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How to develop a plot

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Apr 10, 2017

There are lots of rules for developing a plot on the Internet these days. Most lists are the same old same old. Today, I'd like to give you a list of elements for developing plot that you may not have heard before. Use them as you see fit.


  1. Unknown: Your protagonist is driven by the unknown. Some unanswered question is gnawing at him or her, and the desire to find the answer is the force behind your plot. The question can be a "who," a "what," or a "why" question. An example is, "How does he get the woman across the hall to fall in love with him?"
  2. Stakes: Your protagonist has to have something at stake in order to push the plot forward. In the example above, he's trying to win the love of the woman across the hall. The stakes could be as simple as if he loses her, he will be letting the one perfect woman go, or it could be as complicated as his identity as a time traveler who's come back through time to make sure that his past self and the woman get together in order to save all of humanity.
  3. A touch of hopelessness: As you progress through the story, the reader must buy into a sense of hopelessness that the protagonist might not succeed. They have to buy that there are real consequences for failing. If your protagonist is constantly winning, then you're making the journey not quite as gripping as it could be. The conclusion of the story should feel like a sigh of relief or sadness. It shouldn't feel like an expected outcome.


-Richard


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


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Turning Subplots into Plots

The Time-Sensitive Plot Device

729 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, character_development, plot_development
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It's all about SME

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Apr 5, 2017

 

I've said it here before, but it's worth repeating. You are a SME. No, I didn't just insult you or use some lingo used by hipsters to identify you as cool. A SME is a Subject Matter Expert. By virtue of having written a book, you have identified yourself as an expert--and not just on one subject. You have demonstrated an expertise on many matters. Here are just a few:


 

  1. Writing: You wrote a book. That is an incredible accomplishment that a relatively small number of people have achieved. This makes you an expert. Sure, you have more to learn, but you know more than most. That makes you an expert.
  2. Genre: Your book fits in a genre. That makes you an expert in that genre.
  3. Marketing: You have a book you market. That makes you an expert, on some level, in marketing books.
  4. Plot device: You most likely chose an issue to drive your plot. Let's say you wrote a thriller about insider trading. That makes insider trading your plot device. It is what drives your story. You knew or learned a great deal about insider trading in writing the book. That makes you an expert on insider trading.
  5. Social media: Not everyone reading this is going to be able to claim to be an expert in social media, but I'm betting most of you use social media to connect with your readers. As you may have guessed, that makes you a social media expert.


Notice that I didn't say you are the expert on any of these topics. Your experience gives you some level of expertise, but it doesn't make you the leading authority. That level gives you the gravitas to sell yourself as such and help build your author brand.


-Richard

 

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

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Sell yourself as an enthusiast

You know more than you think you do!

1,241 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: writing, plot, branding, social_media, author_brand, advice_for_writers
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I've written multiple blog posts about beats, which use action to show readers how a character is feeling instead of telling them. For example:


Krista slammed the refrigerator door shut. "I told you to leave me alone!"


Compare the above to this:


"I told you to leave me alone!" Krista shouted, furious.


Having Krista slam the refrigerator door not only shows us that she's furious instead of telling us, it also gives us a visual of what is happening. Both of those things are good. However, it's important not to use too many beats, because they can become distracting--and annoying.


When I received the first draft of my most recent novel back from my developmental editor, she noted that I'd used a large number of beats and suggested that I delete many of them, which I quickly did. I didn't think too much about it at the time, but then last week I read a novel that used beats so often that I quickly found myself getting distracted by them, then annoyed by them, and eventually I wanted to throw my Kindle out the window. Here's just one example of a conversation in the book, with identifying details altered:


"You seem distracted." Leslie tossed a pen at Jesse across the desk.


"Sorry." Jesse leaned back in his chair and crossed his hands behind his head. "You know I'm terrible at this part of my job."


"You mean the paperwork?" Leslie leaned forward.


Jesse leaned forward too, elbows on his knees, head hung low. "Yes."


Do you see how distracting beats can be when used too often? To me, the above reads like stage directions, not a conversation, and the beats cumulatively ruined the reading experience for me. I realize now what great advice my editor gave me. Like fine wine and high-calorie desserts, beats are best in moderation!


