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In the past, I've read a lot of books and material on the craft of writing. Mostly, I focus on fiction, but I've always been an admirer of well-crafted nonfiction, as well. Recently, I changed my focus a bit and started looking into the art of storytelling. I've come to find out that it is a fascinating world that blends fictional style with true events. A novelist can actually learn a lot from storytellers.


I should clarify. I'm talking about oral storytelling. If you've never heard a night of storytelling, I strongly urge you to find a venue that features storytellers and plant yourself in the audience. It is both fun and educational. There are public radio shows devoted to the art form as well. Type "The Moth" in your favorite search engine, and you will get back results related to a community of storytellers.


Here's what I've noticed as I've become a fan of the platform. Storytelling is about living and observing. These folks didn't sit at a desk and invent a story out of whole cloth. They went out and lived normal, sometimes extraordinary lives and they observed. They took note of the events that were shaping them. Most of the stories they tell are universal. A lot are "there but for the grace of God go I" type of stories. And a very small number are outlandish and uniquely unusual.


The lesson here for novelists like me is that by making events in our fictional tales universal we have the ability to reach a broader range of readers. I submit this can be true even in genres like science fiction and fantasy. Pay attention to the events that shape you and find a way to incorporate them into your fiction. If not the actual event, the spirit of the event. When you do, you will discover that you reach a wider range of readers on a much deeper level.


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Writing using science

What do you smell?

250 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, storytelling
1

If I had to name one grammatical error I hear more than any other, I would choose the misuse of the pronoun I instead of ME.


Here's a refresher on the difference between the two:


I is a subject pronoun, which means it's used when you are a subject in a sentence- in other words, when you are doing something.


  • I am sitting at my desk.


ME is an object pronoun, which means it's used when you are an object in a sentence - in other words, when something is being done to you, for you, with you, etc.


  • Gloria mailed me a letter.


The above examples are straightforward and simple. It's when multiple objects are involved that people run into trouble.


For example, which of the following do you think is correct?


A) Gloria took a photo of David and me.

B) Gloria took a photo of David and I.


A) This isn't a good time for Gloria and me to visit.

B) This isn't a good time for Gloria and I to visit.


A) If you need an answer, you can call Gloria or me.

B) If you need an answer, you can call Gloria or I.


In each of the above, A is correct. If that isn't obvious to you, remove the extra object in each sentence, and the answer should jump right out.


A) Gloria took a great photo of me.

B) Gloria took a great photo of I.


A) This isn't a good time for me to visit.

B) This isn't a good time for I to visit.


A) If you need an answer, you can call me.

B) If you need an answer, you can call I.


See how clear it becomes? Try that trick the next time you're not sure!


-Maria

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


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Refresher on who vs. whom

Are you making this common grammar mistake?

321 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, grammar_tip
1

The bad guy formula

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jan 15, 2018

 

I'm going to break an unwritten rule today and talk about a television/streaming show instead of a novel, but I'm doing it for a very good reason. This particular show, I believe, has one of the best bad guys I've ever encountered in any medium. Novelists could learn a lot by the way the creators of Godless have crafted the character of Frank Griffin as played by Jeff Daniels.


I won't give away any spoilers, but I will share with you why I think Frank Griffin is such a compelling and mesmerizing bad guy.


1. He's charismatic. Granted, his charms mostly only work on bloodthirsty outlaws, but they follow him faithfully because he shows them a kind of twisted, fatherly love. They look up to him, and that gives him a presence that outshines everyone else.


2. He knows how to show kindness. Don't misunderstand me. He's not a kind man, but he can show kindness to strangers that makes you think there's something redeeming about him.


3. He's unpredictable. You don't know what will set him off, and that keeps you on your toes with Frank Griffin. He doesn't dole out outrage equally.


4. He is ruthless. When something sets him off, he doesn't react with just rage. He reacts with an intent to destroy. He doesn't care who gets hurt.


5. He is fearless. He is convinced that nothing can kill him and that makes him even more dangerous.


As you write your next bad guy, you would do well to remember these five traits of Frank Griffin.


