Posts Tagged Rise of the Machines Human Authors in a Digital World

Introducing Deep POV—WTH IS It? Can We Buy Some on Amazon?

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

If you are a writer who has a goal of selling books it is wise to remember that audiences are not static. They change. Their tastes change with the times and we need to understand what is “trending” if we want to connect and entertain. Many new writers look to the classics for inspiration and there isn’t anything per se wrong with that, but we must reinvent the classics, not regurgitate them.

Even if you look at the fashion trends, sure some styles “come back around” but they are not exact replicas of the past. They are a modernized version. But keep in mind that some fashion styles never come back. They’ve outlived their usefulness and belong in the past. Same with fiction.

Story trends and fashions change along with the audience. For instance, Moby Dick spends an excruciatingly long time talking about whales, namely because the audience of the time probably had never seen one and never would. If we did this today? Sure, feel free to walk around in a literary gold-plated cod piece, but er…

Yes, awkward.

Epics were also very popular. Follow a character from the womb until death. FANTASTIC STUFF! Why? Because no one had HBO, Pinterest or Angry Birds. Books were a rare indulgence usually reserved for a handful of literate folks with the money or connections to get their hands on…a book.

Also, since writers were paid by the word, their works were padded more than a freshman term paper. Their motto? No modifier left behind. These days? We have to write leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner.

We’ve talked about POV before, and which one might be the best for your story. I can’t choose for any of you, but before we talk about deep POV, I want to mention that POV is also affected by audience and I believe is a direct reflection of how connected we are as a society.

You guys may or may not know that POV has changed along with communication and connectedness. Waaaaay back in the day, omniscient with a god-like narrator was all the rage. But people didn’t travel at all. Most humans lived and died in the place they were born and in isolation from other communities.

With the early epics, we often had a narrator who was separate from the events.

Dear Reader, come with me for a tale of AWESOME…

Later, after the Dark Ages, people got out more, traveled more, etc. We see the narrator merging into just general god-like presence. Then, after the printing press was invented, more and more people were reading and a lot of monks were out of a job and went off to start the first microbreweries.

Don’t argue. It’s history😛 .

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Image via kcxd courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons.

With pamphlets and papers, people became more engaged and journalism eventually gives birth to this new-fangled invention…first-person. Third person and third-person shifting only became popular after audiences grew accustomed to radio programs (and later television) and could mentally process the idea of a cut-to scene.

As people became networked closer and closer, we see the psychic distance closing. Now that we are a culture of reality TV and social media? Omniscient is a tough sell. I am not telling any of you what POV to choose, but I will say that modern readers will shy away from these older forms of POV because they “feel cold.” Modern readers LOVE being as close as possible, ergo my little side-trip through history.

And this is where we get *drum roll* deep POV.

You hear this word flung around the writing world. Oooh, deep POV. That is deep POV. Deep, Man.

Um, what is deep POV?

And, if you are like me, you go along and are too embarrassed to ask what the heck deep POV is? Everyone wants it. Readers love it. Uh, but what IS it? How do I do it? Can I order some off Amazon?

Deep POV is simply a technique that strips the author voice completely out of the prose. There is no author intrusion so we are left only with the characters. The reader is nice and snuggly in the “head” of the character.

Okay, clear as mud. Right? Right.

As an editor, I see the intrusion much more than authors. It is actually shocking how much you guys interrupt. In fact, you are like my mother chaperoning my first date who would swear she was quiet as a mouse.

NOT.

I actually like deep POV because I love tight prose. I loathe unnecessary words. Deep POV not only leans up the writing, it digs deeper into the mental state of the character. We probably aren’t going to stay completely in deep POV, but it’s a nice place to call “home.”

How do we do it? Today, for the sake of brevity, we are just going to talk about simple stylistic changes, not the actual writing. We will do that next time😉 .

First, Ditch the Tags

Just using the word “said” tells the reader we (the author) are there.

Kristen’s Made-Up Example (don’t judge me, just roll with it)

“No, I always love it when you drop by,” she said. Fifi felt her hands start to shake. She glanced over Tom’s shoulder and saw that the street was deserted. She knew all of her neighbors had already gone out of town for Christmas and no one would hear her scream. She thought, He is going to kill me.

Okay, so we get that Fifi is in a bad spot. But just that little word said tells us the author is present. So in the next layer we are going to remove the said.

While We Are Here? Thought and Sense Words—Ditch Those, Too

If we really pause and think about it, thought and sense words are frequently redundant. If we are IN the character’s head? We KNOW she is thinking. Who else would be thinking?

We aren’t dumb. Yes, it is my personal opinion, but I feel sensing and thinking words often qualify as holding the reader’s brain. We don’t need to. Readers are pretty smart.

