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August 2015

Write for No One

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Aug 31, 2015

No one will read your book. That's what you should tell yourself every time you sit down to write. I don't think that's true. In fact, I have every reason to believe that your book will be a bestseller that will break every sales record in the publishing industry. I just don't want you to write with the reader and how many copies you will sell in mind.


If you start thinking about the reader when you write, you stop thinking about the story you're writing. What the reader will and won't like is irrelevant to you as a writer. Your job isn't to conform to expectations. Your job is to set expectations. Be bold if that's what your story requires. Be fierce if that's what your story requires. Even be predictable if that's what your story requires.


It's an old refrain of mine. You have no obligation except to those characters playing out the madness you're dreaming up. Think of them and only them when you write. And remember, you're not doing what's best for them. You're using them to fulfill the promise of your story. They are used for the good of the whole. The struggles and conflicts they face are the heartbeat that gives your story life. If you construct those struggles and conflicts in order to please the reader, you're writing an uninspired story with an artificial heartbeat.


Don't find your motivation to write in the reader. Find your inspiration to write in the story you're creating. If you see it from that perspective, it will be a liberating moment for you as you rush to finish your first draft.


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


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The "You" In Your Writing

When Writing, Don't Outsmart Yourself

5,036 Views 10 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, marketing, author, writing

Do you feel the creative juices drying up? Has the stress of the day or the week or the “pick your period of time” got you struggling to put down a coherent passage on paper (computer screen)? Never fear because I have just the thing for you. Here are my five cures for those times when you lack the energy to be creative:


  1. Free thought time: Find a hobby centered on creativity outside of writing. Get out of the writer head-space, and redirect your creativity to another activity--something that involves a different way to create. Whether it’s photography, sketching, painting, knitting, etc., alternate creative endeavors can give your creativity more depth and distinctiom.

  2. A walk in the woods: Or on a greenway or in a park, walk wherever you connect with nature. Nature can do wonders to reboot your creativity. The crisp air, the smell of the greenery, the thrill of watching wildlife, there are countless ways in the wild to disconnect from hang-ups and kick-start your creativity.

  3. Work it out by hand: Step away from the computer and your normal writing space, grab a pen and notepad, and start writing without judgement. Just let it flow. You will most likely do some of the worst writing you’ve ever done using this method, but the quality of writing isn’t the point. The point here is to clear your mind of all that junk so you can make way for creative excellence.

  4. Meditate: I’m a student of Transcendental Meditation, and I can tell you from personal experience that meditation makes you feel more balanced and less stressed. Sitting in the dark with your eyes closed for 15-20 minutes focusing on nothing is an excellent way to make for a more fertile, creative mind.

  5. Set yourself up to be inspired: A great book, film or play often inspires me to start creating. I find inspiration in the author’s/creator’s talent, and I’m driven to improve as an artist.


These are five methods I’ve used to help get the creative juices flowing. What’s your strategy? How do you kick-start your creativity?


-Richard Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

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


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Unblocking Writer's Block

Is the Early Bird More Creative?

4,956 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, self-publishing, writers, writing, creativity, writer's_block, writing_tips, writing_advice, author_tips, advice_for_writers

When your book comes out, it's natural to want to shout it from the rooftops--and you should! So many people want to write a book, yet few actually do, so you should celebrate your hard work. It's fun to say "Hey, I wrote a book!"


If you want your book to sell, however, you need to do more than just announce that it's out there. And that takes a different kind of work, one that isn't as fun. Promoting a book involves continuous outreach to multiple audiences via multiple channels, each of which might require a significant amount of follow-up. If you don't keep a record of whom you contact and when, it's easy to lose track of your efforts--and your momentum might die on the vine.


For example, imagine the following scenario:


Gloria goes online to look up regional alumni groups of her alma mater, UCLA. She finds that dozens of them have websites, so she contacts a bunch to see if they have book clubs, and if so, how to reach the organizers.


