Posts Tagged social media for writers

Does FB Sell Books & Do Writers Need a Facebook Fan Page?

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Social media is powerful for connecting us (our books) with the very people we wrote them for to begin with. But, we are wise to appreciate that creating a brand and cultivating genuine and passionate fans is not going to happen overnight. The deeper the roots, the stronger the brand and the platform.

Why that is important is if we keep chasing the newest shiny, we fail to ever gain compounding results. We are chasing fad after fad. Thus a saner approach is to build places that are the most stable.

***Yes, we can build on Instagram and SnapChat and the like, but that will come with more risk and possibly devour time we need to write more books.

The blog is still the strongest and most resilient form of social media. Blogs have been around since the 90s and unless the Internet goes down? Blogs will remain.

But other than a blog (at least for the moment) Facebook is the next strongest and most resilient. I recommend Facebook because I come from sales and in sales we had a saying: Fish where the fish are.

The readers fish are schooling on Facebook.

But here is where I often get a disconnect with writers. The first thing I often hear is Facebook doesn’t sell books!

And this statement is both correct and incorrect.

ALL social media is horrible for direct sales. Why?

It isn’t the place for it.

Trying to conduct direct sales on social media is akin to me showing up to a friend’s BBQ and toting in a portable table, boxes of books and a cash box then setting up shop next to the potato salad.

It’s rude. I would be invading that social space with a selfish agenda.

However, this doesn’t mean that going to the BBQ is completely useless for book sales. As I talk and chat with people and they find out I am a writer, they get to know me (hopefully like me) and this sparks curiosity and interest that could likely turn into a sale.

Additionally, if the person likes my book, there is a far deeper loyalty because I am the author they are “friends” with.

Facebook Doesn’t Does Work

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Facebook, like a hairdryer, a screw driver or a jack hammer is a tool. Just because we are not getting the results we want doesn’t mean there is something wrong with the tool. We have to know how it works and how to use it for the results we desire.

We first need to understand the purpose of the fan page and this is where it can get sticky.

I do not recommend brand new authors with nothing yet for sale to have a fan page. First you don’t need one since you are not yet conducting any business. Secondly, it’s a formula to want to overdose on tequila and cookie dough when the only “fans” you have after three months are your mother and ten friends from your kids’ Aqua Tot class.

Building a fan page this way is excruciatingly difficult. This is why I recommend building your personal page first.

Your personal page is the foundation that will later support the fan page.

It can help you get to know people, and they get to know you and that you are a writer. Once you hit a couple thousand “friends” you can then build your fan page OFF your personal page.

This holds many advantages.

First, it makes navigation simple. You can simply switch back and forth across the two pages. Here is the view from the top of my personal page. I can switch easily and see if I have messages, etc.

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Also, because folks have spent months getting to know us on the personal page, it is far easier to post a message:

Hey, finally getting an author page. Would you mind giving it a “like”?

The personal page has a lot more ability to socialize with others and this is the place you do the bulk of your initial networking.

Of course, you might now be asking, “Then why do we need a fan page at all?” Good question.

Why DO We Need a Fan Page?

YES. And the reason is that Facebook is very strict about keeping business and socialization separate. Now, this doesn’t mean we are the “all-selling-books-all-the-time-channel” on the fan page, then we only act like a human being on the personal page.

It only means that we cannot conduct commerce on a personal page without risking Facebook deleting our profile for violating the Terms of Service.

We CAN, however, post about books or classes for sale and promote them on a fan page. That is the purpose of the fan page.

Additionally, as your platform and fan following grows, eventually you will need a page that can accommodate over 5,000 people. A great problem to have, btw😉 .

We DO NOT Need to Pay to Promote

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A few months ago I attended a conference where I was not speaking, but I do enjoy learning from others so I attended the social media class.

*bangs head on wall*

This particular “expert” was busy scaring the bejeezus out of authors and telling them they needed to go to LinkedIn instead because no one sees your content unless you fork out cash to Facebook.

That was patently false.

We have to understand how Facebook chooses what goes in anyone’s newsfeed. Facebook runs the same way search engines do. They use algorithms to make sense of our behavior and give us more of what we interact with and less of what we ignore (because it assumes it is of no interest).

This holds true for the personal page and the fan page.

Recently, I posted a picture of my nephew on my personal page. I then got a distraught message from my aunt. All the other family members had gotten the image in their newsfeeds, but she did not. She was worried she’d offended me and I’d somehow blocked her.

I assured her it was not the case.