Let’s look at my made-up example.

“No, I always love it when you drop by.” Fifi felt her hands start to shake. She glanced over Tom’s shoulder and saw that the street was deserted. She knew all of her neighbors had already gone out of town for Christmas and no one would hear her scream. She thought, He is going to kill me.

So we ditched the said and that tightened it up. Did you notice how losing the tag tightened the psychic distance? Now let’s remove these stubborn stains  unnecessary sensing and thinking words.

***Also, try to ditch any “starting to”.  Do or do not, there is no try starting to.

“No, I always love it when you drop by.” Fifi’s hands shook. She glanced over Tom’s shoulder. The street was deserted. All of her neighbors had already gone out of town for Christmas and no one would hear her scream. He is going to kill me.

Do you see how just getting rid of those excess words upped the tension of this piece? We (the reader) go from being a distant observer to being in the potentially deadly situation. We don’t need to tell the reader Fifi is thinking or feeling or about to do something. The reader gets that and us putting in glowing directional arrows is a distraction.

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 5.19.06 PM

Fifi felt Tom’s hands clamp around her throat.

Just get to it already!

Tom’s hands clamped around her throat.

So I hope this helps clear up some of your “deep POV” questions. Remember that we live in a culture that is spoiled with intimacy and we can give them what they love. Next time, we will discuss characterization and how to write in deep POV beyond the stylistic choices.

Before we go, I want to give you a heads up especially if you are thinking on attending a conference.

I’m holding my ever-popular Your Story in a Sentence class. Can you tell what your book is about in ONE sentence? If you can’t? There might be a huge plot problem. This also helps if you are ever going to query or pitch an agent. The first ten signups get their log-line shredded by MOI for FREE.

Also speaking of FREE, I’d like to mention again the new class I am offering!

How and WHY are we using FREE!?

Making Money with FREE! As a bonus for this class, my friend Jack Patterson who’s so far sold over 150,000 books to come and teach us how to ROCK the newsletter. This is in excess of two hours of training and the recording (as always) comes with purchase.

Were you confused what deep POV was and why people all wanted one? Is it really much easier than you imagined? Do you silently wish the bustle would come back into style?

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

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

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73 Comments

Sending in the Flying Monkeys—Get Your @$$ to Work!

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 11.17.03 AM

Via meme on Pinterest

So many people say the same thing. “If I could only find the time…” Thing is, time isn’t down in the couch cushions hanging out with loose change, the TV remotes and stale Cherrios. Time isn’t hiding. Time is everywhere.

And THAT folks is the problem.

Time is everywhere and all around and so we tend to waste it. People who are successful have the same amount of time. Difference is? They use it better.

Monday, I gave Ten Ways to Go Pro and I happened to mention the writing sprints we do on W.A.N.A.Tribe (a Ning I created for writers). But, because I didn’t want to derail the point of Monday’s post, I didn’t exactly explain what precisely we DO on W.A.N.A.Tribe.

I created W.A.N.A.Tribe so that writers all over the world could connect and share and network. There are all kinds of tribes to join or even start. Even if a tribe hasn’t been particularly active, hop in and type something and it springs to life like a jar of sea monkeys😀 .

Have questions about self-publishing? There is a tribe for that. Need feedback on romance? There is a tribe for that.

But the real strength of W.A.N.A.Tribe has been in our daily ritual of meeting and working together in the Main Room IM field at W.A.N.ATribe. They began as sprints for NaNoWriMo. In the beginning, the sprints were sheerly for word count and they were 30 minutes long. But, that was during NaNoWriMo and word count is the ONLY thing that matters in November.

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Thanksgiving? You mean Day They Announce the NaNo Winners Day?

But the hard truth all writers face is that word count and “writing” is only a small part of what we do. At W.A.N.A.Tribe, the sprinters and I realized that about a week into December…namely because we all had 50K or more that was probably a mess.

Welcome to The Blackout

So I created what we call BLACKOUTS. Tequila is optional.

We meet in the morning and chat for a couple minutes and then I set a timer for 40 minutes and we all go dark until I call TIME.

Then we have to report back what we accomplished. This can be word count, pages edited, or pages of research read. Report back that you almost finished a marketing plan, you emptied your e-mail and answered all business e-mail.

But the Blackout is still very different. Writers are people and we are people who do not own a cloning machine…

…but our laundry and dishes do.

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We use Blackouts for those things too.

I know I generally start writing at 4:30 a.m. I’m an early bird. Always have been. How my parents didn’t murder me as a child is still a mystery. I remember my mother forbidding me to get out of bed until the birds were awake. The second I heard one chirp! I was up and laying waste to the Cheerios waiting for the colored bars on the T.V. to change to Captain Kangaroo.

