In the past, the characters I've created for my novels have been made up out of whole cloth. Certain physical characteristics or mannerisms may be borrowed from real life individuals, but the character in his or her entire has always been unique in and of themselves. I suppose you could say that they have a kind of welcomed multi-personality syndrome (as described by Jason Black of Plot to Punctuation) that allows me to nurture and shape completely fictitious characters both good and bad while still maintaining my own identity.
Recently, I wanted to try something different. I wanted to incorporate a real historical character into one of my novels. This man died in 1936, so there was no possible way for me to interview him, and frankly, I wouldn't want to. He is the supreme bad guy which is why I wanted to use him in my story. I had read a book about him years ago, and his unpleasant exploits had always stuck with me. When I was outlining my new book, he seemed the perfect fit to play the role of the monster. I burned up Google and other search engines finding out everything I could about him. I rented documentaries on him, and I read letters written by this man. Every step of the way I grew more and more disturbed that such a man could have actually lived. He's so terrible I don't even want to expose you to his name. I even contemplated not using him.
But here's what I ultimately learned that was positive in researching this character. As awful as this man was, good was on his heels chasing him down. While this man left a wake of disaster and devastation, there was a single dedicated police officer doing everything in his power to find this man. And through clever and tireless investigative techniques, he did just that. It was and is truly inspiring. And that's the point of this post. Good fiction (even if it is based on fact) is always balanced by your characters. A character of one extreme is always better developed when he or she is matched with a character of the opposite extreme. Opposites do more than attract. They create natural conflict that drives your story. In researching the bad guy I wanted to use for my story, I found the perfect characteristics my good guy must possess in order to keep the story moving. In essence, by exposing myself to a truly bad guy, I found a hero to save the day and my story.
Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.
So, you've got your community in place. You're a regular contributor to your own blog. Your Facebook and Twitter accounts are filled with Friends and Followers that participate in your postings. Your Youtube channel has a growing base of subscribers, and they love to give you feedback on your videos. Everything seems to be going great, but unless the members of your community are engaged by you, you could experience turnover.
Turnover connotes a passing interest. Remember, you are trying to build a passionate following because passionate followers spread the word about your book, about your blog, about you. Engage your community. How? Really all it amounts to is you taking an interest in your own community. Don't just post and run. Post and communicate. True, you are the personal brand, but the personal brand has to be more than about you. It's about your community. Here are a few suggestions on how to engage your community:
1. Respond to feedback: When someone comments on something you've posted, they are inviting you to talk with them. Take them up on their offer. Make them feel welcome. They'll reward you by coming back and commenting again.
2. Polls: Asking someone's opinion about something is a great way to engage them. People love to participate in polls. Whether it's current events, sports, genre related, pop culture, etc., your community is very likely willing and wanting to share their opinion via a poll. Why not give them the opportunity? Polls are relatively easy to set up these days through free online polling services.
3. Open Line Day: Pick a day to open up your blog to your community. Maybe they have a project that they are working on, but they don't have a forum to do so. Give them the forum. This is something you can do once a month. Make them feel like your home is their home.
These are three simple suggestions which you can adjust to your own environment. The important thing is to always engage your community because the more engaged they are the more ownership they will take in your personal brand and passionately start spreading the word for you.
Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor
Authors are finding new ways to market their books. Rare are the days when they get to meet their readers face-to-face like they once did before Web 2.0 provided a less expensive and more efficient way to spread the word about their books. For authors who published in the "good old days," it can be a difficult adjustment.
Fantasy, horror, and romance writer L.A. Banks, 50, misses the good old days. "You would sit down with marketing folks to come up with a campaign," she says. And today? "Puhleeeze!", she says, adding a sigh for effect. "It kind of stuck in my craw last year when I wasn't sent to ComiCon," the entertainment industry's premiere sci-fi and fantasy convention, in San Diego, to publicize the last volume of her best-selling Vampire Huntress series. But she is generally sanguine about the brave new world of publishing.
A lot of people pursue a job in film because they want to direct. Some chase the dream for the wrong reasons, but some actually feel a gnawing at their soul that compels them to direct films. According to Lenny Manzo of Filmmaking.net, there is more than one way to land a job directing a feature film.
