Archive for category Social Media Platform

Should Authors Have to “Market Themselves”?

"Crap. Revisions tore my hose. But I need to sell more books and 'market myself'…"

“Crap. Revisions tore my hose. But I need to sell more books and get out and ‘market myself’…”
Image via Darwin Bell, Flickr Creative Commons.

All right, don’t stone me, but I feel some of the marketing “buzz words” range from terrifying to annoying to outright offensive. For instance, every time I read “target your demographic” or “target your readers” I wonder if this comes with a Predator Drone or at least a laser sight.

I don’t know about you guys, but I get creeped out being “targeted.” It makes it seem we (seller and consumer) are opponents—one the cunning victor and the other the hapless dupe who landed in the marketing crosshairs.

But the one that’s gotten my hackles up over the past week or so is when writers are beating themselves up. They write things in my comments like, “I know need to try harder to market myself” or “It’s no longer about marketing my books, I have to market ME.”

NO.

If I’ve in any way contributed to this feeling, my deepest apologies. I hope this post will clear things up.

The Difference Between Market Norms and Social Norms

Two norms guide all commerce. Market norms are cold, driven by data. We pay the price on the tag. There’s no emotion, and no relationship. All purchases and exchange of goods and services is simple. We don’t go to buy a computer then are hurt because we thought Best Buy was our BFF and could have made us a sweeter deal.

Social norms guide relationships. If I open the door for you, I don’t hold out my hand expecting a tip. When I make dinner for Hubby, I don’t bring him a check with 20% gratuity factored in because I have to clean the kitchen, too. If Hubby paid me after fooling around, he might suddenly go mysteriously missing.

Transition

In the 1990s, as the TV-Industrial complex began to crumble, we saw more and more businesses blending market and social norms.

Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

For corporations, using social norms can be beneficial. If we (consumers) like a company, we are willing to pay higher prices and can have greater loyalty. BUT, this company has a much steeper obligation. Don’t call us family then exploit us. Not only will we complain, we will raze your brand to the ground on-line. Companies can’t have the benefits that go with harnessing social norms, then forget the greater responsibility.

Evolution of Commerce

In the olden days, we didn’t have a lot of choices. When I was a kid, if you wanted to buy a new TV, there were about three brands to choose from. There were also three kinds of spaghetti sauce. Most household cleansers were manufactured by the same company. Ma Bell issued a phone when you activated a line in your home. If my parents wanted a different phone or a newer phone or a phone repaired? They called the phone company.

Image courtesy of Clemson via Flickr Creative Commons.

Image courtesy of Clemson via Flickr Creative Commons.

And had THREE colors to choose from :D .

Yet, as markets opened up bringing increased competition, this presented a problem to The Big Guys who’d enjoyed gouging consumers who had no other place to go. Cheaper and even better options came along and the pseudo-monopolies began to crumble.

For instance, my husband has this COOL remote control car that can do speeds in excess of 55 mph and is extraordinarily maneuverable. When I was growing up, if you wanted a remote control car, you went to Radio Shack and took out a second mortgage on your house to buy one…and generally it worked once then died.

Remote control cars were The Great Class Divider—those who could afford one and then the rest of us.

Image courtesy of Gazanfarulla Khan via Flickr Creative Commons.

Image courtesy of Gazanfarulla Khan via Flickr Creative Commons.

Now? In 2014? I can’t believe Radio Shack is still around. Sometimes I think it’s only because we still have a population over age 70 who still shops there. My grandfather, who is almost 90, still goes there to buy batteries, proving old habits die hard.

Yet, as the years passed, emerging markets offered newer, better and cheaper options. We could have all colors of phones. CORDLESS phones. Eventually phones with an answering machine built in and then Caller ID. More and more features and bells and whistles for less and less money.

When the Internet arrived, this only exacerbated the problem. And, as computers became more affordable, Internet service did too. E-Commerce arrived. Consumers no longer wanted to browse the window of an electronics store when they could purchase on-line cheaper and get free shipping.

Thus, with the explosion of options, market norms became highly problematic. To rely completely on market norms is a race to the bottom of who can give away the most stuff and the best stuff for free. How can companies mitigate this?

Let Me Introduce “Social Norms”

When we had only a handful of choices for coffee, we bought the one mom did. We chose between caffeinated, decaf, and instant. Fast-forward 20 years.

In an endless sea of coffee choices, manufacturers didn’t want to compete on price if they didn’t have to. Thus we now pay more than double if a coffee is “Rainforest Friendly” or “Organic.” Our purchases have come to reflect our values. Case in point, the new Follow the Frog campaign:

Is it non-GMO? Gluten-free? Environmentally friendly? Recycled? Does the manufacturer donate a portion of profits to charities we support?

Even large companies are realizing Facebook can be an asset and that people don’t want endless spam and promotion. We want a company that includes us and represents our values. We are willing to pay more to those kinds of companies. We want to like who we buy from.

We gravitate to companies with a real person behind the tweets and posts. Smart companies are recognizing they need to keep a finger on the pulse of their social platforms.

When I was ready to throw the first Mac I bought through the closest Apple Store window, I tweeted about my frustration. Guess who replied? Guess who worked tirelessly to make sure I was happy?

Guess who now uses Apple almost exclusively and has become a VERY good customer?

Kristen Lamb, writing teacher, WANA

Yes, Hubby even downloaded a game for the CAT.

I was willing to pay more for a company that not only solved my problem, but actually seemed to care about it. When the HP I owned had issues (and I’d had several HPs over the course of a decade), HP ran me through and endless maze of chasing my own @$$ with confusing and impersonal on-line forms that went unanswered. They used the information to spam me instead of solving my problem.

In the end? I knew I’d pay more with Apple (and wouldn’t have any new clothes for at least five years), but I chose the company that made me feel they were on my side, that I was more than a number.

Back to the Eternal Question—Do Authors Have to Market Themselves?

We have to remember the distinction between a business and a human being. When humans start “marketing themselves” it drifts into Creepy Land. Bluntly, it makes me feel like I need fishnets, heels and a red light that hides my smile lines. Or maybe I need to take up juggling fire while wearing a costume and swallowing swords.

We strongly suspected Earl had a book for sale… Image courtesy of Rafael-Castillio via Flickr Creative Commons.

We strongly suspected Earl had a book for sale…
Image courtesy of Rafael-Castillio via Flickr Creative Commons.

Granted, all of us on some level “market ourselves.” When we apply for a corporate job, we know that we have to wear the right suit, the right smile and have the right answers in an interview if we want to land the job or promotion.

But what if we had a plan for “marketing ourselves” to make friends? A bullet-point reference to make others like us. Worse still, how ookie does it get when we actively put together a plan for people to like us so they will buy something from us?

Hey, Baby, you wanna date book?

Writers are not Geiko. We are not AFLAC or P&G or Apple. We are people. A company is a non-living thing striving to connect and be personable. Companies have always been in the goods and services business filling needs. Companies have always been driven by market norms and that’s never been a question of ethics.

When human interactions are driven by market norms? That’s called slavery and prostitution.

Writers are people. A person is a person. When I actively make a plan for people to like me so they will buy my book? I need a shower and counseling.

All Humans Have a Brand

My brand. Spongebob, Green Lantern and NERF---oh, and I write books, too.

My brand. Spongebob, Green Lantern and NERF—oh, and I write books, too.

Brand is merely what comes to mind when we think of a name. When I think of AT&T, I see red. It brings to mind hours of runaround with customer service and the half zillion times they have screwed up our bill (where we live we have no other option).

When it comes to people? They also have a brand. They could be our vegan friend who competes in triathlons or our zany friend who collects action figures and goes to ComicCon.

I don’t call Such-and-Such in an emergency because he’s a notorious flake. If I have a bad day, I call Thus-And-Such, because I know she is kind and will set down everything to let me cry.

I avoid Uncle Burney because all he talks about is baseball and is utterly oblivious to the fact that I am chewing my leg off to escape the conversation. On the other hand, I love Uncle Olaf, because he invites me to play video games with him. He laughs a lot and asks me about my writing…and cares about my answer.

We unfriend people on social media because they might be rude bullies who rant or complain non-stop. We gravitate to others because they make us laugh or are always positive. These people may or may not have a good or service for sale, but they DO have a brand.

When it comes to creating a “marketable author brand” I have zero interest in changing you beyond what would need to change in any normal social situation. Name-calling, negativity, bragging, self-centeredness, putting others down are not great habits for us to have in LIFE. Thus, we all need to ixnay them with social media or it WILL create a negative brand.

I understand some writers will have to press beyond being shy. But, being shy in our personal lives limits how much we can connect as well. I know. I used to have such bad social anxiety, the thought of talking to someone I didn’t know was enough to make me throw up in my shoes.

I attended five years of high school and five years of college and had no friends. If I didn’t want to be a loner all my life, I had to press past my profound fear of people to grow as a human being.

