Posts Tagged publishing

Writer Victory!—One Day at a Time

Image and quote courtesy of SEAL of Honor on Facebook.

Image and quote courtesy of SEAL of Honor on Facebook.

So far we’ve made it through most of our Writer Acrostic. V is for Voluntarily Submit. Know there will be trials and challenges and there is far more strength in bending than breaking. I was for Identify Problem Areas. We can’t fix what we fail to acknowledge. Every day in this profession is about writing better than we did the day before. C was for Change Your Mind. We can only achieve what we can first conceive. Make your mind and set it and keep it set. T was for Turn Over our Future. When we let go of things we can’t control, we’re far more powerful to drive and direct that which we can.

O is for One Day at a Time

I don’t trust people who’ve never failed. As I’ve told you guys, Hubby was Special Operations. Recently we were talking about the training for the Green Berets and Delta Force. These programs are designed to make participants fail. They WANT people to fail because failure shows what people are really made of.

In those programs, the rare few who do make it through the first time still are not guaranteed a slot. Why? Because the folks who run Special Forces know it is the Type A Overachiever who gravitates to these careers. It’s the athlete, the guy who maybe made the best grades or went to a prestigious military academy. This is a person driven by success and accustomed to winning.

Those responsible for the training don’t want the first time a candidate faces failure to be in combat when others could die.

Thus, they break them to see who they are, what they are capable of (or not). Will the candidate who fails rise or fall apart? Will he try again? And again? And maybe…again?

The Old Gold Standard

Not that I long for the Old Publishing Paradigm, but it did have its merits. It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was nightmarishly tough. We failed, often over and over and over. Thus, when we finally landed an agent and saw that book in print, it was an accomplishment few ever saw. Gatekeepers stood in the way and not everyone wore a green beret the title of “published author.”

Deep down, many of us still want that Traditional Seal of Approval. I do. Granted, it makes ZERO business sense for me, but my heart still longs for it. Why? It was simpler. In the olden days, so long as NY granted me their blessing, it didn’t matter if my book sold ten copies. It was out of my control. Sales weren’t my validation so long as I could loudly proclaim, “I AM A RANDOM-PENGUIN!”

Now? All us.

And this can be liberating and terrifying.

I know I’ve written three best-selling books that never would have been published if I’d stuck to the NY model. But? Succeed or die, it has ALL been on me. That is enough pressure to crumble most. Heck, crumbles me some days. Guess what? That is OKAY.

I’m not asking you or even me to be perfect every day. I’m only asking you recognize this happens ONE day at a time. Success isn’t permanent, but guess what? Neither is failure ;) .

Craftfest

My First REAL Mentor

I began this blog in honor of my first real mentor, Bob Mayer. I own every one of his books. I loved his self-published version of Who Dares Wins and dogeared and highlighted until the book fell apart, gifted copies to everyone I knew. I met Bob at a conference years ago when I believed I knew how to write. Could I edit? OH YES. I had a gift in that area. Writing?

Eh.

Bob was so kind to me. I’d send him a sample and I’d get back:

Sucks. Try harder.

We had a long-running joke that one day I’d get more than a four-word e-mail.

Do it again.

Sucks.

Try harder.

No story.

Huh?

Not interesting.

Huh?

Huh?

Huh?

*Insert sound of Kristen weeping*

Bob never even referred to me by my first name until a year after he published my first book…and MAN that was a GLORIOUS day. When I first met Bob, I was so full of what I thought I knew. He tore that down so something better could take its place. And I don’t want to make Bob sound mean, because he’s far from it. I wouldn’t be here had I not been blessed enough to know him.

Here was a NYTBSA who was taking the TIME to read my pages and respond. But…he never gave me the answer, so I had to hunt for it. I had to EARN IT. One step at a time. One day at a time. One blog at a time. One BOOK at a time.

Bob never gave me a First Place Trophy for Attendance, for “trying.” To this day I don’t think I’ve earned First Place Anything in Bob’s book other than being a pain in his neck, LOL. But he was the BEST mentor any author could ask for. He challenged me.

How badly did I want the dream? Was I willing to fail, and fail, and fail, and REALLY fail, and fail some more and keep going, learning, growing?

Yes, but I did it ONE DAY AT A TIME. My mentor taught me this.

I honor the gift he gave me with every post, with every book, with every step forward. I want all my actions to show his time was never wasted. I believe deep inside that Bob never would have answered my stupid newbie e-mails had he not seen something in me. He saw the good, but I know Bob is a WISE man. He also saw the bad. My craving for approval and fluffy unicorn hugs. He fired that crap out of me quickly.

Embrace your failures. Learn. If we aren’t failing it means we aren’t doing anything interesting.

Try, fail, learn, do again. Repeat. 

And, if we learn that progress comes ONE DAY AT A TIME we are far more forgiving with ourselves, but also able to WRITER UP.

What are your thoughts? Is it easier if you break it into one day at a time? Do you bite off too much? Do you overwhelm yourself? Is your skin getting thicker? What are you proud of? What thing took you FOREVER to achieve but you value it so much because it was SO dang HARD?

I love hearing from you!

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. 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 novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

If you need help building a brand, social media platform, please check out my latest best-selling book, Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.

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47 Comments

Writer Victory!—#1 Voluntarily Submit

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I learn through anecdotes, examples, illustrations, images and I LOVE acrostics. My husband and I like to go to the Thursday service at our church, namely because the week has usually pounded us soundly enough that we need some spiritual encouragement. The group we attend is small, but the point is to nurture us so we can serve as guides and be the light for others.

Anyway, this week, the lecture used an acrostic for VICTORY. I was taken aback how remarkably this acrostic applied to my own fifteen-year-journey as an author. I wanted to share an author variation with you guys, because, in a world of “instant success” it is easy to become lost, discouraged and want to give up.

Today, we will discuss V, which stands for “Voluntarily submit.”

“Submit” might be a word that raises your hackles. We’re writers. We march to the beat of our own kazoo. Ah, but do we? Maybe we do more conforming than we care to admit.

Can we be successful being rigid? Likely not. There’s a lot of power in submitting. As anyone who practices Aikido or Ju-Jitsu can tell you—bending beats breaking ;) .

So…

Voluntarily submit to who you are. Writers don’t write because it’s a hobby or fun. We write because we must. We aren’t happy when we aren’t putting words on a page. This is part of why I blog.

Our craft often involves other things than the actual writing. It could be research or revisions. Maybe it involves watching entire seasons of Battlestar Galactica or Breaking Bad in order to better understand plot, arc, or character.

