Posts Tagged how to get more readers

Selling Books—The Struggle is REAL but Not New & What to DO!

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Lane Pearman

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Lane Pearman

I know a lot of authors feel overwhelmed in the digital age of publishing and that is perfectly understandable. But today I would like to pan back and maybe offer a refreshed perspective to keep you pressing.

Today we face the challenge of creating a brand. But you might be thinking, “What exactly is a brand?” There is a lot of misinformation floating around so that is a reasonable question to ask.

A brand is the power of a name to drive sales. Our name alone compels action.

No easy task. Overcoming inertia is critical for any author who wants to make a living doing this writing thing. In an age of instant? This is going to take a while, but hopefully I can help ūüėČ .

But first…

The Struggle is NOT New

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Publishers have always struggled to help authors create a brand. This is NOT a new thing. I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating. According to the BEA (Book Expo of America) statistics of 2004, writers had a 92% failure rate. Only one out of ten traditionally published authors ever saw another book in print. 92% of all books published sold less than a thousand copies (traditionally and nontraditionally published).

Why I like using 2004 statistics is this is two years before most of the major social media platforms gained traction. Facebook, You Tube and Twitter all emerged in roughly the same two year period.

But before social media? It was a nightmare for publishers to help authors create a brand (unless they were non-fiction authors). Nonfiction authors had far more access to platform building activities—public speaking, conferences, media, newsletters, or their own personal practices. The local news was far more likely to interview a doctor about his new weight loss program than they were to talk to a novelist about dragons or spaceships. Media was almost solely the domain of the NF expert.

Why this was so vital was that audiences suddenly had direct access to a writer who might be able to make his/her case and influence behavior. Maybe you weren’t normally a “reader” but that interview on NPR was so cool you just had to buy the book and learn how Hitler really escaped the bunker and the Russians lied about finding him.

Whatever.

But for fiction, more often than not publishers had to rely on some confluence of the stars to hope that a new book sold at least respectably. Sometimes writers could launch successful grassroots movements as was the case with The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood. But, many writers tried this and most of them failed. Grassroots movements are lightning in a bottle even today.

But sometimes it worked. And that was cool because then publishers could offer the writer another contract and the brand slowly was built with a volume of titles. Go to any used bookstore and who takes up most of the shelf space? Writers with multiple multiple titles.

All of this to say that brands were excruciatingly difficult and slow to build.

Perspective

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I know a lot of writers get discouraged today, but we must learn to balance reality and expectations. If we go back to the “good old days” what we have is this.

A book written on a typewriter. Revisions involved scissors and tape.¬†Then we had to research at libraries. That little detail you need for your story? No opening a new tab and googling real quick. Nope. Back to the library. Want to learn about police procedurals? Yep, call the department you are writing about and see if you can schedule an interview. No tweeting, Anyone here Atlanta PD? I’m an author with a question¬†#LEO

Then we had to buy a Writer’s Market every year and pray the information hadn’t changed, but most of the time it had. I swear agents changed agencies more than my mom changes her mind about where to eat lunch. Then we had to type out a stack of queries, put in mail‚Ķthen wait.

Out of fifteen queries, likely five would be returned with, No longer at this agency. Three might come with No longer looking for X type of book. Another five just would never respond and the other two? Well one would probably be a form letter misspelling your name and the other would be a handwritten note suggesting we stop writing altogether.

Oh and every agent would demand “no simultaneous submissions”, but they could feel free to take six months to get back to us‚Ķif ever.

Just getting published was about as close to an act of God as we could get. And even then? That wasn’t the end of it. Generally it took about a year to eighteen months for the book to be in print. We got paid once, maybe twice a year.

If we add up the sheer volume of TIME involved in the old way, why are we griping that we have been self-published three years and aren’t yet J.K. Rowling?

I have mentioned the problems with Millennial Authors (these are writers who have “come of age” during the digital revolution and they could be 22 or 67). I know the “old way” wasn’t better, but it does lead me to believe that writers of the “old days” have better tenacity because they didn’t enter the profession in the Age of Instant.

Yes, our first book might only sell a handful of copies. But guess what? In the “old days” odds were we would only sell a small number of copies as well (refer to statistics above). But, unlike the “old days” we can keep writing more books. We can keep at it until something sticks or until we decide to move on.

Back to the Brand

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Brands take time to build. Only now, with social media, the task is far easier than it used to be. We can build our own platforms and create our own brands and we don’t have to pray for lighting in a bottle the same way we used to. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we are still working toward that magic, only now we have more control.

We don’t have to pray our local paper writes about us, or we score a radio interview so the outside world can encounter us. We can start cultivating our audience on our own. Yet, we still have the challenge of creating a brand.

