Posts Tagged social media writers

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

Would Hemingway Blog?

Photo by Yousef Karsh via Wikimedia Commons

Emphatically, YES!!! I know many writers are hesitant to the idea of blogging. It feels like just another social media chore, but nothing can be farther from the truth. In fact, blogging is probably the ONLY form of social media that 1) draws from a writer’s strengths and 2) doesn’t try to fundamentally change our personality.

Yes, as a social media expert Jedi, I will tell you that it’s a good idea to tweet and learn to use Facebook, but I’m also going to tell you something you already know. Most of that kind of social media is NOT natural for a lot of writers. Is it good for you? Yes. It shoves you out of your comfort zone and makes you work an area that will be vital to career success. But, of all the various on-line tools we can wield, the blog is by far one of the best.

Oh, but Kristen. There are already way too many blogs out there.

Yep, and guess what? There are way too many books out there, too, and that hasn’t stopped you guys from writing one, has it? Blogs are a lot like books. In fact, that is one of the reasons they are such an excellent choice for writers. Blogs connect using…words. Same as books. They connect through information or emotion…same as books. If people learn to love your blogging voice, it is no great leap to love your novels.

Ah, but just like books…

Most people who start a book never keep pressing until it is finished. Similarly, most people who start a blog will abandon it for some new shiny two months in. Most people who start writing a novel believe it is easy, and that they don’t need any professional instruction or guidance. Guess what? Same with blogs.

Too many people who start a blog just throw up content without learning what to blog, how to blog, and what makes a blog grow and become successful. This means the competition is not nearly as daunting as some might believe.

So why would Hemingway blog? Well, actually, he did. I am going to paraphrase a story relayed by mega-author and Hemingway expert, David Morrell.

Hemingway was a Blogger Journalist

As a young reporter for the Kansas City Star, Hemingway learned the value of lean, uncluttered sentences. In fact, the newspaper’s style sheet underscored the, “Use of vigorous English…Be positive…Avoid the use of adjectives.” Though Hemingway followed these principles as a reporter, he apparently forgot them when he decided to write fiction. When he moved to Paris and showed Getrude Stein his work, she slayed him for his purple prose. She told him to toss everything and try again.

A few months later, Hemingway met a reporter in Switzerland who expressed interest in his work. Hemingway was so excited he wrote to his wife and asked her bring all of his manuscripts to him straight away. Being a good wife, she packed everything he’d written in a suitcase and hopped on a train…and the suitcase was stolen, taking every shred of Hemingway’s writing.

Hemingway rushed home and turned his apartment upside down, but to no avail. It was all gone. Hemingway almost gave up, but then he thought back to Gertrude Stein’s advice to chuck everything and begin anew. Hemingway rolled up his sleeves and went back to work, yet this time he harnessed his reporting skills and went about his writing in a far more organized fashion, with the verbal discipline he’d learned from the Kansas City Star.

Hemingway learned that less is more, that economy of description can produce clearer effects than descriptions with detail piled upon detail. But, economy doesn’t only mean reducing a description to its essentials. It also means going for so clean a line that adjectives and adverbs become a sign of bad writing. ~David Morrell The Successful Novelist p.117

I have been running my writing contest for over two years now, and I see the same problems over and over with new writers. The prose is bogged down with all kinds of fluff. The sentences aren’t clear and the prose is weak.

Just like Hemingway used his experience as a reporter to strengthen his fiction (which made him one of the greatest writers in literary history), we, too, can use blogging to refine our prose and strengthen our writing skills. There are many great authors who used their journalistic muscles to write great works of fiction. Hemingway, Orwell, Dickens and Twain to name a few.

Blogging is a modern equivalent of journalism, and I believe Hemingway definitely would have blogged had he been a man of a different era. Can you imagine Hemingway tweeting images of giant swordfish he’d caught deep sea fishing? Or posting a video on You Tube of him running with the bulls? Maybe some images on Flikr from his latest safari?

Where was I? Oh, yes!

Blogging Takes Us from Neophyte to Expert MUCH Quicker

Malcolm Gladwell asserted that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert. Add blogging to your repertoire, and guess how quickly you can rack up that 10,000 hours? Blogging will teach you to write faster, leaner and with far more power in much less TIME.

Bloggers Learn to Ship

When you have a blog due, you learn to kill Little Darlings with ruthless efficiency. Bloggers (like journalists) learn not to grow overly fond with sections of prose. We are copy editing MACHINES. We are great at meeting deadlines because we don’t need 42 different opinions to convince us to part with some prose.

HACK! HACK! SLICE!

Bloggers Grow a Thick Skin

Writers who also blog are showing the world they take their profession seriously. We put our work out there, good, bad or WTH?. We open ourselves to criticism, and we learn to take it like a champ and come back swinging.

I’ve met a lot of writers who get defensive, angry or abusive when told their work isn’t a glittery kitten hug. This business is tough, and blogging will whip a writer into fighting form in no time.

Blogging Trains Us for Other Paid Work

Since blogging is so close to journalism, it is easier for us to get paid work writing articles, blogs or even copy work. Bloggers have a BLOG that shows the world that they are serious. Potential employers see a writer who can make deadlines, who can work even when they don’t feel like it. Bloggers, like journalists, don’t sit around and wait for the inspiration fairy. They roll up their sleeves and do what real writers do.

