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49

Once in a while I consult with authors who want my advice, usually on how to spread the word about their books. Just last week I had a Skype session with a nice man who had that exact question, so as we began the hour I asked him this:


What is your book about?


He couldn't provide a succinct answer.


He said it was a memoir, kind of. Then he said it was divided into four parts of his life. Then he told me about all four of those parts, which took quite a while. I wanted to be engaged but found myself less than enthralled by his disjointed explanation.


Do you see the problem here? Potential readers want to know WHAT YOUR BOOK IS ABOUT, period. If the description doesn't grab their attention right away, they will most likely move on to something else. Shiny penny syndrome.


After the nice man finished telling me about his book, it was clear that one of the "four parts" sounded leaps and bounds more interesting than the other three, so I encouraged him to focus on that one for the description. The other sections might be fantastic in the book itself, but on a surface level they sounded pretty ordinary. A memoir needs to promise something extraordinary, because unless you're famous, no one really cares about your life story.


It's not easy to come up with a compelling description of a book, but it's important. When you reach out to reviewers over email, for example, they will agree to read your book only if they think it will be interesting. Play around with variations and see which one receives the best results. It may take a few tries, but you'll get there!


-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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Marketingtip: how to find book bloggers

Marketingtip: make it easy for people to pay you

3,748 Views 49 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, authors
16

A smart way to encourage influential people to read your book - think bloggers, book club moderators, social media addicts, etc. - is to offer to send them a copy. The cost to you will depend on how aggressive you are in your efforts (I've given away hundreds of books over the years), but here are three ways I've learned to save money:


1) Offer to email a digital copy.


If you can get a reviewer to read a Mobi or PDF version of you book, great! It won't cost you a penny. Some reviewers refuse to accept electronic files, but it's always worth asking.


2) Use the "send as a gift" option on Amazon for a Kindle or print version.


If the person you want to read your book will accept a Kindle version but isn't tech savvy enough to manage a Mobi file, offer to purchase a Kindle version of your book through Amazon. The reviewer will receive a link to download it within seconds, and you'll get a royalty on the sale! (The same goes for print versions, which can be a good option if you have Amazon Prime and the free shipping that goes along with it.)


3) Request the "book rate" at the post office.


I like sending books the old fashioned way because it allows me to include a personalized inscription for the reader, which I think is a nice touch. If you choose this option be sure to request the book rate, which will cut the shipping cost WAY down. The only downside is that to get the book rate you can't use the self-service kiosk and thus have to wait in line, but the money you'll save over time is worth it.


What are you waiting for? Get pitching!


-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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1,918 Views 16 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, marketing, writers
14

Went or gone? Refer or recommend? Here's a quick refresher on how to use these tricky words correctly.


Went vs. Gone


WENT and GONE are both forms of the verb TO GO.


WENT is used in the past tense (also known as the preterit/preterite tense):


  • I knew I needed to study, but I went to the movies instead.
  • Gloria wanted to go to the movies, but she was responsible and went home to study instead.

 

 

Simple, right? Yes! But read on.


GONE is used in the present perfect and the past perfect tense (also known as the pluperfect tense):


  • I should have gone home to study, but I went to the movies instead. (Present perfect tense)
  • I thought that all of us had gone to the movies, but later I found out that Gloria had gone home to study. (Past perfect/pluperfect tense)

 

 

Generally the mistakes happen when people think they should use WENT when they should use GONE.


  • Gloria should have went to the movies. (INCORRECT)
  • Gloria should have gone to the movies (CORRECT)


  • If Gloria had went to the movies, she probably wouldn't have aced the test. (INCORRECT)
  • If Gloria had gone to the movies, she probably wouldn't have aced the test. (CORRECT)


  • I should have went home to study instead of going to the movies. (INCORRECT)
  • I should have gone home to study instead of going to the movies. (CORRECT)
  • Remember, WENT is past tense only. GONE is present perfect or past perfect only.


Refer vs. Recommend


REFER means to direct someone to someone or something for treatment or information:


  • My doctor referred me to a knee specialist.
  • Can you refer me to an honest mechanic?


RECOMMEND means to endorse someone or something as worthy.


  • Can you recommend a knee specialist?
  • Gloria recommended her mechanic for the job.


What word pairs trip you up? Please share in the comments!


-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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Two abbreviations that are easy to confuse

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1,506 Views 14 Comments Permalink
12

Have you long dreamed of writing a book, but for one reason or another have yet to sit down and do it? Author Meg Nocero's story might inspire you. In her own words, here's how writing began as an outlet for surviving grief - and ended up changing her life.


