Protecting your Virtual Real Estate

baby-working-on-a-laptopA URL is your virtual real estate. Your claim to the world you operate in. This is something that needs to be protected, especially when associated with your brand. This is how readers, customers, and businesses find your services, and locations. For an author, this is the foundation of your marketing platform. You can’t take risks with it.

Years ago I had a company offer to handle registration, hosting setup, and provide me with easy FTP. While I was learning the industry, and how to function online, I used them and paid them well to do what they offered. When I was ready to move the brand I had been building for well over two years, I asked them about transferring my URL. At which point I was told the URL wasn’t mine. I just paid for it, but was not entitled to it.

Since then, this company has continued to operate without repercussion and TheWritingNetwork was born out of need to build a new brand. While The Writing Network is a much broader brand than my original, and has served well to support others, I still invested time, money, and effort into building the original. Thankfully, at the time, I was able to contact clients and arrange for adjustments. There are situations that arise where that would not have been possible.

If you have a domain that you love, want, or need for your use, or to build your company, please purchase it from some place like http://domainerserver.com or another location that will be separate from your hosting location, OR is an actual registrar. Anything and anyone else is going to pave the way for your needed service, name, and brand to be absconded.

Marketing Monday: Why FREE is my favorite tool

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Many years ago I had posted a raw unedited version of my story on Blogger. It was free, and I thought it was a reasonable idea to share my words with the world, while I was writing. At the time I had no understanding of publishing, promotion in this industry, or opportunities. Due to my situation, I was fully unaware of the revolution in the publishing industry making cracks around us. Others did though.

When I started to tweet the new posts on twitter, I was contacted by two people very quickly. One called themselves an agent, and the other was a traditionally published author. The author offered to help me learn to navigate the submission process and told me exactly what would need to be done. I was thrilled to hear it was so simple, although a very long process.

I wasn’t able to move forward at the time because my family was in transition. It happens. Life continued, I wrote, role played, wrote some more, all behind the focus first of being a mother. I shared my story as I updated parts on Blogger, and one day another author contacted me and told me about a writing group, and this launched my research into the industry as a whole. Not long after she contacted me, another person calling themselves an agent also followed up with me. And the first agent emailed again. Wow, I thought I could conquer the world. As my research deepened, I realized I couldn’t have been more wrong.

My introduction to self publishing came through these channels.

As I grew in knowledge, and my novel series began to take shape, I became rooted in some theories that have later proven to be the wrong choice for me. The first of those theories we’ll address in today’s Marketing Monday discussion. That original theory was that free was giving away money and I would never give a book away free.

If you know me, you know I keep at least two of my books free at all times. I’ll tell you how that came about and why Free became my favorite tool.

When I got to book 3 in the 4 book series, I wasn’t making sales steadily. I was making sales, but they were sporadic. I also wasn’t getting reviews of any kind – good or bad. As a single mother, business owner, and book author, this drove me nuts. I started considering options. Without much money coming in, I had nothing to reinvest. This made most paid marketing channels difficult.

As a reader, I started searching for my own next series addiction. I found several free books as first in a series and in one case, became addicted enough to keep going. The author had me spell bound in book one and sold the rest of his series because of it. Lightening struck. Book one was my sales tool, not the short stories, or promotional opportunities.

The most crucial thing about this industry, in this current marketplace, is to get out in front of people. You need visibility if you’re going to sell anything, and books are no exception to this. Nothing gets you into the hands of hungry readers on a budget like free.

For an author, a percentage of something is always better than a percentage of nothing. I did what I never wanted to. I made it free. Within months of going free, the first book of my series sold all of the other 7 books affiliated with it, many times over. After additional editing, it got even better. Once I made one of my short stories free it sold the other short stories more consistently.

It is easy to see what made FREE my favorite tool. It was free that put a steady income, and grew it enough to invest in a company growth plan. 

Stop by next week for another Marketing Monday

 

Heroes, Anti-Heroes and the Villian

I compiled this list from the internet, a general guide to writing if you wish to search for it.

                                       Hero:                                                        Anti-Hero:

  1. Idealist                                                      Realist
  2. Conventional Moral Code                Moral Code of their Own
  3. Extraordinary                                       Ordinary
  4. Proactive                                                 Passive
  5. Decisive                                                    Indecisive
  6. Successful at Goals                              Failure, but can be redeemed
  7. Motivated by Pure Intentions        Motivated by Primitive Nature
  8. Wants to Overcome                            Wants to Fulfill Self Interest
  9. Learns a Lesson                                     Often Remains Unchanged
  10. Risk Taker, for Good                          Rarely Risks, unless Self Serving
  11. General Good Manners                      Generally Crass
  12. Conforms                                                 Rebels
  13. Brave                                                         Sneaky
  14. Gets the Girl                                           Loses the Girl
  15. Clean Cut                                                 Sloppy

Most people seem to agree that Superman falls into the hero category, and I would too. The references I found felt Batman was an anti-hero and I agree he is, but if you look closely at the list, he doesn’t fall into the ‘general’ description of anti-hero. Batman is not ordinary, passive, indecisive, crass, sneaky or sloppy. He often gets the girl and also often takes risks to save others. That’s almost half the traits he does NOT possess.

