Today it is my absolute pleasure to welcome on of my own personal hero(in)es to my blog. There are certain people in life that you have on that ‘dinner party’ list, and my guest today is one of those names.
The bestselling author, and social media Jedi herself, Kristen Lamb has stopped by for a coffee and a chat.
This is a lady whose advice I have devoured time and time again, and I cannot put in words how excited I am to conduct this interview.
1. You are a writer, blogger, teacher and motivational / public speaker, which of these do you see as your true calling, or are they all too closely related to separate?
I feel my true calling is to help writers any way I can (and make them laugh). My goal is to prepare writers in a holistic way. What good are lessons with no support to help writers with follow-through?
Writing is a lonely business and friends and family are generally not as supportive as we’d like them to be. Additionally, even in the new paradigm, it takes TIME to see success. The waiting period can be maddening and a prime time to get discouraged. I speak and blog to keep writers pressing, to keep them remembering WHY they’re sacrificing.
Also, we all make mistakes. I made most of them, too. Probably will make more. This is why laughter is so vital. We are not alone. We all struggle, have doubts and make oopses along the way, but together we are stronger.
2. Before all of this started, you worked in international sales, right?
Yes, I sold cardboard. I had a nine state territory and Northern Mexico. I wish I could tell you I was good at it, but I don’t like to lie. There were a lot of outside factors beyond my control that made the job stressful and very difficult. I was young and green and made a lot of mistakes, but I feel those were genuine blessings. When we fail, we learn far more. A lot of what makes WANA work is I learned a lot of what DOESN’T work.
3. How did that background help you when it comes to the whole indie scene, networking and promotions?
When I was in sales, I learned the value of listening. REALLY listening. Often employers hire a certain personality type for sales, a personality that is outgoing and gregarious because they are the ones bold enough to pursue the customer. Yet, I would watch how the salespeople were so busy being entertaining, that they weren’t listening to the customer. I started noticing even how I was guilty of the same thing. I needed to learn to shut up and ask more questions and then LISTEN to the reply.
Also corporate would make decisions before even asking customers what they wanted. They became too focused on price. The problem with that tactic is there is always someone willing to undercut you. Also, people who buy from us only because we’re cheap generally are not the most loyal. Drop prices low enough and quality always suffers.
In the indie world, too many authors are fixated on non-stop marketing, when actually listening to people and talking to them would actually work better. When we fail to connect with people in relationship, all we have left is price and then it’s just a race to the bottom.
4. You are the author of two bestselling books – We Are Not Alone – The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There Blog, It’s Me, Writer. What prompted you to leave sales and write these books?
I’d actually left sales many years before these books. The stress of the job cratered my health. I decided to become a writer because I was tired of being sick all the time. A steady paycheck and family approval were no longer worth it.
I worked as a technical writer, and copy editor. I also did a lot of content and line editing for authors. I wanted to be a novelist and actually won awards with two novels (that I will one day publish, LOL).
I knew social media would be a game-changer, but when I saw how it was being taught to writers, I was horrified. Most tactics made writers no better than spam bots or were trying to fundamentally change the writers’ personalities. We are artists, not “power marketers.” So, I decided to stop complaining and write my own books.
5. Did you ever expect them to have the impact that they have had?
Actually, no. And none of the success is me. It’s ALL the WANAs. I learned so much from them and it was a surprising blessing to be able to found the community I wished I’d had when I was new and alone.
6. It is fair to say that these books have changed your life.
Yes. Definitely. I’ve become a much better leader, a better listener, far more patient and a lot happier. There is no way to describe the joy I feel when WANA changes a writer’s life. To watch a writer go from hating social media to being a successful blogger that rocks social media and enjoys the new paradigm. Too many writers are frightened of what, with the correct approach, can be a Golden Age. It’s wonderful to see them be scared and alone then finally find a home with WANA, connect with their tribe and people who love and support them.
7. Many people, myself included look up to you; you are by your own admission, a social media Jedi, and a guru to writers the world over.
Actually Gene Lempp called me the Social Media Jedi and I loved it. I will use it as long as George Lucas doesn’t find me, LOL. I hate the term guru. It just seems any knucklehead with a computer can call themselves a guru, and it reminds me of some skinny guy wearing diapers. I am happy to be an expert, a maven and even a Jedi, but guru? Eh.
8. How was it for you when you first entered this world? Was it just trial and error, or did the whole social media, book promoting world come naturally to you?
I was going to call my first book, “I Did All The Dumb Stuff So You Don’t Have To.” I made all the mistakes. I followed “gurus” of the time, even though something in my gut didn’t jive with what they were saying. When the tactics didn’t work or they were so time-sucking-intensive I wanted to throw myself into a wood-chipper, I made up my own stuff.
I am always learning. I think this is why it is important to listen. Even “regular” people have some profound observations and great wisdom. It’s why I always try to approach what I do with as much humility as I can muster. I don’t know everything. There are a lot of people smarter than me. Writers are, by nature, creative, so listen thoughtfully when they raise questions or give opinions or even disagree.
9. Was there anybody around that gave you advice the way you give it to us? Who trained this Jedi?
Not really. I read a lot of books. Not just social media books, but books on psychology, economics, history, communication, neuroscience, leadership, sales, business, etc. In social media, I took a lot from people like Seth Godin, Robert Greene, Malcolm Gladwell, and John Maxwell. With craft, I read a LOT of books by experts like James Scott Bell, Les Edgerton, Donald Maass, Christopher Vogler, Larry Brooks, and especially the late Blake Snyder. Bob Mayer was a huge turning point in that he gave me my opportunity to publish my two books and I am eternally grateful.
10. You created the Twitter Hashtag #MyWana, and talk about it on your website, and in your books. Can you summarize what (My)Wana is in just one (or two) words?
