Posts Tagged Who Dares Wins Publishing

Wake Up! It’s Time For a History Lesson

 

Today, I am really blessed and honored to have one of my fellow Who Dares Wins Publishing authors, Victoria Martinez, grace my blog with her awesomeness. I know many of you might have pondered writing a historical novel, but where do you start? How can you get the details correct without getting overwhelmed? Maybe you have wanted to write a NF about a time period that is of particular fascination to you. But, again, where do you start? How can you make sense of it all? What details are important? How can we portray a time in history accurately without overwhelming the reader or losing the core of the story?

So today, my fellow WDW author is here to demystify history in writing.

Take it away, Tori…

Reading about history – whether fiction or nonfiction – shouldn’t be an effort. As an avid reader of history myself, I have read far too many books where I find myself struggling to stay interested as the author expounds every point in a professorial tone, which invariably causes flashbacks of boring history lessons in school.

On the other hand, if I’m not falling asleep or searching for the meaning to indecipherable words or translations, then I’m furiously correcting details in the margins and debating dubious points of history to myself or anyone who will listen. Worse case scenario: I’m having a one-sided argument with the author while I drift to sleep with the book in one hand and a French dictionary in the other! (I’m not kidding, this has happened!)

So how does an historical author avoid the pitfalls that plague historical research and writing and keep even the most scrupulous readers happy?

The first challenge of writing about history is that it’s a notoriously tricky subject. Full as it is of vague information and uncertain details, not to mention missing pieces and constant new discoveries, it’s important to realize that some mistakes may not be the author’s fault. You can only work with the information that is available to you at the time, and if you want to wait for the “final word” on the subject then you’ll never write a book on history.

The most important thing to remember in this regard is to follow leads carefully and insure that the information you are using is the latest and best available. If you discover new information, great, but make sure you validate it with more than one source. Never rely on just one primary source of information, especially in nonfiction. As always, you have a little more creative freedom in fiction, but you still run a risk – especially if the information pertains to your primary storyline.

Where information is vague or uncertain, use it in a way that won’t damage your main point or story. In other words, if you don’t know enough about something, use it sparingly and carefully, if at all, to avoid a major pitfall. Better yet, use that uncertainty to your advantage. In nonfiction, uncertainties bring about questions and intrigue that can make your book more interesting, while in fiction they can provide suspense or drama to your storyline. For instance, the uncertainty of who was Jack the Ripper has made many books – both fiction and nonfiction – more interesting and creative.

Lastly, remember that missing pieces and new discoveries are out of your control. If something is discovered after your book is published, there’s not much you can do about it. You can, however, make sure your reader knows that YOU know you are not the last word on the subject. Especially where nonfiction is concerned, never claim your work is the definitive “last word” on the subject. It is not and never will be.

The second problem of writing about history is a bit easier – relatively speaking – to address: the writing itself. Often, authors simply get too “authorial” and scholarly. The solution to this is just don’t write like that! Unless you’re writing a history textbook or a scholarly paper, very few people are going to truly enjoy your book if you write like a professor (with all due respect to professors). Make your writing engaging and entertaining so the difficult parts of the history don’t seem challenging or incomprehensible.

After all, history really isn’t that hard to understand if it’s presented in the right way. And the right way means not filling your book with a litany of dates and events without plenty of enjoyable details and engaging dialogue, action or description. Also, PLEASE provide translations to words or phrases in foreign languages. Not everyone speaks French, Italian, etc., and therefore won’t know what that lovely little phrase you added in actually means. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves when the author expects the reader to do the translation work themselves. It makes the reader frustrated and the author seem imperious and presumptuous.

Finally, don’t fall into the trap of many historical writers by getting so wrapped up in the main story or subject that you fail to pay attention to detail or context, which always results in a confusing and frustrating read. For instance, if you’re writing a fiction novel about the 18th century, don’t have your characters use words or phrases that originated in the 20th century. The same applies to nonfiction: if you want to describe a place, choose to use descriptions contemporary to that time rather than modern impressions of that time. It may take extra time and effort on your part, but the result is a better and more enjoyable read. Plus, you won’t have readers cursing at you from a distance.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that you’ll never please everyone. Even if you’re an expert on a subject, it’s likely someone will find fault with what you write. This, of course, is true for any kind of writing. Fortunately, excellent research combined with engaging writing can produce works of history that not only keep your readers happy, but also stand the test of time, even if the facts change (and they most likely will).

THANK YOU TORI!!!!

Want more tips and information on how to start writing about or improve your writing on historical subjects? Victoria is teaching an online class, “Historical Research and Writing,” through Who Dares Wins Publishing Write it Forward Workshops. There first class runs through February and the second through April, and the cost is only $20. That is a super small price to pay for techniques that will take your works to a higher level than you thought possible, so sign up today!!!

Victoria Martinez is the author of the Kindle best-selling “An Unusual Journey Through Royal History” and “The Royal W.E.,” both published by Who Dares Wins Publishing.

Okay, so I hope you guys will leave lovely comments and ask questions. Today, everyone who comments will get double entries in my critique give-away. This is to inspire you guys to reach out despite your shyness and give Tori some Comments Love.

That and, frankly, I admit is. I LOVE hearing from you!

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

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of January I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: Had a flat tire this morning, so didn’t get to pick last week’s winner. Will announce that on Wednesday’s post.

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books!

Happy writing!

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Why We Should All Hug a Self-Published & Indie Author

Yes, I solicit hugs. Sue me. This is LA Times best-selling author Stephen Jay Schwartz and me at the Romantic Times Convention in Los Angeles 2011.

On Wednesday’s blog, Why Traditional Marketing Doesn’t Sell Books, there was some really cool discussion about self-publishing–why it was horrible, would bring the doom and destruction the Mayans foretold, or even why it was the greatest invention since Pop Rocks. Today I am going to be a tad controversial and share my thoughts and opinions about the developments in our industry and why I, personally, want to hug the self-published author.

Originally, I loathed self-publishing and was even highly suspicious of indie publishing. I had all the same fears as many other people.

Great Scott! We already have a hard time getting people to read, and now we will flood the market with crappy books?

How will anyone find the good books?

It is going to mean nothing to say we are a published author when the market is filled with wanna-be-hack-poseurs!

I had pretty good reason for my feelings, since I hadn’t had the best experience with self-published authors. I had one writer in my critique group whose writing was so bad it should have been banned by the Geneva Convention. Not only did he “publish,” but then happily invited the entire group to his book signing at Barnes & Noble…after he’d tortured us with his brain vomit novel for a year.

Not long after that, I had another doozy of an experience.

Hubby and I were waddling through a Barnes & Noble (All right. I was the one waddling. I was very pregnant at the time). On my way to get a cup of tea, I spotted an older man sitting as a card table with stacks of books. Now, being in my profession, I could spot a self-published author who’d somehow scored a book-signing a mile away, and knew better than to make eye contact. But then again, my husband is a far kinder person than me.

