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As an author, the chance to speak to a group (large or small) is an incredible opportunity. It is in every sense of the word an "event," meaning it is out of the ordinary. People are taking time out of their day to come hear what you have to say about your book. This is your chance to connect with readers on a very personal level - a level beyond social media interaction and e-mail exchanges. It's an honest-to-goodness face-to-face meeting between reader and writer, so it's imperative you make the most of it.

 

I make the most of my appearances by bringing a haul of books with me to my speaking engagements. And you may be surprised that I don't offer these books for resale. I bring books as gifts for members of the audience. Here's why: it's important for me to make an impact with those who sit in a room for an hour or so to listen to me talk about my books and the publishing process. So, I reward them for their time. On the surface, it appears that I am losing sales, but that's not how I look at it. I'm making an impression (and an investment) that is adding more mouths to my word-of-mouth campaign.

 

As an example, I was recently invited to a speaker's night at a school. I brought a box of books with me, and I had a line of kids (my target audience) after the presentation all wanting a free signed copy of one of my books. I ended up running out of books, so I worked out a date with one of the teachers to return with more books. The teacher contacted me the next day and thanked me profusely. He said the kids couldn't stop talking about my books and the presentation. A few of the kids even sent me friend requests on Facebook a couple of days later. I made the connection I was after, and I left with new "recruits" to help spread the word about my books.

 

I count such giveaways as a marketing expense. It's all part of my strategy to gain as many readers as I can. I encourage you to give this strategy some thought for your next speaking engagement. You don't need to bring hundreds of books. Bring as many as you feel comfortable giving away. I've worked both extremes. I've given away 40-50 at events that cater to my demographic and a half dozen or so at events that don't draw big members of my readership. Ask the organizers what kind of crowd they are expecting and how many they think will be in attendance.

 

Your job as an author is to recruit readers. In turn, these readers will help you make sales. Good luck and happy recruiting!

 

-Richard

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

 

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Preparing for a Personal Appearance

Four Tips for Real-Life Networking

1,859 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, authors, marketing, book, networking, promotions, public_speaking, speaking, event
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The Growing Power of Self-publishing

 

Evidence continues to grow showing self-publishing may not just be a viable alternative to traditional publishing, but it may actually be the preferable option. The hurdle to distribution now no longer an issue, many self-published authors are finding great success selling books, particularly ebooks. The latest superstar among the self-published is Amanda Hocking.

 

By May she was selling hundreds; by June, thousands. She sold 164,000 books in 2010. Most were low-priced (99 cents to $2.99) digital downloads. More astounding: This January she sold more than 450,000 copies of her nine titles. More than 99% were e-books. "I can't really say that I would have been more successful if I'd gone with a traditional publisher," says Hocking, 26, who lives in Austin, Minn. "But I know this is working really well for me."

 

You can read the entire article on USA Today's website: Authors catch fire with self-published e-books

 

Selling Wine to Make Movies

 

Believe it or not, Francis Ford Coppola believes the Godfather films sidetracked him from the type of career he really wanted in film. The success of the first film in the trilogy made Coppola a hot commodity in Hollywood. The problem was he found himself being asked to make films he didn't want to make. His solution? Retreat to his winery, make some dough with his Coppola-brand wine and self-finance the films he wants to make.

 

You try to go to a producer today and say you want to make a film that hasn't been made before; they will throw you out because they want the same film that works, that makes money. That tells me that although the cinema in the next 100 years is going to change a lot, it will slow down because they don't want you to risk anymore. They don't want you to take chances. So I feel like [I'm] part of the cinema as it was 100 years ago, when you didn't know how to make it. You have to discover how to make it.

 

You can read the entire article on The 99%: Francis Ford Coppola: On Risk, Money, Craft & Collaboration

 

Opera Goes 3D

 

You know what would make theatre more real? Three dimensional images. I know the people on stage are already in three dimensions, but that's so 2010. What the black tie crowd really wants at the opera is Hollywood 3-D type effects. Or so Robert Lepage, director of "Siegfried," believes. In fact, he's banking on it.

 

Its use at the Met, so far, will be limited to forest scenes in "Siegfried." It will not be employed in the final work of Wagner's cycle, "Götterdämmerung." Inevitably, it will give more ammunition to Wagnerites and critics who view Mr. Lepage's sophisticated electronics as a distraction from the drama and the music. Peter Gelb, the Met's general manager, said the 3-D effect only "adds to the visual elements" of Mr. Lepage's "Ring." Mr. Gelb said he was sensitive to the perception that technology was driving the "artistic product." In this case, Mr. Gelb asserted, "technology is in the service of art."

