Posts Tagged We Are Not alone

Social Media, Book Signings & Why Neither Directly Impact Overall Sales

Original image via Rosaura Ochoa via Flikr Creative Commons

Original image via Rosaura Ochoa via Flikr Creative Commons

One of my AWESOME on-line pals posted something troublesome on my Facebook page. Apparently there is a recent article in a major writing magazine that declares social media does not sell books and, in a nutshell, isn’t worth the effort. I’ll warn you guys ahead of time that I went hunting for the article—at the last remaining Barnes & Noble within a 25 mile radius of my home—and couldn’t find said article (and have asked Kim to get me the specific issue). But, since this type of commentary is prevalent enough in the blogosphere, I feel I can address the overall thesis accurately enough.

Social Media Was NEVER About Selling Books Directly—Who KNEW?

Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Zoetnet.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Zoetnet.

I’ve been saying this for about ten years, because the idea of using social circles for sales is NOT new. About ten years ago, I recognized that social media would soon be a vital tool for writers to be able to create a brand and a platform before the book was even finished. This would shift the power away from sole control of Big Publishing and give writers more freedom. But, I knew social media could not be used for direct sales successfully.

How?

When I was in college, every multi-level-marketing company in the known world tried to recruit me. I delivered papers and worked nights most of my college career. Needless to say, I was always on the lookout for a more flexible job that didn’t require lugging fifty pounds of paper up and down three flights of apartment stairs at four in the morning.

I’d answer Want Ads in the paper thinking I was being interviewed for a good-paying job where I could make my own hours. Inevitably it would be some MLM company selling water filters, diet pills, vitamins, prepaid legal services, or soap.

And if I sat through the presentation, they fed me. This meant I sat through most of them.

What always creeped me out was how these types of companies did business. First, “target” family and friends to buy said product (and hopefully either sign them up to sell with you or at least “spread the word” and give business referrals). Hmmmm. Sound familiar?

The business model wasn’t really about meeting people, connecting and actually liking them just because they were good people. There was an endgame…SELL STUFF (or manipulate others into helping you sell stuff).

Ick.

Hey, you go to the gym anyway. Strike up a conversation. Say nice things, then give the sucker friend target a FREE SAMPLE. People who work out need vitamins. That isn’t ookey AT ALL!

The Battle of the Experts

I recall being part of a panel in NYC three years ago and the other experts were all excited about applications that could tweet for authors “saving time” or even certain tools that could measure what days and times Twitter was most active and when people would be most likely to see our tweets. All I could think was:

1) Are these people tweeting or ovulating?

2) If everyone uses this same tool, then all they will do is crowd the feed and no one will see anything. Left long enough, these “Golden Hours” will shift so people can avoid the barrage of ME, ME, ME! MY BOOK!

The panel’s moderator (ironically) worked for the CIA and was tickled silly that there were all kinds of algorithms that could “predict human behaviors.” Of course, I made myself WAY popular when I said, “The only way to accurately predict human behavior is if we all have a chip in our heads and someone else has a joystick.”

Yes, I can be blunt. My mom is from New York. I blame it on her.

My assertion was that, if this was true, and we could accurately predict human behavior, then we wouldn’t be worrying about crime, war or terrorism and that these algorithms were a mirage that gave a false sense of us “being in control” of the uncontrollable.

Also, how would she still have a job at the CIA?

Oooh, But We Can MEASURE…um, NO

In the 90s and early 21st century most people weren’t on-line. Computers were still cost-prohibitive and Internet service was mind-bendingly slow (dial-up?) and expensive. Social media was in its infancy and only early adopters trusted buying on-line.

Companies could launch ads and measure click-throughs. How long did a visitor stay on a web site’s page? Did the visitor click the ad on the page? Did that ad then translate into a sale? Companies still do this. I’m pretty sure authors can do this, but why would we want to?

Could feel like THIS? Original image via Dan Derritt Flikr Creative Commons

Could feel like THIS?
Original image via Dan Derritt Flikr Creative Commons

Unlike Sephora, Gap or Walmart, most of us are a one-person operation. We don’t have a team of interns to do this stuff. We also don’t have a multi-million dollar corporate budget.

What IF an ad doesn’t work? How many of us have time and extra money to launch a new ad?

Also, there are SO many variables beyond our control. I’ve seen this with blogging. A holiday, time of year (kids getting out of school), a major world news event (Osama bin-Laden captured) can all affect traffic and click-throughs. To try and study our stats and juke them for advantage is a lot of time better used elsewhere (like writing more books).

Might I suggest one of these...

Might I suggest one of these…

Relationships are Key

Social media is social, meaning it’s about relationships. This means, 1) it will take time to build and 2) it cannot be outsourced 3) it cannot be automated.

Can you imagine trying to maintain relationships this way in the real world? Give your husband a call-in number:

For the location of clean socks, press 1. For a word of encouragement, press 2. For the item I need you to pick up from the store, press 3. For the real reason I haven’t talked to you since yesterday, please stay on the line and an operator will be with you shortly.

Your estimated call wait time is three days.

HINT: Anniversary.

Social media and author brands will sell books, just not directly and not in ways that can be measured looking at clicks and stats. Social media is essentially word-of-mouth which has been selling stuff books for centuries and no one can measure it. 

The Bottom Line

Since I don’t have the article (sorry), I am limited here. But I imagine that, aside from telling writers social media was a waste of time that doesn’t sell books, I assume there was no panacea offered to replace social media. If social media doesn’t sell books, then what does? Ads don’t. Never have. Promotions are time-consuming, expensive and have a dismal ROI (Return on Investment).

Also, if social media is so grossly ineffective, what explanation do we have for the MASSIVE power shift from BIG NYC publishing to indie and self-published authors now 1) making a reasonable second income 2) making a decent enough living to finally write full-time 3) nontraditional authors taking up an increasing portion of major bestseller lists like the New York Times and USA Today and 4) the major inflation of fiction writers now making six and seven figures?

All the ones I know of (and there are MANY) use social media to some extent. All of these authors would never have gained visibility, traction or sales without social media.How can we explain these trends without including social media as a variable?

Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 1.17.53 PM

Notice I said social media as a variable. There is NO magic formula. Hard work, more books, good books and generating word of mouth (in part with a brand and on-line platform) is fundamental. Social media has been mistakenly touted as a formula to wealth and riches, but it isn’t. Neither is buying real estate using a proven program from an infomercial.

The Future

Bookstores are closing. Barnes & Noble is evaporating. Indie stores will have a resurgence, but they have limited space (and need to unless they want to go bankrupt like the megastores that tried to KILL them). THIS is the future of book sales. I saw this in the cosmetics section of my grocery store a few months ago. Insert a debit card and get a sample before you buy…

Why buy a WHOLE tube of lipstick when you can get a sample. LOSS prevention?

Why buy a WHOLE tube of lipstick when you can get a sample. Also, um LOSS prevention?

Oh, and these are popping up…

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 11.23.38 AM

Check your bank balance then BUY A BOOK!

For those who want a paper copy to hold...

For those who want a paper copy to hold…and get NACHOS!

These kiosks sound familiar. Reminds me of one of my posts from over two years ago. I wrote a lot of other blogs that said basically the same stuff, posts that are even older. But I’ve written over 800 blogs and I’m lazy and have to get back to writing books. And I am not alone in seeing this trend. I’m no great genius. Other people saw this coming.

Um, clearly since I can’t claim I invented any of these machines. Ok, I could, but I try to restrict lying to my fiction.

But, if THESE kiosks are down the pipeline, how can we reasonably come to the conclusion that social media is a total waste of time? Relying totally on social media is a waste of time, but I’ve been saying that for years. As authors, we are wise to think in terms of our careers. Think like a business, as in short-term and long-term. Platforms and careers need a wide base, deep roots, a community of support, time and a heck of a lot of sweat equity.

Also, there are effective ways to do social media and ways that make others want to stab us in the face (which was why I wrote Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World).WANA ways WORK but they take time. ROM has a step-by-step plan. Heck, don’t buy my book. Browse my blogs for free. I just care about your success.

The Future IS Bright for Writers

The future for authors is wonderful, but there is no Social Media Shake Weight. Sorry. I was bummed, too. But here’s the thing. The same articles that will discourage writers from social media because it doesn’t sell books aren’t also demanding we halt all book signings. Book signings are fun, they are social, and they’ve historically been a way to connect authors to an audience in a personal way.

Until social media they were the only way. 

But book signings were NEVER meant as a sole means to sell books. In fact, it was really never even the purpose of a signing. Rather it was connection with the author as a person.

Craftfest

Even if a writer has a line out the door, the most even a mega-author might sell is a thousand books. Let’s be generous. FIVE thousand books. A drop in the bucket if you’re Dan Brown. Is selling 5,000 books relevant when an author sells millions? When an author has to board a plane, stay in a hotel, sit in one spot signing for hours or even come up with a speech? And travel city to city to city for a month or more instead of writing?

Food for thought ;) .

We live in a wonderful time to be a writer. Yes, it’s work, but there are a lot of reasons why this job isn’t for everyone. Success in anything is about staying power, passion, and effective action (solid social media, building relationships, and writing MORE books and GOOD books).

What are your thoughts? Are too many authors banking too much on social media? Do you feel social media has been sold to writers as a get-rich-quick-scheme? Do you see other authors approaching social media in a way you know is going to burn them out? Do you know of any nontraditional authors who sold zillions of books yet didn’t use social media at all? What did they do?

…ALIENS.

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).

