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I don't write children's books, but my friend Raymond Bean does. He's the author of the popular Sweet Farts series, so I asked him to share his thoughts on the genre. Here's what he had to say:


I teach 4th grade by day and write children's books by night. I spend my days helping young readers sift through the book baskets and find the gems they'll want to read. Reading, writing, and sharing with my target audience has taught me a ton about the likes and dislikes of young readers.


Obviously, just like writing for adults, there's not a one-size-fits-all formula for kids. Taste in books varies wildly. I aim for the reluctant reader - the kids who read a few pages of a book, put it back, and repeat. They have a hard time finding a book they're willing to read to completion. They're finicky, set in their ways, and (in many cases) avoid reading like the plague. Of course, not all young readers are reluctant; in fact, most aren't. But if you aim for them, the eager readers should be a cinch!


Writing for kids is a blast. Relax, have fun, and trust your instincts. Here are three tips:


  • Kids love illustrations! It fascinates me how even the most basic illustration can really grab their attention. Adding just a few to your book can go a long way.


  • Your title and cover MUST get their attention. Some kids pick books up and put them back so fast the human eye can't even track it! Whether they're flipping through the book basket at school or clicking away on their e-reader, you've got seconds to get their attention. You might have the best book they'll ever read, but if your title/cover is weak, they'll never know it because they won't turn the page. When I wrote Sweet Farts the working title was Wind. I don't think it would have reached as many readers if I hadn't changed it.


  • Keep it real. It doesn't matter if you're writing realistic fiction or far out sci-fi. Keep your dialogue real. Dialogue that doesn't ring true with kids is a death sentence. If there's one place I stand my ground during editing, it's dialogue. I've had editors suggest changes in dialogue that make sense for adult work, but for a children's book it needs to stay. Your 10-year-old main character can't sound like he's pushing 40. If your dialogue is off, kids will drop your book so fast they'll be in the kitchen munching on Doritos before your book hits the bedroom floor.


I don't use illustrations in my novels, but Raymond's second two points are right on the money for writers of all genres, not just children's book authors. To learn more about his books, visit www.raymondbean.com.


-Maria

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor. She is the award-winning author of the romantic comedies Perfect on Paper, It's a Waverly Life and Honey on Your Mind. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Learn more at www.mariamurnane.com.


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What is a Young Adult Novel?

Advice from New York Times Bestselling Author Guy Kawasaki

1,485 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, authors, self-publishing, indie, writers, writing
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I'm a big fan of self-publishing because it gives anyone the opportunity to fulfill his or her dream of becoming an author. However, authors must watch out for the unscrupulous types who prey on unsuspecting writers who are so eager to see their work in print that they get, for lack of a more gentle term, ripped off.


Here are three types of predatory behavior to watch out for when selecting vendors. Run for the hills if you encounter any of the following:


1. Promises of success: Any self-publishing company that guarantees it will make your book a best seller is lying. Would you work with a bookie who guaranteed a horse was going to win a race? Or a stock broker who guaranteed a certain stock was going to skyrocket? I certainly hope not. No one can predict the future.


2. Purchase requirements: Many indie authors end up working with self-publishing companies that require them to buy thousands of copies of their own work. The vast majority of the books end up collecting dust in a garage, and the duped author is out thousands of dollars. In today's print-on-demand world, buying large quantities of your book upfront shouldn't be a requirement.


3. Exclusivity: Before choosing a company to help you publish your book, make sure that if someone were to call you tomorrow and offer you another publishing opportunity, you have the option to accept it and walk away cleanly. If you don't sign away your rights, you'll be in the position to weigh your options carefully and make the decision that's best for you and your book.


Quick tip: before committing to a vendor, type the company name into a search engine and see what others around the web are saying. When reaching out to vendors for more information, be sure to ask about each of the above points so you have a clear understanding of their business practices, which ultimately will help you make a more educated decision on a publishing partner.


-Maria

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor. She is the award-winning author of the romantic comedies Perfect on Paper, It's a Waverly Life and Honey on Your Mind. She also provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Learn more at www.mariamurnane.com.


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Why Print On-Demand?

Indie Freedom!

3,245 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, authors, self-publishing, indie, writers, writing
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Welcome to the Weekly News Roundup - a collection of news, advice and opinions from around the virtual globe.


Books/Publishing


Fridays With Agent Kristin: Episode 7 - What is A Plot Catalyst? -Pub Rants

If you know your plot catalyst, you can develop your book pitch.


