Posts Tagged social media for writers

How to Grow Your Author Blog

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

I am a huge fan of writers having a blog, but one of the first arguments I get is, “But I did have a blog and it did nothing.” I hear your pain. We live in a world of instant gratification and often it is why we are more inclined to post content on our Facebook or Twitter instead. Instantly we can see other people sharing and responding and it feels oh so good.

The blog? Meh.

The problem, however, is that any “benefit” from Facebook or Twitter evaporates almost as soon as it appears whereas the blog (if we stick to it) will keep giving us rewards for years to come.

Reframe Your Goal

Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons

Original image courtesy of flowcomm, via Flickr Commons

I will give you tips for growing your author blog here in a minute, but a simple mental shift will help keep you pumped up in the meantime. My tips can’t help unless you keep blogging.

Instead of focusing on number of followers, I looked at my blog as my author training. Writing is a tough job and most people won’t make it because of one crucial factor…they want a job. Writing is not a “job.” We don’t clock in and out and have some authority figure who tells us what to do.

We can work when we want and how much we want. No one is going to write us up and fire us if we spend all day looking at kitten videos instead of working.

Most adults have been trained in structured environments like school or the workplace. Thus, when they step out into something where they are their own boss? They struggle. It’s why most entrepreneurs fail as well. They never reach their potential because they lack the critical ingredient necessary—self-mastery.

Thus when I began blogging, I knew I had a lot of bad habits. Blogging would teach me to be beholden to deadlines. Perfect is the enemy of the good, so I would learn to let go and ship. I could relax. It didn’t have to be worthy of a Pulitzer. It was just a blog. Blogging could help me learn to write leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner.

Posts that once took half a day now take an hour. Instead of chasing followers, I focused on becoming a stronger writer.

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Blogging would help me stretch those word count muscles. I used to panic at the idea of 1000 words a day and now I can knock that out in about 45 minutes. Blogging taught me to process, analyze and then articulate my thoughts seamlessly (useful for writing books, too). No amount of sharing or liking on Facebook would give me this skill.

Blogging made social media mentally active, instead of me lazily camping out in passivity. Blogging strengthened the muse and made me a better storyteller.

It taught me that content and ideas were literally everywhere. 

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But while there are countless benefits to writers, we do still want to eventually gain traffic. Duh.

Simply blogging into the ether forever was not exactly a bright plan. So, when I kept blogging and getting nowhere, I began to study blogs. What blogs did well? What blogs garnered hundreds of comments? What blogs had tens of thousands of subscribers? What were they doing that I could learn from?

Elements of a Great Blog

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Countless people start blogs that just get left abandoned in cyberspace, yet the elements of an excellent blog are pretty simple. If your blog is not doing well, often some small changes can make a huge difference.

Simple is Best

Content does matter, but packaging is key. We could have a blog so brilliant angels weep, but if no one reads it?

Yeah.

We must always remember that a blog is for the reader and not for us. When I started out, I became far too fascinated with all the cool layouts and color-schemes. When I was writing my blog, I was in the dashboard area which is, of course, black letters on a white page.

Though I thought that black page with red lettering was so edgy and dark and cool, I might as well have been tossing my readers’ eyes into a digital iron maiden.

Simple and clean is best. Our content is what should be the focus, not a bunch of colorful doodads. Remember to also test how your blog looks on a smartphone. Get an idea of how the post looks on any number of devices your reader might use.

The background we choose for a computer, might be a nightmare when trying to read on a phone.

Break Up that Space

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Many people don’t truly read blogs, they scan them. Yes, my blogs go longer because often I also give examples (I.e. the post about great description). But, because I use bullet points, those who simply want to scan can gain plenty (and the examples are there for folks who want more).

But I have seem comparably short blogs (500 words) that appeared more daunting than my 1300 word posts simply because the writer failed to break up the text. They left NO white space.

Bullet points, white space, headers, and photographs are key. When we have huge blocks of text in 10 point font? Many potential readers will just move on.

Keep Blogging

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Many people start a blog then quit before they ever get to enjoy a harvest. Blogs take time. We can either keep pouring our energy into instant gratification (Facebook) or we can be patient.

Eventually a blog that is generating thousands of hits per day is not generating those visits off the post for that day. Rather, search engines reward attendance. Additionally, evergreen content (content that is always salient) is being picked up through web searches. This is why building archives is extremely valuable.

I still gain new followers from posts I published years ago.

And the truth is, when my blog started being successful was right about the time that I’d accumulated a substantial archive (around 200 posts). Then I was no longer at the mercy of catching attention with the one post just published, I was beginning to gain ROI from the other 199 posts. I started enjoying compounded returns.

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Blogging is about appreciating the long tail, but frankly so is being an author. Just like most bloggers aren’t going to get fame and success with one post, most writers won’t hit it big with one book. We must learn to keep our heads down, to keep putting one foot in front of the other and trust the process.

There is so much more to having a great author blog, so I hope you will check out my Blogging for Authors class!

What are your thoughts? Do you see posts written on wild backgrounds and weird fonts and just run away? Have you ever run across a great post, only to realize the blog had been abandoned?

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

Check out the other NEW classes below! Now including a log-line class! Can you tell me what your book is about in ONE sentence? If you can’t SIGN UP.

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

Upcoming Classes

Blogging for Authors  (August 26th)

This class will teach you all you need to know to start an author blog good for going the distance. Additionally I would also recommend the class offered earlier that same week (August 22nd) Branding for Authors to help you with the BIG picture. These classes will benefit you greatly because most blogs will fail because writers waste a lot of time with stuff that won’t work and never will and that wastes a lot of time.

I am here to help with that😉 .

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

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

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

Bullies & Baddies—Understanding the Antagonist Gold

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

Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line

September 7th

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

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

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

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

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

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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69 Comments

Cyber Bullies vs. Cyber Lynch Mobs—Does Anyone Win?

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Humanity has been gifted with this lovely new invention…the internet. For the first time in human history, we can connect and even befriend people all over the world. We can easily research, whether that is for a novel we’re planning or to figure out why we broke out in weird spots after eating pistachios. There is also a never-ending supply of entertainment and we never have to ever be bored again…

Yeah.

Okay, that alone could be a whole book (my POV is that us being bored more often might be good for us) but that isn’t what I’d like to talk about today.

Today? *takes deep breath and dives in*

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On Monday, a cover model who’s posed for numerous covers had well, he…ok he lost his ever-loving MIND. As I was watching the scenario unfold, I kept wanting to type a message to him.

For the love of chocolate…SHUT UP.

But he didn’t and his career is over. And please understand what I’m saying here. Blizzard Man was completely out of line and what he said (threatened) is even unforgivable. If we are going to use the internet to build our professional brand, then we need to treat cyberspace for what it is…our place of work.

Now, granted it is the coolest place of work ever and it has yoga pants and snacks and is very casual. No one minds us sharing cute kitten videos so long as we get our work done…

But it IS still a place of work and he forgot that.

And so did a lot of other people.

