Posts Tagged sales

Understanding Author Platform Part 1–Making Platform our Art

Image from Street Art Utopia.

One of the words writers hear a lot of is “platform.” What is it? How do we get one? How much time do we need to put in on social media for it to count? Do we get time off for good behavior? All good questions, but before I address them, I’d like you guys to understand something very important:

Author platforms are not the same as they used to be.

If we fail to understand how author platforms have changed, we will look as ridiculous as the guy trying to hitch horses to the front of an automobile. Not only will we look silly, but it will only be a matter of time before we give up in frustration, because nothing we do seems to work.

Platforms Once Were Easy to Control, Thus Easy to Measure

Back in the day, platforms were generally only available to those who could afford one. Hiring a PR expert, distributing a newsletter and even building a web site were all extremely cost-prohibitive. Sure, one could also build a platform by doing speaking gigs or writing articles for publication, but one had to establish credibility before getting a toe in the door, so we are right back to platform went to only a handful of individuals.

And if we happened to be fiction authors, then just forget about building a platform. It was simply too expensive. The only way we had of building a platform or brand was through publishing our books…and that, too, only went to a slim percentage of people who made it through gatekeepers.

Additionally, platforms used to be built in ways that were easy to quantify and measure–I.e. how many clicks on a web site, how many attendees for a speech, etc. In The Old World—B.F. (Before Facebook)—it was easier to measure our influence because our brand/platform was relatively static. It was easy to measure how many people tuned into a radio show, a morning show, and how many “clicked to buy” after these types of events.

PR experts would create an image and that image remained largely unmodified unless it wasn’t working…or the “subject” decided to go crazy and create a Kardashianesque scandal worthy of hiring a spin doctor.

Ah, but Times, They Have Changed

These days, platforms are organic, especially those platforms built using social media.

Is there any other kind?.

We can’t control what happens to the content once we let go. Additionally, social media is a two-way exchange. If Bed, Bath & Beyond sends me a mailer, they aren’t expecting me to like it, then photocopy it and distribute it to my friends. Yet, that is exactly what we are after when it comes to social media. We are trusting others to take in what we offer (content), like it and then pass it on to their networks.

The Upside & The Downside

What is wonderful about social media is that we always have the potential for world-wide exposure, to go viral, etc. We also have a lot more fluidity than years ago. We can write in different genres or dabble in transmedia or become hybrid authors because followers are interacting with us daily and real-time.

Yet, the downside of the new paradigm is that social influence is virtually impossible to measure. For more about why, go here to my post The Dark Side of Metrics—Writer Friend or Ticket to Crazy Town? Not only is social influence virtually impossible to  measure…but it is accessible to everyone. In the old days B.F., we were only competing against a slim few with the cash or tenacity to build a platform. Now? To quote The Incredibles

When everyone is special then no one is.

In a time when everyone has access to the same tools, how can we ever hope to stand apart?

So all of this is to say that platform and brand have changed as much as publishing has. If writers want to survive and thrive in the new paradigm, they must let go of the old and embrace the new.

A New Attitude

One of the largest hindrances I see to authors building a great platform has to do with their attitude toward being required to build one. It’s just another chore, a drudgery. It makes us feel weird and dirty, like we are selling out and compromising who we are. I totally appreciate these feelings, because I have felt them, too.

I felt them before I really understood what author platform meant.

In a world where most writers are moaning and groaning about being required to have a platform, the only chance we have of standing apart from the masses, is we must change our attitude and our approach. Sure, easier said than done, right?

No. Not really. I think if we take a moment to peel back why we feel the way we do, it will be easier to enjoy this new leg of author evolution.

So Why Does Building a Platform Make Most of Us Feel Icky?

How many of you ran out and bought John Locke’s book, How I Sold a Million Books in Five Months? Hey, I did. I can always learn, and Locke actually had some really great ideas, but I did have to ask myself some hard questions. Why didn’t his methods resonate with me? Why did many of Locke’s tactics make me feel queasy, as if I had escaped one sales job just to land another one? After a lot of thought, I realized it had to do with intent.

When experts throw around phrases like “target your audience,” I must confess that all I can think of is a red-dot laser site landing on someone’s chest.

 

I am writing a book. Prepare to be targeted.

Maybe it’s just me *shrugs*.

See, Locke will even tell you in his book that he is a born capitalist. He worked in sales for years and started all kinds of businesses. To him, books were just a new way of making money. He saw a tremendous marketing opportunity in the shifting paradigm, and he used his talents and went for it and it paid off. He spent $25,000 figuring out what tactics worked and what failed. He experimented with all kinds of genres and tactics, but not because his art and love happened to be writing.

Locke’s art and love was capitalism and marketing. 

You can see Locke’s excitement coming off the page as he relates his stories of how he tried all kinds of tactics to see where the numbers went. Locke’s art form happened to be numbers. Writing was just the medium, much like a sculptor might choose marble or clay. The reason Locke has such passion is he is doing his art.

But is Their Art Your Art?

For writers who have a love of sales, Locke’s book will really resonate because you will be doing your art. OR, you will at least be blending two arts you love together—sales and writing. Yet, for writers who break out in hives at the mention of the word sales and who are in this for the art of writing?

Hasta la vista, Baby.

Same thing with the PR & social media marketing people. They love to offer suggestions of how to help writers. They are lovely people who are sharing their art, and they want us to love it as much as they do. Some writers do love their methods and find PR and social media marketing is their art, too and that is why these classes have a lot to offer even if they differ from mine.

But what about the rest of us?

What if Sales/Marketing is Not My Art? Am I Doomed?

No. Not at all. But I will challenge you to stop trying to make their art your art. Think of it this way. Some of you, if I said you would be required to also design your own book covers would squeal with joy. Why? Because you also have a love for drawing or graphic design in addition to being a writer. You have more than one art. 

Our art is not our skill; our art is where our heart and passion rests.

Some writers do wonderfully learning marketing and sales skills because it is congruent with an existing passion. Some writers didn’t even know they had  a passion of on-line marketing, but, after a class at a writing conference, they were hooked once they had the know-how.

For the rest of us?

You could teach PR and on-line marketing until the end of time, and we would still hate it with every fiber of our being. We’d hate it just as much as a kid who loves building model airplanes being forced to learn to play the piano. For this kid who is forced to learn an instrument, piano would be a chore, and because it is a chore, any music he makes would always be robotic. It would always lack the essential ingredient that makes music art—passion. 

This is the same reason that writers who hate sales and marketing will always fail. Because it is a chore, it will lack the critical ingredient to connect—passion.

But, Kristen! All of us have to get out there and sell and market!

No, you don’t. I know many well-meaning people have told you this is the case, but it is a false syllogism. A false what? A false syllogism.

Example 

All people who dig ditches sweat profusely.

You are sweating profusely, therefore you must be digging a ditch.

For Writers?

All master salespeople and marketers have platforms that sell lots of books.

Writers need platforms that sell lots of books, therefore writers need to be master salespeople and marketers.

Or…

All social media technology experts have a large platform.

Writers need a large platform, therefore writers need to be social media technology experts.

NO!

We Can’t Fake Passion

If we hate what we are doing, people feel it. Conversely, when we interact with passion, people feel that, too. Why do you think I am so against automation? People who pre-program all their tweets do not love Twitter. They don’t LOVE interacting and thus there is no passion, so no connection.

This is why doing social media this way takes such HUGE numbers to be effective. It is the same ROI (return on investment) we would get with sending out spam e-mails or junk mail–about 1-5%. Thus, for every 20,000 followers, only about 200-500 will listen and fewer will care.

