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908 Posts tagged with the writing tag
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Do you know the difference between e.g. and i.e.? If your answer is no, or that you think you do but you're not sure, you're not alone. Here's a quick refresher on how to use them correctly:


E.g. means for example. For example:


  • There are many things to do on this island, e.g., snorkeling, sailing, and scuba diving. (CORRECT)
  • There are many things to do on this island, for example, snorkeling, sailing, and scuba diving. (CORRECT)
  • I have many friends who love grammar as much as I do, e.g., Gloria, Alison, and Peggy. (CORRECT)
  • I have many friends who love grammar as much as I do, for example, Gloria, Alison, and Peggy. (CORRECT)


I.e. means that is. For example:


  • Kathy's three favorite hobbies, i.e., snorkeling, sailing, and scuba diving, can all be done on this island. (CORRECT)
  • Kathy's three favorite hobbies, that is, snorkeling, sailing, and scuba diving, can all be done on this island. (CORRECT)
  • The place Gloria calls her second home, i.e., her office, is in Oakland. (CORRECT)
  • The place Gloria calls her second home, that is, her office, is in Oakland. (CORRECT)


When I hear people get tripped up, it's almost always by using i.e. when they should be using e.g., and rarely the other way around. For example:


  • The dessert menu was full of yummy options, i.e., chocolate cake and pudding. (INCORRECT)
  • The dessert menu was full of yummy options, e.g., chocolate cake and pudding. (CORRECT)
  • She gave us a long list of color choices, i.e., pink, yellow, and blue. (INCORRECT)
  • She gave us a long list of color choices, e.g., pink, yellow, and blue. (CORRECT)


If you're still confused, use this trick: e.g. looks like egg, and egg sounds like the beginning of example. That should help!


-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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Refer vs. Recommend

Grammar Tip: Don't Overcapitalize

673 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, self-publishing, writing, grammar_tip
3

I am of the mind that when it comes to including a character's physical features in a book, the fewer the better. I know I am probably on the rare side of this debate, but even as a reader, I prefer scant physical descriptions as opposed to a detailed list of soft curves and sculpted physiques. If a description serves a narrative purpose, I'm fine with it, but a lot of times it feels as if physical descriptions are included to give the reader a sense of what characters look like, and it can come off as wedged prose that sticks out like a sore thumb.


I am more interested in how characters move--how they fidget nervously or conduct themselves in pressurized situations with a steady hand. To me, that makes characters more relatable than the color of their eyes or how chiseled their chin is.


Don't get me wrong. I will include physical descriptions, but most (not all) are about scars, flaws, and imperfections that have shaped the characters. I find warts much more interesting than beauty marks, so I tend to give my characters a lot.


Recently, my editor asked me to include a line or two about a character's physical description, and I did, but it was not easy. I kept fighting myself. Eventually, I allowed myself to sprinkle scant descriptors in passages throughout the novel, so it didn't appear as if I was force-feeding the reader a physical description of the character.


How about you? Where do you fall on the physical features debate? More or fewer?


-Richard

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


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Defining Characters through Action, Not Description

Connect with Your Characters

927 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, character_development, characterization
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Reaching out to book bloggers is a great way to get objective, credible reviews. In addition to posting their reviews on their own websites, many bloggers are also active on social media, which can draw additional eyeballs to your work. (For example, here's a recent tweet by a blogger promoting her thoughts on my latest novel, Bridges.)


Like most people, reviewers often have particular genres they prefer to read. Below are some ways to find bloggers who might be a good fit for your book. These are not the only ways, but they will definitely help you find a lot of people to pitch:


  • Search the titles of popular books that are like yours, plus the word "review," then scroll through the results and see which are book blogs.
  • Search "book blog" plus words that describe your genre, e.g., "mystery," "romance," "thriller," "memoir," etc.
  • Search for companies that specialize in "blog tours." Many of them feature the "stops" on the tour, i.e., the bloggers they got to review their clients' books. Look for a book in your genre, and there you will find a list of relevant bloggers to pitch.