Yes, I am that old.

Anyway…

I do check in when I’m at my desk, so any super early birds? If y’all need to do a Blackout that does not involve losing consciousness back in your warm bed? I am there to help. This is to help those writers I KNOW cannot yet leave the day job, but who need that extra push in the morning.

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Since many times I have already been writing 2-3 hours by the time the Blackouts “officially” start (9:00 AM CST)? I usually use them for other things, including housework.

As I also mentioned last post, I consume an insane amount of audiobooks, but I do this while I do chores. While my body is getting out of the chair to move around? My brain gets a break from creating and switch to absorbing/refilling. Right now I am on my third book of the week—The Everything Store and The Age of Amazon.

Last week it was The 10X Rule (for the third time) and If You’re Not First, You’re Last and then finally, How to Win at the Sport of Business by Mark Cuban.

I did 75 loads of laundry while learning…a lot. There are all kinds of things I dread doing, but add in peer pressure?

Anyway, when I do a Blackout, my report back may look something like this:

Sorted all the laundry, got the washer and dryer going, folded two loads, listened to three chapters of a book while I did the dishes and then finally I emptied my e-mail.

I get WAY more accomplished when I have to focus. No more goofing off on Facebook, farting around on Twitter, or losing sense of time and place talking on the phone to my mom. I KNOW I am going to have at least ONE person I am going to have to face and if I just jacked around? Yeah…

Additionally I’ve noticed this type of activity attracts and keeps the hard-chargers. You want to be around authors who will push you to a higher level? Be around Maria Grace when she reports that over the Blackout, she wrote 1,400 words, started a newsletter, edited three chapters and cured cancer.

Trust me, your bar goes WAY higher.

Love you Spooky!

***We nicknamed her that because she gets so much done, well…it’s spooky.

Thus, in a Blackout, we get the energy and fun competition of a workplace environment, and there is the promise of a tad bit of chit-chat in between…by folks who WILL send in the flying monkeys if you don’t work your @$$ off.

A huge part of being successful as a writer is the ability to be self-disciplined and self-directed. Sure, I do fairly well at that on my own, but have been known to…SQUIRREL!

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Wanna ride bikes? Play Barbies? I have a cat.

Where was I?

Oh, yes. Blackouts have really helped me maintain balance, focus and generate crazy productivity. Most of us actually can get far more accomplished than we realize, we just need to hustle. I have used Blackouts to do writing and then switched and used them for spring cleaning. I’ve even used them for a power nap. If I say I am going to rest for the next 40, I better do it (not clean up Hot Wheels in the living room).

If you join our group? Trust me. People are going to start asking questions if we don’t show. Meaning my attendance is usually pretty good unless I have appointments that have taken me out of my office.

I generally don’t do Blackouts in the evenings because I have jujitsu….or have blacked out literally from working all day. But any of you crazy cats who wanna give it a spin? We welcome you to join us!

What are your thoughts? Like me, are you decent do you suck at being self-disciplined but accountability makes it way easier? Do you feel you produce more with focus? Do you think you waste too much time? Are you struggling to get traction?

What are your thoughts?

Before we go, I’d like to mention again the new class I am offering!

How and WHY are we using FREE!?

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

Anyway, I really DO love hearing from you!

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

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

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45 Comments

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

Might I suggest one of these...

I think we need to renegotiate the terms…

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

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

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

Image via Wikipedia

Image via Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

Yes, Writers ARE Entrepreneurs

Craftfest

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

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

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

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

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

Free is an excellent servant, but a horrible master.

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

Writer up and tell FREE to SIT!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Power of the Purse

Image via Demi-Brooke Flickr Creative Commons

Image via Demi-Brooke Flickr Creative Commons

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

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

It’s happened before in many other industries.

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

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

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

We Create Something of VALUE

Johnny Cat wants to write his memoir...

Johnny Cat wants to write his memoir…

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

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

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

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

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

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

To paraphrase what the Founding Fathers said to King George?

Bite me.

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

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

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

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

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

~Henry Ford

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

Y’all get the point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But back to writers…

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

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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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55 Comments

Oh Grow UP!—Unfriending Part 2

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Memekode.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Memekode.

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

Free is an excellent servant, but a terrible master.

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

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

People are Not THINGS

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

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

It was obvious.

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

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

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

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

Socia Media Isn’t All About US

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

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

Passive aggressive much?

Seriously? Who does that in real life?

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2013-08-15 at 4.54.49 PM

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

Kidding!

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

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

It isn’t personal.

(Though unfriend and it is totally personal.)

