Posts Tagged authors

What’s Ahead in 2013–Predictions for the Future of Publishing and Authors of the Digital Age

Writers, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Writers, there is light at the end of the tunnel. (Thank you Scotty 00 for the image via WANA Commons).

Ah, 2012 is coming to a close and the world did not end. The Mayans were wrong *shocked face* which kinda sucks because I was looking forward to not having to clean out the garage after all. But, in keeping with tradition, I am going to make my predictions for the coming year. Using a magic eight-ball and alcohol a highly scientific method, I will postulate what I believe will happen in the publishing world in the next 12 months.

Yes, I am posting this blog on a Saturday. Gives us time for a healthy (and courteous) debate before the ball drops. That and I plan on sleeping most of Monday and Tuesday before I have to go back to being an adult :P.

So what’s in store for 2013? I have a lot of predictions, but you guys only have so much time, so we will only hit the big ones.

2013 and Traditional Publishing

Too little too late. Sorry. I believe that traditional publishing has maybe another five years, but lot of the implosion will be seen this year. They could have been AT&T, but they made choices that doomed them to be MCI or Sprint if they are lucky.

Before anyone gets mad at me, I am very sad about this. Those of you who have followed my blog for any length of time, know that I was rooting for NY to get with the changing paradigm and remain a viable force. The problem is multifaceted, but here is some of what I believe we will see in 2013 (and I will pick on the indies equally later in the post):

a) Too Much Overhead Catches Up

Traditional publishing is centered in the beating heart of Manhattan, which would be great if that wasn’t some of the priciest real estate in the world. NY publishing is carrying a crap load of overhead their competition doesn’t have. There are high rents, salaries, and electric bills all being 1) factored into the price of the book and 2) taken out of the author’s pocket.

This wasn’t an issue so long as digital publishing was in its infancy and there were no other viable options for authors. Unfortunately for NY, now there are other options and these options are leaner, meaner, and faster. This means that consumers get good books cheaper and the writers get paid better (and faster). This all adds up for a WIN for authors and consumers, but NY is finding itself less and less competitive. The market is in a recession and most consumers cannot justify $24 for a hard cover book, when they can get digital books for $4.99.

Expect traditional publishing to continue to merge, shrink and downsize. We saw the Big Six go to the Big Five to the Not Too Shabby Four in the span of six weeks. This trend will continue. It has to for them to have any hope of taking on Amazon.

Again, this all reminds me of all the little phone companies back in the 90s that eventually all folded against the onslaught of AT&T. Who remembers MCI? Anyone?

To take on a giant, NY will need to become a giant. I mentioned this type of consolidation in my July post Big Six Publishing is Dead—Welcome the Massive Three.

b) Hemorrhaging the Mid-List

Mid-list authors have always been where traditional publishing groomed the next mega author. The mega authors are who help pay the bills. Yet, mid-list authors have had a heck of a time even making a living. I have met NYTBSAs who still weren’t making enough money to write full-time.

These types of authors are already accustomed to being very self-sufficient, expecting very little support from NY. These authors blog, tweet, run contests, have a social platform, and do everything an indie author does…except make money. As I have said before, writers are bad at math, but we aren’t that bad. Hungry small presses are going after these authors and luring them away, leaving NY with less and less emerging talent.

c) Bookstores are Losing Power

Bookstores have light bills, rent, and employees to pay. Yes, we will still have bookstores, just not on every corner. NY’s ability to get an author into bookstores was one of its aces in the hole, but now that ace doesn’t go as far as it used to. Authors are making six and seven figures selling indie and on-line. Sure, we writers would love to see our books at a Barnes & Noble, but most of us would trade that warm fuzzy for the ability to actually make money.

Also as more talent goes indie (Barry Eisler, Bob Mayer, Joe Konrath) and more true indie authors gain huge followings (Theresa Ragan, Aaron Patterson), bookstores will become increasingly friendly to those who are not traditionally published, because, again, money talks. Bookstores want to stock books that sell, so eventually they won’t be as picky. Also, as better writers emerge from the indie ranks, the stigma of self-publishing will grow fainter until it disappears.

I see more bookstores closing and being replaced by machines like these (image below). Yeah, Blockbuster thought people would always want to browse a video store, and they were wrong, too. For more about this, I recommend my post The WANA Plan to Save Bookstores and Revive Publishing. I think kiosks like these and creative independent bookstores (with Espresso Machines) will pick up traction in the new paradigm.

If Best Buy will do this, why not B&N?

If Best Buy will do this, why not B&N?

d) Partnering with Crooks

I’ve been on the bandwagon for traditional publishing to open divisions for self-publishing for YEARS, and, because I don’t believe in criticizing without offering solutions, I even offered a plan to do it in such a way that it would not tarnish their brand. NY apparently has been hesitant to enter the emerging market in self-publishing out of concern for their brand. That is a viable argument and I can definitely appreciate their reticence.

But then Simon & Schuster partners with Jimmy the Tire Iron AUTHOR HOUSE? This company has a long history of ripping authors off, and it doesn’t look like much has changed. According to a recent New York Times article about the new partnership:

Authors can buy packages ranging from $1,599 for the least expensive children’s package, to $24,999 for the most expensive business book package.

All I have to ask is, “What are these people smoking?”

Any author who’s taken more than a minute to do her homework knows those prices are RIDICULOUS. That might have been competitive pricing…in 1994! Now? This is just…just…insulting.

Author House has a long history of complaints, so I find it interesting that traditional publishing would not delve into self-publishing because it was worried about tarnishing its brand, but once it finally decides to join the 21st century, it partners with AUTHOR HOUSE.

Really? Just…really.

Writers, do your homework! Come join WANATribe. Make an educated decision about your career. If you want to be traditionally published, do so, but do it for the right reasons and be informed. WANATribe has plenty of professionals who can offer sound guidance.

Those of you who want to self-publish or go indie, we also have all kinds of tribes dedicated to indie and self-publishing. Network with people who know the ropes and who can mentor you about all your options. The cool thing about indie authors is we are all about the love. We are not alone! Most indies are generous with time and advice. There is no reason you can’t have a professionally edited book that is designed beautifully with a cover as good as anything out of NY for a fraction of that $25,000 dollars.

For further analysis about the problems traditional publishing is facing, read Bracing for Impact—The Future of Big Publishing in the New Paradigm and An Industry on the Brink—5 Mistakes that are KILLING Traditional Publishing.

Moving on…

2013 and Indie Publishing

Meets the Threshing Floor

I feel we are going through a time which is very similar to the dot.com boom in the 90s. Everyone suddenly was a dot.com, but most were paper giants. Time weeded out the weak, and the same thing will happen here.

We have seen an explosion of indie publishers in the past two years. Everyone is a publisher. Like the dot.coms, a lot of these “publishers” won’t last. Too many people think being a publisher is easy, or they are in this business to make a quick buck. Yet, being a publisher is A TON of work and requires a certain level of commitment, education, capital and sweat equity.

Human nature dictates that most will quit in the next year.

As better books emerge out of the indie ranks, the competition will grow steeper. Sure, two years ago people were downloading all kinds of FREE! books and .99 books, but consumers have grown tired of downloading crap they never read. Gatekeepers exist for a reason, and throwing out a bunch of cheap books no longer works as well when everyone does it. The good news is that consumers are willing to pay more for e-books, but the bad news is that people won’t just download anything these days. Writers will have to write better books and be active on social media creating relationships.

As far as 2013, I don’t see the number of indie publishers shrinking. If anything, we might have even MORE of these publishers. As some close, new ones will quickly fill the vacuum. But, we will see a trend toward consumers not just buying anything, and this will bankrupt/discourage those who thought their fortunes would be made .99 at a time.

The Strong Will Survive…then Start Recruiting

Those indie publishers who rise to the top will be on the lookout for new talent. I predict that they will go after mid-list authors and make them offers they can’t refuse. These publishers will also be on the lookout for authors with extensive back-lists. Old books will be given new life and writers who were barely scraping out a living will now be able to enjoy new fruits of their labors, as in ALL of them.

Traditional publishing continues to grab up author’s rights to back-lists…only to sit on them and do nothing. This only makes authors even more willing to defect, and frankly, can we blame them?

Scams Will Abound for the Foolish

Do your homework. Author House is a racket, but it ain’t the only racket in town. I see all kinds of new services popping up to help new writers…as in help themselves to a bunch of your cash. Ripoff publishers, scammy social media “gurus”, PR phoneys, and fake “editors” will be popping up everywhere.

Caveat emptor.

These days, with the Internet, there is no reason to be taken for a ride. Vet people first. Ask around for recommendations. Part of why I created WANA International is so that you guys could have access to the best services from legitimate sources. Being a writer is stressful enough without worrying about being conned.

2013 and Amazon

E-Books Go Mainstream

Amazon reported record sales of the Kindle Fire this Christmas. Tablet sales have exploded and as the price point drops, this trend is likely to continue. Remember, cell phones were once considered a luxury item, too. Digital reading devices crossed from the Early Adopters into the Early Majority this year (as I predicted this past summer) on the Diffusion of Innovations Curve. This means the fat part of the bell curve owns or wants to own one of these devices. This is AWESOME news for writers, in that people who normally would not consider themselves readers are now buying books.

Every publishing mega-success has been created by the fat part of the bell curve falling in love with a book or author.

J.K. Rowling became a billionaire selling books to people who normally don’t read. The fact that the fat part of the bell curve is now plugged in and looking for good books is SUPER exciting.

