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October 2017
1

When's the last time you sent a handwritten thank-you note in the mail? When's the last time you received one? If you've sent or received even one within the past year, you're probably in the minority. So think about what a positive impression you can make by sending one when appropriate. Everyone likes to feel appreciated!


Here are some examples of where a physical thank-you note could (not will—no guarantees in book promotion!) make a difference in your marketing efforts:


  • A reviewer who has a mountain of books in her to-be-read (TBR) pile. A thank-you note for "taking the time to read my book" might bump your title to the top of that stack. (Note: be sure to sign the book too.)
  • The editor of an alumni publication that mentioned your book. Your thank-you note might open the door to other opportunities for coverage down the road, e.g. a profile, or an invitation to participate in a regional alumni event.
  • The organizer of a book club that has selected your book. People who run book clubs are usually voracious readers who love to talk about books - and about the time they got a real thank-you note from an author. The more people who talk about you and your book, the better.
  • The organizer of a book club that hasn't selected your book because there are too many books currently in front of yours. A personalized "thanks for considering my book" note might increase your chances of being the book club's selected read down the road.


Ask a hundred authors if there's a magic formula for selling books, and you'll probably get close to a hundred NO answers. But ask a hundred people if they like receiving thank-you notes in the mail, and I bet you'll get close to a hundred YES answers. So what do you have to lose? It certainly can't hurt, and, as a bonus, it feels pretty good to do something nice for someone else.


-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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Use a personal touch when reaching out or following up

The power of a personal connection

1,000 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, marketing, writing, promotions, thank-you_notes
0

I am constantly in search of ways to build a brand. I come across article after article that breaks down the brand-building process into easily executable steps. I'm sure I've even written an article or two that features similar steps. Although, I hope I never presented the steps as easy. Granted, it's not rocket science, but building a brand is anything but easy.


One element of the process is particularly hard. Hard might be the wrong word. It is laborious, but it is a labor of love. I am, of course, talking about the quality of writing. Building a brand around a poorly written book is nearly impossible. I can sense some of you screaming, "There are plenty of badly written books that become bestsellers!" I agree, but those are exceptions to the rule, not the rule itself. An author who pens a poorly written bestseller or bestselling series rarely repeats the feat.


If you want a brand that will stand the test of time, you have to invest significant time into developing your craft, and you don't just develop your craft by writing. You develop your craft by studying the masters, attending workshops, mentoring other writers. You develop your craft by challenging yourself to grow as an artist.


A brand built on good writing has the potential to be more than financially rewarding. It can be utterly fulfilling. It is worth the investment of your time, and it will make the rest of the steps to building an author brand just a tad easier.


-Richard

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


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The foundation of your brand

That one thing

908 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, branding, author_brand
4

Beyond the book

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Oct 25, 2017

In order to sell lots of books, you may have to release versions of your novel that go beyond the physical book. Here are three other media platforms that may help you build your community and sell more books.

 

1. Audiobook: In another time, they were called books on tape, and then CDs became the preferred format. When we started consuming digital audio files, audiobooks were born. An audiobook version of your novel is a natural transition. I have taken the leap, and I have to tell you I had a blast working on them. From selecting a narrator to uploading the files, developing an audiobook is a truly exhilarating process. The fact it can grow your readership (listenership) is a delightful bonus.

 

2. The stage: I know it sounds like a stretch, but a stage version of your book has the potential to grow your audience. Granted, that audience will be limited to the people in the theater, but social media gives them their own platform to tell their friends and followers about the adaptation of your book to a play. I attended a play in California where the playwright sold and signed copies of her book after the performance of her play based on the book. By the looks of it, she did very well.

 

3. Podcast: This is kind of a mixture of an audiobook and a stage play. The podcast version of your book mimics radio theater. Like a stage play, you would use actors to act out the parts. Unlike a stage play, you would serialize the material and present each segment via a podcasting service on the same day and at the same time. The hope is that you will build buzz as folks wait in anticipation for your next chapter.

 

-Richard

 

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

 

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What makes you different?

The Grassroots Marketing Ripple Effect

1,809 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: books, marketing, selling, promotion, podcast, audiobooks, platform
4

My editor once told me that the way to write an interesting novel is to put a series of obstacles in front of the main character. A successful author offered similar advice: put interesting characters into an interesting situation, and you have the foundation for an interesting story.


These statements may sound simplistic, but they are also true. Challenges create conflict, and good stories need conflict. The way your characters respond to obstacles also shows your readers what those characters are made of, who they really are. That leads to emotional connections - positive or negative - between your readers and your characters, which keep your readers engaged. If they aren't engaged, they probably won't be your readers for long.


It can be trying to come up with obstacle after obstacle, but if everything came easily to your characters, where's the payoff for your readers? Without the struggle, what's the point?