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

I said, chronically misbehaving…

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

Move on.

If they have a bad day?

Move on.

If Something is Phishy, It Might Be Phishy

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Maarit Lundback

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Maarit Lundback

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

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

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

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

We’re Going to HAVE to Give Some Grace

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Thomas Ricker.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Thomas Ricker.

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway…

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

It happens.

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

My response?

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

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

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

But why are we THAT sensitive and is it healthy?

Diverse Friends Help Critical Thinking

Kristen as Redneck Barbie

Kristen as Redneck Barbie

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a False Reality

Original Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anurag Agnihotri

Original Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Anurag Agnihotri

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

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

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

People Have a Right to Be Different

Image courtesy of Rafael-Castillio via Flickr Creative Commons.

Image courtesy of Rafael-Castillio via Flickr Creative Commons.

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

Adults can actually handle someone else having a different opinion.

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

Really. Just really. Are we five?

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

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

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

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

*waves at Frank (RantingMonkey)*

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

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

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

Come on! GROUP HUG!

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

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

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

I really DO love hearing from you!

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

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

December’s Winner: AmieGibbons15

January’s Winner: Lisa Fender 

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

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

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

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71 Comments

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

Image used with permission from the creator Ira Gelb.

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

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

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

I Feel Sick

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

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

At first, Revolva was over the moon.

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

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

Revolva in an act of unbelievable bravery…said no.

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

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

Seriously?

Free Cancer

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

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

The cancer of FREE.

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

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

Global Culture Climate Change

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

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

Stop Whining. It’s ALL In Your Head!

Image courtesy of Raymond Brown via Flickr Creative Commons

Image courtesy of Raymond Brown via Flickr Creative Commons

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

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

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

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

Am I the only one seeing the paradox?

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

***A New Format

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

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

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

ACT ONE—We Never Saw It Coming

#FUTUREREADERS

#FUTUREREADERS

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

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

But then our culture began shifting on-line.

The BlackHoleBerry 

Image via Pink's Galaxy Flickr Creative Commons

Image via Pink’s Galaxy Flickr Creative Commons

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

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

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

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

Web 2.0 was meant to be ruled by regular people.

The Social Media Singularity

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

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

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

These massive changes set the stage for infection.

ACT TWO—The Exposure Infection Goes Systemic

panelvan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Creative Code Blue

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Casualties of Free 

Image via Alisha Vargas courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Image via Alisha Vargas courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

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

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

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

The Future is Streaming—Poison or Potion?

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

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

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

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

Courtesy of Imagens Evangelicas vis Flickr Creative Commons

Courtesy of Imagens Evangelicas vis Flickr Creative Commons

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

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

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

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

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

ACT THREE—We CAN CHANGE!

Image courtesy of Spirit-Fire via Flickr Creative Commons.

Image courtesy of Spirit-Fire via Flickr Creative Commons.

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

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

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

Taylor Swift is an excellent example.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What we did to prime Web 2.0 cannot sustain it.

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

When everyone is exposed then no one is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Need to Work Together

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

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

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

…but it can be cured.

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

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

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

What if more SMALL names were is brave as Revolva?

What if more ICONS were as fearless as Wil Wheaton?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author Call to Arms!

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

The BIG players CAN and WILL LISTEN. APPLE DID!

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

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

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

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

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

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

WE ARE NOT ALONE!

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

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

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270 Comments

Good Girls Don’t Become Best-Sellers—Channeling Your Inner “Bad Girl” to Reach Your Dreams

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 1.07.31 PM

I am currently reading Kate White’s I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This: Success Secrets Every Gutsy Girl Should Know. There are bad books, okay books, good books and great books. But there is another kind of book and it’s the rarest.

The game-changer.

White has a witty, sassy style. She is seamlessly intelligent and down-to-earth in her fiction. And guess what? Her nonfiction delivers more of the same.

I’ve never recommended a book I haven’t finished, but this one has me far too excited. Even if Ms. White devolves into dirty limericks for the rest of the book? I still feel I have spent my money well. There are some points she makes which I feel are especially poignant and applicable to writers.

Part of the reason I’m referring to her book in this blog (even though I’m not yet finished) is that I might just chicken out unless I jump in. I have come to the conclusion that…

Good Girls Don’t Become Best-Sellers

Before you throw digital knives at me, please hear me out. I’ve been doing this social media thing since MySpace was big. I have three books under my belt, 900 blogs, and thousands of hours of teaching. So I’ve been around long enough to at least make a very unscientific study of human behavior and I can tell you that men almost always have the advantage in the new publishing paradigm. They have the edge for the same reasons they gain the advantage in the workplace.

