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A few weeks ago I went to cheer on my pal Kelly, who was running the New York Marathon. That is twenty-six miles--and change! Insane, right? It's not like you can just roll out of bed and wing it. Preparing for a marathon is no joke. Kelly has a pretty demanding job, but she was determined, so for months she dragged herself out of bed before work and on weekends to put in the miles.

 

Her distance increased weekly until she was literally running for hours at a time, by herself, while her friends were off having fun doing other things. Yes, at times the training was boring (she's the first to admit it), and yes, at times she wondered why she was putting herself through such torture (she admits that too), but she knew her body wasn't going to get in marathon shape by itself. So she put in the work, day after day after day.

 

Kelly finished the marathon and is (deservedly) extremely proud of herself. She should be! She worked her tail off, and no one can ever take that accomplishment away from her.

 

Writing a novel is similar to running a marathon in the sense that it takes a great deal of time, effort, and discipline. A book isn't going to write itself, no matter how desperately you might want it to. Trust me; I've experienced that feeling a lot. To complete NaNoWriMo you have to sit down at your computer every day, before work or after work, or both, and write, day after day after day. Push the story forward, and keep going until you're done. Just like Kelly, you'll have worked your tail off to achieve your goal, and just think of how great that will feel.

 

-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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Productivity vs. Perfection

Writing Takes Discipline

1,102 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, author, writing, nanowrimo, national_novel_writing_month
5

Looking for a way to boost lagging sales? There's no magic bullet, but here are three strategies that may be the perfect solution for you.

 

  1. Cover Design: You've got a solid, compelling story. It's been edited by a professional or someone you know and trust. You're convinced that the pages between the covers contain every element a bestseller requires, but the sales don't come anywhere near your expectations. So if not the story, what's the issue? Maybe it's your cover. Authors aren't always designers, and what appeals to you may not appeal to your readers. Hand the cover design over to professional graphic artists and let them apply their talents to the package of your masterpiece.
  2. Multiple Formats: Gone are the days when a book may have had one or two iterations: paperback and hardcover. You are living in a world where there should be eBook, print, and audiobook versions of your book. To increase your chances for sales, providing the book in all three formats is a great strategy, and with today's technology, it's easier than ever to go the multiple formats route.
  3. Write More Books: Want to sell more copies of your first book? Write a second book and a third--and many more. The key to making it into today's publishing world is to have multiple offerings. Readers are met with a veritable cornucopia of choices when it comes to what book they'll read next. They are of two minds: making a safe choice or discovering a great new talent. As an indie author, you have the opportunity to satisfy both minds if you have a number of books for them to read. You can be that great undiscovered talent they know they can trust with a story.

 

Let's face it, selling books is hard, but by adapting the three strategies listed above, you can make things a little bit easier for yourself.

 

-Richard

 

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


 

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Selling Books is Hard!

Book Covers Can Affect Sales

7,081 Views 5 Comments Permalink Tags: books, authors, marketing, selling, sales, cover_design, increase_sales
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Read and Report

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Nov 4, 2015

I saw the following meme today, and it spoke to me: "Don't be afraid of artists who are better than you." I support the sentiment wholeheartedly, and I'm also puzzled that such a thing needs to be stated. The idea of comparing one's artistic talents with another's is foreign to me. It's a great big world, and there's room for all of us.

 

The meme actually ties in with the post I had planned to write today, so thanks be to serendipity. Instead of fearing other artists--authors in our case--whom you feel are better than you, be inspired by them. Be grateful for them. Envy is not a useful motivator; it's a step towards cynicism, which is not fertile ground for creativity.

 

Here's an assignment to help you gain perspective. Pick an author whom you feel has mastered his or her craft. Take your favorite book by that author and pick it apart. Examine every aspect of the story and analyze it. Set aside some time each week to report to your online community what you've discovered about this virtuoso. Encourage feedback. If you find weaknesses, point them out. No writer is perfect. Criticizing someone who inspires you is healthy. Personally, I love the imperfections as much as the perfections.

 

We aren't individual writers trying to make our way as authors. We are a community of artists supporting and learning from one another. Don't look at other writers as competitors; look at them as teachers. Take advantage of the lessons they offer.

 

-Richard

 

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

 

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You Are an Artist

Four Steps to Become More Creative

1,084 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: books, authors, book, author, revisions, feedback, creativity, criticism, writing_tips, author_tips
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In one of my previous writing tips, I discussed how distracting (and annoying) overusing certain gestures can be for your readers. The same can be said for overusing uncommon adjectives.