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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A messy character stew

The ordinary protagonist

130 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, character_development
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There is one element above all others that will establish your author brand and help it stand the test of time. It is something that takes time to take hold. It isn't a strategy. It is the foundation of your brand. This one thing is trust. Readers become members of your community because they trust your talent. That trust leads to them tracking your social media activity. This is where you need to establish a new kind of trust to keep them interested and to motivate them to share your content so you can grow your community and find new readers who will discover your books when they trust the quality of the social media content you create. Think of it as an infinite loop of trust that grows with the more content you share.


And this is where you're going to groan in derision. Because, like it or not, the best and quickest way to establish this kind of trust in your content is to use personal videos. Studies have shown that consumers are more likely to purchase when a product is supported by video content, particularly when a face (a person) is featured in the video. A viewer feels a connection and trust is established at an accelerated rate.


So, if you want to take the shortest journey possible to establish trust, literally use your face on video. Make it your best face. Practice before you go in front of the camera. Even if you're practicing being spontaneous in front of the camera. Make sure your video is well lit and your audio is crystal clear. Create the key element that will make your author brand rock solid, trust. 


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Brandingvs. marketing

You are the brand not your book

236 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, trust, author_branding
1

When I'm working on a book, I find that one of the hardest things about the process - in addition to coming up with what to write - is getting myself to sit at my desk and focus. "Focus" is the key word here, because once I let myself stop and check my email, browse Facebook, etc., it's amazing how quickly what I intended to be "a quick break" morphs into the whole day. Once I engage with the outside world, any creative spell I've been under is instantly snapped, and it's hard to get that back.


On the flip side, if I stay in the zone and ignore the lure of the Internet and my phone, it's amazing how much writing - good writing - I can get done in a short amount of time. It's like when Han Solo and Chewy switch the Millennium Falcon into hyperdrive. Suddenly, they're halfway across the galaxy!


So there you have it. Stay away from your devices to improve productivity. That sounds so simple, but I know it's not because I still have trouble doing it! (Tools such as Freedom will block the Internet for you if your will power repeatedly falls short.)


In a way, sitting down to write is like working out. You may have the best of intentions to do it, but actually working out means not doing something else, and the pull of the "something else" tractor beam is powerful. If you can get yourself dressed in your workout gear and out the door, that's half the battle. Actually, it's probably most of the battle. So think of disconnecting as the digital equivalent of putting on your workout clothes. Put your phone on mute, turn off your Internet browser, and get to work!


-Maria

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


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Writing tip: keep a notebook by your bed

Writing tip: be careful not to overdo the beats

327 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, self-publishing, writing, procrastination, writing_tip
3

Twenty seventeen is behind us, and it's time to build your brand in 2018. Here are three strategies to make your brand bigger and better in the coming year.


1. Pick a lane. I know I've encouraged you to spread yourself around on as many social media platforms as you can manage, but 2018 is the time to switch gears. Pick one social media site to spend a large majority of your time. Make one site yours. Treat it like your home and build your community with confidence.


2. Make it your mission to cultivate influencers in your genre. Influencers have large followings, and they boost book sales as well as boost your own community's numbers. Tag them in posts. Private message them to let them know when you blog about them. And, yes, find reasons to blog about them. I'm not suggesting you heap artificial praise upon them. I'm suggesting you honor their status as influencer and get on their good side.


3. Twenty eighteen will be no different than 2017 in one aspect. The content you post has to be share-worthy in order to be useful. You're a writer, a creative person, creating share-worthy content is not beyond your grasp. It is very much in your wheelhouse. It's what you do.


In a lot of ways, the list looks familiar to last year's. Technologies will no doubt change how we use social media, but the methodology will always remain pretty much the same. Build a following on a platform. Interact and build relationships with influencers, and content is and always will be king.  


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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You are the brand not your book

Your brand's obit

598 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, branding
1

 

It's time to explore building your brand outside of the boundless arena of the virtual world and look at how you can build your brand in the real world. And the best way to do that is using a tool that most people dread, public speaking. Here are three ways to help you improve your public speaking skills.


1. Toastmasters: You've no doubt heard about this organization. There is a nominal fee to join, so it's not free. You will be both a speaker and listener as you practice the art of public speaking and help other members develop their skills as public speakers. The criticism is constructive and meant to help you grow. It is a well-known organization for a reason. It works.


