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49 Posts tagged with the author_advice tag

Title issues

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Dec 26, 2017


What I am about to do is open a debate that could be so controversial that it will rock the literary world. There are passionate views on both sides of the issue, but I feel it is something that must be discussed. The conversation can help those novice writers struggling to know where to start.

Here we go.

I begin with a question. When do you come up with the title for your book?

I can tell you from my own experience that when I do "find" the title of a book, I write with a kind of unbridled creativity. The words come oh so much easier. Sometimes I find the title before I write the first word, and other times I find it after toying around with the characters and plot on the page. I can write aimlessly for 40 plus pages before the title comes to me, and when it does, it hits me like a bolt of lightning. I feel energized, and I can't wait to sit down in front of my laptop every day and carry out the theme indicted by the title. Sometimes that theme is subtle and sometimes it's implicit. It may not be obvious to anyone else, but I know the underlying meaning.

So, I open this controversial question here. When do you come up with the title for your book? Before your start writing? After you start writing? Or, heaven forbid, after you've finished your manuscript? There are no wrong answers. Everyone has their own process. What's yours? 

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


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The title sets the tone


Can your Book Title Affect the Way You Write?





1,185 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: publishing, title, genre, author_advice, book_advice


We have established that an author brand is not a corporate brand and it isn't quite a personal brand. It's a hybrid. You are selling a product and that product is tied to your brand, but the public has certain expectations when it comes to author brands that they wouldn't accept in a corporate brand. They expect authors to be much more candid than corporations, one might even say they expect author brands to show more emotions than corporate brands. Don't get me wrong, corporate brands do have an emotional identity, but it's usually a safe emotional identity. Author brands are given more leeway to be more expressive.

Do you know your emotional identity, and does your emotional identity match your genre? Before you answer that question, remember that I constantly preach that your author brand should be nothing more than a reflection of who you really are. Don't manufacture an online persona to match what you think you readers expect from you. For example, if you write horror novels, don't feel pressured to post macabre thoughts and creepy poetry to convince your readers that you are your genre. Be yourself.

But, your emotional identity is tied to more than how you express yourself online. It's also tied to what you share. Horror book and movie reviews, horror-themed convention and book fair news, and Halloween events: these are all horror-themed shares that will help establish your emotional identity without having to fake a "haunting" persona. The same strategy can be used for any genre and subgenre. Yes, be expressive, much more so than a corporate brand, but don't fake it. Be true to yourself.

If you've never asked yourself if your brand's emotional identity matches your genre, it's time to do so. 


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

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You are the brand not your book


Building your author brand





892 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: writers, genre, branding, brand_identity, author_advice

What I'm about to write, I've written before, but it bears repeating. Every NaNoWriMo it becomes an especially relevant topic of discussion, and that is when to self-critique your manuscript. My feeling is clear on this. Your first draft is supposed to be terrible. The first draft is essentially a blueprint. That's not to say you should set out to write something incomprehensible. Write your story as you feel it. Entertain yourself. Get the idea out of your head.


You can repair what you've written during subsequent rewrites. The first draft is where you develop your idea. It's where the little flakes of your story build and build and create an accumulation of characters, settings, dialogue, and plot that amounts to a complete story. Let it out with passion. As I said, write your story as you feel it. I use the word "feel" purposefully. The first draft is when you are closest to feeling the story you are writing. Stopping to critique your story as your creating the first draft interrupts those feelings.


So, I implore you. Write. Make mistakes. Be careless. Let the typos fly. Make your first draft embarrassingly bad. It is for your eyes only. Your test-readers, your editor, everyone else will see your first rewrite. But this first draft, it's just for you. It's a data dump straight from the space in your brain that houses your imagination to the page. Let your fingers fly across your keyboard and don't look back until you write “The End.”


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



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How to get through the first draft

Writing tip: when you get stuck, use all caps and move on




568 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: revisions, writing, draft, writing_advice, author_tips, author_advice

I have wrestled with the notion that email lists are still relevant in today's social media driven world for some time now. I am rarely excited when I get an email from one of the many groups, stores, and artists that have somehow gotten my email address. And by "somehow," I know exactly how. In my dazed and confused consumerism state of mind, I gave them my email thinking I would receive something of value from them in my inbox. I now realize these emails are almost never value-based. They are simply attempts to trigger my state of consumerism. And, in the end, I feel used.