As I watched the reaction to this model’s comments, I grew more and more concerned for what the Internet is doing to us as human beings. Where is the kindness or even grace? When someone acts really badly, why is there a need to not just shame the behavior…but to obliterate the person on the other side?

Why must cyber bullies be met with even more vicious cyber-lynch mobs? Does anyone really win?

Is on-line outrage out of control?

All I could think of when I saw video after video being posted calling this model names and just going after him on a deeply personal level was… Dear GOD, please don’t let him commit suicide.

I wish I were joking.

I’ve witnessed this behavior happening more and more in cyberspace to people who haven’t even committed as grievous of an offense as said cover model. There was a comedian several months ago who did a funny video but it was regarding a dicey subject. There was nothing in that video that warranted the reaction that followed. Comments on her YouTube channel that said things like:

Bit*&, I hope you are raped and then hit in the head with a brick.

Really?

Just really.

And the cover model, as awful as he was…got a similar comment. Someone hoped he was raped.

Please tell me we are better than this. Because if not?

And Grumpy Cat

This universal connectivity has created the ability to create cyber-lynch mobs. Something ignites and people just go crazy. Instead of simply disagreeing, they start typing in threats that in person? They could go to JAIL for saying something like that.

What is even scarier is that a cyber-lynch mob can form over even seemingly innocent stuff. Anyone can become a target. I’ve been on the other side of them, myself (sadly, more than once). The most memorable time? I made the fatal mistake of positing that bookstores could do a better job of supporting authors (for our mutual benefit, btw). The HORROR!

I seriously had writers who commented and called me everything but a writer. The favorite name for me? C*nt.

What? Are you THREE? Do you even own a thesaurus?

It is the JOB of authors to point out flaws in the system, in society and the world. We do this to make it a better place and sometimes that might even involve going after some sacred cows. We are supposed to question everything. Everyone doesn’t need to agree all the time.

Seriously.

Once in tenth grade I disagreed with someone and guess what? I lived to tell the tale😛 .

Gleeful Savagery

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If we have been on-line any amount of time, we’ve heard tales of people who’ve been targeted by cyber-lynch mobs. What is sad is that often this cruelty has come on the heels of a badly executed joke or a tweet taken out of context.

There was a man in Santa Clara, CA who was at a conference for tech developers when a silly joke popped in his head. According the the NY Times:

It was about the attachments for computers and mobile devices that are commonly called dongles. He murmured the joke to his friend sitting next to him, he told me. “It was so bad, I don’t remember the exact words,” he said. “Something about a fictitious piece of hardware that has a really big dongle, a ridiculous dongle. . . . It wasn’t even conversation-level volume.

Right after making the joke to a friend, a woman nearby stood and took a picture of him then tweeted to her 9K+ friends that he was making sexist jokes about big dongles right behind her. The next day he was fired.

And it gets worse…

After he posted about being fired, an even more vitriolic backlash ensued against the woman who started the incident, which included enough death threats to make her leave home and sleep on friends’ couches for the next year.

This is freaking RIDICULOUS.

We Used to Take It for What it Was

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Trust me, every day I am super glad I was an adult by the time social media came along. I think of all the dumb crap I would have done or said or written and how that could have made my life turn out very differently. In the 90s if a joke bombed and came out offensive instead of funny? The worst I probably got was an eye-roll or maybe even a quick chewing out and I knew to correct my behavior.

I didn’t fear my entire world would be nothing but ash by lunchtime. I also didn’t expect a barrage of death threats or people hoping I was raped and hit in the head with a brick (like the poor comedian). In fact, I am pretty sure that would have been grounds for a police investigation.

And if we crossed that uncrossable line? Sure there were consequences but these days? DAYUM.

All I can think of is if Blizzard Man had made the comment he did in 1993, he surely wouldn’t have had 745 people who had already directly taken a swing at him by dinner time.

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Fraser Mummery

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Fraser Mummery

Crime & Punishment

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When I see these on-line debacles, it always brings to mind one of my favorite scenes from the movie Demon Knight. Two main characters in the opening scene collide in a fiery crash on a remote road. The sheriff and his deputy arrive to work the scene and are inspecting the wreckage.

The deputy is incensed and, waving his ticket book says, “They had to be doing over a hundred miles an hour!”

The sheriff looks at him and replies, “Well you can shoot their ashes if it makes you feel better.”

What all of us are wise to remember is that in life, when an alleged crime is committed, there is intense evidence gathering to make sure there was really a crime. Then punishment befitting the crime is meted out. But on-line? So often people jump to right a wrong without any such evidence-gathering and the consequences can be devastating.

Case in point, I once got a really offensive sexual message from another writer. Instead of copying and pasting and railing against how tacky and disgusting this woman was, how she was using Facebook to sexually harass me…I stopped and thought.

Hmmm, that’s odd. I’ve never had this person act in such a way. Let me message her back.

And it turned out her account had been hacked. She wasn’t even aware such messages were being sent from her profile and catastrophe was averted simply because I gave another human the benefit of the doubt.

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On the other side of this coin, I was once publicly shamed for liking an off-color meme that was politically explosive. Thing was? I’d accidentally hit it while scrolling on my android phone. Instead of the public shaming, why didn’t I get a PM that said, Hey, Kristen. You go out of your way to be funny and kind and this awful meme has your “like” on it. Did you do that?

But that didn’t happen and let’s just say it’s a good thing I have rhino skin.

***Oh, and btw, people also have a right to have poor taste in the event I DID actually like the meme😛 .

Yes, there are times (like Blizzard Man) that there is a direct offense, but we also need to remember that technology does have glitches. Toddlers DO get ahold of phones. Accounts can be hacked. And—to be blunt—everyone has a bad day.

I get that we are all over this “everything on the Internet is FOREVER” schtick and maybe that was acceptable before we all lived more on the Internet than in the real world.

But is this reasonable?

In life if we lose our minds, say something awful or even offend people, we don’t fear a permanent death sentence and banishment from the human race.

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Sure, discuss what’s going on. Maybe even make light of it. Joke. I do. Heck! Even criticize. Nothing at all wrong with this. Unless we want a world where foaming-at-the-mouth bullies are the only ones shaping social and political change, regular folk need to feel okay sharing more than kitten memes.

The internet can be as amazing or as awful as we make it. Like anything it is a tool. We can use a shovel to dig a grave or plant a garden. The choice is ours.

What are your thoughts? Have you been on the wrong end of a social media dog-pile? That something innocent got way out of control? Do you think that the cyber-lynch mobs are starting to shape how people are acting in person? Do you think that now that humans are spending more time in cyberspace we need to learn to lighten the hell up?

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

Upcoming Classes!!!

Remember that all WANA classes are recorded so if you miss, can’t make it or just want to refresh the material, this is included with purchase price. The classes are all virtual and all you need is a computer and an Internet connection to enjoy!

