Archive for category Business

YOU’RE TOO SMART TO GO DOWN STUPID

Image courtesy of Eflon via Flickr Creative Commons

Image courtesy of Eflon via Flickr Creative Commons

Today, we welcome back author and Hollywood producer Joel Eisenberg for the kick in the pants ALL of us need. I have to admit, yesterday was an unbelievably bad day and Joel sent this guest post in early. In the midst of the flaming wreckage of my day, I didn’t get a chance to read the post until this morning and man, did I ever need this message.

We all do. Every day. Tattooed backwards on our foreheads so we can read it when we look in the mirror.

Okay, maybe that is a tad too far.

….just a tad.

But read on! And as always, thank YOU for being here and THANK YOU JOEL for being so generous to all of us.

***

“You’ve worked too hard and you’re too smart to go down stupid!”

– a loved one in 2001, when I was discussing giving up on my dreams.

You can have it all. Really, you can. To get there, though, requires all of the clichés: sacrifice, hard work, persistence, yada yada yada.

It’s like this: There is no roadmap. Period. End of story. And yet, getting published or being produced as a writer is not an impossible dream. And therein lies the rub.

Anyone who says they have discovered the roadmap is, frankly, deluded or a liar. There is no roadmap. Both the publishing business and the film or TV business is the wild west. There are no rules. Yeah there are books. Take a cursory look on amazon, or your local bookstore, and you will find dozens of volumes devoted to making it in your specific industry.

But, you may ask, if I’m calling these efforts out, and yet I’m hosting a Kristen Lamb Masterclass myself – and years ago having written and self-published a book about surviving day jobs en route to the attainment of one’s creative goals – then wouldn’t I be a master hypocrite?

Read on, and make that determination on your own.

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The greatest single mistake made by these sometimes-well-intentioned efforts is this: They assume everyone has the same path in life and they espouse their “rules” from there.

There’s a word for such assumptions in my native Brooklyn. You’ve heard it from me before. The word is … “BULLSHIT.”

Some aspiring writers have children to feed. Some are in school. Some have family responsibilities such as taking care of an elderly parent.

Some are lazy.

Regardless, no one person has the same path. You can only work with what you have. Now, that said, John Grisham spent the majority of his hours daily cultivating his legal career, while writing in whatever spare time he had. And then “The Firm” happened …

You will hear these stories over and again, about people succeeding against all odds. But, you must consider: “Who is the odds maker?”

Make no mistake. It’s you. Sometimes, we are our own worst enemies.

If you take care of your daily responsibilities, even if you write one page a day … over the course of a year, or less, you just may have a final draft of a book. Or an award-winning screenplay. So many others have done the same. Those Nike commercials are spot on: “Just Do It!”

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We live in 2017. Take advantage. Years ago, one was asked to send a self-addressed stamped envelope to a publisher or production company, containing your query or bound volume of your latest masterwork. Today, most of this is done by email.

But, what is more important is you can easily google lists of publishers or production companies who will read unsolicited manuscripts. Such listings will also explain how best to query your specific target. Frequently, you don’t even need an agent.

Which brings me to the bane of the writer’s existence: The business of writing. In my experience, having spoken to tens of thousands of writers throughout the country for several years, and hosting multi-media networking events at Paramount Studios, Warner Brothers Studios, Sunset-Gower Studios and others for the better part of a decade – one thing is constant.

That is…

Once a creative person takes care of, what would in our case be the writing of the material, many are lost when it comes to how to sell the material.

This is perhaps the biggest reason why I am hosting a Master Class for Kristen. I’ve been in the trenches. I’m accessible and not at all foreign to being broke, having time issues and so on.

When I became truly desperate is when I succeeded.

You don’t have to become desperate. I did all that work already. My answer to the above quandary is simple:

You have to learn to sell yourself first.

Join us and we’ll share with you specific strategies to work with what you have as an advantage to maximize your results. Remember, if there really was a magic bullet to all this, we’d all be doing the same thing and achieving the same results.

That’s not even science fiction.

That’s foolishness.

And you’re too smart to go down stupid …

***

What are your thoughts? Your stories? Your struggles? Joel and I are here in the comments so let’s TALK! And Joel and I have been where a lot of you are. It is why we have dedicated our lives to serving you and teaching you and making you better, so sign up for a class or five 😀 . We did the heavy lifting for you, so let us help you!

I love hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of FEBRUARY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. 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 novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

SIGN UP NOW FOR UPCOMING CLASSES!!! 

Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it in person? No excuses! All you need is an internet connection!

NEW CLASS!!!! Hollywood Producer Joel Eisenberg’s Master’s Series: HOW TO MAXIMIZE YOUR EARNING POTENTIAL AS A FULL-TIME AUTHOR (Includes all classes listed below) Normally $400 but at W.A.N.A. ONLY $199 to learn from Joel IN YOUR HOME.

OR, if it works better, purchase Joel’s classes individually…

Potentially Lucrative Multi-Media Rights $65 February 21st, 2107

How to Sell to Your Niche Market $65 February 28th, 2017

It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who Knows YOU $65 March 7th, 2017

Making Money Speaking, Teaching, Blogging and Retaining Rights $65 March 14th, 2017

 

Individual Classes with MOI!

Blogging for Authors $50 February 23rd, 2017

When your Name Alone Can SELL—Branding for Authors $35 February 10th, 2017

Social Media for Authors $55 February 11th, 2017

Plotting for Dummies $35 February 17th, 2017

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter and Synopsis that SELLS! $45 March 20th, 2017

NEW CLASS!!!! The Art of Character $35 February 24th, 2017

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on

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22 Comments

Good Things Happen to Those Who Hustle—Getting PAID to Write

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I know most of you reading this blog have the eventual goal of becoming professional authors who work full-time doing what they love. One thing that vexes me about our industry is everyone is afraid to talk about money, but money makes the world go round. It’s almost as if it’s dirty to want to actually be paid to write.

Which is just B.S.

What we do is highly valuable. Not everyone can do what we do. Think about most people regarding writing.

My class requires a ten-page essay.

OMG! Writing is hard!

I am assigning a twenty page research paper.

Writing is hard!

Write a short story.

Ugh, writing is hard!

Draft a resume and cover letter.

I hate writing. Writing is hard!

“I’m a novelist.”

Really? That’s a job? Writing is easy.

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Thing is, we all need to eat and pay the power bill. Sure, the goal is one day the novels will be bringing in most of our income, but that is just the tip of what is available to those of us with a knack for words.

Open Your Mind

Too many people, when they hear the word “writer” automatically default to ONE vision of writers. If we are not J.K. Rowling then clearly we spend our days writing bad poetry at Starbucks while begging for loose change.

*rolls eyes*

Years ago, my church was offering instruction on financial planning so they had the most successful members of the congregation come in to instruct how to save, invest, etc.

One of the elders happened to be a stock broker and when I told him I wanted to be a novelist, he all but laughed in my face. He told me I needed a “real” job, that writing was a nice hobby but that I had “better odds of being hit by lightning than making any money at it.”

Once the urge to kill had passed, I said, “Really? So I guess all of this reading material I see here in your office magically appeared. Writers didn’t do that.” *points to bookshelves as tall as the ceiling*

“Well, uh…”

“And you like movies. Obviously no one wrote those. Producers just hired a bunch of actors to improv the entire thing, right?”

“No, but…”

“And last I checked, you have to navigate the various fields of the software you use. So those instructions just evolved over millions of years of letters rubbing together and eventually growing legs. Web sites don’t have words, ads are all cat pictures and billboards use sign language. Is that what you’re saying?”

Needless to say, he was an idiot. I just pointed it out because he apparently hadn’t noticed.

He also lacked imagination and must have not realized that technical writers like me were paid $45 an hour. Not a bad meantime job.