I think these times can be uniquely hard for us because we aren’t writing. I know when I dropped down to blogging maybe once a week, I fell into a funk, a weird depression I couldn’t name. All that was wrong? I wasn’t writing.

I learned that blogging or even simply doing a daily writing exercise is vital to maintaining my joy, essential for creative homeostasis.

Voluntarily submit to the idea that you will be criticized. We are criticized by others too scared to be different, too chicken to follow their bliss. Conformity is more important than creativity.

For years, I worked corporate jobs I hated to please people I didn’t like and impress those who didn’t care. These people didn’t care about anything other than my validation that being safe was sane. Paychecks were paramount.

So long as my life testified that dental benefits were more important than dreaming, no one was bothered. Ah, but when I had the audacity to challenge the status quo, I no longer reinforced The Great Lie, the Social Soma that keeps the masses medicated, caffeinated and indoctrinated. When I sacrificed my joy on the altar of people-pleasing, I had no pushback.

And life was very, very empty.

When we understand criticism is usually a sign of doing something right? It’s easier to not take it personally and keep pressing.

Voluntarily submit to the process. Understand it’s okay to be new. It’s okay to write junk (though please don’t publish it). Often we’re afraid to write that crappy first draft. We can get paralysis of analysis.

We read more craft books (which is great and KEEP doing this) and go to more conferences (again, AWESOME), but we can do this at the expense of doing the work. We can get so afraid of failure we never begin. Or, if we do begin, we edit and edit and edit the magic right out of our prose and never finish.

WANA, Kristen Lamb, We Are Not Alone, WANA International, how to be successful writer

Image via Marie Loughin WANA Commons

Because Draft One doesn’t read like Cormac McCarthy, we feel like failures, forgetting that even McCarthy’s first draft doesn’t read like Cormac McCarthy (thank you Jonathan Maberry). We are absorbing works from all our author heroes and it’s easy to forget that what we open (whether in paper or on a Kindle) is something that has been rewritten, revised, and then edited countless times by the author and also outside professionals.

It is a fully-formed pearl…not the gelatinous goo inside an oyster pried open too soon.

Voluntarily submit to honest and brutal feedback. Granted, we don’t need to offer our manuscript to people who just want to shred our souls. But we can’t shelter our WIPs from the world if we’re professionals. Professionals ship, they publish. I would rather be gutted in private and be able to repair my weaknesses than to send and ill-formed work into the world for public slaughter.

Many a writer has become angry with me when I don’t tell them every word is a unicorn kiss, but that’s not life. We don’t all get first-place trophies for trying. We can get one-star rabid reviews from nasty people with nothing else better to do than to be jackasses.

And these will come no matter how good our work. There is no such thing as the perfect book. The flip-side is deep down we will die a little if 20 reviewers blast us about things we could have corrected if we would have been humble enough to listen to correction early.

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I’ve fallen victim, myself. When I wrote my first book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media peers told me including MySpace was a bad idea, that MySpace was making poor decisions. I hated Facebook at the time and was really rooting for MySpace to pull its digital head out of its digital butt. They didn’t. And virtually EVERY criticism I have ever had over that first book revolved around me mentioning MySpace.

I learned to listen.

Voluntarily submit that there are rules that govern our art. Yes we can break the rules, but we need to understand them first. If we don’t that is being an amateur and not a pro. Pros study the rules then bend them or even shatter them, but pros understand we write for ourselves and for others. If we get too weird, we can confuse and frustrate our audience.

The Wright Brothers appreciated the RULES of gravity and physics, thus were able to create ways to DEFY them.

Voluntarily submit to the notion that this job is WORK. A LOT of it. There are a million reasons this profession is not for everyone. In fact, most will give up. Pros don’t find time, we MAKE time. Time isn’t hiding in couch cushions with the remote. We have to do a lot of things we don’t feel like doing—research, writing, social media, etc.

We can have no gain without sacrifice.

Right now? It’s four in the morning. Spawn woke me at 3 a.m. after sneaking into bed with us. I awoke to his feet in my face because there is some scientific law that dictates that small children must sleep like a CLOCK.

I couldn’t go back off to sleep so I’m here. Writing. And yes, tomorrow…today??? I will be tired. I AM tired and I still have a company to run and a house to clean (on top of writing my books). But 1100 words have been given new life and hopeful they will give YOU new life as well.

What are your thoughts? Are there areas you find harder to submit to? Do criticism crater you? Do you find a million things to do—laundry, dishes, organizing—because you feel guilty for writing? Are you too hard on your first drafts instead of granting yourself permission to not be PERFECT? What creative exercises do you do to put words on the page daily to keep your writing mojo?

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. 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 novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

I will announce April’s winner on Monday. Sorry, didn’t see the whole Spawn School drama coming and I want to be fair.

If you want more help with plot problems, antagonists, structure, beginnings, then I have a FANTASTIC class TOMORROW to help you!

CLASS COMES WITH HANDOUTS AND FREE RECORDING.

Understanding the Antagonist

If you are struggling with plot or have a book that seems to be in the Never-Ending Hole of Chasing Your Tail or maybe you’d like to learn how to plot a series, I am also teaching my ever-popular Understanding the Antagonist Class on May 10th from NOON to 2:00 P.M. (A SATURDAY). This is a fabulous class for understanding all the different types of antagonists and how to use them to maintain and increase story tension.

Remember, a story is only as strong as its problem ;) . This is a GREAT class for streamlining a story and making it pitch-ready.

Additionally, why pay thousands for an editor or hundreds for a book doctor? This is a VERY affordable way to make sure your entire story is clear and interesting. Also, it will help you learn to plot far faster and cleaner in the future.

Again, use WANA10 for $10 off.

I’ll be running the First Five Pages again at the end of May, so stay tuned.

And, if you need help building a brand, social media platform, please check out my latest best-selling book, Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.

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71 Comments

The Burst of the Social Media Bubble, Rise of the Indie Author & Why Coffee is to Blame

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(Original image courtesy of Matthew Pearce via Flikr Creative Commons.)

Many of you are old enough to remember the dot.com boom (then bust) of the 1990s. The Internet was growing in popularity. More people were owning PCs and commerce was shifting on-line. The Old Guard yelled “WITCHCRAFT!”, threw holy water and shorted out their keyboards. The New Guard dived in with the enthusiasm of a kid at Chuck E. Cheese hopped up on sugar.

Creativity abounded. What products or services could be offered on-line? How could we improve the on-line experience? How could we make purchasing faster, safer, more appealing?