They write.

Additionally, many writers supplement their book income with other work (like articles), and blogging is a great way to get your foot in the door.

Getting Started

So for those who don’t want to blog, that is fine. But for those who do?

Blogging is one of the best ways to build an author platform (mainly because it has us operating in our strength—writing). A blog is far less volatile than other forms of social media. Who knows if we will have Twitter in five years? Twitter may go, but a blog will remain and can continue to grow for YEARS. We don’t have to be a Chatty Cathy social butterfly to be a kick@$$ blogger, and this is really great for those shy introverts out there. In fact, in my experience, you guys make some of the BEST bloggers.

Starting a Successful Blog

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.

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.

Anyway, what are your thoughts? Those of you who blog, have you seen an improvement in your writing? What questions do you guys have? Thoughts? What other famous writers from history would be cool to see tweeting or posting blogs? Poe? Steinbeck? Shakespeare? What do you think would be their favorite social site and how would they use it? Picasso and Pinterest? :D

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

Oh, and if you love this blog, I would love your support. I am in the running to become a community blogger for my hometown, so I’d appreciate your votes. Just click the link and scroll down until you see my name and vote. THANK YOU! When the zombie apocalypse arrives, I promise to share ammo and Twinkies with those of you who vote for me :D.

Back to the regular contest….

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

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

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

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

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100 Comments

Mythbusting—Three Lies That Could Sabotage Your Writing Success

I see somebody hasn’t made word count. This is gonna hurt…

Now that we are in the Digital Age, I hope it has become crystal clear that a strong social media platform drastically improves our odds of being successful authors. Yet, one thing I keep hearing over and over is how writers simply do not have tiiiiiiiiime to do social media. Yes, we do have time, but it is easy to buy into the lie that we don’t. So, today, we are going to do some myth-busting.

Myth #1—We have to spend hours on Twitter and Facebook to be effective.

Um…that would be a negative. Total myth. In fact, if we do? An angry clown will jump out of our computer and bite off our face. Kidding! No, the angry clown is a total lie. But, it is likely people will unfollow us because we never shut up.

Do you like hanging around people who have this itching need to fill the air with words, no matter how vapid? I don’t care for people who talk to hear themselves talk…namely because they are interrupting me doing all the talking. But seriously. I want people who offer a great conversation. We all do.

Quality trumps quantity every time.

Think back to when you were a kid. Who do you remember most? Often the people who made the most impact on our lives weren’t there 24/7. It was a teacher we had for 9 months of our childhood or a grandparent who lived 5 states away whom we only saw on special occasions. So this idea that we have to smother people to be memorable is flawed.

Myth #2—If we do social media, we just won’t have the discipline to get back to the writing.

There are a lot of reasons that this job is not for everyone. Writing for a career takes an incredible amount of discipline. I firmly believe that the arts have such a tremendously high failure rate due to one simple reality—we artsy types have the attention span of a fruit bat on crack. We love chasing shiny objects. Don’t believe me? Just turn on a pen light and dance it across the wall at a Starbucks. Guarantee you will lure at least two writers and a musician.

As I was saying….OOOH SQUIRREL!

Oh, sorry. Hey, I can be honest. The personality that makes us creative also tends to make us flaky. Those of us who can learn to get our stuff done despite our nature are the ones who will eventually make it to the tipping point where everything falls into place and we can finally make a real job out of what we love.

Social media gives us much better odds of success, and I cannot emphasize enough how important building a platform is. But, at the end of the day, we are in control. Okay well, the aliens are really in control so put on your tin foil hat and minimize Twitter.

I use social media as a reward for hard work. I minimize everything until I make certain goals and then I can go spend 5-10 minutes on Twitter and Facebook (and now WANATribe–the new social site for writers)…3-5 times a day. Morning, afternoon, and evening. I spend about 30 minutes a day on my social media. Little efforts over time add up for big returns.

Myth #3—I have to be self-disciplined to do social media.

Yes…and no. Is it wonderful to develop will power? Yes. Self-discipline can help us in many other areas of our lives, from cupcakes to credit cards. But sometimes we are wise to realize when we just lack what it takes to back away from the shiny thing.

It is okay for us to admit that we are lacking. That’s called maturity. Admitting we can’t do something on our own frees us to look for outside help. For instance, you could hire one of those really scary looking clowns to chase you around the computer if you hang out on Twitter too long.

Hey, it would totally work on me. Just sayin’.

OR…Writer Or Die, Freedom, or Ommwriter are there to shut everything down and MAKE us be disciplined. These services will block out any Internet capability for a set amount of time and you have to REBOOT the computer to get back on-line.

We are often capable of far more than we believe. By nature, many of us (me included) are lazy slackers who, if given the choice, will take the path of least resistance (it has margaritas and cookies). But, here is the thing. I freely admit that I am the reigning queen of Do It Later Land, so I know that I can’t let my feelings have a vote. Here is a horrible truth. If something is contrary to our nature? Then that is likely what needs doing.

Blech…I know.

Social media, like exercise, adds up with dedicated, disciplined consistency. We can do far more than we believe if we just take it one day at a time, one step at a time.