Remember, a brand is when our name alone compels action whether that action is buying a book, commenting on a blog, reading a blog, sharing a post, RTing a tweet. The more we can compel action on the part of others, the stronger our brand will grow.

Traditional marketing, advertising and direct mail operate linearly. I send X to Y. Best Buy doesn’t expect that when I get a coupon in the mail I will then share it with all my friends.

Social media, conversely, operates algorithmically using the power of exponentials. Content flies out along countless vectors as opposed to ONE (which is why it is all but impossible to measure efficacy of social media in the same detailed way).

Someone reads my blog and tweets or posts to FB and that post then travels along infinite vectors I may never see.

Why is this important? Because our goal is to have a dialogue with others, generate interest and excitement that compels others to share. The problem is that a lot of writers are treating social media the same way as direct mail.

Buy my book!

Please retweet!

Sign up for my newsletter!

Instead of giving, they are taking and we are frankly worn plum out from takers. Every one of us has an inbox filled with newsletters we didn’t sign up for, ads, marketing, and on and on and they all WANT something. We feel like we’ve fallen into some swamp pond and staggered out covered in leeches.

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Thus, if we default to generating self-serving content (ads, marketing, self-promotion), we shouldn’t be surprised when creating a brand feels like trying to perform brain surgery from space with an egg beater. If we engage in traditional marketing tactics, we have use of ONE vector (us to other party).

This means we are beholden to the same dismal ROI (return on investment) numbers of all direct mail which is about a 1%-5% ROI. This means we better have 100,000 twitter followers to get any traction since we have to reach those people directly instead of with the help of a network.

If we don’t want to be on every social site and spending our time building up massive numbers (instead of writing), then we need to go back to the content. We can create stuff others want to share because social media is basically Show and Tell for adults ūüėČ . If we do this, then reaching 100,000 people is far easier since we are not singlehandedly reaching them via one road. Additionally, content will be viewed at a far higher rate since it is “spoken for” by a third party people know, like and trust.

Do this long enough and your “following” might be smaller in overall numbers, but those followers will be engaged which will make all the difference in the world. These are the followers we have cultivated to look forward to hearing from us because we are a brand.

Ads, marketing and promotion have little momentum without the engine of the BRAND.

In the end, don’t get too frustrated. Publishing has always been a slow business. Only now? It’s just slower in different ways. It also¬†feels¬†slower because everything else (besides writing the actual book) is pretty close to instant. So make sure you aren’t being unreasonable in your expectations. It is a heck of a lot faster to publish that book on Create Space than it is going to be to build the audience dying to read it. Just keep improving and keep pressing and keep perspective.

What are your thoughts? Do you think we have gotten a little spoiled with instant? That maybe it makes us unreasonably hard on ourselves? Do you want to set fire to your e-mail?

If branding and blogging and all that jazz has you overwhelmed, please pick up a copy of Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World¬†or check out the¬†classes I have below. I even have a Social Media Master’s series where you get three classes for the price of TWO. All you need to know to ROCK your book brand.

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. 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 Upcoming Classes

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

All you need is an internet connection!

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

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

Individual Classes with MOI!

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

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

Social Media for Authors February 11th, 2017

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

Blogging for Authors February 3rd

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

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Author Brands & Book Sales—Why Boutique is BIG

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Normally my blogs are all about telling y’all you are not a special unique snowflake. But yeah y’all are but don’t get a big head about it ūüėõ . We just need to discern the places we are not special (I.e. we all have to do the work) and figure out the places we are and then USE that, especially when it comes to creating an author brand.

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We’re now into the Digital Age, and the ramifications of a connected world are still being revealed daily. But, there’s one trend I’d be hard-pressed to argue with. The 20th Century was all about homogeneity. Madison Avenue flourished by telling us which clothing brands made us cool, which car made us special, what foods were “healthy.”

Information was controlled by gatekeepers and commodities restricted by retailers, thus homogeneity was the goal. Homogeneity was simpler and required less paperwork and thinking.

Generations bought Wonderbread because it was “fortified with vitamins” and “good for your kids.” In 1986? Hope you liked stirrup pants.¬†There was a cultural need to “fit in” and be like everyone else, especially those who were the “cool kids.”

“Pillars of Same” Go Crashing Down

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With the advent of the Internet and widespread use of social media, homogeneity is crumbling. Individualism is now revered more than ever in human history (often to the point of being irritating, but that’s another post).

And, no matter how weird, off-beat, or All-American we want to be? There is a subculture to embrace our style. Mega-trends have lost their power.

What this means is that, as consumers are faced with more and more choices, they’re segregating themselves into smaller and smaller subgroups. Love tattoos? Minis? Tattoos of minis?

Can’t get enough of Jackson Galaxy and cat whispering? Are you Stay-at-Home-Mom who kicks butt on a Roller Derby Team each Saturday? It’s all out there, and most of us are a unique mixture that can’t easily be categorized.

