Archive for category Social Media Platform

Oh Grow UP!—Unfriending Part 2

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Memekode.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Memekode.

We’ll pick up on the whole, “Artists not working for free” thing later. Is free a good thing? Yes and no. Benjamin Franklin has a saying I’m going to adopt for how I feel about FREE.

Free is an excellent servant, but a terrible master.

But while I’m working on those posts, let’s return to the discussion we began—the notion of unfriending. My first post was about why we are wise to keep as many friends as possible (even for folks not out to specifically “build a brand”) so I recommend checking it out.

And on to the next leg of our adventure. Here’s the deal…

People are Not THINGS

Guess what? You are not a gadget. You have value and have meaning simply by being you. So keep being spectacularūüėČ .

Whether we want to admit it or not, unfriending is a form of rejection. On Twitter I’ve never paid attention to my numbers. It was the same way on my FB profile until I got close to that 5000 limit and then, every time someone bailed?

It was obvious.

For all I know, it could have been a bot that was suspended, but in my mind?

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

No one likes rejection and rejection hurts feelings. Why hurt feelings if we don’t have to? Do you like being treated like a “thing”? I don’t, so I don’t do it to others.

When we “add as a friend” we are entering a relationship based on social norms which are the rules that guide and govern human relationships. Treating human beings like they’re an e-mail list to be culled is unkind and breaks the social contract we agreed to.

Socia Media Isn’t All About US

If people aren’t “things” that means they do not exist solely for our amusement/benefice. It’s why I loathe it when people make announcements that they’re cleaning up their friends list.

Well, if we have never talked or you don’t like or share my content I am cutting you.

Passive aggressive much?

Seriously? Who does that in real life?

You haven’t been within 500 feet of me in the last year so this protective order shouldn’t bother you.

You haven’t called me since last year so it shouldn’t hurt you that I blocked your cell number.

What do we do in real life? We go on! If people stop by or call or we run into them? We’re pleasant. We don’t act like a bunch of drama queens.

Screen Shot 2013-08-15 at 4.54.49 PM

First of all, quit thinking the world revolves around you. It doesn’t. It revolves around meūüėÄ .

Kidding!

Someone might not be liking or interacting with our content for any number of reasons.

Maybe they had a major surgery or life event (a death) and haven’t been on-line. Maybe they haven’t yet figured out how to use Facebook but eventually will.¬†They may not be interacting with us simply because of Facebook’s algorithms.¬†Our content might just not be showing up in their feed. Period.

It isn’t personal.

(Though unfriend and it is totally personal.)

Thus, it’s rather unfair to unfriend people because they aren’t interacting with us. That person could be the greatest connection we ever make so unless they are actively and chronically misbehaving? Leave it alone.

I said, chronically misbehaving…

If a person generally has great posts and suddenly posts or likes something that offends you?

Move on.

If they have a bad day?

Move on.

If Something is Phishy, It Might Be Phishy

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Maarit Lundback

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Maarit Lundback

I once got a really racy message from a female author on social media. I’d never talked to the woman but I took a look at her wall and the message was SO off when laid in comparison to her content (that and there were a crap-ton of spelling and grammar errors).

Instead of unfriending, I politely messaged back I wasn’t interested in a rendezvous with handcuffs but thanks for the compliment. Turns out she’d been phished and was mortified. Porn bots had been messaging everyone in her list.

But, had I not messaged her back, she would never have known why people were fleeing from being her friend.

A good friend tells you when you have digital pigeon poo in your hair. Come on, folks!

We’re Going¬†to HAVE to Give Some Grace

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Thomas Ricker.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Thomas Ricker.

Just like we do in person. In real life, we give others latitude and that’s why we can remain friendly. Expecting everyone to behave perfectly 100% of the time is as ridiculous on-line as it is in person.

Also, remember we might not know as much as we think we do, so the benefit of the doubt comes in super handy.

Since we’re talking about the subject of unfriending I’ll share a story. Back at the holidays, out of nowhere I was hemorrhaging friends on Facebook. Like 30 people unfriended in the course of a couple of days. I’m at the 5000 limit so it isn’t all that unusual to lose one or two people a day, but 25+ was just bizarre.

It wasn’t until a childhood friend publicly shamed me for “liking” a post that I realized what happened.

NOTE: Facebook announces every time you fart in the sidebar unless you change the settings. I choose not to. I feel that if everyone can’t see what I’m doing I probably shouldn’t be doing it on-line. I generally avoid privacy settings because I believe they’re the water wings of the digital world and create a false sense of safety that can land us in big trouble.

Anyway…

Apparently, I had “liked” a seriously tasteless cartoon. But the thing was, I never actually¬†liked it at all. I have an android phone with a touch screen. Very often when I am using my finger to scroll through my feed, I accidentally hit things. Sometimes I like things unintentionally.

It happens.

I actually did get somewhat angry with the friend for calling me out and shaming me publicly and politely confronted her over it (and she apologized). We aren’t just social media friends, we’ve been friends since the age of five. This person knew¬†me.¬†She even admitted that she was shocked I’d “liked” this cartoon.

My response?

So, if what you saw was unlike¬†anything I’ve ever shared. If it was so grossly out of character it even gave you pause, why not just message me and give me a heads up?¬†Hey, Kristen I saw you liked this cartoon making fun of kittens being punched in the face. That seems odd and not like you at all. Were you¬†phished?

But at least my friend was brave enough to say something and I did thank her for that because then I could go back and “unlike” that cartoon (thus solving the mystery of the missing friends). But what gets me is this. How many people automatically saw¬†one thing they didn’t agree with and they hit the unfriend?

And that is neither here nor there because if people are going to leave that easily then *waves*.

But why are we THAT sensitive and is it healthy?

Diverse Friends Help Critical Thinking

Kristen as Redneck Barbie

Kristen as Redneck Barbie

I’m a born and raised Texan. Enough said.

It’s pretty easy to spot where I sit on the ideological spectrum upon meeting me. But, if you look at my biggest friends, most of them look nothing like me. I collect Jews, Muslims, atheists, Wiccans, democrats, socialists, communists, libertarians, vegans, gays, feminists and on and on and on. We are more than our faith or political party, and liking people who are just like we are is no great accomplishment.

Living in an ideological echo chamber is bad and it’s especially bad for authors.

First of all, it makes your brain turn to pudding. If no one ever challenges what you believe and makes you actually have to articulate why you feel a certain way, it kills brain cells. Everyone sitting in a circle saying the same stuff rots the noggin.

Last I checked, we writers needed a good noggin to do what we do.

It’s a False Reality

Original Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anurag Agnihotri

Original Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anurag Agnihotri

Everyone agreeing with us isn’t life. I often wonder if this is why millennials are having such a tough time interacting in person. They aren’t properly socialized. They’ve grown up in a world where they can craft and cultivate their world to never ever be uncomfortable, so when they get into reality, they have no idea how to get along. They crumble or explode the second someone has a different opinion.

Writers, we are selling books to all kinds of people, and some of them are not very nice. Some are downright trolls and if we insulate ourselves in this false reality on social media? We are ill-prepared to deal with the very real difficult people we will all eventually face.

My fear is that this ability to friend and unfriend and edit and redact is creating a world where no one is allowed to be different lest they be punished.

People Have a Right to Be Different

Image courtesy of Rafael-Castillio via Flickr Creative Commons.

Image courtesy of Rafael-Castillio via Flickr Creative Commons.

Guess what, you do not have to agree with me on everything for me to like you. And if we can only be friends with people who agree with us then we need to get rid of the Pampers and grow the hell up.

Adults can actually handle someone else having a different opinion.

I get so tired of seeing people being bullies on social media. “I am just announcing that if you don’t agree with me on X issue then I am unfriending you.”

Really. Just really. Are we five?

So we get along in 9,000 other areas. We share a mutual passion for history, books, kittens, jokes, Star Trek, but if I support X political candidate you’re out? Can I offer you a sippy cup and some used DVDs of Yo Gabba Gabba?

We mere mortals have been handed the greatest tool to change the world in the history of humanity and all we can do is play digital dollhouse? Because when we bully people that they have to be just like us, that’s what we’re doing. Carefully crafting and positioning everyone who can be in our little artificial habitat.

This world is screwed up and needs changing. And we adults are going to change it, not a bunch of thin-skinned babies who need Political Pull-Ups.

To be successful in life we are going to have to play well with others. Yes, what we learned in Kindergarten was pretty much all we needed to know about life. We are going to have to work with all kinds of folks who are a different race, creed, religion or political leaning and we are wise to learn how to navigate differences without anyone crashing on the rocks. We have to learn that a heated disagreement is simply one event on a timeline and move past it.

*waves at Frank (RantingMonkey)*

When Frank initially commented on my blog, he was on the spicy side. So I was a tad extra spicy. But you know what? We calmed down, saw we weren’t really all that different and the differences? Eh, fuggetaboutit.

My PEEP! Yes, we are now pals and pretty dang good ones, too.

If I’d unfriended everyone who was unlike me (or only friended Kristen Clones), I’d have missed out on some of the kindest, most generous and brilliant people I’ve had the honor of knowing, loving and serving.

Come on! GROUP HUG!

What are your thoughts? Though please keep any political, social or religious commentary on the down-low. We can share general experiences here without this turning into a political rant on Fox/CNN.

Do you think it is ironic that we have the abilities to share ideas more now than ever in history, yet have become more closed-minded than ever? Do you get to the point where you don’t even want to share an opinion for fear of being bullied? Have you ever had something happen to your accounts (I.e. hacked) and people just unfriended instead of saying something?