I know that many of you want to be novelists and that is a fantastic goal and one that I share. But there are a lot of other venues that need writers so when we free up what we think of when we hear “writer” that is going to give us a major advantage.

There Are OTHER Forms of PAID Writing

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Once I came to grips with the fact that my first novel, my 187,000 word thriller-suspense-YA-historical-inspirational-comedy was not going to launch me immediately to fame and fortune, I had to make another plan. I was going to need time to build my skills as an author and storyteller. But I still wanted to call myself a professional writer…and eat.

What did I do?

I taught myself how to do technical writing. Now trust me, there is nothing remotely sexy about writing software instructions, company manuals, HR training modules, or descriptions for on-line merchandise. But these jobs are in demand and for those who learn to do this well? The pay can be seriously sweet.

Additionally a lot of the work is from home or even on short-term contract. This means you don’t have to stick with the same company once the contract is up (though if we do a great job, often they will keep offering more contracts because good technical writers who are NOT flakes are about as rare as unicorn tears).

In fact, once companies realize you are good at what you do and meet or exceed deadlines? Word spreads. Eventually I had to turn down jobs because there was only so much of me to go around. In fact one time a hiring manager called me and I was so loaded with work I was only half paying attention to the introduction on the phone. I had no intention of taking yet another contract, but indulged the call anyway.

Manager: (Snooty interviewing voice) We got a recommendation for you via X Company. Why should we hire you to write our manuals?

Me: Because I’m good.

Manager: Why’s that?

Me: I insert random steamy love scenes. No one expects that in a training manual. Like they think, “Oh I’m here to learn about avionics and end up wanting to know if Fabio and Francesca ever hook up!” Gotta have SOME way to make engineers pay attention and actually READ the damn things.

I was just being goofball me and blowing off the job, but the manager? Dies laughing and says, “You’re hired!” It turned out to be a multi-billion-dollar defense company and the hiring manager so loved my confidence and humor she was determined to hire me away. That or maybe she thought I was being serious.

Feed the NEED

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All businesses need copy. Most business is done on the Internet and all those words don’t spontaneously appear out of the ether. Obviously the better and more specialized our skill sets? The higher the pay. If you can learn the various forms of software required AND you’re a clean concise writer? Great formula for success because BOTH those skills are rare indeed.

Many writers might have great form, but lack analytical abilities and software know-how, so they aren’t going to be considered. They simply don’t have the skill set for the job. Often those who DO have analytical ability and software knowhow are programmers and engineers (NOT writers).

There’s a good reason stereo instructions make your brains bleed.

In fact, that was the very weakness that I worked to my advantage. It’s how I landed a lot of my work. The interviewer would ask, “Why should we hire you?” My response? “I speak fluent engineer and can translate.”

SOLD!

If you are interested in this type of work, do some recon first. Go search for these jobs on the internet and see which ones appeal to you. Then make notes regarding what employers are looking for and learn those skills.

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When I was doing this, the program Visio was used a lot. So, I downloaded the 30 Day Free Trial and used Microsoft’s on-line tutorials to teach myself. It was win-win. If I was not able to learn the program? I just wouldn’t buy the software and would try something else. But if I did learn it? I might not even have to buy it if I was working on a company computer.

What could it hurt? I was only out time and maybe a few brain cells.

Not everyone can do this, but a lot of you can and you might not have realized that weird ability to teach yourself to crochet or build above-ground gardens using YouTube might just pay off.

This is an excellent way to keep income in your pipeline while you’re working on being the next J.K. Rowling. Because last I checked, she isn’t exactly starving, either.

Hollywood

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I love bringing mentors to you guys because they expand our worldview. My friend, Hollywood Producer Joel Eisenberg (here last time), has been hammering lately on how desperate the entertainment industry is for writers. There are countless channels all streaming entertainment and this industry is on the hunt more than ever for something new and fresh. They need solid, talented, dependable writers who can help them keep up with consumer demand.

It is a HUGE reason I pestered him to come teach for me. We just don’t know what we don’t know and sometimes getting that toe in the door is the break we need. Joel is going to explore all kinds of other ways to create revenue using speaking, blogging, film and harnessing your work for rights you might not even known you could use let alone HOW to.

Blogging

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One of the reasons I love for writers to blog is if you get any good at it, you are creating revenue streams. Not only is blogging the most stable form of social media, it is the easiest form of social media to monetize. So we can build a fantastic platform, reach out and cultivate an audience for our novels and make money doing it.

This is called working smarter, not harder. I go into how to do this in MY upcoming class Blogging for Authors.

Granted, I never in any way promise “Get rich quick!” But at the same time, it’s easy to be myopic and that could be costing us that regular income to support us on our way to the dream. It’s easy to take for granted how much writing is out there and forget that somebody was PAID to do it.

What are your thoughts?

Thanks for following and as always I reward the faithful!

I love hearing from you!

And to prove it and show my love, for the month of FEBRUARY, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. 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 novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

SIGN UP NOW FOR UPCOMING CLASSES!!! 

Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it in person? No excuses! All you need is an internet connection!

NEW CLASS!!!! Hollywood Producer Joel Eisenberg’s Master’s Series: HOW TO MAXIMIZE YOUR EARNING POTENTIAL AS A FULL-TIME AUTHOR (Includes all classes listed below) Normally $400 but at W.A.N.A. ONLY $199 to learn from Joel IN YOUR HOME.

OR, if it works better, purchase Joel’s classes individually…

Potentially Lucrative Multi-Media Rights $65 February 21st, 2107

How to Sell to Your Niche Market $65 February 28th, 2017

It’s Not Who You Know, It’s Who Knows YOU $65 March 7th, 2017

Making Money Speaking, Teaching, Blogging and Retaining Rights $65 March 14th, 2017

 

Individual Classes with MOI!

Blogging for Authors $50 February 23rd, 2017

When your Name Alone Can SELL—Branding for Authors $35 February 10th, 2017

Social Media for Authors $55 February 11th, 2017

Plotting for Dummies $35 February 17th, 2017

NEW CLASS!!!! The Art of Character $35 February 24th, 2017

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on

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41 Comments

Generation Butthurt—How Being Constantly Offended (and Offensive) Costs BIG

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kenny Louie.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kenny Louie.

Today we are going to dive back into social media because who we are on-line impacts the odds of our success. Whether we like it or not, engaging on social media and cultivating a following is going to massively impact our professional success (or lack thereof).

In sales we had a saying, Fish where the fish are. Well my darlings, the fish are schooling on social media. When we are online we are not only engaging with the readers of today, we are cultivating future readers. This applies as much to the pre-published newbie as it does the internationally best-selling author.

We are wise to remember that we now have entire generations glued to smart phones and LinkedInInstaSnap, and if we don’t learn how to navigate these waters? Bad juju.

This said. Social media is an extraordinarily powerful tool that is too often treated like a toy.

Would we do that with a chainsaw? Treat it like a toy? Not use safety gear and chase friends and neighbors and joggers with it and fling it around laughing without a care? No, likely not. But that chainsaw only has around sixty teeth when the Internet has MILLIONS of teeth.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Dave Hosford

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Dave Hosford

Social media is more dangerous than a chainsaw when we handle it recklessly. If you don’t believe me, I think there is a position open for a new SNL writer. The Internet is filled with stories of even regular people who acted thoughtlessly on social media whose lives were then upended. They lost jobs, destroyed their reputations, and even had to go into hiding.

Is it fair? No. But fair is a weather condition.

Does this mean we are to be afraid of social media? Well no more than we would be afraid of a chainsaw or a car or a power drill. We don’t need to be afraid of any of these tools, but we do need to respect their power.