As you make your way to the director's chair I recommend becoming the director's assistant for large movies. To be able to trail a director for a whole movie would be invaluable. First you would be able to learn so much from a seasoned pro and you would get to see how the whole machine operates at the top. As the directors assistant you will also constantly be around all the muckety mucks. Not only will you be learning you will be making potential contacts for the future.
This article was written for musicians, but these rules invoked by Bob Baker could really apply to anyone using Twitter to help create their personal brand. Used properly, Twitter can contribute a great deal to getting the word out about your music, your band, or whatever it is you want to sell. Used incorrectly, and you could find yourself doing more to damage your chances of success than help. Here's an example of Bob's advice:
Just because you're peeved that a less-deserving band got the headlining slot you worked so hard for, that doesn't mean you have to vent about it in public. Cutting down others won't endear you to fans or industry people. Allow yourself to stew about it, then let it go and move on.
A few months ago, a young reader asked me what the theme song was for one of my books. I have to admit the question caught me off guard. I had never associated "theme music" with books, but I guess it makes sense in today's multimedia world. After all, I generally write with my headphones on, music blaring, the real world tuned out. But the music doesn't influence my writing... or so I had thought.
I examined the songs I listened to while writing that particular book, and I was surprised. One song could absolutely be a theme song for the book. I was born... before most of you probably were which makes me a fan of old classic rock 'n roll. Pink Floyd is one of my favorite bands (Post-Syd Barret Pink Floyd, but before Roger Waters left). While listening to one of their live CDs, the song "Wish You Were Here" oozed through the headphones, and I started listening closely to the lyrics. It was the theme of the book. In a very real way it was the book's theme song. I don't know how I didn't recognize it before. I started to wonder if it was a coincidence that the song and book were so closely related in mood and storyline. Could the song have influenced my writing? I had plotted the book before writing, but I listen to music during that process, too.
So, I pose these questions to you. What is the theme song for your book? Does the music you listen to influence the tone and structure of your writing? Do you randomly pick the music you listen to while writing, or does the music you choose to write to have a purpose?
I have always thought music and literature were soul mates, but now I'm starting to wonder if they're sharing the same soul.
Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and regular CreateSpace contributor.
Okay, it's been fairly well established that in order to have a successful online presence it must be an active online presence. Simply having your book listed with an online retailer isn't enough. Having your own Web site isn't even enough. You need to always be promoting. We've talked extensively about kinetic marketing. That means it's essential for you to have your own blog, participate in social networks, and utilize personal video as part of your personal branding strategy. But you can do more.
If you are just starting out online it will take you awhile to build traffic for your various sites on the World Wide Web. In the beginning, you may need to go where your readers are and shine a light on yourself. How? By participating on a more established author's blog or message board. It's a great way to introduce yourself to readers of your genre and start making a name for yourself as a thoughtful and viable voice in the community. I have gained a lot of followers for my own blog by simply visiting someone else's blog and commenting on their blog posts.
There are few unwritten rules to keep in mind if you're going to pursue this particular strategy:
Do not overtly promote yourself, your blog, or your book. You are an expert or fan giving your opinion. You're not selling anything. Providing a link to your Web site or blog within the body of your comment signals that your comment is self-serving. It is okay to reference a blog post that you wrote addressing the same issue, but steer clear of encouraging people to visit your blog and read it. Most blogs have an option for the commenter's name to be linkable. Put your blog address in this field. If people like your comment, they will click on your name and discover your own online community.
Be brief and thoughtful. Don't show off with a ton of information. Show off with your ability to be concise and entertaining. This will do more to establish your personal brand and entice people to click on your name to find out more about you.
Don't pick a fight with the blogger or other people commenting. You can respectfully disagree, but don't be rude. This will put you in a position of defending yourself on someone else's blog. This never goes well, and it makes you look bad in the eyes of the community. If possible, post your disagreement in the form of a question to allow the blogger to address your differences in a non-confrontational manner.
In essence, all this particular strategy amounts to is good old-fashioned networking. You're placing yourself in a community of like-minded individuals and sharing your knowledge. Comment frequently enough and it could even lead to an opportunity to be a guest blogger on the site. Have fun. Be yourself. Build your personal brand with insightful and helpful comments.
Richard is an award-winning author and regular CreateSpace contributor.
