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551 Posts tagged with the self_publishing tag

Each time I go through the process of writing a book, I find that ideas of things to include frequently pop into my head but not always at the right time. For example, I'll be out to dinner with a friend, and she will say something funny that I might like to use in my story at some point. Whenever that happens I whip out my phone and send myself a text message, then later add the item in question to a document that is literally called "To include at some point."

Over time both my first draft and the list of potential additions grow, and now and again I look through the additions document to see if there is a logical place for any of them in the latest version of the story. I write contemporary fiction/romantic comedy. Here are some examples of the additions I've jotted down over the years, all of which made it into one of my novels:

*Guy shows up on first date wearing one of those tuxedo T-shirts

*Something how the "dang humidity" ruined her blowout the second she left the salon

*Have Daphne toss a rock into the ocean at the end

*Make sure she mentions that she's a late bloomer

*At some point have them do something with heights so Daphne can conquer her fear

*Sprinkle in highbrow vocabulary words for Daphne

When the first draft is complete, I give the document one more look to make sure I've used all the items I feel will complement my story. For those remaining, there is always the next book! I also find that consulting the list is helpful during those dreaded bouts of writer's block. Sometimes it just takes one fresh idea to rekindle the creative spark.

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

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Writing Tip: Keep a Synopsis as You Go

Writing Tip: Keep the Story Moving Forward

528 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, writer's_block, creative_spark

The imperfect writer

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Sep 19, 2016

One of my literary idols, Erskine Caldwell, was a deeply flawed writer. He cared almost nothing about plot. He focused all his efforts on developing characters, and his characters aren't particularly likable. They are fascinating, to be sure, but they rarely have any redeeming qualities. I know all this, yet, as I stated previously, Caldwell is one of my idols. In fact, I count one of his books as my absolute favorite.

So, how is it that an author who is weak at plotting a novel, a crucial element of storytelling, is one of my favorite writers? I simply connect with his quirky characters. The messy, ill-defined plot doesn't really bother me because I'm so engrossed by his multidimensional characters.

I'm faced with the knowledge that one of my literary heroes isn't a perfect writer. It didn't hold him back. He was highly successful in his day. I would even go so far as to say that he was so successful because he wasn't perfect. He had a passion for writing stories that featured colorful characters. That passion is evident in the final result.

Chances are you are not a perfect writer either. There is no shame in that. It's OK to not master every element of story. Every writer has his or her strengths and weaknesses. Those strengths exist because they are rooted in your passion. Don't drive yourself crazy honing and fine-tuning a novel to try and make it perfect. Do rewrites, of course. Carefully edit your manuscript, of course, but don't let elemental imperfections prevent you from publishing. Embrace your strengths, and publish with passion.

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

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Taking a Character from Good to Bad

The Importance of Plot Points

443 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, character_development, imperfections

An individual who moderates a writer's group I belong to has one primary criticism or concern when he provides feedback on material. We meet once a month, and for the seven pieces that are read during our meetings, he will ask every writer to consider this particular element of story. He'll even insist that it is the foundation of every story worth telling. You are first baffled by his question because you think the answer is obvious. By the time you've heard the question from him three or four times, you become frustrated because you feel like he's just asking the question for the sake of asking it. Then a funny thing happens when you sit down to rewrite your piece or write something new; his question is all you can hear as you write. Without even realizing it, he's turned you into a more conscientious storyteller.

What is this puzzling, annoying, crucial question?

     What makes today different from any other day?

That's it. There's nothing more to his inquiry. He won't even allow you to answer the question. If you attempt to do so, he usually replies that he doesn't need to know the answer. He simply wants you, the author, to know the answer. What event or feeling or interaction for a particular character is different from any other day? You'd think that's a simple question to answer and sometimes it is, but there are a surprising number of times when it is difficult to answer. Examining the question forces you to justify the existence of an element of your story. It's an extremely powerful storytelling tool.

Pick a chapter from the book you are writing, and as you read it, ask yourself, "What makes today different from any other day?" If you have trouble answering the question concisely, you more than likely need to do a rewrite.