Words are Our Art

Social media is nothing but words. We writers use words to create feeling and emotion. We use 26 black letters in various combinations to spark passion and interest. Social media can be a drudgery when we aren’t connected to our muse. Yet, when approached with the correct attitude, social media a new canvas for the writer-artist.

We will talk more about platform and ways to make social media our art next week. In the meantime, I want you to answer some questions:

What is it I fear the most about social media?

What do I believe it is taking away from me?

What are the emotions I want readers to feel when reading my work?

Of all those emotions, which one is the most important? Do I want people to feel love, passion, inspiration, courage?

So what are some questions you guys have? Do you feel better now that you have permission to hate sales? Can you spend some time defining your own art and think of ways to infuse it into your social media? For those already doing this, can you share with the rest of us?

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.

This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness

50,000 Inimitable Smiles by Margie Lawson over at More Cowbell

How to Get Media Coverage for Your Book over at Jane Friedman’s place

Was March 2012 the Day that Traditional Publishing Died? by the ever-brilliant Bob Mayer

Amazon Signs Up Authors Writing Publishers Out of the Deal by the NYT

Beautiful Breakups–What the Revision Process Can Teach Us by August McLaughlin

How Can Modern Writers Become and Stay Visible? by the fabulous Jody Hedlund

Ten Things You Should Know About Setting by the awesome-sauce Chuck Wendig

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Who Will Rule Social Media? Introverts vs. Extroverts

Yesterday, one of the commenters asked my thoughts about introverts on social media. At first glance, it seems that social media, social networking and social platform-building is a job made in heaven for the extrovert. Well, yes and no. Actually, each personality brings a unique skill set to the table.

The terms “extrovert” and “introvert” were first made popular in the 1920s by the famous psychologist Carl Jung, then given further momentum later by the Myers-Briggs personality test. Over the past century, it appears our society has developed an unhealthy fascination with the extrovert, favoring the bubbly, outgoing energetic personality over their quiet, more contemplative counterparts. Corporations spend money by the buckets training their people to “group think,” and “team-building” has virtually wiped out all quiet reflection.

In a world that can’t seem to stop talking, the introvert is getting lost.

Yes, I am an extrovert *shock face*, but one thing you guys might not expect is that I actually score very high as an introvert as well. Every time I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs, I score almost dead even on the extrovert vs. introvert questions. I am technically an extrovert with strong introversive tendencies. It generally is only one or two answers that have tipped me over to the extrovert side. I do feel that introversive side is part of what drew me to becoming a writer in the first place.

So, let’s just say that I do have some idea of what it feels like to be an introvert trapped in a corporate culture that doesn’t value quiet time. I know what it feels like to slug though meeting after meeting with every person feeling the need to fill the air with chatter and suggestions, whether they’d thought them through or not. And to make matters worse, our culture seems to reward the person who is noisiest, regardless whether the person makes any sense at all.

I remember being part of a sales meeting and all the reps were tossing out what they thought the company’s main focus for the year should be. Lower prices! Shorter lead-times! More choices! The CEO was just beaming in the sea of all this noisy brilliance. After a while, I finally raised my hand said something that stopped everyone cold.

“Has anyone asked the customers what they feel is important?”

See, one area introverts shine is they tend to be better listeners. Most managers will seek out the gregarious chatterbox who isn’t afraid to strike up a conversation and recruit them to the sales force. Yet, the interesting thing is that what makes the extrovert supposedly “good” at sales, can actually be a hinderance. To be good at sales, the extrovert needs to, above all else, learn to be a good listener first…and that is an area where we extroverts can struggle. We get so busy being entertaining that we often forget to be quiet long enough to hear the real problem our product can solve.

Thus, when it comes to social media, introverts are at no disadvantage…well, not using the WANA approach. Originally I had intended to only post one vlog this week. But, since the weekend was such a disaster, yesterday, while Spawn was passed out on codeine, I filmed a quick vlog to answer this question…because talking is easier than writing at this point. And the Spawn is doing fantastic today. Thanks for all the prayers and support.

As you can see, the introvert doesn’t need to become an extrovert in order to rule social media. In fact, using WANA, introverts can actually rely on their extroversive teammates to carry on their message while they rest and recharge. Since WANA is a community, we all harness each other’s strengths while collectively mitigating each other’s weaknesses. TEAM–Together Everyone Achieves More. Introverts have their own special contribution, and we aren’t here to change your personality, just your approach. Introverts have just as much to contribute to the world of social media, so don’t try to be something you aren’t. No phonies!

So what questions do you have that you might like for me to address on the vlog? Questions about social media? Craft? Questions about sea monkey training? Throw it out there.

I LOVE hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of…heck it is close enough for 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!

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 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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86 Comments

10 Ways to Improve Your “Likability Quotient”

A couple weeks ago, I had a post about how to sell fiction. We explored the WHY behind the BUY. The same tools that will sell car insurance or bank accounts won’t work for selling books. Fiction is emotional, and often we will purchase based off feelings. This is why likability on social media is so crucial to marketing. We are no longer selling stories…we are selling ourselves, which just confirms for me that writers really are the oldest profession in the world. But that’s another topic entirely :D.

Often we will judge a book by its cover author. If interacting with the author is a pleasant experience, we feel better about purchasing their books and even promoting them to our network of connections. Conversely, if an author is self-centered, self-promotes non-stop, spams everyone in sight, takes without giving in return and acts like an equestrian derriere, we would sooner suck nails through a straw than part with .99 that would benefit the jerk writer. A few of you were concerned, however, about how to be “liked.” No need to panic. Today’s post is here to help. Connecting with others is so simple that we frequently make it harder than it needs to be. Being likable doesn’t mean we need to be phoney.

There are a lot of different ways to do social media. My WANA methods rely heavily on learning to be part of a team, and, as we have discussed before, this is very contrary to traditional marketing. I believe social media works like a barn-raising. Everyone does a little bit for the good of the whole. Even just being mindful to do small things makes a huge difference in the long-run.

One of the biggest obstacles we face in social media is that we do have to limit the self-promotion. It turns people off and they really aren’t likely to listen when we go around tooting our own horn. What do we do then? We do what is counterintuitive…we support others.

The single largest determining factor as to whether a person will succeed or not on social media is our L.Q. Heard of I.Q.? Well, L.Q. is your Likabilty Quotient.

We don’t care how smart you are as much as we care if we LIKE you. When working on our social media platform, the ever-present questions should always be:

Do people like me?

I know it sounds crazy, but it is true. And there is no need to panic. Calm down. You don’t need to hide all your Star Trek paraphernalia and tell your friends to get in the closet. This isn’t high school, where popularity is based on stupid stuff.

Likability is important. Why? We hang out with people we like. We promote them. We go out of our way for them. We want them to succeed.

Our information can be the best on the web, but when pitted against another blogger with not-as-great-information…but she connects to readers and we don’t? The likable blogger will win. If she promotes others and we don’t? Again, she will win.

Being an excellent writer is not enough.  When we get out on social media (or even launch a blog) we must make sure we have good content. That is a no-brainer. I don’t know about you guys, but find it hard to like people in person who ramble or talk to hear the sound of their own voice. On the web, I like substance just as much.

But, in addition to that great content, we MUST actively work on how others perceive us. We must become likable. How to we become likable? We serve others first. Remember the barn-raising? Help them raise their barn, and most people will be more than happy to return the favor.