Going PRO

Image courtesy of Flikr Creative Commons

Image courtesy of Flikr Creative Commons

Whenever we decide we might one day sell our book, we are making a decision to be a professional. Being a professional comes with certain rules that don’t generally apply to regular people.

Additionally, all authors are in the business of sales and I can tell you that nothing helps sales like good old-fashioned networking. When I was in corporate sales, there was a reason we hobnobbed at golf events and cocktail parties and lunches. We were there to get to know one another on a more intimate level. Learn about each other, talk about topics of mutual interest (business or not and more often not).

It was these loose and casual connections that with time, became long-term business relationships and friendships. Our goal was to cultivate an atmosphere that left others saying, “I cannot wait to give her my business.” Or, even better, “I cannot wait to recommend her to others.”

Simple fact.

Most people buy from who they know and who they like.

They DO NOT buy from people who berate them and call them names.

Whouda thunk?

Social media is supposed to be social and it is governed by the same social rules as any in-person get-together. Feel free to ignore these rules, but they will have consequences.

If we are consistently name-calling, ranting, arguing and trolling, and posting stuff that creates a toxic atmosphere of anger and hysteria? Other people DO have the right to say, “No, not in my space.”

I love Facebook. I am friends with all kinds of people and have zero interest in living in an ideological echo chamber. I feel my diverse group of “friends” is what adds richness and depth to my life.

I enjoy seeing other viewpoints, even if I might not necessarily agree. I enjoy seeing people around me passionate in supporting what they love, even when it is a cause I don’t happen to share.

The problem is, we have become a culture addicted to outrage.

Generation Butthurt

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It has become more and more apparent over the past several years. Now? It is ridiculous. I see people who have no problem blasting others and going for the throats of anyone who dares have another opinion. Oh, but they all seem to have the skin of a grape.

They are offended all…the…time.

They have two speeds: Offensive and Offended.

So many people have just become a never-ending fountain of some new thing to be pissed off about. It never…frigging…stops.

I’m done.

Would we act this way in a workplace? You know, every day show up with petitions and corner people at the coffee machine and call them names? Utter insults so repugnant that bystanders cannot believe an adult actually said it?

And, if we did act this way, how long before we were fired?

If we were in sales, would be woo a potential client by screaming at him? By calling him a sexist pig?

If we owned a business, would we be able to grow that business if, every time a customer came in to see what we had to offer, we were enraged and yelling? Demanding they listen to our grievances?

Some of y’all might be laughing, but I see this all the time on social media. I just want to pull the author aside and tell them their FB page is their storefront and it is decorated with hate and hysteria. Is that what they were intending?

We all have a right to be offended and we should be offended. Being offended has its place and is it at the heart of all great social change. But offended all the time? Frankly, no one really wants to be around those people long-term. It costs us health, peace, friends and yes, even money. Most people won’t remember every detail of what we say or do, but…

People will always remember how we made them feel when in our company.

So when I post anything I always ask how that might make others feel. That is my litmus on-line.

My Feed is the Adult Table

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In the ten years I have been on Facebook I had never unfriended anyone because of their beliefs, even those beliefs that are vastly different than mine. I still won’t. I love your uniqueness and have no interest in making you a clone of me.

The world can barely handle ONE of me, LOL.

But over the past couple of months? I have begun setting firmer boundaries. At first I will unfollow people who are just constantly negative (no matter their beliefs) and only unfriend if I can’t seem to escape any other way.

I don’t want that in my feed. I see too much of this junk already. I go to the gym and every treadmill faces a WALL of nonstop news. I don’t know whether my heart rate is up because I’m keeping a good pace running or if I am furious at the news.

Thus, when I get on social media? I don’t want to be surrounded by relentless rage, a constant stream of negativity and hate.

My FB is the adult table. Adults can discuss and debate and talk without coming emotionally unhinged. Adults talk on a variety of subjects. Children whine and complain. Adults can see something they disagree with and move on. Children rant and rave and stuff digital peas up their noses.

I used to befriend everyone who said they were a writer and still do. But, if this person is then consistently acting unprofessional?  I don’t have time for amateur hour. I am only interested in interacting with other authors who value their own reputation and the reason is simple. If they don’t respect their own name and reputation, why would they respect mine? We can’t give what we don’t have.

Now when anyone sends me a request? I look at their feed first and see if this is the kind of positive and professional energy I want to incorporate into my life.

We Need to GROW UP

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Joel Kramer

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Joel Kramer

I would love for every person using social media to do this, but every human on social media is not my concern. I am talking to authors who want to cultivate a platform filled with either readers, or at least with people who enrich their lives so they can write more books and better books.

Granted, I would love for every person who follows me on social media to buy my books, but selling books is not my sole purpose. I am on social media to reach out. To love and encourage and serve. To bring laughter and education. To brighten a dark day. I am also on social media to be fed and enriched and enlightened by others, but that only happens in the presence of respectful and thoughtful adults.

The same boundaries we place on children? Sadly, sometimes we need those on-line.

For those of you who might be feeling battered and war-weary on-line? You have a right to set boundaries. Gentle at first (unfollow) and if that doesn’t work? You do have the right to unfriend, to remove recalcitrant children and replace them with thoughtful grownups. We are authors not babysitters.

This is not censorship. Censorship is if we reported everyone we disagreed with to FB to get their page taken down. Setting boundaries is your right and it is necessary for emotional health.

Adults don’t mind posts here and there about politics, even when they disagree. They don’t mind a petition now and again. The DO mind a soap box getting planted on their heads every day. They are getting weary of armchair activists and they are quietly unfollowing and unfriending when we fail to be respectful.

I am so honored to serve all of you and I know each and every one of you will change the world. I hope you do and I can’t wait to see you do it!

What are your thoughts? I love hearing from you! What are your thoughts? Concerns?

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. 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 novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

SIGN UP NOW FOR MY UPCOMING CLASSES!!! 

Remember that ALL CLASSES come with a FREE RECORDING so you can listen over and over. So even if you can’t make it in person? No excuses! 

All you need is an internet connection!

NEW CLASS!!!! How to Maximize Your Earning Potential as a Full-Time Author Learn from Hollywood Producer Joel Eisenberg in your HOME. This series is normally $400 but W.A.N.A. is offering it for $199.

Branding Master’s Class Series with Kristen Lamb THREE social media classes, ONE low price. Only $99. It is literally getting one class for FREE!!!! 

Craft Master’s Class Series with Kristen Lamb THREE craft classes, ONE low price. Only $89. One class is FREE!!!! Includes my new class The Art of Character.

Individual Classes with MOI!

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS January 28th

When your Name Alone Can SELL—Branding for Authors February 10th, 2017

Social Media for Authors February 11th, 2017

NEW CLASS!!!! The Art of Character January 27th, 2017

Blogging for Authors February 3rd

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on

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83 Comments

Want to Sell More Books? Give Consumers What They WANT

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Consumers and business models have all changed drastically in the past ten years. This demands that we as authors change as well. There were many elements we never had to think about twenty years ago. It was an agent/editor’s job to think about the consumer climate and whether or not our book would be something readers would want to buy.

There have always been writers too clever for their own good, but in the old model, likely they met with enough rejection to 1) give up 2) rewrite or 3) try again. These days? The onus is on us to give readers what they want.

We have to remember whether it is the book or the blog or even social media, that WE are not important. It is all about the reader and what he/she wants to consume.

A Tale of Two Parsnips

I remember being in NYC for Thrillerfest. It was our final day in the city and we were celebrating a member of our group’s birthday. Since I have a bazillion food allergies, we made plans to eat at a ritzy Asian-Australian “fusion” restaurant and the woman on the phone assured me they could accommodate.

This was a super fancy restaurant and the chef had even once won Iron Chef, so I didn’t eat that day, preparing for my first experience with fine NYC dining.

