxy Brilliant man but…. O_o.

Differentiation

Screen Shot 2013-05-23 at 10.03.48 AM

Image via Demotivationals.

Product (books) can contribute to this factor, but differentiation is why I’ve been pushing for writers to have a meaningful and effective social media platform for YEARS. In a world deluged in books? Why you? Why me, for that matter? Social media helps us stand out in a sea of choices. We (readers) gravitate to who/what we know and like.

Brick-and mortar businesses have the benefit of a storefront and location. Maybe Joe’s isn’t the best place for a burger, but it’s next to my work and cheap and I can eat in the 30 minutes I’m allotted for lunch. 

But even with the most premium real estate, if a business can’t differentiate and offer quality at a good price, it can still tank.

When I was in NYC in 2012, there was a juice bar across from the Hyatt. PREMIUM real estate, but they didn’t open until after 9:00 a.m. and closed at 4:00 p.m. They had the best (and likely most expensive) location, but they offered nothing different or special that would make regular commuters streaming the streets to and from work deviate from Starbucks. They were missing the people most likely to buy their product—those going to work and home from work.

Not surprisingly, they were out of business when I returned in 2013. Yes, I was bummed.

They had a great product, but, like Sears, they failed to answer the critical questions. WHY YOU? WHY are YOU so special? What do you offer that will make me deviate from a Kmart Jamba Juice?

As authors, we face the same problems. The modern consumer wants to know, Why should I READ instead of playing XBox or watching Duck Dynasty? Isn’t reading WORK? Why your book, when there are a quarter of a million others?

And there are a lot of writers out there paying for fancy marketing and ad campaigns thinking it’s the Golden Ticket. I’m certain that juice store thought the same when it rented premium space in Manhattan. But this is no longer enough. We have to be unique, special, offer value, connect to the consumer and be able to answer the critical questions…

WHY US? WHY OUR BOOKS?

Focus

Business used to be BIG. Big was BETTER. Big business, big papers, big publishing, but big is dead and the remaining few are barely able to sustain their bulk.

Small business makes up most of the commerce. The future is niche. Nintendo is a fabulous example. They didn’t try to take on XBox or PlayStation. They came out with the Wii. Nintendo spotted a huge audience being left out of the gaming experience—those who wanted to play and have fun, but weren’t hardcore gamers.

Unlike XBox, they didn’t seek to be an all-in-one technology device where one could play games on-line with ten buddies in five countries, watch YouTube, browse the web and check in on Facebook. Nintendo focused on simplicity, on the inexperienced gamer (who likely never would play First-Person-Shooter Games).

Grandma could bowl and Grandpa could swing a tennis racket. Toddlers could dance and Nana could dance with them. Whether bowling, wielding a virtual sword, or working out? Wii was SIMPLE….which meant Nintendo didn’t have to compete with the bigger gaming consoles. They could also beat the bigger boys on price and make a profit far sooner by filling an overlooked need with a far less expensive product.

Focus is one of my pet peeves about having multiple pen names, but that’s another blog :D. It’s also why we don’t need to be everywhere all the time on social media. It dilutes the power of focus.

For writers? Look around. Who is a forgotten or overlooked audience? Where can you find a niche audience just waiting for you to see them? To connect with them? I teach how to do this in my book, btw ;).

Beyond social media, what genre boundaries can you break as an artist? Sure, write urban fantasy, but there’s a ton of competition. Why not an urban fantasy with a thirty-something, forty-something or even Baby Boomer heroine? Hey, just because we get older doesn’t mean we’re dead and don’t want to believe we still got it :D.

FORTY's so bright, I gotta wear shaaaaadddes..... Yes, I am forty.

FORTY’s so bright, I gotta wear shaaaaadddes….. Yes, I am forty.

Trust me when I say I am not interested in a book with a twenty-something protagonist. I want older women to ROCK, and maybe writers can help our society stop looking at getting older like it’s a disease.

For the love of CHOCOLATE, they’re smile lines not psoriasis! What’s with all the CREAMS? I am NOT contagious and you will ALL be here eventually, so why can’t “being older” be HOT?

What are your thoughts? As readers, do you get tired of the same tropes? What is a favorite book or movie and what made it special? Why was it different than all the other choices? Why did it stand out? Do you struggle with focus? Shouldn’t being older be hot? It was for Sean Connery, why not us gals? Oh, and big thighs. Stop stuffing us in Spanx and just let a gal with a booty and curves/cushion be HOT…ok, that just went a weird direction *hangs head*

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of December, 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).

