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October 2015
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Free your mind, and the first draft will follow. And once you have your first draft, you'll almost be ready to write your novel. Let me be clear, the first draft of your book is not your book. It's the blueprint for the outline you will use to write the second draft of your novel. That second draft is what you will hone and rewrite until it becomes the file you upload into a publishing system and make available for sale.

 

If this sounds like a lot of work, that's because it is. I've tried every way you can think of to get around the laborious rewrite process, but it is unavoidable from my standpoint. Is it mandatory? No, of course not, but it is highly recommended. I understand not all writers do it. One of my favorite authors, Erskine Caldwell, famously submitted the first and only draft of his manuscripts for publication.

 

I've grown to love outlines, and I've found them to be most helpful as a blueprint if I wait and create them after I've completed a first draft. I've come to view the first draft as my very detailed idea. Developing an outline based on that idea only makes sense.

 

When I say outline, I mean I write a short description of each chapter. That description usually consists of one line describing the character arc in that chapter and another line that explains the story arc of the chapter. Seeing the book in parts helps me see the best way to make it one cohesive unit and give it consistency.

 

If you've never written off of an outline, I'd urge you to try it--but only after you've written your first draft.

 

-Richard

 

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

 

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The Perils of Rewriting

After the First Draft

1,923 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, writers, writing, drafts, outlines
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I've said countless times in this blog that if you want to get people to read your book, you have to give away a lot of copies. To reviewers. To bloggers. To the editor of your college alumni magazine. To the women in your yoga class. To the guy who cuts your hair. To the people you meet at Starbucks. Basically to anyone and everyone you think might like the book enough to spread the word about it.

 

That can be a lot of books. But you have to do it!

 

I always recommend giving away print copies with a personalized inscription for two reasons. First, because it's classy. Second, because it's harder for someone to "forget" to read a (signed) physical book than an eBook buried in a Kindle library.

 

How to save money

 

If you're going to mail signed copies, use the book rate at the post office. It's almost half the price! The one downside is that you have to wait in line because the self-service kiosks don't offer the book rate, but it's worth it to save so much money.

 

To give away eBooks, I recommend "gifting" a copy via Amazon. All you need is the email address associated with the recipient's Amazon account. Click "Give as a Gift," type in a personal note before sending, and you're done! And guess what? You get the royalties on the sale, which brings the purchase price down.

 

Note: Multiple indie authors who read my blog have contacted me offering to email me a "free PDF" version of their book. You know what that does? It makes me feel like they want my endorsement, but not enough to (pay to) send me a real book. Not the best approach, in my opinion.

 

-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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Marketing Tip: Always Carry a Book with You

Book Marketing Tip: Be Resourceful

2,693 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, writing, promotions, signed_copies, free_copies
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Why are you marketing that novel you published ten years ago? The continuing cost of storing inventory must be outrageous. All those books just sitting in a warehouse. That must wreak havoc on your marketing budget--Oops. My bad. I thought it was the nineties for a second.

 

It's time for an "evergreen" reminder. What do I mean by evergreen? Indie publishing is as close to magical as you can get. You can publish without editorial or financial hindrances. You can sell books without inventory, and if you wish, you can do it all from the privacy of your own home. Before the rise of print-on-demand and eBooks, publishing was a much different proposition. Most striking was the astronomical capital investment it used to take to publish and sell a book.

 

Comparatively speaking, you are the indie author of a book that has very little cost associated with it. Your time is the biggest investment you've made in it. It comes without one of the most costly outlays of cash that was once associated with publishing, the warehousing of inventory. This frees you up on so many levels. Once you publish, your budget, both in money and time, can be devoted to marketing.

 

Here's the evergreen aspect: unless you say otherwise, your book will never go "out of print." It will be a product you can promote and sell until you decide you no longer want to promote and sell it. If your book is not time sensitive, why would you not continue to market it and drive traffic to your sales page?

 

So, why are you marketing that novel you published ten years ago? Because you can, and it makes good business sense.

 

-Richard

 

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

 

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The Evergreen Era of Publishing

The Grassroots Marketing Ripple Effect

1,968 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, promotion, promoting, book_marketing, marketing_ideas, marketing_strategy, marketing_advice
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I'm going to commit a literary faux paus today and discuss an element of story in a different medium, one that traditionally is not met with favor among novelists. That medium is television. Now, in case you just groaned and rolled your eyes, let me explain that today's television programming is varied and much grittier than it once was. There's a lot of high quality narrative writing at nearly every stop on the dial or phone app or streaming service, however television is consumed these days.

