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September 2015
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You aren't just an indie author. You are the head of a community. You have a responsibility to cultivate and grow your group. Here are five points to ponder as you examine your role as head of your online community.

 

  1. I get by with a little help from my friends: Your online community isn't a fan base. At least they shouldn't be treated like fans. They are your friends. They are supportive, responsive, and happy for you. You should treat them in kind.
  2. Community and culture: Every community on the planet has its own culture. Your online community of readers is no different. Since you are the founder and manager of your community, you have a sacred duty to identify that culture and develop parameters for engagement that won't diminish it. As an author, your culture is likely to be tied in large part to your preferred genre, but your sense of humor and personal belief system will also come into play.
  3. If you're not engaged, your community isn't engaged: If you let comments go without a response, you won't get many comments. People want to have a discussion. Give them what they want, and let them know they are being heard. Engage, engage, engage.
  4. Community outreach: Participate in other communities and allow other authors with their own communities to piggyback off your success. You need a community of readers, first and foremost. Those can be found by connecting with other authors. Remember, authors don't compete with other authors for readers. Readers devour books like potato chips. There are more than enough of both to go around.
  5. Manage squabbles: I have found that sometimes even the most innocent of comments can be misconstrued and escalated into hurt feelings. You have a responsibility that disagreements in your community are kept below fever pitch. Lively conversation and debate is not just okay, it can be a good thing, but watch closely so lines don't get crossed. When things get personal, draw the line and insert civility. Sometimes all it takes is a voice of reason to end a dispute.

 

Essentially, your goal is to grow your community to the point that it's so large it can't be handled by one person. That's when you'll have one of those problems that's nice to have.

 

-Richard

 

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

 

 

 

 

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Community Engagement Prompts

Selling Others Sells Yourself

3,832 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: marketing, selling, promotion, writing, community, online, social_media, outreach, marketing_strategy, author_advice
16

No matter who publishes your book, there's no guarantee that libraries will carry it. However, if you walk into your local library with a smile and a copy of your book and say, "Hi there! I wrote this book. Will you please carry it?" there's a good chance the answer will be "Sure." It can't hurt to ask, right? The worst the librarian can do is say no, and as I explained in a previous post, if you let a few NOs drag you down, you're not going to get very far in your book marketing efforts.

 

I live in New York, but I recently received an invitation to an event at the library in my hometown in California. And get this--it's a reception for local authors to meet local readers! How cool is that? For all I know, my novels have never even been checked out there, but their mere presence on the shelves resulted in an invitation. Maybe your local library is planning a similar event. You never know! Again, it can't hurt to ask. (And if your library isn't planning a similar event, why not suggest one?)

 

Another idea is to ask your friends or family members who live in different towns to walk into their local libraries and make a request for your book. If a card-carrying member of a library requests a specific book, the librarian will most likely order it. It's true! When I was writing my first novel, I remember telling my mom that if just one person I wasn't related to read it, I would be thrilled. I got confirmation that this had happened when my uncle, who lives in Indiana, requested that his local library carry the book. When he went back a few weeks later to check it out, someone had beat him to it! I have no idea who that first reader was, but I will never forget the wonderful moment when I found out he/she existed.

 

-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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Three Easy Marketing Ideas

Avoid this Marketing No-No

2,660 Views 16 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, marketing, writing, libraries
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Years ago I got into a discussion with some folks about what makes a young adult novel a young adult novel. It was sparked by a panel at a conference taking on the topic, and what I discovered is that there is no real consensus on the matter. Every element supposedly exclusive to young adult material was eventually discovered to exist in adult titles, and the reverse was true.

 

So given that there are no rules for young adult novels written in stone, let's examine three--let's call them observations--uncovered in that discussion. Invariably, there are exceptions to each item in the list to follow, but that's okay. This is just a jumping off point.

 

  1. Coming-of-age element: Young adult novels usually cover a rite of passage. That is to say the main character moves into a new stage of life that brings him/her closer to adulthood. We call these coming-of-age stories, and while the stage in question may be something as innocent as experiencing a first kiss, the obstacles overcome and the lessons learned on their way to that first kiss are the crux of the story.

  2. Hope: More so than in adult themed novels, hope seems to be an ever-present theme in most young adult novels. As bad as things get, even dystopian bad, the main character always finds a way to win. The message consistently seems to be to never give up. Victory is just a miracle away.

