We are truly excited to have this ‘Social Media Jedi’ who is the author of several best-selling books, founder of the WANA movement and has helped hundreds of writers achieve amazing results with her savvy with today’s social media. Our conferees will have such an amazing opportunity to interact with her during this year’s conference because not only will she be mesmerizing us with her keynote speech “Boy Am I Glad I Didn’t Get a ‘Real’ Job” but she will be leading Thursday’s all-day workshop, one of Friday’s afternoon workshops and one of Saturday’s morning conference sessions.
So…without further adieu, please enjoy the interview between our very own conference chair, Phil Giunta, and this year’s keynote speaker Kristen Lamb!
by Phil Giunta
What obstacles did you face in your transition from international sales to author and freelance editor?
Kristen Lamb: What obstacles DIDN’T I face might be easier to answer. LOCUSTS. The answer is locusts. There were so many external obstacles when I made the decision, like actually knowing how to um, WRITE for starters.
Back then publishing was a world where gatekeepers ruled and yada yada yada and none that is really salient these days.
External obstacles that ARE salient look a lot like family and friends. They couldn’t “get” why I’d leave a real job to become a writer.
My decision sounded a lot like, “Blah blah, throwing away a $45,000 degree and a lucrative job with an expense account to blah blah join a cult in New Mexico that’s promised to school me in the lost ancient art of Ninja Kegels blah blah…becoming a writer.”
I had a LOT of pushback from well-meaning loved ones and even had family members who didn’t talk to me for years. Others believed since I didn’t have a real job, I was therefore available to babysit at all hours of the day with no notice. This is why I blog A LOT about setting boundaries.
The greatest internal obstacle was realizing there is no such thing as an “aspiring writer.” Screw aspiring. Aspiring is for pansies. I had to own it. If I didn’t take myself seriously, why would others? So, I just dug in and got to work. At first I did free stuff to build a reputation, then I accepted every job I could no matter how mind-numbingly boring. Um, technical writing? Hellloooo?
Kill. Me. Now.
This eventually led to paid copy writing and editing assignments. Later, I began helping authors edit fiction because I have an eye for story. While doing that, I built social media platforms for authors, civics groups, and small businesses.
I actually never intended to be a social media or blogging expert. But there was a vacuum, and I stepped up to the challenge. I’d seen the paradigm would shift as early as the Tower Records Extinction Event (circa 2002). I could project that traditional publishing was in the path of the digital tsunami and would begin to crumble as soon as an affordable e-reader that was technophobe-friendly hit the market. Apple proved my theory had merit with the launch of the first iPad and B&N later that year with the Nook (2008-2009).
As early as 2006, I knew it would be critical for authors to not only understand social media, but how to use it well. Writers needed to have a brand and a platform in the emerging digital marketplace.
Since I had a background in sales and marketing, I could see a lot of what was being taught/sold to writers was abysmally ineffective in the 21st century (unless one counts emptying the author’s bank account).
Thus, being Supreme Big Mouth Busybody? I picked up the torch. I had a unique skill set. I could teach from all angles—the marketing, the brand, the platform and the product (writing).
You are the founder and CEO of W.A.N.A. International. Could you explain the origins of the W.A.N.A. movement and its mission?
Kristen Lamb: Funny enough, I can’t fully claim credit for the creation of W.A.N.A. (which stands for We Are Not Alone). When I wrote my first book, my editor and I were arguing over titles. They wanted something like “Marketing Strategies for Writers,” a title that made me, as a creative person, want to turn into a cutter. So imagine my audience? I threatened to pull the book and refused ANY “businessy” titles. YES, “businessy” IS a word.
I just invented it.
But my editor asked a question that changed everything. When I dug in my heels with the tenacity and maturity of a toddler, she said, “Fine. What is it you want your readers to FEEL when they read this?”
I replied (still in tears over the thought of “Marketing Strategies for Writers”), “I want writers to know they are not alone.”
This is when she came up with the title, “We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media” and the first book of its kind. I began teaching classes on a Yahoo loop to supplement the book and noticed an interesting metamorphosis. In my classes, I encouraged a lot of teamwork. Follow each other on Twitter. Talk to each other. Read each other’s blogs. You are a TEAM. Soon, the students began calling themselves WANAs and I ran with it.
W.A.N.A. International and W.A.N.A. Tribe (a social network I built to support the writer community) evolved to better serve those who wanted a support network and a writer family. W.A.N.A. International offers affordable classes and we held the first global writing conference in history, W.A.N.A.Con.
We had NYTBSAs, agents, editors, and experts all on-line in virtual classrooms to cater to those who didn’t have the time or money to attend an in-person conference. W.A.N.A.Con allowed us to serve writers in emerging markets like Australia and New Zealand.
We also could be there for writers with financial constraints, health issues, or even those who didn’t have the luxury of taking off from work or leaving small children. We’ve always worked with larger conferences to act as a supplement to what they (you) do.