Film


Lights. Camera. Invest! Putting Filmmaking in the Portfolio -The New York Times

Sometimes your typical investor makes a few investments that are more about fun than profit.


Filmmakers Plan to Eat a Shoe to Fulfill Their Dream - Daily Local News

Believe it or not, there is a tradition of eating one's shoe in the world of filmmaking.


Music


Response -Tyler Gregory

A post that demonstrates the power of music and the internet.


Better Indie than Inny - Bud Buckley

Singer/songwriter Bud Buckley describes why it's great to be an indie musician in today's world.


-Richard

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


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Weekly News Roundup - May 18, 2012

Weekly News Roundup - May 11, 2012

735 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, books, authors, authors, music, music, filmmaking, filmmaking, film, film, self-publishing, self-publishing, indie, indie
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The concept of brand oversaturation sounds vaguely implausible for many of us in the process of building our brands, but if we are pursuing brand nirvana, we benefit from examining what happens when a brand is overexposed. In other words, let's learn how to avoid the problem instead of overcoming it.

 

We are indie authors. Part of our charm, if you will, is that we exist outside of the traditional establishment. Readers feel a certain level of pride when they discover us because by doing so they've demonstrated their own independence, and perhaps they're even among the first to discover a great new talent. The more popular we become, the greater the chance we will lose the luster that comes with the spirit of independence. What is a poor indie author to do?

 

Believe it or not, overexposure isn't a brand-killer in and of itself. Overexposure hurts flimsy, inauthentic brands built on shtick or trends of the moment. That's because more exposure comes with more scrutiny. The more people who take a look under the hood, the greater the chance flimsy brands will ultimately fail.

 

To avoid damage from oversaturating your brand, try not to hook your brand to a trend, especially one you don't necessarily believe in. Authentic, multi-dimensional brands can withstand the intensity that comes with being under the spotlight. If your brand is build on authenticity, the indie fans who discovered you will remain your fans no matter how popular you get. Brand authenticity is why The Grateful Dead became iconic without losing their indie following.

 

One last word on avoiding brand oversaturation: I believe if you commit yourself to learning your craft, you will elude the sting of overexposure. No one ever tires of high-quality writing!

 

-Richard

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

 

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Branding 101: Brand Sabotage

Reverse Journaling for Your Brand

1,488 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: self_publishing, book, author, indie, writers, publishing, branding
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Let's all take a moment to reflect on why we're here. We all write for different reasons. Some of us do it because we love to write, and some of us do it because we are compelled to write. Some of us do it because we were inspired by some event in our lives, while still others write to accomplish a specific goal. There are a virtual endless number of reasons authors write. The point is we all have our reasons for writing our story or stories.

 

Those reasons can sometimes get lost in the oftentimes complicated and time-consuming efforts required of the modern author trying to find his or her place in the publishing world. We can lose sight of why we decided to write in the first place when we get focused on things like sales and reviews and publicity. When I first published, I checked for new reviews every half hour and sales numbers every hour. Invariably, I was deeply disappointed by the lack of both. I was so disappointed that it affected what I love to do: write. That ghost of doubt was always popping up in my creative process and scaring me away from new projects.

 

It wasn't until I realized that I write because I love it that I was able to vanquish those doubts and crank out another story. So, I pass along this learning to you. In the end, don't make it about sales or reviews. Make it about the writing. Embrace the origins of your desire to write and keep those as your primary focus moving forward. If you remain true to them, you will have already succeeded.

 

Tell me, why is it that you write?

 

-Richard

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

 

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Unlocking Writer's Block

How to be a Confident Writer

1,217 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, authors, author, indie, writers, writing
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Sometimes smart authors do inexplicable things to harm their brands. A brand is so hard to build and so easy to damage. There's nothing that says you can't overcome brand setbacks, but in my mind, it's just easier to avoid those little pitfalls that can lead to big setbacks.


What are those pitfalls? A number of examples come to mind, but rather than calling out specific authors, let's look at some general behaviors that have potential to ding your author brand.


