Developing Characters–What It Means

If you’ve read reviews for TV shows or movies (those mediums that your story can rise to if someone decides to make it into one of them), you’ve probably come across the term character development or developing characters. And like many aspiring writers out there (me included), you probably wondered what that term meant.

Even if you do know what it means, there’s always that challenge of putting it in writing–actually developing your character in a story vs. knowing the concept itself. Character development certainly isn’t something to overlook–especially if you want to make your character(s) believable to your reader.

Websites like WikiHow say that the development of a character begins with their personality and physical appearance. NY Times best-seller J.T. Ellison says that the setting of the story itself is a character in need of development. Here’s how I would advise you to develop characters, based on what I learned from these sources:

First, think of your character’s appearance. (There is not much you can do in working from a character you haven’t yet visualized.) And as the case goes beyond fiction and in real life, we are born and seen before we are given a name. We are also heard, so think of their voice as well; how do they sound when they speak?

Secondly (as hinted previously), come-up for a name for your character. This in itself could have points to consider–at least if your character’s name will be of human origins:

  • If giving your character a surname–in addition to a first name–it is wise to use a disclaimer that says your story is purely fictional and does not intend to portray any real, living people. Even if your character’s name is a common one (such as Emily Smith, Thomas Johnson, etc.), you never know which Emily Smith or Thomas Johnson out there could believe that your character is an unauthorized satire of them. You know where this kind of story goes (i.e. potential lawsuits), so establishing that short disclaimer in the beginning (which will cost you but a minute or two) will help you avoid court costs in the long run (which could cost you, heaven forbid, thousands or even millions of dollars.

Some sources say that a character’s name should somehow reflect their personality (i.e. “Molly” for a little, candy-loving girl, or “Brad” for an all-time jock who loves to run the sports field–oy…) Here’s the bottom line: the name doesn’t define the character–it is the character who defines the name. Naming a villain “Pure Evil”, for instance, is rather silly compared to naming a villain “Angelo”. See the zing in giving a villain a holy name, or giving a hero a villainous name such as “Demon?” If you can picture the guy below as a hero who wants to stop mutants from destroying earth (because he cares for humanity), you’re on the right track.

Thirdly, come-up with the habits and likes / dislikes of your character. Do they bite their nails? Do they hate people who chatter like there’s no tomorrow? Do they prefer bad weather because nice weather is overrated?

Fourthly, the third point potentially intertwines with the concept of backstory. Many of the likes / dislikes / habits we develop derive from how we feel and view the world–not to mention how we feel and view our own bodies. What does your character think or feel when they look in the mirror? What sort of past led to their present self? Did their father beat them as a child? Did that first person they fell in love with cheat on them with another person? Maybe they can’t shake that feeling they had the day they saw their pet dog and best friend lying dead in the street (after getting mauled by a pack of strays). Tragedies and sad endings are what stick with us the most–often more than the happy times–so it is important to know what sadness helped build your character into the figure we see in your story.

Fifthly, what dreams / goals / etc. does your character wish to fulfill? Are they actively trying to fulfill those dreams, or sitting around and waiting for the dreams to come to them. Truth be told, unless this kind of character is chained-up in a prison cell and unable to break free of the bars, they should be making the effort to fulfill their aspirations. A character who wants change but doesn’t try to fight for it… well, that’s kind of a buzzkill. True, in real life there are people who will go on-and-on about how badly they want something, but probably never pursue the task to get there. When it comes to fiction, however, this character needs to be that person who will invite us to step out of our own comfort zone and join them in what may be the perilous quest of getting what they want. After all, Morrell makes the point in Ch. 9 of her book Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us that characters do the things that the readers would fear doing–but it’s that thrill of whether or not a character will succeed that keeps the audience on their edge of their reading chair.

Sixthly, the characters (especially the hero) must have some kind of dark side. Likewise, the villain can’t be all-bad. Perhaps the hero, noble as they try to be, can’t help but tease their younger sibling who’s shorter than them–or maybe they’re addicted to something that could kill them, but find it hard to quit the fix.