I am still really stoked that he hasn’t yet figured out that I married WAY better than he did.

Anyway, Hubby decides to be nice and go talk to the older gentleman who had at least eight different books for sale, even though we’d already had a discussion about talking to the self-pubbed authors. We had at least a half a dozen $30 poorly written books at home that no one was ever going to read. I hated reading crap, and hated being gouged for a fancy hard-cover edition of crap even more.

I groaned, eyeing the Starbucks that adjoined the store. But I let Hubby talk to the author as I politely thumbed through a “novel” that wouldn’t have survived one minute in my critique group.  All was fine until I noticed he had a book about how to be a super successful published author.

Thumbing through, I saw page after page of advice that was more likely to get an aspiring writer tarred and feathered than published. Advice like “be distinctive with your query, like sending it in a pizza box or on scented paper.”

It got real ugly from there and I don’t think I am allowed in that Barnes & Noble anymore.

See, I tolerated that he wanted to publish and even mildly admired his gusto. But, when it came to making $25 a copy to give writers really bad, tragic advice? I was done.

I am very protective of baby writers….and we can probably just blame pregnancy hormones. I behave much better now. Hubby took me for clicker training at Petsmart.

So why did I take the time to share those stories with you?

Because they are Cousin Ray-Ray stories. Everyone has a horror story, but horror stories are not necessarily the norm and certainly are no reason to jump to conclusions. Also…

Just because something starts off ugly doesn’t mean it cannot transform.

For instance, it was possible to shop on the Internet back in the 90s. Now, you took your identity in your own hands doing it. We didn’t have good security measures and people, being naive, didn’t know what to look for when it came to plunking their personal information into a fill-box.

Now? Because people continued shopping on the Internet? Totally different experience. Why? Well, better filters from companies and a savvier customer who doesn’t just tell anyone her Social Security number.

Why Self Published Authors are Awesome

Oooh. I know some of you just cringed a little. Hear me out.

Five years ago I told anyone who would listen that publishing would go the way of the music industry. The traditional gatekeepers would lose their monoply and more power would flow to the artists. I predicted that the only thing that needed to happen for the walls to fall, was for an e-reader to become simple to use and affordable.

Ironically, I went to a writing conference in April of 2009. An agent on the panel declared that e-books were statistically insignificant and always would be. They would be the new audio book.

Yeah, I struck him off my query list. Clearly, he had no vision.

Then, three weeks later the first iPad released and proved my predictions correct. The e-book market exploded. Then came the Nook and y’all know they rest.

So why should we all hug a self-published author?

Because people who self-published, especially in the beginning, were what are called “early adopters.” Early adopters are those brave enough to buy the first VCRs, to be the first to buy stuff off a web site, the first to explore what it means to upload their manuscript as an e-book or print POD.

Think of it this way. If we hadn’t had people willing to look ridiculous clunking around in a steam-powered horseless carriage, we’d still be saddling up a horse to go to the store.

Monopolies Stifle Innovation

I am not picking on traditional publishing. But here’s the thing. When a company holds a monopoly on any industry, there is no impetus to change, become more efficient, or look for new ways to please a consumer. This is why entrepreneurs are good for all markets. They bring healthy competition that forces creativity, innovation and efficiency.

Monopolies are not fertile ground for the early adoption behavior that fuels the big industry changes.

Traditional publishers don’t generally have the luxury of being early adopters. Are they evil and thinking of ways to make writers lose hair? No. They have a lot of people depending on them, so they are less likely to take risks.

Yet, we need explorers and risk-takers to create the ripple that becomes the tidal wave of change. This is why we all need to thank a self-published author. They laid the ground for the “new norm.” They pressed and pushed until e-books and POD BECAME relevant and competitive and this made traditional publishing rethink its business approach.

Almost all writers of today and the future will consider e-books to be a huge part of their royalty portfolio.

How did this happen?

Self-published authors 1) couldn’t make it past the gatekeepers 2) didn’t want to mess with the gatekeepers. These two factors made them motivated, bold and willing to look dumb.

The deal is, there was an obstacle and self-published writers dared to find away around it or, if need be, through it.

My favorite saying?

Aut viam in veniam aut faciam.

I will find a way or make one. ~Hannibal

Self-Publishing Serves the Consumer

Make no mistake, I am well aware that there is a tidal wave of crap out there, but we will discuss this another time.

Many authors had good or even excellent writing…that simply could not get a traditional break.The reason for a barrier wasn’t always because the writing was bad. There are many reasons books get turned away.

Maybe the book didn’t fit cleanly into a genre and the agent couldn’t sell it. Maybe a sci-fi author now wanted to write a romance and the publisher wanted more sci-fi books. Maybe the publisher already had three werewolf books slated for the year. Here are books that would have been shelved, that now can get to readers who can then fall in love.

Self-Publishing and Indie Publishing Gave New Life to Dead Books

Maybe an author had a wonderful backlist that was now out of print and the publisher no longer wanted them. NYTBSA Bob Mayer is an excellent example. He had scads of titles that had hit the NYTBS list and even the USA Today List, but they were out of print and the publisher was done.

What about all the hours of hard work? Bob’s books were awesome, but now they’d been retired to some book nursing home when they still had a lot of life left. They could find new readers to love them, but if Bob had just given in, they would have faded away and been forgotten.

Bob, thankfully was a Green Beret and “give up” is not in his vocabulary. Not only did Bob not wave the white flag, he started he own publishing company, Who Dares Wins Publishing. You can check out his amazing books here.

Maybe a writer had an AWESOME book, but no one in traditional publishing could help. It happens. It happened with a book about how writers could use social media to build a platform, but traditional publishing was too slow to get the book to market before the content would be obsolete ;).

Thus the book was dead until indie press gave it life, and we now have the #1 best-selling We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. Traditional marketing could not help me, but Bob’s company Who Dares Wins Publishing could. How many writers have benefitted from a book that might have just died in a slush pile?

Self-Publishing Brings New & Fresh Variety

There are times when it makes no sense to query traditional publishing. For instance, if a writer happens to write poetry, short stories or even screenplays. Traditional publishing will almost never publish those non-traditional works. Ah, but talk to Chuck Wendig if you would like to enjoy some of this unconventional literary fare.

Is it because people don’t want to read short stories or is it more because the publisher can’t sell enough poetry books (unless the poet is Jewel) to make it a good investment for them and the author?

The same thing happened in the music industry. People thought the world would end because any band could get their chance at the spotlight. Music-lovers would be overwhelmed with crap since they didn’t have Empire Records telling people what to like.

What happened?

People bought more music than ever before. Since they were no longer forced to buy an entire LP, they were more inclined to listen to NEW kinds of music now that they could get songs for 99 cents (Thanks to Steve Jobs). The current generation has a very broad palette and dynamic tastes. How were they able to sort through all the choices, sift the treasures from the garbage? The same way people will sort the literary treasures from the garbage.