Self-Promotion 

We don’t like people who promote themselves in person. Why would we like them on-line? Granted, writers do have to strike a balance. I find we generally end up gravitating to extremes. Either writers blast non-stop deals, specials, contests and tours to tout their latest book or, the fact they have a book for sale is a Top Secret.

We need to find that balance. I was in Rotary for almost seven years. I knew who was a dentist, a surgeon, an accountant, or a veterinarian. I did business with them first because I knew them as people. They didn’t need to show up to our weekly meetings with flyers and coupons. They didn’t need to sit at lunch an pitch me how they were the best surgeon for removing suspicious moles.

The Two Basic Differences in a Regular Person Brand and an Author Brand

All this said, I will admit our brand is slightly different and I am going to use the word marketable extremely carefully. WANA isn’t here to slap your on-line personality in a short dress and digital body glitter.

Don’t come back until you’ve sold some books.

Yes, regular people have a brand, but most regular people don’t want to use that brand to sell books. Aside from being a nice human being, the crucial differences in a regular person’s “brand” and our “author brand” are:

Community is Part of Our Job

If a regular person disappears off Facebook for six months, it doesn’t matter. We as writers should have a goal of creating an authentic community, of creating relationships with those in our circles. Then, we are tasked with maintaining that community and hopefully growing it. If we only appear out of the ether when we have a book for sale, we become about as appealing as that cousin who never calls unless he needs bail money.

Authentic relationships will help us personally and professionally. We need a system of support. We also can be that support for others. Service is good for the soul and sound relationships are a two-way street. Book sales may or may not directly evolve from this, but it’s a better use of time than spamming victims from a purchased e-mail list.

Clarity is KEY

If a regular person wants to tweet using @I_LuvPandas, @LovelyKisses99 or @CarolinaChik, that’s fine. No one needs to know their name. Writers? If we are tweeting, blogging, whatever under a cutesy moniker? We’re wasting time. People cannot find our book if they don’t have OUR NAME.

The more layers of friction we add for others trying to find us/our books, the less likely we are to eventually make a sale. If I blog as Unicorn Fairy Hugs, tweet under @FairyGurl, am on Facebook under two or three different pen names, who can keep up with that?

People (readers) are pressed for time and will gravitate to those who don’t waste it.

When we use social media properly, our names become tied to our “brand.” In my case—social media for writers, craft, blogging, Star Wars, green juice, yoga, Gluten-Free, Lord of the Rings, The Spawn, zombies (notice my “author brand” is who I AM as a person as well).

But I’m not sitting around thinking, “Wow, I need a marketing strategy to market ME. I have to promote ME.” I’m simply doing what’s necessary to create genuine relationships. Beyond that? As a writer I have only two more necessities that distinguish my brand a) attendance b) coherence.

Same with you guys. Be present, be vested and be you. There will never be another ;) .

What are your thoughts? Does this notion of “marketing yourself” make you feel ookie, too? Does self-promotion give you hives? The creeps? Am I making too big a deal out of it? Have you bought books simply because you liked the author? Maybe it was even a book in a genre you never read? On the other side, have you avoided buying books from an author because you didn’t like them as a person? Have you ever had a business make you feel so good you were ever-loyal? Have you have a company you were loyal to take advantage of you and now you’re their best-worst advertising?

I LOVE hearing from you!

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. 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)

For a LONG-TERM plan for a fit, healthy platform, please check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World

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142 Comments

Suck It Up & Writer Up—Preparing for Greatness

Screen Shot 2014-03-03 at 9.58.49 AM

Social media doesn’t work. Blogging doesn’t sell books. We’ll have to put out massive amounts of time and effort for no pay-off. We’ll have to learn HTML and how to manipulate algorithms to succeed and this is all for nothing. If we blog, we must write Pulitzer-quality content, but don’t bother. No one will read it, anyway.

Social media and blogging are the most soul-sucking, life-draining tasks we’ll ever have to do as authors. Quit while you can. If you aren’t already a mega-best-selling author, no one will care about you, your work or your blog.

Feel inspired?

Unless off the grid traveling, I’m always engaged with social media. I keep my “finger” on the pulse of what’s happening in my platform. Over the weekend, a Twitter follower shared an article and asked me for my thoughts.

I won’t even bother linking to the article because my goal here isn’t to put anyone down. The author of the article clearly felt overwhelmed, exhausted and disillusioned and that’s par for the course in what we do.

I can appreciate how dreadful the writer who wrote this post must feel. In fact, I never wanted to be a social media expert. I wanted to write novels. But, early on, when attending conferences and reading blogs from experts, I could see where their advice was headed.

While these experts meant well and truly wanted to help, I believed their approach was more likely to turn writers into cutters than to sell truckloads of books. I knew social media would be the ultimate game-changer, so I put aside my fiction and set a new course.

Are They Wrong?

We can debate right and wrong all we want. I feel there are likely people who use algorithms, automation, promotion, contests, newsletters and technology and are very successful at it. But this isn’t a One Size Fits All World. There are millions of people who believe in living a vegan lifestyle and actively try to convert me.

Granted, I’ve never met a veggie I didn’t love, but the simple fact is I have so many food allergies this diet would kill me. I’m not particularly a meat-eater (Psst, Don’t tell the other Texans.) But, with horrible allergies to gluten, soy, legumes and most nuts? Going vegan is an option that would make me ill, weak, and leave me malnourished.

Does this mean all the vegans of the world are wrong? Well, that’s really not what we are here to discuss. It’s an anecdote to make my point.

Here’s another while we’re here.

In college, I had friend who had the same go-to-diet every time she gained weight. Stop eating, start smoking and drink lots of Dr. Pepper. Granted, it was tempting in those years to do The Marlboro-Dr. Pepper Diet, myself. I struggled with my weight despite many, many hours at the gym and eating healthy (I didn’t realize I was allergic to gluten and dairy and that’s why I remained “fluffy.”)

It was gut-wrenching to see her svelte and thin while I wore stretchy pants. But, deep down, I knew The Marlboro-Dr. Pepper Diet was flawed. It worked short-term, but I knew it would have long-term, devastating consequences.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Zoetnet

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Zoetnet

This is how I feel about social media. WANA is a balanced approach to social media that works with the strengths of a writer. I imagine most of you aren’t doing this “writing thing” until your dream job in high-pressure sales comes along. But WANA is not The Marlboro-Dr. Pepper Diet. You might not see big results for a long time, but your platform will be fun, healthy, and stable.

Thinking Long-Term

Recently, I’ve started the P90X program (I started it once before then gave myself EPIC tendonitis pushing a crappy mower and working in the yard). I had to stop and do yoga for about a year to allow my joints to heal enough to try again. Due to my food allergies, I already have a fabulous diet. In fact, when I went to the doctor a year ago at a Size 16 and 180 pounds, I brought my food journal and exercise journal for the previous six months.

The doctor was floored. Unless I was lying or had something hormonal going on (Thyroid?) someone with this lifestyle should NOT have been 5’3″ and 180 pounds.

I was working out, no alcohol, no sugar, GF, dairy-free, non-GMO, organic, no soy, good carbs and yet I was FIFTY pounds overweight. They did an extensive blood panel and I was textbook perfect health—aside from having three @$$es when I should have only had one. The doctors were puzzled  and so was I.

Knowing my history with food allergies, I cut out eggs and my weight began to drop. Then stopped. And there was another thing that disturbed me. I’ve always been someone who easily put on muscle, but I had no tone. NO muscle. Sure I was in a Size 6-8, but I was soft despite being active.

So, I revisited the P90X and, before starting, I calculated how many calories their plan wanted me to ingest.

2400 CALORIES? ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND??????

But, I figured I’d done it my way long enough, why not try? For me, the biggest challenge has been the eating. What I’m eating is the same, just A LOT MORE and MUCH MORE FREQUENTLY. I’ve had my mind screaming, You’re eating too much! You’re going to be back at a Size 16! 

But, I tried it…and have lost roughly a pound a day. Also, I felt these lumps after a few days. OMG. Tumors? No, MUSCLES. I’m finally getting definition in my arms, shoulders and back.

And sure, 2400 calories is easy if we are eating garbage. But try getting 2400 calories of green veggies, lean protein, and limited complex carbs. Last night, I made my final chicken breast and kale and it was so hard to eat, because I’ve been in a bad habit of not eating enough.

But what do I want? Do I want to keep wearing a Medieval Torture Device (Spanx) to keep my tummy tucked in and back-fat smoothed down? Do I want to keep hiding my beefy arms under cardigans? Do I want to keep relying on caffeine for energy? No. So, in my mind, Suck it up, Buttercup.

Our bodies and our platforms reflect what we feed them and how often. Starvation and junk yield weak and ill. Thus, we always should ask, “What am I feeding my writing/platform?”

THIS?

THIS?

Or THIS?

Or THIS?

At first, it might not be easy. Just like clean-eating, it might take time for the digital “taste-buds” to catch up (and even crave) the wholesome stuff over the empty junk. This is a process.

Our Author Platform is a Living Thing

WANA platforms are designed to be organic and grow as you grow. They don’t rely on algorithms, automation or technology. They are immune to fads and work on any social site we choose. How?