Maybe the villain, dangerous or evil as they are, is good at making people laugh or–if you want to go really deep–a noble father to his daughter and actively advises her not to throw her life away to some guy who will break her heart. Talk about a likable villain! This kind of fatherly-ness coming from the same guy who’s planning a crusade of all the foreigners living on his block?

No matter how you size it up, character development is what adds credibility to your story. The reader can’t relate to someone who, for instance, is always seen drinking soda and laughing like a maniac (that’s too one-dimensional). But the reader can relate to a character who, like themselves, has those moments where they cry, laugh, rest, work, play a game of cards with some friends here and there, keeps up with finishing their graduate degree program, etc.

My exercise for you: write a brief summary for a character you decide to create. Keep the points in mind that we’ve mentioned (appearance, name, habits, backstory, villain or non-villain, etc.). If they are a villain, what’s making them villainous? Why do they believe that what they’re doing is the right thing? What made them villainous in the first place? No one is born evil, after all–and a little backstory–believable enough to be the reason for whatever level of evil they’re planning–can go a long way. For instance, a 9-year-old boy getting chocolate ice cream (when he asked for vanilla from a clumsy sales person) may not be a credible reason for him, upon adulthood,  wanting to grow to the size of the galaxy itself and crush the world with his bare hands.

And They All Lived Happily Ever–CUT!

We’ve covered a lot of topics on the business side of creative / non-creative writing lately. But now it’s time to get back into talking about the story itself that you’re writing on the paper (or typing on your computer) to market. First order of business: re-consider that all-too-happy ending.

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There’s a variety of opinions out there on sad vs. happy endings. One article says that sad endings are more emotional and better able to connect with readers. A Reddit thread posed the question of what ending types were preferred–and opinions were mixed between liking bittersweet endings, to just outright sad endings, to one user even saying they disagreed with the others and preferred the happy endings. Something else that popped-up in the consensus was that the ending should be fitting to the story itself–meaning the sad ending may not always work.

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Let’s take for example a story that starts off with an alien’s tyrannical takeover of earth–but yet, the takeover is already in place at the beginning of the story. Everyone lives in sadness and chaos because of this creature, and parents lose their children on a daily basis. The good thing about this story is that it’s premise of sorrow is something that readers can relate to–but the bad thing would be to end the story on the sad note it began with, because the story falls flat if a change hasn’t occurred in its situation.

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Its worth looking into the basic 3 types of endings:

Sweet endings. These are the endings to a story where everything works out. Anyone who died has either been restored to life, or they never died at all–but even with this type of ending, at least have those sad moments where a character passes away (and just bring them back later). There are exceptions, however, if you’re writing a book for very young children (possibly kindergartners) in which case death may be too strong of a subject for them to handle. And the last thing you want is an angry parent chasing you for corrupting their kid.

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Bittersweet endings. This is like the sweet ending–only any characters killed are not brought back, and so your story’s heroes can’t celebrate as much as they’d want. These are actually the best types of endings in my opinion, because the reader gets a little taste of both worlds–the sadness of death, but the happiness of triumph.

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Sad endings. This is where the villain wins–and the protagonist / heroes have lost severely. They could have either been imprisoned, killed–pretty much any tragedy you can think of that they won’t escape. You could try this ending if you wish–after all, I can’t tell you how to write your story–but I will say that this would leave a bitter taste in many readers’ mouths.

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So which ending should you use then? The answer goes back to what we touched on earlier: the ending that best fits your tale. If your story’s started-off in an absolutely jolly world where nothing ever went wrong throughout the whole thing, I strongly suggest you use the sad ending (unless you don’t want your readers to relate to times of loss and sadness–which isn’t a good idea for your target audience).

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On the other hand, if your story starts off super depressing–which we touched on earlier–you need a happy ending (a sweet, not bittersweet kind–though bittersweet too is welcome). Just be aware that depending on how much sadness you use in the beginning of your tale will depend how little of it you should use at the end.