Branding is the foundation on which you build your marketing campaign. You can't effectively market without a brand. For authors, that means building a personal brand. Robert Friedman of Fearless Branding covered the topic of "brands" at a recent gathering of the Northern California Book Publicity and Marketing Association. According to him:
He said it starts with a "who are you" kind of conversation, and the further it is explored, the more companies (publishers and authors in this case) can uncover not just the unique value of their offerings but also the market that wants that value most. The next step in branding, said Friedman, is to segment that market.
At The Movies Won't Be Going to the Movies Anymore
The show that made Siskel and Ebert and their two thumbs celebrities is leaving the air. The two hosts who playfully fought over cinematic tastes brought a unique chemistry to movie reviews that hadn't previously existed, and apparently disappeared when they left the show. Gene Siskel died of cancer in 1999 and Roger Ebert left the show to battle cancer in 2006. Richard Roeper did his best to keep the show afloat with a string of co-hosts, but the magic faded once Ebert could no longer do the show. As James Poniewozik of the Times puts it:
Part of the issue, I suppose, is that the chemistry between Siskel and Ebert were so key to the show, and their sparring rapport was what made the show a mainstream phenomenon. Not to take anything away from the new hosts or their predecessors, but once Siskel died of cancer, something irreplaceable was lost.
Not every work of poetry, no matter how revered, is made for music. Professor Carol Reynolds examines the art of creating lyrics on MusicAfter50.com, and reveals that composers need vivid expression in order to create a quality song. In her words:
And "expressing more vividly" is what a composer wants to do. Why else bother to set a text to music? Music can add depth to the words, shape them, interpret them, or even reinterpret them. But for that to happen, the words have to offer the composer some kind of opening.
As crazy and amazingly simplistic as it sounds, you are missing the opportunity to sell a book every time you send an email if you haven't set up your email signature to identify yourself as an "Author." It may seem like the most innocuous part of an e-mail, but it's not. It's your opportunity to announce your book to a new contact and remind frequent contacts that your book is published and available for sale. I don't care if you're sending an e-mail to a stranger, a friend, or a family member; you should never miss the opportunity to include your "Author" signature in your e-mail. Almost every e-mail program has the capability to include a signature with each and every e-mail you send. You're hurting yourself and your book every time you send an e-mail without one. Your mission: set up your signature and start e-mailing your brains out. Here's the important information to include:
Graphic Image of Cover
Title of Book
Link to Blog/Web site
Link to E-tailer
Link to Book Trailer
One Sentence Description
If you don't have all of the above, include what you have and make an effort to fill in the missing pieces at a later date. The important thing is to build the signature as soon as possible so you don't waste another marketing opportunity.
Richard is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.
What goes better with a book than a good cup of coffee? It's a natural fit. How many coffee shops have you approached to do a book signing? Chances are if you live in or near a metropolitan area, you are within a short driving distance of a coffee shop. I'm not talking about a coffee shop in a bookstore. I'm talking about a free-standing neighborhood coffee shop. They specialize in serving a loyal customer base, and that loyal customer base is your demographic.
Here's your assignment. Walk into your local coffee bar, order your favorite brew, and hand the manager a copy of your book. Let him or her know that you are available for a signing anytime and that you are going to be doing some heavy marketing. If the manager's not there, ask for his or her business card and send them a signed copy of your book, including a brief note outlining your proposal for the book signing. Stress your greatest asset: you're a local author.
And don't forget to mention the Web 2.0 element of your marketing plan. Let them know how many friends and followers you have and that you're going to post updates about your signing inviting all the locals in your virtual community to attend. They're more likely to say yes if you can show them that you're going to do everything you can to bring people into their coffee shop.
Now you're ready for the coffee shop tour. Make sure you have plenty of books on hand.
Richard is an award-winning author and regular CreateSpace contributor.
We've been told over and over again not judge a book by its cover, but invariably, we do. The publishing industry counts on it, and self-published authors should, too. But, what should the cover convey? The Rumpus recently covered the subject:
Earlier this month, the subject of book cover design, and who the final design should speak to, blipped across the blogs for a day or so after Seth Godin reasonably opined that the single purpose of a book cover is to raise expectations that the book can and will deliver.