Having said all that, I have come to the conclusion that email lists can be useful. I don't think they should be your primary source of marketing, but I do think they have a place in your marketing strategy. The key to making them successful is to think of one's inbox as a sacred place. One where trust can be strengthened between an author and reader. Don't use your email lists to sell something. Don't violate the reader's trust in that way. Use your email lists to inform your readers, and use it sparingly. I get emails from some establishments three and four times a day. Before I eventually take the time to unsubscribe from these lists, I will continue to do what I do now. Delete them without reading them. DO NOT ABUSE YOUR EMAIL LIST!


Make receiving an email from you a special occasion. Use your email list sparingly in order to make it more effective.


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



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Is email marketing effective?

Exclusive versus inclusive

923 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: marketing, ad, email, social_media, email_marketing, author_advice

Word count

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Nov 8, 2017

Years ago I struck up a conversation with a writer who proceeded to tell me about her book. As I am wont to do, I asked her the word count of her manuscript. She answered, "Penguin." I should mention that she was French, and there was clearly a language barrier. After a long awkward pause in the conversation, I asked the question again and got a less satisfying answer. She didn't know.


I tell you this story to point out that if you ever talk to me about your book, I am going to ask you the word count of your book. To me, word count matters. It tells me a lot about you as a writer and it also gives me a little insight into your book.


Knowing the word count of your book, tells me you've paid attention to the construction of your book. Depending on your answer, it tells me if you've abided by the unwritten rules of word count when it comes to genre. It tells me how engaged you are as a writer. 


There are a few times where word count isn't a huge deal. If you've written an illustrated children's book, word count doesn't matter. If you've written a book of poetry, word count isn't an issue. The same is true of graphic novels, and a select few other genres.


Know the word count of your book, especially if you're going to spend an evening with other authors. If someone with a publishing background asks you how long your book is, don't give them a page count or number of chapters. And whatever you do, don't answer penguin. 


-Richard Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

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


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General Word Count Guidelines

Using Word Count to Stay on Track

1,258 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: writing, genre, word_count, writing_tips, author_advice

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 Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

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





1,361 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: self-publishing, readers, publishing, promotions, branding, author_advice

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.






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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





1,020 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, promotions, brand, branding, author_brand, author_advice

If you?re still puzzled by the concept of show vs. tell, you?re not alone. I think many authors tell too much because they want to make sure their readers "get it." To that I say, "We get it!"

I recently finished a novel in which the author repeatedly explained why the characters were doing or feeling certain things when no explanation was necessary. As a result, I had a hard time getting through the book, and unfortunately I did not enjoy it.

Here are some examples, with some details changed:

  • I woke up the next morning with a headache from drinking too much vodka.

      The issue: I already know the character drank too much vodka, because the previous scene was all about that..

  • I pulled my hand back. Noticing the gesture, Ron asked, "You okay, beautiful?"

      The issue: I can infer that Ron noticed the gesture. If he didn't notice it, why would he ask the narrator if she is okay?

  • I looked at him and felt my cheeks flush with embarrassment.

      The issue: If her cheeks are flushing, I can infer that she is embarrassed.

  • I pulled out the pen and notepad I always kept in my purse in case I wanted to jot something down.

The issue: I know that a pen and notepad is there to jot something down.

In each of these examples, by telling me what was obvious the author pulled me out of the story. This happened over and over, and instead of getting immersed in the fiction I found myself thinking, "Why does the author keep telling me this?" You want your readers to feel engaged, so let them by trusting them to "get it."

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

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Show vs. tell: examples

Are you breaking the show vs. tell rule in your dialogue?

1,076 Views 6 Comments Permalink Tags: books, writing, showing, telling, writing_advice, author_advice, show_vs._tell

It is time to repeat an oft-repeated theme on this blog. In fact, I think it's something that can't be said enough. We are authors, and as authors, we feed off each other's successes. That is to say that if you write a book that becomes wildly popular and brings you fame and riches, I benefit, too. All indie authors do.


The point is other authors, even in your category and genre, are not your competition. They are your colleagues. Why? Because when a reader falls in love with a book, they don't put the book down and never read again. The opposite happens. They scour social media and the internet looking for a new book to devour. A reader that connects with a book inspires that reader to read more.


In point of fact, we are indie in that we have complete editorial and publishing control over our books, but we aren't indie in that we are in this alone. We all rely on each of us doing well. Success for one indie author can only lead to success for other indie authors.