 

I recently finished a book in which the main character was described as "astonished" so frequently that I finally stopped reading and (once again) did a search to see just how many times the word had been used. The tally? Fifteen. Now I realize that fifteen is hardly an exorbitant figure, but while "astonished" is a great adjective, it's also quite memorable, so by its third or fourth appearance it was hard not to notice it. For the record, I encounter this problem with my own writing all the time. When I find myself using an unusual word more than a few times, I use the "find" function in Word to make sure it's not getting out of hand.

 

Here's the deal: You want your readers to be fixated on your story, not on how many times you've used a specific word. Unfortunately, in this particular instance I became fixated on the latter. That may just be my obsessive personality, of course, but right or wrong, the end result was that I didn't enjoy the story as much as I could have. Each time I encountered another "Ben was astonished," the pleasurable experience of being immersed in a novel was interrupted.

 

The novel in question was published independently, so I';m not sure if the author had a professional copyeditor review the manuscript. But if you're going the indie route, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have objective eyes review your work before you click "publish." If you can't afford to hire a professional, bribe your English-major pals to help. A red pen in the early stages is your friend!

 

-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

1,219 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: books, authors, author, self-publishing, writing, grammar, writing_tips, grammar_tip, advice_for_writers, adjectives
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Today's post is a bit different than ones I've done in the past. It's a request to my fellow indie authors. I know the struggles first-hand that you experience trying to bring attention to your brand and generate sales for your book. It's hard, relentless work that takes stamina and sustained energy to find success. We authors are constantly looking for angles to increase sales and find our marketing groove.

 

The one angle that I highly recommend staying away from is utilizing a tragedy to shift attention to your book. I'll give you an example of what I'm talking about without naming names. A gentleman has a talk show where he frequently interviews people who've undergone unspeakably horrible events in their lives. On occasion, when a particular event fits the theme for a book he's written, he will overtly suggest that the audience should buy the book on his website. I have no doubt that he generates sales this way, but it is the grossest form of marketing. And, in my view, it stamps his brand with a severe lack of tact and ethics.

 

You most likely don't have a TV show to compete with this gentleman's outreach, but you do have a forum. You have your social network. If you plug a book in a thread about a national tragedy because you feel the subject matter fits your book's storyline, you invite a string of moral indignation and run the risk of severely damaging your brand. So, my request is that you don't do it. Avoid the temptation to grab that kind of marketing opportunity. You will feel better about yourself for doing so.

 

-Richard

 

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

 

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How Not to Market

Use Common Sense in Book Promotion

2,541 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, authors, book, author, promotion, book_marketing, promotions, branding, social_media, marketing_strategy, marketing_tip
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I have learned over the years that there is a somewhat murky divide in this, the community of novelists. On one side, you have the group that counts themselves as writers. Prose is pieced together with painstaking precision. On the other side there are those that count themselves as storytellers. Here a clever plot structure is valued most. I am of the belief that one style is not better than the other. Both have their readership, and both contribute important works to the world of literature.

 

So what are you? Writer? Storyteller? Or are you that rarest of animals, both? Here are the distinctions as I seem them.

 

  • Writer - Think Herman Melville. Think William Faulkner, James Joyce, David Foster Wallace, etc. Writers challenge the reader, not with intricate plots and unexpected twists, but with language and deeply philosophical passages. There is usually more than one meaning to even the simplest of sentences. The writer plants a hidden message within the unfolding story and isn't terribly concerned if the reader ever finds it. The writer's love for words is usually apparent in the way they express themselves on the page.

  • Storyteller - Think Stephen King, Dan Brown, John Grisham, James Patterson, etc. Where writers construct dense prose, storytellers often craft twisting plots with layers of engaging complexity. The language used is, for the most part, simple and straightforward, and the passages rarely wade too deeply into the literary waters. The storyteller loves to enthrall the reader with the unexpected conclusion that leaves them awed and breathless.

I don't mean to say that writers aren't good storytellers and vice versa. I think there is plenty of crossover, but I do think when an author sits down to write a book, they approach it from one of these two vantage points. So, what say you? From which vantage point do you approach a book?