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

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Split Personalities of Indie Authors

The Perils of Rewriting

434 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, writing, rewriting

Sometimes I think my favorite part of the writing process is when, after months of toiling at my desk, I finally get to the point where I type in "The End," sit back in my chair, and exhale. I'm not exactly sure why I enjoy this part so much because it's not as if the hard work is done--far from it!

After you finish your first draft, there are no set rules for what to do with it next, but here's what I recommend:

1.    Let it sit for a week, then go back and read it again.

Not only will your batteries be recharged, but after time away you'll be able to look at your work with fresh eyes and make necessary changes to improve it. I'm not talking about catching typos--I mean having a hard look at things like character development, plotlines that may not flow as well as you hoped they would, or even how you chose to begin (or end) the story. It's amazing how much perspective you can get in just a few days away from your manuscript. For example, I know I've created a good character when I find myself reading an early conversation and thinking, This doesn't sound like something so and so would say, then tweaking the dialogue to make it ring true.

2.    Rewrite based on the above.

3.    Repeat steps 1 and 2 as necessary.

Once your manuscript is in a place where you can't imagine changing a thing, it's time for the next step:

4.    Send it to people you trust to be honest with you no matter how much it stings.

For me that's Terri, who is my sister Michele's mother-in-law, and Tami, my gal pal. They will read the draft and give me the honest feedback I need for another rewrite. Or two rewrites. Or three.

After the content of your manuscript is good to go, it's time for the final step:

5.    Find a proofreader who is anyone but yourself.

For me, this is my amazing mother, who always manages to find several hundred mistakes. She's like a freak of nature with the red pen.

After you've finished the above steps, your path to publication is up to you. But, you'll know that whatever route you choose, your manuscript is in good shape!

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

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Coping with criticism

Save the wordsmithing for later

453 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writers, revisions, first_draft

By zombies

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Sep 6, 2016

A teacher by the name of Rebecca Johnson has developed a shortcut to identifying if you've written something in passive voice or not. Her ingenuous rule is that if you can add "by zombies" after the verb, your sentence is passive voice. Its brilliance is in its simplicity.

Now, contrary to popular belief, the use of passive voice is not grammatically incorrect. Those who don't like passive voice will tell you that active voice is a much clearer sentence structure and therefore preferable. However, I would argue that context often does make passive voice a perfectly acceptable practice. Particularly, if you're writing dialogue. People use passive voice all the time when they speak. Nevertheless, it's not a bad thing to recognize when you've used passive voice as a sentence structure.

According to Kimberly Joki of

     Passive voice is when the noun being acted upon is made the subject of the sentence. (Active voice is when the noun doing the action is the subject.)

Here is an example of passive voice:

     The car was driven.

Using Joki's definition of passive voice, the car is being acted upon. In other words, it received the action. And thanks to Johnson's simple rule we know that it is passive voice:

     The car was driven by zombies.

The easiest way to turn this example from passive voice to active voice is to start the sentence by identifying who drove the car with either the proper name or pronoun of the driver.

     Jerry drove the car.

So, what happens if we apply Johnson's rule?

     Jerry drove by zombies the car.

As you can see, we get a hot mess of a sentence. Now, I'm not saying that the "by zombies" rule is ironclad. I'm sure you'll find exceptions because I've yet to find a rule that doesn't have exceptions, but it does seem to be a good starting point, and I have to admit, it's kind of fun adding "by zombies" to my work.

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

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Be a rule-breaker

Reexamining dialogue attribution

568 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, grammar_tip, passive_voice, by_zombies


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



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



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



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



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Branding 101: Tools for Branding



Passive Income and Marathon Branding





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

Get to the kissing

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Aug 29, 2016

I attend a couple of writer's workshops every month where we all bring in material to be read aloud. After the readings, we are critiqued and then sent on our merry way. The one rule that both groups share is that all criticism must be constructive without being rude. The core group in one particular workshop has been together so long that we've also found a way to be blunt without being rude. We all know one another, and we appreciate that we only have one another's best interests in mind.