E-Readers are now going mainstream. Even my 87-year-old grandfather asked for a Kindle Fire for his birthday. He loves the convenience (not so easy to browse a bookstore when you’re almost 90) and he also loves that he can make the font larger. Baby Boomers are older, have more time, more disposable income, and are becoming more and more tech-savvy as interfaces become more user-friendly.

Amazon banked on e-readers becoming a staple item and that gamble has paid off.

Amazon Will Get Into the Brick and Mortar Business

Amazon has become a name to be feared when it comes to e-commerce, but there are still limitations to selling on-line. Also, in my opinion, Amazon Publishing is the woman in the red dress who finally wants a ring. She wants to be legit, and the only way to do this is to have a physical presence in a bookstore. Back in the summer, I predicted that Amazon would get into the brick-and-mortar biz.

The age of bookstores all selling the same books is over. Amazon has a wealth of new talent along with a treasure trove of back-list to offer. I feel Amazon redefined publishing in the Digital Age, and they will also reinvent the bookstore. Give us a B. Dalton for the 21st century. I feel they will learn from the mistakes of their competition and bring a leaner, meaner bookstore to consumers. This physical space is ideal for selling their Kindle Fire and for taking on Apple.

This is all good news for consumers and authors, but there are dangers with Amazon. Amazon is NOT a panacea. For more about this, read Amazon–Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts.

Amazon Will Move More into Being a “Legitimate” Publisher

Amazon wanted NY to burn, but namely so it could take the Big Six’s place. This trend will continue and Amazon will keep signing bigger and bigger names. The traditional publishers have cut the size of their sales force, have radically cut author advances and they are taking on fewer new authors. Thing is, agents need to eat, too. Thus, I believe that agents will become more open to pursuing non-traditional publishing paths for their clients, which means Amazon wins.

2013 and Authors

Good Times Ahead

More readers, more options, and better pay. Sure there is more work, but suck it up, Buttercup. We all want to “Just write” but that isn’t reality and it really never has been. Authors who “just wrote” historically had a 93% failure rate (according to BEA statistics). Nowadays we have a lot better odds of success. Great writing combined with a solid work ethic is a ticket to being able to do what we love…and get PAID.

Writers—More of Them

This new explosion of self-published authors will continue. It is estimated that 75% of all Americans believe they want to write a book, and now they are doing it. The new paradigm makes it possible for all writers to share the stories they have inside of them. The downside is that “inside” is exactly where a lot of these books should remain, sealed behind some Aztec seal foretelling doom if opened. To be blunt, a lot of amateurs are entering the market with no clue how to write a novel. For more about this, I recommend my post, Five Mistakes KILLING Self-Published Authors.

WARNING!!! Bad Books Ahead

Just because we have command of our native tongue in no way means we possess the skill to craft a work spanning 60-100,000+ words. It is shocking to me how many writers publish their books, but they can’t even define “antagonist” or “POV.” There are a lot of people interested in shortcuts these days, and unfortunately they are dumping countless bad books in the laps of consumers. Terrible writing, no understanding of narrative structure or POV, poor formatting, major typos, grammar issues, the list goes on. The poor reader has been handed the slush pile.

Emerging Gatekeepers

This deluge of bad books will necessitate the rise of new gatekeepers. In the face of sock puppets, phoney reviews, endless spam, and fake recommendations, we need some form of a legitimate resource to act as a guide in this information glut. Book bloggers and authentic social media word of mouth helps, but the need for effective gate-keeping grows by the day.

I feel that the growing indie presses will help. Eventually readers will catch on to what presses offer quality books and they will stick to favorite presses and favorite authors like glue. Thus in 2013, I see the successful small indie presses enjoying more success simply because consumers are using them as gatekeepers.

Surge in New Types of Writing

In the new paradigm, we will see a surge in works that traditionally could not be published due to the depressing ROI (return on investment). We will see more short stories, novellas, books of poems, memoirs, screenplays, etc. We will also see the creation of new genres, such as fiction targeted specifically to Baby Boomers (I have seen this recently and it is brilliant). Instead of YA, BBA.

Additionally, the technology affords us the ability to offer books of different ratings. Say I write a romantic thriller that has lots of cursing and sex and is easily an NC-17. I can offer that book to an adult market, but I can easily create a PG-13 version. Do a word search for profanity and edit it out. Instead of hard core sex scenes, do a “cut-to.” Now my fans can read the version they feel most comfortable reading. Also, if they like the book, they can feel good about sharing the story with teenage children.

The technology allows books to be longer, offer a “director’s cut” and even offer up alternate endings. Technology offers a lot of creative ways to get our product to consumers the way they want to have it.

2013—The Year of the Writer

Overall this is an AMAZING time to be a writer. Writers aren’t all the same, so why should our career path be the same? We all have different goals, different works, different dreams and finally we have a paradigm that is favorable to our kind. Our kind has been telling stories and teaching since humans huddled in caves, but now we are finally being rewarded for our hard work.

In 2013, we will see an emerging “creative middle class” as the old paradigm fades away. In the old days, a handful of creative aristocrats held most of the wealth while the “creative majority” lived a starving life of artistic serfdom. That is going away.

There are good things ahead. The world is uncertain. The world is scary. But, just remember…

We are not alone.

So what are your thoughts? Do you agree? Disagree? Why? I don’t mind people disagreeing with me so long as you are polite :D. Remember, guessing is NOT science. What are your predictions? What did I miss?

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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. 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 also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

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

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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142 Comments

Politics, Religion, Social Media & How Great Writers Change the World

The Internet and social media offer us tremendous power and control over our author career, but with great power comes great responsibility. Sometimes we need to make tough decisions. We must remember that everything we say and do on-line serves as part of our brand. We are closing in on an election and it is tough to remain indifferent, but no one ever said the life of a professional author was easy.

When Are We Getting in the Danger Zone?

All of us have a faith and a political affiliation, but unless we are a religious or political writer we need to be VERY careful. We are counting on others in our social network to help us, to share, RT and tell people about our books.

If we hope to build a platform that will reach out and include readers, we need to remember that if we spend half our time calling them idiots, they probably won’t be terribly supportive. Additionally, if we have to hide other writers from our feeds because they make our blood pressure spike, then we can’t easily support them because we can’t SEE them.

What Brand are We After Anyway?

We must be aware that we can be friends with all kinds of people, and non-stop ranting and name-calling is uncool and a bad way to build a platform…unless our goal is to be known as a political-ranting-hater-jerk. If our goal is to be the next Howard Stern, Bill Maher or Rush Limbaugh then sally forth, but don’t send me a friend request. I have no time for people who cannot be respectful of others and their beliefs.

So if we are NOT political or religious writers, we need to be mindful that we aren’t bludgeoning part of our support network.

Are we running for office or wanting to sell books?

Beware–The Genie Doesn’t Go BACK in the Bottle On-Line

One of the biggest reasons we do have to be careful of everything we write on-line, is, once it is out there, we can’t control it. If we decide to blog about some politically hot topic because we need to get something off our chest, that is fine, but prepare for some consequences. It very well might just be another of many blogs and life continues on as usual…or it could totally dismantle our platform and irreparably alter our brand. We don’t know who is going to read that post, and we can’t control where and how it is spread how it is twisted and…what if it goes viral?

What takes YEARS to build can take only minutes to destroy.

I was friends with a writer who had a decent little blog following. He suddenly decided to blog about a topic so volatile, it had sparked riots across the U.S. I suppose he thought his readers would be level-headed and rational when they read his post, but they were anything but. People were deeply hurt and divided, and this writer was inundated with long, emotional, angry e-mails.

His readers felt they could trust him for a certain kind of content and then he took a weird left turn that left them all feeling icky. This writer spent months repairing the damage, and I’m unsure if the harm could ever be completely undone. This writer had never expected this post to be a big deal, yet, once he hit Publish, the genie was out of the bottle and there was no putting it back.

The genie also has a way of landing collateral damage. There were very angry people who knew we were friends who made it their mission to also come after me. I spent days shutting down trolls and hate mail for a post I never even wrote and would never have, in a million years, approved of.

We need to remember WE ARE NOT ALONE. Our actions have consequences and sometimes they can inflict collateral damage. Not only did this writer’s platform and brand suffer, but friendships were damaged as well.

Social Media is a Giant Cocktail Party, Yet Not

If you like kittens then you are a moron!

Did that change your mind?

People who like dogs are idiots. Americans spend way too much money on stupid brainless pets when they could be spending it on rainbows.

Did that make you want to give up your pets and spend money other ways? No? What? You didn’t like being called names and told what you love and value is stupid?

Here is the thing, most of that hater junk floating around Facebook is not going to change hearts and minds. If that is what we want to do, win people over, then ranting and name-calling is a faulty plan that makes us look like insensitive jerks.

One of the main problems with social media, is that it is like a cocktail party…yet it isn’t. We have all the expectations of a cocktail party, but there is a computer between us. Most of us would not show up to a party and start ranting and name-calling and beating people up with our beliefs.

On social media, we tend to gravitate to people who love the same things we do—writing, books, kittens, dogs—but that does not naturally presume we are all homogenous on the political and religious front. At a cocktail party we would also gravitate to people who liked talking about the same things—writing, books, dogs, kittens—but we would have the benefit of body language to know when we were hurting others or treading into dangerous water with the conversation.