 

You can read the entire article on The New York Times' website: 3-D Comes to Met Opera, but Without Those Undignified Glasses

 

-Richard

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

 

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Weekly News Brief - Books, Film, Music - February 18, 2011

Weekly News Brief - Books, Film, Music - February 11, 2011

1,387 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: self_publishing, self_publishing, books, books, authors, authors, filmmaking, filmmaking, self-publishing, self-publishing, e-book, e-book, musicians, musicians, filmmakers, filmmakers
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We're on to week three. I don't expect that we're all on the same page (pardon the pun), but I hope you are getting a sense of how another writer manages the process of writing a book. For me, it's always beneficial to read or hear how other writers are doing it so I can evaluate my own style and procedures. No one way is the right way. In the end, you should do whatever keeps you moving forward. Here's what I take on in Week 3:

 

Edit for public consumption - One of the greatest motivating factors for me when I'm writing a book is getting feedback on the initial pages or chapters. Call it narcissistic, or even masochistic, depending if the feedback is good or bad, but for some reason hearing what other people have to say about my work early on gets my creative juices flowing. But, before I let them see anything, I do a basic edit and clean it up as best I can. I'll then post the first paragraph (or two) on my blog and notify my family, friends, and followers that I'd appreciate their honest feedback.

 

Evaluate progress - By this time, I've devoted a good number of hours to the project, so it's time to evaluate my progress thus far and see if and where I need to adjust. What I'm looking at is the number of pages I've cranked out so far, the quality of the work I've done, and story structure. I've started projects before and let myself run wild and free with the prose without sufficiently checking myself. The result was a story that fell apart and eventually frustrated me to the point of ditching the project. If you stop and look at your progress on a regular basis, you can avoid these frustrations.

 

Tweet as your main character - This is not a tool I use frequently, but I've seen other writers do it with much more commitment and success than me. The few times I have used it, I did find that it gave me a better understanding of my character's backstory. It's not something I recommend for everybody, but if you're a Twitter addict, why not work it into your tweeting schedule? It could also help you generate pre-publication buzz for your title.

 

That's it for this week. Come back next week, when I'll talk about ways to stay motivated, outlining the remaining chapters, and developing sub-plots.

 

-Richard

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

 

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The First 5 Weeks of a Manuscript - Week 2: Genre, Word Count, Finding a Reader, Announcing Intentions

The First 5 Weeks of a Manuscript - Week 1: Idea, Character, Plot, First Pages

1,428 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, authors, book, editing, writers, writing, craft, social_media
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Over the years I have come across various contests held by authors in order to boost sales. I'd always been skeptical of the practice because spreading the word about a contest is as difficult as spreading the word about a book. The way I see it, there are thousands of contests to compete with, so just how do you stand out? It just didn't make sense to me, but I was still curious about the concept.

 

One day my curiosity got the best of me. I decided I was going to hold a contest for my books, but I told myself I wasn't going to do it to boost sales - I was doing it to boost the word-of-mouth buzz for my brand. I was fully prepared to count exposure over money as a success. In the end, I received hundreds of entries and I actually ended up selling enough books in the process to more than cover the expense of the contest. It turned out to be a win-win for me. Here's what I did from beginning to end, which may give you ideas for hosting your own contest.

 

  1. Picked a prize - Many authors give away signed copies of their books, which is great if you're a well-known author. For me, I didn't feel like it was enough of a hook to get people interested. So, I chose to give away a Kindle e-reader. They're great gadgets, and people were intrigued enough by them to try and win one.
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  3. Created the rules - I wrote a simple list of rules with two things in mind: first, I wanted this contest to be about spreading the word for my brand. That was my primary focus. Second, no one would be required to pay a dime to enter my contest. This was difficult since my contest required entrants to know something only somebody who read my book would know. The solution was to offer the PDF of the book available for download on my website for free. I also provided a link to a page where they could buy the paperback if they preferred print, but I stressed the free version.
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  5. Made the announcement - I posted the contest announcement on my blog, Twitter, Facebook, and a message board that was exclusively for Kindle users. In addition, I found bloggers who dedicated their blogs to e-books and sent them a notice. I set up an email account specifically for the contest, and within hours of making the announcement I started getting inquiries.
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  7. Managed the contest - There's a lot of work to be done from the time you make the announcement to the time you stop taking entries. Mostly I was fielding questions about contest rules and pointing people to the PDF link if they couldn't find it. But a lot of it was just thanking people who had entered the contest.
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  9. Announced the winner - I videotaped myself drawing a name out of a jumbled pile of entries and posted it on YouTube. I then contacted the winner via email and let her know she had won. She was ecstatic, and I was really happy for her. She even sent me a picture of her holding the new Kindle when she got it and gave me permission to post it on my blog.