  1. Reviewing your own book. It's a practice done for various reasons that, to me, are all bad. Some authors give themselves a positive review under a different name in order to counteract negative reviews. Other authors review their own books multiple times under many different names in order to give their title greater credibility. Whatever the reason, the truth has a way of surfacing, and misleading readers by posting illegitimate reviews could do irreparable damage to your brand.
  2. Bashing a reviewer. Bad reviews happen. I've gotten them. Great authors have gotten them. Books that have changed my life have gotten them. It's an undeniable truth: not everyone is going to like the same thing. Authors shouldn't attack a reviewer for giving a bad review, no matter how cleverly worded the response or how justified he or she feels. Getting into a public tiff with a reviewer never looks good on the author, so it's best just to let it pass.\
  3. Encouraging others to do your bidding. If you acquire a fan base, don't misuse them. Believe it or not, some very successful authors have been caught encouraging their fans to publicly disparage a reviewer who gives them an unfavorable review. When word got out, the result was a dip in sales and a mountain of bad press for the author that is forever archived online.
  4. Publicly resenting another's success. Some books that have skyrocketed to the tops of bestseller lists have left me scratching my head, but it would do me no good as an author to unload my scathing opinions to my online friends and followers. In fact, it could come off as petty and risk alienating my audience. Remember the undeniable truth from above: not everyone is going to like the same thing. Also, there's room at the top for everybody, so avoid making the case for your success by criticizing someone else's.


As independent authors, we have the power to control our brands and avoid these setbacks. Over the years, I've learned that publishing success comes with patience. Avoid the temptation to take shortcuts or react to negativity. Your day will come, and your brand will be stronger for it.


-Richard

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


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Setting Goals for Your Brand

Be Authentic to Build Your Brand

2,073 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: marketing, marketing, author, author, self-publishing, self-publishing, indie, indie, promotions, promotions, branding, branding
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In my last post, I relayed my general observations from The London Book Fair, which took place April 16-19 at Earls Court Exhibition Centre. When I wasn't chatting with authors at the CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing booth, I was attending several educational sessions throughout the show. These featured a variety of industry-related topics as well as ready-to-apply tips from successful authors and experts. Read on for the some of the best tidbits from each.


Session Takeaways


Session: Global Publishing Markets

Dr. Rudiger Wischenbart relayed research on basic statistics and patterns of the worldwide publishing industry.


  • Dr. Wischenbart reported that traditional publishing sales in the larger U.S. and European markets are either flat or down, but the number of titles are going up.
  • According to the research, the top ten largest book markets in terms of revenue are the U.S., China, Germany, Japan, U.K., France, India, Italy, Spain, and Korea.
  • Germany has some of the highest English-language translation imports, and the U.S. and U.K. are leading the digital book revolution.
  • Dr. Wischenbart summed it up this way: "New ways to publish are emerging, and we have to open our minds to embrace all the new models."


Session: Author of the Day

British crime novelist Peter James talked about his writing process during an interview at the English PEN Literary Café.


  • James spoke a lot about the importance of the editing process, stating he typically has 5 people read his manuscript before it even gets to the editor. He stated, "I think the relationship between a writer and editor is crucial. As an author, you get so close to your book, that the only way to truly distance yourself would be to put it in a drawer for 3 years."
  • All in all it takes him about a year (with editing) to write a crime novel. Since he finds the first line and beginning to be so important, he spends about a month just on the first chapter. Then, he plans the book with the key action points, always knowing the ending.


Session: CEO Keynote - The Great Transformation 2012

Tom Allen of the Association of American Publishers moderated a panel including Donald Katz (Audible), John Mitchinson (Unbound), George Lossius (Publishing Technology), and Richard Charkin (Bloomsburg).


  • Don Katz of Audible.com says the publishing business model has always been in flux, and that publishers are now being forced to get back to basics and expand their lists through digital. He wrapped up all of his commentary throughout the session by stating "all that really matters is the author and the reader."
  • John Mitchinson of Unbound says the reports that "nobody reads anymore" are untrue - twice as many people are reading books now than they were in the 1930s and 40s. "Books are a very diverse product, so they should be making a ton of money. Why aren't publishers plugged into this energy? Because publishers use a B-to-B model and aren't plugged in to readers. It's important to bring readers and writers together. In the digital world, people want access, openness, and to be involved."
  • Richard Charkin, executive director of Bloomsberg countered the question of whether the current publishing model is sustainable what he thinks is a better one: "Is the current business model desirable?" He thinks publishers should be trying out different models to see what works.


 

Session: This is Social Commerce

Guy Clapperton offered a few tips on how to best use social media to make sales.


  • On Twitter, having the right followers is more important than having the most followers. Focus on saying the right things that will engage your audience.
  • His primary advice to writers using social media? "Keep at it. Make sure you have a lively blog to lead to. Get lots of good online reviews. Keep being available. Thank your readers when they say something nice. Establish yourself ahead of time as a person that's interesting to follow in your area by joining relevant groups in your channel."


Session: Has Anyone Spoken to the Author?