Top 10 Ways to Raise Your L.Q.

1. If we are on Twitter and we know an author writes great blogs, RT (retweet) for them. It only takes a minute of time, and it earns you a reputation of being an edifier.

2. Comment on blogs (REAL Comments). A healthy comments section is a sign of a healthy blog. Comments are encouraging to bloggers who take a lot of time to craft meaningful posts. When readers take time to comment, it has the potential to generate dialogue. Dialogue is critical for a blog to thrive.  I want comments on my blog, so I go out of my way to comment on the blogs of others.

3. Reply to comments on our own blogs. I wish I could reply to every single last one of you. You guys have no idea how much you make my day when you take the time to post feedback, compliments or even your opinions. Remember in social media, our goal is to form relationships. Relationships are two-way streets.

4. Visit the sites of those who post in your comments. You guys might not be aware, but I am always on the lookout for great blogs for the mash-up. I regularly click on your websites and blogs.

5. Embed trackbacks (hyperlinks)…um the blue thingies. Link to other blogs you like. Link to books you like. Hey, we need all the help we can get these days. There are A LOT of choices. Mash-ups (lists of favorite links/blogs) and even recommendations are a great way to help out other writers and generate more traffic to your blog at the same time. Everyone wins.

6. Blog about your favorite books, then link to that author’s book, home page or blog. Need blogging ideas? Go out of your way to promote others. Part of why I talk so much about Bob Mayer, James Scott Bell, Les Edgerton, Donald Maass, Blake Snyder, Jessica Morrell and Christopher Vogler is because these writers are my heroes. I believe that these are the best teachers in the industry. Now, instead of them having to go out and self-promote I have gifted them with the best gift a writer can have….a genuine word-of-mouth recommendation from a fan. Make life easy on other authors, and who knows? They might one day love to return the favor.

7. When you see a blog/book you like, take a moment to tweet the post or repost the link on your FB page. This helps the blogger/author gain exposure she otherwise wouldn’t have. It also benefits people in your circle of friends in that you are acting as a filter for great information…which helps your platform grow because people trust you for quality goods.

8. Openly praise. When I see a writer post a blog, I go out of my way to open, scan and take a look. Then, when I post, I make sure to add a “Great post!” or a “Very interesting!” Trust me. People remember an authentic compliment.

9. Repost someone else’s blog. Some people might get weird about this, but this is an amazing way to spread influence for you and the blogger you repost. Have the flu? Power outage and you don’t know how you will get a blog together in time? No worries. Just repost. How do you do this?

Give the title of the blog, and make it very clear you are reposting someone else’s content. Only give the first couple paragraphs…enough to hook a reader. Then add a hyperlink to the original blog. Now you have a blog post and the blogger you promoted now has exposure to your regular followers. I gain a lot of subscriptions this way. There are some people who had never heard of me until Marilag Lubag (Hi Marilag!) reposted one of my blogs. Her readers followed the hyperlink, loved my blog (in its entirety), and I have new fans. Yippppeeee!

10. At least hit the “Like” button. I know that sometimes I read blogs on my phone and I really don’t feel like trying to type out a compliment. I have a touch screen and there is an auto-correct function. My compliment would probably look like this:

 I loved your blood. You make so many grape poinsettias and I wish I wood have fought of it. Grape stuff. Looking forehead to next leek’s blood.

So if you don’t want a blogger thinking you want to “leak their blood” instead of “read their blog” it is fine. Hit the “Like” button. Takes two seconds and it encourages the writer who put their effort into the blonde…blood…blog. And they WILL remember your face.

You know, I didn’t always do things the right way. In the beginning, my blogs sounded more like lectures. Was I stuck up? No. Was I insecure and waiting for the digital cabbages to come flying through the screen? Yes. Fear of saying the wrong thing or sounding stupid or making a mistake can keep us from genuinely interacting. But when we fail to interact, what others see is a snob, not someone who is literally terrified that both feet will fly in her mouth. I know it doesn’t make sense, but humans are self-centered, insecure and neurotic.

If someone makes a weird face, we automatically assume they are looking at our fat thighs (okay, maybe that is just me). We don’t stop to think that person might be shy. Why? Because we are paranoid narcissists and like to believe we influence everything. It’s a control thing. You know I am right :D. You, in the back, lurking on my blog. We do like you, you just were so quiet you blended in with HTML. Come hang out. Have a snack.

Can you spot the writer?

Being likable is far easier than it seems. I guarantee you that if you just employ a handful of those ten tactics, your following will improve tremendously. Why? Because you will be giving others what we all desperately need…support, validation, compliments.

What are some habits/behaviors that you guys LIKE? What small or big things can others do that just warms your heart and puts you on their team? Conversely, what are some pet peeves? Maybe we are screwing up but don’t know. Educate us! I want to hear from you guys.

I LOVE hearing from you!

And 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. 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 February 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 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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156 Comments

What’s the Problem with FREE?

FREE! is so powerful few of us can resist. In fact, I would be so bold as to say that FREE! is what gave the indie and self-publishing movement the traction to become the wide-sweeping change we see today. FREE! finally leveled the playing field between the traditional and the non-traditional industries. So if FREE! is so awesome, what’s the problem?

More about that in a moment.

A Brief History of Zero

The concept of Zero hasn’t always been around. Zero was invented by the Babylonians, then debated by the Greeks—How can something be nothing?—then finally paired up with the numeral one by the Indian scholar Pingala. Later it was adopted by the Romans. In fact, there is some debate that the explosion of the Roman Empire was due, in part to the adoption of Zero. Roman numerals could only count so high, so it limited expansion.

And boy are we glad that the ancient Romans were a greedy lot. Can you imagine how difficult it would be to give a cute member of the opposite sex our phone number if the numbering system hadn’t changed?

My number is VII I VIIII…Crap! Hold on. That was VII I IX….

Back to my point. Once there was a notion of Zero in context with a decimal system, Zero was here to stay. It swept the ancient world like a primordial Beanie Baby fad and stuck around until finally a little place called Silicon Valley took Zero to a whole nutha’ level.

Did you know that there are 10 types of people in the world? Those who understand binary and those who don’t.

*drum, roll snare*

Yes, I’ll be here all week. Drinks are half price until five.

So let’s just say that Zero, on its own, already had it made. What could be better? Introducing the emotional equivalent of Zero we all know as FREE!

FREEE!!!! FREEEEE!!! How we love FREEEEEE!!!!

I see FREE! being used all the time, and I know how powerful this tool can be. FREE! has changed publishing as we know it.

A Brief History of FREE! in the World of Publishing

Not too long ago, if an author went any route other than traditional, it created a problem. The authors had to sell books that had not passed the gatekeepers of publishing (kinda bad juju) at an equal or higher price than a book that had (really bad juju). No easy feat.

As an example…

I had a family member who wrote a romance novel. This family member, so eager to feel validated as a writer by being published, “published” through Publish America. So, we had basically a book that content-wise was probably the equivalent of a $4.95 Harlequin…only it cost I kid you NOT $34…before shipping.

I never pay $34 for any book…even for family. A $34 book better have gold pages and a foot massage and…nope, still won’t drop that kind of money on a book.

Yet, here is the thing, who other than family would pay that kind of money for ANY book?

I have no idea if my relative’s book was good or bad. I never bought it, so I never read it, but I can see how many self-published authors were in the same dilemma as my relative. It didn’t matter HOW good the content was because NO CONTENT was THAT good.

