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If there's one issue I encounter more than any other reading indie books, it's the lack of editing. And by editing I don't mean just proofreading. Developmental editing and copy editing are different than proofreading—and also different from each other.


Here's a quick explanation of the two:


Developmental editors help identify and fix problems with the major elements of your book, such as plot, character development, pacing, and style. A developmental editor takes a bird's-eye view of the story and makes suggestions - granular as well as broad - on how to improve it.


An example of a granular suggestion: "When Joe and Stephanie go to the coffee shop, it doesn't fit with Joe's character to order nonfat milk."


An example of a broad suggestion: "Consider eliminating the Andrew character. He seems to play the same role as the Sam character."


Copy editors, like proofreaders, have eagle eyes for typos, missing words, punctuation mistakes, and grammatical errors, but they also pick up excessive repetition of words/phrases, timeline inconsistencies, geographical inaccuracies, etc.


Good copy editors also catch random mistakes such as:


"When Joe and Steph go to the coffee shop, Steph is wearing a red dress, but when they are at dinner afterward she is in a pink dress."


I recommend hiring a developmental editor (the pros at Girl Friday Productions are amazing), but you can probably beg a friend or two to copy edit. Before I submitted my first novel to literary agents I printed out three copies, bought a box of red pens, and handed the manuscript to three friends who love grammar and writing as much as I do. I was floored when I saw how many mistakes they found! It's amazing how after so many hours of writing and rewriting, your eyes see words that are not there - or fail to see extras that are.


-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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Increase your productivity by wearing one hat at a time

Are you capitalizing words that shouldn't be capitalized?

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I recently read a novel that was heavy on dialogue without a ton of attribution, which I like, because I don't think a conversation needs "he said" or "she said" after every single sentence. However, the author of this book had a habit of going two or even three pages into a conversation without any attribution of the dialogue, so I found myself repeatedly losing track of who was speaking. I kept having to go back to the beginning of the conversation and use my finger to follow along, often saying the name of one character out loud every other statement until I reached the point where I got lost.

 

That is not something you want your readers to do.

 

I believe dialogue should have attribution, but not too much. The key is to find a balance.

 

For example, here's TOO MUCH attribution in a conversation between Joe and Simon:


 

"I don't think you should go to the party," Joe said.

"Well you can't stop me," Simon said.

"I'm serious. Please consider staying home," Joe said.

"I appreciate your concern, but I'm going," Simon said.

Just then a bolt of lightning struck, and Simon and Joe both looked at the door.

 

Following is the same conversation with less attribution:

 

"I don't think you should go to the party," Joe said.

"Well you can't stop me," Simon said.

"I'm serious. Please consider staying home."

"I appreciate your concern, but I'm going."

 

Just then a bolt of lightning struck, and Simon and Joe both looked at the door.

 

Which conversation reads better to you? When I read the first one, I think, "Why is the author using so much attribution?" When I read the second one, I think about the story and only the story. That's what you want your readers to experience.

 

-Maria

 

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Writing tip: Don't "tell" on top of beats that "show"

 

Writing tip: Be careful not to overdo the beats

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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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The Halo Effect

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Feb 7, 2018

Should you chase the Halo Effect to sell more books?

 

I'm short and bald.... Well, shortish. According to the unwritten rules of personal bias, those are two strikes against me. I get no love from the Halo Effect.

 

I should explain. The Halo Effect is when you and I (independently or collectively) judge someone based on our personal biases. For example, tall men are generally viewed as strong and powerful before anything is even established about them. They don't have to speak a word before they are viewed as leaders. Obviously, not all tall men are leaders, but we have a cultural bias that often times causes us to assume that they are. They are given the benefit of the doubt. I'm sure there are tall men reading this, and they are countering the above statement with a litany of incidences that prove there are more drawbacks than benefits to being tall and male, but that is beyond the discussion I want to get into. What I'd like to discuss is how the Halo Effect impacts a writer when it comes to character development.

 

Think about it. If you want to know what your own personal biases are, look at the characters you've developed, particularly your protagonists, and then look to see how your personal character bias matches or defies societal norms. The question you are faced with is would it help you sell more books if you developed characters that are more in line with what society considers appealing.