Good content. Positive word of mouth.

I think people are reading more and more and this is exploding in exponential proportions. Writers should be doing a big fat happy dance. With e-readers and smart phones, people read more than they ever have in human history. They are also far more likely to explore new genres, new authors, and sample new content.

But without the tenacity of the self-published (or indie) author, would we even have the e-reader? Would we have had it as soon? Would we have millions of people willing to read all kinds of genres? Or would we still be limited to paper books and griping that people don’t read anymore?

So back to the beginning of my story. Sure, those two self-published authors made me want to slam my head in a door. But now? In retrospect? Both of them invested hard work, money and time into exploring new ways to get their product to the consumer. They dared to be different.

The self-published author had nothing to lose, so he was more willing to test out, try and invest time and money into unconventional methods….methods that we now commonly enjoy.

I cannot tell you the joy I now have for reading now that I have a Nook. I have read more books and more genres than ever before. My husband downloads almost a book a week. Before e-books, he never read. My mom uses a Nook because she can make the font large enough to make reading enjoyable.

We enjoy these new luxuries because entrepreneurs dared to think outside the box and would not back down from getting their chance to shine. Some of them failed, but they failed why daring greatly…so I thank them. We all should thank them, no matter what kind of writer you aspire to be, traditional, indie or self-published.

So what do you think? Do you think  of self-publishing a little differently? Do you think I am the devil’s handmaiden? Agree? Disagree? What are your thoughts?

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

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

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of December I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books!

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74 Comments

Twitter Tuesday #20–Direct Messages & The Power of Positive Tweeting

Welcome to the twentieth installment of Twitter Tuesday. In the spirit of Twitter, this blog will be short and sweet and to the point. The tips offered here are all based off my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. If our goal is to build an author platform in the thousands to tens of thousands, then we will have to approach Twitter differently than a faceless corporation or even the regular person who does not possess a goal of becoming a brand. My tips will help you rule the Twitterverse without devolving into a spam bot.

This Week’s Fail Whale–The Private Praiser

I find it interesting how some people feel as if they have to send a direct message to give a compliment. There is a rule I have always tried to live by-Criticize in private, but praise in public…and praise often.

If you would like to thank someone for following, just thank them. If you loved their blog or their book, say so in the open. When we praise people openly, not only is that good for the person we are complimenting…but it makes us look good, too.

Do you like people who are stingy with their praise? I don’t. I’ve worked very hard to earn praise from people I admired, yet after all that effort with little to no acknowlegement? I gave up. We will only go to a dry well so long before we move on. Friendships are give and take.

Most of us hear where we fail or fall short. Ever worked in the service industry? I think it should be a law that everyone has to work at least one year in retail or waiting tables. People will take a day off work to complain, but so few go out of their way to say, “Good job.” Those precious few who do are like rare gems and we treasure them.

Back in high school I worked at one of those pizza places for kids…you know, the ones with all the games and the pits filled with plastic balls. It was an exhausting job that paid minimum wage. Yet, one parent took the time to write a wonderful compliment card noting how good I was with the children. I never met this mom and don’t know her name, but 20 years later I still remember that compliment.

Many of the people in our lives are quick to tell us what we forgot and where we fell short of expectations. Thus, when we come across someone who is liberal with open praise??? Wow. It is like a fresh breeze that perks up the withered soul.

This Week’s Twitter Tip–Be a Twitter Cheerleader

So many people ask how I find the energy to do so much, serve so much, blog so much and the simple answer is….you. I have so many cheerleaders that take time to tell me I am loved and appreciated, and, for you guys, I am willing to move mountains.

You want the secret to success? Praise others openly and often. We are often so starved for positive words that you will be our BFF if you just take a moment to cheer us on.

The key ingredient that makes the difference between failure and success is attitude. People LIKE positive people. We can’t get enough of them. We love them and want to help them. Their energy refreshes everyone around. Be one of those points of light, and others will want to support you.

It takes no great effort to be negative, but there are no monuments erected to critics. Criticism is easy and it’s lazy. Anyone can find problems, but it takes character and creativity to find a bright side, to look for solutions.

Tweet ya later!….

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35 Comments

Training to Be a Career Author–Writing is More than the Writing

Many of you who read this blog desire to be career authors, and kudos to you. It is a fun job and a great time. I used to be in sales. I literally hated my job so much I would throw up on the way to work. Every day I died a little more. This might be shocking, but selling cardboard had little outlet for being creative. I just knew that writing was the life for me. Ah….but how little I really knew.

I now have had two successful best-selling books, and I still have to pinch myself when I realize I have the same agent as James Rollins and Diana Gabaldon. This isn’t to brag—okay maybe a little—as much as it is to say that I feel I’m in a better position to offer advice. I have grown from clueless neophyte with a dragon notebook and a dream to a writing professional. That said, I now feel confident to tell you…

Being a career writer is more than the writing.

It is more than the book. Why do I tell you this? Because it is going to affect how you train. Yes, train. Writing is not a marathon, as many author-bloggers might have you believe. It is more like a decathlon….oh, but one of the events is a marathon.

This career is so much less about talent and far more about endurance. I have talented writers I know who will never make this a career even if they publish. Their approach will burn them out quickly or keep them trapped at a certain level.

We’ll talk about why in a moment.

In a decathlon, there are ten events from running to pole vaulting to shot put, and athletes are judged on their collective scores. This means that, not only does a participant need to be able to run distance, but he has to be a good sprinter, and also strong and flexible. All aspects of his physique are going to be tested and then judged against his competition.

Same with writing.

We have to write, edit, learn about the craft, organize, plan, run a business, read, research, market, blog, speak, and teach. There is so much more to this career than just the writing.  

I can tell writers who aren’t avid readers in three pages. I can tell writers who haven’t properly researched pretty early on, too (and I don’t finish those books). It takes me less than a page to spot writers who haven’t read craft books. Writers who refuse to do social media? Well, their days are numbered.

We have to be organized (I’m still working on this one). First of all, writing a novel requires we be organized. Any work spanning 80-100,000 words is going to need to be plotted and the right events placed at the right point. People who just sit down and write until they stop? Yeah, that ain’t a novel. Novels that do not have narrative structure—antagonists and major plot points—well, they aren’t novels. They are an entity with no skeleton. Or, if there is a skeleton, some bones are missing or in the wrong place. In nature that is called an aberration. In writing that is called Book that Won’t Sell.

Organization will also be critical when it comes to the business end of this business. Tracking sales, filing royalty statements, receipts, deductions, and TAXES. Oh my!

Don’t get me wrong. Some of those things writers don’t have to do, but it could impact their final success. For instance, authors don’t have to do public speaking, but those who can and do have an added advantage. Authors who can present at workshops and conferences stand a far better chance of meeting the right person who opens the right door to take her career to an entirely new level.