John Mitchinson moderated a panel of authors including Ilana Fox, Robert Llewellyn, Nick Harkaway, and Salena Godden, who shared their thoughts about what it means to be a writer in the 21st century.


  • Nick Harkaway, author of Angelmaker, reminded us that being an author is hard work. He stated that a lot of authors want to believe they'll have an amazing experience with a publisher and excel with audiences as a result, but it's not that easy; success requires the author's proactive work. Later, he commented on not avoiding distractions to get the work done: "I don't turn off the internet when I'm writing. If what I'm writing isn't more interesting than those distractions, it won't be more interesting to the reader."
  • Ilana Fox, author of All That Glitters, talked about the modern author's responsibilities: "You won't get much of a marketing budget or PR time; publishing companies are leaving it up to the author. We're supposed to be performers, we're supposed to engage with everyone, but publishers aren't teaching authors how to do that, or even asking if they want to. Who decided authors should be salespeople?"
  • Actor and author Robert Llewellyn shared his thoughts: "I wanted to publish another book, but I didn't want to go through a publisher. I didn't want an advance, because 10 years later I'm still getting letters from my publisher telling me how much of my advance I'm yet to pay off. Do everything you can to get straight to your audience. If you don't have an audience, your job is to start creating it."


Session: Twitter to Woo?

Tom Hall (Lonely Planet), Julia Lampam (Wiley), and Joe Pickering (Penguin) shared the benefits of using social media in the publishing world.


  • Joe Pickering, publicity manager for Penguin, gave suggestions for how to stand out in social media: What makes you different than everyone else? Be generous with information and make your social page the go-to source for info. Take your time, don't expect instant results, and don't expect to be a social media expert immediately. Think about your personality online; don't be afraid to have an opinion, don't take yourself too seriously, and don't make attacks on other authors. Get involved in all the channels, and don't only tweet about work or your own books.
  • After giving these guidelines, Joe summed it up: "Don't be bound by constraints. There are no rules. Think about what YOU like to hear and how you like to hear about it, and act accordingly."
  • Tom Hall, Lonely Planet's online editorial director, also provided a list of guidelines: Judgments are quick in social media, so make your intent clear in your descriptions. Curate content rather than just self-promoting to entertain and build credibility and trust. Reply to people who talk to you, keeping in mind that a big audience isn't everything if they aren't actively interacting.


That wraps it up for this year's London Book Fair. Stay tuned for my report from the next trade show we attend, Book Expo America in New York City, June 5-7. If you'll be there, be sure to stop by the CreateSpace booth - #4170 - and allow us to make your acquaintance. Cheers!


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Holding down the fort: Thom, Brittany, Amanda, Brian, and Hande.


See you in New York!


-Amanda

Amanda is the editor of CreateSpace's educational resources and social media channels.


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London Calling: The Book Fair Recap

Self-Publishing Book Expo Recap: Tips for Indie Success

1,149 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: author, author, self-publishing, self-publishing, promotion, promotion, indie, indie, book_fair, book_fair
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I have a strange theory about creativity. It may sound counterintuitive, maybe even crazy, but hear me out: I believe rules inspire creativity. The second I learn that I have restrictions on what I can write, my brain doesn't recognize those restrictions as obstacles. It sees them as opportunities to be more creative.

 

I didn't always feel that way. The first time I wrote a corporate video script and sent it up the ladder for review I got back two notes from the same person: make it shorter and add more information. I was baffled by the instructions. How could I possibly accomplish both objectives when they seemed to be opposing ideas? It seemed impossible until a close friend who was working with me on the project pulled me aside and said, "You get paid to be creative, so be creative." He was right. I didn't need more time to add more information. I just needed to be more creative. So, with a few well placed graphics and signs, we made the video shorter and added more information.

 

It's this experience that convinced me that rules are an artist's best ally. And it's why I think there is great value in formulaic writing, which is writing under a set of expectations and rules. For example, if you're writing horror or romance or mystery or any genre fiction, there are certain elements that are usually tied to those types of stories. They aren't hard-and-fast rules. You won't be kicked out of the genre club if you don't follow the rules, but following those rules can help you be more creative and provide helpful guideposts for mapping out your story.

 

Don't shy away from formulaic writing. Embrace it, but put your own spin on it. It's your opportunity to do what you get paid to do: be creative.

 

-Richard

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

 

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When You Cut a Scene You Like, Save It!