Those lessons our mothers and grandmothers passed on could be the very behaviors that have us standing in our own way. I feel this is particularly true for the writing profession since it is largely comprised of women over 30.

Women over 30 have lived long enough to see this world change more than it ever has in the entire course of human history. Who would have imagined we’d say things like, “I want a picture. Hold on while I get my phone!”

We were born into a world where women became nurses, not doctors and now we are finding our way in a world where a woman can finally be bold enough to run for president (not vice-president).

Many of the writers I work with believe they are struggling with branding because of the technology, but I don’t agree. I think women are finally in a position where we must choose. It is live or die. If we listen to our rearing we will lose and lose BIG.

We don’t like the new paradigm because we can’t hide behind an agent and wait meekly for outside approval. The new publishing paradigm lands us smack dab in the place we are most terrified.

What I am going to address can help the men (the “Nice Guys”) and it does apply to younger women. But us older gals? I could kick myself for not seeing this earlier and it figures it would take a former Editor in Chief of Cosmopolitan Magazine to help me see the light. I’m going riff with some of the ideas presented in Ms. White’s book and apply them to women in the world of publishing. We are taught to be Good Girls and is this having a devastating impact on our careers.

Then, since I hate whining and love solutions, we will throw out the rule books and explore what it is to be a “Bad Girl.”

#1 Good Girls Are Modest

It is unbecoming to brag, so we are modest and humble and we are shooting ourselves in the foot.

In the corporate world, men are more likely to own their accomplishments, whereas women tend to minimize their achievements. To paraphrase White:

If a man has four years of college French, he has no problem stating he is fluent. Women, on the other hand, will downplay their abilities. We say we have a “conversational grasp” of the language.

When it comes to writing, the second a man even starts a novel, he has business cards with “Author” as his title and he is securing a website. Women, on the other hand? Let’s pause that thought for a little test.

How many of you are aspiring writers? Raise your hand. No one will see.

Now, use that hand to smack yourself soundly and never call yourself that again.

Writers write. There is no try. There is no aspire. Aspiring is for wimps. It takes guts and blood to be a writer.

No one will take us seriously unless we do it first.

#2 Good Girls Need Permission

I cannot count how many writers (usually female) have written a novel, numerous novels and yet still refer to themselves as “aspiring writers.” They are waiting for permission to even use the title even though they have a blog and have written hundreds of thousands of words.

Men don’t do this. At least not in the same numbers. I can attest to that. I’ve met men whose writing was so bad they should have been banned from downloading Word until they took some grammar classes, but that didn’t stop them from having a marketing plan or hiring a PR person. They don’t hesitate to secure a domain, build a blog, or hire the best person to design their cover and if they can’t get an agent? They are more likely to self-publish without needing outside approval to do so.

#3 Good Girls Don’t Have Desires

So many of us gals are afraid to want something. Why is it so hard for us to admit we want something? To claim a certain life? Why do we feel such shame and a need to hide who we are and what we desire?

It is okay for a man to want sex a promotion a raise to want to be a New York Times best-selling author, but for us? There is almost something dirty about wanting to write. Wanting to write and get PAID to write. Wanting to write and to…be famous for it.

Oh no! Kristen has gone TOO FAR! And there is only one punishment for lighting the grail-shaped beacon…

Dirty, naughty Zewt!

Spank us all!

If we are wives and mothers? The problem only compounds from there. I have a hard time expressing I want to go to the bathroom alone, how am I supposed to say I want to be published a LEGEND?

#4 Good Girls Are Demure

Demure=INVISIBLE

As a social media expert for writers, do you know one of the biggest mistakes writers make in branding? They fail to use their names. They tweet as @fairywriter or @ILuvBooks or @dragongirl. They do all of this wonderful networking for months and years and yet it is almost all wasted effort. Why? Because unless I am going to change my name to Fairy Writer and slap that on a cover, that twitter handle is doing zilch nada nothing to build a brand.

Remember what a brand is?

A brand is when our name alone is a bankable asset. It is when a name alone has the power to drive sales.

When I get on social media and see writers using monikers, by and large it is women. Men do this too, but not in the same numbers. And, even if men use a moniker, the second I point out the fallacy, they are far more likely to change it. Women on the other hand are terrified of using their name and take way more convincing.

Men are also far more likely to start a blog. Women?

They have to have three angelic visions, four miraculous encounters and a committee of family members to tell them it would be okay to BLOG. Why is blogging so scary? IT IS FREAKING WRITING. It plays to a writer’s strengths, but I might as well ask writers to perform brain surgery from space with a Chia Pet and an egg beater.

What if people find out I like to write? 

Don’t you think they should if you hope they will pay money to read your books?