 

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108 Comments

Writing—So Easy a Caveman Can Do It

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Sodanie Chea

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Sodanie Chea

Recently a Facebook friend shared a post with me regarding Indie Musicians versus Indie Authors. It appears our culture has a fascination and reverence for the Indie Musician whereas Indie Authors face an immediate stigma. We authors have to continually prove ourselves, whereas musicians don’t (at least not in the same way). My friend seemed perplexed, but to me it’s very simple.

We’re not even going to address the flood of “bad” books. Many writers rush to publish before they’re ready, don’t secure proper editing, etc. But I feel the issue is deeper and it reflects one of the many challenges authors face and always will.

People give automatic respect to a musician because not everyone can play an instrument or sing. Simple. It’s clear that artist can do something many cannot.

As writers, we have an insidious enemy. People believe what we do is easy. If we are good writers, we make it look effortless. I recall being a kid watching the Olympics. The gymnasts made those handsprings look like nothing. Being four years old, I dove in…and broke my arm…twice (because I’m an overachiever that way).

The blunt truth is everyone has a story to tell. They do. Every life can be fascinating in the hands of a skilled author. Every idea can be masterful in the hands of a wordsmith. Ah, but the general public assumption is that the only thing standing between them and being J.K. Rowling is merely sitting down and finishing the story. Many believe that, because they’re literate and have command of their native language that they can do what we do.

Geiko Caveman.

Geiko Caveman.

Of course, this isn’t the case (as we know all too well). A trained author draws the reader into a world of magic where the audience doesn’t notice the wires and mirrors, only the floating woman. We blend plot arc and character arc to drive tension.

We must develop layered, dimensional “people” and blend in setting and world-building where it’s so integrated it’s probably unnoticed. In fact, if people do notice, likely that section needs edit. Great dialogue is a skill. Subtext, theme, and on and on.

Readers generally don’t appreciate how we’ve done this, they only know we’ve created this magic when they get lost in the book, when they can find no “good” place for a bookmark. This is one of the reasons I strongly caution novelists starting “writing blogs.”

Readers don’t care about structure, POV, word echoes, verb issues, or formatting unless we screw them up. Only other writers care about how we use our tools. Readers care about the finished product.

Why Do I Mention This?

Most of us will face mass opposition when making the decision to write for a living. People see so much writing all around them, they take it for granted.

Many years ago, I got my start as a technical writer and copy writer/editor. I remember an acquaintance making a snarky comment about how there was no money in writing and essentially it was all foolishness (he was a stock broker). I’d finally grown enough of a spine that I stood up to him.

Me: You watch movies and television I assume.

Jerk: Of course.

Me: And when you’re learning a software program, I assume you use the Help tools.

Jerk: Yes *strange face*

Me: And magazines? Articles? The news? I assume you enjoy those too.

Jerk: *getting quiet*

Me: Then there are commercials, textbooks and the Internet. I’d wager you use Google.

Jerk: What are you saying?

Me: Last I checked, the Internet involved a lot of words. No writing, and the Internet is just a super expensive picture book. And, perhaps I’m out of line, but I’d imagine someone wrote the screenplays to the shows and movies you enjoy. I can’t see Hollywood paying a hundred million dollars for actors to just “riff.” Someone wrote the instructions to put together your computer desk and wrote those textbooks you used to train you for your career. And I’d even go so far as to say someone wrote those novels you enjoy and the magazine and news articles you consume regularly. 

Jerk: *silence*

Humans have been so spoiled with writing for so many centuries, they frequently dismiss it. Centuries ago there was far more reverence for the writer, but this was in the days when most people were illiterate. Only a handful of special people had the time, money, education to write (or read).

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

The wonderful side of public education and widespread literacy is this means more readers. Yes, those early authors were legends, but most of us would cry if we had the same book sales. There was no such thing as selling millions of books.

Of course the dark side is that humans have a tendency to take things for granted. We all do it. We assume if we paid our bill, we’ll have power. If we call 911, someone will answer. If the roads are a mess, someone will repair them. And writing? Everyone can do that.

It’s easy.

Stand Firm to the Truth

We know what we do is anything but easy, but we must be vigilant against this widespread perception or it will lead to self-doubt, giving up, being hypercritical of our own work, or seeking to please everyone with our story.

Those of you who’ve followed this blog know I have a thing for little “sayings.” Often I put them on Post-It Notes to remind me. One of my go-to phrases is, If you cannot defeat them, distract them. 

I’ve been in writing groups where the writer took every last comment/criticism as if it were gospel. When we are new, most of us lack confidence. This can lead to the Book-By-Committee. We keep changing the plot, the characters, the dialogue because one person frowned (and we didn’t realize they merely had gas).

I’m 20,000 words into Book Two of a trilogy. I sent the first book out to trusted beta readers. Every beta reader loved the book…save one. Characters all the other readers enjoyed, the one beta despised. The main group loved the description, the human flaws, the layers of complex plot. The critical beta recommended tearing down and starting over.

Now, in “The Old Days” I would have ignored what nine people said to please ONE. I’d have cried and indulged in gratuitous self-pity and believed I could never write a novel. Woe is me. I’d have trashed the book and started over.

Now? Pfft. I have rhino skin. I’m beyond the point where I need hand-holding and ego-stroking (blogging will beat that out of you).

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Paul Hudson

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Paul Hudson

Are all this one beta’s comments bad or utterly misguided? Not at all. I took the detailed notes the beta gave and sent them to those who loved the book. I genuinely wanted the truth. “Hey, did you guys feel/see any of these things? Is a total rewrite something I should consider? I think many of the ‘problems’ can be fixed with a handful of sentences. But, if I need a complete tear-down, now is the time to tell me.”

I’ve written the Book-By-Committee and it is an ugly beast that pleases no one.

I recently picked up a piece of my early writing that was slayed by a well-meaning critique group. As a more mature writer and editor, I saw that they’d benevolently edited the life out of my work. They were injecting their genre, preferences, and voice onto my work. And I eagerly gobbled it down and rendered a solid piece of writing a soulless Frankenstein mess.

I used to be a pretty good novella.

I used to be a pretty good novella.

Critique and editing are critical, but we must handle with care. First, we need thick skin. Professionals should not have to be coddled and handheld. We can offer a thoughtful, articulated defense as to why we made certain decisions, but this is different from being defensive. One is the product of confidence and the other is the Goo of Doubt.

If all ten beta readers saw the same thing? Houston, we have a problem. One? I still should listen, but with care. If I don’t, I risk overworking a book trying to attain the unattainable—perfection.

I actually found it funny how this experience elucidated points I’ve been making lately. We can NEVER write a book everyone loves. We can’t. It was almost laughable looking at my edits. Lines of dialogue the others highlighted with “LOVE, LOVE, LOVE IT!” were the same lines the critical beta advised I delete.

But, this is why we must stand firm and remain true. I could cry and go back and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite and I will still have at least one person (likely more) who doesn’t like final product. This is why we must learn to keep pressing forward and ship.

Learn the Art of Discernment

Being a professional author cannot be a democracy where everyone has an equal vote (unless you just want to go crazy). In ways, we have to be more of a benevolent dictatorship. Learn to say, “I hear your concerns and I’ll take them under advisement.” Why? Because everyone has opinions and advice, but only we will live with the consequences.

Remember, If you cannot defeat them, distract them. Trying to write the book that all demographics will love is a fruitless endeavor. It’s a distraction which will lead to defeat. Keep writing. Failure isn’t bad, it’s the tuition we pay for success. Understand that the world can believe what we do is easy, but they have a right to be wrong. We know better. Choose which voices to listen to. Part of maturity is learning the art of discernment.

Be brave enough to hand your work to someone who might hate it. The one beta who didn’t like my book? Doesn’t read this genre, hates description and has vastly different preferences than I do for pleasure reading. I knew I’d get my literary @$$ handed to me when I passed it over. BUT, this beta picked up on things the others missed ;) .

Maybe I’m unwilling to completely burn the book to the ground and start over, but that doesn’t mean this beta didn’t point out areas that people who LOVE the genre missed. Areas that WILL make a far stronger book. Surrounding ourselves with yes-men doesn’t inspire growth. This is why rhino skin is SO valuable.

We can hand our work to someone we suspect will HATE it. But then we can sift through all the commentary and search for diamonds. If we’re too sensitive, we might miss that ONE comment that takes the book to a whole new level. Okay, this beta reader wanted to shoot 330 pages out of 331 in the face, BUT on Page 287? That’s a great point.

***And I am being hyperbolic. We should seek out those who will give our book the trial of fire, but we don’t have to hand it to people who will destroy our will to ever write again.***

Learn to select what applies and leave the rest on the table. Criticism, opinions and advice are like a giant buffet. We select what to put on our plate, then later we choose what we gobble down or throw away. This is true in writing and in life.

People might believe writers are all starving, broke deadbeats chain-smoking outside of coffee bars when they aren’t writing bad poetry. They have the right to be wrong. People can believe what we do is easy. Hey, it means we are doing our jobs well. Others will criticize, but we choose whether that drives us or distracts us.

And a BONUS FRIDAY FUNNY. Since we were talking about how humans naturally take so many things for granted, I hope you’ll take three minutes to reach out and help a person suffering with FWP:

What are your thoughts? Do you find that public perception that what we do is “easy” infects your attitude? Maybe it makes you insecure or overly self-critical? Have you struggled with critique, found yourself trying to please everyone? Did you make a mess out of your art? Have you learned discernment? Which voices to ignore? Are you brave enough to hand your book to someone you know will hate it in hope you can harvest that one good point? Or do you want to be a world-famous writer….so long as no one knows your real name and what you look like? :D

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

For a LONG-TERM plan for a fit, healthy platform, please check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World

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311 Comments

Balancing Writing & Life—The World Rewards Finishers NOT Perfection

Original image via Lucy Downey from Flickr Creative Commons

Original image via Lucy Downey from Flickr Creative Commons

The world around us is always pushing this notion of “perfection” and, I don’t know about you, but sometimes I wonder what “reality” looks like. All the models are tall and thin and young with poofy lips (and men have their own variety of the super model stereotype). They have fabulous clothes and new cars and go on expensive vacations.