I generally work six days a week. This past week was particularly hard because I had to drive to Denton, TX to present. This means I had to be up at six in the morning so I could prepare and be ready to drive 70 miles. The interesting part was I wasn’t slated to teach until 2:00 in the afternoon. Why was I getting there at 9:00? Because there were other people speaking, and I did so to support them even though I really didn’t particularly need their classes. I know what it is like to fear an empty room. Supporting others is part of being a professional.

So I sat in workshops from 9:30 to 3:00. Then, due to a miscommunication, I wasn’t allowed to sell any books, so I had to stand out in almost 100 degree Texas heat and sell books out of the trunk of my car. After that, I drove over 100 miles home. Over a 100 miles? Yep. Three major traffic jams and it took over two hours to reach home. I spent more money in gas than I made. I finally got to settle down and rest at around 6:00 that night. Basically, it was a 12 hour day.

Today I begin teaching an on-line workshop. I also have my blog, social media and I have to do a test-run with Skype, because in July I will be teaching a class for UCLA, and the private jet is in the shop :D. I also have chapters due to my agent, about 50 pages of editing for other people, a mountain of laundry that won’t wash itself and a baby who loves to make even that simple chore three times the work.

Mommy, why are you crying?

This isn’t to have a pity party. I love my job. I loved every minute of spending time with my writing peeps on Saturday. I loved being able to support other speakers and learn new things. I loved being able to open up the world of social media for some newbies and make it more accessible. But I do have to say that you have to train to be able to endure this kind of schedule and still be productive.

Mommy, are you writing? I’m hungry. I need clean clothes.

Those kids hanging off our leg are still there even when we decide to write. In fact, as I type these words I have an 18 month old screaming because I won’t let him climb on the table and play with knives. The house still won’t clean itself, and apparently they can put a man on the moon, but have yet to invent clothes that never need to be washed.

I am here to change your perspective and make those challenges your triumphs. Learn to do it anyway. Those kids that interrupt you every thirty seconds are a blessing. Think of it like running pulling a weighted sled. This is author training. If you can learn to maintain your focus despite all of life’s distractions, think of how amazingly productive you will be when one day you do have that private office and can afford a meth-addicted howler monkey with a sidearm to guard your writing time. Heck, you will probably be twice as productive at least.

Successful authors are a multitasking MACHINE. This is one of the reasons it is SO vital for us to brand our name when it comes to social media. We already have a lot of responsibilities, so streamlining becomes paramount. Spreading ourselves too thinly can be a formula to give up.

I see a lot of writers who will not make it in this business. Why? Often they aren’t doing the tasks that are vital to writing a great book—reading and learning the rules of the craft. This is like wanting to win a decathlon, but eating pizza everyday and not going to the gym.

These days, everyone can get published so a new benchmark of success is becoming book sales and list rankings. I watch a lot of writers who are too obsessed with the marketing side of things. They are banking everything on the success of ONE book and aren’t getting back to the computer and working on the next book and the next and the next.

Other writers are blogging machines. Blogs are GREAT for branding….if done properly. Many writers are wearing themselves out posting blogs that will do very little to brand their names. They are writing thousands of words a week that do…almost nothing. Or they are blogging, but never getting to writing the actual book.

These types of writers are only focusing on ONE aspect of their careers. They are like the participant in the decathlon who only focuses on one event. It is a recipe to lose.

Athletes who compete in decathlons use a lot of different skills—speed, endurance, strength. They walk this fine balance of giving an event their all….without really giving it their all. They still must have energy left to effectively compete in the other events and outpace the competition.

We writers must learn to give it our all….without giving it our all. The better we get at balancing our duties, the more successful we will be in the long-run. Writers who fail to appreciate all this job entails won’t be around in a year or three. They are like a runner who sprints at the beginning of a marathon. They will fall by the side of the road, injured and broken.

So today when you have to squeeze in that 100 words on your break from work, think I’m training. When your kids hang off you as you write, picture that weighted sled. Play the soundtrack to Rocky if you must.

What part of your life are you now going to view as author training? What setbacks can you reframe in the positive? What commitments are you going to make to be successful for the long-term? What have you been doing wrong? What problems are you having? What do you now think you could do differently?

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

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of June I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Important Announcements

I will announce last week’s winner on Wednesday. 

Make sure you join our LOVE REVOLUTION over on Twitter by following and participating in the #MyWANA Twibe. Read this post to understand how this #MyWANA will totally transform your life and your author platform.

Together Everyone Achieves More!!!! SUPPORT THE HUMANE SOCIETY OF AMERICA! Spread the word and save a life. Sigma Force saves puppies and kittens, too. Ahhhh.

In the meantime, I hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.

Happy writing!

Until next time….

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106 Comments

Twitter Tuesday #17

Welcome to the seventeenth installment of Twitter Tuesday. In the spirit of Twitter, this blog will be short and sweet and to the point. The tips offered here are all based off my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. If our goal is to build an author platform in the thousands to tens of thousands, then we will have to approach Twitter differently than a faceless corporation or even the regular person who does not possess a goal of becoming a brand. My tips will help you rule the Twitterverse without devolving into a spam bot.

This Week’s Fail Whale–Tunnel-Vision Tweeter

My Twitter tips are specially geared toward those who are desiring to build a platform and become a brand. Cutesy monikers will collapse a platform and render all of our tweets meaningless busy work. The only acceptable Twitter handle is the name that will be printed on the front of our books. Readers cannot buy a book from @booklady, so what is the point spending months or years contributing content to build a meaningless brand? For more about author branding, go here.

This said, many writers go try to get their name and realize…It’s TAKEN! And that’s when panic can set in. Calm down. This is the time to get creative. Use all that creative energy applied to dreaming up @pixiegal and apply it to the name you desire to brand.

Guess what? @KristenLamb was taken. That’s why I am @KristenLambTX. I probably could have been @Kristen_Lamb or @the_KristenLamb or even issued myself a license to kill, @KristenLamb007. The point is that followers see what is most vital…my NAME. If you find you MUST choose, the last name is most vital, since that is how people will eventually look up our books so they can BUY them :D.

This Week’s Twitter Tip–Highlander Tweep

There can be only one.

No, Highlander Tweep doesn’t go around whacking heads off the competition.  Stop pouting. Highlander tweep does, however, understand branding. She knows that branding is more than a name. Our name is only half of the equation.

OUR NAME + OUR CONTENT= OUR BRAND

Stephen King, Nora Roberts, Sandra Brown, Dan Brown…not terribly unique names. That is because content is what defines the brand. “Stephen King” was just a very boring name until one writer linked that name to horror so many times that the name, itself, became synonymous with the content (*cough* that’s a brand, btw).

On Twitter there is only ONE special, wonderful, unique YOU. Yes, there are others who maybe have the same name, but they DON’T have the most vital part of the equation…your content. So, feel free to be Highlander Tweep and feel confident that you are the only one…even if other people have the same name.

Tweet ya later! 