Are you concerned that this Photoshopped/crafted world is unhealthy for us? Are you super grateful for the friends you have who are super different from you? Do you gain new insights and perspectives?

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.

Finally caught up and got us two winners for December and January. Normally I am faster but been blessed to have a lot of blogs go viral as of late. Congratulations to:

December’s Winner: AmieGibbons15

January’s Winner: Lisa Fender¬†

Please e-mail me a Word document with your 5000 words to kristen at wana intl dot com.

Double-spaced, inch-inch margins, NTR font. Congratulations!

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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A Culture Addicted to FREE—How FREE is Poisoning the Internet & Killing the Creatives

Image used with permission from the creator Ira Gelb.

Image “Not for Sale” used with permission from the creator Ira Gelb who’s an activist in stopping Human Trafficking but authorized this image for use outside.

It’s funny, at various junctures I’ve felt propelled to tackle certain topics, even when that made me very unpopular. My biggest leviathan to date has been this notion of artists being expected to work for free, and I believe the reason that this topic is weighing so heavily on me is that, for the first time in years I’m no longer enthusiastic about our future.

In fact, I’m downright frightened, because of THIS.

I Feel Sick

Yesterday morning on my Facebook, a friend shared this open letter to Oprah Winfrey from a local performer in the Bay Area, Revolva, whose act caught the attention of mega-icon Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah was holding The Life You Want conference and the producers contacted Revolva to see if she would like to perform as part of a conference featuring mega-stars like Deepak Chopra and Elizabeth Gilbert.

At first, Revolva was over the moon.

OMG! OPRAH! Sure! How much does it pay?

Well, we don’t pay. The artists get exposure.

Revolva in an act of unbelievable bravery…said no.

She could not work for free when she, herself, was struggling just to make ends meet—especially at an event that was charging $600-$1000 a ticket in an arena that could accommodate 18,000 people.

The producer’s response to her asking to be paid?¬†So sorry. All the slots have filled. We’ll contact you at a later date when we hold a conference with a bigger budget.

Seriously?

Free Cancer

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 10.34.15 AM

Original image courtesy of NIH Image Gallery vis Flickr creative commons (added in text)

Businesses are always seeking ways to innovate and I applaud them, but with the explosion of the internet and our global society becoming more integrated in the web, the soma of free non-stop entertainment has blinded us to a cancer that’s metastasizing.

The cancer of FREE.

Artists always have struggled to have people value their work monetarily, but this is different. Very different. And yes, branding and social media are all necessary and vital, but unless we all want to die from being worked to death?

We need to pay attention to the symptoms of sickness and DO SOMETHING.

Global Culture Climate Change

The accepted norm in Western civilization for centuries was that the artist owned his or her work (copyright) and thus could choose what way to monetize it. That’s all vanished and we’re facing a monster unlike anything we’ve seen. The reason?

Consumers are blind to culture climate change that is creating an environment where disease thrives.

Stop Whining. It’s ALL In Your Head!

Image courtesy of Raymond Brown via Flickr Creative Commons

Image courtesy of Raymond Brown via Flickr Creative Commons

Creatives are struggling to survive, but what makes it worse is we’re facing a life-ending “cancer” but far too many around us believe we are whining or being a hypochondriac. When my blog¬†Pay the Writer took off, I was amazed at the wonderful support. But what amazed me even more was the vitriolic attitude toward me and writers wanting to be paid.

Create something people want to pay for or get another job was something I heard more than I liked.

I agree! But this performer Revolva illustrates what’s vexing many artists. She created an act that caught the attention of Oprah’s producers. Seemingly her content had some value since the tickets were $1000 a piece. She¬†did create something of value for consumers, but not of value for the venue hosting her act (and profiting from it).

Our culture cheers that Oprah is worth almost $2.9¬†billion dollars¬†and are happy to pay her because, “Well, she creates a product of value.” But that product of value rests largely (at least in the instance I’m referring to) off the voluntary assistance of unpaid professionals—who are told in regular life, “You want to be paid? Offer something of value or get another job!”.

Am I the only one seeing the paradox?

And I don’t know if folks like Oprah are meaning to treat artists unjustly. I think, like my grandmother offering me a whole dollar do all her yard work, many people have not caught up mentally to this new reality and then changed their ways of dealing with artists.

***A New Format

That’s what we are going to look at but today I am trying something new. This post is too short to make a book but too long for a “blog” (just over 3,000 words). The problem is that the concepts, broken apart, lose integrity and I feel we cannot¬†see the big picture which is why I am hesitant to break this into multiple posts published separately.

As a solution, I’m trying a different structure and this is my only post this week. I’m breaking this into three acts like a play, since it actually IS our story. It just happens to be a Choose Our Own Ending kind of story.

Read all at once or one act at a time. I hope the editing makes it easier to absorb because this is an issue that is seriously impacting ALL of us.

ACT ONE—We Never Saw It Coming

#FUTUREREADERS

#FUTUREREADERS

At the end of the 1990s and beginning of the 2000s, average people generally were not on a computer outside of work. How we found and consumed entertainment was vastly different.

If we wanted music? We bought a CD. Wanted a book? We bought one. Wanted a movie? We had to buy a ticket or a VHS/DVD. Even in secondary sources (libraries, radio, television, rental establishments) artists received some kind of compensation.

But then our culture began shifting on-line.

The BlackHoleBerry 

Image via Pink's Galaxy Flickr Creative Commons

Image via Pink’s Galaxy Flickr Creative Commons

Today’s user-based web is an unplanned consequence of the implosion of the dot.coms meeting with a strange confluence of other events.

Why was BlackBerry a big deal? Blackberry changed everything because it finally tipped technology from the early adopter into the mainstream. BlackBerry successfully bridged our transition from paper to handheld computer to digital and set the stage for the rise of the smartphone.

In 2006-2007, BlackBerrys took off and forever altered our world. For the first time, regular people were using their phones in never before imagined ways (I.e. as a camera).

Web 1.0 was the firm domain of the professional contributors because devices were cost prohibitive and one needed an advanced skill set (I.e. HTML) to contribute. But Web 2.0?

Web 2.0 was meant to be ruled by regular people.

The Social Media Singularity

Devices like BlackBerry made it increasingly easy for people to share content (which is a huge part of socializing). Soon people were addicted to consuming and sharing music, videos, pictures, blogs, etc. Social media appeared to accommodate this shift in behavior.

MySpace launched in 2003 but hit it big in 2005. YouTube was launched in 2005 and was one of the fastest growing sites in 2006 when it was purchased by Google. Facebook opened up to the general public at the end of 2006. So in this three-year span everything shifted.

The web we know today didn’t start getting momentum until I’d say around 2005 and after 2007? It was unstoppable. MySpace was king. Facebook was now public. Music had gone digital. MP3 players and iPods took the place of CD players. Most people owned digital cameras which would lead to Kodak claiming bankruptcy by 2013.

These massive changes set the stage for infection.

ACT TWO—The Exposure Infection Goes Systemic

panelvan

The world change and the environment was altered forever. New parasitic organisms began populating.

Blogs had been around for quite some time, but Ariana Huffington co-founded the Huffington Post in 2005, and while initially it attracted A-List contributors, it soon opened it’s doors to bloggers willing to trade “exposure” for content.

Big sites like Huffington marked a major shift in how regular people consumed news and gathered information. Before, free stuff generally had a far lower quality, so we were willing to PAY. But now that the free stuff was almost as good, as good or better than the paid stuff?

Come on. A no-brainer. Instead of paying for a newspaper or magazine, we went on-line.

“Real” journalists were paid and this was a genuine constraint for news outlets and magazines competing with Huffington and a legion of “volunteers” offering excellent content.

Huffington, like a regular print source still made money on ads, but unlike the competition (print sources) they didn’t have to worry about paying salaries, benefits or health insurance to most of their workforce.

That was a dangerous precedent. A once a homeostatic environment where artists could thrive suddenly became toxic and vulnerable to disease.

The Creative Code Blue

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stoere Schrijfster.

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stoere Schrijfster.

First, with file-sharing, downloads and sites with free streaming music, consumers got in a habit of getting what they wanted for free. In 2012, Emily White published a blog on NPR I Never Owned Any Music to Begin With and revealed how she had a personal collection of over 11,000 songs and yet had only ever bought 15 CDs and how she was profoundly conflicted with the new reality of our world.

Self-published authors flocked to Amazon and people like John Locke pioneered the idea of the .99 cent book and giving books for free. A tsunami of amateurs then rushed to publish unedited, often unreadable books. Countless “authors” flooded the market with content that used to be left to die in a slush pile.

Yes, I love self-publishing and some of the best books of our time are coming out of it (Wool & The Martian) but the rush of amateurs who vastly outnumber professionals has had terrible consequences for consumers and artists.

Amazon is now having to enact warnings on e-books regarding quality issues (to flag readers for spelling problems, poor editing, bad formatting) because too many amateurs were (are) offering up content that’s not ready for consumption. If uncooked chicken can make you sick, a book that’s not “done” can too.

The Casualties of Free 

Image via Alisha Vargas courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Image via Alisha Vargas courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

I understand that businesses are rushing to give content to consumers, but in rushing to¬†give¬†what affect is that having? Everywhere we look on the Internet, content is FREE. Of course it isn’t really “free.”

Those who sell hardware (tools) and access to the artists? They’re doing very, very well.

Internet connection, devices, service, data streaming and conference tickets all cost consumers money. But what’s happening is those businesses and entities who deliver content (Amazon, iTunes, iBooks, AT&T, Spotify etc.) are making record profits while artists are withering on the vine.

