WRITERLY WISDOM: Kristen Lamb

 

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Here is another post in my WRITERLY WISDOM series I first ran back in 2013. Six years later, I’ve updated the material and made sure it still applies to today’s writers. This week we learn from one of my all time favorite bloggers, the lovely Kristen Lamb…

Warrior Writer: Business Plans & Stretchy Pants—One Size DOES NOT Fit All

by Kristen Lamb

Too often a writer is left to sink or swim on her own, relying on tenacity, trial and error, or plain damn luck in order to enjoy the fruits of her hard work and sacrifice. There has to be a better way, right?
There is, but before we get to that, let us take a tour of other common writer business models…
How many of you out there think that buying lottery tickets is a good investment portfolio for your retirement? Maybe diversify with some scratch-offs? Bingo anyone? And I know you laugh, but too many of us approach the publishing industry with roughly the same mentality…which brings us to our first writer business model.

The Instant Blind Luck Fame Plan

We just KNOW our idea has never been done before, so why write other books when THIS ONE is going to be the key to our success? And our book is really meant to be part of a series anyway. Oh, and we don’t want to give away the ending, because, well, the real ending is in Book Fourteen of this long and lucrative series we have mapped out in our mind. We can’t tell you who the antagonist is until Book Three, because this villain is the villain behind the villain behind the villain—and there is the merchandising to consider.
Most of us made excellent grades in English, so we don’t bother going to the craft workshops at conferences. We are there to pitch to an agent. We just need an agent. Why? Because with this one manuscript, we just know we will be instantly catapulted into a life of fame and fortune. We have endless enthusiasm, and are known for our daring. Speaking of which…did you hear about that guy who sent his query letter in a pizza box? Genius!

The Spaghetti Noodle Plan

Some of us are more realistic in our approach to publishing. We aren’t fools. We know there are instant successes, but they are few and far between. We know it will take years of hard work and sacrifice to get to the top…but we still don’t have a real business plan. Why spoil all the creativity? We became writers so we could delete Excel and free up some space on our hard drive, right?
We have a nice Social Media Network. We are on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter…oh, but our sites are either 1) a collage of family photos or 2) are locked down tighter than Fort Knox as Private. You have to know the secret handshake to see our pages. Self-promotion is so gauche. Twitter is about happy inspirational quotes. Facebook is a good way to keep up with high school pals, and MySpace a neat place to post cute pictures of our kids and dogs.
And we are a gentle, polite sort who would never dream of sliding our query letter under the stall to an agent trying to pee. We go to all the craft workshops, attend writers’ groups religiously, and write and write and write. We don’t like business plans, because they cramp our free spirits. We know, deep inside, that “Persistence prevails when all else fails.” We don’t know who said that. We saw it on a Successories poster at the office of our real job, so we posted it for all our writer friends on Twitter. We are hard workers and know if we toss enough noodles (manuscripts) against the wall, eventually one will stick.
And, lastly there is the…

Bug the Crap out of People Long Enough and They Will Buy It Plan.

 

