Posts Tagged book sales
The writer’s worst nightmare. You researched, you wrote, you finished, and then published your book. You wait for the sales and……….*crickets*. This is something that can happen to any kind of author, traditional or nontraditional. We think we have a hit on our hands only to later be checking it for a pulse.
What happened? Why is the book just not selling?
In the not so distant past, there was only one way to get published and that was traditional publishing. Though many authors cheered when they were finally able to cast off the chains of New York, let’s at least respect that agents and editors might have known a thing or three about the book business.
Writers would often get vexed at the stack of rejection letters, believing they couldn’t actually write well. This was not always the case. Agents make their living off books they know will sell, which means they just don’t have the bandwidth left over to take on pro bono work. Yes, the book might be lovely, but they are agents, not charities.
A large part of their expertise is predicting market changes and trends. They look at what is already out, what is to be released, what is selling, what isn’t, what is saturated, etc.
This is where it can get tricky for writers. Yes, write what you love. We shouldn’t write for the market…but we have to write for the market.
*bangs head on wall*
Sometimes a book might not be selling simply because there are too many titles that are too similar. Readers just don’t want yet another sparkly vampire.
If you are traditionally published, this could still happen. Agents are making an educated guess and sometimes they miss the mark. For the self-published folks? If the book is good, just leave it alone and keep writing. The great part about the digital paradigm is the book can remain there indefinitely and when the trends change? So could the sales.
I hate saying this, but sometimes it’s the book. Obviously this is more the case with indie and self-published books. The problem is that the market has just been inundated with amateur writing. I go into this in more detail in Five Mistakes Killing Self-Published Writers, but here are the Spark Notes.
No one wants to hear they are not ready. Worse still? No one wants to hear the words, “You just are not a good writer.” Too many newbies want to skip the unfun training and go right to the title, “Author.”
Sadly, the slush pile has been handed off to readers. I can’t count the number of times I have gotten pages for a contest win and absolutely slayed the writing, only to get an e-mail back that the book was already for sale.
Even more common is that the writing is not per se bad, it just isn’t anything remarkable. Folks these days have a lot of competition for their time and attention and they simply won’t devote 12-15 hours of undivided attention to a blasé book.
Bad (No) Editing
Our story might be the best thing since pumpkin spice lattes, but if it is rife with errors it won’t sell. Additionally, editing is not simply looking for typos. That is line-editing. A good content editor will be able to help you shape the overall flow of the novel.
When I edit I can tell writers if they are starting the book in the correct place. Are there scenes that need to be cut because they are bogging down the momentum? Are there redundant characters? Are there plot holes? Is the ending a knockout or a fizzle?
Great editing can take a book from mundane to magnificent.
There really is no excuse for a bad cover these days. Technology has come a long way and many experts offer fabulous covers at affordable prices. I would love to say people don’t judge a book by its cover, but that is untrue. Of course we do.
One thing many new writers don’t appreciate is that when you hire an expert, you are gaining a lot more than that one skill. Yes a graphic artist knows how to use Photshop (or whatever) but they also have a knowledge of what sells.
For instance, I have seen authors post images of their new book cover and cringed. The cover itself was lovely, but we have to remember how we are selling. That book isn’t going to be on a shelf where a potential reader is seeing a full-sized version. Likely it will be on Amazon and that beautiful full-sized image, when shrunk to thumbnail size looks like a Rorschach ink blob.
Do you see a butterfly?
No, I see Satan eating kale chips.
If a writer tells me they can’t afford to hire an expert, my response is they cannot afford not to.
This goes along with a bad cover. New writers are notorious for titles that we have to read the book to “get” the title. NO. The title is the hook and we will move on to other writers who don’t make us think.
Discoverability is a nightmare. There is a lot of noise and part of our job description now entails branding. This is all writers.
I recently had a distraught writer contact me. The author was recently dropped by a well-known agent because the book simply wasn’t selling. Yet, I could tell with a quick google search what a big part of the problem was.
The author didn’t have platform/brand capable of driving sales. Simply puttering around on Facebook isn’t enough. That isn’t a brand.
My first royalty check would have covered dinner if no one super-sized anything. Why? My book came out before my platform could drive sales. Once my platform improved? My sales skyrocketed.
What does it say in front of every big author’s name? Best Selling Author. Not Best Writing Author.
The writing alone is not enough. Frankly, it never was. Before 2006, writers had a 93% failure rate. Most first books sold less than a thousand copies (even traditionally published books). Only one out of ten published authors ever saw a second book in print. Most were dropped.
In the old days, we just had no control over the brand and the platform. Now, we do. And authors want to complain that it is too hard. Yes, it is hard and there are many reasons this profession is not for everyone.