Once you find a blog that looks perfect for you, look to see which blogs that blogger follows. (There is usually a list on either side of the home page.) Click on one, then go back and repeat the process. Soon you will have a big list of bloggers to contact.


NOTE: When you start pitching, track your correspondence. I use a spreadsheet for this, but any system that works for you will do. Just use a system, or your hard work will eventually become a confusing mess. (Scrolling through the sent folder of your email is not a "system.") Recording your outreach can be a pain, but it's well worth the effort. Not only will it keep you organized now, it will keep you from having to start from scratch when your next book comes out.


-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: connect with book bloggers

Don't make this marketing mistake

871 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, marketing, blogging, writing, promotions, bloggers, marketing_tip
3

The end

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Apr 24, 2017

     Endings are hard to write. In fact, for me, they are the biggest stalling point in finishing a book. Early on, it was particularly hard to craft the right ending. I struggled with it mightily. Here are three methods that I found to help solve my "ending" problem:

 

  1. Write the ending first: This is a bit of a cheat, but it's a brilliant cheat. If you write the ending first, you'll know how to tailor your beginning and middle to make the ending perfect. You don't even have to write the ending in the prose that matches your style. Just sketch it out and figure out the best way to get there.
  2. Write the ending second: This is something I've done more times than the other methods. I will write the first chapter or two, then I will set the material aside while I work on the ending. This helps me write an ending that fits the style and characters I've established. Again, no need to write a detailed ending. You can create a rough outline. I will say that using this method does allow me to confidently include dialogue because I have a better handle on character.
  3. Don't write an ending: Sounds crazy, but I have written a book that didn't really have an ending. Yes, the book ended, but it ended with a line of dialogue that suggested the story wasn't over, and it wasn't because I wrote a second book with the same characters continuing their journey. In fact, that's how the ending came to me. I got to the point in the story where the main conflict had ended, and I needed an ending. I had so much fun writing the book, I decided to essentially not end the book.

 

-Richard

 

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

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Don't force an ending

The three endings

4,638 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: writing, writing_tips, writing_advice, writing_help, ending_a_book
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We've talked about the rule of consistency in branding. That is to say, you have a look, style, and message that is associated with your brand, and if you make drastic changes to any element of your brand along the way, you run the risk of losing your brand identity.


Today, I want to discuss a similar concept in branding. It's called the rule of repetition. It differs from the rule of consistency in that it is strictly centered on your messaging. There is a fast-food chain where you can have it your way. There is a soft drink on the market that is accompanied with a smile. There is an insurance company that claims you're in good hands. I didn't name one product in those three examples, but I'm guessing most of you know the product. Here, I'll include the slogans, minus the product name, and I'm more than confident you can provide the answers.


Have it your way at ____.


Have a ____ and a smile.


You're in good hands with ____.


Some of these slogans aren't even used anymore, but they are engrained in my memory banks. Why? Because I heard them over and over and over...and over again. The companies practically used the slogans on a constant loop. You, as a brand, should do the same thing. You won't necessarily come up with a slogan, but if you are a genre writer, include the genre in your brand. For example, you're not Jo B. Writer. You're Horror Author Jo B. Writer. If you'd rather focus on your accomplishments, then be Award-Winning Author Jo B. Writer or Best-selling Author Jo B. Writer. Always use it. Repeat the message whenever you can. Make it part of your email signature. Include it wherever you can. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.


-Richard


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

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A Long Term Branding Strategy

How to Be Interesting Enough to Be a Brand

991 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, writing, social_media, author_brand, writing_advice
1

In a previous post, I discussed how useful beats are to show your readers instead of telling them. I also advised against using beats too often because it can dilute their effect. Another way to devalue the impact of beats is by telling readers what those beats are already showing.


For example, the following beats do a solid job of letting us know what the character is thinking:


  • He slammed his cup down so hard that it broke. (His actionshows us that he's angry.)
  • She rolled her eyes. (Her actionshows us that she's irritated/exasperated.)
  • She batted her eyelashes at him. (Her actionshows us that she's being flirtatious.)
  • He cocked his head to the side. (His action shows us that he's confused.)