 

Personally, I’d advise against chasing the Halo Effect in an effort to sell more books, but I fully admit that I don’t know if that is the right "business" move.  A lot of romance novels do very well, in part because they include characters that take full advantage of the Halo Effect.

 

I guess I'm perpetually pulling for the underdog. I love it when the shortish, bald guy gets the win.

 

-Richard

 

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

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Character Development Lessons from Breaking Bad

The ordinary protagonist

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Here are some words that sound similar but have very different meanings:


Complement vs. Compliment


Complement means to go well with, supplement.


  • That dress really complements the green in Jennifer's eyes


Compliment means to flatter


  • Gloria wants to compliment Jen on her how well her dress complements the green in her eyes.


Complementary vs. Complimentary


Complementary means goes well with, or acts as a complement.


  • That dress is complementary to the green in Jennifer's eyes.


Complimentary means offering flattery or praise. It also means free.


  • Gloria was quite complimentary of Jennifer's pretty dress.


  • The tickets to the theater were complimentary as a thank-you for her charitable donation.


Assent vs. Ascent


Assent means to agree or approve.


  • After hours of deliberation, the condo association assented to Larry's request to add a deck to his unit.


Ascent means the act of moving upward.


  • Gloria's rapid ascent of the corporate ladder was much deserved.


Amiable vs. Amicable


Amiable means friendly and refers to a person.


  • Jennifer's amiable demeanor helped her smooth things over with the customer after she accidentally spilled a cup of coffee on him.  


Amicable means friendly and refers to a relationship.


  • George and Luisa are no longer living together, but they came to an amicable agreement about how to divide up their furniture.


Refer vs. Recommend


Refer means to send or direct for treatment or information.


  • Laura's primary care doctor referred her to a specialist for her knee pain.


(There are other meanings for "refer," but this is the one that gets confused with "recommend.")


Recommend means to endorse.


  • Laura's primary care doctor recommended a specialist for her knee pain.


What word pairs trip you up? Please share in the comments!


-Maria

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


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Refresher on who vs. whom

More words that shouldn't be capitalized

372 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, writing, words, grammar, homophones
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Who or what you write for and when are crucial to a book's development. Writing a book is a process that follows three basic stages. Violate the order or skip any of the steps, and it could cost you readers. Here are the three stages as I see them:


Stage one:  Write for the story. Every word, every paragraph, every chapter goes from your head onto the page with one purpose in mind: advancing the story. Your job is to poke and prod at the edges of the plot you are chasing and develop your characters along the way. Allow yourself to be outrageous, offensive, and unhinged. If you hold back here, you may be missing out on a great twist or direction for you story. Just let go and the let the words fly.


Stage two: Rewrite for the reader. Time to tear your fictional world apart and make it palpable for the reader. I'm not saying to strip it of all controversy and ugliness. I'm saying make sure every element truly serves the story. If it does, keep it. If it doesn't, cut it, no matter how interesting and well-written it is. It has to go in order to keep the reader locked in and ready to turn the next page. This isn't about making your book politically correct. It's about making your book creatively sound.


Stage three: Edit for you. Nothing is worse for a writer than a poorly edited book. I know this from personal experience. I was young and in a hurry to get a book out there and sent it to market with glaring typos and worse. It was not a confidence booster when I read the early reviews and realized what I had done. A well-edited book is an author's best friend.


-Richard

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


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Word by Word

Re-readable books

501 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, book_development
2

What your brand needs

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jan 31, 2018

 

I'm going to take a difficult concept, use some reductive trickery, and turn it into a simple solution to help you build your brand. It's what we in the branding business call the "portability stratagem."


The difficult concept in this case is how do you continuously grow your brand and turn it into a reliable source of income? You are an author. Your brand is your name. It's what sells your books. In order to sell those books, you have to draw bigger and more connected crowds to your social media community. How do you do that?


Here's the reductive trickery. Your brand has to add value to your community. It has to bring a sense of worth to your friends and followers. So much so that they feel compelled to share the value of your brand to their friends and followers.


