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Hello CreateSpace authors! I wanted to take a few minutes to introduce myself, as I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to write a new weekly guest blog for CreateSpace. Why? Because while my book is traditionally published now, I started off going the indie route. My novel, a romantic comedy called Perfect on Paper, was initially turned down by several major publishing houses, and I was crushed. Crushed! But rather than give up on my dream, I independently published through CreateSpace and implemented a creative, grassroots marketing campaign in an effort to prove the big houses wrong. And it worked! Within a year, my book was picked up by AmazonEncore. Since then, Perfect on Paper has also been published by Random House in Germany and Cor Leonis in Hungary, and I've signed on with the same Hollywood film rights agency that represents the authors of Capote and Legend of the Guardians! My next book, a sequel called It's a Waverly Life, is scheduled for release by Amazon Publishing in November 2011, and I've recently begun writing a third novel in the series.


While I've certainly worked hard, NONE of the above would have happened without independent publishing. My novel would still be languishing in obscurity on my laptop as a Word document, gathering e-dust. Instead, I have thousands of fans clamoring for my next book, and I'm excited to be working on my third! Along the way I've learned a tremendous amount that I'm eager to share in this blog, including tips for completing that first manuscript, self-publishing mistakes to avoid, and creative ideas for getting the word out. If you have any specific topics you'd like to see me address, please include them in the comments below. I'm writing this to help YOU get to where YOU want to be as an author based on my own experiences, so your input is extremely important to me. I can't wait to get started - watch for my next post next week!


- Maria Contributors/MurnaneHeadshot.jpg

Maria Murnane writes romantic comedies and provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Learn more at


2,571 Views 1 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, books, authors, authors, marketing, marketing, selling, selling, promotion, promotion, blogging, blogging

Ingredients for a List: Pen, Paper, and the Oxford Comma

So, you've created a list. You've checked it twice. You're just making sure if you really need that comma after the second to last item on your list that comes before the "and." You know the one. It looks something like this: "I need avocados, cilantro, tomatoes, lime, and jalapenos to make my world-famous guacamole." Some have argued that the serial comma is not only unnecessary, but it actually creates an unintended pause in the sentence structure. Reports were rampant recently that the comma, known as the Oxford comma, was deemed unnecessary by none other than Oxford University Press. It seems the reports were not entirely accurate.


Yesterday, Mediabistro's GalleyCat ran a post that made it seem like Oxford University Press was dropping the use of its eponymous comma, also known as the serial comma. The story took off and became a Twitter meme so big that by today it had its own Associated Press story. But unfortunately for GalleyCat (or maybe fortunately, because it seems to be getting them a lot of clicks), it wasn't exactly true. The instruction to do away with the comma, which follows the last word in a series, appeared not in the OUP style guide, but rather the guide issued for the University of Oxford Public Affairs Directorate.


You can read the entire article on Atlantic Wire's website: Oxford Comma's Non-Demise Brings Twitter Comma Creation Fest


Microbudget Filmmaking Can Be Tough

At one time, when filmmakers didn't have a lot of money to make their films, they turned to low-budget filmmaking. But a funny thing happened on the way to low-budget filmmaking: it got really expensive. So, as creative people often do, cash-strapped filmmakers invented a new concept and gave it a label that will help keep the cost down: microbudget filmmaking. It's an affordable, but difficult approach. Todd Looby describes the process.        


Now, let me make sure I'm clear in my views that I respect microfilmmakers more than any other filmmaker, simply because it's more difficult. I also tend to like the first films by many directors more than their subsequent studio efforts, simply because you see the inventiveness and the brilliant ways they worked around constraints, pushing the boundaries of the medium and brilliantly transforming the subtle and ordinary to the profound.


You can read the entire article on the Filmmaker Magazine's website: THE MICROBUDGET CONVERSATION: A FILMMAKING TOOL


A Song That Wouldn't Exist Without Social Media

Technology changes music in more ways than the production and delivery. Technology inspires lyrics. Where would Lionel Richie be without the telephone? Where would The Buggles be without video, or the radio for that matter? Songwriters write about their lives and today's songwriters' lives include social media. Enter Greyson Chance, a 13-year-old pop sensation that makes Justin Bieber look like a social security recipient, and his new song Unfriend You.


As for why the YouTube phenomenon felt the heartbreak tune was fitting as the lead single off his debut album Hold On 'Til the Night, Chance explained, "I think 'Unfriend You' is an amazing record because, one, it's a breakup song, which breakup songs are always fun, and two, it's referencing social media, especially in this day and age, I think it's very important to reference social media in music."


