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Anatomy of an Author Website

May 25, 2010

As an author, you know how important it is to have an attractive and current website. Your website is your calling card, and a vehicle for conveying your brand to both media and readers. It is also a tool for building your community of followers and letting them know about your activities. Your website is crucial to building and retaining your platform, and it must be designed to net the most benefit both for you and your followers.

The first thing you need is a relevant and easy-to-spell URL. The web address you select should either be your name or a key phrase associated with your brand. (The book should have its own website; use the book title as that URL if possible.) Remember, most people will use a keyword search to find your website, so keep it short and avoid any unusual words or phrases that will be difficult to spell and/or remember.

Once you have a URL, it’s time to make sure you incorporate the eight key elements of an outstanding author website:

  1. Welcome/home page: On this page you provide your name, brand message, and a high-quality headshot.
  2. About the author: Here you go into more detail about yourself, your experience, and your credentials.
  3. Writing portfolio: Provide sample chapters and links to your work. Make sure that all documents are formatted well and look professional. PDF files are the easiest for most browsers to view, and use hyperlinks when directing readers to another site.
  4. Services: Here you share your ancillary activities such as speaking, teaching, consulting, etc—whatever you do in addition to your writing.
  5. News and events/author press room: Post upcoming appearances, workshops, book signings, podcasts, etc. Develop a press kit that media can download and use. Also keep a running file of any media mentions and interviews.
  6. Blog: Your primary goal is to build a community of followers. Make it easy by creating and maintaining a blog, which will add an interactive element to your site that lets your followers establish dialogue with you as well as with other followers.
  7. Resource page: Provide links and free stuff, and direct people to tools and resources relevant to your topic. This will draw followers to you. Update it often to keep them coming back.
  8. Guestbook or newsletter signup: It is key to make all traffic to your site work for you in the future. If you can, have a guestbook or offer a informational newsletter that people can sign up for. This will help you develop your database of contacts to alert for updates, appearances, and new releases.

As your career evolves, so should your website. Keep it relevant, timely, and current with all of your events and happenings. Tie it in to all of your social media accounts, print it on your stationery and business cards, put it in your email signature, and mention it often. It will pay off in the long run.

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What Is An Author Platform?

May 20, 2010

If you have written a book, or even if you haven’t, you may have heard the term “author platform.” Many authors overlook this seemingly vague and often misunderstood term. However, it is by far the most important element of your writing career, aside from the book itself.  So what is an author platform? Essentially, it’s the base of people who have a built-in interest in your book and who would regard you as an authority in your field. Your platform is your audience, your publicity plans and other promotional activities will be targeted at them.

The author platform is essential because it is what sets you apart from every other author in your genre. Publishers and media always look at author platform, sometimes even before they look to the content of the book itself. The platform is what will cut through all of the millions of advertising and media messages and carry your book to readers, and in turn drive sales. If your platform is not strong, active, and growing, publishers and media will move on to the next author who does have one.

How do you develop a platform? Before you determine that, there is an even bigger question that needs to be addressed. First, you need to start by defining your target reader. Who are you writing for? Who would be interested in the information you have to share? You need to be as specific as possible in stating your target audience. You can’t just say “anyone who reads.” Not everyone who reads is interested in every topic on the market. Instead you need to hone the target down to something like “work-from-home moms” or “twenty-something executives.” Once your audience is identified, you can start developing your platform.

Now that you have your target reader in mind, you need to define how you’ll build a group of them to serve as your platform. Using the “twenty-something executive” audience, possible outreach strategies include “tips to break the executive ceiling,” “profiles of young achievers,” “strategies for success,” etc. Whatever the focus is, it needs to relate to both your audience and your book. If your book is about underwater basket weaving, you won’t have much luck driving sales using a platform geared toward young executives.

There are many ways to connect with your potential readers so you can build a platform, including: a website (both for you and your book itself), blogs, social media, speaking, teaching, appearances, organizational involvement (e.g. writers and trade groups, charities, local organizations), book signings, articles—just about any activity you can think of. However, in order to successfully grow your platform, each of these activities needs to be cohesive and relevant to the overall topic and consistent with your message. Be sure to keep your activities manageable and linked to book sales. This mean sharing your blog posts through social media accounts, promoting events through all of your media channels, participating in organizations that cater to your audience, referring to your book frequently in interviews and conversations, and linking to the book website anywhere you have an Internet presence, among others.