Many writers are spending too much time on social media, namely because they have no plan. They don’t understand branding and how search engines work, so they are like hamsters running in a wheel…a lot of running but no forward progress. My book, We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media is designed to help writers work smarter, not harder. I would also recommend hopping over to WANA International to check out my upcoming classes.

So what are some tactics you guys use to keep social media from taking over your life? How do you carve out time to write? How do you make yourself be disciplined? Can you recommend an affordable angry clown service? (Image above courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

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

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

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

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

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68 Comments

Top Five Creepy Social Media Marketing Tactics

We are friends? RIGHT? HUG ME!

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

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

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

Personal or Creepy?

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

And we all just looooove those people, right?

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

Creepy Tactic #1–The Twitter BFF-Bot

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

Sure, I am right there….

Yeah, don’t bother. UNFOLLOW.

Oh, sure! Let me drop everything to buy your book.

All my BFFs send me automated messages. NOT.

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

Really.

Do I even need to spend more time on this?

Creepy Tactic #2—The FB Fan Group Rufie

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

Courtship, people!

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

Creepy Tactic #3–The Search Tool Cyberstalk

I know Twitter has that nifty magnifying glass that allows us to search key terms, but misuse this tool and it can get you banned from Twitter. The search tool is to help us locate people who share common interests or who are talking about a given topic. For instance, if I LOVE sports, puppies, knitting, skydiving, or puppies that skydive, I can use the search tool to find tweets that mention those key words. This helps me find relevant links, locate hash tag conversations (#puppiesinthesky), or simply talk to and connect with people of similar interests.

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

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

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

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

Creepy Tool #4—The Sock Puppet Tweeter

If you don’t want to tweet, then don’t. And if you are going to automate messages selling your book, don’t also automate messages to look like you are actually talking to people on Twitter. We know it’s fake and it’s insulting.

Creepy Tool #5—Fan Page Manipulation

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

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

This is Facebook, not high school.

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

They aren’t. Stop it!

Okay, that’s settled :D.

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

Thank you Lynn Kelly for the image via WANA Commons!

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

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

I will pick a winner 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 August 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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114 Comments

All We Needed To Know About Social Media Success, We Learned in Kindergarten

Nursery School–Manners 101

Remember being a kid and your mom lecturing you about manners? My mom was the head of the Good Manners Gestapo. “Sit up straight.” “Chew with your mouth closed, please.” “Don’t slam the doors.” “Use those ab muscles when you sit down. No plopping!” “It’s, ‘Yes, ma’am.'” “Um, please?” “Thank you.” “You’re welcome.” “Can you go outside? I don’t know. Can you? Are you capable? Are your legs broken? It’s ‘May I please go outside.’“”She did what? She, who? The cow’s mother?”

“Did you ask them nicely?” “No, you need to pick up this mess before we leave.” “Hey, lower your voice. Not everyone wants to hear what you have to say.” “Turn down that music. Others have the right to peace and quiet.”

Where Mom left off, my Kindergarten teacher took up. “Stand in line.” “Wait your turn.” “Ask permission.” “Keep your hands to yourself.”

Starting to feel six years old yet?

Why is it we value manners so much?

Manners show others we value them, that we respect them. Manners pave the way for relationship. Manners show that we have empathy and consideration for others, that we listen and we care. It is pretty difficult to be self-centered and have good manners at the same time, so good manners are generally a sign of a kind person worthy of our company.

Marketing without Manners is Destructive

In all this huzz-buzz about marketing and promotion, I feel one of the key factors being lost is this idea of good manners. When we are rude, thoughtless and trample through someone’s digital world without any common consideration, there’s a good chance that people will not appreciate our presence. If people groan when they see us, odds are they won’t be rushing out to buy our book or tell others how awesome we are.

In a digital world of no faces, body language or boundaries, we need to be more mindful of manners than ever before.

Back to the Basics

Image courtesy of Amber West WANA Commons

To properly teach social media, I feel I must address common courtesy and etiquette. We’d like to believe this stuff is just common sense, but common sense isn’t ever common. We could have the best book in the history of the ABCs, but if people hate us because we are rude, then no promotion will help. Today, we will start with some Twitter etiquette.

Twitequette?

I posit this thought. All we ever needed to know about social media success, we learned in Kindergarten.

RULE #1 Listening is as Important as Talking—We don’t need to tweet all the time, every hour to be heard.

A lot of social media experts are putting undue pressure on writers to be on social media every waking moment. Feeling stressed, many writers resort to automation (because all of us just LOVE talking to and hearing from bots). Relax. Hop on a couple times a day with the goal of three genuine interactions.

A little goes a long way and we remember real people. We ignore (then report and block) bots. We won’t buy books from spam bots, and we won’t send them money to get the rest of our inheritance from Ghana either.

News flash! Twitter is….global. If you can’t tweet when you are at work, don’t sweat it. Twitter doesn’t have visiting hours. No matter what hour of the day you hop on, I guarantee you people will be tweeting. I once had a bout of insomnia that earned me a heck of a following in the UK.

We have to be present to listen. Be real. Others will appreciate it.

RULE #2 You Will Be Graded on Attendance and Participation—NO AUTOMATION, PERIOD

Every time I tell people to not automate or program tweets I get argument. Feel free to automate but I will tell you two truths.