 

The show I want to talk about, Breaking Bad, ended its run a few years ago, but it's one of my favorites. I've said repeatedly that watching that series from beginning to end is like taking a Master's class in character development for any type of storyteller. Walter White, the protagonist, may be one of the most fully realized characters I've ever encountered, but I want to talk about another character, the villain, Gustavo "Gus" Fring.

 

Gus is menacing. He's stoic. He's brutal. He's duplicitous. He's everything you want in a villain and more. The creators of the show did something brilliant with Gus' villainy. They hid it under a cool exterior that could even be soft at times. I think he yelled once during the entire time he was on the show. He did bad things, but he did them in an almost businesslike manner. The creators allowed you to see his tragic past and witness what turned him down the psychopathic road. They gave you a reason to root for him. They managed to make you feel uneasy about him and sympathetic toward him at the same time. It helped that his nemesis was a somewhat volatile good guy that you weren't always sure was the good guy.

 

So, today's Breaking Bad lesson is that your bad guy has to be just as complicated as your protagonist. Yes, he's the heavy, but that doesn't mean you skimp on his dimensions. Find something that will give the readers pause, where they may even find themselves hoping he (or she) survives.

 

-Richard

 

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

 

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The Basic Elements of a Character Arc

Taking a Character from Good to Bad

1,526 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: novel, author, writing, characters, storytelling, character_development, character_arc, writing_characters, villians, scene_writing
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Imagine you're at a cocktail party and someone tells a brief story about his friend Buddy. Chances are the storyteller will name Buddy just once and use "he" from there on because everyone listening to the story knows he's talking about Buddy. If the storyteller were to say, "Buddy did this, and then Buddy did that, and then Buddy went there," it would sound weird, right?

 

The same goes for books. Read the following two paragraphs out loud. Which one sounds more natural to you?

 

EXAMPLE A

 

Buddy arrived at the office brimming with confidence, knowing today was his day to shine and show the world his potential. Buddy strode toward the interview room with a spring in his step. "I can do this," Buddy said under his breath as he reached for the doorknob.

 

EXAMPLE B

 

Buddy arrived at the office brimming with confidence, knowing today was his day to shine and show the world his potential. He strode toward the interview room with a spring in his step. "I can do this," he said under his breath as he reached for the doorknob.

 

Example A makes me want to put the book down. Example B makes me want to keep reading.

 

I just finished reading an indie novel in which the author used the main character's name (I'll also call him "Buddy") over and over and over when a simple "he" would have done. The story was interesting, but the overuse of "Buddy" was so distracting (and annoying) that it undermined the reading experience for me and will prevent me from recommending the book to others. A professional editor can help flag these problems before your book goes to market, so if you're going the indie route, I strongly recommend hiring one.

 

-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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Two Mistakes Indie Authors Should Avoid

A Wonderful Example of How to Handle Constructive Criticism and Feedback

3,570 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, pronouns
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Do You Need Swag?

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Oct 19, 2015

When I first got into indie publishing, I had to deal with a huge learning curve. I knew writing. I had been doing it for a couple of decades before I released my first title. The part I didn't know was what to do with a book once it's written, so I went on a self-taught publishing journey to find out how authors sell books. I got into blogging to support book sales. I tried personal videos to support book sales. I dove into social media to support book sales. I was building a platform. Then I went to Book Expo America, and I saw something I didn't expect to see in the literary world. I saw swag.

 

I wandered the floors of the convention hall, and I saw tote bags sporting images of book covers. I saw T-shirts. I saw magnets. I saw pens. I saw ties. I saw things at Erotica booths that I can't even mention. It blew my mind. Publishers and authors were giving stuff away by the truckload to help get the word out about their books.

 

I had a signing at some point during the show, and I sat next to an author who had boxes of this swag that she gave away with each book she signed. I had nothing, and I actually started to feel like I was shortchanging the people who got signed copies of my book. For the rest of the convention, I continually saw that author's name on a tote bag somewhere in the enormous facility. I even saw one of her ties on the streets of New York a few days later.

 

Swag works. Do you need it? Not necessarily, but if you've got a signing coming up, do yourself a favor, and bring some items with your name and book's title on it to give away. People eat that stuff up, and you may get some free advertising out of it.

