Posts Tagged selling more books

Never Tell Me the Odds—Getting Your Head Right for Success

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I read a lot of books on business, sales, and success. I love motivational books and yes, even self-help. Why? Because so much of success is mental. Study the sports greats and the practice on the field is only one component of their overall performance. The truly great players spend countless hours getting their head right.

And this makes sense if we think about it. Take a horse for example. No matter how large that beast is, man can control the direction that animal goes with ONE thing…controlling the head. Where the head goes the rest will follow.

So I challenge you with this question each and every day…

Where is Your Head?

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Granted, there are days, I don’t know if I could find my head. I have been down with a really bad cold for a week and I think I finally found my head in the couch cushions all sticky and plastered in dust bunnies and Cheerios. I am all over the place this morning, still foggy with cold medicine.

And guess what? That is okay…so long as I get my head cleaned off and put back on straight.

This is not an activity we do ONCE. Life is not static.

At times? Our head WILL fly off the wrong direction. It is just up to us to be aware of the fact that it needs to be put back right.

See we need to have a different kind of self-awareness when we decide to go pro at anything. We can’t afford the mindlessness of mediocrity. We can’t afford day after day of being reactive and permitting life to happen TO us.

We need to get our heads on straight.

Now, to do this, we have to adopt habits that are very different to the rest of the world and that might even seen a bit strange. And guess what? They are strange! Habits of the 5%ers are GOING to seem odd to regular people. Being excellent is going to force us where it is uncomfortable. In fact, the more uncomfortable it is, the better the results.

So to make y’all super uncomfortable…

Declare What is Untrue Until It BECOMES True

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Did you know that the subconscious mind cannot tell the difference between truth and lie? It just believes what we tell it. Yet how many of us are in a habit of constantly talking about our faults? We are constantly declaring weakness and so the subconscious shrugs and says, “Okay, well if you are disorganized then I will make sure to put that important paper where you will never find it.”

Our subconscious mind dictates our unconscious habits. The mind and the body are connected and we need to appreciate this fact or we are doomed to self-defeating behaviors.

This is one of the reasons my left eye twitches when people declare they are “aspiring writers.” Go look up synonyms for “aspiring” and you will see words like “wishful” or “trying” or “longing” and so is it any wonder that writers groups across the world are filled with aspiring writers who never finish (let alone publish) anything?

By contrast look at synonyms for “professional” and you will see words like “efficient” and “skillful” and “competent.”

When we declare we are professionals, then our subconscious will 1) match our behavior with our words and/or 2) convict us when our behavior is out of line with what we have declared to be true.

We will get that niggling sinking feeling when we don’t do our job.

But guess what? Keep acting like a pro long enough and people see us as a pro and so guess who gets the paying work?

I keep a notepad where I constantly write things that are untrue and it has been shocking to me over the years how often reality has caught up with what I might have written off as a pipe-dream if I hadn’t known this trick.

Almost ten years ago when I was first starting out as a blogger and wanna-be expert, I was living with my mom and writing software instructions for a living *shoots self*. I was a total newbie with two regular commenters on my blog. If I didn’t have spam bots I wouldn’t have had a following at all. But I wrote:

I am the definitive voice in branding and social media for authors.

I didn’t even have a book finished. Now? I’ve written three and Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World is the definitive guide for branding for authors. I had a goal of writing a branding and social media book that would be evergreen and was told it was impossible.

Well, yeah about that 😉 .

I also wrote…

I am regularly invited to speak at conferences.

Then it happened. So I wrote something SO unrealistically big I erased it four times before I finally left it.

I am the keynote for the Romance Writers of New Zealand.

Guess where I am keynoting in August?

I have 55,000 subscribers to my blog.

Looking back? Maybe should have dreamed bigger but I wrote that when my mom was my only fan.

My writing heroes come to ME for advice.

And this still freaks me out when they do, LOL.

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Was this some sort of hoo-doo-voo-doo magic? Not really. It was getting my head on straight and focused on where I wanted to go. I listed out the habits and behaviors I needed to support these assertions. I blogged week after week after week even when no one read and there was no evidence to support what I had declared to be true.

This doesn’t mean I just kept posting crap. No, I studied other blogs, read books, read articles, asked questions, tried new things and above all I was consistent. Then once I reached my goals, I didn’t remain there. I dreamed bigger dreams, different dreams.

Now that social media has become part of our culture as I once envisioned, and I have provided the ONE manual necessary for owning that space. I’ve adjusted my goals back to fiction.

I am a #1 New York Times Best-Selling Author.

I am a #1 USA Today Best-Selling Author.

