Posts Tagged social media authors

Freedom isn’t Free—5 Common Tactical Errors in Self-Publishing

Checking reviews...

Checking reviews…

This business is hard work. There are no shortcuts. I recently self-published my new book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World (and it’s on sale for $7.04 to celebrate Independence Day). Yet, for the record, I had 1) sound business reasons for doing this (NY is too slow to publish anything about technology and I wanted creative control) and 2) I have at least a million and a half words under my belt just in blogs. Granted, I’m new to the whole self-publishing thing. I’ll share as I learn.

It’s great to have independence, but alas, Freedom isn’t free. We need a sound strategy or we can end up toast.

For the Record, I’m Switzerland

When it comes to publishing, I don’t take sides. I feel traditional publishing has a lot to offer. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t spend so much time and effort challenging them to innovate to remain competitive. Indie is not for everyone. A lot has to do with 1) what we are writing 2) our personality 3) our goals. I support writers no matter which path you decide fits your needs.

Self-publishing is not a panacea. Today we are going to talk about the top five tactical errors I feel are killing self-publishing authors.

Tactical Error #1 Publishing Too Soon

The problem with the ease of self-publishing is that it is, well, too easy. When we are new, frankly, most of us are too dumb to know what we don’t know. Just because we made As in English, does not automatically qualify us to write a work spanning 60-100,000 words.

The Spawn's First Novel, "akjehsubfuirewagh6r5" now available on Kindle.

The Spawn’s First Novel, “akjehsubfuirewagh6r5″ now available on Kindle.

Too many new writers do not properly understand the antagonist. They don’t grasp three-act structure, and most don’t have any idea what I mean when I mention POV, Jungian archetypes, or the phrase, “scene and sequel.”

I have some affordable upcoming classes for most of that, btw (Check Here). Use Wana15 for a 15% discount on any of my craft classes. I see a lot of new writers who believe their story is the exception, that the rules make for “formulaic” writing. No, rules are there for a reason, and, if the writing is too formulaic, it has more to do with execution than the rules.

Three-act structure has been around since Aristotle, and there is a lot of evidence in neuroscience that suggests that three-act structure is actually hard-wired into the human brain. Thus, when we deviate too far from three-act structure, it confuses and frustrates readers.

Stories have clear beginnings, middles and ends.

Yes, we are artists, but we need to understand the fundamentals. I played clarinet for years, and yes it was an art. But this didn’t excuse me from having to learn to read music, the finger positions and proper embouchure (the way to position the mouth to play).

The better we are at the basics, the better we know the rules, the more we become true artists.

I’ve received contest winners whose first pages were filled with newbie errors. Yet, when I sent them my critique filled with pages of corrections, I would then receive a reply telling me that the book had already been self-published.

OUCH.

Signs of problems in your novel.

Signs of problems in your novel.

Sometimes there are reasons we are being rejected and we need to take a hard look and be honest. Self-publishing is suffering a stigma from too many writers publishing before they’re ready. If you really want to self-publish, I’m here to support you and cheer you all the way, but remember, we have to write better than the traditional authors.

Tactical Error #2 No Prepared Platform

The day we decide to do this writing thing for real is the day we need to start creating a platform and brand. Even traditional authors goof this up. I cannot count how many times I get a message saying, “Hey, I have a book coming out next month. I need to do social media. Can you help?”

Seriously? O_o

I’m Kristen Lamb, not Harry Potter.

Tactical Error #3 Believing that, “If We Write it They Will Come”

There are a lot of writers who mistakenly believe that self-publishing is an easier and faster way to fame and success. Yeah, um no. And those magic beans are really just beans. Sorry. I was bummed, too.

Self-publishing is A LOT of work, especially if we are starting out this way. I know Bob Mayer and Joe Konrath lecture writers to do less social media and more writing. To an extent I agree, but here is the thing. These guys were branded traditional authors who could slap New York Times Best-Selling in front of their names when they decided to go it alone.

If you can’t slap New York Times Best-Selling in front of your name and upload a NY vetted backlist longer than your arm? Prepare for a ton of work.

Tactical Error #4 Misusing FREE!

There are a lot of problems with giving books away for FREE! We shouldn’t be giving away our work unless it serves some kind of a strategic advantage. There are ways to effectively harness they power of FREE! but too few writers understand how to do this and they just end up giving away their art for no tangible gain.

Tactical Error #5 Shopping One Book to DEATH

One of the BIGGEST problems I see with self-published writers is that they publish one book and then they focus every bit of energy on selling THAT book.

They fill up #MyWANA and all the writing hashtags with link spam promoting their books. They keep futzing with the cover, the web site, the promotions. They do blog tours until they drop, and they do everything except what is going to help that book sell a ton of copies…write more books.