Even our homes! When I look around my house that’s littered with toys, my sink full of dishes and two baskets full of laundry (even though I just DID laundry) I wonder what a real home is supposed to look like? Where do I fit? Sure NOT on Pinterest.

Granted, there are areas I KNOW I am slacking (*cough* Christmas tree is STILL standing) and let’s not talk about the state of my drawers and closets. But, I generally (when the washer ISN’T broken) wash the sheets 1-2 times a week. I make the beds. I clean the toilets all the time because Spawn is 4 and we are still working on AIM.

Pippa claims she is "helping" with laundry. Right.

Pippa claims she is “helping” with laundry. Right.

But I am nowhere near the homes in magazines or on TV, even though I live in an apron. I will never wear skinny jeans and I am unwilling to go into crushing debt to keep up with a world who portrays a “reality” that is geared to make me emotional, make me feel inferior and therefore buy stuff. Or work more, do more, more, more, more.

I live in my apron only usually no makeup and hair in a scrunch-ee

I live in my apron, but usually no makeup and hair in a scrunch-ee.

Why do I bring this up?

Because perfect is an illusion. There is no such thing. Our society has gotten into this GO BIG OR GO HOME attitude, and sure, that might be okay in one or two aspects of our lives…but ALL OF IT? I cannot look like a fitness model, write 4 novels a year, have perfect social media, make crafts with my kid, volunteer, drive a BMW and have a house that should be featured on HGTV.

Maybe you can. I can’t and won’t. Not worth it.

Thus, we need to list our priorities and it is okay to let the other stuff be less than perfect. But, in light of this argument, I also want to say this isn’t a pass to be lazy or mediocre. We should strive for that nice healthy balance. When we get out of balance, something or someone will suffer. I have to be careful I don’t get so focused on writing and business and cleaning that I forget to be a mom.

I have to take out time to run with Spawn through the house with NERF guns looking for zombies. The dishes will be there. I know. I’ve tested this hoping they’d disappear but they apparently mated and made more.

Writing

You want to be a writer? Great. Here’s the good news. If you’re writing, you’re already a writer so stop the angst. Just do it. This is one of the reasons I am such a huge fan of blogging. Writers write.

My mom can post on Facebook and The Spawn has been known to tweet, but neither of them blog….because they aren’t writers. Blogging is training for the professional pace.

Blogging is THE most stable form of social media and it trains us to be better writers. We can write leaner, meaner, faster and commit. No Writer Warden is going to show up and take us to jail if we don’t blog/write. To be professional, we have to be good at keeping and meeting self-imposed deadlines. Not only does blogging make us better writers and create a stable platform, it also trains those self-discipline muscles.

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

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

Even if you don’t blog, commit to writing something daily. Write a 100 words, then work up to 200 then 500. When I started, 1000 words was SO HARD, so I started with 100, but it was a beginning and we all start somewhere. The trick is to START.

Give Grace

I’ve read writing books and inspirational/leadership books that I wanted to punch. The last leadership book I read, the author talked about the importance of taking time to think, how he goes to his office and just sits in the quiet and thinks for an hour by himself in his special thinking chair. How cute.

I can’t even go PEE alone. 99% of the time, I have two cats and a dog fighting for attention while The Spawn hits me with a sword or begs me to help him level up on Angry Birds.

Can I JUST go to the BATHROOM….ALONE?

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Whenever I hear of an author who recommends traveling to a location for a book and staying there a month or two to absorb the experience? I think, “Sure. Uh huh.” And this isn’t to be negative, because I do have that as a goal. But, for most of us, that won’t be reality for a long time, if ever. But we still have to get the words on the page. We might have to use Google Earth, Google Images, or tweet a friend in the UK to help be our eyes and help us with setting and dialogue.

And the point of all of this is the best time to do anything is NOW. Just something. Don’t wait to be perfect. Just start. Baby steps are steps and one of the reasons I feel so many of us fail is because we buy into the lie that those tiny steps don’t count. That if we can’t GO BIG, we aren’t trying hard enough. That’s ridiculous and wrong.

Learn to SHIP

Blogging trains perfection out of us. Ship. Too many blogs falter and countless books are never finished because we’re too focused on perfection. There’s no perfect book. I could win a Pulitzer and still have people who hate my book.

Finished books are far more valuable than perfect ones.

The house? Hey, if I can keep from making an episode of Hoarders? Score! Sure, my goal is to organize a drawer a day, weekok month. But I can make my bed. My finances? My goal is to be completely debt free. I can start by not making more debt. For instance, I’m going to the Laundromat until I can save for a new washer.

My body?

I already eat clean, because I have a zillion food allergies. But, I haven’t been working out like I used to. Why? Because I was an IDIOT. I was caught up in the GO BIG OR GO HOME and gave myself such bad tendonitis that I had to lay off all exercise, other than maybe walking or yoga, for over a YEAR to fully heal.

I decided this weekend to revisit the p90X workout. I’ve done it before but I pushed too hard and injured myself. This morning, even though The Spawn was up all night and I had no sleep, I got up to my alarm and started. Did I do the whole thing perfectly? Nope. Was kind of a flabby train wreck, but I did it.

The trick to all of this is to:

  • Contemplate what is TRULY important. Might have to sacrifice the immaculate house for a finished novel.
  • Make a plan and one that is BALANCED. Somewhere between mediocrity and insanity is a nice happy place.
  • Give permission for failure. Failure teaches far more than success ever has.
  • Learn to ship.
  • Be a finisher. My mantra is “The world rewards finishers not perfection.”
  • Finish small and eventually we’ll finish big.
  • Just start. If we have a hiccup? Life blows up? Just start again. Simple.

I want all of you to reach your dreams and still have sanity, friends and a happy relationship/marriage/family. No perfectly clean house, no amount of money, no number of best-selling books can take the place of what’s really important. But, beyond that? REACH.

Ignore a world that’s out to tell you you aren’t trying hard enough and you aren’t good enough. YOU ARE. One foot in front of the other and celebrate the little things, because all the universe is constructed of tiny things ;).

The largest, brightest star is still made up of tiny atoms of Hydrogen and Helium. Every book is made up of a combination of 26 letters. Every healthy body is the cumulation of small, sound choices. Baby steps. Relish them and celebrate them.

Anyway, what are your thoughts? Where do you struggle? Are you bad about All-or-Nothing Thinking, too? Do you tend to go to extremes, either overdoing or being a tool slacker (raises hand)? What ways do you keep yourself pushing on? How do you handle setbacks?

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

WANACon Winners

Rafflecopter Winners who won a REFUNDED Conference Fee

FREE WANACon Registration:

  • Kathy Wagoner
  • MJ Pullen
  • Kelley Conrad

Working on refunds today. CONGRATULATIONS!

Here are the three winners for MY Contest:

  • Grand Prize of Book/Brand Combo: Gry Ranfelt
  • Book Prize: Jacquie Biggar
  • Branding Prize: Shan Jeniah Burton

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131 Comments

8 Tips to Make Sure Everyone on Twitter Hates Us

Image via QuickMeme

Image via QuickMeme

As a social media expert, I run into all kinds of strange behavior and tips that make me scratch my head. Social media is social, meaning it’s supposed to be an extension of how we might interact with other human beings in person. Today’s post (obviously) is tongue-and-cheek, but humor can be the best teacher even if we’ve oopsed.

Tip #1—Only Use Automation

Writing a 140 characters is SUPER time-consuming. We aren’t Jack London. Besides, people LOVE talking to robots. I know when I feel lonely, I call AT&T because I know a human being will NEVER answer…EVER. Humans can be so boring and don’t offer us the option of hitting 6 if we want to hear everything they just said all over again. 

Yeah, all my BFFs send me automated messages.

Yeah, all my BFFs send me automated messages.

Real Life Application: Program cell phones to call friends and family at regular intervals to ask for money. They’d dig that.

Tip #2—Make Sure All Preprogrammed Tweets are “Carefully Crafted”

Because when we take time to artfully craft our spam, people don’t mind. They LOVE believing a real person is there only to be fooled. It’s like when that cute guy/gal in high school pretended to want to go out with us. Now we can relive that experience as adults by being duped into thinking we were chatting with a real person who actually cared.

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Real Life Application: At the holidays, volunteer to bring a Honey-Baked ham, then show with Tofurkey. They won’t know the difference if we use lots of ketchup.

Tip #3—When Programming Tweets Include Popular Hashtags

Who goes to social media to socialize? People LOVE finding a community of real people to talk to and then having it crowded out by the same advertising over and over…and over. Because research shows that it takes at least 20 times to see an annoying face before we want to punch it.

Real Life Application: When attending any party, make sure to hand out lots of fliers, advertisements and coupons. Have a children’s book for sale? Stake out bounce house parties and put ads in all the little grab bags. Kids don’t want toys, candy and stickers, they want our BOOKS. Feel free to crash weddings, graduations, bachelor parties and maybe even funerals. If potential readers aren’t coming to us, we should go to them. Find where they gather then SELL. So what if it’s against their will?