Early Adopters jumped all over this because that’s what Early Adopters do. Hey, someone had to be the first to eat an oyster, right?

The Early Adopter Instigator

Most revolutions begin with other revolutions that set the stage. Case in point. For centuries, water was unsafe—okay deadly—to drink. Most workers actually brought beer to work (or some other fermented drink). Then Western society took a fancy to this new beverage from Asia called TEA and then later COFFEE from South America. When tea and coffee (um CAFFEINE) replaced alcohol as the beverage of choice, workers were more productive.

Image courtesy of Ryu1chia Miwa via Flickr Creative Commons

Image courtesy of Ryu1chia Miwa via Flickr Creative Commons

I was skeptical too, so I tested beer then coffee to make sure the empirical data was sound. When I began my workday with beer? Much more napping and looking up exes on-line. A double Starbucks espresso improved word count.

Joking aside, three major developments 1) the invention of the clock/watch 2) the standardization of time and 3) the shift from alcoholic beverages to caffeinated ones laid the foundation for the Industrial Revolution.

The eight-hour workday was easier to implement once people understood what the heck “an hour” was. Also, laborers were able to focus better and be far more productive when sober.

Science :D .

Fast-Forward—How Coffee Transformed the Publishing Paradigm

Coffee not only fueled the Industrial Revolution, but apparently staying up all night unable to sleep led to the invention of the “computer,” “the Internet,” and later “iTunes.” The shift from “going to a physical store” commerce to more “e-commerce” set the stage for a number of unanticipated revolutions in the arts. If we think about it, when did the mega-bookstore enjoy its Golden Years?

Hint: Right about the time of the movie You’ve Got Mail, clearly marking the brief historical epoch when we actually enjoyed getting e-mails. 

In the 90s, the retailer was still king (and the Internet a novelty). Thus, the biggest store with the most bells and whistles and coffee shops won. Why? For centuries we’d been conditioned to going to a physical space to shop. Only the Early Adopters were thumping their legs at this notion of buying stuff without having to drive anywhere.

Granted, this was also the time when SUVs the size of a small semi were all the rage and gas was roughly $1.25 a gallon. Most of us were uncomfortable with the hoo-doo-voo-doo of electric lighting automobiles on-line shopping and still preferred to GO somewhere to buy what we wanted/needed.

Yet, despite initial skepticism, the tsunami of technological innovation decimated many types of businesses, some that had been asking to be smacked for a LONG time. Technology gave beating to the Old School phone companies (cell phones) and wiped out record stores (iTunes) and then later obliterated video stores.

Frankly, Blockbuster had it coming with those ridiculous late fees. Every time I see a Red Box I smile and think of the time Blockbuster refused to work with me on $128 in late fees. Apparently spending four days in the hospital was no excuse for not turning my movies in on time.

Jerks.

The Bursting of the Dot.Com Bubble

Of course, the problem was enthusiasm often has this way of trumping business sense. Once the dot.com fire caught light, everyone was a dot.com and many were nothing more than paper dragons with no business plan, no capital and frankly no idea what the heck they were doing.

We enjoyed a boom and then saw a BOOM. Dot.coms that had their act together became the vanguards for a new age of commerce and the digital wheat was separated from the virtual chaff.

In the wake of the Digital Tsunami, many industries crumbled. In my POV, the music industry is the only one that had a valid excuse not to reinvent. But, after Tower Records toppled, Kodak had time to rework their business model and yet didn’t—People will always want film!—which is why we now will talk of Kodak to our kids the way we talk about cassette tapes and Pet Rocks.

Viva la Revolution

We had to have the Alcoholic Beverage vs. Coffee Revolution to gain a viable and productive Industrial Revolution.

****Rumor has it that writers were equally divided Alcohol/Coffee Debate.

Then, we had to have affordable PCs and a viable Internet to have the On-Line Shopping vs. Retail Space Revolution in order to gain digital commerce. Once digital commerce shifted from Early Adopters to the Early then Late Majority, we witnessed yet even more revolutions spark to life, revolutions that had no way of happening until that particular time in history.

All started by coffee. See the cool stuff you learn here?

Many of these upheavals completely altered the business landscape, and the creative industries saw MAJOR shifts. Indie Bands, Indie Movies and yes, Indie Authors.

Word on the street is that Indie Authors are being supported by an underground resistance financed by Starbucks.

The Social Media Bubble

In roughly 2003-2004 I saw what a major game-changer social media would be for authors. Up until that point, only non-fiction authors had any practical way of building a platform before a book was finished. Novelists had to write a lot of books (and make it past NYC gatekeepers) to have a platform because books were the only way of having a platform/brand.

But with social media? Different story.

Of course when I pitched this idea of branding through social media to agents as late as 2008, they laughed in my face and called me a witch.

I just said we needed both good books and social media.

I just said we needed both good books and social media.

Alcohol vs. Coffee —> Industrial Revolution —> Internet —> Commerce Revolution/ Dot. Com Boom —> Tower Records Collapses —> Kodak Collapses —> iPad and Nook released —> Amazon gains publishing influence —> Early Adopters defect to go Indie —> Social Media Boom —> Indie Authors start seeing success —> Borders closes and Barnes & Noble starts bleeding out—> Big Six becomes Nifty Five —> Author Boom

Three components were critical to the success of the Indie Publishing Revolution:

1) Creation of the Product

Ten years ago, this was a pipe dream. Five years ago, self-published books looked self-published. They were also far more expensive and complicated to produce. Technology and the market has transformed this. Authors can now create a book that looks as good as anything purchased from the last remaining B&N in your city (without going broke).

2) Distribution

So long as major retailers had the upper hand, authors were limited in sales. As e-readers shifted from the Early Adopters to the Early and Late Majority (my GRANDFATHER having a Kindle), retailers lost their monopoly.

3) Visibility

Social media helped authors build a brand and platform that could drive book sales even as traditional retailers began to vanish. Social media BOOMED.

For those who want a paper copy to hold...

For those who want a paper copy to hold…

Social media experts came out of the woodwork to assist writers. It seemed that just about the time a social media site was AWESOME, it collapsed, so we did need guides to help.

Has the Social Media Bubble Burst? What Does This Mean for Authors?

My opinion is we’re seeing a bubble burst that looks a lot like what happened to the dot.coms. Social media has reached an asymptote (not many “drastically new” features to add). Unless Facebook does something EPICALLY STUPID, it will probably remain. Same with Twitter. Fad frenzy has normalized and this new way of interacting has integrated into our culture.