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  1. #1 by Sam on December 3, 2013 - 8:05 am

    I like your fork picture and the message with it. You might be really good at building cheese sculptures and burning them, but few people will find that entertaining. You have to be sure your difference still has a wide appeal. Thank you for your words.

  2. #2 by Ken Farmer on December 3, 2013 - 8:11 am

    I agree madam. If you put a small value on your books, rest assured that no one will raise your price.

  3. #3 by Stella Myers on December 3, 2013 - 8:11 am

    Older should be hot. By that I do not mean that the heroine can do all that the 20 something can, but still be attractive to people, and still solve problems and get the job done.
    I read JD Robb’s In Death series because the protagonist and her husband have the richest relationship I have read.

  4. #4 by Lanette Kauten on December 3, 2013 - 8:16 am

    I lack focus because so many things interest me, and I don’t want to get stuck telling stories that all start to sound alike after awhile. That aside, my primary issue right now is marketing just one book, but the main character’s 35, not 20, so how do we find our audience?

  5. #5 by jean566 on December 3, 2013 - 8:18 am

    Great post. I agree it’s all about having a persona. In marketing, we used to call it a “USP” -unique selling proposition. Same thing.
    But, I disagree that 40 is old. I’m a lot older than 40 and I can tell you that 40 looks pretty young.

    • #6 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 3, 2013 - 8:22 am

      I AGREE and am tired of being called old. And if they have ONE MORE 20-something modeling wrinkle cream? I cannot be held responsible for my actions.

      • #7 by Widdershins on December 3, 2013 - 8:46 pm

        Even then she’s photoshopped to within an inch of her ninth birthday!

  6. #8 by stephaniehurt on December 3, 2013 - 8:31 am

    Great post as usual. I like the unique genre comments. I recently wrote a blog about having more mature characters, maybe even late forties or early fifties. I asked what my readers thought. It was amazing the amount of comments I received asking when I would be writing said novel. Everyone would like to be reminded that they’re not ready for the pasture just yet. We’ll see how it goes :)

  7. #9 by Sue on December 3, 2013 - 8:38 am

    Sears reference is spot on. We rarely shop there except for tools or appliances – and they are losing ground fast there too. Saw an interesting piece on 60 minutes about Amazon and his market strategy. He really has an understanding of how business works TODAY, and is constantly moving to stay relevant and has thus seen huge success and market share.

    Bought your book a couple of weeks ago and it’s on my list of things to do/read before the end of the year. In a world where we will drop 5 bucks on a latte, your book was a bargain, btw. :) Looking forward to the education- I expect it will help me in my day job too (sales) and not just writing.

  8. #10 by ontyrepassages on December 3, 2013 - 8:40 am

    I’d buy your book, but I already bought it. :) Sears is still around in the same sense that Uncle Fred who became a zombie is still around. Unfortunately, J.C. Penny didn’t get the memo about what happened to Sears. Whoops.

  9. #11 by Julie Catherine on December 3, 2013 - 8:51 am

    Kristen, you really are funny, and I enjoy reading your blog posts – I can always find a chuckle somewhere in them! :D Love that you (and others) agree women over 40 are hot! And why not an older, hot female protagonist? We bring a more mature and experienced perspective to life (not the same as acting our age, lol). Great post! ~ Julie Catherine :)

  10. #12 by Edward Owen on December 3, 2013 - 8:54 am

    A. Women are often at their peak in their 40s (Ironic given that us men do so in our 20s … sort of explains the whole cougar syndrome … digressing). Protagonists in my current WIP are a married couple; her late thirties, him early forties. Just remember, old age and treachery will beat youth and skill every time. ;) Great post … now, if I could just focus…

  11. #13 by howmyspiritsings on December 3, 2013 - 9:00 am

    You’re forty? I wished I looked that good at forty! I loved your new book! Well worth more than the price I paid! I didn’t realize how many things I was doing wrong! Thank you so much for sharing all your knowledge with us. Your platform is one that simple and provides quality!

  12. #14 by Elizabeth Delisi on December 3, 2013 - 9:00 am

    Great advice! Definitely looking forward to reading your book.

  13. #15 by swiveltam on December 3, 2013 - 9:03 am

    I love this advice and am following it to the best of my ability. It’s always good to have a reminder, it’s so easy to get distracted and try to please ALL. Thank you for the wonderful reminder.

  14. #16 by Al Chaput on December 3, 2013 - 9:05 am

    Excellent post, Kristen. What’s your take on the marketing impact of online book reviewers?