Less Marketing/More Writing
Traditional marketing does not sell books. Never has. For more on why, check out Why Traditional Marketing Doesn’t Sell Books. I have had to unfollow writers on Facebook who do nothing but promote one book over and over and over.
They tweet non-stop about their book.
They even dedicate their blogs to selling books (and that is never the direct objective of a blog).
They deluge us with newsletters we never signed up for and can’t figure out how to escape.
Thing is, we don’t care about you or your book. We didn’t want to see that crap in our feed, we sure aren’t going to subscribe to a blog/newsletter that is nothing but self-promotion.
Writers often become the equivalent of that sales clerk in the department store who ambushes us with perfume.
Here is the blunt truth. The odds of breaking out with our first book are about the same as being hijacked by a terrorist after we’ve been hit by lightning while holding a winning lottery ticket.
Most writers are not going to break out with one book. Or even two. An author might never break out, but the odds certainly improve the more titles we have. This was always true. It’s why you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a James Patterson title.
Marketing and building a platform/brand are two completely different activities. But writers believe they are the same. They aren’t. If you want to promote and market without a platform, I suggest piling money on the floor and setting it on fire. Same end result and you can get to the self-loathing and binge drinking far faster that way.
There are no shortcuts.
Obviously there are many many other factors to why a book might not be selling, but these are the top offenders. Good news is most of this, we can do something about. In fact, I have classes addressing most of these issues (listed below).
What are your thoughts?
I LOVE hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of AUGUST, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
Check out the other NEW classes below! Now including a log-line class! Can you tell me what your book is about in ONE sentence? If you can’t SIGN UP.
All W.A.N.A. classes are on-line and all you need is an internet connection. Recordings are included in the class price.
Blogging for Authors (August 26th)
This class will teach you all you need to know to start an author blog good for going the distance. Additionally I would also recommend the class offered earlier that same week (August 22nd) Branding for Authors to help you with the BIG picture. These classes will benefit you greatly because most blogs will fail because writers waste a lot of time with stuff that won’t work and never will and that wastes a lot of time.
I am here to help with that 😉 .
All fiction must have a core antagonist. The antagonist is the reason for the story problem, but the term “antagonist” can be highly confusing. Without a proper grasp of how to use antagonists, the plot can become a wandering nightmare for the author and the reader.
This class will help you understand how to create solid story problems (even those writing literary fiction) and then give you the skills to layer conflict internally and externally.
Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist Gold
This is a personal workshop to make sure you have a clear story problem. And, if you don’t? I’ll help you create one and tell the story you want to tell. This is done by phone/virtual classroom and by appointment. Expect to block off at least a couple hours.
Log-lines are crucial for understanding the most important detail, “WHAT is the story ABOUT?” If we can’t answer this question in a single sentence? Brain surgery with a spork will be easier than writing a synopsis. Pitching? Querying? A nightmare. Revisions will also take far longer and can be grossly ineffective.
As authors, we tend to think that EVERY detail is important or others won’t “get” our story. Not the case.
If we aren’t pitching an agent, the log-line is incredibly beneficial for staying on track with a novel or even diagnosing serious flaws within the story before we’ve written an 80,000 word disaster. Perhaps the protagonist has no goal or a weak goal. Maybe the antagonist needs to be stronger or the story problem clearer.
In this one-hour workshop, I will walk you through how to encapsulate even the most epic of tales into that dreadful “elevator pitch.” We will cover the components of a strong log-line and learn red flags telling us when we need to dig deeper. The last hour of class we will workshop log-lines.
The first ten signups will be used as examples that we will workshop in the second hour of class. So get your log-line fixed for FREE by signing up ASAP.
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.
book sale tips for writers, book sales, how to be a best-selling author, how to improve books sales, how to sell more books, Kristen Lamb, publishing, why isn't your book selling?, why your book isn't selling
Image from Street Art Utopia.
One of the words writers hear a lot of is “platform.” What is it? How do we get one? How much time do we need to put in on social media for it to count? Do we get time off for good behavior? All good questions, but before I address them, I’d like you guys to understand something very important:
Author platforms are not the same as they used to be.
If we fail to understand how author platforms have changed, we will look as ridiculous as the guy trying to hitch horses to the front of an automobile. Not only will we look silly, but it will only be a matter of time before we give up in frustration, because nothing we do seems to work.
Platforms Once Were Easy to Control, Thus Easy to Measure
Back in the day, platforms were generally only available to those who could afford one. Hiring a PR expert, distributing a newsletter and even building a web site were all extremely cost-prohibitive. Sure, one could also build a platform by doing speaking gigs or writing articles for publication, but one had to establish credibility before getting a toe in the door, so we are right back to platform went to only a handful of individuals.