So, as you can see from my example, a lot of self-published authors faced a real conundrum. It was bad enough to be labeled as an inferior writer, but then to try and sell wares perceived as less valuable at as much as a 200% higher price? Frankly, the game was over before it began.

To add another level of difficulty, many of these writers needed to recoup their investment. They simply didn’t have the luxury of discounting their books, let alone giving anything away for FREE!…so they were almost doomed from the start. Pricing alone was enough to keep them from ever being viewed as real literary players.

What happened?

So the digital revolution hit and with the increase in e-readers, suddenly self-pubbed or indie pubbed writers could use a new tool—FREE! Since an author didn’t have to pay any more for one e-book than he did for a thousand books (unlike paper books), pricing was no longer a problem. And, since traditional publishing sure wasn’t giving books away for free (yet), self-pubbers and indie pubbers soon did what all good entrepreneurs do. They capitalized on a vacuum in the market.

Fast-forward to Christmas of 2009.

The sale of iPads, Kindles and Nooks EXPLODED and people wanted “stuff” to put on their new shiny e-readers, but they only had so much money on the gift card, and traditional publishers weren’t giving THAT much of a discount on the electronic copies of their books. Indie and self-pubbed authors swept in with a solution. Try my book…for FREE!.

FREE was here to stay.

The Advantage of FREE!

FREE is enticing. Few things get our hearts hammering like the glorious word…FREE!. People can try our books for FREE! and risk losing nothing. What is the downside? When we get stuff for FREE!, there IS no downside to the decision and, no downside makes us humans feel all warm and fluffy.

We dig warm and fluffy.

FREE! is awesome when lots of people download our books. It makes us feel special. But beyond that?

FREE! has no power in the publishing world unless there is an impetus for consumers read then talk about our book so more books can be sold. Great, we give away 50 FREE! copies of our new book. If the books sit there unread in a bunch of Nooks and Kindles hanging out with the games we will never play, then we really didn’t gain anything. In fact, we likely lost more than we gained. FREE! can be a powerful sales tool, but we need to make sure we are employing it wisely.

The Trouble with FREE!

First of all, FREE! isn’t special when everyone is doing it.

My social media approach is very different from a lot of other experts. I believe that traditional marketing is an almost total waste of time and does little to drive book sales. Here is WHY.

The same negative effect can also happen with pricing. Oh, sure those first people who got the bright idea to offer a book for $1.99 or $2.99 or .99 cents hit a home run.

But what about those thousands who have followed suit?

When we are the only guy handing out FREE! books, then sure people line up around the block. But when every other indie or self-published author is offering FREE! downloads? It dilutes the allure of FREE!.

When FREE! has Lost its Luster

This is where social media and platform now become important. I feel that, in the face of zillions of FREE! books, people will then prioritize whose books they will read at all or even first. They will default to who they know and who they LIKE. Then if they enjoy the book, the impetus to talk, blog or review the book will greatly increase if there is a personal compulsion to act. Translation?

We’d do it for a friend.

We prioritize by reputation for quality and by relationship. We line up to download FREE! stuff from J.A.Konrath or Bob Mayer or even FREE! short stories from Vicki Hinzi or James Rollins. We might even download from friends or even writers whose blogs we love and trust for excellent content like Chuck Wendig or Tawna Fenske.

In the face of all this FREE! relationship sales matter.

Either we have a prior relationship with the product—I.e. J.A. Konrath’s many best-selling titles OR we have a personal relationship and we want to support this writer as a person. That is one of the reasons that the WANA teams are so POWERFUL. We connect to each other as people, so we go out of our way to offer support. FREE! has power because others care about the author.

Yes, Free! Can Hurt Us

FREE! actually does have the power to hurt. In the behavioral economics book Predictably Irrational—The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions, MIT Professor Dan Ariely states:

The critical issue arises when getting FREE! becomes a struggle between a FREE item and another item—a struggle for which the presence of FREE! makes us make a bad decision. (page 52)

Remember earlier, the attraction of FREE! is most powerful when there is no chance of us making a bad decision. But what about this scenario?

We just finished reading the latest and greatest novel on our new Kindle Fire and decide that we want to download a new book. Lured in by FREE! we download a handful of titles that are being offered FREE! for a limited time. We don’t even bother with sample pages because, hey! They are all FREE!

Ah, but then we sit down in our limited FREE time and open the first book. The formatting looks like it was done by a blind wombat. The second book? It was clear by page five this writer had never met spell check, and was, from all appearances, highly allergic to proper grammar. The third? So many POVs we needed Dramamine to keep up with perspectives. The fourth?

Screw it.

By this point we are just going to go pay regular price for a book we can enjoy reading. Sure, the new publishing paradigm is awesome, but the downside is that what used to meet a slush pile is now being passed on to readers to sift through. Readers may or may not want to put out all that effort for a bargain.

When FREE! Transforms

See, FREE! makes an interesting transition in the world of publishing. If I grab a handful of FREE! Hershey’s Kisses at the chiropractor’s office over the .50 cent Lindt Truffles for sale at Walgreens, I still have a pleasant experience. But, if I download enough FREE! books and too many of them are a bad, time-wasting experience? Then FREE! has lost its luster and with it its power.

FREE! can hit a critical threshold where it is just…annoying.

For instance, I have a childhood friend who grew up to become a realtor. She has never sold me a piece of property but this didn’t stop her from sending me a FREE! magnet calendar. Now, the guy that sold us our house ALSO sent us a FREE calendar…along with every real estate agent in the DFW metroplex.

You guys know I am exaggerating, but you get what I am talking about.

I have a drawer full of FREE! that just annoys me every time I look at it. The Scottish part of me is too frugal to just toss a perfectly good calendar/stress ball/magnet/koozi but I am up to my eyes in FREE! stuff that just clogs up my drawer and my life.

See, I bet the first real estate agent that sent people a FREE! koozi got some business, but now that ALL of them send out this FREE! crap? We just default to the agent we know from church or the one we met at Rotary. The FREE! no longer is a consideration, but rather is a source of consternation. We default to who we know and who we like.

Among Other Down-Sides, Free! Can Make Us Seem Desperate

Back in the 90s, at the height of the dot.com explosion, every tech company was eager to hand out free shirts, free koozies, free notebooks, FREE! FREE! FREE! Yet, in the face of all this FREE! stuff, the company my at-the-time-fiance worked for took a very different approach. They offered nothing simply for FREE! and a weird thing happened.

People’s interest piqued.

Potential customers wanted to know why, when all the competition had all this FREE! stuff, did this company not follow suit? By NOT being like everyone else, this company stood apart because they offered nothing FREE!

Oooh, they don’t give out FREE! stuff so their product must be more valuable.

What’s the saying? Why buy the cow if we get the milk for FREE!? There is something to that. FREE! can be especially harmful if all we have is one title for sale or if we are at the low end of the Amazon ranking. Whether it is true or not, the subtext is too often–Oooh, she couldn’t get anyone to drop $5 for her book, so now she’s giving it away?

I see a lot of writers get very excited because Two hundred people downloaded my book! Okay, but unless that two hundred translates into more than two hundred actual sales, then we are actually in the red. FREE! must serve a long-term advantage or we are just handing away work that cost us blood, sweat and tears.

Just because we are artists, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be paid for our work. I am dedicated to helping all of you realize your dreams, and part of that is teaching you how to get paid for your work.

So is FREE! ever good? Sure! There is a way to use the Power of FREE! for maximum advantage…and we will talk about that next week.

What are your thoughts? Have you had a wonderful experience offering FREE! books? Want to offer tips? Pointers? Do you download free books? Have you found some real gems? What are some problems you see with FREE!?

