Posts Tagged social media

Should Authors Have to “Market Themselves”?

"Crap. Revisions tore my hose. But I need to sell more books and 'market myself'…"

“Crap. Revisions tore my hose. But I need to sell more books and get out and ‘market myself’…”
Image via Darwin Bell, Flickr Creative Commons.

All right, don’t stone me, but I feel some of the marketing “buzz words” range from terrifying to annoying to outright offensive. For instance, every time I read “target your demographic” or “target your readers” I wonder if this comes with a Predator Drone or at least a laser sight.

I don’t know about you guys, but I get creeped out being “targeted.” It makes it seem we (seller and consumer) are opponents—one the cunning victor and the other the hapless dupe who landed in the marketing crosshairs.

But the one that’s gotten my hackles up over the past week or so is when writers are beating themselves up. They write things in my comments like, “I know need to try harder to market myself” or “It’s no longer about marketing my books, I have to market ME.”

NO.

If I’ve in any way contributed to this feeling, my deepest apologies. I hope this post will clear things up.

The Difference Between Market Norms and Social Norms

Two norms guide all commerce. Market norms are cold, driven by data. We pay the price on the tag. There’s no emotion, and no relationship. All purchases and exchange of goods and services is simple. We don’t go to buy a computer then are hurt because we thought Best Buy was our BFF and could have made us a sweeter deal.

Social norms guide relationships. If I open the door for you, I don’t hold out my hand expecting a tip. When I make dinner for Hubby, I don’t bring him a check with 20% gratuity factored in because I have to clean the kitchen, too. If Hubby paid me after fooling around, he might suddenly go mysteriously missing.

Transition

In the 1990s, as the TV-Industrial complex began to crumble, we saw more and more businesses blending market and social norms.

Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.

For corporations, using social norms can be beneficial. If we (consumers) like a company, we are willing to pay higher prices and can have greater loyalty. BUT, this company has a much steeper obligation. Don’t call us family then exploit us. Not only will we complain, we will raze your brand to the ground on-line. Companies can’t have the benefits that go with harnessing social norms, then forget the greater responsibility.

Evolution of Commerce

In the olden days, we didn’t have a lot of choices. When I was a kid, if you wanted to buy a new TV, there were about three brands to choose from. There were also three kinds of spaghetti sauce. Most household cleansers were manufactured by the same company. Ma Bell issued a phone when you activated a line in your home. If my parents wanted a different phone or a newer phone or a phone repaired? They called the phone company.

Image courtesy of Clemson via Flickr Creative Commons.

Image courtesy of Clemson via Flickr Creative Commons.

And had THREE colors to choose from :D .

Yet, as markets opened up bringing increased competition, this presented a problem to The Big Guys who’d enjoyed gouging consumers who had no other place to go. Cheaper and even better options came along and the pseudo-monopolies began to crumble.

For instance, my husband has this COOL remote control car that can do speeds in excess of 55 mph and is extraordinarily maneuverable. When I was growing up, if you wanted a remote control car, you went to Radio Shack and took out a second mortgage on your house to buy one…and generally it worked once then died.

Remote control cars were The Great Class Divider—those who could afford one and then the rest of us.

Image courtesy of Gazanfarulla Khan via Flickr Creative Commons.

Image courtesy of Gazanfarulla Khan via Flickr Creative Commons.

Now? In 2014? I can’t believe Radio Shack is still around. Sometimes I think it’s only because we still have a population over age 70 who still shops there. My grandfather, who is almost 90, still goes there to buy batteries, proving old habits die hard.

Yet, as the years passed, emerging markets offered newer, better and cheaper options. We could have all colors of phones. CORDLESS phones. Eventually phones with an answering machine built in and then Caller ID. More and more features and bells and whistles for less and less money.

When the Internet arrived, this only exacerbated the problem. And, as computers became more affordable, Internet service did too. E-Commerce arrived. Consumers no longer wanted to browse the window of an electronics store when they could purchase on-line cheaper and get free shipping.

Thus, with the explosion of options, market norms became highly problematic. To rely completely on market norms is a race to the bottom of who can give away the most stuff and the best stuff for free. How can companies mitigate this?

Let Me Introduce “Social Norms”

When we had only a handful of choices for coffee, we bought the one mom did. We chose between caffeinated, decaf, and instant. Fast-forward 20 years.

In an endless sea of coffee choices, manufacturers didn’t want to compete on price if they didn’t have to. Thus we now pay more than double if a coffee is “Rainforest Friendly” or “Organic.” Our purchases have come to reflect our values. Case in point, the new Follow the Frog campaign:

Is it non-GMO? Gluten-free? Environmentally friendly? Recycled? Does the manufacturer donate a portion of profits to charities we support?

Even large companies are realizing Facebook can be an asset and that people don’t want endless spam and promotion. We want a company that includes us and represents our values. We are willing to pay more to those kinds of companies. We want to like who we buy from.

We gravitate to companies with a real person behind the tweets and posts. Smart companies are recognizing they need to keep a finger on the pulse of their social platforms.

When I was ready to throw the first Mac I bought through the closest Apple Store window, I tweeted about my frustration. Guess who replied? Guess who worked tirelessly to make sure I was happy?

Guess who now uses Apple almost exclusively and has become a VERY good customer?

Kristen Lamb, writing teacher, WANA

Yes, Hubby even downloaded a game for the CAT.

I was willing to pay more for a company that not only solved my problem, but actually seemed to care about it. When the HP I owned had issues (and I’d had several HPs over the course of a decade), HP ran me through and endless maze of chasing my own @$$ with confusing and impersonal on-line forms that went unanswered. They used the information to spam me instead of solving my problem.

In the end? I knew I’d pay more with Apple (and wouldn’t have any new clothes for at least five years), but I chose the company that made me feel they were on my side, that I was more than a number.

Back to the Eternal Question—Do Authors Have to Market Themselves?

We have to remember the distinction between a business and a human being. When humans start “marketing themselves” it drifts into Creepy Land. Bluntly, it makes me feel like I need fishnets, heels and a red light that hides my smile lines. Or maybe I need to take up juggling fire while wearing a costume and swallowing swords.

We strongly suspected Earl had a book for sale… Image courtesy of Rafael-Castillio via Flickr Creative Commons.