You can read the entire article on MTV's website: Greyson Chance Gets Revenge In 'Unfriend You' Video



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


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Weekly News Brief - Books, Film, Music - July 1, 2011

Weekly News Brief - Books, Film, Music - June 24, 2011

863 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, books, authors, authors, book, book, music, music, filmmaking, filmmaking, musicians, musicians, filmmakers, filmmakers, grammar, grammar, comma, comma

It can take me several tries to come up with a perfect first line for a new novel. I will agonize over it. Often times, I'll write the first line and walk away. Let it settle in a bit. When I come back to see how it looks on the page, I will immediately delete it and start all over again.


We've all been taught the importance of a book's beginning. It's your readers' first impression of a story. If they like it, they will read on, but if they don't like it, they're likely to put the book down and never give it another thought. Most of us are taught that the beginning is the most important part of the story.


Or is it? I find myself sweating the final words of the book as much as I sweat the first words. The ending can either leave the readers satisfied and happy if done correctly or frustrated and angry if done poorly. The way you end your story may determine if they decide to read your next book or not.


As writers, we want every word of our books to be perfect and loved, but try looking at it from a publisher's point of view. As an independent author, you are a publisher after all. Where would you, the publisher, put the emphasis? Not sure? Here's a little exercise to help you determine what you value more:


Pretend you have 100 total points to spread out between your beginning and your ending. The number of points you assign to each section determines how good that section is. You could give both a score of 50, but that means your beginning and ending are both mediocre. Mediocre doesn't sell. As the publisher, what do you think sells: a stronger beginning or a stronger ending? Many of you would choose a stronger beginning in this situation, and I don't think you would be wrong. It's my opinion that a strong beginning sells more books than a strong ending.


However, it's an impossible choice as a writer. We don't want any part of our books to have less of an impact than the other. But with our publisher hats on, we tend to think in more practical terms. We see what the reader values more.


What's your opinion? Does the beginning or the ending matter more?



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


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Your First Line Can Help You Sell Books

The Importance of Endings

2,485 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, authors, book, writers, writing, beginning, ending

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book a few years ago called The Tipping Point. It's an excellent examination of how something becomes a phenomenon. In Web 2.0 parlance, it's all about how something goes viral. I found the whole thing fascinating and educational, but one particular discussion in the book really grabbed my attention: the role of "Connectors" in a viral campaign.


Connectors are people who have a talent for making friends and acquaintances. They have a large network of people they reach on a regular basis. Gladwell identifies Paul Revere as one of the most famous Connectors. He illustrates Revere's influence as a Connector by comparing his famed ride with William Dawes' ride that same night. Both men rode into the New England darkness in opposite directions delivering the same message, "The British are coming!" Revere moved the people along his route to action. He galvanized a movement to take up arms against the British army. William Dawes' didn't have the same kind of success. His warning had far less impact.


Why? Both men were delivering the same message. The simple answer is that Revere was a Connector. He had made friends and acquaintances throughout his life who listened to him when it counted. He gave the message a special kind of authority.


So what is the lesson for us? Look for the Connectors in your life to help you spread the word about your book. The great thing about Connectors is that they usually want to help. They love helping their friends out and being part of the action. The message is important, so be sure to keep it consistent, but from a marketing standpoint, the messenger is the key to getting the word out.



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


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It's Never Too Early to Get a Little Help from Your Friends

The Pursuit of the Retweet

1,954 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, books, authors, authors, marketing, marketing, book, book, promotion, promotion, message, message, messenger, messenger

An Author's Work is Never Done

The Philadelphia Inquirer has discovered something that we authors have known for awhile: an author's work isn't done once the book is available for sale. One must toil and trudge in the world of self-promotion. It doesn't matter if you're published independently or traditionally; authors have to engage themselves in the marketing process. The Inquirer learned this while profiling author Jen Miller.


Although many might still consider it a glamorous gig - write a book, reap the rewards! - selling those books, especially for first-time authors, has become a lesson in perseverance. Stand-alone newspaper book sections, or even substantive morning TV and radio talk shows that would discuss the books, have dramatically decreased in numbers, as have the publicists who could book such appearances. There are fewer bookstores at which to hold signings and even fewer libraries that have the ability to hold author series. While publishers might still invest resources to promote a high-profile author, more of the selling part of the literary life is falling to the writers.


You can read the entire article on Author, author, plug that book!


Have Camera, Will Document

The seemingly impossible barriers to filmmaking have all but vanished. The equipment is affordable. The distribution options are numerous and easily accessible. The only real obstacle filmmakers face today is finding chunks of time to shoot their projects. Some may even call this the golden age of filmmaking. In fact, filmmaker Steve James did just that, albeit for a very specific kind of filmmaking.


Best known for Hoop Dreams, his 1994 portrait of two young basketball hopefuls (which won prizes including the Sundance audience award), James believes many of the brightest creative talents are now turning to documentaries. "I hope it's not like the real estate bubble, but I sincerely believe we are living in a golden age for documentary film-making," he says, speaking from Salt Lake City; this week he flies to Britain to give a masterclass at the Sheffield Doc/Fest and screen his new documentary The Interrupters. "The quality is incredible," James enthuses. "Before, people used to want to make narrative films, but suddenly people realised what you could do with documentary."