Is it true? Not yet 😀 . But guess what? If I keep declaring this it holds me accountable to WRITE THE BOOKS. I can’t become a best-selling anything with NO BOOKS. And since I want to hit these lists, not only do I have to write the books (finish the books), I also am wise to study what sells. When I am not writing, I am very literally reading the best-seller lists.

I have made my MISSION from these declarations.

So even though I might look silly to you claiming, I am a #1 NYTBSA! don’t you think my odds are vastly different because I have claimed this then adopted the behaviors of someone obsessed with this goal?

Head Trauma

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I see so many writers out there focused on all the wrong things and they are psyching themselves out. Remember if we declare it to be true then it will be.

There is too much competition. My book can possibly be seen.

Okay.

People just don’t read anymore. 

As you wish.

No one makes money writing books anymore. At least I can do this as a hobby.

See where I am going here?

I know when people like me start talking about the power of the mind, folks start rolling their eyes but tell me this. When did you ever see a sports superstar who declared, I am the best basketball player in the world who then became successful without shooting any hoops? You know, he wrote out affirmations and went to positive thinking camps and watched inspiring movies and never had to get on the court but he still rose to become an MVP?

Yeah hadn’t heard of him either.

Conversely, show me any super star anything who constantly complained and declared failure who then succeeded. You know, he shot a thousand hoops a day and said, “I’m terrible. Look at all I missed. Why do I even bother? The odds of me playing pro basketball are the same as winning the lottery and being struck by lightning on the same day.”

Hell, I am depressing myself just writing that.

Being a successful writer has a lot of moving parts and is not for the faint of heart. But declare what is untrue until it becomes true. Align your actions with your mission. Yeah discoverability is a nightmare, so learn how to do social media, how to build a brand, how to do what it takes to overcome the odds. Hey, I got sick and had to move up the dates for two of my social media classes, so sign up and let me help you!

In the meantime, just say….

People might not read books, but they DO read MINE 😀 .

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What are your thoughts? Do you find yourself getting off track? Focused on all the wrong things and bogging your spirit down? Do you find yourself talking about all the things you aren’t instead of what you could be? Do you feel strange declaring success? Heck, I do. Feel like a loon. It’s okay to be crazy here. Do you find it easier to believe all the bad? Have you overcome being your own worst enemy/critic?

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).

SIGN UP NOW FOR MY 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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Expectation & Desire—Cultivating Fans, Not Just “Readers”

Image via WANA Commons @ Flickr, courtesy of the talented and generous photographer Frank Selmo

Image via WANA Commons @ Flickr, courtesy of the talented and generous photographer Frank Selmo

We talked about this earlier in the week, but when I first approached agents with the idea of a social media book for authors, I was nearly stoned. All readers want is a good book, was their cry. Yes, that was true before our world inalterably shifted with The Digital Age.

In 1993, we didn’t expect an instant reply to a phone call. In 1996, we knew to just go make a cup of coffee while we waited for our dial-up Internet to load a page, because we didn’t expect for a page to appear in a fraction of a second.

In 1999, we didn’t expect our cell phones (the few who owned them) to take brilliant pictures, play music and offer us high-speed access to the Internet so we could make reservations for dinner, buy movie tickets, or do some Christmas shopping while stranded at the doctor’s office.

These days? How quickly would you change Internet providers if you could only open one screen and it took 3-5 minutes to load?

The Difference Between Expectation and Desire

Readers expect a good book. They expect proper grammar, punctuation and formatting that doesn’t look like it was performed by a sloth with a severe Valium addiction. These are basic, fundamental expectations…and they no longer impress people all that much.

Give you an example. I took my niece to a very expensive fine-dining establishment for her graduation. I saved the money to give her a treat. I’d chosen this restaurant because it was the one place Hubby and I would go to celebrate big events, like our wedding anniversaries.

Why?

Because, the first time we went there, we were greeted as if we were the most important people in the world. Instead of working middle class, we were A-Listers. A hostess guided us to a candle-lit table scattered with fresh rose petals and an artful bouquet of flowers. There was a card telling us Happy Anniversary and it was signed by all the staff who told us how grateful they were we’d chosen their establishment.

I am not a fan of seafood, but decided to give it a try. Everything they served had been swimming in an ocean 24 hours earlier and was fast-tracked to Central Texas. I never knew fish could actually taste soooo good, namely because all I’d ever been served was frozen mush that tasted like a freezer.

The waiter tended our every need. When I mentioned I had food allergies, the head chef came out to the table and worked out a special dish just for me. At the end of our meal? The staff arrived with free desserts for both of us. The chef had personally crafted one for me to accommodate all my allergies.