We strongly suspected Earl had a book for sale…
Image courtesy of Rafael-Castillio via Flickr Creative Commons.

Granted, all of us on some level “market ourselves.” When we apply for a corporate job, we know that we have to wear the right suit, the right smile and have the right answers in an interview if we want to land the job or promotion.

But what if we had a plan for “marketing ourselves” to make friends? A bullet-point reference to make others like us. Worse still, how ookie does it get when we actively put together a plan for people to like us so they will buy something from us?

Hey, Baby, you wanna date book?

Writers are not Geiko. We are not AFLAC or P&G or Apple. We are people. A company is a non-living thing striving to connect and be personable. Companies have always been in the goods and services business filling needs. Companies have always been driven by market norms and that’s never been a question of ethics.

When human interactions are driven by market norms? That’s called slavery and prostitution.

Writers are people. A person is a person. When I actively make a plan for people to like me so they will buy my book? I need a shower and counseling.

All Humans Have a Brand

My brand. Spongebob, Green Lantern and NERF---oh, and I write books, too.

My brand. Spongebob, Green Lantern and NERF—oh, and I write books, too.

Brand is merely what comes to mind when we think of a name. When I think of AT&T, I see red. It brings to mind hours of runaround with customer service and the half zillion times they have screwed up our bill (where we live we have no other option).

When it comes to people? They also have a brand. They could be our vegan friend who competes in triathlons or our zany friend who collects action figures and goes to ComicCon.

I don’t call Such-and-Such in an emergency because he’s a notorious flake. If I have a bad day, I call Thus-And-Such, because I know she is kind and will set down everything to let me cry.

I avoid Uncle Burney because all he talks about is baseball and is utterly oblivious to the fact that I am chewing my leg off to escape the conversation. On the other hand, I love Uncle Olaf, because he invites me to play video games with him. He laughs a lot and asks me about my writing…and cares about my answer.

We unfriend people on social media because they might be rude bullies who rant or complain non-stop. We gravitate to others because they make us laugh or are always positive. These people may or may not have a good or service for sale, but they DO have a brand.

When it comes to creating a “marketable author brand” I have zero interest in changing you beyond what would need to change in any normal social situation. Name-calling, negativity, bragging, self-centeredness, putting others down are not great habits for us to have in LIFE. Thus, we all need to ixnay them with social media or it WILL create a negative brand.

I understand some writers will have to press beyond being shy. But, being shy in our personal lives limits how much we can connect as well. I know. I used to have such bad social anxiety, the thought of talking to someone I didn’t know was enough to make me throw up in my shoes.

I attended five years of high school and five years of college and had no friends. If I didn’t want to be a loner all my life, I had to press past my profound fear of people to grow as a human being.

Self-Promotion 

We don’t like people who promote themselves in person. Why would we like them on-line? Granted, writers do have to strike a balance. I find we generally end up gravitating to extremes. Either writers blast non-stop deals, specials, contests and tours to tout their latest book or, the fact they have a book for sale is a Top Secret.

We need to find that balance. I was in Rotary for almost seven years. I knew who was a dentist, a surgeon, an accountant, or a veterinarian. I did business with them first because I knew them as people. They didn’t need to show up to our weekly meetings with flyers and coupons. They didn’t need to sit at lunch an pitch me how they were the best surgeon for removing suspicious moles.

The Two Basic Differences in a Regular Person Brand and an Author Brand

All this said, I will admit our brand is slightly different and I am going to use the word marketable extremely carefully. WANA isn’t here to slap your on-line personality in a short dress and digital body glitter.

Don’t come back until you’ve sold some books.

Yes, regular people have a brand, but most regular people don’t want to use that brand to sell books. Aside from being a nice human being, the crucial differences in a regular person’s “brand” and our “author brand” are:

Community is Part of Our Job

If a regular person disappears off Facebook for six months, it doesn’t matter. We as writers should have a goal of creating an authentic community, of creating relationships with those in our circles. Then, we are tasked with maintaining that community and hopefully growing it. If we only appear out of the ether when we have a book for sale, we become about as appealing as that cousin who never calls unless he needs bail money.

Authentic relationships will help us personally and professionally. We need a system of support. We also can be that support for others. Service is good for the soul and sound relationships are a two-way street. Book sales may or may not directly evolve from this, but it’s a better use of time than spamming victims from a purchased e-mail list.

Clarity is KEY

If a regular person wants to tweet using @I_LuvPandas, @LovelyKisses99 or @CarolinaChik, that’s fine. No one needs to know their name. Writers? If we are tweeting, blogging, whatever under a cutesy moniker? We’re wasting time. People cannot find our book if they don’t have OUR NAME.

The more layers of friction we add for others trying to find us/our books, the less likely we are to eventually make a sale. If I blog as Unicorn Fairy Hugs, tweet under @FairyGurl, am on Facebook under two or three different pen names, who can keep up with that?

People (readers) are pressed for time and will gravitate to those who don’t waste it.

When we use social media properly, our names become tied to our “brand.” In my case—social media for writers, craft, blogging, Star Wars, green juice, yoga, Gluten-Free, Lord of the Rings, The Spawn, zombies (notice my “author brand” is who I AM as a person as well).

But I’m not sitting around thinking, “Wow, I need a marketing strategy to market ME. I have to promote ME.” I’m simply doing what’s necessary to create genuine relationships. Beyond that? As a writer I have only two more necessities that distinguish my brand a) attendance b) coherence.

Same with you guys. Be present, be vested and be you. There will never be another ;) .

What are your thoughts? Does this notion of “marketing yourself” make you feel ookie, too? Does self-promotion give you hives? The creeps? Am I making too big a deal out of it? Have you bought books simply because you liked the author? Maybe it was even a book in a genre you never read? On the other side, have you avoided buying books from an author because you didn’t like them as a person? Have you ever had a business make you feel so good you were ever-loyal? Have you have a company you were loyal to take advantage of you and now you’re their best-worst advertising?

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

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

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When Spammers and Trolls Take Over – Authors Innovate – Facebook Groups (WANA Class Excerpt)

By Jay Donovan
Hi everyone,

Kristen is recovering from a couple of all-nighters spent caring for a loved one. I’m sure she’ll have plenty to say about it over the coming weeks. She should be back tomorrow. I take that back, she will be back tomorrow,even if I have to drive to TX and make her write a blog post Weekend-at-Bernie’s style.