Finally, a tale that starts off super happy, then has a middle story line of many tragic events, should end bittersweet–in fact, this is the type of story where the bittersweet ending is most required. Just think of how odd it would be to start off a tale super happy, then have a middle of severe sadness, then end the story with super happiness all over again. There was no change to the plot that way–and stories that fall flat don’t sit well with readers.

Your exercise today: take into account what we’ve discussed, and get to writing a story of your choice. If you wish to keep in mind the type of ending it should have based on the beginning, you’ll get to that a lot faster by writing an outline / summary of events to occur. It will give you the widest scope possible of seeing how your story begins, and how its ending will prove that it’s changed. One thing to keep in mind is that the change shouldn’t be too abrupt, but take time through the shortcomings and successes of characters, and how those change them throughout the course of your tale.

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5 Big Tips For Small Publishers

And by small, I mean the person who sits at their laptop typing-up that story without knowing how they’ll go about marketing their work. “How am I going to make money off of (this novel / short story / these essays / these X number of poems) that I’m working on?,” that writer wonders.

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There’s two ways for that writer to go about solving their dilemma.

  1. Self-publish through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) feature. The simplicity of this process is that you type-up and complete your story (like our example writer), then sign-in to the KDP service (and fill-out the information for your work, verify their copyright specifics, and the book’s retail value), and finally–utilize Amazon’s “Merchandising Tips” on promoting their work.
    1. They could also look into other self-publishing services such as Xlibris or OutskirtsPress.
  2. They could invest in submitting their work to a literary magazine (publishing house is another term; but we’ll stick to the former instead of the latter). Some of the biggest literary magazines out there are:
    1. Penguin Random House
    2. HarperCollins
    3. New Yorker
    4. The Atlantic
    5. Harper’s Magazine

 

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No matter which of the two methods you choose, it is vital to understand the literary market–and this isn’t just limited to what you find on the web. Books in your local library on the subject, professionals / employees of literary jobs (or even employees of publishing houses) are fine sources to rely on for information as well. In fact, coming across someone who’s had first-hand experience in the business is probably your most important source out there. Some questions you may wish to ask publishing professionals are:

  1. Which genre is currently reaching the most readers out there?
  2. If you have some time, could you review what I’ve written? Where does my (novel / essay / poem / etc.) stand in terms of other writers in my genre?

These questions don’t just have to be limited to the writer’s perspective. Ask how you may become an editor and what skill set is required for the job. In the event you one day wish to transition from writer to editor, it would be nice to know that you made the connection with an employee or professional years prior.

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So let’s dive into the 5 big tips you’ve been waiting to hear:

Make a blueprint. Who do you want your audience to be? What will your story be about? Are you writing an essay, short story, novel, etc.? Once you gather your barrings and have a map for where you’re heading, you can start the travel.

Start writing! But certainly don’t feel like you have to rush in completing your work. A quality work of literature takes time to complete–and the more time you invest in your story, the more time your editor will put into considering it for their publishing house’s magazine.

Once you’ve finished your work, act like the hound. Sniff out the publishing house you feel will best meet your needs. Keep in mind also that different literary magazines work with different genres of writing. You can browse through some using NewPages’ Big List feature. Visit the literary magazine’s website and see their policies for story submissions. You can either edit your work to fit their criteria –or– find a literary magazine that fits the criteria of your work.

After choosing a literary magazine, it’s time to submit! (Keep in mind that different literary magazines have different submission policies–so submit according to those.) At this point, you have to await the magazine’s feedback to your work (which takes time as editors of the business work with who knows how many stories on a weekly–even monthly–basis). Patience is key at this point, and all you have to wait for is the house’s response / letter that states if they’ve either decided to accept your work, wish for you to edit your work, or have–sadly–chosen to reject your work.