    • #17 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 3, 2013 - 9:07 am

      I think there has been a lot of abuse, fraud and bullying, so not sure how much people look to them. Word-of-mouth is still a bigger driving force.

  15. #18 by Laxmi on December 3, 2013 - 9:08 am

    You know something Kristen? You just inspired me to write about an older woman’s story. In rural parts out here women age early through marriage, child births and difficult livelihood. While women living in cities do not age so fast. I feel there are many hidden stories in older women and I’d certainly like to bring them out in some ways. Thanks.

  16. #19 by Charlotte Gerber, Mystery Author on December 3, 2013 - 9:12 am

    Reblogged this on Charlotte Gerber.

  17. #20 by Kate Sparkes on December 3, 2013 - 9:13 am

    Love the Sears comparison.

    I see a lot of authors flitting around, trying a different price point every few weeks, never settling long enough to see if something works, following stale promotional trends, spamming on Twitter and doing what’s worked for other people, and I want to shove your book at them. Sometimes I worry that I’m the bent fork, but I’m glad I’m allowed to be myself. :)

  18. #21 by elorenalory on December 3, 2013 - 9:24 am

    Great post as usual Kristen! As a 35+ myself I get tired of reading about teenagers and 20 somethings all the time too. In the novel I am working on, I have 3 protagonists, they are 25, 32 (well plus 100 years spent in cryo-sleep, not sure if that counts) and 40+ (this one is shifty about his age). They can all kick ass just as well as the teenagers. And with a lot less tantrums too.

    I like writing about older and wiser characters. I mean who wants to read about pre-pubescent problems over and over again?

  19. #22 by Middlemay Farm on December 3, 2013 - 9:28 am

    I hadn’t really thought about age, but my first historical fiction novel focused on a married couple with kids and a lot of older people have been reading and enjoying it. My next struggle is how to turn a female character of the 1880’s into a strong woman without making her die or turn into a bitch. :)

  20. #23 by Julia Derek on December 3, 2013 - 9:38 am

    Great post, Kristen! I could not agree more about not being able to relate to protagonists in their 20s since I’m your age. We definitely need more books with older protagonists. Speaking of that, I just read a great romance with a 40-year-old protagonist called Now or Never by Logan Belle. Very well written and fun. Check it out!

  21. #24 by Christa Wojo (@webbella) on December 3, 2013 - 9:55 am

    This post just convinced me to buy Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World.

    I’ve been reading this blog for a few years and treasured all the advice, but it never really compelled me to buy a book. Then something in this post went ‘ding’ (you had me at ‘neuroscience,’ actually) and I went straight to Amazon.

    This goes to show human authors probably the most important digital marketing tenant–quality and consistency. Many want to give up after a few months of blogging. A few months? Try years–at the very least. Then one day ‘ding’! You’ll trigger something in your follower and they’ll magically transform into a buyer.

    Great work, Kristen. Can’t wait to read your book!

  22. #25 by tomburkhalter on December 3, 2013 - 10:04 am

    Good post! Older people are like books — I work with a bunch of WW2 vets (mostly USAAF/USAF types, hey, it’s what I’m into) and sometimes the stories they tell will leave you slack-jawed. Well, no, they’re not like books — each one is more like a library! Keep up the good work!

  23. #26 by darcyflynn on December 3, 2013 - 10:05 am

    Now that I’m pushing 60, I so get that I was hot at 40! LOL! You look terrific, btw!
    I love the Sears comparison and the NY juice bar story…what were they thinking?

  24. #27 by Eli Pacheco on December 3, 2013 - 10:10 am

    Even my 13-year-old is tired of the same tropes. Does every contemporary Christmas movie have to involve a young single mom, a dude she hates at first, but winds up falling in love with because he preserves the magic of Christmas for her fatherless child?

    Give me a movie that shocks and surprises me. Take me off the tracks. Give me Act of Valor, or hell, even Jack Frost.

    As for older being hot? Dana Perino, age 41. *sigh*

  25. #28 by Sophia Kimble on December 3, 2013 - 10:13 am

    Reblogged this on Sophia Kimble and commented:
    Wonderful article…a must read.