 

All in all, the contest was a success. I got the exposure I was looking for, and I even made a tiny profit. Contests can be time-consuming, but I felt it was worth it. That's my story. How about you? Do you have any experience organizing contests or giveaways?

 

-Richard

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

 

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Does Silly Sell?

To Serialize or Not to Serialize, That Is the Question

1,341 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, authors, marketing, promotion, blogging, contest, promotions, branding
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An Immortal Life Reveals a Big Heart

 

For 50 years, the medical research and pharmaceutical industries have made millions of dollars off the incredibly durable cancer cells of one woman, Henrietta Lacks. Neither she nor her family has ever received a dime for her contribution to science. She was never even asked if her cells could be used for research. Enter author Rebecca Skloot and her book about Henrietta's unique story, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks." Skloot is making sure Henrietta's family is finally receiving some compensation.

 

Soon after the book came out, she created the Henrietta Lacks Foundation to help Mrs. Lacks's descendants, some of whom suffered from the whirlwind of publicity, misinformation and scam artists surrounding HeLa cells, not to mention a lack of insurance to pay for any of the medical advances Mrs. Lacks's cells made possible. "I first envisioned it as a foundation for education, but I realized that the people who were affected the most were her kids, and they needed some medical care and dental care," Ms. Skloot said from her home in Chicago.

 

You can read the entire article on The New York Times' website: Returning the Blessings of an Immortal Life

 

Here's Looking at Humphrey Bogart, Kid.

 

He'd swagger in front of the camera and deliver a line with that haunting affect of his, and you knew immediately he was a man's man, a tough guy through and through. He even managed to play a screenwriter in a movie and make him the toughest guy in the room. What was it about Humphrey Bogart that made him so imposing?

 

By the time his film breakthrough came, he was 42 and already wearing the vestiges of betrayal, loss and resignation that would bring the shadow of a back story to every role he played. Photographs of Bogart in the 1920s, when he was in his 20s, show a bright-eyed, smooth-cheeked actor whose features haven't set yet. The transformation took place before we made his acquaintance. The Bogart we came to know on the screen was mature when he arrived, with compressed emotions, an economy of gesture and a compact grace in movements that were wary and self-contained, as if all the world were not a stage but a minefield.

 

You can read the entire article on The New York Times' website: Here's Looking at Him

 

How to Be a Hit Maker

 

Ever wonder what it takes to make it in pop music? How to collect more Grammys than you have shelf space? Produce one hit after another that turns into prestige and cash and more cash? I've wondered that, and I'm not even a musician. Music producers RedOne, Alex Da Kid and Ari Levine discuss their secrets to creating hits.

 

On Saturday evening in front of a sold-out crowd, Powers led a freewheeling conversation that sought to put into words the magic that turns a bunch of notes on paper (or, these days, a hard drive) into a hit song. "I think the most important thing is having a vision. Being able to see things before other people can see it," Alexander Grant - better known as Alex Da Kid - told the audience inside the Grammy Museum's Clive Davis Theater. "Most of the songs you're working on, they won't even come out for three or four months at least, maybe longer, so you have to be able to think what's going to be a hit record in six months."