In April of 2011, not only did I lose my mother to breast cancer, I also lost my way. To navigate the grieving process, I turned to writing as a healing tool. I started simply. I would wake in the morning and read from a book that resonated with me. When a quote or a passage spoke to me, I grabbed my journal and channeled at least three pages of longhand about what I felt my mother would want to communicate to me about it. One day led to the next, and this routine led me to complete my first book, a self-help guide called The Magical Guide to Bliss: Daily Keys to Unlock Your Dreams, Spirit & Inner Bliss. My intention is for the book to empower readers to step into the unknown and wake up to a universe packed with possibility, because that's exactly what happened to me as I wrote it. In addition to allowing me to feel connected to my mom, it helped me muster the courage to make a career change after twenty years as a federal prosecutor. I'm now an inspirational writer, speaker and coach, which I believe is my true calling in life. Even now I turn to my book daily for clarity and direction. It is my morning meditation, it is a place where I transform dreams into reality, and it is liberating and healing in a way like no other. It is where I wrote my way out of darkness to rediscover my inner light. It is what helped me transform into a beautiful butterfly.


If that's not a reason to sit down and start writing, I'm not sure what is. Thanks to Meg for sharing her story! To learn more about her, visit www.MegNocero.com.


-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.

1,584 Views 12 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, promotions, motivation
10

A character arc is the way a character changes or grows throughout the course of a story. The change can be physical or emotional, and it doesn't have to be major, but you want your main characters, especially your protagonist, to experience some sort of transformation along their journey.


At the beginning of your story, ask yourself the following questions about your main characters:


  • What do they want?
  • What are they missing?
  • What is holding them back from getting what/where they want/need to be?


The answers to these questions can be broad or specific. For example, here are what my main characters want in my novel Wait for the Rain, which is about three college friends who reunite on a tropical island to celebrate turning forty:


  • Daphne wants to find herself after a failed marriage.
  • Skylar wants to become a CEO.
  • KC wants to have more time with her stepson before he leaves for college.


You get to decide what your characters want, so keep those answers in mind as you write. Also know that your characters don't have to get what they want. Or maybe they do get what they want, then realize they don't want it after all. The important thing to remember is that if your characters behave throughout the story in a way that is consistently in pursuit of what they want, an arc for each of them will naturally develop. And the arc will feel genuine, not forced.


Character arcs are important because they give readers something to invest in. If readers reach the end of the story and think, "No one changed at all," they will sense that something is missing, which will also leave them feeling unfulfilled. Well-developed character arcs satisfy readers, and satisfied readers turn into fans!


-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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Torture your characters

1,767 Views 10 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, character_development, character_arcs
10

Refresher on IT'S/ITS

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Mar 20, 2018

Are you confused by when to use IT'S and when to use ITS? If so, you have every right to be, because the correct way to use ITS goes against the general rule we're taught about apostrophes. Here's a refresher on the difference between IT'S and ITS:


We normally use an apostrophe when something belongs to someone or something - in other words, to indicate possession:


  • This diary belongs to Daphne.
  • This is Daphne's diary.


  • I like going to that movie theater because the seats there are super comfortable
  • That movie theater's seats are super comfortable.


However, when something belongs to IT, no apostrophe is needed:


  • That movie theater's seats are super comfortable.
  • I like going to that movie theater because ITS seats are super comfortable.


  • Daphne's diary has a green cover.
  • That's Daphne's diary, and ITS cover is green.


We also use apostrophes as a contraction for a noun plus the verb IS or HAS:


  • This seat is super comfortable.
  • This seat's super comfortable. (Seat + IS)


  • Gloria has seen that movie three times.
  • Gloria's seen that movie three times. (GLORIA + HAS)


Following the contraction rule for apostrophes, IT'S is used as a contraction for IT IS or IT HAS:


  • IT IS getting dark, so I really should go home.
  • IT'S getting dark, so I really should go home. (IT + IS)


  • Are you okay? IT HAS been weeks since I've heard from you.
  • Are you okay? IT'S been weeks since I've heard from you. (IT + HAS)


Do the above examples make sense? Essentially, ITS as the possessive form of IT is an exception to the rule regarding apostrophes, so it comes down to memorization to get it right.


-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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1,371 Views 10 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, book, self-publishing, writing, grammar, tip, it's_vs_its
10

Writer's block is the worst. The worst! When it strikes and I find myself sitting at my desk, staring at nothing, I often feel like my white laptop screen is snickering at me and sending me horrible thoughts. You suck, Maria! Who are you to think you can be a writer? Why don't you just give up?


Is that how you feel when you get writer's block? If so, isn't it awful? I truly hate it.


A friend of mine is a creative director at an advertising agency, and we recently had a conversation about the brainstorming process, which we agreed is similar in many ways to the writing process. She told me that when she encounters a mental block, she finds it helpful to break her pattern.


For example:


  • Make yourself get up a half-hour early.
  • Go to your office via a new route, whether it's driving/bus/subway/walking.
  • Listen to a different radio station on your commute.
  • Buy your morning coffee somewhere new.
  • Go for a walk with your head on a swivel, and look for things you normally wouldn't notice.