If you are still unsure about the strength of your platform and how to develop it, your publicist is the best resource to help you. You might also want to look at the following resources:

Christina Katz “Get Known Before The Book Deal” (hyperlink)

Jane Freidman's Blog  “There Are No Rules”

Writers Digest

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Questions to Ask Your Publicist

May 12, 2010

Whether you are publishing with a traditional house, an independent publisher, or self-publishing, the bulk of book marketing responsibility is on you as the author. Many authors are choosing to hire a book publicist to help connect with readers and potential audience members.

Before you hire a publicist, it is important to ask a few basic questions to help you determine if he or she is legitimate, effective, and has the background and strengths that you are looking for:

Payment & Fees

  • Do you charge a monthly retainer or is payment based on bookings?
  • How much is the retainer?

Campaign Details

  • How long do most of your campaigns last?
  • What type of publicity do you book most: radio, TV, online (blogs, etc) or print?
  • Can you describe the involvement required from me?
  • Can you describe the extent of online initiatives? The balance between online and traditional media?
  • Who will be involved in my campaign?
  • How far in advance of publication do you start working?

Campaign Results

  • What kind of results are reasonable to expect?
  • What results do you consider particularly successful?

Former Clients and Books

  • How many national bookings have you gotten in the past 6 months? Which ones? For what book?
  • Will you send me a sample schedule for a client with a book similar to mine?
  • May I speak with some authors you've represented?

Every author may not need to ask every question, and some authors may want to go into more detail about what they are specifically interested in. But these represent some of the most important items to know before you hire your publicist.

Visit Galleycat to see a great list of book marketing experts and publicists to follow on Twitter.

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Guest Post: Marketing Your Writing (Part III)

March 3, 2010

This post is part of the Guest Post Giveaway at the blog Unready and Willing. If you think articles about writing or personal development (or personal development for writers) sounds like a good fit for your blog, please take a look at the Guest Post Giveaway page and see if any of the articles spark your interest.

Continuing where Part II left off:

1.    Build Your Brand - Your personal brand is the combination of you and your product. You must establish your mission and identity as a writer, and this should be reflected by the writing that you produce.
2.    Make Connections - Marketing is all about making connections. It's not just about making connections with the right people, but also making connections with the wrong people who know the right people.
3.    Build Relationships- You must make strangers into acquaintances and acquaintances into friends. You must build trust and affinity with your personal brand.

Build Relationships

How many of your good friends would say no if you asked them to read your writing? Probably not many. Even if you write science fiction novels and your friend isn't a science fiction fan, they'll still probably read it. To be a successful marketer you must not only make connections but you must also make friends. Although you might make a "miracle connection" with a magazine publisher or a book-reviewer, connections with these people mean nothing until they come to trust you and see you as a friend.

Not only must you must turn strangers into friends but you have to make sure your friends stay your friends. Many millions of marketing dollars are not spent on promoting new brands, but keeping people loyal to old brands. The reason for this is because it costs less to keep a customer than to make a new one. If you have loyal and devoted readers, it's very important that they stay devoted. Your loyal readers are the most important marketing tool you have as they're the most likely to talk about and recommend your work. It's important to keep these readers happy because you want to keep them talking and keep them recommending. In the end, word-of-mouth advertising will always reign supreme.

For the purposes of marketing your writing, there are three levels of relationship. They are the unfamiliar, the acquainted, and the fans. It's our job to turn the unfamiliar into the acquainted and the acquainted into our fans.

From the Unfamiliar to the Acquainted

No matter how good your writing might be, it's very unlikely that you'll get it published in the New Yorker when people are unfamiliar with your work. Even if you have somehow managed to get the email address of one of the editors, if your name is unknown to him or her your message will likely go straight to the trash unopened.

The key to getting out of the stranger zone is to break people's preoccupation. When people are unfamiliar with you, they're always thinking about something or someone else. When people go into bookstores to browse, they'll often be looking for books from their favorite authors or about some particular subject that interests them. None of them will be looking for your book unless they've heard about you from somewhere. Sometimes if you have an attractive cover or an intriguing title you might break someone's preoccupation and make them want to leaf through the book and read the blurb on the back. Even if the book seemed interesting there's a high chance that the reader won't buy it, as he or she is not familiar enough with you or your brand. What the reader has done however, is to become acquainted with you.

