Posts Tagged entertainment business

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

Might I suggest one of these...

I think we need to renegotiate the terms…

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

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

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

Image via Wikipedia

Image via Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

Yes, Writers ARE Entrepreneurs

Craftfest

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

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

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

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

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

Free is an excellent servant, but a horrible master.

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

Writer up and tell FREE to SIT!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Power of the Purse

Image via Demi-Brooke Flickr Creative Commons

Image via Demi-Brooke Flickr Creative Commons

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

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

It’s happened before in many other industries.

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

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

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

We Create Something of VALUE

Johnny Cat wants to write his memoir...

Johnny Cat wants to write his memoir…

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

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

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

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

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

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

To paraphrase what the Founding Fathers said to King George?

Bite me.

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

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

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

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

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

~Henry Ford

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

Y’all get the point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But back to writers…

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

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 10.55.45 AM

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

Start With the PRODUCT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aaaahhhhhhhhh!

Aaaahhhhhhhhh!

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

Code for try harder.

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

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

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

Create Your Own Economy

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

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

The Sword of Technology Cuts Both Ways

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

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

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

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

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

I really DO love hearing from you!

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

 

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

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When it Comes to Success, Is It Hard Work or Luck?

My Cousin Cara and me...

My Cousin Cara and me…

I have ABSOLUTELY THE BEST FAMILY ON THE PLANET. Last night, I saw my Cousin Cara for the first time in eleven years. Though we spent most of our early childhood together, we’ve not been in the same orbit in over twenty-five years. Cara lives in Germany, and is here in Texas for a working visit.

What I found funny is how much we were alike (even our voices sound alike, which was a tad spooky). Our personalities are very similar, though Cara continued the sales/business trajectory while I followed my passion for writing. Why I mention this is that we both share a passion for debate, and Cara and I had a (fun) heated discussion last night about luck, talent and hard work.

I, of course, believe in hard work and mastery, but Cara pointed out that it was useless without luck. That a lot of lazy, undeserving and even untalented people enjoy huge success while other, more deserving can die in obscurity.

Now you see why we had a hell of a debate. There was no simple answer.

The Thing About Luck

Luck is useless if you can’t use it. Back in 1993 I made friends with a guy who wanted me to partner in his business, but I had to raise equal capital. Unskilled at how to do this and lacking any savings (was living hand-to-mouth throwing newspapers) I was unable to invest even though I knew he had something.

This man invented the pre-paid phone card. I think he has his own island now.

Kristen as Inventor

I’ve always had the mind of an inventor. When I was 8, I invented a machine that could paint fingernails. I was tired of my right hand looking like it had been attacked by a ferret wielding a nail polish brush.

I wanted a solution, so I designed The Finger Fixer and gave the schematics to one of the craftsmen in my parent’s wood-shop. And it worked. The machine could steady your non-dominant hand to be able to paint evenly and smoothly. Why did this not take off?

I was too distracted by my next business idea.

I started a “green” cleaning business fifteen years before it was “cool” to be environmentally friendly. Why did it fail? Again, I lacked the skills, capital and focus to stay the course.

February of 2000, I envisioned a business hand-painting wine-glasses and martini glasses and selling them to boutiques. I even had learned a bit by this point and put together a business plan. No one would back me because I lacked experience.

Every time I see these I want to CRY.

Every time I see these I want to CRY.

*head desk*

*head desk*

I’ve lost count of my inventions I didn’t know how to patent, that later were a huge deal. Business ideas I couldn’t bring to fruition due to lack of skill, lack of money, time whatever.

It was LUCK that I met the man who invented the pre-paid phone card, but I couldn’t take advantage of that luck. Thus, luck was worthless. On the other hand, with those other ideas like the cute glasses? I seriously could have used a little luck. I had some money, had a good plan, a lot of hard work…just didn’t have the fortune to connect with who I needed to take the idea to the next level.

Fortune Favors the Prepared

When it comes to writing and social media, I’ve had a bit of both. Being someone who can spot trends, I knew in 2003 that social media would be a game-changer for authors. I tinkered with how to build an author platform back when Gather was alive.

Then, in 2007, I spotted something else. I’d been to a couple writing conferences, and I already knew we were going to have a major paradigm shift. What I noticed and what seriously bothered me was that authors weren’t being taught the business of their business. 

The Big Six were tracking the same exact trajectory as Tower Records and Kodak, but authors were not being prepared for a world where they would have to become a brand before the book or they’d be invisible.

Every conference was loaded with craft classes and how to get a big NY agent so we writers would never have to worry our pretty little heads about any of that “business stuff.” Craft and agents were great, but writers were about to be dumped head-first into a Brave New World with no skills and no preparation.

This Time I Stayed the Course

When I approached agents about Facebook, I was told it was a fad. When I said it was possible for a novelist to become a brand before the first book, I was called a nut (and other very not-nice things).

But this time, I didn’t let up. Because of passion, I kept pressing. I also was fortunate Bob Mayer believed me and in me (that “luck” thing).

I looked at what I could do and I did it. Day after day. I could blog. I could read books and research so I could articulate my theories in a way that would make others see what I saw. I could do the writing. I could network. I could try then fail and fail some more and LEARN. I was back being a crazy inventor in my lab, only my lab was social media, and other writers were my guinea pigs….um, friends😀.

I did a LOT of the experimenting on myself, too. Note the warriorwriters in my URL. I did all the dumb stuff, so you don’t have to.

The World is NOT FLAT

My new book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is the culmination of the past six years of tinkering, several thousand pages of research, and a lot of making stuff go BOOM. It is proof that what I said in 2007 is real and can be done.

An author can become a force before the book is even finished.

VINDICATION!

Why I Don’t Like Luck

Luck is a fickle friend. Also, I can’t teach you how to be lucky. I can teach you how to improve your odds that favor will shine your way, but other than that?

I had NO GOOD ANSWER for Cara.

Why?

Because my cousin likes watching me twitch.

Cara: What about “50 Shades of Grey?”

Me: *head desk*

Cara actually had some great points. She said there are people who work their tails off their entire lives and get nowhere. Others pop out one book and SHAZAM!!!! Success! A lot of untalented people who have done very little work are rewarded.

She was right. The man who invented air-conditioning died penniless because he didn’t have the LUCK to run across an investor who saw what he had. The man who created Superman handed away his idea for pennies, because he didn’t have the luck to meet a person who wouldn’t take advantage of him.

Cara *grumbles* was correct.

Luck IS Super Important for Success

Of course the only thing I had to say to Cara was, Bite me. Even if we look to….*sigh*….50 Shades of Grey? E.L. James still had to write the book. She had to put in work. The world has no use for a perfect half-finished book.