-Maria

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


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Use Beats to Show, Not Tell

Dialogue Tip: Make It Clear Who is Talking

794 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, action_beats, writing_tip, dialogue_tags
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Re-readable books

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Mar 20, 2017

 

My wife recently read a book from start to finish in a single evening. The next night, she cracked open the same book and read it again. No, it wasn't one of my books, but that's OK. We have an understanding. She's allowed to enjoy books I didn't write.


In talking with her about it, I quickly realized what made the book so enchanting to her. It was the characters the author had created. My wife shared with me aspects of their lives, dialogue, relationships, backstory. She talked about them as if they were people she'd known her whole life. What we didn't talk about was the plot of the book. It almost seemed irrelevant to her.


Well-developed characters can not only make a book readable, they can make it re-readable. Think about it. The allure of a mystery that relies on clever plot twists and the unknown to hook readers doesn't quite have that same allure once the twists are revealed and the unknown is known. You may have enjoyed the book immensely, but chances are you aren't going to read it again.


The exception to this would be the same book, but with extraordinary character development. Then the book has an appeal that extends beyond the mystery it reveals. You may re-read the book just to reconnect with the characters you miss. You know the mystery within, but that no longer matters because you're a fan of the characters.


If you want to write a book that is re-readable, the part of your craft you need to develop is character development. It is the one aspect of storytelling that keeps readers coming back over and over again.


-Richard

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


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Start a dialogue with your characters

Advice on character development

881 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, character_development, characterization
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You've got a protagonist. You've got a villain. You may even have a co-protagonist or two. And the bad guy has a past filled with characters that made him...well, bad. Then there are the background characters that need fleshing out in order for the reader to truly appreciate what they add to the story. And the protagonist has a dog. Your readers are probably going to want to know what the dog's thinking. And your classic villains always have cats. The cat deserves to be understood. What's it like to be a villain's cat?


Add all this up and you've got a messy character stew that is hard to digest. There's just too much going on. Who's who and why do readers need to care? If you divert their attention by giving them too many characters to keep up with, you run the risk of losing them. Lose a reader, and it will be harder for you to find the next reader.


That's not to say there aren't exceptions to my rule. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner is a notable example. It not only has multiple characters, but as many as 15 of them are, at some point in the story, handed the reins of narrator. It is a classic literary work of art. What Faulkner was able to pull off is remarkable. It's also a very difficult read that was written in a different era.


My advice is to keep it simple when it comes to character development. Keep the focus on just a few characters and concentrate on drawing your reader deeper into their stories.


-Richard

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


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Character Development Lessons from Breaking Bad

 

The Stranger in the Room

 

785 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, character_development, characterization
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Blog content ideas

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Mar 8, 2017

Finding the right material for your blog can be time-consuming, particularly if you're trying to find material that never grows old. Here are five ideas for content to include on your blog.


  1. Top writing tips: You're a writer. You have tips. Give them. Chances are, you won't make dramatic changes to your writing philosophy over the years. If you do, just amend your tips to match your new methods.
  2. Historical piece: Write a blog post that deals with the history of your genre, your hobby, passion project, etc. A historical blog post is excellent for drawing visitors over a sustained period of time. The information contained within is used as a point of reference for the curious, and inquiring minds tend to crop up every day.
  3. Plant evergreens: Link to or embed evergreen (always relevant) material in your blog. Pick a topic that is applicable to your author brand, and make it a staple on your blog. You can always find "how-to" or "tutorial" videos to embed in a blog post. These videos are particularly useful for drawing in a steady stream of new visitors.
  4. Seasonal topics: Write about seasonal topics on your blog. You won't get a steady stream of visitors throughout the year, but you will see an increase in visitors as the season approaches every year.
  5. Write time-independent material: Do you have a killer recipe for brownies that you can post? How about a family remedy for a persistent cough? Whatever timeless material you can think of would make great material for your blog.