And if we happened to be fiction authors, then just forget about building a platform. It was simply too expensive. The only way we had of building a platform or brand was through publishing our books…and that, too, only went to a slim percentage of people who made it through gatekeepers.
Additionally, platforms used to be built in ways that were easy to quantify and measure–I.e. how many clicks on a web site, how many attendees for a speech, etc. In The Old World—B.F. (Before Facebook)—it was easier to measure our influence because our brand/platform was relatively static. It was easy to measure how many people tuned into a radio show, a morning show, and how many “clicked to buy” after these types of events.
PR experts would create an image and that image remained largely unmodified unless it wasn’t working…or the “subject” decided to go crazy and create a Kardashianesque scandal worthy of hiring a spin doctor.
Ah, but Times, They Have Changed
These days, platforms are organic, especially those platforms built using social media.
Is there any other kind?.
We can’t control what happens to the content once we let go. Additionally, social media is a two-way exchange. If Bed, Bath & Beyond sends me a mailer, they aren’t expecting me to like it, then photocopy it and distribute it to my friends. Yet, that is exactly what we are after when it comes to social media. We are trusting others to take in what we offer (content), like it and then pass it on to their networks.
The Upside & The Downside
What is wonderful about social media is that we always have the potential for world-wide exposure, to go viral, etc. We also have a lot more fluidity than years ago. We can write in different genres or dabble in transmedia or become hybrid authors because followers are interacting with us daily and real-time.
Yet, the downside of the new paradigm is that social influence is virtually impossible to measure. For more about why, go here to my post The Dark Side of Metrics—Writer Friend or Ticket to Crazy Town? Not only is social influence virtually impossible to measure…but it is accessible to everyone. In the old days B.F., we were only competing against a slim few with the cash or tenacity to build a platform. Now? To quote The Incredibles…
When everyone is special then no one is.
In a time when everyone has access to the same tools, how can we ever hope to stand apart?
So all of this is to say that platform and brand have changed as much as publishing has. If writers want to survive and thrive in the new paradigm, they must let go of the old and embrace the new.
A New Attitude
One of the largest hindrances I see to authors building a great platform has to do with their attitude toward being required to build one. It’s just another chore, a drudgery. It makes us feel weird and dirty, like we are selling out and compromising who we are. I totally appreciate these feelings, because I have felt them, too.
I felt them before I really understood what author platform meant.
In a world where most writers are moaning and groaning about being required to have a platform, the only chance we have of standing apart from the masses, is we must change our attitude and our approach. Sure, easier said than done, right?
No. Not really. I think if we take a moment to peel back why we feel the way we do, it will be easier to enjoy this new leg of author evolution.
So Why Does Building a Platform Make Most of Us Feel Icky?
How many of you ran out and bought John Locke’s book, How I Sold a Million Books in Five Months? Hey, I did. I can always learn, and Locke actually had some really great ideas, but I did have to ask myself some hard questions. Why didn’t his methods resonate with me? Why did many of Locke’s tactics make me feel queasy, as if I had escaped one sales job just to land another one? After a lot of thought, I realized it had to do with intent.
When experts throw around phrases like “target your audience,” I must confess that all I can think of is a red-dot laser site landing on someone’s chest.
I am writing a book. Prepare to be targeted.
Maybe it’s just me *shrugs*.
See, Locke will even tell you in his book that he is a born capitalist. He worked in sales for years and started all kinds of businesses. To him, books were just a new way of making money. He saw a tremendous marketing opportunity in the shifting paradigm, and he used his talents and went for it and it paid off. He spent $25,000 figuring out what tactics worked and what failed. He experimented with all kinds of genres and tactics, but not because his art and love happened to be writing.
Locke’s art and love was capitalism and marketing.
You can see Locke’s excitement coming off the page as he relates his stories of how he tried all kinds of tactics to see where the numbers went. Locke’s art form happened to be numbers. Writing was just the medium, much like a sculptor might choose marble or clay. The reason Locke has such passion is he is doing his art.
But is Their Art Your Art?
For writers who have a love of sales, Locke’s book will really resonate because you will be doing your art. OR, you will at least be blending two arts you love together—sales and writing. Yet, for writers who break out in hives at the mention of the word sales and who are in this for the art of writing?
Hasta la vista, Baby.
Same thing with the PR & social media marketing people. They love to offer suggestions of how to help writers. They are lovely people who are sharing their art, and they want us to love it as much as they do. Some writers do love their methods and find PR and social media marketing is their art, too and that is why these classes have a lot to offer even if they differ from mine.
But what about the rest of us?
What if Sales/Marketing is Not My Art? Am I Doomed?