My favorite bit of criticism by one of the moderators is a pearl of wisdom that he often repeats. It is blunt. It is concise. It is jarring, particularly for first-time participants. I can't post the actual phrase here, but I can give you the PG version: "Get to the kissing."

The first time I heard him say it, I had two reactions. One, I let loose a loud, hearty laugh, and two, I instantly understood what he was saying even though the story in question did not feature anything resembling such intimacy. What he was saying was to stop writing and get to the point. Don't ruin a perfectly good conceit by watering it down with a lot of unnecessary prose. You risk losing the reader's interest by relying on layers of buildup.

Don't spend your time and words trying to impress readers because such a tactic will most likely have the opposite effect. Instead, focus your talent on developing pacing. Find the rhythm in your story that allows you to get to the kissing before your reader loses interest. My advice is to find a group of writers that will help you find that rhythm.

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

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Authors Criticizing Authors


A Guy, a Girl and a Bad Critique


527 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, writing_workshops, overwriting

Reader profiles

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Aug 24, 2016

You aren't just an author. You are a special agent, a very special agent. Your mission? Become a top-notch profiler. Who will you be profiling? Readers. The best way to reach your readers is to know who they are, and building a reader profile is the best way for you to know them.

    Here are the demographic categories that will help you in your profiling efforts:

  1. Age group: We are divided into groups based on common experiences. There is perhaps no greater cohesive grouping than those that are defined by age. People in the same general age range share a lot of cultural similarities, especially when it comes to music, movies, and literature. If you can clearly define your genre, you'll be able to fairly easily find the average age range of your readers.
  2. Gender: In the world of publishing, knowing the gender of your average reader can help you spend your marketing dollars more effectively. Certain genres appeal to one gender over another.
  3. Region: In some cases, what you write has geographic appeal. As an example, Southern thrillers will obviously have wider appeal below the Mason-Dixon Line. That's not to say it won't have fans that extend outside the region, but the greatest concentration of your readers will be Southerners.

You can parse the demographics down to even finer points. Hobbies, careers, politics, marital status--all of these are identifiers, and you can probably find information online that will help you build your reader profile. The more details you have, the narrower you can make your focus, and the better results you'll have with your reader outreach.

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

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The Marketing Maze

Mingle Marketing

661 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, marketing, selling, promotion, readers, target_audience, marketing_research, marketing_appeal


A great way to get your readers to tell their friends about your book is to stay in touch with your readers. A newsletter is certainly one method to do this, but it's not the only one. A creative way to maintain a relationship with your readers over time is to bring your main character to life through social media. I've done this for the protagonist of my Waverly Bryson series via Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads. It's been useful, not to mention a great deal of fun, for the following reasons:

  1. It allows me to connect one-on-one with fans in a semi-public forum.
  2. It allows me to share information about books my fans haven't yet read (e.g., posting a link to the first chapter on a friend's page as a birthday gift).
  3. It requires me to stay in character outside of the context of my books, which is good exercise for my brain.
  4. It allows me to maintain a presence between books.
  5. It gets me to log in regularly (especially the birthday feature on Facebook).
  6. It allows me to see what my readers are reading in addition to my books.
  7. It allows me to see what my readers are doing when they're not reading my books.
  8. Sometimes it's easier to have my protagonist ask readers to tell their friends about my books then it is for me to do so.

I could go on and on with more examples, but you get the point. If you have a character that readers really seem to enjoy, why not give the social media thing a try? Like most book marketing strategies, you never know if it will work until you put it into action.

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

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Marketing Tip: Put Your First Chapter on Your Website


MarketingTip: Set up an Author Page on Amazon

802 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, promotions, social_media, marketing_tip

Everyone I know

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Aug 22, 2016

I am frequently asked if my characters are based on anyone I know. I'm sure most writers get the same question. To me the question is a bit baffling because the characters in my stories don't often represent the best of humanity. Even the good guys are extraordinarily flawed. Why would I admit to them being modeled after people in my life? My standard answer to that question used to be, "No, absolutely not." And it was an honest answer. I didn't think I knew anyone like my characters walking among us in the real world.