You can read the entire article on The Guardian's website: Steve James hails a 'golden age of documentary film-making'


Crowd-sourcing the King of Pop

Michael Jackson may have passed, but his music lives on. In fact, his estate has released some new material. When it came time to put a video together for his new song, Behind the Mask, they didn't want a video featuring archived footage of Jackson. They wanted something fresh and new, so they turned to the late pop star's fans for help. They incorporated the concept of crowd-sourcing by having fans contribute video clips and editing them together into a video for the new single.


Fans had access to a template video that was posted in March and were asked to shoot video footage of themselves executing a Jackson-like dance step, choreography routine, facial expression or other moves. They were integrated into a 4-minute video that incorporates more than 1,600 quick shots selected from among entries submitted from 103 countries. Most are young men and women in their teens and 20s, but there are also snippets from 2- and 3-year-old mini-MJs. Jackson's reach appears not to be limited to one species, as there's also a section from fans who shot their pets moving to the music.


You can read the entire article on The Los Angeles Times' website: Crowd-sourced video for Michael Jackson's 'Behind the Mask' premieres



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


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Weekly News Brief - Books, Film, Music - June 17, 2011

Weekly News Brief - Books, Film, Music - June 10, 2011

1,635 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, books, authors, authors, marketing, marketing, book, book, music, music, filmmaking, filmmaking, documentary, documentary, films, films, filmmakers, filmmakers, crowdsourcing, crowdsourcing

On Monday, I asked a question about marketing and talent and skill. Today, however, let's focus on writing. Does writing take more talent or more skill? As stated before, talent is something you are born with that just comes naturally to you. Skill is something developed over time through study and practice.


When people find out I'm a novelist, I am always surprised when they give me an unsolicited comment about their lack of writing talent. They insist they could never write a book. "Sure you could," I usually say, "if it's something you really want to do." That's when they usually tell me they just don't have the discipline.


And that's the core of the matter. Writing a book takes discipline. Since no one is forcing us to write a book, the discipline authors invoke usually stems from one thing: desire. We have a deep and burning desire to write. It drives us to write, even if there is little to no external reward for our efforts.


My desire to write has made me a better writer over time. The first thing I wrote was horrible. If you had the pleasure of reading it hot off the presses, you probably wouldn't have seen any talent for writing whatsoever. You may have even advised me to pursue another line of work. The last book I wrote was far superior to my earlier work. Why? Did I get more talented or did I increase my skill in the craft? 


Clearly, there are talented writers out there. Harper Lee wrote the perfect book the first time out of the gate, but she's an exception to the rule. The desire to write drives us to improve our craft by practicing. Writing skill is bound to develop as a result. There are so many ways to develop your skill as a writer -reading the greats, taking writing classes, participating in workshops, etc. - but I believe the best way to develop your skill as a writer is to simply write. Keep your head down and fingers on the keyboard and just write until you find your voice. Feed your desire. So, perhaps the answer is that writing isn't strictly a talent or a skill. It's a desire to produce the best possible work we can.



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


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Gaining Perspective When Writing

Why Are You An Author?

2,513 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, books, books, authors, authors, authors, book, book, book, writers, writers, writers, writing, writing, writing, craft, craft, craft, talent, talent, talent

Talent is something you are born with. It just comes naturally to you. Skill implies something that is developed over time. You learn the process, practice it, and may even fail many times before you master it. That brings us to our question: Is marketing more talent than skill, or is it the other way around?


Now I realize there are several components to marketing. You must develop a message for your marketing campaign. You have to select the media through which to deliver your message, and in our independent publishing world, you have to be the messenger. Certainly education and experience help you raise your game in these arenas, but will they help if you have no talent for marketing? 


Marketing professionals like Gary Vaynerchuk and Seth Godin are considered gurus. Vaynerchuk is a whirlwind of personality who approaches marketing like the Allies storming the beaches of Normandy. He hosts an active blog, records frequent personal videos, and makes numerous appearances. He basically saturates the web with his presence and personality. Godin, on the other hand, takes the low-key approach. He hosts an active blog and makes several high-profile appearances every year. He is all about the information. Two different gurus with two different styles; they may have been born with a certain talent for marketing, but it's more likely something they've developed as a skill over time through practice and study.


This is encouraging to those of us who aren't born marketers. Marketing is a skill you can develop and hone. It takes a keen sense of observation and a lot of hard work to master the ins and outs of marketing. Given that there so many things to know about marketing - demographics, media outlets, effective messaging, branding, etc. - it just makes sense that skill has a bigger impact than talent. If you apply yourself, you can succeed. Who knows? You may even become a guru like Vaynerchuk and Godin.



