Posts Tagged social media for writers

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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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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123 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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Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 5.33.26 PM

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

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 4.28.50 PM

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

What to Do When You Absolutely, Positively NEED a Pen Name

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kenny Louie

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kenny Louie

Yesterday, we talked about reasons NOT to use a pen name. I will again be very clear about this. Ultimately, it is up to the writer. My job is to make sure you guys have time to write more books and that you aren’t inadvertently making more work than is necessary. Yes, there ARE good cases for having a nom de plume.

There are probably as many reasons TO have a pen name as not, but it will be extra work…which is why I don’t like them. I am LAZY. But that’s me😀 .

If you are okay with that? Sally forth!

A Caveat…

I come at this from a different perspective than most writers, since often I am the one called in to help talk a writer off the ledge when pen names go bad. For instance, I recently spoke to a group of authors. One author was teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown trying to do social media. Yet, when we talked, this author had THREE pen names (with three different web sites) because she didn’t want readers “getting confused.”

The problem (in my POV) was she wrote thrillers, suspense and cozy mystery. These are genres with a lot of crossover. Usually from the cover, genre, story description, readers can figure out that one book is a hard-boiled thriller versus a cozy. She was running herself ragged trying to manage all these identities, when if she used ONE, she’d have more time to write and also readers from one genre likely would help sales for the others.

I actually get this a lot.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sally Jean

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Sally Jean

In the pre-digital world, we didn’t have the ability to build an on-line presence, so readers would get confused. These days? That is not near the problem it used to be.

If we look at Jonathan Maberry, he writes adult books and YA and uses the same name. Often, those who like his adult books are drawn to his YA and the genre and story description is enough for those purchasing to know they are geared toward different ages. I’ve read most of his books and the adult books have profanity and more violence, the YA is zombie-lite. Most people can figure this out without Maberry adopting an entirely new name.

Same name, different target age groups

Same name, different target age groups

Patterson is also now writing books for young people. He’s using the power of his name (his brand) to sell for an entirely different age group and the titles and covers are enough for most people to understand that Public School Super Hero is probably a young reader’s book. Or this one😉 .

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In the pre-digital world, we would have viewed these genres differently. They would have been wildly divergent. The on-line world though has actually bundled a lot more than we might realize. Thus, if you already have a solidly branded name, you might not need an entirely new identity for another genre. Just think about it, then decide.

A Pen Name for Multiple Genres that DO Conflict

Many of those who chimed in on yesterday’s discussion in support of pen names write erotica or romance in combination with other genres that conflict. In this case? Yes, use a pen name for each genre. Have one name for steamy romance and another for YA. This case is an excellent candidate for a pen name.

Yet, I will say that if I write sexy erotica and kid’s books, I’m already aware that I will be in for building multiple platforms.

A Pen Name Because My Legal Name Would Cause Problems

There are instances where a writer is in genuine need of privacy. I stated this yesterday, but maybe was unclear. If I’m a nurse or doctor who writes medical thrillers? There is a concern with the day job. There are those who are still active in the intelligence community who NEED a pen name for safety reasons.

If I am a lawyer and write legal thrillers, maybe I don’t want to defend that I haven’t broken any confidentiality with my stories. Maybe I’ve been through a divorce and want to ditch my married name so I don’t have to deal with the ex.

So yes, these cases are good reasons for a pen name.

If you are a schoolteacher and write steamy romance, there is a real need to section off that writer persona. Maybe you are the black sheep in a fundamentalist family and the stress of dealing with drama overwhelms your ability to create. YES, use a pen name.

But, what I wanted to make clear is that in the early days of the Internet, simply signing up for a profile under a nom de plume WAS enough. Now, with search engines becoming far more advanced, there are additional steps we need to take to maintain the integrity of the pen name. Changing the name is no longer enough.

It would be irresponsible of me to not point this out. I KNOW there are teachers who have lost jobs over their fiction. I don’t want that happening to anyone, so it’s my job to let y’all know that if you do need a clear separation for these reasons, appreciate that it is more complicated than simply using another name.

I have had writers who didn’t realize this and ended up giving up writing altogether because a troll found them and the stress became overwhelming. I’ve had borderline suicidal writers e-mailing me who gave up their dream because of bullies, and that ticks me off and makes Kristen want to go on a troll-hunting spree. To me these situations are tragic namely because most of the time, they are preventable.

If you guys want to write erotica and YA and enjoy both without contending with haters? I am here to HELP. Yes, have a pen name, but do it properly.