This plan is frequently a course taken by the overzealous non-fiction writer. Often we were salespeople or marketers in a former life. Most of us figure, “Heck, if I can sell a million dollars worth of software, rubber dog poo, whatever, books will be EASY!” We are charming and confident, great at advertising and promoting…but learning how to actually write? We’ll get to it later once we hit the NY Times Best-Seller List.
Adherents of this plan are easy to spot. The back of our cars tend to ride a little low due to the added weight of boxes of books in the trunk. Many of us are very tech-savvy and can tell you all about how to print CD labels for your e-books while simultaneously giving you the skinny on the latest PayPal applications for your iPhone. And while most people are content to fritter their lives away, we eager beavers Twitter ours away with endless self-promotion.
Some people call it a family reunion, a wedding or a funeral. Not us. We call those chances to market and sell lots of books. We figure that if we hit enough Lions Club meetings, Bar-Mitzvahs, and flea markets that Random House will come knocking with that million dollar book deal.
If only Oprah would return our call.
Okay, so this is a bit of a parody, but you have to admit one of those made you laugh because it hit home with some of your own thinking. I think I saw a little of myself in all three :) .
What makes the Warrior Writer approach so radically different is that, when it comes to a business plan? To be good, it must be as unique as the individual. Personality has to be the primary consideration.
Warrior Writer focuses on the author. Why? Because everything stems from us—the product (book), the marketing, the business savvy, etc. That is why Bob’s first question is WHO? We have to understand who we are before anything else.
Each of us are going to gravitate to a different genre, topic, style of writing because of who we are. The same goes for how we will approach (or not approach) the business side of publishing.
While we all had a good laugh at the poor souls above, all three of those types of writers had notable strengths. The first group? Enthusiasm and confidence. These authors laugh in the face of adversity. They aren’t afraid of anything, and that is a tremendous asset. The second group? Persistence and hard work. Talent will only take one so far. We have to be willing to do the work and never give up. The third group? They understand writing is a business, and they are passionate and willing to work harder and longer than their competition.
This is the key to being a Warrior Writer. We all have weaknesses and blind spots. But the good news is we also have talents and strengths. Face it. We aren’t going to win a marathon wearing One Size Fits All shoes. Why would we expect to achieve our greatest writing goals with a One Size Fits All business model? Until now, many of us have been relegated to piecing together a patchwork business plan from on-line articles and inspirational stories mixed with snippets from “Marketing for Dummies”—that is, if we bothered to make a plan at all.
Editors and agents, being overworked and spread far too thinly just aren’t going to sit down and help us formulate our strategy for success. Meanwhile, the publishing industry remains content to play the odds. The question is, are we content to remain playing the numbers as well? Warrior Writer is a holistic understanding that incorporates all of who we are for maximum advantage that is tailored to fit. Bob teaches us not only about the industry (no sending queries in a pizza box), but more importantly, he helps us learn about ourselves. This translates into better writing, a better writer, and better business. So while we are waiting on Leno’s people to get back with us, we can learn how to tackle the publishing industry in true warrior fashion.
(At the time Kristen originally wrote this wonderful post back in 2009, NY Bestselling author Bob Mayer offered writer workshops like the Warrior Writer one.  Now you can go to www.bobmayer.com for more on his writing workshops and other classes. Who knew such a wonderful writing resource lived in my own town? )
 
Kristen Lamb is the author of the #1 best-selling books “We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media” & “Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer.” She is the CEO of WANA International, a company dedicated to empowering artist of the Digital Age. She’s also the creator of WANATribe, the social networking site for creative professionals. 
You can find Kristen at her website (http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com)

WRITERLY WISDOM: Kristen Lamb

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Here is another post in my WRITERLY WISDOM series I first ran back in 2013. Five years later, I’ve updated the material and made sure it still applies to today’s writers. I really love this series because I get a chance to share what I’ve learned over the years with others. Kristen Lamb seems like the girl next door but with the wisdom of the ages flowing from her fingertips in daily posts for her HUGE fan following (23,000 and counting). You can connect with Kristen via her blog, (http://www.warriorwriters.wordpress.com), or through her MyWANA group,(http://www.warriorswriters.wordpress.com/join-the-love-revolution-mywana).  

 

Non-Fiction: The Road To Becoming An Expert

by Kristen Lamb

 

The lion’s share of beginning writers definitely lean to wanting to write novels, but there are other kinds of writers out there, and they need some attention too.

Today we are going to talk a bit about the realm of non-fiction. What are the advantages of writing non-fiction? How do you become an expert?

If you want to have a career as a writer and make money writing, I gotta say that non-fiction is an easier path. Note I wrote “easier” not “easy.” Nothing about being a writer is easy, which is why you will never make it if you don’t LOVE writing with every fiber of your being.

After almost ten years in this business, I believe I have earned enough experience points to say that writing non-fiction has a number of advantages. For those of you who follow this blog regularly, but happen to be born-fiction people, read on. Non-fiction holds some advantages for all writers.

1. It’s easier to get an agent/published in non-fiction.

I can hear the groans and boos, but it is true. Non-fiction isn’t subjective like fiction is. It is easier to fill tangible needs, target an audience, gain a following and build a platform. Face it. If you have a blog about how eating nothing but Spam and mangos helped you lose 50 pounds in three months–the Spamango Diet–and you can add a list of testimonials and show how ten thousand people a week click on your Spamango Blog…it’s going to be a pretty easy sell (and generate contraversy to boot).

Tosca Reno was a 200 pound, depressed, unhealthy housewife who became a competitive fitness athlete after the age of 40. Tosca busted all the misconceptions of women and age. She took her experience and wrote a weekly column in Oxygen Magazine and then later wrote a book. Her Eat Clean Diet is a popular phenomenon.

Your Inner NF Author

Are you a whiz at balancing your checkbook and saving every penny? Possess superior organizational skills? Are you a Toddler Whisperer who can calm even the most hot-tempered three-year-old? Then you may have the makings of a non-fiction platform.

2. NF does well being self-published.

Say you have a knack for matchmaking. You are the go-to gal for those who want to be set up on a great date. All your single friends rely on you for the best love advice. In fact, a number of the friends you’ve set up on dates have even gotten married, all because of you.

