3 Blunders That Can Kill Your Author Platform

by Garda / Flickr

by Garda / Flickr

Today’s guest post is from author Kristen Lamb.


The digital age author has more opportunities than any writer in the history of the written word. But with more opportunities comes more competition, and with more competition comes more work.

Mega-agent Donald Maass will tell you there are only two ways to sell books—a good book and word of mouth, and he is right. Books are not tubes of toothpaste, though many of them sell for less.

Each writer is unique, each product is unique, and thus our marketing approach must appreciate that or we are doomed to fail. Too many social media approaches are a formula to land a writer on a roof with a shotgun and a bottle of scotch. I am a writer first, so my social media approach appreciates that books are not car insurance, and writers are not tacos.

Yes, social media is a wonderful tool for building an author platform. But, unlike Starbucks, we cannot hire college students to create our product. We need to be on social media and still have time left over for the most important “marketing” task of all—writing awesome books.

I am going to point out three major social media time-wasters. If we can avoid these social media tar babies, we will have more time to write brilliant books.

1. Joining every social media site for “exposure”

Many writers, when introduced to the wonderful world of social media, promptly develop what I like to call RDD—Reality Deficit Disorder. RDD prompts writers to run out and sign up for Facebook, a fan page, Twitter, G+, Tumblr, Goodreads, LinkedIn, Flickr, YouTube, and on and on.

When pursued to an extreme, writers suffering from advanced RDD curl up in the fetal position under their desks muttering, “Soooo many circles. Tweet … tweet. Be my friend. I like friends.”

Social media is NOT traditional marketing. Social media gains the most power from relationships, and it is impossible for us to be on ten or even five different sites and still maintain the level of interaction required to make other people feel vested in us.

Blitzing out our message on six different sites is the equivalent of spam. People are gravitating to social media by the millions, in part, to escape spam. Bring spam into their sacred space, and you’ll either lose trust or be ignored.

2. Getting too focused on the numbers

We don’t need to “friend” 20,000 people to reach 20,000 people. Social media, unlike traditional marketing, works exponentially not linearly. Having 30,000 friends on Twitter means about as much as the White Pages I just threw in the recycle bin.

Theoretically, I could hold up my White Pages and say, “I have 30,00 friends.” But how many of those people know me? How many of those people do I know? How many of those people can I count on to help me spread the news of my next book? Only a very small percentage—people I personally know and a random handful of weird, lonely people.

In the end, do I really have 30,000 friends, or just a list of meaningless names and equally meaningless relationships?

Instead of “following” or “friending” hundreds of people, spend time networking instead. Get to know people and serve them. Authenticity and kindness are two of the most powerful assets we possess in this new paradigm. We are the product as much as our books. People buy from who they know and who they like. They also promote who they know and who they like, and, trust me, they DO NOT like the writer who junks up their Facebook with form letters and phony compliments.

If we focus on relationships and we write great books, others will promote us to their networks. That’s called word of mouth.

3. Using cutesy monikers

Writers love to be creative. Great! Awesome! But we need to be creative at the right time and place.

There is only one acceptable handle for writers who are serious about publishing and selling books, and that is the NAME printed on the front of our books.

We (readers) cannot purchase books by @FairyGirl, @BookMaven or @VampireChik. When writers hide behind monikers, they undermine their most powerful platform-building tool: the “top of mind.” Each time we tweet or blog, we are adding “beams” (content) to our author platform. The platform needs to support our name to the point that our name alone becomes a bankable asset—in some cases, a brand.

Writer’s Name + Great Content + Positive Feelings = Author Brand

Cutesy blog titles are equal offenders. I have run across many excellent blogs, but the author’s NAME was nowhere to be found. Thus, the author of the blog was working hard to contribute thousands of words a week to build a meaningless platform.

Bottom Line

If we focus on quality, authentic relationships, we will have more time left to write great books. Combine great books with a quality online network and success is only a matter of time. It is a wonderful time to be a writer.

Posted in Guest Post, Marketing & Promotion, Social Media.