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23 Comments

The Right Way, the Wrong Way & the Smart Way

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

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

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

*slaps forehead*

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

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

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

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

Yes….but, um, no.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writing on Group Blogs at the Expense of Our Author Blog I have run into writers who were very prolific, contributing to multiple group blogs. Group blogs are wonderful. They can help us learn to blog better and can offer accountability. Yet, if we are writing for three different group blogs, but then not blogging on our own site? That is BAD. Group blogs will not brand an individual author. Yes, we will have a social media presence…but that isn’t a brand. I read a lot of WONDERFUL group blogs, but the name of the group is what will be top of mind. Writers in the Storm, Adventures in Children’s Publishing, and Writer Unboxed are three of the best group blogs, but I would be hard-pressed to give the names of the contributors. And, the ones I can name have their own separate blogs that buttress their brand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of May I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Important Announcements

Make sure you join our LOVE REVOLUTION over on Twitter by following and participating in the #MyWANA Twibe. Read this post to understand how this #MyWANA will totally transform your life and your author platform.

My book We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media hit THREE best-seller lists on Kindle yesterday. #2 in Computers & Technology, #13 in Authorship and #17 in Advertising. THANK YOU!!!!! This book is recommended by some of the biggest authors AND agents in New York, so make sure you pick up a copy if you don’t have one already.

Also, if you want to learn how to blog or even how to take your blogging to a level you never dreamed possible…get your copy of Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer  today. This book hit #1 on the best-selling list in less than 48 hours thanks to all of YOU!!!!! Not only will this book help you learn to blog, but you will be having so much fun, you will forget you were supposed to be learning.

Happy writing!

Until next time….

This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness

The peeps on MyWANA found this nifty little site. A Writer Thesaurus to help us ALWAYS find the right word.

The Red Shoes–A Fairy Tale of Addiction and Compulsion

You guys just KNOW I had to list the wonderful blog, 5 Reasons Kristen Lamb Rocks

Screenwriting Guru Michael Hauge on Character Development

Finding a balance between showing and telling by the AWESOME Jody Hedlund

Writing with Passion–How that Led to My First Book by the wonderful Natalie Markey

In the world of e-publishing, where is Microsoft?

Villains Dissected by Terrell Mims

On Muderati–Characterization–Controlled Hallucination or Craft?

Great blog by Albert Berg on the Fear of Failure

For more AMAZING posts, make sure you connect with #MyWANA for the best people and posts in the industry :D

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41 Comments

Twitter Tuesday–Twintroverts & Twextroverts

Today, we are going to segue from the normal Twitter Tuesday lessons, and revisit Twitter personalities I like to call the Twintrovert and the Twextrovert. Why? Because I love making up annoying words by slapping the “tw” in front. No, it’s Twue, :D.

Wonder Twin Powers, ACTIVATE!

Hello, my name is Kristen Lamb and…I’m a nerd. There, I said it. When I was a kid, I used to spend hours at my desk copying my set of encyclopedias or playing with my microscope. You know, the one that had three slides of celery cells stained different colors. Admit it. You had one, too.  

I started writing “novels” before I knew my entire alphabet. My first novel was a real tear-jerker called, “AAAH B Y Love ZQ 197 Z” (love was the only word I knew how to spell). As you can tell by the title, it was the story of Princess Kristen and how she defeated the space aliens that invaded the kingdom on a pink dragon and threatened to take away all the rainbows and make the people all wear ugly boy jeans.

Eventually, as I grew older, I taught myself how to draw but using my dad’s collection of J.R.R. Tolkein calendars and my uncle’s Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manuals.

The nerd doesn’t fall far from the tree.

My Baby Photo

Who ever heard of YA? I was reading Tolkein, L. Ron. Hubbard, and David Eddings by the time I was 12. When I wasn’t drawing or writing or reading, I was playing video games. Wait? Not much has changed. Only now I play an Xbox 360 instead of an Atari.

Why am I taking you down this memory lane of my years as a nerdling? What does this have to do with social media? 

Historically, writers have been portrayed as that odd introvert with such bad social skills he had to make up people to hang out with. Okay, so in ways it is still true.

There is a strong misconception that extroverts don’t make good writers because they can’t spend enough time alone to finish a manuscript. Um…no. Extroverts with no self-discipline can’t finish a manuscript. But guess what? Introverts with no self-discipline can’t finish a manuscript either. They spend their time reading stories instead of writing them. Introverts might be able to write the book better, but extroverts can sell more copies :D

My point is that social media is a very natural place for nerds…I mean, writers to gather. Don’t believe me? Hang out on #MyWANA for five minutes. We can feel free to be who we are, and even find people who march to a different kazoo just like us.

Social media is a direct reflection of who we are. Lately we have been talking about how publishing is changing faster than anyone can keep up, and I believe it is for the better. But, what no one seems to be mentioning is that writers are changing too. That is awesome news!

Social media is helping writers capitalize on their strengths, and mitigate their weaknesses.

The Extrovert

I am an ENFP (Extroverted Intuitive Feeling Perceiver). ENFPs are the most common personality type for comedians and cult leaders. I have capitalized on this. ENFPs are Tigger if he were high on Red Bull and allowed to plan a bounce-house party…with ice cream cake.

I love bouncing around and making people smile. I am the comedian of the personality types. Social media allows me to use that strength somewhere other than the written page. Yes, I write humor…but I now have the ability to use my humor to build my platform as well.

I know that when I first became a writer, it was hard. All that alone time made me crazy…okay, crazier. I would spend day after day writing technical manuals…only to later hold the poor baristas at Starbuck’s hostage because I hadn’t talked to anyone in DAYS and I had 120,000 words I hadn’t used up.

Social media has added balance to my professional life. With social media, I can take breaks from my work, go on Twitter and be a social butterfly. Then, when it is time to get back to work, I minimize the screen until I make a certain goal. Interaction with others becomes my reward for buckling down and making word count. I can be a writer and be myself.

Some of us extroverts are as bad as a highly caffeinated-meth-addicted-squirrel that someone handed a keyboard. We have to learn that buzzing around the Internet chit-chatting only becomes useful if we have a manuscript to sell.

We have to learn to shut up and… OOH Shiny!

What was I saying? Oh, yeah. Shut up and focus. *scratches head* Need to write that on a Post-It.

The Introvert  

I LOVE introverts. Seriously. I collect them. I think it is the challenge to get them to smile…or speak. I’ll take a grunt. I liken it to a sea otter trying to pry open a clam. I’m having fun while the poor clam…I mean, introvert, is having a panic attack. I have gotten better at appreciating the clam’s unique perspective, but I still won’t let them settle under the mud and hide.

Photo of me and Bob Mayer when I first showed him Twitter.

Social media is helping introverts develop skills needed to be successful. Just like the extrovert must develop the discipline to sit in a chair and write, the introvert must learn to interact with others effectively in order to succeed in the Brave New World of Publishing. Introverts can no longer hunker down in an office for months while friends and family slide food under the door and empty the pee out of the Folger’s can….