You have a popular blog and do regular community TV interviews, radio interviews and talks at local Rotary clubs teaching others your unique insight into romance. You decide to write a book with all the best tools and tactics for successful dating. Do you have to land an agent or get a publishing deal? In my opinion, no. Not right away.

If you have built a platform, then you can likely move a decent amount of copies on your own. Sell your own books for six months or a year and then add it to your agent pitch. Now you are able to show that your self-published NF has a market.

Nontraditional publishing works really well for areas that are a tad gray. For instance, back in the day when I was pitching agents about a social media book, I consistently got the same answer. “Kristen, this is the book everyone wants and needs, but no one wants to be first.” Every agent knew that a social media book was needed, but none of them could wrap their minds around how to write one that would have any kind of longevity. Social media simply changed too quickly and traditional publishing is…slooooow.

They recommended that I self-publish the book first. I didn’t self-publish. I happened to go with a new non-traditional publisher Who Dares Wins Publishing, and that has been an excellent decision. My book has been tremendously successful and has a growing worldwide fan base.

What advantages did I gain?

Now it is far easier for me to show a larger publisher that I am worth their time and money for future books. Also, because I had already finished a book, it was very easy to get an agent. I had a product and a platform. Gina knew I had the stick-to-it to finish, and not only finish, but have an excellent product. Also, the first book has given me scores of testimonials from people who applied my methods. That gives statistical proof that my methods do work. I am no longer a theoretical success, I am a proven commodity.

3. NF naturally lends itself to other endeavors that generate income.

Being a NF author can open doors of additional revenue aside from the book. Can fiction authors do this? Sure, but NF lends itself better to paid workshops, speaking engagements, television, conferences, etc. NF authors are much more likely to be interviewed on big shows like EllenThe View, or The O’Reilly Factor. These appearances sell a lot of books. Yes, sometimes fiction authors will make appearances, but they are small in proportion to the NF experts.

Fiction can eventually pay money, but think of that as your long-term investment. It takes years to write the book, get the agent, get the book on the shelves, and then almost an additional year to receive a check. It’s gonna be a loooong time before you get paid.

What do you do in the meantime? How can you be viewed as a legitimate writer? Heck, how can you pay some bills? Non-fiction is a great option. Whether you are writing articles, paid blogs, reviews or even web content, that practical side of your brain can help you make ends meet.

Great, Kristen. But who would listen to me?

As you can see, there are a number of advantages to writing non-fiction. The pickle with non-fiction, however, is getting people to care about what we have to say. Hey, everyone has an opinion. Why should we pay attention to yours?

How do we become an expert?

Get a Piece of Paper

This is probably a “no duh,” but those individuals who grace the halls of academia long enough to get extra letters added to their names already have an advantage. If a pediatric neurologist decides to write a book about autism, it is likely readers will trust what she has to say.

Do we have to have to have an advanced degree for people to take us seriously? No.

Experience

Do you have something in your background that makes you uniquely qualified to talk on a certain subject? Above we talked about the neurologist who writes about autism, but what about the mother of an autistic child? Isn’t she also an expert? Yes! She is just an expert of a different sort.

This is mainly how I became a social media expert. First, it was because I spent far too much time on social media :D . I also happened to be one of the early people who saw what social media could do for authors. I find it funny that four years ago I was asking agents what they thought of social media for writers, and they looked at me like I had sprouted another head. Now many of these agents won’t take on a new author unless she can demonstrate a viable social media platform.

So how did I become an expert? I tried and tested every method the other “experts” of the time happened to be touting. What worked? What went BOOM!? I am infinitely grateful for the DFW Writers Conference and Bob Mayer for being my early guinea pigs. I didn’t get paid, but they gave me free reign to try different stuff, and that freedom was invaluable.

We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media was birthed out of those years of trying different things, failing, then trying again. I always joke that the title of the book should have been I Made All the Dumb Mistakes So You Don’t Have To. In short? I became an expert based on my experience.

 

Kristen

 

About Kristen Lamb
Kristen Lamb is the author of the best-selling books We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer and is represented by Russel Galen of Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary, Inc. in NYC.
Kristen worked in international sales before transitioning into a career as an author, freelance editor and speaker. She takes her years of experience in sales & promotion and merges it with almost a decade as a writer to create a program designed to help authors construct a platform in the new paradigm of publishing. Kristen has guided writers of all levels, from unpublished green peas to NY Times best-selling big fish, how to use social media to create a solid platform and brand. Most importantly, Kristen helps authors of all levels connect to their READERS and then maintain a relationship that grows into a long-term fan base.