2. Acting Classes: I know. I know. You didn't become an author to advance your career as an actor. Acting may be something that doesn't interest you in the least or it may even terrify you beyond belief. But the point of joining an acting class isn't to start your journey to winning an Oscar. It's for you to get comfortable with "performing." Giving a speech or doing a reading is just that, it's a performance. An acting class can help you own the podium and make your appearance memorable.


3. Improv Classes: Again, I know. Doing improv is most likely not your fondest desire. But thinking on your feet is a crucial tool as a public speaker. Not everything is going to go as planned, so being able to respond gracefully and seamlessly with humor is a key component to giving a successful speech or reading. As the Boy Scouts say, always be prepared. In this case, preparation deals with handling the unexpected.


Public speaking isn't a natural fit for most people. The only real way to succeed at public speaking is to practice public speaking. Doing so in a group with other motivated learners is the best way to master it and overcome your fear.


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Offline brand building

How to scare readers

360 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, marketing, writers, promotions, public_speaking, branding
0

 

If your book is done and published, you've already learned that the first question most people ask when they find out you've written a book is, "What's it about?"


Do you have a good answer to that question? If not, you might have a problem.


Coming up with a good hook (or angle, or one-line description) isn't easy, but it's important. Movies are supposed to have good hooks, but sometimes they can get away with "STARRING INSERT HUGE NAME HERE." That doesn't fly with a book, especially one that doesn't have a massive marketing machine behind it.


To come up with a compelling one-line description, I suggest you brainstorm a handful - they don't have to be polished or even grammatically correct at first - and then try them out on people you trust to be straight with you. This is important, because while many people like to help, not everyone is cut out to provide honest feedback. Do you have a friend who has no problem sending a meal back at a restaurant if it's not cooked just right? That's the kind of person you want for this job!


Even if your helpers haven't read your book, you should be able to tell by their facial expressions if they find your description interesting. Your initial options should be quite different, which will allow you to pick one that generates the best reaction. For example, should the one-liner be about a fire that devastated a neighborhood, or a burned jewelry box that revealed a family secret? Those things could both be true about your story, but which one gets the best reaction from your test group?


After you've narrowed down the options to one or two key angles, play around with a handful of descriptions for each angle, then whittle the overall list down again. Keep repeating this process until you have a winner!


-Maria

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


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Grab Readers' Attention with Your Hook

Kick-start your year with these two marketing ideas

398 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, marketing, writers, hook, one-liner
1

"Be a sadist."

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jan 2, 2018

Today we begin with a quote from an American literary legend:


"Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them - in order that the reader may see what they are made of." - Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Bagombo Snuff Box


Add to this sadistic advice what my wife recently said to me. She told me about a frustrating situation she'd recently experienced, and she finished her story by saying, "It's one of those bad situations where I guess you're supposed to learn something. I'm really tired of learning from bad situations. I'd like to learn from a good one every now and then."


Bad stuff happens. In life and in fiction, bad stuff is constantly making an appearance. That bad stuff is a useful tool in building character. That's what Vonnegut was saying. If you have a story that doesn't involve struggles and obstacles, your characters will never learn. They will never display their true selves. They will never have the opportunity to change and grow. As a writer, you are responsible for bringing bad stuff into your characters' lives. As a writer myself, I can tell you that's not always easy to do. I have become emotional for what I have had to do to various characters over the years. You probably have as well. That's a good thing. If we feel it, the readers will feel it.


As Vonnegut says, "Be a sadist." Do bad things to your characters because it's how you add dimensions to them, and it's how you advance your story.


-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Write an Obituary for Your Characters

Why the development of secondary characters matters

384 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, self-publishing, writing, character_development, kurt, vonnegut, sadist
1

In my old life, I sold broadcast video equipment. One of the products we sold was a character generator for live broadcasts. I was tabbed as the trainer for the equipment and sent to Waterloo in Toronto, Canada, to spend a week at company headquarters to learn as much as I could about the product. With the exception of the airline losing my luggage, it was well worth the trip. My company liaison gave me a tour of the facility and our first stop was research and development. I was shocked to see their primary competitor's product sitting in pieces on one of the work tables. My tour guide chuckled at my confused look and said, "That's what you call reverse engineering. Don't worry. We paid for the machine."