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


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Keep a Brand Journal

Branding vs. Marketing for Authors

1,535 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, authors, marketing, promotion, promotions, talent

The Dark Side of Young Adult Fiction

Thanks to an article by Meghan Cox Gurdon in The Wall Street Journal, a debate is percolating on the internet about the dark nature of today's young adult fiction. Gurdon makes the argument that today's offerings for young adults subject their young minds to disorders and pathologies that were too sensitive to mention just a generation ago, and she's not happy about it. She believes things have gone too far.


Yet it is also possible - indeed, likely - that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures. Self-destructive adolescent behaviors are observably infectious and have periods of vogue. That is not to discount the real suffering that some young people endure; it is an argument for taking care.


You can read the entire article on The Wall Street Journal's website: Darkness Too Visible


Can You Keep a Secret?

J.J. Abrams has a reputation for keeping secrets. In fact, his style is to surprise the audiences that watch his TV shows and come to his movies. He doesn't like to reveal the payoff until it's absolutely necessary. That works great for storytelling, but wreaks havoc on your marketing efforts. How do you get people to come to a movie if they don't really know what it's about? The marketing team for Abrams' new movie, Super 8, has had a time generating blockbuster-type interest for the film.       


Audience tracking surveys show that though older moviegoers, particularly men, are interested in seeing the picture, younger ticket buyers - historically, the drivers of summer smashes - so far have been slow to warm to the film. In other words, people who remember 1979 are more likely to want to see "Super 8" than those for whom it's ancient history. There's some evidence this week that moviegoers' enthusiasm has ticked up, giving the studio hope that buzz is building in the last few days before release. But still, people who have analyzed the data say "Super 8" likely will take in a little less than $30 million on its first weekend - a solid start given the film's budget but a relative shrimp in the summer tent-pole season.


You can read the entire article on the Los Angeles Times' website: Word of Mouth: 'Super 8' seeks an audience among the summer tent poles


Taking It to the Street

Getting a record deal depends on the number of Twitter followers and Facebook friends you have, right? It's insane to think you can create a following, sell CDs and catch the attention of a major label and booking agency just by performing on the street, right? I mean, this is 2011, where social media is king. The current line of thought is that you have to conquer the virtual world in order to take over the real world. Not so fast. John West is making it on the streets of Santa Monica. 


For the last four years, the 28-year-old Baton Rouge, La., native has been a mainstay on the promenade, where he's fine-tuned his brand of acoustic/urban alternative pop that suggests Justin Timberlake and Jack Johnson. West has sold more than 35,000 copies of three independently released EPs while performing twice each Saturday and Sunday. Those impressive sales recently landed West a booking deal with Creative Artists Agency and a record deal with Mercury/Island Def Jam records, where he is at work on his as-yet-untitled debut.


You can read the entire article on the Los Angeles Times' website: For John West, being a street performer doesn't mean a life in the gutter



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


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Weekly News Brief - Books, Film, Music - June 10, 2011

Weekly News Brief - Books, Film, Music - June 3, 2011

1,504 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, books, authors, authors, marketing, marketing, book, book, music, music, fiction, fiction, ya, ya, musicians, musicians, filmmakers, filmmakers

When I decided to write a series, I didn't realize the enormity of what I had committed to. In essence, you're writing a book in stages over a period of years that will, in my case, be about 360,000 words. It is sometimes a daunting case that has me wondering if I made the right decision. Each time I complete a manuscript in the series, I breathe a heavy sigh of relief, and every time I start a new manuscript, I have a deep sense of doubt that I will be able to pull it off.


I wrote the first book relying on a single plot for that particular title. I then signed with an agent, and she requested that I provide a synopsis for every book in the series. After gasping in horror, I asked her to give me a week to have them in her inbox. A week later, I delivered them to her has promised. How did I do it? This is the basic blueprint I followed to plot the series, which I think most aspiring series writers can follow:


  1. I wrote a one sentence description of the whole series. What was the series about? The details of it didn't concern me; I just wanted to explain the essence of the series.

  2. What are the rules of the series? This series has some sci-fi/fantasy elements to it, so I had established some "if this, then that" scenarios for the first book. Those became the rules of the series. No book thereafter in the series could violate those rules.

  3. I came up with the titles of the six books in my series. With the titles established, I had a sense of each story.

  4. I wrote one-sentence descriptions of each of the six books. Again, I wasn't concerned with the details at this point. I just wanted to know what each book was about in the simplest terms.

  5. I wrote a one-page synopsis for each of the six books. Here's where the details came into play, and I started focusing on character arcs. How would I establish the opportunity for each of my characters to change over the course of each book? This was by far the hardest part of the process. Character arcs for a single book are fairly straightforward, but character arcs for the same characters over six books is like juggling knives. You have to make sure you don't become repetitive or radical. The growth should be organic and subtle.

