C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

The publishing revolution already happened.

What’s the right price for a book?

When discussing book marketing, writers often debate free versus cheap versus charging what a book is worth. “What a book is worth” can be a moving target, depending on who you ask and when. Here are some factors to consider:

1. Length of the book.

My friend and co-author, Holly Pop, wrote a novella, Ouija: Based on a True Story. It charted at 99 cents, but since going up to $2.99, it’s still charting and doing well. Short doesn’t have to mean 99 cents. It’s around 8,000 words and people still want it. Pick it up. It’s really compelling.

2. Genre.

Some genres, like epic fantasy or historical romance, seem to have readers who expect higher word counts. They often want more than 100,000 words.

I think many readers are becoming less sensitive to word count. That’s good. What should matter to us, as readers and writers, is providing value for money. My books are getting shorter. I start looking for the exit around 50,000 words and I generally find it north of 60,000 words. Still a good-sized book that doesn’t feel to the reader like it’s full of shortcuts. Consider that a lot of people are grooving on shorter, fast-paced books, too. They don’t feel they have time for very long books. (I think that trend will continue.)

3. Intent and timing.

Is this book a loss leader? Is it meant to be an introduction and sales funnel for a series? You might put it at perma-free or you might decide to offer an introductory price of 99 cents. You might also choose to put it at whatever you consider full price and hold a sale once in a while to move more books (and include a call to action to your other, similar, books.) You might even just write the bloody book, slap on the price you think is fair, never drop the price ever. You might start high and slowly drop (the traditional approach) or you might start low to get more attention and reviews and slowly raise the price.

4. Is it time to reevaluate your book prices? 

Here’s my little case study:

I had the first Season of This Plague of Days set at 99 cents for a long time. I don’t personally like that price — not much sense having a pulse sale on a 99 cent book — but it got people looking at it who might have passed me by otherwise. It’s at 100 reviews now and more people are opting for the This Plague of DaysOmnibus Edition (greater value for the price and it contains all three books for an epic saga many compare favorably to The Stand.) All things considered, time to assert worth, right?

I put the price up to $3.99 today. According to Amazon’s price estimation tool, I should be charging $5.99 for a revenue increase of 451% and a drop in unit sales by half. However, Season One is the first in the series and the other books are also $3.99 each (while the TPOD Omnibus is at $6.99 and around 300,000 words.) No reasonable reader could say I’m trying to gouge them by keeping the price to $3.99. Arguably, I priced the first book in the series too low for too long. In the long-term, price should reflect value, but value is not the lone factor.

5. You.

Another consideration when setting prices is your sensibility and your confidence in the value of your product. Do you feel you’re well-known enough to set a higher price or are you still stuck enticing them with a low price? (Note: that strategy may well be deep in the Law of Diminishing Returns since competing on price is far less effective now.)

Also: Is the quality high? Do the reviews back that up for someone happening across your author page for the first time? Are you marketing your work well? What does “full price” mean to you, anyway? If you get a complaint about a price point, comparing it unfavorably to a low word count, for instance, will that send you reeling into a rage and/or depression?

Here’s one thing you don’t have to worry about: history.

If you priced a book too low or too high, you can always change it. You can experiment with price until you find the price that moves books effectively but still pays. Some writers worry that readers will complain about cost, comparing it to what it has been priced in the past. That’s rare. If I hadn’t just given you the history of a couple of my book prices, how many of you would really know what I charged yesterday? A few to none. Feel free to experiment.

6. Don’t discount free unnecessarily, either.

The truth is this: I think my crime novels rock. The Hit Man Series is a fun and funny romp with some serious power and punch behind it. (My fave is Hollywood Jesus, for the John Leguizamo joke alone.) However, it’s one of those best kept secrets that needs to get out there and mingle. I’m not seeing enough movement nor enough reviews on those titles. To get more readers to take a chance on my funny Cuban hit man, Jesus Diaz, I’m going to make the first novel in the series perma-free or at least tempo-free. Bigger Than Jesus is already on Kobo for free and I’m hoping Amazon will price match soon.

(Let Amazon know it’s free on Kobo here.)

If a series isn’t moving the way it should, consider doing a giveaway so you draw more readers into the fold. It’s not necessarily that your book series is ugly. It could be that Book #1 hasn’t gone on enough dates yet. Those who know it, love it, so eventually, everybody is going to love Jesus.

7. Stay flexible.

It may take a lot of experimentation and experience before you find the price move that’s right for you. Then you’ll have the same journey of discovery when you publish the next book, too. I’m on that journey, still experimenting. I don’t think that experimentation ever really stops. It’s just forgotten for a while until we figure it’s time to reassess sales and marketing and pricing again.

~ Robert Chazz Chute will publish his next novel (with co-author Holly Pop) later this week. It’s called The Haunting Lessons, an urban fantasy about a young woman from Iowa who, when tragedy strikes, discovers she has powers she never suspected. It’s the beginning of a fun series packed with jokes and disaster. If you want to join the fight and survive Armageddon, look for it on Amazon this weekend.

Filed under: Amazon, author platform, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What’s next? More. Much more.

In a plot, the question is always, “What’s next?”

Here’s what’s next for me in the publishing business:

1. I’ll be in a horror anthology next spring. 

2. I’ll be in a self-help anthology next spring.

3. I have a new collaborator in an urban fantasy series. The first book in the Ghosts & Demons Series launches later this week. It’s called The Haunting Lessons. It’s a fast and fun supernatural story packed with a powerful female protagonist and lots of jokes. (More on that on launch day!)

4. I’m teaming up with another author for a secret project and I expect big things in 2015.

5. Increased speed of production. I’m getting more help and a larger beta read team so I can focus on a narrower range of tasks. 