  3. Avoiding trends: When an adult writes a book for a young adult market, the temptation is to learn the slang of the day and try to speak their language, but the young adult novels that stand the test of time, by and large, don't jump on language trends. Doing so appears as if the author is trying too hard to relate to the readers, and it just doesn't work.

 

Those are the observations that came up in my discussion. What say you? What do you think is unique to a young adult novel or key to a young adult novel's long-term success?

 

-Richard

 

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

 

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What is a Young Adult Novel?

Claim Your Genre

1,661 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, writing, young_adult
1

I love horror stories in every medium. My Saturday morning ritual while I'm vegging out, sipping on my life-giving coffee, is to watch a horror movie. It goes without saying that as a writer, Stephen King is one of my idols. He's the master of horror for a reason. Being scared is just fun. There's no other way to describe it. As a student of all things horror, here are the five things I've observed about a good horror story:

 

  1. Relatable protagonist: Horror stories work best when your central character is recognizable. He or she should face the same sort of everyday struggles and triumphs that the readers face. What the protagonist does for a living doesn't necessarily have to be a typical job, but the way he or she approaches that job should be the same way a majority of people approach a job. The readers should be able to see themselves in the protagonist.

  2. Clearly defined main conflict: You don't want your readers guessing what's so terrifying about your horror story. They should know why they're terrified. Keep your monster in the shadows if you wish, but make the consequences of coming face-to-face with your monster crystal clear.

  3. You can't have horror without suspense: While knowing the possible consequences of meeting your monster is important, the anticipation of doom might be more relevant to a horror story than the actual doom itself. Investigating those things that go bump in the night can offer more thrills than uncovering what those things truly are. Think about it, there is a certain amount of exhilaration in not knowing who or what the monster is. Keeping the who, what, why, and where a mystery for as long as you can is good edge-of-your-seat storytelling.

  4. Out of their element: Good protagonists have to be out of their league and overmatched in order to make the conclusion satisfying. Whatever the outcome of your horror story, the reader needs to feel that the central character worked to earn a victory. Without that struggle, there's no reason to root for him or her.

  5. The horror still exists: The best horror stories end with the reader thinking that the horror is still out there. The protagonist may have won the battle, but the war still wages on. You don't necessarily have to set up a sequel, but horror fans read horror novels because they like being scared. If you can find a way to scare them with your ending, you've written a horror masterpiece.

 

Are you a fan of horror? What are the elements of horror that draw you in and keep you entertained?

 

-Richard

 

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

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The Cost and Odds of Suspense

How to Be a Genre Bender

2,666 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: horror, writing, suspense, genre, writing_tips, writing_advice, author_advice, page_turner
26

I'm always looking for ideas for this blog (as well as a good book to read), so I spend a chunk of my day keeping tabs on the publishing industry. Often when I stumble across an article about a new author, especially a new indie author, I head to Amazon to check out the book and the author's page. Who knows? I may buy the book or even contact the author about a possible interview.

 

If I see grammatical errors in an author page, however, I quickly move on.

 

For example, I recently visited the Amazon page of an author whose bio included the following mistakes (specifics changed to protect the author's identity):

 

What she wrote: Lisa Sue is the Author of five mysteries.

 

What she should have written: Lisa Sue is the author of five mysteries.

 

What she wrote: Her favorite topic's are X, Y and Z.

 

What she should have written: Her favorite topics are X, Y and Z.

 

What she wrote: Lisa Sue is a woman that has always worked hard for what she wants.

 

What she should have written: Lisa Sue is a woman who has always worked hard for what she wants.

 

I've said it countless times in this blog, but you only have quick moment to grab a (potential) reader's attention. If the impression you give is that you don't understand the basic rules of grammar, the potential reader is probably not going to buy your book, no matter how good it is. Perhaps the above author was in a hurry when she wrote her bio and didn't notice the mistakes, but to an educated reader the errors are distracting and unprofessional.

 

Think of your author bio the way you would your book's cover. People shouldn't judge your book based on it, but many will.

 

-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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Common Mistakes a Professional Editor Sees

Grammar Tip: She vs. Her/He vs. Him

5,830 Views 26 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, marketing, author, writing, grammar, author_bio, grammatical_errors
1

It has occurred to me lately that building a brand is a lot like dating. When you are in the midst of a courtship, you put your best foot forward. You enhance your strengths, downplay your weaknesses, and you work at being engaging. You are constantly looking for ways to keep the conversation lively and maybe even enlightening. You want the person you're courting to find you interesting--so interesting that they keep agreeing to see you in order to engage in more lively and enlightening conversation.