Kristen Lamb

Kristen Lamb is the author of We Are Not Alone: The Writer's Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It's Me, Writer. Kristen has coached all levels of writers from unpublished newbies to New York Times bestselling authors James Rollins and Sandra Brown. She is currently represented by Russell Galen of SGG Literary NYC.

Join the conversation

123 Comments on "3 Blunders That Can Kill Your Author Platform"

Notify of
avatar
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
trackback

[…] the three blunders that can kill your platform, meet me at Jane’s and show her what amazing, awesome and strangely good-looking peeps I […]

Lynne Silver

Great advice, Kristen. I especially like your point about the quality of online friends vs. the quantity. I’d rather Tweet with 10 people who are more likely to buy my book than 10,000 who won’t.
-Lynne

pk hrezo

Here, here! We know who is being genuine and who is not, and I’m only going to be interested in buying the book of someone who seems genuine. There are SOOO many books out there, and what make me buy a book is the story idea, or the fact the author posted something that struck my fancy. I couldn’t care less how many times I see an ad for something. I’m either interested or I’m not.

Anonymous

“If we focus on —– authentic relationships.”

Kristen,

This!

In everything.

brendan

Cindi

Kristen – Another great post on building an author platform. Thanks for having the courage to point out not only what authors need to do, but what we need to avoid doing, as well. Thank you, Jane, for having Kristen on the blog.

Charissa Weaks

I was just thinking about this yesterday. There are so many fabulous and interesting writers, authors and bloggers out there. I find myself wanting to know ALL of them, which is an impossible task. I think that is what many writers find so hard! They spread themselves so thin among hundreds or thousands of people that their online presence gets watered down. I think it’s a death trap for a lot of us. But….that’s why we have Kristen 🙂 To aim us in the right direction.

christine fonseca

Love this – and I 100% AGREE

Prem Rao

Great post, Kristen. The fourth blunder is to spend so much time on social networks that you don’t have quality tile for what you ought to be doing more of, writing!

Laura Strachan

I think that you chose a poor example in @bookmaven. Not sure who that is, but @thebookmaven has done a brilliant job of establishing an author platform associated with that Twitter ID and in creating the kinds of relationships that do pay off. Everyone knows that @thebookmaven is Bethanne Patrick and that she is passionate about books. Her latest book pubs today, and no one will have any problem finding it.

Marion Spicher

When I go to the bookstore or shop on an e-reader, my overloaded brain memory bank doesn’t have the title stored, and I need a reminder … as in the author’s name.  Not everyone knows who Bethanne Patrick is, as I’ve not heard of her. And I am too time pressured to hunt.

Jane Friedman

Agreed, Laura. There are always exceptions to these rules, and @thebookmaven:twitter  is a good example of an exception.

Why?

Because “Book Maven” was an established brand name before she started the Twitter account. People knew her through her other activities as “Book Maven” and would be very familiar with this moniker.

Kristen Lamb

I actually randomly picked that name. It wasn’t directed at any real person. Sorry.

Kristen Lamb

I actually randomly picked that name. It wasn’t directed at any real person. Sorry.

Jacqueline Windh

It was actually a really good example. I have heard of The Book Maven, but I do not recall ever having heard of Bethanne Patrick. I would not have known to relate a book by that author to the tweeter @thebookmaven.

Graeme Smith
Lady Kristen Yes, it’s me again. Sorry :-P. I hate to sound sycofin…. psychofun… sackofin… er, like I’m just agreeing with everything you say but, um, I agree with everything you say (blushes). For me, this whole Social Networking thing is both those words – Social and Networking. But, and it’s just a personal view, it sometimes seems to boil down to ‘Hey, look at me! I said something clever!’ plus ‘What do you mean, I paid someone for my 99999999999999999 Followers? I’ve posted three times already!’ Think of the last comment, Tweet or posting you saw on your favourite… Read more »
Gloria Richard
Great advice, Kristen. Timely for me, as well. I’m a newbie establishing an on-line presence. I believe in “paying forward.” Helping a writer we know when he/she launches a “good” read, knowing he/she will be there when it’s our turn. My name is on my blog, and I write in my own “voice” in my articles. I want potential readers to follow as well as fellow writers. Yes. I’ve ordered your books. Donald Maass? I haven’t attended one of his workshops, but his books on craft are my “go to” books for story structure AND for a shot of inspiration when… Read more »
Jessicaaspen