A Pen Name Because I Want One

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Go for it! As Jami Gold mentioned in the comments yesterday, some writers need that alter ego to clear head space and to feel more in tuned with the writing. We are creative people and sometimes that “otherness” helps us step out or mentally separate from ordinary life.

While Maberry and Patterson are fine writing for kids and adults under the same name, maybe you require a different identity to get in tune with that particular audience. If I wrote steamy romance, I gotta be honest, I would probably want something a tad “sexier” than Kristen Lamb.

Ok, a LOT sexier than Kristen Lamb.

If you want that or need it? Rock on.

One of my followers, Heidi Cullinan, wrote a post exploring some excellent reasons to have a pen name, so I will send y’all there instead of belaboring it. The only points in the post I disagree with is that I made it clear that 1) I can’t make the decision for you and 2) romance/erotica genres are generally in need of a pen name. Actually any hot-button topic is. Sex, religion, politics? Probably gonna want a pen name.

It IS up to you. Also, yes, Heidi is right that it is your choice if you want four pen names or fourteen. I can’t stop you, though I will try😉 . And the reason is that if we are spread so thinly we can’t write or we aren’t selling books because we are trying to manage multiple pen names and diluting our readership, that is a formula for us to wear out and give up.

I Have a Branded Pen Name

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

If you have already created a pen name with a following and a brand, do not feel the need to go redo everything and use your legal name. You already HAVE a brand. There were some commenters who’d already spent years under a certain name. Stay there!

The advice of whether or not to have a pen name is different from whether or not to keep one. If you are a new writer starting out? I only ask you make the decision using current information. I see writers change names search engines would LOVE for something people can pronounce. That is old world.

If you are going to write in another genre, ask the tough questions then decide. Do you really need another identity or is this a case like Maberry where readers can figure out your books are different from the covers and titles? Would your current name possibly drive sales for you in another genre?

Would your current profession drive sales for your books? I see writers who have a successful career rebranding themselves for selling books when perhaps their success as a photographer, actor or surgeon could help book sales. People “get” we do more than one thing and we might be more inclined to pick up a thriller from our neighbor who’s a real estate agent. We understand she sells houses and writes books and we can adjust the Internet search terms accordingly.

If you already have four identities and are going nutso? Is it possible to pick one and then change the covers and retrain the audience? There are some authors who have been publishing since the days where multiple pen names were required. In the modern era, that is a formula to end up in a straight jacket. Thus, if you want to re-release works you have the rights to, you DO have the option of combining all those alter egos under one brand.

My Name is Boring

If you have a name like John Smith? Sure, a pen name is an option though not necessary. Tagging and generating content can mitigate this. The name Kristen Lamb is NOT terribly unique so a common name can work.

I Hate My Name

Get a pen name. If you don’t like your name and it makes you uncomfortable? Change it. Just understand it is more work, but that was probably already obvious😉 .

My Name is Stephen King and I am NOT Stephen King

If we happen to have a name that is exactly like a mega-branded author? Yes, get a pen name. If it is another popular personality like an actor? Consider keeping it. I said consider. It can make a name memorable. If I write mysteries and my name is Jessica Tandy? Most people with more than a half a brain know I am not the late film actress born in 1904. But, the name alone is memorable and all they have to do is put “writer” or “author” in the search to find me.

The Guts of This

In the end, all I can do is offer advice and get you guys to ask the right questions before you decide. Are we making the decision for the right reasons? Are we making our job tougher? Are we unintentionally watering down our brand? Will the pen name offer more advantages or disadvantages? Are we securing a pen name in a way that will maintain that “separateness” we require? If we think these things out ahead of time, we don’t set ourselves up for major headaches later.

So what are your thoughts? Aside from I am telling you you can’t have a pen name. I am NOT telling anyone they can’t have a pen name!😛 For those who do use a pen name and enjoy it, what are says that you keep that separateness? Tips? Tricks? What does your pen name allow you to do creatively? For those who are having trouble with the pen name, what is vexing you?

I love hearing from you!

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

Also, for more help on how to use characters to ratchet anxiety to the nerve-shreding level, I am offering my Understanding the Antagonist Class on April 18th and YES, it is recorded in case you miss or need to listen again because this class is jammed with information.

I LOVE teaching this simply because our antagonists are pivotal for writing a story (series) readers can’t put down. Yet, too often we fail to harness characters for max effect. I look forward to seeing you there! I also offer the Gold level for one-on-one. Maybe you’ve hit a dead end. Your story is so confusing you need a GPS and a team of sherpas to find the original idea. Instead of wasting time with misguided revisions, I can help you triage your WIP and WHIP it into fighting form😀 .