6. The focus for the first six months is going to be more paranormal/urban fantasy books. This Plague of Days has become very popular and I need to write more supernatural stories. The new work has a lighter tone with more laughs per page instead of straight horror.

7. I’m diversifying on the non-fiction end of the business doing some author management work in 2015. 

8. More podcasting. I’ve been so busy writing, I haven’t been Skype-social enough with cool people for the Cool People Podcast. I also have more planned for the All That Chazz podcast.

There’s lots to do, but I’m not overwhelmed. I’m excited. I’m using some Tim Ferris sorts of life hacks to focus and manage my time so I can do more through collaborations, competition and coopetition.

What are your plans for world domination in 2015?

Filed under: author platform, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Simon Whistler: How to find your People

[Editor’s note: Today we welcome Simon Whistler of Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast fame. He’s got a nifty and useful mastermind group going, too. Don’t miss checking that out at the end of his post to leverage the power of podcasting for greater success for authors! ~ Chazz]

Eighteen months ago I started a little side project. A podcast called Rocking Self-Publishing.  

Eighteen months later, I’ve talked to over 80 authors, for around 100 hours of interviews. I’ve reached thousands of people though 600,000 podcast downloads. I’ve emailed, Skyped, and met, with a number of people I admire. I’ve even started a small online community for successful and hungry authors; the group of people that I hope my podcast resonates the most with.  

When Chazz asked me to come and do a guest post for his fantastic blog, I knew I didn’t need to write an article, I needed to answer a common question:

Should I start a podcast?

I’m sure Chazz would be the first to agree with me, being a man of many podcasts himself, that podcasting is not “talking to someone and sticking it on iTunes.” It is hard work.

But that’s good news.

Hard is good.

Hard means people don’t do it. Hard means people don’t put in the effort to put out great content week after week. Hard means that if you have grit, you can make it. You can distinguish yourself from the masses, and reap the rewards of being exceptional in the space you carve out for your show.

What space should you carve?

That all depends on what you want to get out of your podcast. What is your perfect end result? I’m going to run with the assumption that you want this podcast to add to your bottom line. And while there are plenty of ways to add to that bottom line, let’s stick with the basics: sell more books, make more money.

Now for the big question, and please, don’t immediately write it off as daft:

Do you want your future listeners to buy your books?

I can hear you thinking: “Simon! I’m not starting this for fun, I thought we covered that?”

Okay fine, we’ll start with the type of show where your listeners will buy your books.

The niche podcast. One that appeals to the readers in your genre.

The process? Work out who is buying (or will buy) your fiction. Create a podcast that appeals to that reader base. Build the listener base. Sell books to them.

What’s awesome about this type of podcast is that you’re probably going to really love doing it! If you write horror, you’re probably into horror, and so are your readers. Let’s break it down:

  1. Who buys your fiction – Survey if you can, there’s nothing better than info from the horses mouth. If you have a mailing list, get on SurveyMonkey, present some podcast options, and ask them! If you don’t have a way to get in touch with your audience directly, check out your Facebook fans, what sort of things are they into?
  2. Create a podcast that appeals – This is more than just the topic. What angle are you going to take? What’s are other, similar, podcasts doing? If there isn’t competition, why not? Also think about tech, quality audio is important, but that’s a discussion for another day.
  3. Build the base – iTunes is important, and audience building through that platform is vital. I really recommend checking out PodcastAnswerMan.com for details on this (and much more about podcasting).
  4. Sell books to them – The good part. Listeners like you, they’ll buy your books, the books were written for people like them (if you did your targeting right).

Super important caveat: Platforms launch books, they don’t continually sell books. Once you’ve hit your audience up a couple of times, everyone who is going to buy has bought.

What about the podcast where your listeners don’t buy your books?

I told you we’d get to this one.

The podcast for writers.

Do you think if I wrote fiction, my audience would buy it? My audience are writers not readers. Yes, there would be some spillover, but if you want to sell fiction to your listeners, don’t start a show about writing. It is inefficient.

If you want to sell fiction to your listeners, you need a listener base who have an interest in your fiction, not your writing process.

Let’s say I put out a spy thriller. The RSP audience might buy it to check out my writing chops (and mock me), but they don’t care about my Jason Bourne wanna-be protagonist.

If you want to sell a book about writing though… well, start a podcast about writing. I myself launched my first book to 80 five-star reviews in the first 10 days. Podcasting in this way can be very effective for non-fiction authors.  

Now, don’t discount the podcast aimed at writers for helping with your fiction sales, I’m about to get to the good part.

Indirect sales.

The most incredible thing about the self-publishing community is the community. When I started RSP, I wondered, “Why would anyone get on the phone with me?” But I wanted to podcast. I wanted to be on the mic. It was going to be fun.

I had less than ten posts on KBoards (the author community a friend told me to check out). Within hours I was setting up digital meetings with people who were selling hundreds of thousands of books.

A niche podcast is a way to “network up.” A way to connect with people who you admire, people you can look to as mentors, people who you might even be able to work with. If you make a quality podcast, it is a ticket to talking to people you admire. I can’t remember where I first heard this, but it has always stuck with me:

“Most successful people you can’t get on the phone for an hour of consultation, even if you pay them. Stick the microphone on, call it a podcast, and you’re in business!”

A network of other authors around you is something that authors at the highest level have. Podcasting is an enjoyable way to build that network, if you are up for a challenge.

But what do you do with this network? Learn from it, work with it, take advantage of the opportunities it presents. Having the ability to call on the expertise of a group of successful people is epic.

It a Wrap

The question, “should I start a podcast?” Pops up in my inbox on the regular.