The Future is Streaming—Poison or Potion?

I feel the future of everything entertainment will be a streaming model. We already have streaming television, news, music, and movies. I predict books naturally will follow suit.

Whether this is good or bad is irrelevant. I think it’s coming.

Barnes & Noble is dying and physical point of sale locations for new books are getting rarer. This means even big legacy publishers potentially will be muscled into cooperating with a streaming model if they want to survive.

If consumers are getting their books off a streaming model and not buying copies? Will anyone have a choice?

Courtesy of Imagens Evangelicas vis Flickr Creative Commons

Courtesy of Imagens Evangelicas vis Flickr Creative Commons

If writers don’t want to part of the streaming model? Amazon, iBooks (or whoever is offering streaming books) won’t be greatly affected. The distributors of today don’t have skin in the game.

In the old days, bookstores and publishers DIED if writers didn’t succeed. Record stores and producers DIED if musicians didn’t succeed.¬†They couldn’t fall back on the billions they made selling gadgets, connectivity, services and camping equipment to stay solvent.

Companies are offering streaming to help artists get in front of overwhelmed consumers. It’s been designed (in part) to combat the discoverability problem, but the streaming model currently is NOT structured beneficially for artists. One musician’s song was played over a million times on Pandora, yet he was paid less than $17 (less than selling a t-shirt).

Oh, but how can you refuse? Streaming PAYS and you get exposure, you ungrateful hack. Create something people want and stop whining!

And yes, it’s scary and frustrating, but us not wanting this tech evolution to happen won’t change it coming. Tower Records, Kodak, BlackBerry, and Blockbuster are all good examples of what happens when denial is the action plan.

ACT THREE—We CAN CHANGE!

Image courtesy of Spirit-Fire via Flickr Creative Commons.

Image courtesy of Spirit-Fire via Flickr Creative Commons.

Now that I’ve shown you how our world has changed and painted a rather bleak picture, I want to revisit the story I began with.

Oprah a billionaire hosting a conference about reaching your dreams…using largely unpaid performers. Huffington selling for $300 million and growing increasingly valuable using unpaid work.

Can it change? I think so, but it is largely up to those we idolize to help change attitudes and educate the public.

Taylor Swift is an excellent example.

Earlier this past year (2015) iTunes went to launch its new streaming music program, and the plan had been to offer three months for free for users trying the program. At first this seems awesome! Especially for me (Average Consumer).

But then Taylor Swift stepped in and wrote a beautiful letter politely shaming Apple¬†and put her money where her mouth was. She refused to allow her latest and hottest album to be used in Apple’s plan.

What’s interesting is that a company worth over $650¬†billion¬†didn’t truly think about the consequences to artists by expecting musicians to work for free for three months until Taylor Swift pointed it out.

Did they overlook this because they are psychopathic jerks who stay up all night thinking of ways to crush artists? Or, has this notion of exposure made businesses (possibly unintentionally) predatory?

Doesn’t hurt to give the benefit of the doubt.

That was the point of me offering up that history lesson. In the 1990s, a used bookstore greatly benefited writers because exposure actually did translate into PAID work. The same for doing spec work for Huffington or performing for free alongside Oprah. I know I’ve even offered my comparably microscopic platform to help unknowns gain exposure because exposure is still extraordinarily important.

The problem however is that we need to make the next shift in the digital evolution. The biggest companies and names need to make it. Consumers need to make it.

Exposure used to be the treatment/cure, but the world has evolved to be exposure-resistent. Exposure is like tossing regular penicillin at flesh-eating MRSA and expecting it to work.

What we did to prime Web 2.0 cannot sustain it.

What happens when everyone views exposure as just as good as cold hard cash (which WAS the case but is no longer the case) is that then all content contributors are working for free.

When everyone is exposed then no one is.

When everyone is paid with exposure then no one is paid.

When conferences and corporations create space in the budget to pay everyone but those providing the content? That’s worrisome.¬†It’s especially worrisome when exposure in these places is no longer leading to paid work. Why? Because it is only leading to people wanting to pay content producers with even more exposure.

The Trochordist said it best and I strongly recommend reading this post.  But the hard truth is that:

The fundamental shift in principals and morality is about who gets to control and exploit the work of an artist…Now we are being asked to undo this not because we think this is a bad or unfair way to compensate artists but simply because it is technologically possible for corporations or individuals to exploit artists’ work without their permission on a massive scale and globally.¬†

What I would add to this is that they can do this with the consent and support of the public who’s not understanding how their updated habits combined with outdated attitudes¬†are killing the artists they love.

I think why all this is bothering me so much is I feel like we’ve created a system where to survive, content contributors are¬†literally the problem. We’ve become a cannibalistic organism.

We Need to Work Together

Image of Killer T-Cells Attacking Cancer from NIH courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons (added in the obviously silly stuff)

Image of Killer T-Cells Attacking Cancer from NIH courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons (added in the obviously silly stuff)

We cannot fix a problem until we admit there is a problem. We need to all recognize that¬†FREE has gone way beyond getting out of hand. It’s now metastatic…

…but it can be cured.

If FREE is a cancer, then WE are the T-Cells. All of us.

Apple proves things can¬†change. After Taylor Swift’s letter, the company deeply apologized and made it right. They paid the musicians and you know what? Everyone made MORE. Consumers felt better about signing up for Apple’s streaming because it was caring for artists and the artists were paid. Artists were happy, Apple was happy and consumers were happy.

What if more BIG names were as protective as Taylor Swift?

What if more SMALL names were is brave as Revolva?

What if more ICONS were as fearless as Wil Wheaton?

What if more CORPORATIONS changed their treatment of artists like Apple?

What if consumers changed buying habits (refer to my post Fair Trade Fiction)?

What if more conferences became active and creative to find ways to support the contributors? Perhaps a commission off ads sold, ticket sales, digital tip jars or even corporate sponsorships?

What if more artists joined with the ranks of Coldplay, Taylor Swift, Adele, Beyonce and others and stood up for an ethical and sustainable internet (as these artists did with Spotify)?

What if BIG name writers supported new writers like these mega-artists are doing in music? Just like Phillip Pullman who resigned as an Oxford literary patron over lack of pay for authors?

What if more on-line magazines worked WITH bloggers like BuzzFeed who pays contributors based on click rate?

For instance, instead of ALL my best content being on my blog, magazines can recruit us as talent. I’m happy WD Magazine gave me an award, now let me help YOU! Figure out a way we can both win.

Old Guard + New Guard = NEW AND WAY BETTER GUARD! We are not alone!

All of us in one way or another need to set an example and lead the way to the next evolution of the web. Web 3.0—A Better Place to Play, Live and Work.

Image a gift to Flickr Commons from professional photographer Brett Jordan.

Image a gift to Flickr Commons from professional photographer Brett Jordan.

Revolva had a fantastic idea, that I hadn’t seen in action. She had a TIP jar on her site and I left her a tip for using her story (Note to Self: Add Tip Jar to New Website). I know Flickr allows me to donate for the commons images, but I would LOVE a tip feature so I can support the actual¬†photographers and image creators.¬†

I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that we have to work together to help consumers and businesses update their thinking regarding commerce.

What are some ways we can change the world? What are some companies, conferences, businesses or artists that you’ve seen doing great things? How are they solving this problem? What are ways you think we might be able to work¬†together instead of fracturing into a million pieces of¬†Every Man Out For¬†Himself?¬†

Have you been frustrated with this increasing expectation that you need to not only give for free, but it has to be as high of quality as paid work…and people just seem to want more and more and MORE? What are your thoughts? Experiences? Opinions? Concerns? Ideas?

I love hearing from you. You guys are some of the most brilliant people I know and if anyone can fix this? WRITERS CAN. We have changed the world time and time and time again. Let’s roll!

Author Call to Arms!

After posting this, I talked with Revolva and even though her blog got over a million views? Oprah’s people never issued a statement, wrote a letter or even offered apology. There is no indication of any policy change.

The BIG players CAN and WILL LISTEN. APPLE DID!

ARTIST EXPLOITATION IS RAMPANT IN ALL THE ARTS. MUSICIANS, ACTORS, CRAFTERS, WRITERS AND ON AND ON.

IT HAS TO STOP AND I THINK IT WILL TAKE WRITERS TO DO IT.

I am asking you guys to activate YOUR platforms. ALL OF US BLOG ON THIS. REPOST THIS BLOG OR EVEN REPOST REVOLVA’S.

WRITE YOUR OWN THOUGHTS ON THIS AND LINK TO THIS POST.

I AM BUILDING A NEW WEBSITE AND I WILL INCLUDE A PLACE TO LINK TO ALL YOUR BLOGS ON THIS TOPIC PERMANENTLY. 

It’s one thing to step on a performer, but REVOLVA doesn’t have a legion of ¬†TICKED OFF WRITERS on hand, whereas I DO. YOU can help me make a difference for ALL the arts!

WE ARE NOT ALONE!

***A special note of thanks to all the photos generously shared for free use. I donated money on your behalf.

I don’t yet have a tip jar (redoing my web site), but if you like my work, please pick up a copy of¬†Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.¬†

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270 Comments

Unfriended—Why “Cleaning Up” Your Friends Could Be Costing You BIG

Image via Link Humans courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Image via Link Humans courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

I started out writing a¬†blog about unfriending. That post became 2800 words and since I’ve vowed to do better about length? I cut it in half. Then that grew to 3200 words. So I had to cut it again.

Aaand then again.

Apparently I have a lot of opinions about unfriending.

