Archive for category Social Media Platform

When Spammers and Trolls Take Over – Authors Innovate – Facebook Groups (WANA Class Excerpt)

By Jay Donovan
Hi everyone,

Kristen is recovering from a couple of all-nighters spent caring for a loved one. I’m sure she’ll have plenty to say about it over the coming weeks. She should be back tomorrow. I take that back, she will be back tomorrow,even if I have to drive to TX and make her write a blog post Weekend-at-Bernie’s style.

Today’s post is an excerpt from a bonus lesson from Lisa Hall Wilson’s six week Facebook course. Lisa is a fantastic teacher and one of my favorite online people. She is currently teaching four classes at WANA Intl:

Building A Tribe Using A Facebook Profile
Using Your Facebook Profile to Build Platform
How To Write In Deep Point Of View (POV)
How To Get Them Talking – Interview Like A Journalist

Thanks Lisa for giving us a sneak preview at this new lesson!

WANA Facebook Maven Lisa-Hall Wilson

WANA Facebook Maven Lisa-Hall Wilson

Facebook Groups

Indie authors especially are very good at innovating and finding creative solutions to problems they face trying to connect with their readers/fans. Recently, former lit agent Nathan Bransford posted about the ongoing bully/gang-mentality that’s become prevalent over on Goodreads. People were leaving bad reviews of books they’d never read, or just didn’t like the title or subject matter of. (Read the post here.)

Authors had no way of policing their Goodreads pages, and real fans were turning away because of the bullies and bad reviews.

So they innovated.

How Authors Are Using FB Groups

I often get people inviting me (or force adding me) to closed groups which are really just book launch announcements. Not cool. That’s just spam. Don’t do that. However, some authors are using groups the proper way with amazing success.

Growing a tribe or community around your writing is usually a common goal for all writers regardless of their genre. Easier said than done. Building a community or tribe takes time, effort and intentionality.

To combat the lack of control over on Goodreads, authors have turned to closed FB groups instead.

 

Street Teams

When an author is about to launch a book, they may create (or fans create for them) a street team. I’ve seen these used as incentive to pre-order books. These are the most dedicated and enthusiastic fans you can have. They are your mavens, they generate word of mouth enthusiasm, share your work, post reviews, buy copies for family and friends. This is marketing gold you can’t buy.

Author Strategies

These closed groups are well organized and only genuine fans of the books are accepted as members. Some authors use these groups to send out information to join a street team, help get the message out about their books, events, coming soon and cover reveals, help name the book, etc. Some of these groups have tens of thousands of members. It’s a vibrant hidden community free of trolls because the author admin has the power to turf those who break the rules of the group. There’s no spamming, and readers find it a much safer environment than Goodreads right now.

Authors show up daily to talk to fans, to give that glimpse behind the curtain – they want to see Oz. Authors are growing these groups by placing links to them in the back of their books – as opposed to their websites. It’s an insider club.

Benefit of Closed Group

The big benefit for a closed group is that you have to be a member to see the content. It may show up in your news feed because you’re a member, but your friends won’t see it unless they’re also members. This way members can also share inspiration photos of guys (etc.) and it doesn’t show up on their walls or their friend’s news feeds. You can’t use a group with your Page though, only your Profile. Many Indie authors have what I call a place-holder Page but are only active on their Profile.

Book Promotion

Authors are inviting fellow Indies into these groups to help promote the upcoming book launch often. So XYZ author is invited to participate. The group members are alerted that “XYZ author will be here to spend time with you all. She’s giving away a copy of her… book.”

The author admin creates a thread linking to the free giveaway. The protocol is that XYZ author never mentions their own books. They talk about their favorite heroes/heroines in author admin’s books, etc. This helps promote author admin’s books and helps XYZ author get new readers – and nobody gets spammed!

Author Cooperatives

Authors are teaming up with others who write in their genres, etc. to offer book promos together, boxed sets, etc. This is all being done in closed FB groups.  Authors are sharing info and insights into marketing, promotions and ads. They’re working together to support each other. That’s the WANA way.

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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. She’s a freelance journalist with nearly 100 articles published, and has counted non-profits such as World Vision Canada as clients. You can find her hanging out on the WANA Intl Facebook Page most days or at her website.

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17 Comments

Our Author Brand—The Choice Between Meaningful and Empty, Sad Imitation

Meme from Facebook

Meme from Facebook via imgflip.com

When I saw this meme on Facebook, I though my husband was going to have to scrape me off the floor I was laughing so hard. And, like most things in life, if I’m left long enough to marinate on something, I frequently discover a hidden truth or a lesson we can all apply to life, our work and our art.

There are a lot of lessons out there about author branding (I’m right, though :D). There are those who hail the genius of automation, or claim we should be outrageous, shocking, and rattle The Establishment (whatever that is). I suppose all paths are viable, though all will yield different results.

The Automated Path

There are marketing technophiles who will gladly (and often for a fee) set up our social media to act on its own. We spend an hour writing clever snippets, plug them in and POOF! A machine can tweet, post on Facebook, post about our blog and we can happily do whatever other more important thing we have to do without ever worrying our pretty little heads about social media.

Yet, I would say that, whenever we consider our author brand, we need to also consider whether it is authentic, because in the Digital Age, authenticity is something people are desperately seeking. In the sea of 0s and 1s we long for that human touch and voice that gives information its meaning.

As Jaron Lanier states beautifully in his book You Are Not a Gadget:

A computer (social media) isn’t even there unless a person experiences it. There will be a warm mass of patterned silicon with electricity coursing through it, but the bits don’t mean anything without a cultured person to interpret them.

I’ve often stated that social media (like all forms of communication) is meaningless unless there is another person engaged on the other side to see and then act. Five or even three years ago, we had a hard time spotting people from bots.

Now? We’re far more sophisticated and not easily fooled.

Plant seeds of automation, and we shouldn’t be shocked if all we harvest are bots using the same tools, algorithms and tactics. When we rely on tools and gadgets, we are imitating being human, so why are we expecting to gain anything real in return?

Being Outrageous

Back to the meme above (*still giggles*), there are people who can pull off knocking over apple carts. Shock-and-Awe is, of course, an option. I’m never here to tell anyone what to do, only to help you do what is right for you and your brand and educate you on possible outcomes.

We can rant and rave and shock and push buttons, but I will warn you. There is a cost. Nothing in life is free ;). Being shocking or controversial will gain attention, but it’s a gamble. Will it garner enough positive attention to outweigh the bad?

As artists and writers many of us fall in the INFJ or ENFJ sectors of the Myers-Briggs. What this means is that we process information and interpret our reality through intuition (N) and emotion (F). We have a heightened sense of empathy.

This can be a good thing. It makes for great actors, writers, songwriters, dancers, etc. We are emotional creatures. This said, the sensitivity we feel toward emotion is far higher than, say, someone who is a natural accountant, who is logical and processes their world analytically.

We can say we’ll remain rational, but we also say we’re going to go to the gym five days a week and only have one cookie. Everyone is human, but artists are particularly human. It’s what makes us good at what we do, yet it’s also what makes us vulnerable to negative energy.

Sure, Miley Cyrus took a gamble on her career and she’s laughing all the way to the bank. But there are other stars who made similar wagers and shattered. Time will tell if Miley’s antics will be worth it. Or, will we one day read headlines about the ruined wreckage of a once-lovable Disney star now in jail or in rehab or dead?