I LOVE hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of January, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. 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 January 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 Kareen Yvette McCabe. Please send your 1250 word Word document to author kristen dot lamb at g mail dot com. Congratulations.

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 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!

Happy writing!

This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness

First, a FABU interview. James Rollins interviews Jon Land. Pop by and show some WANA support. This is a first for both of them.

Best-Seller Lists versus the Long Tail Really excellent post by NYTBSA Bob Mayer.

The Value of Publicity and The Myth of a Best-Seller by J.A.Konrath are both worth a look.

Kristin Nador has a wonderful series about blogging and this gal practices what she preaches. VERY useful series, so make sure you check it out.

My Life as a Three-Headed Chimera by Marcy Kennedy. WONDERFUL and POWERFUL blog about people-pleasing.

Have a hard time keeping up with all the blogs you love? The amazing Jenny Hansen has a post introducing us to Triberr. Yeah, I didn’t know what it was either but Jenny can help you out.

One of my favorite blogs is by the so-talented-and-also-pretty-I’d-stab-her-if-I-didn’t-like-her-so-much Tawna Fenske. Don’t Pet me I’m Writing is always a great place to perk up your day. This post on shampoo shopping? Too funny! And her fiction is truly wonderful. I HIGHLY recommend Making Waves.

Another author who makes me so jealous I could explode is truly talented and generous with her knowledge is Jody Hedlund. She has a wonderful post about How to Make Your Book Play out Like a Movie.

Jane Friedman has a fantastic post When You Need to Secure Permissions and while you are over at Jane’s MAKE SURE you check out Porter Anderson’s Writing on the Ether to keep up with the latest trends and changes and the best information available. Porter whittles down the web to the best, so this site is a HUGE time-saver.

Where there be dreams, there be dragons. Time to slay some beasties! Fabulous post by Ingrid Schaffenburg who is doing a wonderful series about dreams.

Do you call yourself a writer or an author? by Jami Gold.

Is Amazon guilty of predatory publishing? over at NPR

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121 Comments

The Road to Success Part Two–Understanding the Why Behind the Buy

A couple weeks ago, I started The Road to Success series with The Road to Success Part One–What Kind of Author are You? Then I apparently saw something shiny, and so last week we talked–passionately–about Blog Trolls. How to spot them and how to handle them. Thus, I thought it would be a nifty idea to get back on track with this series. Today we are going to talk about book sales.

*cringes* I feel your pain, but as professionals we do need to talk about this stuff.

I’ve been doing this “social media for authors thing” for quite some time and have taught thousands of people. In my experience, most writers, in the face of having to “sell books” have fairly predictable reactions. They either unwittingly turn into spam bots because they are trying to be “good little marketers”…or they run away screaming to the nearest liquor store. Those remaining either live in denial that writers don’t need to know about sales…or they change the subject to Chris Evan’s pecs.

Okay. Sally forth. Nothing to see.

So today I am gonna help y’all out, no matter what your opinion of book sales happens to be. I am going to give a little insight that will save tons of time, effort and embarrassment.

First, a little story….

Years ago, when I was in college at T.C.U., I was blessed enough to get a job at Successories. They were a wonderful company that treated their people as if they mattered, and it didn’t hurt that they paid better than most retail jobs. I loved going to work there because I always felt that I was serving some higher purpose. What could be a better job than helping people be inspired? To reach for the stars? A motivational store is like Disney Land to an ENFP.

The thing about working in a mall is that there can be a lot of down time, especially during the week. I am not a person to be idle, so after everything was sparkly clean and neat and organized, I would read…until I’d read every book in the store. I read all kinds of stuff. I read everything they had by Zig Ziglar, Vince Lombardi, Anthony Robbins, Dale Carnegie and on and on. I studied Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin. I read books about leadership, sales, business and marketing. I read every quote book until I knew them by heart.

Why did I do this? Aside from filling in the long hours of nothing, I did it with a motive to serve. See, every worried mom who came in looking for the perfect graduation gift, every employee looking for the right poster to hang in the employee lounge, and every teacher hoping to inspire her kids to reach higher got precisely the perfect tool for the job. When I came to work for this store, the sales had been so low that it was on the block to be closed. Within two months, we had the highest sales in the region.

So why am I talking about this and why does it matter?

MOTIVE.

When it comes to sales, any kind of sales, people can sense motive. I didn’t make any commission off those sales at Successories. I didn’t have daily quotas to meet. In fact, I think the company would have probably been fine if I just showed up on time, kept the place clean and didn’t steal out of the cash register.

Yet, I did more.

Not because they made me or threatened me, but because I wanted to serve. I loved the company and loved their products (still do) and I longed to help because I liked THEM. In serving others and being authentically interested in others, I had the highest sales, because customers liked ME.

Was my goal the highest sales? No. My goal was to help others, and, by helping others, the end result was that I had the highest sales. Customers sensed that my objective was to serve them and they responded favorably with purchases.

Zig Ziglar was one of my favorites to read when I worked there. My favorite quote by him is, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” In fact, this quote affected me so powerfully that I base all of my WANA teachings on this maxim. So how does motive affect an author’s approach to social media?

Brave New Publishing World

These days a lot of authors are going the indie route or even self-publishing, and that is fantastic. Yet, when you are the sole person who can make or break your book sales, it is easy to fixate on sales numbers. This is where things can go sideways, especially in the business of selling books. People can sense a motive. If our motive is primarily to sell more books, other people sense that and it turns people off.

Why do you think we dissect everything a car salesman says? Every compliment he gives us is like a move on a chess board. It is a maneuvering to part us from our hard-earned cash.  We think, “This dude wants my money and that’s the only reason he’s being nice” whether that is the truth or not.

NO ONE cuts the car sales guy a break.

Books are Not Tacos, and Writers are Not Car Insurance

One of the reasons I feel a lot of self-published authors have gotten a bad reputation is due to their approach to book sales. I cannot count the number of times I received a simply beautiful compliment, and, when I responded favorably…I immediately was sent a link or a DM to buy this writer’s book or “Like” their fan page. What they call “good marketing” I felt as “emotional manipulation.”

Tactics like this are a perversion of Dale Carnegie. Tactics like these make me feel used. They make me feel duped. It isn’t a pleasant emotional experience so it certainly isn’t an experience I long to share, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this. I have no want or need for phoney-boloney compliments to get to my wallet.

So the trick in social networking is to be able to build a platform that will translate into sales…without thinking about the sales. I admit, the WANA way is a challenge and can be quite counter-intuitive…but it works. Why does it work? Because we are selling to flesh-and-blood-people. WANA methods appreciate the WHY behind the BUY:

People don’t buy for logical reasons, they buy for emotional reasons. ~Zig Ziglar

To be able to sell books, we must understand that what will sell non-fiction will NOT work for fiction. There is a good reason that The South Beach Diet can effectively use an infomercial, but a novel cannot.

Why is this? They are two different types of products selling to fill two very different needs.

Why do readers buy fiction?

One of the reasons readers are so loyal to authors is because of how that author’s stories made them feel. James Rollins makes me feel like I’ve had an exciting adventure. Sandra Brown makes me feel love is worth fighting for. Amy Tan makes me feel hope and power. J.K. Rowling’s stories make me feel heroic.

Fiction authors are brokers of passionate emotion.

This was one of the reasons that—before social media—it was impossible to build a platform for fiction unless one already had a book in print. WHY? Because the author had no way of making an audience feel anything because the book wasn’t yet in print. There was no effective way to attach an emotional context to the product before it hit shelves.