 

You can read the entire article on the Los Angeles Times' website: From an idea to a single: RedOne, Alex Da Kid and Ari Levine discuss making hits

 

-Richard

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

 

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Weekly News Brief - Books, Film, Music - February 11, 2011

Weekly News Brief - Books, Film, Music - February 4, 2011

1,417 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, books, authors, authors, music, music, films, films, producers, producers, actors, actors, musicians, musicians, filmmakers, filmmakers
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Well, we've reached week two of the life of a manuscript. You've done the hard part in the first week: you know your primary characters. You've captured the feel of the story by clearly defining the plot and writing the first few pages. You can adjust plot and characters as you go along, but by now, you should be well on your way to writing a steady stream of pages. The story should be in your blood by now. We're on to the next few steps in Week 2:

 

Commit to a genre - This may sound like a no-brainer, but I've talked to too many authors who don't know what genre their book falls under. Some authors believe it's beneficial to write a book that isn't pigeonholed by the expectations that come with being associated with a specific genre. In point of fact, the opposite is true. When you know your genre, you create a deeper level of connection with your story. It's important to know what type of book you're writing early on, because the expectations you may have tried to avoid will actually be a great guide for you as you write. Yes, you're bound to overlap into other genres, and that's fine. But you'll still have a primary genre as your basic map.

 

Pick a word count - I've discussed picking your word count early in the writing process before on this blog. I suggested that it's advantageous to do it before you start writing. I'll amend that a little here: it's advantageous when you are ready to start writing in earnest. The reason is similar to the reasoning of picking the genre early on: it creates rules for you to follow. I'm a big believer that rules free you up to be more creative. When you're faced with something you can't do because it would violate a self-imposed rule, you will turn to your creative nature to stay within those rules. Setting the word count will also let you know what your pacing should be in order to reach a conclusion in a satisfying manner. If I pick my target word count at the earliest possible point, I, at the very least, know what rhythm I need to establish as I write.

 

Find a reader - Writing tends to be a solitary endeavor, but it doesn't have to be. Find a friend or family member who is willing to read your pages as you write. You want someone whose opinion you trust because you're going to ask them to be brutally honest with you. You're asking them to do something that's time-consuming and perhaps even a little uncomfortable. Be respectful of their input. Listen to what they have to say, and then keep on writing.

 

Announce your intentions - It's time to let the world know what you're doing. This is what social media is for: to let your friends and followers know what your latest adventure is. In this case, it's writing a book. This is where your word-of-mouth campaign gets underway, and it's also a way to keep you honest. If you announce that you're writing a book to your entire network, you'll feel that much more obligated to finish it.

 

That's it for this week. Next week, we'll move on to editing and posting your first paragraph, evaluating your progress, and building buzz on your project.

 

-Richard

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

 

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The First 5 Weeks of a Manuscript - Week 1: Idea, Character, Plot, First Pages

Picking a Final Word Count Before You Write

1,844 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, authors, book, writers, writing, genre, craft, social_media, word_count
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Are You What You Read?

 

Part of the story of any tragic event at the hands of a madman usually turns to what books the madman chose to read. Like it or not, the books we read can be at the center of any judgment reached on our character. But is it fair to judge us by what we read? Do we know anything about Hitler's character because he liked books about the Old West? Or does knowing that Charles Manson liked "Stranger in a Strange Land" by Robert Heinlein really give us a view into Manson's demented mind? Geoff Nicholson explores the topic in The New York Times.

 

The psychiatrist Fredric Wertham got things about as wrong as can be when he argued, in "Seduction of the Innocent" (1954), that the fact that prisoners and juvenile delinquents read "crime comics" meant that comics were causing, or at least stoking, their criminal tendencies. Current evidence suggests that if criminals read at all - and let's not forget how many prisoners are functionally illiterate - then they read much the same books as the rest of us, business and self-help books included.

 

You can read the entire article on The New York Times' website: The Perils of Literary Profiling

 

Independent Filmmaking is No Longer All about Meeting Scarlett Johansson

 

Before the financial slide in 2008, it used to be fairly easy to find a guy making a mint on Wall Street to invest in your independent film, especially if there was a chance they would be able to meet one of their favorite Hollywood stars. But when the market tanked, their expendable cash dried up, and the independent film industry hit a rough patch. Fortunately, government incentives and expanding distribution channels have helped put the industry back on its feet.

 

And it's getting easier to finance movies than it was two years ago. "The amount of equity required to finance a film has diminished," say Steven Beer, a lawyer at Greenberg Traurig who is helping to sell three films at the festival this year including a documentary about A Tribe Called Quest. "The Jobs Creation Act gives filmmakers a federal tax credit for qualified production. Couple that with state incentive programs which can offer up to a 40% return on a per project basis."