My reply is usually more succinct when I’m writing an email back to someone, so I should be able to wrap this up nicely:

“Dear Podcast Listener,

Starting a podcast brings many advantages and opportunities, whether you start one for your readers or other writers.

It’s not as easy as we make it sound though, and high quality, regular, podcasts are the ones that make it. So prepare to commit some time. If you can see the return, and will enjoy it, then rock and roll and let me know when you’re live.

Cheers,

Simon

simon@rockingselfpublishing.com

I’m such a proponent of the value of a network that I decided to interconnect mine through an online community. I created a group for the kind of successful authors who come on my podcast. For a limited time, we are looking for outside applications. If you are towards the head of the indie pack, I’d check out the info page at http://writerscircle.rockingselfpublishing.com.  

~ Simon Whistler is a podcaster, author, and audiobook narrator. He podcasts long-form interviews every Thursday at RockingSelfPublishing.com.

Filed under: author platform, podcasts, , , , , , , , , ,

Further thoughts on the challenges and solutions around free book promotions

1. Problem: Annoyance when free stops

The beta version of my next book, The Haunting Lessons is on Wattpad for free. However, Christmas is here and I’ve got bills to pay and children who expect presents on Christmas morning. Odd, huh? Greedy little creatures.

I can’t leave it on Wattpad for free while I’m selling it elsewhere. Naturally, my first worry is that I’ll annoy Wattpad readers when I pull it on December 15th. I once saw a Wattpad reader characterize a writer’s move from free to paid as “a cash grab.” Ye gods! Alfred! My cape! My cowl! Polish my batarangs! Tonight I hunt Entitlement to its lair!

So, yeah. That’s a problem, but let’s not overstate it. It’s probably a minor quibble. Most people are reasonable. They’ll take an inch, but that doesn’t really mean they’ll take your shirt and your shoes, too.

Solution: Make concessions

I have warned readers on Wattpad that THL won’t be there long (though some will miss that warning.)

When I pull it and publish on Amazon, I could put the book into KDP Select and offer it for free for a couple of my five free days. That’s one way to get more reviews faster. However, that ambition will be hampered because I won’t be able to promote it anywhere (except my network). We can’t promote effectively without a bunch of reviews.

Question: Anybody know of an effective book promotion service that really moves books on the first day without requiring 10-15+ reviews? Anybody want to invent one?

Alternate solution: Expand beta read team.

Also send out more ARCs to avoid this conundrum.

2. Problem: Time

Though The Haunting Lessons is the first book in a series, the next books are not yet written. Many authors find making the first book free in a series attracts the power of discovery, gets true fans and raises sales of the books. Yes, but that’s not helpful until I have at least three books in the Ghosts and Demons Series.

Confession: I’m uncomfortable with perma-free.

Making a book perma-free is an unreliable and unpredictable process. It can be reversed, but that’s also unreliable and unpredictable. It all takes time and, of course, every book is a massive investment of energy. Perma-free does feel like lost sales no matter how much I tell myself it’s an investment in advertising and promotion. (More on those feelings below.)

Solution to the Time Problem: Compose, produce, ship

I’ll write the next books in the series fast and include a CTA (Call to Action) for similar books in my list. People who liked This Plague of Days will have a great time with The Haunting Lessons and vice versa.

This dovetails with a strategy that is long overdue for me: stop being stubborn and write a lot of books in one genre. Expect more horror/urban fantasy from me in 2015 and fewer crime thrillers.

Alternate solution: Invent a time machine. 

Write the entire series ten years ago. Mental note: invest in Google, Facebook and Apple.

3. Problem: Logistics

Coordinating giveaways is a logistical nightmare if you’re on multiple platforms. Change a price on Amazon in the morning and the price change takes effect the same day. On other platforms (and especially if you publish through Smashwords), price drops and rises can take days to weeks and you’re never even sure when the new price will take effect.

Solution: Improvement by the competition

It helps if you publish to those multiple platforms directly instead of going through an intermediator. Uploading individually instead of going through Smashwords or Draft2Digital will also take time, so there’s always a caveat and a corollary. That’s about all we can do, though.

The solution is not in our hands. It’s up to the other sales platforms to match Amazon’s response time. Those platforms also have to work on their problems with discoverability. I tried to find a friend’s book on Barnes & Noble and Kobo the other day. It took two searches. For searchability and discoverability, Apple is probably the worst. They are also the least user-friendly for uploading and publishing.

4. Problem: When free is worth nothing

A lot of people will snap up free but they’re hoarding. They never get around to reading the book. I do that myself.

Though it still kind of sucks, I prefer 99 cents as an introductory price for a series (Season One of This Plague of Days is set at 99 cents.) It’s not about the 30 cents I might get for selling a 100,000-word book. It’s that people are more likely to actually read it if they make that minimal investment. It’s the shopping cart analogy from my previous post: just a quarter is enough to stop a lot of people from walking off with shopping carts.

Solution: Reach the masses

Free is used best when it’s leveraged by the power of promotional platforms like Bookbub. There are many more such services but Bookbub is still the big dog at the moment. You can argue Bookbub is hard to get into and provides less value than it once did, but it does appear to reach more readers than any other service.

Go to AuthorMarketingClub.com to use the free submission tool for multiple ebook marketing sites. They’re great additions to a Bookbub promotion and, failing that, might be an alternative. Most of these sites are free or inexpensive. They require application time and a varying number of reviews and ratings. Author Marketing Club tools reduce application time and can even help you get more reviews.

5. Problem: Perception

Some readers think that if it’s free it must be a bad book.

Solution: Over-deliver

Surprise them with a good book and we may even be rewarded in the reviews for overcoming their low expectations. It’s not their fault they don’t understand the problems of indie authors trying to grow our readership. It’s not their problem that they mistake price for value. It’s our problem.