Now THAT is what I'm talkin' about....

Now THAT is what I’m talkin’ about….

*swoons*

Every time after, the staff of this restaurant treated us as if we were the most special people on the planet. I was a DIE-HARD FAN and we rarely eat out. When we did? This was the only choice, the ONLY place I wanted to eat. And we had to plan, not only because the place was pricey, but it was tough to get reservations if one didn’t do it far in advance.

Fast-Forward

It’s May of 2013 and I call for reservations at my all-time-favorite restaurant to celebrate my niece’s graduation (she’d won a scholarship to study abroad for the summer). I told the reservationist how important this event was. My niece has grown up in a family where Golden Corral was about as fancy as dining ever got. I wanted it to be perfect. I spent days telling my niece how amazing this place was.

We arrive and the first thing the hostess says is, “Where do you want to sit?” and points to an empty dining room. No table. Nothing prepared. Every time I asked anyone a question, the answer was, “I don’t know. I haven’t worked here that long.” The table is set with chipped bread dishes and dirty glasses. I call over one of the staff and hand her my bread plate and say, “You guys might want to throw this away.”

“Why?” *blank stare*

“Because there is a chip and I don’t want food poisoning.”

“Oh.”

When the waiter arrives, I explain in detail about my food allergies and order a dish that is simple. All they have to do is leave off the butter sauce. I tell my niece to order whatever she wants, it’s her special day. She orders the lobster, which was $90. Our food arrives and guess whose food is swimming in butter?

We had to sit and wait twenty minutes while the food was remade. No visit from the chef. No apologies from the manager.

In short, I was fuming by the end of the night (and mortified). $220 for a meal, and the service would have been better at Mexican Inn for $30.

See, when we first went to this restaurant, we expected clean glasses, plates that weren’t chipped, servers who could answer simple questions (or make an effort to find the answer), who could take basic instructions. We expected excellent food. That alone? We would have been happy. But the original restaurant gave us more than expectations, they gave us our DESIRES. 

Meet expectations? We create customers. Meet DESIRES? We create a cult following.

We desired to feel special. We desired above and beyond…and they gave us what we desired. THAT was what made me willing to save for two months to go to THAT dining establishment.

How Does This Apply to Books?

Readers expect good stories, just like we expected clean glasses. But what do our readers desire? The same thing we desired at the restaurant—to feel special, to connect, to have someone focus on us for a change.

This is why social media is such a game-changer. When we blog, we serve others. We have books to write. We don’t have to blog, but we’re going the extra mile to inform, connect, engage and entertain. Readers are expecting to be spammed by authors, yet they desire to know them and connect with them. 

All you need is love....

All you need is love….

The writer who automates pre-programmed tweets and never talks to anyone, is like that restaurant who thought they could keep business by simply having a fancy menu and doing the bare minimum (and not all that well). I would venture to say the empty dining room should have been my first warning to RUN! 

When we give others (readers or potential readers) what they desire, this is when we differentiate. There are scads of other social media experts who have books. Go to their Twitter and it takes a half a second to realize it is all pre-programmed, self-serving fluff. This is why if you see me on Facebook, Twitter or anywhere else on social media? It is ME.

I don’t want to eat spam, so why would others? Yet, by looking inside, I know what I desire—meaning, connection, fun, engagement, recognition, and to feel someone cares. That is what I desire and I’m not any different than most of you or even the people who might buy my books (or even yours).

By serving people more than what they expect and, instead, seeking to give them what they desire, THAT is how die-hard, lifelong fans are made. A good book is what people expect, but search inside and ask, “What do readers desire? And what ways can I give that to them?”

I love hearing from you!

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

I hope you will check out my newest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World on Amazon or even Barnes and Noble.

Also, here is a list of WANA International classes and Christmas specials.

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86 Comments

Our Author Brand—The Choice Between Meaningful and Empty, Sad Imitation

Meme from Facebook

Meme from Facebook via imgflip.com

When I saw this meme on Facebook, I though my husband was going to have to scrape me off the floor I was laughing so hard. And, like most things in life, if I’m left long enough to marinate on something, I frequently discover a hidden truth or a lesson we can all apply to life, our work and our art.

There are a lot of lessons out there about author branding (I’m right, though :D). There are those who hail the genius of automation, or claim we should be outrageous, shocking, and rattle The Establishment (whatever that is). I suppose all paths are viable, though all will yield different results.

The Automated Path

There are marketing technophiles who will gladly (and often for a fee) set up our social media to act on its own. We spend an hour writing clever snippets, plug them in and POOF! A machine can tweet, post on Facebook, post about our blog and we can happily do whatever other more important thing we have to do without ever worrying our pretty little heads about social media.