 

-Richard

 

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

 

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The Grassroots Marketing Ripple Effect

The Marketing Maze

1,416 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, marketing, writing, book_signing, promotions, swag
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The Series

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Oct 14, 2015

Don't you just love a good novel series? It's so comforting to know that once you complete a book full of characters you've come to love over the course of a story that they will be back in a new adventure, facing new challenges, and providing you with more entertainment. The novel series is great as a reader, but as a writer it can be incredibly taxing. Think about it: one of the primary elements of a novel is the character arc, a device where you take characters from point A, through conflict after conflict, and then land them on point B, where they have changed. They have a new set of values, and they see the world in a whole new way. That's difficult enough to do in a single story, but in a series--it seems impossible.

 

So what is a poor writer to do? How do you reinvent a new character arc each time you write a new story featuring the same characters? Here's the easiest way to handle the dilemma. Don't obsess over it. In real life, actual people face different challenges all the time, and depending on the outcome, our values are tweaked along the way to reflect our new experiences. That doesn't make us wishy-washy or unstable, it makes us human. If you're not learning from living, you're not really living.

 

Allow your characters the same leeway to change and grow and become born anew numerous times throughout a series. Don't stick to one dogmatic character structure. Give your character the opportunity to learn and live from book to book in your series.

 

-Richard

 

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

 

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Plotting a Book Series

Writing a Series? Tips from a Superstar

1,525 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, characters, series, character_development, writing_tips, author_advice, characters_arc
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In my last post, I said that for the overwhelming majority of authors, it's important to make an effort to connect with your fans. The same goes for having a good headshot. If you're selling millions of copies of your books each year, no need to read further.

 

Almost daily I receive an email from an author asking me a variation of the same question: "How do I market my book?" For those who have websites or author pages on Amazon (two things I've recommended in previous posts), I almost always look them up to see if I might want to interview them for a blog post, to check out their books, etc. And you know what? Nine out of ten times I cringe at the headshot because it looks so unprofessional. If your headshot looks like it was taken at Sears in the 1970s or cropped out of a group photo at a barbeque, it's time to get a new one.

 

If you're going to present yourself to the world as a professional writer, you need to look professional. Speaking engagements are a perfect example--put yourself in the shoes of a person deciding between two author candidates with roughly the same qualifications. Would you choose the guy in the flower shirt holding a spatula, or the woman in the tasteful suit sitting next to an elegant vase filled with flowers? They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but we all know everyone does.

 

Contrary to popular belief, a headshot doesn't have to cost a lot of money--or any money. I bartered for a recent one with a woman I met at a business networking group who needed some help editing her website. I got what I needed, and she got what she needed, a win-win!

 

-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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Lights, Camera, Smile!

Book Marketing Tip: Be Resourceful

1,673 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, marketing, writing, headshots
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How to Be Retweetable

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Oct 12, 2015

Before social media the goal of an author was to write something memorable. It's still the goal today, but there's the added goal of writing something retweetable. Twitter is a mecca of viral content just waiting to be shared via retweet over and over again. The trick is writing something in 140 characters that moves your followers and their followers to retweet your content.

 

Here are some good rules of thumb to craft retweetable content and build your brand across the Twitterverse.

 

  1. You don't really have 140 characters: If you're using up all the characters allotted in a tweet, you're not allowing for followers to add their own two cents. You'd be surprised how many want to add their points of view to a message. If you can come in at 70-100 characters, your message is all the more retweetable.

  2. Pick your spots: According to Track Maven, Tuesday and Wednesday are the days with the highest volume of tweets, but weekends are where the largest number of retweets occur. The point? Your followers will be more likely to see your tweets during the week, but on weekends there's a greater likelihood that a smaller number or your followers will retweet your content and share it outside of your network, exposing your brand to a larger number of people.

  3. #usehashtags: Hashtags do get you retweeted, and the more you use, the more likely it is you'll be retweeted. A lot of people limit them or avoid them altogether, but there are a number of studies that say three to five hashtags in a tweet increases your chances of being retweeted.

  4. Three words that will greatly increase your retweet volume: By simply putting, "Please Retweet Now" in your tweet, you will see a marked increase in the number of retweets you receive.

 

Of course, the best way to receive a lot of retweets is to take advantage of the social aspect of Twitter and engage with followers, so they are more likely to support your career as an author, and make sure it's a two-way street. Support their dreams, too.