After almost a thousand blog posts I seriously cannot believe we haven’t talked more about this. Unfriending. What an awful word. Un-friend. To be un-friended.

Maybe. Maybe not.

I actually posted some thoughts on the whole “unfriending” thing and there does seem to be a generational difference. Young people will unfriend ¬†someone who’s misbehaving then add them again later. From what I understand it’s like a time-out.

I will say that, us older folks?

It is NOT a time out.

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 5.40.53 AM

I can promise that us older folks will take being unfriended far more personally because we grew up in an era where the word “friend” held a very different and more significant meaning.

But the reality is that, in the digital age, barriers and borders have been removed. It’s as if we are all living in a giant fishbowl. As if that wasn’t stressful enough, the social media lexicon itself has created problems. When we add people we “friend” them. Trust me, the masterminds behind social media chose this word very deliberately.

We have a saying in political science, Say it once. Say it twice. Say it three times. Say it four times. Say it five times and they will believe.

If we refer to complete strangers as “friends” the mind forms a deeper emotional attachment than say with a “follower.” This deeper emotional attachment is a double-edged sword. When creating a brand, it forges a deeper perceived intimacy with those around us, one that actually can be a powerful driver of sales. Why? Who do we buy from? People we know and people we like (code for¬†friend).

But this is also why “unfriending” can land us in hot water. It’s a form of social rejection and the people on the other side of that screen actually do have a beating heart and feelings and we’re wise to remember that.

Image via GrandmaLow WANA Commons

Image via GrandmaLow WANA Commons

Before we look at how this unfriending unnecessarily hurts feeling and why it’s probably best to avoid and all that jazz, we need to step back and appreciate why we really might want to think twice about culling our friends list at all. How it actually is highly beneficial to have a lot of “friends” regardless of whether they talk to us or not.

By the way, when it comes to getting rid of stalkers, bullies, trolls? Feel free to unfriend and we WILL talk about how and when to do that‚Ķon another post. Today’s discussion has to do more with just people’s need to “tidy” up a friend list.

Well they never interact with me.

Okay, well Facebook’s algorithms might just never be putting your stuff in their feed so they never see it. If they aren’t causing a problem? Leave it be.

Anyway…

I know this blog is mainly for writers who are building a brand but I also know regular people who are not building a brand also follow this blog so I will say it. Unfriending is just unwise. Today we’re going to look at why we shouldn’t unfriend from a purely self-centered perspective. Why is a large friend base good no matter who you are?

First, Ditch the Old Ideas About Friendship

One thing I hear all the time (and it irritates me) is that on-line friends are not real friends. That’s just crap. Of course they’re real friends if we invest time, effort and energy in those relationships just as we would in person. I’m sorry, but the people I know on-line have been far better friends to me than people who live five miles away.

W.A.N.A.s Look like real friends to me.

W.A.N.A.s Look like real friends to me.

People on-line have traveled across oceans to come and meet/visit me, whereas people I see in person have trouble taking me up on an invitation to come over for dinner.

No idea why it is harder and harder to connect with people in the modern world, but again we can talk about that on another post.

The simple fact is that there are always different “levels” of friendship and there have¬†always been.¬†Back in 1992, who did you prefer to take you car to for service? Some random person you looked up in the yellow pages or that “friend” or “buddy” from high school?

Did you really have to hang out braiding each other’s hair to consider this relationship a “friendship”? No. It’s was just pretty much understood that this was a loose connection, not a friend you’d ask to be your best man at your wedding.

And here’s the deal, we can feel free to cull all our relationships down to only people we’d trust to rear our children upon our untimely death, but life is going to be really hard that way. Life is already tough, why make it tougher?

So what are the advantages of having lots of friends?

Human Capital

Humans are precious resources. The more humans we have in our network, the more resources we have to draw from and the more connections we can take advantage of should the need arise. The greater the intellectual capital in our bank, the smarter the hive mind we can tap into.

Even before social media I was known as the gal who made stuff happen. Why? I had a vast network of connections. I have had people make the joke about the Six Degrees of Kristen Lamb, but seriously, I know everyone.

Everyone.

And if I don’t know that person, odds are I know someone who does. It is why having me as a connection is highly valuable. Because…

I know people.

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 9.42.24 AM

Yes this is really me talking to the former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto in 1996.

Having a lot of friends isn’t an ego-stroking thing. It’s just plain smart. Trust me, it’s always been about who you know not what you know. These days if we want a new job? We have a far higher chance of getting that job if we know someone.

Even if we know someone who knows someone. Because if we don’t? Then we just better hope we wrote our resume and cover letter with enough keywords to make it past their computer filter’s algorithms designed to reject us and that is a sucky way to get a job.

We need other people.

Most people get job recommendations from “loose connections.” That person you cull out of your friends might have been the one person you needed to land that dream job.

Every big break I have ever gotten came from knowing someone. Sometimes these folks never interacted with me…but were watching. I actually got my very first professional speaking gig at RT Booklovers from a lurker in my Facebook friends. She really liked my posts and was on the panel to choose speakers.

She chose me.

What if I had cropped her out of my friends because she wasn’t a “real” friend? I actually might never have made it where I am today because that was the event that opened all the doors. I was quoted in the¬†L.A. Times¬†and suddenly speaking invitations piled in faster than I could accommodate. I had one year I gave up on wearing a watch because I criss-crossed the country so much.

Because of a quiet Facebook friendūüėČ.

I’ve used my network for all kinds of things. We got hit with tornadoes one year and needed repairs done to our roof.

Hey, you guys know anyone in XYZ area who’s a good and dependable roofer?

Humans are a naturally helpful bunch. Let them.

Hive Mind

We don’t need to know everything if we have a solid network. What’s better than google? People. I save vast amounts of time researching simply because I go to my following and ASK.

Hey, writing a book set in South Africa. Can anyone give me some idioms and tidbits to make it authentic?

Aaaannnnd all of Kristen’s friends from South Africa perk to life and are thrilled to help. This is way faster than hunt-and-peck through Wiki articles hoping I get it right.

I have all kinds of people message me about guns and martial arts and hand-to-hand. It might be about writing for a scene or even just life.

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 9.29.36 AM

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 9.30.36 AM

So instead of my good friend Gry (who is in Europe, btw) trying to pore over articles or test out a bunch of ill-fitting forms of martial arts, she just came to me to narrow her search and get an informed opinion.

For the normal-not-writer-people out there, trust me, you need the hive mind too. Maybe your kid has to do a paper. Perhaps you’re contemplating frying a turkey and want to make sure you don’t accidentally create a bomb. Maybe you’re thinking of applying for a job at a certain company and need an opinion of what it is really like to work there.

You just don’t know when these people are going to come in really handy.

Yes, it’s true. We cannot actively be friends with hundreds or thousands of people at one time. About the max humans can handle is 40. So once we pass a certain number, the folks we actively engage with is only a small percentage but that is fine. They’re inert until something wakes them up and queues them to engage. Again, people LIKE to help.

LET THEM.

Here’s an example of how networks DO matter. My husband is not even friends with this gal. This was reposted by one of our friends who lives in San Diego. My husband reposted it since we live in TEXAS. Maybe this woman knew no one in Texas. She did not know my husband‚Ķ.but her friend was friends with someone in Texas.

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Social media is social so the more connections we have the better. We never know when part of that network will be very valuable so my recommendation? Leave them be. Yes, even regular folks.

We will talk more in coming posts about this unfriending thing, but what are your thoughts? I’m going to explore this a lot more. I really had no idea how BIG this topic was until I started unpacking it.

Why do you unfriend? Have you had someone unfriend you and it made what should have been a small tiff a BIG deal? I know I got cross with a family member and normally we would have resolved it pretty quickly…but she unfriended me on Facebook and I turned into Tony Soprano.

You unfriended me. ME? UNFRIENDED? You are DEAD to me.

We have since patched things up, but I will say the unfriending was like tossing a match on kindling.

I really DO 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‚Ķbut 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 (NEXT 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.

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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78 Comments

Twitter for Writers—Eight Ways to Nuke Your Brand

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commins via Per Gosche

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commins via Per Gosche

I’ve been an advocate of writers using social media since 2004, before social media was really a¬†thang. In the early days of¬†Gather¬†and¬†MySpace it occurred to me that we were seeing a fundamental shift in how humans would 1) be communicating 2) forging relationships and 3) finding/discovering entertainment.

Digital Age Writers? You have…no…idea.

Back in my day *wags cane* we were fighting the Russians and there were NUKES pointed at us for twenty years. We had to get our moms to drive us to a library to research for a paper using the Dewey decimal system. There was no Google. 

If you wanted a popular book and didn’t save enough babysitting money to preorder the next David Eddings book in the Pawn of Prophecy¬†series? In hardback?¬†You waited.

Your turn. Like behind fifty other people.

And hoped the book wasn’t overhyped crap and the last thing you’d read before being¬†nuked.

In my day, you wrote stories in ink by hand. Or? On THIS thing…which you could use to brain a Russian….before he nuked you.

Thomas' Pics Image via Flickr Creative Commons

Thomas’ Pics Image via Flickr Creative Commons

And you prayed to GOD that your little brother properly screwed on the cap to the whiteout so it wasn’t dried into one glob of white goo. And if you changed your¬†mind where a scene went?¬†TOUGH FRIGGING LUCK. You should have plotted it out better the first time, Smart Guy!

#welcometoREALcutandpaste

When I was growing up, we didn’t know the author. Writers were proper and respectable and had the basic decency to keep their weirdness hidden from the public eye.

Freaks.