Today’s post is an excerpt from a bonus lesson from Lisa Hall Wilson’s six week Facebook course. Lisa is a fantastic teacher and one of my favorite online people. She is currently teaching four classes at WANA Intl:

Building A Tribe Using A Facebook Profile
Using Your Facebook Profile to Build Platform
How To Write In Deep Point Of View (POV)
How To Get Them Talking – Interview Like A Journalist

Thanks Lisa for giving us a sneak preview at this new lesson!

WANA Facebook Maven Lisa-Hall Wilson

WANA Facebook Maven Lisa-Hall Wilson

Facebook Groups

Indie authors especially are very good at innovating and finding creative solutions to problems they face trying to connect with their readers/fans. Recently, former lit agent Nathan Bransford posted about the ongoing bully/gang-mentality that’s become prevalent over on Goodreads. People were leaving bad reviews of books they’d never read, or just didn’t like the title or subject matter of. (Read the post here.)

Authors had no way of policing their Goodreads pages, and real fans were turning away because of the bullies and bad reviews.

So they innovated.

How Authors Are Using FB Groups

I often get people inviting me (or force adding me) to closed groups which are really just book launch announcements. Not cool. That’s just spam. Don’t do that. However, some authors are using groups the proper way with amazing success.

Growing a tribe or community around your writing is usually a common goal for all writers regardless of their genre. Easier said than done. Building a community or tribe takes time, effort and intentionality.

To combat the lack of control over on Goodreads, authors have turned to closed FB groups instead.

 

Street Teams

When an author is about to launch a book, they may create (or fans create for them) a street team. I’ve seen these used as incentive to pre-order books. These are the most dedicated and enthusiastic fans you can have. They are your mavens, they generate word of mouth enthusiasm, share your work, post reviews, buy copies for family and friends. This is marketing gold you can’t buy.

Author Strategies

These closed groups are well organized and only genuine fans of the books are accepted as members. Some authors use these groups to send out information to join a street team, help get the message out about their books, events, coming soon and cover reveals, help name the book, etc. Some of these groups have tens of thousands of members. It’s a vibrant hidden community free of trolls because the author admin has the power to turf those who break the rules of the group. There’s no spamming, and readers find it a much safer environment than Goodreads right now.

Authors show up daily to talk to fans, to give that glimpse behind the curtain – they want to see Oz. Authors are growing these groups by placing links to them in the back of their books – as opposed to their websites. It’s an insider club.

Benefit of Closed Group

The big benefit for a closed group is that you have to be a member to see the content. It may show up in your news feed because you’re a member, but your friends won’t see it unless they’re also members. This way members can also share inspiration photos of guys (etc.) and it doesn’t show up on their walls or their friend’s news feeds. You can’t use a group with your Page though, only your Profile. Many Indie authors have what I call a place-holder Page but are only active on their Profile.

Book Promotion

Authors are inviting fellow Indies into these groups to help promote the upcoming book launch often. So XYZ author is invited to participate. The group members are alerted that “XYZ author will be here to spend time with you all. She’s giving away a copy of her… book.”

The author admin creates a thread linking to the free giveaway. The protocol is that XYZ author never mentions their own books. They talk about their favorite heroes/heroines in author admin’s books, etc. This helps promote author admin’s books and helps XYZ author get new readers – and nobody gets spammed!

Author Cooperatives

Authors are teaming up with others who write in their genres, etc. to offer book promos together, boxed sets, etc. This is all being done in closed FB groups.  Authors are sharing info and insights into marketing, promotions and ads. They’re working together to support each other. That’s the WANA way.

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Lisa has been using Facebook since 2007, and has been a paid administrator, content creator, and consultant for more than three years. She manages Pages for non-profits and small businesses in Canada and the United States. She’s a freelance journalist with nearly 100 articles published, and has counted non-profits such as World Vision Canada as clients. You can find her hanging out on the WANA Intl Facebook Page most days or at her website.

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Three Important Life Lessons Only Learned from Insomnia

New Bed!

New Bed!

Well, it’s 3:18 a.m. and since sleeping still isn’t in the stars, I am writing…while in a yoga stretch unkinking my back. It’s been a rough week. I didn’t sleep for a week due to pain. We figured out the likeliest culprit (since both Hubby and I have had our backs scanned, X-rayed, massaged and chiropract-ed) was The Bed of DOOM, forged in Mordor in 1994! I had NO IDEA Hubby’s bed was that old. Probably a question us gals should ask before marriage O_o.

Hey, have any ex-girlfriends or wives buried under your porch? No? Cool. Btw, how old is your BED?

Use a polygraph if you must.

Hubby and I got married, bought two cars, a house, a bajillion diapers and we were going to get to the whole “replacing the bed thing” but this past week? Let’s say we hit “critical.” I know the bed is the problem, because I slept last night. In fact, I slept AWESOME.

Want Sleep? Ah, a “Kink” in The Plan

My back was still a mess so I went to take a nap at 11 a.m. this morning…yesterday morning? Sunday morning. The plan was to sleep two hours since The Spawn had me up just after 6:00 am. I’d sleep until around lunch, then we’d eat, I’d put dinner in the crockpot and Hubby and I could play video games all day.

Anyway, just as I drifted off, my mom calls me bawling and hysterical. Her washing machine overflowed in the middle of the night and her living room was in two inches of water. She couldn’t reach my brother and had no one else and was in a panic. Even though I knew my back was still screaming, Mom just had major hernia surgery and no business moving furniture at her age. So Hubby and I went and lifted all her furniture—heavy furniture—out of the water so it wouldn’t ruin.

Kill. Me. Now.

I love that I could help my mom, but right now my back is seriously pissed I love my mother more than it.

Thing is…

Unusual Suspects

Beds are the most likely culprit for insomnia or back pain, yet we tend to think of them last (probably because they are expensive and we shop for them every decade). I’ve spent the last two years doing Bikram yoga, focusing on my core (or lack thereof), going to chiropractors, taking herbs, Ibuprophen, Voo-Doo Chicken Wing Therapy all to gain little relief. I blamed it on my old back injury (broke it in 1995), changes in weather, age, and still? Never thought of my mattress until this week when nothing else had worked.