If Gloria has a system for tracking this part of her marketing campaign in place (I recommend a spreadsheet), she will:


A)   Know which alumni groups she has contacted--and when

B)   Have the contact information for the alumni groups stored in one place, so she won't have to research them again in the future

C)   Know which groups have book clubs, and which of those she has contacted

D)   Know which groups said yes, no, or maybe so and be able to follow up accordingly


If Gloria doesn't have a system in place, the only record of her campaign will be the outbox of her email program. She may have some success with that approach, but given how much follow-up is necessary to make things happen in a world where the people you're contacting are busy with their own lives, chances are a lot of her efforts will be for naught.


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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


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Marketing Tip: Create a Master Spreadsheet

Book Marketing via Email: Blind Copy and Newsletters

5,956 Views 7 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, marketing, writing, promotions, book_clubs

This post is going to be a little awkward because I'm going to encourage you not to draw attention to something by drawing attention to that very thing. Confused? Bear with me because I have my reasons.


Recently I was tested. I got a bad review for one of my books. My philosophy has always been not to take bad reviews personally. I've even celebrated a couple of the bad reviews I've received over the years because they were particularly witty or slightly too enormously outrageous in their criticism. My favorite bad review is when I was called evil. If you've never been called evil, let me tell you, it's not that bad. In fact, I consider it a kind of badge of honor.


The most recent bad review left me a little shell-shocked. The second half of the review I found acceptable. It actually addressed problems the reader had with the book. That's fair. We all have different tastes, and I can't expect everyone to be happy with what I write. The first part of the review had me--let's call it seething. The reviewer not so subtly insinuated that I must have paid for the positive reviews the book had received.


Here's what bothered me about that accusation, besides it not being true, it is something that could potentially hurt my brand. I felt a sudden rush of panic to fight for myself. I went to Facebook, typed an indignant status update spelling out my outrage, and then walked away from the computer to think of other clever and insightful ways to express the injustice of this review. Instead, I took the time to reflect on the potential damage I could be doing by throwing such a public hissy-fit. In the grand scheme of things, one unfair review that bordered on a personal attack really doesn't matter. I deleted the status update and went for a walk, feeling a little, but not markedly, better when I got home. By the end of the week, I had forgotten all about the review.


Well, not completely. Obviously, I'm mentioning it here today, but I'm doing so not because I'm still angry. I'm doing so because I'm not angry anymore, and the review didn't change my sales stats in the least. It did not damage my brand. Had I allowed myself to post my complaints and share it with my friends and followers, I would have most likely done more harm than good. My advice if you get a review that you believe is unfair and went over the line? Walk away, and don't draw attention to it.


-Richard Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

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


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Branding 101: Brand Sabotage

Why Responding to Negative Reviews Can Hurt Your Marketing

3,244 Views 5 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, promotions, bad_reviews

Today's post is a bit different than ones I've done in the past. It's a request to my fellow indie authors. I know the struggles first-hand that you experience trying to bring attention to your brand and generate sales for your book. It's hard, relentless work that takes stamina and sustained energy to find success. We authors are constantly looking for angles to increase sales and find our marketing groove.


The one angle that I highly recommend staying away from is utilizing a tragedy to shift attention to your book. I'll give you an example of what I'm talking about without naming names. A gentleman has a talk show where he frequently interviews people who've undergone unspeakably horrible events in their lives. On occasion, when a particular event fits the theme for a book he's written, he will overtly suggest that the audience should buy the book on his website. I have no doubt that he generates sales this way, but it is the grossest form of marketing. And, in my view, it stamps his brand with a severe lack of tact and ethics.


You most likely don't have a TV show to compete with this gentleman's outreach, but you do have a forum. You have your social network. If you plug a book in a thread about a national tragedy because you feel the subject matter fits your book's storyline, you invite a string of moral indignation and run the risk of severely damaging your brand. So, my request is that you don't do it. Avoid the temptation to grab that kind of marketing opportunity. You will feel better about yourself for doing so.


-Richard Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

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


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How Not to Market

Use Common Sense in Book Promotion

3,137 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, authors, book, author, promotion, book_marketing, promotions, branding, social_media, marketing_strategy, marketing_tip

Given all the hard work that goes into writing a book, when yours finally comes out, of course you want to shout it from the rooftops. And you should! There's nothing wrong with sending out an email to announce the big news. Just be sure to use the "blind copy" feature in your email program.