Presently, I'm two books away from finishing my series. I don't know if I'll ever tackle a series again, but I'm glad I did it. I've learned a lot from the process. The lesson that has stuck with me the most that I'll pass on to you is the importance of preparation. Knowing where I'm going and what needs to be done has given me solace on those days when writer's dread taps on my shoulder and tries to convince me that I should be watching television instead.


Are there any writers out there who can comment on their experience preparing for a book series?



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


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Branding vs. Marketing for Authors

The First 5 Weeks of a Manuscript - Week 1: Idea, Character, Plot, First Pages

4,635 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, books, authors, authors, book, book, writers, writers, writing, writing, outline, outline, series, series, craft, craft

When I dreamed of being a writer, I never thought I would have the patience and follow-through to ever finish a novel. They're so long! When I first decided I wanted to be a writer, I turned to a shorter format: screenplays. A final screenplay is usually no more than 120 pages and it consists largely of dialogue. Easy, right? I know it's not the most ambitious way to make a career choice, but I was an 18-year-old kid with very little confidence in my writing. I figured the less I wrote, the less chance I had to demonstrate my lack of writing talent.


I devoured books on writing screenplays. I read as many screenplays as I could find. I attended film festivals that had writer's workshops. I learned everything I could before I wrote my first word in a screenplay. Six months and 120 pages later, I had my first screenplay. I'm sure it was terrible, and probably completely unoriginal. It's long since disappeared within the virtual world of evolving data storage devices. 


It was bad, but I learned so much from the experience. The most important lesson I learned was to create a very well-defined story structure. Screenplays are divided into three acts. Normally, act one occurs on pages 1-30, act two takes place between pages 31-90 and the final act happens from pages 91-120. These page numbers are somewhat fluid, but the basic rule of thumb is that one page equals one minute of screen time. I also learned that act one should end with an event that catapults the story into the second act, where all the major conflict takes place. In addition, act two should end with an event that pushes the story to a conclusion.


Eventually, I moved into the world of novels. And I've often thought about the "laws" of structure in screenplays. Do I subconsciously apply them to my novel writing? Can you break a book down into three acts (beyond the basic beginning, middle and end concept)? Obviously, you can't apply the 30-90-120 rule in the strictest sense, but are the catalysts for change in place at the same rhythmic pace? I have to say the answer is most likely yes. I wrote 12 screenplays before I attempted my first novel, so the story structure of the screenplay is deeply ingrained in my writing fiber. I don't think that's a bad thing. In fact, I would recommend writing a screenplay if you've never done it before. It's a story at its simplest. It may help you see novel writing from an entirely different perspective.



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


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Six Good Moments of a Screenplay

Screenwriting - Know What's Happening Off Frame

3,031 Views 1 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, books, authors, authors, book, book, writers, writers, writing, writing, craft, craft, screenwriting, screenwriting, structure, structure, screenplay, screenplay

I'm going to throw an idea out there about developing your brand. It's wild, yet basic, and it's something I developed from my years of experience dieting (I told you it was wild, but bear with me because I think it can add value to your brand).


I have been overweight many times in my life, and I have dieted every time I got to the point I outgrew my fat pants. I've tried almost every diet plan you can think of, and I've failed at almost all of them. Since March, I've tried something I've never done before, and I've lost 30 pounds and kept them off. I've been keeping a food diary. For the first time in my life, I'm paying attention to what I eat.


It occurred to me the same tool could be applied to marketing. Call it a "brand journal." My theory is that we don't actually know we're marketing when we're marketing. Marketing boils down to creating and maintaining relationships. Finding connectors (influential people) and making them aware of your brand.


The journal will keep you engaged in marketing. If you commit to writing down how many times you post something or participate on your social networks every day, you can properly gauge your level of activity. Track your blogging, the personal videos you produce, the conferences/fairs you attend, etc. Track every instance where you take the opportunity to build a relationship.


If you pay attention to these relationships, you can build on them and accurately evaluate the time and effort you're putting into building your brand awareness. Over time, it can serve as a guide to help you strengthen your relationships and in turn, your brand. The thing about committing to keeping a journal like this is that you'll actually look for ways to add to the journal. Your marketing activity should pick up and your brand can only benefit.



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


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Branding vs. Marketing for Authors

Evaluating Your Author Brand

2,625 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, books, authors, authors, marketing, marketing, book, book, promotion, promotion, promotions, promotions, brand, brand, branding, branding

Curtain Call for Books

Are you ready for novels on Broadway? Okay, so it's not Broadway exactly, but it is the theatre. A troupe of actors has gotten together in New York to do dramatic readings of some classic novels. They recite a chapter or two with the book in hand and read it with the passion and aplomb a classic American novel deserves. They call themselves Elevator Repair, and they've performed to some acclaim.