This is where step 5 comes in. If your work has been approved, you may (or may not) already have a literary agent who advises you on the marketing strategy / specifics of revenue you’ll receive. (Keep in mind that many publishers, however, do not pay their authors for the work they submit–or may not be able to, considering the slowness of the book market that is quite prominent in the business.) The bottom line: know where you’re stepping before you move forward with false expectations.

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There is even a 6th step–the self-publishing we mentioned earlier. If you feel that you could have more success with your work through marketing it on your own terms, go for it! Try what you must in order to fulfill your goal for your story. But keep in mind that all things take time, and the process of building your audience / fan base / etc. can take time.

 

 

 

Customer Service–It Applies to Writers Too

You may know the answer to this question, but we’ll ask it anyway: who is a writer’s customer? The answer: their readers, buyers of their books, their fans, etc.

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Indeed, all writers enjoy the publicity and success of their work–not to mention the people who support their short stories, novels, essays, poems, etc. But with all this giving that the customers… well, gives–there comes a time when it’s your turn to give back.

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We Can’t Keep This Unmentioned Forever

We’ve discussed a lot of topics for writers–amateur and professional–so far:

  1. Coming up with plots
  2. Coming up with strategies for marketing your book (even if through free services such as FictionPress, WattPad, etc.)
  3. Knowing your target audience / engaging them vs. selling-to them

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But now it’s time to venture into that darker subject, the one that many writers (me included) would rather not think about, because all it does is make us second-guess the work we wish to put out there. Think about it. If you remain paranoid of getting sued by someone who says that you stole their idea–and definitely fearful of lawsuits that could occur–you may never publish anything. (But this is still no excuse for putting a work out there too similar to the work of another writer.)

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4 Sites For the Amateur Writer–Like Me

I’ve mentioned four websites in previous posts, and decided it’s time to further explain their significance to you as a writer. They are:

  1. FictionPress
  2. Quotev
  3. WattPad
  4. Figment

However, the main discussion of this post doesn’t necessarily pertain to the websites themselves (and you are welcome to visit and learn more of what they have to offer). Rather, their feature of audience feedback to the writings you post (and your efforts to perfect your story, essay, poem, etc. based on that feedback) mirrors the notion of crowdsourcing.

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To put it in latent terms, crowdsourcing is the process of a customer / consumer teamwork in perfecting a product. The producer receives feedback on what they produce, and the consumer has a hands-on involvement in helping the product succeed. For writers, the hands-on involvement comes from the feedback we receive from those works we post on story-sharing websites that we one day plan to bring to the book markets.

There’s even another example of crowdsourcing for writers: Google Docs (which many of you may be aware of). For those of you who aren’t, Google Docs permits multiple users to write / edit / comment on a single document. The platform is a lot like Microsoft Word, only it permits crowdsourcing in the fact that not one person, but many people, are active in creating a written work.

Think of the potential this platform has for writers (both on the amateur and professional scale)? You can write-up a story in Google Docs, then (by using the Share feature presented in the upper-right corner) specify the email addresses of people you wish to edit and critique your work in progress. (The photo below shows the location of the Share button–the text of the document being my typical disclaimer for stories, which all writers should use in establishing that none of their characters portray real, living people):

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For crowdsourcing, one question that arises (and indeed rose from me when I first learned of it) is that the consumers who help a product fulfill its goals should be compensated for their help. This is still a belief shared by me, though it is also said that the consumer is rewarded through the success of a product they care for (and will indeed purchase if it fulfills their desires).

Applying this to the literary work you produce, you are rewarding your readers by taking their feedback into account on your work. They are your audience–we are your audience–and we want to feel that our opinions and concerns matter in order to feel fully engaged to with story and work.

The exercise today: look into making an account on FictionPress, Quotev, etc.–any of the story-sharing sites that have been mentioned. In fact, consider experimenting with Google Docs. For any story you’ve written (or plan to write), consider sharing it with your friends / audience / etc. through the Docs platform. You will be amazed at how quick and efficient the digital platform makes feedback to the writer (compared to waiting days for a letter from an editor to return to you–though professional editors should still be valued as they are well-versed in the book market and know what your readers are looking for).