My friend said it's human nature to fall into a routine, and that shaking things up even a little bit can help unlock that creative energy. I liked her suggestions and plan to try some of them the next time I find myself facing the dreaded BLANK screen of my laptop, willing my brain to come up with something, ANYTHING. Usually when I'm stuck I go for a run or to the gym, but those things are part of my regular routine, so perhaps my friend is on to something.


Do you have a proven strategy for dealing with writer's block? If so, please share in the comments so we can all learn from each other.


-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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1,606 Views 10 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, marketing, writing, writer's_block
10

We all know how important word of mouth is for book sales, but how and why it happens is usually a mystery. As authors, what can we do to encourage word of mouth other than asking our fans to tell their friends? There's nothing wrong with that, but even our most diehard supporters might have no idea what to do in any concrete way, even though they might really want to help us.


For that reason, in addition to asking fans to spread the word, I suggest providing tools and links they can easily copy and paste - and share. For example, here are some you can offer through your website, email, social media, newsletters, etc. In these examples, the hyperlinks are for my books, but they will give you a sense of how helpful they can be:



Marketing doesn't come naturally to most people, but (almost) everyone knows how to copy and paste. The next time a fan tells you she enjoyed your book, thank her for her support, and then ask her to help spread the word...and offer some tools. You never know who might take up your cause, so it's worth trying. A few posts on social media can go a long way!


-Maria

https://createspacecommunity.s3.amazonaws.com/Resources Contributors/MurnaneHeadshot.jpg


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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Book marketingtip: Put a sample on Goodreads

1,801 Views 10 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, marketing, writing, promotions, book_sales
8

My first novel, Perfect on Paper, was originally self-published before it got picked up by Amazon Publishing, but I didn't let that stop me from getting it into brick-and-mortar stores. And I don't mean bookstores! Here's what I did:

 

  • I identified my main target audience as single, professional women.
  • I went to an art store and bought a handful of cute little bookstands.
  • I headed out on foot around the San Francisco neighborhoods where my book took place and looked for boutiques where single professional women might shop.
  • In each store I asked to speak with the owner.
  • If the owner wasn't there, I found out when she would be. I learned very quickly that in boutiques, the owner is usually the lone decision maker.
  • Once I was in front of the owner, I explained that I'd written a book set in her store's neighborhood, and that my readers were a lot like her store's customers.
  • I pulled out a copy of Perfect on Paper and a stand and asked if she'd like to sell the book on a commission basis.
  • I offered to give her a signed copy for herself.


My strategy worked! Within a few weeks my book was on display (and for sale!) in seven stores, each one perfectly suited to my target readership. All seven owners enjoyed my book and actively recommended it to their customers, which helped generate a little local buzz. I was also able to list those stores on a "where to buy the book" section of my website, which gave the novel a boost in street cred to anyone who checked out my website, e.g. book club moderators I contacted.


Where do your target readers shop? Have a think about it - then get out there and see if you can get your book on the shelves!


-Maria


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https://createspacecommunity.s3.amazonaws.com/Resources Contributors/MurnaneHeadshot.jpg


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.

1,973 Views 8 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, authors, marketing, writing
21

 

If there's one issue I encounter more than any other reading indie books, it's the lack of editing. And by editing I don't mean just proofreading. Developmental editing and copy editing are different than proofreading—and also different from each other.


Here's a quick explanation of the two:


Developmental editors help identify and fix problems with the major elements of your book, such as plot, character development, pacing, and style. A developmental editor takes a bird's-eye view of the story and makes suggestions - granular as well as broad - on how to improve it.


An example of a granular suggestion: "When Joe and Stephanie go to the coffee shop, it doesn't fit with Joe's character to order nonfat milk."


An example of a broad suggestion: "Consider eliminating the Andrew character. He seems to play the same role as the Sam character."


Copy editors, like proofreaders, have eagle eyes for typos, missing words, punctuation mistakes, and grammatical errors, but they also pick up excessive repetition of words/phrases, timeline inconsistencies, geographical inaccuracies, etc.


Good copy editors also catch random mistakes such as:


"When Joe and Steph go to the coffee shop, Steph is wearing a red dress, but when they are at dinner afterward she is in a pink dress."


I recommend hiring a developmental editor (the pros at Girl Friday Productions are amazing), but you can probably beg a friend or two to copy edit. Before I submitted my first novel to literary agents I printed out three copies, bought a box of red pens, and handed the manuscript to three friends who love grammar and writing as much as I do. I was floored when I saw how many mistakes they found! It's amazing how after so many hours of writing and rewriting, your eyes see words that are not there - or fail to see extras that are.


-Maria

https://createspacecommunity.s3.amazonaws.com/Resources Contributors/MurnaneHeadshot.jpg


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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2,421 Views 21 Comments Permalink
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