  26. #29 by sarastinson on December 3, 2013 - 10:15 am

    Enjoyed the article and will check out your books! Keep up the great work ! :)

  27. #30 by sharonhughson on December 3, 2013 - 10:28 am

    I’m over 40 (and hope I have classic appeal because hot is so for 20-year-olds and now that I’ve matured past that I realize that looks are a fleeting commodity but brains, ambition and wit can carry you to 100) but I write for young adults. Thus, I read lots of YA, but I enjoy books with older protagonists, too. I think many middle aged women read about younger women because they are buying the lie that youth is where it’s at. I would disagree strongly. I didn’t start feeling comfortable in my own skin until I was 30. Now that my skin wakes me up covered in sweat in the middle of the night – wait, that doesn’t go with this point.
    I want to connect with the moms and grandmas of those 12-16 year-olds I hope will read my books because they will likely be the ones buying the books. Of course, I enjoy connecting with teenagers, too, or I wouldn’t have chosen this genre.
    We have to be true to ourselves, not just write for a market.

  28. #31 by wittywritereditor on December 3, 2013 - 10:34 am

    I haven’t really found my niche yet – not really. I’ve been trying to write to certain niches, but I’m not certain that I actually belong in any of them… I just might have to buy your book, Kristen. :-)

    And keep writing, of course…

  29. #32 by Gry Ranfelt on December 3, 2013 - 10:39 am

    For some time now I’ve been paying extra attention to my senile grandmother whenever we visit. I plan to one day create an old female character with alzheimers to be the crucial solution to the plot – obviously a challenge since she doesn’t even believe that her apartment is her home though she’s been living there for years.

    This is a really great blog post. Your knowledge is very thorough. Gotta say I agree on the quality. Didn’t regret a single penny I spent on your book.

  30. #33 by projectechoshadow on December 3, 2013 - 10:45 am

    Reblogged this on Echoshadow.

  31. #34 by michellemiles21 on December 3, 2013 - 10:48 am

    Great post. I loved this. Social media and marketing is something I struggle with. And you’re so dead right about older heroines! Love that idea :)

  32. #35 by caroline on December 3, 2013 - 10:53 am

    I always learn so much from your posts. you give me another way of thinking. Thank you.

  33. #36 by Janna G. Noelle on December 3, 2013 - 11:36 am

    I’m reading your book right now and learning so much (and you are funny). Marketing is the hardest thing I’ve had to learn about writing since learning how to write. :)

  34. #37 by Mary on December 3, 2013 - 11:51 am

    What’s unique about this post is how you got this total nerd-geek’s attention with the use of Nintendo as an example of how to tap into a huge market. Not an uncommon idea but I usually only read things like this in RealClearTech pieces. You connected that marketing idea to book marketing. Now I’m interested in your book.

  35. #38 by The characterful writer on December 3, 2013 - 12:06 pm

    A laugh is worth a thousand moans. I like your brisk and positive but not unrealistic attitude towards marketing fiction. Yes, any character is important at any age provided the writing is good. I have to admit I’m hoping readers will think that about the characters in my book, *Me-Time Tales, Tea-breaks for mature women and curious men*, since only one is truly young. As you can tell, I have my tongue in my cheek. That’s fine for fiction, but not so easy in a serious work of marketing. So congrats.

  36. #39 by Diana Stevan on December 3, 2013 - 12:08 pm

    Kristin, what a great post. Right now, I’m reading The Postmistress. Enjoying this book for the very reasons you’ve cited. It is different. Though it takes place during WWII, it offers a unique perspective. We learn about the blitz in England from a female reporter who’s been working with Murrow on the radio in London. We also get the perspective of the postmistress and some of her fellow townsfolk in Franklin, Mass. before America enters the war. It’s an informative read but also one with a lot of heart. It stands out in a sea of novels.

  37. #40 by William Vaughn on December 3, 2013 - 12:12 pm

    We chatted yesterday and discussed a number of issues. Bottom line: I think you have a lot to contribute to the indie publishing community–and to the brick-and-mortar publishers as well. I look forward to finishing the book and making it to the New York Times best seller list with The Seldith Chronicles.

  38. #41 by Aussa Lorens on December 3, 2013 - 12:46 pm

    I love the “Unique” meme– I’m going to have to steal that for next time I’m shaking my fist at someone’s meaningless attempt at originality (pardon me, that was harsh). You ask a lot of really good questions in this post… Questions I think I will definitely need to answer. Social media and self-publishing make the world seem so small and interconnected but at the same time it’s easy to feel buried and unnoticable beneath it all. I may have to check out your book to get some guidance in navigating all of this… It is certainly not my forte.

  39. #42 by Peter Wells aka Countingducks on December 3, 2013 - 1:02 pm

    I’ve read ‘Rise of the Machines’ and it is excellent. I am about to have a book published by a small American publisher who spotted my Blog, on which I work quite hard, as well as a FB page, which seems to have an aura of secrecy about it, in that it has few followers, even though it is linked to the Blog, and I do worry a lot as to whether anyone will buy my book apart from a couple of chums and that curious man at the Laundromat.