Remember social media is social, but we need to take extra care what we post. We don’t have the same social litmus tests on-line to know when we are alienating others. Often people won’t confront us directly. They will unfriend, unfollow or hide our feed, and that isn’t going to help us eventually sell books. Additionally, computers don’t afford the same social filters. Arguments can easily get completely out of control and become a Frankenstein that takes out our entire platform.

I remember an instance where some person commented on something political on Twitter and a popular rapper happened to see it and take offense. This rapper then mobilized his platform of millions against said tweeter and the poor woman had to get off Twitter and practically go into Witness Protection. Social media is like a loaded gun. Handle with extreme care.

Great Writers Use Story to Change the World

Every time I blog about politics and social media, I hear the outcry about how writers have an obligation to change the world, how we should be doing more than writing about vampires that sparkle. I completely agree. But posting hateful Facebook cartoons are for regular people who are not gifted with the creative power of prose.

Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle to highlight the plight of the immigrant workers who were being exploited. He used story to highlight wage slavery, corruption and horrific practices (mainly) in the meatpacking industry. This book led to the formation of the FDA and was one of the vanguards for social programs for the poor and better treatment for workers.

To Kill a Mockingbird took on racism in the court system and paved the way for equal rights. Animal Farm was Orwell’s commentary on Stalin and he showed through story how the corruption of leadership was what would poison any revolution. Brave New World, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 1984, Catcher in the Rye the list goes on. THIS is how real writers change the world.

Star Trek didn’t come on TV and rant about how all races should work together and women were more than secretaries. Star Trek showed that world. Gene Roddenberry put the world he envisioned in story form to change hearts and minds in a nonthreatening way, and he did it. Joss Whedon has dedicated his screenwriting career to busting apart stereotypes.

SHOW Don’t TELL

Story is very powerful because it harnesses empathy and it draws readers into being part of a narrative. Audiences/readers are part of something, not being attacked, so they are more likely to be convicted and have a change of heart. We see characters who shatter our preconceived ideas, we get attached and then BOOM! change.

Sorry, Charlie. This Angel’s gone rogue…

In my opinion, Terminator 2 did more to shatter stereotypes of weak females than a hundred angry protests. We saw Sarah Connor, were mesmerized by her strength, her power, how a mother had been utterly redefined. She didn’t wait on a man or wear lip gloss. She learned to use a freaking AR-15 to defend her son and the save world she loved.

AND WE LOVED IT!

Characters like Sarah Connor opened the door for strong female heroes, and the more society was exposed to these daring dames, the more we grew to love and accept them in these new roles. Now we see women in more and more professions that once were “Men Only.” We now see women on SWAT teams and flying fighter jets, and writers helped that happen.

Leave the misspelled Photoshop rants to amateurs and regular people. We are not like them. We are not mere mortals. We are writers, and, when we want to change the world, it changes.

Protect the Brand

Social media is a lot of fun and it has a lot of advantages, but as professionals we need to always remember that our brand is a cumulation of EVERYTHING we do on-line. So if we start Twitter fights and rant and name-call and blog about volatile topics, we take a risk. Even when we don’t rant, ANY political blog can be taken by the opposition as an attack. Why risk it?

I hope you guys DO change the world. Write books that change hearts and minds and make the world better then use social media to get people to read those books. We are people not robots, I get that. I know this is an uncomfortable topic, but it is part of my responsibility as the social media expert for writers to address it.

For those of you who want more instruction of how to blog and use your blog to build a supportive community for your work, my October blogging class is now open. It’s two months long and takes you from idea to launch and can be done at your own pace and on your own time.

So what are your thoughts? Concerns? What great works of literature do you feel did the most to change society? What are your favorites?

I LOVE hearing from you guys! And since we have a guest today, every comment counts DOUBLE in the contest.

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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. 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 also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

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

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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73 Comments

Big Six Publishing is Dead–Welcome the Massive Three

The Reader of the Digital Age–Trust me, he won’t miss paper.

Ah, the times they have changed. The year was 1983 and life was good. Summers filled with trampolines, swimming pools and evening walks to the snow cone stand. Cartoons were only on Saturdays, and if we stayed up too late playing Bloody Mary and toilet-papering the neighbor’s trees and overslept, we were out of luck for another week.

Music stores were a rare treat, a place to spend birthday money or blow our allowance, and a Fox Photo Hut graced virtually every grocery store parking lot. My mother would always turn in the film and then the car would break down and we’d run out of money. No one knows how many of my brother’s baby photos were lost.

What did they DO with all those pictures people couldn’t afford to pick up?

Who would have thought that one day, everyone would walk around typing messages on a phone? Or taking and then sending pictures with that phone?  Who would have believed that a computer company would be a larger distributer of music than Tower Records? That car stereos would stream tunes from satellites floating above the Earth’s atmosphere? No more cassette tapes. Who could have envisioned a day that Kodak would be a memory and a home telephone an anachronism?

It is an amazing time, and I can say that Star Trek fans did envision a lot of these changes. Yet, even when we see it coming, it is very surreal to see it actually here. As an avid Trekkie, I do like to think of myself as a Futurist, so today we are going to indulge my future vision.

The Big Six have a new problem…Microsoft.

Yes, it does look like Microsoft is what is going to save Barnes & Noble’s tails. From this article by Felix Salmon on WIRED:

Barnes & Noble has sold a 17.6% stake in its digital and college businesses to Microsoft, for $300 million — a deal which values B&N’s remaining 82.4% stake at $1.4 billion. And while the $300 million is staying in the new joint venture and therefore not available to help the bookstore chain with cashflow issues, the news does mean that Barnes & Noble won’t need to constantly find enormous amounts of money to keep up in the arms race with Amazon. That’s largely Microsoft’s job, now.

So why is this a problem for the Big Six?

The same reason that Apple (a computer company) was a problem for Tower Records, that Sprint (a cell phone company) spelled death for Kodak and that Amazon (an on-line distributor of everything from camping equipment to push-up bras) gave Border’s its mortal blow.

The Big Six are dead. Welcome the Massive Three. More on this in a moment…

The past ten years have been nothing but market Darwinism. The slower species who refused to adapt to the new climate after the comet strike (birth of the Internet coupled with an affordable personal computer) are now being devoured by the faster, hungrier and more agile creatures.

Notice Tower Records, how it defended how music-lovers, “would always want CDs and music stores.” Instead of realizing it was in the “music business” not the CD business, it stood there, dumb and immobile…..*munch* then the Appleosaurus Rex ate it whole.

Then Kodak stood looking at the shiny black hole that was its business plan. It put both feet in and got stuck. Sprint flew out of the sky and took chunk after chunk while the Kodak beast cried foul. “People will always want film pictures!” it wailed as it bled.

All the Kodak beast had to do was grab the digital stick, but it was too stuck. Soon the other digital predators smelled blood and the parsed the Kodak beast until it finally died in a pool of red.

Now we come to the book distributors and publishers. “People will always want paper!” they cry, even as they can smell Border’s bloated, dead storefronts rotting in the sun.

I think the metaphor is clear.

Amazon took out Borders and gave Barnes & Noble a nice flesh wound. The Amazonasaurus also took a nice chunk out of the Big Six. B&N and the Big Six need to ask the hard question.

Will people really always want paper? Did they really always want records and CDs? No. Did they really always want film? No. The view from the cave is nothing but a graveyard of former giants, bleached bones from the rulers of an age that has passed.

Adapt or die is the message. Ah, but the Big Six could have a problem.

See Barnes & Noble has proven it can scrabble with the best of them and even get in some sucker punches below the belt. They had no problem devouring the indie bookstore when it suited them to claw their way to the top of the food chain. Now that it has partnered with Microsoft, should the Big Six be worried?

My opinion? YES.

Barnes and Noble likes being an apex predator. It got a taste for being on top in the 90s, and, make no mistake, it longs to revive the glory days.

Who can blame them?

If I were the Big Six, I would worry big time. Why? Because, the only disposable part of this relationship is…the publishing houses.

I have to say, my hat is off to B&N. That company has moxie. I’ve blogged a number of times how the Big Six should have revisited its relationship with B&N. Once books went digital and e-book sales took off, propping up a paper distributor was just a bad plan.

In my blog Bracing for Impact–The Future of Big Publishing in the New Paradigm I said there was really no reason that the Big Six couldn’t sell directly to the consumer and just distribute the books themselves. I advised that they make the move and go digital. For paper? Focus on POD technology, the consignment model was too inefficient.

Hmmm, a fan of this blog sent the link to that post to the CEO of B&N. Curiouser and curiouser…

I LOVE NY publishing. I have consistently tried to help them. With the model I proposed, New York would never again have wasted money on books that didn’t sell. They could have ruled the Digital Age well. The Big Six would have only sold books that, well…sold. And in my model, they could have partnered with Barnes & Noble and done it together.

Ah, but B&N has a new friend, and you know the saying, “Two is company and three is a crowd.”

Some see Microsoft’s investment as a good thing for publishing. Finally, Amazon is going to get a run for its money. Not only does the Nook now have the backing of the Windows giant, but now consumers don’t need to buy an e-reader to have one.

Now an e-reader will be built into every Microsoft operating system. Kindles and Nooks will eventually be for only the die-hard fans, because readers won’t really need them (kind of like cameras were replaced by our cell phones).

Amazon has been able to gain market share by capitalizing on its Kindle. Ah, but that was before the Microsoftisaurus decided it wanted to get into the publishing business, and, Barnes and Noble, being the crafty survivor, made a big new friend a bad new digital world. Microsoft is investing because it just makes sense.