Yes, new sites will emerge, but the rules of the game will stay the same. Since it is social media, those who are authentic, offer value, and are good at creating community will do well. Algorithmic alchemy doesn’t work as well as it used to and never worked long-term.

The handful of writers who adopted social media early did reap rewards. Why? Most other authors didn’t want to go there. This limited competition and gave the Early Adopter Authors an advantage. Most people were on Facebook, yet many authors were NOT.

Then, authors saw the success of the Early Adopter Authors and many a social media guru promised get-rich-quick programs….thus flooding every social site with book spam and bad 20th century marketing retreads. Experts terrified and bedazzled authors with tech-speak and marketing plans.

Yet, in the end, technology is the means not the ends, and society has fundamentally shifted yet again. As I’ve said before, “If we wanted to buy more stuff, we’d be on the Home Shopping Network, not the social network.”

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Social media has become such a staple in modern culture we’re finally establishing concrete etiquette for using it. Kinda like, the “Don’t call people before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m.” probably didn’t come about the instant the telephone was invented.

Yes, there were “rules” we knew intuitively, but it took a couple years of poor behavior for us to say, “ENOUGH. I’ve had four direct messages from you on Twitter thanking me for the follow and asking for me to buy a book….UNFOLLOW.”

Pop! Goes the Bubble

Is social media essential for author success? Of course it is. Just because a gazillion dot.coms went under doesn’t mean on-line shopping isn’t bigger than ever. As with any revolution, it takes a lot of people jumping in with new ideas to sort the stinkers from the stickers. Buying books on-line? YAY! Grocery shopping on-line? Eh.

We still want to squeeze the Charmin tomatoes.

What I love about the new paradigm is it will test our motivations. Those writing for the wrong reasons (getting RICH) will probably burn out and grumble away. But those of us writing because we LOVE writing will keep pressing, keep working, keep connecting, and trying new things. We will be the new generation of authors no matter the path we choose—traditional or non-traditional.

Social media training will be less about technology and more how to become expert connectors and community-builders, which is what my latest book Rise of the Machines-Human Authors in a Digital World teaches how to do. So long as people buy on-line, social media (and doing it WELL) will remain a key component to success.

But creating relationships has always been a solid business practice. Maybe buy them a coffee ;) .

I love hearing from you!

What are your thoughts? Did you underestimate the power of coffee to change the world? Do you think social media has normalized like on-line commerce? Do you think regular people are becoming more aware of an existing etiquette? Are you less permissive of “rude” behavior you might have forgiven three years ago?

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

Upcoming Classes

BOTH CLASSES COME WITH HANDOUTS AND FREE RECORDING.

A seasoned editor can tell a lot about your book with only five pages. Learn to hook hard and hook early. I am running the Your First Five Pages Class. Use WANA10 for $10 off. This is the perfect class for diagnosing bigger story issues or even getting a work agent-ready in time for conference season. This class is April 25th 6:00-8:30 PM NYC Time. Gold Level is available if you want me to critique your 5 pages.

Also, if you are struggling with plot or have a book that seems to be in the Never-Ending Hole of Chasing Your Tail or maybe you’d like to learn how to plot a series, I am also teaching my ever-popular Understanding the Antagonist Class on May 10th from NOON to 2:00 P.M. (A SATURDAY). This is a fabulous class for understanding all the different types of antagonists and how to use them to maintain and increase story tension. Remember, a story is only as strong as its problem ;) . Again, use WANA10 for $10 off.

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64 Comments

The Future of Fiction–From Tiny to Titanic, How to Claim Your Niche

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Last post, I talked about the increasing popularity of series, novellas, shorts and “episodic” writing. Of course, this assertion probably stirred panic in those writers who simply aren’t wired to write series. Personally, I would like to try writing a series, but we’ll see. I might be a stand-alone gal, too.

Let me offer a bit of comfort. The rule that we shouldn’t write to the market still holds true in this case. Just like we shouldn’t decide to write a Vampire-Post-Apacolyptic-Self-Help because those are hot, we shouldn’t take on shorts or series if they aren’t our thing.

Epics, Shorts, and Series are NOT New

What many people might miss is that epics and shorts are not new. With the advent of the nifty thingamajig—the “printing press”—pamphlets were all the rage back in the 1800s. In fact, if we look at early writing, we see two very divergent sizes. On the end of brevity? Ben Franklin Poor Man’s Almanac or even Sir Author Conan Doyle’s short stories. The deep end? The breathtakingly-long-and-detailed-OMG War and Peace by Tolstoy—which demonstrates clearly that, when an author is paid by the word, he will pad that sucker more than a freshman term paper.

Even Charles Dickens danced both sides of the length-spectrum. A Christmas Carol versus A Tale of Two Cities.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

In the early 20th century, pulp fiction was extremely popular. People loved short works that fit in a pocket, ergo, the term “pocket books.” But, as the traditional publishing model evolved and books became bigger business, publishers realized they could charge more money for a longer book. This didn’t mean the audience for short stories and novellas suddenly went away. It had more to do with a business model than reader preferences.

We see the same with epic high fantasy and science fiction. When I was a kid, books big enough to brain a burglar were hot. Um, Clan of the Cave Bear? Ah, but the publishers realized that long books presented a couple of problems.

First, if the word count got too big, the font was so small readers needed a microscope to read it. Secondly, a big fat honkin’ book took up a LOT of shelf space. Why would a publisher bank on FIVE 140,000 word books when they could encourage writers to limit word count and be able to shelve and sell TEN 70,000 word books?

But again, shelf space, cost of paper/shipping/shelving, profit-models didn’t mean that readers who loved 140,000 book died off or evaporated.

The Digital Paradigm Revival

When I began as a writer, agents were quick to turn down short stories, novellas, epics, poetry, etc. It wasn’t because there weren’t readers for these types of writing; it was that the profit simply wasn’t there in a paper-based-brick-and-mortar model. And, to be blunt, I can’t blame New York. I remember being a young whipper snapper inhaling Tolkien, but my eyes were better.

By the time I reached my adult years, reading 1200 pages with 9 font was far too grueling.

Image via Flickr Commons, courtesy of Christian Guthier

Image via Flickr Commons, courtesy of Christian Guthier

The e-reader has solved this problem. It’s made short works profitable. For those who are great at writing shorter works or serialized works, you can now access the audience that loves them and in a way that doesn’t automatically land you in the red.

For those who are strong at more epic fiction, now you can either publish one long book or break it into installments. I know I never would have been able to read Game of Thrones in paper without going BLIND. With my Kindle? I can now enjoy those super long adventures I adored in my youth.