Look, I know it's easy to look at the meteoric rise of an author and ask yourself, "Why not me?" But try not to think of it that way. Think of a fellow author's success as your future success. They are simply clearing a path and creating readers who hunger for more books to read and cherish. One of those books could be yours.


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



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Supporting Indie Authors

When to promote other indie authors

1,139 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, self-publishing, writers, author_collaboration, author_advice


I found out recently that I know someone who works for a think tank, and I am so envious. I've always wanted to work for a think tank. As a writer of fiction, I'm pretty sure I'd love just mulling over the issues that do and will affect society. To top it off, they pay you to think.

But, sadly, I don't see a job at a think tank in my future, but that doesn't mean I can't do what I do best and create my own fictional think tank. I have problems that need to be solved. Namely, how am I going to sell more books?

While I'm having a little fun here, I actually don't see why you and a few of your writer friends couldn't form your own little think tank that spends a couple of hours each month discussing marketing and branding strategies for authors. I'm talking about meeting in person or over video chat and hammering out ideas and building a solid plan that could benefit all of you.


Call it a collective or open-based branding. You are all working together to help each other traverse the rugged terrain of marketing. As a group, putting you heads together and constructing a plan, you are more likely to see the pitfalls and potential successes before you implement them. Be open to all suggestions and be respectfully honest with your feedback. Every member of your think tank has a vested interested in the success of the strategies you develop.

Now, get out there and start your own think tank.


-Richard Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

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


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Brand Buddies


Form an Author Co-op





1,258 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: writing, author_marketing, author_brand, author_collaboration, author_tips, author_advice

If I taught a class in writing, the following would be the outline for my syllabus:


1. Character – The care you take in crafting your characters is probably the most important time and talent you will spend writing. The goal is to create characters with whom your readers will make an emotional connection. That means you need to have more than a passing knowledge of what makes your characters tick. You need to do a deep dive on their background and relationships.


2. Plot – The temptation will be to show off and demonstrate to your readers how clever you are, but resist that temptation. Keep your main plot simple. Limit the number of twists and turns to just a few. Remember, character is what's driving this book. The plot should serve the characters not the other way around.


3. Subplots – This is where I have fun with secondary characters. I give them their own adventures within the story, a strategy that gives them much more depth. I believe it's crucial that your readers not only connect with the main characters but with supporting characters, too.


4. Conflict – There have to be clear stakes for your characters if they don't succeed, and those stakes have to be personal. The potential loss has to be painful and life-altering. Not only will that drive you to be more creative when things get tough, it will draw your readers in even more. The greater the stakes for a character they've connected with, the greater their interest.


5. Endings – You've caused your readers to bond with your characters. Give them an ending that reflects real life. What happens in real life? It goes on. Whatever happened to your main character, life doesn't end when the book does. Give a hint at what's to come next, even if you're not writing a series.  


Why did I share this with you? Am I trying to tell you how to write? No. I want you to do the same. Create a five-topic outline for a syllabus, not because I want you to teach a class, but I want you to be able to identify your own writing philosophy. Once you know that, you'll write with more confidence and approach each project with much more energy and enthusiasm.


-Richard Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

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

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Your writing philosophy

Your how-to-be-a-novelist syllabus

1,744 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: books, self-publishing, indie, writing, characters, drafts, plot, author_advice, writing_help


We all have our own systems for managing our lives. For example, I use a paper calendar and not the calendar on my phone. I know that's old school, but I love my paper calendar! I also have a paper to-do list that I keep on my desk, and I constantly have alarms going off on my phone to remind me of things on my to do list when I'm not at my desk. It's a hodgepodge system, but it works for me, which is the most important thing.

When it comes to book marketing, I adhere to the same philosophy: It doesn't matter what system you use, as long as you use a system. The more you do to spread the word about your books, the more moving parts there are, which makes it easy for things to fall through the cracks.

     Here are two ways I keep track of my various marketing efforts:


  1. Excel spreadsheet for media/blogger outreach
  2. My email in-box as a virtual to-do list


Excel spreadsheet for media/blogger outreach

Pitching media and bloggers for book reviews or inclusion in roundups such as beach/holiday/spring break reads can be fun at first, but it can also quickly become overwhelming if you don't keep track of whom you pitched and when, with what result. I use a color-coded system, e.g. yellow cells for things that need following up, green cells for secured reviews, red cells for passes. That way I can quickly scan the spreadsheet to see what needs to be done.