1) We are all ignoring you, and eventually we will report and block you and then we will just hate you.

We don’t pay attention to auto-tweets. Guess what? We don’t read the crap in our spam folders, either. And don’t try to make it look like you are tweeting for real. We are sharp. We spotted the guy in the HOV lane with a blow-up doll, too. We resented him for insulting our intelligence, and we will resent you, too.

2) Programmed tweets can get out of control and land you in hot water.

Recently on #MyWANA we had a link-spammer who would not stop spamming #MyWANA. I tweeted nicely and asked her to stop. So did at least a dozen other people. When nice didn’t work, we tried not-nice and tweeted “WHY ARE YOU SPAMMING #MyWANA? STOP!” I even blogged, then blogged AGAIN to make the mission and rules of #MyWANA clear and to gently discourage her behavior.

Still, she kept posting links…and more links…and, yes, even MORE links.

We finally blocked and reported her so much that Twitter shut down her account. What did she do? She opened a new one (or unlocked the reported account) and started link-spamming #MyWANA AGAIN, no matter how many times we told her that #MyWANA was for community.

Why didn’t she listen? Likely because she’d set up automation. Because she wasn’t present, she couldn’t see the fierce hatred we all had for her. Every time we saw her name, we saw red.

When I awoke yesterday to an entire column of tweets from this woman on #MyWANA, I took the fight to Facebook. This got her attention. She apologized and said she was only trying to help writers, that she had a good intentions, and I believe her but:

Good intentions + horrible manners = ticked off followers

While she claims she never automated, I don’t know if I quite buy that. If she was present on Twitter and watching the column she was spamming using, she would have seen how she was being received.

***Twitter hint: If people are tweeting you telling you that you suck, that is NOT a good thing, so stop doing whatever you are doing that is ticking people off.

Automation can save time, and up your SEO, sure, sure, but it can also make a giant mess that taints your brand. In September’s issue of Fast Company Magazine Baratunde Thurston, The Onion’s director of digital, talks about he almost ruined the company’s brand by using Tweetlater.

His iPhone short-circuited from all the hate mail.

RULE #3 Each of Us Gets One Turn—We only need one identity on Twitter…really.

Another reason the #MyWANA link-spammer ended up in hot water was that she not only insisted on posting link after link after link on #MyWANA with no conversation, but she had multiple identities doing the same thing. She not only had a twitter ID with her author name, she had one for her company (that offers services to writers).

Great, so not only was she a bot, she was a bot with multiple personalities.

***Twitter hint: Link-spamming with one personality is dumb. Link-spamming from multiple-personalities is borderline suicidal.

If our followers are greeting us with digital torches and pitchforks, that isn’t a good thing. Also, here is a definition of spam so there is no confusion.

Spam: Messages with no humanity or engagement.

It is called social media. Twitter is not our personal infomercial. People are on social media for community. If we are not talking to people and present, we are a bot.

If we are doing something that is offending people and they are trying to tell us, but we aren’t even there? THAT is spam, no matter how good our heart was for posting whatever we were posting.

RULE #4 Play Well with Others—Follow any #s we regularly use and pay attention to the Mentions column.

Let’s say I buy the story that the #MyWANA link-spammer didn’t automate. Okay. Well, then she clearly wasn’t watching the #MyWANA column that she so freely used or she would have seen her tweets clogging up the stream and would have seen the WANAs pleading with her to cease and desist. If she’d checked her @Mentions, she would have gotten the tweets calling her out, and would have seen the rising anger.

When I tweet links, I regularly use, #MyWANA, #amwriting and #pubtip, but guess what? I follow ALL of those hash tags. I watch the columns. I am very careful to not tweet too many links, and I am vigilant to make sure I don’t clog a #.

If I RT a link that uses #s, I change them so I don’t clog a hash tag. If I don’t change them, I at least remove them. I do all of this to make sure my social media behavior is not ruining the social media experience for others.

Remember that social media is a form of communication. Communication has three parts:

SENDER—>Medium—>RECEIVER

As the sender of a message, it is our responsibility to keep tabs on how and if our message is being received.

RULE #5 Remember the Golden Rule—Tweet Unto Others as You Would Have Them Tweet Unto You

Social media works best when we are all vigilant about the feelings of others. Do we want non-stop links blasted at us? No. So why would we think it’s a good plan to do it to others? Do we like direct mailings, junk mail, and flyers jammed under our windshield wipers? No. Then why are we blitzing people to buy our books?

Do we just looooove it when vacuum cleaner salespeople interrupt our family time at dinner trying to sell us something? No. Then why are we interrupting the social time of others to sell them stuff? Do we like friends or family who only talk to us when they want something? Do we like people who talk all the time, who never listen and never ask our opinion? No. Okay, then focus on relationships, on giving instead of taking.

Like I said, all we ever needed to learn about social media we learned in Kindergarten ;).

What are your thoughts? What unspoken social rules do you feel still exist on social media? What ways do you serve others? What suggestions would you offer to make social media more social? Was your mother part of the Good Manners Gestapo?

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

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

I will pick a winner 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 August 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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65 Comments

An Author Platform Built on SPAM is Doomed to Fall

Is THIS what’s holding up your author brand?