Platforms cannot grow and thrive long-term on empty-calories automation and algorithms. We must be present and vested. There needs to be a human behind the tweets and posts. People sense automation and they either ignore it or resent it.

And sure, filling out a bunch of automation ahead of time seems easier, but it’s the digital equivalent of The Marlboro-Dr. Pepper Diet. Short-term we might feel spiffy, but later? BLURGH.

Once the short-term wears off, we’re left exhausted, worn out, angry, grumpy and eventually will fail to see results at all.

Want Your Blog to Grow? FEED IT FREQUENTLY

When P90X tells me to eat every 2-3 hours, it’s a hassle. I won’t lie. I’ve never been a breakfast-eater, probably because most breakfast foods were poison for so long (eggs, dairy, wheat). When I started this, I literally had to force myself to eat when I wasn’t hungry.

Good thing, though, is that P90X isn’t asking me to sit down to a seven-course meal 6 times a day. It can be three ounces of chicken and a cup of veggies, an apple, a protein bar, a handful of almonds. Small, meaningful meals regularly and consistently for long-term results.

The same can be said of blogging. In my book, I teach how to blog in a way that is very easy and will connect to readers. In fact, it can take as little as 15 minutes a day. Why? I’m not asking you to serve up an article worthy of The New York Times. I’m asking for the digital handful of almonds.

The same goes for any platform. We can tweet a handful of times a day, five days a week and that’s plenty. We can post two or three times a day during the week on Facebook. That’s plenty. Will we see earth-shattering results Week One? Likely not. But good choices over time accumulate into major results.

I love you guys and I sincerely want for you to succeed. Whether we like it or not, social media is our lifeline. It’s been one of the single largest factors for more authors earning money off their work. Thus, if we need this platform for long-term success, we need to feed it good stuff regularly for long-term health and fitness.

Writer Up—No One Can Do This FOR Us

Just like I can’t outsource my health and my body, we can’t outsource our platform. Promotional companies and PR firms simply no longer have the power they used to in a world ruled by Media Gate Keepers who stemmed information flow. Are they valuable? Sure, but we have to do the building first. They can’t do it for us.

I’d love to pay some gym bunny to do my workout for me. Can I pay her do the squats, crunches, stairs and burpees and magically my whittle my butt down to something bikini-worthy? Would that not be COOL? No work on my part, just fork out money and wait for RESULTS.

Sadly, it doesn’t work that way at the gym or on-line.

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Crossfit.

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Crossfit.

We need to Writer Up and show up. And to continue the analogy, I wish I looked as awesome as those folks on my P90X DVDs. Sadly, I probably resemble a chain-smoking Water Buffalo with a hangover. I can’t do all the reps. I have to take it easy in places to avoid flaring up my tendonitis. Some moves? I can’t even use weights. It is a sad…sad……..sad sight.

It may be pitiful, but it isn’t permanent ;).

I don’t have to do all the reps and all the moves. I merely have to show up. So much of social media is simply showing up. That simple. But simple isn’t always easy. My early blogs were just as ugly as these early workouts. But, I kept showing up and it made me faster, leaner and stronger. Success in anything? We can’t pay for it or wait for it we must work for it.

Original image courtesy of Flickr Creatinve Commons, courtesy of Ali Samieivafa.

Original image courtesy of Flickr Creatinve Commons, courtesy of Ali Samieivafa.

There are NO Short-Cuts to ANY PLACE Worth Going

I’d love to come up with a “Social Media Shake-Weight.” You know, some goofy “fast-results” system I could sell for BIG cash. Unfortunately, I have a conscience and vested interest in your success as writers and as people. I can’t hand you a fancy algorithm or Guaranteed 20 Step Plan to be a NYTBSA. 

Why?

Because I know many of you possess the talent to take you over the moon, but it will be character that will keep you there. I’m not in the bottle-rocket business. I want to ignite stars that burn for generations.

Social media is more than selling books, it’s learning to forge relationships, be positive even when the world is caving in, showing up when you want to stay in bed, doing the work when no one notices any results and thinks we are fools. Social media, blogging and writing teach us patience, tenacity, flexibility, self-discipline and to keep pressing for what we say we want.

It would be easy to be a writer if all we had to do was finish a book and then hand cash to a promo team to make us zillionaires. But that isn’t reality. This business is tough. It weeds out the weak, the self-centered, the impatient, the undisciplined and those who are writing for the wrong reasons or who complain, whine and are unwilling to sacrifice. Yet, on the positive side, social media, blogging and writing rewards the faithful, the diligent, the committed, the humble, the giving and the kind.

In the end? We are not alone. Yes, we need a platform, but no one said you had to do it by yourself. That’s what WANA is all about.

What are your thoughts? Do you get overwhelmed? Do you think you need to do a lot of EVERYTHING and it’s leaving you burned out? Have you learned to be faithful with baby steps? I know I am still working on that. Do you feel pressured? Like nothing you do matters? Or, have you come to that place where you’re willing to Writer Up?

I LOVE hearing from you!

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. 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)

For a LONG-TERM plan for a fit, healthy platform, please check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World

March’s WINNER—Christina Delusions of Humor

Please e-mail me your 20 pages (5000 words) in a WORD document to kristen at wan a intl dot com. Or a synopsis (750 words MAX) or a query letter (250 words). Congratulations!

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111 Comments

How to Write a Great Author Blog AND Avoid Huge Ships

Image courtesy of Jenny Kaczorowski WANA Commons

Image courtesy of Jenny Kaczorowski WANA Commons

Blogging is THE most resilient form of social media and one of the best tools to build an author platform. Why? Readers read blogs. Perfect snare for readers. We also own our blogs, whereas content posted on Facebook and Twitter (and other social sites) is no longer exclusively ours, meaning these sites could rearrange the digital furniture and take our posts/archives with them.

If Twitter flitters and FB implodes, blogs will remain. Blogs will continue to grow over time, and search engines LOVE them. Blogs have been going strong since the 90s. Blogging also makes us better, faster, cleaner writers and they can be harvested later for books (I.e. to use as promotion).

Whenever I teach writers about blogging, my first challenge is to talk them off the ledge from panic. What do I TALK about? I have no IDEAAAAASSSS!

*breathes into paper bag*

And I truly understand this panic, because a lot of social media experts advise writers to blog in a way that is very left-brain.

Write about writing.

Write about the industry.

Write about your process.

Write about your research.

Write about your books.

Write essays.

Write about getting an agent.

Conduct interviews.

Do book reviews.

Talk to your characters. NOOOOOO! (*hint* Anyone who knows the characters already bought the book. To anyone else? Seriously creepy.)

Yet, here’s the thing, writers (especially fiction writers) are CREATIVE people. We are storytellers. When we blog merely on information, we engage the left side of the brain (analytical), but our fiction engages the RIGHT side of the brain (emotional). Blogs need to do this, too.

Why are we trying to build a following/fan base for a right-brain product with a left-brain TOOL?

Craft, the industry, our process, our research are our tools for our art, but they ARE NOT our art. Readers, or potential readers ARE NOT interested in the tools of our trade, rather they want to see how we USE those tools. Regular people (readers) are interested in the art, which is merely the unique “set of eyes” that permits writers to see what others can’t (but secretly wish they could).

EVERY product marketed uses the right side of the brain, from razor blades to duct tape. Madison Avenue wants us to see Michelin tires and think safety. They want cheap body wash to give us an “organic experience”, or why else pay an attractive actress to go all When Harry Met Sally with soap and a loofah on prime-time TV?

If virtually EVERY product sold uses emotion, then why do we think we are going to get traction pumping out a constant stream of information?

Writers are not, per se, experts at teaching craft or discussing changes in the industry (and regular people could care less about Random-Penguin). We are artists. A writer’s expertise is looking at the world in a unique way mere mortals can’t. THAT is what readers (fans) gravitate to. They rely on us to focus in on something they would have walked right past and make that unexceptional object or event magical.

Writers look at ordinary things in extraordinary ways. Want to be a great writer? Pay attention, REAL attention to the world around you and get good at seeing/and selling with artist eyes. Great blogging uses the world as your muse…just like your fiction ;).

Even the genius marketers KNOW we are ignoring ads more than ever. We scream past commercials or wait to watch our favorite shows when we can get them on Netflix. To combat this, they know they no longer can just offer lots of stuff CHEAP; they have to entertain. Make us WANT to watch and even share by using?

STORY.

I’ll illustrate with this super-fun commercial from Samsung.

The best written examples of this technique (that I’ve witnessed) are some of the people who leave reviews on Amazon. There are reviews that go viral simply because a reviewer had some fun. They took the time to elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary…and people LOVE reading what they have to say because they are FABULOUS storytellers.

We don’t all need to be comedians to write great blogs, but maybe these can give you a good laugh and perhaps open your minds to what a blog of The Digital Age really is.