Keeping with the comic scene, let’s look at Harry Osborn from Spider-man. He is a match for Batman in almost every way. He is young, handsome, rich, and looking to avenge the death of his father. What makes him a villain? That he is seeking revenge on our good guy?

Now let’s look at our villain from Superman, Lex. Well, he isn’t passive when it comes to fulfilling his goals and he generally gets the girl, although the girl is usually the ‘dumb blonde’ type and probably doesn’t realize how bad her squeeze is. If you look at the Joker, he falls more into the anti-hero list than Lex, the Joker can’t even get a girl.

 So I propose that the anti-hero list is simply a villain list. The good guy list defines most protagonists and the true anti-hero falls somewhere between.

I think I’ve made my case, but let’s go a little further. A villain developed from the anti-hero list is going to be two dimensional. And while there is always a time and place for this type of character, those times and places should be very few. A serial rapist, who takes women who won’t give him the time of day because he is ordinary, poor, sloppy, sneaky, passive, and indecisive is really nothing more than a bully. Your bad guy needs a moral code of his own, and as a writer you need to clarify why his code is different and how it became so skewed from the conventional.

When I was a child my great-aunt told me that evil was beautiful. It smelled good, it’s taste was tempting and it drew you in by calling to your base needs. Now, she was talking about chocolate cake (while she was eating a slice) but as an adult writer I’ve taken that image with me and put it into my characters.

If you are writing an in-depth bad guy, especially if you’re working on a series with a recurring bad guy, then you’re going to have to get to know him as well as you know your protagonist. There are a few things on the anit-hero list he shouldn’t be, ordinary, indecisive, crass, sloppy. He has to be smart, at least in part. If he was ordinary, crass and sloppy, he wouldn’t have been able to obtain the following he has and surely he has people to do his bidding, right? If he were indecisive he wouldn’t be able to complete a complicated task designed to throw a wrench in the life of our protagonist. People would more likely follow a handsome, young man who radiates power and authority. They aren’t going to join forces with some guy living in his mom’s basement.

Think, mob stereotypes. The mobster who runs a casino, deals in drugs, moves stolen merchandise etc. These characters never indulge in the activities they provide, and when they do they are removed from their position (you know how). The bad guy has to be clear headed, not drug induced. He has to obtain money, not lose it on the horses. He has to plan a theft of merchandise, where he’ll unload it and how he’ll launder the money afterward.

Many people enjoy mob movies and shows. Why? Because the mob consists of handsome men and beautiful women. They dress nice, they’re rich and flaunt it. They are smart and radiate power and authority. People, human nature perhaps, are drawn to these characters. These characters are not ‘good’. They fit more into the anti-hero list than anywhere else. They are self-serving and criminals. They have their own moral code and rebel against authority. They are realists who often remain unchanged throughout life and if they do change, life generally makes them even more cynical.

The list above is really nothing more than the cookie cutter bad guy/good guy that publishing companies and movie makers have forced on the public for years (i.e. Wizard of Oz, good witch, beautiful, wicked witch, even her voice grates on your nerves). While they are an excellent guide, and anything that helps improve the depth of a character is a good thing, they should only be used as guides.

Think back to all the books and movies you’ve delved into. Who’s your favorite bad guy and why? I think mine would be Lestat. In the book, The Vampire Lestat, he’s the protagonist. He’s innocent of the world and then thrown into another world against his will. You root for him, simply because of the point of view the book shows. Then in Interview With a Vampire, he’s the bad guy. This innocent has been shown the monster and embraces it, he revels in the change, and this attitude alters his behavior. I loved to hate him so much because his character had depth. You could sympathize with the child, and hate what he had become. But you knew why he was the way he was and what drove his actions. This is what I strive to create when writing my bad guy.

It’s hard for a lot of writers to explore the bad guy. Keeping the cookie cutter list is safe. The readers expect it, since it’s been a mainstay for years in the creative world. Safe is good, safe is easy and people probably won’t think you’re crazy. Those authors who toss the cookie cutter and begin molding something of their own will challenge readers. They take fear and loathing and blow it up, force the reader to take a long, hard look at it and then walk away. Take John Grisham. His bad guys almost always leave you with the question, what would you have done in my place? They didn’t want to be bad. They were forced to be, by someone else. He implies that the kernel of bad is in all of us and if events are just right, it’ll grow. Lestat begs the question of readers, do we all have the potential to embrace the monster? Is it in all of us and through one event, exposed and released?

So get to know your bad guy. You don’t have to tell the reader everything, you don’t even have to tell your reader most things. But to establish consistency with your bad guy you have to understand his motives. Why he acts a certain way will often tell you what choice he’s about to make. Listen to him, then lock him away so people won’t think you’re as demented as he is.

Marketing for Independent and Traditional Authors in Today’s Marketplace

The title sounds pretty involved. I can assure you that this topic is very involved and that nothing anyone can tell you about Marketing in today’s industry is going to be the most ideal formula for all people. What I can share with you is what I’ve learned through advertising, promotion, networking and marketing tactics that have been successful and why they work. That’s the goal of this series of articles. From here out, every post will simply be Marketing Series and the title of the given article.