Since I’m wagering I’m mainly speaking to writers and not former Disney child stars contemplating dancing nude with leaf-blowers, I’ll stick to author branding. Being outrageous comes with a lot of negative energy, criticism and trolls. If this is a path you want to take, make sure you have the skin to take the heat.

I, personally, am a total wuss and admit this with pride. I think it is possible to be shocking, outrageous and controversial without inviting in mass negativity. Don’t believe me? Just blog about the Star Wars Prequels, LOL. People feel VERY passionately about a made-up universe.

The Authentic Path—Be the Best You, Not an Imitation

I think the meme above is so clever because it shows how, when we try to copy, we can end up looking like fools. It’s one of the reasons I spend so much time in Rise of the Machines having you do exercises to mine the genuine YOU and then showing you how to connect those unique aspects of your personality, loves, likes, dislikes, hobbies, strengths and short-comings to a reading audience and to cultivate a community.

I’ve been told my humor blogs remind people of The Bloggess, my informative posts sound like Seth Godin or even some of my craft teaching is resonant of Larry Brooks (which for me is very humbling because these folks are all fantastic writers). I can honestly say I never copied any of these other writers. In fact, I never heard of ANY of them until commenters made the observations.

Yes, it is a compliment to be compared with other peers. When we get TOO different, too odd, we lose people. Being authentic doesn’t mean we have to be so bizarre we can’t be compared to other writers or artists. It just means being the best us that we can be.

And if that “best you” is licking a red pen suggestively and then, while nude, running your first WIP through an industrial shredder, please make a vlog…or maybe don’t.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think Miley is all that shocking. Hmmm, a former Disney star hits seventeen, starts being seen in bars drinking underage, wears less and less clothing, “accidentally” releases a sex tape, amps up antics to outdo previous Disney child star, etc, etc, etc. It’s gotten to the point it is boringly formulaic.

But that’s my two cents.

What are your thoughts? Are there some artists or writers who’ve won your heart with being outrageous and controversial? How did they do it in a way that didn’t make you run screaming the other way?

Are there some who’ve lost you? Maybe you once loved them and then the controversy spoiled it? Are there some writers who’ve won or lost you through knocking over apple-carts?

No need to name, names, btw.

Are you a wuss, too and not a fan of being troll-fodder? Or, do you have the ability to brush off trolls like dust? Maybe you have some tools or suggestions for the rest of us still growing emotional heat-panels capable of reentering theEarth’s atmosphere.

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of September, 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 now has Day One and Day Two for sale separately so you can choose if you only can fit part of the conference. 

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

Get PajamaCon and BOTH DAYS OF THE CONFERENCE for $149 and all recordings for anything you miss or need to hear again. Sign up today, because seats are limited. REGISTER HERE.

For those who are total newbies, I am running a Writer’s Guide to Social Media Class tomorrow for $39 5-7 EST (NYC time). Use WANA15 for 15% off. We will cover the major platforms, what they do, and which ones might be right for you and your brand.

I am also holding ACHOO!! The Writer’s Guide to Going Viral 5-6:30 EST (NYC time). This class is $49 and, again, use WANA15 for 15% off. Not all content is created equal. This class helps you understand how to understand how search engines work, how to gain favor, and how to create content that will give you traction. Feel like you are blogging to the ether? This class can help.

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47 Comments

Top 5 Panel-Van-Creepy Social Media Tactics

Hmmm, looks legit.

Hmmm, looks legit.

It is estimated that the average American is exposed to about 3,000 advertising messages a day. Everywhere we go there is yet another ad—billboards, commercials, radio, train tunnels, e-mail, cereal boxes, mail boxes, and even on the golf holes and bathroom stalls.

We cannot escape being constantly pitched to no matter where we hide. How many times have we gone to the gym, just to come out and have sales flyers stuffed under our windshield wipers? Or tried to read e-mail, but had to wade through twenty junk e-mails all selling stuff?

The simple truth is that we are over-saturated with marketing, and it is making us sick. Those who continue to pour it on will not be regarded fondly. One tactic some “marketers” are using to get beyond our mental ad filters is to “make their approach personal,” but are they simply going too far?

Personal or Creepy?

First of all, marketing and advertising alone does NOT sell books and my new book explains why.  This reality aside, whenever I teach writers how to use social media to build a platform, I frequently have to do some retraining due to just plain BAD advice. These social media experts teach tactics normally reserved for Amway salespeople and those with water filters, vitamins or time share for sale.

And we all just looooove those people, right?

There is no substitute for authentic interaction. There are no shortcuts, but that isn’t stopping a lot of writers from thinking that they can get something from others without having to give. Here are a list of my Top Five Panel-Van Creepy Social Media Tactics…

Creepy Tactic #1–The Twitter BFF-Bot

Please DO NOT set up an auto-response to thank someone for following you and then pitch to them.

Sure, let me get on that.

Yeah, don’t bother. UNFOLLOW.

Sure, let me drop everything to buy your book!

Sure, all my best friends are ROBOTS.

I give kudos for effort but not so much for smarts. Let me get this straight. You cannot even be bothered to talk to me in person, but you want me to drop everything and read your blog, follow you on Facebook, or buy something from you?

Really.

Do I even need to spend more time on this?

Creepy Tactic #2—The FB Fan Group Rufie

Please do not add people to your fan group unless you know them, have talked to them, or have asked permission. We don’t like our Facebook page being rufied into consenting to be a fan against its will.  At least be a little classy and buy it a digital drink first and tell it that it’s pretty.

Courtship, people!

I am constantly logging on to Facebook just to realize that I am now somehow a member of a fan group for an author who I don’t know and who’s never even bothered to say “hello.” I don’t care if you are giving away free books, iPhones or puppies. This tactic is rude, unprofessional and just plain ookey.

Creepy Tactic #3–The Search Tool Cyberstalk

I know Twitter has that nifty magnifying glass that allows us to search key terms, but misuse this tool and it can get us banned from Twitter. The search tool is to help us locate people who share common interests or who are talking about a given topic.

For instance, if I LOVE sports, puppies, knitting, skydiving, or puppies that skydive, I can use the search tool to find tweets that mention those key words. This helps me find relevant links, locate hash tag conversations (#puppiesinthesky), or simply talk to and connect with people of similar interests.

This is NOT a tool to cyberstalk others. DO NOT use this tool to find people to pitch your book to.

If I tweet I swear toddlers are little psychic vampires. The Spawn is still going. How many days until school starts?

I DO NOT WANT a reply tweet that says: Hey, I see you love vampires! Mine don’t sparkle, but today they are FREE!!!

Cyberstalking will not make a person on Twitter love us or our book. In fact, it has about the same success rate as real stalking. It is creepy and grounds for a restraining order.

Creepy Tool #4—The Sock Puppet Tweeter

If you don’t want to tweet, then don’t. And if you are going to automate messages selling your book, don’t also automate messages to look like you are actually talking to people on Twitter. We know it’s fake and it’s insulting. Also, it can bite back BIG TIME and tank an author brand faster than one can say “poor taste.”

Three words: BOSTON MARATHON BOMBING.

Creepy Tool #5—Fan Page Manipulation

If you like someone, great. “Like” their fan page. DO NOT “like” someone’s page as a ploy to get them to return the favor. We don’t like manipulation in real life from the people we know and love and we really don’t like it from people we don’t know from a hole in the ground.