Now that they're acquainted with you, they're much more likely to click on a website link with your name on it, or even read one of your short stories or essays. The more they expose themselves to your brand, and the more that your brand resonates with them as a reader, it's only a matter of time before they put your writing on their "to read list." The more the reader sees, hears or reads about you the higher your book goes toward the top of that list.

Breaking the unfamiliarity barrier in publishing is also important. In order for more and more publishers to become acquainted with your work you have to get published more. This sounds like a Catch-22 but it really isn't. What you must do is endeavor to get published in less popular magazines and work your way up. If you publish 10 articles or stories in second tier magazines, you're much more likely to be noticed by a first tier magazine like the New Yorker.

Another way to break people's preoccupation and establish acquaintance is to give out free stuff. "Free" is one of the most magical words in the English language. Just by saying the words "It's free," you're bound to make people turn their heads and listen to what you have to say. One of the big benefits I get from writing free high-value articles is increased web traffic. The higher my traffic, the more people know me and my brand. The more people know me, the easier it becomes for me to sell and market my writing.

Creating free content on the web is certainly not the only way to give out free stuff. You could send free copies of your books to editors who might review it in their magazine. You could write guest articles on popular blogs without charge. If you write a science fiction book, you could hand out free copies of it at a comic book convention. Giving away free stuff in a targeted manner can be very effective in raising awareness of you and your writing.

From the Acquainted to the Fan

In the end your job is to get your writing to the top of people's reading lists and keep it at the top. You must expand your fanbase. Fans are the people who can't wait until your next book comes out. When you have a fan you don't have to sell your writing any more--people simply buy. Fans have come to know and love your writing and won't hesitate to read whatever you're coming out with next.

In order to turn those who are acquainted with your work into fans it's essential that you follow these two rules:

  1. Sharpen your best tools - One of the most valuable questions you can ever ask is: "How did you hear about me?" If someone out of the blue sends you an email from Nowhereville USA saying how much they liked your work, ask them how they found out about you. Whatever the source was, be sure to leverage it. If it happened to have been through a radio interview you better make sure you do more radio interviews. If it was through your website you better do what you can to improve and add more content to your site. Send small gifts (a free copy of your novel perhaps) to both the person who wrote you the letter and whoever referred your work to the person that wrote the letter. If you do this, you can be sure these people will be talking about you for a long time.
  2. Repeat exposure - Whoever said familiarity breeds contempt didn't know what they were talking about. In reality, familiarity breeds trust and goodwill. Because of this it's better to write five guest blog articles on one site than one article each on five different sites. If one of your marketing channels have proven to work, don't let up just because you're seeing results. Become a fixture. The more your name appears in the same places, the more curious people will be about it. Eventually, this curiosity will translate into a wider readership. Be sure to saturate your niches with more and more of your work. The niche might be super-small, but if you gain the respect and trust from the people in that niche, your reputation is bound to spill over into larger interest groups.

Keep the Fans Happy

It doesn't matter if your fanbase is a hundred people or a million people. Your fans are the greatest word-of-mouth asset that you have, and you have to keep them reading.

In essence, you want to be as nice as you possibly can to your best readers. You want to create a dialogue with them. To keep in touch with them. You must leverage the goodwill that your readers have for you and turn it into more goodwill. Stay in touch with your readers. Write them, email them. Let them participate in free seminars or webinars. Give them a chance to ask questions about you and your work. Ask them about what they like most in your writing. When they tell you whatever that is, make sure you have more of it in what you write next.

Your most loyal readers have have given you their trust, and it's important that you return their trust with behavior that makes yourself worthy of it. Do what you can to give back. If someone subscribes to your e-zine, reciprocate by sending them a short story that won't be published for a week. If someone buys your book, include a password protected weblink to the first top secret chapter of your next book. Not only are you giving them free stuff, which increases goodwill, but you're also giving readers a sense that they're "a part of your posse," and that you trust them as a friend.

More, More and More

Although marketing your writing is essential if you want to have a wide readership, the best marketing in the world won't help if you have a poor product. It's important that you spend the bulk of your time producing quality writing.

Quantity, however, is also important. The more products any business introduces into the market, the bigger chance that one of them is going to be a hit. Although it certainly helps to write what you think will sell, the nature of people's tastes and preferences are so unpredictable that we often won't have any idea which one of our stories will take off. It's very common among writers to be surprised about the success of one of their stories or essays that they felt was a weaker example of their work.