Went to the doctor. They did X-rays, MRIs. Not once, did they ask if my bed was bought when gas was $1.09 a gallon.

My bed was as old as the OJ SIMPSON case and as dead as Tonya Harding’s career after she had her loser boyfriend kneecap a fellow skater…in 1994! Don’t get me wrong, I figured the bed was old. I just never dreamed it was from the Clinton Administration. 

Yes, I am a little flabbergasted. I figured maybe it was eight or even ten years old, but almost TWENTY? Why do guys not mention this stuff? I “get” you don’t buy new underwear until nothing is left but an elastic waistband, but the mattress? Was I supposed to sleep it to the springs before we considered replacing?

What I’ve Learned About Being Up All Night

#1 DO NOT get on Web MD.

In fact, they should just not allow people to log into that site after midnight. It took me less than twenty minutes to diagnose myself with:

Prostate cancer? Wait, do I have a prostate?

DWARFISM! I KNEW IT! NO WONDER I CAN’T BUY PANTS THAT FIT!

And the holistic medicine sites aren’t any better. Took less than ten minutes to determine I needed to be dewormed. Should I do the cats at the same time? *scratches head* Crap! Do I have fleas?

#2 Social media friends ARE REAL friends.

I couldn’t have made it through this rough patch if kind people hadn’t kept me laughing and offered advice and even help. People I have never met in person. You guys have put up with my whining for a week and made me smile and that’s why I love my followers so much. I’ve met some of the best people, people on the other side of the world who I wouldn’t call “friend” if I hadn’t been up with back pain.

I SO apologize I am still whining :(. I totally didn’t see the “Moving Mom’s Furniture And Lifting It Out of Water Curve Ball.”

#3 We can’t control circumstances, only our attitude.

I am in terrible pain right now. In fact, if the Air Force hadn’t goofed up our insurance (found that out when I caved and tried to see a doctor Friday) I might be in an all-night-Doc-in-the-box instead of here. But, I take my mind off it. I laugh, have fun and know “This, too, shall pass.”

***And FYI, I’m very ADD, so Benadryl, alcohol, Tylenol PM and all the crap that normally knocks people out? WIRES ME FOR SOUND. I can’t take any pain medication known to Man because they all make me itch. I’ve taken Valerian, B Complex and D and been doing yoga since 1:00 a.m. and nothing is working.

Yeah, sometimes it seriously sux to be me.

But tomorrow is a new day on a new bed with new friends…

…wait that sounded wrong. Y’all know what I meant O_o.

Anyway, so I focus on the good stuff because life is all a choice in perspective. It’s now 4:15 a.m. Hmmm. Maybe I should check back with Web M.D. I’m seeing glowing spots. Wait. Whew! False alarm. That’s the modem.

Going to try the “sleep thing” again and forgive any typos. I’ll fix them later. Got ice and a heating pad. In the meantime, check your mattress and see if maybe it’s the problem. Don’t wait like I did, because now I am paying for it. What are your thoughts? Mattress horror stories? Do you just find your bliss when you can’t sleep or do you discover your “previously undiagnosed” case of Malaria per advice from Web MD? :D Have you met any cool people on social media you might not know otherwise if you hadn’t been up all night?

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. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

ANNOUNCEMENTS: I have a class coming up August 21st, I am running a Your First Five Pages webinar. Bronze is $40 and Gold is $55 (I look at your first five pages) and use WANA15 for 15% off.

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Opening the Floor–Ask an Expert! What Do YOU Want to Learn More About?

Need some adverbs taken out?

Trust me. I be an expert….

One of my favorite parts of blogging is I get to hang out with you guys. I love your comments and REALLY LOVE when you share your stories. I read every one of them, and the only reason I don’t reply to all comments is because some of you subscribe to be messaged when there is a new comment…

…and I don’t want to blow up your e-mail with “((HUGS)) You are so awesome! I forget my purse ALL the time!”

I never run out of ideas because the world is a very interesting place. Writing is a complex topic and social media for writers is ever-evolving (along with the publishing paradigm).

I do try to mix this blog up with different content, some informational and some just fun. Keeps me fresh and you from being bored. Besides I am far too crazy creative to wear an expert suit all the time. I have to wear digital panty hose and they chafe :D.

But I want to try something different, today. I generally choose the topics. Ever so often one of you might ask something in the comments and that gives me an idea for a blog. I can keep just blogging about the things I find important or interesting, but I’d like to ask you guys what you’d like me to blog about. Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

  • What do you want to know about fiction?
  • Plotting?
  • Character?
  • How do you hook in the beginning of your book?
  • When do we need a prologue?
  • POV?
  • More dialogue (maybe from me or another expert)?
  • Tips for self-editing?
  • How to find a good editor? What’s the difference between a line-editor and content-editor? What is reasonable to pay for these services?
  • How do we choose what genre to write?
  • How do you write YA?
  • How do you get started writing for children?
  • World-building? (for fantasy, sci-fi, etc.)
  • Differences and expectations in genres?
  • How do you create romantic tension? Write love scenes?
  • What are the fundamentals of good romance?
  • Scene and sequel structure?
  • Generating conflict and tension?
  • How to write a strong female character and make her likable, too?
  • What are elements of great heroes?
  • What are the must-have resources for writers?
  • Why is it a bad idea to put Band-Aids in your hair?
  • If you are brand new, where do you start? How do you begin that first novel?
  • How do you get ideas for stories?
  • How to do research?
  • Want to know about non-fiction?
  • How do you choose a topic?
  • Write a proposal?
  • Land an agent without using chloroform?
  • How do you choose an agent? What questions do you ask?
  • When is it time to fire an agent?
  • How do you pitch?
  • Create a log-line/elevator pitch?
  • How do you get blurbs for your book without using blackmail?
  • Which type of publishing might be a good fit for you?
  • Choose a conference?
  • Speak Pig Latin like a pro?
  • Do you want to explore psychological profiles for crime writing?
  • Forensics?
  • Want to write about the military or guns in your book and sound like you know what the heck you are talking about? Revolvers DO NOT have a safety, btw. Also, it is a MAGAZINE, not a CLIP. And if we call it a MAGAZINE CLIP, it makes us sound double-stupid.
  • Want to know more about author brand?
  • How to handle a pen name with social media?
  • How to use a pen name and ACTUALLY protect your real identity?
  • Internet safety. How do we stay safe in cyberspace?
  • How to use Twitter and NOT be a spamming @$$clown?
  • More about blogging? Where to start? What to talk about?
  • How to deal with haters and trolls without becoming one, too?
  • How to balance social media and writing? It can be done. No whining.
  • Want to know more about Smashwords? What does it do?
  • CreateSpace? How to use it?
  • Why it’s a bad idea to let your husband have a remote control helicopter AND access to Post-It Notes?
  • Want to learn tips for productivity?
  • Time-management?
  • Learning self-discipline? I was once a lazy sot, so if I can do it, ANYONE CAN.
  • Balance family, work and writing without going crazy…ok craziER. Y’all are writers, so you know we all start out crazy. Little disclaimer there.
  • Learning social intelligence?
  • Having a fabulous social media presence WITHOUT changing your personality (unless you’re a jerk). Shy introverts don’t need a personality transplant. You are awesome. Be YOU.
  • How to teach your child Jedi skills by age three?
  • How to deal with family/friends who doesn’t get why you want to be a writer and who are kinda jerks to you?
  • How to put down boundaries in a world with no borders?
  • How to be an expert on ghosts? What exactly IS a K-2 meter and why are all paranormal investigators named “Darryl” and wear a mullet?