    • #43 by ReadingAlcove on December 4, 2013 - 8:03 am

      And even in comments, Peter, your talent shows. Your book, Kristen is becoming the gold standard at that “small American publisher.” It is a delightful and thought provoking read and it is required reading for our authors.

  40. #44 by Claudsy on December 3, 2013 - 1:47 pm

    Kristen, you’ve nailed it again, as usual. But then, you’ve had the experience. I agree with you on all of this, down to the last period. :)

    And you’ve given us a chance at a terrific bonus! That’s too good to pass up.

  41. #45 by Claudsy on December 3, 2013 - 2:05 pm

    Here’s my take on your post, Kristen. Hope you enjoy it. http://www.claudettejyoung.com/2013/12/advice-lamb-writers-everywhere/

  42. #46 by Roland Yeomans on December 3, 2013 - 2:44 pm

    This is a great post. I spotlighted it with a link on my tiny blog. What concerns me is that we may have written that one great novel of the decade, but if we cannot find a way to attract readers out of the author blog-ghetto, we will never be known. Thanks for an insightful post.

  43. #47 by John Robinson on December 3, 2013 - 3:21 pm

    Great stuff, Kristen; I linked it to my FB page.

    And for what it’s worth, the MC of my Joe Box series is DEFINITELY older: a sixty-one year old Vietnam combat vet and private investigator.

    In addition to being an animal lover (he owns a disfigured cat he saved from being burned alive as a kitten), Joe’s a gruff, blunt, haunted Southerner who’s not really sure how his new walk of faith will balance out against his sometimes violent profession … but for some reason the women seem to love him.

    Thanks for posting this!

  44. #48 by Tegon Maus on December 3, 2013 - 3:31 pm

    Very true… all my characters are 50 and older. Good article.

  45. #49 by remodelingpurgatory on December 3, 2013 - 3:40 pm

    Pick me, pick me!

  46. #50 by Ellen Kennedy on December 3, 2013 - 3:46 pm

    I’m proud to say that my protagonist, high school English teacher Amelia Prentice, is a 40-something. She finds love and stumbles over a murder in REGARDLESS OF MURDER, tries to clear students of murder charges in DEATH DANGLES A PARTICIPLE and this spring, goes back in time to remember her teenage summer stock experience in MURDER IN THE PAST TENSE.

  47. #51 by Cheryel Hutton on December 3, 2013 - 3:51 pm

    Kristen, you are an amazing person (and beautiful!). You have been a big help and inspiration to me, and I plan on proving you and your books are the key to successful ;)

    Thanks for another great post, and I plan to buy your book very soon.

  48. #52 by Sadie Carrieri on December 3, 2013 - 3:51 pm

    71 years old in body but young in spunkier days, nights and memory. I love thinking and writing about characters that are somewhere hiding in my memory. They bring me back to spunkier days and nights and make dreams come true. Who will read about them? People like me I hope who get a second chance at living their fantasies through reading and writing.

    By the way, are you saying 40 is old? You guys who think so have to get a grip on reality and stop thinking that, when the odds are good you will live another 40 years.

    • #53 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 3, 2013 - 4:09 pm

      I don’t think I am old, the media is pushing that crap. I’ve never felt/looked better and only shiny days ahead :D.

      • #54 by Sadie Carrieri on December 7, 2013 - 9:04 pm

        Right on

      • #55 by Sadie Carrieri on December 7, 2013 - 9:11 pm

        OMG, Not you, I have been in your company at the STAR Chapter or RWA. No way you project old. I think I hear others responding with that sense of being old before their time.

  49. #56 by Kylie Betzner on December 3, 2013 - 4:18 pm

    As always, a great post! This one really helped me, because I’ve been pondering what my niche is and to whom I should be writing to more specifically. My characters tend to vary in age; though, as a 20-something I guess I’m not tired of that age group yet. Also, I love spanx. But I see your point. More mature protagonists are in short supply.

  50. #57 by caramac54 on December 3, 2013 - 4:21 pm

    You, my dear, are my new favorite. I’m excited to learn from you!

  51. #59 by annfoweraker on December 3, 2013 - 5:23 pm

    Great post. I’ve been writing female protags aged 40 and 50 for years – but the mass market publishers are not keen on older women as the main protags.. Once an Agent suggested that I ought to write about younger women.. i managed to write about a thirty-something – probably my least popular novel. My women are always ‘ordinary’ – the woman next door/ someone you know – but get caught up in extraordinary events – this is my ‘niche’.