We get to the ordering and…*screeching brakes*

The chef refused to modify any of the dishes.

He claimed that removing the mashed potatoes (which contained dairy) “ruined the aesthetics of the dish.”

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I wish I were joking.

The waitress kept continually offering me the parsnip soup. I was ravenous and, finally, after fifteen times being offered soup I didn’t want? I lost my temper, scared the waitress and someone somehow convinced the kitchen to create an aesthetically unbalanced plate before I came back there and made an aesthetically unbalanced chef.

Texans. Can dress them up. Can’t take them anywhere.

But this story illustrates my point. We shouldn’t keep trying to serve others something they don’t want to consume.

***Side note: The next year when I returned to NYC? That restaurant was out of business.

Give Customers What They Want to Consume

But I carefully craft all my automated, preprogrammed tweets.

Great, you dressed it up, but it is STILL SPAM.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Neil Motteram

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Neil Motteram

If I don’t want to talk to a robot? Why would other people? If I hate spam? Why serve it? If I loathe being force-added to groups and newsletters and it ticks me off? Might not be a good plan to do to others.

When I wrote my social media book, it was because all the books out there were highly technical, boring and made me want to throw myself in traffic. I knew I couldn’t be alone. Why not write a book that was useful and fun? Repackage a boring topic into something people enjoyed?

***That’s thinking like an entrepreneur, btw ;).

Same with fiction. I didn’t like being forced to read The Great Gatsby (three times too many), so why write books similar to so many of the classics most of us only read because we had to? Guess what? Entertainers are “real” writers, too.

And inevitably I get an intellectual who wants to argue and it’s fine. If we want to write a modern version of Moby Dick, no one will stop us. If we want to write perspicacious prose only a handful of intelligentcia “get”? Write away!

Just don’t complain about sales numbers.

Readers, by and large, don’t want us to show off how clever we are. They want a good story.

Give Readers What They Want In a WAY They Want

We writers can be a hopelessly romantic lot. I get it. We love bookstores and the feel of paper. We don’t mind toting around a hardback so thick we could brain mugger with it. But WE are not everyone. Humans are busy and distracted and they dig e-books and audio and that is a GOOD thing.

I still have no idea why writers are even taking sides on this issue. If my readers want my stories acted out in interpretive dance? They prefer jazz hands over paper? And that could be profitable enough to finance me continuing to write?

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 9.47.17 AM

Presentation Matters

Every Christmas, Spawn opens his new toys then we spend the next hour with scissors and kitchen knives trying to break past all the anti-theft crap.

This is how info-dump, fish heads, needless prologues and extraneous flashbacks feel to readers. We have to get past so much stuff to get to what we want, that we move on to novels that don’t make us work so hard to get to the STORY.

One of the reasons I emphasize understanding the craft of writing is that novel/story structure is mythic. There is actually evidence that narrative structure is hardwired into the human brain. Yes, we can break rules and deviate, but we do this too much? We confuse the reader. It’s like serving them a blue steak. Blue steak is certainly clever. And, it could taste great.

But our minds won’t let us eat and enjoy something so very wrong.

But look how CLEVER it is! Really, it's YUMMY.

But look how CLEVER it is! Really, it’s YUMMY.

Keep Writing

Good books are good books, but I’ll be blunt. There are outside factors we can never anticipate.

I actually have a theory that this is part of why 50 Shades of Grey took off when it did. It was racy, mindless junk food that put readers in a world where someone else told them what to do (allowing them to escape from a real world where they have NO idea what to do). Whether the book was good, bad, or terrible made little difference. It clearly filled a need and a market emerged.

E.L. James gave consumers what they wanted.

This is why writing more books is critical. Maybe Book One isn’t selling well today, but in a digital world where shelf space is infinite? Might do better next year. We get better the more we cook write, and odds are, if we do it enough, we’ll discover our readers and they’ll discover us.

Have you ever had someone try to keep giving you something you DIDN’T WANT? A book? Food at a restaurant, bad mojo at a clothing store? Two words. Skinny jeans. Any sociological theories about the success of 50 Shades? Come on! Let’s play armchair psychiatrist! I am not a doctor, but play one on the Internet :D.

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 novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Check out the other NEW classes below! Including How to Write the Dreaded Synopsis/Query Letter! 

All W.A.N.A. classes are on-line and all you need is an internet connection. Recordings are included in the class price.

Upcoming Classes

NEW CLASS!

Pitch Perfect—How to Write a Query Letter & Synopsis that SELLS

You’ve written a novel and now are faced with the two most terrifying challenges all writers face. The query and the synopsis.

Query letters can be daunting. How do you sell yourself? Your work? How can you stand apart without including glitter in your letter?

***NOTE: DO NOT PUT GLITTER IN YOUR QUERY.

Good question. We will cover that and more!

But sometimes the query is not enough.

Most writers would rather cut their wrists with a spork than be forced to write the dreaded…synopsis. Yet, this is a valuable skills all writers should learn.

Sign up early for $10 OFF!!!

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist September 2nd–September 2nd

All fiction must have a core antagonist. The antagonist is the reason for the story problem, but the term “antagonist” can be highly confusing. Without a proper grasp of how to use antagonists, the plot can become a wandering nightmare for the author and the reader.

This class will help you understand how to create solid story problems (even those writing literary fiction) and then give you the skills to layer conflict internally and externally.

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist Gold

This is a personal workshop to make sure you have a clear story problem. And, if you don’t? I’ll help you create one and tell the story you want to tell. This is done by phone/virtual classroom and by appointment. Expect to block off at least a couple hours.

Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line

September 7th

Log-lines are crucial for understanding the most important detail, “WHAT is the story ABOUT?” If we can’t answer this question in a single sentence? Brain surgery with a spork will be easier than writing a synopsis. Pitching? Querying? A nightmare. Revisions will also take far longer and can be grossly ineffective.

As authors, we tend to think that EVERY detail is important or others won’t “get” our story. Not the case.

If we aren’t pitching an agent, the log-line is incredibly beneficial for staying on track with a novel or even diagnosing serious flaws within the story before we’ve written an 80,000 word disaster. Perhaps the protagonist has no goal or a weak goal. Maybe the antagonist needs to be stronger or the story problem clearer.

In this one-hour workshop, I will walk you through how to encapsulate even the most epic of tales into that dreadful “elevator pitch.” We will cover the components of a strong log-line and learn red flags telling us when we need to dig deeper. The last hour of class we will workshop log-lines.

The first ten signups will be used as examples that we will workshop in the second hour of class. So get your log-line fixed for FREE by signing up ASAP.

Blogging for Authors

September 16th

Blogging is one of the most powerful forms of social media. Twitter could flitter and Facebook could fold but the blog will remain so long as we have an Internet. The blog has been going strong since the 90s and it’s one of the best ways to establish a brand and then harness the power of that brand to drive book sales.

The best part is, done properly, a blog plays to a writer’s strengths. Writers write.

The problem is too many writers don’t approach a blog properly and make all kinds of mistakes that eventually lead to blog abandonment. Many authors fail to understand that bloggers and author bloggers are two completely different creatures.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

 

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37 Comments

Want to Be a Successful Writer? Ten Ways to GO PRO!

Image via Drew Coffman courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Image via Drew Coffman courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

We have done a lot of talking about FREE! in the past couple of months. And I will continue to boycott Huffington Post , because I believe they’re parasites who’ve helped set this industry-wide trend that writers only need to be paid with “exposure.” Owned by AOL (a.k.a. Verizon) they have the ability to pay, just don’t want to and unless writers start valuing what they do? They won’t pay.

Ever.

Not until we GO PRO.

To catch up on the rant, read No More Literary Booty Calls.

But back to this “valuing what we do.” I feel one of the reasons the arts are particularly vulnerable to plundering is many writers (artists) have a chronic case of low self-esteem.