Okay, maybe you guys aren’t THAT bad.

But the point is that introverts can no longer hide, grunting to your older sibling (marketing department) to speak for you and get you what you want. The beauty of Twitter is that human interaction is on YOUR terms, and I find that often transforms the shyest introvert into a wild Twitter party animal.

You know what they say about the quiet ones *wink, wink *

I often wonder if this is part of the resistance to social media. The extroverts are the first on board (duh). We get to socialize and that counts as WORK? Sign us up! But the introverts? I think some writers are hesitant to embrace social media because it is out of their comfort zone. Maybe you find people terrifying and you never did say the right things and what if people judge you or think you are dumb?

The best part of social media is We Are Not Alone. Okay, yeah it is a shameless book plug, but it is true. This idea is the fulcrum on which all my teaching rests. WE AREN’T ALONE!!!! WE AREN’T DOING THIS BY OURSELVES!!! This is why I launched #MyWANA, the Love Revolution!!!!

Extroverts and introverts can now become a team.

Wonder Twin powers….ACTIVATE!

We are two sides of the perfect writer. Think about it! Introverts are amazing examples of focusing on the writing, and extroverts are attention whores…I meant, better at promoting the final product. But we need to do BOTH if we hope to survive AND thrive in this new world of publishing.

As an extrovert, if I start being Chatty Cathy too long on Twitter, I guarantee you I will hear from one of my more introverted tweeps.

“Um…Kristen. Aren’t you supposed to be writing?”

Busted.

The other side? Extroverts are the quintessential party hostesses. Seriously. If you are terrified of social media, befriend a Twextrovert (new word, and you’ll only find it here, folks). This is the person on Twitter who knows EVERYONE and who can be counted on to introduce you to a large group of friends painlessly. Before you know it, you’ll go from 1-200 friends and you’ve only tweeted 6 times. Twextroverts are born promoters, and your greatest ally. If you aren’t good at selling, befriend a Twextrovert and they will sell for you…cuz they like to make you smile.

If you’re a Twextrovert? Befriend a Twintrovert, that Twitter pal who can be counted on to send you a DM.

“Shut up and write before I send the flying monkeys.”

Social media makes us not only strengthen where we are weak, but it provides a way to team up with others, and they can be our strength. Extroverts can get introverts to come out of their shells, and introverts can ground their extroversive pals and remind them they need to focus and return to the work. Balloons need to be tethered or they fly away, explode and end up killing a sea gull.

So are you a Twintorvert or a Twextrovert? Make sure you pop by #MyWANA so we can stalk you….um, support you. Has social media helped you develop some aspect of your personality? Strengthen a weakness? Maybe help you become aware of a bad habit? I want to hear from you!

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

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of May I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Important Announcements

Make sure you join our LOVE REVOLUTION over on Twitter by following and participating in the #MyWANA Twibe. Read this post to understand how this #MyWANA will totally transform your life and your author platform.

My book We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media hit THREE best-seller lists on Kindle yesterday. #2 in Computers & Technology, #13 in Authorship and #17 in Advertising. THANK YOU!!!!! This book is recommended by some of the biggest authors AND agents in New York, so make sure you pick up a copy if you don’t have one already.

Also, if you want to learn how to blog or even how to take your blogging to a level you never dreamed possible…get your copy of Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer  today. Thanks to you guys, this book is #15 on the best-seller list on Kindle. YAY! Not only will this book help you learn to blog, but you will be having so much fun, you will forget you were supposed to be learning.

Happy writing!

Until next time….

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40 Comments

Twitter Tuesday #16

Welcome to the sixteenth installment of Twitter Tuesday. In the spirit of Twitter, this blog will be short and sweet and to the point. The tips offered here are all based off my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. If our goal is to build an author platform in the thousands to tens of thousands, then we will have to approach Twitter differently than a faceless corporation or even the regular person who does not possess a goal of becoming a brandwill help you rule the Twitterverse without devolving into a spam bot.

This Week’s Fail Whale–Uptight Tweeter

When we are new to Twitter, I think all of us are Uptight Tweeters. We have all of this conversation going on all around us, and we feel the need to answer anyone who talks to us… instantly. This is part of how Twitter can become such a huge time suck. We want to create conversations, but then we feel guilty disengaging once drawn into discussion. We are overly polite.

The Uptight Tweeter is so polite, that she is afraid she will offend someone by not anwering right away. To avoid being rude, Uptight Tweeter starts avoiding conversations or even feels guilty if she cannot tweet during the day due to a work schedule.

This behavior, however, will severely limit any benefit pone can get out of Twitter. We need to engage, get in the mix and have conversations. Otherwise, we will be percieved as little better than a bot.

The solution?

This Week’s Twitter Tip–The Chill Tweeter

Chill Tweeter knows, “It’s all cool.” Twitter is a giant cocktail party, but it is NOT instant messaging. Am I the only one who hates IM? That is actually one of the FB functions I could do without. I don’t mind people I know IMing me, but people I have never talked to? I am not going to stop in the middle of my work day to have a conversation. Sorry. Not being mean. I just have a lot to do and am easily….OOH! Squirrel!

…sidetracked.

IM has that “must be tended now and don’t leave me hanging” effect. Why? Because if we miss an IM, we really can’t get back to the other person without converting to a message and blah, blah, blah. Yeah, I’m not that motivated either.

How is Twitter any different? Well, when someone IMs me on Yahoo or FB, there really is no way of knowing if I am taking a break. On Twitter? It generally only takes a couple tweets to realize this person tweeting isn’t elbow deep in revisions. How do we know this? They are chatting. If they’re busy? Um…most of us will tweet, “Crap. Elbow deep in revisions” and then promptly disappear.

The cool thing about Twitter is, well, it is Twitter….NOT IM. This is tremendously liberating. Guess what? If people want an instant answer they can consult Google or call 911 (Kidding)! On Twitter? We get to it when we get to it. I regularly take breaks from writing and scan the Mentions column (anything with @KristenLambTX). That is the TweetDeck column for any person who has mentioned me, asked me a question, posited a thought, etc.

When I get on Twitter, the first thing I do is scan that coumn and tie up loose ends. I merely pick up the conversation where it left off. If the other person is on-line at the same time? She can do the same and the chit-chat can resume.

On Twitter? Chill. Enjoy. If people know you work during the day, they will not need therapy if you don’t respond until evening. And if they do? Get new friends. That’s kinda weird to be so needy.

I follow people all over the world, and there is no way I could stay sane if I tried to talk to all of them real-time. I respond to my UK peeps often when they are asleep. But they get back to me the next day just fine with no permanent damage. If you work during the day, you might just have a different group of friends you chat with real-time; maybe West Coasters and some Aussies. They are cool, and they need Twitter love, too.