Yet, I would say that, whenever we consider our author brand, we need to also consider whether it is authentic, because in the Digital Age, authenticity is something people are desperately seeking. In the sea of 0s and 1s we long for that human touch and voice that gives information its meaning.

As Jaron Lanier states beautifully in his book You Are Not a Gadget:

A computer (social media) isn’t even there unless a person experiences it. There will be a warm mass of patterned silicon with electricity coursing through it, but the bits don’t mean anything without a cultured person to interpret them.

I’ve often stated that social media (like all forms of communication) is meaningless unless there is another person engaged on the other side to see and then act. Five or even three years ago, we had a hard time spotting people from bots.

Now? We’re far more sophisticated and not easily fooled.

Plant seeds of automation, and we shouldn’t be shocked if all we harvest are bots using the same tools, algorithms and tactics. When we rely on tools and gadgets, we are imitating being human, so why are we expecting to gain anything real in return?

Being Outrageous

Back to the meme above (*still giggles*), there are people who can pull off knocking over apple carts. Shock-and-Awe is, of course, an option. I’m never here to tell anyone what to do, only to help you do what is right for you and your brand and educate you on possible outcomes.

We can rant and rave and shock and push buttons, but I will warn you. There is a cost. Nothing in life is free ;). Being shocking or controversial will gain attention, but it’s a gamble. Will it garner enough positive attention to outweigh the bad?

As artists and writers many of us fall in the INFJ or ENFJ sectors of the Myers-Briggs. What this means is that we process information and interpret our reality through intuition (N) and emotion (F). We have a heightened sense of empathy.

This can be a good thing. It makes for great actors, writers, songwriters, dancers, etc. We are emotional creatures. This said, the sensitivity we feel toward emotion is far higher than, say, someone who is a natural accountant, who is logical and processes their world analytically.

We can say we’ll remain rational, but we also say we’re going to go to the gym five days a week and only have one cookie. Everyone is human, but artists are particularly human. It’s what makes us good at what we do, yet it’s also what makes us vulnerable to negative energy.

Sure, Miley Cyrus took a gamble on her career and she’s laughing all the way to the bank. But there are other stars who made similar wagers and shattered. Time will tell if Miley’s antics will be worth it. Or, will we one day read headlines about the ruined wreckage of a once-lovable Disney star now in jail or in rehab or dead?

Since I’m wagering I’m mainly speaking to writers and not former Disney child stars contemplating dancing nude with leaf-blowers, I’ll stick to author branding. Being outrageous comes with a lot of negative energy, criticism and trolls. If this is a path you want to take, make sure you have the skin to take the heat.

I, personally, am a total wuss and admit this with pride. I think it is possible to be shocking, outrageous and controversial without inviting in mass negativity. Don’t believe me? Just blog about the Star Wars Prequels, LOL. People feel VERY passionately about a made-up universe.

The Authentic Path—Be the Best You, Not an Imitation

I think the meme above is so clever because it shows how, when we try to copy, we can end up looking like fools. It’s one of the reasons I spend so much time in Rise of the Machines having you do exercises to mine the genuine YOU and then showing you how to connect those unique aspects of your personality, loves, likes, dislikes, hobbies, strengths and short-comings to a reading audience and to cultivate a community.

I’ve been told my humor blogs remind people of The Bloggess, my informative posts sound like Seth Godin or even some of my craft teaching is resonant of Larry Brooks (which for me is very humbling because these folks are all fantastic writers). I can honestly say I never copied any of these other writers. In fact, I never heard of ANY of them until commenters made the observations.

Yes, it is a compliment to be compared with other peers. When we get TOO different, too odd, we lose people. Being authentic doesn’t mean we have to be so bizarre we can’t be compared to other writers or artists. It just means being the best us that we can be.

And if that “best you” is licking a red pen suggestively and then, while nude, running your first WIP through an industrial shredder, please make a vlog…or maybe don’t.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think Miley is all that shocking. Hmmm, a former Disney star hits seventeen, starts being seen in bars drinking underage, wears less and less clothing, “accidentally” releases a sex tape, amps up antics to outdo previous Disney child star, etc, etc, etc. It’s gotten to the point it is boringly formulaic.

But that’s my two cents.

What are your thoughts? Are there some artists or writers who’ve won your heart with being outrageous and controversial? How did they do it in a way that didn’t make you run screaming the other way?

Are there some who’ve lost you? Maybe you once loved them and then the controversy spoiled it? Are there some writers who’ve won or lost you through knocking over apple-carts?

No need to name, names, btw.