Yes, society and pop culture are partly to blame.

It seems movies cast only two types of writers—The Starving Hack and the Bazillionaire Celebrity Author. Thus, if we aren’t flying off to Paris to fact-check? People assume that, by default, we’re writing bad haiku on Starbuck’s napkins in between shooting up and borrowing money from our mom.

We Do It To Ourselves

Screen Shot 2014-08-25 at 9.43.37 AM

First a little test. If you are reading this and are an aspiring author raise your hand. It’s okay. No one is around. You can do it.

Got your hand up?

NOW SLAP YOURSELF WITH THAT HAND AND NEVER DO THAT AGAIN!

I love you *smooch*.

There IS no “aspiring.” Aspiring is for the weak. It takes real guts to be an author. Feel free to call yourself pre-published, but use aspiring?

I. CAN. FIND. YOU. O_o

Do or do not, there is no try.

Understand Consumers WANT What We Do

Self-published book and now a major motion picture. BOO-YAH!

Self-published book and now a major motion picture. BOO-YAH!

In any business, the first thing one has to determine is:

Will consumers want this?

For some strange reason, whenever I rail about PAY THE WRITER there is this knee-jerk assumption we writers are foisting something fundamentally unwanted onto the unsuspecting public and if they read our stuff they’re doing us a favor.

Untrue.

People want good books. If people didn’t want good books, Amazon would not have invested God knows how much into swiping the industry from the legacy publishers.

But, aside from our insecurity, the other component that undermines authors is a failure to truly GO PRO. Note I said good books. A pro doesn’t sell crap. A pro doesn’t try to get people to pay for books rife with horrific plot problems, editing mistakes, shoddy grammar and formatting that looks like it was done by a detoxing drunk.

PRO comes from the word, professional. 

But saying we want to go PRO is easier than knowing what one actually looks like. To be blunt, there are far more people “playing writer” than “going pro.” Even those of us who write for a living? It is an everyday battle against entropy. It’s really easy to wake up one day and realize you’re lying to yourself.

So I made a list. For me. For you.

I’m a giver.

I would love to say that I always did these things, but I didn’t. For a long time I was a lazy, entitled, whining slacker more in love with the idea of being a writer than actually doing the work involved. Much of this I had to learn the hard way, so I hope to up your game with these TEN WAYS TO GO PRO!

1—Pros Get Our A$$es to WORK

Writers write. We don’t write when we feel like it or when the muse strikes. Truthfully, the muse is like that fun drunken cousin who passes through and gives us a good time, but there’s no way in hell we’d ever hire the guy because he’s about as dependable as Texas weather.

Almost every morning, I am up at 4:00 a.m. Most people don’t work well that early, but I do. Fewer distractions. I always at least check in at 4 a.m. if there are any early birds who need a partner.

Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 11.47.49 AM

This morning I had three thousand words written before 7:00 a.m. Every morning I hold writing sprints on W.A.N.A. Tribe. All morning long, we go in 40 minute bursts and there is a team for accountability and to drive and push you beyond your comfort zone. I know I am a lazy slacker so I created this to keep me accountable!

Duh.

But any guess how many writers actually show for the sprints?

Usually it’s the same group of ten people out of over 2700…and I am one of them. As a group, I bet we’ve easily written a million words since we started meeting back in November. Every member of the sprinting group finished NaNoWriMo in less than 20 days.

We are still there. Five days a week 9:00 CST. Every day.

The same few people.

A huge reason most writers never make it big is simple. They don’t write.

2—Pros Write No Matter WHAT

Kristen with Shingles…and YES I still wrote.

Kristen last year with Shingles…and YES I still wrote.

2012-2015 was a living nightmare for me. Our lives had SO much go wrong, I was seriously wondering if voodoo was somehow involved and despite enduring tragedy after tragedy? I still showed up.

Even with Shingles. Hey, I was going to be in pain anyway? Might as well channel it and distract myself.

Life will go wrong and sometimes the only thing we can control is simply showing up. There will never be an ideal time to write. If one comes our way? Fabulous! But don’t count on it. Never underestimate the power of simply showing up.

3—Pros Appreciate We Are Selling a PRODUCT

Writers don’t get a pass. We are a business. We are entrepreneurs bringing a product to market. This is true no matter which publishing path we take. Some writers frown on us indie/self-published folks, but what do y’all think that query is? It’s a business proposal.

An agent is inspecting our product (book) and our brand (platform) and determining potential market value. They are asking, Can we SELL this? And, if so, How many can we sell? 

That’s it.

We now have a choice to circumnavigate gatekeepers, but we still are responsible for bringing a solid product to the marketplace. Pros know that.

4—Pros INVEST

Via Flickr Creative commons, courtesy of Tax Credits.

Via Flickr Creative commons, courtesy of Tax Credits.

Since we appreciate we are a product and want to make it the best out there (because we KNOW there is a crap-ton of competition), we invest in ways to make our product the best and to stand out. Since we create the product, we invest time and money in training, conferences, and classes. Once we have a product, we invest in proper editing and cover design.

We invest in things that save us time. You can either spend five years figuring out your brand or hire a pro help you do it in days (yes, I am for hire 😉 ).

I suck at organization and detail so I outsource to an assistant. My new assistant Raidon cleaned out over 67K e-mails and organized them for me.  That was almost five hours I could do blogging, writing, teaching and consulting.

Trust me. Worth every penny.

5—Pros Study the Successful

We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Seriously. Most people believe that success is tremendously elusive, but if we study successful people? Most of them did a lot of the same things. I am a HUGE, HUGE fan of Mark Cuban. Every writer needs THIS book; How to Win at the Sport of Business. It’s a short audio book and cost me $5, but WOW.

So much of what he talks about can be applied to writers.

6—Pros Get Paid to Learn

Meaning? They are never “too good” to accept a job. This one really applies to the newbies starting out. In the beginning we have to earn a reputation worth paying for. In the meantime? Take every opportunity you get and knock it outta the park!

When I realized I wanted to go pro with writing? I took every writing job I could get, figuring I was being paid to learn. Whether it was copy for a chiropractor’s web site or specs for software? I did it even though some of those jobs were so boring I wanted to hurl myself in traffic. They didn’t pay much in money (not at first) but I was being paid to learn.

Every one of those jobs paid off.

7—Pros FAIL…A LOT

Original image via Melissa Bowersock WANA Commons

Original image via Melissa Bowersock WANA Commons

We make bad calls, hire the wrong people, write bad blogs and even worse books. By failing a lot we learn what works and what is a waste of time. My failures taught me far more than “success” ever did.

Failure taught me humility and how to have staying power. It’s easy to be in the game when we’re winning, but to keep pressing after you’ve been sucker punched…then run over and then hit by lightning?

That is what separates the wanna-be’s from the pros.

8—Pros are Honest

Original Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Spasoff

Original Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Spasoff

We are only as strong as our greatest weakness. Pros are honest with where they’re failing. If the books aren’t selling and the feedback is about the writing? We take more classes and write more to put those lessons in action and hone those skills. Hire a rockstar editor.

Again, remember that I suck at organization? Took me a long time to admit that. I bought Daytimers and apps and gadgets and OH DEAR GOD I CANNOT SHOW MY FACE IN CONTAINER STORE…

THE SHAME!

I realized it ain’t gonna happen. Instead of trying to fit this round writer into a square hole? Outsource.

9—Pros Never Stop Training

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anamorphic Mike.

How successful would a boxer be if he sat on the couch watching inspirational movies about boxing but never actually hauled his tail into a gym? Never worked with a coach to refine technique? Never studied other boxers and their moves? Never sparred to know his weaknesses?

inhale books. If I am not at my computer working, I am reading…everything. If I am driving or cleaning or cooking? I am also listening to an audiobook. I never watch TV or movies that I am not making notes, busting apart character, plot, dialogue. Where did the story shine? Where did it fail? How would I have improved it?