Yes, social media is social, and people will often respond in kind out of relationship reciprocity, but we need to initiate the reciprocity. We don’t need an e-mail saying things like, Hey, I liked your author page. Why didn’t you like me back?

This is Facebook, not high school.

I know that you guys are trying hard to be responsible, and that’s why I try to approach social media with a bit of humor. If you have made some of these mistakes, I get that there are a lot of “experts” teaching you that these behaviors are okay.

They aren’t. Stop it!

Okay, that’s settled :D.

What are some other creepy tactics you’ve seen on social media? What makes your skin crawl? Am I completely wrong and not seeing the value of these tactics? What are your thoughts? Opinions? Has your Facebook page been rufied? Does it cry and have trust issues? Are you tired of being pitched to even when you go to the bathroom?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of September, 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 now has Day One and Day Two for sale separately so you can choose if you only can fit part of the conference. And you get $10 off through this weekend, so $89 instead of $99. And PajamaCon is included as well as free recording for the day you attend.

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

Get PajamaCon and BOTH DAYS OF THE CONFERENCE for $149 and all recordings for anything you miss or need to hear again. Sign up today, because seats are limited. REGISTER HERE.

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100 Comments

What If You Hate Facebook? Are You DOOMED?

Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons

Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons

Guest Post by WANA International Facebook Expert Lisa Hall-Wilson

I’m not going to try and convince you of how awesome Facebook is – though Kristen is a happy convert. I’m not going to explain away all of the bad press about privacy issues or how addictive the site is. If you hate Facebook, that’s OK. But make sure you hate it for the right reasons.

I LOVE Facebook. I was a big fan of the platform before I thought about writing as a career. It just fit really well with my personality. I’m one of those people who isn’t afraid to share personal things, poke fun at myself, shake my fist at the sky, share my corner of the world with…the world.

But not everyone is like that. What if you’re a writer/author and every conference you attend, every blog post about building platform you read, tells you Facebook is one place you HAVE to be.

What then?

I met a woman at a conference recently where I was teaching about using Facebook to build platform. She didn’t want to use her real name, post pictures of her family, reveal where she lived, or share anything remotely personal at all. She just wanted to post links about her writing and her blog. Could I help her get more fans?

And I said – maybe Facebook isn’t the right platform for you.

She didn’t find that helpful. In fact, she was upset with me.

But here’s the hard truth – Facebook is personal. If you don’t want to be personal, maybe Facebook isn’t the right platform for you. That’s not an indictment on your writing or placing a glass ceiling on your writing career. Maybe Twitter or G+ or Tumblr or Instagram is a better place for you to be found.

Facebook is big, but it isn’t a one-size-fits-all thing by any means. Whenever we start building our author platform, we need to honestly look at our strengths and acknowledge what we are and aren’t willing to do.

Contrary to popular opinion, not EVERY big name author enjoys Facebook. The difference is many of them pay someone else to administrate their Page and post links to their blog. Nora Roberts, for instance, is up front about the fact that she doesn’t personally spend time on her Facebook Page, and all the posts are from an admin named Laura or Team Nora.

Screen Shot 2013-09-18 at 9.13.23 AM

There are plenty of authors who have a placeholder Page on Facebook that points fans to a Twitter account, or a blog or a website. What they’re saying is – you can find out more about my writing here on Facebook, but you can connect with me on <insert other platform>. In other words – they don’t spend time on Facebook. Just be open.

Screen Shot 2013-09-18 at 9.14.10 AM

And the author’s engagement is reflected in their community on Facebook. Nora Roberts has twice as many Facebook fans as Laurell Hamilton, but Laurell gets more than twice the engagement from her fans on each update.

Nora’s admin posts links to her blog, book covers, etc. Laurel posts pics of herself on vacation, at a friend’s wedding – asks for input on novels she’s writing. It’s different. It’s evident when someone doesn’t like Facebook, and fewer fans will show up for you than for someone who really enjoys Facebook.

What Readers Want

Readers are looking for three main things from authors on Facebook: behind-the-scenes glimpses into the writer’s life and writing process (your life behind the writing – they want to see Oz), advance scoops on new releases, sales and upcoming events, and they’re looking for insider access.

Readers are NOT going to Facebook to buy books.

Facebook’s search feature isn’t set up to do this well. I don’t know of any big author selling books directly from Facebook (using F-commerce) because they’d rather people bought books from Amazon (or another online retailer) for the sales rankings and reviews.

And don’t think I can’t hear the whining. I don’t understand why it’s like that!? Why can’t I post what I want to? I shouldn’t have to post about anything personal.

It’s not about us. Facebook is about offering value and building a community/tribe. Give stuff away (like free writing – your blog posts, a manifesto, etc.), be personal, be authentic.

When we are huge enough to have the fan base of Nora Roberts or Stephen King, and can pay someone else to manage our community on Facebook, then we can have them post whatever we like and people will still engage at some level. But it will never be the thriving community one will find on the Pages of authors like Laurell Hamilton or Ted Dekker.

We get out of it what we put in.

Decide what we are willing to share. If you don’t want to post pics of your kids? Don’t. Don’t want anyone to see pictures of your last vacation? Don’t share. There’s lots of other things to talk about to give readers/fans what they’re looking for. Snap a photo with your phone on your morning walk and share that—why did you think it was beautiful/thought-provoking/inspiring?

What are you working on? What are you researching? What does your writing space look like? What are you reading – why? Where are you going to be speaking? These are all things that you would probably share with a complete stranger at a writer’s conference – Facebook shouldn’t be any different.

Of course share your blog posts. Everything you post must offer value to fans (and people OTHER than writers), and answer one of the above needs.

If fans don’t care about you, they’re less likely to buy your book.

Do you find it difficult to share personal things on Facebook? Do you think writers/authors are too personal? I’d love to hear what you think.

I’m teaching a 1.5hr interactive webinar on September 19 on using your Profile to Build Platform. Find out more here. Use the code Lisa20 for 20% off. You can also find me teaching about Facebook at WANACon, a digital writers conference through WANA International.

WANA Facebook Maven Lisa-Hall Wilson

WANA Facebook Maven Lisa-Hall Wilson

Kristen here! Thanks, Lisa for the post, but I’d like make two important points here to close out Lisa’s article. First, there is A LOT to this job that involves doing stuff we don’t like. Successful people suck it up and do what it takes to succeed. If our goal is to write full-time and be paid to do what we LOVE, we’re going to have to make the tough choices.

I don’t like doing taxes, which you will DO A LOT OF once you start selling books. But, since I don’t want to write from federal prison where I am doing time for tax evasion? I do the taxes. I hate taxes, but hate prison MORE.

Just know that Facebook is NOT that hard. A little goes a LONG way.

The second point I’ll make is often we don’t “like” a thing or “enjoy” a platform because we don’t understand it. I was the same with Twitter AND Facebook.

Me

Me: Facebook’s a witch!!!! Burn it!

Lisa: Why do you think Facebook’s a witch?

Me: Because it looks like one! Shiny buttons? “Friends”? “Boost post?” BURNNNNN IT!

Facebook: Um, THE PROGRAMMERS put these buttons on me. I can’t help it. I’m not a witch.

I can't help they keep changing my layout.

I can’t help they keep changing my layout.

Me: Burn it ANYWAY! Toss it in a pond and see if it floats! 

Lisa: Kristen, calm down. Facebook isn’t a witch and you might want to cut back on the Monty Python.