Recently I put my foot down with the link spam on #MyWANA, because without love there is no community. Thing is, #MyWANA is my hash tag so my rules. A lot of the WANAs cheered and promptly began helping me smite the spammers on our beloved hash tag.

Some might think I am being a tad harsh, but I had actually blogged a couple of times earlier, gently asking those who liked to rely on automation to please refrain from using #MyWANA and use #WANAblogs, because no one expects community on #WANAblogs. On #WANAblogs, folks expect a list of links and resources, but #MyWANA has been reserved for community. It was to be the author water cooler. I didn’t mind a link or two from those actively engaging on #MyWANA, but any automation or link spam was not welcome.

Yet those greedy spammers continued.

One person in particular just makes me shake my head. I won’t mention any names because 1) anyone who has been paying attention to #MyWANA knows exactly who I am talking about and 2) I am just classy like that :D.

Anyway, this individual was notorious for spamming #MyWANA and all other 25 hash tags she could cram into a single tweet. Supposedly her goal was to help writers, yet she was apparently too important to talk to any of us or engage with us. She used #MyWANA as her personal non-stop infomercial.

Her behavior was so bad that the WANAs sent me direct messages, very upset that this woman would not quit spamming #MyWANA, so I told them to warn her then report her. I even tweeted this woman and nicely asked her to please stop spamming #MyWANA.

Here is the real gem.

This woman was reported by so many people that Twitter suspended her account. So what does she do? She creates a NEW account, which she again automates for people to follow her at her NEW identity…and uses #MyWANA.

Seriously? Lady, what is wrong with you?

Author Platforms Founded on SPAM are Useless

Take a good look at the picture below. Is this what you are building your author platform on? Does it look appealing? Does it look stable? Does it look like something you would want to eat? If not, then why would we feed this to others?

Ooh! YUMMY! Don’t you want a BIG bite?

Marketing has Changed in the Digital Age

In the old days, marketing was static and fixed because the marketer had no way of really creating a dialogue with consumers. The goal was to blast a message out to as many “eyes” as possible, and even though the ROI (return on investment) was never all that great (about 1-5%), there really was no other way to get traction for a product.

If our service or product wasn’t on TV, radio, in a magazine or a phone book, then it was effectively invisible. Direct mailings were common, but no company expected the person receiving the mailing to then photocopy the mailing and pass it on to friends and family.

Marketing in the Digital Age is different. We tolerated the non-stop ads years ago because, frankly, we weren’t expecting a conversation. Most of us hadn’t been on the Internet and the notion of “social media” was relegated to the realms of science fiction. Face it, in the 90s, none of us expected to be chatting real-time for free with people all over the globe. Mass marketing didn’t bother us as much because we had no basis for comparison.

These days? We are tired of ads, sick of spam and we loathe people who continue to shove this crap down our throats. We know it is possible to talk to us and to care about us and when you don’t? At best we ignore you, and at worst we report you (then blog about your @$$clown behavior).

Link spam is lazy marketing!

SPAMM= Selfish People Adore Mass Marketing

What I find really fascinating is that this woman who link-spammed #MyWANA wanted us to be on Twitter. She wanted US to be present so that we could drop everything and serve her agenda. But her? Oh, she was too busy and important to participate, whereas we had nothing better to do.

The shocking part was that this woman was sent numerous messages to please stop spamming, and yet, strangely…she never got them? THIS is the problem with automation. Some people have their “tools” set up so effectively that they don’t even have to be bothered talking to the communities they spam. Take, take, take and too important to give.

Oh, but we are giving. We give for FREE! FREE! Download our stuff NOW! Cheap advice and FREE! stuff.

Yeah, um. No.

Free really doesn’t impress us that much these days. People who are willing to talk share, and give first? Those folks get our attention because they earned it. See, social media is SOCIAL. It is like a big water cooler. After 4:30, it is like a big Happy Hour and by 7:00 a cocktail party. By midnight? We are your weird friends who won’t go home and who sleep on your couch and eat all your food.

Who in their right mind would show up at a company water cooler, Happy Hour, or a cocktail party with a credit card machine and a fistful of flyers? What if I just showed up to some bar and set up a table and started selling books? Consulting? Author coaching? How long would it take for me to be escorted outside?

Yet, this is what people are doing on Twitter every day and they are ruining Twitter. If everyone automates, then people get tired of looking at a non-stop infomercial so they go play on Pinterest or hack up monsters on XBox. The only way Twitter can help us build a platform is if people are tuned in and paying attention.

Solid Author Platforms are Built on Community not SPAM

Relationships are solid. Relationships will outlast fads. Relationships will help our platform remain stable even if Twitter collapses and Facebook implodes. Yes, relationships take time and effort, but we should not expect from others what we, ourselves, are unwilling to give. It isn’t right and people will (rightfully) resent us.

I know this is hard. It is hard to find the time to do everything, but here is the deal about love and kindness…a little goes a long way. We will remember the person who congratulated us on word count or who complimented pictures of our kids. We will have warm fuzzy feelings for the person who asks about our day. Make an effort to get on social media and just engage five times a day. Our goal is not to blast out marketing messages. Our goal is to forge friendships one post at a time.