When I first joined social networking I joined Linkedin bcz everyone sent invites. But it really didn’t do anything for me as an author or as a person. I’ve since dropped it and focus on the ones I enjoy. Twitter and FB. And I’m a google+ experimenter. It really has made a difference just focusing on the sites I like. They are fun and that means I am social! Just like any other activity, you’ll spend time on the one’s you enjoy.

Susan McNerney

LinkedIn is primarily for professional relationships in mainstream business. It’s quite useful for those in the tech profession, for example. It is not center for creative folks, however. It’s useful to writers if you have a “day job” and career that is totally separate from your writing.

Ellis Shuman

Regarding what you wrote about “cutesy monikers”, wouldn’t that apply to Dr. Twuth as well?

Kristen Lamb

Not really because I am not tweeting as @DrTwuth and even the blogs with Dr. Twuth are all under my name, Kristen Lamb. “Kristen Lamb” gets the focus. If someone wants to brand a moniker, I recommend just pairing it with the name we will use to find books. As a made up example, I couldn’t find books written by The Poisoned Pen. But I COULD find books by Jane Harris–The Poisoned Pen. Now Jane can brand both Jane Harris AND The Poisoned Pen and not run the risk that people won’t know how to find her books.

Kristen Lamb

Not really because I am not tweeting as @DrTwuth and even the blogs with Dr. Twuth are all under my name, Kristen Lamb. “Kristen Lamb” gets the focus. If someone wants to brand a moniker, I recommend just pairing it with the name we will use to find books. As a made up example, I couldn’t find books written by The Poisoned Pen. But I COULD find books by Jane Harris–The Poisoned Pen. Now Jane can brand both Jane Harris AND The Poisoned Pen and not run the risk that people won’t know how to find her books.

Nigel Blackwell

Great advice, Kristen. I like the addition of “positive feelings” to the equation for author brand. It’s common sense people are only going to buy books from people they have “positive feelings” for, but like all common sense it’s only common when pointed out.
Cheers

Sharon K Owen

This message can’t be emphasized enough. All of us who are working with Kristen in her WANA 1011 class, know these truths to be self-evident, but it’s great to me reminded one more time.

kathryn magendie

You always hit the nail on the old head, Kirsten  . . .

Piper Bayard
I absolutely agree with you. Especially about the cutesy monikers.  First, if you’re not serious enough about your writing to put your name on it, why should I care about it?  Second, I try to visit all of the blogs of the people who comment at my site, and I like to address people by name. It’s incredibly irritating when I care enough to look for a name, and you don’t care enough to share it. Entire sites without a human name! What a lot of wasted work and wasted time.  Third, it makes it almost impossible to promote you… Read more »
Marion Spicher

Piper, your blog and platform is a perfect example of my social networking aspirations. I’m underground until the end of October to meet deadlines, but look forward reading bloggers who are A+.  Kristen Lamb’s blog never fails to share her excellent experience, great wit, and teaching skills. Thanks for showing why the name is important.

Piper Bayard

Thank you, Marion! I’m sorry I did not see your reply sooner. Very kind of you. I hope your muse is being generous to you.

Anonymous

I like the advice about numbers — it’s quality, not just quantity.  I keep getting messages from people I don’t know who say “like me” “follow me” and I really don’t know what to do with them.

Now, on the name point, I hear ya loud and clear.  In the last few weeks I have changed my twitter name and blog name to MY NAME.  In fact, I’m going to blog about the change tomorrow.   Now, I just need to switch over to WordPress –one thing at a time. 

Deborah Serravalle

You just gave me permission to stop the insanity!!! Thank you.

Also, thanks to you and your fine book, We Are Not Alone: The Writers Guide to Social Media, I ditched the cutesy moniker. I’m halfway through the read. Perhaps had I finished it this post wouldn’t have been as meaningful as I’d already be ‘in the know’.