Here’s the thing. Self-publishing, in many ways, just allows us to accelerate the career path of the author. Even in traditional publishing, it usually takes about three books to gain traction. In traditional publishing, this takes three years because we are dealing with a publisher’s schedule.

In self-publishing, we can make our own schedule, but it still takes THREE BOOKS MINIMUM. I know there are exceptions, but most self-published successes hit at about book three. The ability to offer multiple titles is a huge part of why John Locke became successful.

This is why it is critical to keep writing. Not only will writing more books make you a better writer, but once people discover they love your writing, they have a number of titles to purchase. Being able to offer multiple titles is how we make money at self-publishing. It also helps us maximize the whole FREE! tactic.

Yesterday, I bought six books (1,500 pages) of research. I just published my latest book five days ago…and I’m starting on my next book. Goal is to have the first draft completed by August. I don’t tell you guys to do anything that, I myself, am unwilling to do.

Remember Why We Do This

Self-publishing is a wonderful alternative. Just because we self-publish doesn’t mean we cannot publish other ways, too. I feel the author of the future will actually be a hybrid author, and I do believe that the ability to self-publish is challenging all of us to come up higher. We are striving to be better writers, to be better entrepreneurs, to get better at organization and time-management and to write more books and better books. If we can learn from these mistakes and grow, then the future is ours for the taking.

A little humor…

My own story…

What have been some of your challenges with self-publishing? In what areas is it forcing you to grow? Have you had to outsource? What sacrifices have you made? Tell us your story!

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.

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. 

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).

Right now, I am flattened with a cold or flu or something that just makes me want to crawl off into a dark place and die, so I will announce last month’s winners sometime this week.

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

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92 Comments

Feeling Overwhelmed? Social Media Can Make Us Crazy–Part 2

Kimber Montague, Kristen Lamb, Author Kristen Lamb, WANA, WANA Commons

Image via Kimber Montague via WANA Commons

Last week, we talked about some causes and fixes for being overwhelmed.  Unrealistic goals and overcommitment are two major offenders. Today, we talk about how to tackle what we have to do.

How Do You Eat An Elephant? One Bite At a Time

One major mistake we make when creating lists of goals or things to do is we frequently make the bite too big. What happens if we do that when eating a steak? We choke. Same with tasks. Look at your goals and then break them into the smallest pieces possible. This makes it far less daunting to tackle and will give you a greater sense of accomplishment.

Write AMAZING BLOG and get a BAZILLION followers!

Great goal, but needs to be broken down into about 50 parts..okay, maybe 100. A lot of what I do in my blogging class is help you gather content and building materials and then organize them for the most effective use. Wonderful goal to build a house, but probably a good idea to have a blue-print and buy materials before we start swinging a hammer.

Fail to Plan and Plan to Fail

This was a saying we used a lot when I was in sales. Another was Plan your work and work your plan. Make lots of lists, then break down each goal/chore into manageable bites.

  • Make Lists
  • Break each task down
  • Prioritize the items on the list

A lot of time gets wasted because we are all over the place. I rely a lot on lists. If I know I need to go to the post office, pick up a prescription, buy groceries, and pick up the dry cleaning, then I can plan a route ahead of time that lets me do all of these things in a seamless pass.

As I go to pick up The Spawn, I know that the dry cleaner is on the way, then get The Spawn, then swing by the pharmacy on the way to the store. I know the post office is on the way home if I take a slightly different route.

This can work with social media, too. Get a routine that allows a seamless path through each platform you choose to use. Post blog, tweet, scroll home feed on Facebook and do some likes, shares and comments then back to work. Repeat this 3 times a day and over time, you will be shocked by the results.

Never Underestimate Small Steps

We all want to rush in and do everything at once, but this is a formula to fail. A lot of people think they need to be on every social platform every day all the time. Never underestimate the power of a handful of authentic interactions. People filter out automation and spam. They don’t see it. But kindness, fun and authenticity are always memorable.

The same tactics that can keep our house clean (pick up after ourselves, do the small chores regularly) are the same tactics that can keep our social media platform strong and thriving.

Do you suffer from RDD? Are you recovered? What tactics or tools do you use to keep it real?

I LOVE hearing from you!

***And a reminder! Jay Donovan is teaching a class on Internet Security to keep you SAFE and your information PROTECTED. Also, please check out WANACon, the affordable conference with top talent, and you can attend in your jammies!