If you're not familiar with blind copy, it's the "Bcc" option underneath the "to" field, usually right next to the "Cc" (carbon copy) option. When you blind copy the recipients of your message, their email addresses aren't visible to anyone but you. This is important for three reasons:


1)    Blind copy protects the privacy of the recipients


If you send an email to your entire address book and make all the addresses visible to everyone on the list, some people are going to get upset. Many (probably most) won't care, but some will, because their is privacy important to them. Why risk irritating the people you are asking to support you?


2)    Blind copy prevents the dreaded "reply to all"


Countless times I've been on a mass email (without blind copy) announcing something or another, and invariably someone on the recipient list will reply to all instead of just to the sender. This drives me nuts.


3)    Blind copy is professional


Dozens of email addresses on a recipient list looks messy and amateur. Using the blind copy feature keeps your email clean, which helps present you as a professional writer, even if you have yet to sell a single copy of your book. (Perception is everything!)


As you expand your book marketing efforts, I recommend ditching email entirely and moving to a newsletter program. When you're just getting started, however, email is great! Just be mindful of who is on the other end.


-Maria Contributors/MurnaneHeadshot.jpg


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


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Marketing Tip: Use Blind Copy

Book Marketing via Email: Blind Copy and Newsletters

2,729 Views 3 Comments Permalink

Finding the Blue

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Aug 17, 2015

It is the magic place where ideas come from, that mystical wonderland of creativity and ingenuity. All human beings look for it when they need to tap into their imaginations. We think of it as being outside of ourselves, but in actuality, it's not. It's in us, but many of us don't know how to find it when we think we need it. The truth is, I believe, it finds us when it needs us.


I am talking about the "Blue," the place where ideas come from. How many of us have answered the question, "How did you come up with the idea for your book?" with the response, "It really just came to me from out of the Blue." Of course, what we're saying is that we don't really know where the idea came from. It just came to us.


But, in a quasi-mystical sense, the Blue is an ethereal idea factory that is never short on inventory. The question for creatives like us is how to tap into it and gobble up as many of those ideas as we can. How do we find the Blue?


The first rule of finding the Blue is that there are no rules for finding the Blue--kind of. I believe strongly that there is an observer effect on the Blue. That is to say the Blue, when observed, changes behavior and cranks out tired old ideas that no one wants. But if you find a way to ignore the Blue, a way to keep your mind off it and go about your life forgetting you even know the Blue exists, then it will deliver a truckload of inspiration to your door.


So, how do you ignore the Blue? You enjoy your life. You find activities that will remove you from the world of writing and creating, and you find something that directs your focus so completely that the Blue is the last thing on your mind. For me it's walking my dog, nature photography, and time with family.


It's an odd paradox, I know. You have to hide from the Blue to find it, but as I said earlier, it needs you. Find you, it will.


-Richard Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

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


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Embracing Inspiration from Real-Life Moments

Unblocking Writer's Block

2,132 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, writing, out_of_the_blue

Author Platform 2015

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Aug 12, 2015

The author platform is a concept that grew out of the Internet age. Before the rise of virtual communication, the term or concept didn't really exist. Other than mainstream media personalities turned authors, there was no easily accessible way for authors to promote themselves on a consistent basis.


But when blogging became popular, authors found a way to insert themselves into the conversation on a daily basis. Then social media made it possible to interact with readers on a more intimate level. Then personal videos and podcasts became a part of the zeitgeist. In a short period of time, the idea that any author could have a platform to connect with readers wasn't only feasible, it became an absolute necessity.


So what do author platforms look like in 2015? In the past five years, little has changed in the way of social media sites. The major players remain unchanged. The same can be said about video sharing sites. Blogging has waned, but it's still an important cog in the author platform. The biggest change is that authors are now taking less of a diversified approach and committing a great deal of their time to one element of their platforms. They haven't abandoned the other tools, but they are now making one of the tools their primary focus. Which one depends on an author's skillset and comfort level. I've committed more of my time to social media where I can have almost immediate back and forth with readers. Other authors have made personal videos their major emphasis, while a smaller segment of the author community has found success with blogging.


