It is with great excitement that the Media Team brings you our interview with Social Media Guru, Kristen Lamb. With a fresh look and fierce attitude on explaining the ins and outs of media and blogging, she has written several best selling books to help take your internet game to the next level. With her latest book out, Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World, she gives valuable tips and insight on how to market yourself in the best way possible and reach new heights in your writing career.
So without any further delay, here is our lovely interview with Kristen Lamb!
Hi Kristen! Thanks for letting us ask you some questions! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Did your interest in the writing world begin at an early age or later on in life?
Definitely early. I wanted to become a writer before I’d learned how to spell. My first book was called KRstnlkzzzzz because those were the letters I had to work with.
What was the biggest thing that helped you decide that you wanted to write books to help others be successful in their own writing?
I had superlative mentors who’d taken time for me and their intervention had been critical to my own success. I was merely paying it forward.
Which social media platform do you personally prefer and why?
I don’t have a preference. They are like my kids. Some parts that I go, “Awww, isn’t that ADORABLE?” And other times? I want to stand them in a digital corner. I love Instagram because the filters make me pretty, but for chatting? Not so much. Facebook is then my go-to.
InstituteMan asks: Are different media platforms better suited to promoting certain genres? For example, is Twitter better for science fiction and Facebook better for romance?
I don’t believe in social media for promotion, so that isn’t a fair question for me. I feel that social media gets confused with mass marketing and that’s like confusing elephants and elephant seals. Both mammals but two totally different creatures.
Now, I DO believe there are sites where are more likely to find our tribe.
For instance. If I write legal thrillers, then LinkedIn actually wouldn’t be a bad place to network. If I write about dragons, fairies and portals? Yeah…no. I am simply never going to connect with the types of people who love that kind of fiction on LinkedIn. Unless they work for State Farm Insurance. Weird, I know! LinkedIn is loaded with white-collar professionals who’d probably eat up a Grisham-style thriller. But if you write stuff that’s on the order of George R.R. Martin? Total waste of time. Your peeps aren’t there.
LeeC asks: How would you characterize effective subtlety in promoting one’s book?
Again, I really don’t believe in promotion using social media. I think the social media and then the mass marketing are two different areas that need to stay separate.
The social media is simply the networking, the relationship foundation, but we don’t exploit our friends. It’s gauche.
Social media is the cocktail party. It is okay to mention we have a book for sale but there is a fine line between that…and setting up a card table in the middle of the party and constructing displays.
One of the reasons I love writers to blog is that blogs can drive traffic TO the author’s web site by SERVING FIRST (Hey, here is something you found interesting enough to READ) and there, in the sidebar, what is FOR SALE? The book is there and we are asking for the sale without betraying social rules.
LeeC asks: To what extent does authorship success entail personal marketing savvy?
Not much. I think you need to write really awesome books first and foremost. Do I think writers need to be on social media? Yes. But for a lot more reasons than simply hawking books.
IntstituteMan asks: What do you consider to be the minimum amount of social media promotion to commit to doing if you are self-publishing?
Again, I don’t care for promotion. Traditional marketing doesn’t sell books. Never has and never will. Books are not toothpaste or car insurance.
The reason is this. In marketing there are two types of purchases. Low Consideration Purchases and High Consideration Purchases.
Low Consideration Purchases are like shaving cream. We use coupons. Price and convenience are major driving factors and we don’t put a lot of thought or emotional energy into these purchases. If we buy a can of shaving cream and don’t like it we toss it…unless you are my mother.
High Consideration Purchases are like flat screens, vacations, and four-wheelers. They often cost a lot more and are driven by peer pressure and emotion. One word. Corvette. No one buys a Corvette for practical purposes.
High Consideration purchases are heavily influenced by peer pressure. We have seen this with iPhones, Apple computers, tablets, designer handbags, BOSE sound systems, etc.
Yet, books are really a weird duck.
See, the hardcore reader who eats through books like candy are rare, maybe 8% of the population and that is being REALLY generous. These are your Low Consideration Purchase folks. These are the people who would pay attention to book ads because they were going to buy books anyway. The ad is simply helping this tiny and seriously overfished segment of the population choose between books.
The rest of the population? They can’t figure out why anyone would want to read a book if there wasn’t a test at the end. To this group—the LARGEST group and the only one capable of creating a mega-success? Books are a HIGH CONSIDERATION purchase. This means they have to be swayed by emotion (they LIKE us) or peer pressure (enough OTHER people LIKE us). This group had no intentions of buying a book. We (writers) then have the job of convincing this group to part with 15 or more hours of time they don’t have to do something don’t believe they enjoy.