No. Not at all. But I will challenge you to stop trying to make their art your art. Think of it this way. Some of you, if I said you would be required to also design your own book covers would squeal with joy. Why? Because you also have a love for drawing or graphic design in addition to being a writer. You have more than one art.
Our art is not our skill; our art is where our heart and passion rests.
Some writers do wonderfully learning marketing and sales skills because it is congruent with an existing passion. Some writers didn’t even know they had a passion of on-line marketing, but, after a class at a writing conference, they were hooked once they had the know-how.
For the rest of us?
You could teach PR and on-line marketing until the end of time, and we would still hate it with every fiber of our being. We’d hate it just as much as a kid who loves building model airplanes being forced to learn to play the piano. For this kid who is forced to learn an instrument, piano would be a chore, and because it is a chore, any music he makes would always be robotic. It would always lack the essential ingredient that makes music art—passion.
This is the same reason that writers who hate sales and marketing will always fail. Because it is a chore, it will lack the critical ingredient to connect—passion.
But, Kristen! All of us have to get out there and sell and market!
No, you don’t. I know many well-meaning people have told you this is the case, but it is a false syllogism. A false what? A false syllogism.
All people who dig ditches sweat profusely.
You are sweating profusely, therefore you must be digging a ditch.
All master salespeople and marketers have platforms that sell lots of books.
Writers need platforms that sell lots of books, therefore writers need to be master salespeople and marketers.
All social media technology experts have a large platform.
Writers need a large platform, therefore writers need to be social media technology experts.
We Can’t Fake Passion
If we hate what we are doing, people feel it. Conversely, when we interact with passion, people feel that, too. Why do you think I am so against automation? People who pre-program all their tweets do not love Twitter. They don’t LOVE interacting and thus there is no passion, so no connection.
This is why doing social media this way takes such HUGE numbers to be effective. It is the same ROI (return on investment) we would get with sending out spam e-mails or junk mail–about 1-5%. Thus, for every 20,000 followers, only about 200-500 will listen and fewer will care.
Words are Our Art
Social media is nothing but words. We writers use words to create feeling and emotion. We use 26 black letters in various combinations to spark passion and interest. Social media can be a drudgery when we aren’t connected to our muse. Yet, when approached with the correct attitude, social media a new canvas for the writer-artist.
We will talk more about platform and ways to make social media our art next week. In the meantime, I want you to answer some questions:
What is it I fear the most about social media?
What do I believe it is taking away from me?
What are the emotions I want readers to feel when reading my work?
Of all those emotions, which one is the most important? Do I want people to feel love, passion, inspiration, courage?
So what are some questions you guys have? Do you feel better now that you have permission to hate sales? Can you spend some time defining your own art and think of ways to infuse it into your social media? For those already doing this, can you share with the rest of us?
I LOVE hearing from you!
And to prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of March I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!
Note: I will announce last week’s winner later this week. I am having problems with my web site and e-mail and my web people are working to remedy the problem. Thanks for your patience.
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.
This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness
50,000 Inimitable Smiles by Margie Lawson over at More Cowbell
How to Get Media Coverage for Your Book over at Jane Friedman’s place
Was March 2012 the Day that Traditional Publishing Died? by the ever-brilliant Bob Mayer
Beautiful Breakups–What the Revision Process Can Teach Us by August McLaughlin
How Can Modern Writers Become and Stay Visible? by the fabulous Jody Hedlund
Ten Things You Should Know About Setting by the awesome-sauce Chuck Wendig
A couple weeks ago, I started The Road to Success series with The Road to Success Part One–What Kind of Author are You? Then I apparently saw something shiny, and so last week we talked–passionately–about Blog Trolls. How to spot them and how to handle them. Thus, I thought it would be a nifty idea to get back on track with this series. Today we are going to talk about book sales.
*cringes* I feel your pain, but as professionals we do need to talk about this stuff.
I’ve been doing this “social media for authors thing” for quite some time and have taught thousands of people. In my experience, most writers, in the face of having to “sell books” have fairly predictable reactions. They either unwittingly turn into spam bots because they are trying to be “good little marketers”…or they run away screaming to the nearest liquor store. Those remaining either live in denial that writers don’t need to know about sales…or they change the subject to Chris Evan’s pecs.
Okay. Sally forth. Nothing to see.
So today I am gonna help y’all out, no matter what your opinion of book sales happens to be. I am going to give a little insight that will save tons of time, effort and embarrassment.
First, a little story….
Years ago, when I was in college at T.C.U., I was blessed enough to get a job at Successories. They were a wonderful company that treated their people as if they mattered, and it didn’t hurt that they paid better than most retail jobs. I loved going to work there because I always felt that I was serving some higher purpose. What could be a better job than helping people be inspired? To reach for the stars? A motivational store is like Disney Land to an ENFP.