I know a lot of success is being in the right place at the right time in the right conditions. Hey, I want some luck too! Would LOVE some luck. Can I order some on eBay? In the meantime? Work keeps my mind off how much we DO need LUCK😀.

Cara’s motto: You don’t get what you work for, you get what you negotiate.

My motto: The harder I work, the luckier I get.

I see there is truth in both.

So what do you think? Is success about hard work or luck? Both? Which is more important? Do you have similar stories of hard work with no luck and luck with no way to use it?

I love hearing from you!

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

NOTE: My prior two books are no longer for sale, but I am updating them and will re-release. My new book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE. 

June’s WINNER!!! Patti Hawthorne. Please send 5000 word Word document to kristen at wana intl dot com. Or    a synopsis (no more than 1250 words) or query letter. Your choice.

BOOK WINNER: Rhett Bigler (I promised a copy of the e-book for one lucky commenter the day I first blogged about my new book to refresh y’all’s memories. Yes “y’all’s” is correct grammar in Texas).

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

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Maximizing Our Social Media Impact–Having the “Right” Friends

Yes this is really me with Sandra Brown (before the restraining order kicked in :P). And I look like a ghost who’s haunting her. Cell phone cameras. Ptth!

Over the past couple of weeks, we have been talking about the unique nature of marketing books and the equally unique challenges this can present to writers…who need to market yet still need time to write great books. I can always tell when there has been a major conference, namely because the Twitterverse comes alive with writers (usually the agented ones) in a total panic trying to barter a kidney for anyone who can find them a cloning machine. What has happened?

They likely attended a social media class, or worse…their publisher did.

The inherent problem in this is that much of the social media being taught (even at writers’ conferences) not only won’t sell books, but it is a formula for a writer to end up with a nervous breakdown. I have made it my life’s work to create a social media approach that is not only more effective than my competitors’ approaches, but my methods are designed to harnesses the creativity of an author and also leave time to write.

Last week we talked about getting sticky, and why you need to run out at the very first opportunity and buy Malcom Gladwell’s Book The Tipping Point after you get a copy of my book, of course😀.

Gladwell’s book affirms much of what I have been teaching for years about social media.

I am not happy writing blogs or a book that simply tells you guys what to do. Here is a checklist and have fun. That approach is only minimally helpful. I want you guys to understand WHY you are or aren’t doing certain things. This way, if Twitter blows up and G+ devours Facebook, you won’t have to wait for me, your social media expert to tell you what to do next. You will be empowered to think for yourselves and adjust accordingly in ways that will keep your platform intact and expanding.

I want you guys powerful, not paralyzed.

Anyway, back to our marketing…

We all need to strive for what I call The Sticky Author Triumvirate. It doesn’t matter if our message reaches a hundred million people. If our message doesn’t translate into action, it is wasted time. Stickiness makes the difference and we need to be Sticky Authors, Sticky with Social Media, and Write Sticky Books. If we master one but not the other two, we will do well. If we master 2 out of 3? Even better. But the real key to success is mastery of all three.

This is one of the reasons it is so critical to write great books. Great books, by nature are sticky, but alone, they are not enough. Now that everyone can be published, relying on a great book alone is playing craps with our career. We have ALWAYS been in control of writing great books and we had a 93% failure rate to show for it (per BEA statistics). Now in the Digital Age, we finally can get sticky on ALL sides so there is NO getting rid of us. We are gonna be triple-sided duct-tape (yes, I invented a new duct tape dimension—we will be STICKY DEFINED).

Ah….but here is where the panic set in last week.

What???? *twitching eye* I need hobbies and friends outside of writers? How do I get one of those? Are they on eBay?

Yes, we need all the friends we can get, but don’t get lured in by sites promising to get you a bazillion followers/”friends.” Also, more is not actually, well, more. Just because someone has 22,000 people following them on Twitter doesn’t mean this person is effective. In fact, in my experience, this kind of person is generally less effective because the network is not comprised of the right kind of people.

Quality trumps quantity. Not all connections have the same weight. So the cool news today is that you don’t have to go make a bazillion friends. You just need a handful of the “right” friends. It’s the old adage, It’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know. That is truer now than ever in human history.

Who are the right kinds of friends? There are three kinds of people that can make the difference between life and death for our message (book, idea, fashion trend, product, etc.) especially in the Digital Age, and we will talk about them more in a moment.

One of the reasons that the traditional blast out an automated message on social media approach doesn’t work is that it separates the writer from the social media experience. To get connected to the right people, we need to be present so we can pay attention.

Say I am new to Twitter. My name is Suzy Newgirl and I have 10 followers and at least half of them are bots. The other five are members of my writing group and they are in the same situation. Our networks are almost insignificant.

For example, even though the very first fax machine cost $2000, it was pretty much worthless. Why? Who was the owner going to fax? There were no other fax machines. The machine only began to grow in value as more people bought fax machines capable of recieving, repackaging and then resending messages.

Same with a social media network. A person with 5 followers doesn’t yet have a lot of value to her network. How can Suzy Newgirl increase the value of her network? She needs to connect to one of three kinds of people (per Gladwell):

A Connector

A Maven

A Salesman

These three people have ALWAYS been responsible for word of mouth epidemics; we just didn’t have the unprecedented access to meeting them that we now have. The awesome part about social media is it is like a giant honey trap for these types of people. The Connector, the Maven, and the Salesman are generally intensely social people and they are drawn to social sites like a mosquito to a bug light.

ZZZZZZZAPPPP! Ouch!

If we pay attention on social media long enough, it is almost a guarantee we will meet these sorts of people. And, if we can fold them into our network, we significantly increase the odds our message will become an epidemic . Suzy Newgirl might only have ten people in her network, but if her Friend Number 11 is one of these three types of people? She just took her social power to an entirely new level.

Now I hope you are seeing where numbers lie when it comes to social media. There are publishers giving their writers a hard time because, Author Such and Such has 30,000 followers. Why don’t you? You need to get on Twitter and follow more people!

This is part of what is making writers lose their hair.

But the numbers alone are not enough. If we have thousands of Suzy Newgirls in our network, then that is akin to being able to fax 1000 other broken fax machines. They might be able to receive messages, but the message dies there.

This is part of the working smarter, not harder. We don’t need to make ten thousand friends to reach ten thousand people. I actually have the potential to reach 10,000 people with just four friends (psst…they hang out on #MyWANA a lot cuz they are social butterflies). So, today’s tip is that we need to actually spend time on social media. Not a lot of time, but meaningful time. Pay attention. Who is active? Who is social? These are the people that make the best friends to have in life and on-line.

If we disappear off Facebook for days and weeks or only tweet when we need something, we miss out on meeting these generous and wonderful people that can make the critical difference in our careers. We don’t need to take our career to the next level…we just need to meet the person who knows the person who gives us the opportunity.