And books? We had to go to a store. A real store with like walls and freaking shelves. And if they didn’t have the next Dragonlance book? Well then cry you whiny little baby. Cry. You had to WAIT and hope you weren’t¬†nuked before they got in the shipment.

I had a friend who skateboarded alone to a B. Dalton’s. Yes, he was nuked.

Okay, I’m finishedūüėÄ .

For now.

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 9.20.13 AM

Image via Aaron Flickr Creative Commons.

Okay, Twitter. You writers today are so¬†spoiled but many are just wrecking one of the most powerful ways to build an author brand. Or, to go with today’s goofery? Nuking it.

What’s been strange to see is how in the older days when we were forced to interact face-to-face, interpersonal communication was just natural. Social media is supposed to simply be an extension of that. It is meant to be social and a reflection of how we would interact¬†in person.

As a social media expert, I run into all kinds of strange behavior and tips that make me scratch my head. It’s as if the second we want to create a brand or mention we have a book for sale, we forget everything we know about being human.

Twitter is a great way to build a brand and connect and cultivate future readers, but it is shockingly misused.

Today’s post (obviously) is tongue-and-cheek, but humor can be the best teacher even if we’ve oopsed. Thus, here are eight ways to nuke your brand. Like glass-factory-glow-in-the-dark-grow-500-pound-strawberries-for-the-next-six-hundred-years.

Yes, I am being a drama queen. Too much Aqua Net killed off my brain cells.

So Eight Ways to NUKE your BRAND.

Tip #1—Only Use Automation

Writing a 140 characters is SUPER time-consuming. We aren’t Jack London. Besides, people love robots. I know when I feel lonely, I call AT&T because I know a human being will NEVER answer‚ĶEVER. Humans can be so boring and don’t offer us the option of hitting 6 if we want to hear everything they just said¬†all over again.¬†

Yeah, all my BFFs send me automated messages.

Yeah, all my BFFs send me automated messages.

Real Life Application: Program cell phones to call friends and family at regular intervals to ask for money. They’d dig that.

Tip #2—Make Sure All Preprogrammed Tweets are “Carefully Crafted”

Because when we take time to artfully craft our spam, people don’t mind. They LOVE believing a real person is there only to be fooled. It’s like when that cute guy/gal in high school pretended to want to go out with us. Now we can relive that experience as adults by being duped into thinking we were chatting with a real person who actually cared.

Screen Shot 2014-01-22 at 8.41.07 AM

Real Life Application: At the holidays, volunteer to bring one of those awesome fried turkeys, then show up instead with Tofurkey. They won’t know the difference.

Tip #3—When Programming Tweets Include Popular Hashtags…ALL OF THEM

Who goes to social media to socialize? People LOVE finding a community of real people to talk to and then having it crowded out by the same advertising over and over…and over. Because research shows that it takes at least 20 times to see an annoying face before we want to punch it.

Real Life Application: Some people see a funeral, others see a target audience in need of some cheering up with a NEW BOOK. If potential readers aren’t coming to us, we should go to them. Find where they gather then SELL. So what if it’s against their will?

Tip #4—Make People Prove Who They Are Before Talking to Them

Twitter validation services are awesome. We love meeting someone, only to have to jump through hoops to prove our love. We even get the added advantage of being redirected off Twitter to an outside site where we’re easily hacked. How else will all our friends receive direct messages from porn sites posing as us? Nothing seals an on-line relationship like giving others a social media disease. Who will they think of when they have to spend hours removing viruses and trojans from their computers.

Can we say “Top of Mind”?

Come on! It takes three whole seconds to unfollow a bot. We need those precious three seconds to carefully craft witty preprogrammed tweets. Let the other person do the fifty hoops of leg-work to earn our trust. They have plenty of time.

True Twit. Yeppers.

True Twit. Yeppers.

Real Life Application:¬†Whenever we meet someone and start chatting, if we like them, suddenly stop talking and find a way to casually get samples of their hair for your portable drug testing kit. Hey, gotta be safe these days. Don’t want to just chat with any weirdo.

Throw in a urinalysis to be extra sureūüėČ.

Tip#5—Tweet LOTS of Articles—Ok, ALL Articles

Most of us, when we wake up in the morning, think, “Gee, I wish I had a super long reading list. I sure miss my college syllabus.” Those of us with a corporate job LOVE people who hit Reply ALL so we can read more. Wikipedia is a hot place to hang out. Why not bring that encyclopedic magic to Twitter?

Real Life Application: Make sure to print off a box of articles for that wedding you were invited to. Who wants to dance or flirt when they could be reading about intestinal parasites? Handing people a stack of reading material is way better than getting trapped in a “conversation.”

Tip #6—Ask for Stuff Immediately

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

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

The second someone befriends us, it’s our job to send an automated link to their Direct Messages so they can do stuff FOR US. Buy our book, like our FB page, follow our blog, or even answer a really inane question (as if we care about their answer) *rolls eyes*. Hey, great to meet you. Do you like vampires or werewolves?

Huh?

Huh?

Real Life Application: If someone is nice to us in the grocery store, make sure to have books to sell and the ability to take credit cards on the spot. Sure, that person is trying to buy a chicken to make for dinner and now she can buy OUR BOOKS, too. Win-win. If we don’t have books for sale, we can ask for life, love or career advice from total strangers, because that isn’t creepy at ALL.

Tip #7—Tweet from Several Accounts/Identities

People on Twitter might miss out on all those “carefully crafted” preprogrammed tweets. Make sure to have anywhere from 2-7 identities sending the same messages. What’s better than spam? MORE SPAM, duh.

Real Life Application: This tactic rocks for singles on the dating scene. Meet a date then several times throughout the conversation, change names and accents. Multiple-personalities are just more people to love.

Tip #8—Never Tweet ANYTHING Original Just Retweet

Again, 140 characters cuts into word count. Save time and retweet what everyone else has to say. Two clicks? DONE.

Real Life Application: Repeat what everyone else says. Don’t you remember how your siblings loved it when you did that to them?

I am not kidding.

I am not kidding.

Why are you repeating everything I say?

Why are you repeating everything I say?

Okay, I am going to tell Mom.

Okay, I am going to tell Mom.

Man, those were good times…until the arm-bar and atomic wedgie.

Okay, Serious Now 

Twitter can be very valuable and a great place to make wonderful friends. Be real and enjoy. People are on social media to be¬†social. We crave connection, fun and escape. If we wanted more ads we’d read the door in the bathroom stall or not bother fast-forwarding through commercials. We don’t need to be profound, deep or immensely witty to do well on Twitter, we just need to be vested, present and authenticūüėČ.

Don’t Get NUKED! A PSA from Kevin Bacon and yes I totally ripped off his idea. Good writers borrow great writers stealūüėõ

Before we go…

THIS SATURDAY! We can’t sell a book if we cannot articulate in one sentence what that book is ABOUT.

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. Okay, about 99% of the time there is a plot problem. I can tell by a log-line what is right or wrong with a book (HINT: So can agents). Save a ton of money with editors and a lot of time trying to fix the wrong stuff and spring $35 for TWO HOURS of fun with me. Recording of class is included with admission.

This class is great for teaching you how to be master plotters and the first FIFTEEN SIGNUPS get their log-line shredded for free, so you will be agent ready.

I LOVE hearing from you!

If you are old enough, how did YOU suffer? Writers today have NO CLUE! We used to get paper cuts!

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‚Ķbut 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 (NEXT 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.

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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45 Comments

Why Writing Isn’t Enough—The Savvy Writer’s Guide to Success

Image via Drew Coffman courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Image via Drew Coffman courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Today, we’re going to do something a little different. You want to know one thing I love probably more than anything in the world? Spotting great talent and getting to share it. Thus, today I would like to introduce you to one of my followers who snagged my attention over the holidays and I asked her to come and share her wisdom today because I think we can all gain something from her (even me because am always learning BAY-BEE!).

I would like to introduce, Britt Skrabanek!

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Indie Author Britt Skrabanek

Indie Author Britt Skrabanek

A lot of you may be wondering how I ended up on Kristen‚Äôs blog in the first place. She‚Äôs pretty big-time, an influencer‚ÄĒshe‚Äôs worked her tail off to build her brand presence.¬†Many of us look to her for writing tips we can actually use, knowing some esoteric BS like ‚ÄúIf you write it, they will come‚ÄĚ will not be waiting in our inbox to insult us.

Chances are, you have no idea who in the heck I am. ¬†But,¬†Ha! Now you doūüėÄ .

I’m an indie author.

Image via Drew Coffman courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Image via Drew Coffman courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

The other thing I am, even though it‚Äôs more difficult to say than ‚Äúwriter‚Ä̂ĶI‚Äôm a businesswoman. Me‚ÄĒa beer-drinking, tree-hugging Yogi in Portland‚ÄĒI‚Äôm in the marketing biz.

When Kristen and I were working out logistics for the topic of this guest piece, she said to use my business/social media wisdom with you guys. In her typical no-nonsense wisdom, Kristen said: ‚ÄúThere is some savvy to this.‚ÄĚ

You know what? There is.

Writing here is a big honor for me. I’ve been following Kristen’s blog since I started my indie author adventure many moons ago. The reason why she was kind enough to invite me over to her place was, quite simply, because I did some savvy marketing.

I was greatly inspired by one of her blogs on branding, Why Our Author Brand is More Important Than Ever. So I mentioned her in the post I wrote, and though we hadn’t talked more beyond a casual conversation on her blog, I asked if she would share it on social.