 

Start Small Now–End Big Later

An article I recently came across from The New York Times revealed that the Lillian Vernon Creative Writers House of New York (and house to NY University’s Creative Writing program) is one of only few places left in Greenwich Village to hold reading sessions of the literary arts.

While the building is not fancy–nor holds fancy equipment–it’s still in Manhattan (home to lovers of literature like you and I) and is situated in an area of affordable apartments, bars, coffee shops, etc.–which make it ideal for people on middle-class incomes to live there. (You can read the article for further information if you’d like.)

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There are probably many conclusions you’re inferring from this story–one of them being that since the house was founded in 1836, its historical significance is what attracts writers, readers, and other everyday people alike. This is true, but there is a bigger picture to consider: its area. With society finding more ways to save money, writers, publishers, and other businesses are finding ways to appeal to their budgets.

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But for once, let’s put aside the money equation and think strategy (and audience). Before you can end big (become that best-selling author with who knows how large of an income), you have to start small–case in point, the Lillian Vernon in NY. Starting small is the best time to build your audience–and you too could hold reading sessions with some friends or local writers you know. (Specifically reading your work to others–but certainly invite them to come with works of their own to read to the group.) Collaboration is key.

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This tactic isn’t limited to finding a space to use–such as your limited 10×10 room–to read to others. You could host a live-streaming session online and receive feedback from maybe ten to twenty (or less if you’re fairly new to your website) on what’s working for your book or what isn’t.

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Critiques aside, this is how you make yourself known to the writing market–and other writers such as yourself could come across your video and maybe offer you a business deal you couldn’t turn down. Posting fliers around your neighborhood for a reading session being held in your home is one way to host an event–but holding an event online opens your publicity to all the world’s eye.

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Still, we writers don’t want to stay in the free space forever–and this is where I will bring-in the money equation again. You could post a video blog asking your patrons / audience / etc. to send you something minuscule as a dollar per-person–or you could monetize, say, your YouTube channel.What this entails is ads being ran on the videos you post to YouTube, followed-by some compensation that comes your way based on how many people watch a video ad all the way through. (This is further explained on a Reddit thread I found.)

One other method of hosting an online video of your reading (though there are many) is to use Google’s HOA feature (as mentioned by Kawasaki in his book The Art of Social Media, Ch. 8.) For any video you host, have an outline of where you’re going with your message (i.e. what books you’re going to read).

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Additionally, start your video with a message such as “Thank you all for viewing!” or something along those lines. Follow it up with saying what you plan to cover (i.e. stories you plan to read), and engage your audience with saying something like, “Feel free to comment at any time with questions.” Remember: the audience’s engagement is crucial.

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But we’re getting ahead of ourselves again. The first step: grow your audience. And even before then, know who you want to pursue. And even-even before then: know what they want–what will engage them, for instance? This has been mentioned non-stop in my previous posts, but has to continue being mentioned as this is one of the easiest steps for writers to miss. And when you miss a step, you could get a boo-boo.

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So let’s get down to the bottom line: how (and where exactly) do you start?

Start writing a story (even some stories). Or if you have some stories prepared, proceed to step # 2.

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Invite some friends (not necessarily family) to a reading session you intend to hold. (You can hold this either in-person–whether in your dorm lobby if a college student, or at a sleep over in your home if you’re yonger, etc.) But if you want your audience to be limitless (and your reading session timeless), go the online route. Post a video or two of you reading one of your works out loud–not the work of another writer as that could get you in serious hot water.

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Devise a strategy: how many times a week will you read? Will you invite the same people, or invest in new followers? (The answer is that you should try combining both tactics–because the more followers, the bett–oh, but now we have to cut to step # 4.