And I am not saying y’all must participate on Facebook, but I AM saying there isn’t a single job in the world that only requires us to do all the glittery stuff we love. We need to do the cost-benefit analysis. If ten-twenty minutes a day on Facebook could increase your fan base and build relationships that translated into book sales, could you get past your distaste?

Consider that you might not like Facebook simply because you don’t understand it. I know Lisa changed my entire outlook on Facebook once I understood what my main goals needed to be…and all the buttons I could happily ignore.

Thank you, Lisa for another great post!

And I love hearing your comments! Comments on guest posts get double points.

To prove it and show my love, for the month of September, 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:

As y’all know, WANACon is coming soon. I’ve recruited the BEST of the BEST. Learn from the likes of Les Edgerton, NYTBSA Allison Brennan, Best-Selling Author Candace Havens, Award-Winning Author David Corbett and more. Twenty-seven sessions to help you grow in craft and social media from home and recordings are provided for free, which is essentially $5.50 a class. Check out the line-upHERE.

My Antagonist class is in days (Sept. 20th) and this one is a early class, which is ideal for those who need a daytime class or for any of our overseas peeps.

I’m also offering an evening version on October 16th. These classes starts at a basic level $49 (webinar, recording and detailed notes) and go up to $249 (on the phone/in the digital classroom helping you plot a series or trilogy). Use WANA15 to get 15% off.

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The Rise of Individuality—What This Means for Publishing & Authors

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Larry Lamsa

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Larry Lamsa

We’re now into the Digital Age, and the ramifications of a connected world are still being revealed daily. But, there’s one trend I’d be hard-pressed to argue with. The 20th Century was all about homogeneity. Madison Avenue flourished by telling us which clothing brands made us cool, which car made us special, what foods were “healthy.”

Information was controlled by gatekeepers and commodities restricted by retailers, thus homogeneity was the goal. Homogeneity was simpler and required less paperwork and thinking.

Generations bought Wonderbread because it was “fortified with vitamins” and “good for your kids.” In 1986? Hope you liked stirrup pants. There was a cultural need to “fit in” and be like everyone else, especially those who were the “cool kids.”

“Pillars of Same” Go Crashing Down

With the advent of the Internet and widespread use of social media, homogeneity is crumbling. Individualism is now revered more than ever in human history. And, no matter how weird, off-beat, or All-American we want to be? There is a subculture to embrace our style. Mega-trends have lost their power.

Today, changing lifestyles, the Internet, the balkanization of communication, and the global economy are coming together to create a new sense of individualism that is powerfully transforming our society. ~Microtrends, Penn/Zalesne

What this means is that, as consumers are faced with more and more choices, they’re segregating themselves into smaller and smaller subgroups. Love tattoos? Duck Dynasty? Duck Dynasty tattoos?

Can’t get enough of Jackson Galaxy and cat whispering? Are you Stay-at-Home-Mom who kicks butt on a Roller Derby Team each Saturday? It’s all out there, and most of us are a unique mixture that can’t easily be categorized.

For instance, yesterday I began my day with green juice and 50 minutes of yoga. I ended the day watching my husband reload ammunition while we watched Duck Dynasty and I prepped the grill. We also debated briefly over which superhero we were.

Actual Conversation in Our House:

Me: I’m so happy I had a boy.
Hubby: Why?
Me: Because the world needs more good guys. In fact, you’d be a really dull superhero. You’re Superman. All paladin. No baggage.
Hubby: I am SO not Superman. I call Green Lantern.
Me: Green Lantern didn’t have baggage either. Not like Batman. You don’t have enough drama to be Batman.
Hubby: As long as I’m not Aquaman.
Me: I’m Poison Ivy. Or Harley. You good guys are suckers for chicks with drama.

And what all of this means is that 20 years ago, we knew which table to sit at–Jocks, Preps, Nerds, Geeks, Good Kids, Band Kids, Kid Who Smells Like Old Carpet. The lines were clearer, namely because we had only a handful of networks and limited retail outlets to define our identity.

Now? We have the reins of individual freedom and we like it.

What Does This Mean for Publishing?

Big publishing has a number of limitations. First, their size. Second, massive overhead. Third? 20th Century thinking. They have to find the mega-trend to stay in business, but what does this mean in a marketplace that is rapidly shifting to micro-trends?

NY is less able to spot the micro-trends, because in a world of algorithms, numbers and spreadsheets, one relies on the past to predict the future. Business is always looking backward in order to move forward. It’s like trying to drive our car using the rearview mirror as the main guide. Says a lot about where we’ve been, but gives limited information as to what’s ahead.

Indies Have Revealed the Micro-Trend

We’ve talked about the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, yet I will point out that I’ve met agents who turned down the manuscript. It was through E.L. James’ massive volume of independent sales that the micro-trend surfaced and then NY could turn this success into a mega-trend. A genre which received little to no attention has grown exponentially.

This was one of the reasons I recommended NY create e-book divisions as early as 2009 (REAL e-book divisions, not vanity-press retreads). Find a good book, give it a chance and see if the trend emerged. If not? The product cost less to produce and the writer could earn a higher royalty.

Even if the book didn’t sell bazillions of copies, writers didn’t have to sell that many books to make a healthy living and be freed up to write more books. Now instead of NY banking the farm on finding the ONE mega-trend, they could reap the rewards of countless micro-trends.

Which is exactly what Amazon has been doing.

Amazon doesn’t need one author to sell two million copies (not that they are opposed to it), but they can easily have 20 or even a 100 authors sell two million copies. The money spends the same.

This is Why Social Media is Vital for Authors

Social media is vital for keeping our fingers on the pulse of the public (code for “readers”). We can use blogging to define our brand then use content to attract those who share our “subculture” tastes (which I teach how to do in my new book).

It’s the main reason it’s death to be the All-Writing-All-The-Time-Channel. That’s a one-dimensional subculture that is overfished and quickly grows stagnant.

Also, any writer worth his/her salt is interested in a lot of things. The more we feed our subculture, the healthier it becomes, and the more loyal. We are all seeking our peeps, our tribe, our “friends” in a world that has become explosively larger.

Small is the New Big (Thank, you, Seth Godin)

Modern humans are overwhelmed with the sheer volume of choices, and, as a response, we stick to what we know. Sure, in 1999 we LOVED the megastore because it was new and shiny. Almost fifteen years later? We’re tired of needing to hail a taxi at the Mega Wal-Mart because we forgot the ketchup on aisle 3 and are now in the school supplies on aisle 93.

We’ll pay a bit more to shop at the corner market who appreciates our love for Organic Raw Kombucha, GF hot dog buns, and foie gras. We can buy Wonderbread at a supermarket or go to the small boutique grocer that sells sprouted grains for those of us in the crowd of Wonder-Why-We-EVER-Ate-Wonderbread.

Everyone wins.

But to spot and nourish the micro-trend, we must be present. Micro-trends can earn us a healthy living. A single writer doesn’t need to sell as many books to keep the lights on as NYC does. Also micro-trends have the potential to grow up to be mega-trends. Spreadsheets can’t tell us as much as people can. And, trust me, people have a lot to say. Numbers can’t tell us as much about the future as relationships can.