Are you a wuss, too and not a fan of being troll-fodder? Or, do you have the ability to brush off trolls like dust? Maybe you have some tools or suggestions for the rest of us still growing emotional heat-panels capable of reentering theEarth’s atmosphere.

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 novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

WANACon now has Day One and Day Two for sale separately so you can choose if you only can fit part of the conference. 

WANACon, the writing conference of the future is COMING! We start with PajamaCon the evening of October 3rd and then October 4th and 5th we have some of the biggest names in publishing coming RIGHT TO YOU–including the LEGEND Les Edgerton. 

Get PajamaCon and BOTH DAYS OF THE CONFERENCE for $149 and all recordings for anything you miss or need to hear again. Sign up today, because seats are limited. REGISTER HERE.

For those who are total newbies, I am running a Writer’s Guide to Social Media Class tomorrow for $39 5-7 EST (NYC time). Use WANA15 for 15% off. We will cover the major platforms, what they do, and which ones might be right for you and your brand.

I am also holding ACHOO!! The Writer’s Guide to Going Viral 5-6:30 EST (NYC time). This class is $49 and, again, use WANA15 for 15% off. Not all content is created equal. This class helps you understand how to understand how search engines work, how to gain favor, and how to create content that will give you traction. Feel like you are blogging to the ether? This class can help.

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Irrefutable Law of Success #4—Give People What They Want to Consume

My cooking is "aesthetically balanced" and EDIBLE.

My cooking is “aesthetically balanced” and EDIBLE.

It’s easy to get caught up in the notion we are artists, and forget about the business side of our business. This is one of the reasons we need to be honest about our goals. It’s a noble goal to want to earn a living, a good living from writing. Yet, if we want to make money writing, we have to feed people what they want to eat.

A Tale of Two Parsnips

I remember being in NYC in 2012. It was our final day in the city and we were celebrating a member of our group’s birthday. Since I have a bazillion food allergies, we called ahead of time to make sure the restaurant could accommodate someone with allergies to half the known universe.

Since the place was an Asian-Australian fusion restaurant, they assured me that there were lots of grilled meat dishes that could be easily adjusted to meet my needs. This was a super fancy restaurant and the chef had even once won Iron Chef, so I didn’t eat much that day, preparing for my first experience with an Asian-Australian cuisine.

We get to the ordering and the chef simply refused to modify any of the dishes, claiming that removing the mashed potatoes (which contained dairy) ruined the aesthetics of the dish. Seriously? Um, did anyone tell this chef food is for eating, not staring at?

The waitress kept continually offering me the parsnip soup. I was hungry, then after fifteen times being offered soup I didn’t want, I was ticked. I finally lost my temper, scared the waitress and someone somehow convinced the kitchen to create an aesthetically unbalanced plate before I came back there and made an aesthetically unbalanced chef.

To this day, my friend Rachel Funk Heller claims “parsnip” is my trigger word (and can be counted on to randomly shout it out to embarrass me).

But this story illustrates my point. We shouldn’t keep trying to serve others something they don’t want to consume. This has been a guiding principle of my social media approach. I don’t like eating spam, so why feed it to others?

When I wrote my first social media book, it was because all the books out there were highly technical, boring and made me want to throw myself in traffic. I knew I couldn’t be alone. Why not write a book that was useful and fun? Repackage a boring topic into something people enjoyed?

***That’s thinking like an entrepreneur, btw ;).

Same with fiction. I didn’t like being forced to read The Great Gatsby (three times too many),  so why write books similar to so many of the classics most of us only read because we had to?

And inevitably I get an intellectual who wants to argue and it’s fine. If we want to write a modern version of Moby Dick, no one will stop us. If we want to write perspicacious prose only a handful of intelligentcia “get”? Write away!

Just don’t complain about sales numbers.

Readers, by and large, don’t want us to show off how clever we are. They want a good story. Just like I wanted to eat protein even if removing the mashed potatoes adversely affected the “aesthetic balance” of a plate I could barely see in a far-too-dark-pretentious-restaurant.

Give Readers What They Want In a WAY They Want

Every Christmas, we go through the same routine. The Spawn opens his new toys, then Mommy and Daddy spend the next hour with scissors and kitchen knives trying to break into them. I’m pretty shocked I haven’t lost a finger working to get past all the zip-tes, plastic, and anti-theft stuff.

This is how info-dump, fish heads, needless prologues and flashbacks feel to readers. We have to get past so much stuff to get to what we want, that we move on to novels who don’t make us work so hard to get to the STORY.