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She shocked the hell out of me when she asked me to write a full piece on her blog. My small-time blogger heart went pitter-patter.¬†You know what? I took a chance with a marketing tactic and put myself out there. All she could say was¬†No.¬†But maybe‚Ķjust maybe, she’d say YES.

ūüėÄ.

Many of you introverted writer types are totally cringing right now. But if you want others to know what you’ve written, you have to do more than shut up and write.

Writing is only half the battle. We have to market it‚ÄĒtell people about it and hope to God they‚Äôll listen.

Quitting Is Easy, Not Savvy

Like many of you, I threw myself into this writing thing without knowing diddly-squat about marketing, sales, and branding. I believe that writing a novel is one of the greatest achievements of the creative mind, and though anyone can self-publish, not just anyone can pull it off.

Wallpaper image courtesy of David Turnbull via Flickr Creative Commons

Wallpaper image courtesy of David Turnbull via Flickr Creative Commons

Sure, they can put some crap out there on a whim. Amazon makes the process nice and easy‚ÄĒand free. To actually write a novel, you must have a die-hard imagination, you have to be relentlessly organized, and above all, you have to have the vision to see it through.

WAY back in 2012 when I self-published my first book, Beneath the Satin Gloves, I thought people were going to buy it. Real cute, isn’t it?

With great diligence, I followed the indie author rules. I had the almighty platform, with a weekly blog and consistent social media posts. Such a sweet little nobody writer I was…I started building my platform two months before my book release.

So, you can guess what happened. My friends and family, out of pity and curiosity, were my paying customers‚ÄĒmy only fans. After that release weekend, my sales fell off.

I’m not going to lie to you. I was devastated and I wanted to quit writing. I was editing the final draft of my second book when all of this was going on, and I had to stop before I chucked my laptop out the window.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sally Jean

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sally Jean

About a week later, my temper tantrum was done. There was no moment of clarity or anything‚ÄĒI just realized how ridiculously na√Įve I had been.¬†As Kristen said, there‚Äôs some savvy to this. We can write a badass book, but it will never see the light of day if we don‚Äôt learn how to sell it.

To sell our book, we don’t need to sell our souls, but we do need to sell ourselves.

Why Writing Isn’t Enough

I‚Äôve self-published three novels and I still have a day job. I know how heartbreaking it is to hear that writing isn‚Äôt enough.¬†Writing the best content possible‚ÄĒwhether it‚Äôs a blog post, a tweet, or a full-on novel‚ÄĒis a must-do. Also, a must-do is engaging people.¬†One of the ways I‚Äôve found to make a living as a writer has nothing to do with fiction. (Shocked, aren‚Äôt you?)

I’m a Content Manager at a B2B (Business to Business) marketing agency. While writing about email metrics and marketing automation isn’t as fun as writing about a lounge-singing female spy in WWII Berlin, I’ll tell you what is fun about it. I get to learn what it takes to get people’s attention.

Everyone's a critic...

Everyone’s a critic…

Because every business has a blog these days, we’re in the same boat as indie authors. That boat is rickety as all get-out, and most of the time we’re trying not to sink into the sea of online noise.

We have to work our buns off within our niche, we have to provide value to our target audience, and we have to be consistent and tactical.

These are the non-negotiables of creating content to bring awareness to your brand. Awareness is just the tip of the iceberg of the buying cycle, and people have a very long way to go before they make a decision to buy.

I know that’s a lot of B2B jargon, but I hope you’re still with me. Because these realizations are critical for any indie author to understand.

Knowing this will keep you from bailing on your dreams.

There Are No Short-Cuts in Marketing

Image courtesy of EpSos De via Flickr Creative Commons

Image courtesy of EpSos De via Flickr Creative Commons

By now, you may be thinking that I’m just a spineless marketer. As a fellow indie, I’m just trying to keep it real. If we go back to this savvy idea, think about what that means. Someone who’s savvy is intelligent, but they’re also cool and charismatic.

As writers, we have to be Rico Suave. Remember that song? Watch this and you can have it stuck in your head for a week. You’re welcome…

In the 90s it was a one-hit wonder, but the singer, Gerardo, left us with an unforgettable image. Like ‚Äúubered,‚ÄĚ Rico Suave crept into our English slang. Seriously, it‚Äôs in Urban Dictionary. This is branding, people.

We’re running a business. We creative types freak when we hear this, but the likelihood and longevity of our writing careers depends on it.

Have you ever seen a business become a sensation overnight? Me neither.

Starry eyes can happen to anyone‚ÄĒnot just indies. In fact, starry eyes happen to businesspeople all the time, and guess what? Their business fails.

I had the craziest conversation with a guy I know, who is basically a B2B marketing superstar writer. He really has a handle on business writing and blows my mind with his ability to bust out copy on a daily basis that consistently engages people.

BUT, Mr. Savvy B2B Marketer had starry eyes when he started his personal blog. I had seen his first blog post release, and I congratulated him. As we talked, he told me he wanted to have 5,000 blog subscribers by the end of the first month.

My jaw dropped open. 5,000 subscribers in the first month? Holy s*&t…how?!

I asked him to share his master plans, because with almost four years of blogging under my belt, I have yet to reach 1,000 subscribers. (P.S. This is something I’m totally okay with, because engagement is more important than follower numbers any day.)

Anyhoo, he discussed duplicating the blog content on LinkedIn and possibly some social ads.

Aha, aha. Though I would never dare to copy and paste the exact blog content on LinkedIn to potentially piss off the Google Gods, I nodded along with the tactics. Getting your content in front of different audiences through different channels is good stuff.

I waited for more master plans that never came. We talked a couple of months later, and he was disappointed in his traffic. He wore that defeated writer expression I was all too familiar with, and he was already considering quitting his blog.

Because 5,000 subscribers in the first month of blogging would be a damn miracle and…because there are no shortcuts in marketing.

So, How Do We Stand Out as Writers?

AHHHHHHH!

AHHHHHHH!

Write good s&*t and become Rico Suave. Kidding, kidding. Kind of.

As devout followers of Kristen’s blog, you all know there are so many elements at play, and one measly blog post isn’t going to cover it.

I’ll be completely candid with you guys and tell you I’m one of the most impatient people I know. Now perseverance is a very different thing. Perseverance will propel you forward, so you can finish the novel you’ve been working on for three years. Impatience will disappoint you, make you think you’re not good enough when people don’t come running to buy your book you worked so hard on.

Impatience doesn’t serve us in the self-publishing world. Perseverance does.

I know we’re sick of hearing it, but it takes time. Building a brand/business is a necessary part of being an indie author, and it doesn’t happen on its own.

We have to keep going. We have to be savvy. And most of all, we have to do it for the love.

***

THANK YOU, Britt! Just so you guys know, I actually do pay attention when you link to me or talk to me. Most posts I do take time to read and this year my goal is going to be cultivating and promoting a fresh crop of W.A.N.A. talent because that’s what W.A.N.A. is all about. Teamwork. Big fish helping the baby fish so THEY can become big fish‚Ķwho then help the next baby fishies.

I hope you enjoyed Britt’s perspective and please check out her site¬†and all her social networks are listed at the bottom of this post so you can follow her. I asked her here simply because I wanted you to know that what you are feeling right now is NOT unique to writers. Yes, most of my job is working with you guys, but I’m also a consultant for I.Q. Solutions in major big brand marketing with companies like Absolut, Budweiser, Luis Vuitton, etc.

Trust me, when we are in a world that BEER companies are struggling? You know it’s tough.

I can tell you that even the big names are having to hustle to keep, gain or maintain an edge. So don’t get too hard on yourself because this is just the tough reality of the digital age. We cannot do business like it’s 1992 and survive let alone thrive.

But good news is… We Are Not Alone.

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‚Ķbut 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.  

Registration for¬†Branding for Authors has been EXTENDED (thanks to me getting a stomach bug).¬†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.

THIS SATURDAY 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.¬†

Britt Skrabanekis the spirited indie novelist of Nola Fran Evie, Everything’s Not Bigger, and Beneath the Satin Gloves. Her blog is a whimsical snapshot of life, musings, and the glory of the written word. She is blissfully married, has two delightfully incorrigible cats, and loves to experience the world‚ÄĒall of its quirky beauty inspires her endlessly. When she‚Äôs not writing, she‚Äôs a bike-riding Yogi who loves to dance.

Links: Website | Amazon Author Page | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | YouTube

 

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123 Comments

Brain Games—Are You Unwittingly Killing Your Book Biz?

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons via Cortto

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons via Cortto

The past three weeks have been the weirdest game of telephone ever. In my scandalous post Pay the Writer, I¬†knew this would happen but there really was just no getting around it. I knew the second I made any negative commentary about a sacred cow (used bookstore) we’d have problems.

I also knew my post was going to ripple through the web and get redacted down to the juicy and untrue morsel of: Did you hear? Kristen Lamb hates used bookstores.

But this is a really cool lesson in neuroscience and communication and I believe that nothing should ever be wasted. I’m going to use this to show you some cool tricks that will help you reach out to readers, improve your book sales and up the effectiveness of your promotional efforts.

THANK YOU Critics for Proving My Point

So, this all started when I got pissed off at writers (not readers). Writers were sharing an article with a click-bait headline that was bashing Amazon (and by association all on-line retailers) and digital while hailing the great return of the used bookstore. All would have been fine…had the article simply been hailing the return of the used bookstore. I love used bookstores. Need a 12 Step Program for the money I spend there.

But the article wasn’t just hailing the return of the used bookstore. The article was using this as an opportunity to bash the best (and only remaining) ways authors are paid.