What are your thoughts? Do you love a world where you can define your own style? Create your own genres? Mix in your varied interests? Have you met people on social media with similar hobbies that you’d never have met in person?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of August, 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:

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

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

WANACon, the writing conference of the future is COMING! We start with PajamaCon the evening of October 3rd and then October 4th and 5th we have some of the biggest names in publishing coming RIGHT TO YOU. If you REGISTER NOW, you get PajamaCon and BOTH DAYS OF THE CONFERENCE (and all recordings) for $119 (regularly $149). Sign up today, because this special won’t last and seats are limited. REGISTER HERE.

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43 Comments

When Is It Time to Start Building an Author Platform?

Original image via Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of FEMA

Original image via Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of FEMA

I spoke on Saturday here in Florida for the STAR folk in Melbourne, and I had a new writer comment that she couldn’t start building her platform because she had no finished books and nothing for sale. I don’t believe in Self-Help-Kitten-Glitter. I believe in hard work. But hard work needs a solid foundation or we’re no better than Skippy the Hamster running in his little wheel. We should strive to work smarter, not harder. That’s the WANA Way. WANAs also plan for success ;).

Original image via Dan Derritt Flikr Creative Commons

Original image via Dan Derritt Flikr Creative Commons

Preparation

As writers, preparation encompasses a lot of things—craft books, classes, practice, workshops, writing, etc. Yet, today I’m going to narrow it to social media and author platforms. The day we decide to do this “writing thing” for real is the day we should begin building our platform. I cannot count the number of times authors have contacted me in frantic e-mails and said things like, “I have a book coming our next month and I need a platform.”

I’m Kristen Lamb not David Copperfield.

Tough Love First

Many of you have heard me say this, but it bears repeating. Screw aspiring. Aspiring is for pansies. Takes guts to be a writer. When we define ourselves as “aspiring writers” and not “professional writers” we can fail to do a lot of the early preparation that will be a foundation for a successful career.

Being a professional is a mind-set not a pay grade. Fail to plan and plan to fail.

A lot of new (pre-published) writers are hesitant to start building a brand an author platform because they don’t yet have anything for sale. Yet, strong platforms that are resistant to major technology shifts (*cough* MySpace*) and that have the capability to eventually drive book sales? Those don’t pop out of the ether. They take time to build.

Baby Steps are Steps

If we wait until we have a book deal or a published work for sale, we have to put far more energy into building a brand/platform, energy that is better served writing more books.

Think of it like losing weight. Say my high school reunion is coming and I’m fifty pounds overweight. I long to look my best when reuniting with my former peers. If I begin the year before the reunion making incremental changes and I slowly adopt steady, good habits, I can lose weight in plenty of time. I can cut out sodas, add in water and better foods, go for morning walks and lose 2-5 pounds a month and reach my goal.

But, there is always the option of waiting until three months before the reunion and having to hire a former drill sergeant to make me do cross-fit three hours a day. I can live off rabbit food or liquid diets to peel off the pounds. And sure, perhaps I could lose most of the weight, but is this a long-term lifestyle most of us can maintain unless we hold Jillain Michaels hostage in our basement?

When we begin building a platform early, we can make small steps over time that create a thriving community organically. We build slowly, creating deep roots. This makes it easier when the book is finally ready for sale, because we already have a thriving base of support. This takes off a lot of pressure and permits us to focus on writing more books. Also, we have regular healthy social media habits that are now simply part of daily life.

Having Nothing for Sale Can Be a Good Thing

When I started out on social media, I didn’t do it to sell anything. I knew I’d have books and even classes or consulting for sale at some point in the future, but just wasn’t there. Because I wasn’t trying to “sell” something, interactions felt far more natural and others probably were more comfortable in my presence because they knew if I was chatting with them, it was to chat and connect. They weren’t bracing for the awkward, “buy my book” pitch.

Thus, when we are new, this is a great way to make friends, network and create community with far less emotional pressure all around. Also, if people have been connecting with us for a period of time and been along for the journey? Many are eager to support us when that first book is finally ready, because they feel they’ve been part of the process.

There is NEVER a “Bad” Time to Build a Brand and Platform

platform2

Original image via Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of the US Navy

If you’re an author who’s published and has books for sale, you are fine. Just remember it will take some time for your platform to gather strength. This is why WANAs work together. We help one another, much like an Amish barn-raising. Together, we are stronger. Yes, we need to build a platform, but no one ever said we had to do it alone.

Yet, on the other side of this spectrum, don’t buy the lie that you can’t start building a platform until you’re published. Those who start as early as possible have major advantages. Social media is fantastic for pre-published writers because you can 1) network with other writers 2) learn the industry 3) learn to meet self-imposed deadlines.

Case in Point

I often talk about Piper Bayard and how her original book was a nightmare when she hired me to edit (back when I used to do that kind of work). While we were repairing her book, Piper listened to me about social media. She began to blog and learned to use Twitter. She whined a lot, but did it anyway :D.

*waves at Piper*

When she finally was picked up by a publisher, she was offered a far more favorable deal because she had a strong platform. Also, through networking on Twitter, Piper was able to meet big-time authors and befriend them (she had nothing for sale). Later, when it came time to find blurbs for her first book, she didn’t even have to ask. Authors she knew were already offering.

Her book Firelands has hit multiple best-seller lists, received rave AP reviews, and she now has a three-book deal. Much of this was possible because Piper adopted the attitude of a “professional” early and laid the groundwork for future success. She understood the business of the Digital Age Author involved more than merely writing a book.

Thus the answer to my question, “When is it time to start building an author platform?” The answer is NOW, no matter where you happen to be in your career. E-commerce is exploding as brick-and-mortar businesses are experiencing record contraction. Also, with social media, we have the ability to tap into emerging markets of eager readers and e-commerce is better suited to fill their demand for new books and good books.

My new book can help you, no matter where you are in your career or which publishing path you’ve chosen to take. You can even peruse this blog of all kinds of free advice. My sole goal is to help you succeed and realize your dreams.

What are your thoughts? Did you believe you needed a book before you started building a platform? Do you feel more at ease? Did you wait to the last minute and wish you’d done some things differently? What are your successes? War stories?

I LOVE hearing from you!

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

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

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

WANACon, the writing conference of the future is COMING! We start with PajamaCon the evening of October 3rd and then October 4th and 5th we have some of the biggest names in publishing coming RIGHT TO YOU. If you REGISTER NOW, you get PajamaCon and BOTH DAYS OF THE CONFERENCE (and all recordings) for $119 (regularly $149). Sign up today, because this special won’t last and seats are limited. REGISTER HERE.

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77 Comments

Three Important Life Lessons Only Learned from Insomnia

New Bed!

New Bed!

Well, it’s 3:18 a.m. and since sleeping still isn’t in the stars, I am writing…while in a yoga stretch unkinking my back. It’s been a rough week. I didn’t sleep for a week due to pain. We figured out the likeliest culprit (since both Hubby and I have had our backs scanned, X-rayed, massaged and chiropract-ed) was The Bed of DOOM, forged in Mordor in 1994! I had NO IDEA Hubby’s bed was that old. Probably a question us gals should ask before marriage O_o.

Hey, have any ex-girlfriends or wives buried under your porch? No? Cool. Btw, how old is your BED?

Use a polygraph if you must.

Hubby and I got married, bought two cars, a house, a bajillion diapers and we were going to get to the whole “replacing the bed thing” but this past week? Let’s say we hit “critical.” I know the bed is the problem, because I slept last night. In fact, I slept AWESOME.