I selected entries from the banana-slicer review at Amazon, the Big Pen For Her reviews, and the Amazon reviews of Captain Trimmer’s  book “How to Avoid Huge Ships.” All of these are just page after page of gasping-for-air-clutching-one’s-sides-delight. I think I may have found my kindred spirits here.

But watch how they take items so vanilla and unmemorable and turn it into something you can’t wait to share…by using the power of story.

TheMightyBahamutSee all my reviews

This review is from: Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer (Kitchen)

All my life I have been wondering how to make a banana into small bite sized pieces.I spent my childhood in a basement practicing on smaller fruits like grapes before graduating to plums and even small peaches.

My parents became concerned when household fruits would turn up missing, and the day they found me hiding in the bushes enthralled with my dissection of a large apple, they decided I had a problem.

As I reached adulthood my need to slice open fruits was becoming unbearable. I would gaze longingly at bananas in the store, wondering how best to slice open their delicate flesh so I may feel their moist sticky insides. I made my first clumsy attempt around age 25.

When no one was looking I snatched a small banana from its companions, and brought it to my basement. It was a disaster, my knife-work just left a smashed and uneven mess, so I buried it in the woods lest anyone stumble upon my grizzly handiwork.

Finally I found the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer. I used it on the next unattended banana I saw, and discovered I could now cut up and dispose of an entire banana in one swift movement! I can do it in mere seconds, or slowly lower the slicer, prolonging the ecstasy I feel seeing the bananas flesh torn open.

Thank you Hutzler 751, because of you my basement walls are lined with the peels of hundreds of bananas, and I am currently working on a mask made from the peels of all my victims sewn together.

1,445 of 1,556 people found the following review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars Finally! You’re tellin’ me…., September 8, 2012

By DMS – See all my reviews

This review is from: BIC Cristal For Her Ball Pen, 1.0mm, Black, 16ct (MSLP16-Blk) (Office Product)

This here is a wonderful invention. Now my wife can stop stealin’ all my man pens that I leave all over the house. I sure don’t understand it bein’ a man and all, but shoo-ooot, it sure is nice that she finally found herself a pen that’s all her own.

Now don’t get me wrong fellas. If you are really in a pinch, y’all can use one o’ these bad boys to write somethin’ down. Just don’t be surprised if your paper smells a little purtier and feels a little softer than you’re used to. That part ain’t all that bad really…

UPDATE:

I’ve actually found that I really enjoy writing letters with these pens while I’m sitting at my weather beaten desk donning my Three Wolf Moon t-shirt and a pair of zebra print Zubaz pants, and sipping a nice cup of chamomile and honey. Not sure what that means…

Should I be concerned?

UPDATE:

I’ve started digging into the wife’s Bronte sisters collection. Taking notes with these pens on what I’m reading just feels, I dunno…right. I gotta say, I’m finally starting to understand why the wife likes reading these things so much.

UPDATE:

You know, it just ain’t right how women have been treated throughout history. I mean, I’m starting to realize that we men just don’t really understand a lot of what a woman goes through on this earth and how she struggles to love and care and give and give and give until she can’t give no more. But I feel like I’m starting to get it, you know?

UPDATE:

I’ve gotta be kinder to the wife. You know, listen to her. Just listen. Instead of tryin’ to fix everything and give her answers to her problems while she’s talkin’. That’s not what she needs. She needs a man to listen. She’s not looking for answers, just somebody to empathize with her and tell her she’s alright.

UPDATE:

Got into work today and all I had was a sharpie. I feel so lost…
Kinda like… Like I was missing a part of myself you know?

UPDATE:

Got home tonight and washed and folded all the laundry just ’cause. You know, this HGTV thing ain’t half bad. I could watch this stuff all night. Why in the world am I payin’ for the premium sports package…

UPDATE:

Decided to take the day off this morning and just get the kids up and breakfasted and out the door. Let her sleep, she never gets to do that…

UPDATE:

Some of the fellas from work came over today, just to see how I was doin’. They tried like gangbusters to get me to watch The Expendables with them. I eventually asked them to leave. Which they did. I gave them each a pen on the way out and thanked them sincerely for their concern.

UPDATE:

Me and the fellas who came over yesterday have decided to have a massive sell off of all our action movies and pool our money and resources to remodel one another’s kitchens. All except Drew. Which is funny because he was the only one who refused to take a pen from me. We’re going to go over to his house later as a group and see if we can persuade him to take the pen. I just know if he writes something down with it he’ll begin to see why this matters so much to us. I don’t really know what’s come over me, but I feel wonderful. We all do. And I’m sure Drew will feel wonderful too once he is assimilated.

UPDATE: PLEASE READ:

I had a moment of clarity today. It’s a TRAP! Forget everything I’ve said – Well except for that part about bein’ a better listener and bein’ nicer to the wife and all that. That’s still true. But there’s somethin’ else goin’ on here… Somethin’ deeper. Like my mind is bein’ taken over er somethin’. I happened upon an old episode of Buck Rogers on the internet today, that’s what broke me out of this…this trance or whatever you want to call it. I have no idea how long it will be before I fall back into it. They know that I know now… They’re coming for me… There’s something in the plastic. Some kind of serum that… Someone’s at the door – Get those pens out of your house before it’s too bbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn

UPDATE:NEVERMINDS, I AM FINE THANK YOU:

Please excuse last post. I had bout with the deliriousness. Continue to use pen. Perfectly safe. Continue to share with all friends of the male type. Go sports team!

How to Avoid Huge Ships Book Review

508 of 537 people found the following review helpful
This book is invaluable!

By Roger on August 21, 2013

Format: Paperback

When on my jet ski in the Chesapeake bay this summer I was confronted by a huge ship moving up the channel. You can imagine my horror when I realized I had only 1 hour and 45 minutes or so before the lumbering behemoth was sure to pass through my area. With no place to hide and only a water jet propelled small craft beneath me for transport, I quickly withdrew my Kindle Fire from the storage compartment beneath my seat and preceded to read the book How To Avoid Huge Ships. One hour later and with only 45 minutes to spare, I implemented the expert advice provided by the author and turned my jet ski in the opposite direction of the huge ship to avoid certain disaster.

And frankly, these reviews make me want to buy stuff. I actually just BOUGHT the Hutzler banana slicer even though I am allergic to bananas. Why? Because, I know when I’m having a bad day, I will be able to retrieve my slicer from my kitchen drawer and get a really good laugh. I am so grateful for these armchair artists, and honored to share their writing here. I hope you will go give them the 5 star reviews they deserve…and maybe buy some Bic Pens for Her to spice up your marriage, too!

***NOTE: I give a detailed blueprint how to create an author blog in Rise of the Machines–Human Writers in a Digital World.  Create a blog you enjoy and that reflects your unique style and voice. I will also be teaching blogging classes at WANACon, the virtual conference you can enjoy from HOME and all recordings are included with admission (sign up HERE).***

What are your thoughts? Opinions? What is the best item you’ve ever seen reviewed? Do you think this might be a good way to practice those blogging muscles? Go write these kinds of reviews. Hey, it helps the product AND gives us practice. Something to noodle over at least :D.

I love hearing from you!

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

January’s WINNER is Elizabeth Kaiser. Thanks for your comments, support and re-blogs. Please send a 5000 word WORD document, a 250 word WORD synopsis or query letter (your choice which of the three) to kristen at wana intl dot com. Congratulations!

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87 Comments

8 Tips to Make Sure Everyone on Twitter Hates Us

Image via QuickMeme

Image via QuickMeme

As a social media expert, I run into all kinds of strange behavior and tips that make me scratch my head. Social media is social, meaning it’s supposed to be an extension of how we might interact with other human beings in person. Today’s post (obviously) is tongue-and-cheek, but humor can be the best teacher even if we’ve oopsed.

Tip #1—Only Use Automation

Writing a 140 characters is SUPER time-consuming. We aren’t Jack London. Besides, people LOVE talking to robots. I know when I feel lonely, I call AT&T because I know a human being will NEVER answer…EVER. Humans can be so boring and don’t offer us the option of hitting 6 if we want to hear everything they just said all over again. 

Yeah, all my BFFs send me automated messages.

Yeah, all my BFFs send me automated messages.

Real Life Application: Program cell phones to call friends and family at regular intervals to ask for money. They’d dig that.

Tip #2—Make Sure All Preprogrammed Tweets are “Carefully Crafted”

Because when we take time to artfully craft our spam, people don’t mind. They LOVE believing a real person is there only to be fooled. It’s like when that cute guy/gal in high school pretended to want to go out with us. Now we can relive that experience as adults by being duped into thinking we were chatting with a real person who actually cared.

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 8.41.07 AM

Real Life Application: At the holidays, volunteer to bring a Honey-Baked ham, then show with Tofurkey. They won’t know the difference if we use lots of ketchup.

Tip #3—When Programming Tweets Include Popular Hashtags

Who goes to social media to socialize? People LOVE finding a community of real people to talk to and then having it crowded out by the same advertising over and over…and over. Because research shows that it takes at least 20 times to see an annoying face before we want to punch it.