A quick example. I am not particularly a fan of Facebook. I like it, but it isn’t fast enough for my ADD nature. Yet, I still post regularly on Facebook. Three times a day I scroll down the News Feed and look for at least TWO people I can congratulate, encourage, make smile, repost, SOMETHING. At the end of the day it isn’t a lot of time invested. BUT, an enthusiastic romance writer DeeDee Scott happens to be a Maven.

DeeDee not only is highly connected, she has this intense desire to serve and help..and she totally DIGS Facebook. I had reposted stuff for her and been social simply to serve and be kind. Thus, early in 2011, when a friend of hers asked for suggestions to speak on a panel at the Romantic Times Conference in Los Angeles, she immediately recommended me…even though we had only chit-chatted on FB.

That opportunity was a massive turning point in my career. I went to LA, ended up quoted in the LA Times, met a bunch of NY Times and LA Times best-selling authors, and my career literally leapt to  a totally new level that, on my own, I would never have had access to….without the help of a Maven.

We will talk more about those in another blog. So, what do you take away from this? Be kind. Be social. Be vested. Part of the reason DeeDee recommended me was because I was one of the only social media experts who wasn’t a spammer. I’d actually talked to her and acted authentically (this is being Sticky). She remembered that, so when the opportunity presented itself, DeeDee knew just who to recommend…and I cannot thank her enough.

Any social media expert that sells you a bill of goods about how this or that program can tweet for you or post for you really isn’t doing you a favor. That is busy work that looks good on the surface. It’s activity with no productivity.

In the coming weeks, I am going to talk more about these three kinds of message-bearers—the Connector, the Maven and the Salesman. How can you find them? Befriend them? (And NOT in a spammy self-serving way). This is also one of the reasons it pays to be kind to everyone. Kindness is always the best policy.

Again, this is one of those things that’s simple…but not exactly easy. Yet, at the end of the day, this method will help you make the most out of your time on social media. Instead of being a hamster in a wheel tweeting into the abyss and “hoping” something sticks, you will be able to increase your odds that something will not only stick…but will set fire😉.

So what are some of the challenges you face when it comes to social media? Any tips, suggestions, advice. Hey, I love hearing from you guys and learning from you.

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

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of September 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: GRAND PRIZE WILL BE PICKED THIS MONTH. I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced at the end of September) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

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

Mash Up of Awesomeness

Eleven Deadly Sins of On-Line Promotion for Writers –YES!!! *claps hands*

Great resource for those interested in writing for children.

Who has the right to say you suck? by the brilliant and hilarious Tawna Fenske. BUY HER BOOK, Making Waves.

How a Perfectionist Learned to Bear her Warts by the wonderful Jody Hedlund. She is guest-posting for one of my all-time favorite people, Katie Ganshert. If you want great Christian Romance and can afford to lose a day glued to your couch turning pages, then buy Jody’s new book The Doctor’s Lady.

25 Things You Should Know About Queries, Synopses and Treatments by the genius Chuck Wendig. BUY ALL HIS BOOKS AND LISTEN TO HIM. He is not only insanely funny, but his advice is some of THE BEST in the industry.

What Can Writers Learn from Spam? by Jami Gold

Therese Walsh has an awesome post over on Writer Unboxed (subscribe to this blog if you haven’t already). Internal and External Inspirations

Has Rejection Turned You Into Someone You’re Not? by Jane Friedman (This is another critical blog to follow to keep your fingers on the pulse of our industry)

There are so MANY more wonderful blogs, but I have run out of time. I will make it up next week!

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65 Comments

Self-Publishing–The “American Idol” of the Publishing World

Happy Friday! Well, it’s a holiday weekend, so I figured we’d have some fun. I posted this argument at the beginning of the year and it generated a lot of cool discussion. There have been a lot of changes in publishing, so I figured it would be entertaining to revisit the debate. About what?

Self-publishing.

After two #1 best-selling books (published through a small, yet awesome indie press) I feel I can safely offer my opinion, then you guys can add $2.50 to my advice and get a venti coffee from Starbucks.

In my opinion, self-publishing is the American Idol of the publishing world. Thousands and thousands of hopefuls and a small handful of real chart-topping talent–talent that, in the traditional format, might never have been discovered. That’s the upside. The downside? There are no gatekeepers to keep the talentless hacks from assaulting the unsuspecting public with their “art.”

In the beginning, American Idol caught a lot of flack. There was a genuine concern about removing traditional gatekeepers from the music industry and–GASP–leaving it to the fans. Um, who did they think bought the records?

But I digress…

There was a genuine worry that American Idol could devolve into a popularity contest and that real talent might get overlooked due to a stampeding hoard of tone-deaf fans. I mean,the insanity! Let the FANS vote for their favorite artist? What’s next? Democracy?

I might be going out on a limb here, but I don’t think the guy in fat guy in spandex with the pink boa who sounds like a cat got caught in a screen door has yet to make it past the first round of eliminations. And maybe some less-than-talented people make it past the initial auditions, but, overall, I would have to say that the general music-loving public has, so far, picked some amazing artists.

Back to self-publishing. If we are willing to gut through the initial American Idol stand in line for three days, then we get our shot. What is the literary equivalent? If we are willing to fork out the cash, time, or effort to self-publish, we get our shot to be heard. Period. That is all self-publishing is. After that, it boils down to the story and prior preparation. The readers will judge the talent.

In American Idol, you have the raging hacks, the undiscovered diamonds…and then everyone in between. Same with self-publishing.

The Deluded Divas

American Idol is flypaper for people with far more ego than talent. They believe they have a “natural gift,” which is code for, “I’m too talented (self-deluded) to take singing lessons or be bothered by things like voice classes or learning to read music.”

They belt off some bad Whitney Houston song in a voice that makes every dog in a 10 mile radius start bleeding from the ears. And, when one of the judges suggests voice coaching, they go nuts, flouncing out to their entourage (closest loser friends) waiting outside the door.

“Because all their friends say they have a great voice, and that Simon just doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

Yeah. You’ll show him…or not.

Writing has the same Deluded Divas. Critique groups always have at least one. This is the guy who reads every week–EVERY WEEK–no matter what. Why? Because short of taking hostages, this is the only way anyone is going to listen to his novel.

Rather than learning the craft, this type of writer frequently talks non-stop about the junk NY is putting out there, so he is going to just bust past all the gatekeepers who don’t know a real best-seller when they see one. That and he gets 100% royalty rate that he can reinvest into producing the crappy film based off his crappy book…which he is also writing and producing with his cousin who’s attending film school at the local junior college. Things like correct punctuation, consistent POV and Aristotelian structure interfere too much with his “art.”

Yeah.

The Undiscovered Diamond

What is the whole point of shows like American Idol? Finding real talent. The vocalist who might not have ever been noticed if she’d gone the traditional route to landing a record deal. 