We have to convince them to spend money to buy our book and then spend 15 + hours reading it instead of blowing up monsters on Xbox One or doing hot yoga or pinning overpriced designer clothes on Pinterest. That is where social media makes the critical difference. Peer pressure can counter this inertia. Trust me. There came a time when enough people had read Twilight that I felt seriously weird being the ONLY person in the civilized world who had not read freaking TWILIGHT. And I know that was a WAY long answer, but the thing is, if you are going it alone and self-publishing and don’t have the benefit of a publisher putting your book at every checkout stand in America?
The ONLY hope you have of making a dent in people’s habits or perceptions is being out there and networking. Maybe they would never in a million years read and epic fantasy, but they liked YOU and so they read YOURS. And who knows? With only one spark…I can make an EXPLOSION. This is my fight song, take back my life song…wait, where was I?
PiP asks: How important is social media for book promotion? Which platforms are the most effective and why?
Again, don’t promote, just be visible, personable and interested. Also, it has to do with the type of book. I am not into Social Media Snuggies. One size DOES NOT fit all. If you want your books in the hands of teenagers, get on Instagram and figure out how to rock it. Don’t waste time on LinkedIn.
But if you are writing a business book? Pinterest might not be a great use of time.
What importance do you place on cover design and why? What tips can you offer?
The cover is EXTREMELY important. It is a crowded marketplace and any slight edge we can gain for a nanosecond of attention? We should go for it. Covers are a BIG part of that. As an author it is MY job to put my best work out there. Period. It isn’t the reader’s job to second-guess and hope my writing gets them excited because my lackluster, boring, confusing cover didn’t do its job.
Tips? For covers make sure it looks good in a thumbnail size. Yes, that beautiful fantasy landscape might be beautiful enough to make angels weep when it is full-size. But then scaled down? It looks just like a Rorschach gone tragically wrong.
Your NAME MUST BE BIG. At least as large as the title. Again, think smartphones and thumbnails and be easy on our eyes. I love crazy covers, but that’s me. I am a non-fiction author and I HATED the traditional boring non-fiction covers. My demographic were novelists. I wrote books for people who needed to learn about branding but hated it, who broke out in HIVES at the word! So I made my book LOOK like it had been shelved incorrectly.
I deliberately made Rise of the Machines LOOK like a fiction book had been misplaced. Was it a gamble? Sure! But, hell! That is the fun of this new paradigm. Breaking rules. BUT, we break them with intention.
LeeC: Are there any shortcuts to authorship success?
No and if there were, you think I’d be telling them here for FREE? Hellloooo?
InstituteMan asks: Other than a sales model, (such as Kindle Unlimited, ads, etc.) do you think there will be another form of technology developed for authors to get paid?
I sure hope so, because if not, then let’s just close down the old patent office because everything that could be invented HAS BEEN THOUGHT OF.
Actually, I do see merchandising/advertising merging with e-book technology in the future. It would be smart. For instance, major manufacturers could offset the cost of digital books, but the books you download come with ads and coupons. Like you can get FREE Pandora WITH ADS or PAY for Pandora WITHOUT.
For instance, instead of that new James Patterson book being $9.99 on Kindle, you could get a “Free” version, but every chapter you had to sit through an ad and it also had downloadable coupons or something.
And the ads would use the algorithms based off your personal buying habits (stored on your device) so, while VERY Orwellian, it would all be stuff you were probably shopping for anyway. So as long as the advertisers didn’t abuse it, not like we’d complain too much.
You know advertisers will always find some way to capitalize on us being cheap and the authors would get an ad royalty. Win-win-win. Advertisers get to tell us about their stuff. Authors get paid. We get a sweet groupon for hot yoga. Or even put in ads for high-end cars, electronics and watches in everyBourne Identity book.
Are there any genres you would like to write that you haven’t gotten a chance to do yet in your career?
Only ALL of them. Horror. I definitely want to write horror. LOVE horror.
Who are you most influenced by? How have they helped you become successful today?
Zig Ziglar. I won a full military scholarship to go to college to become a doctor. A year in? I slipped in an ice storm and fractured my back. I walked on a cane for the next year. Needless to say, I lost my scholarship and that is probably the best for all of us because I ask “Why?” way too much and a military tribunal was probably in my future.
Anyway, I took a job in a little mall store selling motivational books and I read everything ever written by Zig Ziglar. The one line I kept with me through the darkest of my days was, “You can have everything in life you want, if you help enough other people get what they want.” It made me focus on service above self and that was crucial. It became the linchpin to everything I have ever done.
If it doesn’t serve others first? I don’t do it. Plain and simple.
am_hammy asks: How much time should be spent marketing yourself on social media? When during the writing process is a good time to start marketing?