#5 Good Girls Feel Comfortable Losing

Well, I tried and that’s all that counts. 

We women are notorious for placing ourselves in no-win situations. Out of one side of our mouth we say we can’t be on social media because we don’t yet have a book for sale, but when we do have a book for sale? Oh, well I feel so awkward talking to people because they might think I am selling my book.

*bangs head on keyboard*

When a man publishes a book, he is there to win. He isn’t there to see his name in print. He is there to see his name in lights.

But us gals? We are notorious for settling. We feel awkward admitting we maybe kind of sort of would like to be number one. Men have no problem admitting they are on social media because they would like to sell books.

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Okay, enough of the “Good Girl” stuff.

I hope I’ve made my point. Now *rubs hands* it is time for me to help you cultivate that inner Bad Girl.

If you want this dream, the first step is to know it is okay to want it. Many of you are moms, wives, and caretakers. Maybe you already have a great career and it is “selfish” to want to write. And I am here to say, YES. It is. And sometimes a little selfishness goes a long way. Men outpace us because they are better at being selfish.

We must learn to stuff a sock in the inner Good Girl’s mouth and channel that inner Bad Girl because she is dying to get out more. Being a Bad Girl doesn’t mean we aren’t still kind and gracious, but it does mean things are going to change.

#1 Bad Girls Do It Afraid

Nothing remarkable happens in the comfort zone. You are going to have to suck it up and writer up. Only sociopaths don’t feel fear. Fear is natural and normal but it gets in the way of greatness. I feel women are far more afraid of failure than men. We wait to be “perfect.” We can’t say anything until we have the perfect book. But perfect is the enemy of the good. Do it afraid.

Yes. You might fail. Odds are you WILL fail and good! Keep failing. It’s how we learn.

My motto?

If we aren’t failing, we aren’t doing anything interesting.

So understand everything I am about to tell you is likely going to scare your pants off.

It’s okay, the erotica authors can lead the way😀 .

Pay attention to that feeling because you will need to remember it. If something scares me (like writing this particular blog), likely I am onto something BIG. It is a sign I am heading in the right direction.

#2 Bad Girls OWN IT

Good, bad, ugly. We own what we do. I admit when I left sales and dreamed of becoming a writer, I wrote the world’s worst novel. It was being used in Guantanamo Bay to break terrorists until it was banned under the Hague Convention as torture.

But you know what? I finished a novel. I did something everyone says they want to do but then never actually do. I own the bad, but what’s been harder? Learning to own the GOOD.

It took weeks for me to put the emblem on this blog that I was named one of Writer’s Digest’s 100 Best Blogs. WHY? Because I am a work in progress, too😀 .

#3 Bad Girls ASK FOR IT

How many writers are waiting for someone to deliver their big break into their lap? We go to conferences and practically throw up in our shoes at the thought of asking an agent if they’d like to hear about our book. WHY? It is their JOB. Agents don’t have a job without writers.

Ask for what you want. Guess what? All they can do is say no. But, they might just say, “Yes.”

When I wrote my second social media book, I had the terrifying task of finding blurbs. So, I took my own advice and did it afraid. I made a list of all my favorite authors and then…asked. Guess what? New York Times Best-Selling Author James Rollins said, “Yes.”

He already knew me and loved my book.

Omgomgomgomgomgomgomgomg…

But I never would have known had I not dared to ASK. Bad girls don’t hear, “No.” We hear, “Not yet”😉 .

#4 Bad Girls DO IT

A lot.

We write. We blog. We tweet and by golly we slap our name on it while we are there. I get that the house is a mess, but guess what? It can wait. Most men aren’t waiting until the house is immaculate and all the laundry is done and the kids are all asleep to take time to write!

How many of us are getting up before dawn or staying up after midnight because our dream might just inconvenience someone else? Let them be inconvenienced for a change!

We ladies bend more than the karma sutra and that is okay, but if our husband actually has to watch the kids for an hour in the evening that is too much?

No.

# Bad Girls Are In It to WIN IT

Again, I love, love, love Kate White’s book because it reminded me of so much I’d forgotten. Yes, I am a full-time author, blogger, and C.E.O. but I am also a mom and spend way too much time in yoga pants and covered in crumbs. It is easy to forget to be hungry. It is easy to lose our way unless we are vigilant to keep the path. It is easy to let other people’s opinions matter too much.

Lionesses do not lose sleep over the opinions of sheep.

Bad girls don’t whine. We don’t make excuses and we do not politely wait our turn. We understand life is short and we need to make our time here count.

Understand that this is an amazing world that is rich in bounty and there is enough to go around. Don’t let anyone diminish you. This is your dream. It isn’t your little hobby or your “thing” it is YOU. It is your dream and it is OKAY to WANT TO WIN.