Hooking the Reader—Your First Five Pages MAY 14th. The first five pages are one of our best selling tools. We fail to hook the reader and that is a lost sale. In this class, we go over the art of great beginnings. Additionally, the upper levels Gold and Platinum I actually LOOK at your pages and critique your actual writing. I am offering DOUBLE PAGES for FREE so this is a fantastic opportunity to get feedback from a pro.

When Your Name Alone Can SELL—Branding for Authors MAY 16th. The single largest challenge all writers face in the digital age is discoverability. In a sea of infinite choices, connecting with our audience can be a nightmare. Our brand is our lifeline. What is a brand? How do we create one? How do we entice an overwhelmed and distracted audience to connect and care? How do we develop this brand over time? How can we make this brand resilient to upheavals? How can this brand then grow and evolve as we grow and evolve?

Blogging for Authors MAY 20th. Blogging is one of the most powerful forms of social media. Twitter could flitter and Facebook could fold but the blog will remain so long as we have an Internet. The blog has been going strong since the 90s and it’s one of the best ways to establish a brand and then harness the power of that brand to drive book sales.

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81 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.

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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

Unfriended—Why “Cleaning Up” Your Friends Could Be Costing You BIG

Image via Link Humans courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Image via Link Humans courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

I started out writing a blog about unfriending. That post became 2800 words and since I’ve vowed to do better about length? I cut it in half. Then that grew to 3200 words. So I had to cut it again.

Aaand then again.

Apparently I have a lot of opinions about unfriending.

After almost a thousand blog posts I seriously cannot believe we haven’t talked more about this. Unfriending. What an awful word. Un-friend. To be un-friended.

Maybe. Maybe not.

I actually posted some thoughts on the whole “unfriending” thing and there does seem to be a generational difference. Young people will unfriend  someone who’s misbehaving then add them again later. From what I understand it’s like a time-out.

I will say that, us older folks?

It is NOT a time out.

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I can promise that us older folks will take being unfriended far more personally because we grew up in an era where the word “friend” held a very different and more significant meaning.

But the reality is that, in the digital age, barriers and borders have been removed. It’s as if we are all living in a giant fishbowl. As if that wasn’t stressful enough, the social media lexicon itself has created problems. When we add people we “friend” them. Trust me, the masterminds behind social media chose this word very deliberately.

We have a saying in political science, Say it once. Say it twice. Say it three times. Say it four times. Say it five times and they will believe.

If we refer to complete strangers as “friends” the mind forms a deeper emotional attachment than say with a “follower.” This deeper emotional attachment is a double-edged sword. When creating a brand, it forges a deeper perceived intimacy with those around us, one that actually can be a powerful driver of sales. Why? Who do we buy from? People we know and people we like (code for friend).

But this is also why “unfriending” can land us in hot water. It’s a form of social rejection and the people on the other side of that screen actually do have a beating heart and feelings and we’re wise to remember that.

Image via GrandmaLow WANA Commons

Image via GrandmaLow WANA Commons

Before we look at how this unfriending unnecessarily hurts feeling and why it’s probably best to avoid and all that jazz, we need to step back and appreciate why we really might want to think twice about culling our friends list at all. How it actually is highly beneficial to have a lot of “friends” regardless of whether they talk to us or not.

By the way, when it comes to getting rid of stalkers, bullies, trolls? Feel free to unfriend and we WILL talk about how and when to do that…on another post. Today’s discussion has to do more with just people’s need to “tidy” up a friend list.

Well they never interact with me.

Okay, well Facebook’s algorithms might just never be putting your stuff in their feed so they never see it. If they aren’t causing a problem? Leave it be.

Anyway…

I know this blog is mainly for writers who are building a brand but I also know regular people who are not building a brand also follow this blog so I will say it. Unfriending is just unwise. Today we’re going to look at why we shouldn’t unfriend from a purely self-centered perspective. Why is a large friend base good no matter who you are?

First, Ditch the Old Ideas About Friendship

One thing I hear all the time (and it irritates me) is that on-line friends are not real friends. That’s just crap. Of course they’re real friends if we invest time, effort and energy in those relationships just as we would in person. I’m sorry, but the people I know on-line have been far better friends to me than people who live five miles away.

W.A.N.A.s Look like real friends to me.

W.A.N.A.s Look like real friends to me.

People on-line have traveled across oceans to come and meet/visit me, whereas people I see in person have trouble taking me up on an invitation to come over for dinner.

No idea why it is harder and harder to connect with people in the modern world, but again we can talk about that on another post.

The simple fact is that there are always different “levels” of friendship and there have always been. Back in 1992, who did you prefer to take you car to for service? Some random person you looked up in the yellow pages or that “friend” or “buddy” from high school?

Did you really have to hang out braiding each other’s hair to consider this relationship a “friendship”? No. It’s was just pretty much understood that this was a loose connection, not a friend you’d ask to be your best man at your wedding.

And here’s the deal, we can feel free to cull all our relationships down to only people we’d trust to rear our children upon our untimely death, but life is going to be really hard that way. Life is already tough, why make it tougher?

So what are the advantages of having lots of friends?

Human Capital

Humans are precious resources. The more humans we have in our network, the more resources we have to draw from and the more connections we can take advantage of should the need arise. The greater the intellectual capital in our bank, the smarter the hive mind we can tap into.

Even before social media I was known as the gal who made stuff happen. Why? I had a vast network of connections. I have had people make the joke about the Six Degrees of Kristen Lamb, but seriously, I know everyone.

Everyone.

And if I don’t know that person, odds are I know someone who does. It is why having me as a connection is highly valuable. Because…

I know people.

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 9.42.24 AM

Yes this is really me talking to the former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto in 1996.

Having a lot of friends isn’t an ego-stroking thing. It’s just plain smart. Trust me, it’s always been about who you know not what you know. These days if we want a new job? We have a far higher chance of getting that job if we know someone.

Even if we know someone who knows someone. Because if we don’t? Then we just better hope we wrote our resume and cover letter with enough keywords to make it past their computer filter’s algorithms designed to reject us and that is a sucky way to get a job.

We need other people.

Most people get job recommendations from “loose connections.” That person you cull out of your friends might have been the one person you needed to land that dream job.

Every big break I have ever gotten came from knowing someone. Sometimes these folks never interacted with me…but were watching. I actually got my very first professional speaking gig at RT Booklovers from a lurker in my Facebook friends. She really liked my posts and was on the panel to choose speakers.

She chose me.

What if I had cropped her out of my friends because she wasn’t a “real” friend? I actually might never have made it where I am today because that was the event that opened all the doors. I was quoted in the L.A. Times and suddenly speaking invitations piled in faster than I could accommodate. I had one year I gave up on wearing a watch because I criss-crossed the country so much.

Because of a quiet Facebook friend😉.

I’ve used my network for all kinds of things. We got hit with tornadoes one year and needed repairs done to our roof.

Hey, you guys know anyone in XYZ area who’s a good and dependable roofer?

Humans are a naturally helpful bunch. Let them.

Hive Mind

We don’t need to know everything if we have a solid network. What’s better than google? People. I save vast amounts of time researching simply because I go to my following and ASK.