 

-Richard

 

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

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Twitter: A Global Tool That's Great for Connecting with Your Local Media

Can Twitter Make You a Better Writer?

1,789 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, marketing, promotion, writing, twitter, retweet, retweetable
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It's a question that doesn't produce a consensus. It's probably even foolish to explore, but that sort of thing has never stopped me before. Let's face it, what makes a book readable has a lot to do with individual tastes. There have been enormous bestsellers that I have found painfully unreadable, and there have been obscure titles that have gained no popular traction that I have devoured over and over again.

 

So, beyond personal proclivities, what makes a book readable? Yes, character development is a huge consideration. Story structure is pivotal. Setting matters a great deal. But they all pale in comparison to one often overlooked element to a book's readability factor: the writer's passion for the story. A reader can tell when a writer approaches a piece out of a sense of obligation instead of a sense of desire. It's obvious in the language used. There is a nuanced, invisible connectedness between author and story that etches itself into the pages (paper or electronic) when the writer approaches the story from a place of passion. Readers pick up on that. They gravitate toward it. They want to be a part of it.

 

Writing without passion is probably not something a lot of indie writers have to deal with. But if you sit down to write and the passion isn't there, walk away. Divert your attention toward something that brings you joy. Find a headspace that opens you up to feeling, a hunger to tell your story and get back at it. Write with passion.

 

-Richard

 

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

 

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When to Walk Away from a Story

Change it Up!

5,171 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: writing, draft, craft, book_writing, indie_authors, author_advice, story_writing, novel_writing
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Have you ever finished a great book and thought to yourself, I would love to send a note to the author, only to find yourself at a loss for how to do so? In my opinion, by not including contact information at the end of their books, those authors are missing out on a wonderful opportunity to connect with their readers.

 

Here are some other things you can include in your books to connect with your readers:

 

1)   The first chapter of your next book:

Including the first chapter of another book, whether it's a sequel or an entirely different story, is a great way to both alert your readers to its existence and to encourage them to buy it right then and there. If you don't have another book ready, why not include a brief note about something you have planned or have already begun?

 

2)   A sense of your personality in the acknowledgements:

I'm always a little disappointed when the acknowledgments page of a book is nothing more than a list of names. In addition to thanking people in this section, you can share a little bit about yourself with your readers. It doesn't have to be anything overly personal, but there's no harm in offering your fans a glimpse of who you are, how hard you worked to write the book, and how much you appreciate anyone out there who is actually reading it.

 

3)   Your website and/or newsletter information:

I absolutely love receiving emails from fans, so I put my website (www.mariamurnane.com) and/or email address everywhere I can. On my website there's a "Contact" button that provides my email address (maria@mariamurnane.com). I also have a "Sign up for Maria's newsletter!" button on every page of my site.

 

Granted, there are some authors out there who are so successful they don't need to interact with their readers to sell more books, but the rest of us should be doing everything we can to establish a connection with our fans. Word-of-mouth is the most powerful sales tool in the world, so anything you can to do to engage with your readers is well worth your time.

 

-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 Engaging Your Readers Online

Book Marketing Tip: Make It Easy for Your Fans to Help You

4,536 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, marketing, writing, promotions
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It's been said before, but it bears repeating: you are an expert. In what? Writing. Story structure. Character development. Every element that goes into writing and selling a novel is a subject matter in which you are an expert. You may not feel that way, but your experience says otherwise.

 

That expertise is a marketing opportunity. I'm assuming that you have at your disposal a computer with online access. You, my indie author friend, are a webinar away from taking your expertise global and growing your brand beyond your wildest dreams. Take that knowledge you have about writing, publishing, and marketing, and create a series of educational webinars that will position you as both an author and expert.

 

Webinars are relatively simple to create and host. There are a number of online webinar tools to help you deliver your material in a professional and highly interactive manner. You just have to provide the knowledge. You'll build your webinar audience via your social network. Attendance will be small at first, but if you keep at it and commit to a regular webinar schedule, you'll pick up more and more attendees, and those attendees will add to your reader base as well. It's a mutual-propagating relationship. One group will feed into the other and vice-versa.

 

I know it sounds like a huge time commitment, and in the beginning, it will be. Over time, though, you will develop a system with a built-in audience that will require minimal effort. Maintaining a regular webinar schedule can be both personally and financially rewarding.

 

-Richard

 

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

 

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Host Your Own Webinar

Sell Yourself as an Enthusiast

1,374 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, marketing, author, writers, webinar

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