Real Life Application: When attending any party, make sure to hand out lots of fliers, advertisements and coupons. Have a children’s book for sale? Stake out bounce house parties and put ads in all the little grab bags. Kids don’t want toys, candy and stickers, they want our BOOKS. Feel free to crash weddings, graduations, bachelor parties and maybe even funerals. If potential readers aren’t coming to us, we should go to them. Find where they gather then SELL. So what if it’s against their will?

Tip #4—Make People Prove Who They Are Before Talking to Them

Twitter validation services are awesome. We love meeting someone, only to have to jump through hoops to prove our love. We even get the added advantage of being redirected off Twitter to an outside site where we’re easily hacked. How else will all our friends receive direct messages from porn sites posing as us? Nothing seals an on-line relationship like giving others a social media disease. Who will they think of when they have to spend hours removing viruses and trojans from their computers.

Can we say “Top of Mind”?

Come on! It takes three whole seconds to unfollow a bot. We need those precious three seconds to carefully craft witty preprogrammed tweets. Let the other person do the fifty hoops of leg-work to earn our trust. They have plenty of time.

Screen Shot 2012-04-11 at 10.40.57 AM

Real Life Application: Whenever we meet someone and start chatting, if we like them, halt all communication until they fill out a detailed background check. Throw in a pee test to be extra sure ;).

Tip#5—Tweet LOTS of Articles—Ok, ALL Articles

Most of us, when we wake up in the morning, think, “Gee, I wish I had a super long reading list. I sure miss my college syllabus.” Those of us with a corporate job LOVE people who hit Reply ALL so we can read more. Wikipedia is a hot place to hang out. Why not bring that encyclopedic magic to Twitter?

Real Life Application: Make sure to print off a box of articles for that wedding you were invited to. Who wants to dance or flirt when they could be reading about Three-Act Structure or Intestinal Parasites? Handing people a stack of reading material is way better than getting trapped in a “conversation.”

Tip #6—Ask for Stuff Immediately

Oh, sure! Let me drop everything to buy your book.

Oh, sure! Let me drop everything to buy your book.

The second someone befriends us, it’s our job to send an automated link to their Direct Messages so they can do stuff FOR US. Buy our book, like our FB page, follow our blog, or even answer a really inane question (as if we care about their answer) *rolls eyes*. Hey, great to meet you. Do you like vampires or werewolves?

Huh?

Huh?

Real Life Application: If someone is nice to us in the grocery store, make sure to have books to sell and the ability to take credit cards on the spot. Sure, that person is trying to buy a chicken to make for dinner and now she can buy OUR BOOKS, too. Win-win. If we don’t have books for sale, we can ask for life, love or career advice from total strangers, because that isn’t creepy at ALL.

Tip #7—Tweet from Several Accounts/Identities

People on Twitter might miss out on all those “carefully crafted” preprogrammed tweets. Make sure to have anywhere from 2-7 identities sending the same messages. What’s better than spam? MORE SPAM, duh.

Real Life Application: This tactic ROCKS for singles on the dating scene. Meet a date then several times throughout the conversation, change names and accents. Multiple-Personalities are just more people to love.

Tip #8—Never Tweet ANYTHING Original Just Retweet

Again, 140 characters cuts into word count. Save time and retweet what everyone else has to say. Two clicks? DONE.

Real Life Application: Repeat what everyone else says. People love parrots, so why not harness that fluffy colorful cuteness? I know I LOVED it when my little brother repeated everything I said…until I put him in an arm-bar.

Okay, Serious Now 

Twitter can be very valuable and a great place to make wonderful friends. Be real and enjoy. People are on social media to be social. We crave connection, fun and escape. If we wanted more ads we’d read the door in the bathroom stall or not bother fast-forwarding through commercials. We don’t need to be profound, deep or immensely witty to do well on Twitter, we just need to be vested, present and authentic ;).

I LOVE hearing from you!

What are some other things people do on social media that in real life would be ridiculous? I think sometimes we fail to extend that logic. Do you get tired of the same automation tweets? Have you ever bought a book because someone you friended automatically sent you a link to buy?

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

Announcements:

WANACon is a virtual writing conference loaded with top-tier industry professionals—authors, agents, editors and best-selling authors. Right now we have an Early Bird Special. Sign Up Here.

I hope you guys will check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World and get prepared for 2014!!!!

Also, this Saturday, I have a new class, Many Roads to Rome—Which Publishing Path is Best?Use WANA15 for 15% off.

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72 Comments

Predators Abound—How Writers Can Be Savvy in Social Media, Marketing and Promotion

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of dfbphotos

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of dfbphotos

We’ve been talking a lot about the new publishing paradigm and all the options writers have. Being the WANA Mama, I feel it’s my duty to feed you guys the grow-up stuff. So, if you want a fluffy kitten hug? This is the wrong place. There are plenty of people who offer a magic algorithm or promotion package or SEO package “guaranteed” to launch a writer to fame and fortune. Yet, these can be misleading and take our focus away from activities that have a better chance of translating into long-term success.

Hoo-Doo Voo-Doo for Sale

What many of you might not know is I sometimes help small businesses. I recently started doing some work for my brother’s company. Why did I step in? Because he (like many others) paid thousands of dollars for a Mega-PR-Expert…who then did NOTHING.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Juha-Matti Herrala.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Juha-Matti Herrala.

My brother hired this well-known PR expert to create his social media and help with promotions, and *crickets chirping*. The few things she “created”? My brother could have done for free and far better. When she generated a LinkedIn account for his business, she didn’t even load the current logo and the information she did fill out was incorrect and outdated.

This is a person who’d been written up in major magazines here in Texas. My brother felt he was making a sound decision hiring her (and, from outside indications, it was a good decision).

So what went wrong? No idea.

All I can think of is this person was more focused on clients with deeper pockets, but it’s still enough to make me see red. You take money, you need to do what you promised…not ignore e-mails for seven months after doing a half@$$ job. All of us appreciate that timelines sometimes need to be moved, but communicate that and follow through.

***I’ve been guilty. When we had a sudden death in the fall, I had people expecting edits. But I knew in my mental state they’d either get, “Wow, this is perfect!” or I’d crush their will to ever write again. It was better to just say, “Forgive me. I need to delay this until my head’s screwed on straight.***

Anyway, the little advice this “expert” gave my brother was precisely what I preach against non-stop. Automation. Posting to Facebook from Twitter, etc. You should have seen my brother’s face when I said, “So you’re basically spamming people.” And, no he hadn’t read my book. He’s my little brother and probably wanted to do this without Big Sister’s help.

That was until he had a train wreck on his hands, which I am, in my limited free time, undoing gratis. *head desk* And now that he’s seen the WANA way, he’s enjoying social media a lot more and his small business platform is growing healthier by the day.

It’s SEO Not Magic

One thing many “consultants” have tried to sell my brother, many other small businesses and authors is a promise of SEO, that they can go into a web site and do all kinds of complicated technical things that will help dominate a search. I won’t say SEO isn’t important, but when we tool our SEO to the latest algorithm, we set ourselves up to have to do this over and over and over (which can become a money-eating black hole if we don’t happen to be SEO gurus).

Original image via NASA Blueshift courtesy of Flickr Commons

Original image via NASA Blueshift courtesy of Flickr Commons

Algorithms were initially thought to measure human behavior and preferences. But, the problem is that humans are super clever. They start juking the algorithm to gain advantage. Spammers do this all the time. But search engine companies and places like Amazon actively look for this behavior. They have teams of computer geeks who are on the hunt for those “gaming the system.” So does Facebook.

When enough people begin “gaming the system” and gain marked advantage? The computer people change the algorithm and *POOF*. Start over. To rely on SEO gaming is a formula to pull your hair out or go broke trying to keep up.

This was what drove me to create ways of building platforms that were not reliant on technology or algorithmic alchemy (that and I am lazy and not made of money). WANA methods work on any social media site. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, doesn’t matter. If these social sites go away (*cough* MySpace) and a new social site becomes hot? Your WANA platform will remain in tact and continue to grow.

You can dominate any search for your name, book, topic all on your own and with minimal effort. But, I am not in the business of doing your social media. I have zero interest in running other people’s social media. I don’t charge consulting fees to get “friends” for people or “maximize SEO” so I have a vested interest in making people self-sufficient.

Does this mean PR people and promotions are a waste of time? No. I believe they are PR people not magicians. We need to give them something to work with. Yet, writer beware. Know that much of what some companies sell for big bucks are things you can do yourself and for free (and do a lot better).

Knowledge is Power

If we are educated about what we can easily (and cheaply) do on our own, then we can 1) weed out people who just want to dazzle us with tech-speak and overwhelm us enough to shove cash in their faces 2) we can hold these companies accountable 3) we can gain a better idea of what we can’t do and can spend any promotion budget more wisely.

We can build a Twitter presence, but can we get an interview on NPR? Do we even need an interview on NPR?