Email in-box as a virtual to-do list


I try to keep my in-box as small as possible, yet I never move or delete a message until I've done whatever action it requires. Years ago I tried moving messages into various folders (e.g. "articles to read"), but then I learned that I would rarely (actually, never) go into those folders. So I changed the system to one that works for me.

What systems do you use to keep organized? Please let me know in the comments!

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


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Marketing tip: connect with book bloggers


Marketing tip: ask your fans to promote you





1,662 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: marketing, organization, author_tips, author_advice


Today's branding rule is a simple one. Not that any of the rules have been particularly complicated, but this one is perhaps the easiest concept to grasp. You are an author, which means your brand is tied to your work. Otherwise it wouldn't be an author brand, it would be a personal brand.

The rule of productivity says the more books you have on the market, the bigger your brand becomes. That's it. As long as you do what you're supposed to do as an author--publish books--your brand has a greater likelihood of being discovered and growing.

Can you publish one book and establish yourself as a brand? It's been done, yes. Before Go Set a Watchman was published in 2015, Harper Lee was a well-established author after her one and only previous offering, To Kill a Mockingbird, was published in 1960. And I'm sure there are other examples too. Some may be recent inductees into the "overnight success" categories, but the truth is Harper Lee represents the exception to the rule. Such a situation is rare.

The rest of us must commit to writing and publishing as many books as we have in us as quickly as we can. The larger our catalogs of books available for sale to the public, the more opportunities we have of being discovered and solidifying our author brands. So, here&'s the shorthand version of the rule of productivity: Write. Publish. Grow your brand. Repeat. Write. get the point.


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

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The Power of Multiple Titles


You Have More Than One Book Inside of You





1,283 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: marketing, selling, branding, author_brand, author_advice, author_identity

The magic word

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Sep 8, 2016


Allow me to introduce you to a word that will help your author brand grow a solid foundation. It will give you much needed consistency that your readers will come to appreciate. It will help you develop an identity that is reliable. This one word will be the keystone to your brand's success.

What is this word? "No." No to marketing ideas that don't fit your personal brand. No to gimmicks that may have short-run success but carry long-term consequences. No to an interview with a blog or media outlet that lacks credibility, or even worse, has a bad reputation. Say no to paying for reviews or getting involved in ethically challenged "bestseller" strategies.


You are in this for the long haul. You don't want to just build a brand. You want to build a long-lasting brand that grows in popularity because of good, solid branding practices. Those practices essentially boil down to focusing on your craft first. Hone it. Learn it. Develop it. Write. Often. Care about the writing. Always. Be true to your art. Couple that with a concerted effort to connect with readers. Interact with them on social media. Just be a decent person who contributes to the human tribe. Be honest. Be respectful.


Finally, be persistent. If you want to be a working author, one who makes his or her living primarily through book sales, you have to constantly stoke the publishing fires. Don't be the author of one book. Be the author of multiple books over several platforms. The more you have to offer, the greater your chance of discovery.

Your author brand is only as durable as your willingness to say no to the wrong strategy.

-Richard Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

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

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Brand 101: brand sabotage


Be authentic to build your brand





802 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: author, promotion, branding, author_brand, author_advice, author_identity


An author brand is not a corporate brand, and an author brand isn't just a personal brand. An author brand is unique in that it combines approximately nine-parts personal brand and one-part corporate brand. Incidentally, you should know that part of my brand identity involves making up numbers to illustrate a point.



The point is that your author brand will reflect your personal identity while preserving the reality that you are also involved in a commercial endeavor: selling books. That is to say, you have the luxury of being candid about your beliefs and lifestyle, a strategy that corporations don't employ in an effort to appeal to as many consumers as possible. Your aim as an author is to find a narrow group of passionate consumers who will become your advocates and volunteer sales force. In order to engender this level of passion you will have to make a personal connection with your readers. In other words, your beliefs and lifestyle are essentially commercial tools to make that personal connection.



Your aim is to become a cultural representative, and that culture is of your own making. You set the rules. You define the philosophies. You guide the community that you will inevitably create, and you do all this by championing your own set of principles. You are a movement. Think about it, books can start conversation. They usher in trends. They can unite people from around the globe. A book is a powerful tool, and as an author you have the opportunity and responsibility to build a brand that becomes a cultural bellwether by simply being you.



-Richard Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

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



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Branding 101: Tools for Branding



Passive Income and Marathon Branding





1,187 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, promotion, publishing, author_marketing, author_brand, author_advice, personal_identity
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