Yes, there is a lot of chaos, confusion and growing pains as the publishing world shifts and grows and molts the old skin that no longer fits. In the midst of this, however, there is now room for more writers, more works, and more types of work, which should be very encouraging.

Also, writers can now enjoy far greater flexibility. Sure, if you want to publish traditionally, you can! But if you have the right contract, there is nothing stopping you from writing shorts or novellas or series or testing other genres in between books if you want to. Keep the fan fires burning in between.

There is ALWAYS an Audience

If you want to write stand-alones only? Great. Do it. That is your strength. Don’t feel that because series are hot you need to suddenly retool everything. There is just as much of an audience for the stand-alone as there is for the shorter or way longer stuff. The only difference is that publishing has been feeding your audience for the past couple decades, whereas those who liked super-short or uber-long had to read older books or look to magazines or e-zines.

If you DO, however, want to write a series, there are some fundamentals to ensure that your plot skeleton is strong and compelling. Plot is the delivery mechanism for character. Our characters can only be as strong as the problems they face.

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Last post I talked about loving Battlestar Galactica. I can SEE why this series is so iconic. Hubby and I went back and watched Caprica because we were interested in what happened before the Cylon revolt. How did the Cylons come to be? The first few episodes? LOVED them. Now? I can see why the series wasn’t renewed. The overall plot problem is too small and too weak. There is no impending threat, so the series, for me, is fizzling.

Also, without a BIG and COMPELLING story problem, the individual characters aren’t as strong. The pressure is weak, thus the characters are too. Instead of truly heroic feats, I am seeing more and more melodrama and getting to where I hate almost everyone. Why? Because in Battlestar Galactica characters did awful, bad and stupid things, but we could forgive them. They were running for their lives and staring into the face of extinction. The story PROBLEM permitted us to give them grace.

In Caprica there is no large problem so this makes the characters petty and unlikable. Also, in Battlestar Galactica we knew the log-line. The human race must destroy or evade the Cylons and find Earth before they are rendered extinct by their own creation.

The audience in ONE SENTENCE knows the story, whether it is three episodes or thirty. GOAL: Find Earth. Every setback that keeps Earth out of reach or dashes hope of even finding Earth or any hint Earth might not exist makes us nervous. It is true dramatic tension.

Caprica? Once I got an idea of how the Cylons came to be? I grew bored. There is NO imminent threat, no crucible, no idea of an overall problem in need of solving. Each episode is just “stuff happening.” It is breaking one of the core rules of a good series. Every episode should be able to stand alone. Every episode should have a clear smaller goal that is a step toward reaching the larger goal.

Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons

Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons

And, to be blunt, Caprica might simply be facing the problem most prequels have. We already know the end. We already know the Cylons will rebel and wage war and nearly wipe out humans. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy I watched Caprica because now I understand the Cylons more and the humans sorta deserved what they got. But, it is tough to have a ticking clock and a disaster to be averted when the audience already knows the humans will “lose.”

Whether we write short works, long works, in-between works, serialized or unserialized, the same “rules” apply. We’ll talk more later about how to write a strong series, but a great start no matter what kind of story—short, long, in-between, connected, unconnected—is to create a clear, compelling, story-worthy problem.

What are your thoughts? Do you have series that fizzled for you for the same reasons? There wasn’t a strong problem or a clear problem? Can you think of stories you loved versus ones that lost your interest because it devolved into confusion or melodrama? Are you contemplating a series? Why?

I love hearing from you!

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

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

 

 

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67 Comments

Suck It Up & Writer Up—Preparing for Greatness

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

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

Feel inspired?

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

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

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

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

Are They Wrong?

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

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

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

Here’s another while we’re here.

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

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

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Zoetnet

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Zoetnet

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

Thinking Long-Term

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THIS?

THIS?

Or THIS?

Or THIS?

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

Our Author Platform is a Living Thing

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

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

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

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

Want Your Blog to Grow? FEED IT FREQUENTLY

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

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

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

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

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

Writer Up—No One Can Do This FOR Us

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

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

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

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Crossfit.

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Crossfit.

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

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

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

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

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

There are NO Short-Cuts to ANY PLACE Worth Going

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

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

March’s WINNER—Christina Delusions of Humor

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

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112 Comments

Journey from Aspiring Dreamer to Hardened Professional Author

Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons

Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons

One of the goals of this blog has always been to prepare new writers and develop professionals. In order to do this, I blog on any number of topics, ranging from social media to search engines, craft to family. Some posts are just to give you a laugh because Lord knows we always need more of those. Writers are human beings, and, if we focus only on one aspect of our growth, we can become unbalanced or even deformed.

When it comes to developing/ growing from that wide-eyed dreamer with a gift for words and transforming into a pro who can withstand the unrelenting crucible of this business, balance is vital. Why? I can tell you from experience that when we reach the mountain’s “summit”, the view is breathtaking…until we see the next mountain, the taller mountain. Oh, and to reach the top of that taller mountain, it means…

Another trip through the valley. *head desk*

Just Do It

I despise the term “aspiring writer.” We don’t “aspire” to get out of the chair. Either we sit or we stand. We choose and no one can make that decision but us. I prefer the term “pre-published” writer, because this makes us accountable and shifts our thinking. To continue the metaphor of mountain-climbing, there is a transition every climber goes through…from looking at pictures of people on top of Mt. Everest to making the decision to DO IT.

This person might be at the gym training, lifting weights, doing cardio, perhaps even learning to climb on walls and developing the strength, endurance and flexibility to climb a mountain. Training is key.

Image and quote courtesy of SEAL of Honor on Facebook.

Image and quote courtesy of SEAL of Honor on Facebook.

We can’t just buy a bunch of fancy gear and show up in Nepal unless we really want to DIE. Climbing a mountain is a lot like successfully publishing. There are no shortcuts. We can’t pay guides to do what we must do ourselves. Yes, sherpas are key, but they can’t make the climb for us. They are there to assist.

But we still must make the initial decision to go for it.

Then we train.

If We’re Comfortable We Aren’t Growing

I have never climbed a mountain, but I did live my teens and twenties like a Mountain Dew commercial (and feel that every time the weather changes). I used to rock climb and go bouldering. Bouldering is particularly terrifying because boulders are BIG and they are ROUND. Round is particularly terrifying because to comes with BLIND SPOTS.

Bouldering is used to hone skills for bigger climbs. It develops strength, callouses, flexibility, and teaches that sometimes we have to reach for what we can’t see.