The Susan Boyle. The Fantasia. THAT one, the one with the voice of an angel.

If you have watched more than a handful of episodes of American Idol, then you have likely seen this happen. The shy kid with the guitar who starts singing and you just know this kid is going to go all the way…and you rooted for him when he was a nobody.

Same in self-published writing. But, like the shy kid with the guitar? This chart-topping (best-selling) writer is equally rare….like most undiscovered diamonds. Duh. If they were as common as brown puppies, they wouldn’t be diamonds.

It is not a regular thing for a self-published author to suddenly shoot up the best-seller lists. Not saying it won’t happen, but it sure doesn’t happen as frequently as the Deluded Divas would like to believe.

Even when traditionally published, a writer’s odds of hitting the NY Times best-seller list is about the same as being hit by lightning. As the market stands, the odds of our self-published book with no prior platform hitting the NYT best-seller list is about the same is being hit by lightning and mauled by a polar bear and brown bear at the same time. Not saying it can’t happen, but, um…yeah.

Good books with no platform stand a slim chance. Bad books? Well, no amount of social media can help a bad book.

Everyone In Between

Between the Deluded Divas and the Undiscovered Diamonds, there rests everyone else. Maybe they are new, need more time to grow, develop, learn, train, mature. On American Idol, I have seen vocalists audition, and it was clear to see they had the makings of a great singer…but they needed more time, a mentor, a coach.

I have also seen many writers who fall into this category. Are they bad writers? No. Are they green? Maybe in need of refining? Yes.

Do all of us have the talent to make be the next Cormac McCarthy? No. But there are a lot of successful authors out there who do very well, even if they aren’t a household name. They sell enough books to live comfortably and do what they love every day. For many of us, that would be enough. Would we like to be the next Stephen King or Nora Roberts? Sure. But we wouldn’t consider our lives as failures if we simply could sell enough books to write full-time.

Some of us might even make it through all three tiers.

I know I began as a Deluded Diva. I thought my first novel was perfect and that those agents didn’t know what they were talking about. Part of me is thankful that self-publishing was not as accessible back then. This book I though was perfect is the same book I joke about being banned by the Geneva Convention as torture.

I’ll tell you where the bomb is, just not another chapter of that booook!

I was new and unskilled and had more ego than sense. After the gatekeepers popped me on the snoot a few times, I started realizing maybe I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. I joined a critique group, took a job as a line-editor, and read every craft book I could find.

Right now, I’m idling in the Everyone In Between, hoping I am that Undiscovered Diamond. But you know what? Maybe I’m not. Maybe I am a nice opal or an emerald. Maybe I am a diamond. Time and hard work will tell.

So what about self-publishing? Basically, it boils down to Deluded Divas, Undiscovered Diamonds…and then Everyone In Between. Self-publishing is our audition. It’s our shot to show the reader what we’ve got.

Maybe you are a deluded hack who should be banned from accessing Microsoft Word. That will become clear eventually when you sell 10 copies of your novel and one is to your dog, who ran in front of a car the next day after he “bought” your book. If your writing sucks, it will become painfully clear in the sales numbers soon enough. Live and learn. Keep writing.

We should always be writing the next book. We should never stop and never ever bank our future on one book. That’s a bad business plan.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Maybe sales figures will be enough to sober you up and help you understand that your craft needs work. Write, write again. It ain’t over until we give up. You might have to work extra hard to clean up your reputation, but that’s why there are gatekeepers in traditional publishing. They are there to warn us that our vampire-mystery-chik-lit-historical-memoir is not a winner. Agents and editors aren’t out to get us…really. They are there to help keep us from making fools of ourselves.

If our book makes people claw out their own eyes is not so great…

The kinda good news is there are so many self-published books that, if the first book we upload is a stinker, it’s pretty unlikely so many people will notice that we must change our names and go live in a cave. This isn’t to offer permission to put out garbage, but I do feel writers have a bit more leeway here than they did even three years ago. If the book flops, just move on. Shake it off and learn and do better next time.

Write more books and keep growing. Once your writing is strong enough to really start selling, you will probably have the skills to go back and fix the problems in the earlier books. Then, you will have more books for sale for fans. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Just like the participants of American Idol. They DO have the option to check their egos at the door, go get voice lessons and try again.

If our book is actually a gem…

Agents and editors aren’t God. Maybe you have an excellent book that is professional and not riddled with typos. Maybe you are the Susan Boyle or Fantasia or LeeDeWyze…the Undiscovered Diamond. Maybe you aren’t yet a diamond, but are clearly one in the making. Again, the sales figures don’t lie. Building a solid platform ahead of time will help make this clearer sooner.

Likely, you are like the rest of us who are Everyone In Between and hoping to one day be discovered. Any way you go, best of luck and I hope my blogs help you reach your dreams faster than you dreamed possible.

So what do you guys think? Are you a fan of self-publishing or do you think it is a sign of the coming apocalypse? And the angel opened the fifth seal, and out of the cup of wrath poured many bad vampire books to torment the unfaithful. Are you in between? Undecided? I love hearing from you.

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

I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of September 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: GRAND PRIZE WILL BE PICKED THIS MONTH. I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced at the end of September) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.

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

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63 Comments

The Secret to Selling Books Part I–Let’s Get Sticky

Two weeks ago, I introduced you guys to the WANA Theory of Book Economics and explained why traditional marketing doesn’t sell books. Books are not like cups of coffee or breakfast cereal, and thus they require a different approach. Writers are unique as well. Since we are responsible for producing the product, we need a social media approach that leaves time to write great books. That was the first lesson to connecting to potential readers. We needed to know HOW to connect, WHAT kind of message to send and WHY.

We also needed to understand the critical element that could make a book a mega success. What was this key variable? We had to mobilize the fat part of the bell curve, that group of people who would not normally define themselves as readers. Harry Potter, The DaVinci Code, Tuesdays with Morrie, Twilight, The Hunger Games, and The Help all tapped into groups of people who normally didn’t read for pleasure. But, once some key non-readers read these books, word of mouth sparked like wildfire and made literary history.

Then, last week we discussed the typical non-reader. There is a misconception that non-readers don’t read. They DO read, they just happen to be highly selective. The benefit, however, is that once one of these guys becomes a fan? He is the most loyal, devoted fan any writer can have. Often this guy is the best salesman a writer can have, too. He is the flint that creates the spark that can start the fire.

Ah, but here comes the problem. Too many writers are getting on social media and hanging out with each other and marketing to each other. It is an over-saturated market full of people who can only buy so many books. Also, since all of us LOVE books, we might not be the best people for starting that wildfire of word of mouth that can push the non-reader population past the tipping point.

Many of you are chomping at the bit. Kristen, for the love of all that is holy, where can we find the magic well of readers?!!!