One of the reasons I emphasize understanding the craft of writing is that novel/story structure is mythic. There is actually evidence that narrative structure is hardwired into the human brain. Yes, we can break rules and deviate, but we do this too much? We confuse the reader. It’s like serving them a blue steak. Blue steak could taste great, but our minds won’t let us eat and enjoy something so very wrong.

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

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

This is why it’s important to deliver a book that’s been properly edited. Too many typos and mistakes are like grease coagulating on the plate. It negatively impacts the experience of the reader, and anything that pulls a reader out of the story needs to be cut or fixed.

Keep Writing

Good books are good books, but I’ll be blunt. There are outside factors we can never anticipate. This is why we need to keep writing. Maybe we put out a fabulous dystopian fiction. But, if the economy suddenly tanks, people are out of work and the world political climate shifts to the terrifying? We tend to not want to read more of the doom and gloom we get every day on the news.

I actually have a theory that this is part of why 50 Shades of Grey took off when it did. It was racy, mindless junk food that put readers in a world where someone else told them what to do (allowing them to escape from a real world where they have NO idea what to do). Whether the book was good, bad, or terrible, it clearly filled a need and a market emerged.

This is why writing more books is critical. Maybe Book One isn’t selling well today, but in a digital world where shelf space is infinite? Might do better next year. We get better the more we cook write, and odds are, if we do it enough, we’ll discover our readers and they’ll discover us.

Have you ever had someone try to keep giving you something you DIDN’T WANT? A book? Food at a restaurant, bad mojo at a clothing store? Two words. Skinny jeans. Any sociological theories about the success of 50 Shades? Come on! Let’s play armchair psychiatrist! I am not a doctor, but play one on the Internet :D.

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

ANNOUNCEMENTS: I have a class coming up TONIGHT, Creating Conflict and Tension on Every Page if you want to learn how to apply these tactics to your writing. Use WANA15 to get 15% off.

Also, August 21st, I am running a Your First Five Pages webinar. Bronze is $40 and Gold is $55 (I look at your first five pages) and use WANA15 for 15% off.

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57 Comments

Irrefutable Law of Success #3—We Learn By Doing

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Gabriel Amadeus

Original image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Gabriel Amadeus

Theory is great, but it may or may not jive with reality. My goal as a blogger, author, teacher is to equip you guys for success from all angles—craft, brand/platform, and business. Yet, want to know what all these have in common?

We have to DO them to get better.

We can read all the craft books in the world, but we only grow as writers by writing. We improve on Facebook or Twitter with practice. As authors, we are corporations of ONE. We need to make business decisions. The more decisions we make, the more we grow.

One of the biggest business decisions we’ll make is which publishing path to take. This is why I dedicate a lot of time to educate you guys about how all forms of publishing work in my new book. We have to choose a path that fits our personality, our lives, how much time we have, and any operational constraints (four kids, day job, genre, budget, fear of clowns).

Writing can feel a little like THIS...

Writing can feel a little like THIS…

Sometimes our plans can have the best of intentions, but we don’t know what’s going to work until we try. For instance, my first books were published indie and I’d hoped this would translate into a traditional deal. I wanted to experience all forms of publishing so I could connect better with my readers.

After two years of a proposal going nowhere in NYC? Time to change plans. Thing is, I didn’t know it wouldn’t work until I TRIED.

Some Things Can ONLY Be Learned By DOING

As an author and business owner, I can tell you that hindsight REALLY IS 20/20. I look back at dumb moves, missteps, mistakes and go, “Yeah, that was stupid.” Yet, here’s the thing, it seemed like a good idea at the TIME.

Any of you who’ve ever DATED know the feeling.

We learn by DOING. We can’t learn to ride a bike reading Internet articles. We have to hop on and expect a lot of skinned knees and elbows.

Blogging is one of the best (and most stable) forms of social media. Yet, we only get good at it by doing it. Yes, readers love this blog (and I SO THANK YOU for that), but I’ve written over 700 blogs. My first blogs?

*insert crickets chirping*

I remember not wanting to delete spammers, because it meant I’d have NO comments.

This is the best infermentation ever. You are change my mind. What is your browser? You are brilliant person! My brother recommended me here. Your site has great spam filter.

He could just be foreign, right?

As I mentioned yesterday, plan your work, then work your plan. Plans are only good if we are using them. By using them, we see the flaws, the stuff that doesn’t work and then we can CHANGE direction. That author (I mentioned Monday) who was sniveling about spending a bazillion hours on social media and his book wasn’t selling?

CHANGE THE PLAN, DUDE!

All of us start with great ideas and intentions. That’s the prototype. Yet, once we build the prototype, we need to try and wreck it. Some flaws only come to the surface when rubber meets the road.