Over the weekend, as part of the centennial celebration of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, the Fifth Avenue headquarters of the New York Public Library, the troupe presented a simultaneous mash-up of all three novels in brief performances in the library's periodical room. "The Sound and the Fury," "The Sun Also Rises" and "The Great Gatsby" in just 22 minutes? Why not? We all have short attention spans these days.


You can read the entire article on The New York Times' website: 3 Classic Novels. 22 Minutes. Why Not?


Does the Palme d'Or Translate into Box Office Success?

Being a filmmaker and getting accepted into Cannes must be an exhilarating feeling. I mean, besides the idyllic Mediterranean coast scenery, there are industry professionals galore and celebrity hobnobbing to be had at every champagne-catered affair. But does winning the grand prize at Cannes do anything for a film at the box office?


Over the last 20 years, it's helped set the table for box-office hits such as "Secrets & Lies," "Fahrenheit 911" and "Pulp Fiction" - at minimum facilitating momentum the movie already had, and in some cases actively putting it on the map. The average filmgoer may not know a Palme d'Or from a palm reader, but he or she is certainly acquainted with the media that respond to one. On the other hand, the Cannes prize did almost nothing for "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" and "Elephant," both of which failed to break out of an art-house ghetto.


You can read the entire article on the Los Angeles Times' website: How will the Palme d'Or affect 'Tree of Life's' commercial prospects?


'How Does It Feel' be Seventy?

What do you get the folk rock legend that has everything? Apparently, endless tributes make the perfect birthday gift. Bob Dylan turned 70 recently, and musicians all across the land stepped up to the mic and belted out his songs that shaped American music in 1960s and 70s. They may have not been able to match his rare vocal style, but their hearts were in it. In some cases their hearts were in it for hours.


In India, rocker Lou Majaw be doing what he does every year - a 10-hour-long tribute concert, dedicated to Mr. Zimmerman (Dylan's original last name). Majaw started this ritual on Dylan's birthday back in 1972 as a way to honor the legendary folk artist and has continued every May 24 since. Majaw has since pushed to make the artist's birthday a national holiday but, to no avail. Now that's some dedication.


You can read the entire article on Celebrating Bob Dylan's 70th Birthday



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


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Weekly News Brief - Books, Film, Music - May 27, 2011

Weekly News Brief - Books, Film, Music - May 20, 2011

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I recently had some trouble with the title of my new book. I picked one before I started writing, but I wasn't completely happy with it. The title was a literal description of the book. It was too "on the nose," if you will. Halfway through the writing process, I came up with a different title. It wasn't as literal, but it still fit the story. When I typed the last line of the book, I was struck with another idea for the title. I felt like it was the best choice, and I was happy with it.


But just because I was happy doesn't mean I was confident it was the right choice. What is a writer to do? I turned to my friends on Facebook and asked for their advice. They gladly offered their opinions and a few even wanted to know more about the book. Two of them are now reading the first draft. By reaching out to my social network for a little help, they came through for me in more ways than one. They confirmed that the last title was the best of the three. They provided me with my first opportunity to pitch the book and refine my description, and finally, they are providing me with feedback on the actual book.


By involving your community, you can plant the first seeds of buzz. Engaging your blog readers and friends on social networks in the writing process makes them aware that you have a new book coming soon. Most likely, they'll then expect updates on the book's progress from that point on, which can start building your readership early and also hold you accountable to finish that manuscript. When it comes to raising awareness about your newest title, it's never too early to get a little help from your friends.



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


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The last day of BEA is always a little bittersweet. The energy at the show is charged about the week's excitement and success, but many conversations are sprinkled with goodbyes and laments about the show's end. My feeling about our final BEA Recap mirrors those bittersweet sentiments! To round out our week, I attended a final session about how authors can develop business models to achieve greater success. Below are the key takeaways from our final session on the last day of BEA.


Tapping Technology to Build a Digital Enterprise

Jonathan Fields, a well-known book marketing expert, shared his tips about how authors should build business models for themselves and their books. The below takeaways include suggested tools to develop your brand and pointers to extend your marketing beyond the book.