The thing about working in a mall is that there can be a lot of down time, especially during the week. I am not a person to be idle, so after everything was sparkly clean and neat and organized, I would read…until I’d read every book in the store. I read all kinds of stuff. I read everything they had by Zig Ziglar, Vince Lombardi, Anthony Robbins, Dale Carnegie and on and on. I studied Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin. I read books about leadership, sales, business and marketing. I read every quote book until I knew them by heart.
Why did I do this? Aside from filling in the long hours of nothing, I did it with a motive to serve. See, every worried mom who came in looking for the perfect graduation gift, every employee looking for the right poster to hang in the employee lounge, and every teacher hoping to inspire her kids to reach higher got precisely the perfect tool for the job. When I came to work for this store, the sales had been so low that it was on the block to be closed. Within two months, we had the highest sales in the region.
So why am I talking about this and why does it matter?
When it comes to sales, any kind of sales, people can sense motive. I didn’t make any commission off those sales at Successories. I didn’t have daily quotas to meet. In fact, I think the company would have probably been fine if I just showed up on time, kept the place clean and didn’t steal out of the cash register.
Yet, I did more.
Not because they made me or threatened me, but because I wanted to serve. I loved the company and loved their products (still do) and I longed to help because I liked THEM. In serving others and being authentically interested in others, I had the highest sales, because customers liked ME.
Was my goal the highest sales? No. My goal was to help others, and, by helping others, the end result was that I had the highest sales. Customers sensed that my objective was to serve them and they responded favorably with purchases.
Zig Ziglar was one of my favorites to read when I worked there. My favorite quote by him is, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” In fact, this quote affected me so powerfully that I base all of my WANA teachings on this maxim. So how does motive affect an author’s approach to social media?
Brave New Publishing World
These days a lot of authors are going the indie route or even self-publishing, and that is fantastic. Yet, when you are the sole person who can make or break your book sales, it is easy to fixate on sales numbers. This is where things can go sideways, especially in the business of selling books. People can sense a motive. If our motive is primarily to sell more books, other people sense that and it turns people off.
Why do you think we dissect everything a car salesman says? Every compliment he gives us is like a move on a chess board. It is a maneuvering to part us from our hard-earned cash. We think, “This dude wants my money and that’s the only reason he’s being nice” whether that is the truth or not.
NO ONE cuts the car sales guy a break.
Books are Not Tacos, and Writers are Not Car Insurance
One of the reasons I feel a lot of self-published authors have gotten a bad reputation is due to their approach to book sales. I cannot count the number of times I received a simply beautiful compliment, and, when I responded favorably…I immediately was sent a link or a DM to buy this writer’s book or “Like” their fan page. What they call “good marketing” I felt as “emotional manipulation.”
Tactics like this are a perversion of Dale Carnegie. Tactics like these make me feel used. They make me feel duped. It isn’t a pleasant emotional experience so it certainly isn’t an experience I long to share, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this. I have no want or need for phoney-boloney compliments to get to my wallet.
So the trick in social networking is to be able to build a platform that will translate into sales…without thinking about the sales. I admit, the WANA way is a challenge and can be quite counter-intuitive…but it works. Why does it work? Because we are selling to flesh-and-blood-people. WANA methods appreciate the WHY behind the BUY:
People don’t buy for logical reasons, they buy for emotional reasons. ~Zig Ziglar
To be able to sell books, we must understand that what will sell non-fiction will NOT work for fiction. There is a good reason that The South Beach Diet can effectively use an infomercial, but a novel cannot.
Why is this? They are two different types of products selling to fill two very different needs.
Why do readers buy fiction?
One of the reasons readers are so loyal to authors is because of how that author’s stories made them feel. James Rollins makes me feel like I’ve had an exciting adventure. Sandra Brown makes me feel love is worth fighting for. Amy Tan makes me feel hope and power. J.K. Rowling’s stories make me feel heroic.
Fiction authors are brokers of passionate emotion.
This was one of the reasons that—before social media—it was impossible to build a platform for fiction unless one already had a book in print. WHY? Because the author had no way of making an audience feel anything because the book wasn’t yet in print. There was no effective way to attach an emotional context to the product before it hit shelves.
Why do readers buy non-fiction?
On the other hand, non-fiction authors are selling to solve a problem or to educate or inform. They are selling a method, a service, a diet, a trend. Non-fiction authors are brokers of knowledge. Who cares if the diet book makes me feel a certain way? I care that it can give me thighs like Heidi Klum. Results are all that matter. Consumers buy to LEARN. This is why a logical, strategic, cerebral approach will sell books.