Do Stuff that Makes Sense—CONTEXT

All righty, we’ve talked about making a plan and testing a plan, but let’s start with not making a STUPID plan. I can’t count the number of times that social media, PR and marketing experts have cited examples of success that are OVER TEN YEARS OLD. If something was successful ten years ago? Likely NOT a good plan in a completely different paradigm.

Recently I had a conversation with an Old School PR person (A BIG PR person). I was trying to impress the importance of an author blog. Actual conversation:

Expert:  Well, sure a blog is great. It worked for Julia & Julia. Blog a topic and get a book deal.

Me:  Blogging a topic will pigeonhole a modern author and burn them out. Blogs need to be more dynamic. The Julia & Julia example is outdated.

Expert:  What do you mean outdated?

Me:  Okay, the blogger had to start the blog. Then she had to blog for well over a year to capture enough interest for a book deal. So that’s another year to two years to write the book and get it to market. Then the book needed time to take off in order to be optioned by Hollywood and, last I checked, films take time to make. Another year to two years to turn the book into a script, cast and then produce the film. And aside from all of that, it’s already a four year old film. The example isn’t relevant because it’s easily eight years old. Modern audiences have been spoiled by Reality TV and want to connect emotionally as people. They want to talk about cats and zombies and laundry with their favorite authors.

Expert: Yeah *laugh* I don’t see how blogging about cats is going to get you very far.

Me: Haz Cheezburger just sold for a couple million dollars and it’s simply cat memes. Also, Jenny Lawson not only hit the New York Times best-seller list, her readers crashed Goodreads when she tried to do a Meet the Author. She blogs about cats, zombies and her fetish for taxidermy.

Expert: Jenny Who?

After the conversation, we were on the same page and the expert was awesome and generous and grateful for the help, but this illustrates a point. When people (experts) cite what worked for The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood? Use critical thinking skills. Remember that success happened in THE 1990s.

Yes, Rebecca Wells traveled to the indie bookstores and created relationships and did readings, etc. but this was before Borders and Barnes & Noble all but wiped out independent bookstores. Granted, Borders is dead and buried and B&N is hemorrhaging. This means the small bookstore is making a comeback…but it still isn’t the influencer it was in the early 90s (but feel free to pounce if it makes sense for your book). 

Remember, in the 1990s most people couldn’t afford computers, the Internet was in its infancy, and the bookstore was the main point of discovery. That’s no longer the case. When we make any plan, yes look to other successes for ideas. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Yet, at the same time, be smart. Your time is valuable.

This is why it is incumbent upon us to be knowledgeable. What is the market climate? Who are our readers? What do they want? Where are they congregating? Is my plan relevant or am I trying to recreate ten or even twenty-year-old magic?

Then try it. Put a foot in. If The Red Sea doesn’t part? Step…out (thank you, Joyce Meyers).

What are your thoughts? Have you been Wile E. Coyote and tried stuff that just went BOOM! Stuff that seemed like a good idea at the time? Do you look back at some of the people you dated and ask, “Was I on DRUGS? How did I EVER think that was a good idea?”

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

ANNOUNCEMENTS: I have a class coming up SOON, Creating Conflict and Tension on Every Page if you want to learn how to apply these tactics to your writing. Use WANA15 to get 15% off.

Also, August 21st, I am running a Your First Five Pages webinar. Bronze is $40 and Gold is $55 (I look at your first five pages) and use WANA15 for 15% off.

The webinars are all recorded in case you can’t make the time and a PDF with notes will be sent to you following the class.

Also, my new book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE.

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33 Comments

Irrefutable Law of Success #2—Plan Your Work, Then Work Your Plan

The Spawn and his minion Lazr Cat.

The Spawn and his minion Lazr Cat.

The operational tempo of our profession has increased exponentially. While this requires us to do more and be responsible for more, it’s actually great news. In the olden days of publishing, we had to go through New York in order to be published (unless we had $10-15,000 to publish books, sell them out of the back of our cars and hope we could duplicate “The Grisham Effect”).

Yet, remember, Grisham only sold enough copies to be noticed by New York.

Now? We have self-published and indie published writers hitting the USA Today and New York Times best-seller lists with no involvement from New York. Does this mean we can’t publish traditionally? No. It only means there are now more roads that lead to Rome (being successfully published).

It also means writers can draw revenue from more works. New York is still at a pace of about a book a year. This limits income. Additionally, as I talk about in Rise of the Machines the consignment model is full of needless waste which impacts the earning potential of all writers. Adding insult to injury, the business model of major book retailers hurts all but the mega-author.