 

So, in addition to being a writer, your job as an author is to be interesting. Frankly, that's bad news for me because I'm boring. Terribly so. Mind-numbingly so. I have a risk-averse personality that prevents me from attempting dangerous stunts or hobbies. I abhor the nightlife. I can't even stand large crowds. Red carpets, galas, grandiose events: I'm not a fan. So, what's an author like me to do to be interesting enough to be a brand?

 

Well, the only thing I can do: go with the flow. I have hobbies and interests. I like photography. I enjoy football. I love attending local live theater. I even have causes such as supporting animal shelters. So, while I'm not a fascinating person, I find certain things in life fascinating and worth my attention. Those are the things I build my brand around. I share my thoughts on those things with my community. And, hopefully, my passion for them is what makes me interesting.

 

Your lifestyle might not be flashy, but that doesn't mean you're not interesting. How you express your zeal for those things that are important to you makes you interesting enough to be a brand.

 

-Richard

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

 

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Branding vs. Marketing for Authors

Branding 101: What is Author Branding?

4,544 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: marketing, author, writing, branding
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I have homework for you. You can choose to do it or not, but I strongly believe that if you do, it will help you be a better writer. You will practice your craft with a confidence you had not previously known. You will feel an artistic self-worth that will bolster you from word to word as you write your next masterpiece. This isn't a magic assignment. It is one that will simply force you to dive deep into your belief system and examine your internal writer's creed. In short, your assignment, should you choose to accept it, will be incredibly rewarding.

 

Here's the assignment. Imagine, if you will, that you are a teacher, and you've been asked to develop a syllabus for a class on how to be a successful novelist. You won't just be teaching your students about writing, although that will be a part of it. You will be teaching them about rewriting, editing, branding, marketing, etc. Anything and everything you can think of that makes up the job of today's novelist.

 

Here's the best part, you get to decide which section counts the most in your fictional class. You have 100% autonomy on this project because you aren't required to show it to anyone. This is simply an assignment to suss out what you truly think makes a novelist.

 

Now, if you so choose, you could take it one step further and actually put the syllabus to use. You could contact your local library and volunteer to teach a course on how to be a novelist using your syllabus as a guide, but that's not necessary to achieve the ultimate goal here, which is for the novelist to know thyself.

 

Now, go forth and develop your syllabus. Know thyself.

 

-Richard

 

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

 

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Consciousness-something within oneself-awareness:

What is it to be a true writer?

2,488 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, selling, book, author, novels, craft, branding, social_media, author_brand, writing_tips, writing_advice, writing_practice
2

In a previous post, I explained the difference between a developmental edit and a copy edit. Today I'd like to dive deeper into the value of a skilled developmental editor by asking a pro, Christina Henry de Tessan, for the most common issues she encounters. Here are her top four:

 

1) Show vs. tell: We all know the old adage, "Show; don't tell." It can be harder, however, to resist the temptation to show and tell. But if you've told us that "Isabel wiped her clammy hands on her too-short skirt and felt a flush of heat in her cheeks when the teacher asked her to stand up and read aloud," you don't then need to tell us that "She was nervous about getting up in her front of her classmates." Nail the details, then trust your reader to figure it out.

 

2) Dialogue: If you want your writing to shine, it's essential that you get this right. At one end of the spectrum, you want to avoid making your characters sound stilted or bland. At the other, you want to avoid the small talk that can drag down a snappy back-and-forth: "Hi." "Good to see you. How's it going?" "Ok. You?" Finally, read it all out loud.

 

3) Beware of metaphors and similes: These tempting little crutches can yank a reader right out of the story. "The clouds meandered across the sky like exhaust from an ailing diesel truck" is just distracting. Creative license has its moments, but straightforward language is often the best way to go. If you can't help yourself, just use sparingly and make sure your selected imagery feels appropriate to the story. Finally, keep an eye out for the dreaded mixed metaphors!

 

4) Character is everything! We don't have to love them, but we do have to care. If your characters are falling flat, you're going to lose your readers. Make them flawed, quirky, arrogant, confused. But more than anything, make them real. And then make them learn something along the way. Write a character who evolves in a credible and compelling way, and you're well on your way.