The going up the boulder is scary enough, but the coming down? THAT’S when it gets truly terrifying. Look down? That’s when you see how far you could really fall, and since bouldering is done without ropes? Ouch. And though it might sound cliche…don’t look down. Another interesting part of bouldering is one must reach hands and feet into the unseen and trust you can grab hold.

Same with writing. We will have to reach into the unseen or remain stuck. We have to let go of one place to make it to the next and there are no guarantees, which is why it is important to…

Have a Network of Support

I’m sure there are lone writers out there who eat nails for breakfast and spit them out as mega-best-selling novels, but they’re rare. These guys remind me of free-soloing climbers. These climbers scale huge rock faces using strength and body position to stay on the rock without the use of ropes.

I did this once…and slid a good fifty feet down a rock face, bruising, cutting and scraping every exposed area of my body. In my opinion, there are two types of free-soloers…Grand Champion and Stuff on a Rock. After getting a taste of being Stuff on a Rock? Ropes were AWESOME from that point on. Ego wasn’t worth it.

Same in writing. It’s one of the reasons I created the WANA community on Facebook and #MyWANA on Twitter and even WANATribe (a social network for writers and creative professionals). We need help. We need ropes other writers to be there when we are scraped and bruised and even when we fall. Because if we don’t fall, then we really aren’t trying that hard.

If we have a system of support, then falls can be setbacks instead of catastrophes. Writing has historically been a lonely and solitary profession because of the nature of our world. Now? We can choose. Other writers can anchor us, be there to lift us.

We can return the favor. We can also learn from writers who’ve scaled this mountain before. We don’t have to reinvent a new path. The top of the mountain remains pretty much the same. No one cares how we get there, so long as we get there.

Does anyone question the team with the group shot on the top of K-2? Do they say, “Well, you slid at least twenty times and nearly fell into an ice cave. Oh and then there was that delay because of weather. And you had to have a team of sherpas to help you. Your summit doesn’t count.” No. Either we finish the book or we don’t. Whether it took ten revisions, or a hundred, no one cares.

All they care about is, did we summit FINISH?

The Air Gets Thinner The Higher We Climb

Sure the view is breathtaking, but nothing grows at the top of the mountain. No one can live there. The air is too thin, the terrain too unstable, the weather too brutal, and there’s no food at the top of the mountain.

Each work is it’s own climb. Maybe it’s a short story (boulder) to train for bigger things. But I feel many of us (and I was guilty, too) believe that we can live on the summit, that the summit means we have made it and it will somehow be easier. This is a lie. When you land an agent, it’s the beginning of a new mountain. When we finish a book or even make a best-seller list, it only makes way for a new mountain. No one stays at the top of a best-seller list indefinitely.

We can’t live there.

The summit of any endeavor should be savored and rejoiced, but it comes with the acceptance that now we have to climb back into the valley because the valley is for the living and the growing ;).

What are your thoughts? Have you ever metaphorically slid down a cliff on your face? What did you learn? Are you grateful for new challenges or overwhelmed?

***For some guidance and training regarding mountain climbing becoming successfully published, feel free to check the announcements below.

I love hearing from you!

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

ANNOUNCEMENTS, AGENTS & FREE STUFF:

Thinking about attending #WANACon or already signed up?

On Wednesday, check out a FREE presentation by one of WANACon’s presenters, Gabriela Pereira, on: “How to Get the Most Out of A Conference.”

- To join the presentation, go to WANA International’s site at 8PM Eastern (New York) time / 5pm Pacific (Seattle) time.
– On the right sidebar, select “WANACon Open House – Feb 12, 2014″ from the drop-down box under “Conference Hall A”.
– Enter your name and the password “welcome”, and then click “Join.”

Click here to ADD THIS EVENT to your Google calendar.

The Open House starts one hour earlier if you want to work out tech gremlins, check out the classroom, or visit with others.

Join us at WANACon (THE global virtual writing conference) on February 21 & 22, use promo code “Valentine” for $15 off the registration fee this week. Three agents covering almost every fiction category are also taking pitches in private, virtual, webcam & audio-capable meeting rooms.

And if you sign up, REMEMBER to enter the Rafflecopter this week for your chance to win a refund of your conference registration fee!

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44 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Difference Between Expectation and Desire

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

Now THAT is what I’m talkin’ about….

*swoons*

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

Fast-Forward

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

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

“Why?” *blank stare*

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

“Oh.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Does This Apply to Books?

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

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

All you need is love....

All you need is love….

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

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

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

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

I love hearing from you!

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

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

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

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85 Comments

Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome—Writers of the Digital Age

Image vis Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi.

Okay, what now? (Image vis Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Yuya Sekiguchi).

Tomorrow I leave for NYC to speak at CraftFest then attend Thrillerfest. This conference (for me) is simultaneously exciting and terrifying. I’ve always held a deep love for NY (and still do). This is one of the challenges I’ve faced when it comes to being a social media expert for authors.

My goal is to connect each author with the publishing path that is best for that artist. 

In the meantime, I also strive to help NY innovate. Amazon is great, but healthy competition is best for all of us in the end. Monopolies are only good for said owner of the monopoly. As I said in Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World, “NY brings balance to The Force.” Any help I can offer to help them raise their game? I’m here.

Thriving in the Digital Age

One of my all-time favorite movies is Heartbreak RidgeIt’s a movie about a drill instructor who has to take command of a spoiled  recon platoon with a bad attitude. Part of how Gunny Highway whips these bad boys into shape is by constantly changing the rules so they have to learn to be predictive, to think three steps ahead and anticipate changes.

The best line in the movie?

Improvise, adapt and overcome! ~Gunny Highway

Know The Territory

My mission is to give you guys a plan that is within context of the shifting paradigm. One of the keys to being successful is to understand the market territory and how best we fit into that territory so we can accomplish our objectives. It’s how we improvise and adapt (then overcome).

For instance, the ancient Greeks ruled the seas. The Romans? They were better fighting on land. When Greeks knew they needed to resolve a conflict or retake a territory, they worked very hard to bring the battle onto the water. Mainly because they ROCKED on water…and also it was far harder to have a party boat on land :D.

The Internet has a wealth of information to help us understand where we fit. The smart writer gets educated and knows where she maneuvers best. I hope NYC will grow more comfortable innovating for the Digital World because that’s where a lot of the “battle” is now taking place. Can they adopt techniques that can help them maneuver this new territory with the same ease?