Promotion Devoid of Connection is Pointless

One big complaint from authors is they feel their book isn’t doing well because of a lack of promotion. But, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Promotion (alone) never worked all that well.

Screen Shot 2012-05-04 at 11.05.40 AM

Back when I began as a newbie writer, I had a conversation with one of the head editors for one of The Big Six. She was very honest about the ROI (Return on Investment) regarding promotion and advertising. She said the major houses did it, but ads had no impact on sales. She relayed a story about how her house had taken out a full-page ad for one of their business authors in The Wall Street Journal on the day the paper was most widely read.

Though the ad cost a small fortune, it didn’t make a dent in sales.

Today, the situation is far graver. We are inundated with advertising and most people just tune it out and have learned to un-see. In the Digital Age, the architecture of the human brain has changed to keep up with all the influx. This is why my newest book teaches how to be seen. What does a modern human brain ignore? What does it notice?

Would I love for you to buy my book? Sure. But I give away a lot of information for free so peruse the blog archives. My motive is to help writers. Simple.

Effort Devoid of Action = Failure

We could have the greatest SEO, but people have to be compelled to search in the first place. Even if people stumble across our site, they have to be compelled to click, to pursue and then to BUY. We can create the world’s most elaborate and expensive advertising campaign, but if this campaign doesn’t translate into action/sales it’s a failure.

I love it when PR people tout the awesomeness of Facebook ads. Yet, you should see their faces when my first question is, “Okay, what was the last thing you purchased solely because of a random ad in your FB sidebar?”

Can SEO work? Can ads and promotion create sales? YES…just not alone. Which is a bummer because it would be lovely to pay for some ads and then let the money hit like a tsunami. My goal here isn’t to discourage you, but to empower you. I am taking a wild guess here, but I imagine most of you aren’t trust fund babies writing for fun in between trips to The Riviera.

And if you are, will you adopt me? :D

WANA—Empowering Authors of the Digital Age

Peacock_color.02

Francis, the WANA Mascot

I understand most writers have limited time and income and I actually DO care about your success. I want you to use your resources in the best possible ways that can yield the greatest returns. Hire PR people, but know the best way to harness their resources. Spot an ally from a shill. Have realistic expectations from your publisher. Yes, they can promote, but there are activities we must do on our end to make those promotions effective.

Predators abound in the new paradigm. It is vital to be educated, which is why we are having WANACon (a virtual conference as close to the real conference experience without a holo-deck). WANACon will have top industry professionals from all forms of publishing. I also recruited agents and editors who are savvy to the new paradigm and who put authors FIRST. WANACon is here to keep you at the cutting edge of the changes at a price that’s affordable and all recordings are included with conference fee. Right now we have Early Bird Pricing. SIGN UP HERE.

TSA pat-downs are extra.

What are your thoughts? Have you been overwhelmed with the idea of having to promote? Unclear about what to ask or expect? Have you run the hamster-wheel of promotion only to end up half-dead?

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

Announcements: I hope you guys will check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World and get prepared for 2014!!!!

Also, this Saturday, I have a new class, Many Roads to Rome—Which Publishing Path is Best? Use WANA15 for 15% off.

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77 Comments

Expectation & Desire—Cultivating Fans, Not Just “Readers”

Image via WANA Commons @ Flickr, courtesy of the talented and generous photographer Frank Selmo

Image via WANA Commons @ Flickr, courtesy of the talented and generous photographer Frank Selmo

We talked about this earlier in the week, but when I first approached agents with the idea of a social media book for authors, I was nearly stoned. All readers want is a good book, was their cry. Yes, that was true before our world inalterably shifted with The Digital Age.

In 1993, we didn’t expect an instant reply to a phone call. In 1996, we knew to just go make a cup of coffee while we waited for our dial-up Internet to load a page, because we didn’t expect for a page to appear in a fraction of a second.

In 1999, we didn’t expect our cell phones (the few who owned them) to take brilliant pictures, play music and offer us high-speed access to the Internet so we could make reservations for dinner, buy movie tickets, or do some Christmas shopping while stranded at the doctor’s office.

These days? How quickly would you change Internet providers if you could only open one screen and it took 3-5 minutes to load?

The Difference Between Expectation and Desire

Readers expect a good book. They expect proper grammar, punctuation and formatting that doesn’t look like it was performed by a sloth with a severe Valium addiction. These are basic, fundamental expectations…and they no longer impress people all that much.

Give you an example. I took my niece to a very expensive fine-dining establishment for her graduation. I saved the money to give her a treat. I’d chosen this restaurant because it was the one place Hubby and I would go to celebrate big events, like our wedding anniversaries.

Why?

Because, the first time we went there, we were greeted as if we were the most important people in the world. Instead of working middle class, we were A-Listers. A hostess guided us to a candle-lit table scattered with fresh rose petals and an artful bouquet of flowers. There was a card telling us Happy Anniversary and it was signed by all the staff who told us how grateful they were we’d chosen their establishment.

I am not a fan of seafood, but decided to give it a try. Everything they served had been swimming in an ocean 24 hours earlier and was fast-tracked to Central Texas. I never knew fish could actually taste soooo good, namely because all I’d ever been served was frozen mush that tasted like a freezer.

The waiter tended our every need. When I mentioned I had food allergies, the head chef came out to the table and worked out a special dish just for me. At the end of our meal? The staff arrived with free desserts for both of us. The chef had personally crafted one for me to accommodate all my allergies.

Now THAT is what I'm talkin' about....

Now THAT is what I’m talkin’ about….

*swoons*

Every time after, the staff of this restaurant treated us as if we were the most special people on the planet. I was a DIE-HARD FAN and we rarely eat out. When we did? This was the only choice, the ONLY place I wanted to eat. And we had to plan, not only because the place was pricey, but it was tough to get reservations if one didn’t do it far in advance.

Fast-Forward

It’s May of 2013 and I call for reservations at my all-time-favorite restaurant to celebrate my niece’s graduation (she’d won a scholarship to study abroad for the summer). I told the reservationist how important this event was. My niece has grown up in a family where Golden Corral was about as fancy as dining ever got. I wanted it to be perfect. I spent days telling my niece how amazing this place was.

We arrive and the first thing the hostess says is, “Where do you want to sit?” and points to an empty dining room. No table. Nothing prepared. Every time I asked anyone a question, the answer was, “I don’t know. I haven’t worked here that long.” The table is set with chipped bread dishes and dirty glasses. I call over one of the staff and hand her my bread plate and say, “You guys might want to throw this away.”

“Why?” *blank stare*

“Because there is a chip and I don’t want food poisoning.”

“Oh.”

When the waiter arrives, I explain in detail about my food allergies and order a dish that is simple. All they have to do is leave off the butter sauce. I tell my niece to order whatever she wants, it’s her special day. She orders the lobster, which was $90. Our food arrives and guess whose food is swimming in butter?

We had to sit and wait twenty minutes while the food was remade. No visit from the chef. No apologies from the manager.

In short, I was fuming by the end of the night (and mortified). $220 for a meal, and the service would have been better at Mexican Inn for $30.

See, when we first went to this restaurant, we expected clean glasses, plates that weren’t chipped, servers who could answer simple questions (or make an effort to find the answer), who could take basic instructions. We expected excellent food. That alone? We would have been happy. But the original restaurant gave us more than expectations, they gave us our DESIRES. 

Meet expectations? We create customers. Meet DESIRES? We create a cult following.

We desired to feel special. We desired above and beyond…and they gave us what we desired. THAT was what made me willing to save for two months to go to THAT dining establishment.

How Does This Apply to Books?

Readers expect good stories, just like we expected clean glasses. But what do our readers desire? The same thing we desired at the restaurant—to feel special, to connect, to have someone focus on us for a change.

This is why social media is such a game-changer. When we blog, we serve others. We have books to write. We don’t have to blog, but we’re going the extra mile to inform, connect, engage and entertain. Readers are expecting to be spammed by authors, yet they desire to know them and connect with them. 

All you need is love....

All you need is love….

The writer who automates pre-programmed tweets and never talks to anyone, is like that restaurant who thought they could keep business by simply having a fancy menu and doing the bare minimum (and not all that well). I would venture to say the empty dining room should have been my first warning to RUN! 

When we give others (readers or potential readers) what they desire, this is when we differentiate. There are scads of other social media experts who have books. Go to their Twitter and it takes a half a second to realize it is all pre-programmed, self-serving fluff. This is why if you see me on Facebook, Twitter or anywhere else on social media? It is ME.

I don’t want to eat spam, so why would others? Yet, by looking inside, I know what I desire—meaning, connection, fun, engagement, recognition, and to feel someone cares. That is what I desire and I’m not any different than most of you or even the people who might buy my books (or even yours).

By serving people more than what they expect and, instead, seeking to give them what they desire, THAT is how die-hard, lifelong fans are made. A good book is what people expect, but search inside and ask, “What do readers desire? And what ways can I give that to them?”

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).

I hope you will check out my newest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World on Amazon or even Barnes and Noble.