This seems like such a simple thing, but I hope you see how pivotal this realization is. I can give you all the branding and blogging lessons in the world and it won’t help. We don’t have a technology problem, we have a confidence problem.

Vow today to make a change. Start by admitting you want the dream then, for the love of all that is chocolate, slap your NAME on it. No more hiding. I will find you on Twitter and pull your @FairyGurl wings off😉 .

*kisses*

What are your thoughts? Do you see any “Good Girl” behaviors that have been undermining you? Do you have a hard time calling yourself a…writer? Do you have a hard time with the notion of social media because the thought of admitting you have a dream scares you spit-less? Have you bothered to get a domain name, a website? Blog? Are you afraid to ask for what you want? Do you put everyone and everything ahead of your writing? Are you waiting for permission? Do you feel like you are a poseur or a fake? Do you struggle with perfectionism?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of OCTOBER, 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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246 Comments

Branding and the Brain—What We Post On-Line Matters

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We’ve been talking about social media and building a platform the past couple of posts. I know this is a topic that makes most of us break out in hives, especially when you don’t yet have a book for sale. Been there, done that. Got the t-shirt. It’s sort of like credit. You can’t get any credit because you don’t yet have any credit but you don’t yet have any credit because no one will give you credit because you don’t have credit.

My head hurts.

Thus, today is for all levels of authors. Yes, even Jane Newbie who hasn’t yet finished the first book. We are going to talk about the bare essence of branding.

In my book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World I go into a lot more detail about the science behind branding, but today we are going to talk about why our everyday on-line behaviors collect into a larger pool we call “author brand.”

The thing is, humans have always had a “brand.” Brand in its simplest form is what adjectives we attach to another person. Before the digital age and social media this idea of “branding” simply extended into our social realms in places like school or church or clubs. Why? Humans dig labels. It’s how we make our larger world manageable. Thus, people might be tethered to words like “band geek” “jock” “prep” “gossip” “jerk” “soccer mom” etc.

As we grew older our personal brand included our occupation and this was a good way to do business. I was a member of Rotary for seven years. I was friends with “Ken the Stock Broker,” “Mike the Plastic Surgeon,” “Tom the Orthopedic Surgeon” “Debbie the Realtor” “Kim the Physical Therapist” and on and on and on.

Not one of these people needed to drop a flyer in my lap when we met for lunch. I knew who they were and what they did and I relied on their “brand” when I needed their service(s). It was far preferable for me to go to Dan the Dentist (who I knew and liked from Rotary) than it was to go on-line and hope I scored a dentist I liked.

But why did I “like” these people? Did I really need to get a full resume of their experience to at least give them (their services) a try? Not really. “Gene the Money Manager” was a nice family man and I enjoyed his company and that was good enough. He made the “sale” without ever “selling.” It was probably less about what he did and more what he didn’t do, but this is where we start getting into some neuroscience.

The Neurological Shortcut

Our brains are remarkable organs that have the ability to adapt to our environment. Before the invention of the written word, our memory centers were far larger because we had to pass down information orally. In fact, if you took an MRI of an tribesman from some South American tribe, his brain would look and act very different from yours or mine.

Then, with the advent of the written word, our memory centers shrank but we gained even larger areas for abstract thinking. This is around the time we start seeing major explosions in science and engineering.

Now we are in the Digital Age, and we’re bombarded with stimuli. Internet, television, radio, smart phones, pop-ups, etc. etc. We’ve lost our stellar memory centers and our ability to focus for long periods of time and have gained an unprecedented ability to multitask. We process massive amounts of information faster than ever before.

Think about it. We see ads on Facebook all the time. Or do we? Our brains have literally learned to un-see. We cannot manage all the input. So, if we (authors) are eventually going to advertise our books, how do we make our content visible?

Since our brain is much like a computer processor, it must come up with ways to effectively manage all this input in order to maintain efficiency. To do this, it relies on what are called somatic markers.

Somatic markers are neurological shortcuts and are one of the most primitive functions of the brain because they are uniquely tied to survival and procreation. It’s the same shortcut that tells us the stove is hot. We don’t need to sit and ponder the stove. We likely learned when we were very small not to touch.

To give you an idea of how somatic markers work, let’s do a little exercise. Is there a perfume or cologne you can smell and it instantly transports you back in time? Maybe to that first love or even *cringes* that first heartbreak? A song that makes you cry? Perhaps there is a food you once ate that made you sick and even though there is no logical reason you shouldn’t eat it now, the mere thought of eating it makes you queasy.

These are somatic markers. When it comes to branding, somatic markers are king.