Additional solution: Ignore Mr. and Mrs. Crankypants.

Recently I read a comment in a review where a vituperative minority cast aspersions on indies for daring to write series. If it was a series, it couldn’t possibly be any good. That was an odd and new prejudice to me. But so what? That’s not a reader who’s going to become anyone’s true fan. That’s a bomb thrower and all they love is the sound of their own voice. Forget it. (And if you figure out how to forget it, tell me how you do that. I’m still a boiling cauldron of rage at any injustice and slight.)

6. Problem: The Devaluation Argument

Literature hurts to produce. Squeezing out a novel is excruciating. Surely, we should never gift our books to anyone, even temporarily, in the dim hope we’ll gain new readers who have never heard of us. We’ll send the message that our work is worthless to Mr. and Mrs. Crankypants.

Solution: Get off the fainting couch and get over yourself, Butch.

This is a neurosis writers commit on themselves before any nasty reviewer gets a chance to sneer at us for being entrepreneurial artists and independent publishers. Sure, writing books is hard, but it’s not that hard. If it is that hard, maybe you aren’t enjoying the writing process enough. (I hear crocheting is calming for the sensitive neo-hippie plus you get garish hangers for your potted ferns when you’re done.)

The Devaluation Argument might not be all wrong. I’ve already confessed my discomfort with perma-free. (Yes, there’s the math of it. Math doesn’t stop me from feeling what I feel.) But to cut off the most effective tool for discovery that I know of? That smacks of Self-aggrandizement calling itself But What About the Pricelessness of Literature? Let’s not be so precious about the writing process that we write good books too few ever get to read.

Writers need to promote to be read. Most sales platforms suck at promoting and advertising our work successfully. Until they improve, this is our lot and the value of discovery and growing our readership is going to cost us. We have to suck it up.

Alternate Solution 1: Reframe the problem

When you give your book away, that’s generous. A lot of people don’t have money for an entertainment budget and you’re helping them out. That feels good doesn’t it?

Alternate Solution 2: Go back to the math despite how you feel

This week I consulted with an author whose ebook was priced at $9.99. I suggested he drop the price.

The author frowned so we went to Amazon’s pricing tool. It’s in beta but it’s interesting and can be useful. I don’t set all my prices by it, but I do pay attention to it. You’ll find it on the Rights and Pricing page of your KDP Select Dashboard.

At $3.99, the tool predicts that his profits will rise by over 400%. How do they do it? Volume. Free promotions create volume and inertia, too. Better than doing nothing, right?

Alternate Solution 3: Know that many people are price sensitive for good reasons

One guy told me recently, “I don’t pay attention to price. If I want a book, I buy it.” 

I nodded. What I didn’t say was, “Yeah, but, dude! You’re rich. You didn’t ask the salesperson what your new car would cost.”

Some of those same price-sensitive people will become true fans, and buyers, once you demonstrate that you and your work are worth their time and investment. Without free, a lot of them won’t give you the chance to prove your writing’s worth. Think long-term.

Give coy readers a chance to fall in love with what you do. And why wouldn’t they? You’re adorable.

~ The Christmas thing is happening. You’ll find all my ebooks and paperbacks here. I’d appreciate it if you bought a book or fifteen. Thanks!

 

 

 

Filed under: author platform, free ebooks, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, readers, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The power of the pulse giveaway: 99 cents or nothing?

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)

When I did my Bookbub promotion of This Plague of Days, Omnibus Edition, my dentist said, “You’re giving it away? Really?”

“Yup.”

“Okay.” He chuckled at me. He also didn’t know what I know.

That giveaway boosted my author rank and sales after the promotion was over. Most important to me was getting more reviews on that property. I got more reviews, thank Thor. The giveaway met my goals. If I had stuck to one genre (horror/fantasy) I would have seen more profits, too. However, I write across genres so that’s on me. My crime novel readers are not typically my horror and fantasy readers. Though there’s a little cross-pollination, readers are often fiercely interested in only one genre, no matter how much action and fun they’d find in Hollywood Jesus (my favorite of the Hit Man Series.)

"Perhaps the most underrated crime novel of all time." ~ Robert Chazz Chute

“Perhaps the most underrated crime novel of all time.” ~ Robert Chazz Chute

 

This week I’ve put just about everything except the Plague of Days series up for sale (just 99 cents!) on Amazon. That sale will end soon, but in the meantime, my strategy seems to have worked. But perhaps not as you or I expected. 

Here’s the thing:

You never know which book will crash hardest or fly highest until you put it out there.

Murders+Among+Dead+Trees+1121-1

I happen to think Murders Among Dead Trees might be my best book. However, it’s a collection of short stories. Collections are notoriously difficult to sell. The collection features several award winners yet it still only has four reviews on Amazon. My Cyber Week Sale hasn’t moved more than one or two copies of Murders Among Dead Trees.

A few more people bought Self-help for Stoners this week, but the sales numbers don’t bowl me over. Self-help for Stoners is a fun and quirky little short story collection that sells a little at a time, but steadily, and the paperback sells more than the ebook, especially this time of year. (You’re thinking it sells because of Christmas. I think it sells because there’s a great story about how to get away with murder using a skunk.)

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

“You will laugh your ass off!” ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

 

A cursory glance might make you think that big free works and little 99 cent pulse sales don’t work.

That’s not what I get from this sales experiment. My sales of This Plague of Days (which stayed at their old price) went up.

99 cent pulse sales can boost visibility, but readers still have their favorite things to read and This Plague of Days outsells everything else I’ve done. I promoted everything else but buyers still gravitated to what are already my most popular books even though they weren’t on sale! 