Nathan Anderson

Quality relationships. I keep thinking about that whenever I see a Twitter person with 20 gazillion friends and 10 tweets. 

Jane Friedman
As someone who does have many friends (but few tweets or status updates), I feel I must speak up. For anyone who is well-known or otherwise attracts a large number of followers, at some point it becomes impossible to have a personal connection or relationship with every person who is following. To some extent, you become a broadcaster. I don’t tweet or post as much as others because (1) I don’t want to create any extra noise for the thousands who follow me (2) I remain very focused out of respect to my following. This doesn’t mean I don’t engage… Read more »
Kristen Lamb
Actually, I have a different approach for well-known “celebrity” types. Just a little bit of meaningful interaction goes a long way. My concern with having 20K followers is just that new writers feel this weird pressure to have 20,30 or 40K followers. My advice is obviously quality not quantity, especially for new folk who are building their brands.  As far as those people who have a mega-following, just keep it real. I would rather follow a mega-author who only tweets a couple of times a day, but I can tell this is a real person, than to follow a celebrity… Read more »
Clay Morgan
I spent a lot of time this year with musicians & bands from ambitious startups to some of the best-selling artists internationally. I’m amazed at the range of social media savvy in that industry. Some of them crush it and are building a fan base at a pace never before possible. Then there are some marginally successful types who just don’t get it. They go in the opposite extreme and never interact with their peeps at all. Writers at all levels have similar attitudes. The great divider I think is those who take an arrogant attitude into social, as if… Read more »
Christina Katz

I agree with both of you Jane and Kristen. It’s so important to keep it simple and focused as Jane says, and make sure that the lion’s share of your work is on creating quality writing, otherwise, what’s the point? And yet at the same time, to play off what Kristen said, and also what I know Jane espouses, don’t act like a robot or you might become confused with one. Be real. Be a person. Better yet, be the person you are.

Kristen Lamb
Actually, I have a different approach for well-known “celebrity” types. Just a little bit of meaningful interaction goes a long way. My concern with having 20K followers is just that new writers feel this weird pressure to have 20,30 or 40K followers. My advice is obviously quality not quantity, especially for new folk who are building their brands.  As far as those people who have a mega-following, just keep it real. I would rather follow a mega-author who only tweets a couple of times a day, but I can tell this is a real person, than to follow a celebrity… Read more »
Coleen Patrick

As always, excellent advice!

Diana Stevan

Thanks for clarifying how social media helps and hurts if the writer isn’t focused on  building relationships.

Guilie Castillo-Oriard

GREAT post, Kristen.  Funny… Just yesterday a writer friend and I were talking about the dichotomy of being a writer and self-promoting on social media, how all that time invested in this and that site leaves us with little time for the actual writing.  Your post puts it in perfect perspective.  Like everything, I guess, it’s a matter of having our priorities in order.  The point you make about developing relationships is a thread of gold.  Thank you!

Kristen Lamb

Well, part of why I started teaching social media to writers is I saw that it was going to be a game-changer, but writers need to be artists first. We don’t have to choose between the product and the promotion, we just need to have a more focused plan. Thanks!

DG Hudson

Thanks Kristen, quality in content, followers and writing are what counts.  I found a lot of writing blogs in the blogfest I participated in last Friday — many of them had cutesy names and you’re right, names were missing on others.  Group writers seem to do this a lot, but as long as they identify who forms the group – it helps.

Good luck with your books. 

Thanks to Jane for featuring your post, you give us a different viewpoint than all those other posts telling writers to get on every social media.  It’s a personal choice, but we must choose wisely.

Amy Shojai, CABC

As always, dead-on advice. Pick the social network that you enjoy so you’re more likely to make it a regular habit. Folks can tell if you hate the tweeting/FB-ing/LinkedIn-icity etc.

Oh, and make it EASY for people to follow/find you, too. Sometimes I find a blogger or Sweet Tweet recommended by another person I respect, but when I want to follow them they make me jump through hoops to be “validated” or I can’t find how to subscribe or or or . . .