  52. #60 by Ensis on December 3, 2013 - 5:56 pm

    I think a part of the reason why the niche is so often overlooked is because it’s so easy to succumb to the stereotype if it isn’t what you know. We’ve all been 20, so that’s easy mode for a lot of writers.
    I agree with you, though some of the coolest characters are the unique ones. The single career girl of 40 or the single parent divorcee.
    I was pleased to find a few more middle aged npc characters in the newest Pokemon game, including a sexy waitress!

  53. #61 by bevrobitai on December 3, 2013 - 6:06 pm

    Older characters are hugely valuable resources in my Sunstrike novel, where technology is knocked out by a solar storm. They have the life skills of making stuff rather than buying it, and don’t fret about going without. I have to admit to getting in a dig at all those whiz kids who can install a wireless modem with their eyes closed but wouldn’t know how to sew on a button, or find their way across town without GPS. (Cue rant about how life was so much simpler in those days…) But for the love of God don’t make me go back to writing with a typewriter!
    Love your work, Kristen – you’re a true inspiration. Take care of yourself, you’re a valuable resource!

  54. #62 by Tamara LeBlanc on December 3, 2013 - 7:19 pm

    Kristen, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this post!!! This lesson on WHY ME is as incredibly valuable as all the other wisdom you gift us with on a weekly basis, but your thoughts on Spanx and curves and crows feet put the icing on the cake (and, YES, we should be able to eat cake without worrying about a few extra pounds! And the more icing the better!!!)
    You are a treasure!
    Have a wonderful evening!
    Tamara

  55. #63 by Dean K Miller on December 3, 2013 - 8:22 pm

    As authors we must multi-task yet focus, write quality but enough quantity, identify our market yet reach out. How much more fun can this possibly be? I was thinking of “market” today as I worked on my book and identified one potential sub-group. Now if i can only get their 40+ (hot) wives to buy it for their husbands, I’ll be in business. (So do I target the wives (as purchasers and nothing else) or their husbands? Because their young sons could benefit from reading as well. Maybe a football on the cover…which has nothing to do with the contents.

  56. #64 by Gemma Brocato on December 3, 2013 - 8:32 pm

    I’m new to your blog and so delighted to have found it. The Limited was another retailer who lost sight of their target market. That really hurt them and they’ve only just regained their audience. I’ve seen that with authors whose works I loved and they’re on my auto-buy list. But maybe the latest work is so far out in left field I just scratch my head, quit reading and remove them from my list of must-reads. I will be asking myself in the future the WHY ME question. Thanks!

  57. #65 by jacksonzombie on December 3, 2013 - 8:35 pm

    This is such great advice – so much to think about – all very valuable and greatly appreciated.

  58. #66 by Widdershins on December 3, 2013 - 8:47 pm

    BoomerLit is here and … erm … booming, and there’s always room for more!

  59. #67 by RDee on December 3, 2013 - 8:53 pm

    Good stuff! Thanks!

  60. #68 by shellyzarr on December 3, 2013 - 9:14 pm

    Just the kind of info I’ve been seeking. The challenge to differentiate myself from the Borg and capture readers is something I’m looking to focus on as I prepare to “re-release” my self in 2014. I’m hooked and anxious for more!

  61. #69 by damianbloodstone on December 3, 2013 - 9:19 pm

    Reblogged this on Hotter Than Blood Fiction and commented:
    This is a very in depth article that truly shows the needed thing to be published and have your book to sell in this modern time. She takes the fluff out of what so many try to tell us and makes it extremely simple to understand.

  62. #70 by damianbloodstone on December 3, 2013 - 9:22 pm

    You have told the realities of publishing and selling in a manner that was much clearer than most I’ve ever read. This blog was a gem.
    The ideas of older couples is something I enjoy thinking on. It brings my own generation into the mix. Great thinking on that one.

  63. #71 by Taylor Ramage on December 3, 2013 - 9:55 pm

    Your blog posts are always so quality. I would read a book about Grandma Wendy fighting werewolves, but I think in today’s culture a premise like that would only sell if was written as a joke. But who knows? Maybe the Grandma Wendy Saga could be the next Hunger Games.

  64. #72 by donnajeanmcdunn on December 3, 2013 - 10:27 pm

    My first two books are for young adults and I’m planning a third in that series, but I recently finished a fourth book that’s about a widowed 55 year old woman with two daughters and several grandchildren. It started out to be a Romance and has morphed into a suspense/thriller (according to my editor). There’s still a lot of romance in it.