Why does this difference matter?
Non-fiction authors deal information and solutions. Fiction authors? You guys are selling an emotional experience. People read fiction to feel passion, love, triumph, happy, moved, inspired. They buy to FEEL.
To sell an emotional product, one must have an emotional approach, and if others (potential readers) enjoy the emotional experience we bring to social media, they are more likely to trust the emotional experience we bring to the page.
These days consumers are being BLITZED with a zillion choices, so to cull through them, often we will default to the Old School methods…we go off our gut and choose who makes us “feel” a certain way. Why do you think even insurance companies like Geico and Allstate try so hard to make us laugh with funny commercials? Even they appreciate how important emotion has become in this digital age.
How does this work for fiction authors?
Protagonists (that a reader has to spend a minimum of 12-15 hours with in a novel) are very often a reflection of the author. Subconsciously we (humans) know this. Thus, it stands to reason that, if the author is pushy, cold, self-centered and unlikable, there is a part of us that expects their “hero” will be more of the same…so we steer clear.
Yet, conversely, if a writer can be someone we like and root for in person, we are more likely to feel good about spending time with this writer’s protagonist. We are going to assume that if we like the author, then we will like her books. And, if the book isn’t all that great, we will still feel good about the purchase because we like the author. It may not make logical sense, but since when have emotions been logical?
This is one of the reasons good author blogs can be such powerful drivers for sales. Readers are more likely to buy from an author who has already provided a positive emotional experience (if not a book, then a thoughtful comment, a compliment, a fun & witty blog). In fact, I would be so bold as to say that they will choose this author ahead of authors who are rude or absentee. This is why using automation is dangerous. It makes potential readers associate our names with being spammed.
How can we speak a “heart language” in a digital world?
Every tweet, every blog post, every comment is an opportunity to create a positive emotional experience. This might not translate into instant sales (which is why some writers get twitchy) but it will pay off in the long-run.
Likeability is good social media sense for any kind of author.
The key to being successful in social media rests in the exponential…NOT the linear. Social media is NOT direct sales. We are wanting more than to connect to one person. We are wanting to connect and then have THAT person SHARE our information with THEIR networks. If that doesn’t happen, it is virtually impossible to be successful with social media.
How do we do this? We do this the same way humans have for tens of thousands of years. We are likable. People feel good when they are around us. We are now in the digital age and now it IS possible to attach an emotional context capable of driving sales. Consumers judge the book by the way they feel about the author.
This isn’t that hard, but often writers panic that they aren’t being good responsible little marketers if “every tweet doesn’t serve a business agenda.” Every tweet that serves a business agenda is, by definition, spam. People create fake e-mail accounts to avoid that stuff, so why serve it?
Understand the why behind the buy. People are on Twitter and Facebook to make friends, connect and to have fun. If they wanted a non-stop commercial to buy more stuff they’d be on the Home Shopping Network, not the social network.
So what are your thoughts? Do you disagree? Agree? I don’t know about you guys, but I buy more books than I can ever read…usually to support writers I like. What about you guys? Do you do the same?
Does an author’s likability not matter? Would you buy a book you knew was not that great to support a writer you loved as a person? Have you ever liked an author’s books, but then met him/her on social media and they were a horse’s butt? Did this keep you from buying books, even if the author was an excellent writer (no need to name names, btw)? Will you buy from a writer who is a phoney? Does it not matter and you only care about story?
Come on! Let’s play armchair psychiatrist.
I LOVE hearing from you!
And to prove it and show my love, for the month of January, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of January I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!
Last Week’s Winner of 5-Page Critique is Ed Griffin. Please send your 1250 word Word document to author kristen dot lamb at g mail dot com. Congratulations.
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books!
This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness
You guys simply MUST follow Porter Anderson’s Writing on the Ether. This is a fantastic way of keeping on top of all the changes and trends in our industry. Follow him @Porter_Anderson. One of the best tweeps in the Twitterverse and a tremendous resource.
Since you will already be at Jane Friedman’s place, seriously stay and check out her blogs. LOVE this one How to Know if Your Literary Agent is Any Good
One of my favorite new bloggers on the scene is Ingrid Schaffenburg. She is running a really amazing series on Dreams. Following dreams, defining dreams, reaching dreams. It is all just simply…awesome. But I want all of you guys to realize your dreams so this gets me excited.
What to know how to get more traffic to your blog? Great post here.
5 Screenwriting Tips that Will Make Any Story Better by Jeff Goins
Have you ever had a writer epiphany? Over at Wordbitches. Love their blog.