Pros generally have TWO speeds.

On.

Unconscious.

Even “rest” serves the goals and is active.

10—Pros Understand “Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail”

Most new businesses fail because of a lack of a solid business plan. Same with writers. Which publishing path are you choosing? Why? Do you even know why? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? Seriously, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to publish, but how we are going to get our product to market is a big deal.

What are your goals? Do you have this mapped out? Do you have contingency plans? Have you done a S.W.O.T. analysis? What is your marketing plan? What is your branding plan? What is your sales plan?

Back to what we started with and the whole kerfluffle of FREE!

How and WHY are we using FREE!?

One of the reasons FREE! has gotten so out of hand is that writers are not using it strategically as part of a larger sales plan.

It’s why I am offering a new class, Making Money with FREE! As a bonus for this class, my friend Jack Patterson who’s so far sold over 150,000 books to come and teach us how to ROCK the newsletter. Sign up before March 7th for $20 off. This is in excess of two hours of training and the recording (as always) comes with purchase.

Just by doing this class, you get several makes of a pro—showing up, investing, training, and learning from people who’ve already done something successfully.  I will be learning too. Instead of me writing a terrible newsletter no one wants to open and spending the next three years figuring it out? I am paying Jack to help me teach this class.

I’m no dummy 😛 .

I am very proud of all of you for even being here and reading this blog. That is the mark of a pro. Instead of watching funny videos? You are here being yelled at inspired.

What are your thoughts? Did you fall for my trick and raise your hand? I hope you didn’t leave a mark. Do you struggle with taking yourself seriously? Do you put everyone and everything ahead of your writing? Does your writing take backseat to everyone else’s wants and needs? Did you change that and see results when you started doing things PROS do?

I really DO 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 novel.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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74 Comments

Making Money in a World Addicted to FREE—What Do Writers DO?

Might I suggest one of these...

I think we need to renegotiate the terms…

One of the reasons I did such a detailed post about the pop culture and how it’s impacting artists (A Culture Addicted to FREE) is that for us to make any solid plan, we need to gain a good understanding of how things are being run and also grasp current consumer habits.

To fix any problem, we must be aware of what are called operational constraints.

Operational constraints are any real or potential roadblocks in the way of our goals. If you ever do a S.W.O.T. Analysis, which I strongly recommend, it stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Any time we do business—which writing IS a business—we need an accurate picture of the terrain so we make wise business decisions and can plan ahead.

Image via Wikipedia

Image via Wikipedia

The entire reason for me blogging about the impact streaming could have on our industry is because that is part of the S.W.O.T. matrix (under Threats). If we only look at what’s going on today, we’re reactive and have fewer options (if any) and we lack maneuverability. If, however, we do the projections and hypothesize about what likely could happen? We’re in a far stronger position and can gain massive advantage.

For instance, in 2007 I took MAJOR heat for saying social media and blogging was going to be a huge game-changer and vital for success.

I could have been wrong, but I planned accordingly and built a brand anyway (just in case).

For all those who felt all they needed was a good book? Who didn’t feel they needed to be on-line? It’s been an uphill battle and they missed out on a LOT of the crazy momentum generated by the initial BIG BANG of Web 2.0 expanding. They were also in a bad spot when literary agents came back with, “Great book. I’d love to rep it but you have no platform. Come back when you get one.”

Yes, Writers ARE Entrepreneurs

Craftfest

I get that the world often does not see what we do as a business, that for some reason when we tether money to our work then we are no longer doing “art.” Here’s the thing, haters hate for two reasons.

Either a) they benefit from the status quo or b) they believe they are unsuccessful solely because of a system they falsely think is set in stone. Anyone who changes the system can expose the delusion.

For instance, before self-publishing it was easy to believe we were rejected simply because NY only wanted commercial junk (not because we had no frigging clue how to actually write).

Ignore haters. They aren’t going to pay your bills so they don’t get a vote.

Before we talk more about the nitty gritty of the business of what we do, I am going to say this again.

Free is an excellent servant, but a horrible master.

I am all for FREE. I am against the rampant misuse of FREE. FREE will roll over and sit and fetch our slippers. Problem is? We have been letting FREE pee on the carpets and eat the couch cushions. FREE needs obedience training and we are the master. Us whining that FREE keeps embarrassing us by humping the mailman’s leg is not productive.

Writer up and tell FREE to SIT!

Businesses use FREE all the time…to generate business (as in PAID work). We need to do the same. But good businesses don’t just “make stuff FREE.” They get a good idea of the overall topography and then use FREE to maneuver advantage.

If we want to change things and make a good living doing what we do, then we must understand the market to use FREE effectively. Additionally, us looking at streaming and how other artists are being impacted negatively is not whining if we then take that knowledge and do something.

ALL business do this. But apparently when authors act like a business we are accused of whining…which is pissing me off more than a little.

We don’t get what we work for, we get what we negotiate.

My family owns the top sign company in Fort Worth, TX. We do those huge monument signs, lighted signs (think Target, Home Depot, Chili’s, etc.). But we’ve had customers we had to fire. Doing business with them simply was not profitable. Were we whining? No, we were making a business decision.

We decided that the customer’s Pain in the Ass Factor far outweighed their Profit Factor and decided to part ways and find a situation that suited us better. Writers can do the same.

At this juncture, we as artists have two options when it comes to changing our situation in the marketplace. One is what we have been doing here lately.

Power of the Purse

Image via Demi-Brooke Flickr Creative Commons

Image via Demi-Brooke Flickr Creative Commons

We educate consumers and use consumer pressure to make the market equitable. That happens all the time. Nike got seriously bad PR for using sweatshops in Asia. The bad press did major damage to their brand and their sales. Feeling pressure from consumers, they had to change their ways unless they wanted to go out of business. Spotify, Pandora, and iTunes have come under scrutiny for exploiting artists.

Fearing consumer wrath? These companies will either change or the power of the purse will exact punishment.

It’s happened before in many other industries.

Food Lion never recovered from a scandal involving bleaching old meat. Taco Bell was hammered (and sued) over their use of Mystery Meat, which gave their brand and bottom line a beating. The chocolate industry was forever altered when consumers found out about the horrific practices and use of child labor. Many major chocolate manufacturers are now almost completely Fair Trade and this was all brought about by consumer pressure.

If shaming and purchasing power works for these other industries? Can work for ours too. But? It might not. So we need to prepare for that.

In the meantime, we are a business so we need to focus more on what we can control.

We Create Something of VALUE

Johnny Cat wants to write his memoir...

Johnny Cat wants to write his memoir…

Before we can talk at ALL about business I need you to get one thing through your head.

Writers create something of VALUE. We create what people WANT.

I get that folks are addicted to FREE, but they will pay for something they find value in. Our job is to create that value and stop abusing FREE. But why do we struggle with believing what we do has value? A lot of it comes from outside pressure.

One example that I keep seeing used over and over since I started all this with Pay The Writer is the idiot example of a ditch digger.

Just because you decided to dig a ditch doesn’t mean anyone owes you money for a ditch they never asked for.

This is a non sequitur being used to shame us. It is using a false assumption that no one wanted what we created in the first place.

To paraphrase what the Founding Fathers said to King George?

Bite me.

IF no one wanted stories, then why bother with bookstores, movies, television and non-stop streaming entertainment? If no one wanted to buy books then Amazon would have never set up the infrastructure to take business away from the Big Six and make them into the Spiffy Five. If no one wants books, then how the hell are so many selling? The Martian (which was self-published, btw) sold 750,000 copies just in the US and MATT FREAKING DAMON played the protagonist in a blockbuster movie.