Why do readers buy non-fiction?

On the other hand, non-fiction authors are selling to solve a problem or to educate or inform. They are selling a method, a service, a diet, a trend. Non-fiction authors are brokers of knowledge. Who cares if the diet book makes me feel a certain way? I care that it can give me thighs like Heidi Klum. Results are all that matter. Consumers buy to LEARN. This is why a logical, strategic, cerebral approach will sell books.

Why does this difference matter?

Non-fiction authors deal information and solutions. Fiction authors? You guys are selling an emotional experience. People read fiction to feel passion, love, triumph, happy, moved, inspired. They buy to FEEL.

To sell an emotional product, one must have an emotional approach, and if others (potential readers) enjoy the emotional experience we bring to social media, they are more likely to trust the emotional experience we bring to the page.

These days consumers are being BLITZED with a zillion choices, so to cull through them, often we will default to the Old School methods…we go off our gut and choose who makes us “feel” a certain way. Why do you think even insurance companies like Geico and Allstate try so hard to make us laugh with funny commercials? Even they appreciate how important emotion has become in this digital age.

How does this work for fiction authors?

Protagonists (that a reader has to spend a minimum of 12-15 hours with in a novel) are very often a reflection of the author. Subconsciously we (humans) know this. Thus, it stands to reason that, if the author is pushy, cold, self-centered and unlikable, there is a part of us that expects their “hero” will be more of the same…so we steer clear.

Yet, conversely, if a writer can be someone we like and root for in person, we are more likely to feel good about spending time with this writer’s protagonist. We are going to assume that if we like the author, then we will like her books. And, if the book isn’t all that great, we will still feel good about the purchase because we like the author. It may not make logical sense, but since when have emotions been logical?

This is one of the reasons good author blogs can be such powerful drivers for sales. Readers are more likely to buy from an author who has already provided a positive emotional experience (if not a book, then a thoughtful comment, a compliment, a fun & witty blog). In fact, I would be so bold as to say that they will choose this author ahead of authors who are rude or absentee. This is why using automation is dangerous. It makes potential readers associate our names with being spammed.

How can we speak a “heart language” in a digital world?

Every tweet, every blog post, every comment is an opportunity to create a positive emotional experience. This might not translate into instant sales (which is why some writers get twitchy) but it will pay off in the long-run.

Likeability is good social media sense for any kind of author.

The key to being successful in social media rests in the exponential…NOT the linear. Social media is NOT direct sales. We are wanting more than to connect to one person. We are wanting to connect and then have THAT person SHARE our information with THEIR networks. If that doesn’t happen, it is virtually impossible to be successful with social media.

How do we do this? We do this the same way humans have for tens of thousands of years. We are likable. People feel good when they are around us. We are now in the digital age and now it IS possible to attach an emotional context capable of driving sales. Consumers judge the book by the way they feel about the author.

This isn’t that hard, but often writers panic that they aren’t being good responsible little marketers if “every tweet doesn’t serve a business agenda.” Every tweet that serves a business agenda is, by definition, spam. People create fake e-mail accounts to avoid that stuff, so why serve it?

Understand the why behind the buy. People are on Twitter and Facebook to make friends, connect and to have fun. If they wanted a non-stop commercial to buy more stuff they’d be on the Home Shopping Network, not the social network.

So what are your thoughts? Do you disagree? Agree? I don’t know about you guys, but I buy more books than I can ever read…usually to support writers I like. What about you guys? Do you do the same?

Does an author’s likability not matter? Would you buy a book you knew was not that great to support a writer you loved as a person? Have you ever liked an author’s books, but then met him/her on social media and they were a horse’s butt? Did this keep you from buying books, even if the author was an excellent writer (no need to name names, btw)? Will you buy from a writer who is a phoney? Does it not matter and you only care about story?

Come on! Let’s play armchair psychiatrist.

I LOVE hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of January, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. 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 January 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 Ed Griffin. Please send your 1250 word Word document to author kristen dot lamb at g mail dot com. Congratulations.

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 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!

Happy writing!

This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness

You guys simply MUST follow Porter Anderson’s Writing on the Ether. This is a fantastic way of keeping on top of all the changes and trends in our industry. Follow him @Porter_Anderson. One of the best tweeps in the Twitterverse and a tremendous resource.

Since you will already be at Jane Friedman’s place, seriously stay and check out her blogs. LOVE this one How to Know if Your Literary Agent is Any Good

One of my favorite new bloggers on the scene is Ingrid Schaffenburg. She is running a really amazing series on Dreams. Following dreams, defining dreams, reaching dreams. It is all just simply…awesome. But I want all of you guys to realize your dreams so this gets me excited.

What to know how to get more traffic to your blog? Great post here.

5 Screenwriting Tips that Will Make Any Story Better by Jeff Goins

Have you ever had a writer epiphany? Over at Wordbitches. Love their blog.

And you guys KNOW I am a total fangirl of Chuck Wendig. Seriously, he cannot start a writer cult or I might just pack some Nikes and gray PJs. The man is AWESOME and his blogs are laugh-out-loud amazing. DO NOT drink liquids or suck on hard candy while reading…unless you have a thing for choking. He is THAT funny. Fave post of late? 25 Things Writers Should Start Doing

Fantastic post by Elizabeth Craig about how to eliminate word echoes in our manuscripts. Great tips I’d never heard or thought about.

Truthiness–Raising the Bar in the Blogosphere by August MacLaughlin

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68 Comments

The Right Way, the Wrong Way & the Smart Way

I know we are supposed to be talking about the third person you need to know to be successful on social media–the Salesman. But, over the weekend my Great Aunt Iris (who might as well have been my grandmother we were so close) slipped into a coma and then passed away on Sunday morning. She had just turned 98, so yes it is sad, but it is amazing that she lived such a full and long life. Anyway, I have not had time to finish the Salesman post, so rather than rushing and slapping up a less-than-stellar blog, I decided to post a lesson from early this year.

Most of us have slept since Spring, so a refresher is always refreshing. *drum roll, snare*  Yes, I’ll be here all week. Drinks are half-price.

I have been doing social media for a number of years, and it has been wonderful to see how writers have embraced technology. I remember back in 2006 I had a hard enough time getting many writers to learn to use e-mail, let alone join Facebook.  Yet, it was really only in 2009 that I started thinking of myself as an expert. Namely I watched a lot of social media people teach tactics that were more likely to give writers permanent hair loss than anything. They were trying to overlay a Corporate America template on to a writer’s career. Not a good fit.

Kind of like watching me try to put on size zero skinny jeans…lots of grunting and pain and the end result ain’t pretty.

Anyway, writers finally did perk up to the fact that they needed to be on social media, yet we had an information vacuum. Many writers took off doing the best they could, and, in the process, made a lot of errors. Hey, I was one of them. Need I remind you of texaswriterchik?

*slaps forehead*

The thing is, I am teaching writers how to do this social media platform thing the correct way. This is all great and wonderful if you are new and haven’t started building. For others? I see the digital blood drain from your face when I give the bad news:

I’m sorry, but your platform needs major reconstructive surgery. I need to put your brand in a temporary coma so it doesn’t die while we do the transplants. Do you have insurance?

Some people suck it up, bite on some leather and resolve to get it over with. Others? Denial is more than a river in Africa.

I hear a lot of, “Writers just need to do what works for them.”

Yes….but, um, no.