It seems the key to astronomical DVD sales success is tied the book. The New Moon DVD sold 4 million copies in its first two days. That's 200,000 more than the more than the first movie in the series based on Stephenie Meyer's books. According to the Los Angeles Times:
The difference between the movies in DVD sales is substantially less than at the box office. "New Moon" grossed $296.6 million domestically last year, compared to $192.8 million for the original "Twilight" in 2008.
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds the Result of Innocent Inspiration
The urban myth is that The Beatles' song, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, is a song about the psychotropic drug, LSD, but it turns out, the song springs from slightly more innocent origins. The song is based on a drawing John Lennon's son Julian. Here's the full story:
The song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" was inspired by a drawing that John Lennon's son Julian did of his classmate, Lucy O'Donnell. Julian brought the drawing home from nursery school in 1966, and explained to his dad that it was "Lucy - in the sky with diamonds."
I just discovered a great author by the name of John Scalzi. His first novel, Old Man's War, is one of the most compelling science fiction books I've ever read. But this is not a book review. This is the story of how I found one of my now new favorite authors: Mr. Scalzi. Basically, I discovered John Scalzi because Joe Hill is Stephen King's son. Confused? Let me explain...
I recently read on a blog that Stephen King's son, Joe Hill, had published his debut novel. Being a loyal Stephen King fan, I enthusiastically purchased his book, Heart-Shaped Box I enjoyed the novel immensely and logged on to Joe Hill's Web site to find out more about him. While reading his blog, a comment was made about John Scalzi's and I followed the link to his blog. I so enjoyed what I read there that I immediately purchased Old Man's War.
Why am I telling you this? To demonstrate two things:
1. Networking with other authors is crucial to building your audience. They can wittingly - and unwittingly - help you sell your book. I would have never found John Scalzi without Joe Hill. It wasn't Joe Hill's intention to promote Scalzi; he simply made an innocent remark about another author.
2. A blog is equally as crucial as networking. A blog led me to Joe Hill and his blog led me to John Scalzi, and I would not have purchased Old Man's War if Scalzi did not have an interesting and entertaining blog.
Marketing a book is a multi-pronged attack. Having friends and setting up a blog are two effective and inexpensive ways to get your book on the minds and into the hands of readers.
Richard is an award-winning author and regular CreateSpace contributor.
So, you published a book, and you told your friends and family about your incredible accomplishment. Were you happy with their reaction? Did they seem supportive, confused, or indifferent? Maybe you should take ownership of their response, and pass along Michael Melcher's advice on how people should react to friends who've written a book. Here's a little tidbit:
We want the world to welcome our creations. We want our friends to value how hard we've worked. We know that fame is unlikely and if it comes, will be fleeting. We write books because we want to say something. Maybe we have a special idea, or maybe we just want to leave some mark.
Celebrated writer David Mamet was executive producer of the now canceled CBS show The Unit. Apparently frustrated by the direction of the writing, he took it upon himself to send a memo out to the writers that did something memos rarely do; provide a reasonable solution. His major concern is that the writers aren't differentiating between a drama and a non-drama. His advice?
SO: WE, THE WRITERS, MUST ASK OURSELVES OF EVERY SCENE THESE THREE QUESTIONS.
1) WHO WANTS WHAT?
2) WHAT HAPPENS IF THEY DON'T GET IT?
3) WHY NOW?
THE ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS ARE LITMUS PAPER. APPLY THEM, AND THEIR ANSWERS WILL TELL YOU IF THE SCENE IS DRAMATIC OR NOT. IF THE SCENE IS NOT DRAMATICALLY WRITTEN, IT WILL NOT BE DRAMATICALLY ACTED.
If you're Johnny Mercer, Glen Wallichs and Buddy DeSylva and it is 1942, you start Capital Records. Over the years the company featured such diverse artists as Tennessee Ernie Ford, Judy Garland, Sammy Hagar and more. In 1955, EMI paid $8 million for 96% of the companies stocks. According to Music Industry Newswire:
In Capitol's 1955 annual report, Glen Wallichs wrote: "Thus, the world-wide resources of EMI, as a majority shareholder, stand firmly behind Capitol's position as a major record label nationally and internationally." In retrospect the merger made sense for both companies. Capitol became part of an international company and EMI acquired a significant foothold in the U.S., obviously a major music market.