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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58 Comments

Pen Names—Necessary Evil or Ticket to Crazyville?

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of gaelx

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of gaelx

Today we are going to talk about a somewhat touchy subject. The pen name. Before anyone gets in a fluff, understand two things. First, I’m on your side. Secondly, this is only a decision you can make. My goal here is to make sure you guys are making educated business decisions. Thus, I won’t stop anyone from having a pen name, but about 95% of the time? It’s unnecessary.

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

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 11.51.25 AM

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.

One of my bugaboos is when writers tell me they just want to write or they just want to sell books. They don’t want to *shivers* talk to anyone. This is a personal choice. I can’t require anyone to be sociable, but in a world where readers are being deluged with a gazillion choices, they are going to gravitate to who they know and who they like.

And, to be blunt, we are expecting people to part with money and precious time they don’t have to read our books. It takes an average of 12-15 hours to read a novel. We are asking a lot of others. The very least we can do is talk to them and have a good attitude about it.

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 Star Wars” or “I like to crochet weapons of mass destruction.”

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But 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.

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.

A lot of writers complain to me that they don’t want to post things everyone else can see. Problem with that is it is TOO EASY to lose control of information posted on the Internet. Thus, my personal rule? If my mom can’t see it, I don’t post it.

I Need a Pen Name to HIDE

Image courtesy of TrueFashionMirror

Image courtesy of TrueFashionMirror

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.

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 12.18.24 PM

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.

It does me no good to use the pen name Fifi Fluffernutter because I want to hide that I write erotica, but then someone goes to buy a book and can only make out the check to Kristen Lamb😉 .

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.

There are rumors that Google is wanting to acquire Twitter, meaning every tweet would be cached and searchable. 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

Screen Shot 2014-09-05 at 10.57.14 AM

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 I look at my bookshelves, I have almost every genre. If nothing else, we will at least enjoy the kissing cousins. Suspense readers will also dip into thrillers or mysteries.

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. Right now, I’m finishing a sci-fi trilogy. When that sucker goes to market? I am NOT motivated enough to start ALL OVER. If my followers don’t like science fiction? Don’t buy it. Simple. But, there may be people who might just try a science fiction because it is written by me😉 .

It Doesn’t Take Much to Implode an Identity

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 10.42.33 AM

A couple days ago, I had an author whose agent recommended that he use a pen name for his new books that are General Fiction and not Christian Fiction. My argument is that many Christians do read outside of Christian Fiction and thus the pen name would cost him the following he already had for four other books.

He countered that they didn’t want the haters who would be upset that this wasn’t Christian Fiction and that these stories were grittier. But my problem is this.

It only takes ONE.

It only takes one troll putting two and two together to dismantle all that work to craft a new identity. Thus, he could potentially cost himself a LOT of readers who are smart enough to realize that General Fiction is NOT religious and who would have read the books anyway to make a small group of people happy (people who are likely never going to be happy anyway).

In the end, it is the author’s decision and this might be a good case for a pen name, but note that it WILL be extra work with almost no support from the existing fan base structure.

Another writer 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.  Again, the problem is this. What if she becomes successful and crazy family member figures out the pen name and starts trolling the 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.

I Need a Pen Name Because 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

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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. I called her and told her, “There could  be only one.”

She thought I was kidding😀 .

Actually, I DID call and I DID say that because I’m a nut, but she IS a Kristen Lamb and ergo super fun and cool and we actually talked for about an hour.

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 knows they are searching my name for social media and they get Kristen Lamb the Cake Decorator, all they have to do is add the words “social media” 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. 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 my 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 APRIL, 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).

Also, for more help on how to use characters to ratchet anxiety to the nerve-shreding level, I am offering my Understanding the Antagonist Class on April 18th and YES, it is recorded in case you miss or need to listen again because this class is jammed with information.

I LOVE teaching this simply because our antagonists are pivotal for writing a story (series) readers can’t put down. Yet, too often we fail to harness characters for max effect. I look forward to seeing you there! I also offer the Gold level for one-on-one. Maybe you’ve hit a dead end. Your story is so confusing you need a GPS and a team of sherpas to find the original idea. Instead of wasting time with misguided revisions, I can help you triage your WIP and WHIP it into fighting form😀 .

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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190 Comments

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