Hey, writing a book set in South Africa. Can anyone give me some idioms and tidbits to make it authentic?

Aaaannnnd all of Kristen’s friends from South Africa perk to life and are thrilled to help. This is way faster than hunt-and-peck through Wiki articles hoping I get it right.

I have all kinds of people message me about guns and martial arts and hand-to-hand. It might be about writing for a scene or even just life.

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So instead of my good friend Gry (who is in Europe, btw) trying to pore over articles or test out a bunch of ill-fitting forms of martial arts, she just came to me to narrow her search and get an informed opinion.

For the normal-not-writer-people out there, trust me, you need the hive mind too. Maybe your kid has to do a paper. Perhaps you’re contemplating frying a turkey and want to make sure you don’t accidentally create a bomb. Maybe you’re thinking of applying for a job at a certain company and need an opinion of what it is really like to work there.

You just don’t know when these people are going to come in really handy.

Yes, it’s true. We cannot actively be friends with hundreds or thousands of people at one time. About the max humans can handle is 40. So once we pass a certain number, the folks we actively engage with is only a small percentage but that is fine. They’re inert until something wakes them up and queues them to engage. Again, people LIKE to help.

LET THEM.

Here’s an example of how networks DO matter. My husband is not even friends with this gal. This was reposted by one of our friends who lives in San Diego. My husband reposted it since we live in TEXAS. Maybe this woman knew no one in Texas. She did not know my husband….but her friend was friends with someone in Texas.

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Social media is social so the more connections we have the better. We never know when part of that network will be very valuable so my recommendation? Leave them be. Yes, even regular folks.

We will talk more in coming posts about this unfriending thing, but what are your thoughts? I’m going to explore this a lot more. I really had no idea how BIG this topic was until I started unpacking it.

Why do you unfriend? Have you had someone unfriend you and it made what should have been a small tiff a BIG deal? I know I got cross with a family member and normally we would have resolved it pretty quickly…but she unfriended me on Facebook and I turned into Tony Soprano.

You unfriended me. ME? UNFRIENDED? You are DEAD to me.

We have since patched things up, but I will say the unfriending was like tossing a match on kindling.

I really DO love hearing from you!

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.

And yes, I am a complete and total slacker. December’s winner will be announced later because I seriously had three posts go viral. Great problem to have…but tabulating a winner? Gonna take a little time. Love you *air kiss*

Remember to check out the new classes listed at W.A.N.A International.  

Branding for Authors (NEXT SATURDAY). This is your best way to get PAID in the digital age. We have to cultivate that 1000 die hard fans who won’t settle for FREE.

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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78 Comments

Why Writing Isn’t Enough—The Savvy Writer’s Guide to Success

Image via Drew Coffman courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Image via Drew Coffman courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Today, we’re going to do something a little different. You want to know one thing I love probably more than anything in the world? Spotting great talent and getting to share it. Thus, today I would like to introduce you to one of my followers who snagged my attention over the holidays and I asked her to come and share her wisdom today because I think we can all gain something from her (even me because am always learning BAY-BEE!).

I would like to introduce, Britt Skrabanek!

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Indie Author Britt Skrabanek

Indie Author Britt Skrabanek

A lot of you may be wondering how I ended up on Kristen’s blog in the first place. She’s pretty big-time, an influencer—she’s worked her tail off to build her brand presence. Many of us look to her for writing tips we can actually use, knowing some esoteric BS like “If you write it, they will come” will not be waiting in our inbox to insult us.

Chances are, you have no idea who in the heck I am.  But, Ha! Now you do😀 .

I’m an indie author.

Image via Drew Coffman courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

Image via Drew Coffman courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

The other thing I am, even though it’s more difficult to say than “writer”…I’m a businesswoman. Me—a beer-drinking, tree-hugging Yogi in Portland—I’m in the marketing biz.

When Kristen and I were working out logistics for the topic of this guest piece, she said to use my business/social media wisdom with you guys. In her typical no-nonsense wisdom, Kristen said: “There is some savvy to this.”

You know what? There is.

Writing here is a big honor for me. I’ve been following Kristen’s blog since I started my indie author adventure many moons ago. The reason why she was kind enough to invite me over to her place was, quite simply, because I did some savvy marketing.

I was greatly inspired by one of her blogs on branding, Why Our Author Brand is More Important Than Ever. So I mentioned her in the post I wrote, and though we hadn’t talked more beyond a casual conversation on her blog, I asked if she would share it on social.

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She shocked the hell out of me when she asked me to write a full piece on her blog. My small-time blogger heart went pitter-patter. You know what? I took a chance with a marketing tactic and put myself out there. All she could say was No. But maybe…just maybe, she’d say YES.

😀.

Many of you introverted writer types are totally cringing right now. But if you want others to know what you’ve written, you have to do more than shut up and write.

Writing is only half the battle. We have to market it—tell people about it and hope to God they’ll listen.

Quitting Is Easy, Not Savvy

Like many of you, I threw myself into this writing thing without knowing diddly-squat about marketing, sales, and branding. I believe that writing a novel is one of the greatest achievements of the creative mind, and though anyone can self-publish, not just anyone can pull it off.

Wallpaper image courtesy of David Turnbull via Flickr Creative Commons

Wallpaper image courtesy of David Turnbull via Flickr Creative Commons

Sure, they can put some crap out there on a whim. Amazon makes the process nice and easy—and free. To actually write a novel, you must have a die-hard imagination, you have to be relentlessly organized, and above all, you have to have the vision to see it through.

WAY back in 2012 when I self-published my first book, Beneath the Satin Gloves, I thought people were going to buy it. Real cute, isn’t it?

With great diligence, I followed the indie author rules. I had the almighty platform, with a weekly blog and consistent social media posts. Such a sweet little nobody writer I was…I started building my platform two months before my book release.

So, you can guess what happened. My friends and family, out of pity and curiosity, were my paying customers—my only fans. After that release weekend, my sales fell off.

I’m not going to lie to you. I was devastated and I wanted to quit writing. I was editing the final draft of my second book when all of this was going on, and I had to stop before I chucked my laptop out the window.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sally Jean

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sally Jean

About a week later, my temper tantrum was done. There was no moment of clarity or anything—I just realized how ridiculously naïve I had been. As Kristen said, there’s some savvy to this. We can write a badass book, but it will never see the light of day if we don’t learn how to sell it.

To sell our book, we don’t need to sell our souls, but we do need to sell ourselves.

Why Writing Isn’t Enough

I’ve self-published three novels and I still have a day job. I know how heartbreaking it is to hear that writing isn’t enough. Writing the best content possible—whether it’s a blog post, a tweet, or a full-on novel—is a must-do. Also, a must-do is engaging people. One of the ways I’ve found to make a living as a writer has nothing to do with fiction. (Shocked, aren’t you?)

I’m a Content Manager at a B2B (Business to Business) marketing agency. While writing about email metrics and marketing automation isn’t as fun as writing about a lounge-singing female spy in WWII Berlin, I’ll tell you what is fun about it. I get to learn what it takes to get people’s attention.