But the older I get and the more I write, I realize that my denial wasn't completely accurate. I still maintain that my characters aren't based on any one person I know. They are, however, based on everyone I know. I've come to recognize certain individual traits in my characters from people I've met. They are often exaggerated versions of those traits, but they are similar to the real world edition. And one character may possess different qualities from a wide range of people in my real life, a mashup of the most interesting--and often most troubling--aspects of real world folks. And, I'm more than confident that a few of my own shortcomings appear in the characters I create.

The point is that I don't live in a vacuum with no other people around. I can't help but pick up, on a subconscious level, those traits that I find interesting from the people around me. Whether it's a speech pattern or an attitude or even something as simple as the way someone smiles, those things are going to seep into my writing. But for those who know me, rest easy, I'm not writing about you. I'm simply borrowing an interesting aspect of your personality that makes you refreshingly human and can give my characters depth.

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

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Connect with Your Characters


What would your characters do?

550 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, character_development, characterization

POV rewrites

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Aug 15, 2016

I recently watched a documentary called the Beaver Trilogy. It's a story of a filmmaker's chance encounter with a colorful character in the parking lot of a TV station. The filmmaker became obsessed with the young man and did a documentary on him. Then over the years that followed, he created two narrative films based on the original documentary. In all, he produced three films that were virtually identical in story and structure, only the participants changed. The same story was told three times, and each one stands on its own, while also complementing the others.

You can use the same strategy as an author in a couple of different ways:

1. Point-of-view switcheroo: Tell the same story from another character's point-of-view. Same plot, same conflict, same conclusion, just a different protagonist. You have a whole new universe to explore in the same world.

2. Gender swap: Again, borrowing from the film industry, this could put a whole new twist on your story. Ghostbusters is, of course, the most recent gender swap experiment in storytelling. Both films are entertaining and have their legions of fans.

It would be challenging telling the same story in a different way, but we as artists welcome challenges. That is when we are our most creative. That is when we have the most fun. Your challenge is to make a familiar story different enough to keep readers engaged and feel like they are experiencing something new. I'm not talking about a word-for-word remake. This is an exploration of the same theme from a different point-of-view.

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

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You have more than one book inside of you


Rewrite for new life


466 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, writing, point_of_view, pov

The arts community

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Aug 11, 2016


I fear that you are missing a fruitful networking opportunity. You are more than a writer. You are more than an author. You are more than an entrepreneur. You are an artist. Even if you write commercial fiction, you are an artist. It's a label we indie authors are reluctant to claim. But let me assure you, you are an artist, and as such, your peer group expands beyond the writing community. You are in the broader community that includes playwrights, musicians, actors, filmmakers, screenwriters, etc.

You may already be a member of a local writers' group or association, but what about organizations that cater to the entire artistic community? You can go online and search for meet-ups in your city, and I'm willing to bet you will find a number of networking opportunities. I belong to playwrights' groups as well as groups for novelists, and by expanding my network, I've met musicians, painters, actors, and filmmakers who have explored the same kind of network expansion. We're all interested in supporting one another because we all know how hard it is to make it in the arts.

That's the key to making this type of networking effective. You have to support your fellow artists passionately. Go to their plays. Attend their gigs. Participate in their showings. Be a familiar face. They will appreciate your support. When you have a book release, they'll remember you were there for them. They'll be happy to return the favor by helping you spread the word.

Go. Expand your network. Embrace the arts community.

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


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You Are an Artist

Building an Author Brand: Networking


516 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, writers, entrepreneur, arts_community

The secret to writing a great book is rewriting a good manuscript. The secret to rewriting is waiting. Just as tragedy plus time equals comedy, the euphoria you feel from finishing your book plus time equals sound editorial judgment. The more distance you give yourself from a completed story, the better your perspective.