-Richard


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


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Resources to Help You Blog Daily

Never Too Boring to Blog

1,186 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, marketing, blogging, publishing, writing, blog_idea
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In a previous post I recommended developing a mailing list for a semiregular newsletter to keep in touch with fans between books. You might not have a book launch on the near horizon, but that doesn't mean you don't have other news to share.


Another good way to stay connected to your fans between books is through Facebook. Here's how I use it:


For my author fan page, I share the same things that I do in my newsletter, e.g., event photos, news about upcoming translations of my books, promotions for signed copies, photos of fans holding up my books (which encourages other fans to send me similar pictures), awards my books have won, etc.


If right now you're thinking, "But I don't have any awards or event photos, etc.," why not post a photo of yourself working hard at your desk? Or do you write at Starbucks? How about a photo of that? Be creative! This is an art, not a science. You can do it!


In addition to my author fan page, I created a Facebook profile for Waverly Bryson, the protagonist of four of my novels. Every day I log in and see which of her friends are celebrating a birthday, and I'll have her write each one a personalized birthday greeting. (If I've released a book within the past year I'll also include a link to the first chapter as a "gift.") Now and again I have Waverly comment on other people's posts, and sometimes I even have her post funny photos or videos of her own. Sometimes Waverly's friends post photos or notes about the Waverly Bryson books on her page, which I then "share" with all of her friends. It's fun for my fans and fun for me: a win-win!


How do you use Facebook to promote your writing? I would love to know, so please share in the comments section below.


-Maria


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


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How to Connect with Your Readers

Tips for Engaging Your Readers Online

 

1,077 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, marketing, writing, mailing_list, promotions, fan_page
1

 

I have talked on this blog before about not letting bad reviews get to you. They shouldn't inform you about what kind of writer you are because they are just opinions, and no one can claim to be correct when it comes to issuing their opinion. That's just not how opinions work.


Today, I have an even harder job. I have to convince you that you shouldn't let good reviews get to you either. I know. Pure, unadulterated joy is so rare to find in the author life, it seems insane for me to tell you to treat good reviews like you treat bad reviews, but it only makes sense. A positively expressed opinion is as valid as a negatively expressed opinion. Neither should dictate how you see yourself as a writer. Accept good reviews graciously. Let them make you feel good about yourself, yes. You have found a kindred spirit in the reviewer who shares your taste. How can that not feel good?


But when you sit down to write your next book, doing so with all your good to great reviews in mind can poison your pen. It can turn you into a crowd-pleasing writer, and that is a bad thing. Your job isn't to write to please. Your job is to write to challenge. If you're letting past accolades swirl through your brain as you write your next tome, you will be less likely to stay true to your mission. You will either consciously or subconsciously write in an effort to receive more accolades.


Be happy when you receive a good review, but good or bad, always remember reviews are just opinions.


-Richard


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


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A Positive Review Pitfall

Online Reviews: Just Say...Nothing

1,028 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, writing, book_reviews
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One of my favorite parts about finishing a first draft, outside of the profound feeling of accomplishment, is that after months of hard work I'm finally able to sit back and read the entire story from beginning to end. It's impossible for me to experience my work with completely fresh eyes--that's why I strongly believe that every manuscript needs a developmental edit--but it is possible for me to evaluate the dialogue and see if it rings true for the characters I've created.


I find that my characters' personalities tend to evolve as I write, so by the time I'm done with the first draft, they may be quite different from how I had imagined them at the onset. As a result, when I go back and read from the beginning, I often tweak the dialogue to make it sound more authentic. I love this part of the process, because when I find myself thinking, "She would never say that," or nodding in agreement with what's already on the page, I know I've created characters that are believable, with realistic dialogue to match.


Reading dialogue from the beginning also helps me identify when a prominent character isn't developed enough. If, for the life of me, I can't tell if a line sounds like something so-and-so would say, then maybe so-and-so needs a little more attention.


One of the common criticisms of first-time novelists is that their characters all sound the same when they talk, which makes it hard for readers to follow along. I've experienced this as a reader, and when it happens too often, I usually end up putting the book down--for good. If you can give your characters distinct voices that are consistent throughout the story, you have a much better chance of getting your readers engaged--and keeping them that way!