I would love to give a website. Go to www.loyalbookfans.com . Wouldn’t that be lovely?

Or a formula for success. A + B = Wild Success.

But, unfortunately there is no specific formula and no guarantee….BUT that doesn’t mean that we can’t change some behaviors that will improve our odds.

I did say it was simple to connect and mobilize the fat part of the bell curve, and it is. Simple, however, is not necessarily easy. There are actually a number of components we need to understand, but today we are only going to focus on one, because it is the most important. If we cannot do this, then nothing else matters.

We need to get sticky.

In The Tipping Point by Malcom Gladwell, Gladwell defines The Stickiness Factor in the following way:

The Stickiness Factor says that there are specific ways of making a contagious message memorable; there are relatively simple changes in the presentation and structuring of information that can make a difference in how much of an impact it makes.

The Stickiness Factor not only applies to our social media message, it applies to who we are as writer personalities. It also applies to our books. Nailing what I will call The Sticky Author Triumvirate is key to publishing success. We need to get sticky on all three to have the best odds of reaching the tipping point.

Let’s take a look at The Sticky Author Triumvirate:

Get Sticky with Social Media Messages–One of the reasons that traditional marketing doesn’t work when it comes to books is because the messages are not sticky. In fact, we are so blitzed with marketing messages in modern society that most static marketing messages become white noise and invisible. Thus, why blitzing about our book non-stop on ten different sites is almost a total waster of time is that the message is rarely seen. Auto-tweets are ignored and are what marketing experts call clutter.

Additionally, it is not enough to have a million people “see” a message/pitch. There has to be a compulsion to SEE then ACT. If a zillion people see my commercial for car insurance, but none of them ever change policies, then the campaign is a failure. It’s a big waste of effort, time and money.

What can make people care? Care about them first. Just talking to people can go a long way to making a sale. People buy from who they know and who they LIKE. Stand apart from all the takers and learn to give.

Beyond that?

Sit and write out a hundred activities, shows, channels you enjoy. Yes, most of us love writing, but we love other things too. We need to extend ourselves and simply start talking to people. We have to learn to be unselfish. Stop demanding that others connect with us via OUR interests–books, craft, writing–and take initiative. We need to find the common ground and extend ourselves and connect where the potential READER feels comfortable.

Surely you have friends, family or coworkers on Facebook who are not writers. Who are they talking to? Who are their friends? Start poaching (befriending) normal people and talk to them. If you meet a pet lover on Twitter who works as an engineer and he is nice? Look at who his friends are and extend yourself. Hey, I am a pal of Jim’s. Thought I would say hello. (DO NOT pitch to them, just talk and be cool).

Just once a day make it a point to add non-writers who are active on social media to your network. Pay attention to them and start a dialogue. Be genuine and positive, and that will be STICKY. People crave attention and positive energy.

Next week we will talk more about why this is critical and how to use this tactic to reach the tipping point. Not all conversations have equal weight. But in the meantime? Let’s get sticky!

We Need to Be Sticky Writer Personalities–The Stickiness Factor applies to who we are as writer personalities. Chit-chat on social media is actually very valuable. People who repost, compliment, question, serve and are positive are MEMORABLE. We stick. People like us. When they think “writer” we become the first person they think about.

This is one of the reasons that it is beneficial to get out of the comfort zone and talk in other circles. As long as we are all hanging out with other writers we blend into the din. But, if we start talking to other people who love sports, parenting, knitting, the military, politics, animals, horses, celebrities, then we are now injecting ourselves into groups that are not comprised of people just like us. We stand out so we are a bit more “sticky.”

Pick a favorite channel on cable TV, a favorite show, or a video game, and I guarantee there is a Twitter # for it. Start talking to people who love #Lost or #AI, #Glee, #ESPN, #Oprah, #Ellen, #Halo #GoW. Profile your potential reader. What does she do with her day? Maybe she is a #teacher or she plays #WOW. Get creative and get out of that comfort zone.

Sure you can still hang out with writers, but we are your peers, not substitute for a fan base. To be sticky, we need to stick out.

Go to the websites of your favorite channels and shows and find their Twitter # and then make a column for it. Chat with people. I have columns for #GoW (Gears of War) ,#MW (Modern Warfare), #military because I am also an avid gamer and I am military. LOTS of great people in these groups.

We can use blogging to super increase this Sticky Factor. How? First, stop blogging about the same topics as every other writer. Blogging about writing is great, but not necessarily memorable. There are better things to blog about that can make you stick like Super Glue. Author blogs, written properly, are a FANTASTIC way to increase our Sticky Factor exponentially.

If you want to learn to get sticky with your blog, I highly recommend taking my Blogging for Author Brand Workshop. It’s only $40 and TWO months long (one month lessons and one month launch) and it is from the comfort of your home. There are tools and tactics that I am only sharing in my workshops and that I am saving for my next book, so this is a cool opportunity to get lessons I won’t be teaching on the blog.

Finally, We Need to Write Sticky Books–At the end of the day, THIS is why I teach social media for writers. We need to have time to write great books. Great books are STICKY. Sure, if I have a popular blog and a good social media presence I will probably sell some books. But, the only way my book can break past that initial layer of contact is to write a sticky book. Turn politeness into PASSION.

It is not enough for someone to buy our book. They must also love it so much that they can’t wait to tell someone, recommend our book or even buy a gift copy for a pal. THIS is how word of mouth wildfires get started. We will talk more about this next week and I hope you pick up a copy of The Tipping Point. It’s a fun read and highly relevant to all authors serious about creating a long-term fan base.

What are some things that make authors on social media memorable to you? What makes you want to share a message? What turns you off? What are your thoughts? Opinions?  I love hearing from you! And 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. 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 August I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!

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

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

Mash-Up of Awesomeness

Fave Stuff

My NEW favorite blog, Penelope Trunk’s Blog Blog Under Your Real Name and Ignore the Harassment LOVE THIS POST. Read THIS blog. “Awesome-sauce” as the brilliant Chuck Wendig would say.

Kait Nolan’s Can Cinderella Save Herself?

This is another gem (well they are all gems but this one is particularly shiny) Terrell Mim’s Living in the Dash. I cannot tell you how important it is that every one of you read this blog.

Writing Stuff

Don’t Be a Cheerleader for Crappiness–25 Things You Should Know about Self-Publishing by Chuck Wendig

Why Your Blog’s “About” Page Matters by Joel Frielander

Are You Keeping Yourself on a Short Leash? Great post about getting outside of the comfort zone by Kerry Meacham

What Do I Look Like, a Protag? Great advice about how to describe our protag without being ham-fisted and obvious.