A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words

57,149 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, books, books, books, books, books, author, author, author, author, author, author, indie, indie, indie, indie, indie, indie, publishing, publishing, publishing, publishing, publishing, publishing, writing, writing, writing, writing, writing, writing, creativity, creativity, creativity, creativity, creativity, creativity
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Welcome to the Weekly News Roundup - a collection of news, advice and opinions from around the virtual globe.

 

Books/Publishing

 

The Importance of Genre -Self Publishing Advisor

 

Knowing where your book belongs can help you write and sell it.

 

The History of 7 Bizarre English Words -The Huffington Post

 

Don't be a fopdoodle. Learn the history of these seven words.

 

Film

 

In the Vanguard of a Film Revolution -tes

 

Never before has so much been available to filmmakers working on shoestring budgets.

 

Why Did Disney's 'John Carter' Flop? - Los Angeles Times

 

Can an independent filmmaker learn from the mistakes made by big-budget studio film?

 

Music

 

If You Want to Be a Successful Musician, Get Out of Your Comfort Zone -The Musician's Guide

 

Marcus Taylor has created a calculator to help you find your comfort zone.

 

6 Essential Elements for Every Artist's Homepage - Hypebot.com

 

David Dufresne, CEO of Bandzoogle, shares his advice on how to make the best first impression on your website.

-Richard

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

 

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Weekly News Roundup - March 30, 2012

Weekly News Roundup - March 23, 2012

1,477 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, books, music, music, film, film, self-publishing, self-publishing, indie, indie, movies, movies
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We've discussed reaching out to local radio and television about your mini-tour. Now, let's look at local print opportunities. Despite what you may have heard about the newspaper industry shrinking, there are plenty of papers doing very well. In particular, readership for alternative papers seem to be going strong. In large part, that's because of their content and the fact that they don't rely on subscriptions.

 

Alternative newspapers are those publications you usually find on racks in restaurants, coffee shops, and grocery stores in most cities. They are typically available for free and cover topics a lot of mainstream newspapers either avoid or give very little space to, such as entertainment. My favorite part about alternative papers is their schedule of local happenings. That's where your mini-tour comes in. With your tour, you have a local event that these publications will probably be more than happy to add to their calendars. In addition, they are most likely looking for special interest stories with a local angle to cover.


To find alternative newspapers in your area, check out this listing. After you find the paper's website, your first contact about your tour should be the editor of the events calendar. Save him or her some time by sending a professionally written press release presenting the facts (who, what, when, where, and why local readers will care about your event and book). If it is well written, you have a greater chance of receiving coverage for it in the paper's weekly print and/or online editions. If you've never written a press release before, this Problogger article should help you get started: How to Write a Press Release that Gets Attention.


By steering you toward the "alternative" route, I don't mean to suggest that you shouldn't bother approaching mainstream newspapers. I think you should. I'm simply saying that my experience has been that I get a much better response from alternative weeklies.


That concludes our "Small Steps" series for now. I hope you've found some of these tips useful to get started organizing and promoting a mini-tour with other indie authors. Remember, there is strength in numbers. If each of you takes a small step in the process, you may find you have more success than going it alone.


-Richard

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

 

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Small Marketing Steps: TV

Small Marketing Steps: Venues for Personal Appearances

1,727 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, marketing, author, promotion, indie, newspapers
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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 End a Novel with a Punch -Writer's Digest

 

Hook them in the beginning. Knock 'em out with your ending.

 

Beta Readers Help Edit Self-Published Book - GalleyCat

 

Using advanced readers to help you edit your book for free.

 

Film

 

Horror Effects That Won't Scare Your Budget -filmmaking.net

 

Here's a resource every indie horror filmmaker could use.

 

The Rocky Path from Pen to Screen - The Vancouver Sun

 

Screenwriter Pablo F. Fenjves discusses his big break in the film industry at the age of 58.

 

Music

 

Should Your Band Charge for Gigs? -The Musician's Guide

 

Some bands and singers are performing for free to showcase their talents. Is it a good career move?

 

Creative Music Marketing: Foo Fighters, Bluebrain, Adam Tensta - Hypebot.com

 

New technologies are creating very unique marketing strategies, but are they effective?

 

-Richard

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

 

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Weekly News Roundup - March 16, 2012

Weekly News Roundup - March 09, 2012

1,923 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, books, marketing, marketing, music, music, film, film, self-publishing, self-publishing, indie, indie
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So far, we've discussed pooling our resources with other indie authors and organizing a mini-tour of sorts. We've looked at venues outside of the bookstore environment for a more effective appearance experience. Now, let's examine ways to promote your mini-tour.