Amazon shouldn’t be the only one reporting record gains each quarter. While the Microsoft-B&N deal is serious bad juju for Amazon, I think they will weather just fine. Amazon is the very definition of “adaptable.”

I have consistently wondered why New York didn’t grab hold of e-publishing. Why couldn’t the Big Six open digital divisions? Why didn’t they seek out Microsoft? Why couldn’t Random House have a self-publishing division that allowed authors to upload e-books for sale (um, like B&N’s PubIt). Then they could vet out authors, and only “officially” represent those authors who’d met a certain standard (X amount of sales).

I know this new world seems very strange, but it seems as if computer companies are destined to rule the Digital Age, which I suppose only makes sense. It has a bit of poetry to it if one thinks about it.

The Big Six, in my opinion, are in big trouble, because they really are no longer…necessary. This doesn’t make me at all happy to predict. I’ve tried and tried and tried to help, but to no avail. The Big Six might remain for a few more years, but frankly, what advantage do they hold? What do they really have to offer other that a crap load of overhead?

Sure they have a love for the written word that the new giants don’t possess, but then again, Kodak held an unrivaled passion for photography and that didn’t save them from the iPhone.

No matter what way I look at it, I can’t see how the Big Six can remain relevant. The Windows has closed, pardon the pun.

Literary agents and editors have home mortgages to pay, and they’ll go where the money is (and NY is hemorrhaging cash). No one can fault them for wanting to eat and be able to put braces on their kids’ teeth. Cover design? I think Microsoft can handle finding a graphic designer or two.

Oh, and then Microsoft doesn’t have to build in stratospheric Manhattan rents and horrific costs of shipping paper into the book price.

NY once had a sole lock on distribution. Well, that went away. Then, they were the Gatekeepers who offered us the promise of a certain quality (just ignore the Snookie book deal).

Yet, indie has really changed. Some of the best books are coming out of this movement. Additionally, some of NY’s best talent has defected (Bob Mayer, Joe Konrath, and Barry Eisler to name a few) and more are bound to follow. Authors are getting tired of the depressing odds of success in the traditional paradigm, and instead of NY offering its authors a bold new plan for the future (like partnering with Microsoft FIRST), it comes up with brilliant gems like “agency pricing.”

Oh, and then there is the new talent, the fresh ranks. Unpublished writers are seeing their friends self-publish and make thousands of dollars a month and that is very appealing. Logic dictates that some of the best writers who work the hardest and who are the most professional might just try it alone first.

Writers now don’t have to keep querying and hope for gatekeeper approval. We can go to the reader and try our luck there. We might not make enough to live off at first, but, frankly, the slush pile doesn’t give us gas money.

*waves to Amazon*

What I don’t understand is that these companies don’t seem to grasp that the nostalgia card only plays so far. Microsoft understands what the Big Six doesn’t. People won’t always want paper. They want to push a button and a have a book delivered quickly and cheaply from outer space.

In a world where gas is $5 a gallon, why would we want to fight traffic across town to go to a physical bookstore? In a world where we can have hot yummy pizza delivered to our doors in 30 minutes, why would we wait a week for a book in the mail?

Really.

So what do I see? Instead of Big Six, we now have the Massive Three–Apple, Microsoft and Amazon. Amazon likely will open physical bookstores (probably in old Borders storefronts). And Microsoft will just use B&N to sell paper and maybe some Nooks. Yes, paper will always be around, it just won’t be the lion’s share like it used to be.

And writers? We are artists and they will always need us to produce the content. We have to adapt as well and this is why I have dedicated the last few years of my life training writers for the Digital Age. It is a WONDERFUL time to be a writer.

Welcome to the future. Beam me up, Scotty!

Okay, so what are your thoughts? Does someone see what advantage the Big Six still holds? How can they pull out of this tail-spin? Do you think I am wrong about the Massive Three? Is this a good thing for writers? Is this bad for writers?

I LOVE hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of May, 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of May I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note–Will announce the winner Friday. Thanks :D .

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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249 Comments

Voice–The Key to Literary Magic Part 1

 

One of my new favorite movies is the Woody Allen film Midnight in Paris, and I feel all writers should watch this movie. Gil Pender (the protagonist) is a Hollywood hack who longs to live in Paris and become a real writer. He yearns to leave his rich and accepted life as a screenwriter and, instead, finish his novel about a man working in a nostalgia shop.

His fiancee is less than thrilled and never loses an opportunity to snipe Gil and his dream. She deliberately crushes any silly fantasy that might get Gil sidetracked from his healthy income in L.A. She is accustomed to a certain lifestyle that “Gil the in-demand commercial movie genius” can provide. “Gil the novelist” threatens that comfort.

Gil, on the other hand, believes he is a man born too late, that if he’d been born in another time, his life would also be different. He believes the perfect era for him would have been Paris in the 20s. If only he’d been part of the Roaring Renaissance of the 20s, his life would be better…no, perfect.

Fortune and a strange ripple in the space-time continuum permit Gil to step into this “Golden Age of Paris” and finally experience what he believes has passed him by. It is on this adventure that Gil makes friends with all kinds of artists from Paris in the 20s—Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Faulkner, T.S. Eliot, Picasso, and Salvador Dali, to name a few. Through this adventure, Gil begins to understand what is really wrong with his life.

He lacks courage.

In Gil’s real life in 2011, he doesn’t have the courage to claim what is rightfully his…his right to want to become a novelist. He endures the constant jabs and barbs and apologizes for his dream, his novel, his less-than-glamorous protagonist, and even his existence. Gil is so insecure, he can’t see the truth and betrayal before his eyes.

Over the course of the story, Gil learns that the problem rests with him. It isn’t the time period or the choice in mates or even the occupation of his protagonist that are the problem…he is. Until he finds courage, nothing will work. No time period will “fit,” no love will be “right,” and his writing will always be beige.

It takes great courage to write great books. Find your courage and find your voice.

The Writer Inferiority Complex

Many writers suffer from a terrible inferiority complex. We believe we are not “real writers” until we have met some outside standard of approval. Even though we have logged hundreds of hours over a keyboard and written thousands of words and queried dozens of agents, we still aren’t real.

This inferiority complex is dangerous.

If we aren’t writers (one who writes), then what are we? Until we name it and claim it we are merely hobbyists, dabblers and dreamers. Writers write. Confidence leads to better stories. Confidence doesn’t feel the need to parrot J.K. Rowling or Stephenie Meyer. Confidence is at the heart of every sort of art. Our confidence must always be dancing along the ledge of danger for our works to be thrilling.

Weak, scared writers don’t dance on literary ledges.

As long as we are pitiful and wimpy and apologizing for having a dream, we won’t take risks and writing without risk is called “crap.” I love the line in Midnight in Paris when Pender is having a conversation about his novel and apologizing that his main character is not more sophisticated. Hemingway responds with this:

No subject is terrible if the story is true, if the prose is clean and honest, and if it affirms courage and grace under pressure.

We don’t need to set our stories in Paris, or make our characters bazillionaire double-agents to be interesting. We don’t need to “write for the market” to get published by New York or to become successful indies. We need to find then hone our writing voice, and it is that voice that will make even the most mundane magical.

But this comes with courage and courageous writers don’t waste time “aspiring.”

How Do We Find and Develop our Writing Voice?

There are all kinds of ways to discover then develop our writing voice. Next week we will start exploring them. Yes, I am working on shorter blog posts. Anyway, over the course of this new series, I will do my best to offer tangible, doable tactics and even point you guys to some of the best resources. Yet, I will be blunt with you because I care. No matter how many craft books or classes, a great voice can only be birthed from fearlessness.

Voice Makes All the Difference

Whether we are an indie author or we long to be a successful traditionally published author, we have a choice of what kind of writer we long to be. There is no shame in admitting we don’t care to win the Pulitzer. Yet, even those writers who want to write pulp fiction will find greater success if they develop a voice that readers love and can’t wait to buy more of. Voice is important for ALL writers. Yes, even the NF authors.

Voice is what will make us distinctive from the competition, which is why we are going to spend some time understanding voice. Ah, but when it comes to finding and developing our writing voice, we need to ask the tough questions before we proceed:

Am I humble enough to admit I don’t know everything?

Can I check my ego long enough to learn from those who know more than I do?

Can I face rejection and criticism and keep going?

Can I be happy writing even if I never make money?

What kind of writer do I want to be?

What is most important to me?

How do I define success?

How hard am I willing to work?

What am I willing to sacrifice to live my dreams?

So think about those and we will talk more next week. What are your thoughts, feelings, questions? How do you work on your writing voice, and are there some resources you would recommend? I would recommend Les Edgerton’s Finding Your Voice–How to Put Your Personality in Your Writing to read in the meantime.

I LOVE hearing from you!

And 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of March I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I will announce last week’s winner later this week. I am having problems with my web site and e-mail and my web people are working to remedy the problem. Thanks for your patience.

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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87 Comments

Writers in a Gilded Cage–Only Art Can Set Us Free

 

There are a lot of blogs out there that I love and respect for the best information. Any of you who have been following this blog for any amount of time know I am a huge fan of NYTBSA Bob Mayer. He really does go out of his way to help writers, and I can say that I have learned a ton from his books and workshops. Frankly, I would never have made it as a writer without his teachings about conquering fear (another blog for another day).

Last week, Bob had a post, The Secret Handshake of Success that, in part, sparked my last Wednesday blog The Modern Author–A New Breed of Writer for the Digital Age of Publishing. I believe that, in the Digital Age, we have to up our game, and knowledge is power. But the most powerful knowledge of all in this new paradigm?