I guess it’s a good thing Andy Weir dug that ditch no one asked for.

Basic rule of capitalism? We all create something people don’t want…yet. The thing is our customers simply don’t yet know they want it.

What if Henry Ford never bothered with figuring out how to manufacture automobiles because no one wanted them?

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

~Henry Ford

What if Edison hadn’t bothered with light bulbs? What if the Wright Brothers….

Y’all get the point.

People DO want books. They DO want an escape. They DO want information and entertainment. Trick is to make them want OUR book (that’s another post).

People WANT books, so anyone who uses that ditch digger analogy from now on can just pound sand because the analogy falls apart that writers creating books are anything like this ditch digger creating random holes.

A true parallel is that places like Amazon are acting as connectors/brokers. They know people who LIKE and WANT books and we MAKE books. We do business because every book Amazon moves and delivers for us? We get paid a portion of that.

This is like having a service that connects People in Desperate Need of a Ditch with People with Shovels and Ditch-Digging Skills. There’s an understood contract that if we dig a ditch someone wanted? The broker is paid, but WE ARE TOO.

And, as an owner of a sign company? We get paid really, really well for digging ditches.

Thus, to treat writers as if we are that weird guy who jumps out into traffic and squeegees windshields and then breaks windows if the customer victim doesn’t pay? It’s uncool and inaccurate.

But back to writers…

I don’t think any of us are asking to be paid on books we never sell. But if we do sell? Then whoever is acting as this middleman/connector needs to give us a rate we find to be a sound business decision or…

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 10.55.45 AM

Musicians are doing this. They are saying that getting paid $0.0006 every time a song is played and having to split that $0.0006 per song with everyone who produced the song is BS. They’re saying that if my song is played a million times, the royalty should be more than $17…so Pandora? BUH BYE.

Start With the PRODUCT

BLUE STEAK. But look how CLEVER it is! Really, it's YUMMY.

BLUE STEAK. But look how CLEVER it is! Really, it’s YUMMY.

Since we are a business, we have to create a product consumers want to buy. In my POV? A lot of authors are too busy being clever in their writing and ignoring substance.

We just want a good steak…no need to make it blue. That’s just weird.

And for all the Wanna Be Authors who are slapping up junk with crappy unedited writing, shoddy formatting and covers that look like they were done by a one-eye drunk? No one wants it. And if they do? I’m a huge fan of Economist F.A. Hayek. If people want to PAY for that? Then it is just.

If people want to pay $300 for a ticket to see Kanye West but won’t go to see a concert pianist even though it’s only $20? I question their taste, but it’s just because consumers have spoken with their dollars.

If people want 50 Shades and not the next great literary genius story? I don’t like it, but people vote with dollars.

Aaaahhhhhhhhh!

Aaaahhhhhhhhh!

But if the product isn’t selling? Then we’ve failed on some vector and the first one to scrutinize would be the actual product.

Code for try harder.

Write more books and better books. Remember we are not writing for US, but for the reader. We are in the entertainment industry and entertainment implies that more than one person is getting something out of the deal.

I’ve been in workshops where the author was the only one who understood what the hell was going on and when criticized by the audience? They argued. Okay, then be happy selling ONE book because you’ve written for an audience of one.

Invest in good editing, formatting, etc. Yada yada yada.

Create Your Own Economy

The trick of all of this is to create a product consumers want (and ALL businesses have to do this). If we do that and we build a strong enough brand? We don’t NEED iTunes, Amazon, B&N, etc. Thing is, they need us way more than we need them.

Trust me. Amazon does NOT want Andy Weir or Hugh Howey or Grant Cardone to go, You know what? It’s not you, it’s me. Wait, it IS YOU and I think I’ll do my own distribution. Thanks.

The Sword of Technology Cuts Both Ways

The same exact technological innovations that allowed Amazon to plunder the Big Six are the same advances we can use to walk away. We can do our own distribution, our own subscription services, streaming, etc. (there are services popping up to fill that vacuum). We will talk more about these options later, but the point I am making is that if we create a good product and combine it with a solid brand?

We are being a business and in being a business? We can choose how to do business and thereby set the terms of the relationship (or the grounds for terminating that relationship).

In coming posts we will delve more into FREE, how to use it and when to use it. We will talk a lot more about the business side of what we do. Remember we are in the entertainment business. If you don’t have a strong brand, then seriously, get a copy of Rise of the Machines. 

I wrote that book because a solid brand is absolutely the most essential component of success beyond the actual product. My methods have launched unknowns from obscurity into record books. So invest in your business and get in the know about your brand.

Okay, what are your thoughts? Are you tired of that ditch-digger analogy too? Do you struggle seeing yourself as having something of VALUE? Is it impacting the way you are running—or not running—your business? Are you overwhelmed? Are there other areas you’d like me to explore and discuss? Do you have additional business advice you’d add for all our benefice?

I really DO love hearing from you!

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

 

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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Why the Fighting? What World are We Creating for Future Readers & Writers?

"The Starving Artist" by Garrett courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

“The Starving Artist” by Garrett courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

Since starting this blog back in 2008, I’ve often placed myself square in the crosshairs of critics. Why? Because I’m willing to be unpopular in order for things to change. I step up and say something super unpopular…then things level out because folks go, Oh, wow, maybe Kristen wasn’t completely crazy.

I think this latest kerfluffle regarding me and used bookstores is an interesting event for all of us to study because the digital age is now giving birth. To what? No idea. I think that’s why we need to be actively involved and these are conversations we need to start having.

No one likes talking about money, but we need to. Bookstores need to talk about it. Publishers need to talk about it and writers need to talk about it and none of us are whining when we do it.

Lines are being drawn and there seems to be this belief we must choose sides. That is dangerous because the digital age is so vast that if we’re divided? We lose. Who loses even bigger? The generations to come.

Secondary Markets of the Digital Age

Image via Frankleion courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Image via Frankleion courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

In this entire used books debate I kept hearing used books be compared with cars and houses and computers and in my opinion that is entirely off base. Why? Cars by and large are something consumers cannot do without. Cars are a need. Houses? What’s our other option to buy? Refrigerator boxes? Computers. Really tough to get along in life without one. I have places that won’t even send paper bills anymore.

Books? For most people? Books are a want. Books are an extra. So to compare the used market of shelter and transportation (fundamental human needs) to books? It’s not even in the same universe so wasting time using these as comparisons is a non sequitur and a distraction.

Digital Versus Paper

I think as more posts are written about my Pay the Writer I’m seeing things more clearly. I think one reason for the pushback I got is that folks felt I was reader-shaming those who loved used bookstores. I honestly did not mean to, but my post was too long. It wasn’t as tight as it should have been, lending to confusion. It was probably also not as tight because I was really angry.

Really angry.

But considering that, I looked at why? Why did I get so angry at the original article and today? It hit me. Yes, the whole “exposure” thing and the “working for free” thing pissed me off, but another huge component?

I felt reader-shamed.

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 3.52.59 PM

Image “Sunflowers Shamed” via Alan Levine courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

My eyes are not the best. I have an astigmatism and a nystagmus (bouncing eyes) that worsens when I am tired. Ocular albinism runs in my family and my little brother even went to the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind.

After severe head trauma in an accident in 1997, my nystagmus got worse. I went from being one of those avid readers who had to sell plasma to afford her habit to not reading at all. It took forever to finish a book because my eyes would jump lines and I’d find myself reading the same line over and over. I’d lose my place and end up in tears.

The genres I grew up loving most—high fantasy in particular—were all but lost to me. My eyes couldn’t endure the small font. I tried magnifiers and all kinds of gadgets but reading by and large had become a misery.

Original Image via JDog90 courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Original Image via JDog90 courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Until digital.