Tip #4—Make People Prove Who They Are Before Talking to Them

Twitter validation services are awesome. We love meeting someone, only to have to jump through hoops to prove our love. We even get the added advantage of being redirected off Twitter to an outside site where we’re easily hacked. How else will all our friends receive direct messages from porn sites posing as us? Nothing seals an on-line relationship like giving others a social media disease. Who will they think of when they have to spend hours removing viruses and trojans from their computers.

Can we say “Top of Mind”?

Come on! It takes three whole seconds to unfollow a bot. We need those precious three seconds to carefully craft witty preprogrammed tweets. Let the other person do the fifty hoops of leg-work to earn our trust. They have plenty of time.

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Real Life Application: Whenever we meet someone and start chatting, if we like them, halt all communication until they fill out a detailed background check. Throw in a pee test to be extra sure ;).

Tip#5—Tweet LOTS of Articles—Ok, ALL Articles

Most of us, when we wake up in the morning, think, “Gee, I wish I had a super long reading list. I sure miss my college syllabus.” Those of us with a corporate job LOVE people who hit Reply ALL so we can read more. Wikipedia is a hot place to hang out. Why not bring that encyclopedic magic to Twitter?

Real Life Application: Make sure to print off a box of articles for that wedding you were invited to. Who wants to dance or flirt when they could be reading about Three-Act Structure or Intestinal Parasites? Handing people a stack of reading material is way better than getting trapped in a “conversation.”

Tip #6—Ask for Stuff Immediately

Oh, sure! Let me drop everything to buy your book.

Oh, sure! Let me drop everything to buy your book.

The second someone befriends us, it’s our job to send an automated link to their Direct Messages so they can do stuff FOR US. Buy our book, like our FB page, follow our blog, or even answer a really inane question (as if we care about their answer) *rolls eyes*. Hey, great to meet you. Do you like vampires or werewolves?

Huh?

Huh?

Real Life Application: If someone is nice to us in the grocery store, make sure to have books to sell and the ability to take credit cards on the spot. Sure, that person is trying to buy a chicken to make for dinner and now she can buy OUR BOOKS, too. Win-win. If we don’t have books for sale, we can ask for life, love or career advice from total strangers, because that isn’t creepy at ALL.

Tip #7—Tweet from Several Accounts/Identities

People on Twitter might miss out on all those “carefully crafted” preprogrammed tweets. Make sure to have anywhere from 2-7 identities sending the same messages. What’s better than spam? MORE SPAM, duh.

Real Life Application: This tactic ROCKS for singles on the dating scene. Meet a date then several times throughout the conversation, change names and accents. Multiple-Personalities are just more people to love.

Tip #8—Never Tweet ANYTHING Original Just Retweet

Again, 140 characters cuts into word count. Save time and retweet what everyone else has to say. Two clicks? DONE.

Real Life Application: Repeat what everyone else says. People love parrots, so why not harness that fluffy colorful cuteness? I know I LOVED it when my little brother repeated everything I said…until I put him in an arm-bar.

Okay, Serious Now 

Twitter can be very valuable and a great place to make wonderful friends. Be real and enjoy. People are on social media to be social. We crave connection, fun and escape. If we wanted more ads we’d read the door in the bathroom stall or not bother fast-forwarding through commercials. We don’t need to be profound, deep or immensely witty to do well on Twitter, we just need to be vested, present and authentic ;).

I LOVE hearing from you!

What are some other things people do on social media that in real life would be ridiculous? I think sometimes we fail to extend that logic. Do you get tired of the same automation tweets? Have you ever bought a book because someone you friended automatically sent you a link to buy?

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

Announcements:

WANACon is a virtual writing conference loaded with top-tier industry professionals—authors, agents, editors and best-selling authors. Right now we have an Early Bird Special. Sign Up Here.

I hope you guys will check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World and get prepared for 2014!!!!

Also, this Saturday, I have a new class, Many Roads to Rome—Which Publishing Path is Best?Use WANA15 for 15% off.

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72 Comments

Brave New Bullying: Goodreads Gangs, Amazon Attacks—What Are Writers to Do?

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Image via the movie “The Purge”.

Today is a tad of a touchy subject, but in this New year, I want everyone to have a the greatest gift any of us can have…peace. Bullies, in my opinion, are among the lowest known existing lifeforms. I wouldn’t want to insult cockroaches and fleas by drawing a comparison.

Kristen’s History With Bullies

I grew up most of my life being bullied. I switched schools at least once a year and there was always a new gaggle of Mean Girls to make my daily life a veritable hell. I think this is why I grew to love books. I skipped school so much (to seek sanctuary at the public library), that I’m fairly certain I’m the reason for the current Texas truancy laws.

I couldn’t get out of bed. I became ill at the thought of even walking through the front doors of my school. I was poor and these girls in their designer clothes who drove their BMWs to school took great joy in throwing away what little clothing I had when I was at soccer practice. To this day, my ankles are pretty much destroyed because I have very narrow feet to fit.

These bullies stole my expensive Nike cleats that provided proper support, and threw them away. I was ashamed to tell my grandparents what really happened and pointed to the cheap $20 shoes that were far too wide (I have AAA feet). That earned me a massive third-degree sprain and four months on crutches. My ankle has never been the same.

I never really dated. I remember there was a boy (popular, of course) who I had a crush on when I was 15. He kept asking me out, but I knew I was being played. Finally, he seemed so intent and sincere that he did like me, I finally went against my gut and agreed to the date. He was supposed to come pick me up at 6:30 to go to a movie. I dressed up in one of the few nice outfits I had…and waited. 6:30 became 7:30 which became 8:30 and at 9:00 I gave up. I went to bed, then realized what day it was…April Fools.

I cried all night.

The next day theses kids gathered in the halls to laugh and point at me, throw wads of paper at me. They jeered that I thought I was so smart but stupid enough to believe this super popular boy would want to date a piece of trash like me.

I was never mean to anyone. I was oddly quiet, alone and read most of the time. Yet, I was a never-ending target for hatred I didn’t understand. When I went to the school officials, they ignored me. “Girls will be girls.” “Kids will be kids.” I know people love teachers, but my teachers only patted me on the head and benevolently tossed me back to the wolves. They gave “great advice” like ignore them, but it only seemed to fuel even more hate.

No one dared be me friend, and I couldn’t blame really them. They didn’t want to be added to the blast radius.

Bullies Don’t Stay in High School

I’d like to say bullies went away. I worked nights and never talked to anyone on college once I broke my back and lost the one refuge I’d ever had, AFROTC. I made it through the final four years of college never having friends aside from my professors. I had terrible social anxiety.

When I graduated and joined the workplace, I soon discovered bullies just grow older and more cruel. I’m certain Human Resources must have some hidden rule that they must hire at least one tireless jerk to torment their fellow workers.

Yes, part of why I left sales was my health. I threw up on the way to work every day. Why? A bully. She ruled the office and everyone feared her. She’d even once assaulted someone at the copy machine. I was responsible for a 2.5 million dollar quota and this person would make sure my orders were “accidentally” sent to the wrong place, my samples would get “lost in the mail” and important documents would disappear.

I kept having to change the lock on my office because this person thought nothing of helping herself to my personal belongings. One time, I’d worked months on a detailed presentation I had to give at the national meeting. I went to lunch and forgot to lock my office. She deleted the entire thing (though there was no proving it, of course).

Seven weeks of work had to be redone in 24 hours.

We had a major contract that came open. Business we’d had for a couple decades was being offered to our competition. I drove to Mississippi once a week for months to ensure we maintained the contract and won the bid. Finally, I got the green because they liked me. All I had to do was send the samples to a certain location. The office bully deliberately mailed them to the wrong address (yes, she was the only one with the power to send out products). I have no idea how many people lost their jobs because we lost this major contract, and I was the salesperson so the blame was square on me.

And there was NO getting rid of her. I went to my boss, to the plant manager, to Human Resources and they acted as if I was just being sensitive. I left. She won. The factory closed. But what kind of person is willing to go to such extremes to hurt ONE person, that she takes out the jobs of others and then even her own? Why would a company tolerate this?

I’ve never found a satisfying answer.

I think that’s one of the reasons I have been so tireless when it comes to building the WANA Community. I spent so much of my life alone, lonely, afraid and I never wanted anyone to feel the way I had for so long.

Brave New Bullying 

Now we live in a Digital Age and bullies abound. The Internet gives them access to torment us 24-7 no matter where we go. I was so thrilled the day I was asked to blog for Huffington, yet unlike here, I have no control over the tone of the comments. There are people who are simply made of spite and hate and they will take it out from the safety of a computer behind the anonymity afforded by monikers. Now when I post, I simply scan and, if anything is hateful in tone? I won’t even read it.

Sad to say, this is why I don’t read reviews before buying any book. There are too many sock puppets and trolls. Goodreads and Amazon are RIFE with bullying. I’ve had friends bullied on blogs and even once had someone start a hate blog directed toward me, “Kristen Lamb The Face of Misandry” which is “Man-hating”, btw. I had to look it up.

It’s sad to say, but when researching for this topic, it seemed most of the information was for kids, schools and teens. But bullies never go away. They often can’t be stopped, but maybe we can make it tougher for them to spread their cruelty.

What To Do

Be YOU—Don’t Let Bullies Steal Your Peace or Your Book Sales

First of all, use the name printed on your books. A moniker or a pen name won’t stop the hate. It’s still you. If someone called me names and ruthlessly attacked my character it wouldn’t matter if it was Kristen Lamb’s Blog or Penelope Fluffernutter’s Blog. It’s still me behind the computer. When we try to hide behind a moniker to protect against the inevitable, all we do is make it harder to sell books. The bullies win. They can steal your peace and maybe even success.