When I finish writing the first draft of a book, the first thing I feel is relief. The second thing I feel is an unbreakable loyalty to every word. I don't want to change a thing. I can't change a thing. I had worked so hard and for so long, how could the words I committed to the story now be wrong? And not just the words, but the character choices, the plot twists, the order of the chapters. Everything is perfect.

The sense of perfection diminishes hourly. Slowly. The more days that pass, the more I realize that I'm not nearly finished. I'll read the manuscript. I'll find some things I like, some things I can live with, and some things I'm embarrassed I wrote. But I won't rewrite at this point. I'll let a few more days pass, and I'll read the manuscript again, making notations and small edits. No major changes yet. When approximately six weeks pass, and after I've read the manuscript a few more times, that's when I tackle the big changes--and I mean big. I've changed the gender of characters. I've rearranged chapters to change which character is the protagonist. I've even changed the names of characters, which forced me to change the title of the book.

When it comes to rewrites, step away from the manuscript for a number of weeks. Read and reread your book. Reenergize yourself, and give yourself the mental wherewithal to make big changes.

-Richard Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

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


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Rewrite for New Life


Rewriting with Purpose


651 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, rewriting, editorial_judgment

Reviewer network

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Jul 13, 2016

The biggest mistake you can make is to reach out to a reviewer only when you're looking for reviews. They get those requests all the time. They have a backlog of those types of requests from thousands of authors. They can't read a fraction of the books they want to read.


Find reviewers when you don't need them. Be a presence in their worlds. Create relationships with them that go beyond author and reviewer, and let that relationship evolve around mutual interests and benefits.

Above all, reviewers are people. They don't want to feel used. When you reach out to them just when you need them, you're creating a one-way relationship that only benefits you. It's made up of a taker and a giver.

So, be more than just another author. Be someone in the reviewer's networking circles. Your goal isn't to butter them up, so when you do finally ask for a review, they reciprocate with a glowing review of your work. Your goal is to simply be moved to the front of the line. Instead of being just like any other unknown author that contacts them, you'll be a known participant in their network.

Brands are built on relationships. The reviewer/author relationship is vital to your brand's success. Building a network of reviewers and cultivating those relationships outside of your need for reviews, makes good brand sense. Don't be pushy. Don't appear desperate. Just add value to their reviewer brands, and they will remember you when you eventually do ask.


-Richard Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

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

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Dos and Don'ts of Soliciting Book Reviews


A Few Indie Book Review Media Sources

757 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, reviews, networking, self-publishing, review, book_reviews


Yesterday I received a rather desperate email newsletter from an indie author in which he essentially begged for people to review his book on Amazon. I empathized with him because I know firsthand how difficult and frustrating it can be to get reviews, especially for self-published books. But then the author did something that made my jaw drop, and not in a good way. In his plea he encouraged us to give his book a positive review--even if we hadn't read it!

I didn't respond to the email, and I won't be reading­, or reviewing­­­, the author's book. As both a fellow author and an avid reader, I'm disturbed--appalled, actually--by his lack of integrity. Reader reviews are supposed to mean something. If they're all just fakes to pump up a friend's book, what is the point? The review system is based on an honor code that should be respected. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I don't care because I'm also right.

I began my career as a self-published author, and I worked my tail off to find people willing to read and review my first novel--legitimately. Not once did I ask someone who hadn't read the book to review it. The thought never even crossed my mind. I equate soliciting fake reviews to cheating, and I don't cheat.

If a stranger, or even a friend, proactively tells you that he or she enjoyed your book, then by all means, ask that person to write a review. In fact, I encourage you to do so! There's also nothing wrong with asking for reviews via an email newsletter. But there's a clear line between supporters and readers. If you cross that line and ask supporters who aren't readers to post fake reviews, you're sullying the author honor code.

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


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Watch for Errors in Marketing Materials


Get Reviews for Your Indie Book


2,138 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, promotion, writing, marketing_tip, marketing_mistake
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