These are just some of the topics I could think of. Most I can blog about, but I also am connected to other, more knowledgeable writers who are always happy to lend a hand (as y’all saw with Les Edgerton’s series). I am not ashamed to admit I don’t know stuff (like WTH IS a K-2 meter and why do all these regular people all seem to have them in their kitchen drawers like a flashlight?).

Honestly, if I don’t know about a topic,  I will just abduct recruit another expert who does know…and then promise to free them in exchange for a guest post. I have a creepy panel van AND a very impressive and intimidating NERF battle-ax. So here’s your chance to tell me what you want to talk about. What do you need help with? The floor is yours…

I LOVE hearing from you guys! Now you get to ask me questions AND it counts for the contest. How COOL IS THAT?

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

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115 Comments

LinkedIn—Making The Most of Your Six Seconds

Image courtesy of cellardoorfilms WANA Commons...

Image courtesy of cellardoorfilms WANA Commons…

Happy Friday! Today Jenny Hansen is going to talk to you a little bit about LinkedIn…hey, she gave me cookies. Who can say no to COOKIES?

You might be wondering why to bother with a LinkedIn profile, even if you aren’t a NF author (for NF authors, LinkedIn is a must). For one reason, a lot of agents and publishers are there, so it’s a good place to connect professionally.

Also, many of us will do additional work to supplement our writing income, especially in the early years. LinkedIn can be vital for getting freelance work that pays the bills or even gives us a little extra spending money.

Finally, if we self-publish (which many of us will), we will need to hire a team of professionals—content editor, line editor, book cover designer, book interior designer, e-book formatter, web designers, etc. LinkedIn is a wonderful place to find endorsed professionals to be part of your publishing team. Thus LinkedIn really is more than just one more social media site. It can be a valuable tool in your writing success.

So I am shutting up now, namely to go have cookies for breakfast. Take it way, Jen!

****

Hey y’all! Yes, I bribed Kristen into letting me shake my Cowbell here at her place so we could all talk about LinkedIn.

[I just heard some of you writers groan: Another social media platform?!]

I know, I know. I’ve got critique partners who are worried their heads might explode. I’m already on Facebook, they whine. I just want to stay home and write in my pajamas. Why do I have to talk to people?

Because you do.

We all need to build a writing team to survive in this crazy business. Those of us who hang out at #myWANA with Kristen Lamb know We Are Not Alone, unless we want to be. The process of getting a book published requires a massive amount of teamwork.

LinkedIn will become a big part of your team-building once you understand how it works and how to navigate it like a rockstar.

The most important thing to remember?

You get two inches, or six seconds, to make your first impression.

(Get your mind out of the gutter! You’ve gotta hang out at More Cowbell for thoughts like that.)

Seriously, it’s a common saying in the business world. Get your most important point into the subject line and the first paragraph of an email because that’s all most people will read. Even as an author, we’re aware that we have anywhere from two paragraphs to two pages to engage an editor, agent or reader. Hook people quick, or they’re moving on.

The average resume or LinkedIn profile gets no more than 6 seconds to engage someone. To be fair, the average person is looking for different things than the recruiters I mention in the link above, but 6 seconds is still the average browse time.

What makes people scroll past your “top two inches” on LinkedIn?

1. Your picture.
It should be a clear, close, front-facing shot where you look friendly and attentive. Unless you work with kids or animals, there shouldn’t be anyone else in the picture with you. No spouses, no kids, NO hats.

2. Professional Summary
What are you doing now? What have you done in the past? By adding current and past positions to your LinkedIn profile, you get a quick summary of this in your top profile block. (I’ll show this below.)

3. Easy to remember LinkedIn address
Very few people remember to customize their LinkedIn address. http://www.linkedin.com/in/kristenlamb will be easier to remember than http://www.linkedin.com/pub/writername/11/442/b42/. One I can type from memory and share easily. And the other…I can’t, and won’t.

4. Multiple ways to get hold of you
If you don’t want to be called, you don’t need to put out your phone number. But you should have an email, blog, website or social media account like Twitter listed in your Contact Info. These things will also help update your status, if you set them up correctly, which is a really easy, passive way to stay at the top of your connections’ minds.

Let’s look at a few profiles so you see what I mean…

I’m a software trainer by day and one of the things I do is work with accountants who want to build their networks. Last year, I took a class through Accounting Today with marketing master, Eric Majchrzak (and was delighted to discover he was in sync with our WANA Mama, Kristen).

Here’s Eric’s profile:

LinkedIn-MarketingGuruProfile

If you were to click his Contact info button, you’d see his email, phone number, Twitter info and website. He fits all of the four criteria above (and he should, because he’s a marketing dude).

What about authors?

I picked a traditionally published author and a small press/indie author so you could see some good examples. (I’ve linked their names if you’d like to see their entire profile.)