Does your platform look like this? (WANAs in SoCal)

Or this? (WANAs in NYC)

Does an author platform get awesome-er than this? (WANAs in Anaheim, CA)

This is what a WANA platform looks like and YES, we have a Bouncy House (WANAs in Costa Mesa, CA)

So the next time some social media “expert” touts all the wonders and advantages of pre-programmed tweets or form letters, I want you to ask what you want your author brand to rest on…

This? (WANAs in Soho)

Or THIS????

Few people willingly eat SPAM. Spam in a can is a ham-like substance, and SPAM on social media is a human-ish substance. It is a poor substitute for the real thing. Can we take it in small doses (mixed with macaroni & cheese/good conversation)? Sure. But we can’t feast on it and expect long-term health.

If we are using automation and pumping out link-spam, then every tweet erodes our platform and taints our name. Do this long enough and just the sight of our name makes people angry, just like the woman who continues to cluelessly spam #MyWANA. She is oblivious to the depth she has poisoned her brand. When people see her name, they see red. Not exactly the best way to sell books and services.

I believe we need to all work together to clean up social media. When we see people who continue to fill the place with automation, we owe it to the social site to report them, especially when they abuse hash tags. Twitter is a lovely playground but we need to crack down on litter bugs (SPAM bots/link-spammers).

A huge shout-out to my rock star assistant Chad Carver who took all these lovely rather nauseating pictures of salty gelatinous meat stuff.

So what do you guys think? Am I being too harsh? Have you grown weary of the non-stop infomercial? What would you recommend we do to make social media more social? What tips would you like to add?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of August, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. 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 August 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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120 Comments

An Industry on the Brink—Five Mistakes that are Killing Traditional Publishing

Author Kristen Lamb, social media authors, author platform, social media writers

Old School Meets New School

As many of you know, last week I was blessed enough to get to present at Thrillerfest, which is a conference held by the International Thriller Writers in the heart of New York City. What a blast and a WONDERFUL conference! If you ever get an opportunity to go, take it. Yet, now that I’m home, I feel compelled to share my observations and make the most of my $5000 investment. Why can’t you guys benefit, too, right?

Now that I have been to NY, talked to people and observed things first-hand, I feel I am in a better position to make an accurate analysis, so here are the five mistakes that I feel are killing traditional publishing.

Mistake #1—Fear

When I first arrived, there was almost a palpable feeling of dread, doom and gloom. I felt like agents, editors and even writers were refusing to acknowledge the pink elephant in the room. Why? Because they were afraid of it.

The paradigm is changing and the world is going digital. No matter how many times we click the ruby slippers and chant There’s nothing like paper. People will always want paper it isn’t going to change a darn thing. The only thing this self-soothing will do is waste time while the windows of opportunity close.

When I attended the Craft Fest luncheon, the keynote was Jaime Raab, Senior Vice President & Publisher, Grand Central Publishing (Hachette). She began her speech with something akin to, “I know all of you are wanting to hear me talk about the changes in publishing but…” and then she went off to talk about all her favorite books over the course of her publishing career and why she thought they were game-changers.

And I was like WTH?

It was a lovely speech, but the troops are battered and broken and searching for a reason to fight for the cause. If you know they need to hear something about the changes in publishing, then by gum give it to them. I felt like the troops needed the Churchill speech. The Germans are coming. Give us something!

But, no.

Instead, we had a nice nostalgic speech that offered little to ease the fear. And I am not meaning any disrespect, but I feel this fear factor is a big part of the problem. The leadership is afraid and that is filtering into decisions. Fear is a lousy place to make strategy. When we find ourselves defending, the battle is already lost.

But you know what? Good thing I am too dumb to be afraid.

The first thing I announced on my panel was that it is an AMAZING time to be a writer. It is a BRILLIANT time to be a publisher, even a TRADITIONAL PUBLISHER! But here is the thing. We have to change. We have to grow and growing sucks and sometimes is painful as hell but it is necessary because if we aren’t growing we are DYING. 

We cannot build a 21st century future with 18th century tools. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself! Fight! Win!

We MUST face where we are weak, because if we don’t, we are vulnerable. Ignoring a thing doesn’t change a thing. The truth will set us free and if the truth is that we are being short-sighted and wasteful, then we need to FACE that so we can FIX it. Fear wastes time and energy.

After the social media panel there was a noticeable shift. People were smiling, they were hopeful. WANA (We Are Not Alone) is a wonderful plan that is fun, easy and has sold hundreds of thousands of books. Maybe WANA it isn’t THE plan, but it is at least A plan. WANA works for all kinds of writers and all types of publishers and it frees up time to do ALL the meaningful work. Best of all, WANAs don’t know fear. We only know hope, and that automatically places us in a position of strength.

Mistake #2—Paper is Married to Petroleum DOOM

Raab continued to assert that “readers would always want paper” yet I will show exactly why this assertion is dead wrong. Let’s indulge in a little Economics 101.

The reason that readers will not always want paper books is that paper books are what is known as an elastic good. Elastic goods cannot fluctuate too far in price before people just decide to do without or change products.

For instance, coffee is elastic. We are all sad when Jamaica is hit by hurricane and loses much of its Blue Mountain Coffee bean crops, but we are simply unwilling to pay $15 for a cup of coffee. We all have a ceiling before we just do without Blue Mountain Coffee.