Since so many marketing people are fascinated with automation, it can make it tough to connect with REAL people on Twitter, to forge friendships and get the emotional support we often lack in real life. #MyWANA was created to be a water cooler. Share good news, doubts, ask questions, cheer one another on, have a CONVERSATION.
11. Do you believe that people can actually sell books through Twitter, or do you see it more as a networking / platform building tool?
The sales won’t come directly. Traditional marketing is all but invisible in this new Huxleyan world. We are deluged. There are no gatekeepers and anyone with a computer can try to sell stuff to us non-stop 24/7. I think Twitter is for networking and cultivating relationships.
I was a Rotarian for 7 years. We all met once a week for lunch and to hear a speaker. We cleaned up parks together and held fund-raisers and gave dictionaries to underprivileged kids. Not once did someone come to a meeting, set up a table and start selling stuff, but we all went to each other when we needed what that person offered. When we needed a dentist, an insurance agent, a lawyer, a massage therapist, a florist, a photographer, we went to the Rotarians we KNEW. Twitter is the same. The sales will come, but not by beating people over the head with ads.
12. Do you think many people actually know how to use twitter? At times it looks like my feed is nothing but a constant stream of BUY ME shouts. It can be like standing in the middle of a London Market.
I don’t think a lot of people know how to use it properly and I think there are a lot of gurus out there teaching bad tactics. I had one who nearly ruined #MyWANA. She automated all of her tweets with the #MyWANA from FOUR IDENTITIES. She was also an “author marketing coach” so she was teaching people who took her classes to do the same thing. We were nearly capsized from automated tweets. It took six weeks of ruthlessly reporting them as spam to clean up #MyWANA and restore the community, but we still have to stay vigilant, because there are plenty of gurus teaching this kind of nonsense.
All classes at WANA International are taught using WANA methods. We are dead set against spam and my personal preference is NO automation. If a few want to use a little, that’s okay, but DO NOT USE #s. It’s uncool and can poison a hashtag group very quickly. I am not a fan of ads even though we are running one for WANACon. It’s likely to be the only ad we ever run because we needed it for some lawyer stuff regarding trademarking WANA.
13. Facebook or Twitter, which site do you thinks is the more powerful all around tool for writers?
I think blogging is the best use of time. Blogging harnesses our strength—writing. It’s also something we can control. FB or Twitter could die out, but our blogs will remain and they can grow over time to bring exponential dividends. I think authors actually need all three—blogging, Twitter and FB, but the WANA way of using these is very simple, fun and leaves plenty of time to WRITE MORE BOOKS!
14. Do you agree that readers read books in a different way to writers? Should we (writers), therefore look to spend less time friending other writers, and look to add more readers to our social media circles?
Writers are too inbred. We get on social media and friend writers and talk to writers and talk about writing and regular people just don’t care. “Reader Group” is code for “bunch of writers trying to find all the readers.” Talk to regular people. THOSE are the readers. Who cares if someone only buys two books a year if they are YOUR BOOKS? Friends and family will be some of our best salespeople, yet I constantly see writers using a social media scalpel to remove “regular people who don’t care about my writing.” Then they have a network full of writers and want to know where all the readers are. YOU CUT THEM OUT and NEVER TALKED TO THEM.
We have to stop expecting “readers” to come to us and we need to go to them. We are talking about query letters and Smashwords and Amazon and agents and then wonder why we aren’t connecting with readers. Try talking about some stuff THEY like for a change. We need to start a dialogue on mutual ground, then that leads to a relationship which will eventually translate into sales (much like Rotary). Spend less time being interesting and more time being INTERESTED.
15. I have four children and a full time job to juggle alongside my writing, so I can understand how busy life gets, but you, you are a business woman, a wife, a mother, a role model to all of us. How do you find time to juggle all of this and still stay sane?
Um, who said I was sane? You have to let some things go. I used to always have perfect hair and makeup and matching clothes and now I live in yoga pants and a scrunchee. It is almost Valentines Day and my Christmas tree is still up. My toddler’s nursery school wanted the moms to send personalized Valentines for each of the kids? I dropped twelve bucks for small heart-shaped boxes of chocolate because I didn’t have the time to sit and fill out Valentines for kids who can’t yet read.
Yes, I am THAT mom.
I gave up Rotary, movies, most television and most Saturdays to do this, but I love it. I think we get this Martha Stewart vision of what we need to be and it just isn’t reality. Yes, my garage needs to be cleaned out and we won’t even mention the attic. All of my drawers are junk drawers and my shoes are so old they are falling apart because I don’t shop either.
But I do focus on what is important. My faith, my husband, my son, my writers and one day of rest a week. The rest? It can wait. Besides, it makes great blogging material. Expect a blog about my Christmas Valentines Tree.
16. Well, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me Kristen; I am honored to have you stop by.
Happy to serve!
Kristen Lamb is the author of the #1 best-selling books “We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media” and “Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer.” She is represented by Russ Galen at S.G.G. Literary, NYC.
Kristen has helped hundreds of writers find success using social media. Her methods are responsible for selling hundreds of thousands of books. She has helped all levels of writers from mega authors to self-published unknowns attain amazing results. She is the founder of the WANA movement, the founder and CEO of WANA International and creator of WANATribe, the social network for creatives.
Don’t forget that you can still buy your tickets to WANACon 2013 and be part of something special. WANACon is a writing conference with a difference. It is online, and open to everybody across the globe. No more sitting there in a dark room sulking because all of the good writing conferences are in America and you can’t afford to go. For $125 you can be part of something special, something bigger than any other conference out there. To read more about WANACon, the Sunday Pajama Party and all the prizes you and your jammies could win, read Kristen’s post, and buy your tickets today.