No time marketing yourself. Just talk to people. I hop on a couple times a day during writing breaks. As far as when is the right time to start building a brand and a platform? Yesterday.
If you do this social media thing the way I teach? There IS no gimmick. If your books are good, odds are they will sell. But it takes time to build. I offer no shortcuts, so the sooner the better. Trust me, you do not want to have a book coming out for sale and try to pull a platform out of the ether.
How did you come across blogging, and what do you write about?
I think I came across it on MySpace. I started out blogging pieces of my fiction. Then I had a weekly selection of funny posts called “This Week’s WTH?” Blogging just takes time to figure out. When I started blogging it was really new. There weren’t any guides or experts telling us how to do it. What TO DO or what NOT to do. That was why inRise of the Machines I spent a LOT of time discussing blogs and how to do them well, because I was trying to take out as much of the trial-and-error as possible.
What do I write about now? Anything I feel like. I am a benevolent dictator.
PiP asks: I read this comment on your blog: “When a man publishes a book, he is there to win. He isn’t there to see his name in print. He is there to see his name in lights.” Do you feel it is tougher for women to succeed as writers than men? If so why?
Eh, LOL. Okay, this is taking words out of context. This was a post where I was talking about some of the ways we women (and “nice guys”) get in the way of our own success. I don’t know if it is tougher for us to succeed, but I DO know that we have a LOT of self-sabotaging behaviors.
We tend to treat our writing as our “thing” our “fun” and our “hobby” and we put it off. We feel guilty for wanting to write and to be paid for doing something we enjoy.
We also feel like everyone should come first, that we are somehow being negligent if we aren’t being martyrs. By and large, men don’t wait until the house is clean, the kids are fed, the cupcakes are made for the entire Kindergarten class and the bumblebee costumes for the Pre-K class are hand-sewn BEFORE we go work on the manuscript.
What are three ways to effectively get your blog noticed?
First of all blog. So many people go, “OMG! Kristen, there are a billion blogs! There is SO MUCH COMPETITION!” Yes, and most of them blog hot and heavy for about a month and then drop off into limbo never to be heard from again.
Secondly, be consistent.
Thirdly, blog often. Blogging once a month is a waste of time. Once a week is better, but not by much. Post content people want to read. Eventually, once people catch on that you post regularly and frequently, they will expect a certain level of quality. Then images, hyperlinks, tagging and all that jazz will also help search engines love you extra.
What are some of the best websites for creating a blog that allows freedom over choosing your own content?
Blog off your own author website. I recommend a WordPress based site. When you blog off your author site, your landing page is your blog. This is NOT 2004. No one cares about our bio. Really. This is not Web 1.0. Blogs will help your author site gain favor with search engines since search engines reward sites that have content that is updated frequently. Also, blogs are a way to bring people to your page where they can see WHAT in the sidebar for sale? YOUR BOOK!
Think of it this way. Your blog is like a mini-cocktail party at my tiny personal art gallery. You send out a tweet. Hey! Cocktail party over here at my tiny personal art gallery. There are no expectations. And that means NONE. People read THE BLOG (the art is off to the side—NO FLASHING ARROWS). Visitors can comment on the blog or not. Share or don’t and they can feel free to leave any time.
OH, but there is ART and BOOKS hanging on the WALL and YES, WHY IT IS! THEY ARE FOR SALE!
See? See how I just did that?
am_hammy asks: What are some ways up and coming bloggers can stay focused and produce content consistently?
Make a plan. We had a saying when I was in sales, “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” I think too many writers just shoot from the hip with no thought about their brand or content. That’s why in Rise of the Machines I devote a large portion of the book to creating YOUR personal brand and content. Your content can only rise organically off YOUR brand.
Do you have any favorite bloggers you follow? Who and why?
I love Chuck Wendig and The Bloggess because they are funny. Chuck scares me and reminds me there are no excuses. Other than these two, I don’t follow anyone consistently anymore because I love sampling a lot of different blogs and there are only so many hours in the day.
So, I make bloggers work for it. Writing articles titles that are catchy is not easy. I often look at Cosmopolitan Magazine covers when I feel like my titles are getting too dull. That’s when I get fun titles like “Why Good Girls Don’t Become Best-Selling Authors—Channeling Your Inner ‘Bad Girl’ To Reach Your Dreams.”
Do you recommend a new blogger consider an audience first or choose the content first, then find the audience?
It can work either way. Just like some novelists start with a plot that needs the right character and others start with the right character who needs the perfect plot.
LeeC asks: Is there a tradeoff between developing writing skills and pandering to a target audience?
I guess there are always tradeoffs. It’s called business. I don’t know if I care for the term “pandering” because we are artists but we are part of the entertainment business and we have an obligation to meet and exceed the expectations of people who pay us money.