Price matters less to some buyers. For those who are price sensitive, they still have the opportunity to pick up some great books for 99 cents. I have no regrets. The occasional pulse sale can move books…just not necessarily the books we think they will move. I’m also happy to give readers a break on price this time of year. Without cheap ebooks, a lot of people don’t feel they can afford to read more books. Believe me, I understand. This is a tough time of year for a lot of us and I’m glad to help stretch a dollar’s value.

My conclusions:

Write more books to get more shots at the readers’ sweet spot. Write more books to figure out what readers want most from you. (Authors can be terrible judges of what readers want unless we have empirical evidence, like sales numbers.)

To get more out of pulse sales, consider promoting them more than I did. I relied on my G+, Twitter and Facebook networks for my Cyberweek giveaway. Bookbub and several other sites promote 99 cent books as well as free books. I didn’t plan ahead with paid advertising, but I didn’t want to spend money on the giveaway if I could avoid it at this time. (Holding back might have been a mistake.)

Many authors prefer the 99 cent buyer to free seekers. That tiny commitment may tend to attract more committed readers instead of hoarders who may never get around to reading the books they download. (And why not? Supermarket chains have figured out that a mere quarter is enough to reduce the drastic loss of very expensive shopping carts.)

If you’re trying to make a living from your writing, write more books like the ones that are already successful for you. That’s why my next book is The Haunting Lessons, now available for a short time for free on Wattpad. It has some commonalities with This Plague of Days, but is more upbeat, faster and funny. I’ll put the whole book up on Wattpad, but I’ll take it down when it’s published on Amazon, closer to Christmas 2014.

Until then, you can read The Haunting Lessons for free by clicking the cover below. Enjoy it now because its time on Wattpad is running out.

Have a look at the beginning of my new series, free on Wattpad.

Have a look at the beginning of my new series, free on Wattpad.

What’s your experience with free versus 99 cent sales?

~ Please check out my author site at AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: author platform, book marketing, My fiction, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Cyber Monday? Cyber Week Deals are the norm now. Here are two for book lovers.

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Cyber Week…it’s a huge, stressful rush, isn’t it? And for good reasons. There are deals to be had and the retail environment has changed. A lot of people don’t have a lot of money to spend on Christmas gifts. Many of us work two or three jobs to cobble together one low-paying job. The loss leaders and door buster items lure people to grab a sleeping bag and hang out all night outside of Best Buy (hoping to avoid getting crushed or murdered over a waffle iron.)

So here are a couple of big deals from me:

Many are only dimly aware that I wrote a lot of books besides This Plague of Days. (Love it. It’s awesome, but wait, there’s more!)

For a few days, I’m putting all the ebooks I’ve written except TPOD (crime novels, non-fiction, the short story collections) on sale for just:

99 cents! 

To get to my Amazon author page, please click any of the links on the right from THIS PAGE.

If that’s not cheap enough for you, how about free?

I’m revising my novel on Wattpad in front of God and everybody so you can see it new and fresh as I upload it chapter by chapter. Click the cover below to get started on an amazing trip into the paranormal with a girl from Iowa. Armageddon awaits. Expect twists, jokes, secret armies, magic spells, swordplay and lessons on how to survive the end of the world. We’re probably doomed anyway, but…well…you’ll find it surprisingly upbeat.

Don’t miss this. It can’t last long because it will go up for sale by Christmas.

Cool? Cool.

Happy Monday and Merry December, everybody!

 

Have a look at the beginning of my new series, free on Wattpad.

CLICK THE COVER to have a look at the beginning of my new series, free on Wattpad.

Filed under: Books, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Here’s a different way to engage new readers

There is an alternative to getting feedback through reviews and it’s actually pretty awesome (though we all need the happy reviews, too.) Recently, I did a Bookbub giveaway. About 20,000 people picked up the This Plague of Days, Omnibus Edition. That’s three novels in one big book. Not only am I hearing more from readers who dig my flow, but I’m engaging with them through email plus giving them another free book. I’m thinking long-term and building a readership, but it has helped in the short-term, too. Here’s how:

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)

At the back of the Omnibus is a link to a video that asks readers a question about a secret revealed in the saga. Once they comment on the secret YouTube link and email me their address, I send them the gift of another book, Intense Violence, Bizarre Themes. I also let them know there’s another book coming at Christmas called The Haunting Lessons. If you liked TPOD, you’ll probably love The Haunting Lessons.

IVBT FINAL 2D cover

You can’t generally engage with reviewers without the risk of being accused of bad author behavior, but these people are coming to me. They’re a happy bunch (only one grump among the many emails I’ve received!) and they’re happy to talk about This Plague of Days. I also take the opportunity in their gift card message to encourage reviews.

Intense Violence, Bizarre Themes (my autobiographical crime novel) also secrets behind the story. The back of that book has a blog post link readers can access with a password on my author site, AllThatChazz.com, so they can get some of their questions answered.

If this seems like a long, expensive process to find new readers, I have three answers: 

1. Long? Not really. I was writing the books anyway. I’m in this for the long haul with many more books on the way.

2. Paying for advertising in the form of gift books to a TARGETED audience is miles cheaper than any other approach I can think of.

3. Contrary to what you may have read from other authors recently, I’m finding that gifting does lift my other book sales. 

This won’t help you much if you don’t have more than a couple of books to sell, but free isn’t a concept to throw away quite yet. I’m happy with this twist on free because I’m making happy readers happier instead of throwing business cards out of moving cars and shouting at annoyed strangers.