The Changing Landscape of Publishing for Writers by NYTBSA Bob Mayer

Playing to Your Strengths by Jenny Hansen

Behold the Power of a Nap by Jennifer Hale

The Great Back-Story Debate by the amazing writing teacher James Scott Bell

How I Do It: Ease Into Responsibility by Jody Hedlund

Three Keys to Marketing in the Current Fiction Environment by Michael Hyatt

Three Things that Come First before You Tackle Social Media by the brilliant WD contributing editor Jane Friedman over at the awesome writer resource Writer Unboxed

Is Your Writing Group Helping or Hurting Your Career? by Steenah Holmes

You are Not Tolstoy or Dickens by Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner

How to Get Your Blog Post on Google’s 1st Page by Keli Gwyn

The Anti-Procrastination Diet by Roni Loren

How Much Time Do We Really Need to Write? by Natalia Sylvester

Funny Stuff

The Must-Have Urban Redneck Belt by Natalie Hartford

Planking–Not Just for Pirates Anymore by Piper Bayard

Lili Tufel’s Top Ten Signs You’re Married to an Author

My Dirty Little Secret by Tameri Etherton

Fun and Nerdy Fact Blogs

Who Were the Celts? by Kate Wood

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81 Comments

We Are Not Alone–An Indie Cinderella Story

Welcome to WANA Wednesday, based off my best-selling books, We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media  and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer.  This is the day I dedicate to teaching you guys how to rock it hard when it comes to social media. Writing is hard. Building a platform is hard. Some days it will feel as if you are doing all this work, and yet it’s all for nothing. So, today I want to share some social media successes with you to keep you encouraged.

There are all kinds of social media gurus who claim to have the answers. There are books to show how Such-and-Such-Author sold a zillion books in five months. All that is great. We can always learn something, but, before we commit to any social media strategy, we need to ask some tough questions.

First, can the methods be duplicated? Just because one person sells 1000 books a day with his hands tied behind his back means little if that method hasn’t worked for others. Other questions we might ask are, “Can the approach work for an unpublished no-name author who has never recieved the traditional publishing seal of approval? Can the approach work for a new author with only one or two titles? Can this method work for the writer who breaks out in hives at the mention of the words sales or marketing?”

I can’t speak for any other methods, but I am here to give good news. Yes, WANA methods have put my books at the top of the best-selling list. That’s good news for me, but what about you guys? The GREAT news is that WANA has worked for others as well. Authors with good books that no one wanted and that no one noticed until social media completed the success equation. We will hear from one of those WANA success stories in a moment.

There are those who will say that all that matters is a good book. For the past four years, I have said that we live in a society inundated with too many choices. I felt a good book was not enough. I deeply believed that we had to find a way to generate word of mouth, too. Writers needed more. We needed a good book AND a social media approach that 1) was more than just a new way to spam people 2) that would generate a community vested in our success 3) that could offer us exponential exposure 4) that left time to write more books and have a life and 5) that didn’t try to change our personality.

So I created WANA.

The big news in world publishing this past week has been that a British writing duo, Louise Voss and Mark Edwards, have signed a six-figure, four-book deal with Harper Collins. So what?

What makes this team interesting is that this deal was not earned the traditional way through the query process. This was an indie writing partnership with two books that the UK agents and publishers didn’t want. Rejected so many times these guys actually gave up writing. For over ten years! Then, earlier this year they gave it another shot and self-published. No agent, no publisher, no hype. The books the gatekeepers didn’t want to know shot from nowhere to, literally, #1 and #2 simultaneously, in the Kindle UK chart. In June alone they sold over 40,000 e-books.

And when they hit the top spot the gatekeepers suddenly forgot these books were rubbish and came running, cash at the ready. Louise Voss and Mark Edwards, congratulations! Read their story here.

Ah, keep reading. I have more good news. Voss and Edwards weren’t the first to use social media to launch their books up the charts. Bizarrely another writing partnership, writing under the pen-name Saffina Desforges, had led the way with another novel the gatekeepers rejected time and time again. Sugar & Spice  hit #2 in the Kindle UK charts no less than three times, and is on target to sell 100,000 e-books by the end of summer. That’s with just one title! They are currently in discussion with one of New York’s most prestigious agents.

But apart from being indie thriller-writing male-female partnerships with two guys called Mark who have conquered the Kindle UK charts with books the gatekeepers rejected, what do these two writing teams have in common?

Their success was down to the way they used social media to beat the odds and achieve sales most authors can only dream of. Mark Williams is here today to explain how the Saffina Desforges team have achieved nearly 100,000 sales with just one book using social media, with a little help from yours truly and We Are Not Alone. Thank you, Mark for sharing your story…

***

Saffina who? If you’re reading this in the US then you probably haven’t yet heard of Saffina Desforges. If you’re a regular on Amazon’s Kindle UK site, on the other hand, it will have been hard not to have heard of her. Our e-book has dominated the British best-seller charts, with sales not far short of 100,000, has been # 1 in six genres, and has reached # 2 in the main Kindle UK chart three times.

And it’s all Kristen Lamb’s fault.

Let me explain. It all began last year when two writers over in England, Sarah Griffiths and I, completed a gritty crime thriller we had been co-writing, and sent it off to the UK agents in eager anticipation.

Now of course we weren’t complete amateurs. We occasionally dipped into Kristen’s blog and had stolen a few ideas. For instance, establishing a brand.

Sarah created the pseudonym Saffina Desforges for us. Google Sarah Griffiths or Mark Williams and a thousand different people show up with that name. Google Saffina Desforges…  First page all the way! So Sarah became Saffina.

We set up a website as per Kristen’s advice, and thought about buying WANA. But hey, let the publisher do all that promo stuff later. We’ve got a name and a website. The rest is easy. Agent. Publisher. Fame and fortune. Sorted!

If only…

You all know how the system works. You send off your precious manuscript. The agent falls about laughing and sends it back. You tweak it, send it off to another. Repeat until someone gives in. Give in? Us? Not
a chance.

So now our walls are covered with beautifully-framed rejection slips from some of the most prestigious agents in the UK. At one point we were on course to exceed John Grisham for knock-backs. Stephen King’s legendary fifty rejections was in our sights. We greeted each rejection with faux-joy, reminding ourselves just how illiterate agents are, and then we sat quietly in dark closets and sulked for a few days. All the while quietly joking to ourselves that the next email or phone call would be from a top New York agent.

Hey, we’re writers! Fantasising is what we do!

But after a while we realised the fatal flaw in the send-reject-send-again strategy. If the agent doesn’t tell you why they rejected it (which nine times out of ten they don’t) then what do you tweak before sending it to the next? You might be making it worse, not better. And there comes a time when you think, “There must be another way.”

So we stuck it on Amazon.