 

For personal appearances, local radio programming should be your main target. While satellite radio has taken a fairly big chunk of the national terrestrial radio audience, local radio programs still enjoy a healthy listening audience of people who might attend your regional event. The trick is to find the radio programs that reach the same demographics as your book's audience. This means the hardest part for you in finding the right radio program to approach is to have a fairly definitive idea of the makeup of your readers. That will be the primary concern of the program's producer: Why are the books in your tour right for their audience?

 

You can start your search for radio stations by going to Radio-Locator and searching by city or zip code. Once you pull up a list of stations in the area, visit their websites and determine if their programming works for you. When you find a match, find the producers of the morning show or afternoon drive time show, and you're in business.

 

Start your conversation by sending them an email with information about your mini-tour. Sell the event with descriptions of all the books and bio information on the authors. Let the producers know you want to make this work in a way that benefits you, their station, and their listeners. Make sure you're clear on who the producer should contact to set up an interview with one or all of the authors, and give him/her a week to respond. If you don't receive a reply by then, politely follow up with another email offering to send some books for a giveaway on their program. If another week passes and you still haven't heard back, make a phone call. Professional persistence is the key to success in public relations. And by professional persistence, I mean making a concerted effort without seeming desperate or overbearing. If you haven't made any headway with a producer after three attempts, it's time to focus your marketing efforts elsewhere.

 

That should get you started with radio. Next week, we'll look at targeting local television shows.

 

-Richard

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

 

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Small Marketing Steps: Venues for Personal Appearances

Small Marketing Steps: The Group Tour

1,791 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, books, books, marketing, marketing, marketing, author, author, author, promotion, promotion, promotion, indie, indie, indie, radio, radio, radio, book_tour, book_tour, book_tour
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Indie Freedom!

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Mar 14, 2012

It feels good to be an indie author. It took me a long time to come to that realization. I started this dream of becoming a published author when social networking meant meeting actual people at parties in real buildings, where instead of people telling you they "laughed out loud" at something you said, they simply laughed out loud. I wrote my first manuscript on something called a typewriter that I thought was high-tech at the time because it was electric. The internet was something the government used and rarely talked about.

 

I never dreamed it would be this easy to write and sell books on my own. And by easy, I mean accessible. I don't mean to imply that it's an effortless endeavor. It takes a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to succeed in publishing, but I';m in the game. When I was tapping out my first book on that old electric typewriter, I wouldn't have thought it possible to be in the game without a cigar-chomping publisher (my only references to publishers back then were old black-and-white movies) controlling the fate of my career.

 

Here's the best part of being an indie author: I control my own fate. I'm in charge of what I write; how I write; when I write. I have freedom. Because of my naiveté when I first started, I wasn't aware of the freedom I would lose with a publishing contract. I thought the artist always won out when it came to making changes to the story. Now that I've gotten to know a few authors under contract, I know that's not true. In a way, I'm lucky that I never had to experience that.

 

So, if you're an indie author reading this post, congratulations! You are in charge of your own destiny. Not many people can say that. But I ask you: What's been your experience going the indie route? What's the best part about being an indie author and what are its biggest challenges?

 

-Richard

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

 

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The other day, I had coffee with Jennifer Wilkov, an award-winning writer and host of the popular "Your Book Is Your Hook" radio show. She also runs a successful business helping authors navigate the writing and publishing process. I told her about the blog I've been writing for CreateSpace and asked her what advice she'd give to self-published authors. She said hands down the two most common mistakes she sees indie authors make are:


1) Lack of professional editing

2) Lack of a marketing plan


Professional Editing

If your book is full of errors or isn't well constructed, readers won't recommend it to others - period. No matter who we are, we all need an editor! You'd be surprised at how affordable some services are, both on the copy editing and creative editing side. In a previous post, I discussed the difference between these two functions, but here's a quick recap:


Copy editors have eagle eyes for typos, missing words, punctuation, grammar, repetition, consistency, etc.


Creative editors help identify and fix problems with the major elements of your book, such as plot, character development, pacing, and style.


Marketing

If you don't have a plan for reaching people who aren't your friends and family, the harsh reality is that you probably won't sell very many books. Having a "marketing plan" doesn't necessarily mean spending lots of money on advertising. There are tons of things you can do on your own that cost little more than your time. The key is to write a good book first, then be creative and persistent in getting the word out. Remember, it won't happen overnight!


-Maria

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Maria Murnane is a paid CreateSpace contributor. She writes romantic comedies and provides consulting services on book publishing and marketing. Learn more at www.mariamurnane.com.