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

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

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Feeling Overwhelmed? Social Media Can Make Us Crazy–Part 1

Image courtesy of Cellar Door Films WANA Commons

Image courtesy of Cellar Door Films WANA Commons

Social media is bright, fun, shiny, and it can also feel like the Chuck E. Cheese from Hell.  As writers of the Digital Age we have a much higher chance at success than any writer in history, but we also have more work than any writer in history. And, to make matters worse, spouses, bills, kiddos with snotty noses, dust bunnies and car troubles don’t go away the day we decide to become professional writers.

RDD Can Make Us Nuts

RDD is what I like to call Reality Deficit Disorder. Like the flu, this disease seems to explode January of every year, normally brought on by New Year’s Resolutions. We vow to be 18% body fat, debt-free, have an immaculate house, build a perfect social platform with a bazillion fans, and win the Pulitzer…all by March. We seem to collectively go crazy and forget that we can only do so much.

Many writers experience RDD when it comes to social media. We sign up for Facebook, and build an author page, and link to LinkedIn, and pin on Pinterest until our pinners are dull from wear. Vowing to do everything, eventually we do nothing. We become paralyzed in the face of all we’ve committed to do.

Time to Get Real

Thus, the first step to preventing being overwhelmed is to be realistic in our goals and expectations. If we’ve already blown that, the trick to pulling ourselves out of the tail-spin is to sit down, rework our priorities, and commit to being more realistic.

Goals are written on paper not stone.

Successful people don’t just make a list of goals ONCE. The list of goals is always a living document in need of modification, reordering, or even being scrapped altogether.

Persistence is a wonderful trait. Persistence is noble. But persistence can look a lot like stupid.

Time to Face the Music

I tend to be a person of my word…to a fault. If I promise to do something I will half-kill myself to get it done if need be. But sometimes this is just plain DUMB. I’ve learned that most people will understand if we have to back out of something we’ve promised to do, but we MUST be honest with them and vow to make it right.

Look, Sally. I know I promised to blog every day for a year to raise money for all the starving children in Africa, but I am out of my depth. I overestimated what I can do given the demands of my schedule. I apologize. I was so caught up in wanting to help you, I didn’t think. Please forgive me. Is there anything I can do that might be a smaller job? Can I help you find other bloggers to fill my spot who do have time to blog every day for all the starving children in Africa?

Many times people will be forgiving (probably because they’ve oopsed a time or two themselves). If we just face the problem and offer to be a solution, more often than not, other people will be reasonable. Whey they aren’t reasonable is when we just don’t show up, disappear or dump a mess in their laps without any offer of help to remedy the problem.

And, as a warning. Don’t do this stuff too often. Professionals always need to take time to think before they agree to doing things. I still struggle with this, so as I have one finger pointed at you guys, I have three pointing back at me. Likely, this will be a lesson we continually learn and relearn throughout all our lives (especially Helpful Hannah personalities like mine :D). But we DO have to be careful or others won’t want to work with us because we are, essentially, flakes.

No one expects us to be perfect, but they do expect us to be honest and kind. We can do that. Yes, it is scary. It’s tough facing when we’ve erred, but making mistakes is just part of the game and how we learn. We will learn more from our mistakes than we ever will our failures.

Time to Face the True Causes of Our Angst

Making too many commitments and then (mistakenly) believing we can’t change is one of the major causes of feeling overwhelmed. It’s okay to be flexible.

Fortune Cookie Moment: The stiff oak breaks in the strong wind, but the reed that bends endures.

Remember, the commitment you made to yourself, that list of goals? It can be redone. The commitments to others? Those can be changed too, IF we are brave enough to admit we goofed and courageous enough to make things right.

Go around the leaf.

~Pixar’s “A Bug’s Life”

Have you made a list of goals that is nothing short of ridiculous? How did you come to your senses? Did you feel guilty having to rework your list? Do you struggle with being over committed? Do you struggle telling people “no”?

I love hearing from you!

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

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

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52 Comments

3 Social Media Myths that Can Cripple Our Author Platform

Image courtesy of Jenny Kaczorowski WANA Commons

As the Social Media Jedi for Writers, I am very blessed to be able to speak and teach around the country at various writing conferences. I am always open to learning new methods, and I love hearing other perspectives. Yet, with the good, comes the bad, the ugly and the downright—in my POV—boneheaded observations about social media. My favorites?

Writers are the only ones on social media.

*scratches head* Seriously?

I have heard comments such as these come from even very well-known authors:

Twitter is a waste of time. Only writers use Twitter.

Blogs only attract writers, and writers don’t read a lot of blogs.

Blogs won’t help you sell books.

*head desk*

Since I tend to hear comments like these more often than I care to, we are going to set these myths straight, because believing any of this nonsense is a ticket to Crazy Town, and it can cripple our platform.