-Maria


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


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Quirks Make Characters Real

What would your characters do?

950 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, dialogue, character_development
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Yes, bad reviews can be soul-crushing. They can make you question your abilities as a writer. They can leave you feeling hurt and depressed. You shouldn't let them have that much power over you because it literally is only an opinion. It isn't a formula devised by the reviewer that proves your book is bad. There is no concrete evidence in a review that proves you can't write. It's a collection of words that paints a subjective view of your book.


I've attended many public readings of works in progress, and you wouldn't believe the stark differences of opinion from those in attendance. Some were blown away by the reading, and others didn't get it. The same material was judged completely differently by two, three, sometimes by a half dozen people. Reviewers would get in heated arguments about their diverging opinions. Here's the thing, neither side, for or against, could provide absolute proof that their opinion wasn't just opinion but bona fide fact. It just wasn't possible to prove.


When you read a bad review of your book, keep this in mind: it's not a statement of fact. Accept it for what it is, a skewed view based on the reviewer's taste. I can&'t stand the movie The English Patient. A lot of people loved it. In fact, it won a truckload of awards. My opinion of the movie is based on my own personal taste. It doesn't mean I'm right. It just means it's not for me.


Don?t let bad reviews ruin your day. They're nothing more than opinions.


-Richard


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

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Bad Reviews & Great Company

Get Reviews for Your Indie Book

643 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, marketing, reviews, review, writing, book_reviews, branding
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Recently an old high school friend asked if I would speak to his brother, Scott, who had written a novel and wasn't sure what path to publication he should pursue. I agreed and had a brief email chat with Scott to set up a time to meet for coffee when I was in town to visit my parents later that month.


Scott had a link to his website in the signature of his email (smart!), so I clicked on it to have a quick look. Not knowing what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised by what I found: good writing. The site was just one page and sparse on copy, but what was there was crisp, engaging, and funny. It wasn't a sample from Scott's book, but it was a sample of Scott's writing, and Scott's writing made me want to read Scott's book. See how that works?


I told Scott as much when we met in person, and he was surprised. He hadn't thought of his website copy as a "writing sample." He didn't even think of himself as a real writer because his book hadn't been published. But he is a writer. He wrote a novel, and he should be proud of that, no matter what happens next.


In previous blogs I've recommended putting the first chapter of your book(s) on your website, and I still do. Much like in an ice cream store, offering potential customers a free taste increases the chances they will want more--assuming they like it. But in addition to the first chapter, I encourage you authors out there to think of all the words you put out into the world--be it via your blog or your bio page or your Twitter posts--as writing samples, as chances to capture the interest of potential readers. Getting someone's attention is hard, so why not use all the tools available to you?


-Maria

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

 

 

 

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Marketing tip: put your first chapter on your website

 

Marketing tip: tap your network for contacts

 


 

1,339 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: marketing, website, help, publishing, writing, social_media, marketing_adivce
2

Kenny Rogers is right. There'll be time enough for counting when the dealing's done. That is to say, it's not a good idea to count your money in the middle of the game for many reasons, but chief among them is that it's a distraction. How does this apply to a writer? Allow me to phrase it in another way. There'll be time enough for editing and rewrites when the book is done.


Simply put, you are distracting yourself from finishing a book by constantly stopping to edit and rewrite what you've already written. Let go and let it flow. You have to condition yourself to not care about the current condition of your book. It is a work in progress. The first draft is a foundation for the final version of your book. Your job is to make sure your foundation is a complete, solid work of fiction. You can dress it up and make adjustments once you have a beginning, middle, and end all worked out.


I promise you aren't sacrificing quality in the favor of speed. In fact, I would argue you're writing a better book. You're giving yourself content to reshape. All the pieces will be at your disposal for you to fit together.


If you are the type to stop and start a book to edit as you write, the "let go and let it flow" philosophy is going to be a hard strategy to adopt, and I'm not saying you should if your way works for you, but if you find yourself having a hard time finishing a book because you can't keep from going backwards, give it a try.