More writing means more chances for exposure, more chances that people will like what you're writing about and more chances that you'll have a hit. Simply having more: more quality, more often, can be the best marketing strategy.

Kenji Crosland is a creative writing major who, scared of becoming a starving artist, became a corporate headhunter in Tokyo. Since then he's regained his sanity, quit his job, and now blogs about creating an ideal career at unreadyandwilling.com. He is also developing a web application that just might change the internet. Follow him on Twitter: @KenjiCrosland.

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Guest Post: Marketing Your Writing (Part II)

February 26, 2010

This post is part of the Guest Post Giveaway at the blog Unready and Willing. If you think articles about writing or personal development (or personal development for writers) sounds like a good fit for your blog, please take a look at the Guest Post Giveaway page and see if any of the articles spark your interest.

Continuing where Part I left off:

1.    Build Your Brand - Your personal brand is the combination of you and your product. You must establish your mission and identity as a writer, and this should be reflected by the writing that you produce.
2.    Make Connections - Marketing is all about making connections. It's not just about making connections with the right people, but also making connections with the wrong people who know the right people.
3.    Build Relationships- You must make strangers into acquaintances and acquaintances into friends. You must build trust and affinity with your personal brand.

Make Connections

Only a few people that you know, if any, are members of your target audience. Most people that you know, however, are certain to know people who are members of your target audience. That's why it's important to make connections.

Not all connections are to be treated equally, of course. Making a single connection with one person could be worth making connections with 20 others. You could, for example, make a connection with the editor of a popular magazine with thousands of readers. You may know a college professor who's willing to pass your name on to students that might benefit from reading your work. You may run into a talented web designer who's so impressed with your writing that he or she offers to revamp your website for free. You might establish a connection with someone who runs a book of the month club with 50 readers, and each of those readers may have five friends each who are interested in what you're writing. A wealthy philanthropist might come across your website, be impressed by your work, and give you a $10,000 donation. All of these connections could be a phone call, an email or a mouse click away.

Making connections like those listed above are not a matter of luck, but a matter of persistence. It's quite possible you could make 100 connections before running into someone that could really help you out. What the skilled marketer must do then is see beyond any single person and do their best to get in touch with all the people they know and all the people that those people know. If you continue to do this, It's only a matter of time before you make that "miracle" connection.

So how should you make these connections? Believe it or not, you already have a lot of connection building tools in your arsenal. In order to be a master marketer, you must become familiar with them all. You may, for example, be the most terrible cold caller in the world, but if you're persistent, and improve your skills in that area, it may become your best connection maker.

Here's a list of some connection making tools:

  • You
  • Your writing
  • Your website
  • RSS feeds and directories
  • Internet bulletin boards and forums
  • Emails
  • Newsletters
  • Affiliate programs
  • Link building programs (link exchanges, blogrolls)
  • Online contests
  • Your own e-zine
  • Other peoples e-zines
  • Webinars
  • Live seminars
  • Advertisements (from Craigslist to Google Ads to print media)
  • Writers conferences
  • Interviews (both being interviewed and interviewing others)
  • Speaking or reading stories at events
  • Business cards
  • E-books
  • Podcasts
  • Vlogging
  • Snail mail
  • Asking for referrals
  • The phone
  • Print media
  • Social networking sites (Facebook, Myspace, Linked In)
  • Slogans
  • Memes
  • Word-of-Mouth
  • Alternative web navigation tools (delicious.com, Stumbleupon)
  • Other websites and blogs
  • Elevator pitch
  • Personal PR

As you can see, the amount of options you have to build connections with your audience are almost endless. As it'd be a Herculean task to master all of these at once. It'd be best to focus on one at a time until you get the hang of each. Try as many as you can, especially the ones that scare you, as those can be indications of where you can grow.

For starters, choose some of these weapons and make a full frontal assault on your target audience. Don't depend on any single tool for your marketing success. It's important to take advantage of several tools at once. You must not, for example, rely on your website as the only way to make connections. Use your other connection making tools to leverage each other. Send letters to publishers and tack your website address in the letter. Make cold-calls or write emails to people who might be interested in your site and send them a link. The key to good marketing is repetition. The more people hear about you and your writing the more they'll be curious about it. If you approach your audience using all the tools in your arsenal, chances are the right people will see your name enough times to want to know what you're all about.