Want Sleep? Ah, a “Kink” in The Plan

My back was still a mess so I went to take a nap at 11 a.m. this morning…yesterday morning? Sunday morning. The plan was to sleep two hours since The Spawn had me up just after 6:00 am. I’d sleep until around lunch, then we’d eat, I’d put dinner in the crockpot and Hubby and I could play video games all day.

Anyway, just as I drifted off, my mom calls me bawling and hysterical. Her washing machine overflowed in the middle of the night and her living room was in two inches of water. She couldn’t reach my brother and had no one else and was in a panic. Even though I knew my back was still screaming, Mom just had major hernia surgery and no business moving furniture at her age. So Hubby and I went and lifted all her furniture—heavy furniture—out of the water so it wouldn’t ruin.

Kill. Me. Now.

I love that I could help my mom, but right now my back is seriously pissed I love my mother more than it.

Thing is…

Unusual Suspects

Beds are the most likely culprit for insomnia or back pain, yet we tend to think of them last (probably because they are expensive and we shop for them every decade). I’ve spent the last two years doing Bikram yoga, focusing on my core (or lack thereof), going to chiropractors, taking herbs, Ibuprophen, Voo-Doo Chicken Wing Therapy all to gain little relief. I blamed it on my old back injury (broke it in 1995), changes in weather, age, and still? Never thought of my mattress until this week when nothing else had worked.

Went to the doctor. They did X-rays, MRIs. Not once, did they ask if my bed was bought when gas was $1.09 a gallon.

My bed was as old as the OJ SIMPSON case and as dead as Tonya Harding’s career after she had her loser boyfriend kneecap a fellow skater…in 1994! Don’t get me wrong, I figured the bed was old. I just never dreamed it was from the Clinton Administration. 

Yes, I am a little flabbergasted. I figured maybe it was eight or even ten years old, but almost TWENTY? Why do guys not mention this stuff? I “get” you don’t buy new underwear until nothing is left but an elastic waistband, but the mattress? Was I supposed to sleep it to the springs before we considered replacing?

What I’ve Learned About Being Up All Night

#1 DO NOT get on Web MD.

In fact, they should just not allow people to log into that site after midnight. It took me less than twenty minutes to diagnose myself with:

Prostate cancer? Wait, do I have a prostate?

DWARFISM! I KNEW IT! NO WONDER I CAN’T BUY PANTS THAT FIT!

And the holistic medicine sites aren’t any better. Took less than ten minutes to determine I needed to be dewormed. Should I do the cats at the same time? *scratches head* Crap! Do I have fleas?

#2 Social media friends ARE REAL friends.

I couldn’t have made it through this rough patch if kind people hadn’t kept me laughing and offered advice and even help. People I have never met in person. You guys have put up with my whining for a week and made me smile and that’s why I love my followers so much. I’ve met some of the best people, people on the other side of the world who I wouldn’t call “friend” if I hadn’t been up with back pain.

I SO apologize I am still whining :(. I totally didn’t see the “Moving Mom’s Furniture And Lifting It Out of Water Curve Ball.”

#3 We can’t control circumstances, only our attitude.

I am in terrible pain right now. In fact, if the Air Force hadn’t goofed up our insurance (found that out when I caved and tried to see a doctor Friday) I might be in an all-night-Doc-in-the-box instead of here. But, I take my mind off it. I laugh, have fun and know “This, too, shall pass.”

***And FYI, I’m very ADD, so Benadryl, alcohol, Tylenol PM and all the crap that normally knocks people out? WIRES ME FOR SOUND. I can’t take any pain medication known to Man because they all make me itch. I’ve taken Valerian, B Complex and D and been doing yoga since 1:00 a.m. and nothing is working.

Yeah, sometimes it seriously sux to be me.

But tomorrow is a new day on a new bed with new friends…

…wait that sounded wrong. Y’all know what I meant O_o.

Anyway, so I focus on the good stuff because life is all a choice in perspective. It’s now 4:15 a.m. Hmmm. Maybe I should check back with Web M.D. I’m seeing glowing spots. Wait. Whew! False alarm. That’s the modem.

Going to try the “sleep thing” again and forgive any typos. I’ll fix them later. Got ice and a heating pad. In the meantime, check your mattress and see if maybe it’s the problem. Don’t wait like I did, because now I am paying for it. What are your thoughts? Mattress horror stories? Do you just find your bliss when you can’t sleep or do you discover your “previously undiagnosed” case of Malaria per advice from Web MD? :D Have you met any cool people on social media you might not know otherwise if you hadn’t been up all night?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of August, 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 have a class coming up August 21st, I am running a Your First Five Pages webinar. Bronze is $40 and Gold is $55 (I look at your first five pages) and use WANA15 for 15% off.

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68 Comments

7 Reasons Every Writer Needs to Be on Twitter

Original image via Rosaura Ochoa via Flikr Creative Commons

Original image via Rosaura Ochoa via Flikr Creative Commons

While I’m taking a much-needed break, our WANA Maven of Twitter is here to help you understand Twitter!

Marcy Kennedy, WANA Instructor Extraordinaire

Marcy Kennedy, WANA Instructor Extraordinaire

Twitter often gets a bad rap by people who don’t understand it, misunderstand it as full of spam and celebrity stalkers, or don’t know how to use it to its full potential to build an author platform. When used correctly, though, Twitter can be one of the best tools for meeting new readers and increasing traffic to your blog. Not to mention it’s fun!

Don’t believe me? Well, let me prove it to you then. I have seven reasons why I think every writer should be using Twitter.

Reason #1 – Twitter has over 100 million active accounts and growing.

Whether you’re seeking traditional publication or plan to self-publish, whether you’re a non-fiction author, a novelist, a poet, or a short story writer, you need a platform to sell your work. Your readers are on Twitter. You just need to know how to meet them.

This is true even if you write children’s books or YA. If you write for kids, your readers might not be on Twitter, but their parents and aunts and uncles and even grandparents are, and your books might just be the perfect gift they’re looking for.

Reason #2 – Twitter allows you to build a following faster than any other social networking site.

People who find you on Facebook usually already know you. People who find you on Twitter are more likely to be complete strangers (at first) because of the ability to participate in conversations through hashtags.

Reason #3 – Twitter makes you a better writer.

Twitter gives you 140 characters to work with. Not 140 letters or 140 words, but 140 characters. Spaces count, and so does punctuation. Links count as well.

Working within those constraints forces you to write tighter. No purple prose allowed. No weak verbs modified by adjectives. You need to figure out exactly what you’re trying to say. Those skills translate directly into better writing elsewhere.

Reason #4 – Twitter brings you the news faster than any news site can.

Twitter is real time, which means that while reporters are putting together their stories and getting approval from their editors, normal people on site are tweeting. In August 2011, Twitter lit up like a firefly on crack about the 5.8 earthquake in Virginia before the news stations could catch their balance. My husband and I were able to call my mother-in-law right away to make sure she and the rest of the family there were safe.

In the plague of tornadoes that rolled through Texas in April 2012, Twitter might have even saved lives. So many tornadoes hit the Dallas area at once that meteorologists couldn’t keep up, even if people still had electricity and the ability to check their television, use their computer, or tune in on the radio. But what everyone could still do was tweet using their phones. People banded together to warn others and report sightings, keeping all involved safer than they could have been alone.

Reason #5 – Twitter allows you to keep your finger on the pulse of the publishing industry.