Everyone's a critic...

Everyone’s a critic…

Because every business has a blog these days, we’re in the same boat as indie authors. That boat is rickety as all get-out, and most of the time we’re trying not to sink into the sea of online noise.

We have to work our buns off within our niche, we have to provide value to our target audience, and we have to be consistent and tactical.

These are the non-negotiables of creating content to bring awareness to your brand. Awareness is just the tip of the iceberg of the buying cycle, and people have a very long way to go before they make a decision to buy.

I know that’s a lot of B2B jargon, but I hope you’re still with me. Because these realizations are critical for any indie author to understand.

Knowing this will keep you from bailing on your dreams.

There Are No Short-Cuts in Marketing

Image courtesy of EpSos De via Flickr Creative Commons

Image courtesy of EpSos De via Flickr Creative Commons

By now, you may be thinking that I’m just a spineless marketer. As a fellow indie, I’m just trying to keep it real. If we go back to this savvy idea, think about what that means. Someone who’s savvy is intelligent, but they’re also cool and charismatic.

As writers, we have to be Rico Suave. Remember that song? Watch this and you can have it stuck in your head for a week. You’re welcome…

In the 90s it was a one-hit wonder, but the singer, Gerardo, left us with an unforgettable image. Like “ubered,” Rico Suave crept into our English slang. Seriously, it’s in Urban Dictionary. This is branding, people.

We’re running a business. We creative types freak when we hear this, but the likelihood and longevity of our writing careers depends on it.

Have you ever seen a business become a sensation overnight? Me neither.

Starry eyes can happen to anyone—not just indies. In fact, starry eyes happen to businesspeople all the time, and guess what? Their business fails.

I had the craziest conversation with a guy I know, who is basically a B2B marketing superstar writer. He really has a handle on business writing and blows my mind with his ability to bust out copy on a daily basis that consistently engages people.

BUT, Mr. Savvy B2B Marketer had starry eyes when he started his personal blog. I had seen his first blog post release, and I congratulated him. As we talked, he told me he wanted to have 5,000 blog subscribers by the end of the first month.

My jaw dropped open. 5,000 subscribers in the first month? Holy s*&t…how?!

I asked him to share his master plans, because with almost four years of blogging under my belt, I have yet to reach 1,000 subscribers. (P.S. This is something I’m totally okay with, because engagement is more important than follower numbers any day.)

Anyhoo, he discussed duplicating the blog content on LinkedIn and possibly some social ads.

Aha, aha. Though I would never dare to copy and paste the exact blog content on LinkedIn to potentially piss off the Google Gods, I nodded along with the tactics. Getting your content in front of different audiences through different channels is good stuff.

I waited for more master plans that never came. We talked a couple of months later, and he was disappointed in his traffic. He wore that defeated writer expression I was all too familiar with, and he was already considering quitting his blog.

Because 5,000 subscribers in the first month of blogging would be a damn miracle and…because there are no shortcuts in marketing.

So, How Do We Stand Out as Writers?

AHHHHHHH!

AHHHHHHH!

Write good s&*t and become Rico Suave. Kidding, kidding. Kind of.

As devout followers of Kristen’s blog, you all know there are so many elements at play, and one measly blog post isn’t going to cover it.

I’ll be completely candid with you guys and tell you I’m one of the most impatient people I know. Now perseverance is a very different thing. Perseverance will propel you forward, so you can finish the novel you’ve been working on for three years. Impatience will disappoint you, make you think you’re not good enough when people don’t come running to buy your book you worked so hard on.

Impatience doesn’t serve us in the self-publishing world. Perseverance does.

I know we’re sick of hearing it, but it takes time. Building a brand/business is a necessary part of being an indie author, and it doesn’t happen on its own.

We have to keep going. We have to be savvy. And most of all, we have to do it for the love.

***

THANK YOU, Britt! Just so you guys know, I actually do pay attention when you link to me or talk to me. Most posts I do take time to read and this year my goal is going to be cultivating and promoting a fresh crop of W.A.N.A. talent because that’s what W.A.N.A. is all about. Teamwork. Big fish helping the baby fish so THEY can become big fish…who then help the next baby fishies.

I hope you enjoyed Britt’s perspective and please check out her site and all her social networks are listed at the bottom of this post so you can follow her. I asked her here simply because I wanted you to know that what you are feeling right now is NOT unique to writers. Yes, most of my job is working with you guys, but I’m also a consultant for I.Q. Solutions in major big brand marketing with companies like Absolut, Budweiser, Luis Vuitton, etc.

Trust me, when we are in a world that BEER companies are struggling? You know it’s tough.

I can tell you that even the big names are having to hustle to keep, gain or maintain an edge. So don’t get too hard on yourself because this is just the tough reality of the digital age. We cannot do business like it’s 1992 and survive let alone thrive.

But good news is… We Are Not Alone.

I love hearing from you!

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.

And yes, I am a complete and total slacker. December’s winner will be announced later because I seriously had three posts go viral. Great problem to have…but tabulating a winner? Gonna take a little time. Love you *air kiss*

Remember to check out the new classes listed at W.A.N.A International.  

Registration for Branding for Authors has been EXTENDED (thanks to me getting a stomach bug). This is your best way to get PAID in the digital age. We have to cultivate that 1000 die hard fans who won’t settle for FREE.

Also, I have one craft class listed.

THIS SATURDAY Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line. Our stories should be simple enough to tell someone what the book is about in ONE sentence. If we can’t do this, often there is a plot problem. This class is great for teaching you how to be master plotters and the first TEN SIGNUPS get their log-line shredded for free, so you will be agent ready for the coming year.

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

Britt Skrabanekis the spirited indie novelist of Nola Fran Evie, Everything’s Not Bigger, and Beneath the Satin Gloves. Her blog is a whimsical snapshot of life, musings, and the glory of the written word. She is blissfully married, has two delightfully incorrigible cats, and loves to experience the world—all of its quirky beauty inspires her endlessly. When she’s not writing, she’s a bike-riding Yogi who loves to dance.

Links: Website | Amazon Author Page | Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | YouTube

 

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124 Comments

Brain Games—Are You Unwittingly Killing Your Book Biz?

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons via Cortto

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons via Cortto

The past three weeks have been the weirdest game of telephone ever. In my scandalous post Pay the Writer,knew this would happen but there really was just no getting around it. I knew the second I made any negative commentary about a sacred cow (used bookstore) we’d have problems.

I also knew my post was going to ripple through the web and get redacted down to the juicy and untrue morsel of: Did you hear? Kristen Lamb hates used bookstores.

But this is a really cool lesson in neuroscience and communication and I believe that nothing should ever be wasted. I’m going to use this to show you some cool tricks that will help you reach out to readers, improve your book sales and up the effectiveness of your promotional efforts.