Kenji Crosland is a creative writing major who, scared of becoming a starving artist, became a corporate headhunter in Tokyo. Since then he's regained his sanity, quit his job, and now blogs about creating an ideal career at unreadyandwilling.com. He is also developing a web application that just might change the internet. Follow him on Twitter: @KenjiCrosland.

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What's (Really) In a Name?

February 23, 2010

If you don't give your book a good name, it will get teased on the playground, and grow up to resent you because of it. A title is how people know and remember a book, much as they know and remember a person. At Greenleaf, work on a book's cover design does not begin until the title is set. The title is the beginning, the introduction, the opening statement, and it sets the tone for the reader. So make it good.

But also make it useful. You have more leeway with a novel, but for non-fiction especially, the title must set a reader's expectations. Momma's Big Book of Classic Sewing Patterns does this pretty well, whereas Sew Be It is (arguably) wittier, but a reader would probably have to read the back of the book before knowing exactly how the book related to his or her favorite hobby. Warm Meals for "Chili" Days . . . and Nights! is both direct and (arguably) witty.

Pay attention to the interaction between title and subtitle. If your book has a punchy, one-word title, your subtitle needs to be long enough to provide clear explanation (Ka-BOOM!: 13 Strategies for Explosive Revenue Growth in the Mining Industry). Conversely, if you have a longer title, you don't necessarily need a long subtitle (The Only Guide to Revenue Growth You'll Ever Need: 13 Successful Strategies).

If you're having difficulty deciding on a title, tell people about your book in your own words, and describe what you want your readers to come away with. Sometimes that will shake loose some important key words or phrases, and you can build from there. If all else fails . . . just go for it.

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Guest Post: Marketing Your Writing

February 17, 2010

Part I of III: Build Your Brand

This post is part of the Guest Post Giveaway at the blog Unready and Willing. If you think articles about writing or personal development (or personal development for writers) sounds like a good fit for your blog, please take a look at the Guest Post Giveaway page and see if any of the articles spark your interest.

Marketing your writing is essential if you want your work to be read by a wide audience.

For many, marketing is an alien word that may conjure up images of people in suits sitting at round tables analyzing market trends, consulting with focus groups, and pouring millions of dollars into nationwide ad campaigns. It's big company stuff that individuals don't have the time, money, or skills to get involved in.

Because of this image, many writers have considered the job of marketing their writing as something that publishing houses or literary agents should do for them. The reality is, however, that although the big publishing houses may do a great job in promoting the next bestseller, they'll seldom take the risk to market the work of an unknown author. If you want to take advantage of the marketing might of the publishing houses, you must first learn how to market your writing on your own, to get your writing read by enough people that you get on a publisher's radar, and make it worth their while to consider promoting what you've written.

The goals of marketing your writing are simple: you want to raise awareness of your writing, get more people to read it, and to keep them reading. If you're persistent and committed to your marketing effort, it's only a matter of time before that book offer arrives in your mailbox.

Self-marketing, unlike what a large corporation would have to go through, is much simpler than focus groups and market trend research, and can be broken down into these three steps:

1.         Build Your Brand - Your personal brand is the combination of you and your product. You must establish your mission and identity as a writer, and this should be reflected by the writing that you produce.

2.         Make Connections - Marketing is all about making connections. It's not just about making connections with the right people, but also making connections with the wrong people who know the right people.

3.         Build Relationships- You must make strangers into acquaintances and acquaintances into friends. You must build trust and affinity with your personal brand.

Build Your Brand

Just as Apple has Steve Jobs, and Virgin has Richard Branson. Your writing must have you.

Although you may have not consciously worked to build it, you already have a personal brand. A personal brand is all the thoughts and feelings that are associated with you and your work. A strong brand will capture people's imagination and will make people remember you, your name, and your writing. A weak brand, however, can make it very difficult to promote yourself, no matter how much time and energy you spend on marketing efforts.

Stephen King has an incredibly strong personal brand. His name has become almost synonymous with horror, and just by picking up one of his books, without even reading word one, you can feel the uncanny weight of all his monstrous creations. Even if the book you read wasn't one of his best, your reading experience would still be enhanced by its association with the Stephen King brand, with all the other books of his that you've enjoyed.