Myth #1

Only Writers Use Twitter

Okay, last I checked, Twitter was closing in on 250 million users, and I doubt ALL of them are writers. Too often writers want to blame Twitter instead of looking at their own on-line habits.

If we blame the platform, then we get a pass and don’t need to use it, right? Wrong.

Twitter is one of the best ways for a writer to locate and cultivate a passionate support base. The problem is that writers are too often mistaking their professional peers for their audience. We stay in the comfort zone and only hang out with the people we know and who like all the same stuff we do, and that can spell “platform inbreeding.”

Inbreeding. Yes, inbreeding, and anything involving inbreeding eventually gets ugly. Don’t blame the platform.

Twitter is not Our Personal Spamming Tool to Sell Books

How many of you loooooove spam? There is nothing you love better than interacting with automatically generated messages. What? No takers?

Every time I warn writers off automation, I get some person who wails in protest the same, exact words. “I am not automating tweets, I am scheduling them.”

All right, let’s peel back the euphemism here. Anything that is posted on the Internet/social media automatically without a flesh and blood human being physically present is SPAM. Of course, when I say this, the spammers “marketers” often howl, “But I spend a lot of time crafting those tweets.” Okay, so you are an eloquent spammer. Better?

Here’s the thing, spam is anything automatically generated for the sole purpose of gaining something from the community. Whether that is for that community to buy a book, look at a link or come to a blog or give us their attention, it doesn’t matter, IT IS SPAM.

Oh but I am giving to others with cute quotes or information to help them.

Um, it is called social media. It’s like a giant cocktail party. If I am “talking” to someone at a party and they mention some helpful tips, that rocks. If they keep peeking in the door and dumping off fliers full of tips then disappearing to do more “important things” than talk to me or others at the party?

We call security.

We should never ask of others what we, ourselves are unwilling to give. We can’t ask others to be present on social media (to follow all our links or see our clever quotes) if we are unwilling to be present as well. It’s uncool.

Don’t Blame the Medium

A lot of writers tweet, and that is awesome. But, sad to say, too many writers have become the All Writing All The Time Channel. We tweet about word count and pass on blogs about writing a synopsis or crafting a query. We use #s like #amwriting #nanowrimo #pubtip #indie #selfpub…then say But only writers are on Twitter.

Yep.

If all I talked about was my dog, and I used #s like #canine #puppy #puppylove #woof then complained that cat owners didn’t use Twitter? Yeah, you guys get the point.

Myth #2

Writers Don’t Read Blogs

News flash. Who cares? Writers are only a small portion of the overall population in need of entertaining or informing. Regular people? Regular people LOVE blogs. Most “regular” people feel daunted reading a book. It gives them flashbacks to high school and that dreadful paper on Wuthering Heights.

But blogs? They LOVE them.

Regular people (code for “readers”) love being entertained daily in small, manageable, bite-sized pieces. They often read them on their smart phones while in line or on the train or when stuck at an appointment. In fact, this is precisely why blogs are one of the most powerful tools for creating a dedicated readership.

If readers LOVE our blogs, then they are tickled silly when they can buy an entire BOOK. These types of readers may only buy and read one or two books a year, but who cares if it is OUR BOOK? Blogs ROCK when it comes to creating a passionate author following.

Don’t believe me?

The Bloggess (Jenny Lawson) gets THREE MILLION UNIQUE VISITS A MONTH on her blog. She tried to hold a live book event, and her followers crashed Goodreads. Pioneer Woman (Ree Drummond) is another favorite. MILLIONS of people follow these blogs. Any guess why?

These bloggers (writers)…are you ready for this? These writers…don’t blog about writing.

BLASPHEMY!!!! 

No, I’m being serious.

These writers blog about what normal people might be interested in. Guess what? Most regular people don’t care about 10 Ways to Write a Snappy Query Letter and they care even less about Three-Act Structure Made Simple, Writing Witty Dialogue or The Future of Book Reviews. In fact, I might go so far as to say that, the normal person could give a flying fruit fly’s derriere about Understanding Create Space or 20 Ways to Rock NaNoWriMo.

Yet, when I blog about writers not starting writing blogs, I get wails of protest (and two weeks worth of posts dedicated to telling me I’m a moron).

We are correct when we say that writers don’t read a lot of blogs. Why? Because all the blogs in our sphere are the same. Yes, I blog about writing and social media for writers, but that is because writers are my book-buying demographic.

Writers are wonderful and supportive but we are flat tapped OUT. We don’t need another writing blog, and it isn’t helping that other social marketing experts are encouraging this sort of nonsense.

Please do NOT start a writing blog. If you need help learning how to blog, I teach classes about this stuff so check out the WANA International site to get your slot in my next blogging class.