  • Some authors only want to do what they love: write. They have faith in the market and want to rely on others to sell their work. Others believe in the effectiveness of building an enterprise in which they create a business and their own marketing engine. These authors take control and own their success.
  • Fun quote from hip-hop artist Jay-Z: "I'm not a businessman; I'm a business, man."
  • Enterprising authors typically use one of two business models: focus on book sales or multiple streams. With the book sales focus, you write a really good book and intend make money only off the sales of your book. You're willing to build a community to accomplish this goal. If your model focuses on multiple streams, you plan to simultaneously use several areas to build your brand (blogs, websites, speaking, consulting, etc.). Writing is not your only channel of income and the book is just one piece of the puzzle.
  • To build out your business model, start with doing things to gain attention in the marketplace and engage your audience through active communication.
  • "For an enterprising author, a blog is essential. It will make you more powerful, as it's where you establish leadership, trust, and credibility. You build the content around your subject matter, which positions you as an expert."
  • It's also important to have a Twitter page. It can be difficult to establish thought-leadership in 140 characters, so focus on conversation, sharing content with others, and building relationships.
  • Create a Facebook fan page, where you can have threaded conversations. The fan page doesn't have a cap on the number of "likes" you can get, it's public, and it's easily searchable. The more people engage, the more your content is shared out into others' communities.
  • Find a content-relevant hub. For business-related topics, this will normally be a LinkedIn page. Get engaged in a group about the content of your book. If you write fiction, there are online communities out there for just about every genre.
  • To capture the attention of your audience, try these things: host webinars full of useful information people will want to share with others (just be sure it's not a sales pitch). Also, people will provide email addresses to register, which will allow you to reach them later. Consider bringing other products to market or writing a manifesto. Manifestos must be provocative, identify a deep problem, and offer intelligent solutions and ideas. If it is provocative enough, it can drive attention to you and your book.
  • Ask yourself, are you selling the book or is the book an entry point for a much bigger X? What experience can you create beyond the book? Position the book as one element of an irresistible offer. If you buy a book for $10 and get access to something that has value far beyond that, customers will be more compelled to buy. Build buzz around the bigger thing, and let the book ride along. "In the world of social media, talking about the big ideas that are part of your book tends to work better than just pushing the book. You're not selling the book, but engaging people in an idea. When they get excited about the idea, the purchase will follow naturally."


This brings us to the end of our educational adventure at BEA. To all the authors and publishing professionals we met this week, we enjoyed spending time with you; thanks for making this a great show! I hope some of the information in these recaps has armed you with tools you can apply to achieve greater publishing and marketing success. Thanks for going with me on this journey. It's been a pleasure, and I hope you've learned as much as I have! I wish you great success with all of your publishing endeavors.


Thanks for reading!



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We met many more talented authors, publishers and marketers on our second day of Book Expo America (BEA) and BlogWorld. The opportunities for education abounded in the form of several sessions hosted by leading experts. From the latest social media statistics to book stunts to book reviews, we now report what we learned back to you. Below are the key takeaways from each session we attended.


The Social Habit

Tom Webster, vice president of strategy at Edison Research, shared his firm's new research data about how people are using social media. Some of these stats may help you decide which social media channels to target in your marketing plan. The key data:


  • 88% of Americans have internet access. 84% of Americans have a mobile phone, and 31% have a smartphone.
  • More than half of all Americans ages 12+ have a profile on one or more social networking sites. Social networking saw marked year-over-year growth amongst people ages 35-54.
  • Facebook now reaches the majority of Americans; 98% of people are familiar with Facebook, which is more than have access to the internet (88%). Facebook user demographics essentially mirror the U.S. population with regard to male vs. female, ages, and ethnicity. 26% of Facebook users are over the age of 45.
  • 8% of Americans ages 12+ use Twitter (that's approximately 20 million people). Three out of 10 Twitter users access the site daily. Twitter users appear to be growing more engaged: 70% of monthly Twitter users now post updates to Twitter, compared to 47% in 2010. Twitter users tend to be a bit younger than Facebook users, with 18% over the age of 45.
  • Many people, defined as frequent users, are developing a "social habit," meaning social networking has become a part of everyday life. One third of social networkers use social sites several times per day (that's about 46 million people in the U.S. alone), and 56% use them at least once each day.
  • 43% of frequent social networkers follow brands in social networks; 80% of those say they use Facebook most to connect with brands.


More Relevant Blogging Through SEO

Ric Dragon, CEO of DragonSearch and SEO expert, shared his knowledge of search engine optimization (SEO). While often considered one of the more intricate (and sometimes confusing) aspects of maintaining an online presence, the right applications of SEO can lead to more traffic from search engines like Google. Some highlights from Ric's presentation:


  • There are three types of SEO usage: no SEO, where you make no effort to improve your position in online searches; bad SEO, where you use so many titles and keywords that your blog or site reads like it was written for search engines and not for readers; and good SEO, which is a balance between the two and is about becoming more relevant in search engines.
  • The three parts to SEO are research, doing things the right way, and building connections.
  • Free tools to aid your research: In Google AdWords, you enter a keyword or phrase, and it tells you what similar terms people are searching for and how many are searching. Google's Wonder Wheel shows associations with your keyword or phrase to give you ideas. Google Insights is a brainstorming tool that gives you top searching terms and other phrases.
  • Think in terms of keyword neighborhoods. When you write, you create "sets" of related words. For example, the set of words you create for a blog about "food" will be different from a set of words about "kitchen," even though they're related. Searches will pick up these word sets to determine what topic you're talking about.
  • Doing things the right way doesn't necessarily add extra work, but involves best practices you should learn when optimizing for search engines. Here, a basic knowledge of HTML is useful, as the title, description of content, and keywords you use are important for SEO. A webpage built on good structure will tell search engines what is most important.
  • Connecting and linking: The text on Page A that hyperlinks to Page B - called "anchor text" - on your website can have a big SEO impact. Building links in places that aren't relevant to your site won't create SEO value in the long run, so focus on making relevant connections.
  • Try copying and pasting a blog you've written into It will show you the commonality of the words and phrases you've used, which is a great way to see if your words are rich and balanced.