SQUIRREL! (whoops, sorry, my chocolate has worn off)

Elisabethkinsey

Really good advice.  Although I get a little lost in twitter, I tend to have only people I know from one writing site, and conferences.

Gene Lempp
Great advice, Kristen. The first priority, as an author, is to provide a quality book. If we spend all of time scattered through social media platforms then when will we ever find time to write books. I see quite a few authors out there that spam their new book 20 times a day and always wonder if how much response they have. Imagine seeing the same TV commercial during every commercial break (assuming you aren’t just fast forwarding over it like I do). After one or two views people start to ignore it, even if it is hilarious. Thanks for… Read more »
Tim O'Brien

As usual, great advice, Kristen.  The world of social networking can be a bit overwhelming at times.  Focusing on these three blunders and staying away from them will help a great deal!

Karenselliott

Love this post. Sharing!! Quality, not quantity.

Anne R. Allen

Say it, Sister! Now if only some of the clueless publishers would read this! Love the White Pages analogy. It’s so sad the way authors are being pushed to buy Twitter followers and spend time on useless, time-wasting overkill

Catherine Johnson

I don’t know what we’d do without you Kristen. I’d still be on LinkedIn wondering about Google+ if it wasn’t for your awesome advice. Thank you.

Laurapauling

I definitely agree with all of these. I think the power is not in the numbers but in the power behind the numbers you have, the depth of the relationships.

Florence Fois
Kristen, as always, you give stellar advice. I pose a question (since you hate one word in my blog) … I have used a title for two years this month. To add name recognition I added my moniker fOIS In The City … since few in the free world do not know we don’t call it New York or Manhattan, we call it The City… Chicago knew better and called themselves The Second City.  How do I change the name without losing my placement on the internet or with readers?  Do I go to wordpress or is there a nifty… Read more »
Jane Friedman

Hi Florence – I might be able to help advise you, but I’m not yet sure what you’re trying to do. If you could clarify:

1. Old blog name/tagline + current URL
2. New blog name/tagline + new URL, if applicable (what you want to use)
3. Whether you’re using WordPress.com or WordPress.org (self-hosted)

Kat Ward

Great advice. I am breathing for the first time in days! Only kidding—but the “pressure” to establish and maintain an internet presence is enough work for three of me. I like the idea of targeting, developing sincere relationships and, yes, word of mouth (or keyboard) is exponential—very good point. Thank you.

Bonnie Trachtenberg

Great blog, Kristen. I’ve only been doing this social networking thing full time since my book came out in June, but I definitely think I have RDD. By the way, your line “When pursued to an extreme, writers suffering from advanced RDD curl up
in the fetal position under their desks muttering, “Soooo many circles.
Tweet … tweet. Be my friend. I like friends” had me laughing out loud. I can soooo relate!

Ed Cyzewski

Great advice. It seems the mantra for social media is higher quality should not be sacrificed for higher quantity. 

Thanks also for reaffirming the importance of writing a book that people will WANT to talk about. that is my greatest challenge as a writer, and some days I wonder if that is just a pipe dream. Thanks for the encouragement to keep at it.

banana_the_poet
Well, loads of people know me by my name @banana_the_:disqus poet/banana the poet  from a number of internet places.  If they search Google or Amazon they can easily find my books under that name too and it is on the cover of my poetry books.  Most people know me as banana or banana the poet and those who know me as Michele Brenton can find my books that way as well. But I started putting together books and selling them after I’d built up a large following on my funny poetry blog – I hadn’t thought about it until I’d been getting… Read more »
banana_the_poet
Well, loads of people know me by my name @banana_the_:disqus poet/banana the poet  from a number of internet places.  If they search Google or Amazon they can easily find my books under that name too and it is on the cover of my poetry books.  Most people know me as banana or banana the poet and those who know me as Michele Brenton can find my books that way as well. But I started putting together books and selling them after I’d built up a large following on my funny poetry blog – I hadn’t thought about it until I’d been getting… Read more »
Kerry Meacham

Great advice, as always.  I fell into the numbers blunder early on at Twitter, but now I just let people follow me and I reciprocate unless it spam/bot.  Now, what I try to do instead is get to know people, help others, and promote good blogs/books.  I wonder where I learned that from?  Oh yeah, YOU!!!  You rock, and I know from experience that your books, blogs, and online classes do too.