And you guys KNOW I am a total fangirl of Chuck Wendig. Seriously, he cannot start a writer cult or I might just pack some Nikes and gray PJs. The man is AWESOME and his blogs are laugh-out-loud amazing. DO NOT drink liquids or suck on hard candy while reading…unless you have a thing for choking. He is THAT funny. Fave post of late? 25 Things Writers Should Start Doing
Fantastic post by Elizabeth Craig about how to eliminate word echoes in our manuscripts. Great tips I’d never heard or thought about.
Truthiness–Raising the Bar in the Blogosphere by August MacLaughlin
Writers! Want to know the single best way to become a household name??? Brand the right name! Yep. That easy.
This might sound silly, but I think writers love handles and monikers more than any other group. Building a platform/fan base is hard work. As we discussed last week, we can make it easier by recruiting key people to “help with construction.” But there is one key mistake that can totally undermine all your hard work building a social media platform. Branding the wrong name.
There is only one acceptable handle for a writer who seeks to use social media to build a platform, and that is the name that will be printed on the front of your books. Period.
I can already hear the screams of protest, but I am going to save you a ton of hard work and needless duplicated effort.
Part of the reason I decided to teach social media to writers is that I actually have a highly unique background for a writer. Before I was an editor/writer, I worked in corporate sales. Most writers, especially fiction writers, cringe at the word sales. I don’t blame you. But too many writers forget that the purpose behind all of this twittering and FB and MySpace time is for one main purpose—driving sales.
Being published is not the real end goal. Being published is only the means to your real end goal—SELLING BOOKS.
Kristen! Must you be so crass?
Plain truth is this. Great, you get published. But, if you don’t sell enough books, you cannot quit your day job. If you fail to sell out your print run, you hurt your chances of another book contract. In order to do what you love–WRITE–you must learn to do what you hate–SELL. It doesn’t have to be as hard as a lot of people make it. Brand your name, then your name can do the selling while you do the writing.
In order to maximize sales, your goal is to become a brand. Brand=Big Sales
If I want a good thriller, I pick up a James Rollins. If I want a good YA book, I pick up Stephanie Meyer. A good legal suspense, read John Grisham. Amy Tan will have to change her name if she decides to suddenly start writing novels about the Italian Mob. These authors are the designer brands of writing.
People dig brands. Why?
Most of us don’t have time to research each and every purchasing decision and thus, we as consumers, are prone to rely heavily on brands. Brands let us know what to expect. When we buy Dolce & Gabbana shoes, we expect a certain quality. We go off the name and do far less inspecting and road-testing than we would for a designer/manufacturer we’d never heard of. We are willing to order ahead of time and pay full price and even ridiculous prices for Coach, Ralph Lauren, Prada, Versace, Harley Davidson, Porsche, BMW, Mac Computers, John Deer, etc. So on and so forth.
As a writer, your goal is the same. Your big goal should be to link your name interminably with your content for the purposes of selling books.
Produce enough good content and eventually readers won’t need to read every review about your latest book before they buy. They will trust you for good product and will pre-order your books because they have confidence you provide content that is entertaining, interesting, or informative. They will default to buying books brandishing your NAME because they trust your books are a wise purchase. No more hand-selling–whoo-hoo!
This is where YOUR NAME becomes vital in social media. Your NAME is first and THEN linked with your content, NOT the other way around. We heard Xerox enough times that not only did it become synonymous with copy machines, but ALL copy machines eventually became Xerox machines. Xerox was said enough times in conjunction with the act of copying that it became its own VERB.
This is what we in sales call “top of mind.” A name that is top of mind will be the first we (consumers) will default to when we need a product—name recognition.
I have made all the mistakes, so I can speak from experience. I spent two years under the moniker writerchik. After two years, I had good news and bad news. Good news was that I was smart. I started building a social media platform for my work before I was published. Good news was that thousands of people knew I was a writer and that one day I would be releasing a book. I could actually pitch to an agent that I had a vast platform already in place for when my book hit shelves.
Or could I?
Bad, bad, super bad news was that these thousands of followers knew WRITERCHIK was a writer. My fans/following couldn’t go to Barnes and Noble and buy a book by writerchik. They couldn’t go to Amazon and order the latest and greatest by writerchik. I had spent a lot of hard work and posted a ton of great content….to build the wrong brand.
We must realize that we serve the reader not the other way around. Successful writers think like successful companies with good customer service and make the purchasing decision as easy as possible for the reader.
We must appreciate that people are tired, overworked and a lot of times lazy. If they are in a book store, they will default to what they know. We cannot expect that rather than pick up a branded author that our potential reader will instead:
- Go to their PDA or borrow the computer at Barnes & Noble
- Where they will then log into Twitter
- And scroll to one of our tweets
- And click on our profile
- To get OUR NAME
- In order to buy our book.