Myth #3

Blogs Won’t Help Us Sell Books

No, bad blogs, egocentric blogs, boring blogs or abandoned blogs won’t sell books. Writers too frequently run out and start a blog with no content or brand preparation. They blog about writing until they wear out, which happens quickly if we are trying to post articles 1-3 times a week.

Certain types of content are just never going to go viral, period. Yet, it is shocking how much time writers devote to content, that by its very nature, will never, ever, ever, ever…ever go viral.

Ever.

Don’t believe me?

All righty. How many of you have been at the regular day job or with “regular friends” and heard about that Korean dance video (Gangnam style) or Surprise Kitty? Maybe you even heard these non-writing acquaintances mention Mentos making Diet Coke explode. How many times have you been in these groups and heard conversations like this:

Oh, Gangnam Style? Sure, I heard about that. Have you heard about the interview with that self-published writer about how she got the idea to pair werewolves with pixies? No? What about the review of that popular indie vampire book? No? What about that post about the when to use prologues? Seriously, Dude. Do you live under a ROCK?

This conversation has never happened. Likely, it never will.

Social media is a powerful gamechanger for writers who learn to use it properly, but we can’t expect to connect with readers (who don’t write) if we insist on only talking about what we are interested in. I have a family member who LOVES sports, and I could care less if baseball, football and basketball held hands and fell off the planet. Yet, this doesn’t stop my family member from talking non-stop about sports.

And it’s annoying.

And self-centered.

And not a great way to make me want to hang out and engage with him.

We all have those people in our lives who insist on talking about only what interests them and it alienates us. Yet, it is so easy for us to hop on social media, and, because we are nervous, shy or insecure, we end up turning into that person we detest.

Writers have been using symbols in various combinations to create magic for thousands of years. This shouldn’t cease the second we start a blog or decide to tweet.

So what are your thoughts? Have you fallen for one of these three myths? Do you have people in your network who make you bonkers with their automation? Any comments or suggestions?

I love hearing from you!

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

I will pick a winner 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.

Note: I will post October’s winners next week. I nearly got stranded in San Diego and am a tad behind. Thanks for understanding.

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

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

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115 Comments

Good Fences–Setting Boundaries in a World with No Borders

Image courtesy of Norah Wilson WANA Commons

I feel my approach to social media is a lot different than other experts. I strive for a holistic approach. On Mondays I blog about craft to help you guys produce the best “product” possible and, often, on Fridays, I talk about the writer human and give tips for how to develop the character of the professional author. Then, of course, Wednesdays are social media. Yet, these three facets often blend together, and, to me, that is a powerful reflection of the world we now live in.

One of the reasons that traditional marketing doesn’t work well in the Digital Age is that the concept of boundaries has changed. Last week we talked about Personal Space Invaders and how we all resent them, but this week we are going to talk a bit more about that notion of “personal space.” We now live in a world that no longer has the same boundaries. We are steadily becoming the Global Village that Marshall McLuhan envisioned over fifty years ago in his revolutionary work, The Gutenberg Galaxy.

Tribes then Print and then Tribes + Print

If we study the entire history of human communication, we find that Pre-Literate Tribal Human and the Digital Age Human have a lot in common, and the Human of the Typographical Era is fading away.  In the Typographical Age (reliant on the written word), humans were highly reliant on official gatekeepers of information. Information flowed one direction, from top-down. So, in much of the 20th century, we relied on the TV-Industrial complex for all of our news, our opinions, and for recommendations about what goods and services to buy (until the Internet changed all of that).

To understand the big picture, we need to go back in time a bit…

The Gutenberg Revolution

With the invention of Gutenberg’s press, literacy exploded and so did human reliance on written information. The written word fractured the tribal communication system of serfdom and transformed society. We no longer had to be in the village square to get the skinny on what was what. Humans began to rely more and more on the printed word now that literacy was no longer a privilege reserved only for the elite. As a consequence, we drifted apart. The tribe had split, and it seemed it had split for good.

But, in the Typographical Age, as I mentioned, there were gatekeepers. Yes, humans, for the first time in history were facing information glut, but we still had those people in power who could tell us what to pay attention to.

Then came social media and the village square is back with renewed fervor.

As Society Changes, So Does Communication

In a tribal system, we don’t rely on newspapers and fliers, we rely on each other. There are people who always have good advice, great recommendations and who know what is what. In a world that is deluged with information, it is just easier for us to ask our peeps (the other villagers) what they think.

For instance, I ignore most of the news. Why? Well if this were the 1800s then the only news I would get would be what was directly relevant to me. I might hear that Santa Ana was no longer honoring the treaty of 1824 and that conflict was imminent. I might hear that wounded Confederate soldiers were in town and needed care. I would hear if a railroad was going through, but almost every shred of information would have been directly relevant to me or to those I knew and loved. Information could only travel as fast as human, horse, train or boat.