 

You can read the entire article on Forbes' website: The Improving Economics of Independent Film

 

There's Always Something New to Make You Buy That Old Album

 

The music industry has enjoyed the fruits of changing formats for decades. That old "What a Long Strange Trip It's Been" album was also available as a tape you could listen to in your car, and then it became a CD you had to have because of the superior sound quality, and then it was released in MP3 format that you could listen to on your ultra-portable, whiz-bang audio device. What's the next format you'll have to invest in? Kyle Bylin of Hypebot.com looks into the future of music formats.

 

It appears as though the days of a singular format are numbered. By my count, there are six music formats right now that seek to challenge the rein of the MP3. A few of them aren't as much of a format as much as they are a delivery tool, but I'm counting them. For example, a flash drive is just a storage device that holds music, but in recent years, many groups have sold them. 

 

You can read the entire article on Hypebot.com: Is The Format Replacement Cycle Over?

 

-Richard

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

 

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Weekly News Brief - Books, Film, Music - February 4, 2011

Weekly News Brief - Books, Film, Music - January 28, 2011

1,655 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, books, book, book, music, music, filmmaking, filmmaking, indie, indie, films, films
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I started a new book after the holidays, and I thought I would share my process with you as I chase it to completion. My hope is that you'll find something useful that you may consider adopting to start and finish your book, whether it is your first or your next. Maybe it will even motivate you to dust off an old unfinished manuscript and finish it! For the first week of a manuscript, I focus on the following:

 

Idea - I've titled this post Week 1, but the dust of an inkling of a spark of an idea may have come to me months or years ago. But for our purposes, I'll start where the idea took shape. It just so happens that this idea came to me when I was about 2,000 miles away from my computer. I was in a hotel room in Vegas reading "True Grit" by Charles Portis. I was inspired not so much by the story, but by the style of writing, so I put down the book, pulled out the hotel stationery, and started writing. I did it without thinking. I wrote and wrote and wrote until I found the narrator's voice. Everything fell into place after that.

 

Character - With the voice of the book in place, I was able to determine that this story would be told from a first-person point of view. This style has its limits because I can only write what my narrator witnesses, but the pay-off from a writer's perspective is that I'm able to make a deep connection with what will ultimately be my main character. I hope this will allow readers to make the same kind of connection with the character. It also helps me see the other characters more clearly. I evaluate and configure them through the main character's eyes.

 

Plot - I have the general idea in place, and I have the narrator fleshed out. It's time to clearly define my plot. That doesn't mean I'm ready to map out every sub-plot and character that will come into play. I'm only concerned about the main character and the element that will define his arch. I'm ready to create my one-sentence pitch. That's all I want to start the story because if I try to do more than that at this point, I will suffer from analysis paralysis. Who is my main character, and what is his task?

 

The First Pages - This is where the rubber meets the road. I do two of the most important things in my process at this point. First, I come up with a working title. For me, it's important that the title captures the essence of my one-sentence pitch. The title may not be a literal interpretation of the plot, but it certainly can be. After I decide on a title, I write the first sentence. I like to shake things up with the first sentence because you know what they say about first impressions: you only get one. In a lot of ways, the first sentence is my most important decision as a writer. It has to be something that will grab people's attention. I have found at this point it's easy to move to the writing. I can easily crank out a page or two or more because I know plot, I know character, and I know point of view.

 

That's it for this week. Come back next week, when I'll talk about genre, word count, finding a reader, and announcing your intentions.

 

-Richard

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

 

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Embracing Inspiration from Real-Life Moments

Can Your Book Title Affect the Way You Write?

1,762 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, authors, book, writers, writing, manuscript, craft
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I have written on this blog before about the concept of writing what you know. My take on the subject was that I thought the old adage should be changed to "write what you want to know." My reasoning was that if you want to know about something, you would pursue that subject matter with a heightened sense of passion. That passion would then leach into your prose, making it that much better.

 

I'd like to add another twist to the "write what you know" philosophy. I know feelings. I have them. I've avoided them at times. I've even used them inappropriately. You name a feeling, and I guarantee I've experienced it. Given that, I should be able to write about feelings. This comes in handy for me because I like to write character-centric stories. I can't sell a story without connecting with the characters, and I do so by tapping into the basic human emotions that I'm most familiar with. In the case of horror, which is my main genre, there's much more than just fear involved. My main characters would no doubt experience fear, but they could also experience profound sadness, anger, and at times, even humor as a survival mechanism. I know all these emotions, so I can transpose my experiences with them onto my book's characters in order to make them relatable and the story more believable.