I’m loving it most because, unfortunately, there is occasionally a hostile, suspicious or impatient dynamic between reviewers and authors. As a writer, it’s great to hear back from the people who get what you’re doing, are friendly and engaged. The conversations I’ve had over email are delightfully empty of power trips and ego. It’s fantastic to me that people just want to talk about the story’s emotional impact or the philosophy or psychology that form the underlying themes of This Plague of Days. That’s cool. (You know how some reviewers seem to hate reading? Not this crowd. They are so in!)

I think this approach works because:

a. Hey, I understand they read to the end of a long epic saga. It figures they’re more committed than the average bear.

b. People love to know secrets and behind-the-scenes stuff.

c. People love free stuff.

d. When I talk about TPOD on video they’re getting to know me as a human being.

e. When they read the secrets in the secret blog post, they’re invited into my little club. I’m touched that they got involved enough in the thriller to want to know what’s fiction and what’s not.

Your mileage may vary, as they say, but keep experimenting with new approaches. You might even stick a secret link in the back of your next book and watch the happy readers show up in droves.

Filed under: book marketing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Why are we so worried about failure when it’s so common?

I’ve been reading another round of articles from the usual suspects saying how much indie books suck. I ran into a reader who said one of my masterpieces was pretty good “for an indie book.” Yeah, well, piss on that. He only knew I was indie because I told him so. I now have two questions to wrestle: why am I still reading these biased articles that rely on old news and nostalgia? And why do I bother telling anyone but other indies that I count among their number?

We live in a post-empire world.

Indie and niche is a great place to be now, but the bias of what was once true still carries the heavy weight of lazy inertia. I have had lots of jobs, but it wasn’t until I became a writer that people started asking if I was making any money. (Kinda rude, huh?)

Yet myths continue to abound about indie versus trad.

For instance, some people still believe that big publishers must have more brains than small publishers. I worked for big publishers and I can tell you, some of them are really bright, but no more than the rest of the population. I know what a book costs to make. One in twenty of my former employers might know. No indie of my acquaintance would be dumb enough to try to sell an art book without pictures. (Yes, that happened.)

More money means bigger investors, not more brains.

In fact, when you have more money to sling around, you can find some pretty stupid uses for it, like paying rent in downtown Toronto or New York or throwing money at CEOs while reducing editorial staff drastically. When you’re really profitable, you might even be stupid enough to get your lawyers to cheat your authors out of royalties. (Oh, nickel and dimers will do fine for a while and the big wigs can congratulate each other over a round of golf. But reputations and brands will be damaged and then the authors’ lawyers will come. Peons pushed too far become dangerous so Evil isn’t a smart longterm strategy.)

Are there lots of bad books out there? You bet.

Indie or traditional? It matters not. Ninety percent of anything isn’t so great. Mediocrity is not unique to us. In fact, mediocrity and failure is no big deal. Look around. It’s everywhere. Ninety percent of politicians and agents and naturopaths and plumbers suck. There are no exemptions. Have you ever belonged to a class where everybody got an A+ on everything? 

But that’s the beauty of finding your niche and your tribe.

No matter what we do, somebody’s going to love us. (Charles Manson has a bride now.) Someone will eventually fall in love with your voice even if you sing a little flat.

We must all do our best, of course. This isn’t a call to embrace mediocrity.

It’s a call to do your best without getting overly dramatic when someone doesn’t dig your flavor. It’s a reminder that we will all fail with most of our books. It’s a plea to write the next one anyway. I’m making fewer mistakes. I’m getting better with each book. Everybody improves if they don’t quit. My tribe is getting bigger.

Keep calm and carry on doing your best. Write and enjoy yourself. Chill. Failure is expected. One of these days, you’ll write something that will strike a cord outside your niche and, for a moment, you’ll think you have arrived. There is no arrival. There is only the next book and the Sisyphian joys of the labor itself.

When you write, do you ever make yourself laugh or cry or chortle at your genius?

That’s what to go for. Let’s stop being so precious about winning and losing and relax about the numbers. When the work comes from love and you continue to strive, your aspirations are never hopeless.

~ Speaking of turning the legend of Sisyphus upside down, I wrote over 50,000 words in 20 days and NaNoWriMo helped me do it faster than I would have otherwise. I now have a first draft I love. Take that NaNoWriMo haters. The writing process was full of self-congratulatory chortles and laughter. It’s going to be a lot of fun for readers, too.

 

 

 

Filed under: author platform, publishing, self-publishing, writing tips, , , , , ,

Winter of Zombie Blog Tour 2014: John O’Brien’s New World

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The stench of frozen rotted meat is in the air! Welcome to the Winter of Zombie Blog

Tour 2014, with 10 of the best zombie authors spreading the disease in the month of November.

Stop by the event page on Facebook so you don’t miss an interview, guest post or

teaser… and pick up some great swag as well! Giveaways galore from most of the authors as

well as interaction with them! #WinterZombie2014

 

AND so you don’t miss any of the posts in November, here’s the complete list.

Storm cover large5

 (Editor’s Note: NSFW words to follow in the excerpt, so you may not want to read it aloud at the office…)

Excerpt from A New World: Storm

As we make our way along, several exits lead into darkened interior hallways. Each of

the wall corners are rounded and house nurses’ stations. I look behind one to find a figure on

the floor, clad in the torn remains of scrubs. Dried blood covers the floor and is splattered on the

walls. Staring at the sight, I’m confused. The building entrances and perimeter didn’t show any

evidence of night runners, but the bodies and the other evidence points to the fact that we may

not be alone. I’m not sure how they are getting in and out of the building.

I peel away an escape route plan taped to one of the walls. Sending Red Team to the

next intersection of hallways, I motion Jan forward.

“Where is the lab?” I ask.

She studies the map, and points to a large room in the interior.