Michael Jordan has a strong personal brand, a brand which speaks athletic prowess and determination. When great athletes like him wear Nike merchandise, the power of the swoosh becomes amplified by association with their athletic talent. Because they wear Nike, you're likely to associate their athletic skill with Nike merchandise, and you'll probably even feel like a better athlete when you wear Nike because, on a real subconscious level, the athletic skill of these athletes have been transferred directly to you.

As you can see, a strong brand can have a powerful effect on how we view a product, movie, or book. If you can work to build your brand, to strengthen it and harness its power, it can be a tremendous asset to your marketing effort. So how can you work to start building an incredible brand? How can you make your readers tremble in anticipation even before opening your book?

As a writer, your personal brand has three elements:

1.         Your Story

2.         Your Mission

3.         Your Writing

If you work to develop these elements of your brand, you'll find that the other two steps of marketing: making connections and building relationships, can be much easier, and sometimes will even take care of themselves.

Your Story

When you build your personal brand, make sure that people know where you came from and why you decided to be a writer. The important thing is not to make yourself look good, but make your self look human and good. Stephen King worked in an industrial laundry while writing his first novels. Quentin Tarantino worked in a video store discussing movies with people in the film business before a producer convinced him to write his first screenplay. Tony Robbins worked as a janitor before becoming the incredibly successful self-help guru he is now. These fascinating stories are not only memorable, but naturally color the way we view the work of these people.

A good personal story is not always about sharing your triumphs. It's also about admitting your pain, your faults, and your past mistakes. Steve Pavlina, for example, arguably the most popular blogger on the internet for the topic of personal-development, revealed a past where his out of control kleptomania landed him in a jail cell when he was 19-years-old. We sympathize with the pain of his past as well as admire the steps he took to improve himself and achieve an amazing level of success. These strong emotions of sympathy and admiration will naturally affect the way we read and value what he's written.

Your story must be fascinating, but it also must be truthful. It's not merely listing your age, sex, occupation, and the town you grew up in, and it's not just a chance to boast of your accomplishments. What it is is sharing with other people a story that reveals your humanity. You want to paint a picture of yourself that would make your reader want to have a beer with you.

So what's your story? What has led you to decide to pick up the pen and write? Declare it with bravery and honesty, and you'll be amazed at the kind of reception you'll get.

Your Mission

There was a student who sat next to me in a political science class nearly ten years ago who seemed to know more about political science than anyone else in the class. When I asked him why he was so interested in political science he looked at me straight in the eye and said, "I want to become the President of the United States."

From the look on his face I knew he wasn't joking, and even though we probably only had a five minute chat, to this day I still remember that student's name.

If that student said something less ambitious and generic, like: "I'm thinking about getting into politics," I probably would have forgotten about him as soon as the class was over. It was the boldness of his stated mission and the energy and certainty with which he said it, that had its effect on me. His mission and the way he said it conveyed a sense of power, self-confidence, and determination. It made me believe that even though he may not become president, he would certainly go far in a political career.

Whether it's writing, politics or ostrich farming, determining your mission and letting everyone know about it is essential to building a powerful personal brand. Your mission should convey your ambition, as well as be original enough to distinguish yourself from others.

The purpose of having an ambitious mission is simple. People remember people who have high and lofty goals and can give evidence that they're taking real actions to achieve them. It doesn't matter how far away you are from achieving the goals, but you must convey a sense that you're committed to achieving them no matter what. When people see this kind of dedication, especially for a goal that seems particularly difficult, they'll naturally want to do their small part to help you out, to make the achievement of your goals a little easier.

Originality is just as important as ambition. What is it that differentiates you from everyone else out there? If you write comedies, you should do more than tell people that you want write a bestselling funny book. You should give them specifics. Tell them that you want to write about duck boogers in a way that no writer has before. Not only will you catch them off guard, but you have given them a short advertisement for your upcoming duck booger book. If you write science fiction, tell them you're currently working on designing alien spaceships. If you write horror novels, tell them that you're working to scare the pants off the English speaking world. The point is to be remembered, and you have to be original if you want to be remembered.

Your mission is an important part of your personal brand. It not only distinguishes you from the rest of the crowd, but it can also help you be recognized by those who matter. The mission for your writing can change from time to time, but it should resonate with your overarching life goals. If, for example, your overall life mission is to help people overcome depression, you could do this by writing inspirational novels, or by writing a self-help book. Indeed, you could write both the novel and the self-help book, and as long as they both serve the same mission, the power of your personal brand can only increase.