Robin Lee Hatcher – Traditionally Published Author

LinkedIn-TradPubAuthor

I’d maybe like a closer picture of Robin, but otherwise she gets an A+. Inside her contact info, she has two emails, her website and her blog.

Amy Shojai – Blogger and Small Press/Indie Pub Author

LinkedIn-SmPress-IndiePubAuthor

Amy’s entire non-fiction platform focuses on animals so having her cat and dog with her (that’s Magical Dawg and Seren-Kitty) is appropriate. She also has her Twitter info, blog, website and radio show links in her contact info.

The one update I would make to Amy’s profile is the addition of her new thriller, LOST AND FOUND. It’s a smokin’ book and she should have it listed on her LinkedIn profile.

Just to recap on WHY the above are great examples:

  • They have a picture, blog, and other social media info.
  • They clearly list what that person is up to.
  • They’re friendly and engaging, yet professional.

Starting in April, I’ll be giving LinkedIn classes for WANA International, but if you need some LinkedIn info now, I’m teaching the following class at WANA Con

  • Course: LinkedIn – Your Professional Identity (The Cliffs Notes)
  • Time: Friday, February 22nd, 9 pm EST (that’s 6 pm for us on the West Coast)

We’re going to review topics like ”5 Things You Need To Know To Rock LinkedIn.” We’re also going to be looking more closely at LinkedIn profiles, what works well, and what could be improved. If LinkedIn has been making you want to hide under the covers, or if you’d simply like to know more, I hope you’ll join me next Friday night.

Special More Cowbell Offer:

List the URL to your LinkedIn profile, if you have one, down in the comments section. One winner will receive:

  • a summary of 4-5 profile changes that will yield better LinkedIn results
  • a 15 minute online Q&A session, one-on-one with yours truly

Do you use LinkedIn now? What questions do you have for Jenny? She’s at your service in the comments section!

About Jenny Hansen

By day, Jenny provides training and social media marketing for an accounting firm. By night she writes humor, memoir, women’s fiction and short stories. After 15 years as a corporate software trainer, she’s delighted to sit down while she works.

When she’s not at her personal blog, More Cowbell, Jenny can be found on Twitter at JennyHansenCA or at Writers In The Storm.

THANK YOU JENNY! As Jenny mentioned, she will be teaching at WANACon. Her classes are fabulous, so please join us this next weekend.

WANACon Registration

Again, here is where you can view the full conference schedule.

Sign up for BOTH DAYS of WANACon for a mere $125 (this includes ALL the parties and Surprise Pajama Sunday). Register HERE.

If you can only do one day? No problem! Registration is $75. Register HERE for DAY ONE or HERE for DAY TWO.

Ready to get an agent? Sign up for Agent Pitch Sessions HERE.

We hope to see you at WANACon and PAJAMACon. Seats are limited, so sign up asap.

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94 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

How To Get Unfriended, Ignored, and Blocked on Facebook

Send GF cookies.

Happy Friday! Man, what a week. We’ve been having a ton of fun at WANA International with all the cool new classes. The teachers at WANA are so much fun, just like my good friend and WANA Instructor Lisa Hall-Wilson who’s stopped by for a visit.

Lisa? Why do you have a pillow case and duct tape? Are we querying agents today? I really think you should———*muffled tussle* *crash*

Signal Lost

Friends, this is Lisa. Sorry to do this, but I’ve taken Kristen and her blog hostage. I locked her outside and hid the spare key because I think she’s unfairly biased against Facebook. It’s true! She’s posted on here about the big bad Facebook tyranny ganging up on writers. The truth is writers can be their own worst enemy.

How did she get out of those bungee cords? All right, I’ve got to type fast.

Facebook is still free, and you don’t have to buy ads or promote posts to find success there. 50% of Canadians and 38% of Americans have a Facebook profile, and half of all users come back daily. Repeated studies have shown that people who engage with brands on Facebook are more likely to purchase from and recommend those brands than the brands they don’t follow.

I spend a lot of time on Facebook because I’m paid to, but also because it’s a natural fit for my personality. Writers seem to have this love/hate/I-don’t-get-it relationship with Facebook. The platform arbitrarily changes the rules, isn’t great with customer service, and their privacy track record is a bit tarnished terrible. I understand why people find that frustrating, but stop whining. I’m serious. *clears throat* Kristen that means you too ((hugs)) :P Facebook is a little dictatorial not perfect and it’s really easy to waste time there – I get that, but it’s still FREE.

I have two suck-it-up buttercup band-aids:

#1 Facebook just passed the 1 billion user milestone. 1 Billion Users! This is a massive marketplace and your readers are likely already there.

#2 Fans aren’t on Facebook to know about your latest book (stop frowning). People are on Facebook to connect with friends and family, but while they’re hanging out there they may take time to learn more about you, they may buy your book, they may tell a few dozen of their friends about your book. That’s all gravy.

Hang on…

OK – I’ve barricaded myself in the bathroom with my laptop tethered to my phone. She’s threatening to shut me down. I scooped her laptop and gave her phone to the Spawn to hide. That should buy us a few more minutes.

WANA is about helping you be a better writer, equipping you to succeed, and creating community. Here’s the hard truth: shortcuts on Facebook don’t work. Stop. Right now. Just STOP.

*engine turning over*

Did Kristen just fire up her creepy stalker van? She has a rather astonishing collection of stale candy in that thing. I’m resisting because this is important.

Posting Too Often

For the love of lol cats – stop posting on Facebook like it’s Twitter. Three to four times a day is a maximum. If I look at my newsfeed and it’s filled with posts from one page or profile, they’re blocked. No second chances. Sorry. (And while I’m willing to block game applications from my newsfeed, lots of people won’t – they just unfriend you)

Facebook is NOT Twitter

Why am I seeing hashtags on Facebook? If you link your Twitter and Facebook accounts, people will notice. There’s a whole generation on Facebook who don’t know what a hashtag is! If I wanted to hang out on Twitter I’d do that. If you must schedule posts, make sure to spread them out over several hours, and repeat yourself sparingly (or not at all).

Spam (Invading Space)

Do not DO NOT post about your book or plaster promotional statuses on other people’s walls. Especially don’t do this using your Facebook page. “Hey Lisa, great post. Why don’t you check out my page <insert link>.” It makes me feel like I’ve been groped on a first date – and I’m not that kind of girl. On Facebook, a profile wall is considered personal space. I own the space on my wall, and I decide who has permission to post there. This is akin to slipping your manuscript to an agent under the bathroom stall door. It feels…icky.