Spawn is a part of the gaming, HALO, NERF and Shoes are Evil subculture.

Spawn is a part of the gaming, HALO, NERF and “Shoes are for Suckers” subculture.

What all of this means is that 20 years ago, we knew which table to sit at–Jocks, Preps, Nerds, Geeks, Good Kids, Band Kids, Kid Who Smells Like Old Carpet. The lines were clearer, namely because we had only a handful of networks and limited retail outlets to define our identity.

Now? We have the reins of individual freedom and we like it.

What Does This Mean for Publishing?

Big publishing has a number of limitations. First, their size. Second, massive overhead. Third? 20th Century thinking. They have to find the mega-trend to stay in business, but what does this mean in a marketplace that is rapidly shifting to micro-trends?

NY is less able to spot the micro-trends, because in a world of algorithms, numbers and spreadsheets, one relies on the past to predict the future.

Business is always looking backward in order to move forward. It’s like trying to drive our car using the rearview mirror as the main guide. Says a lot about where we’ve been, but gives limited information as to what’s ahead.

Indies Have Revealed the Micro-Trend

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We’ve talked about the¬†Fifty Shades of Grey¬†phenomenon, yet I will point out that I’ve met agents who turned down the manuscript.¬†It was through E.L. James’ massive volume of independent sales that the micro-trend surfaced and then NY could turn this success¬†into¬†a mega-trend.¬†A genre which received little to no attention has grown exponentially.

This was one of the reasons I recommended NY create e-book divisions as early as 2009 (REAL e-book divisions, not vanity-press retreads). Find a good book, give it a chance and see if the trend emerged. If not? The product cost less to produce and the writer could earn a higher royalty.

Even if the book didn’t sell bazillions of copies, writers didn’t have to sell¬†that¬†many books to make a healthy living and be freed up to write more books. Now instead of NY banking the farm on finding the ONE mega-trend, they could reap the rewards of countless micro-trends.

Which is exactly what Amazon has been doing.

Amazon doesn’t¬†need¬†one author to sell two million copies (not that they are opposed to it), but they can easily have 20 or even a 100 authors sell two million copies. The money spends the same.

This is Why Social Media is Vital for Authors

Social media is vital for keeping our fingers on the pulse of the public (code for “readers”). We can use blogging to define our brand then use content to attract those who share our “subculture” tastes (I teach how to do this in my blogging class ūüėČ ) .

It’s the main reason it’s death to be the All-Writing-All-The-Time-Channel. That’s a one-dimensional subculture that is overfished and quickly grows stagnant.

Also, any writer worth his/her salt is interested in a lot of things. 

The more we feed our subculture, the healthier it becomes, and the more loyal.

We are all seeking our peeps, our tribe, our “friends” in a world that has become explosively larger.

Modern humans are overwhelmed with the sheer volume of choices, and, as a response, we stick to what we know. Sure, in 1999 we LOVED the megastore because it was new and shiny. Almost fifteen years later? Mega stores are going extinct.

In fact, in 2012‚Ķ2012! I spelled out a plan to save Barnes & Noble. They didn’t listen, but apparently Amazon did. B&Ns are going under simply because they failed to appreciate the power of being small.

THIS was in our local mall.

THIS was in our local mall.

Boutique is BIG

We’ll pay a bit more to shop at the corner market who appreciates our love for exotic sushi,¬†GF hot dog buns, and foie gras. We can buy Wonderbread at a supermarket or go to the small boutique grocer that sells sprouted grains for those of us in the crowd of Wonder-Why-We-EVER-Ate-Wonderbread.

Everyone wins.

Boutique stores thrive, but so do boutique BRANDS.

But There’s a Catch…

To spot and nourish the micro-trend, we must be present.

This is one of the many, many reasons automation gives me a twitch. Micro-trends can earn us a healthy living. A single writer doesn’t need to sell as many books to keep the lights on as NYC does. Also micro-trends have the potential to grow up to be mega-trends.

Spreadsheets can’t tell us as much as people can. And, trust me, people have a lot to say. Numbers can’t tell us as much about the future as relationships can.

What are your thoughts? Do you love a world where you can define your own style? Create your own genres? Mix in your varied interests? Have you met people on social media with similar hobbies that you’d never have met in person?

I LOVE hearing from you!

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. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

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

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

Upcoming Classes

NEW CLASS!

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

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

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

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

Good question. We will cover that and more!

But sometimes the query is not enough.

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

Sign up early for $10 OFF!!!

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist September 2nd–September 16th

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

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

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist Gold

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

Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line

September 7th

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

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

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

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

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

Blogging for Authors

September 17th

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

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

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

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

 

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