Book Stunts: Surprising Marketing Practices from Around the World and What We Can Learn from Them

Ed Nawotka, editor-in-chief of popular industry journal Publishing Perspectives, Erin Cox, literary agent and business development manager for Publishing Perspectives, and Ramy Habeeb, co-founder of, led a lively discussion about the impact of successful book stunts. Trying to think of some out-of-the-box ideas to market your book? Check out the highlights from this session:


  • A book stunt is any activity that comes from outside-the-box thinking when promoting a book. It should be fun and have a playful element. It typically allows the author's personality to shine; if the author is willing to laugh at himself, most readers find it endearing. Ultimately, that's your goal with a stunt: to connect with readers.
  • Examples of effective stunts include Jennifer Belle, a novelist who last year hired several dozen actresses to sit on the NYC subway system and at city landmarks for hours, reading and laughing heartily at her book. The stunt earned her press in The New York Times and The New York Post, among others. Brad Meltzer is a thriller writer whose campaign for his nonfiction book included posting several YouTube videos to evoke different emotions. In one of the funniest videos, he pokes fun at himself through a series of "negative reviews."
  • Entertaining someone far exceeds getting a review in some cases, and you can make a bigger impression. It shocks people into paying attention.
  • There are risks involved with stunts. Be careful not to cross any lines; if you do humor, watch the kind of humor you're using, as it should be relevant and not hurt the perception the audience has of the author. Positive word-of-mouth is one of the best ways to sell a book, but it can also turn into gossip if you don't manage your brand. Be genuine, and make sure you research and have a reality check before doing it, as you don't want to do anything destructive or illegal.
  • Book stunts aren't necessarily physical events in the real world. The internet is a great place for stunts, so experiment with film and audio.
  • A book stunt isn't about selling books; it's about showing the reader who you are, whether it's in a funny or emotional way. It shouldn't be about the bottom line.
  • When brainstorming a book stunt, try to manifest the subject matter of the book and make it real so it's relevant. Marrying the content with the promotion is imperative, as you could lose your message by doing something so outrageous that it doesn't fit.


Book Reviews Online

Respected book reviewers were on hand from The New York Times Book Review, The Daily Beast, Publishers Weekly, and The New Republic. Each critic gave his or her impression on the state of the book review industry, as well as predictions for the future. Read on to get their perspectives on the changing landscape of book reviews.


  • What is the current state of the review industry?


The New Republic: Print coverage for books has been declining due to cuts in the media industry. Online book reviews are attractive to critics because they are not limited by space as they would be in a print publication, and it gives them the opportunity to review more books. Also, reviewers are establishing a presence in social media channels.

New York Times Book Review: The "Paper Cuts" blog has been folded into the "Arts Beat" blog. They are embracing new media, such as podcasts, video, and social media (especially Twitter). They recently began introducing content exclusively online for the first time, and they launched their first-ever eBook bestseller list this year.

The Daily Beast: Its book section was launched within a few months of the site's launch, even before other entertainment sections. They do weekly reviews, but also have essays, interviews with writers, quizzes, and other content. Their main goal is to show that books are part of the news and part of the conversation, so they cover mostly nonfiction, but they do review fiction, poetry, and other genres as well.

Publishers Weekly: They are making an aggressive push to create a community via social media. They have many different, specialized blogs with small readerships and several social media accounts. In all, PW provides approximately 6,000 reviews per year anonymously; social media allows people to get to know the publication on a more personal level.


  • What does the future of book reviews look like?


The New Republic: They are working on mobile applications for smartphones. Since space is not limited online, they are devising ways to encourage readers to read longer pieces online.

New York Times Book Review: They are a part of a smartphone application and will continue to be involved in social media to get more people participating in the book review. Regardless of the online or print format, they are still reviewing books the same as they always have.

The Daily Beast: They have been finding a balance between the short pieces people read online and longer print versions with eBook essays and will be reviewing more eBooks moving forward.

Publishers Weekly: Big reviewers and self-published books are coming together. PW has started a quarterly review of the best self-published books. "We are getting more and more book submissions during these times from self-published authors, and they are getting better and better."


As the show comes to a close, watch for the final edition of our BEA 2011 daily recap tomorrow (the show ends early, so the recap will likely be shorter, which I'm sure you're relieved to hear!). If you're attending BEA and haven't yet stopped by the CreateSpace booth #2538 (or if you'd just like to say hello again), we hope to see you!





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