 

Turns out this is a common practice in the corporate world. What better way to know how to beat your competition than to know how they construct their product? You can do the same, even though you really don't have competition as an author. Remember, my philosophy about books is that a well-written book by a fellow author only helps you sell more books because readers always want more. It's a healthy addiction.

 

But, that doesn't mean you can't look at successful authors in your genre and deconstruct their brand to help you understand how to build yours. How often do they post to social media? Do they use email newsletters? Do they do a lot of personal appearances? Do they utilize personal videos?

 

Knowledge is power. You can learn a lot just by reverse engineering another author's brand.

 

-Richard

 

 

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

 

 

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Reverse Journaling for Your Brand

Evaluating Your Author Brand

555 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: writing, branding, author_marketing, author_brand, brand_identity
0

 

A general rule of thumb for using social media as a marketing tool is to follow the "80/20 rule." In other words, only 20 percent of your tweets should be about your work. The rest of the time you should provide interesting content that is relevant to your target audience. This makes sense, because think about it: If your Twitter feed is nothing but a steady stream of BUY MY BOOK, who is going to want to follow you?

 

Here are some examples of how to provide interesting content that is relevant to your target audience:

 

 

 

     If you're a life coach and your book is about finding one's calling:

 

  • Tweet an article about a grandfather who changed careers at age 60.
  • Tweet a survey about executives who wish they'd majored in something else.
  • Tweet a video of an interview with someone you find inspiring.

 

     If your novel is about a weekend adventure in New York City:

 

  • Tweet about your favorite restaurants in NYC.
  • Tweet a link to airfare specials to NYC.
  • Tweet an article about the best hot dog stands in NYC.

 

     If you've written a children's book:

 

  • Tweet a link to research about the importance of parents' reading to kids.
  • Tweet an article that mentions a celebrity's favorite book from his or her childhood.
  • Tweet (or conduct!) a survey of teachers' views on reading.


Do you see where I'm going with these examples? Each positions you as an expert in the subject matter of your book, even if your book is a novel. If your Twitter readers (think about those who see retweets, not just your followers) appreciate and enjoy the content you offer, maybe they will notice your bio and pick up a copy of your book. You never know, right? (Be sure to mention your book in your Twitter bio so they will see it!)


-Maria

 

 

 

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.

 

 

 

 

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Tips for Promoting Your Book on Twitter

 

Twitter Challenge: 21 Days, 21 Prompts

 

 

 

 

508 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, promotion, promotions, branding, social_media, author_brand
2

Title issues

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Dec 26, 2017

 

What I am about to do is open a debate that could be so controversial that it will rock the literary world. There are passionate views on both sides of the issue, but I feel it is something that must be discussed. The conversation can help those novice writers struggling to know where to start.


Here we go.


I begin with a question. When do you come up with the title for your book?


I can tell you from my own experience that when I do "find" the title of a book, I write with a kind of unbridled creativity. The words come oh so much easier. Sometimes I find the title before I write the first word, and other times I find it after toying around with the characters and plot on the page. I can write aimlessly for 40 plus pages before the title comes to me, and when it does, it hits me like a bolt of lightning. I feel energized, and I can't wait to sit down in front of my laptop every day and carry out the theme indicted by the title. Sometimes that theme is subtle and sometimes it's implicit. It may not be obvious to anyone else, but I know the underlying meaning.


So, I open this controversial question here. When do you come up with the title for your book? Before your start writing? After you start writing? Or, heaven forbid, after you've finished your manuscript? There are no wrong answers. Everyone has their own process. What's yours? 


-Richard

 

 

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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

 

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The title sets the tone

 

Can your Book Title Affect the Way You Write?

 

 

 

 

755 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: publishing, title, genre, author_advice, book_advice
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Ernest Hemingway famously wrote the ending to A Farewell to Arms anywhere from 39 to 47 times, depending on if you count the fragments of rewrites as a full rewrite or not. For a man with such a sparse writing style, that is a remarkable fact. He spent hours crafting and recrafting an ending, looking for the right words to make the final draft, and perhaps more importantly, find the right words to cut.

 

The alternative endings remained unread until 2012 when a version of Farewell to Arms was released with the original ending and the others that Hemingway discarded. One can make a reasoned argument that doing such a thing could be construed as a violation of Hemingway's art, but that aside, there is something to be learned from reading the alternative endings, especially if you are a writer.