 

There are other elements to the stories I write, however, that I don't have experience with. I don't have firsthand knowledge of police procedures. Fortunately, thanks to the internet and other books, I have the ability to learn about these in-depth. And thanks to social networking, I even have access to old friends who are now working in law enforcement and can help me with that part of the story.

 

But emotions are already in my memory bank, and I can apply them as needed without consulting others. As authors, being human is what we know. Focus on who your characters are, and not what they do for a living. Look for the emotional warts that make your characters interesting. Once you've tapped into those aspects of your characters, you can explore the technical aspects of the story you don't know. I've found that I will even picture my character running through the procedures as I'm learning them. It gives me a better sense of who they are and allows me to tell a more compelling and emotion-rich story.

 

-Richard

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

 

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Write What You Want to Know

Enjoy What You Write

499 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, authors, book, self-publishing, writers, writing, craft
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Welcome to Tuesday's blog roundup. This is the day we shine the spotlight on bloggers and artists in the publishing, film and music industries.

 

Books/Publishing

 

Thinking Beyond the Book: What's Your Demand Curve? - There Are No Rules

Find more ways to make money as an author in addition to selling books. What do you have to offer beyond the book?

 

Editor Sued for Running a Negative Book Review - Moby Lives

An author is suing over a bad book review. Do you think the case holds water?

 

Film

 

SUNDANCE Q&A: Roger Corman Discusses Being a Rebel and Making the Most Out of a Small Budget - The Hollywood Reporter

The king of low, low budget films since the 1950s dishes on his long-running career.

 

Young Filmmaker Taps Professional Talent - North County Times

A high school filmmaker is getting a head start on his career. He's even convinced professional actors to work in his films.

 

Music

 

HOW TO: Give Fans Control of an Album Release - Hypebot.com

An Australian band has found a way to put the fans in charge. If enough pre-orders come in, they will  release all the cuts from their album before the official release date.

 

Black Eyed Peas Star Named "Director of Creativity" for Intel - BeatCrave

"Boom boom pow," will.i.am has gone corporate. "Imma be" a little surprised by this development.

 

-Richard

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

 

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Tuesday's Blog Roundup - January 25, 2011 Edition

Tuesday's Blog Roundup - January 18, 2011 Edition

1,321 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, books, authors, authors, selling, selling, music, music, filmmaking, filmmaking, film, film, sales, sales, review, review, musicians, musicians, filmmakers, filmmakers
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Writing an obituary is one of the oldest tricks in the books when it comes to fleshing out your characters. It's an exercise I learned years ago in a college creative writing class. At first, I thought that, in addition to being a little morose, the exercise was ridiculous. I wanted to write, after all. I didn't want to waste time making up a life for a person that didn't really exist. Sure, I knew what the instructor wanted me to get out of it. She wanted me to know the characters inside and out, so I would know how they would react to any situation or development the story might throw their way. And the opportunity to get to know your characters better will always prove beneficial.

 

Here's what I didn't expect to get out of the exercise: I made an emotional connection with the characters when I wrote obituaries for them. Maybe it was the act of defining a life and making it matter. Maybe it was a phantom feeling of loss that I developed while writing the obituary. Or maybe the supposed bond was created because I felt like I knew the people well enough to write their obituaries. Whatever it was, the attachment I developed when writing fictional obituaries allowed me to add even more depth to the characters throughout the course of the story. I don't know if that was my instructor's goal with the obituary assignment, but it certainly was a wonderful side effect.

 

Why not give this exercise a try? Start by picking up a local paper and scanning the obituaries. Note how they are usually worded and their typical length, and construct obituaries for your two leading characters. Write them as a friend or family member would write them, focusing on the characters' accomplishments, loved ones, and legacies. Think about the age of the characters at the time of the obituary, and what their life circumstances might have been like at the time of their death. Remember, no one is perfect, but an obituary isn't the place to air your characters' dirty laundry. The story is where you'll get to do that by telling the events that ultimately add up to the life described in the obituary.

 

This is just one of countless creative writing exercises out there. What other tricks do you use to hone your craft?

 

-Richard

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

 

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Too Many Characters in the Kitchen

Creative Writing Exercises

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I found a blog a while ago that focused on the craft of writing. Most of the posts were entertaining and useful, but one irritated me. The subject of the post was dead giveaways that something is written by a novice writer. The most significant "giveaway" was that new writers use some words way too much. This particular poster's belief was that their limited writing talents led to limited use of words.