Maybe they will, but likely they won’t. We MADE IT TOO HARD!!!
When you use anything other than the name that will be printed across your book, you give up your most valuable marketing real estate…the top of mind. Every time you “tweet” or send out a status update, you want those following you to see your name. It is like your very own commercial playing over and over and over, scrolling down the news feed.
There are far too many writers using cutesy handles (I was guilty). I have a ton of writers in my following who, if they released a book tomorrow, I would love to buy it, but I cannot find books written by VampireChick or BookLover_88. I have people I love chatting with on Twitter and FB and MySpace…but I haven’t the foggiest idea what their name is.
Your handle/username is not the time to be clever and creative. Save that for books and blogs and content. We followers will catch on pretty quickly what you write.
If Maura Devlin (made up name) regularly posts blogs on fantasy and links to other fantasy events and talks about her latest fantasy novel that will soon be released, guess what? When I run by a bookstore, I will default to what I know…and now I KNOW Maura because I have basically had scrolling commercials from her every day I am on Twitter.
I also feel like I am Maura’s virtual friend, and I like to support my friends first. So if I am going to try something new in fantasy beyond staples like J.R.R. Tolkien, Piers Anthony, or Anne McCaffrey, I am going to try Maura Devlin because she has focused all her social media energy to making her name synonymous with good fantasy entertainment.
Let’s use Maura as an example.
Scenario 1, Maura is Dragon_Girl
On Twitter, I see a lot of:
@Dragon_Girl New “Wizard Woman” blog post. Where did the legend of dragons begin? (inserts link here)
@Dragon_Girl Book coming out soon. Should be here by end of May
@Dragon_Girl I love the cover. What do you think? (She attaches the cover here)
@Dragon_Girl Book signing is this weekend. Make sure you are early before we run out of books (attaches information on how to get to book signing)
***Notice I NEVER see Dragon_Girl’s NAME. She is always top of mind, but using the WRONG NAME. Even if I wanted to buy her book, I would be at a loss and would have to go do research. If I have an antsy husband who wants me to hurry and get my book so we can go to Costco, and a baby who is teething and starting to fuss, I am not that motivated to figure out Dragon_Girl’s real identity.
Scenario 2, Maura Using Pen Name Maura Devlin
On the contrary, I SHOULD see a lot of:
@Maura_Devlin New “Wizard Woman” blog post. Where did the legend of dragons begin? (inserts link here)
@Maura_Devlin The dragons are near! Book coming out soon. End of May!
@Maura_Devlin I love the cover. What do you think? (She attaches the cover w/dragon art here)
@Maura_Devlin Book signing is this weekend. Make sure you are early before we run out of books (attaches information on how to get to book signing)
Maura Devlin doesn’t need to be Dragon_Girl for those who follow to get that she writes fantasy. We are actually pretty sharp. This second scenario keeps Maura’s name continually top of mind so that those in her network see a scrolling stream of, “Maura Devlin, Maura Devlin, Maura Devlin…always linked with her content—dragons/fantasy.”
So, what if you have used the wrong name, what now?
Don’t panic. It is pretty simple to remedy. Go change your username as soon as possible. Those following you are clever. They will “get” that this is a change to your pen name. If it makes you feel better, send out an announcement that you are now focusing on building your brand. Likely no one will blink an eye.
Professional authors use their names and so should we. Using our name sends a message to others that we believe in ourselves and have confidence in the future of our work.
On Twitter and MySpace changing your user name is relatively easy. Facebook is less moniker-friendly, so most of you should be okay unless you started your FB page under any other name than the one you want printed on your books. My advice? Start over. Create another FB page with your pen name and transfer your friends over.
If you cannot get your name, be creative. Kristen_Lamb can easily be The_KristenLamb, KLamb, KristenLambTX, Author_KristenLamb. THIS is a good time to be creative, ;).
Time is precious, so make sure you maximize your efforts by focusing all your energies behind the name you wish to brand. It will save a lot of time for you and confusion for your fans. Branding the right name will help you work smarter, not harder. You need time left over to write great books.
Happy writing! Until next time…
By the way! If you loved this blog and just want MORE? My book, “We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media” is now available. Buy one today and take charge of your writing career! My book is designed specifically for writers. I want to change your habits, not your personality. Harness that same creative energy used for writing and use it to build your platform.
- The Seven Deadly Sins of Prologues—What Doesn’t Work and What Does
- Three Ways to HOOK a Reader & Never Let GO
- Description—Writer Crack & Finding the Write Balance
- Failure, Betrayal & Setbacks—Sometimes the Only Way Out is THROUGH
- YOU’RE TOO SMART TO GO DOWN STUPID
- Good Things Happen to Those Who Hustle—Getting PAID to Write