One of the reasons Rome remained an EMPIRE for a few thousand years is they learned to assimilate the tactics and tools of their adversaries. When the Spanish kicked their tails with the Gladuis Hispaniensis (the Gladius)? The Romans became MASTERS at forging and wielding that sword. They didn’t keep running into battle with the same sword that lost them the battle in the first place, because “Well, we have always used that sword.”

They adapted and changed to accommodate new and superior technology to gain the advantage. Writers and publishers who can learn and grow and harness new technologies are the ones who will dominate the field.

Know Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Not everyone has the ability to be an entrepreneur. Self-publishing and indie publishing are not a panacea. Are you ready to learn to be a publisher? Are you willing to learn the business side of the business? Are you okay with failing? A lot?

I wish I could tell you I’ve never made any bone-headed decisions, but I have. More than I care to admit, in fact. But, I am grateful I did some stuff wrong because failure is a great teacher. Failing SUCKS, but it will teach you to improvise and adapt.

No matter which path you choose, failure will be there. That’s okay. Learn from it. Harness it. Grow stronger. OVERCOME.

It’s a Great Time to Be a Writer

This is the beauty of the new paradigm. We now have choices. Some of you are natural entrepreneurs. Every time I get around RWA people I feel like a babe who knows NOTHING. So many of their authors not only have an unparalleled work ethic, but the sheer business-savvy they possess leaves me speechless.

….and I’m Kristen Lamb. NOT an easy feat :D.

Yes, I self-published. It was the best option for my personality and content. Yet? My dear friend Susan Spann negotiated a three-book traditional deal for her (Shinobi Mystery Series) Claws of the Cat. Why?

First, her books are awesome, but secondly, she has a law practice. She didn’t have the time or energy to do all the stuff a publisher does. For her, traditional was an ideal fit. This goes back to knowing strengths and weaknesses and what terrain we feel we can be strong.

Are you better fighting writing on solid land traditional or out at sea non-traditional? This is why I never offer a One Size Fits All Platform for writers.

WANA supports all types of writers and all types of publishing. The cool thing about books? They are not so cost-prohibitive that people won’t buy more than ONE. Thus, we really aren’t each other’s competition, and that places us in a unique position to work together to improve the terrain all around.

Traditional publishing brings over a century of gatekeeper experience and the indies are forging ahead and innovating in the digital world. We are wise to look to each other and learn. The traditionals can help us improve the overall quality of our product, but the indies can help us reach more readers faster and better. Indies are great at streamlining and innovating.

The good news is we are living in an amazing time to be writers (and publishers).

What are your thoughts? Do you like that writers finally have a career path? Do you like being an entrepreneur? Have you enjoyed being traditionally published? What do you think we can learn from each other?

I love hearing from you!

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

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

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

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37 Comments

The Democratization of Publishing—Independence is Scary

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of geishaboy

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of geishaboy 500

I’m looking over the final formatting for my new book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World. The goal is to release it on July 4th for a number of reasons. My first book was called We Are Not Alone and then we have the whole Rise of the Machines thing goin’ on with the new book. What better day to release than Independence Day? Okay, May the Fourth might have been cooler, but the book wasn’t finished with editing at that point.

Yes, I am a sci-fi nerd :D.

Publishing has Been Democratized

Before the e-book/indie revolution, we writers relied on New York solely to grant us a career or not. We needed favor from the King traditional press to move forward. There was no other way unless we were willing to hand ten or twenty thousand dollars to a vanity press and hope we could duplicate The Grisham Effect.

Grisham Effect—Self-publish and sell books out of the back of our cars and hope to get NY’s attention. But note, this wasn’t true independence. It was investing a lot of money and time in hopes of gaining favor with NYC.

For well over a century, NY held total control over print, production, and distribution. Additionally, writers were at the mercy of the publishers’ sales forces. The sales force would look back at what had been selling in order to get an idea of what would sell in the future. 

Yeah, well we know this is an awesome post-apocalyptic book, but there are already too many on the market. NOPE.

Due to the business structure of legacy press, it was far harder to convince them to take risks (still is). They have overhead, pricey Manhattan rents, and employees to pay. Shareholders have expectations, too.

Not personal, just business. Still works that way.

Living with Mom and Dad

Going traditional reminds me a lot of living at home. It does have a lot of advantages. I lived with my grandparents during my teen years and the fridge was always full. I didn’t have to sit and pay bills or get a job and pray I made enough tip money to keep the lights on. Of course this security came with limited freedom.

I had a curfew. There were restrictions on how I could dress, where I could go, who I could hang out with, and how I spent my  limited “spending money.” But, it was safe, predictable, and did I mention safe?

Take Care of Me

When I landed a premium agent, I thought, “Score! NY will LOVE this book. Surely I won’t have to do the heavy lifting.” Then my proposal sat…and sat…and sat some more. I didn’t want to leave the traditional nest, but I wasn’t being granted access to the traditional world either.

I was in Limbo, and had to make a choice. Stay in the nest or fly.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Tim Simpson.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Tim Simpson.

Moving Out

Going alone is terrifying. When I finally made the decision to move out of my grandparents’ home, life became much scarier and utterly unpredictable. I had to do a lot of stuff to survive that I would never had to do had I stayed in the nest. I wouldn’t have had to throw newspapers all night long just to crawl into my 8:00 a.m. Political Science class.

Had I stayed at home, I wouldn’t have had to sleep on a mattress on the floor (left there by previous owners of the duplex I rented). I wouldn’t have had to shop at Goodwill for my clothes or hover around Dumpsters like a turkey buzzard looking for useful things people threw away.

***Note: NEVER take home anything made of CLOTH. The bugs will carry you away. Yes, learned this the hard way by taking home the Sofa of DOOM.

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Lord Jim

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Lord Jim

Ah, but there was no going back, and failure had a far steeper price.

Leaving the Traditional Nest

Like many of you, I finally had to make a decision and move out. I wanted an agent and editor to be there for me, to do all that “business stuff.” After two years?

I was finally willing to give up security for freedom.

I didn’t want to have to wear all hats and be all things. Ah, but what we want and what we get in life are two different things. Not only did I have to leave the traditional nest, I had to leave the indie publisher nest.

I left because I wanted to try self-publishing, and I also knew I wouldn’t get the creative control I wanted, thus couldn’t fully spread my wings and crash to the ground and die try new ideas.

Image via WANA Commons, courtesy of Melissa Bowersock

Image via WANA Commons, courtesy of Melissa Bowersock

Author Independence

Here in America, we will be celebrating Independence Day. Americans believed they could create something different, something better. Meanwhile England was all like, “A government of the people, by the people and for the people? Are you HIGH? We protect you from wild Indians and send you supplies. We keep order.”