When I wrote the first draft of my first novel, I gave it to a trusted friend to read. She told me that she thought it was funny, but she also said "Everyone is so nice." I took her feedback seriously and added in some not-so-nice characters to clash with, to present obstacles in front of, my main character. At the time I didn't realize that what I was doing was adding conflict, but in hindsight I get it.


"Seinfeld," my favorite TV show of all time, was famous for being "a show about nothing." That was a marketing stunt of course, because a show about nothing would be boring. The more things that get in the way of what a character wants, the more interesting the story. So torture your characters (figuratively or literally, depending on your genre), and see how they react. Your readers will thank you.


-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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Quirks make characters real

What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever received?

1,308 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, writing, conflict, character_development
4

Genre cultures

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Oct 18, 2017

 

Genres are funny things. They don't just describe and categorize a book. Genres reveal a lot about their readers, especially devoted readers. Much like a region of the country may have a different culture from another region, genres have their own cultures. It's not only a fascinating component of a genre. It's actually a good thing from the point of view of a marketer.


As someone who has a book in a specific genre, you may be well aware of the cultural aspects of that genre. You may even be deeply influenced by that culture. That's great. You not only know where to find your readers, you know how to talk to them without committing a genre faux pas. If you are not familiar with your genre's culture, my advice is to start studying. True fans of a genre gravitate toward authenticity. When they believe you're an authentic member of their genre tribe, they will be a powerful volunteer sales force for you.


You want to know the benchmark literary pieces in your genre. You want to know the literary masters of those works. In fact, knowing this information isn't enough. You want to have an opinion on the great works in your genre. Read them. Study them. Talk confidently about them. Once you develop a reputation as a connoisseur of your genre, your social media community will be filled with folks who admire your knowledge and trust your opinion. You will have a legion of fellow genre-ites who will happily tell their friends and followers about you, growing your brand in the process.


-Richard

 

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

 

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Connect with Your Volunteer Sales Force

 

How to Manage Your Volunteer Sales Force

 

 

 

 

1,452 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: self-publishing, readers, publishing, promotions, branding, author_advice
4

I get that many (most?) people hate the "who vs. whom" thing, are convinced they'll never understand it, and wish it would just go away forever. If you fall into that group, here's a simple way to look at "who vs. whom" that might shed some light.


If in a similar structure you would use the pronouns I, HE, SHE, WE, or THEY, use WHO.


To illustrate, the following are similar structures:


  • WE live on that street. We are the people WHO live on that street.
  • THEY went to the movies. They are the people WHO went to the movies.
  • SHE will do a great job. She is someone WHO will do a great job.
  • HE wrote the novel. He is the man WHO wrote the novel.


If in a similar structure you would use the pronouns ME, HIM, HER, US, or THEM, use WHOM.


Again, to illustrate, the following are similar structures:


  • You can trust ME. I am someone WHOM you can trust.
  • You believe HER. She is a person WHOM you believe.
  • You saw THEM at the movies. They are the ones WHOM you saw at the movies.
  • You chose US to babysit your kids. We are the people WHOM you chose to babysit your kids.


While the above examples are straightforward, it's easy to get tripped up by more complicated sentences such as:


  • She is someone WHO I believe will do a great job.


It's understandable to want to use WHOM in this example, because it's followed by "I believe." But you're not believing HER, you're believing that SHE will do a good job.


Rearrange that sentence, and the correct answer becomes clear:


  • She is someone WHO will do a good job, I believe.


I hope that helps clear up the confusion!


-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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Grammar Tip: Be Careful with Tenses

Why Good Grammar Matters

1,167 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, grammar_tip, who_vs_whom
4

I know this a blog for authors, but allow me to jump into a discussion about a television show today. This show isn't just any show. It is perhaps the greatest show since Norman Lear's All In the Family. I am of course talking about Vince Gilligan's Breaking Bad. Having binged watched the entire series three times, I feel like I have an intimate knowledge of each character, and as a result, I know why the show works.


It doesn't work because Walt is a genius who uses his brain to get out of the toughest spots. It doesn't work because Hank is a crack DEA agent with incredible instincts. It doesn't work because Skyler is a devoted mother who will do what it takes to keep her children safe. It doesn't work because Saul is the greatest legal mind in New Mexico. It works because Walt, in pursuit of doing a noble thing, commits horrible atrocities and ultimately puts his family in grave danger. It works because Hank is so single-minded that he bends the law to bring down the bad guys. It works because Skyler loses sight of the best way to keep her family safe and thinks she can safely manage a criminal empire.


In other words, it's the flaws of the characters that make the show so innovative and great. If they were good people who never violated common (and even uncommon) morality, the show wouldn't have lasted a full season. Remember that as you write your next novel. It's not the good that your characters do that sets them apart, it's bad they do in pursuit of good.