When we get off the Internet because of these cretins, they win. It’s a “blaming the victim” mentality. If your skirt wasn’t so short blog wasn’t there, you wouldn’t be raped harassed by trolls. This is why I DO recommend a WP based site. There is this marvelous TRASH function.

Illegitimi non carborundum…

Keep Records

If you get hateful, threatening messages take screenshots. Save e-mails. If the troll is motivated enough they can easily slip into an area that can give you power legally. But, proof is what will help your case.

Manage Your Blog

I don’t allow hate. I am always open for respectful disagreement, but if someone gets out of control? I delete their comments. People need to feel safe to comment on my blog (and yours), and bullies will shred the fabric of your community. It’s our job to keep them in check. Set boundaries and refuse to tolerate abuse.

Stand Up for Friends

If you have a writer friend who’s being bullied, gather together and, when Amazon asks if a review is helpful? Click NO. The WANA Community is massive. Let us know. We are happy to stick up for you, and a troll might be able to harass one or two pals who come to your aid, but a few thousand is a tougher challenge.

Report and Block

Report abusers on Facebook. The guy who started the hate blog about me wasn’t just harassing me, he was harassing all my friends who commented on my wall. He was PSYCHO. I went to Facebook and had him banned. I blocked his comments and profile (until FB could take it down).

DO NOT ENGAGE

Don’t feed the trolls. Negative attention is still attention. Often trolls will leave seething comments to upset people SO much that they HAVE to go to their blog/website to see WHO this JERK IS. It’s the only way they can get hits and comments and they feed on negativity. Starve them.

Hire a Professional

If you’re worried about your safety or your family’s safety because someone has gone THAT nutso? Contact Jay Donovan at TechSurgeons. Jay is an amazing human being, a tireless champion for writers and he IS The Digital Dark Knight. He’s a computer genius who can have said troll chasing his own @$$ down a hole of frustrated nothing. There are ways to protect yourself digitally and Jay is a master of security. Even if you want to take some preventative measures, talk to Jay.

Many of you know I am NOT a fan of pen names. What you may not understand is I’m not a fan of pen names, because a different name alone isn’t enough. Worse, it can provide a false sense of security. Writers are locking the screen door thinking that’s going to keep out the motivated ax murderer.

There are sound reasons for having a pen name. I advise against it most of the time because friends, schoolmates and family can be powerful mouthpieces and very helpful. A pen name limits how much of that energy we can harness and dilutes focus. BUT, if you DO need a pen name for safety, security, etc. TALK TO JAY. Again, a different name alone isn’t enough. An eight-year-old with decent Google skills can find who you are without the skills of someone like Jay helping you.

Speak Up

I don’t know if this is helpful, but it is a start and I signed it. It’s a petition to Goodreads to monitor and have a Code of Conduct for reviews. I hate to say it, but if Goodreads doesn’t start protecting writers from abuse, then we can remove our books. Don’t think they would last long with no authors and, since Amazon owns them, they might be more inclined to listen.

In the end, trolls (sad to say) are often a sign we are doing something right. Get ten trolls and I think we are officially a celebrity. Learn to un-see. Focus on those who love you. Join our WANA Community (WANA stands for We Are Not Alone, information here). We are a great refuge and support system. You can join us on Twitter at#MyWANA, on Facebook or even WANATribe (a social network for creatives). I have ZERO tolerance for trolls and have smiting powers.

I know it can feel very defeating sometimes, but a great circle of loving friends who have your back is a great start. Refuse to feed the trolls your peace, success and happiness. They exist, but together we are stronger.

What about you? Have you been bullied? Did you find any tactics that were effective? I am no expert, so I would LOVE any suggestions.

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

Will announce December’s winners Monday. I have a lot to go through. Good problem :D.

I hope you guys will check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World and get prepared for 2014!!!!

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316 Comments

A Look Back at the Evolution of Publishing, Predictions That Came True & What This Means for YOU

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Mike Licht

Ah, a New Year is before us. What is the future of publishing? What lies ahead for writers? Will Snooki have another baby? After consulting my team of advisors, those being the voices in my head, I’ll toss my predictions in the ring tomorrow. Granted, much of what I predicted last year has come to pass. A lot of it, I think still will happen but I have a history of being so far ahead of the game, people think I’m bonkers (ok, I am).

Note to Self: Perhaps wearing tinfoil hat impairs professional credibility.

Before I give any predictions for 2014, I figured it might be fun to take a quick look at the past nine years before we finish out my decade of Publishing Prognostication and Social Media Soothsaying. More fun than cleaning the house, right?

I’ve been very blessed to be right more times than I was wrong. I’d love to claim superpowers, but most of this is just doing what writers do—paying attention, using empathy, extending logic. Also, we are wise to seek out people smarter than we are. I know I do. I listened to bloggers, other experts, commenters and even self-professed non-readers, and they should have a lion’s share of credit.

This record of predictions is not an OOH, TOLD YOU SO! LOOK HOW AWSOME I AM! *OUCH I got a cramp patting myself on the back!* as much as it’s a poignant illustration how being present and engaged can give all of us tremendous advantages. When we try to automate the future or run our careers by remote, we lose predictive powers and become reactive instead of proactive. Our digital community is very wise if we are humble enough to participate, ask questions and then listen when they answer.

Thus, this 9-year list is to demonstrate that often, when we dare to be different, we will be criticized (often brutally), but our hearts, intuition and community can be pretty accurate guides if we stay the course ;)…

Nine-Year Record of Predictions:

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Big Six? Magic Eight Ball Says…

From 2004-2007, I predicted there would be a time when novelists could use social media to build a platform before the first book was even finished, and that this platform would eventually be a viable bargaining tool with publishers.

NUTSO. Burn her! She’s a witch!

I ignored the agents and writers who laughed at me and kept plodding away on Gather, then later MySpace and Facebook. I began using Twitter in 2008 because I felt this was a platform that would eventually change the way the world interacted. I hung out with all 20 other members on Twitter and waited, biding my time.

I also predicted that the same Digital Tsunami that leveled Tower Records would take out Kodak and then The Big Six.

Madness!

In 2008, I predicted that there would soon be a time that an author without a sound social media platform would be at a major professional disadvantage. Writers of The Digital Age had to have BOTH good books AND a sound platform. Good books alone were NOT ENOUGH.

What is she SMOKING?

If you peruse my archives, you will see many “sweet and thoughtful” comments by agents and authors regarding how I was an imbecile and writers only needed to write a good book. I was regularly informed I possessed the intellect of a brain-damaged monkey with a Valium addiction. Ouch. Agents (and writers) blogged left and right about staying off social media and focusing only on writing good books. Many indie author gurus preached the same.

I just said we needed both good books and social media.

I just said we needed both good books and social media.

By 2011, agents stopped leaving hate comments on my blog, likely because they were too busy googling authors to see if they had a viable social platform. Major NYC agencies began refusing queries if a fiction author couldn’t demonstrate he/she had a sound platform. Today? Most have changed their tune and come to accept that Digital Age Authors have to be balanced to succeed—good books, good business, authentic social media.

In 2009, I encouraged The Big Six to embrace e-books, because that year some of the first affordable and user-friendly devices hit the market and I really wanted the Big Six to enjoy a Golden Era again. Sure theses gadgets were still in the Early Adopter part of the bell curve, but I noticed the price of smart phones, tablets, e-readers and data packages was steadily dropping at roughly the same time. To me, this was a clear indication that e-books would eventually edge over into the fat part of the bell curve and become entrenched. Smart phones and tablets would soon be mainstream and people would be searching for content and entertainment.

Actual Agent Quote: E-Books will be statistically meaningless. Like everyone thought audio books would end paper, e-books are a fluke and people will always want paper books.

*head desk*

I suppose this is one of the reasons why we no longer have a Big Six. *shrugs*

By 2010, I predicted that authors couldn’t rely on price alone. Cheap books would only hold power so long before it devolved into a race to the bottom of who could give away the most stuff for nothing. The “shiny” of .99 books and FREE! would dull once everyone was doing it. Also, consumers would get frustrated downloading books rife with errors, formatting issues and bad writing.

Hmmm, looks legit.

Hmmm, looks legit.

I postulated that eventually readers would pay more for something they might actually read. I advised writers to use .99 and FREE! promotions only of those tactics served a long-term advantage. For instance, offer the first book of a series for free or .99 to encourage sales.

Still do.

Amazon permitted this deluge of cheap books because it was putting the hurt on The Big Six. I  theorized that once Amazon no longer considered Big Publishing a threat, it would reign in the freebies and the initial advantages offered to authors willing to hand away books. From 2012 to 2013, I noted the price of e-books highlighted on Amazon rise from .99-$2.99 to roughly $4.99 to $6.99, demonstrating Amazon’s strategy was paying off (this was right about the same time This Big Six became The Less-Big 5 and teetered on becoming The Spiffy Four). This was also when authors started seeing changes in how FREE sales were being ranked/weighted by Amazon.

In 2011, recommended that major publishers rethink pricing for the e-book. Charging the same price for an e-book as a hardback was bad business that would come back to bite them and only fuel the indie momentum they were trying to stanch. Agency pricing would put them in the crosshairs of the DOJ (which it did). Also, this ridiculous pricing was bound to drive the mid-list authors into abandoning the traditional ship and becoming indies.

Though I’d love to claim Nostradamus-like-powers, this isn’t rocket science. A best-selling author can only get so many ticked off one-star reviews for an overpriced $24 e-book before rethinking if the publisher is really making sound business decisions for that author’s present and future career.