Taking the map, I advance to the next hall, where Red Team is standing guard. Looking

down the corridor, I see that it intersects other hallways. The ambient light doesn’t reach far,

leaving the corridors and rooms beyond in a deep gloom. The interior halls will be in the dark.

“Looks like this won’t be the walk in the park it seemed,” I state to Lynn.

“What do you think?” she asks.

“I don’t know. We’ll have to assume that we aren’t alone. We have a safe corridor along

the outer halls, but who knows what we’ll face in the darkened hallways.”

“Do you think the equipment is worth the risk?” Lynn asks.

“I have no idea. Seems that is happening more frequently. I mean, what if we get her

equipment and she finds an answer to the night runners? If she does, then yes, it’s worth almost

any risk. However, I sadly lack the ability to see into the future. Sitting here staring at darkened

halls, and knowing how much I love hospitals, I would say we turn around. But, it’s about the

chance, isn’t it? If we don’t go, then there is zero chance,” I comment.

“Are you having a nice conversation with yourself?”

“No, not really,” I answer.

I stand at the intersection, pondering. It seems that I always knew what to do in the past,

was able to see the right choice. I momentarily wonder if the move hasn’t altered my ability

to choose clearly. I may be thinking too far ahead, to finding a truly safe haven in the midst of

all this chaos. And with that looming possibility, I may be taking the easy route instead of the

right one. If that is truly the case, then I’m in no condition to be making decisions. I’ve second-
guessed decisions in the past, but not my whole reasoning ability.

Shit, even these thoughts bring more doubts.

Taking a deep breath, I shake my head. “Okay, fuck it. We’re going in. Red Team, you’re

at the next intersection covering our six. Lynn, you’re with me. Have Black Team cover Jan like

At the next intersection of hallways, Red Team covers the corners. Although there is a

faint amount of illumination, the area is still cast in a deep gloom. There may be enough residual

light to keep the night runners away from this position. Only a couple of feet into each branching

corridor, the light ends completely, leaving only darkness.

Lynn and I turn the corner. Assuring that my carbine is set to auto, I raise it and creep

into the hall leading to the lab. I sidle near the wall, stepping silently. Slowly, I make my way

down the hallway, Lynn keeping pace on the opposite wall. My heart feels like it’s in my throat

and I slow my breathing to calm my heart rate. Once again, I find myself snaking down a

hospital hallway. The air within is stuffy and cold.

All of the doors along the hall are closed. I pause at the first one, listening. Reaching

down, I slowly push on the handle. It’s unlocked. I’m not sure that night runners have mastered

the art of doors, but I’m not chancing it. It would be my luck that I run into a pack that can

saunter in and out of them with nary a thought. After all, they must be entering and exiting the

building somehow. That is, if they are leaving at all. Perhaps they are feasting on the food within

the hospital. Of course, the evidence I’ve seen could be from weeks ago.

I nod at Lynn, open the door, and step silently into the room. I’m not sure what the room

is used for, as curtains are pulled in places. No shrieks or sudden movements accompany my

entry. I exit and slowly close the door. Lynn checks a door on her side with the same result;

there’s no one inside. We creep down the corridor, checking the rooms but never leaving the

doorways. Black Team follows quietly behind.

Reaching the doors that Jan indicated as housing the lab, Lynn and I stack against the

wall. It would really suck if night runners were inside and we had to start shooting. Knowing my

day, I would put a round into every piece of equipment she needed. Of course, if there are truly

night runners within, we’ll just turn and run for the light.

We check the door and verify that it’s unlocked. On a nod from me, Lynn swings the

door open and I dart in. The room is large, with long counters and stations along the walls and

in the center. I check the dead corner as I make my way along the right hand wall. Lynn follows,

sweeping left. We pause half way down. There’s nothing inside except beakers, vials, and

equipment. We head back to the entrance and motion Black Team forward.

“The room is clear. This has to be done quietly. Don’t disturb anything, and gather the

equipment Jan indicates,” Lynn tells them.

They enter. As Jan passes, I grab her arm. “Do this quickly?”

She nods and enters with the rest of the team. Lynn and I station ourselves in the

corridor. She holds the door open and we both cover farther down the hallway. Even though I’m

on the opposite side of the hall, I still hear very faint whispering coming from inside the room.

Other faint sounds emit as they gather equipment.

Fucking keep it down, I think, hoping there aren’t any night runners nearby that can hear

A little way down is another intersection of hallways. For some reason, the ambient light

that reaches the intersection behind us doesn’t reach there. It could be that the hall doesn’t

reach the outer corridor. Minutes pass that seem like hours. I hear the clang of something

metallic come from within the room. It’s a soft sound and not very loud, but to my ears, it sounds

like a train crashing into a semi. Lynn turns her head sharply to the interior. Shrieks erupt,

coming from a side hallway; they sound close.

Fuck, that doesn’t sound like a night runner shriek, that’s more like a kid screaming, I

think, tightening and pulling my M-4 tight.

“Lynn, get Jan and the equipment out, now!” I sharply whisper. “Head for Red Team and

get to the outer corridor where there’s light. I have our six.”

Lynn calls inside, softly yet sharply. Black Team exits, surrounding Jan, who is pushing a

steel cart loaded with gear.

What the fuck?!

“Go, go, go.”

As they quickly retreat down the corridor, I rise and being backpedaling. Lynn stays with

“Go,” I say, rising. She shakes her head.

“Dammit,” I mutter.

John O'Brien

John O’Brien

Screams fill the interior, echoing down the hallways. Amongst the din, I hear feet

slapping on the linoleum. As I step backward, I have my carbine aimed near the corner where

the night runners should appear. My aimpoint is aimed where their heads should be. They round

the bend in a hurry. As they come into sight, my reticle is above their heads. I lower my barrel a

touch and begin squeezing the trigger. Their ghostly pale faces register.