Maybe a writer can only afford ONE in-person conference and they can add in W.A.N.A.Con because it’s affordable and fits in any schedule (recordings are free). We also hold it in February right about the time the New Year’s resolutions are crumbling and before any major conferences are yet available.
And W.A.N.A. has always gone far beyond books and link spam and promotion. We are there as friends. W.A.N.A. is a community. We have had so many stories of WANAs who were hospitalized or had a tragedy and the WANAs stepped in to keep their blogs going or tweet for them. We’ve donated money to plant trees for WANAs who lost loved ones. We’ve been there when a fellow writer had to take time off for a baby or an illness and have made it our mission to be a writer’s digital family.
Since I knew what it was like to try to do something as scary as becoming an author, I never wanted anyone to feel the way I did. Alone. W.A.N.A. has been the fulfillment of that wish.
Would you give us a synopsis of your latest book, Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World?
Kristen Lamb: Rise of the Machines is a timeless book that covers all the bases. How does publishing work? How do you find the best fit for you and your writing? Why does traditional marketing not sell books and if it doesn’t? What does and WHY? How can we create a sustainable brand that leaves time to write more books and that grows and evolves as WE grow and evolve? How do we captivate and cultivate READERS? How can we build a platform so solid that, short of the Internet imploding, it will remain?
And if the Internet goes down? I’m totally fighting zombies so book sales the least of my concerns.
What is your secret to maintaining such a thoroughly educational and entertaining blog while still finding time to write, raise a family, and take Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
Kristen Lamb: I don’t find time I make time. As far as the blog being educational and entertaining? That was practice. I wrote a lot of blogs that sucked, but no one read them other than the man-part-enlargement bots, so eh. By the time people were reading, I’d been blogging for a year and a half and had figured a lot of stuff out the hard way. This is why I recommend my book because I did all the dumb stuff so y’all don’t have to.
As far as family, The Spawn (my now 5 year-old) is trained to those pee pads and I have a cat food dispenser I fill with fresh Cheerios. KIDDING!
I unschool because Spawn was fired from nursery school due to his “unhealthy” love for zombies and NERF guns. And the teachers failed to appreciate the sheer genius of the death metal song “Zombies and Babies” Spawn composed when he was three. I, however, thought it was a seriously catchy tune….
They find you in the park. They eat you in the dark. ZOMBIES AND BABIES!!!!
Oops, sorry. I digress.
Anyway, I pulled him out of regular school and decided to homeschool/unschool. Since I’ve been in martial arts since I was four, I felt he was old enough to start taking karate so he’d have plenty of time with other kids…and learn to fight zombies in the event he lost his preferred melee weapon during an apocalypse.
Since I wanted to show Mommy Support, I signed up for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at the same dojo. It keeps us balanced as a family. We all go to martial arts and then the gym so we can come home and wind down to Warehouse 13 before bed.
My husband is super and I couldn’t do this without him.
I will say that I do is A LOT of hard work, but anything worthwhile usually is. I get up earlier than most and work harder and longer than most. This was actually why I wanted to create a social media plan that didn’t take all my time. I still have deadlines and my laundry and dishes are apparently in possession of cloning technology.
The Write Stuff conference website provides a description of your Thursday class, “The Novelist of the 21st Century”, and your keynote “Boy Am I Glad I Didn’t Get a Real Job.” Can you please give us a teaser on what you’ll cover in your Friday afternoon class “Social Media for Writers” and your Saturday session, “Which Publishing Path is Right for You?”
Kristen Lamb: That’s a tough thing to do since I never do the same presentation twice. Much of what I teach is geared toward the specific audience, so the audience drives a lot of the content. I’ve had classes where writers were still throwing holy water at Facebook and terrified of Twitter. That is a vastly different class from one where almost everyone is already blogging and tweeting and seeing no results.
It’s the same with the publishing class. The dynamics of the audience are crucial. No one is showing up to hear some canned One-Size-Fits-All Power Point Presentation, which is AWESOME, because then I’d have to actually learn how to use Power Point.
There is no Social Media Snuggie and no Publishing Panacea Pill, but there IS alliteration and alliteration is almost always AWESOME.
What can readers expect from you next?
Kristen Lamb: Wow, I don’t even know what to expect from me next and my parole officer—oh, wait, you mean books? I’ve signed a three-book NF deal with PDMI Publishing. The first on my agenda is a brand new We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media because fans have been asking for one for two years now and I never run out of stuff to say.
Just ask my husband.
I also write techno-thrillers, and am finished with two books of the series. I want three finished before doing anything else. Haven’t yet decided what my “publishing path” is for fiction. See? This stuff applies to me, too.
Really looking forward to seeing all of you!
Kristen is the author of the new best-selling book, “Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World” in addition to 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.”
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 and editor to create a program designed to help authors construct a platform in the new paradigm of publishing. 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.
Kristen is the founder of the WANA movement, the co-founder and CEO of WANA International a company dedicated to empowering artists of the Digital Age. She’s also the co-creator of WANATribe, the social network for creatives. Kristen has dedicated her life to helping writers and artists reach their dreams and achieve the impossible.
We are not alone.