Elasticity is even more of a problem when there is a ready supply of easy substitutes. For instance, if Blue Mountain Coffee was the only source of caffeine on the planet, maybe we would keep demanding even as the price increased (inelastic), but it isn’t. It is too easy to buy a pound of Folgers instead.

Or we can even buy black tea or Monster drinks. We can take ginseng, guarana, and all kinds of other Chinese herbs to wire us for the day. While caffeine is inelastic (meaning if there was only one source we would continue to pay), Blue Mountain Coffee is NOT.

Artificial hips and superconductors? Inelastic. Paper books? Very ELASTIC.

We will only pay so much for paper books before we just go download the e-book, and this is a HUGE problem for traditional publishing. Why? Because paper books are married to petroleum. As the price in oil increases, so do costs.

Books need to be manufactured, then shipped. I worked in the paper industry and believe me, paper books are seriously heavy, which means they burn a lot of fuel to ship. They also burn a lot of fuel to return then pulp due to waste. Anyone who has ever had to move gets what I am taking about here.

This grossly inefficient consignment model worked so long as readers had no other options. Yet, now with e-readers, e-books, indies and POD publishing? The game has changed.

Books were always elastic, but they are even more elastic now that there are other options. What the publishers are failing to understand is that as petroleum continues to rise in price, their profit margin gets thinner and thinner.

If NY doesn’t change? They will go bankrupt simply because the margin will fully disappear, then their costs will surpass what readers are willing to pay for a paper book. If big rig trucks ran off sunshine or happy thoughts, this might not be as critical of a problem as it is.

NY MUST make the change to digital, as many titles as possible before petroleum bankrupts the industry for good. Yes, some books will need to be paper, but POD technology can step in to fill that gap, minimize the waste, and drop costs so traditional publishers can increase margin.

The competition has not lashed their product to barrels of petroleum. The indies are not hobbled by waste, shipping costs and limited shelf space, and this is why they can pay their authors so much BETTER. Writers might not be great at math, but we aren’t that bad. It is only a matter of time before the Big Six will hemorrhage talent, probably the mid-list first as the demand for mass market paperbacks contracts. 

Traditional publishers! Get those costs down so you can pay your people better. You can’t keep using a handful of mega authors to float the business. In the new paradigm, there is no reason to lose so much money. There are all kinds of creative and profitable solutions to make all authors profitable.

If this is a race, NY, you are riding a horse but trying to beat a Ferrarri. Help me help you!

Mistake #3—Reliance on Outdated Gimmicky Marketing Tactics

For those of you who know the WANA way, we abhor gimmick. Gimmicks worked in the old paradigm before the Internet and social media, but now? We have a much more sophisticated audience that demands authenticity. We don’t like being fooled either.

Tweeting as a character or interviewing yourself pretending to be your characters is, in my opinion, not the best use of time. Sure it might be fun for our devoted fans, but for new people who don’t yet know our books, it can seriously tick them off when they figure out they have been duped.

True story.

I was on Twitter and happened to see one author talk to a NYTBSA who I’d never heard of. So I followed and loved his tweets. Then I spotted him interacting with someone from the CIA. I thought that was really cool so I started following this other person and asking questions thinking I was talking to someone from the CIA. When I realized I had been talking to a character from one of this author’s books, I was mortified, then livid and then I unfollowed.

Play head games at your own risk.

Let’s use some logic. How many people are going to care about an interview from an imaginary character from an author they don’t know and out of a book they’ve never read? There is far better content that actually stands a chance of going viral.

Interviews don’t generally go viral unless they are with a super famous person who then does something very embarrassing (Tom Cruise and the couch thing on Oprah) or dies (Steve Jobs). Interviews with imaginary people? Probably not going to go viral.

A lot of people feel the gimmick is a tool so people will pay attention to our marketing, but thing is, gimmicks don’t work and marketing and advertising don’t work, either. All of it is just busy work that gives us the illusion we are doing something meaningful.

My impression from Thrillerfest?

I felt that the traditional publishers had far too much reliance on these tactics, which is likely why my sixty-one year old mother has a better Klout score. If no one is paying attention to what we post or spreading what we post, then we are doing something wrong.

Any pretending to be characters needs to be initiated by fans. Yes, there are loads of teenagers who love to role-play as Twilight characters. That is cute and fun. When we (authors) do it? Weird, and kinda creepy.

Mistake #4—Over-Fixation on Tools

There was an over-fixation, in my opinion, on tools. Yes, there are analytical tools that can tell us what time of day is best to tweet and what time of week is best to blog, and what time of month is best to run a promotion, but all I could think as people were talking about these tools was:

Are they tweeting or ovulating?

I know that IT geeks are fascinated with the idea of creating a program that can accurately predict human behavior, probably so they can get a date. But, thing is, they can’t predict human behavior. If we could accurately predict human behavior, then we have bigger problems than selling books and should start looking for the chip someone has implanted in our brains.

Yes, there is some predictability. I.e. Spamming people pisses them off. Talking to people and being kind and genuine generally is a good bet.

Beyond the fundamentals? There is no way to predict this stuff. People who love tools, in my experience, are people who want from others what they, themselves, are unwilling to give.