Knowing our craft.

We are in the Age of the Artist, and we have a choice what type of writer we want to be. Do we desire to be an assembly-line writer cranking out cheap 99 cent commodities? Or do we desire to be artists? There are only two choices for writers of the Digital Age–win by being more ordinary, standard and cheaper, or win by being more creative and more remarkable.

There is a race to the bottom going on over at Amazon. We writers traded our day jobs that made us feel like cheap, interchangeable cogs in a faceless machine for a new promise that if we worked hard enough we would be rewarded. Many are grasping the promise of being able to make a living doing what they love, being artists…and Amazon is feeding that dream.

But here is what I see.

Amazon will be more than happy to make us cheap, interchangeable cogs in a faceless machine. They make money off quantity. If millions of first-time writers are willing to slave for hundreds of hours just to sell their art for 99 cents to all their friends and family, Amazon is still happy, because if a million writers sell their books to a hundred people, that is still a really healthy chunk of change. Thus, in effect, we traded one cage for another.

And Amazon will even come up with programs like KDP select to help artists give their wares away for FREE! in return for the ever-elusive “exposure” as if this alone is the magical element that will free us from our gilded cage.

A better cover, or a Goodreads campaign or more tweeting and we will be able to quit the day job…or not.

And this is how Amazon will keep authors on the treadmill, the carrot always just out of reach. Eventually most will wear out and give up, but no worries. There will be new hopefuls there to take their place. Amazon doesn’t care about us as artists. They care about getting a commodity (books) to consumers as cheaply as possible. Does this make Amazon evil? No. It is business.

Ah, but here is where writers have a choice. Do we desire to be part of the Chinese cheap plastic toy business, where we rely on mass quantities to make our profit? Or are we in the business of Faberge eggs? Or are we somewhere in between?

What will make Amazon respect us and readers more willing to part with more money to read our books is simple…execution. The better we are at our art, the more our words change people and transform them, the more power we hold.

The difference is in the art, and art is refined by practice and….training.

Writers line up for the latest social media class that is guaranteed to get them “exposure,” yet the craft classes languish. I have seen this at conferences. My blogging class has a line out the door (and I am grateful), and the agent panels are standing room only. But what about the class designed to hone dialogue or develop multi-dimensional characters?

*insert crickets chirping*

This past weekend, I dissolved my writing workshop. Every Saturday I would drive an hour and a half and give up 2-4 hours to train and develop writers from idea to completion–so roughly 5.5 hours of my time. I have not had my Saturdays free in four years. Yet why did I have to shut down my workshop?

Lack of interest.

Members of the group were busy with their lives, and the workshop just never seemed to be a priority that could outpace helping friends move or showing a house or cleaning out the garage or attending a nephew’s birthday party…and I grew weary of showing week after week for a nearly empty room. It was a tremendously sad day for me. I’d worked very hard to put together a system to train authors who could take an idea, make it original, then plot and write an excellent manuscript in less than six months. In three years of running the workshop, TWO members have listened and done all the steps in my process…and one has one of the top agents in the world, and the other is being considered by the Maass agency.

Craft matters. Yes, I am a social media expert, and I believe that we need a platform, but we must remember we are artists first. Artists can learn in all kinds of ways. We can learn by doing it wrong… a lot and then one day we “get it.” Something clicks and we stop writing dreadful books and go to merely writing crappy books, but one day actually land on writing a good book OR we can go to those who are willing to share their knowledge and train us in our art. Both methods work.

Being an artist is what will make publishing respect us. It is what will make Amazon value our contribution. Trust me, the authors that sign with Amazon as Publisher get treated very differently. If we are selling thousands of books a week, Amazon will play nicer, because, when we take our business elsewhere, it will hurt. But if we are only selling 500 books? A thousand? What bargaining power is that? It isn’t, and the gilded cage will grow smaller as Amazon helps itself to a higher and higher percentage of the royalties because they can.

It is our choice how we unlock the gilded cage, but only art will set us free.

Below is another vlog–WRITING 101. Yes, BONUS! Here are more of my thoughts and what craft means to the Digital Age Author…

watch?v=OnAbPbuFohw&context=C48bcf57ADvjVQa1PpcFMCFmtmol1hTuBYwFIy-TmWSTqw583JwD4=

So what are your thoughts on craft? Do you feel that I am out of line? By the way, I am NOT bashing Amazon. It is a business and it is up to us to do our part to make sure they don’t take advantage, because ANYONE is capable of taking advantage of us if we don’t put down boundaries and make them appreciate our value…which is why I closed my workshop. But how do you feel as artists? What resources would you recommend?

I LOVE hearing from you!

And 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of March I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Last Week’s Winner of 5 Page Critique is Victoria Lindstrom. Please send your 1250 word Word document to kristen at kristen lamb dot org.

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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114 Comments

Taking Your Novel from Good to Great

Hey Gang! Happy Friday. For those who happen to read my blog, you know that most Wednesdays come with what I call The Mash-Up of Awesomeness. This is a list of links and articles I’ve found noteworthy enough to bring to your attention. On Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Penguin USA has officially launched a service to help writers self-publish their own books, called Book Country. I’ve actually known about Book Country since early this past spring and was privy to the beta version of the site. I must admit is was super cool blessing to get this sneak preview into the future of publishing. But what was even cooler? I got a chance to meet and hang out with Danielle Poiesz, the Book Country Editorial Coordinator.

I asked Danielle to come offer a guest post to show you guys how to bring your Novel A-Game, no matter what avenue of publishing you decide is the best fit. And guess what? She agreed! I never even had to publish those pictures of her dressed as a Klingon at a Trekkie Convention….oops. Inside words stay inside. I always forget that.

Take it away, Danielle!

***

Writing a novel isn’t an easy feat. Writing a good novel is even harder. And even after you’ve conquered that tricky task, you still have a complex, exhaustive, and strenuous revision process to go through in order to make that good novel great.

But how do you know what needs fixing, which parts aren’t “great” just yet? How can you pinpoint your weaknesses so you can work to strengthen them?

Well, the first thing you need to do is get off the horse. View the world of your book from the ground, as your reader would, instead of from your author’s perch. When you’re kicking around on land, getting your feet dirty and smelling the trees around you, you can then objectively start looking at the big picture. (Always look at the whole before you get distracted by the details!) Focus on what your reader knows–what’s actually on the page–and not on what you know as the creator of the world, story, and characters.

The way I always approach an edit–whether of my own work or someone else’s–is by focusing on eight main criteria: point of view, voice, character development, plot, dialogue, pacing, setting, and continuity. At Book Country, we use these eight editorial elements as guideposts for peer review–they are the most important “big picture” parts of your story! Each one can make or break you and your book, so you want as much feedback as you can get in these areas.

But being able to recognize these parts of your own writing, which parts are strong and which need work, is just as significant as getting the constructive thoughts and opinions of fellow readers and writers.

Let’s take a look at what exactly each criteria means and how to start thinking about them:

  • Point of View: POV isn’t an easy element to conquer, but when your story is told through the right eyes, it makes all the difference. Ask yourself: Does this POV work for the story? Which character’s perspective is most interesting and/or useful to the reader? Is the POV consistent? Are intentional POV shifts clear and transitioned smoothly?
  • Voice: A strong, engaging, and fresh voice is key to capturing a reader’s attention. Ask yourself: Is the overall voice compelling? Is it unique? Does it fit with the genre in which I’m writing? Does each character have his/her own individual voice?
  • Character Development: Not only do characters need to be relatable, but they also have to grow and learn over time, just like real people. Ask yourself: Are your characters engaging and believable? Do they have clear strengths and weaknesses? Do they grow over the course of the narrative (aka do they have individual character arcs)?
  • Plot: Without an intriguing plot, there can’t be a story. Ask yourself: Is this book’s plot believable? Is it confusing? Is it entertaining? Is the conflict strong enough to maintain the story? Does each plot point move the story forward?
  • Dialogue: Dialogue doesn’t have to be perfect; it has to be real. Ask yourself: Does the dialogue sound genuine? Does it sound natural for the time period, location, and culture? Is it consistent for each character and is his or her dialogue distinct? If you use slang/accents, does it distract from the story?
  • Pacing: A story must always move forward with a speed and rhythm that feels natural and unrushed. Ask yourself: Is the progression of this book’s narrative compelling? Is it keeping my interest? Does the pacing fit with the genre (i.e. if it’s supposed to be suspenseful, does it move quickly? Does it supply that feeling of suspense in the cadence of the writing)? Is the pacing smooth and consistent?
  • Setting: In most fiction, setting should take on qualities of a character—be believable, detailed, well-drawn, and powerful. Ask yourself: Is the setting clear? Will the reader understand where he/she is? Is the place, culture, and/or time convincing? Are the details making the story come alive?
  • Continuity: Even with multiple plotlines, a story needs to flow, make sense, and follow a full narrative arc. Ask yourself: Are there loose ends or inconsistencies in the story? Are all elements of the story consistent throughout? Is the story linear? If it’s intentional non-linear, will it make sense to the reader? Is the time-line clear?

Asking yourself these questions and other related questions that are relevant for your story can help you get a handle on which areas need some T-L-C.

(What do I mean by “other related questions”? For example, if you’re writing a fantasy novel, you’ll want to focus on setting in terms of world-building: Have you explained the rules of the world? Does it make sense of the reader? Will they believe it?)

Once you’ve rolled the answers around in your head, you can really get down to the nitty-gritty and revise with specific concerns in mind.