 

I will use an example to illustrate. Say I want to make chocolate cake. My end goal is a chocolate cake. So I set out cooking, but I don’t want to use butter, and I don’t like eggs, and definitely no flour and I just can’t bring myself to use chocolate. Instead, I want to use vanilla pudding, and slices of bananas and top it off with vanilla wafer cookies and LOTS of whipped cream.

So you say, “Wait, but you aren’t making chocolate cake.”

And I say, “Well this is how I make chocolate cake.”

And you say, “But, you just made banana pudding. That’s NOT chocolate cake.”

And I get huffy and reply, “Stop judging me. Maybe YOU make chocolate cake differently, but everyone needs to do what works for them.”

You would think I was a lunatic. Yes, I made a dessert….but I didn’t make a chocolate cake.

If our end goal is to brand our name, which it should be…then there are right and wrong ways to go about this. My lessons are to make our name alone a bankable asset. Our NAME will have the power to drive book sales so we have more time to write, or prank call or even make origami monkeys.

There is a HUGE difference between having a social media presence and becoming a brand. And I know I am about to do some sacred cow-tipping, but it needs to be done.

My second book, Are You There, Blog? It’s Me Writer is a great book to teach you all you ever wanted to know about blogging to build an author brand. There is little point to contributing content to the Internet if it doesn’t build our brand.

Tweeting under a cutesy moniker. We have discussed this one before, but some people are new (here is the post). Every time we tweet, that is an “advertisement” that contributes to building our brand. The only acceptable Twitter handle is the name that will be on the front of our books. Period. If we are tweeting under @FairyGirl, we are contributing great content—blogs, articles, conversation—but we have the WRONG name top-of-mind.  Readers cannot buy a book by Fairy Girl, so all that tweeting is wasted effort.

Writing on Group Blogs at the Expense of Our Author Blog I have run into writers who were very prolific, contributing to multiple group blogs. Group blogs are wonderful. They can help us learn to blog better and can offer accountability. Yet, if we are writing for three different group blogs, but then not blogging on our own site? That is BAD. Group blogs will not brand an individual author. Yes, we will have a social media presence…but that isn’t a brand.

I read a lot of WONDERFUL group blogs, but the name of the group is what will be top of mind. Writers in the Storm, Adventures in Children’s Publishing, and Writer Unboxed are three of the best group blogs, but I would be hard-pressed to give the names of the contributors. And, the ones I can name have their own separate blogs that buttress their brand.

I care very much about you guys, and I want all of you to be successful. But part of caring is giving the truth. When we decide to go from hobbyist to professional, we sometimes have to make the tough choices. We have to say no to friends, family, kids and pets. We have to spend time working when we would rather play. If we are contributing to a bunch of group blogs, but our own blog is infested with dust bunnies and spam bots? We might need to make a choice. Hang out with friends? Or build our career?

Our own brand is paramount. The more bankable our name, the more books we sell. The more books we sell, the more successful (and enjoyable) our writing career will be.

There are right ways and wrong ways and smart ways to build a brand. Can we brand ourselves by only blogging on group blogs? Sure. Anything is possible. I could theoretically take I-35 south from Texas and get to Canada. It involves a very tedious journey through South America over Antarctica, up the other side of the globe and over the North Pole. The Earth IS round. I will get to Canada eventually, BUT the odds of me giving up and going home are far more likely than me reaching Canada.

Is my taking I-35 South WRONG? Technically, no. But it is a formula to give up.

Many writers find social media to be a huge time suck, namely because they either have no plan or they have a flawed plan. I used to think it was a time-suck, too. But I wasn’t approaching social media correctly. I have made all the dumb mistakes so you don’t have to :D.

My two books have hit the top of multiple best-seller lists using the methods I am teaching. And I am not the only one who has experienced this kind of dramatic success. I have a stack of testimonials. Yes, we are free to do social media any way we please. No Facebook police will drag us to digital jail. But I think most of us would rather spend more time writing and less time trying to Bond-O a faulty platform.

What are some tough choices you guys have had to make for your writing? What are some tough choices you face, but maybe don’t know what to do? Have any advice or suggestions? Put them in the comments!

I do want to hear from you guys!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of October, 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.

NOTE: For those of you who haven’t yet gotten your pages back, please resend to my assistant (if you haven’t already). I get about 500 e-mails a day, so I am redoing things so submissions don’t get lost in the ether. Thanks for your patience.

Gigi at gigi dot salem dot ea at g mail dot com. Gigi will make sure I get your pages.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of October 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 over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

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Author Blogs–Solid Platform, Wrong Audience

Happy Friday!!!! Today I have a really special treat for you guys. I do have to say that I love being right, but sometimes it kinda sux being right…but then it goes back to being awesome that I am right. Confused? Okay, well I started a ton of controversy surrounding writer blogs with such posts as Sacred Cow-Tipping–Why Writers Blogging About Writing is Bad and More Sacred Cow-Tipping–Common Blogging Misconceptions.

We have big folks in publishing claiming that blogging is dead, that blogging is a waste of time and does nothing to drive book sales. Yet, I counter with, “What if blogging isn’t the problem? What if writers just don’t know how to blog?”

GASP!

I mean if I ran out and spent $2000 on a Mac computer and the promptly used it to swat mosquitos and then loudly proclaimed that Mac laptops were a waste of money, everyone would think I was a lunatic, right? Yet we have the hubris to believe that because we can string together sentences that we instantly have the know-how to write a blog that connects to thousands of readers in a way that creates loyalty and drives book sales??? Hey, I’m not judging. I learned this stuff by making all the mistakes.

Yet, we have this amazing tool–the blog–and think that with NO instruction, we can be successful. Can we? Sure. Are there better approaches that are more effective? YES!!!

Blogging isn’t dead, but blogging is an art and a skill that needs to be learned. It can be learned by trial and error (like me) or it can be learned by those who have made all the dumb mistakes and who are willing to share their knowledge (from me). It feels good to be right, but sometimes it can bum me out, too. Yet, the awesome part is that, if I am right and I offer instruction to writers who want to blog, then there is a path to success and that is great reason to get excited.

Today my pal Susan Bischoff-who is an amazing writer and very sweet/supportive person-is going to share her experience. A couple weeks ago, Susan courageously e-mailed me and asked if she could share her story so that other writers could learn from her mistake. I think that is awesome and very brave and adds one more reason I adore her.

Thanks, Susan for doing this….

***

Kristen’s recent post, The Secret to Selling Books Part I–Let’s Get Sticky, certainly got a lot of people talking. Part of what’s interesting to me about the post and the buzz it’s created is that, in a lot of ways, it’s the same thing Kristen’s been trying to tell us all along. This idea that writers talking to writers about writing is not optimal use of social media if you want to sell fiction is something that’s clear in her books We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media (a.k.a. the WANA Guide) and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer.

So I wanted to talk about why, knowing and understanding Kristen’s advice regarding blogging to and for writers, I basically ignored her and did it anyway. More importantly, I wanted to give you a bit of case study about how that’s worked out for me.

Blog on topic…

From the time I read the WANA Guide, around the same time that I released my first novel, and I determined to get serious, to retake my neglected blog, to make an effort on Twitter, etc., I’ve experienced the frustration of not feeling like I had anything to talk about except writing. Kristen says to blog “on topic.” On something related to your book.

One suggestion she makes is to take the research you did for your book and write articles about that. If your fiction is set in a historical period, write articles about that period, about the clothes, food, events, technology, etc. People interested in that period will find you and may be interested in reading your fictional perspective. Write about ghosts? Then write about ghost hunters, paranormal science, ghost sightings, ghostly legends.