What happened was this aunt was very passive on Facebook. She never hit the like button or shared anything I posted (unlike other family members). Over time, FB assumed she was not interested so it no longer offered my content in her feed.

I told her that all she had to do to fix this was go to my Timeline and click like on a few things and maybe leave a comment or two and the algorithm should correct.

So Why Do Some Have to Pay?

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Why authors end up having to pay to promote is they are failing to appreciate how algorithms work and are choosing content that does not work in their favor.

They are using the fan page for direct sales and people don’t want that. They post a lot of BUY MY BOOK and talk about upcoming releases and book covers and events which is all fine within reason, but that is ALL they are sharing.

Most people will just scroll past and they aren’t likely to interact with that kind of content, let alone share it.

The fan page is still supposed to be social. The only difference is that we are allowed a book table at the back of the room without offending anyone.

What happens though is that writers keep posting content no one is interested in engaging with. How Facebook tries to help is it offers us the ability to pay to alter the algorithm back in our favor.

But mind you, we can do this for FREE on our own simply by engaging and acting much the same way as we did on our personal page. I regularly get over 80% engagement and I have never paid Facebook a dime.

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NYTBSA Lisa Gardner has an excellent fan page. Yes, she talks about her books, has everything easy to see and buy but she also talks about all kinds of other things that gets people talking and sharing and engaging.  Ann Rice is another author who ROCKS the fan page. Same with Jonathan Maberry.

By the time we are spending the lion’s share of our time on our fan page, we really are there for true fans so we get more leeway how much we mention books. But notice even ANN RICE still talks about ballet and recipes and feel-good stories. She isn’t the BUY MY BOOK channel.

There is a lot more to using Facebook for advantage, but we have to get these basics first or we will just end up frustrated. Once we understand how Facebook gets content in front of our audience, we can then adjust our behaviors to offer us the advantage.

Does this help? Were you getting frustrated with your fan page? For the newer writers, are you happy you don’t have to rush out and get a fan page today? I recommend looking at authors who do the fan page well and learning from them. No need to reinvent the wheel!

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

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

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

Upcoming Classes

NEW CLASS!

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

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

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

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

Good question. We will cover that and more!

But sometimes the query is not enough.

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

Sign up early for $10 OFF!!!

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

All fiction must have a core antagonist. The antagonist is the reason for the story problem, but the term “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.

Blogging for Authors

September 17th

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

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

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

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

 

 

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60 Comments

Want to Sell More Books? Give Consumers What They WANT

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Consumers and business models have all changed drastically in the past ten years. This demands that we as authors change as well. There were many elements we never had to think about twenty years ago. It was an agent/editor’s job to think about the consumer climate and whether or not our book would be something readers would want to buy.

There have always been writers too clever for their own good, but in the old model, likely they met with enough rejection to 1) give up 2) rewrite or 3) try again. These days? The onus is on us to give readers what they want.

We have to remember whether it is the book or the blog or even social media, that WE are not important. It is all about the reader and what he/she wants to consume.

A Tale of Two Parsnips

I remember being in NYC for Thrillerfest. 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 made plans to eat at a ritzy Asian-Australian “fusion” restaurant and the woman on the phone assured me they could accommodate.

This was a super fancy restaurant and the chef had even once won Iron Chef, so I didn’t eat that day, preparing for my first experience with fine NYC dining.

We get to the ordering and…*screeching brakes*

The chef refused to modify any of the dishes.

He claimed that removing the mashed potatoes (which contained dairy) “ruined the aesthetics of the dish.”

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I wish I were joking.

The waitress kept continually offering me the parsnip soup. I was ravenous and, finally, after fifteen times being offered soup I didn’t want? I 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.

Texans. Can dress them up. Can’t take them anywhere.

But this story illustrates my point. We shouldn’t keep trying to serve others something they don’t want to consume.

***Side note: The next year when I returned to NYC? That restaurant was out of business.

Give Customers What They Want to Consume

But I carefully craft all my automated, preprogrammed tweets.

Great, you dressed it up, but it is STILL SPAM.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Neil Motteram

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Neil Motteram

If I don’t want to talk to a robot? Why would other people? If I hate spam? Why serve it? If I loathe being force-added to groups and newsletters and it ticks me off? Might not be a good plan to do to others.

When I wrote my 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? Guess what? Entertainers are “real” writers, too.

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.

Give Readers What They Want In a WAY They Want

We writers can be a hopelessly romantic lot. I get it. We love bookstores and the feel of paper. We don’t mind toting around a hardback so thick we could brain mugger with it. But WE are not everyone. Humans are busy and distracted and they dig e-books and audio and that is a GOOD thing.