What does the future hold for author platforms? It's impossible to tell, but long form online communication is becoming less and less popular as content competes for attention. Branding designed for tablets and smartphones is quickly becoming the norm. Here's what you need to keep in mind as you continue to develop your author platform: people are staring at relatively small screens, absorbing content on the go. Their time is precious, and their attention is easily diverted by their surroundings. Design your message to fit the technology. Your best bet is to keep your eye on sites like Mashable and Wired to stay tuned in to the trends and developments to increase your chances of becoming an early adopter of new technological advances and make the most of your platform opportunities.


-Richard Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

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


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An Active Author Brand

Build Your Brand with Original Content

3,051 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, writing, social_media, author_platform

I get a lot of emails from authors who are discouraged because they aren't having much luck with their marketing efforts. They want to know what my "secret" is because they think I have it all figured out.




Can I tell you something?


My "secret" is that I get discouraged too!


Let me share a true story: A few months ago I began chatting with the organizer of a book club that wanted to read my latest novel, Wait for the Rain. I live in New York, and they are in California, so we scheduled a Skype call. The group is part of a large social organization that has a Facebook page and Twitter account, so for weeks before the event they were promoting it all over social media. I wasn't sure how many women would be in attendance, but I was expecting a pretty good turnout given how much promotion they'd been doing.


The day of the meeting, the organizer sent out a final tweet of excitement. That evening I got my laptop all set up, logged in to Skype, and was all ready to go. The call was set for 9:30 p.m. my time.


Then 9:30 came and went. Radio silence.


At 9:40, the organizer emailed me to tell me that she was mortified. Only one other person had shown up to the meeting, and neither of them had read the book.


What did I do? I laughed. What else could I do? Sure, I was disappointed, even a little embarrassed, but I wasn't going to let it get to me because I'd learned not to let it get to me. If I'd given up on my marketing efforts the first time something like that had happened to me, I wouldn't be where I am now.


As I wrote in a recent post, book marketing is a numbers game. You have to keep playing--and laughing. I guess that's my secret!


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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

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Book Marketing Takes Persistence

Three Easy Marketing Ideas

6,768 Views 5 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, marketing, author, writing, promotions

Most authors commit themselves to writing in one or maybe two genres. We do so because we are fans of the genre. It's what we grew up reading, and we usually subconsciously know the rules of the genre. It's what we know. It's what we love. It's what we prefer to read.


That's all well and good, but one can fall into the trap of the genre if one isn't exceedingly careful. I'm talking, of course, about writing material that is full of clichés. The more you're familiar with a genre, the more likely it is to happen. It's not something a writer sets out to do, but genres contain an unseen rhythm that writers can find themselves adhering to without even trying. It's an engrained pattern of story structure. Plots, setting, villains, protagonists--they all follow paths that are similar to other offerings in the genre.


So, how does one avoid the cliché trap? You become a genre bender. Shake things up by creating a new pattern. Personally, I think the easiest way to disrupt a genre without upsetting fans of the genre is to dive deeper in the character department. Make your villain vulnerable. Make your protagonist an antihero. Give traditionally male roles to a female. Expand the expected by doling out unexpected twists with character development. A writer who masters the art of creating character from the broad strokes of physicality to the nuanced elements of psyche is a writer who helps grow a genre and creates something new the next generation of writers will use as their guide to the genre.


-Richard Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

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


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Write a Genre-Bending Novel

A Genre Conundrum (and Solution)

2,549 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, writing

I'll admit it. I do it. When I smell the end of a book I've been working on for weeks or months, I will rush to a conclusion. Writing a book is a long journey that requires hyper-focus and almost inhuman mental stamina. You do more than invest time in a book; you invest your mind, body, and soul to write a coherent and engaging story. In short, it can get rough.


The temptation is to cut corners when you near the end. I mean, you've already devoted tens of thousands of words to this masterpiece you're writing. Will skipping a detail here and there over the next couple of thousand words really make that big of a difference? The obvious answer to this question is, yes, of course it will. Speeding to finish leaves room for mistakes, and it shows an indifference to those for whom you are most responsible--your characters.


Here's my advice if you find yourself getting closer to the end. Stop writing. Take a break from the project for a few days. Do your best to distract yourself from the story. Have some fun. Catch up on some sleep. At the end of the second or third day, print out a copy of your manuscript, find a secluded spot and read it, aloud if possible. Read it all the way through and then outline the conclusion. Make it crystal clear what you want to accomplish with the closing pages. Remind yourself what your story is about from a fresh perspective.


