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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.

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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

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

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.

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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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Turn the Beat Around


Use Beats to Show, Not Tell


703 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, books, writing, promotions, action_beats, writing_tip, dialgue_tags


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?

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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

511 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, author, writing, character_development, story_elements

Over the next several weeks we're going to discuss the different elements of successful branding for authors. Author brands are a mix between corporate branding and personal branding. You're trying to sell a product, yes, but more accurately, you're trying to sell you, the author.

Branding isn't just how you look or how you present yourself. Those things can come into play, even in the world of publishing. That's not to say you have to be a runway model or Brad Pitt to sell books. I'm referring more to style when I say "look." If you're the cowboy mystery writer, give your readers the cowboy mystery writer look.

Toda's lesson in branding is simple. In order to be associated with a brand, you have to demonstrate consistency: in your messaging, your appearance, your attitude. Consistency will help cement your brand and make you easily definable. And, yes, that's important because when your readers tell their friends about you, they'll know how to describe you. In essence, you will have given them a portable brand to share with their friends.

In addition to consistency in how you present yourself and message, consistency in where you "practice" your branding is important too. If Twitter is your thing, make that your primary branding pad. If you are more at home on Facebook or Instagram, that's where you're going to spend a bulk of your branding time. You can use other sites to support your brand building, but you're going to want to have a go-to site where people will expect to find you.

Consistently keep on message on your social media turf and make yourself easily definable.

-Richard Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

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

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Author Brand Success: Consistency without Stagnation

Can You Choose an Author Brand?

792 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: marketing, promotion, author_marketing, author_brand, author_platform

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.

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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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Mailing List Dos and Don'ts

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

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

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.

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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

573 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, writing, character_development, plot_development

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.

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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!

1,058 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: writing, plot, branding, social_media, author_brand, advice_for_writers


The other day I was catching up with my friend and fellow author Andrea Dunlop, who is also a social media consultant. She mentioned that she'd had success promoting her debut novel, Losing the Light, on Instagram. Never having used the platform myself, I asked her if she could give me (and my loyal blog readers) some pointers, and she kindly agreed! Here's what she had to say:

A lot of authors are initially a bit baffled as to how to use such a visual medium for book promotion. To get you off on the right foot, here are four of the most common questions I get about Instagram from clients, answered:

  1. Who should use it? Any author can make great use of Instagram because, like Facebook and Twitter before it, the platform now has a critical mass of users, meaning that even niche books can find an audience with a bit of research and some canny use of hashtags. However, Instagram is especially good for any book that has visual elements (think cookbooks or design books) and books of any genre whose audience skews young and female. This is especially true for YA books but applies to plenty of literary and commercial adult fictions as well (and most fiction readers are female, FYI).
  2. What do I put on there? If you're using the platform primarily as an author, aim for at least 75% book-related posts. Note, I do not mean 75% posts about your book and your book only (please don't do that on any social media platform). Share reading recommendations, behind-the-scenes shots of your workspace, pictures of works-in-progress (marked up manuscripts, covers, page proofs, galleys) photos from book events, etc. Instagram gives you a lot of space to write captions, so take advantage and share some more in-depth thoughts on what you're reading or writing. You could really do all book posts if you wanted, but I think it's nice to use the platform to show off some of your personality as well with pictures pertaining to your hobbies, your pets, travel, where you live, etc. And don't forget hashtags! Some of the most popular for readers are #bookstagram, #instabook, #igreads, #bookish, and #booknerd.
  3. How frequently do I need to post? I recommend posting daily--three times per week at a minimum. Don't worry if it takes you a while to get the hang of taking photos, using filters, using hashtags, etc.
  4. What if I don't get very many followers? Not to worry. As with all social media, there's more to it than follower count. If you can build up several thousand followers or more, that's awesome, but you've got books to write, and this is but one platform in your overall marketing strategy. The best thing you can do is establish a relationship with readers and fellow bookstagrammers so that when you do have a book to share with them, you're already a part of a community who is excited to hear from you.

So, go, dive in! Feel the #bookish love. You can follow me (@andreadunlop), of course, and here are a few other authors who I think are killing it on the platform:

  • R. S. Grey (@authorrsgrey)
  • Tara Austen Weaver (@tea_austen)
  • Rachel Del (@racheldelxo)
  • Kevin Kwan (@kevinkwanbooks)
  • Liza and Lisa (@lisaandliz)

Many thanks to Andrea for sharing her expertise! To learn more about her consulting services, visit

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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: share what you've learned

Marketing tip: follow the 80/20 rule in social media

1,399 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, marketing, promotions, instagram

You've spent hours on and off the page with your main characters. You know how they vote. You know their favorite drink. You know the micro-expressions they make when they lie or hide their true emotions. There's no other way to put it. You know your main characters inside and out.

But you might not be as informed about your secondary characters. You know those characters that help drive the plot or enhance setting, but you don't spend a lot of your word count diving too deeply into what makes them tick. That could be a mistake because they aren't just for show. They serve a purpose beyond what you may have intended.

These secondary characters help you define your main characters. How your main character interacts with them or feels about them reveals something about your main character. In short, your main character's development is often tied to these secondary characters, so that's why it's important to know as much about these secondary characters as you do your main characters.

I know you've got a lot to think about when you're writing a novel. There are a lot of moving parts, and it easy to let one element of story lag behind the others. The element that is most often neglected or not fully explored is the development of secondary characters. You are missing the opportunity to write a truly enriching story if you gloss over the development of those secondary characters.

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

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The four roles of supporting characters

What would your characters do?

1,621 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: character_development, characterization, secondary_characters, main_characters


Your book has been on the market for a few years. Sales were brisk in the beginning, but they are virtually nonexistent now. Here's how to let the title go and stop promoting it. You may want to write this list down and post it somewhere in your writing space.


Nope, it's not a long list, but it is important. There is no reason for you not to promote a book you wrote a year ago, five years ago, or even ten years ago. As long as you don't have inventory or a nonfiction book that contains a time-sensitive subject matter, why would you stop promoting your book?

Your book has a publishing anniversary. That's a perfect time to promote it every year. If your book has a seasonal theme, that season occurs every year. Why shouldn't you promote it? If your book is a work with a historical event or figure at its core, then that historical event has an anniversary. The historical figure has a birth date. Those are other opportunities to promote your book, no matter how old the book is.

Conventional wisdom used to be that you frontload the release of a book with all your publicity efforts, and then you move on. Print-on-demand and digital publishing has made that sort of publicity strategy obsolete. Your book will never go out of print. Why, then, would you stop promoting it? To not promote it is wasting opportunity.

Don't move on in the sense that you will forget about your book. Move on and write your next book. Promote your next book. Just don't forget your previous books when it comes to promotion.

-Richard Contributors/RidleyHeadshot_blog.jpg

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


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The Marketing Maze

The Grassroots Marketing Ripple Effect





1,072 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: self_publishing, marketing, promotion, promotions, marketing_advice, promotion_advice
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