Also, here is a list of WANA International classes and Christmas specials.

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85 Comments

Killing Time is a Crime–Embracing Speed by Redefining Life, Play & Work

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yosi Lazarof

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yosi Lazarof

I do a ton of reading and research for all my books and blogs. Recently, I discovered a GEM of a book that I highly recommend; The Age of Speed—Learning to Thrive in a More-Faster-Now World by Vince Poscente.We all feel overwhelmed. It seems the more time-saving devices we have, the more that’s expected of us. We dash between e-mail, text, social media, housework, work, writing, family and feel like we’re drowning.

The WANA Way has always striven to be unique, unlike any other social media/business approach. Our focus is quality, not quantity, community, not “customers.” I recognized early that if writers (or businesses) weren’t having fun on social media or with work? They either wouldn’t do it or would do it poorly.

Time Redefined

In my newest book, Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World, I go to great lengths to explain how changes in civilization not only alter the biological structure of the brain, but they also shift our values. Any significant advance transforms how we order space and time and what we find important. As society evolves, we must also evolve or we’ll be left behind (or our heads will metaphorically explode).

For instance, if we could access a time machine and go back to the year 600 A.C.E., we wouldn’t be able to communicate the same way with fellow humans. The clock wouldn’t be invented for a few more hundred years and we “time travelers” would experience lives governed by seasons and the sun (not a wristwatch).

Time had not yet been sliced, diced and parceled out. Thus, if we said, “Meet you in an hour” or “See you at 1:30″ we’d likely get a blank stare…then be burned as witches.

I just said meet me for coffee at 9:00 a.m.

I just said, “Meet me for coffee at 9:00 a.m.”

Changes in the Life-Time Pie

Poscente brought up a remarkable point I hadn’t consciously seen. How we order time has been changed with technology. When we shifted from an agricultural society to an industrial society, humans began to define work in spacial terms. Work was a place we went. Home was the place we relaxed. The garage was the place for chores and the TV room was the place to chillax.

This was all well and good before the advent of the Internet, cell phones, texting, social media, and e-mail. Now we feel guilty when we text an I love you to a spouse or partner at work or when we answer a business e-mail or check Facebook at the park with family. It’s like life just got thrown in a Vita-Mix and whiiiiirrrrrrrrrr……

As Poscente says, “The framework that gave us discipline over our time and kept work in a neat little box has been rendered obsolete.”

This is one of the biggest reasons many author social media campaigns fail. Many well-meaning marketers advise writers to keep public life (authorly stuff) and personal life (fun/human stuff) in two separate spaces—a work space (fan page) and a personal space (profile page). They recommend multiple Twitter accounts—one all author and one as a human.

Then what happens is this…

The fan page grows at glacial speed and the author gets discouraged and, even if she pays to promote? The ROI (Return on Investment) is dismal. Then, discouraged, the writer grudgingly posts (rarely) because the fan page is no fun when only spam bots and digital crickets are there for company.

Depressed writer then defaults to spending more time on the profile page because it’s fun, active and dynamic…and subsequently feels guilty and levels the Christmas fudge like a biblical plague. Why?

Because she feels she is goofing off and not “working.”

Same with Twitter. The “Author Identity” gets ignored or reported for spam, while the “Personal Identity” is having a blast just chatting with others.

***This applies to most social media, btw.

Work and Fun Play Well Together

We can take a lesson from the corporate world. If we study the businesses that have thrived the most in recent years—Pixar, Google, Patagonia, The Boston Beer Company, Think Geek, NING, Best Buy (you can check some of these companies out HERE)—we see they are doing well because they’ve released the serfs employees and given them loads of freedoms.

There are businesses who haven’t caught up to the changes in our culture. Cell phones are turned in at the door, outside Internet use is prohibited and even punished. Computer keystrokes are measured and outgoing and incoming calls are monitored. Why? Because these businesses value metrics more than people. Employees are reprimanded for taking sick days or vacation (even when allotted), because any time away from “work” adversely impacts The Almighty Metric.

My husband used to work in the defense industry. When he took three days off because we were having a baby, he returned only to be written up (even though he had two weeks of sick time and had never used any of it).

O_o

Companies that are stingy with lunch breaks, benefits, and fun are missing out by not understanding the new way we parse time (and how it can benefit their business). Google encourages play, new ideas, engaging with family, and rewards innovative ideas. They appreciate that time has blurred and if we don’t blend work and fun and leisure?

We suffer.

When we try to keep work, play and home in neat, separate compartments? We waste time. Yet, when we merge these areas, we become more aerodynamic and can harness speed because we are zooming along like a kid riding a bike down a steep hill. Faster doesn’t have to mean harder if we embrace a new way of thinking.

Image via Google.com

Image via Google.com

WANA has been founded on the principle of being HUMAN above all else. Engage and connect authentically, and the sales will eventually follow. WANA never has to pay to promote our fan page because we talk about stuff other than writing. We aren’t the Try to Sell Stuff All the Time Channel.

Do we have stuff for sale? Sure! But we also post funny memes, start silly conversations, and share kitten pics :P.

If people wanted only to shop, they’d be on the Shopping Network not a social network.

The failure to appreciate how our ideas of work-leisure-home-time-ratio have changed is one of the main reasons why building an author platform feels like SO MUCH WORK to so many authors. If we are trying to part out work and fun? We just feel chopped in half, and last I checked? Being chopped in half was the definition of “un-fun.”

Learning to BLEND

I don’t multi-task. Multi-tasking is stupid and inefficient. I DO, however blend. I can talk to a writer friend on my cell phone about a plot problem while folding towels. One activity needs attention and the other I can do on auto-pilot. I talk to my mom while I dust. I listen to an audio book while on a Stair Climber. When I’m writing, I’m writing, but then I reward myself with a quick Facebook or Twitter break…then back to writing.

This keeps me passionate about work because it is filled with play and meaning. I’m streamlined. 

In short, never kill time. Time is the only non-renewable resource. Use it wisely and learn to blend. Carry a book and, when stranded at the bank or the doctor’s office? Relax. Read a good book or my blog ;). If we embrace the notion that strict spaces no longer work? We are free to have fun and pair work and play, making life far more rewarding and speed shifts from enemy to ally.

Do you feel guilty having fun? Are you struggling to stay focused on writing because all these beeping devices are driving you nutso? Did you know you were allowed to be human and have fun on your fan page (and actually, if you do that, you won’t have to pay to promote)? Are there activities you blend and it helps keep you supercharged and balanced?

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).

And, if you get a chance, please check out my newest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World. 

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50 Comments

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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106 Comments

5 Ways Authors Abuse Their Facebook Profile Privileges

Screen Shot 2013-11-21 at 10.52.17 AM

Today, the fantabulous WANA International Instructor, Lisa Hall-Wilson is here to share to sage advice about Facebook. She knows ALL things about Facebook, which is why she not only teaches for WANA, but she manages our WANA International fan page. We don’t need to pay to promote and Lisa gets MAD traction on our fan page, so she is THE GAL to listen to in these matters.

Also, I have been a victim of many of these “marketing strategies” and they make me see RED. We know you guys are trying hard to be responsible professionals and there is a LOT of bad advice floating around out there. We have all oopsed, so don’t worry. But Lisa is here to set you straight and tell you the WANA Way…which works, btw ;).

Take it away, Lisa!

Lisa Hall-Wilson

Lisa Hall-Wilson

I feel a bit like the soup nazi with this post – no Facebook for you! But some people seriously need a time out. It’s promote promote promote all the time in a one-channel informercial. Hands up – have you been a victim of these people?

I wrote this post for Jane Friedman on 5 reasons why you should use your Facebook Profile (not a Page) to build platform. What I need to make clear is that with freedom comes responsibility. There are key rules about Facebook etiquette that many are either unaware of or ignore.

Stop!

Using your Profile instead of a Page to build platform gives you the ability to spam people in a way Pages cannot. Pages cannot join groups or group conversations. Pages can’t comment on or post a Profile, they can’t send private messages to Profiles. Pages can’t force-add people to events. The list goes on. Just because you can, because Facebook doesn’t explicitly say it’s against the rules – doesn’t mean it’s not icky, annoying and spam

1. Do not post your own content on another’s Profile wall (timeline).

This is a pretty personal one cause this recently happened to me. First, if you goof on this one, apologize, remove the post and consider it a lesson learned. Don’t argue. This is considered personal space. Anything posted on my timeline is seen as endorsed by me. It’s akin to going to a friend’s jewelry party and bringing along samples to your own soap business and handing them out uninvited.

Great way to never get asked back.

If people are posting their content on your wall often, you can decide who can post on your timeline if necessary. I know some Indie authors who have been forced to do this because the spam is so bad.

2. Do Not Tag People in Unrelated Status Updates or Photos

What do I mean by unrelated? If I quote another blogger or author in a blog post, I might tag them. If they inspired that blog post, I might tag them. But I might not. And I’m not going to do it more than once or twice a year. If you’re just doing it to get noticed it’s considered spam.