The thing is that Twitter took the beauty of IM (conversation) and removed the needy weirdness. Yes, IM has needy weirdness. I have been on IMs where the other person just…vanished and I spent the rest of the evening thinking I had ticked the person off or in some way offended them.

On Twitter, people respond if and when they can and no one takes offense. Well, they shouldn’t take offense. It’s Twitter, not dating. So calm down, and chill, bay-bee.

Tweet ya later!

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32 Comments

One of the Best Ways to Build Our Social Media Platform–Be a Blogger Booster

Historically, novelists have endured a mind-numbing failure rate. Social media has, for the first time in writer history, given us a break in the clouds. We now have a way of building a platform and increasing word of mouth by forging relationships, etc, etc. Yeah, you guys hear me preach this every week and I am happy you are still here, because this can get very overwhelming.

I happen to be a HUGE proponent of writers having a blog.  But today we aren’t going to talk about writing blogs. I am going to give you guys the next best thing. Be a Blogger Booster. Maybe you don’t feel comfortable blogging just yet or feel you don’t have the time. Okay. Fair enough. But I am going to give you an activity today that will increase your social media influence exponentially.

Three Ways to be a Blogger Booster

1-Comment on Blogs

Really. That’s all. Ideally, comment on blogs with large followings. Many people go to the more popular blogs for more than the posted content. Hey, check out my comments section. Sometimes I think my posts are just an excuse for all of you to have a party, and often you guys are WAY more interesting.

It’s like really wonderful, perfect cake. Yeah, we are there for the moist chocolate goodness, but the icing is just as important…if not the best part.

If you run across blogs that have a healthy comments section, that is a clue that this is an established and even growing community. Commenters befriend each other and hang out. I know because I have met many friends this way. They were regular at commenting on my blog (or other fave blogs where I was the commenter) and I went to their blog and on and on.

In fact, it is very common to see the same people congregating on each other’s blogs. It is a huge…are you ready for this? NETWORK.

Even if you don’t have time to blog, at least take time to read blogs and leave thoughtful comments. People will see you are vested and have something worthwhile to say. They will get to know you and hopefully like and support you, especially if you have a presence on Twitter.

I see it happen all the time. This blog has been responsible for more friendships than I can count and that is AWESOME. It is just proof that the best bloggers are just great community-builders.

Ouch! I got a cramp patting myself on the back! :D

2-Literally, Comment ON the Blogs

No, I am not repeating myself. I have a lot of people who tell me they loved a post, but they tell me on Twitter or Facebook. Hey, I am all for getting compliments. It mitigates the feelings of gross inferiority I feel every day when I realize I have chosen to be a professional writer who must always be entertaining, like forever…

I digress.

I love the comments; all bloggers do. The problem is that when you comment on Facebook or Twitter? It is fleeting. My Twitter feed will scroll out in a couple of hours. Facebook? You could comment, but it is good for maybe a day.

BUT…

Comment ON the physical blog and your comment is there indefinitely. I regularly repost links on Twitter to older posts. Like, say a writer is really having a hard time with POV, I will send out the link. Everyone who reads that post also sees the COMMENTS.

I have blogs I posted six months ago that get more hits than the new blog posted that week. That means new people are SEEING those comments *wink, wink, nod, nod*

So if you want to comment, and you want that comment to have some social media impact for YOU, make sure that comment is in the comments section of the actual blog. If you really want bloggers to love you, then feel free to put the comment in both places. Just copy and paste.

3—Do a Mash-Up

Make a list of all these blogs you visit every week and that is your blog. If we do nothing else, we can do a mash-up. What is a mash-up? A mash-up is just a list of blogs you’ve read in the past week (and ideally, commented on) that you feel are worthy of making that special list. If you get good at collecting quality blogs, people will subscribe to your feed just because you give them great links.

Oh, and us bloggers? We will LOVE you.

So what does being a Blogger Booster Do?

It Creates Community

Bloggers will know you, recognize you and, if you support us enough, we will LIKE you…a lot.

When I was at RT, one of the PR experts recommended that an author with a book about to be released needed to sit down and e-mail as many bloggers as possible and see if they would do a review.

Um…no.

In fact, I raised my hand on that one. There are few things that will annoy bloggers more than unsolicited spam asking for us to put out effort for someone we don’t know from a hole in the ground.

Yeah, sure. I will read your indie published 110,000 word high fantasy in my infinite free time, and write a favorable review, even though I have never talked to you or so much as seen a “Great blog” from you in my comments section. Yeah…I am right on that, right after I organize my sock drawer and paint my toenails with glittery unicorns.

Bloggers are always looking for stuff to talk about. Many will even do reviews. I do them on rare occasions, but not for random people who e-mail me a form letter.

One of the best ways to get on a blogger’s good side is to regularly comment on her blog and even repost on Twitter and Facebook. We totally dig being included in a mash-up.

If you do all these things then, LATER, when you are staring down the barrel of needing good reviews? It will feel a heck of a lot less weird asking for a favor. A blogger, particularly a book blogger, will be far more inclined to help you out if you have been giving in the relationship for a while.

My new book actually has a blurb from Nationally Best-Selling Author James Scott Bell, BUT I had mentioned how awesome he was in a number of blogs and had promoted Jim’s books many, many times…and then told him on Twitter. When it came time to ask for a blurb, I can attest that it was terrifying…but it was easier because I had actively been giving for a long time before I did any asking.

Commenting on blogs can do the same. It can build rapport with key influencers with large followings, and it only takes a few minutes a day. Maybe you don’t have time to blog, but you can make time to comment and even do a mash-up. Just those two activities can plug you into communities that number in the tens of thousands.

What are some other ways you guys can think of to be a blogger booster? Do some of you blog and have a cool reader story you would love to share? What are some of your favorite types of blogs? Why do you like them? What makes you guys subscribe to a blog?

Some important announcements below the contest information.

I love hearing from you! And 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 every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of April I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Important Announcements

May 9-13, 2011, I will be teaching an on-line Building Your Author Brand with Social Media Class for only $15 to support the wonderful Long Island Romance Writers.

I will also be teaching TWO social media classes at the Books ‘n Authors and All that Jazz Conference this Saturday at Weatherford College in Weatherford, TX. The conference is FREE.

My new book, “Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer” will be out in less than a month!

No Mash-Up of Awesomeness today. Been sick with a cold, so wasn’t on-line to gather blogs.

Until next time….

In the meantime, if you don’t already own a copy, my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books.

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119 Comments

Beware Milli Vanilli Syndrome

As a social media expert, I can tell you that there are many other schools of thought as to how to employ the vast array of magnificent tools we now have to build a platform. Part of my due diligence is that I actively pay attention to those people who claim to be social media/marketing/branding experts. There are scads of people who claim that, for a fee, they can brand an author. Ok, fair enough. Maybe they can deliver, but the smart writer is always a skeptic first. It is far too easy for someone to open a Twitter account and claim to be a branding expert (ready to take a new writer’s money). So caveat emptor.