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Bigger is not always better. Remember, start small. This makes your relationship with your audience more intimate. (Even reading to a group so small as one person counts.) The bigger the crowd, the harder it could prove to receive feedback on an intimate, personal level. This is not saying keep your reader group small–but certainly don’t try to make it any bigger than you can handle if you’re just starting out.

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Writers–We Too Need Digital Footprints

Happy Easter, everyone! We all know that bunny with the gift basket leaves his footprint everywhere, but you do to through your use of social media. And unlike the bunny’s, your footprint is digital.

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So what exactly is a digital footprint anyway? The simple answer is the reputation you establish through social media–but even your in-person encounters with other people can be captured by someone’s smartphone or camera and posted on the web. The bottom line: try not to do things that could adversely affect your reputation with others. (This rule is universal to every one, not just businesses, professionals, simple every-day people, writers, etc.)

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But here’s the next question: how do you build your digital footprint? The answer is as simple as sharing a photo on Instagram, or a video on YouTube, or even posting a short story you’ve written to a story-sharing website. (Sites that allow users to share their stories and comment on / favorite the works of other writers include FictionPress, WattPad, Figment, Quotev, and a few others out there that I have yet to discover.) In other words, your online activity is what establishes your reputation–but online and offline.

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My point however is not to tell you how to use the internet–but how to use it responsibly. Let’s think of potential employers, for example. You want to work for a publishing house (we’ll call them PH-A) and you send them the resume of your skills–interning for a publishing house back in your college days, an experience of editing stories through college classes in editing, etc. Your skill set is not too shabby–but very shabby is your digital footprint. Your Twitter is infested with pictures of you writing graffiti on the walls of public buildings. Some of your Facebook statuses read things like, “Just thought about hanging this guy from the brim of his neck for messing up my order today,” and, “I absolutely HATE the publishing business; they’re nothing but dogs who are all about themselves and NOT the writer!”

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Don’t get me wrong–we have every right to feel upset about something. But sometimes posting those feelings to public places–such as online–isn’t the wisest choice when we’re trying to get hired by someone and make a difference in the world. To make a difference, you have to play by others’ rules first–at least long enough for you to stand on your own feet without their help. But even then, don’t post something like, “HA! You idiots! You helped me become the big cheese now!” You never know when you’ll need those idiots to help you in the event that you fall on tough times. It happens to us all–even the “rich” and “successful” people.

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Even if you think establishing privacy settings for your social media profiles hides the things you don’t want others to see, think twice. If it’s on the web, it’s vulnerable to anyone’s hands. Who could still see your posts even if no one else can? Simple: the website owner(s). Nothing is private on the web–so certainly don’t post what you wouldn’t be willing to show anyone in person. Even if you delete a post, you can’t delete our memory banks–we’ll always remember your digital footprint, even if you try to erase it.

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We writers especially must remember that while social media can be used to establish our character in the eyes of others, it must also be used in a way that respects our audience. How can we use the internet in a way that advances others and not just ourselves? Again–respect is a good place to start.

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One way to respect others is to post things that teach them. Posting a status update to Facebook that reads, “Just got a new pair of sunglasses! I feel so special *heart heart heart*” is one thing. But posting a status that reads, “Just got a new pair of sunglasses! You all should totally invest in this brand; they offer X-Y-Z” not only tells us how happy you are, but how we can share in your happiness and get that pair of sunglasses for ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with telling us how proud you are of something, but it’s even better to invite us to share in that pride.

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So the exercise I want you to try today is pretty self-explanatory: build your digital footprint. Post photos, videos, status updates–things that express to us who you are. And while you’re at it, invite your audience to join in the fun! Also keep in mind that you want to convey your love for creative writing–but in a way that invites others to find their own inner writing capabilities.

Don’t just promote your book or only post things about your experiences with writing, but invite us to learn from your experiences. A post like, “Today I learned that my character is too one-dimensional” is not the same as, “Today I learned that my character is too one-dimensional–but here’s how you can avoid the same for yours.” Help your audience first, and they’ll help you. And remember, a post like, “I just thought of rolling this person over for taking SOOOO long to cross the street,” could leave you with the skid marks in social media.