    I just wanted to say, baby boomers are retiring and there are a LOT of us. As a 63 year old, I wanted to read books with older women as the protagonist, so I wrote one instead. Don’t tell our daughters this, but we’ve been married for 43 years and we may not “do it” every night like in the first 20 years, but we aren’t dead yet either. Baby Boomers are retiring at an alarming rate and there are a LOT of us. There will be more time to read than ever before and some who never picked up a book in the past, will suddenly pick them up now, just to have something to do. My husband’s brother is one of them.

  65. #73 by Elle Carter Neal on December 3, 2013 - 11:44 pm

    I write Middle Grade, YA, and New Adult so my protagonists tend to be between the ages of 11 and 30 (so far). But I have casts of fabulous older supporting characters (parents and grandparents of the protagonists) who have great depth and awesomeness :-D

  66. #74 by Randy Rothfus on December 3, 2013 - 11:50 pm

    I love your posts. You truly practice what you preach. BTW you had me at Sears! Bahhhhhhh… I’m almost finished digesting Rise of the Machines, and I’m feeling much better about my road ahead as a children’s book author. I couldn’t agree more about finding a niche and focusing on it like a laser. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that you can’t be everything for everybody! Keep up the great work, it’s much appreciated.

  67. #75 by Deena Marie Kaylee on December 4, 2013 - 2:35 am

    I am inspired by your article! It makes me think outside the box…I am motivated to pick up the pen and write in a whole new manner! Thank you!!!

  68. #76 by andrewknighton on December 4, 2013 - 2:57 am

    When you’re talking about differentiation and focus, how far do you find that you’re creating something to meet the existing desires of readers and how far are you persuading them that they should want something new? I’ve been reading about these different approaches for some (far less exciting than fiction) freelance work, and am curious about how they apply for us as authors.

  69. #77 by giazzpet on December 4, 2013 - 6:36 am

    Wow! This is a fantastic post! I’ve been doing niche marketing since we’ve been promoting the Renaissance Faires we do here in MA/NH and now with my picture book I’m finding that’s a completely different focus and niche! Great advice! I’m now following you too :D

  70. #78 by knotrune on December 4, 2013 - 10:28 am

    Just completed my first ever complete first draft of a novel (thanks to nano!) and my protag is a 41 year old woman, so I totally agree :) and I also have a niche as it is about antiques. Now I have the hard work – edits and reviving my neglected blog…

  71. #79 by Suzanne Steele on December 4, 2013 - 11:33 am

    Love your style, you Rock!

  72. #80 by Author_4_U on December 4, 2013 - 11:35 am

    You are one of a kind, relish in it.
    Glad that I found you!

  73. #81 by Laurie A Will on December 4, 2013 - 4:27 pm

    Yes, the tropes get old. I do tire of the twenty somethings protagonists. I am starting to rethink the age of my protagonist. But I’ve seen so few over their early twenties I have been wondering if there is a market for it. I’d love to see lots of kiss ass babes in their thirties and forties, even fifties and beyond really. Woman don’t automatically have mid-life crisis or start to have a myriad of health issues or become frumpy just because they’re over forty. Strong women who age gracefully and don’t give a damn what society thinks. I could get behind that!

  74. #82 by M T McGuire on December 4, 2013 - 5:50 pm

    I have written the kind of books I’d want, as a reader but can’t find that many of. Unfortunately I’m clearly a bit too niche because it’s a very hard sell!

    Lovely post. Really enjoyed it.

    Cheers

    MTM

  75. #83 by Deb Atwood on December 4, 2013 - 6:26 pm

    Along the hot-older-than-20 protagonists thread, I’ll throw out a suggestion you might like: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson–a debut novel no less. It’s sweet and funny and romantic. Enjoyed every minute of it.

  76. #84 by kbeck13 on December 4, 2013 - 7:27 pm

    Great post! I like what you said about older protagonists. I’m on the cusp of thirty and freaking out. I feel better than I ever have, but still…Thirty…Yikes.
    I liked everything you had to say and I can’t wait to get your book and learn some more! Thanks for this!

  77. #85 by Sinistra Inksteyne on December 5, 2013 - 2:38 am

    I gotta read this book of yours! Does it come in Format For Person Who Doesn’t Have A Reading-Ma-Jigger? If it has a touchscreen or a picture of a half-eaten fruit on it, I’m lost.

    And from the perspective of a 20-odd (very odd), getting old is awesome. I was SO excited when I got my first silver hairs! I wanted to show them off to everybody. Admittedly, I grew up in a culture where being old and fat was considered as good as it got. (No, I don’t show off when I get fatter…).