 

I disagree. I'm not saying you should use the same word for a certain action or description ad nauseam, but good writing relies on the rhythm of the prose. Once you establish a certain rhythm, the reader is more likely to make a connection with the story. Breaking out the thesaurus to find a different way to say a word you've used before is a good way to lose that rhythm and lose the reader in the process.

 

I decided to "look" up some of the words on the poster's list that are overused by novice writers and "see" how successful writers like Stephen King, Elmore Leonard, Cormac McCarthy, and Anne Lamott used them, or "overused" them, as the case may be. I chose one book by each author at random and came up with an average among the four for each word. Here's what I found:

 

  • See - Occurred an average 163 times. This does not include the word seeing.
  • Look - Occurred an average 134 times. This does not include the word in all its forms (i.e. looked, looking, looks)
  • Turn - Occurred an average 38 times. This does not include the word in all its forms (i.e. turns, turning, turned)
  • Breath - Occurred an average 18 times. This does not include the word in all its forms (i.e. breathes, breathed, breathe)

 

The bottom line of my unscientific experiment is that sometimes it's necessary to use the same word repeatedly. Don't beat yourself up trying to find an alternative. Your story has a rhythm, and you shouldn't let someone else's rules of writing destroy that rhythm. Your talent as a writer isn't dictated by the variety of words you use. It's the way you use words to tell your story that matters. So, take a deep breath, turn to a mirror, look yourself in the eyes, and say, "I'll only use the words that I need to use to tell my story. No more. No less."

 

See, don't you feel better?

 

-Richard

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

 

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When Writing, Don't Outsmart Yourself

Making Up Words: How Much is Too Much?

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Welcome to Tuesday's blog roundup. This is the day we shine the spotlight on bloggers and artists in the publishing, film and music industries.

 

Books/Publishing

 

The Evolution of How I Use Twitter - There Are No Rules

Writer's Digest's Jane Friedman gives her best tips for authors on how to use Twitter to build their brands.

 

You Should Self-Publish - A Newbie's Guide to Publishing

Author Joe Konrath makes a compelling argument for self-publishing. He's on board, and he thinks you should be, too.

 

Film

 

I'll Work for the Promise You'll Pay Me Eventually - Joke and Biagio

In the film industry, it's not uncommon for you to do the work with just the promise of pay.

 

Briefcase of Prop Money: BFX: DIY - Indy Mogul

How to make fake money for that briefcase full of ransom or any other scene where you need stacks of realistic looking currency.

 

Music

 

In Social Media, the Best PR Person is Yourself - Mr. Tunes

No one is better at being you than you. Why give your social media channels to a PR person?

 

MySpace Dying as Facebook Grows - dmusic

Reports of MySpace's resurgence may have been premature. Even Tila Tequila has left the once-thriving social media site.

 

-Richard

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

 

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Tuesday's Blog Roundup - January 11, 2011 Edition

Tuesday's Blog Roundup - January 4, 2011 Edition

1,420 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: self_publishing, self_publishing, books, books, authors, authors, music, music, filmmaking, filmmaking, self-publishing, self-publishing, films, films, twitter, twitter, musicians, musicians, filmmakers, filmmakers, social_media, social_media
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Is This the Year of the E-book?


The day that many have predicted may be here. E-books outsold print books the week after the holidays on USA Today's top-50 list. Sure it was only a week, but it's a pretty significant development. Like it or not, e-books are growing in popularity and the trend does not appear to be stalling anytime soon.


USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list, to be published Thursday, will show digital's new popularity: E-book versions of the top six books outsold the print versions last week. And of the top 50, 19 had higher e-book than print sales. It's the first time the top-50 list has had more than two titles in which the e-version outsold print. "Lots of consumers woke up Christmas morning with new e-reading devices ready to load them up with e-books," says Paul Bogaards of Knopf, American publisher for Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, which holds three of the top four spots on the list.


You can read the entire article on USA Today's website: Week after holidays, e-book sales outdo print


Did Lucas Unnecessarily Air His Back Story?