Some of you may be thinking that your book is your brand's value, and that is true to an extent, but here's the thing, it is static value. It doesn't change from the day you publish it. In order to grow a brand, you need to have dynamic value. You need to offer your community something continuously new.


 

In today's social media driven world, the most lucrative commodity is information. You have to find a way to bring new and exciting information to your readers. Whether it's related to your genre, your life, your hobby, etc., it doesn't matter. If it fascinates you, and you can communicate this information with passion and zeal, then it will reach people. It will add value to your brand.


-Richard

 

 

 

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

 

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Passive Income and Marathon Branding

 

Branding: The rule of productivity

 

 

 

 

581 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: book_marketing, branding, author_brand, author_branding, book_branding
1

A friend of mine named Red, who runs a small dark chocolate company, recently asked for my help with a few newsletters. English isn't her first language, so she wanted to make sure everything sounded okay. She sent me some copy she'd prepared and asked for my thoughts, and after a few sessions of back-and-forth she began sending out the newsletters, one a week leading up to the holidays.


Each time I received one, I was impressed by the presentation. Red had chosen an appealing font and beautiful images for each "issue," which I loved. Also, in addition to links to buy her tasty chocolate bars from her website, she included snippets from blog posts (all related to chocolate) with links to the full content, another way to encourage recipients to visit the site.


When I reached the end of the first newsletter I received, I saw Red had used Mailchimp to create it. Mailchimp, which I also use (but clearly not as well as she does), is free if the audience is less than 2,000 subscribers, with tiered pricing starting at $20 per month after 2,000. That means for many authors, especially indie authors, it's not just a way to create beautiful newsletters, but a way to create beautiful newsletters for free. Beautiful and free are two very good adjectives, wouldn't you agree?


Here are links to the newsletters Red made without spending a penny.


Example A

 

Example B

 

Example C


Constant Contact used to offer free newsletters as well for up to a certain number of subscribers, but now the basic package is $20 per month. So if you're on a budget, I suggest giving Mailchimp a try. It's easy to use and comes loaded with templates, so what do you have to lose?


-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: Build that email list

Another way to connect with readers between books

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If you want to reach your readers, you have to make your characters relatable. That is to say they have to be familiar. A reader must either see themselves in a character or see people they know in the characters you write. Here are three ways to do just that:


1. Don't make them perfect: Failure is a part of life. If your characters never fail and suffer the emotional and practical consequences of that failure, your readers are going to have a hard time connecting with them. Our failures make us human. They will make your fictional characters seem just as human.


2. Give them a moral code: Conflict builds character. Most of the time conflict comes from those moments when your moral code is challenged. This challenge presents you with the opportunity to right a wrong or it can push you to violate your own moral code. Your characters should face these internal challenges.


3. Give them something to lose: We all have something or someone (or the plural of both options) in our lives that if lost would devastate us. It would turn our lives upside down and shake us to our core. If the risk of loss would present itself, we would fight tooth and nail to prevent said loss. Give your characters something to lose, and they will share a universal vulnerability that we all share, and your readers will feel empathy for your characters' predicaments.


When you create characters your readers feel like they know, they cross the threshold from casual reader to super fan and become your most vocal supporters.


-Richard

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


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Character traps

Building character through conflict

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The questions

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jan 24, 2018

 

Really bad writers tell readers how great their characters are. Writing is about showing your readers how great your characters are, and the quality of your characters hinge on one thing. This one thing is actually an innate skill that successful writers possess. In a lot of books, authors construct a story based on this one thing.

 

This one thing is really a series of things, but it is the same concept repeated over and over again. The quality of your characters depends on the questions they have to face. If you're writing a mystery novel, it's chock full of questions. How your characters deal with these questions is the linchpin to their development.


And it's not just mysteries. Every genre of fiction is nothing more than a series of questions your characters face from page to page and chapter to chapter. Your readers learn about what your characters are really made of as each question is explored. The conflicts that drive plot provide your characters with the big questions, but smaller questions arise from the journey dealing with these conflicts.