Even for those of us who don’t feel like we do much active research, like what we write comes purely out of our heads (Purely? Really? Not inspired by anything?) we could probably find something in the real world to tie in to our fiction.

I write about teens with superpowers. So I could write about comic book superheroes, superhero TV shows and cartoons, superhero movies, books about kids with abilities…

Yah. If had time to actually take that stuff in. And then analyze it for something to say besides ZOMG Squee! or Thor’s six-pack! :flail:. And then write about it in some way that makes it actually worth someone’s time to read about it.

Writing about writing is easy. It’s accessible to us. We think about it all the time. We discover things that are new to us, and we enjoy sharing those things with people who get it—the people we rarely meet in real life. Writing a writer blog is very gratifying.

In my case, I know that I didn’t see how I could maintain an “on topic” blog because I didn’t want to see it. I really wanted to keep doing what I was doing. And I see this from others all the time, in comments on Kristen’s posts and in what people say on their on blogs.

Just doing what came naturally…

It was very easy to convince myself that my writer blog was totally working for me. I was building a following on my blog. People were subscribing. I was selling a lot of books, in large part due to the Amazon machine. The way it works is that you hit a certain level of sales compared to everyone else, which causes you to achieve a rank, which causes you to hit their charts, which causes you to be easily seen by browsers, which increases your sales dramatically, which causes you to chart higher and more widely, which increases your sales even more, which means that some of those people are actually reading and some of those reading are actually reviewing, adding buzz and credibility to your visibility, getting you some more sales…

And where did I tell myself all of that started? In part, with all of my writer buddies. Every sale counts, and it doesn’t matter why someone bought the book, it still helped its rank.

  • I wrote a whole blog series about marketing ideas that helped me. It was very popular.
  • An article I wrote was published by a company which helps authors market. Many of those authors publish independently as I do.
  • Every time I wrote about a level of success I experienced, people who wanted so support independent publishing would say, “See, she’s sold more than 150 copies!”

And not only did those things send visitors to my blog, it did sell some books because the book itself was very inexpensive and people were curious about my writing. Some wanted to know how good a book has to be to sell like that (not like it was a huge seller) and some wanted to know if I was doing something so right that I was selling even a really crappy book. But they were all sales.

So I was writing about writing and catering to writers and I was doing just fine, thank you very much. I was being supportive and instructive. I was paying back and paying it forward, and getting all kinds of nice comments and blog love. I was building a blog and a solid blog following—something that I doubted I could accomplish. Yay!

When I realized it didn’t work…

So I went to publish my second book. Allegedly I had thousands of readers of the first book. But, uh-oh, I don’t know how to get in touch with them. Even though I offer a newsletter, only a few hundred people signed up for it. And what was really interesting to me about the newsletter, during the year in which I collected subscribers, was the fact that I didn’t know them. They were not the people who commented on my blog or talked to me on Twitter. They were people completely unfamiliar to me.

Oh, look! I think that may be a retroactive clue.

Okay, so I got ready to put the book out. I let everyone know on my blog. I asked for their help to spread the word. I wrote some extra good posts that brought in extra high traffic—posts aimed at writers and indie publishers.

The book went out. I let everyone know on social media. I posted links. My friends supported me with Twitter mentions, liking me on Facebook, carrying the badge for the new book on their blogs, writing whole blog posts mentioning the release. They were awesome. And they probably reached all the same people I reached because we have all the same followers.

Last time I put a book out, I had not built up my social media platform. If a writer friend promoted me, that message reached people I couldn’t reach. A year later, we’re all hooked up, linked in. Homogenized. I think people must get that on some level, which accounts for some of the scurrying about to find new friends and hobbies the wake of the “Sticky” post.

See, of all the people it was in my power to inform, only people who were fans of my books bought my second book. Right now I have a follower base who are fans of my writing/publishing advice.But that’s not what the book is about.

I neither want nor expect fans of the writing advice to buy my fiction if the content doesn’t interest them. I neither need nor expect pity or loyalty sales. The advice I gave, I gave for free. And I don’t regret giving it away in the slightest. I got a lot out of giving it, and that’s a big reason why I kept doing it, to the exclusion of focusing on my fiction/genre/topic stuff.

I built a writer blog. And that in itself is cool. In a financial sense, it would be cooler if I’d monetized my blog, if it carried ads. Then I’d get paid to build that following just for the sake of building it. In a marketing sense, it would be super cool if I also had books about writing or publishing to market. Then my blog would be selling my product. But my product is fiction.

Looking at my blog content as advertising, it’s like I wanted to sell jewelry and so I wrote about sports and ran the commercials on ESPN. Will I hit a few viewers who might be curious enough about me to look more deeply, a few who happen to like jewelry and then become my customers?

Maybe.

But in terms of ROI (return on investment), it is not the best use of my time and creative energy to maintain focus on a topic that has very little to do with my product. Nor to focus on a demographic that isn’t necessarily part of my target, a demographic with lots of book consumers, yes, but consumers who are over-saturated with book choices.

Solid platform, wrong crowd…

When I released my second book, I felt like I was standing on my platform, looking out over my sea of followers. People who respect me professionally or like me personally and care what I have to say about writing. People who have appreciated what I’ve been sharing with them as I’ve learned it. And there I was, ready to make my big announcement. And I said, “Hark, oh ye loyal followers, for now I have NEWS!”

And upon hearing the news, a few of them jumped up and gave me a squee, because a few of them actually like what I write. And some of them took the time to give me a grin and a thumb-up, and even a pat on the back, because they like me. But mostly they just went right back to talking to each other about writing like we always do.

Because we’re all writers. We’ve all got books coming out every week. Big deal.

Logical. Obvious. But I needed to have this experience for it to really hit home. To really understand what Kristen was saying. I had taken my evidence, my sales figures and my blog subscribers (and other social media numbers), and made them tell me something I wanted hear—that the writing about writing was really working for me. (Must be because I was just soooo good at it.)

(Please, girl.)

I want to continue to serve, to share what I learn, to be kind (and yeah, rack up some good karma). I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to do. But I need to understand that putting too much focus on that doesn’t serve what I say my goals are. That’s me becoming known as Susan: sweet, sensitive, and sometimes insightful writer girl. That’s not me developing a reputation as Susan: author of kick-ass teen paranormal romance.

If I focus on the writer persona to the exclusion or detriment of the author persona, for the sake of serving the writer community instead of my writing career…that seems a little martyrish.

So what now?

In terms of selling book 2, sales will come. I’m a good writer and it’s a solid piece of work. I just have to wait for a slow build that might have been faster if I’d been more linked in to my actual market.

And the platform?

I have a lot of thoughts. I mean, this element of what I did non-optimally is really only part of my recent mind-blowing epiphany. I think I have a better understanding of how I want to use my blog. One hundred topics for my blog that might actually sell my books? Nope. Don’t have those yet. A clue where I’m going to go to find my target demographic and how I’m going to reach out and interact with them without being spammy? Nope. I think I’m going to take Kristen’s upcoming workshop to try to figure it out. After all, it somehow seems like she’s always right.

***

THANK YOU SUSAN!!! And I really look forward to having you in class. For those reading, the class is still open but you need to sign up FAST. Class is about to start. It is $40 for TWO MONTHS. One month is for lessons and the other month is for launch. I help each participant create a brand that is special and unique and designed to connect to more than just writers. My goal is to help you connect to your future readers. 

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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