The Pepsi Challenge

If you are around my age or older you can remember The Pepsi Challenge. For years, Pepsi had been trying to gain an edge over Coca Cola who had dominated the soda industry for generations. So, they came up with the idea of setting up a table in stores and shopping malls and encouraging people to take a blind taste test.

The results were astonishing.

In a blind taste test, people preferred the taste of Pepsi. Coke was rattled by this and they did the same test and it turned out, people preferred the taste of Pepsi…and this led to brilliant ideas like “New Coke” which was one of the most epic failures in history.

Why did New Coke fail?

Coke had reformulated to make the drink sweeter. In blind taste tests, New Coke was a clear winner. So then why did it tank so badly?

Somatic markers.

Years later, neuroscientists decided to see if they could demystify what happened in The Pepsi Challenge so they conducted the exact same experiment, only this time they hooked participants up to an fMRI machine so they could witness what areas of the brain lit up.

So, they held the taste test the same way it was conducted in the 70s. A blind taste test and to their astonishment, people preferred the taste of Pepsi. According to the fMRI the ventral putamen, the area of the brain that tells us something tastes yummy lit up like Christmas.

*Some have speculated that when it is only a sip, people will prefer the sweeter drink.*

The scientists then decided to try something a bit different. They did the test again, only this time they told the participants what they were drinking. This time, Coke won. Ah, but something strange happened in the brain. Not only did the ventral putamen light up, but so did the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain associated with emotion and memory.

See, when it was based on taste alone, Pepsi won. But, when the brands were compared, Coke won. The human brain was in a wrestling match between two very different regions—taste and emotional. Coke had the advantage because of the vast reservoir of fond memories associated with the brand.

Norman Rockwell Americana, cute polar bears, I’d Like to But the World a Coke, every BBQ, summer vacation, rollerskating parties, Friday nights with pizza and on and on all were part of the Coca Cola arsenal. The fond memories (positive somatic markers) associated with the brand literally changed the taste and gave Coca Cola the winning edge.

Every Bit Adds Up

This is why every interaction on social media matters. Right now you might not have a published novel and thus you don’t have 15 hours or more of an emotional memory to link to your name (yet). But you can get on social media and do a little bit every day.

Start building your own Coca Cola experience.

Even authors who are published. Keep the brand strong in between books a little bit every day,

Every time our name floats by on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. what emotional experience are we tethering it to? There are two types of somatic markers—positive and negative.

Last time I mentioned that it was possible to have a belief system without giving everyone else indigestion. I have people on Facebook who I actually agree with politically and I have had to unfriend because I don’t feel like being hysterical all the time. If I wanted doom and gloom and panic attacks I would watch the news. I don’t like feeling hopeless and powerless. I don’t enjoy being attacked.

Imagine that.

This holds true for how we act in person. Would we want to hang out with someone who just ranted and raged and complained all the time? Who called other people names and became belligerent when anyone dared to disagree? And I am not suggesting anything that wouldn’t be prudent in a regular workplace. Social media is simply an extension of the social realm. There is no “magic” to it other than be kind and treat others the way we’d like to be treated. Somatic markers are what make us “likable” in person or “on-line.”

Somatic markers also have the power to give us an edge when it comes to sales.

We see ads all over. More than ever before in human history. But when we have a positive experience, we notice the ad. For instance, I never realized there were so many red Hondas until I bought one. Now, I don’t believe the overall sale of red Hondas changed any, but I noticed them because I had one.

If we see an ad for a book, we may or may not notice. But what about an ad for a book written by someone we know? Someone perhaps we talked to and liked? The ad practically leaps from the page. We might even buy it because we SAW her ad and OMG! I know her!

Ads alone have very little power to compel a purchase. But, couple them with a brand, and the odds greatly improve. We can use some simple understanding of how the human brain works to better guide us in what we should (or should not) post on-line.

Remember last time we talked about kitten memes. Don’t underestimate them. Think about it. If every time my name floats by on Facebook it is attached to something that makes you SMILE, that has an impact. We might not be aware of it, but our brain is attaching somatic markers to a name.

When I see X, it is a good thing.

When I see X, I want to punch things and I feel sick.

At the end of the day, this is a long way to say that brands are simply what we learned in Kindergarten. Every interaction matters and it all adds up. With some planning, discipline and intent, we can better guide what it adds up to😉 . We will talk more about simple ways to start building a brand. This can be an enjoyable experience.

What are your thoughts? Do you have a perfume you used to love, but then someone you despised wore it and you no longer could stand the smell? Have you had a bad experience with a food and to this day can’t eat it? Do you think of summer vacation whenever you smell Coppertone, too?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of OCTOBER, 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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