 

Many thanks to Christina for lending her expertise to this post!

 

-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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3 Things To Be Aware Of When Editing Your Manuscript

Vishaal Behl - The Top Ten Tips For Editing Your Own Book.

3,397 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, editing, writing, dialogue, show_vs._tell
3

Okay, it's time for a paradigm shift when it comes to an author's thinking about branding. The artists in most of us don't really cozy up to the idea of branding and marketing and all that commercialism. Still, we want to make a living as authors, indie or otherwise, so we suck it up, and we build our platforms. We write our blog posts, we record our personal videos, we join social networks, etc. And then, invariably, after a particularly hard day or bad week, we look at ourselves in the mirror and we ask, "When do I get to stop doing this? When will the books start selling themselves?"

 

The answers to the above questions: never and most likely never. Branding is a never-ending journey. The marketing that supports your brand is the fuel needed to continue that journey. With the growing numbers of titles vying for readers' attention every day, week, and year, there is no break in the action if you want to be and stay noticed.

 

Branding is not a task. It's a way of life. It is you in a public forum being you. It's not something you have to invent. It's something you already are. You're just using you to support your book sales. Stop thinking of this as something you have to do. It's something you're already doing. You're just doing it on a grander scale, and the grander the scale, the more books you sell.

 

When it comes to building a brand, don't get bogged down with the idea of having to do something. You've already done it. In essence, you're just introducing people to your brand.

 

-Richard

 

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

 

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Branding 101: Tools for Branding

To Brand Or Not To Use Creative Branding - Learn The Real Marketing Secret

5,131 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, marketing, self-publishing, writing, promotions, branding
1

Brand Modeling

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Sep 10, 2015

We are all about the author brands in 2015. Your brand, as I've stated in the past, should be based on a foundation of high quality writing. That is the foundation, the most important element of your author brand, yes, but it's not the only element. So what else is there? What are the other components to building an author brand?

 

The answer is that the list is endless. It would be easier to herd cats than it would be to tell you what you should focus on to make a successful author brand. It's important that I make a distinction here between brand and platform. Your platform is essentially your delivery system for your brand. It's how and where you get your message out. Your brand is your message, and that message must be customized to your style and personality.

 

What you can do is dissect and analyze successful author brands and use that knowledge to help you build your own brand. It's called modeling, and here are the three traits you should look for when you diagnose other authors' brands:

 

  1. Persona: Do they use humor as a part of their brand? Are they focused on inspiring their followers? Do they set out to educate their fans?

  2. Tone: Do they present themselves in a light, friendly manor or are they slightly brisk and cynical?

  3. Appearance: Is their attire and appearance laidback and fun, or do they dress to the nines?

 

Find four or five successful authors that you admire, and find out what makes their brands tick. Once you have the data in hand, you'll have a better handle on what's right for you, and you're well on your way to building your own successful author brand.

 

-Richard

 

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

 

 

 

 

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The Three Planks of Your Author Platform

The Foundation of Your Brand

2,018 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, author, self-publishing, promotions, brand, branding, social_media, author_marketing, author_brand, brand_identity, author_platform, brand_development
4

When I'm working on the first draft of a novel, at times it can feel like I'm pushing an enormous boulder up a mountain. Have you ever had that feeling? It's during those periods that I have to trust what I've learned over the course of writing multiple books, which is that I have to keep going. So day after day I force myself to sit down and inch the story along, however slowly, because I know that by doing so, I will eventually reach the end.

 

Moving the story forward is the key to finishing the first draft. When I was writing my first novel, I spent far too much time tweaking what I'd already written instead of advancing the plot. At the time I thought that approach was a good use of my creative energy, but looking back I realize it was a form of mental procrastination. As a result it took me MUCH longer to finish that book than any of the ones I've written since. Now I don't go back and tweak or do any form of rewriting until I'm pretty much done with the (always rough, sometimes ugly) first pass. I still edit along the way, but I try to avoid anything major until the basic framework of the story is complete.

 

Believe me, there have been many occasions where I've had to tell myself "Maria, this book isn't going to write itself!" just to get myself to sit down in front of my computer. But I keep pushing that boulder up the mountain, slowly but steadily, because I know how great it will feel when I reach the top and get to watch that first draft roll down the other side and (eventually) turn into a fully formed novel.