Writers are now facing the same shift.

Despite the scary wilderness ahead and the idea writers would 1) have to do a lot of stuff ourselves and 2) have no long-established body of support (Mother England Publishing) and 3) try things never done before in human history? We’re doing it.

The Indie movement is creating a paradigm that’s “Of the reader, for the reader and by the reader.” If we succeed, it’s because we did something right. We earned attention and loyalty from readers. Granted, the scary part is that we can just as easily get skewered by readers.

It’s the risk we take.

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Peter Dutton

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Peter Dutton

Yet, by breaking free, we have a chance to explore and test new ideas and combine or even create new genres. We can fail, learn from that failure and try again. We are part of a creative revolution and, like any revolution, not all of it’s pretty. But, some of it, in the end, is GLORIOUS.

So to all authors brave enough to go indie press or even go it alone? Hats off to you. And even those authors who are publishing traditionally? You are part of the revolution as well: social media, blogging and even hybridizing (self-publishing in between books to keep fans excited). It is a great time to be a writer, so Happy Independence to all of you.

Vive la Revolution!

For the indies out there, have you enjoyed your freedom? What’s been scary? Have you failed but learned a vital lesson? What are your concerns? Advice? Suggestions? Did you ever take home a Sofa of Doom? What crazy stuff did you have to do when you were first on your own?

Now get back to writing :D.

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of June, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

NOTE: My prior two books are no longer for sale. My new book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World will be out (God-willing) July 4th. I will let y’all know when it’s ready for sale and I am updating/rewriting the other two ;) .

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 June I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

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67 Comments

To Find Success, Learn to Embrace the Climb

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 7.12.58 AM

Image courtesy of Flikr Commons RVWithTito

Funny the memories that come back sometimes, and we have no idea what prompted them. Last night, as I was walking out of the grocery store, a memory flashed in my mind, a moment I hadn’t thought about in easily ten years. I was one of the poor kids at a very wealthy university where most students were in fraternities and sororities and drove luxury cars. In a parking lot filled with BMWs, Mercedes and Land Rovers, my car looked like the egg Mork took to Earth. I drove a Geo Metro, basically a pregnant roller skate. It would rattle like it was going to fly apart if I ever got above 65, so it kept me from speeding :D.

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 6.33.27 AM

Morks’ Ride

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My Ride. Dismissed as Coincidence.

Anyway, I worked a lot of jobs and one of those jobs was running a paper route. Suckiest job on the planet. Every night I woke a little after midnight to get to the warehouse, roll papers and bag them, then deliver to three large apartment complexes, no matter how bad the weather. Also, apparently only people on the third floor ever ordered the paper. LOTS of climbing stairs.

Gated apartments were all the new rage in the 90s, and it wasn’t uncommon for the security code not to work, and I’d have to climb a fence. One complex was determined to kill me. They ran the sprinklers all year, even when the temperatures were in the 20s…so I could have fun sliding across large sheets of ice with a thirty-pound bag of Sunday papers.

I worked from one in the morning until about six, then would come home and snooze for an hour on a mattress that had been left by the previous owners of the duplex I rented. I didn’t have “per se” a bed. I’d roll out of my mattress and go to class until lunchtime, often in the same sweatpants and ball cap I wore to work. I didn’t really have any friends. Was too tired for them. When you have a paper route, it is seven days a week, 365 days a year, no holidays. The only way to get a day off is to pay another runner to take your route for a day.

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 7.22.44 AM

Hey, Kristen! Jeff’s here to take you to sell papers!
Image via Flikr Commons Curtis Gregory Perry

As if this wasn’t tough enough, another aspect of the job required we go door-to-door selling subscriptions. We were expected to have so many new subscriptions per month. A van would pick us up and dump us off who knew where, hand us a map, then arrange to pick us up in three hours. For three hours, we were on our own (and this was before cell phones). One time, I recall being so cold that I hid in an apartment laundry room where someone was running a dryer. I’d been out in the cold for hours with no proper coat (and no subscriptions) and I was frustrated, broke, dirty and hiding in a laundry room.

Hiding in a laundry room will humble even the best :D.

The real fun would come when I’d go to my International Law class to be lectured by a Social Work Girl (who sported a $1,000 Prada handbag and drove a BMW) how I was heartless and, in her words, “didn’t understand the plight of the poor.”

So last night I have no idea why this memory came back. I’d try to forget the whole “desperate enough to hide in a laundry room” thing, yet there it was. Maybe I remembered this because of yesterday’s Embracing the Meantime post. I can tell you that this “meantime” was tough. Every day was a new struggle.

I bemoaned that I wasn’t one of the trust fund babies who didn’t have to check in with their parole officer financial aid lady. I longed to be one of the skinny, rich sorority girls who didn’t live on generic mac and cheese and who could actually afford to buy ALL their text books. I “winged” most of my classes and had no idea how I still managed to get good grades.

Yet, in later years, I found out many of those kids never finished school. They threw up in the showers to stay thin and many struggled with alcohol and drug addictions. A few committed suicide. They had everything, yet, in their eyes, they had nothing. They had no hope.

Hope was all that kept me going, the sheer force of will that told me that, if I endured, if I hung on and didn’t quit, that life would be better. I had to climb the mountain. I wasn’t delivered by helicopter, and I was so much better for that. Many of those kids were delivered to the summit by “daddy” and it was the worst thing for them. All they had was the view, and they lacked the euphoric feeling of accomplishing something on their own. “Having it too easy” destroyed a precious part of their souls.

As writers, many of us wish we had it easier, that we didn’t have to have a day job, or have to take care of kids and parents and clip coupons to survive. We want our first book(s) to be runaway best-sellers that make us rich. Yet, I will challenge you to embrace this time and your struggles. Embrace your climb. Pay attention. Write notes. It will make your writing far richer.

Many of you right now are in a ROUGH meantime. You are in the climb of your life with no ropes and barely keeping your grip. These are the experiences that will one day make you an indomitable artist and help you create great fiction. Yes, we spend most of our time in the valley, but when we seek to achieve something big, there is always the climb. We might relish the few moments of being at the summit, but we will always remember the climb. The climb is what makes us stronger.

And the WANA Way? We are not alone! ;)

Are you struggling? Is life tough? Can you think of how this will make your stories better? Have you been through rough times and used that to fuel your fiction? Tell us about it!

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. 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 March I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

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86 Comments

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