 

You can see the emotion explicitly put into the ending, and then over the course of the rewrites, you see the emotional passages eliminated, but somehow leaving the emotional context behind. It's really remarkable and an actual record of the old writing tenet that less is more.

 

The alternative endings also show how deliberate Hemingway was in his writing. He didn't just sit down and pound out pages on his typewriter. He agonized over every word. Just because he was a literary legend doesn't mean writing came easy to him. He honed his craft and the page earned every word.

 

Yes, you can overthink and overwrite and spend too much time rewriting, but it's okay to be obsessive about your craft. Take your time and find the right words to use and cut. 


-Richard

https://createspacecommunity.s3.amazonaws.com/Resources Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

 

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Rewrite for New Life

 

The rewriting steps

 

 

 

 

614 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self-publishing, revisions, writing, drafts, rewriting, writing_advice
0

What is a blog tour?

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Dec 19, 2017

A blog tour, also sometimes called a virtual book tour, is when a number of book blogs post a review of a title during a set period of time, e.g. a couple weeks or a month, usually right around when the book launches. As with a traditional book tour, the goal of a virtual one is to create "buzz" by reaching avid readers (i.e. potential customers) through multiple channels. If they suddenly see your book popping up everywhere, they are more likely to check it out - or so the thinking goes. Along with a book review, the blog may also feature an author spotlight, a Q&A, a guest post, a giveaway, an excerpt of the book, or a combination of any of those things, depending on what you're willing to do.


If you're raising your eyebrows right now wondering what book blogs are, they're exactly what they sound like: blogs dedicated entirely (usually) to book reviews. I say "usually" because some also review additional products according to the taste of the blog's owner.


There are plenty of companies that will coordinate a blog tour for a fee (a simple Internet search will turn up many), but you can also set one up yourself if you have the time and the energy. All you need to do is reach out to book bloggers (ideally a few months before your book comes out) and politely ask them if they'd like to review your book. You can also offer to do a Q&A, a guest post, etc. (Click here to see my post on how to find book bloggers.) Always offer to email a MOBI or PDF file, which doesn't cost you anything. If a blogger will only accept print copies, be sure to request the book rate at the post office to keep your costs down.


It takes a lot of coordination and follow-up to set up a blog tour on your own, but you can do it. I promise!


-Maria

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor and the best-selling author of the Waverly Bryson series, Cassidy Lane, Katwalk, and Wait for the Rain. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Have questions for Maria? You can find her at www.mariamurnane.com.


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What Is a Virtual Book Tour?

Marketing tip: How to find book bloggers

540 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, marketing, writing, blog_tour
1

Always be learning

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Dec 18, 2017

When I was younger, I entered the world of sales for a company that sold professional grade audio visual equipment. I jumped into the job with enthusiasm because I was familiar with the equipment as an end user. I thought I knew everything I needed to know to sell the equipment I knew so well. I was wrong. I would soon learn that, as much as writing, selling is a craft.


My boss sat me down on my first day and gave me a quick tutorial on sales. "There are two things you need to know about sales," he said. "One, once you ask the customer if they are going to buy, shut up. Don't say another word. If you talk first, you've lost the sale. Two, remember your ABC's. Always Be Closing. Introduce yourself, get the customer's name, repeat the customer's name, make your pitch, and then ask them how they want to pay. The first time you ask, they're going to think you're crazy. The second time you ask, they're going to think you're a pushy salesman. The third time you ask, they're going to give you their credit card number." That was it. That was my only training before I got on the phones and started practicing the craft of sales.


When I turned to writing and publishing as a career, I realized the ABC principle could be applied to branding because branding, as much as sales and writing, is a craft. Instead of closing, I would substitute the concept of learning. Always Be Learning. It's the best way to grow your brand. Research and read about branding. When you run across a branding principle three times, incorporate it into your brand-building strategy. It may work. It may not, but the point is to constantly expose yourself to new ideas. It's the only way to structure a brand that can stand the test of time.


Always Be Learning.


-Richard


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Richard Ridley is an award winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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The Lasting Brand

Evaluating Your Author Brand

623 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, marketing, writing, promotions
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