THANK YOU Critics for Proving My Point

So, this all started when I got pissed off at writers (not readers). Writers were sharing an article with a click-bait headline that was bashing Amazon (and by association all on-line retailers) and digital while hailing the great return of the used bookstore. All would have been fine…had the article simply been hailing the return of the used bookstore. I love used bookstores. Need a 12 Step Program for the money I spend there.

But the article wasn’t just hailing the return of the used bookstore. The article was using this as an opportunity to bash the best (and only remaining) ways authors are paid.

Here’s the thing. All that lovely exposure a used bookstore offers does writers no good if you spend an entire article trashing the only remaining places to buy NEW. And not just any article…a Washington Post article.

And yes, I called foul. It was a dirtbag move that was undermining writers and their ability to earn a living. I knew I’d take heat and I would do it again.

Anyway, back to the brain.

If you read my book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World you’re going to find it has a lot of neuroscience in it. The human brain is a really interesting thing and the more you understand it, the more effective your brand and promotions will be.

Did you know that the human brain only begins listening at the first active verb?

So if you say, “Don’t forget your keys.” What your brain hears is, “Forget your keys.”

Seriously, use this with goal-setting and resolutions and I promise it will change your life. I say, instead, “Kristen, remember your keys.

This was why I knew my blog was going to probably come back and bite me. Yes, I knew I needed to construct it better. I had pneumonia when I wrote it and was ticked off, so I really just didn’t care.

For the folks who took time and read the blog post thoughtfully, they were dumbfounded that anyone disagreed with what I said.

I never really attacked used bookstores. I attacked the article.

I repeatedly said buy from used bookstores and that I buy from them. I even said feel free to promote them…but make sure to educate readers that you don’t get paid there so IF they read something of yours they LIKE, please buy something new.

That’s pretty much it.

And it IS okay to disagree with me. But many people who initially believed they disagreed with me, later realized they actually didn’t. We’d run into terrible miscommunication fueled by my NyQuil induced fugue state😛 .

The problem (I feel) came as a side-effect of the digital age and that people tend to do a lot of scanning material. And while it was all kind of a pain in the @$$, I think some great discussion about authors being paid has come out of it and today we are going to use it for a very different but VERY useful lesson.

What Went Sideways?

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Steve and Shanon Lawson

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Steve and Shanon Lawson

Because I had to add a caveat to many of my assertions, I knew I was running a huge risk. Any audience member who was not wholly focused? I chanced losing. When I wrote an assertion akin to:

Don’t promote used bookstores, unless you then tell readers at some point they are going to need to buy new. If we don’t educate our reader, they won’t know how to support us…

What do you think most people scanning the article likely saw?

Don’t promote used bookstores.

Every single article later criticizing me completely missed the point of my blog, likely because they scanned it or relied on second hand accounts.

Or worse? The reading comprehension in this country is at an all-time low. This morning I awoke to a blog claiming I was up in arms that writers needed to be paid royalties on used books. WTH? Okay, some people apparently need me to blog in crayon and use way smaller words.

I got this on Facebook last night.

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For the record, all my human sacrifices are on altars constructed of old hardbacks. Paperbacks soak in blood too quickly and then you can’t finish summoning the demon properly…

Moving on.

Another weird trick about the brain is that order dictates emotional weight/importance.

So, if you work for me as my assistant and I tell you, “I need you to get me Tom’s number, an appointment with the dentist and an espresso.”

What will you assume that I probably want the most/first? What are you also most likely to remember?

If the AC guy shows up and your kids start blowing up your phone with texts and you spill coffee in your crotch and you then look at your watch an hour later…which item are you most likely to recall? That I needed Tom’s number.

Thus, when the original article that send me into orbit began with bashing Amazon and digital sales…then later talked about the rise of used bookstores. What do you think was the most lasting impression on the brain, whether readers were conscious of it or not?

If the brain uses order to assign importance, then many Washington Post readers walked away not just feeling good about a used bookstore. They also walked away believing Amazon and digital were bad because the article began with that.

That was part of why I was so angry. It was a blatant manipulation of the audience. See, people like me can spot the man behind the curtain.

***BONUS TIP: When people are emotional, angry or upset, they will reverse the order (emotional distancing). So, if you are in a fight with your wife and she finally tells you what is wrong? And she says, “You forgot the dishwashing soap, left your clothes in the dryer, and we don’t spend time together anymore.” You are wasting your breath arguing about dish soap. She does NOT CARE ABOUT DISH SOAP. Book a B&B. You can thank me later.

Brain Business—ARE YOU KILLING YOUR BOOK BIZ?

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Frankeileon

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Frankeileon

You, dear writer have gone through all this trouble to build a platform of not just writers, but people who might be readers (code for family friends and regular folks who might buy a book). They look to YOU to be their expert and guide.

Since only about 5% of the literate population are the type who inhale multiple books a week, most of these folks may read a handful of books a year if that.

Who cares if it is your book?

Since they are NOT the type of reader who requires an intervention for their habit, this argument about everyone who reads books being so broke they can’t buy new is crap.

Most regular folks? If they want a book, they buy off Amazon or go to a B&N at their local mall. They’re generally not the reader who’s trolling the bargain bins in front of Half Price Books because they just sold some plasma and can afford a couple new Neil Gaiman books.

Ignore Outliers

The BIGGEST mistake too many writers make is they assume they are selling to themselves. That their best market is the avid reader. Yes, we love the avid reader. But she is rare and not our best market.

The left side of the bell curve (the complete non-reader) is not our market at all. But the far-right, the reader who goes through a book a day? That reader would go bankrupt trying to buy everything new. She’s going to buy mostly used or check out stuff from a library and frankly I don’t blame her.

Also, she’s likely going to be a far pickier reader to please, so reviews are going to be much rarer because she’s a tougher to impress than the person who reads two books a year.

So we ignore the non-reader for the most part. Not a bad plan. But then writers ALL chase after the far right part of the Bell Curve (The White Stag).

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons and courtesy of Richard Fisher

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons and courtesy of Richard Fisher

And THEN we ignore the 90% of the population in need of being informed or entertained. I call those Brown Deer Readers (fat part of the bell curve).

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of John Stratford.

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of John Stratford.

Yes, the White Stags loooove the used bookstores, but Brown Deer Readers? Not so much. And there are a heck of a lot more of them and guess what?

Brown Deer Readers are the game-changers.

J.K. Rowling did not become a billionaire by landing only White Stags. She became a billionaire by captivating the fat part of the bell curve of folks who didn’t believe they enjoyed books…until her books.

The fat part of the bell curve would rather be trying out pilates or watching Game of Thrones or head shooting buddies on PS4.

THIS is the reader you want. It is the reader I want. Why? Because when you captivate these readers this is when legends are made.

There are people who will tell you they do not read. They do not consider themselves readers, BUT they bought every single 50 Shades book in hard cover. They bought every Twilight, every Harry Potter book. They are the most avid fans any novelist can have simply because they are NOT avid readers.

Many of these folks still believe they hate reading…but they love YOUR books.