Here’s the thing. All that lovely¬†exposure¬†a used bookstore offers does writers no good if you spend an entire article trashing the only remaining places to buy NEW. And not just any article‚Ķa¬†Washington Post¬†article.

And yes, I called foul. It was a dirtbag move that was undermining writers and their ability to earn a living. I knew I’d take heat and I would do it again.

Anyway, back to the brain.

If you read my book¬†Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World¬†you’re going to find it has¬†a lot of neuroscience in it.¬†The human brain is a really interesting thing and the more you understand it, the more effective your brand and promotions will be.

Did you know that the human brain only begins listening at the first active verb?

So if you say, “Don’t forget your keys.” What your brain¬†hears¬†is, “Forget your keys.”

Seriously, use this with goal-setting and resolutions and I promise it will change your life. I say, instead, “Kristen, remember your keys.

This was why I knew my blog was going to probably come back and bite me. Yes, I knew I needed to construct it better. I had pneumonia when I wrote it and was ticked off, so I really just didn’t care.

For the folks who took time and read the blog post thoughtfully, they were dumbfounded that anyone disagreed with what I said.

I never really attacked used bookstores. I attacked the article.

I repeatedly said buy from used bookstores and that I buy from them. I even said feel free to promote them‚Ķbut make sure to educate readers that you don’t get paid there so IF they read something of yours they LIKE, please buy something new.

That’s pretty much it.

And it IS okay to disagree with me. But many people who initially believed they disagreed with me, later realized they actually didn’t. We’d run into terrible miscommunication fueled by my NyQuil induced fugue stateūüėõ .

The problem (I feel) came as a side-effect of the digital age and that people tend to do a lot of scanning material. And while it was all kind of a pain in the @$$, I think some great discussion about authors being paid has come out of it and today we are going to use it for a very different but VERY useful lesson.

What Went Sideways?

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Steve and Shanon Lawson

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Steve and Shanon Lawson

Because I had to add a caveat to many of my assertions, I knew I was running a huge risk. Any audience member who was not wholly focused? I chanced losing. When I wrote an assertion akin to:

Don’t promote used bookstores, unless you then tell readers at some point they are going to need to buy new. If we don’t educate our reader, they won’t know how to support us…

What do you think most people scanning the article likely saw?

Don’t promote used bookstores.

Every single article later criticizing me completely missed the point of my blog, likely because they scanned it or relied on second hand accounts.

Or worse? The reading comprehension in this country is at an all-time low. This morning I awoke to a blog claiming I was up in arms that writers needed to be paid royalties on used books. WTH? Okay, some people apparently need me to blog in crayon and use way smaller words.

I got this on Facebook last night.

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Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 5.33.26 PM

For the record, all my human sacrifices are on altars constructed of old hardbacks.¬†Paperbacks soak in blood too quickly and then you can’t finish summoning the demon properly…

Moving on.

Another weird trick about the brain is that order dictates emotional weight/importance.

So, if you work for me as my assistant and I tell you, “I need you to get me Tom’s number, an appointment with the dentist and an espresso.”

What will you assume that I probably want the most/first? What are you also most likely to remember?

If the AC guy shows up and your kids start blowing up your phone with texts and you spill coffee in your crotch and you then look at your watch an hour later‚Ķwhich item are you most likely to recall? That I needed Tom’s number.

Thus, when the original article that send me into orbit began with bashing Amazon and digital sales…then later talked about the rise of used bookstores. What do you think was the most lasting impression on the brain, whether readers were conscious of it or not?

If the brain uses order to assign importance, then many Washington Post readers walked away not just feeling good about a used bookstore. They also walked away believing Amazon and digital were bad because the article began with that.

That was part of why I was so angry. It was a blatant manipulation of the audience. See, people like me can spot the man behind the curtain.

***BONUS TIP: When people are emotional, angry or upset, they will reverse the order (emotional distancing). So, if you are in a fight with your wife and she finally tells you what is wrong? And she says, “You forgot the dishwashing soap, left your clothes in the dryer, and we don’t spend time together anymore.” You are wasting your breath arguing about dish soap. She does NOT CARE ABOUT DISH SOAP. Book a B&B. You can thank me later.

Brain Business—ARE YOU KILLING YOUR BOOK BIZ?

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Frankeileon

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Frankeileon

You, dear writer have gone through all this trouble to build a platform of not just writers, but people who might be readers (code for family friends and regular folks who might buy a book). They look to YOU to be their expert and guide.

Since only about 5% of the literate population are the type who inhale multiple books a week, most of these folks may read a handful of books a year if that.

Who cares if it is your book?

Since they are NOT the type of reader who requires an intervention for their habit, this argument about everyone who reads books being so broke they can’t buy new is crap.

Most regular folks? If they want a book, they buy off Amazon or go to a B&N at their local mall. They’re generally not the reader who’s trolling the bargain bins in front of Half Price Books because they just sold some plasma and can afford a couple new Neil Gaiman books.

Ignore Outliers

The BIGGEST mistake too many writers make is they assume they are selling to themselves. That their best market is the avid reader. Yes, we love the avid reader. But she is rare and not our best market.

The left side of the bell curve (the complete non-reader) is not our market at all. But the far-right, the reader who goes through a book a day? That reader would go bankrupt trying to buy everything new. She’s going to buy mostly used or check out stuff from a library and frankly I don’t blame her.

Also, she’s likely going to be a far pickier reader to please, so reviews are going to be much rarer because she’s a tougher to impress than the person who reads two books a year.

So we ignore the non-reader for the most part. Not a bad plan. But then writers ALL chase after the far right part of the Bell Curve (The White Stag).

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons and courtesy of Richard Fisher

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons and courtesy of Richard Fisher

And THEN we ignore the 90% of the population in need of being informed or entertained. I call those Brown Deer Readers (fat part of the bell curve).

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of John Stratford.

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of John Stratford.

Yes, the White Stags loooove the used bookstores, but Brown Deer Readers? Not so much. And there are a heck of a lot more of them and guess what?

Brown Deer Readers are the game-changers.

J.K. Rowling did not become a billionaire by landing only White Stags. She became a billionaire by captivating the fat part of the bell curve of folks who didn’t believe they enjoyed books‚Ķuntil her books.

The fat part of the bell curve would rather be trying out pilates or watching Game of Thrones or head shooting buddies on PS4.

THIS is the reader you want. It is the reader I want. Why? Because when you captivate these readers this is when legends are made.

There are people who will tell you they do not read. They do not consider themselves readers, BUT they bought every single 50 Shades book in hard cover. They bought every Twilight, every Harry Potter book. They are the most avid fans any novelist can have simply because they are NOT avid readers.

Many of these folks still believe they hate reading…but they love YOUR books.

These people become an author’s single greatest asset. They will not only buy your books, they will evangelize them.

THIS is OUR CUSTOMER.

Now. Go back to what I was talking about. Modern communication.

You post articles and blogs bashing digital and Amazon. Regular people in your platform see those scroll by and since they are not avid readers, they don’t read further. They don’t want to buy books. They like you so they want to buy YOUR book (maybe).

Later, your books come out. I can tell you (from my background) what very likely will happen.

Wow! I see Penelope’s book is out. Better not get a digital copy or go to Amazon. She said it was bad.¬†

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of coolio-claire

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of coolio-claire

And THIS is what started it all. Being aware what we are posting because we are supposed to be guiding our consumers, not confusing them. We cannot take for granted that every person buying our books is an avid reader who understands the book business.

Khaled Hosseini tells a funny story of how his mother bought all the copies she found of his book The Kite Runner in Iran not knowing she was buying pirated copies of his work and that he would never make a dime off her beautiful gesture of support.

Use Our Brains Other Places

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Pierre Olivier-Carles

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Pierre Olivier-Carles

How we say things has always mattered. Now that we are in the digital age it is probably more important simply because we are dealing with an overwhelmed and distracted audience. The opportunities for miscommunication are endless.

I don’t regret writing the post, but I could have saved myself a lot of time defending misunderstanding if I’d followed my own teachings.

But phrasing stuff in the negative is so common and it’s a killer.¬†I see writers doing promotions all the time and I cringe because they’re shooting themselves in the foot (I see this with businesses too, btw).

Don’t forget to buy my book!

What did you just tell your audience?

Don’t forget to buy my book!

Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter!

Don’t miss this promotion!

Strive to tell people what you do want. It’s far more effective. If you are writing to make a living, you’re going to have to communicate clearly to consumers because it is really easy to confuse them. Yes, I love used bookstores, but I really am fond of being able to pay my light bill even more. So I work hard to promote places I am paid because I appreciate how easy it is to confuse a consumer. Trust me, they can find a used bookstore on their ownūüėČ .

So what are y’all’s thoughts?

Seriously, now does every fight you’ve ever had with your spouse make sense? Do you now understand why your kid keeps forgetting his backpack? Don’t forget your backpack! Have you spent too much time chasing after avid readers and underestimated the regular folks? What are your thoughts? Aside from wondering why I hate used bookstoresūüėõ

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‚Ķbut 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. FIND YOUR BROWN DEER!

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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62 Comments

Selling Books in the Digital Age—We ALL Have an Image Problem & Here’s What To Do

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 11.30.47 AM

Original image courtesy of Phillip Capper Flickr Creative Commons

We live in a wonderful age to be a writer but a terrifying one as well. It’s wonderful because there was a time when we could have gone to our graves without ever seeing our work published and holding our work physically¬†in our hands. Now? Good news is everyone gets a chance. Bad news is¬†everyone gets a chance.