Well, why not? It was cheaper than sending out to yet another agent, and this was eight weeks before Christmas. We could be in the top five by then. Or at least the top fifty… Not that we were ambitious or anything. We’d have settled for the top five hundred. Of course by Christmas we weren’t even in the top five gazillion. We were nowhere.  So far out in the charts it was unreal. In fact our book did absolutely nothing for almost three months. It was nine weeks before we even got our first review! So much for friends and family buying up a hundred copies each and writing glowing accolades.

John and Jenny No-Pals, that was us.

Then Saffi got hold of a copy of Kristen Lamb’s We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and excitedly told me how it was going to soar us into the charts.

Yeah, right. I mean, I read Kristen’s blog occasionally, and I had set up an old blog myself (not that any-one knew it existed). But what’s all this stuff about Facebook and Twitter? Don’t we have enough distractions as it is?

So while I tried to sell our rejection slips on eBay, Saffi started out on the WANA route to world domination. New blog; facebook page; twitter account; new shoes; make-over; night out with the girls. Things I just never would have thought were needed to promote a book.

Meanwhile our sales were consistent. Consistently non-existent, that is. With three full months on Amazon you could count our sales on the fingers of a rattle-snake. Then in early February we actually started selling. Not many, sure, but readers were actually finding us. Was Kristen’s WANA actually working? Were the new shoes paying off? All we knew was we were selling a few more than before.

So we looked into WANA again, and took it a bit more seriously. Saffi said she needed two new pairs of shoe and every weekend out on the town with the girls. I wasn’t convinced. Did Kristen really say that? All I knew was, we were selling. Hey, I’ll have some new shoes, too!

Darn. Apparently I was only allowed a new blog. But I was happy. Instead of just Mark Williams, it was now Mark Williams International. No longer a name. Now a brand.

So?

So put Mark Williams into google and get a zillion Mark Williams hits. None of them me. Put Mark Williams International into google…

And Saffi of course went the whole hog, with two blogs, facebook pages, twitter accounts, the works. She started going through WANA page by page, finding out about hashtags and pingbacks and all that stuff. And so many new shoes!

But if Kristen says a girl needs new shoes to sell, who was I to argue? We were selling. That was good enough for me. Of course, having a blog and nothing to blog about is no fun, so we tried out some more crazy WANA ideas, like TEAM. You know, sharing your cyberspace and helping others. What goes around comes around.

We invited guests, reviewed other writers’ works, and wrote about things that might interest fellow writers and readers. After a while I reluctantly signed up to Facebook, and even later Twitter, while Saffi was busy with all the rest of the stuff in WANA.

By mid February we were actually selling in double figures every day, and making some headway in the smaller categories on Amazon. By the end of February we were getting top movers and shakers places. Not just in the charts, but climbing rapidly. We were selling hundreds a week. I emailed Saffi and said, “Re-read WANA and do everything in there, twice!”

So she did.

The owner of the local shoe-shop took early retirement to Barbados. But in between trying on shoes Saffi kept at it with all the other WANA stuff. And we kept climbing. And climbing. And climbing. We were leap frogging big names. Writers we’d actually heard of. Writers we’d paid to read! Suddenly we were in the top hundred across all categories. The top fifty. The top twenty! And still the sales numbers were rising. The top ten! The top five! We actually got to #2. Three times!

As I write this we are still in the top fifty, selling thousands a week. With the debut novel by the unknown author that all the UK agents had rejected! Oh, and that crazy dream about being called up by a New York agent? Out of the blue one of the most prestigious agencies in New York called us! Yes, they called us, on the
other side of the Atlantic! Nothing signed yet, but some very interesting discussions going on about our new series of crime thrillers.

Will it be your turn next? Dare to dream!

Yes, of course having a good book that readers will love is a big factor. But you might have the best novel ever written in literary history. If no-one knows it exists, no-one will ever buy it. Kristen can show you how to make sure people know your book exists.

Oh, and for those still wondering, Kristen doesn’t really suggest new shoes as part of the plan. But buy a pair anyway, along with WANA. It worked for us!

***

Congratulations Mark and Saffy! Thank you so much for sharing your story, and it gives me tears that I could help you realize your dreams. If you guys are the Indie Cinderella Story, then I am thrilled I could be your WANA Fairy Godmother😀.

I hope all of you reading this feel encouraged. I know I ask a lot of you and sometimes it just feels like you are throwing a ton of effort into a black hole. I just have to say that hard work, great writing, and a solid social media platform built on a clear author brand is the formula for success, no matter what publishing route you choose to take. 

Happy writing!

Mash-Up of Awesomeness

Lessons form The Green Lantern and how NOT to plot a story. LOVED this post by Jami Gold.

6 Tips to Avoid Death by Critique by Roni Loren

What Separates Man from Pen Monkey Yes, I am a total Chuck Wendig fangirl, but this man is pure GENIUS

For the romance authors. I highly recommend Anna Destefano’s post about some important changes in the industry. Anna always has great posts and is an awesome teacher when it comes to the craft. Social media is wonderful, but at the core we need to write great books.

The Myth of Having More Time Someday by Jody Hedlund.

3 Tips for Reclaiming “Alone Time” by Tawna Fenske

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64 Comments

Understanding Influence–Making the Most of Our Time on Social Media

Photo thanks to Jason Bacues of Bacues Billiards 

Welcome to WANA Wednesday, chock full of tips to rock your social media experience and based off my best selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me Writer. One of the biggest complaints I hear about social media is that writers believe they have no time. I am going to share a little secret. We have plenty of time if we do it properly. The problem is that too many writers are approaching social media like traditional marketing instead of social marketing. When we try to apply traditional marketing tactics, we will be spread too thinly to be effective and, truthfully, can do more harm than good. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading my books for a clear understanding of the key differences between traditional marketing and social marketing.

Social marketing capitalizes on networking. Embrace the great news. We don’t have to do everything alone!!! Traditional marketing will tempt you to be on every last social media site and make a bazillion “friends,” yet all those “friends” will likely not be too vested in your success. So please trust me. A smaller network of effective influencers is far more powerful than a thousand followers who add little social media value.

What is social media value?

Well, these are the members of your social grid who participate actively and add good content to the Internet community. We are going to talk about the different kinds of influencers in a moment. Find these key individuals, and there are no limits to your digital reach. These influencers are platform-building GOLD and your most valuable asset.

So how do you find the key influencers?

There are a number of ways to pinpoint our major influencers, but it is tricky. Why? Because unlike direct marketing or old-fashioned PR, the goal of social media is to influence entire groups of people. We aren’t just targeting one individual, but rather the individual and his/her surrounding community. That is one of the reasons that, unlike direct marketing, the overall effectiveness of social media is not as easy to measure. There are some SIM (Social Influence Marketing) metrics that one can run, and companies that can help you locate your referent influencers, but I don’t know that they are all that helpful for authors wanting to build a platform.