These people become an author’s single greatest asset. They will not only buy your books, they will evangelize them.

THIS is OUR CUSTOMER.

Now. Go back to what I was talking about. Modern communication.

You post articles and blogs bashing digital and Amazon. Regular people in your platform see those scroll by and since they are not avid readers, they don’t read further. They don’t want to buy books. They like you so they want to buy YOUR book (maybe).

Later, your books come out. I can tell you (from my background) what very likely will happen.

Wow! I see Penelope’s book is out. Better not get a digital copy or go to Amazon. She said it was bad. 

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of coolio-claire

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of coolio-claire

And THIS is what started it all. Being aware what we are posting because we are supposed to be guiding our consumers, not confusing them. We cannot take for granted that every person buying our books is an avid reader who understands the book business.

Khaled Hosseini tells a funny story of how his mother bought all the copies she found of his book The Kite Runner in Iran not knowing she was buying pirated copies of his work and that he would never make a dime off her beautiful gesture of support.

Use Our Brains Other Places

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Pierre Olivier-Carles

Image courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Pierre Olivier-Carles

How we say things has always mattered. Now that we are in the digital age it is probably more important simply because we are dealing with an overwhelmed and distracted audience. The opportunities for miscommunication are endless.

I don’t regret writing the post, but I could have saved myself a lot of time defending misunderstanding if I’d followed my own teachings.

But phrasing stuff in the negative is so common and it’s a killer. I see writers doing promotions all the time and I cringe because they’re shooting themselves in the foot (I see this with businesses too, btw).

Don’t forget to buy my book!

What did you just tell your audience?

Don’t forget to buy my book!

Don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter!

Don’t miss this promotion!

Strive to tell people what you do want. It’s far more effective. If you are writing to make a living, you’re going to have to communicate clearly to consumers because it is really easy to confuse them. Yes, I love used bookstores, but I really am fond of being able to pay my light bill even more. So I work hard to promote places I am paid because I appreciate how easy it is to confuse a consumer. Trust me, they can find a used bookstore on their own😉 .

So what are y’all’s thoughts?

Seriously, now does every fight you’ve ever had with your spouse make sense? Do you now understand why your kid keeps forgetting his backpack? Don’t forget your backpack! Have you spent too much time chasing after avid readers and underestimated the regular folks? What are your thoughts? Aside from wondering why I hate used bookstores😛

I love hearing from you!

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.

And yes, I am a complete and total slacker. December’s winner will be announced later because I seriously had three posts go viral. Great problem to have…but tabulating a winner? Gonna take a little time. Love you *air kiss*

Remember to check out the new classes listed at W.A.N.A International.  

Branding for Authors (THIS SATURDAY). This is your best way to get PAID in the digital age. We have to cultivate that 1000 die hard fans. FIND YOUR BROWN DEER!

Also, I have one craft class listed. Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line. Our stories should be simple enough to tell someone what the book is about in ONE sentence. If we can’t do this, often there is a plot problem. This class is great for teaching you how to be master plotters and the first TEN SIGNUPS get their log-line shredded for free, so you will be agent ready for the coming year.

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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62 Comments

Social Media, Branding & Owning 2016—Because EVERY Day is Game Day

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Ah, I love this picture, namely because getting kicked in the face apparently is the only way I can get Angelina Jolie lips for FREE😀 . Seriously, I found out yesterday that I am on the list to get my blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Most people who start Jiu Jitsu never get that far. They quit because, unlike other forms of martial arts, in Jiu Jitsu, you stay a white belt for a year and a half and most people can’t endure that long without the outside validation of “changing colors.”

For me? A broken nose, busted lip, three broken toes and a case of Shingles later?

HA! I AM STILL HERE!

Am I any good? Eh, who knows. See, a lot of being successful at anything really goes back to what we talked about not too long ago in the “real” odds of success. That pit bull tenacity of never giving up. Just keeping on and keeping on and keeping on while the competition falls away. That’s a game changer.

But this dovetails into what I’d like to talk about today…

On Monday I talked about what it means to be a rainmaker. Rainmakers are those folks who get things done no matter what. I love that my blog can inspire you because frankly our souls need refreshing. Yet, I will say that passion is not going to cut it. This job is really really hard. It requires digging deep and doing a lot of un-fun stuff.

That is the difference in the real writers and the wannabes. The wannabes all love playing with their imaginary friends and doing the fun stuff. Fiction is WAY more exciting than making sure all my social media is tended and gutting through revisions and answering a gajillion e-mails.

But, this is a profession, not a playpen.

The difference in mediocre and magnificent is always in the details. In doing the work others don’t want to do.

In a world of equally good books, readers will default to the writer they know and recognize over the awesome writer (books) they’ve never heard of. It is up to us (the rainmakers) to make it rain.

We do the extra that makes the difference. All rainmakers do.

In the 2011-2012 professional basketball season there was a major NBA lockout. No one knew when the season would start. When it did, there were a lot of games crammed into a far shorter span of time and, strangely, a lot of injuries. Why? Because many of the players didn’t continue training. Since they didn’t know when the season would start, they relaxed. Thus, when they finally did return to the game, they were soft, ungainly and out of shape.

The handful who didn’t take time off, who kept pressing and training day after day after day went on to have record-breaking seasons. Why? Because they did the extra. They did what others were unwilling to do.

To them?

Every day was game day.

 

For us, every day is game day.

I haven’t taught social media for a long time, but I have put together some new classes over at W.A.N.A. International that will be held in January to get you started off the right way. I’ve put this together to make it easy for you to get started in your New Year and maybe *hint hint* at loved ones for your gift😉 .

Enjoy the holidays, but I hope you will treat yourself to the right start in 2016. Thing is, social media can drive book sales and it can be a huge game changer…if done correctly.

But, for those not yet convinced…

Social Media is a TOTAL Waste of Time (or not)

Write more books instead of tweeting or blogging. Social media is a giant time-suck better spent writing great books.

I don’t know how to answer this besides, Er? *screeching breaks* Personally, I can think of no larger waste of time than researching and reading and spending countless hours crafting a wonderful book of 60,000-110,000 words and then?

No one knows the book exists so few people ever read it, enjoy it or are changed by the author’s story.

It’s like spending six months to a year on an oil painting to hang it in an attic.

These days, any agent worth her salt will not sign an author who doesn’t have a social media brand and presence. Rarely, they will take a book from an author who doesn’t…but usually it will come with the requirement the author get on-line and get to work.

I ADORE Dawn Frederick at Red Sofa Literary and once shared a panel with her. She told the story of a book she LOVED and took even though the author wasn’t on social media. She was so impressed with the book she signed the author but told her she needed to get on social media and start building a platform.

After six months, the author refused. Dawn gave an ultimatum. Get your tail on social media or we drop the book and cancel the contract.

This is not the agent being mean.

Agents make money when we sell books and agents get that in a world where there are fewer and fewer book retailers, this means more and more shopping is being done on-line. On-line, if we don’t have a brand, we might as well not even exist (and it isn’t much better in the store, either).