I still have no idea why writers are even taking sides on this issue. If my readers want my stories acted out in interpretive dance? They prefer jazz hands over paper? And that could be profitable enough to finance me continuing to write?

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Presentation Matters

Every Christmas, Spawn opens his new toys then we spend the next hour with scissors and kitchen knives trying to break past all the anti-theft crap.

This is how info-dump, fish heads, needless prologues and extraneous flashbacks feel to readers. We have to get past so much stuff to get to what we want, that we move on to novels that 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 is certainly clever. And, it 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.

Keep Writing

Good books are good books, but I’ll be blunt. There are outside factors we can never anticipate.

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 made little difference. It clearly filled a need and a market emerged.

E.L. James gave consumers what they wanted.

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😀.

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! Including How to Write the Dreaded Synopsis/Query Letter! 

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

Upcoming Classes

NEW CLASS!

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

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

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

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

Good question. We will cover that and more!

But sometimes the query is not enough.

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

Sign up early for $10 OFF!!!

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

Blogging for Authors

September 16th

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

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

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

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

 

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37 Comments

The Problem with Pen Names

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When I first became a writer, one of my favorite activities was dreaming what my pen name would be. I’d even practice signing it so that, you know, I didn’t accidentally scribble Kristen Lamb in my runaway best-selling book at my glamorous book signing.

Don’t judge me. Y’all did it too😛 .

Before anyone gets in a fluff, understand two things. First, I’m on your side. If you want or need a pen name? Rock on! If you already have one? Keep it! If a sexy exotic name makes you write better stories? Go for it!

This is only a decision the author can make. My only goal here is to make sure y’all are making educated business decisions. Thus, I won’t stop anyone from having a pen name, but about 95% of the time? They’re unnecessary.

The modern author already has to take on far more than simply writing, so why volunteer for more work?

In my opinion? Pen names are more hassle than they are worth and they’re a fast way to land in Crazyville. Pen names used to offer benefits, but most of those benefits have evaporated because the world is digital and connected. In fact, pen names can actually hurt book sales and stall a platform and brand.

Let’s look at some of the advantages pen names used to offer that no longer exist.

I Need a Pen Name for PRIVACY

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Here’s the thing. We are in The Digital Age. Privacy is an illusion. In fact, be too private and we fail to connect emotionally with others and thus the platform and brand never gain traction. Social media is social and being social requires a certain level of vulnerability and openness.

Being open and vulnerable doesn’t mean we post our Social Security Number and the names of all our kids. It can be something as simple as, “Hey, I totally dig Dr. Who” or “I like to crochet weapons of mass destruction.”

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Some writers don’t want to do social media at all or they want to hide behind a pen name and only post “writerly things” or “BUY MY BOOK!” because, yeah, that is SUPER creative and we don’t already get enough of that *rolls eyes*.

They don’t want to share anything personal and the pen name is there to help them gain emotional distance and keep their “lives separate.”

The problem with this thinking is that, in The Digital Age, WE ARE THE BRAND.

Before The Digital Age, gatekeepers stemmed the number of books that came to market. Readers only could buy what they discovered browsing a bookstore. Now that there are millions of titles and more being added every day? Those habits and hobbies no one cared about in 1995 are what’s going to help us cultivate our readership. Readers buy from who they know and who they like.

When we try to separate our personal persona from our writing persona, we create layers of friction and a lot of extra work for those trying to discover our books.

This means we can inadvertently undermine our own success seeking the illusion of anonymity/privacy.

I Need a Pen Name to HIDE

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Erotica authors generally run into this problem. If what you write might cost you your job? Then yes, I agree a pen name is probably a good idea. It will be extra work, but y’all probably already knew that. What I DON’T like is often writers believe that just using another name is enough.

No.

First, if you require a pen name for safety, security, etc. hire a pro. I recommend The Digital Dark Knight Jay Donovan at Tech Surgeons. Tell him I sent you and he will give you special rates. If we are just creating social sites under a made up name and thinking this keeps us “safe”? This is akin to locking the screen door to keep out serial killers.

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If someone is motivated to find us, they can (unless you hire a pro like Jay).

You will probably have to look into the legal aspects of using another name and will likely require a DBA (Doing Business As) because, if you have any amount of success, you will need to be able to cash the check under another name, do taxes, etc.

Also, I will say that having to hide an identity is very stressful. Sites like Facebook use facial recognition software for tagging photos and then those photos are searchable.