 

-Richard

 

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

 

 

 

 

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Storyteller vs. Writer

Write without Judgment

3,583 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: books, book, author, writers, publishing, writing, story, storyteller, telling, writing_advice
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A few weeks ago I received a nice email from a reader of my blog named Tanja. She had recently self-published a book and had a brief, specific question for me about contacting reviewers. (I appreciated that because I get a lot of emails that simply ask "How should I market my book?")

 

She and I chatted a bit, and she asked if I would have a look at the first few pages of her book on Amazon's "Look Inside" feature. In our conversation she had mentioned that she planned to buy some of my books, so I figured I would check out hers in return. However, I immediately noticed some big grammatical errors, so I stopped reading. I was hesitant to tell her, but I decided to be honest.

 

Her response? She was extremely gracious and appreciative. She explained that she'd had the entire manuscript professionally edited except for the initial pages I'd read, which she had tweaked slightly and forgotten to send back to the editor. She said she would correct the mistakes immediately.

 

My response? I told her I wanted to write a blog post about her response.

 

The last time I encountered a similar situation, the (many) errors I encountered were in the author's bio on Amazon. However, when I pointed them out and explained that they made me wary of reading his book, his less-than-gracious reply was along the lines of "no one reads author bios anyway." Thus my joy at this recent experience.

 

I hope you will check out Tanja's book, Heroes and Heroines, Stories of Love. I think she deserves a little love herself for allowing me to use her errors as the basis for this post. That takes courage!

 

-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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Why Grammar Matters

When YOU'RE Writing Marketing Materials, Be Careful with YOUR Grammar

2,562 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, editing, author, writing
1

In last week's post, Book Marketing Is a Numbers Game, I discussed how important it is to cast a wide net when reaching out to people and organizations about your book. Today I'd like to address the difference a personal touch can make once you've established contact with an individual who has agreed to help you in some way.

 

Several weeks ago I received a donation request from a woman I consider a casual friend. She was entering a bike race for charity, so I chipped in some money. A day or so later I received an e-mail from her and was excited to catch up a bit because I hadn't seen her in over a year. However, when I opened the message I was disappointed to realize it was a short, generic thank-you for my support. There was nothing personal in the message. And you know what? It made me feel a little used. Maybe that's childish on my part, but it's how I felt, and most likely I won't donate to her event next year.

 

Whenever I receive a message from someone about my books, whether it's to let me know one will be featured in a newsletter, book club, review, etc., or just to tell me they've enjoyed reading them, I make a point of replying with a personal note. (If you've ever contacted me through my website, you will know this is true.) It's important to me that my fans know how much I value their support, and that's hard to do with a generic auto-reply.

 

Keep this in mind as you approach your book marketing. It's completely fine to use stock copy about your book, but personalizing the messages even a little bit will make a big difference to the recipient. If you respect and appreciate people, people will respect and appreciate you back!

 

-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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The Power of a Personal Connection

Remember to Say Thank You

2,370 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, marketing, author, writing
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The results from your beta readers are in, and now you're faced with what to do with all the constructive feedback you've received. Keep in mind: just because it's constructive doesn't mean it should be implemented. It simply means it's a thoughtful opinion. Ultimately, you have to decide whether it's a valid opinion.

 

 

If you followed my suggestion of creating a questionnaire where beta readers could provide anonymous feedback, a lot of the guess work can be eliminated from which path to take. I created a rating system for various aspects of the story that I specifically wanted addressed. That rating system was your basic 1-5 scoring, with one being the lowest score. In addition, the beta readers were given the opportunity to leave a specific comment for each aspect of the story they were asked to evaluate. If any portion collectively scored a three or lower, I went to the comments and looked for a consensus opinion. If it was there, the fix was easy. If it wasn't, the fix wasn't as easy, but I still knew I had a rewrite ahead of me. If readers weren't getting what I was trying to say, they weren't getting it. The problem was mine, not theirs.

 

 

Now, there were points of contention for some readers that were countered with points of praise from others. That's when your gut becomes your guide. You have to decide, as the artist, if you hit the mark. For me, some of the criticism I received had less to do with the story and more to do with the reader's personal feelings about a topic. In that case, I didn't make changes. My job isn't to make everyone happy. Sometimes my job is to make people uncomfortable.

 

 

In those close races where your gut is telling you one thing, but your beta readers are telling you another, go with your gut. In the end, it's your story, and your author name is going to be attached to it. Do what the artist in you tells you to do.

 

 

-Richard

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

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2,330 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: books, authors, author, blogging, writing, promotions, writing_tips, author_advice
1

You've given away proofs. Now it's time to pick a release date. This is the target where you'll concentrate all your initial marketing hoopla. It will feature an explosion of fanfare and excitement.