I would be especially wary of author branding experts who don’t even properly brand themsleves. If readers can’t by a novel by @vampirechick, then we can’t buy a social media marketing book by @branding_expert either.

Content + Our Name= Brand

Stephen King was linked to horror fiction so many times that his name became synonymous with the horror genre.

Personally, I feel that most of our platform-building can easily be done using the methods I teach in WANA, but I am a tad partial. I have built a worldwide following and even hit the best-seller list using the same exact tools I give in the book. Aside from writing my blogs, my total social media output is less than 30 minutes a day. Maybe one day I will be so huge I need to outsource, but for now I am doing just ducky :D.

Back to my point…

There are firms out there who will offer packages designed to save an author time. These firms rely heavily on preprogrammed auto-tweets or even advise using a ghost-tweeter or ghost-blogger if the writer simply is so strapped for time she cannot possibly do it on her own. I believe these experts are well-meaning, but misguided.

I have come to call this Milli Vanilli Syndrome. Maybe I am a purist, but having others do for us what we can do for ourselves is just a bad idea. Don’t take my word for it, just take a lesson from the Milli Vanilli debacle.

Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus actually were talented dancers AND singers, yet someone got the bright idea to use other singers as the vocalists. Fab and Rob lip-synched their way to winning a Grammy…then their world collapsed when the real singers outed them as a fake. Angry fans didn’t care that Fab and Rob actually could sing, and no matter what these guys did to try and piece their reputation back together, people were furious and unforgiving.

Milli Vanilli Syndrome can affect writers, too. MVS is enticing. It promises us more free time so we can write more books. Ooooh. We can have a Twitter following without even tweeting or successful blog without ever writing a blog. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

First, let’s talk about Milli Vanilli Tweeter.

Getting someone else to tweet for us or programming a computer to interact on our behalf is being lazy. Sorry. It’s 140 characters. Really. We are WRITERS for God’s sake. If we are whining about having to type 140 characters 6-10 times a day, then maybe writing is not the proper career choice. Sorry. Have to be blunt.

We do not have to tweet a bazillion times a day to be effective. The real power in Twitter comes from forging alliances and building friendships, and that ain’t gonna happen if we are insulting other people’s intelligence by programming a computer to talk for us.

I see this all the time, usually from @branding_expert. An entire row of automatically programmed tweets that are supposed to “sound” conversational. When I see a tweet that captures my interest, the first thing I do is click on a profile, and if I don’t see any conversation or interaction, I think this person is a bot and I don’t follow. I only have time for people who have time to be real. So, at the end of the day, how effective is this approach if most people ignore what we have to say?

Many of these experts fill the Twitterverse with the same auto-tweets they recommend for their clients, and I generally ignore them because I don’t pay attention to bots. Not trying to be mean here, but there are hardworking folk who take the time to actually interact, and I am more interested in being friends with someone who can reciprocate. That’s called a relationship, and that is what social media is all about.

People who claim that auto-tweets are just as effective as real tweeting affect me like those people who are in love with their lifelike dolls. *shivers* 

 

Mitzy and I never fight. It’s the perfect marriage.

Okay, okay. You guys get the point.

I do think that we can program a couple things for auto-tweet. For instance, Bob Mayer kept forgetting to mention the upcoming workshops he was teaching, so I recommended that he program those into Hoot Suite, but that was only a couple tweets a day. The rest of the time, Bob chats, RTs and serves his fellow Tweeps. I think most of us can deal with that, but this notion that a computer can take the place of a person? I saw I Robot and we kicked their a$$ at the end.

Just sayin’…

Now on to Milli Vanilli Blogger

I say that if you just do not have time to blog…then don’t. Please do not recruit someone to blog for you. Like Milli Vanilli, I feel that it is a risk that just isn’t worth taking. What if our blog becomes a HUGE hit? Then fans find out we didn’t even write it, and yet we took credit? Bad juju.

I often (okay maybe not too often) wonder if Rob and Fab might have gotten less backlash if they had a voice that sounded like a cat caught in a screen door. I think part of what made fans so angry at Milli Vanilli was that these guys COULD SING, yet still CHOSE to be fake. Same with blogging. If we are capable of writing, yet get someone else to write for us and take credit, I don’t see that ending well. All need happen is we fight with our ghost blogger and she outs us. Or, maybe the blog gets so big and successful that the ghost blogger now wants credit. Yeah, it could get ugly. Like Jerry Springer Ugly.

 Ah, why are we even talking about Milli Vanilli Blogger? I wouldn’t have ever mentioned it except this practice is a recommended tactic. I think you guys are too savvy to fall for this, but when you are facing kids and day job and a sink of dirty dishes I want you to be strong when someone offers an argument like this:

Hey, Oprah doesn’t write her own blogs.

Yes, but she is Oprah and she gets to do things us normal people don’t. Oprah paid her dues for decades before she earned the right to do things like have interns write her stuff. No one on Twitter is likely thinking that Oprah is doing her own tweets. We have to do a lot of work before we earn this privilege. There are ways to work more efficiently, but there are no short-cuts.

Blogging doesn’t have to be such a huge deal that we either write it off or think we need to outsource. If the idea of blogging is all too overwhelming to you, I hope you will at least pick up a copy of my upcoming book Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer before you swear off blogging altogether. Blogging doesn’t have to be a huge time suck and it can be one of the most rewarding aspects of our career.

So what are your thoughts? Am I being too hard? Do auto-tweets bother you? Do you RT auto-tweets or do you feel cheated in the Twitter relationship? What about blogs? Would it bother you to find out your favorite blogger wasn’t writing her own posts? (Note: I write all my own posts :D).

What are your thoughts? Do you think it is better for a writer to do less and be genuine? OR do you think automation is a great tool for freeing up a writer’s already limited time?

I love hearing from you! And 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 every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of April I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

Happy writing!

Until next time….

In the meantime, if you don’t already own a copy, my best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books.

This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness

Brooke Johnson Science Fiction and/or Fantasy

Roni Loren’s Guest-Blogging Etiquette

Plotting for You or the Story over at BookEnds LLC

6 Signs You’re Not Ready to Be a Professional Writer by the hilarious Chuck Wendig

Susan Bischoff has a nice post about using TweetDeck for better efficiency.

For a great laugh, check out Tawna Fenske’s How Awkward Humping Can Inspire Your Writing or Piper Bayard’s Man Catches Fire in Porn Booth

Awesome craft post by Jody Hedlund 5 Foundational Areas to Focus on for Intentional Growth

FUN post by new blogger Tiffany White discussing favorite scary movies of all time. Friday FaBoolousness.

Christopher David Peterson has an interesting post Indie vs. Traditional.

The Business and Standard Operating Procedure of Being This Author by NYTBSA Bob Mayer

Also, an interesting post by Peter St. Clair about Columbine. Hard to believe it has been 12 years.

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60 Comments

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