I’ve been a published author for years now. First as a ghost writer for various websites, and then as a Science Fiction Author and now an Independent Publisher. I’ve learned a lot first hand, and just as much through the eyes of others I’ve spoken to, and picked their minds for. I’ve also learned through the greatest teacher one can have, experience. That means yes, I’ve made many mistakes and some have cost me dearly, but every lesson learned is never a moment wasted.

My hope is to share tips, experience, and ideas over the course of this series to help and encourage others to learn from the experience of myself and those I’ve learned from. Learning a lesson from another’s knowledge, puts you years ahead of where you could be, and in today’s market place we all need the help we can get.

I’m looking forward to talking to all of you more in the first of the series – Free and why it’s my favorite Marketing choice.

 

Revision – What is it? Why does it matter?

With every industry there are several technical terms that apply. Writing is no different. We use words like Beta Reader, Alpha Reader, Line Editing, and Formatting. As an small businesses know, the knowledge base expands the smaller you are. Today I’m going explain why Revision is different from Editing.

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We’ll start with a dictionary definition of the term Revise. The term means to alter or change or amend.

How does this apply to a Manuscript or Article? This is the point in your book creation process that you review the file for readability, redundancy, and the errors we all have that we can catch on our own. Here you should take a moment to read each page out loud to yourself. That’ll slow you down and force you to read all the areas that you would normally miss. As you go along, make notes that you might not have previously and make adjustments to the manuscript as you see the need. You will see the need. If you don’t find a single item to alter, and you’ve read it out loud to yourself or someone you know, you should walk away for a week or two from the project and revisit it again with the same process. This applies most extensively to manuscripts and in part to articles.

Now that you understand what Revision is, I’ll explain why it is different from Editing.

Editing is a period in which someone else looks over your manuscript. This event occurs after you’ve revised the manuscript multiple times and you are happy with it. Once you receive edits back from the editor you or your publisher has selected you need to review each line of your article or manuscript with focused intensity. This will enable you to apply the edits as needed to make it structurally sound, and to enable you to repair any habits observed by this skilled outsider. Without question, get the manuscript back to the editor or to a proofreader once you’ve completed the application of the edits. Do not expect that you applied everyone ideally. Just like after revisions, you still need another pair of eyes.

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Use revisions to make sure the book or article is complete and expresses everything you would like to. Use your editors to clean and polish the masterpiece. Use a proofreader to catch final mistakes before formatting. Keep to those guidelines and you’ll release a beautiful piece of work.

Revise! Get Rid of ‘That’ Word!

Revisions and editing can be difficult in a lot of regards. BUT there are a few things you can do which make things run a little smoother.

First, be aware of your own little idiosyncrasies while editing. If you are prone to certain words or phrases, keep an eye open for them. An easy way to do this is to use ‘find’ with your word processor. If you think you use ‘rolls his eyes’ too much then search for it and find out. If you do, and it isn’t one character, then you have an easy place to start your revisions. If it is one character, you might want to peek at the references, but it would be an idiosyncrasy of the character, not the author. And just hope in the end your problem isn’t something like commas (my own personal idiosyncrasy). I found if I paused in thought, my hands just threw in a comma. Annoyingly difficult to find and fix later.

Second, take ‘that’ out of your manuscript. Again, search for it and read each and every sentence you use it in. If you can read the sentence just fine without it, lose it. I, personally, think this is the most often used, least often needed, word in the English language.

That is a filler word, and it will drag your sentence and story down a long and windy path the reader may not be able to follow. It is also a lazy way to write, and quite unimaginative if you think about it.

Examples:

‘She pointed to that car.’ She is singling out a car, which is good, but you could be a lot more descriptive, to the blue car, to the wrecked car, and it helps your reader mentally picture what the girl is pointing at.

‘He’s like that because she broke up with him.’ Like what? Your a writer dammit! Come up with something a tad more descriptive. ‘He’s short with older men, because she left him for a sugar daddy.’

‘She tightened her hood against the wind that swept down the mountain.’ That almost always leaves behind a passive sentence. ‘A cold wind swept down the mountainside. She tightened her hood.’ Or, in this case, you could just drop it and change swept to sweeping, the wind sweeping down.

‘It was so large that its calls rang out across the lake.’ This time that isn’t needed at all. Add a comma if you must, but just drop it where it doesn’t belong.

‘I appreciate the difference that you’ve made in my life.’ Just yank it. It shouldn’t be there at all and no comma is needed any way you look at it.

I could go on and on, but I think you get to point. And there are so many ways to re-word anything you come across while revising your manuscript. Have fun with it, tweak it when it’s needed, but don’t over do it. You can revise a story into a pile of mush. But I suppose it’s a post for another time.

If it helps, and even if it doesn’t help this particular problem, always read a chapter aloud after you’ve revised it. You will catch so many more errors and speech patterns in the process. It also helps you remember little things when you’re revising a little further down the plot line.

Imagine that, a whole blog post without using ‘that’!

 

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