-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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Character traps

Make Your Own Rules

907 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, character_development, character_flaws
3

Your author manifesto

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Oct 11, 2017

If you've lost your way, it is time to take a stand. It is time to take ownership, to dive in head first, and shout out what you believe with passion and vigor...Well, don't shout it. Write it down.


Speaking as an author, I know how hard it is to build a brand and sell books. In a word, it can be daunting. You can get frustrated, even disheartened along the way when things aren't going as well as you imagined they would. This can lead to a lack of enthusiasm and focus. Your branding efforts will falter, and you may even be tempted to walk away from your dream.


Don't. Sit down and write your author manifesto. Turn that disappointment into passion. Why did you write a novel? What do you want readers to get out of books? Are you a storyteller that just wants to get characters from point A to point B or is there subtle commentary on the state of the world in your work? Write everything that writing means to you. Remind yourself why you devoted time and passion to writing your book. Feel that passion again.


You can do this privately or publicly. I leave that aspect of the manifesto to you, but be aware, if you choose to go public, you are inviting others to comment. That can be a vulnerable position. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be a little nerve-racking.


Find that burning desire you once had to write your book again. Write your author's manifesto. 


-Richard


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


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Why did you write your story?

Quashing self-doubt



1,362 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: author, publishing, writing, draft, craft, branding
2

Word-of-mouth is a powerful force, and there's nothing wrong with encouraging your fans to tell their friends about your book. The key word here is fans. It's clear that a person is a fan of your book if she writes a favorable review on her blog, if he sends you an email telling you he enjoyed it, if she signs up for your newsletter, etc. In those situations, ask away!


What I don't recommend is asking people who are not fans to act like they are. I recently received an email from a self-published author, whom I hadn't met, asking me to forward a one-page description of his novel, which I hadn't read, to my network of contacts. The "description" he included was essentially a glowing review of his book. It was also written in the first person. That meant that if I did send it to anyone, it would appear that I'd written it.


What would you have done in that situation? I imagine the same thing I did, which was to thank the author for getting in touch and to tell him I couldn't promote a book I hadn't read. I felt bad for him because he had clearly put a lot of effort into his outreach. His email to me was personalized, which got me to read it - good! If he'd only added in the additional step of offering to send me a copy so I could read it before possibly recommending it, who knows what might have happened. I'm always looking for a good read.


If right now you're thinking, "I don't know if I have any fans to ask for help," you can start by including a note in your email signature along the lines of, Did you enjoy my book? Please tell your friends! If it results in a recommendation, it will be an honest 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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Marketing tip: make it easy for readers to contact you

Marketing idea: encourage your fans to spread the word

1,053 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: marketing, author, promotions, word_of_mouth
10

Want to write a successful book? Here are the three key elements as I see them to penning a novel that will stand the test of time and reach a broad audience.


1. Deep rich characters: Great characters can be genre benders. J. K. Rowling wrote a young adult fantasy novel about wizards, magic, and fantastic creatures that appealed to more than young adults with an affinity for wizards, magic, and fantastic creatures. Rowling made her characters believable. Even though they carried wands and attended a school for wizards, she made them vulnerable and flawed and essentially like the rest of us muggles. Her Harry Potter books are the very definition of genre benders. They definitely reach demographics beyond the young adult fantasy readers.


2. A tight plot: Nothing drives me crazier than a sloppy plot. A tight plot means a logical progression of information that leads to a satisfying conclusion. It doesn't necessarily mean that it's unique or clever. It means that there is a place for everything and everything has its place. A Simple Plan by Scott Smith is a fairly common conceit. Three guys find a bag of money, and their attempt to keep it and split it three ways leads to corruption, paranoia, and murder. The book is an entertaining read because Smith stays on point with the plot. He never loses sight of it.


3. Passion: Readers can sense when a writer phones it in. It's hard to explain, but when an author approaches a story with passion it becomes the book's DNA. The reader can feel it in the pages. Write with passion. If you're not feeling it on a particular day, walk away. Leave it for when the passion comes back.


There you have it. Three areas to help hone your craft. Focus on these and the other elements of story will follow.


-Richard

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


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The bestseller formula

The plot

1,505 Views 10 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writers, plot, character_development, story_elements
1

Auditing your brand

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Oct 4, 2017

 

In a previous post, I discussed the importance of auditing in the business world. It's a practice conducted on a regular basis in order to gauge past performance and current levels of inventory. Essentially, it's used to get an accurate barometer of where a company stands financially. The results of the audit determine how the company will move forward in the most productive way possible.