If you can, it’s also a good idea to consider these criteria while writing your draft in the first place. You can minimize the heft of the revision process by making sure you’re on target as you go. Many writers, however, have a difficult time with this–or are just “pantsers” by nature and don’t know the answer yet!–and prefer to let the first draft just flow from their fingertips and go back to it later. That works too–then you can just use these criteria as your first-round revision tools.

Take the path that suits you best, but never forget these eight building blocks. They’re simple, but they have the power to take your book from good to great…if you let them.

Bio: Danielle Poiesz is the Editorial Coordinator at BookCountry.com, an online community for genre-fiction writers and readers. She’s also an avid reader, dabbles in writing, freelance edits, and runs a book blog, Reading Between the Lines. As a firm believer in helping writers grow and aiding readers in find books they love, Danielle’s always ready to encourage authors to create work that is eye-opening, meaningful, and of course, entertaining. You can also find her on Twitter: @daniellepoiesz.

Thank you, Danielle! And guys, please take some time over the holidays to check out Book Country. There are some tremendous resources available to all kinds of writers, and you might even be lucky enough to hang out with Danielle.

So come on, guys! Show Danielle some WANA Luv. Ask her questions about writing, about Book Country. Heck ask her if Warp 10 is faster than the speed of light. Captain Kirk or Captain Picard? ….or ask about publishing stuff.

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of November, 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of November I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books!

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39 Comments

Three Keys to a Successful Author Platform–All This & a Bag of Chips

Welcome to WANA Wednesday, the day I dedicate to helping you guys rock it hard when it comes to social media. The tips, tools and tactics are all based off my #1 best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer. We interrupt our normal programming to bring you a special announcement. I will be teaching an on-line workshop Blogging to Build Your Author Brand starting October 1st.

Why am I taking a blog day to talk about this?

Well, in fairness, my Spawn can now scale tall bookshelves in a single bound. I don’t know how many more times I will be able to teach this class. The workshop is only $40 and it’s on-line. It is two months long. One month for lessons and one month for launch. I help each participant harness his background, passions, interests to create an author brand that will grow with the writer’s career no matter what social platform is hot. If Facebook implodes, the brand I help you create will survive and even thrive. Yes, I work with each and every person.

One of the reasons I like to teach these classes is I know that I would have burned out and given up long ago if certain talented people (whose name rhymes with NY Times Best-Selling Author Bob Mayer) hadn’t taken time to help me and educate me…and save me from myself, :D. These workshops are my way of paying it forward. I love doing them, but my workload is steadily increasing. I will teach them as long as I can, but I cannot promise how many more times this type of workshop will be offered.

So why might you need my workshop?

The key principle to all of my teachings rests on one fundamental maxim–WE ARE NOT ALONE. Building an author platform can be overwhelming, terrifying and enough to make even the best of us break out in stress hives. Much of this stress can be alleviated three ways:

Education

Just because we are capable of signing up for Twitter doesn’t mean we know jack about how to build an author platform. Just because we are literate and can string together nouns and verbs in a coherent fashion doesn’t mean we know anything about what makes a successful blog that connects to tens of thousands. Just because we recognize a box of Tide or a Xerox machine doesn’t mean we comprehend author branding.

Too many writers rush on to social media with no real understanding of the tools at their disposal and just start pushing buttons. Hey, I did.

But let me tell you this. There is the hard way and the smart way. The smart writer learns from her mistakes, but the wise writer learns from the mistakes of others…and the REALLY wise, talented and strangely good-looking writer learns from MY mistakes.

Yes, I made all the mistakes so you don’t have to. Better than that, I have a track record of proven success to back up what I teach. Not only have I put both my books at the top of the best-selling list, but WANA methods have helped other authors rise from total obscurity to become best-sellers as well (and land some pretty fat six-figure publishing deals).

It is one thing for me to tell you guys that you need to build a successful author platform. It is an entirely different thing to SHOW you how to build a successful author platform.

When it comes to social media, you might be thinking:

What do I say? How do I keep fresh and interesting content? How can I do more with my blog than just journal or talk about writing? How can my blog connect with readers? How much social media do I really need? How do I dominate a Google search for my name? How can I build a platfom and still have time to write books?

Knowledge is power. Now, let me ask you some questions:

Do you know how to create a brand? Do you know what SEO is? What is a trackback? What are tags? Do you blog? Do you even know how to? How do search engines work?

How educated are you about social media as it applies to authors? How much is this lack of knowledge hurting you and your platform? How much time is it wasting in being unproductive? What are going to be the long-term effects of building a platform on a faulty foundation?

This isn’t to scare you guys as much as it is to free you. We aren’t born knowing everything, and it is okay to admit we need help. You guys have best-selling books to write. Do you really want to figure all this social media stuff out alone, through trial and error? How much time will a little bit of good education save you? How much more time will you have to work on your next novel? How much more success will you have because you took time to learn from the successful?

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

Preparation

Too many writers rush on to social media and just start tweeting and blogging with no prior preparation. Not only is it wise to prepare our brand ahead of time, but we need to know what content is useful for growing that brand (and not wrecking it). We also need to make sure that the brand we choose is clear, that it will resonate with others and be “sticky” (For more on being sticky, go here).

There is A LOT of misinformation about what constitutes an author brand. Many social media experts don’t understand that writers are different. Yes, we really are special unique snowflakes. Author brands are highly unique and complex. What works for Starbucks doesn’t work for writers and for selling books. Go here if you want to know why traditional marketing doesn’t sell books.

I am a writer first. The brand I will help you create will be with you for a lifetime, will grow as you and your career grows. Brands need to define us, not put us in a straightjacket. Not all content will work well for growing your brand. Good content and a solid brand are key to working smarter, not harder.

Community

WE ARE NOT ALONE!!!!

The self-made man is a myth. No one is successful alone. If we try to do social media all by ourselves by blitzing out spam and form-letters and collecting neat e-mail lists, we are more likely to wear out and give up than to succeed. Success doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It takes a team of vested people to open opportunities, offer feedback, spread word-of-mouth, inject our messages into new networks, and on and on.

The key to being successful on social media is to learn to work as a team and create community. I didn’t become successful alone. I had help. More help than I deserved. Now I am here to teach you guys how to create a community vested in your success. We need to learn how to connect to influential people. We need to connect to more than just other writers.

So what are your thoughts? What frightens you about social media? What confuses you? What are your concerns? If you have taken my workshop, take a moment and share what you learned and how the workshop helped you, transformed you, or revealed six-pack abs you didn’t even know you had. I dig hearing from you.

I hope you guys will invest $40 in your writing future. The new year is coming fast and it is a good plan to be ready to hit the ground running. Thanks for indulging me today, and next week we will resume our talk about Mavens (One of Three People You Must Know to Be Successful on Social Media).

I do want to hear from you guys!

And 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of September I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: GRAND PRIZE WILL BE PICKED THIS MONTH. I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced at the end of September) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

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121 Comments

Dr. Twuth–Are Writers Related to Ferrets? ADD and Social Media

Welcome to Twitter Tuesday with Dr. Twuth. The tips offered here are all based off my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. If our goal is to build an author platform in the thousands to tens of thousands, then we will have to approach Twitter differently than a faceless corporation or even the regular person who does not possess a goal of becoming a brand. This blog will help you rule the Twitterverse without devolving into a spam bot.

So who is Dr. Twuth? Heard of Dr. Ruth, Sex Therapist? Well, today I am introducing you to my alter ego Dr. Twuth, Text Therapist (Dr. Twuth is accredited by one of the best mail-order PhD universities in the Bahamas. She isn’t a real doctor, just plays one on the Internet).

Have a question about Twitter? A problem? A sticky wicket? Let Dr. Twuth help, because the Twuth will set you free.

Dr. Twuth–Putting the “smart” back in smart phones.

On to our tweeps in need…

Dear Dr. Twuth,

I spend way too much time on Twitter but it’s so much fun. Ah, social media – so much to do, so little time :-) Maybe I should just duct-tape my laptop shut? Dr. Twuth?

Signed,

Overwhelmed Orlowski

Dear Overwhelmed,

This is a common problem when it comes to writers. What few people know is that most of us writers can trace our genetic lineage to an offshoot of the ferret family–early homo sapiens must have gotten desperate for warmth right after the last Ice Age and cuddling went too far.

You can see how embarrassing this is and why we have buried the twuth for years…along with snacks, favorite pens and some killer bookmarks.

Anyway, it was at this genetic juncture that writers broke off the family tree from normal homo sapiens. Writers are actually a distinctive line of primates known by only certain scientific communities (the ones who failed Biology 101) as homo ferretus busyworkus--which scientifically explains the short attention span and the attraction to all things shiny. Most of you probably make nice nests of paper and fluffy things like sweatshirts and crocheted blankets.

Yes…I really can see you. You behind the stack of unread books and papers to be edited. Pay attention. Stop tormenting the cat with the laser pointer.

Anyway, yes we are born this way. It can be a genetic advantage in that the homo ferretus enjoys a heightened sense of curiosity and a need to explore, but this comes at a price.

Shiny things are our downfall.

Thus, anything shiny–like Tweet Deck–must be treated with extreme care. I highly recommend avoiding purchasing lava lamps or disco balls, despite how “cool” they would be to have in your office. And, when it comes to social media, we need to have a plan.