Indies who can write to demand are not just making money off the latest work, but ALL their works. Backlists, short stories, serials, series, novellas, etc. This is why writers who go traditional are leaning toward hybridization (part NY, part indie).

With all the options and the changing consumer climate, it means we have a lot of latitude as artists. Yet, to be successful, we need to plan our work and work our plan.

Define What Success Means to YOU

Your dream isn’t my dream. I can’t live it for you. I’ll be blunt, in the new era of publishing, everyone is a writer. I believe this was always true, only NY was solely interested in the career author. Some of you reading might only have ONE book in you. These days? Write away! That’s okay.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Choko

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Choko

For some writers, success means a certain level of income. Others? Awards or best-seller lists. Some writers just have a dream of finishing a work they can hold in their hands and maybe pass onto grandkids. Whatever success might mean to each of you, you have to be honest so you can build the correct foundation for your plan.

A plan for a writer who wants to hit the New York Times list is going to look very different from the author who wants to write down his experiences from World War II for family and posterity.

Good Plans Ignore Fashion Yet Anticipate Trends

These days, social media, algorithms, metadata are all moving targets. This is one of the reasons that pre-programming, automating and trying to manage from a vacuum is ineffective long-term (and short, but that’s another blog). We have to be in the mix to see the changes and be ahead of the curve.

The latest craze that all the other writers are doing? If everyone is doing it, it’s already expired. It’s why I am always researching and work hard to remain innovative. Also, WANA rests on principles that never go out of fashion—community, authenticity, service.

Stick to the basics, and maneuverability is easier. Build a platform on juking algorithms? Well, enjoy it until FB or Amazon or Klout modifies the algorithm and expect to be back at Ground Zero. Foundations need to be solid to remain in tact. Otherwise? We are building on shifting sand. When our foundation is solid, we aren’t dependent on fashions and can anticipate trends.

What’s the difference?

Fashion: Well, if you tweet on Wednesday at 2:00 EST, the numbers show there are more click-throughs on links.

Yup, until EVERYONE is tweeting at the SAME TIME.

Trend: We’re in a Reality TV generation and consumers LOVE interaction. Blogs allow authors to capitalize on the increased human desire to connect.

Plans Need to Be Simple and Flexible

Jack Welch, the legendary CEO who resurrected General Electric was influenced by what he read about Prussian military strategists of the 19th century.

They did not expect a plan of operation to survive beyond the first contact with the enemy. They set only the broadest of objectives and emphasized seizing unforeseen opportunities as they arose. ~29 Leadership Secrets from Jack Welch

Yesterday, we discussed NO WHINING. Here’s my sage business advice.

Ready for this?

Hold on.

It’s coming.

It’s gonna be awesome…

If something isn’t working? STOP DOING IT. ~Kristen Lamb

Sure, running our head into a wall over and over is an option, but really? Thing is, this paradigm is new. It’s going to need time to settle. Throw stuff out there and see what’s working. If it isn’t working? CHANGE IT. This is why the new paradigm ROCKS.

If a certain cover isn’t floating the consumer boat? Change it. If readers complain a work is too long? Break it up. If reviewers catch an unforeseen fish head in your novel? Pull it, chop it, rerelease.

If a book isn’t selling? Change the price. If that doesn’t work, maybe we’ve written something consumers (code for “readers”) just don’t want to consume. This is why it’s critical to keep writing more books. Maybe the third or fifth book will catch readers eye and, for all we know, Book ONE can come into fashion at a later time.

If we are blogging and no one is reading? Maybe we need to modify our voice or choices of topics. I know when I first started blogging I was super serious because I was trying to “be an expert, an AUTHORITY.” Finally, after months of dismal hits, I changed tactics. I allowed my natural ability with humor to come play on the blog…and people LIKED IT.

Hmmm, imagine that? People enjoy laughing.

Plans are vital. Plans give us focus. Focus is power and frees up time to write more books. Writers with no plan are reactive, instead of proactive and this wastes precious resources.

What are your thoughts? Have you had to change plans? Maybe pull a book, change a cover, redesign an ineffective web site? Did you change the way you interacted on Facebook or in your blogs and see people respond positively? What did you do? Share your war stories.

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

ANNOUNCEMENTS: I have a class coming up SOON, Creating Conflict and Tension on Every Page if you want to learn how to apply these tactics to your writing. Use WANA15 to get 15% off.

Also, August 21st, I am running a Your First Five Pages webinar. Bronze is $40 and Gold is $55 (I look at your first five pages) and use WANA15 for 15% off.

The webinars are all recorded in case you can’t make the time and a PDF with notes will be sent to you following the class.

Also, my new book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE.

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50 Comments

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