These days information comes instantly from every corner of the globe continually. I have to pull away to maintain my sanity. I cannot equally care about the race for the presidency, school shootings in Colorado, a missing girl found dead in Mississippi, villagers slaughtered in Dafur, or the Russians manufacturing thermonuclear Beanie Babies.

My…head…will…explode.

Too much information will crater me emotionally and psychologically. I don’t withdraw because I don’t care. I withdraw because I have to to stay sane. Humans were not wired to cared equally about everything in the world all at the same time.

This is one of the reasons that experts who recommend we blast out link after link after link are only tossing gasoline on a fire. People are already on system overload and, if we add to their overload problem, they won’t have warm, fluffy feelings for us.

Age of Instant

When the telegraph was invented, the Typographical Age was living on borrowed time. Information could travel almost instantly from anywhere that had a telegraph. Suddenly people in Georgia could get national news right from D.C., or San Francisco. For the first time, humans could get international news while it was still relevant.

This was right about the time we saw the birth of advertisement and the TV-Industrial complex. This system of gatekeepers worked well because it was communicating to a society still bound by Typography (the written word) and not relationships (the tribe).

At the latter part of the 20th century, one device struck a mortal blow to the TV-Industrial complex—the personal computer. The Internet had already been around for a while (the military had been using it), but the Internet alone didn’t have the power to topple the current system. No, so long as we could only communicate via letters or expensive long-distance phone calls, the TV-Industrial Complex ruled unchallenged.

Once the personal computer became affordable and user-friendly, it’s natural partner was the Internet. At this point, the TV-Industrial complex’s days were numbered because, for the first time since before the Gutenberg revolution, people were able to “talk” to one another easily and for free. We started relying on each other again instead of books, pamphlets papers and official gatekeepers of the TV-Industrial complex.

Brave New World

We can see the first aftershocks of this change. The Western world rippled and stretched with a 10.0 magnitude aftershock that toppled Tower Records. The executives were no longer in control of the musicians, thus they no longer could control the music. Shortly after this, another 8.0 ripple took out Kodak. Kodak no longer could control how people shared images. Now? We are in the 6.0 that is shaking traditional publishing.

Yes, each aftershock is smaller because the groundwork for change is already there. We need less “shaking” for the same amount of change.

These “media quakes,” much like natural earthquakes, are taking out the rigid, old structures. Anything that doesn’t bend and move with the ripples of change is going to fall over. There is also another result of all this shaking and destruction.  Old topography is no longer regonizable. We can’t find the streets (paths) that were once so familiar to get us where we wanted to go.

Instead of write a book, query, rejection, repeat 735 times, rewrite 736 times, agent, more rejection, book deal, we have a hundred different pig-trails to take us to our end goal. Yet, the key is we are now far more reliant on each other. We lean on our tribe for emotional support, information, and feedback.

Why did I take you through this brief history of media?

I wanted to give you an idea of how much this world has changed. We can’t use tools that worked in a 1980 world because that world no longer exists. Also, one of the necessary “fallout effects” of all this shaking and global connecting is that boundaries no longer seem to make sense any more. They are no longer clear and this can create problems.

In a 1980 world our boundaries made sense and they had been there for over a hundred years. We didn’t interact with agents all over the country real time. We didn’t talk to other writers all over the world. We weren’t expected to be plugged into a “hive” to “build a platform.” So what’s happened is that we are getting new psychological stress. Humans need boundaries. It stresses us not to know where we stand in relation to others.

When are we being responsible marketers and when are we crossing a line and becoming a personal space invader? How do we set boundaries with ourselves? How do we set boundaries with friends and loved ones who can’t see that writing is working not goofing off?

How do we set boundaries with personal space invaders who want to use our Facebook page to advertise their books? How do we lovingly confront when people get out of line? The upside of social media is we have more access to friends and loved ones. The downside is that toxic people have unprecedented access to us as well, and that can be a nightmare if we are ill-equipped to deal with these types of individuals.

Writers Don’t Exist in a Vacuum

I know that as The Social Media Jedi, I have often served as the Social Media Dear Abby. It is tough to know where we stand and what to confront in the Digital Age. In a world without borders, how do we set boundaries?

I try to be very transparent with you guys and I will admit that I struggled with anger for a long time. I finally realized what the problem was. Yes, I am generally a happy-go-lucky-gal who laughs and smiles all the time, but I wasn’t setting boundaries. When people crossed a line, I told myself and them it was okay when it wasn’t. I wasn’t confronting in love early, so by the time I did confront, I was seeing red. What should have been a “gentle but stern talking to” quickly devolved into a thermonuclear strike followed by salted earth and a curse of seven plagues.

