Editor Kristen Lamb - Behind the Scenes
Kristen, tell us a little about you. What did your past life before the books on writing and blogging entail?
A lot of puking on the way to work because I hated my job in Corporate America. The stress made me so ill I was misdiagnosed with epilepsy (turned out to be severe food allergies created by high stress). I couldn’t get a job. Employers aren’t thrilled with hiring severe epileptics apparently. After losing everything and getting evicted from my apartment, I had to move in with my unemployed and equally broke mother. It was an awakening.
I’d been trying to please everyone but me by having a “real” job. I’d wanted to be a writer since before I could read, and, since I was already at rock bottom and living off Ramen and Wendy’s ketchup packets, what did I have to lose?
I wrote my first novel, a 176,000-word mystery-romance-inspirational-humor-thriller that now sits in my garage and chews on the door to get in (We leave it there to keep out burglars).
Realizing that I knew NOTHING about the craft of writing, I joined a critique group. After attending confession (even though I am not Catholic) and seeking absolution for making my friends and family read my novel, I took a job as a line-editor, then content-editor, and then a technical writer.
Eventually, I wanted to share all I’d learned from my arduous and sometimes humiliating journey.
Your blog is very productive. Where do you get all the ideas that keep it so engaging?
Writers are natural for blogging because the world is our muse. We ask questions. We see what others don’t. Also, I do a lot of dumb stuff, so that is always fodder for me to poke fun at myself and use it as a lesson for others. I also read a lot. I watch a lot of TV. I pay attention to the world, because it’s full of cool stuff.
There’s a lot of push to be on social media these days. What does this outlet do for authors other than suck into their writing time?
It allows them to change the hellish odds of failure. Most people don’t appreciate that writers had a 93% failure rate as of 2006 (according to the BEA’s industry analysis). 93% of books published (traditional and non-traditional) sold less than a thousand copies. Most sold less than 100. Authors (particularly fiction authors) had no way of building an audience and a following other than the books. Now they do. For the first time, we are seeing novelists make a living wage. Some are even making six and seven figures and have creative control.
A lot of people don’t realize that, until the new paradigm, there were NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLING AUTHORS who didn’t make enough money to write full-time. In the traditional paradigm, an author makes less than a dollar a book (after the agent’s 15% and BEFORE taxes).
We have to lose the attitude that it is “sucking into our writing time.” Book signings, book tours, speaking, conferences all sucked into writing time for decades. Now, we can spend less time than all that traveling took (on social media) and reach a GLOBAL audience…from home…in jammies. Social media is about connecting with people and forging relationships not non-stop marketing. Marketing is so 90s.
We’re in the 21st century.
In one of your books you talk about building a social media platform. For those of us who aren’t quite sure what that is, can you enlighten us?
Basically, our platform is our digital water cooler where we hang out, chat and connect with people on common interests (OTHER THAN BOOKS AND READING). In the Digital Age, WE ARE THE BRAND. We create a community and essentially a grassroots support system for us and our work.
Where can someone, wanting to start a blog or improve their current blog hits, go to learn how to get followers and/or views?
I teach blogging classes at WANA International. I also have a new book coming out called “Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.” There is a step-by-step system and a unique way of blogging that will engage READERS. Writers need to stop blogging about writing and publishing and how to write a query letter. Regular people don’t care about the Oxford Comma.
Do you think given the number of blogs that saturate the Internet there is a way for someone to make theirs stand out?
Most people don’t have a plan and they blog on topics that will quickly burn them out. The best way to stand out is to just keep posting. Sure there are zillions of blogs, but how many haven’t been updated in a year? Also blogs need to be for readers, not for us. Focus on topics that engage people and make them want to be part of the experience.
I’m actually teaching a blogging course at Craft Fest for Thrillerfest in NYC. I believe blogging is actually a totally new form of writing birthed by the Digital Age. Too many writers blog with an old-fashioned “article” style that is unidirectional. These days, with Facebook, Twitter, Reality TV, audiences don’t want to be talked AT. It’s uninteresting.
“Article-style” writing also doesn’t fit for creative people (novelists). Fiction authors aren’t experts; they are STORYTELLERS. The way I teach blogging harnesses that ability to connect to the audience the same way as our fiction does. This keeps the writer bursting with ideas for the blog because she isn’t being stuffed into a three-piece NF “expert” suit.
What do consider some of the rules of social media?
NO AUTOMATION. NO SPAM. We don’t like getting spammed, so don’t do it to others. Stop selling. Just talk to people, engage and be interested in THEM.
It is better to be INTERESTED than INTERESTING.
Stop selling to people. We are bombarded with advertising non-stop. If we wanted to buy stuff we’d be on the Home Shopping Network, not the SOCIAL network. Yes, mention you have a book but then just engage. Be nice. Trust that when someone gets a Kindle for their birthday, the first person they will think of is the writer they know and LIKE and who also gardens and loves Grumpy Cat.
Will you share some information on the WANA Tribe? How did it come about?
I’m a stalker and lazy. I had all these wonderful people (WANAs) who I adored and I wanted them all in one spot for CONCENTRATED AWESOME. Also, we are stronger when we work together. Most of us don’t begin writing with a support network. When we announce to friends and family that we want to become a writer, we might as well announce we’re joining a cult of moon-worshipping Scientologist-Davidians.
The problem is that people don’t want to believe we are REAL writers until we are successful, but it’s super tough to be successful when no one believes in us. WANATribe solves that problem.
Also, there is a global market opening up. Writers in New Zealand, Australia, Europe, and Montana are all joining in. Geographically, these writers may not have access to conferences or a critique group. Or, they might write Erotica or High Fantasy and the only writing group in the area is full of blue-haired ladies who write cozy mysteries. WANATribe helps writers form groups that fit their needs. If you don’t have a tribe that fits? Start one.
We have tribes where writers all help each other with Smashwords or self-publishing or audio books. We have tribes of critique groups based on genre or geography. There is a group of Wyoming Writers who have a tribe because they can’t feasibly meet in person.
That and I got to start my own social network. Seriously helps my “coolness” factor. Not as much as my love for Dungeons and Dragons and vast reservoir of Star Trek trivia, but hey **shrugs**.
Columnist Lizzie T. Leaf: Award winning author, Lizzie T. Leaf enjoys writing Paranormal/Fantasy with a twist of humor and heat. Her Magical Love series is available in print and eBook at Passion in Print and other sellers. Beyond Magic, the first book in the series won the 2012 AOE Best Paranormal/Fantasy/Sci-Fi. The DEAD series is available through Musa Publishing where she also has two Christmas novellas, the Contemporary Fantasy, Forget the Mistletoe and Making Christmas, the LRC Best Historical winner and the 2012 Aspen Gold Best Novella winner.