Before self-publishing took off, I was not a fan of the whole idea. The reason? I knew the problems it was going to create. We were opening a door we could never close.

When we had gatekeepers, there was an assumed standard. To say we were “published authors” actually meant something. Now? It means next to nothing.

Great you’re a published author. So is my cat.

Johnny Cat wants to write his memoir...

Johnny Cat wants to write his memoir…

With barriers to entry removed, we’ve created a problem with public perception when it comes to how they view our product—BOOKS and by association? Us (authors).

Perception is Reality

Ever heard the saying “Power perceived is power achieved”? Works for value too. “Value perceived is value achieved.” Therein is a lot of our problem. The sheer volume of books paired with the ability for¬†everyone to be published¬†has diminished the perceived value of our product. It is now up to authors to actively demonstrate value to the consumer.

See, in the “olden days” a book alone meant something. A book had inherent value. A book in and of itself represented more than just a story. A physical book in your hand represented countless other authors who tried and failed, but this author,¬†this author got an agent, landed a contract and was…published. This author was worth a publisher’s investment. This book was worth shelf space at a bookstore.

Fast-forward into the digital age and now what is a book? Heck, what is a “real” author?

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Since self-publishing was not a viable model until very recently, most of your average consumers really had no idea it existed‚Ķuntil now. These days, even regular people, if you say, “I am a published author.” The next question often will be, *weird face* “Yeah but are you self-published?”

This is because the very nature of the product has changed. Now in a world of infinite “shelf space” with no real barriers to entry, anyone can be published and the public has caught on to that. So “books” mean far less to them than ever before and for good reasons.

I am not here to pick on self-published authors because I am one. I have actually published all three ways (traditional, indie and self-pub). Sometimes, there are excellent business reasons to self-publish.

For me? I had one of the top agents in NYC. I was with Russ Galen. Love Russ. Great agent. But it turned out that a social media book just was not a good fit for traditional publishing. Russ worked his tail off because he saw a book like mine was necessary.

Though my agent loved my book, traditional publishing was at that time, simply not as open to the idea as Russ was. So? I published on my own. But Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World¬†was guided and had the oversight of the best set of eyes in New York. I hired the best cover designer in the industry and the best interior designer and formatter money could buy.

Meaning? Not all self-published books are junk.

Problem is? Too many of them are.

What does all this mean? It means that twenty years ago selling a book was very different than selling a book today. Customers had a far different perception of the product twenty years ago.

Why the Struggle?

Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons

Image via Frank Selmo WANA Commons

One of the reasons writers are struggling and will continue to struggle is that everyone thinks they can write.

See, the arts have always been vulnerable to people, consumers, corporations, etc. taking advantage of us. There is nothing new about that. But, for musicians, it’s different. The average person at least recognizes that they can’t play a guitar like Slash, the piano like Billy Joel or sing like Beyonce. The regular consumer for the most part doesn’t believe they can do what the musician does.

Now? We writers are in a real pickle. A lot of people honestly believe that simply having command of your native tongue qualifies you to be a writer. I can’t count the number of times I have heard people say to me, “I’ve always wanted to write a book. I just never had the time.” As if TIME is the ONLY factor separating that person from George R.R. Martin.

Could you imagine us saying, “Yeah I have always wanted to cut open a person’s head and do surgery. But wow I just never had the time.”

Before self-publishing, sure folks believed they could write a book, but they didn’t all believe they had what it took to¬†get published. So at least we had that in our favor.

But now that everyone has the ability to claim the title, “published author” let’s just say we have to approach our careers very differently because¬†“When everyone is special then no one is.”

Books Are No Longer Enough

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, via Mikko Luntiala

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, via Mikko Luntiala

When I first started this blog years ago I said this would happen and here we are. We have to have a brand and a platform capable of driving sales. It is not enough to have a book. Even if you want to traditionally publish, it doesn’t matter. Agents won’t even look at you of you don’t have a platform and for good reasons.

Platform and Brand Aids in Discoverability

There are millions of books for sale. Millions of choices and this is overwhelming for consumers. Our greatest enemy is obscurity.

Before the digital age, shelf space was limited and finite. Thus, the infinite shelf space of the web is a double-edged sword for authors.

If you read my post The Ugly Truth About Publishing¬†then you know that one of the major problems created by the arrival of the megastores like Borders and Barnes & Noble was that they didn’t leave authors on the shelves long enough to cultivate an audience. Also, since shelf space was limited, authors no longer had their backlists available and this seriously impacted the earning ability of many writers.

The Digital Age helped this tremendously. Now, a new writer can publish a good book and maybe it only sells a handful of copies. But, because there is no expiration date for it being on the shelf, the writer has time to cultivate an audience and be discovered.

I had this happen with a writing duo who bought my first social media book. Saffina Deforges and Mark Williams (her coauthor and silent partner) went from selling a couple of books a month to selling a hundred of thousand copies in only a few months and breaking all kinds of records. Sugar & Spice, a book no agent would rep and no one would publish went from complete obscurity to one of the biggest selling e-books in UK history.

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Same book that sat at #1,372,760,092 on Amazon later shot to #1 in multiple categories. Same book that sold no copies later broke records. Only difference was they applied my methods and gained discoverability using social media.

What good is a book no one knows about?

Even traditional publishers appreciate discoverability is their problem too. Borders and B&N in their greed wiped out the indie bookstore ecosystem. Borders then imploded and B&N has experienced record contraction.¬†Even if you go into one of the handful of remaining B&Ns it’s a lot of books to sift through and you want consumers to find¬†your book, you will need a brand.

Books Have an Image Problem & Brands Can Fix That

Remember a book no longer holds inherent value.

Because the concept of “books” has been contaminated with so much bad writing, now the author also has to be part of the package. Told you guys we were really the oldest professionūüėČ .

I have my contest that I hold every month to encourage you guys to comment. It’s my way of giving something back and nudging you out of your shyness. But I’ve gotten 20 page samples that were so bad I nearly could not finish. But when I sent the pages back, dripping RED‚Ķthe author responded with, “Well, my publisher loved it and it’s being released.”

‚Ķand the other half of that sentence is—being released into the world and onto the unsuspecting public.

There are ways to counter this with the product. We write better books. Seek people who will be truly critical. Hire real editors. Invest in good formatting, covers, etc. The problem is, no matter how good the book is? It won’t matter these days. Until that book is in someone’s hands, all that is moot.

Fortune Favors Those Who Hustle

So branding is going to aid your audience in finding your work (they can judge you later). It’s no longer a nice little extra. It is mandatory if you want to make it in this business.¬†One of the reasons I am a huge fan of authors having a blog is that it helps develop trust. Readers need that because a lot of other writers (or “writers”) have betrayed that trust.

You can’t slap lipstick on a pig and call it a super model.

When we claim¬†I am published readers assume a level of quality. Too many writers were so eager for the title they cut corners and didn’t earn the title and relationships with readers have suffered.

Thus, sadly, all of us now feel like we are dating someone who’s broken up with a psycho. We now have this additional burden of proving we are not out to boil their bunnies.

This is where social media comes in and where a blog is super helpful.

These days people are looking for the pros and when they find them they latch on something fierce.

Search engines deliver new fans to me daily, but why I¬†keep fans is because I have content. I don’t just blog when I feel like it. Most of my competition however? Does. Thus, when people find my blog, there are vast archives for them to peruse and get to know me. They learn that I am not “playing author.”

I am doing this for real. I am a pro. I show up no matter what. Also, blogs play to a writer’s strengths. Writers¬†write. People get a taste of your writing voice and can fall in love with it. Even though I blog on writing, social media, pop culture, humor, etc, the unifying feature is my voice. Right now I have a mystery thriller that has been accepted by a traditional publisher. I assume when it is for sale, y’all might give it a go because you enjoy the blog. It is far simpler to go with who you know and like.

By reading this blog you learn so much about me as an author. The writing is clean. It isn’t riddled with typos. It’s coherent. It’s fun. It’s engaging. I’m using my blog to earn your trust. If I earn your trust here? Far easier to then ask for the sale because I have actively demonstrated I am valuing your time. You spend time with me and TIME WITH LAMB = TIME WELL SPENT.

Those who come across my blog and don’t feel time with me is time well spent, well they are clearly brain damaged and have bad fashion sense¬†not my audience. My blog has done us both a favor. My voice connected me with the unusually good-looking and intelligent people out there who¬†are¬†my audience and weeded out the secret nose-pickers who would have possibly left a bad review except Amazon doesn’t let them review in Crayons.

Anyway…

It’s a great time to be a writer. Focus on writing the best book possible no matter which way you publish. There is no bad way to publish, no wrong way to publish. But you do need a platform if you would like to make¬†money.¬†

For those interested in learning how to create an author blog, I am holding a class on it this Saturday in my W.A.N.A. International virtual classroom so you can attend from home and at your computer #pantsoptional. The recording of the class comes with purchase. Yes blogging is a very unique form of writing especially when you are blogging to build a fan base for fiction. Also you are going to need time to actually write books. We cover all that. Feel free to peruse the old free archives or pick up my book if you would like to know more.

And for some EXTRA FUN! ME! Hey, don’t feel dumb. I did once write crap too!

What are your thoughts? Are you frustrated that everyone believes they can write a novel? They can’t. But whatever. Are you vexed with the hacks and amateurs? What are your thoughts? Questions? Suggestions for what you’d like to see in upcoming classes?

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‚Ķbut 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.  Blogging for Authors THIS SATURDAY.

Branding for Authors (NEXT SATURDAY). This is your best way to get PAID in the digital age. We have to cultivate that 1000 die hard fans. 

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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