Then write those final pages, and commit yourself to making them even better with rewrites.


-Richard Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

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


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A Satisfactory Ending

When Do You Know The Ending?

3,124 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, publishing, writing, drafts, rewrites, ending, author_tips, story_writing

When I finished the first draft of my most recent novel Wait for the Rain, there was one character who just didn't fit into the story the way I'd imagined--or hoped--that she would. I liked a lot about her, however, so I wasn't sure what to do. At a loss, I turned the manuscript in, eager to see what my editor thought.


My editor's suggestion? Cut out Character A, and give her most valuable contributions to other characters.


I loved that idea! And you know what? It wasn't that difficult to implement. When I reread the manuscript, I was easily able to identify the things Character A did (or said) that I liked the most. Then I copied those elements and attributed them to other characters. For example:


  • Character A had a nurturing quality that I really liked. In one scene she helped a victim of a jellyfish sting. In the revision I simply had Character B jump in and assist instead. (This worked well because Character B was similar to Character A in that way.)
  • Character A had several lines that made me laugh out loud, so I gave those lines to Character C, who also had a pretty good sense of humor.
  • Character A's style of dress was, I don't know, cool. I didn't want to lose that, so I gave her fashion sense to Character C, who was pretty cool herself.


It was definitely strange to watch Character A disappear after months of working on the story, but I have no doubt that her exit greatly improved the book. I also learned from this process that sometimes when I write multiple characters, their personalities tend to overlap. (That is something I now try to avoid from the get-go.)


The deeper you get into a manuscript, the harder (and scarier) it is to make major changes. But it can be done. The key is to be willing to let characters go if they're not working out. And if there are parts of those characters that you adore, let them live on somewhere else.

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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

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Writing Tip: Don't be Afraid to Cut

When You Cut a Scene You Like, Save It!

3,600 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, writing, character_development


Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Aug 3, 2015

There are author brands and then there are mega-author brands. How do authors go from toiling in the shadows to dancing in the spotlight? The best way to uncover that mystery is to look at the rise and continued popularity of a few of today's top authors. See if you can spot commonalities to their success.


Hugh Howey: Howey is the superstar of today's eBook revolution. He self-published his book Wool and skyrocketed to publishing success that lead to a movie deal and an unprecedented hybrid publishing deal with a traditional publisher. So, how did Howey do it? First, he's an excellent writer. That is the foundation of his brand, but beyond that he used his online presence to build his brand. His passion for writing, publishing, and the reader is apparent. He's a personable guy who isn't afraid to dive into the occasional controversial topic in the world of publishing.


John Green: Green is a talented writer who may have gone unnoticed if not for his penchant to create what resembles video letters to his brother Hank on YouTube. Green simply sits in front of a camera and talks about various topics of interest that he and his brother share. Those videos caught on, and his readership grew as a result. Today, he's made a transition from YouTube star to best-selling author, and it's a well-deserved title. His books are well-written teen dramas that have literary merit.


John Scalzi: Scalzi is an early adopter of the blogosphere. He started his Whatever blog in the days when no one knew what a blog was. The traffic to his blog grew slowly overtime as he wrote prolifically about topics ranging from science fiction to politics. Today he gets over a million visitors a day. What's clear in reading Scalzi's blog is that he's not short on opinions, courage, or brains. He's not afraid to say whatever is on his mind. He's a student of science fiction, and his breadth of knowledge is apparent in his novels, as is his talent.


So what are the commonalities? First and foremost is the writing. Not one of the three mentioned above would be successful if they couldn't write. Number two is the personal videos, the blogging, the engaging of readers online--these are all approached with zeal and passion. It's not so much a marketing strategy but a desire to educate and inform their followers and friends. They genuinely enjoy interacting and creating relationships with their fans.


In short, the key to becoming a mega-author in today's market is commitment to craft and a passion to engage your fans.


-Richard Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

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


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Author Brand Success: Consistency without Stagnation

How to Find Success

3,162 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: writers, blogging, writing, blogger, blogs, storytelling, social_media, writing_adivce, mega-authors, marekting