Stop the Guilt

Posting status updates/call to action/fill-in-the-blanks that manipulate or use guilt and shame to garner interaction are great if you want to be ignored. We’ve all seen these statuses: I bet you won’t share this… or Most people won’t share this because… or Click like if you think murder is wrong. Guilt trips are not endearing. I don’t even read past the first line.

Never Showing Up

People leave comments because they’re looking for a conversation. When you automate your posts and never hang out there, people are offended. It’s like inviting the neighbors to a backyard barbeque and then hitting the beach while they’re standing in your yard with empty glasses. Another great way to teach friends to ignore you.

Use Events for Book Launches

I get invited to online book launches on Facebook all the time. I can choose to attend or decline an event invite. Don’t use a group for a book launch, don’t force invite all your friends so you can spam them forever with ‘buy my book’ messages and email. Details about book tours, endorsements, etc. belong on an author page, not a group. That is how you get unfriended and blocked, or at best ignored.

Time’s up. The Spawn sold me out for Goldfish, and Kristen’s got her phone back. I’m taking one for the team here – remember that :D. Oooh – Is that Halloween chocolate…? No, not falling for it.

*loud banging on bathroom door*

What’s the most annoying thing you’ve seen or done on Facebook? Are you a reformed FB abuser? Have you had to reprimand friends in your network for poor manners? What are some of the habits that drive you bonkers on Facebook? I love hearing from you, too!

*Pixie Sticks slide under bathroom door*

Ooooh pixxxxiiiieeee stiiiiicks…..wheeeeeeee!!!!!!

I’m baaaack!

Whoa, Pixie Sticks to the rescue. Lisa’s in my living room spinning in circles and making herself dizzy. That should keep her occupied for a while until the sugar wears off. In all seriousness—which is kind of a rarity around here—Lisa is an amazing teacher and I hope you guys will sign up for her upcoming Facebook class. It’s like SIX WEEKS long, so plenty of time for Lisa to talk you off a ledge show you how to maximize Facebook AND have fun.

I hope you will show Lisa some comment love, because today we are going to do something different with the contest. One lucky winner will get to take Lisa’s class for FREE! Also, since you guys are such awesome and loyal friends of this blog, if you sign up for Lisa’s class Own Your Own Stage—Using Facebook for Author/Artist Branding and enter in the code WANAFB, this will give you $30 off Lisa’s class so you get SIX WEEKS of WANA Awesomeness for only $99. That is only $16.50 a week, $2.36 a DAY, .68 an hour! Lisa could be making Nikes in Taiwan for .73 an hour so this is a total BARGAIN! She rocks and I hope you will sign up and benefit from her wisdom.

Ok, fair enough, she does take candy from strangers, but she knows her stuff with Facebook. Give Lisa a warm WANA round of applause and enjoy your weekend!

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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111 Comments

How “Personal” Should Writers Get On Social Media?

Image courtesy of Jenny Kaczorowski WANA Commons

The world around us is changing so quickly that most of us struggle to keep up. New paradigms call for new rules and new social norms. What do we keep from the old? What do we add to the new? The common denominator to all this social media technology is the human heart beating in its center, and we are wise to remember this.

Yet, we do run into dilemmas. How much personal information should we reveal? How professional should we be? A lot of experts seem to have conflicting advice, so I am here to clear all of that up…

They are wrong and I am right :D.

Unless these experts are telling you the same things I am, then they are also right and amazingly brilliant and insightful. Odds are they are probably freakishly good-looking, too.

Where was I? Oh, yes. Advice.

I know that writers are encountering new problems in the digital world, and you guys need some vodka and chocolate sound advice. I am actually trying to talk Writers Digest Magazine into giving me a monthly advice column for social media questions…and a corporate credit card with unlimited spending for candy. They replied and mentioned something about a restraining order and a 50 foot perimeter, but I know this is just them playing hard to get.

In the meantime, while we are waiting on Writers Digest to let go of denial and acknowledge the vast empty hole in their content that is exactly Kristen-shaped, I will just go ahead and answer your biggest social media questions as you send them. Here is an e-mail I received recently over at WANATribe:

Dear Social Media Jedi, Kristen Lamb,

I am so confused. Everything I read says to keep the tweets we send and the pages we create professional, but then I look at your messages in your Twitter stream and your blogs about spamming and they are personal to the point that they seem to contradict that advice. I think I have my blog under control, but I’m unclear about my Facebook page and I definitely don’t know what to do about Twitter, as I’ve been trying to only post relevant writing information, which results in essentially retweets and links – completely opposite of your advice.

Can you point me in the right direction? How much personal is okay before it’s unprofessional? How many links are okay before it’s spam?

I really need an answer quickly, or I might lose all hope and be forced to shave my head and join a cult of moon-worshiping vegans.

Thanks.

Staci Troilo

Wow, now you see why we had to talk about Staci’s problem quickly. Hair takes time to grow, and a life without bacon is no life at all.

Okay, I totally made up that last line about the vegan cult (and she didn’t specifically call me a Jedi), but the rest of Staci’s problem is not only true, but it is also very common.

Technology and Humans

We are in a completely new age, and technology cannot help but affect human civilization. Not only does technology affect our lives, but it affects our language, our ideals, and even how we define our reality.

For instance, for thousands of years, every human activity was governed by the sun and the seasons. Then some genius invented the clock. The clock got its start in the Benedictine monasteries in the 12th and 13th centuries, and the reason the device was created was for one sole purpose—to provide regularity for the monk’s seven periods of devotion throughout the day. The church bells would ring, signaling a canonical hour, and the technology that afforded bell-ringing precision was the clock.

So this doo-hicky “the clock” was invented to make sure a bunch of monks prayed enough during the day in between doing other things like gardening and inventing beer. Yet, I would venture to say that none of the monks could ever have imagined how this tool would change the very course of human history. In fact, economic ideologies like capitalism would have never been possible without the invention of the clock, and forget movie matinees, commerce and mass transportation.

Can you imagine trying to be an air traffic controller with no clock?