Kerry Meacham

Great advice, as always.  I fell into the numbers blunder early on at Twitter, but now I just let people follow me and I reciprocate unless it spam/bot.  Now, what I try to do instead is get to know people, help others, and promote good blogs/books.  I wonder where I learned that from?  Oh yeah, YOU!!!  You rock, and I know from experience that your books, blogs, and online classes do too.

trackback

[…] 3 Blunders That Can Kill Your Author Platform […]

Steve Moore
Hi Kristen…and Jane, You’ve made me feel much better today!  I’m a full-time writer and have begun to feel the pressure of belonging to not only multiple social networks but also different groups on the same one.  Trying to keep up with them is taking time away from my writing. You’re #3 also gave me a good laugh.  I use the cutesy monikers to filter out many of the marketing messages I receive due to the fact that I belong to the groups.  I don’t want to eliminate the e-mail altogether because it’s like panning for gold–occasionally there’s a nugget… Read more »
Steve Moore
Hi Kristen…and Jane, You’ve made me feel much better today!  I’m a full-time writer and have begun to feel the pressure of belonging to not only multiple social networks but also different groups on the same one.  Trying to keep up with them is taking time away from my writing. You’re #3 also gave me a good laugh.  I use the cutesy monikers to filter out many of the marketing messages I receive due to the fact that I belong to the groups.  I don’t want to eliminate the e-mail altogether because it’s like panning for gold–occasionally there’s a nugget… Read more »
Liz Fielding

Great post, Kristen. You give good sense! I always check the stream of people who follow me on twitter. If all they do is post “buy my book” I don’t follow back.

Liz Fielding

Great post, Kristen. You give good sense! I always check the stream of people who follow me on twitter. If all they do is post “buy my book” I don’t follow back.

amyfosseen

RDD! Ha! Always love your posts. And am a true believer in “authentic relationships.” I tend to go in spurts: lots of postings on facebook, ignore twitter — then lots of tweeting and no facebook. I sort of get burned out on both of them and have to take rests.

I’m starting a group blog with 2 other family members/ building a platform for what ultimately will be a Holiday’s craft/recipe (how we do it) book proposal — what’s the rule for a group blog/and twitter account?

Jane Friedman

My recommendation: Have a blog name & Twitter handle that are as identical as possible, and a name that “tells and sells.” That means: Try to use a name that makes it clear the blog/Twitter account is focused on holiday crafts & recipes. I wouldn’t use your names, but what you would consider a name that could help brand *any* content you produce, whether on a blog, Twitter account, YouTube channel, podcast, etc. (Grammar Girl is a good example of this practice at work.)

Christina Katz

The Writer Mama is another good example. It’s also the name of my first book. Most people know me as both but for those who only know me as one, that’s okay too.

Brandie Lagarde

I was ever so happy to read this most helpful post, I actually have been doing this by default of my personality and thinking the whole time that I should be plugging away at the numbers, and lamenting the reality that I don’t have the time or desire to just build numbers. So thank you for making my day because getting to know people and my readers and turning them into friends is what I love. Oh, and that thing called writing is a passion as well. 

Bridgette Booth

Excellent advice, Kristen! I am always relieved to hear advice that I don’t have to be on all the sites. Whew! 

Serena Chase

“Authenticity and kindness are two of the most powerful assets we possess…” that’s a lovely truth that needs to temper all our communication but especially when building relationships with virtual “friends”  who (we hope) will turn into readers.  Great post, Kristen — and thanks for hosting her, Jane!

K.B. Owen

Hi, Kristen! *waves* Nice to see two people I respect from the writing industry in one place!  What you say about numbers is reassuring, and makes a lot of sense.  Kinda hard to have a relationship with 20,000 peeps!

See ya,
Kathy 

wpDiscuz