Many of you might fall into the same trap. You are nice, nice, nice, gentle, nice, nice, not-so-gentle, then BOOOOOOM!!!! *screams*

A Solution

Anyway, I finally realized what was going on and found some helpful tools to handle this growing problem. In the Digital Age, we need to master loving confrontation and the art of setting boundaries. I know we all grew up in a world with clear borders and expectations, but that world is buried under a pile of digital rubble and we need to take up the torch.

I go out of my way to help writers in every area of life, so I’m offering a new class I am calling Good Fences–The Writer’s Guide to Setting Boundaries. I have priced this at only $15 because I hope this class will bless you with better relationships, productivity, and peace of mind.

So what are your difficulties? Where do you struggle with setting boundaries? Does your spouse or family refuse to respect your writing time? Do you have a hard time getting off social media? Do you have tips for keeping boundaries with yourself and others? Do you ignore the news and only pay attention to what you hear from friends and family? Or can you keep up with all of it>

I love hearing from you!

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.

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

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

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39 Comments

How to Win Some Blogger Love–Scoring the Book Review, Guest Post or Interview

Image via J. Kaczorowski WANA Commons

The world is changing faster than any of us can keep up, and publishing is certainly not immune. Yet, one constant remains. There are only two ways to sell lots of books—good book and word of mouth. Period. Book trailer, bookmarks, giveaways, and flare are fun, but are certainly not major drivers of book sales. If you want to know why, take a few minutes to check out one of my earlier posts that explains why books are not tubes of toothpaste and writers are not tacos.

One of the best ways to generate word of mouth for our books is to enlist the help of bloggers who have large followings. Ah, but be careful. There is a TON of bad advice floating around out there about how to approach bloggers to review a book, give you an interview or allow you to guest post.

I know when I was speaking over the summer, a PR expert spouted off (with great authority) her “helpful tips” to get writers hunted down and tarred and feathered . Um, I meant, tips to make bloggers want to talk about you and your books.

Um…so does this mean you WON’T be reviewing my epic fantasy?

Normally, I ignore anything I don’t happen to agree with, but this bad advice is just far too pervasive and it can land a lot of well meaning authors in deep *cough* yeah, that stuff. Many marketing people believe (quite mistakenly) that what works in the world of business works in publishing, and that just ain’t so.

So, let’s just take a look at some of the ways to make bloggers craft a voodoo doll of our likeness:

Bad Tip #1—Send Out Mass E-Mails

Yes, said marketing expert actually recommended that writers make a master list of all the big bloggers and send them an e-mail request for an interview, book review or guest spot.

No. For the love of all that is chocolate….NO.

One surefire way to make any blogger hate you is to send us a nice form letter that is clearly part of a mass e-mail list. I can’t tell you guys how special I feel when I see:

Dear Madam,

Wow! Whoa! Okay, I often argue that storytelling (writing) is really the oldest profession in the world, but Madam? Seriously? No wonder I suddenly feel the need for a feather boa and a chaise lounge. I just thought it was my normal weirdness.

Let’s just apply a smidge of common sense. The last time you went to your mail and some cable company sent you a form letter, did you get chills? Did you get ooey gooey feelings of super-specialness? No. Okay, so here’s a clue. No matter how “thoughtful” the form letter…it isn’t.

When this expert recommended mass e-mailing all the top bloggers, I just kinda wanted to punch her.

And don’t think bloggers will fall for….

Bad Tip #2—“Personalized” Form Letters

Yeah, I am not mentioning any names, but this advice really gives me an eye twitch. “You can send a form letter if you just make sure to personalize the first paragraph with tidbits about the other person.” I just love it when people fake interest in me, don’t you?

I love Dale Carnegie, and I read How to Win Friends and Influence Enemies People about once a year. But, here’s the thing. Dale was trying to teach people how to actually CARE about other people FIRST. His tactics were not meant to be some phoney-boloney schtick to get people to lower their guard so they could be more easily manipulated.

We are not idiots, and we spot a form letter when we see one.

At least once a month, I get something akin to:

Dear Ms. Lamb,

Wow. I see that you like training sea monkeys for world domination. But have you ever thought, “Gee, New York just doesn’t publish anything good anymore”? Critics are hailing The Chiropractor’s Assistant—A Tale of Love, Betrayal, and Orthotics as the best thing since Snookie’s unauthorized biography. I know your blog is top-notch and that’s why I am offering you a rare chance to interview me before I’m too famous to be reachable…

Yeah…I’m right on that. Right after I organize my liquor cabinet.