 

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Everyone Needs an Editor!

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On Saturday, Oct. 22, CreateSpace attended the Self-Publishing Book Expo (SPBE) in New York City. Now in its third year, SPBE is a celebration of independent publishing that offers exhibits, panels, and educational seminars specifically created for the indie author. Hundreds of authors from around the world were in attendance (that's a lot of talent in one place!), and there was a consistently positive buzz emanating from the crowd on the exhibit floor. I attended several of SPBE's seminars in order to pass along some key takeaways from the expert presenters. Read on for my recap of each session.

 

EPublishing: A Detailed Overview of the New Process

Dan Poynter, one of the most well-known pioneers of modern self-publishing, was on-hand to share his experiences and expert advice with his peers. It was clear we could all learn a lot from his perspective on the changing industry - he's been independently publishing since 1969! Here are the takeaways from his keynote speech.

 

  • Dan: "Self-publishing is when your passion center becomes your profit center."
  • All books don't fit all people. You have to find your niche market, where you'll find the most people interested in your title. You have a dedicated core group there that is waiting for it.
  • Dan: "The bad news? The book industry is changing. The good news? The book industry is changing. If you embrace the changes, you'll see that with change comes opportunity. We can't change the direction, but we can adapt to the changes. Change will happen with or without you, so get out in front of it."
  • He presented an interesting analogy: the people who invented the automobile were not the same people who designed the buggy. The same can be said for the changing publishing model. Today's authors are eliminating the traditional gatekeepers.
  • Reviews sell books because reviews are word of mouth. The new reviewers are book bloggers, especially those in your particular category. The bloggers who are focused on specific subjects may have larger and more passionate followings of people who really care about your topic.
  • Dan: "Self-publishing is self-employment. Doing what you love, loving what you do, and calling your own shots. It has become the majority way to publish, the better way to publish, the only way to publish."

 

The Smartest Things I Learned from Self-Publishing: Tips for Success from Authors Who Have Gone Before You

Jon Fine of Amazon led a panel discussion between two successful authors: Michael Margolis, author of Believe Me and president of Get Storied, and David Lender, thriller author of Bull Street. The authors shared their strategies for pricing, marketing, and independent publishing with CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

 

  • Jon: "The means of book production have been democratized."
  • After David uploaded his books to KDP, he was approached by top agents and publishers. But because of his success, he stated, "I'm now happy to stay independently published, and I can write full-time."
  • Michael published his book in 90 days, from the first word on paper to having the book available for sale using CreateSpace. He has sold thousands of copies of the book and built a business using it as a calling card. "You can be your own media company. If you want to play your own game and you have a DIY ethos, the tools are there."
  • David provided advice on creating sellable eBooks. "The bar on eBook quality is much higher now. Your book should look perfect. If you don't have the technical capabilities to make a well-formatted eBook, use the tools available to help you."
  • David also expressed the importance of choosing the right list price. "Look at the top 100 books in your category, and compare yourself to the competition." He chose to focus on building a readership by pricing his first eBook at $.99, leading to more than 100,000 eBook sales over 9 months.
  • The panelists then turned to the topic of marketing. Michael: "Birthing your book earns you the right to stand at the starting line of another marathon: marketing it." One of his marketing tips? He gives away free digital copies of his book in exchange for email addresses, which has built his email list and expanded his audience.
  • It was suggested that authors research the reviewers of the top 100 books in a particular genre, many of whom have blogs. Authors can then ask them if they'd be interested in reviewing their books.
  • David also suggested joining some of the many writing groups on Facebook and being a part of those active communities.

 

Website Wow: Powerful Web Design to Reach Your Audience

Jeniffer Thompson, co-founder of Monkey C Media, shared valuable tips on creating a professional and effective website to support your marketing efforts.

 