Your Writing

Your writing is without a doubt the biggest part of your personal brand. It's the chief representative of your values as a writer. It's important that you write in a way that's consistent with your story and your mission. When you do so, you integrate all three elements of your personal brand.

In order to use your writing to strengthen your brand, you must of course produce good writing. Good writing itself, however, is often not good enough. In order to really take advantage of the marketing power of your writing you must not only be true to your story and your mission, but you must clearly convey your ideas, themes, and subject matter in a way that'll make people want to talk about it and quote it.

It's important for your writing to be timeless, to cover universal subjects that'll never grow old, but it should also contain some element of the timely. Timelessness in writing is good because you can be sure that your writing will have some staying power. It's the reason why people still read classic novels that are a hundred years old. Timeliness, on the other hand, is the stuff of the bestseller. It's relevant to what people are talking and thinking about right now. If there's relevance, then you can be sure that people will be talking about your book. This is the reason why books about investing money are released during a period of economic growth and books about saving money are released during a recession. If you endeavor to capture both the timely and timeless, it won't be long before you have a winner on your hands.

Even timely topics and ideas, however, can sometimes fail to catch on. One way to prevent this is by implementing Idea Chain Management. Idea Chain Management is essentially the packaging of ideas for easier distribution. It's the distillation of a complex idea into a three-word-or-less phrase or buzzword that's still true to the original idea. Although non-fiction works have taken the credit for many buzzwords, fiction too has supplied us with a good share of words and phrases that we use in everyday conversation. The words "Big Brother," for example, have become synonymous with an overbearing government infringing on people's privacy. This term will forever be associated with George Orwell's 1984. You can be assured that the more people that hear or read the word "Big Brother," whether on the news or on the blogs, the more people will buy his book.

In order to make your writing an effective marketing tool it can be helpful to implement the above tricks. The most important thing, however, is that you be true to your story and your mission. Make sure you do so whenever you put your name to your writing.

Kenji Crosland is a creative writing major who, scared of becoming a starving artist, became a corporate headhunter in Tokyo. Since then he's regained his sanity, quit his job, and now blogs about creating an ideal career at unreadyandwilling.com. He is also developing a web application that just might change the internet. Follow him on Twitter: @KenjiCrosland.

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Book-Buying Statistics Galore

February 15, 2010

For those of you who like statistics and pie charts, we wanted to share the results of a recent survey about reading and book-buying habits. Conducted by Verso Advertising and presented at last month's Digital Book World conference in New York, the survey covers the demographics of ''avid readers,'' the types of online marketing that consumers deem most effective, and readers' views on some hot topics in the ebook space, like pricing, bundling, and piracy. See the slides from the presentation here.

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Nautilus Book Awards Deadline Extended to February 28

February 8, 2010

The Nautilus Book Awards, which recognizes "books and audio books that promote spiritual growth, conscious living, and positive social change," has extended its deadline for entries to February 28, 2010. The award is open to all publishers and self-published authors with books published or produced in 2008 or 2009 in the English language. Check the category list to see if your book would be a good candidate for a Nautilus award. Because there may be some overlap between categories, the kind people at Nautilus will even reposition your book if the category in which it was submitted is not the most appropriate choice.

To enter, you'll need to fill out the entry form, pay the entry fee, and have four copies sent off to Nautilus, postmarked no later than midnight, February 28, and sent via FedEx, UPS, or USPS Priority Mail with delivery confirmation. For more information, visit the Nautilus Book Awards website or email marilyn@nautilusbookawards.com. Good luck!

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Being a Tease Can Be a Good Thing: The Value of Free Content

February 1, 2010

Many forms of entertainment have been releasing free chunks of content for promotional use for ages. The music industry has singles. The movie industry has trailers. Publishers and authors have to figure out ways to do the same thing with the written word.

The good news is there are lots of ways to do this. As authors, you should be taking advantage of all the technology available—by uploading content to websites and social networks that allow book excerpts (FiledBy, BookBuzzr, Scribd, Redroom, SlideShare), posting samples on your website, tweeting about your samples online, etc. Do not be afraid to put your content out there. Tease the readers. Leave them wanting more.

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