Yeah, you are going to have to do some work. Sorry. But I help you make it fun.

Writers are different than companies doing social media. That was the impetus behind me writing  social media books specifically for authors. Not all tools that work well in the corporate world cross over.

Unlike General Motors or Sealy, most of us are a one-man operation. We don’t have a marketing department to do all this stuff for us, and we also have a different kind of product. The CEO of John Deere is not responsible for making every tractor that comes off the assembly line. Yet, most authors are required to write their own books. We cannot outsource our social media content (blogs, articles, excerpts, commentary, group activity, etc.) like, say, All State or Heineken.

The plain fact of the matter is that the more we participate in social media, the better the results. And when I say participate, that means strategized participation (mixed with fun) with clear end goals. This has become far easier to do since I launched the #MyWANA group on Twitter. I liken #MyWANA to the writer’s water cooler. Yes, there is time to chit chat, network, share links and encourage one another, but trust me, you spend too long on there and one of your digital colleagues is guaranteed to threaten to use #thepantsofshame if you don’t get back to your word goals.

But basically, when it comes to building an author platform, we all need to have a plan. In order to have a plan, we must understand the players if we hope to identify those who can maximize our influence, thereby minimizing the time we spend on social media. Not all users are created equally. They are divided into categories that correspond with the influence they exact of their surrounding networks.

Expert Influencer—is just what it says. These are the authorities in a certain subject, and people look to these experts for information, advice, and guidance. The experts are heavyweights when it comes to influencing the decisions of those in their networks. Expert influencers usually have a picture of themselves as their icon. They also generally have huge following that number in the thousands or tens of thousands, depending on the platform. Also, a quick glance to their website (which is usually denoted in the bio) will give you a clear picture that this person is an expert in her field. Oprah. Enough said.

#MyWANA has been very blessed to have a wealth of experts who participate regularly. We have quite a few agents and even NY Times best-selling authors. We also have quie a few people who have been very successful at indie publishing and self-publishing. There is a wealth of expert knowledge out there if we are willing to pay attention. The other benefit of the experts who gather at #MyWANA is these people are actually participating and interacting. The downside of following most experts is the content is often automated. We might get the benefit of their knowledge, but it will be next to impossible to actually network with these folks. Ah, but on #MyWANA @jamesrollins, @bobmayer, and @allisonbrennan are regularly there to share their awesomeness with the rest of us.

Referent Influencer—is in the person’s social network and exercises influence. Referent influencers are a little trickier to figure out. They generally have a fairly large following, but not always. Quality and quantity are not the same thing.

So how do we figure out the referent influencers? We have to participate so we can pay attention. For the most part the referent influencers are highly active on social media and thus usually have a larger following than the casual user, but maybe not as large as the expert. Yet, it is their level of meaningful activity that makes them essential to have in our network. They post a lot of times a day and are well-known, liked, and respected for good content. People around them trust them for good stuff. These are the people you miss when they take a day off.

In my opinion, the referent influencer is the most valuable. Why? First, it is easier to get close to them and befriend them and gain their support. If you write a blog about overcoming substance abuse (as part of your NF book platform), what are the odds of becoming part of Dr. Phil’s inner circle? Referent influencers are far more approachable and, frankly, there are more of them. Also, they are more likely to have followers who are active on social media.

For instance, when I first started helping James Rollins, it seemed almost ridiculous. I had 4,000 followers and he had almost 15,000. What did little me have to offer? Well, many of my followers were very active and had regular blogs and their own platforms. My followers are on Twitter to influence. That is our goal. But what about Jim’s followers? Maybe some of them have influence, but a lot of his followers are on Twitter to chit-chat with family and keep tabs on their favorite author. So in ways, the playing field isn’t as disparate as one might initially think.

Positional Influencer—is often in the person’s inner circle. Friends, family, spouses are all examples of positional influencers. Yes, whether most of us admit it or not, our mothers’ opinions still influence us.

Virtually everyone on social media is a positional influencer to someone else. Positional influencers can be very valuable to a writer, especially in certain genres. For instance, I imagine that most 4-year-olds don’t drive down to Barnes & Noble, slap down a credit card and buy a stack of kid’s books. But moms do. If you happen to write for children, middle grade, teens, or any group that typically would not be the purchaser of the book, then you must target the positional influencers or risk losing a huge percentage of your potential consumers.

What this means is that everyone on social media holds some value. They may not have large social networks (yet), but they hold a lot of influence when it comes to their friends, family and peers. I know last year when Jody Hedlund’s The Preacher’s Bride was released, it quickly rose to the top 20 on the best-seller list and a lot of that had to do with 1) it was a really excellent book and 2) a lot of us couldn’t quit talking about how awesome Jody is and that she had a new book. I think at least 5 of my family members bought copies of Jody’s book just because I wouldn’t shut up about it😀.

At the end of the day, be good to anyone who is being good to you. Networks are hard to build, and we need as much help as we can get from our social community. So if others help “raise your barn,” (repost your posts) make sure you pitch in with theirs. It is just good manners. Yet, it really can help maximize your time and influence if you will be mindful to befriend thos who exercise greater impact on social media. If you get a chance, come join us at #MyWANA. Our sole mission is to support, encourage and promote one another.

So what are your thoughts? Do you find social media overwhelming? For those of you who’ve been on #MyWANA, has it helped?

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

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

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

Important Announcements and Mash-Up of Awesomeness Below

I am teaching TWO workshops at Write It Forward. Sign up HERE. There is a Becoming a Brand class for $20, but if you want to blog and you need my dedicated help to helping you find your own unique brand and develop a plan for blogging, then the $40 Blogging to Build a Brand will fit that need. In this class I will run you through exercises to help find and create a brand as unique as you and then tailor it to connect with your future fans.

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

Mash-Up of Awesomeness

Kicking out a Fast First Draft by Anne Greenwood Brown over at Writer Unboxed

Should Writers Use Excel by Jenny Hansen

7 Deadly Sins of Writing over at The Bookshelf Muse

25 Things You Should Know About Revisions by the HILARIOUS Chuck Wendig (And, yes, I am a total fan girl of Chuck which is why I always mention him. His blogs are THAT great.

Adventures in Children’s Publishing is a WONDERFUL resource for all writers, so I highly, highly recommend this treasure trove of awesomeness.

6 Benefits of Having an Agent in Today’s Publishing World by the talented and brilliant Jody Hedlund (yes, I am a fan of hers, too :P)

Chuck, Jody and then there is Tawna Fenske. If you want a place for a guaranteed good time, seriously gop check out her blog. Tawna is amazing.

Also, check out Camp Cheerful over at Piper Bayard’s blog. Can you tell I love funny blogs? Life is short! Laugh and laugh often.

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45 Comments

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