-Richard


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


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How to get through the first draft

When to say "I don't care"

1,217 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, editing, writing, revision_strategies
2

 

This morning I woke up and knew I'd come up with an idea for the book I'm currently writing, but I had no idea what it was. Absolutely none. Instead of fretting about the lost inspiration, however, I reached for the notebook in the drawer of my nightstand and read the following, which I had jotted down in sleepy chicken scratch sometime during the night:


  • At BK Flea: "So nothing for Derek then?" "No. Argh, **** it. I forgot to call him." "Has he called you?" "No."
  • Mention Daphne toast to Skylar


The above notes may look insignificant, but they are anything but. They resulted in additional scenes/conversations that added considerably to a side plot and the emotional growth of the main character. Both areas had been giving me trouble, but I'd been unable to figure out what to do about them. If I hadn't written down those ideas that came to me in the middle of the night, I would have come up with a solution eventually, but it sure was nice to have it right there in front of me. In my opinion the writing is often the easy part; it's coming up with what to write that is hard.


I've learned my lesson about the notebook thing. More than a few times I've woken up at 2 or 3 a.m. with an idea but no notebook nearby and thought, I'll remember it in the morning, then promptly fallen back asleep. How many times have I remembered those ideas? Zero. Now, no matter how tired I am, I force myself to reach for my pen and make a note when an idea strikes. Often that paper ends up in the recycling bin and I ask myself, what in God's name was I thinking, but just as often those flashes of creativity end up in the pages of a book. Better safe than sorry!


-Maria


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


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Writing Tip: Save Deleted Scenes and Language

Writing Tip: Keep a Synopsis as You Go

643 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, writing_ideas, writing_tip
2

I'm not going to lie. A lot of people make me angry, and the older I get, the easier it is to set me off. Science tells me it's because of my shrinking frontal lobe, but I think that's just overthinking what's really going on, which is that some people just do stuff that ticks me off, so I get perturbed.


I won't say who these people are or what they've done, not here and not hidden in a storyline in one of my books--not intentionally anyway. My books are no place to exact revenge on people I feel have done me wrong.


One of my favorite coffee cups actually says, "I am a writer. Don't make me angry, or I'll put you in my next book." It's funny in the abstract, but actually carrying out such a threat is a bad idea. It misinforms your writing and causes you to wedge in themes and plot points that ruin the organic feel of a story. It takes away from your main priority as a writer, and that is to serve the characters in the story, not the author. You are but a vessel to bring fiction to life. Once you start purposely inserting your beliefs in order to settle a score, you're likely going to take the reader out of the story by doing so.


The best way to get someone back for their mistreatment of you is to succeed. Become a better writer and attract more readers. Whatever you do, don't carry your grievances onto the pages of your book.


-Richard


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


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The Purpose of Fiction

Fiction Writing vs. Nonfiction Writing

703 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, writing_fiction, revenge_writing
1

No one wants their authors to be all business. If you take to your virtual space and constantly post about your books or about the world of publishing as a whole, you are going to chase potential readers away.


Your author brand has to be multidimensional. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but you can&'t focus all your energy on your role as an author when branding yourself as an author. You are a commodity. It sounds simplistic, but it&'s true. There are millions of books available to buy. What sets your book immediately apart is you, the author. Yes, the issue of style and the quality of your writing and storytelling are crucial, but there is no denying that the author is often the draw.


So, as you build your platform, plan on devoting a good chunk of your online time to discussing and participating in topics outside of your books. Reviewing books in your genre, discussing hobbies, sharing stories about your passion projects outside of writing, these are all things you can focus on. You can even go totally astray and publish fluff pieces about your pets, family, friends, etc. Your options are unlimited.


The point is that you are more than an author. You are a human being who dabbles in real life as much as any respectable human being. The more adventurous you are, the greater the material you'll have at your disposal. So, get out there and jump at the opportunity to do something interesting, if for no other reason than it will beef up your author brand.


-Richard

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

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Building an Author Brand: You are What You Share

An Active Author Brand



867 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, marketing, selling, writing, social_media, brand_identity, author_platform
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