I think whenever we insert the notion of money into the conversation suddenly it is all so distasteful. But it isn’t. We all have limits.
I expect to be paid for working really hard and if the popular culture demands books about ice cream orgies involving fruit bats? That is my limit. But, I have just created a market vacuum for another entrepreneurial artist who is not quite so Puritanical about fruit bat ice cream orgies.
PiP asks: What tips can you offer to improve writing dialogue?
If it sounds like dialogue? Rewrite it.
LeeC asks: How important is extensive reading to developing writing skills? What about life experiences?
To be a great writer one must first be a voracious reader. I can tell instantly a writer who does not read. I read constantly. All genres. I am constantly walking around with my Kindle or an audio book or I am watching some mini-series on HBO deconstructing it and stealing/studying plot ideas.
Same with life experiences. Do everything. Twice. I am living proof of what Mark Twain once said, “Providence protects children and idiots. This is really true. I know because I have tested it.” I lived my 20s like a Mountain Dew commercial. Friends and family thought I was nuts because, well, I was.
Who volunteers to live in a refugee camp in SYRIA the day after graduating college?
Why did I do it? Because I knew the area was highly unstable and I might never get a chance to go there again. And I was right. The experience was scary as hell! But, I can say that I have shared a bathroom with a chicken and a handful of goats, driven down the worst roads of Damascus and bartered with a Bedouin to trade HIS water for MY American cigarettes. Yes, I will be the World’s Most Interesting Grandmother.
What are three “dont’s” of blogging?
1—Don’t blog just to talk about your books. No one wants to read an infomercial. We want to WATCH them. Hellooo? #BrazilianButtLift
2—Don’t blog if you’re going to be a whiner. No one cares about your drama. It isn’t personal. No one cares about mine either. I have to pay someone to care. They are called shrinks.
3—Don’t plagiarize. EVER. EVER! I get that sometimes we tell a really funny joke thinking we are being original and then later we realize we were just channeling a meme we saw on Tumbler in 2013. And we feel really guilty because we TOTALLLY ripped off that meme and didn’t mean it…
And that isn’t what I am talking about.
I am talking about WHOLESALE COPY AND PASTE. Bloggers LOVE you to share our stuff. Spread it like freaking Nutella! We LOVE IT.
Just give us credit. Having a bad day? Have a cold? Doing Nano and need content? Reblog my stuff. Heck reblog my stuff AS you blog. I don’t care. Just give ME credit.
What gets bloggers really pissy is when someone steals our stuff and puts THEIR name on it. Then…life gets really nasty, brutish, and short. And if you have any questions, google “Terrell Mims” and you will see that while we writers are generous and we give way too much stuff away for free so long as you give us CREDIT?
We are VERY unforgiving when it comes to writers who steal.
Do you think social media is beneficial to a blogger? How do you recommend using it?
Blogging is a form of social media. It is the BEST form of social media because it is FOREVER. Facebook or twitter could go away but your blog remains…FOR GOOD. And search engines WILL deliver new fans to your blog. They will NOT deliver new fans to your witty tweets.
Where can we go to find out more about you and your books?
You can always find out any mayhem I am up to on my blog. Currently, I am working on redoing my author website. We are doing a major makeover on W.A.N.A. International and my social media site for writers W.A.N.A. Tribe. So join me there. We have lots of fun!
Join The Dark Side…we have cookies!
Are there any new projects you’re currently working on?
As I just mentioned, I am sprucing up W.A.N.A. Tribe. I launched W.A.N.A. Tribe as a social site JUST for writers a couple years ago and we have almost 2,700 members. Normally when you have that many writers in one place they require federal marshals or at least that everyone prove they are current on their rabies vaccinations.
We stalled for a while because we were doing some legal wrangling to be able to use our name, but now that the name thing is all sorted.
We are BACK and ready for ACTION:
Due to popular demand, I am writing a NEW We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and a NEW Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer. Those will be coming out sometime in 2016.
Where can we go to get your latest book?
Duh, Amazon. There is also this creepy guy near the river who keeps copies in his van, but he likes being paid in hugs * shivers * .
If you were to leave one last piece of advice about successful social media use and blogging what would it be?
Remember that it is MORE than just selling books. Social media is about connecting with your fellow inky brothers and sisters-at-arms. It’s about getting to know other professionals in your industry and befriending them, learning from them. Social media can connect us to mentors and friends that before Web 2.0 we would have had NO access to. I have friends from ALL over the world. Seriously.
Every year I have writers from AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND…MONTANA, come visit me.
Writing used to be one of the loneliest professions and now it is quickly becoming one of the most social and one of the most communal. Embrace that. Enjoy it. Enjoy the journey.