I know it is tempting to take short-cuts. I’ve listened to the fancy Power Point presentations at writing conferences, too. But, what might work in Corporate America can make us a digital leper in the writing world.

Bad Tip #3—Faking Fandom

This should fall under the “No, Duh” category. Don’t tell a blogger that you are a fan of the blog unless, well…you are.

Okay, now that I have talked about all the BAD advice, how do you really get a blogger to review your book?

Smart Tip #1—We Should Never Ask for What We Are Unwilling to Give

When a writer is asking a blogger to review a book, that is a HUGE time and energy commitment on the part of the blogger. It takes an average of 10-12 hours to read a book. Then the blogger needs to think, make notes and write a post. You could easily be asking for 20 hours the blogger might not even have.

Interviews are also tough. We need to read writing samples, research your background and even come up with witty and thought-provoking questions. I, personally, have to get my creepy panel van detailed and buy fresh candy. Interviews are A LOT of work.

So, before you e-mail a blogger asking for something, take a gut check. How much have you given?

Trust me when I tell you that we pay attention to people who take time to leave comments regularly. If a blogger gets a request from a REAL fan who has been leaving comments for months? Often it is a no-brainer. Bloggers are people and if you sow kindness and generosity, most bloggers will respond favorably.

Smart Tip #2—Make Sure the Blogger Actually Does Book Reviews or Interviews or Allows Guest Posts

I don’t do book reviews, so to ask me is kind of a waste of time. Trust me, you wouldn’t want to ask me anyway. Years ago, back when she was squeaky new, Piper Bayard hired me to edit her first 100 pages…and then promptly named me The Death Star. Yeah, so asking me to review your book is kinda like asking Ice Pick Vinnie to babysit your kids.

You need some wet work? Some little darlings that need to disappear? I am the right gal. Reviews? Eh, not so much.

But, there are bloggers out there who do review books. Seek them out. Follow their blogs and leave comments. Then, when your book is to a point it needs a review, you will have an established relationship and getting a review will be far easier.

I rarely do interviews. In fact, in three years I have done…TWO. So again, I am not a great choice when it comes to soliciting an interview. My blog is primarily a teaching blog and a formal environment for my general goofing off. Interviews are not my specialty.

If you have a blogger you like, just take some time to see if they even are open to reviews or interviews. This is just common sense. If you need to buy new shoes, don’t go to a florist. Check the blogger’s About Me section and many bloggers will say if they do reviews, interviews, allow guest posts, etc.

Smart Tip #3—Ask the Blogger What You Can Give TO Them

Present yourself as a solution to a problem. Many bloggers are short on TIME. Hey, we’re writers, too. If you want to do a guest post, have some written ahead of time and allow us a choice. If you desire an interview, have a nice bio handy and prepared. You might even have a list of questions to help us out. We might not use your questions, but they can at least help us get us focused and give us a place to start.

This is all just common sense. Serve people first. Be kind and authentic. I know it seems like it takes more time than e-mailing 50 bloggers and hoping a couple will bite. But, if you work to forge relationships FIRST, I promise that your time will be far better spent.

A really great way to meet bloggers is to learn to blog. There are few tools more powerful for creating an author platform. For those interested:

Starting a Successful Blog

Time is running out to sign up! A lot of blogs fail simply because writers take off with no instruction, and, because of this, they are left to learn by painful trial and error. If you believe you would like to blog, but you’re uncertain, I’m doing something new. To accommodate those who are still on the fence, I’m now running a Basic level for my upcoming blogging class that starts next week (and it is only $50 for TWO MONTHS).

In the Basic class, you get to be part of the WANA1012 team and receive all the forum lessons (none of the live webinars are included). This is a really great place to learn if blogging is right for you (Blogging Training Wheels).

If you’re ready to skip the training wheels and get started blogging, then get your spot NOW. My classes have a history of selling out. I offer a Blogging Bronze, Silver, Gold, and even Diamond, for those who are ready to go all the way.

This is a TWO MONTH class—one month for lessons and one for launch—that you can do in your own time, at your own speed and from home. And since you will be part of a WANA team, you won’t have to do this blogging thing alone, so your odds of success are MUCH higher. For those who want to do NaNoWriMo, we can extend the two months if we have to. That’s one of the benefits of being the owner of the interface :D .

So whether you start your own blog or just get out there and read a few, getting in the mix and forging relationships is more critical than ever. Have I missed anything? For you bloggers out there, what makes you feel warm and fuzzy? What can writers do to get your attention that isn’t illegal in all Southern states?

I LOVE hearing from you.

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.

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). Will announce September’s winner on Friday. Been out of town and need to catch up.

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

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

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66 Comments

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