See, for Twitter and Facebook to work, to actually sell books SOMEONE must be present. When people use these tools to post for them, it is because they want the perks without the works. They want ME to actually be on Twitter/Facebook so I can click and then give them money, but they can’t be bothered to actually take time to be on Twitter talking to me.

Yeah, I’m all over that.

Tools RUIN social sites. RUIN THEM! When too many people start using these fancy tools to do stuff for them, the information becomes invisible. Also if no one is there to read and respond to the tweet because they are tired of talking to bots? Then Twitter is a giant waste of time that will not sell books because it is choking on automation. If people loved talking to machines, they’d call their credit card company, not log on to Twitter.

We don’t have to post a lot to be effective, and being real is the best plan. We can’t expect from others what we are unwilling to give. And yes, I know some of you have to work day jobs and can’t tweet during the day but pssst….Twitter and Facebook are GLOBAL. People in other time zones will see your posts.

Again, better uses of time. These tools are interesting, but if you work the WANA way, they you have a whole team of people helping you, so it matters less and less what time of day you post. And besides, I have enough to do without setting my watch for a quick roll in the sack while I’m fertile tweeting.

Mistake #5—Expecting Commerce Before Community

At Thrillerfest there were a couple new book sites introduced where readers could go and interact with their favorite authors. Um, didn’t we already have Goodreads? Now there are two more?

Don’t get me wrong, these are lovely sites and I think they have a lot to offer, but we are back all pitching to the same people, the same over saturated 8-10% of the population who defines themselves as “readers.”

There are hundreds of millions of people who will only read one or two books a year, but I have said this time and time again. Who cares if it is YOUR book? Every mega-success from Harry Potter to 50 Shades of Grey has come from mobilizing the fat part of the bell curve, the people who would not normally define themselves as “readers.” Traditional marketing and “reader sites” will not make our book the next Twilight or Hunger Games.

I am saying this as respectfully as possible, but traditional marketing has some lazy and uncreative people thinking this stuff up. We all want the magical site where we can find….readers. You know what? Back when I sold cardboard (corner board), I would have loved a site called http://www.LetMeComeToYouAndHandYouMoneyWithoutAnyWorkOnYourPart.com. That would have made my job WAY easier. Instead, I had to hit the pavement, look around and look for people who could be converted into buyers. 

For instance, we had to pay attention to the HUGE boxes being used to ship water heaters so we could step in and say, “Hey, I bet those giant boxes are really expensive. If you use four pieces of corner board, some wrap and strapping, not only could you fit more water heaters on a truck, but you could seriously cut your shipping costs and drastically improve your profit margin.”

We had to work for the sale, but NY? Let’s just put more “reader sites” together and then people will come and give us money.

Am I saying these sites aren’t great? No, they are lovely and shiny and pretty but they are not a substitute for creating a customer. We can’t have commerce before community. It’s like building a McDonald’s in the middle of a field and hoping people will show up to eat burgers. It makes more sense to wait until there is a thriving community and then build the McDonald’s. Then the McDonald’s is there to serve the community, not the community there to serve the shareholders of McDonald’s.

This is why it is critical for us (writers) to build community first. If we have a community of support, then these sites with goodies and interviews and all that jazz will work better. I spent two years building the idea of WANA before we built WANATribe. By the time I launched WANATribe, it just made the experience of being a WANA even better. It allowed you guys to interact in new and fun ways.

But what if I had started off with WANATribe? It would have been me taking not giving.

Is NY DOOMED?

So after all of this, is traditional publishing doomed? I say it can have a bright future, but the people in charge have to start listening to people who are doing publishing (and social media) better. I know there is probably some pride involved, but get over it. Yes, you rocked publishing for over a century, but now? Not so much. You have a lot to learn.

The thing is, e-book sales are not a Zero Sum Game. Joe Konrath made a brilliant point about this in a recent blog:

Ebook sales aren’t a zero sum game. A sale of one ebook doesn’t preclude the sale of another, because this is a burgeoning global market with hundreds of new customers introduced daily, and people naturally horde more than they need. 

Let’s say there are currently 100 million ebook readers, and 1 million ebook titles on Amazon. In ten years, there will be billions of ebook readers (following the path of mp3s). But there won’t be a corresponding 100 million ebook titles available–there aren’t that many people writing ebooks, and never will be.

What this means is that traditional publishing can remain if they are willing to change and listen to people who are doing things right in the digital paradigm. Books are not so cost-prohibitive that people cannot buy more than one. I know a lot of us in the indie world have offered to help NY, but we can’t do this for them. The Big Six have a lot to offer and many of us hate to see that go away. We do hold a respect for what they do and they have a lot of talent.

With the explosion of smart phones, tablets and e-readers, this could be a Golden Age for publishing, but the Big Six cannot embrace their future while clinging to the past.

What are your thoughts? Opinions? Ideas? What have you observed? Do you think the Big Six can survive or should they be parted out to the indies? Do you think the mid-list is next to defect? I don’t mind any opinion, so long as it is respectful.

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. 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.

***Changing the contest.

It is a lot of work to pick the winners each week. Not that you guys aren’t totally worth it, but with the launch of WANA International and WANATribe I need to streamline. So 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 will now 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!

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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151 Comments

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