 

-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: Stay Committed to the Process

Discipline to Write

3,598 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, promotion, blogging, writing, writing_process, craft, writing_tips, author_tips, editing_process, writing_adivce, tips_from_author
1

My writing philosophy is that my only responsibility is to serve the story and the characters within that story. The impact on the reader doesn't come into play when I write. You can agree or disagree with that philosophy. That's not the point of this post.

 

The point is that when I sit down to write I have this parameter in mind. It's my guidepost. Every time I write something that may be a bit outside the normal social bounds, something that makes me personally uncomfortable, I remind myself of my writing philosophy and recommit to the story with a sense of duty. It's a great device to stay on task and rid myself of that internal judge that may be preventing me from doing what needs to be done in my fictional world.

 

If you don't have a writing philosophy, I can't encourage you enough to develop one. Write it down and post it somewhere in your writing space, so you can have a visual reminder of why you do what you do whenever you need it.

 

Once you have your philosophy, make a commitment to hold true to that philosophy. Make a sacred agreement with yourself in good times and difficult times that you will stay committed to honoring that philosophy. Doing so will give your writing a consistency that will serve you well. You'll find yourself writing with more confidence and with a greater passion because you feel as if you are on a mission. Be true to your writing philosophy, and it will serve you in developing a unique literary voice.

 

-Richard

 

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

 

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Make Your Own Rules

Write without Judgment

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

It's reminder time. We discuss author brands on this blog quite a bit and strategies on how to build that brand. There's a lot of focus on social media and creating a community. We talk about personal videos, book signings, fan interaction, etc. There are numerous ways to build brand awareness.

 

But perhaps what we don't talk about enough is what the foundation for your brand should be. True, there are numerous considerations to take into account when you look at building your brand: genre expectations, reader demographics, the core of your platform, etc. Those are all things that will help you shape the message on which your brand is built, but they aren't the foundation of your brand. There is one simple factor you must use as the foundation for your brand. This one element is indestructible. If you put your artistic heart and soul into this one component, everything else you do is window dressing that simply complements it.

 

What is the one thing? Good writing. If you commit to perfecting your craft each and every time you sit down to write, your brand will be as solid as Mount Everest. Good writing--or better yet, great writing--is the key to giving you the will to put all the other pieces of a brand into place over the course of your career. If you find your voice as an artist, you will find your voice as a brand, and you can only find that voice through committing to becoming a better writer each time you set out to write.

 

-Richard

 

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

 

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Branding 101: The Keys to Successful Branding

Branding vs. Marketing for Authors

2,457 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, marketing, book, author, self-publishing, publishing, brand, branding, platform, author_brand, marketing_strategy, brand_awareness
2

Many people, authors included, tend to capitalize words that shouldn't be capitalized, probably because they aren't aware of the rules. Here's a quick refresher course regarding mistakes I see all the time:

 

Job titles

 

Job titles are capitalized only when they come directly before the person's name. For example:

 

Correct: Luca Maestri is the chief financial officer at Apple.

Incorrect: Luca Maestri is the Chief Financial Officer at Apple.

Correct: Apple Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri will speak at the conference.

 

Correct: Joe Biden is the vice president of the United States.

Incorrect: Joe Biden is the Vice President of the United States.

Correct: Vice President Joe Biden will attend the event.

 

*For you authors out there, "author" is NEVER capitalized unless it comes at the beginning of a sentence--I've lost track of how many times I've seen it written incorrectly in a bio.

 

Seasons

 

Seasons of the year aren't capitalized unless they are at the beginning of a sentence. For example:

 

Correct: I love summer.

Incorrect: They plan to get married next Fall.

Correct: Winter 2015 was brutal!

Correct: I hope this coming winter is milder.

 

Degrees and majors

 

Degrees and majors are not capitalized unless the subject is a language, for example:

 

Correct: I have a master's degree in English.

Incorrect: He is majoring in Psychology.

Correct: She is studying French and economics at Berkeley.

Incorrect: She hopes to earn a Bachelor's Degree in Music.

 

No matter who publishes your book, you (most likely) will be in charge of writing all the accompanying marketing materials, as well as all the content for your website. The above examples may seem trivial, but they matter! Keeping your work free of errors will help ensure it looks professional, which is important when presenting yourself to the world as a professional writer.

 

-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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Just Say No to Random Capitalization!

Watch for Errors in Marketing Materials

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