All it takes is a friend carelessly posting a photo and tagging with the wrong name to implode a carefully crafted alter ego.

As more social networks communicate across platforms and search engines become more ingrained and more advanced, hiding will get harder and harder.

I Need a Pen Name for Each Genre

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NO! For the love of all that is chocolate, NO!

Remember, WE ARE THE BRAND. You guys come to my blog and trust I will work hard and deliver enjoyable content. This means when I have a book out, there is less work or thinking on your part. You know me, hopefully like me and you trust my work.

My name holds a lot of power because it promises to deliver content you enjoy. I write social media books, but I also…wait for it…write fiction.

Did anyone’s reality just fracture?

People “get” we do more than one thing. In fact, those who like my blogs or social media books, might just decide to read my fiction simply because they already trust my non-fiction. With SO many choices out there, we find a writer we like and stick like glue. We don’t want the hassle of trying and testing an unknown.

Readers don’t only read one genre. In fact, I think that is probably fairly rare.

When we use a pen name for another genre, we are back at Ground Zero. We have to build another name without any help from the already existing platform.

I finally sent off my mystery-thriller to the publisher. When that sucker goes to market? I am NOT motivated enough to start ALL OVER. If my followers don’t like stories about murder and cartels? Don’t buy my book. Simple. But, there may be people who might just try a thriller because it’s written by me.

*cute face*

It Doesn’t Take Much to Implode an Identity

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I once had a writer in my branding class who was using a pen name because her family is less than supportive and they trolled her other sites when she tried to use her real name. But what if she becomes successful and crazy family member figures out the pen name and starts trolling that site? Eventually this writer will have to put down a boundary.

Troll my site one more time and you will die in a tragic blow-up doll accident in my next novel.

She is costing herself a TON of extra work to cater to a handful of bullies. She’s losing all those close connections—schoolmates, college friends, colleagues, etc.—who actually will be her best word of mouth sales. I have people who didn’t say three words to me in high school who are now avid fans because I’m the writer they KNOW.

My Name is Too Hard to Pronounce or Spell

NO! That name no one has gotten right since you were a kid is now your digital BFF. If you don’t believe me? Google Janet Evonnivich.

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I see authors with AWESOME names for the Digital Age change it to something utterly forgettable. If your name is Skjolsvik, I don’t have to know how to pronounce it, I just have to be able to recognize it in a lineup. Also, all I have to remember is it starts with Skj—.

Search engines will correct me if I goof it.

I Need a Pen Name Because There is Another Person With My Name

Again, search engines can help with this. Do y’all really think I am the ONLY Kristen Lamb? When I decided to set aside fiction to become the social media expert for writers, I began by googling my name. There was another Kristen Lamb who happens to be a media mogul.

But by producing a LOT of content and properly tagging that content, I now dominate the search for my name. And, even if I didn’t? If someone is searching my name for my blog/books and they get Kristen Lamb the Cake Decorator, all they have to do is add the word “writer” to narrow the search.

I Need a Pen Name Because Using My Name is Pretentious

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I hear new writers say this a lot. Why would anyone care what have to say? They don’t. When I was new, they didn’t care what I had to say, either. But being a writer is fundamentally pretentious and even narcissistic. We have to believe we have something to say that is worth not only reading, but PAYING to read.

Just own it.

And if we pan back, this entire argument is more than a tad ridiculous. So no one would care what Kristen Lamb has to say, but they WILL care what Kristen Lamb writing as an imaginary person and figment of her own imagination has to say? And that isn’t pretentious?

It is YOUR Decision

In the end, all I can do is give you branding and social media advice. Multiple names and pen names are a lot of work that is very often unnecessary. I see writers do this same thing with multiple blogs.

I blog about writing but I also blog movie reviews and funny anecdotes. What if my followers who like my writing posts don’t like kitten stories?

Um, they don’t read your post that day?

I write thrillers, but I also write cozy romance. What if my readers don’t like cozy romance?

Um, they don’t buy them?

If you require a pen name for safety issues, legal issues or even because it could endanger your job? TALK TO JAY. The rest of us? Our time is better spent writing more books😉 .

What are your thoughts? Questions? Experiences? Do you have a pen name and love it? How do you manage that pen name without going cray-cray? Did you start out with a pen name and now you regret it? Do you have multiple names you now need to merge? I can actually blog about ways to do that another time.

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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74 Comments

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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79 Comments

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

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 11.13.49 AM

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*

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 10.40.48 AM

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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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.

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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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