There is no doubt that George Lucas is a filmmaking genius, and I get a little uncomfortable being overly critical of his choice to create the three prequel movies to his Star Wars empire (that's empire with a lowercase "e"). But let's face it: the first three films were groundbreaking in scope and structure. They changed film. The prequels did not. So, what was different? Why didn't they have the same impact? The Moon brothers' assessment is that the prequels were just a bunch of unnecessary back story.   


The problem that the prequels had, especially for those who were around when the original trilogy came out, is this: Our imagination is so strong, usually it's hard to top. We put together the clues to form the full backstory in our minds. Put the two trilogies back-to-back, and you'll find that there are little inconsistencies. Backstory and story don't quite match, especially regarding the reasons and circumstances surrounding the turn of Anakin Skywalker to the dark side.


You can read the entire article on the Moon Brothers website: The Backstory of Star Wars


Is Simple the Key to Success in Songwriting?

It is human nature to lament the state of popular music. My generation does it. The generation before me does it. Cavemen did it when a three syllable grunt was something you could dance to. Someone is always unhappy about the current crop of songs getting the most attention. Jon Pareles of the New York Times is the latest to hate the string of songs played over and over again in various venues. 


The pressures on musicians to keep things simple are obvious. What have become all-too-familiar 21st-century refrains - too much information, too little time and the diminished attention spans that result from trying to cope - have only grown more insistent through the decade. The recording technology of loops and samples encourages unimaginative producers to repeat something merely adequate for the length of a song rather than developing or enriching it. 


You can read the entire article on the New York Times' website: Want a Hit? Keep It Simple


-Richard

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


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Weekly News Brief - Books, Film, Music - January 7, 2011

Weekly News Brief - Books, Film, Music - December 31, 2010

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I was fortunate enough to get an invitation to speak to a group of kids, parents, and teachers a few weeks ago. It's an invitation that would have sent me into a panic-induced coma less than a decade ago, but not anymore. You see, I had a problem with public speaking that almost prevented me from putting together a coherent sentence if I was speaking to more than three people at a time. But I forced myself to get out of my comfort zone in 1999 by taking a sales job that I had no aptitude for, and I slowly learned how to talk to people. The groups grew larger and larger over time until I was comfortable speaking to a room full of people. It became easier to do, especially when I realized that the audience wanted me to succeed as much as I wanted to succeed. It's as uncomfortable for them when a speaker bombs as it is for the speaker.


I'm not a professional speaker, and the audience knows it. I enter the room with as little pressure on me as possible. I don't memorize anything, I don't write a word-for-word speech, and I prefer not to use slideshows. I like when it's just me and an outline of topics I want to cover. Here's a list of ways I prepared for my latest personal appearance that you may want to apply next time you're planning your own:


  • I asked the organizer why the audience would be attending the presentation. If they were coming to hear me, then I knew I could focus more on my books and my journey as a writer. If they were coming to find out more about publishing and writing, then I would focus more on the business of writing as a whole. Turns out on this occasion it was going to be a mixture, so I created an outline that broke the presentation into three sections: the current state of the publishing industry, my place in it, and my writing process.
  • I prepared a few pages of what I'm currently writing to read to the audience at the end of the hour-long presentation.
  • I gathered copies of my books to give away after the presentation.
  • I gave myself plenty to do on the day of the presentation so I wouldn't harp on what I was going to say that night. The more I think about a speaking engagement, the more nervous I make myself, so keeping busy lets me effectively block it from my mind and go into the event feeling loose.


As cliché as it sounds, open with a joke. I like to refer to the person who introduces me because he or she usually says something overly glowing and totally undeserved about me. It's easy to come up with a self-effacing line when you follow such an introduction.


I considered the appearance a rousing success. I spoke for an hour and fifteen minutes, signed copies of my books until I ran out, and then promised those remaining that I would return when I had more books and finish the signing. They were thrilled, and I'm scheduled to return next month.


Look for opportunities to do some public speaking. The interaction you have with a group of people is invaluable. You get a real feel for the people you're trying to reach with your writing, and you build a special relationship with the people who are ultimately going to be your word-of-mouth campaign. Remember, your audience is pulling for you to succeed - they are on your side!


I'd love to hear about any experiences you may have had addressing a group about your books or writing. Any tips or advice you'd like to share?


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


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Do I Really Have to Self-promote?
Four Tips for Real-Life Networking

6,584 Views 3 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, books, marketing, marketing, book, book, networking, networking, author, author, promotions, promotions, public_speaking, public_speaking, speaking, speaking
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