Twitter is like a writer’s mecca because you can quickly find out about interesting and informative new blog posts (already vetted by others), get tips on writing and publishing from agents, editors, and bestselling authors, and keep up on industry trends and new releases. No searching involved. It comes to you in a bite-sized 140 character nugget. If you decide you want more, you click the link.

Reason #6 – Twitter helps you research.

In her bestselling book We Are Not Alone: A Writer’s Guide to Social Media, Kristen tells the story of how she needed information on bounty hunters for her novel. Rather than wasting hours trying to sort through results on Google and still not coming up with what she needed, she tweeted about it and received replies from actual bounty hunters willing to answer her questions.

But it’s not only facts you can research on Twitter. If you’re not sure your main character’s name is a good fit for his personality and job, ask. If you want to know what writing software other writers actually trust, ask. (I did and fell in love with Scrivener.)

In my co-written novel with Facebook expert Lisa Hall-Wilson, we mentioned Sodom and Gomorrah, and we debated whether enough people would know what we meant. So I asked, and we ended up leaving it in the book.

Reason #7 – Twitter gives you a support network of friends.

I’ve left this to last because, to me, it’s the most important. Writing is solitary. We sit at our computers and play with our imaginary friends. Which is great, but also leaves us without the support network we need if we want to make writing a long-term career.

On Twitter, you’ll find someone to talk you down off the ledge when one too many rejections or poor reviews leave you wanting to quit writing altogether. On Twitter, you can make writers friends who’ll run word sprints with you to help you keep on track. On Twitter, you can make reader friends who’ll be excited to go out and buy your book and tell everyone about it.

Twitter is like the workplace water cooler. Come, chat, and get back to work. It doesn’t take all day to make Twitter a valuable place to be!

If you’re not on Twitter yet, what’s holding you back? If you are on Twitter, what do you struggle with?
[Jay here: if you comment, add your Twitter handle so we can meet each other there. I'm @jaytechdad]

On Saturday, August 24, I’m teaching a 90-minute webinar called “Twitter: 10 Essentials Every Writer Needs to Know” where we’ll talk about how to create a profile that lets others know you’re a writer and a real person, how to stay safe, why automation can be a fast track to hating Twitter, how to decide which tools work the best for you, how to use hashtags, how to use lists, what to tweet about, and more.

Even if you can’t attend the live event, the webinar will be recorded and sent to all registrants. The webinar normally costs $45, but you can get 15% off by entering the discount code MarcyTwitter10. Click here to register. (If webinars aren’t your thing, I also run a self-paced Beginner’s Guide to Twitter and Advanced Guide to Twitter.)

P.S. I’ve put together something special for everyone reading this post today. I’m offering a free PDF called “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Hiring a Freelance Editor.” Click here to sign up for your copy.

About Marcy:

Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy) is a 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. You can find her blogging about writing and about the place where real life meets science fiction, fantasy, and myth at www.marcykennedy.com.

I LOVE hearing from you and ma sure Marcy does too!

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

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

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97 Comments

Want to Be Interesting on Facebook? Let Followers See Oz

Original Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anurag Agnihotri

Original Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anurag Agnihotri

This week, I am taking a much-needed break, but I am leaving you in VERY capable hands. Hey, who do you think taught me to love and ROCK Facebook? One of the biggest fears we all have when getting on Facebook is we will bore our audiences to death. We feel the need to be clever and interesting at all times. Yeah, not necessary, so breathe….

Lisa is here to help!

WANA Facebook Maven Lisa-Hall Wilson

WANA Facebook Maven Lisa-Hall Wilson

One of the most common questions I get asked concerning Facebook is ‘What Do I Post?’

My advice is: ‘Let Them See Oz’

Your content strategy (yes – that dreaded word usually followed by a wide-eyed stare and a writer mumbling, I need a plan? Nobody told me I needed a plan. I’m telling you – you need a plan) must be varied, and there are a few key components to it – but something readers are always looking for is a peek into your world.

Screen Shot 2013-07-28 at 4.08.33 PM

Lisa – My life isn’t that interesting.

Whatever. Writers who shun the spotlight like Salinger, Harper Lee and Cormac McCarthy are the exceptions. Listen, to readers authors are these secluded exotic individuals – celebrities. Don’t laugh. I’m serious. lol – Well, mostly. Readers don’t understand the creative process, they fall in love with our voice, our wit, our insights, our quirky way of seeing things, the questions we ask. They beg for more from the characters they love, the worlds they want to jump into.

And they want to see Oz.

Screen Shot 2013-07-28 at 4.09.36 PM

I know Kristen’s into Star Wars and Star Trek and Zombies – but let’s not overlook the classics here. When Toto pulled back the curtain for the very first time, what were you expecting? That ordinary looking man was not what I had in mind – but I loved him even more because he was ordinary.

Readers want to see behind the curtain. They want to see Oz. Fans are tired of marketing’s smoke and mirrors ‘buy my book’ ‘look at me’ bravado. They want to see the real person behind the brand. People want to connect with people – not brands, which is why so many fans send a friend request instead of liking an author page. They don’t care that you’re balding, overweight, or have crooked teeth. You’re A Freaking Wizard!!! That’s still cool. So, give them what they want.

Screen Shot 2013-07-28 at 4.10.00 PM

Let your readers into your world (and I’m not talking about putting a shot of your breakfast bowl on Instagram). Readers are dying for a peek behind the proverbial curtain into the writer’s world and the writer’s mind. Whether this is a literal peek – a shot of you in your office or on location researching, or maybe sneak peeks on upcoming work, deals/coupons/sales, insights or editorials on links or events. What makes you happy? What makes you shake your fist at the sky?

But Lisa, I’m a private person. I don’t like to post about personal stuff.

Kristen’s written about that A LOT like here Why Pen Names Suck & Can Make Us Crazy. If you can write like Salinger or McCarthy then maybe you’ll win the author lotto and get to remain hidden in your cave. “May the odds be ever in your favor.” Yeeeeah – we know how that worked out.

Seriously – nobody wants to know what you ate for breakfast, or – being totally honest here – that your toddler finally figured out potty training. You don’t have to be THAT personal. Be yourself. What would you tell a group of friends about yourself in a local coffee shop?

Fans are tripping over themselves for this kind of stuff:

George R.R. Martin says the HBO’s version of the Iron Throne is WRONG

George R.R. Martin, author the Game of Thrones tales now a hit series on HBO, recently posted on his blog about his vision for the actual Iron Throne used in the TV series. He says the show got it wrong! I’m hooked. How did HE envision the actual throne? What did they get wrong? And he has an artist’s rendering of the throne as he sees it – almost.

I’m not even a fan and I clicked through to read this. I’ve never watched the TV series, and I only read 1.5 books in the series because I threw the book across the room the third time he killed a character I had fallen in love with. But I wanted to know what the director/producers got wrong. I wanted to know what HE saw in his head.

This is exactly the kind of thing readers are eager to consume. Above, I inserted a few random examples from best-selling authors using Facebook to connect with readers (not directly sell books). Find an author on Facebook who writes the same genre you do. What are they posting? How often are they posting? How are they ‘pulling back the curtain’ for readers? I’m not suggesting you copy what they’re doing, but use what they’re doing as a jumping off point for content specific to your brand, your writing, your fans.

THANK YOU, LISA!

Make sure you check out her classes over at WANA International. Facebook Start to Finish covers everything and it’s only $30 (it’s a PDF class). She is also teaching Advanced Techniques for Your Writer/Author Facebook Page.