Yes social media does matter because on-line is still growing…

No, E-Books are Not In Decline

There was a New York Times article that essentially claimed that the e-book tide was slipping and print was returning but this is not entirely accurate. According to a follow up article in Fortune it has to do with how one looks at the numbers. Yes, for traditional publisher there was a contraction in e-books because this is a pretty clear case of chickens coming home to roost.

Traditional publishers have continually demanded e-book prices remain high and most of us are just not going to pay the same price for the e-book as the paper, so YES of course paper will increase and e-book will decline.

Um…duh.

I know I’ve seen this in my own buying habits. Most of the time I just say, “Screw it, I don’t need the book that badly” and they lose the sale unless I really like the author.

But, if I really, really want the book I will get paper instead. There is something deeply and profoundly cheap about me.

No I am NOT right in the head.

No I am NOT right in the head.

This assertion about the e-book market did not take into account many very smart indies and self-published authors who are doing very…very well and who were smart enough NOT to charge $15 for a freaking e-book. Also the article and its assertions were deduced from AAP data and that’s enough about that.

Long story short. The sky is NOT falling. People still like e-books. Sally forth.

Great time to be a writer. Yes. A challenging one as well.

Myth-Busting About Marketing

So many writers believe they aren’t selling a lot of books because a publisher isn’t spending a whole lot of dough on marketing and ads.

Yeah, no.

Ads actually have a terrible ROI and marketing doesn’t work all that great…unless paired with an existing social media platform. Social media is all about connection.

Though I’m not a huge fan of ads, it makes sense that if a publisher (traditional or indie) is going to pay good money to create and launch one, that anyone interested should be able to easily connect with the author. Same with coveted AP reviews, interviews, or events. Even if we self-publish and pay for promotion, an existing platform will make the most of that investment.

A LOT of any sales is the follow up then the follow-through.

Even if a traditional publisher pays for marketing and advertising, they know the return on investment is far greater if the author has an existing social platform. The stronger the platform the better the ROI.

If social media is new, scary, overwhelming? Welcome to being NEW.

Social Media is for the READER

One of the things that can make social media super terrifying is writers think I am here to change your personality and nothing could be farther from the truth. Here’s a little secret.

Most people do not mind being sold to. Seriously.

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I don’t mind it. I like knowing about a new product or service. I like seeing a new gadget that will make my life easier. What I DON’T like is when advertisers abuse the privilege. When they don’t value my time or they manipulate me.

You probably are the same way.

I don’t think any of us minded retailers sending us an e-mail with coupons, but then they got greedy. They started abusing the privilege and crapping up our in-boxes and ALL of them did it and now most of us have an e-mail that we have allowed to go feral for retailers who insist on getting an e-mail address.

Fine, but I haven’t checked that in-box since Bush was in office.

When we are creating a social media platform we are helping the reader. We all know what it is like to want to get something to read and we end up just closing the screen because we can’t decide. There are just too many options.

I’ve had the same thing happen at a bookstore. Instead of ending up with a book, I check out with three cutesy bookmarks, two bars of chocolate and…a figurine of a cat reading Shakespeare?

Huh?

Either I end up buying junk or…what?

I default to brand names. Writers I just know.

Oh, forget it. I’ll just grab another George R.R. Martin.

Readers love connecting with authors. They love talking with them and getting to know them. That is social. They DO NOT like popups and spam and a constant barrage of ads and free stuff and being force-added to groups and mailing lists .

I’m just here to play matchmaker and help you find each other because too many writers are all talking to each other and doing everything but connecting in ways that are EVER going to potentially reach readers.

Writers can fall into three camps with social media.

The Mega Marketer

Self-explanatory. This author is on every social site, loves automation and will claim she never spams because she personally and carefully “crafts” all of her automated tweets.

Hint: That’s just eloquent spam.

This author knows all the algorithm tricks, and has a newsletter or two and force-adds total strangers to her fan group on Facebook.

I give props for working really hard, but often this writer’s tactics will make people want to set her on fire more than buy her books.

The Writers of Witness Protection

This writer often goes by a cutesy moniker @FairyGurl @ThrillerGuy. There are no existing pictures of this writer anywhere on social media. No website and if there IS a website it is NOT the author’s name. It is likely something like http://www.magicdragondreams.com or http://www.writerswillwrite.com.

If you need to contact this author, please light the beacons of Gondor.

Then there is where many writers fall into. Even I get here sometimes because I get so busy helping others that my own stuff needs work.

The Mission Drift Writer

Recently I worked with a team of writers who just made the New York Times Best-Selling list and great book. Problem was there are two authors, plus they have a business consulting firm plus the name of the book, plus their training and they were just trying to brand way too many things and so they were losing focus and power. I could see they were going to wear out and lose momentum.

We all have to step in and reevaluate. It’s why I am currently redoing MY web site.

It happens. Unfortunately social media is like our sock drawer. It will need tending…forever.

So to help with all of this I have put together three classes in January. And yeah, yeah I am selling stuff but I rarely do it and it is Christmastime and at least you can give this list to friends and family and spouses for something you NEED😛 . Trust me, these classes are going to save you a ton of time and headache later.

Social Media for Writers This class is a 101. What do you need to understand about social media? What do all the sites do? Which ones do you need? What can you ignore? It’s also going to come with a really cool worksheet to help you customize your social media for your goals, your personality and your audience. Trust me, if you write YA, then Facebook may not be a great use of time. If you write high fantasy? Why are you on LinkedIn? Are you more visually oriented? What are your strengths? Weaknesses?

We are going to be smart about our social media because you need time to write more BOOKS. Recording of the class is included with the purchase.

January 9th 3:00 P.M. EST-5:00 P.M. EST $55

The Basics of Author Blogging Again, this is a 101 class. What is a blog? How is being an author-blogger different from being a blogger? Can you monetize your blog? How can you monetize your blog? What are the advantages of having a blog? How can you blog smarter? Because frankly a blog will do us no good unless we KEEP blogging. Recording of the class is included with purchase.

January 16th 3:00 P.M. EST-5:00 P.M. EST $55

Branding for Authors Another 101 class. What is an author brand? How can you create an author brand? How can you make it where your name alone has the power to sell books? This class also comes with a worksheet to help you customize your brand and the recording is included with purchase.

January 23rd 3:00 P.M. EST-5:00 P.M. EST $55

What are your thoughts? Are you excited about 2016? Are you ready to make a plan? Do you feel pulled too many different directions? Do you like ads and wish they would just stop ABUSING THEM? Like really! TELL me about A LIPSTICK…not ALL OF THEM! Do we have to light the fires of Gondor to contact you? Are you happy to know that e-books are NOT dying and actually doing WELL?😀 Do you have a feral e-mail? I think mine is at 45,000 unread e-mails. I wonder how many I get before Yahoo crashes.

Hey, it is an awesome time to be a writer.

Also, any other suggestions y’all might have for a class you want me to teach, please put it in the comments. I am working on those now.

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

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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51 Comments

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