    • #86 by Author Kristen Lamb on December 5, 2013 - 8:28 am

      Yes, ROM is available in paper and I even had it published in cream to make reading easier on the eyes. You can find it here.

  78. #88 by Katie Cross on December 5, 2013 - 8:33 am

    I have so many thoughts that I can’t even align them onto a comment here. I think identifying why we are special, at least for me, is one of the hardest things to pinpoint, but I’m trying to figure it out now.

  79. #89 by Virginia Nygard on December 6, 2013 - 10:26 am

    Love your conversational style! That’s so ME! And you’re so right – life doesn’t end until they deep-six you – pardon the cliche. These days, they’re pretty accurate about one’s status before they do, but I still want an old-fashioned Irish wake before they shut the box! At this moment, I’m readying a novel for publication. Jennifer, the main character is a brink-of-fifty gal who loses almost everything and comes through it “backward and in high heels.” And even if you can’t wear the stilettos, Boomers, life is till worth dancing through!

  80. #90 by avwalters on December 8, 2013 - 11:28 am

    Okay, you’ve made me think–and that’s worth the price of admission. My characters span the age spectrum, but my focus, and voice, are mature. Oh–I don’t mean geezer, but we can be older and have lives and be engaged in living and learning. Teen and twenty interactions don’t do it for me, I want substance. I breathe through characters who think, who balance pros and cons and who, sometimes with a sigh, choose the considerate path, without it making them dull. That’s my audience and I need to go out and find them.

  81. #91 by Ann on December 8, 2013 - 11:41 pm

    My work is usually about 60 year old women who fit the Plan B mold. Not awarded beauty queens, but women of character with quirkiness. How do I find a market for these stories?

  82. #92 by piperemcdermot on December 9, 2013 - 11:58 am

    I write in a very crowded genre – fantasy – but then, all genres are pretty crowded these days, I suppose ;) Your post has made me stop and think about what can I focus on in my work that will draw in readers…lots to think about! As a forty-something writer, and hater of product ads featuring photoshopped 20 yr old girls pretending to be fighting wrinkles, I had no desire to write about a 20-something protagonist. I ended up with a female MC of 30, and male MC approaching 40. What I wanted to do most of all was to follow a relationship over the course of a lifetime – to go beyond those initial stages of relationship and delve into the dynamics of the long term. The interesting thing is that despite the ages of my MC’s, readers both below and above the 30yr old mark seem to identify – so I guess that’s good :) But as you said, trying to be all things to all people is a very bad idea … so now off to figure out which target market to focus on – and how…

  83. #93 by Raani York on December 9, 2013 - 4:13 pm

    This is a very special and teaching post, Kristen. Being unique is one thing, but being unique enough to raise curiosity is different, I think.
    What do I mean by this: let’s see: one unique singer is Grace Jones. Very special and very mysterious, she has had me curious for quite some time with her singing, her acting and her personality.
    Another unique singer: Lady Gaga… but there’s nothing mysterious that tickles any nerve inside of my brain. I find her as flat as an ironing board.
    I guess, that’s what I mean with the difference of “unique”.
    Thanks for this post. I love it!

  84. #94 by R.J. Grand on December 9, 2013 - 6:01 pm

    Glad to have found your blog after typing “editing fiction” into Google. It’s great to see credible information, sensible ideas, and simple steps for writers to follow. Thanks, Kristen!

  85. #95 by Samantha Saboviec on December 14, 2013 - 10:55 am

    Good article overall, but I also totally agree with your point about the twenty-something protagonists. I’m exhausted by all the YA that’s out there right now. I crave adult books, with adult themes. (Not sexual, mind you, ADULT.)

  86. #96 by World Weaver Press on January 8, 2014 - 8:40 pm

    This is much the same thought process that led to us publishing the Cleo Tidwell Paranormal Mysteries! — Urban fantasy with a married, almost-forty, Southern heroine.

    It’s a great series, if we do say so, written by Susan Abel Sullivan.

    (Info: http://worldweaverpress.com/books/cleo-tidwell-paranormal-mysteries-series/)

  87. #97 by Keith Nerdin (@keithnerdin) on March 4, 2014 - 10:28 pm

    Thanks for using my Sears photo! :-) Kind of fun. Just snapped that in an alley in La Grande, OR. Interestingly, the Sears was out of business and there wasn’t even any signage on the front of the building.

    • #98 by Author Kristen Lamb on March 5, 2014 - 8:07 am

      It’s a BEAUTIFUL image and one of my favorites. Great job! Thanks for putting your art out there to be shared.

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