I LOVE hearing from you and I know Lisa will too!

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

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

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Facing a Social Media Apocalypse? Sometimes We Need to Mend the Hearts We Hurt

Original image via WANA Commons courtesy of Cellar Door Films.

Original image via WANA Commons courtesy of Cellar Door Films.

When I wrote my new book, Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World, I picked the title for a very good reason (aside from the seriously cool Terminator reference). We are HUMAN authors in a digital world. We aren’t machines.

Since this week’s theme is “apocalypse” (carrying the torch for Piper Bayard), I thought this would be a good topic to discuss, because when we do screw up and hurt someone, it can truly feel like the end of the world.

Truth is, we are flesh and blood people with bad days and baggage. Granted, the lessons in the book (and this blog) are designed to help us navigate the sea of 0s and 1s with greater ease, but to assume we won’t ever oops, bungle, or just plain show our butt is unrealistic.

Last week I wrote a post Are You Alienating Friends on Facebook & Fracturing Your Platform. There was a writer, who quite unwittingly, offended me. Being overtired and touchy, I reacted. Now, I could have left my far-less-than-ideal response out of last week’s blog and looked like the Shining Pillar of Awesome, but one thing I’ve always striven for in my relationship with you guys is authenticity.

I want you to know that even “experts” have bad days. We check messages when we know deep down we need a pizza and a nap. We screw up.

Sigh. No Social Media Sainthood for Kristen.

Yeah, This is Gonna Hurt

We live in an age of authenticity, and to be authentic sometimes…well, sucks. I’d love for you guys to think I’m pink and fluffy and better than unicorn stickers. But I goof. Granted, I make it a point to goof as little as humanly possible, but sometimes? I stick my foot in it….and then in trying to get my foot out of it, stick the other foot in and then fall and get a mouthful and both hands and face stuck and….yeah, it becomes an On-Line LaBrea Tar Pit.

Original Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Spasoff

Original Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Spasoff

Even those of us who know better can get touchy and type before thinking. We err. It all goes with that “being humans and not robots” thing. Hey, I regularly tell you guys my book should be named I Did All the Dumb Stuff So You Don’t Have To. While it’s a humorous title, I am not kidding. I really have done all the dumb stuff so you don’t have to.

We can talk about ways to avoid these pitfalls, but I’ve already done a lot of this in my blogs and book. I think the bigger question today is, “What can we do when we’ve shown our butt and are staring down the barrel of a brand apocalypse?”

Own It

About two months ago, someone started a Facebook thread regarding a certain celebrity. The tone of the question that began the thread hinted that it wasn’t a serious discussion. Just a discussion of whether we thought celebrities were nuts. Yet, as the thread evolved, there became a distinct mixture of serious and joking banter.

Soon, it became difficult to decipher which was which.

Instead of me just shutting up, I tried to bring a balance of debate with humor into the thread. Big problem though. We don’t have the benefit of facial expression or tone of voice and humor can easily be lost or misinterpreted. I failed to see that point when I just needed to be quiet and I very unwittingly hurt some feelings.

My humor was taken as insensitivity and my passion on the matter was taken as bullying. I didn’t mean to bully. Doctors misdiagnosed me for two years with epilepsy (was actually a SEVERE gluten allergy). No matter how much I protested the diagnosis was wrong, the doctors were relentless.

They were top neurologists and what did I know?

Eventually, this misdiagnosis destroyed my career and my health, bankrupted me and left me homeless and unable to get a job because no employer was going to take on an epileptic (which is how I became a writer, ironically). It took nearly ten years to dig out of the financial mess and I still suffer long-term effects from taking medications I should never have been prescribed.

So I never intended to plow over people, but my own experiences have made me very wary of trusting everything a doctor says.

But looking back? This thread wasn’t the proper forum for that discussion.

The next day, when I realized some of what I’d posted had been taken very differently than intended, I feel I did two important things (that weren’t easy, btw). First, I clarified my position, but then I didn’t defend beyond that. I took the mea culpa and admitted I was wrong…because I was.

I was dead wrong.

Beware of Shifting Terrain

I believe as the digital world changes and evolves, sometimes we don’t see the Social Media Fault Lines until we are stranded under a pile of debris begging for someone to throw us a rope. It’s why I added this FB thread experience to my new book.

Oh, sure, I knew not to get in rants in blog comments or froth about politics and religion…but celebrities and medicine?

Never saw that going sideways. Seriously.

Original image vis Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Gabriel Pollard

Original image vis Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Gabriel Pollard

But I do now. Kristen CAN be taught! *happy dance*

I can guarantee I won’t make that mistake again (just New and Improved ones :D). I learned. I’ve seen similar threads since then and my first thought? Kristen, you do not have a dog in that fight. Even threads that look funny on the surface. If they are regarding something people can get emotional about? I steer clear. Hey, live and learn *shrugs*.

Do We Want to Be Right? Or Be Happy?

In my mind? I choose happy. The next day when one of my followers blogged about Mean Girls on Social Media, she didn’t name names because she was classy like that. She gave me an opportunity to own my mistakes.

Embarrassing as it was, I outed myself in the comments and apologized. I never meant to hurt anyone, but I did and that’s all that mattered. So I needed to apologize and ask forgiveness.

Same thing with the message from last week. My next message to this person after our tiff?

“Please forgive me for being a touchy @$$clown. I was tired and had the skin of a grape and there’s no excuse. I deeply apologize. What can I do to help you with your new book?”

I’m super happy I swallowed my pride because I made a new friend, FOR REAL. We have had so much fun talking and sharing content and this person writes in a genre that is one of my favorites. Just like this writer was going to miss out on a potential BFF by dissecting me from his FB following (and hurting my feelings), I very nearly missed making a BFF by being a touchy jerk (and hurting his).

Never Underestimate Falling on Your Sword for the Greater Good

Just like that writer had no idea he would hurt me, I’ve had times I’ve said things I had NO CLUE might wound others (like the notorious Celebrity Thread of DOOM). For me not to extend the digital olive branch would be hypocritical.

We all have bad days and if we want grace, we’re wise to be liberal at offering it, too. It’s no guarantee we can right the wrong (which is why staying out of trouble is still the best option), but it is still a step in the right direction. Building hearts is always better than trying to repair them.

We All Know the Basics

Don’t rant about politics and religion. Don’t rant when we get a bad review. Don’t leave mean/hateful comments. Don’t react out of anger. Most of us do a pretty good job of keeping that stuff straight. It’s the gray areas where we get in trouble. Sometimes it’s tough to sense when we are too tired, strung out and should just find a cave somewhere. Sometimes we are trying to be funny or poignant and blow it.

If we spend any amount of time on social media, we are guaranteed to step on toes and hurt feelings. The key is to remember that love should be paramount. Pride and “being right” is highly overrated. And often, when we do own our mistake and ask forgiveness, the relationship is stronger. So never be afraid to just say, “I’m sorry.”

What are your thoughts? Have you ever put your foot in it and had to make things right even though it sucked? Come on! I can’t be the ONLY one….please. Have you ever taken the high road and it worked out for the best? Have you fallen into some social media traps we might not be aware of? Have you ever been a super awesome person who forgave someone like me who acted like an @$$hat and were you glad you did?

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

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

Also, Remember there is a class on Antagonists THIS Friday (recorded if you can’t make it). Use WANA15 for 15% off.

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