 

Here are five items to keep in mind when planning your release date:

 

  1. "Release date" does not mean the day it is available for sale ? Much like a brick-and-mortar store does a soft-opening before a grand opening, I recommend doing a soft-release before your official release date. Make the official release date the focus of your marketing (advertising, interviews, press release, etc.), but keep the soft-release as inside information for your online community. When the book is available for sale, send out a breaking news announcement alerting them to buy, buy, buy before the official release date.

  2. Avoid the temptation to just get the book out there. Look for a date on your calendar that is relevant to you, to the book, or to the season. I know you're anxious to get reader feedback, but there may be an invaluable marketing hook that you're squandering in your desire to make the book available ASAP. Think as a marketer, not as an author.

  3. When the release date arrives, take to social media like an author possessed. Pin, tweet, update, blog, and vlog your heart out. Be excited. Be humble. Be grateful.

  4. Use your volunteer sales force (readers) to help get the word out. Find some way to reward them within your means. If that's simply a heartfelt public thank you, share it with the world. If you have deeper pockets, go as deep as you can. It is a gesture they are not likely to forget or let go unnoticed.

  5. Track your sales for the day for no other reason than to evaluate your marketing strategy for the release. If sales are good to great, you have a formula you can repeat for the next book. If sales didn't reach expectations, a new direction is in order. Pick your strategy apart and pinpoint what caused you to fall short.

 

We will get into more detail on item five next week when we examine your final marketing stage, the postmortem.

-Richard

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

 

 

 

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Stage Two of Marketing a Book: Outreach

Stage Three of Marketing - Proof Giveaway

3,105 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: books, authors, marketing, selling, book, author, self-publishing, writers, writing, book_marketing, promotions
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Welcome to the Weekly News Roundup - a collection of news, advice and opinions from around the virtual globe.

 

Books/Publishing

 

How to Make a Living with Your Writing - The Creative Penn

Joanna Penn reveals how she turned a passion for writing into a writing career.          

                           

Practice the Process - Retinart

To get good at what you do, you have to know how you do what you do.          

 

Film

                                                        

From the Archives: Famous Filmmakers - Huffington Post

Three filmmakers, known for taking risks, sit down with HuffPost Live to discuss the art and business of filmmaking.        

                                          

DIY or DIE: 10 No Budget Filmmaking Musts - Indiewire

Simple ideas that help you stay under the smallest budget. 

                                                                                                                                              

Music

 

Music Marketing with YouTube: Four Ways to Beef up Your Channel - Bob Baker's TheBuzzFactor.com

The power of video has long been a marketing asset for musicians.  

 

The Many Hats of an Indie Musician - Day in the Life of a Commercial Musician

It's a juggling act, but you get to do what you love.   

 

-Richard

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

 

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Weekly News Roundup- May 8, 2015

Weekly News Roundup- May 1, 2015

2,210 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, authors, marketing, selling, music, author, self-publishing, promotion, movies, writers, writing, promotions, musician, music_marketing, musicians, craft, filmmakers, branding, practice
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In our second stage of writing a book, we need to establish the miles you'll be logging on this journey. We've discussed word count on this blog before in a number of different ways. Today, we want to establish what your final word count will be, or if not establish, at the very least, estimate.

 

Wait, you say, I've only just begun. How can I possibly know how many total words my book will be? Establishing a word count goal can be tied to many different factors. Genres adhere to unofficial word count parameters. The type of book – novel, novella, or novelette – comes into play when deciding word count. Are you doing a novel and releasing it in a serialized format? That can impact your total word count on a per release basis. You are a factor in establishing a final word count. Are you on a timetable? Do you have an outline that maps out plot points precisely, and in order to keep to your vision, a certain word count works that breaks the unwritten genre rules?

 

Unfortunately, there's no formula for coming up with a definitive word count, but I will say that every time I've set a word count total, I have either reached that total or surpassed it by 10-15 percent. There's something about knowing how far you need to go that allows you to find your pacing.

 

If you want to make an educated estimate, you can search this blog or the internet for word counts based on genre. That is your best place to start before making your final decision.