This same year, I also railed against automation (and, frankly, always have). I knew that, as more regular people started using Twitter, they’d soon be able to spot bots and would come to resent and ignore them. I warned writers against these “time-saving” devices. My sentiment? It doesn’t take but a few moments to hop on social media and type a sentence.

We are WRITERS. 

I caught a LOT of heat over my attitude regarding automation and multiple accounts.

Then, The Boston Marathon Bombing tragically demonstrated the point I’d been trying to make for almost five years. Even well-crafted pre-programmed tweets are still SPAM. Our world changes on a dime and instantly. Many authors ended up in hot water because, “Buy my book, now FREE!” posted in the midst of a tragedy. And the time spent undoing the damage to the author brand probably exceeded that time “saved” by automating tweets.

YUM.

YUM….or not.

In 2011 and 2012, I warned against algorithmic alchemy. Amazon, Google, etc. knows when someone is abusing algorithms for any advantage. This is why they employ teams of computer experts who are tasked with changing algorithms any time certain users start gaining a manipulative advantage. Juking numbers only works short-term. There are better and longer-lasting uses of our time. Amazon now limits tags and penalizes abusers.

In 2013 I predicted a flood of mid-list authors would cut loyalty with NY and choose indie or hybrid paths. This is actually becoming more and more standard practice over the past year. CJ Lyons is one of many traditional authors who’s decided to add indie publishing into her career plan. When I spoke at Thrillerfest in NYC this past July, the CEO of AMAZON Publishing was the keynote. The hard line dividing writers finally began to crumble this past year.

I will post my predictions for 2014 tomorrow, but what I hope you take away from today’s post is:

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

The truly successful are never too smart or too talented or too important to listen to others. 

Heat can burn us or forge us. If we dare to go against the majority, expect pushback. Often it’s a sign we’re onto something ;).

Never fear being wrong. It’s the only way to figure out what’s right.

We really can’t predict the future, only create it. So let’s create something AMAZING!

WE ARE NOT ALONE!

What are your thoughts? Have you been ridiculed but kept pressing? What are some mistakes you made, but what did you learn? I know I’ve made plenty and they taught me way more than success. What were some trends you spotted and maybe people thought you were nuts?

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

I hope you guys will check out my latest book Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World and get prepared for 2014!!!!

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57 Comments

WANA–A Nursery for Stars

Image via Flickr Commons and contributed by The Smithsonian.

Image via Flickr Commons and contributed by The Smithsonian.

Yesterday, a minister commented on my post and said something that made me really think, “Sometimes even the ministers need ministering.” My purpose with my blogs and teachings have always been to serve writers holistically. We are humans with dreams, wants, needs, crises, and people depending on us. Writers need more than a craft class, Facebook lessons or a better way to write a query letter.

Often, when we decide to become writers, those closest to us can become our biggest dream-stealers. I know when I left sales to become a writer, it was ugly. I might as well have told my family that I was moving to New Mexico to worship aliens who’d whisk me away on a comet if I wore a gray track suit and Nikes.

The aliens never showed up, btw. Total…flakes. *rolls eyes*

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People have often made the joke about the Church of WANA, yet in ways, it is. I’ve made it my mission for the past five years to serve writers as human beings. I educate about craft, and all of my social media teachings are centered around love, service and focusing on building community. I offer no fancy tools or algorithmic alchemy, just a simple formula. Love each other. Be who you are. Be storytellers. Be there.

That’s it.

I wanted writers to know they weren’t alone. Much of our job is grueling, solitary and even mocked. If we aren’t J.K. Rowling, we aren’t “real” writers and our “job” is viewed as a silly hobby (as if J.K. Rowling began as a mega-author *grumbles*). It can be very easy to give up if one is alone…which is WHY I created WANA (which stands for We Are Not Alone).

When I began my journey to become an author, I was very lonely. Had it not been for my mom, I know I would have given up. She allowed me to live with her on the condition I worked and did everything I could to reach my dream. We had many close to us tell her that she was “enabling me” and that no thirty-year-old should be living at home with Mom.

Image Courtesy of Jenny Kaczorowski WANA Commons

Image Courtesy of Jenny Kaczorowski WANA Commons

I needed to stop being a fool and a leech go get a “real job.” One of our church elders informed me I had a better chance of being hit with lightning than becoming a published author and that I needed to be an adult and pursue a “real” career (He was a stockbroker, and we no longer attend that church).

Anyway, after what he said to me, I fell apart and polished the resume. I contacted my former boss to see if he would give me a recommendation, that I was giving up writing and going to find something in sales.

He refused. He’d read my writing and told me he would not support me giving up on my dream.

TWO people. Two people made the difference.

Thus, years later when I discovered blogging and social media, I wanted to pay that precious gift forward. I knew what it was like trudging through craft books that were garbage or outdated. It was a nightmare trying to find solid guidance on craft. I also knew social media would be a game-changer, that it would be the key to empowering authors.

In 2007, I witnessed literary agents being downright cruel to new authors. Some even refused to accept pitches or openly mocked query letters as if the poor writer who’d written it wasn’t human. I received rejection letters with my name misspelled or even the wrong title of the book. So I was supposed to do every little last detail perfectly but it was OKAY to not even offer the human decency to spell MY name properly?

Right.

I vowed I would change this. Writers didn’t deserve to be the least and the last. Baby writers needed guidance and nurturing and YES…even protection. We needed a family when we couldn’t rely on our own. We needed support—professionally, spiritually and emotionally.

Then came WANA.

I wish it was wholly my idea, but it coalesced from a small group of people who started to care for one another. I took note and began building on that. Writers didn’t have to go this hard road alone. We are here. Need a beta reader? Are you sick and need a guest blog? Need advice for cover design? Need a good template for how to write a synopsis?

Need a friend because it’s two in the morning and you’re sitting with a loved one in the hospital? Suffered a loss? Feel like giving up? Doubting your dream? Questioning your sanity for even daring to try?

Just speak out in the darkness and a WANA will answer.

We won’t let you quit.

WANAs at Huntington Beach...

WANAs at Huntington Beach…

We have been there to help writers on deadlines and offer guest posts. One writer was broad-sided by a truck. She expected her platform to be gone when she finally got home. Nope. WANAs were there. WANA has supported the birth of babies and even been there to cheer on the brave ones fighting cancer, yet still writing.

Susie Lindau, the bravest WANA of all...

Susie Lindau, the bravest WANA of all…

It’s funny how I’ve spent so long being there for the WANAs, yet the tables so recently turned. I wanted to give in and give up. I was absolutely wrecked. I’d fallen and couldn’t get up…until countless digital hands reached from around the world to hold me, to prop me up and let me know that I was NOT ALONE.

So I thank you. I’m on my way back and you guys are the light that guides me. Thank you for ministering the minister :D. I love what I do. I love to believe there are baby writers who are now full-grown authors because WANA was there protecting them, loving them, nurturing them, and supporting them. I love the people WANA has brought together, because I might never have been so blessed to know you any other way.

WANA isn’t just some hashtag to blast promotions or a gimmicky group to cross-promote. It’s a nebula; a light in the dark…a nursery for stars ;).

Thank you for shining so bright.

What are your thoughts? Has writing been lonely? Have you had a WANA there to help you up? Have you been discouraged, overwhelmed? Do you struggle with family or friends who make fun of your dream? Meet us on Twitter at #MyWANA and we can chat and offer you a digital hug.

I LOVE hearing from you!

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

Also, for all your author brand and social media needs, I hope you will check out my new best-selling book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.

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70 Comments

What Star Wars “A New Hope” Can Teach Us About In Medias Res

All literary roads lead back to "Star Wars"....

All literary roads lead back to “Star Wars”….

Yesterday, the AWESOME Marcy Kennedy taught “showing, not telling” using Star Trek” (hint, hint, take her class). So what is the natural follow-up for Star Trek?

STAR WARS….duh.

Setting is one of those tools that helps writers to do more showing than telling. Today, we are going to tackle a highly confusing subject for many writers—In medias res. In medias res quite literally means in the middle of things. This is a literary tactic that has been used since the days of Odysseus. It is a tactic that forces the writer forward, to begin the story near the heart of the problem.

The Trouble with In Medias Res

Ah, but this is where we writers can get in trouble. I see writers beginning their novels with high-action gun battles, blowing up buildings, a heart-wrenching, gut-twisting scene in a hospital or at a funeral, all in an effort to “hook the reader” by “starting in the middle of the action.” Then when they get dinged/rejected by an agent or editor, they are confused.

But I started right in the action! What is more “in the action” than a high-speed chase through Monte Carlo as a bomb ticks down to the final seconds?

Bear with me a few moments, and I will explain why this is melodrama and not in medias res.

Commercial Fiction Ain’t A Tale of Two Cities

For many centuries, there was a literary tendency to begin “in the early years” leading up to the story problem. Authors would wax on rhapsotic about the setting and spend 10,000 words or more “setting up” the story. The reader was privy to “why such and such character” became a whatever. There was a lot of heavy character development and explaining the why of things.

This, of course was fine, because in the 18th century, no writer was competing with television, movies or Facebook.

Thus if a book was a thousand pages long, it just meant it must have been extra-awesome. Also, authors, back in the day, were often paid by the word, thus there was a lot of incentive to add extra fluff and detail, layer on the subplots and pad the manuscript more than a Freshman term paper. Writing lean hit the author in the piggy bank, so most authors lived by the motto, No adverb left behind.

Then Hemingway came on the scene and…well, let’s get back to my point.