 

 

 

As an author selling a product, you are a business, and you should be doing periodic audits just like companies with thousands of employees. Before, I encouraged you to audit your readers. Today, I'd like to explain the importance of auditing your brand. You want to take a deep, hard look at what brand practices have been hurting your business and what brand practices have been helping your business. It can be a comprehensive and difficult task, but here are few core metrics you will want to understand in order to build your brand.

 

 

 

1. Where: What platforms are you using to build your brand? Hopefully, you're using multiple platforms. If you aren't, consider changing your strategy and incorporate two or three to help grow your brand's community. If you are using multiple platforms, rank them. Determine which one results in the most engagement and make that your primary plank in your platform. Look into ways you can advertise on the site in a cost-effective way, and bring more people into your brand's community.

 

 

 

2. How: Are you sending a consistent message? Remember, an author brand shouldn't be all things to all people. It reflects your true self. The best way to stay on message is to do just that, be you. Don't try to be what the reader expects you to be.

 

 

 

3. How often: Are you active enough on social media? Are you posting a status update or tweeting only a couple of times a week or are you doing it multiple times a day? Like it or not, the more active you are, the better your opportunity to grow your brand and sell more books.

 

 

 

These are just three areas of your brand strategy you should examine first. The more you conduct these audits, the more nuanced they will get, but for now, set dates on your calendar to audit your brand four times a year to examine these three key elements of building your author brand.

 

 

 

 

 

-Richard

 

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

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Be Authentic to Build Your Brand

 

How to build a brand without even really trying

 

 

 

 

1,077 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, promotions, brand, branding, author_brand, author_advice
5

 

Here are three building blocks of a good marketing campaign, with resources for each:


1)   Website



Andiamo Creative: www.andiamocreative.com

Author Support: www.authorsupport.com


Note: Andiamo Creative recently revamped my website if you'd like to have a look: www.mariamurnane.com.


If you're good with design tools and/or your budget is tight, free services such as Wix, Website Builder, and GoDaddy are options. (Just be careful not to end up with a site loaded with advertising, which can look gauche and turn off potential readers.)


2)   Newsletter

I recommend using a newsletter program over email for multiple reasons, such as the option for subscribers to opt in (or out), and your ability to track subscriber engagement. Two solid vendors are:


Mailchimp: www.mailchimp.com

Constant Contact: www.constantcontact.com


I use Mailchimp, which is free for unlimited messages to less than 2500 subscribers, and $30+ per month on a sliding scale of subscribers from there. (Click here to see what a recent newsletter looks like.)


3)   Business cards, postcards, bookmarks, etc.

Easy-to-carry giveaways with information about your book are a great marketing tool, and the following vendors offer fantastic pricing:


Vista Print: www.vistaprint.com

Got Print: www.gotprint.com


I recently ordered 250 customized, two-sided, color business cards from Vista Print for $22.99. (I believe there are also more basic card options for free.) Each of my cards includes my website color, logo and tagline: Bestselling novels about life, love and friendship.


Book marketing is hard work and takes a lot of energy, which can leave authors of every genre feeling overwhelmed and discouraged. While there's no magic formula for conducting a marketing campaign, the basic elements above will get you started, and in my opinion that's half the battle.


-Maria

https://createspacecommunity.s3.amazonaws.com/Resources 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 www.mariamurnane.com.


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Marketing Tip: Business Cards

Book Marketing Tip: Be Resourceful

2,125 Views 5 Comments Permalink Tags: marketing, websites, promotions, newsletters, email_campaigns
4

One of my favorite books is The Dog of the South by Charles Portis. If you aren't familiar with Portis, he's probably best known for his novel True Grit, the same True Grit Hollywood adapted not once but twice for the silver screen. True Grit is a great book, but it features characters with extraordinary...well, grit. And beyond grit, a couple of them are skilled at dealing with bad guys.


The Dog of the South features a protagonist by the name of Ray Midge. There is nothing extraordinary about Midge. He's just a normal guy whose wife has left him for another man, and they've left for Mexico and Central America in Ray's car. Ray sets out on a journey to get his car back. He doesn't have any special skills. He doesn't even have grit. He just wants his car back, and if he gets his wife back, he'd be okay with that too.


For my money, the ability to make Ray Midge so compelling is much more impressive than making a character like Rooster Cogburn compelling. Cogburn had his demons. He had a rough and tumble past. He lived a life that left scars. He's ripe for the spotlight. Ray was just an everyday Joe who had a bad break. From a storyteller's perspective, building a story around that type character takes a yeoman's effort. Through Midge, Portis demonstrates his own extraordinary skill at character development, and I tip my hat to him.


How about you? Can you name a book that features an ordinary character in such a compelling way?


-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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Character Development Lessons from Breaking Bad

Why the development of secondary characters matters

1,390 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, character_development, protagonist

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