Fuck, they’re kids.

There are six of them, all dressed in torn and deeply stained hospital gowns, looking to

be about ten or twelve years old. I feel sick to my stomach as I watch, unable to pull the trigger

as they streak down the hall. I am backing up as fast as I can, but they are rapidly closing. For a

split second, I tightly shut my eyes.

Fuck this…dammit!

Placing my glowing crosshair on the nearest one, I fire, almost point blank. The child’s

head snaps to the side as my bullets strike. Blood sprays from the multiple impacts. With

feet flipping into the air, its head hits the hard floor with a whack. Strobes fill the scream-filled

hallway. More kids fall to the ground under the torrent of rounds fired by Lynn and me. In

seconds, six small figures lie bleeding in the hallway. Another shriek rises and a larger night

runner female, dressed in scrubs, appears at the intersection. Upon spotting the young ones

down, she pauses, then screams like I’ve never heard a night runner shriek. Other smaller

figures appear behind her.

Screw this, I think. Lynn and I turn and run.

Racing down the darkened hall, with shrieks sounding behind, I’m reminded of a similar

chase with Lynn. This time though, friends await at hallway intersections. Black Team is

nowhere in sight. I yell to Red Team to pack up and go. Rounding the corner, hard on the heels

of Gonzalez and company, we reach the full light. Behind, the night runners continue shrieking

I feel incredibly sick. The sight of those small faces, pale or not, will haunt me to the end

of my days. My legs feel weak and I sink to my knees.

“That was messed up…I mean, really messed up,” I say, panting.

 

Filed under: Author profiles, , , , , , , , ,

What Birdman got right (and what it says about writing books)

If you haven’t seen Birdman, starring Michael Keaton and Edward Norton, you’ll find no spoilers here. It’s a very unusual film and there is a lot to love in it, not least of which is the cinematography. It’s also one of those rare films I’ll need to see again before I can figure out how much I like it.  Today, I want to talk about what I loved (and how it might apply to writers and books.)

1. The movie is a tutorial in acting without self-consciousness.

Many of us are too self-conscious to try something bold in our writing. That’s too bad, I think. I like bold choices in books. The expected is too ordinary and easy. The expected is…expected. You’ll also love the instruction on the power of motivation, emotion and brevity.

2. The film is comfortable with ambiguity.

As much as I enjoyed the summer romp that was Guardians of the Galaxy, there was no need to discuss it by the time we got to the parking lot. Birdman leaves so much ambiguity, you’ll find a lot of people arguing over clues in the film. What happened and what did it all mean? That could irritate you, or you could decide it’s finally a film worthy of discussion.

3. Birdman is working on several levels.

You can take it for what it is or you can take it for what it might be and, no doubt about it, this is a story that demands some patience from its audience if they decide to try to decode it. I like books that are doing one thing while you think they’re doing something else. That’s the rich depth I look for in my reading and writing, no matter how superficial an entertainment you might expect. (For instance, shocker: This Plague of Days is less about zombies and more about you.)

4. Birdman is Art (capital A) that defines its audience.

If you’re an optimist, you’re going to want to interpret the story one way. If you’re a pessimist, you may have less fun in the movie but you’ll enjoy the discussion over coffee after the movie.

5. Pop culture references.

The movie is front loaded with some contemporary references that are pretty funny. The movie isn’t afraid to define itself by a particular time with those pop culture references. Publishers have long run screaming from books with such references for fear readers won’t get it and the book will be dated too fast. Here’s what I’ve found (especially from feedback about my crime novels): Lots of readers love pop culture references and readers don’t scare off so easily when you’re showing them a good time. Will it get dated? No. That’s just a label and what you call a thing is not the thing. (Don’t buy that? Okay. How about this: eventually, everything is a period piece.)

6. The movie talks a lot about what it means to make Art and struggle with commerce.

What we all do as artists is kind of a brave thing to do. Maybe not storming-the-beaches-at-Normandy brave, but we’re taking risks and putting ourselves out there. It’s nice to see that affirmed somewhere instead of mocking entertainment as an effete thing to do when you could be out drinking and brawling or doing nothing. I believe Art matters. So does Birdman.

7. The movie criticizes and acknowledges the power of social media.

That’s surprisingly evenhanded and grounds for more discussion about what matters and how to get to what matters. Many of us are divided on the power of Twitter and the distracting lure of YouTube. I don’t think the answer is an either/or binary, so, through the ranting, the movie has a very thoughtful core.

8. Any artist will appreciate the critique of the role of the critic: how easy, risk-free and shallow it can be.

I heard a couple of professional critics mock this aspect of Birdman. Clearly, they weren’t listening closely or their egos got in the way. Whatever else you may dislike about this film, if you’ve written a book, you’ll love that exchange.

9. Birdman is, in part, about legacy and relevance and striving.

We can all relate to that, can’t we? If you can’t, get out. You’re taking a squat in my church.

10. By turns, Birdman looks like a French art film somebody dragged you to in college, one of those movies only film students pretend to like while they’re really thinking about Star Wars.

Then Birdman does something different. In other words, if it were a book, it would be cross-genre. It’s a film that isn’t easy to categorize and define. Therefore, it’s harder to sell. They made it anyway.

Filmgoers have been crying out for films that are refreshing and different. Audiences have been moaning at Hollywood for years, “Oh, for God’s sake, give us something besides another empty sequel and come up with an original thought!” Well, you asked for it and Birdman is what the answer to that request looks like.

You know what? I take it back. Now that I’ve written this list, I can see it now. I did like Birdman a lot. I think I might love it.

 

Filed under: movies, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

You never know what's real.

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An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

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