If we will brand everything under our NAME–the name that will be printed on the front of our books–this will help a lot. Too many writers are hiding behind a cutesy moniker on Twitter, then they have an equally cutesy name for the blog and then their Facebook page has their real name and the fan page has a pen name. These writers are trying to balance FOUR identities/brands. Since efforts are diffused, there is less impact when these writers participate on social media. So, using our NAME, will help a lot. Every effort is focused like—

Yes, like the laser pointer you are using with the cat. Could you please pay attention?

Thank you.

Your efforts on social media will be focused like that laser pointer you should not shine directly in your cat’s eyes because it can cause retinal damage. A focused social media platform will transfix followers the same way as your cat, who was so absorbed in the shiny red dot that he didn’t even see the dog.

A brand gives followers a focal point.

Another key tactic to managing social media is to create friendships and community. When we all work together, creating a platform is far easier. We can rely on others to help us if we actively seek to help and support them. I liken it to a barn-raising. When we all do a little for each other, big jobs suddenly become more manageable. Since we aren’t doing everything alone, we need to spend far less time on social media to still be effective.

This is one of the reasons that using traditional marketing tactics on social media is so ineffective. Most people won’t line up to help a spammer, so the writer has to do everything alone. This is why spammy writers need in excess of 20,000 Twitter followers to have any impact on sales. The ROI of this approach is dismal, because the writer is marketing linearly instead of exponentially.

Teamwork and service above self is always the winning combination….like nachos and coffee. Always a win.

Best of luck!

Dr. Twuth

See how easy this is? Do you have a Twitter or social media dilemma? Leave your question in the comments or if you would like to maintain anonymity, e-mail Dr. Twuth’s slave assistant at kristen at kristen lamb dot org. Just put GIVE ME THE TWUTH in the subject line.

Dr. Twuth is all about love and offering a human touch to this digital world. Dr. Twuth is #MyWANA certified, or certifiable, I can’t recall which. But, hey, it’s free so if you don’t like her advice, she will give you 100% refund (There will be a $15.99 processing fee for said refund).

Let Dr. Twuth help you out. Remember, the Twuth will set you free.

Tweet ya later!

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36 Comments

Deadly Sin of Writing #5–P.O.V. Prostitution

P.O.V. Prostitution is an ugly sight.

Okay, you guys asked for more Deadly Sins of Writing, so here we go. I’m putting on my editor’s hat. Many of you decided to become writers because you love to write. Duh. I’ll even bet most of you, back when you were in school, also made very good grades in English. Thus, you might assume that you naturally know how to write a novel that is fit for NY publication. Maybe you do. But, if you are anything like me when I started out? You might not know as much as you think you do.

Why?

Our high school English teacher didn’t care that we used 15 metaphors on one page. Why? Her goal was to teach us how to properly use a metaphor…NOT to prepare us for agent submission.

As you might be able to tell from my latest posts, I think self-publishing is becoming an increasingly viable option for many writers. Yet, I also want to be forthcoming. Self-publishing is not a panacea, and there are too many writers who rush to self-publish instead of understanding why their story was being rejected. Aside from flashbacks and back-story vomit, today’s sin is probably THE biggest problem I see in most self-published books.

Generally, I can see in three pages why a manuscript was rejected by an agent. How?

There are a number of ways, and I recommend you check out one of my posts from last year, Novel Diagnostics for a detailed explanation of some of the most common newbie novelist oopses.

But, beyond that list, the single largest mistake I see in new manuscripts is the author does not understand P.O.V. This is an easy mistake to make, in that, as I stated earlier, our college English classes aren’t there to teach us how to be great novelists.

Some writers pick up on P.O.V. intuitively, but most of us need to be taught, lest we leave the reader feeling as if she is being held hostage on a Tilt-A-Whirl.

P.O.V. Prostitution (Head-Hopping)

Let’s step back in time to the days before we all made the decision to become writers. I would guess all of us were readers. We loved books, and books were a large part of what prompted our career choice. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have you ever tried to read a book, but eventually had to put it down because it was too confusing? You couldn’t figure out who was doing what, and you needed Dramamine to keep up with the perspectives?
  • Have you ever read a story that was so good you actually felt as if you had taken on the character’s skin? His success was yours, as was his failure. By the final page, you were sad to say good-bye?

P.O.V. used properly can create entire worlds, and breathe life into characters. Used improperly, it can make your reader feel like she’s been strapped to Hell’s Merry-Go-Round—not good.

First, you have to know what P.O.V. is if you hope to use it to your advantage.  “P.O.V. does not stand for ‘Prisoners of Vietnam,’” as author Candy Havens would say. P.O.V. stands for Point of View.

Although this literary device is one of the most vital tools an author possesses, it is probably the number one style problem I encounter as an editor. I cannot count how many new writers (and, sadly, some not-so-new writers) give me a blank stare when I write P.O.V. in big red letters all over their manuscripts (and H.H., but we’ll get to that later).

The best way to describe point of view is to think of your story as viewed through the lens of the video camera. How many people (characters) are going to be permitted to hold that camera?

Is your camera going to travel with one main character through the entire story? Or, do others get a turn? Is “God” holding the camera? These are simple questions you can answer to help you select the point of view perfect for your story.

There is no wrong P.O.V., but we do have to be consistent. P.O.V. is a HUGE factor in determining our writing voice.

What are the types of P.O.V.?

A quick overview:

First-Person P.O.V—uses “I” a lot. Only one character (the narrator) has the camera.

There are four major disadvantages to this P.O.V.

1. This P.O.V uses a lot of “I” which can become repetitive to the point of distraction.

2. The reader can only see and hear what the narrator knows. This limits the flow of information. Probably good for a mystery, but if you aren’t writing a mystery this may not be the right P.O.V for you.

3. EOEs are problematic. An EOE is an emotionally overwhelming event. If our narrator walks in on her brother lying dead in a pool of blood, the scene can lose power and authenticity.

4. First-Person P.O.V is a bugger when it comes to tense. Why? Because First-Person breaks into two camps.

There is the I remember whencamp and the Come along withmecamp.

One is in past tense, a recollection. “I remember the day my father and I were attacked by a pack of Mary Kay ladies gone feral….”

The other is in present tense, and the reader is along for the ride. “I walk these streets every morning, but today I am just waiting for something to go wrong….”

Note of Caution: It is extremely easy to muddy the two camps together. Tense can be problematic…okay, a nightmare.

The benefit? First-person P.O.V. adds an intimacy that no other P.O.V. can, and is useful for stories where we might want to withhold information from the reader.

Third-Person P.O.V—is when you, the writer, permit one or more of the characters to lug the camera through your story.

Third Person Locked allows only one character access to the camera. The entire story is told through what that particular character can experience through the 5 Senses. So, if your character’s eyes are “shining with love,” then she’d best be holding a mirror, or you are guilty of head-hopping.

Third Person Shifting allows more than one character access to the camera. Here’s the rub. Your characters must to play nice and take turns. Only one character with the camera at a time. When the next character wants a turn, there has to be a clear cut. Think of the director’s clapboard ending one scene before shifting to the next.

It is usually a good idea to limit one P.O.V. per scene. When we switch perspectives inside the same scene, that is called head-hopping, and it will confuse and frustrate our readers.

There are advantages to Third-Person Shifting

1. It can add additional depth and insight to your story.

2. It can allow you (the writer) to hold back information and add to suspense.

3. Third-Person Shifting can allow other characters to take over during emotionally volatile points in the story.

For instance, looking at our earlier example, if your protagonist walks in on her brother lying dead in a pool of blood, the emotions experienced are realistically too overwhelming to be properly articulated by your protagonist.

In this scenario, First-Person P.O.V is probably not a good fit. The scene could be more powerful if told from someone watching your protagonist react to discovering a deceased loved one.

There are inherent problems with Third-Person Shifting.

1. Your characters must play nice and take turns. Otherwise, your reader will likely become confused and eventually frustrated.

2. It is best to permit camera access to key characters only. The reader has to stay in one head long enough to feel connected. Too many perspectives can easily become overwhelming and dilute the strength of your characters.

Omniscient P.O.V is when “God” gets to hold the camera.

This P.O.V is like placing your camera up high over all of the action. The narrator is omnipresent and omniscient. “If Joe had only known who was waiting for him outside, he would have never left for that pack of cigarettes.” Joe cannot experience anything beyond the 5 Senses (third-person). So, unless Joe is actually Superman and possesses X-Ray vision, it takes an omniscient presence to tell us someone bad is lurking outside waiting to do Joe harm.

There are advantages to Omniscient P.O.V.

1. Omniscient can relay information that would be far too overwhelming to describe if limited to the 5 Senses. Battle scenes are a good example.

2. Omniscient can give information critical to the story that the character doesn’t have to personally know. For instance, in Bob’s Area 51 Series (which I HIGHLY recommend), he relays a lot of factual and historical information that is critical to understanding the plot. But, it would really seem bizarre to the reader if his characters just started spouting off the history of the pyramids like an Egyptologist. To avoid this jarring scenario, Bob uses an omniscient presence to relay the information so the prose remains nice and smooth.

There are disadvantages to Omniscient P.O.V.

1. Third-Person P.O.V. and Omniscient P.O.V. are VERY easy to muddy together.

2. Omniscient P.O.V. and Head-Hopping are not the same, but are easy to confuse. I have edited many writers who believed they were employing Omniscient P.O.V. In reality, they were just letting every character in the book fight over the camera simultaneously, leaving me (the editor) feeling like I was trapped in the Blair Witch Project.

Whose head am I in? I can’t tell. Help meeeee…..