When writers tell us what the beats are already showing us, it can become a problem if done too frequently. I recently read a novel in which the author included an explanation after almost every beat, and as a result I found myself repeatedly thinking, "Why is she telling me this? Doesn't she see how obvious it is that (insert name of character) is (insert adjective)?"


Here are some examples of what I mean:


  • He slammed his cup down so hard that it broke, furious.
  • She rolled her eyes, exasperated.
  • She batted her eyelashes at him, clearly flirting.
  • He cocked his head to the side, confused.


Am I the only one who finds these explanations unnecessary? I doubt it. Readers are smart, so respect that intelligence. We might all have a tendency to tell too much in the first draft, but that's what revisions are for! It's never fun to cut your own words, but your writing will be better for it, and your readers will appreciate it. I promise.


-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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Turn the Beat Around

 

Use Beats to Show, Not Tell

 

1,106 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, writing, promotions, action_beats, writing_tip, dialgue_tags
0

Compelling

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Apr 17, 2017

When I'm asked to describe a book I love, I will invariably use the word compelling to describe it. Whether it's the plot or the character development or some other element of the story, I have found something compelling about the book. The question is what does that really mean?


Yes, there is a clear definition of the word compelling. In short, it means I found the story irresistible. I can't tell you how to make a book irresistible in a quantifiable way. There's no formula that I can give and say, "Use this and your book will be compelling." I mean I could, but that would make me a con man who you should stay far away from.


But what I can do is tell you what I think makes a book compelling. I find a story compelling when it strikes one of two chords:


  1. It's familiar. I can relate to some aspect of the story. Either I recognize myself in the protagonist or I know the setting. I'm compelled to read more because I can picture myself living the story.
  2. It's plausible. Even in a fantasy-based story, if plausibility is the base on which the story is built, I find the story compelling. Sure a vampire might be terrorizing a town, but if some junk science is introduced that casts a shadow of plausibility on how vampires can exist, I will find the story more compelling. I don't even need full plausibility. I just need a sliver of, "Hmm, I suppose it's not totally out of the question." Of course, the more ironclad the plausibility, the greater my attraction to the story.


So, that's what makes a book compelling to me. What makes a story compelling to you?


-Richard

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


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The Horoscope Prompt

The Resolution Matrix

879 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, writing, character_development, story_elements
0

A few years ago I attended a seminar on starting a small business, and each of the six or seven speakers I heard that day emphasized how important it is to build the list! At the time I remember thinking that was the one thing they all had in common. Now I am also thinking something else: they were right.


Building a mailing list takes time and effort, but it can be a valuable marketing tool, perhaps your most valuable marketing tool. Whether it's through regular email or a newsletter program such as Mailchimp or Constant Contact (I use Mailchimp), a mailing list allows you to keep in touch with the people who want to hear from you.


I always recommend a newsletter program over email, so people can opt in. Yes, they can also unsubscribe, and yes, it will sting when they do. But that shaking out is part of the process of getting a true list, which is what you want. With email, if someone doesn't want to hear from you, it's unlikely that she is going to reply and ask you to take her off your list. (Full disclosure: that happened to me once years ago when I was first starting out, and I will never forget it. Ouch!) A newsletter program also allows you to see how many people are opening your messages, which isn't possible with email.


The best way to build your list is to add a "join the mailing list" button to your website. (Yet another reason to have a website!) Another way is to ask people you meet--and who show a genuine interest in your writing--for their business cards or email addresses. And if anyone emails you about your book, that's also an opportunity.


Note: I strongly recommend asking before adding anyone to your list. The last thing you want to do is annoy potential readers, right? In my opinion, a little courtesy goes a long 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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Mailing List Dos and Don'ts

Two easy (and free!) ways to spread the word about your book

1,126 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, marketing_tools, marketing_tip
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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

867 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!

1,324 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

951 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, action_beats, writing_tip, dialogue_tags
1

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

1,000 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

 

839 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

1,302 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

 

1,356 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, marketing, writing, mailing_list, promotions, fan_page
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