  • The 3 most important aspects of SEO: Title tags with excellent keywords, well-written content, and incoming links. The more specific your keywords, the better the SEO optimization.
  • Smart design: When someone lands on your website, you have less than a second to grab their attention, because people will immediately decide if they like it or not. You should have solid and consistent navigation, draw the eye towards something important (with color, imagery, etc.), and have a clear message.
  • The color you choose should be consistent with your brand. Color evokes emotion, and you can use it to create emphasis on important pieces of your site. Power colors are red and yellow, but be careful not to overuse them, as they can fatigue the eye.
  • With text, choose web-safe, sans serif fonts that others will also have on their computers (i.e. Arial, Verdana, etc.). Be sure your fonts are consistent with your brand, and make text easy to read by using columns. "Show, don't tell" with captivating images, write engaging headlines, and include bullet points.
  • Content should be fresh and relevant. Consider featuring guest bloggers and contributors and offer valuable information and resources.
  • Jeniffer: "A website should be a funnel, with lots of powerful calls to action to encourage more navigation."
  • Create a community around your brand by engaging your audience. Be consistent, allow comments and sharing of your content, and build trust by giving away information, staying current, and being genuine. Also, be sure to invite your social media followers to your site.
  • If you decide to work with a design house, ask them about maintaining ownership of your content, timelines, and references. If you do it yourself, consider using WordPress.com (blog), WordPress.org (broader website tools), Tumblr.com, or Weebly.com. Site themes can be found at ElegantThemes.com or ThemeForest.net.
  • Google Analytics can help you track your website traffic. The hosting company of your website should also provide free traffic analytics.
  • Even if your book isn't out yet, create your website and start building your community with social media as early as possible.

 

Building an Audience

This session focused on building relationships with target audiences and effectively promoting your book. Speakers were Penny Sansevieri of Author Marketing Experts; Dan Blank of We Grow Media; Seale Ballenger of HarperCollins; and Jennifer Wilkov, book consultant and host of the "Your Book Is Your Hook!" radio show.

 

  • Trade outlets like Publishers Weekly, Shelf Awareness, and Library Journal can be beneficial for trying to get book reviews to create industry awareness. Book bloggers are an important resource for reviews, because they are typically genre-specific and they like to be ahead of the curve. Examples are Fresh Fiction, Mediabistro, and Book Reporter.
  • Consider writing opinion/editorial pieces (especially if you write nonfiction) and submitting them to the press.
  • Social media: Facebook is a community that gives you a permanent place to store information, whereas Twitter is more news-oriented and of-the-moment. Use them to build you community and communicate to it. If you can't do all the social media channels, just pick one. If you focus on getting good at one, it will make it that much easier for you to build your other marketing areas.
  • If you want to get into corporate or nonprofit partnerships, go after those most relevant to you and your books. When contacting them, first emphasize the benefits for the company and how you will achieve success for their brand rather than focusing on your book. Also consider partnerships with other groups/associations or authors.
  • Reach out to book clubs to build your audience, keeping in mind that many are genre-specific and have blogs where they may feature you or your content.
  • Research what other people are talking about in your industry, and determine what you will say that's different, interesting, and unique. This will help you communicate in social channels and when networking with authors on other sites to build your connections.
  • Jennifer: "In book marketing, you have to cut through the clutter. Make it short, make it concise, make it fun, and make it effective."

 

The Reviews Are In: Why Book Reviews Matter

Representatives from well-known review sources offered tips on why book reviews continue to be an important aspect of book marketing. Speakers included Julie Eakin of ForeWord Reviews, Perry Crowe of Kirkus Indie, Patti Thorn of BlueInk Review, and Cevin Bryerman of Publishers Weekly.

 

  • Why do book reviews matter? Cevin: "It doesn't matter where you get your reviews; they will help you sell more books because they are given out by professionals who understand what matters to readers."
  • Patti: "A book review is important because it helps distinguish your book from all the other books out there. It gives your book the credibility of a third-party source, which validates to readers that spending hours reading your book is worth their time."
  • Perry spoke to reviews' ability to give readers a succinct summation and authors an easily-digestible nugget of information to use in promotions, while Julie reminded us that reviews can help you improve your book.
  • To increase your chances of getting a review, send in endorsements from fellow authors in your genre or experts in your field. If possible, make your book stand out with a unique promotion or a personal note. Follow the submission guidelines of each review source, and tell them what's special about the book.
  • Reviewers are chosen based on their specialty reviewing books in a particular category. This is to "give each book its best chance to get a good review" and so the reviewer can compare quality to other books in the genre. They also hire reviewers who understand the writing craft and how to communicate feedback to other writers.
  • Authors should be sure to submit professional-looking books in a "good package," with high-quality printing and editing. They recommend a unique, well-designed cover that also fits in with the landscape of other professional books on the market.

 

That's all for now, folks. I hope you've found something here you might be able to apply to your own publishing and marketing efforts. To all the authors, experts, organizers, and professionals we met: thanks for another great event celebrating indie authorship. As always, I'm looking forward to the next exciting chapter in the self-publishing success story!

 

-Amanda

Amanda is the editor of CreateSpace's educational resources and social media channels.

 

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