Proper use of P.O.V. takes a lot of practice to master. It is very easy to shift from one type of P.O.V. to another, or what I like to call “P.O.V. Prostitution” or “Head-Hopping.”

Key Points to Remember:

  • In First-Person–Come along with me stories can easily turn into I remember when stories (or vice versa). Tense is a big red flag. Do you shift from present to past or past to present? Pay close attention to verbs.
  • In Third-Person (Locked & Shifting)–Characters will only play nice and take turns if you, the writer, force them to. Make sure whatever is happening in a scene is something that could be filtered through ONE character’s 5 Senses.
  • In Third-Person (Locked & Shifting) –“God” is really bad about grabbing your character’s camera, so keep an eye on Him. If there is suddenly information your character has no way of knowing through the 5 Senses, that is a big clue the Big Guy snagged your camera. Just remind Him nicely of commandment number eight, and ask Him to give the camera back.
  • In Omniscient–“God” is in charge. Be careful your wide-lens isn’t zooming in and out and making your reader dizzy in the process.

P.O.V. is one more reason it is critical for writers to read if they hope to become great authors. Read, read, read. Read all kinds of books by all kinds of authors using different P.O.V.s to see how it is done well. Here are some of my recommendations:

Suzanne Collins brilliantly employs First-Person in the Come Along with Me fashion in her Hunger Games Trilogy. Her choice of P.O.V. gives an intimate feel no other P.O.V. can, and, since it isn’t an I Remember When story, Collins is able to maintain reader suspense.

Stephen King does a great job of using first-person in an I Remember When style in The Green Mile. King chose this P.O.V. for a very specific reason, which I will not say so as not to spoil the ending.

Dennis Lehane does an amazing job of employing omniscient in Mystic River. If you think you might want to use omniscient, I’d recommend reading him.

James Rollins uses third-person shifting very well in the Doomsday Key. Third-shifting is generally a great P.O.V. for thrillers in that it helps manage/reveal a lot of information that the protag may or may not know.

I would also recommend reading Sworn to Silence by Linda Castillo. She actually mixes third-limited and first-person and the effect is impressive.

P.O.V. when used properly can take a story to a whole new level. Read, experiment and practice. I know I just touched on a handful of suggestions, so feel free to leave your own recommendations in the comments .

I highly recommend NY Time Best-Selling author Bob Mayer’s  The Novel Writers Toolkit for more in-depth explanation.

What is your favorite P.O.V. and why? Which ones do you like the least? Why? Have you never heard the term P.O.V. before? Does this post clear up some big questions about why your manuscript might have been having problems? Do you guys have any resources you would recommend? I want to hear from you!

I love hearing from you! And 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

Last Week’s Winner of 5-Page Critique–Marcy Kennedy

Please send your 1250 word Word doc to kristen at kristen lamb dot org.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of August I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

In the meantime, I hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

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81 Comments

The WANA Theory of Book Economics–Why Traditional Marketing Doesn’t Sell Books

Welcome to WANA Wednesday, the day I dedicate to helping you rock it hard when it comes to social media and building an author platform. Last week I talked about the dreaded Spam Toad. I know sometimes it seems I am being critical in my blogs. I want any writer who has made these mistakes to appreciate one thing…I made them too! Don’t feel badly. It’s an honest mistake.

There are a lot of marketing experts who are benevolently offering flawed advice. They don’t mean to. Most of these experts (at least the ones I have met) have a genuine desire to help and serve others. They see writers who need to market so they offer what they believe is a good plan. And, it very may well be a good plan…just not for books.

The problem is that most marketing experts have a disconnect. Since most of them are not writers to begin with and haven’t worked in the publishing industry, they often fail to appreciate that not only are writers unique, but our product is too. What works for Starbuck’s and Levis and Joe’s Car Wash will not work for authors and books. Why?

First, the CEO of Honda is not personally responsible for building every car. An author, however, is solely responsible for producing the product. Not just a product, but an EXCELLENT product and in a timely fashion. Writers cannot be on a half a zillion sites, doing blog tours and pod casts and on and on…and still have time to write good books.

Yet, even if we could change the fabric of space-time and add more hours to the day, it wouldn’t matter how many social platforms we blitzed with marketing. Why? Traditional marketing does not sell books. Never has and never will. Don’t ask my opinion, mega-agent Donald Maass  (and anyone working in publishing) will tell you that there are only TWO things that sell books…good book and word of mouth. Period.

I remember years ago hearing that traditional marketing didn’t work for selling books. I didn’t want to believe them and I did a lot of running my head into a wall. Finally, I realized they were right, so I wanted to understand what made this particular product (books) so different from pizza, televisions and Frappuccinos. After a lot of study, a few cases of Red Bull and a massive brain cramp, I came up with my own theory—The WANA Theory of Book Economics—WANATBE (get it? Wanna to be? I crack myself up).

The WANATBE  is going to super-duper simplify Marketing 101 so you guys can plainly see why blitzing and advertising about your books non-stop is a bad plan that will do little to drive sales. Yes, traditional marketing will drive some sales, but won’t offer the life-changing numbers all of us want. WANATBE is very simplified, but I tend to believe in Occam’s Razor—the simplest explanation is usually correct. Time to explore why traditional marketing doesn’t sell books.

Commodities are often divided into two types of commodities:

Low Consideration Purchases

High Consideration Purchases

Low consideration purchases are of low social influence. If I drop three bucks to buy a tube of toothpaste and hate it, it is not big deal to toss it in the trash and buy a different kind….unless you are my mother.

Most of us aren’t paying attention to friend recommendations for toothpaste and I would guarantee we aren’t surfing the web looking for blogs and articles about the latest developments in fluoride so we can finally settle the Crest versus Aquafresh debate. We won’t need support and approval from peers that we made a good choice in toothpaste.

And if you do? That’s, uh kinda weird.

High consideration purchases on the other hand, are like cars, vacations, 3-D televisions, and jet skis. These are products where peer opinion weighs heavily upon the decision. If I am about to drop 30 grand on a bass boat, you better believe I have lost my mind I am going to check out consumer reports and on-line resources to get opinions from others.

High-consideration purchases are almost always emotionally driven.

Corvette. Enough said.

But what about books? Some books cost even less than a tube of toothpaste and none cost nearly as much as a flat screen TV. Are books high-consideration or low-consideration?

First, I want all of you to forget the mythos of the Book-A-Week Reader. To the person who devours books like candy, books are a low-consideration purchase. The problem, however, is that this type of reader makes up a VERY small fraction of the overall literate population in need of entertaining or informing.

You want to know how Stephenie Meyers, J.K. Rowling, and Dan Brown became such mega-huge successes? They mobilized the fat part of the bell curve made up of people who normally would not define themselves as readers. There are people out there who have never read any other books, but who own every last hard cover of Harry Potter. These books ignited word of mouth so powerful, that they were able to mobilize the largest segment of the population that is traditionally the toughest to move.

These authors’ books became so popular that they transformed into a social definition. I would have never picked up The DaVinci Code or Twilight on my own. But, finally so many of my peers had read the book that I felt like an outsider. To fit in with my peers, I had to read the book.

The fat part of the bell curve—people who believe they do not enjoy reading—is like a huge boulder sitting on the edge of a cliff. It takes a lot of energy to get moving, but once it does? There is no stopping it. And this is how legends are made.

Yet, too many writers are focusing all of their efforts looking for the ever-elusive avid reader. Why? Who cares if someone only reads one book a year if it is your book?

How much advertising is happening in bookstores, on book blogs, book review sites, and author web sites…the very places we will probably NEVER find regular people in need of entertaining or informing? Writers are all in search of the White Stag (the avid reader) and, in the process, passing up thousands of brown deer. Wait too long on an anomaly and we can starve.

A massive percentage of Americans do not consider themselves to be readers, so to them, books are now a high consideration purchase. If we merely look at price, we can get sucked into this notion that books and toothpaste require the same low-consideration purchase approach. But, when we look closer, we see that books cost something more precious than money…TIME.

So books are tricky. To the avid reader, books are a low-consideration purchase. This is why traditional marketing does not drive the big sales numbers. Traditional marketing (for books) targets a select group of people who already love to read. They don’t have to be talked into giving up their time to read. This person was going to be reading anyway. Traditional marketing does work for this small percentage of the population, because they love books and need help choosing from all the options.

Yet, for the BIG numbers, we have to mobilize the fat part of the bell curve, and that can be a MONUMENTAL task. We have to convince this non-reading group that our book is worth giving 12 hours of undivided attention (average time to read a novel). Unlike music or video, reading is not a passive activity where we just soak up entertainment like a sponge. We can watch a movie while we fold laundry or listen to music while we do dishes. Books are different. They require our full attention.

Thus, our job is to convince this non-reading group to forgo all other fun hobbies for an activity they don’t even believe they enjoy. We have to convince them to turn off Monday Night Football, stop chain-sawing monsters on X-Box, or turn off Dancing with the Stars.

How do we do this? We have to make buying our books an emotional decision driven by peer influence. This is not as tough as it might seem, but we are out of time. We will talk more about this next week. If you must know the answers right away, I encourage you to pick up a copy of my best-selling book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media.

What are your thoughts? Opinions?  I love hearing from you! And 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of August I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

In the meantime, I hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

Mash Up of Awesomeness (This week’s is very short. Power has been on and off. Will make up for it next week.)

Nationally Best-Selling Author James Scott Bell addresses back story. Awesome post!

The brilliant and talented Jody Hedlund talks about time-management and productivity.

What scares you that you can’t get enough of? by Angela Wallace

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