In medias res was not employed by many early novelists. They started the book when the protagonist was in the womb (being facetious here) and their stories often took on epic proportions.

Modern writers can’t do this. Yes there are exceptions to every rule, so save the e-mails. Just trust me when I say that modern readers have been spoiled by Hollywood and iPhones. They are used to instant gratification, and most modern readers will not give us writers 15,000 words to get the the point.

These days, especially for traditional publishing, we need to get right into the heart of the action from the get-go. But if “the heart of the action” doesn’t involve a gun battle, funeral or cliffhanging scene, what the heck does it look like?

For Those Who Have Slept Since Seeing Star Wars

It is the front gate of Six Flags over Texas.

Do we need to start in the years that Kristen was too young to go to Six Flags? How she would see her teenage cousins leave for a day of roller coasters and cry herself to sleep in her toddler bed for not getting to ride the roller coasters? How she vowed at four that she, too, would one day brave the Shock Wave?

Uh…no.

Do we start the story on the biggest loop of the roller coaster? The screams and terror mixed with glee?

No, that’s too far in. If we start the story on a Big Loop (HUGE ACTION–like car chases, bank heists, etc.) then we risk the rest of the book being anti-climactic. So where do we begin?

We begin at the gates of Six Flags over Texas.

We see young Kristen in the back of the station wagon and as her parents pull into the giant parking lot. We are present when she catches a glimpse of the Shock Wave (story problem) in the distance. Wow, it is bigger than she thought. We walk with Kristen through the line to get into the amusement park, and get a chance to know her and care about her before she makes the decision to ignore the Tea Cups and take on the roller coaster (Rise to Adventure). Kristen could have totally chickened out and stayed on the baby rides, but that would have been a boring story. Yet, because the Tea Cups are in the context of the larger ride, it means something when she decides she MUST ride the roller coaster.

In medias res means we start as close to the overall story problem as possible.

In my little example, the GIANT roller coaster represents the story problem. We have a choice to start far earlier than in the parking lot of Six Flags….but we risk losing the reader in the Land of “Who Gives a Crap?”. We, as the narrators, can also choose to start on the actual ride, but then we have a different problem. The readers are then hurled into the action after the decision (rise to the adventure) has been made. Thus, we didn’t get time to give a gnat’s booty about seven-year-old Kristen.

Also, since Kristen is already locked down and can’t walk away, there is no conflict. It isn’t like Kristen can step out of the coaster on the first loop and take on the Tea Cups instead. As long as Kristen cannot make the wrong choice or give into her fears, there really is no story. Kristen MUST have a chance to fail….to walk away and go play the Ring-Toss instead.

Likewise, our protagonists MUST have opportunities to fail or to walk away. This is why they are eventually called “heroes.” Anyone else would have waved the white flag in the face of such circumstances. This is why we read fiction. We like bravery, courage and resilience.

What Star Wars the New Hope Can Teach Us About In Medias Res

To give you guys another example, let’s pretend it is 1977 and we are sitting in the theater watching the movie Star Wars. Star Wars (The New Hope) is a PERFECT example of in medias res. When we start the story, wars have been fought and we are in the heart of the conflict. The twins are grown and living separate lives and Anakin has already whined himself over to the Dark Side and become Darth Vader.

My theory is that you can only call a guy “Annie” so many times before he just snaps. Anyway…

Begin on Tatooine

So if you don’t want to start at the Gates of Six Flags, then feel free to Begin on Tattoine.

Star Wars begins (with the protagonist) on the planet of Tatooine just before his life will intersect with the antagonist’s agenda. We meet young Luke in his Normal World and get a chance to meet his aunt and uncle. We get a chance to see his normal life, so we have a basis for comparison when everything goes sideways. We care when Luke’s family is senselessly slaughtered. We are there when Luke is given a choice. Ignore everything that’s happened and return to moisture-farming OR step on the path to adventure.

What NOT to Do

We DO NOT begin the adventure with Little Luke looking at the stars wondering who his father is or longing for exciting adventures in space. It is too early and we aren’t close enough to the story problem–when the Emperor’s agenda intersects with Luke’s life and alters it forever.

We also DO NOT start the story with Luke whizzing through space on the Milleneum Falcon dodging bad guysThat would have been exciting, but jarring and we wouldn’t have cared about any of the passengers. We also wouldn’t have had time to see the overall story problem—The Emperor, Darth and the Death Star.

I feel part of why the prequels sucked were not as good is because Lucas tried to go back and explain the story that we already had loved and accepted. Among many other reasons

Guess what?

We really didn’t need to know WHY Annakin Skywalker turned evil or even HOW the Force worked or WHAT it was to enjoy The New Hope movies. In fact, we kind of liked the movies better before we “knew.”

The Force was better before it was explained.

Some of you are starting too far into the action, which is jarring. But others might feel the need to go back and explain everything. Why your protag is thus and such. Why the world is la la la. How the magic did whatever. Guess what? You really don’t need to explain.

I have used this example before. What if you went to a magic show? The magician makes a woman float. As the audience, we cry out, “How can he DO THAT?” What if the magician stopped mid-show, flipped on the lights and pointed out all the mirrors and wires? What would it do?

It would ruin the magic.

Keep Your Literary Magic

Same with our writing. Sure, some things (backstory) can be explained. But, I will be blunt. Most backstory can be explained in dialogue, real-time in flow with the narrative. Flashbacks and prologues really just bog down the narrative more times than not. Yes, you might want to explain why your vampire is dark and brooding, but why? Many readers will keep reading in hopes they can piece together enough hints to figure it out. Just because readers might want something, doesn’t mean it is in our best interests as authors to give in.

Sure. Star Wars fans all thought they wanted to know WHY and HOW, but once we got what we wanted????

Yeah.

Finding the Literary Sweet Spot

Thus, as writers, we are looking for that literary sweet spot, just close enough to the inciting incident to make readers feel vested, but not so far that we are basically beginning our book with a scene that should be the Big Boss Battle at the end. In medias res is tough and we aren’t always going to nail it on the first try. The key is practice and study. Movies are really wonderful to study because in screenplays, Act One is brutally short.

Watch how the best movies introduce the characters and the problems and see how efficient they are at relaying backstory in dialogue. And sure, some movies use flashbacks, but we always have to remember that the visual medium is different. We can “see” differences and don’t have to “keep up with” a zillion characters. We are passive and watching with our eyes. We don’t have to recreate the world in our head.

Reading is very active, so flashbacks always risk jarring the reader out of the narrative. Also, if you study screenwriting, great screenplays, much like great novels, do not rely on flashbacks. Heavy use of flashbacks is generally a sign of an amateur screenwriter. Highly skilled writers, whether on the page or the screen, are masters of maximizing every word and keeping the story real-time.

So what are your thoughts? Does this help you understand in medias res better? Do you have anything to add?

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

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

NOTE: My prior two books are no longer for sale, but I am updating them and will re-release. My new book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE.

At the end of July I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

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48 Comments

Celebrating Writer Independence & I Got to Be a Cyborg

Rise of the Machines Human Authors in a Digital World, social media authors, Kristen Lamb, WANA, Rise of the Machines

This week Americans are celebrating Independence Day. What better time to release my new book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World, right? Since, I’m a writer, I excel at self-delusion, so I can just pretend all those fireworks going off all week are for ME :D.

Aww, how THOUGHTFUL! You shouldn’t have. *clutches chest*

On Friday, we talked about The Democratization of Publishing and how brave colonists writers are forging it on their own without Mother England Publishing. And, right now? I’m sure there are some hurt feelings on the part of Mother Publishing. She’s cared for writers for over a century and now a handful of us rabble-rousers want to do our own thing and try new technologies on our own.

Thing is? Just like America and England eventually made up and became BFFs again, Mother Publishing will coexist with indies just fine (provided she reinvents in time, which I really hope she does). My loyalty is to writers, and, no matter which path you take—traditional or non-traditional—discoverability is a nightmare.

All writers who want to actually make money need a platform. Writers also need the publishing path that is best for their works and their personalities. I am just as supportive of NYC as self-publishing (though I have frustrations with both).

For me? I write social media books. My publishing path was chosen for me. With a lead-time of a YEAR in NYC? My new book wouldn’t have been out until it was obsolete. For the rest of you. Vive la Revolution! Now you have options. It is no longer a One-Size-Fits-All World.

Good News for NY Traditional Publishing

Indie publishing is a wonderful way for a new writer to build an audience and and learn the business side of the business. This is great for NY publishing in many ways. First, it helps mitigate Mother Publishing’s risk. Writers finally can build an audience before big money is invested getting that author into bookstores. Secondly, indie publishing trains up professionals. Mother Publishing can be more publisher than Mommy. Indies are also trying out a lot of new ideas and technologies and NY can wait and see what works. Why reinvent the wheel?

Good News for Writers

For a long time, it was a One-Size-Fits-All-World, and we saw the darn-near-extinction of certain types of writing. I recall an agent declaring, “Don’t send me a query for a poetry book. No one reads poetry.” And I thought, Um, I do. I read a lot of poetry but nothing modern. Why?

Hard to read it if no one publishes it.

We Can Be Creative with Books AND Business

Creative people are really great at…being creative. Shocking, right?

Independence from the paper paradigm has birthed a resurgence in short stories, serials, novellas, books of poetry, etc. We’ve seen new genres blossom when, in the old paradigm? They might have died (poetry) or never been born (Baby Boomer Romance). Many writers bring just as much creativity into business as they have in their writing. Daily I am astonished by the brilliance around me.

Why didn’t I think of THAT?