I remember being the first to buy an iPad, a Nook and a Kindle. Yes, I go overboard in all I do. One of the first books I bought on my Nook (which I bought first to support bookstores)? Game of Thrones. I hadn’t been able to read it in paper.

I can’t describe the feeling. It felt like I was reunited with long-lost loves. I began inhaling books, sometimes a book every other day because now I could adjust the font and I could SEE. *angels singing*

Image via Charl Christiani courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

Image via Charl Christiani courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

How Kristen reads all her books…

Then they added Whispersync and when my eyes get too tired for the Old Lady Font to help, I transition to audio.

Discovering e-books reminded me of when my little brother was six years old. We pretty much realized he couldn’t see, but because his eye issue was such a rare condition, no doctor had before spotted it let alone corrected it.

Until fall of 1984.

I remember walking outside the eye specialist with him (I was 10). He was wearing his new specially made glasses. He stopped, stared at the sky and wobbled…then began to cry.

He never knew the trees had leaves. Had never realized those things in the sky were birds.

It’s been over 30 years and I still remember that moment.

And maybe my experience wasn’t as big of a deal, but it sure felt like it. I’d had so many years that my greatest joy was out of reach. And Amazon? Nook? Digital? They brought that back. Better yet? Digital afforded me two things at once—I got to read books I love and also financially support writers I adore.

WIN-WIN.

And ever since we’ve gone into the digital age there is this non-stop fighting—paper versus digital. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve been told that e-books are not “real” books.

Why do journalists (BIG journalists) insist on pitting one side against the other? Why do they also tend to pick the side authors are paid the least? Why is it socially acceptable and even encouraged to bash me and how I read books?

Readers Matter, But Do They? Really?

#FUTUREREADERS

#FUTUREREADERS

In all the brouhaha what kept coming up was I didn’t care about readers. That I was somehow reader-shaming people who buy used. Hint: I wasn’t.

The post wasn’t even directed to readers. It was about writers being better business people. But, if we’re going to make it about readers then all right.

What about those of us who love digital? People felt I was horrible because some people are on a limited budget and used books are the only way they can read or discover new authors.

What about people who have severe social anxiety? What about people with disabilities who order on-line? After that accident (mentioned above) I had such bad seizures I couldn’t drive. Had it not been for the Internet and on-line retailers, I wouldn’t have been able to shop at all.

What about people with transportation issues or the elderly? On-line retailers deliver right to their door. What about those readers?

If a person loves used bookstores does it mean then that they hate all these people and don’t want them to have books? If a reader doesn’t like e-books that person obviously thinks handicapped people shouldn’t have books?

No. Of course not. That’s as ridiculous as assuming that I’m against those with a limited income buying used.

If readers really matter then I want to ask. Why are we choosing sides at all?

Why did the Washington Post feel the need to shame ME and the way I happen to love getting books in order to promote the used bookstore? Why is it necessary to hurt one to lift another? It isn’t.

I get that used bookstores are great for discovering new authors and new books, but when I’m online? I get to see a list of suggestions.

Other readers who bought and liked this book ALSO bought this…

I buy more books that I will ever read (from used stores AND digital retailers).

What I don’t understand is why Salon jumps on me that I am somehow reader-shaming people who buy used in their post Don’t Feel Guilty For Buying UsedBut Rachel, just curious. If it’s really about you championing readers, then where was your post Don’t Feel Guilty for Buying E-Books? Where was the post Don’t Feel Ashamed for Ordering Books on Amazon? 

Thought so.

So maybe I did actually have a point in my post after all.

Wanting to Make a Living is Noble

Future writer.

Future writer. Get a real job you schlep!

In all the commentary I saw booksellers (used in particular) claiming how hard it was to make a living being up against places like Walmart and Amazon and digital and megastores, and that’s okay. Dang skippy it is! *fist bump*

But strangely, not one person said to the bookseller, “You’re whining! Get another job you loser! Find another paid line of work!” Yet, I lost count how many times that was said to me. How many times that was said about the writers I love.

Here’s the deal. ALL of us are in a tight spot. Digital is presenting all kinds of challenges. Consumers who want fast and cheap? They’re just as troublesome for the bookseller as the author. For publishers and booksellers and authors to be vexed by authentic market challenges?

That isn’t whining.

We all need to start having the crucial conversations. But we aren’t. Why? Low hanging fruit. It’s easier for the major journalists to keep fueling an Us vs. Them. Get paper people fighting with digital.

Why didn’t Salon pick any of my other follow up posts to highlight? The hard truth about publishing, how to support writers with reviews (for the used buyers on a limited income), or the post about Fair Trade Fiction? All of these posts meant better pay and business for authors and booksellers (used booksellers in particular)? Why didn’t they highlight any of these blogs?

Because then no one would have been fighting 😉 . They couldn’t sell ads.

It’s Time for Sustainability

Baby Spawn and his iPad.

We have entire generations growing up teething on smartphones and tablets. Schools are issuing iPads instead of books. Millennials are accustomed to file-sharing and free and downloads. Remember Emily White’s famous NPR post about owning over 11,000 songs and yet only ever purchasing 15 CDs?

Emily is our future reader. This is the reader we need to cultivate a desire to buy something new…or we’re all doomed.

What about our future writers and their abilities to make a living? What about them? If we’re all going to shame them for wanting to make a living, then why don’t we just stop kidding ourselves and shut down the arts now? Instead we can train them to be real estate agents and pharmaceutical reps. You know. “Real” jobs.

Yes, READ!

Read books any way and every way you want. Libraries, used, B&N, new, Amazon, e-book. I was always in favor of that. But to say one way of consumption isn’t preferable to others (if you’re a writer)? That is just not reality. Discoverability is useless without a new purchase. People discover new music on YouTube all the time, but it doesn’t help the artist or the recording label until a purchase is made.

Yes, obscurity is our biggest threat. But it damn sure isn’t our only threat and stop acting like it is.

That’s like all of us being stranded in the Klondike and wailing that exposure is our greatest threat. Yes, well it is. But the starving to death and dehydration are also pretty big frigging deals, too.

Might it not be a good idea to instill a desire to buy new simply for sustainability? To teach social responsibility to the up and coming generations of readers? For the benefice of authors and booksellers? Because call me crazy but last I checked, bookstores sell books.

Want to save forests? Great! Recycle your newspapers. But we can’t just stop there. We are going to have to plant new trees. It’s true with trees and it’s true with artists and businesses. If we love it, we need to nurture it. Sustainability.

What are your thoughts? Do you love digital? I know I buy a lot of books from used because when I write NF I need to have page numbers and e-books don’t give me an accurate page number. Do you like the portability of the e-book? I travel and it is SO awesome being able to bring twenty books in my purse.

I also like reading at night in bed. Hubby can go to sleep and since my Kindle is backlit I can read while he goes to sleep. Do you do a lot of shopping on-line? Do you get tired of being told e-books aren’t “real” books? Do you get tired of the constant Us vs. Them? I love paper books and miss them. I just really have a hard time reading them.

I love hearing from you!

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

And yes, I am a complete and total slacker. December’s winner will be announced later because I seriously had three posts go viral. Great problem to have…but tabulating a winner? Gonna take a little time. Love you *air kiss*

Remember to check out the new classes listed at W.A.N.A International.  

Branding for Authors (THIS SATURDAY). This is your best way to get PAID in the digital age. We have to cultivate that 1000 die hard fans who won’t settle for FREE.

Also, I have one craft class listed. Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line. Our stories should be simple enough to tell someone what the book is about in ONE sentence. If we can’t do this, often there is a plot problem. This class is great for teaching you how to be master plotters and the first TEN SIGNUPS get their log-line shredded for free, so you will be agent ready for the coming year.

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook

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