Why do I mention this story? Because it was really cool and I needed a place to share. But, aside from that, we cannot envision life that is not precisely measured in increments of hours, minutes and seconds. Measured time ripples into every corner our world.

Like it or not, social media is doing to humankind what the clock did centuries ago, only on a larger scale and far faster than ever in human history.

The world before clocks had different rules, expectations, and norms than a world revolving around the notion of precisely measured time. Same with social media. When some marketing “expert” tells us to only present our “professional face” on social media, that information and approach is outdated. It applies to a pre-social media world.

The New Paradigm

In a pre-Facebook world, most people didn’t own and use computers. There were no smart phones and reality television was some weird experiment on MTV. People didn’t interact real-time with each other, let alone with their favorite authors. In the pre-social media world, web sites were very expensive and most were not user-friendly, so we had to hire copy writers and web masters to do any changes.

This meant changes were expensive, so they happened very little.

Cost and difficulty are why our author image had to be so carefully crafted in the pre-social media age. We were engaged in one-way communication that had only a small window of opportunity. Print ads, billboards, television time were astronomically expensive, so of course we would present a crafted one-dimensional image.

This was why authors had only the heavily airbrushed author photo, a newsletter and some press releases. We only had small (and expensive) windows of opportunity to connect, so we needed to make them count. We needed to talk about our books our work and about ourselves before the window closed and we had to cough up a trunk-load of cash to open it again.

These days?

Our world is completely different. We are interacting real-time, globally, and for free. The technology is so easy a five-year-old can use it. Ah, but this also means that we are inundated in a bazillion choices (this was not a problem back in 1995). Our world is more and more impersonal, and we are looking for fellow humans among all the technology.

The Global Cocktail Party

If all writers do is talk about one facet of their identities, they will quickly bore others. Social media is like a giant cocktail party. At cocktail parties we do talk about our work and what we are writing, but we probably would also mention an upcoming trip we are excited about. We’d also tell people if we were married and how many kids we have.

If we are really great at socializing, we might tell a couple jokes, or share stories and anecdotes that will make other people laugh and want to gather around us and maybe get our number so they can hang out again or do business with us. We would ask questions about others and be careful to be good listeners. We’d compliment others, and go out of our way to talk to them and make them feel welcome.

What we wouldn’t do is badmouth others, rant about sex, politics and religion, or start fights. We wouldn’t whine and complain and tell others intimate or embarrassing personal details. We wouldn’t likely give names and specific details about our kids or our home address. We wouldn’t go to our car and grab a box of books, a folding table and a credit card machine and start selling copies of our new novel. And hopefully, we wouldn’t get blitzed on Fuzzy Navels and cry as we talk about our ex.

Granted, there are people who do all of these things at cocktail parties, but they don’t get invited back…ever.

And while it is okay to talk business and give tips and advice, if we just walked around the party handing out business cards and fliers and spouting off stock tips, others would think we missed taking our meds. So, Staci, to answer your question, feel free to post some links…but don’t get crazy.

Timeless, Yet Not

A lot of things are still the same. We are still humans with needs, loneliness, issues, drama, and a longing for company. What is different is that technology sometimes makes us forget this. We forget about the human on the other side who wants to know us as a person as well as a writer. My advice to you, Staci is to just balance both. People crave connection with real people, and they buy from who they know, so why not know you?

If you have a burning social media question, please send it to my minion assistant Chad. His e-mail is ccarver at wanaintl dot com. And, for those who want to learn more about how technology has changed our world, I recommend Neil Postman’s Technopoly–The Surrender of Culture to Technology.

Also, at WANA International, we are offering a seriously cool class, Audio Books–Catch the Wave! for only $25 this Saturday and from the comfort of your own home, using the WANA International Digital Classroom. So if you’ve envisioned your book in audio format, this class will get you started. Here is the list of our current classes. My October Blogging to Build Your Author Brand class is now open, so make sure you get a spot. This class is two months long and can be done in your own time, but it is also a class that has a history of selling out, so sign up asap. I won’t be offering another one until 2013.

But back to social media and etiquette…

What are your thoughts? Ideas? Questions? Problems? Concerns? What do you feel is TMI on social media? Do you like authors who connect with you as a person? Does it not make a difference? Have you had an experience with someone in your network wearing a digital lampshade after too many digital daquiris?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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77 Comments

The Blessings of Social Media

Kristen Lamb (Age 6), Ingrid Schaffenburg (Age 3)

Happy Friday, WANA peeps! I know I’ve been posting a lot of heavy stuff lately, so today something fun light and…short. YAY! My business partner and close friend Ingrid Schaffenburg wrote a really beautiful post about social media and how two women who met over thirty years ago and hadn’t seen each other in 20 years would come together to (hopefully) change the world. And, yeah, her blogs are way shorter than mine.

Take it away Ingrid!

***

Last May, when I decided to move back to my hometown of Fort Worth, a huge priority of mine was reconnecting with old friends. I am a VERY social creature and without my tribe, I am lost. Well not lost, but I would’ve been creeping around Starbucks all day trying to make new friends if I had had none to come home to.

So I started with my trusted few. Close friends I’d known since childhood and some old family friends. But there was one person I just KNEW I wanted to connect with.

A few months prior, a distant acquaintance from high school had friended me on Facebook. And when I say distant I mean we had probably only spoken a handful of times in the halls of our high school. She being a senior and I a freshman, our orbits hardly ever crossed.

So at this point we’d spent, 18 years apart. Living completely separate lives and never entering into each other’s consciousness.

Until Facebook.

And as often happens, by clicking “accept” we gained access to one another’s pages but for the most part, nothing changed. We remained acquaintances.

For several months leading up to my move, I’d see her posts scroll by.



Over and over again, I’d see these posts. And just as The Rule of 7 in advertising states, it started to sink in.

This girl’s a writer. And she’s serious. And she lives in FORT WORTH!

For the rest of Ingrid’s post, and the story how Facebook changed both our lives and the lives of countless artists, go here…..

Have a fabulous weekend and I’ll see all y’all on Monday. Yes, “all y’all” is correct in Texas. I hope you guys will share your comment love over at Ingrid’s place. I still love hearing your thoughts and stories and I will count them for the contest (for details about the contest, just click on Wednesday’s post and scroll to the bottom for anyone new).


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22 Comments

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