When I went to The Killion Group’s presentations in Crested Butte? I was…blown…away. They do covers for all types of authors (even traditional) and some of the marketing ideas? Genius. One thing they are doing is putting the first two chapters of the audio book in a QR code on the bookmark. Give a bookmark and a potential reader and listen to the first two chapters for free.

Yes, this falls under the category of Stuff I Wish I’d Thought Of.

When Jason Chatraw of Green E-Books formatted my new book? He added in relevant hyperlinks. When I talk about #MyWANA in the book? Those on a tablet can just click and join right there and see what I am talking about.

This is yet another way indie publishing is actually helping NY. Not only is the new paradigm vetting authors and weeding out the uncommitted or unprofessional, but creative people are actually coming up with a lot of cool new ideas that can benefit traditional publishing (provided they’re open to listening).

Writers are No Longer Strangled By Genre

I know that sometimes it can be frustrating being part of a world that changes by the minute. In this fast-paced society, we can easily get overwhelmed. Yet, at the same time, since writers are now plugged into a social media community, we can interact regularly with fans. Not only does this help sell books, but it also means we can write other STUFF. 

In the olden days, if a writer changed genres, she needed a pen name so as not to confuse readers. Now? Unless you are writing two types of genres that conflict? (I.e. Children’s books and Erotica) you only need ONE NAME. The same platform that is supporting your Regency Romance can support your Mystery-Thriller.

This means we can be even more creative because how many thrillers can a writer write before losing the thrill? We complain that Such-And-Such’s books just aren’t as good as her first ones. Um? NO DUH. Talk about pressure!

“Write forty books. Oh and each one needs to be BETTER than the last one and about the same stuff.”

*Falls over and DIES*

Independence is Scary

Yes, it is terrifying going out on your own, but rewarding as well. I know I could very well fail, but I get to at least try *shrugs*. I hated the boring prototypical NF covers. My demographic is WRITERS and we are worse than bass fish. OOH SHINY! I wanted a cover that appealed to creative people and that stood out to the point that it almost looks misplaced. It’s a gamble, but in the end?

I GOT TO BE A CYBORG…and that’s all that counts anyway :D.

What do you like about the new paradigm? What scares you? Have you taken on roles you never thought you could do? Have you grown in ways you never thought you could?

I love hearing from you!

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

NOTE: My prior two books are no longer for sale, but I am updating them and will re-release. My new book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE. 

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of June I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

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49 Comments

Crested Butte, The ASSASSIN-WICH and I Made It Out ALIVE!

View from my room...

View from my room…

Last weekend I taught at the Crested Butte Writing Conference in Colorado. Amazing conference with fantastic presenters (highly recommend) and though it was memorable and magical…I thought it would KILL me.

It Didn’t Begin Well…

I am NOT a fan of early morning flights. Even though I had everything packed and ready to go, I wake up WHEN?

3:00 a.m.

…and CANNOT get back to sleep.

So I get up, do some work and have plenty of time to get to the airport. I figure, “Eh *waves hand* I’m not presenting today, so I will just go to bed early.”

I finally get to Gunnison, Colorado, my ride picks me and the other presenters up. She’s already scouted out a restaurant that had gluten-free and dairy-free food. YAY, ME!

The Assassin-wich

Whenever I go to different regions, I make it a point to try what’s local. I ordered the Trout BLT with the GF bun. I made it a point to dramatically tell my waiter how horrifically allergic I am to dairy and gluten.

“Oh, yes, yes, I checked. The coleslaw is fine for you to eat.”

It wasn’t.

The Assassin-wich

The Assassin-wich

Soon after lunch I felt like hell, but assumed it had more to do with being up since three that morning and traveling all day than anything else. Maybe it was because I was such a high altitude and it was altitude sickness.

Helping is Hurting

Soon after lunch, we go to the Ladies’ Room and the editor from Harper Collins picks the stall with no toilet paper. After I made her listen to my pitch….

KIDDING!

No, I grab some paper and bend down to hand it to her and WHAM! There was a stupid, weird, makes-no-sense extension of the counter and I whacked my forehead HARD.

Yes, I am klutzy, but give me a break, I was sleep-deprived, at high altitude, and had just been poisoned (though at this point I didn’t know it). Wasn’t on my game.

So, by dinner time I am feeling pretty bad, but I washed my face, redid my makeup and went down. The only thing gluten and dairy-free is the steamed zucchini. Yay. Well, beggars can’t be choosers. I talked and had people laughing and once it was over?

I crawled back to my condo and held to my promise and go to be early. 10:30 (that’s early for a conference)…

….only to awaken at midnight violently ill.

Zucchini of DOOM

I was sick all…night…long. I knew it! That zucchini had butter. Never trust a squishy veggie!

It’s Never Been So Hard to Put On Makeup

I was shaking so badly from being sick for (by that time) 7 hours and sleep deprived that I’m a little surprised my makeup didn’t turn out more like this…

Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Blah Blah Photos Blah

Image via Flikr Creative Commons courtesy of Blah Blah Photos Blah

So 8:00 a.m., I walk down the mountain (in dress shoes), carrying my computer bag. At breakfast, I wolf down some bacon because it was the only thing I could trust. I start chugging water, because I am dehydrated and…?

STILL sick.

I keep having to chat and smile and then sweetly and politely excuse myself so I can run to the closest bathroom…and thank GOD I carried makeup and a toothbrush. I attend every session I can because 1) I want to support other speakers, 2) I am eager to learn and 3) there was NO WAY I was going to make it UP the mountain to my room without, um, dying.

I tell one of the Crested Butte writers that I’ve had terrible Zucchini Poisoning, but that I will be fine. Just triple-check the future meals, please. They feel terribly guilty, but I assure them that Hey, I have food allergies and it happens.

In the meantime, I go to the hotel store and buy two large bottles of Gatorade and a packet of electrolytes and vitamins that are supposed to help with altitude sickness), and it only cost me a mere $17. Hotels *rolls eyes*

I chug all of it because it is now 11 a.m. and….I am STILL getting sick. I present in 2 hours.

Bonding with teen writers, LOL....

Bonding with teen writers to take my mind off…wanting to DIE.

Safe Zone

I excuse myself early because I am sure the Zucchini of Doom is what poisoned me. So, I go back to that restaurant from the previous day, because “they were careful and knew how important it was to not contaminate food.”

I go to order the same thing, but the waitress stops me. “The coleslaw has dairy, and so does that dressing for your salad.”

O…M…G.

I get sick if something with dairy brushes like zephyr near my food. I ate a half a cup of coleslaw and a half a dairy-infested salad.

How was I still ALIVE?

Sarah makes sure I get a meal I can eat without dying and I tip her 40%. Then I ask to speak to the manager and politely explain that dead patrons make lousy return customers. Then I excuse myself…

Because, yes, I am STILL SICK. By this point? 12 hours.

Um, We Thought You Weren’t Coming

So I put on my game face and head to the main lunch. I’m not eating but I can still be there to do my job. I have a table with my name and people who want to talk to me…and it’s full.

We thought you weren’t coming. They said you were sick.

I found it funny that it was my designated table and I was the only one without a seat. But they scooch me in and soon I have everyone talking and laughing. Outside Kristen is funny and helpful. Inside Kristen wants to use the 10% off the ski-lift coupon so she can throw herself off the top of Crested Butte.

The Crested Butte writers felt better because I told them it was the restaurant and not the Zucchini of Doom that poisoned me. That seemed to make them relax. I can see how trying to kill your speakers could look bad.

Game, ON!

I was blessed that an hour before I presented I stopped getting sick. With GF, dairy-free food in my stomach and enough Gatorade to supply a lacrosse team, I was good to go and gave it my best. I presented for a little over an hour and no one would have known I was sick.

SCORE! *fist pump*

The Reward

I struggle back up the mountain to my condo. I needed time to rest and regroup. That evening, I was rewarded for my diligence. I had THE BEST GF, Diary-Free Pizza ON THE PLANET at a place called, The Secret Stash. It was so good, I bought another one to bring back to the condo with me. $60 worth of pizza, I didn’t care. I needed safe food.

Angels sing!

Angels sing!

The French Tried to Kill Me, but FAILED

Of course, the next night we go to a French food restaurant. I go through all the Please, please please NO gluten or dairy and I get THIS…

pork

Ah, but I am smarter now. I spot the deadly mashed potatoes lurking beneath my pork loin.

SHE SCORES AGAIN!

The rest of the conference went great, even though I was seriously puny and had knot on my head (this explains so much, right?). I am a bit sad I got so sick because I was too weak to do any of the hiking or fun stuff we had coupons for. But, I did get to help and serve a lot of writers and that’s what I love most anyway.

The Lesson

Why do I tell this story? First of all because it’s kind of tragic-funny. I am a person who honors my commitments to the point of lunacy, but…

Mostly I want you guys to know I pale in comparison to what other writers are willing to do for their craft. I’ve known writers who kept writing even though they were facing a double-mastectomy or going through chemo. One writer kept writing even as she cared for her husband who was undergoing chemo for brain cancer.

I’m friends with a big name author who kept writing even after three deaths in one year (two were this writers’ parents). Life will still be here. We get sick, we face hardship but we need to press on and, more importantly? LAUGH. Keep a sense of humor. Everything passes, but the writing will remain and often the thing we love (writing) can help us get through tough times. If I didn’t LOVE serving writers so much, I NEVER could have maintained my game face.

EVER.

So what about you guys? Do you have food allergies and faced down the Assassin-wich? Did you learn to press on even when life threw you a hardball…in the FACE?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of June, 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. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of June I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

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