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This all said, your exercise today is to do something with social media, but not just anything. Research information on your field of creative writing (thriller novels, personal essays, poems, etc.) and share it on Twitter, Facebook, etc.–any social media platform you use. Start sharing meaningful content with your target audience (that is, content that they would be interested in seeing). And remember, post responsibly. Anything posted on the internet lasts forever–even the bad stuff.

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Time to Market My Book! Except Where Do I Begin?

That’s the golden question of many authors new to the market–including me. Fortunately, even those of us who have never published a book before can use the internet and its knowledge in giving us the need-to-know aspects of earning (not buying) our audience.

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For you specifically, using Google and other search engines may be your best bet in learning how the marketing process of books work. I came across two articles (from Business to Community and ArtsHub) that share some helpful advice on marketing procedures. Some of their advice ranges from knowing who buys your book vs. who reads it –to– establishing an active platform for readers / buyers / etc. to engage with you (i.e. directing your audience to a dead Facebook or Twitter account isn’t ideal) . If you want to learn more, I would definitely recommend giving them a read–at least some of their key points, if not all.

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There is no strategy set in stone for book marketing, because every author / writer has their own tool set for how to engage their audience and sell their product.

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Still, there is some general advice to keep in mind:

  1. Do some research on your key audience. If you’re writing a mystery novel, what books are people currently interested in and why? What should you do in order to make your own mystery story one that will appease them? The easiest solution to this is researching reviews online, but nothing beats some face-to-face interaction with a friend of yours / a professor / etc. (You could turn to getting feedback from your family as well; but them supporting your work no matter what may not make them the first people you choose for honest feedback on what’s working vs. what isn’t working for your story.)
  2. Devise a marketing strategy. And I don’t mean create videos of advertisements (or use Twitter to say something like, “My new book is out! Buy now at only so-and-so percent of its retail value for a limited time!”). The age of social media has transformed the spectrum from customer buys product to product buys customer. If your book can’t buy their attention, then find out what isn’t working. Ask them what engages them about a book / its author / etc. And yes, how the author acts or carries their reputation is just as pertinent. Is the author approachable? Do they respond to fans? Do they invite the engagement of their fans (through questionnaires, poles, surveys, etc.?)
  3. Don’t get over-confident after making a lot of sales. Remember what made everyone want to buy a copy of your work; what strategies you employed to keep them engaged and feeling connected with what you had to offer. Sitting back and letting your social media channels turn to inactive statuses may harm you in the long-run when sales are decreasing and you need a new strategy that will–oh, yeah! That’s right: don’t think that one size fits all. One marketing strategy could earn you many fans and potential customers, but may not last forever as your book will often find competition with other books and sellers. This is what brings us to our final step…
  4. Develop a SWOT analysis. This analysis helps the content producer / seller / business / individual learn their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. To elaborate, your strengths could be that casual personality you carry with others / your way of responding to comments, questions, etc. in a reasonable amount of time. Weaknesses could be your lack of knowledge in certain aspects (though not all) of the book market, or your inability to use certain social media platforms / channels. Opportunities could range from a business / author / etc. wanting to promote your work–and you should certainly respond to them as soon as possible, even if it’s with a “Sorry, but I cannot…” kind of statement. (I too have had to do this before, but still expressed my interest in accepting the offer at a later time.) Threats are those other authors / businesses / publishers / etc. who are working in your same industry–maybe even your same genre (for example, mystery books). Keep an eye out for what they’re doing to promote their works and grow their target audiences. Where do your strategies stand in the spectrum and how can you improve them?

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Of course, if a strategy you’ve been using so far has kept you on par with the standing of other businesses / authors / etc.–those “competitors” of yours–certainly don’t try to change it. In fact, the strategy you’re using–even if it’s not getting you where you want to be–could have the potential to make you stand above (though not all) other authors of your genre. Giving things some time to play out is sometimes the best advice an author can follow.

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