 

-Richard

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

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General Word Count Guidelines

Stage One of Writing a Book: Idea Exploration

2,949 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, authors, editing, writing, craft, words, word_count, writing_tips, editing_process
8

I recently bought an indie book written by a very nice man I met at a conference a few years ago. He and I have stayed in touch since then, so I wanted to support him and his writing. I really hoped to enjoy his debut novel, but unfortunately I didn't get very far before I put it down for good.

 

The reason? The dialogue.

 

To be specific, no one used contractions, so everyone sounded like robots.

 

Well written dialogue draws you into the story and makes you feel like the people speaking are real. So to write good dialogue, use language that sounds the way people actually talk. And in English, that includes contractions. A lot of them.

 

Quick refresher: A contraction is when you use an apostrophe to shorten one or more words. For example:

 

Did not becomes didn't

Is not becomes isn't

Do not becomes don't

I am becomes I'm

He is becomes he's

 

Contractions aren't often used in formal writing, but they are for informal conversation, especially in the United States.

 

When I read dialogue with no contractions, to me everyone sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger, and eventually I get so distracted by the unnatural-sounding cadence that I give up on the story. Perhaps read your own dialogue to see if it passes the robot test. I'm pretty sure that if the author of this novel had done so, he would have made a large number of edits before sending the book to print.

 

-Maria

 

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

 

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Writing Tip: Does Your Dialogue Sound Realistic?

Finished Your Manuscript? Check Your Dialogue

8,983 Views 8 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, authors, writing_dialogue
2

Here's a small marketing idea that could lead to expanded exposure on a global scale. It's not groundbreaking, but it won't break your budget either. It's a long-haul plan, so don't expect an immediate return on your investment. Think of it as a side project that has the potential to grow your brand in a big way.

 

I live in a community that has a fairly large number of bed-and-breakfasts, small inns not affiliated with national chains, and vacation rental homes. The amount of amenities varies from establishment to establishment, but virtually all of them have a bookshelf filled with books. The titles usually cover a number of different genres and categories to match the variety of tastes of the different guests that stream in and out throughout the year. Why can't some of those books be written by you?

 

These places are either independently owned or run by small rental companies. It would be easy to find contacts and offer to send signed books for them to place in their properties. You would, of course, include a personal note in each copy inviting guests to join you on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Presumably, these guests could come from all over the globe. This could be a real opportunity to make contacts far and wide.

 

I've stayed in a number of these establishments myself, and even though I have an electronic reading device, I always end up going through the book collections made available to guests looking for a physical book. Who knows? Maybe next time I'm staying at a bed-and-breakfast, I could be reading your book.

 

-Richard

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

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Marketing Tip: Set up an Author Page on Amazon

The Brand and the Pseudonym

2,616 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: books, self-publishing, promotion, book_marketing, craft, social_media, author_brand, marketing_ideas, marketing_strategy, book_exposure
0

The Plot Plight

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Apr 22, 2015

My favorite book is an obscure title first released in 1933 called God's Little Acre by Erskine Caldwell. Well, it's obscure now. When it was released, it was actually both a commercial hit and the subject of controversy because it was deemed vulgar by some. By today's standards, it's not nearly as provocative as it was in the 1930s.

 

I write about it today because I can make the argument that the book is without a main plot. The catalyst for the action in the beginning is the patriarch of a deeply impoverished family's obsessive search for gold on his dying farm. It's a fruitless endeavor that ruins the farmland. This search for riches serves as a backdrop to the lives of the family members and the hardships that weave them together. There's an illicit affair that tears the family apart. There's a strike at a nearby cotton mill that ends in tragedy. There's a murder. The book is basically a scrapbook of events that paints the sad portrait of a family plagued by poverty. The futile search for gold is less a plot than it is a shadow cast by the family's endless misfortune.

 

A plot is described as the main event of a book that gives a story meaning. Other events, subplots, give a story depth. My dissection of God's Little Acre has me questioning my sanity. A book, I've been taught, must have a clearly defined plot. I've been encouraged to establish the plot early in a story. And I've been told repeatedly that a book cannot end without some sort of resolution to that plot. Caldwell did none of those things in God's Little Acre, but he managed to write a compelling, truly enriching story. How is that possible?

 

So, here's my question to you, dear writer, what is your philosophy on plot? Where is it established in your story? How clearly defined is it? Can you think of a book that contains a muddled plot, but still manages to deliver a gripping story?

 

 

-Richard

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

 

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The Importance of Plot Points

The Purpose of Subplots

2,057 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: books, authors, author, writing, characters, plot, development, craft, writing_tips, plot_point
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