For the love of cookie sprinkles….STOP.

I strongly recommend you turn on approvals for all tags. People can tag you in a photo or status update, this requires you to approve those before they show up on your timeline – because people use this to spam your friends but your friends might not realize you were spammed, which makes life seriously awk-ward.

3. Do not bomb conversations with blog links.

I see this all the time. Do not find a lively conversation thread and drop a link to your blog there. That hit and run tactic is super annoying and is spam. If you are an active participant in the conversation and you have a blog post that directly relates to the topic at hand, go ahead and share that link in the spirit of no-reciprocation-expected.

You’re sharing this because it adds value – no strings attached. Dropping a link into the conversation you’re not a part of is spam regardless of whether the post could remotely be relevant.

4. Do not create a group and force-add 2000 people.

Facebook will let you invite a ridiculous amount of people to an event or group. I get event invites all the time. Those can be annoying, but what’s worse is being force-added to a group that’s a 24/7 spam channel! You can go ahead and create a group where two or three people post links to their blogs and courses if you want to – but let people opt into that. I had to remove myself twice from the same group and finally clicked the box that says do not allow myself to be added again.

5.  Any story can be seen by friends and seen as an endorsement.

When you click like, comment or share something, you create a ‘story’ within the Facebook environment. When you share an update or link, it’s seen as an endorsement unless you add an editorial comment stating otherwise. However, what many people using their Profiles to build platform don’t realize is that your likes and comments can be shown to friends, and friends of friends depending. You can’t filter that.

You’re following an erotica author friend because you wanted to support her, even though you write children’s fiction. She posts an alluring pic of a near-naked man and you liked the pic – for whatever reason. You might not have liked the pic or the man, but wanted to support the author say.

Doesn’t matter.

At best Facebook could show that story (that you liked that content) to friends FB believes have similar interests. You have no control whether that shows up in someone’s news feed or their ticker or at all.

Something else to consider is that you can’t opt out of sponsored stories. Sometimes Facebook will recommend Pages to users and they will use your name and profile pic (all public content) by way of public endorsement to your friends. Someone can purchase a sponsored story ad and your face and name could be used to promote that Page.

We can complain all we want, that’s the price of admission. If you are using your Profile to build platform keep this in mind! I can’t stress this enough. Every action you take can spread a lot further than you intend. If you wouldn’t say it to your mother in her living room, don’t say it (or like it) on Facebook.

In the spirit of helping others share my Facebook happy, I started a group for writers who want to learn how to use Facebook the WANA way, not spam people, and build a healthy community or tribe. It’s a closed group so there’s a measure of privacy, but it means you’ll have to request to join. *psst – I’ll approve you.** I’ll post about updates and changes, and answer questions (within reason), but I really want this to be a safe place to ask questions and share experiences as well. Abusers will be removed!! :D

What annoying Facebook marketing tactics have you been the victim of? Share in the spirit of helping not shaming.

On Saturday, November 23, I’m teaching a webinar on Using A Facebook Profile To Build Platform. The cost is only $45, and we’ll look at how to set your privacy settings, friend lists, target posts, create a content strategy, how to brand yourself visually, best posting practices, and more. If you can’t make it sign up anyway. The webinar will be recorded and sent to all registrants.

I’m also offering this class as part of a very special WANA 2Fer. Marcy Kennedy is running her A Crash Course to Using Google+ to Build Your Author Platform the same day and we’re offering a discounted rate of $20 off for people who sign up for both. Click here to register for the 2Fer!

About Lisa Hall-Wilson

Lisa has been using Facebook since 2007, and has been a paid administrator, content creator, and consultant for more than three years. She manages Pages for non-profits and small businesses in Canada and the United States (including the MYWANA Facebook Page). She’s an award-winning freelance journalist, syndicated columnist, and fantasy author. You can find her hanging out on her Facebook profile.

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59 Comments

Four Ways Google+ Communities Help Authors Build Their Platforms

Image via Pink's Galaxy Flickr Creative Commons

Image via Pink’s Galaxy Flickr Creative Commons

Hey Guys! I promised I would post twice a week, but I am happy to add in some extra awesome when the opportunity arises. Social media is key to any author platform, but, to be blunt, there is NO WAY I can teach all of them with equal excellence. This is why I have amazing WANA instructors. Facebook or Twitter might not be your style. Or, maybe you are still trying to FIND your style. Here to help you is the FANTABULOUS WANA International Instructor, Marcy Kennedy….

And no, I couldn’t use the creepy panel van because I am SO NOT driving to Canada. She is here of her own accord. That and I told her I’d spread rumors that she hated unicorns. I am cold that way.

Hmmm, looks legit.

Hmmm, looks legit.

Take it away Marcy!

Marcy Kennedy, WANA Instructor Extraordinaire

Marcy Kennedy, WANA Instructor Extraordinaire

Did you know that Google+ has the second most active user base of all social media sites? (And yes, Facebook, no surprise, is number one.)

Yet one of the biggest complaints I hear about Google+ from authors is that they struggle to meet potential future readers and to get others to engage with what they’re posting.

The solution to both problems is Google+ communities.

Google+ rolled out communities in December 2012, and communities are rapidly growing around topics as diverse as Star Wars, Javascript, parenting, running, football, and photography. If you’re interested in it, you can probably find a Google+ community built around it.

Before you think that’s great for a non-fiction writer, but I write fiction, let me stop you. Every novel will touch on topics you can find a Google+ community about.

Someone like Elizabeth Spann Craig with her Southern Quilting mysteries could join communities organized around quilting. Erotic romance authors like Roni Loren could join the community that discusses what to read after Fifty Shades of Grey. Does your novel feature vampires or zombies? There’s a community for that. Does your main character have an autistic son? There’s a community for that too. You’re only limited by your imagination.

Here’s the official Google+ trailer.

But the real question is how can Google+ communities benefit writers? After all, I did say that Google+ communities can help us meet potential future readers and grow our platform.

(1)   Find new ideas for blog posts.

What are your potential future readers already talking about and interested in? Those are perfect topics to blog about. Instead of writing into the void and hoping someone will be interested, you’ll already know that what you’re posting on is something they’ll want to read.

Some communities prohibit direct sharing of blog posts so read the rules carefully. However, keep going down this list. The next point is key for developing relationships that will have people adding you to their circles. And once you’re in their circles, they’ll see your status updates—where you can freely share your posts.

(2)   Establish yourself as an expert (and as interesting) by starting valuable discussions.

Anyone can start a discussion in a Google+ community, and topics are organized by categories for easy access.

The best discussions result in active conversations, as well as people sharing it to their own circles. If people see your name attached to great conversations often enough, they’ll add you to one of their circles so they can see everything you post.

(3)   Get an inside look at what your potential future readers love or hate.

If you’re a quick writer and want to self-publish, you could fill a hole in the kind of books people want to read by listening to the likes and dislikes expressed in communities.

This is also a great way to understand the nuances of your genre. Fantasy fans are vocal about what tropes they’re tired of. Steampunk fans are also very vocal about what does and doesn’t belong in a book labeled “steampunk.” Each genre comes with built in expectations.

A large part of success is knowing readers’ expectations and exceeding them. If a reader buys your book expecting one thing and finds another, they’ll be disappointed no matter how great your book might be apart from those disappointed expectations. Once you’re educated on the expectations, you’ll be able to meet them…or choose to forge a new path, while making it clear to readers what they’ll be getting. Knowledge is power.

(4)   If you’re an established author, build a community for your readers.

Google+ communities definitely have a forum feel. Host chats with book clubs. Encourage fan art. Answer commonly asked questions. Provide deleted scenes or interview your characters. If you already have an established audience, Google+ communities provide a low maintenance option for you to encourage conversation among your fans and to be accessible to them.

Google+ is currently a very under-utilized (and poorly utilized) social media platform by writers, but I hope this helps you see the potential hidden inside it.

On Saturday, November 23, I’m teaching a 90-minute webinar called A Crash Course to Using Google+ to Build Your Author Platform. The cost is only $45, and we’ll look at how to effectively set up your profile, what to do about circles and communities, how to use hangouts, and more. This webinar is great not only for those who are already on Google+ but also for those who aren’t sure if it’s the right place for them! If you can’t make it at the time it’s scheduled but still want to attend, sign up anyway. The webinar will be recorded and sent to all registrants. Click here to register!

I’m also offering this class as part of a very special WANA 2Fer.Lisa Hall-Wilson is running her Building a Tribe Using a Facebook Profile webinar the same day, and we’re offering a discounted rate of $20 off for people who sign up for both. Click here to register for the 2Fer!

About Marcy Kennedy:

Marcyis a suspense and speculative fiction writer who believes fantasy is more real than you think. Alongside her own writing, Marcy works as a freelance editor and teaches classes on craft and social media through WANA International. She’s also the author of the Busy Writer’s Guides series of books, including Strong Female Characters and How to Write Faster. You can find her blogging about writing and about the place where real life meets science fiction, fantasy, and myth at www.marcykennedy.com.

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