These questions don't just exist in fiction. We all face unspoken questions every day of our lives, some small, some big, and the way we deal with these questions reveal our character. The stories we write simply mirror reality, most likely on a much grander scale and with much bigger stakes, but the concept is essentially the same.


If you want to write better, more engaging characters, pay attention to the questions you face in a day or week, and then put your characters in your shoes. Where would they diverge from your decision making? Where would they make the same decisions? What does that show you about their character?


-Richard


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

 

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Torture your characters

 

What would your characters do?

 

 

 

 

555 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: books, self-publishing, writing, characters, fiction, plot
2

Yesterday I had coffee with an old friend who wanted to ask my advice about a writing project. He said he'd been working on it for a couple years, so I figured it was a book and he was looking for guidance on how to go about getting it published.


I was mistaken.


My friend is a soccer coach and has some strong opinions on what's wrong with soccer in the United States. It turns out that his writing project is an essay about how to fix it. (For those of you who aren't soccer fans, the USA didn't qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Boooooo.)


Back to the story: given that my friend said he'd been working on his essay for two years, writing and writing and editing and editing, I balked when he asked if he could send it to me for feedback, thinking it was probably at least fifty pages long.


But again, I was wrong.


What I'd imagined to be a full-fledged manifesto was a grand total of one-and-a-half pages. That's it! His goal was to submit it as an op-ed piece to a local newspaper. That's his dream: submitting a one-and-a-half page op-ed piece to a newspaper. He has no aspirations of writing a novel or of ever getting paid to write anything. He admits that he's not very good, is way too wordy and needs a lot of help with grammar, but he doesn't care about any of those things, because he just loves to write.


Good for him!


After I left the coffee house, I kept thinking about what it means to "be a writer," or "set a goal," and how arbitrary and personal those definitions are. Have you set any writing goals for 2018? If so, please share in the comments!


-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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New Year's resolution: get writing!

Three writing tips for aspiring authors

 

501 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, setting_goals, new_year's_resolutions
2

Recently, I was driving up the Pacific Coast Highway with my family, and we passed a Maserati... Excuse me, a Maserati passed us. My sister asked no one in particular how much a car like that costs. I responded, "I don't know. The only thing I know about it is that it will go 185 mph." She was skeptical. "How could you possibly know that?" That's when I repeated the lyrics to Joe Walsh's "Life's Been Good."

 

My Maserati does one-eighty-five.

I lost my license, now I don't drive.

 

That led to a spontaneous group singalong of misquoted lyrics and ended with "Life's been good to me, so far!"


It occurred to me shortly after that, Joe Walsh didn't just write a great song. He wrote a darn good story. In fact, there are several good stories contained within the song. For example, the lyrics above tell you everything you need to know about what transpired without context. He drove his car recklessly. He got caught by the authorities. He lost his license and is unable to drive. Is there more to the story? Yes. Do we need to know the details to be entertained by the story? No.


The lesson here is that good writing is as much about what you don't say as it is about what you do say. The key is to construct the story in a way that doesn't need context. Driving 185 mph is dangerous and illegal. It's not a huge leap to assume that is why Walsh lost his license.


Don't spell things out for your readers. Sometimes it's their job to do that themselves.


-Richard

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


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Show them where to look

Don't insult your readers

606 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, book, writing, storytelling
1

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


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


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


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


-Richard

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


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Writing using science

What do you smell?

484 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, storytelling
2

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


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


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


  • I am sitting at my desk.


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


  • Gloria mailed me a letter.


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


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


A) Gloria took a photo of David and me.

B) Gloria took a photo of David and I.


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

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


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

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


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


A) Gloria took a great photo of me.

B) Gloria took a great photo of I.


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

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


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

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


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


-Maria

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


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Refresher on who vs. whom

Are you making this common grammar mistake?

545 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, grammar_tip
2

The bad guy formula

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jan 15, 2018

 

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


-Richard

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


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A messy character stew

The ordinary protagonist

297 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, character_development
0

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


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


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


-Richard

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


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Brandingvs. marketing

You are the brand not your book

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