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

The publishing revolution already happened.

How to become an e-book sensation. Seriously.

See on Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction

Beverly Akerman gleans the secrets of DIY bestsellerdom from Martin Crosbie, who went from mainstream reject to e-book sensation…

 

(And here, friends, is a calming counterpoint from The Globe & Mail to the article linked below this one. Read both and see what you think. Cheers! ~ Chazz)

See on www.theglobeandmail.com

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Author collectives signal a new chapter for self-publishing

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Alison Flood: With online groups working to sift out the hidden gems, and a New York co-operative instituting a ‘seal of quality’, is the world of independent publishing finally getting organised?

 

Please read the Guardian story at the link because I’m not feeling like the article is telling me to feel.

 

The Question of the Day: If you’re an independent author, some of the snobs in the comments thread of this Guardian article will make you tear your eyelashes out. However, a “seal of quality” by earnest people will at least appease those who condemn all indie books. What do you think? Could this be the next great thing for the readers who can’t be bothered to look and decide for themselves? For everyone? Is it good for authors as well as readers, or is this instituting another star chamber of a small group that gets to decide what is “worthy”? Is this an opportunity or deepening ghettoization of non-traditional literature?

 

To tell the truth, I got off on the wrong paw with this article as soon as I read the tagline: “Is the world of independent publishing finally getting organised?” Isn’t that kind of an oxymoron? Can indie still be indie if it’s New York trad publishing all over again? Honest questions. What are your answers? ~ Chazz

See on www.guardian.co.uk

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Keta’s Keep: The Ten Commandments of Reviewing by Mayra Calvani

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In keeping with last week’s theme of how to review well, hit the link to Keta’s Keep for an excellent article on the subject. Good stuff! ~ Chazz

See on ketaskeep.blogspot.ca

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Expected Costs

See on Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction

The first chapter was “The Early Decisions” which included picking a business name, setting up checking accounts, and so on. There were no real costs at all in those early steps unless your state had a small fee for registering a business name. Checking accounts are free, so are PayPal accounts, and so on.

So, the question on this second basic business-planning chapter is: “What are your expected costs?”

For those of you with a basic understanding of business, you can now see the structure of how I am setting up these chapters. Before starting into a business, there are certain things that need to be figured. Set-up costs, projected production and business costs, and projected income. You have no real data on the costs or the income, at least not accurate data, but anyone with a lick of sense who is starting a business will sit down and try to figure these factors out to some degree.

It would seem that expected costs should be tough to figure. But actually, in this business, they are not. At least for most levels. It just will take a little homework is all.

So, let me first divide this discussion into three major areas.

Cost in Money.

Cost in Time.

Set Costs.

All three areas are critical to figuring overall expected costs of producing a product.

In the first two categories I’ll divide the discussion down into three major ways of running your company: 1) Do All Work Yourself. 2) Do Some Work Yourself, and 3) Hire all work done.

And, of course, the categories cross over. If you find your time more valuable than your money, then hiring things done will be more of an option. And so on.

There’s much more useful information in this article on Dean Wesley’s Smith’s post.

Read on at this link:  www.deanwesleysmith.com

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Wussies! Creativity and the boneheads in the way of artful risks

Jay McInerney at Tribeca Film Festival 2010

Jay McInerney at Tribeca Film Festival 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just read something from a writing advice book that annoyed me and I have to pull this sharp and spiny burr out of my nethers. It’s about what I’m going to do with point of view in the crime novel I’m writing. I’m taking a risk with this book and I know it. It’s written in second-person, present tense. That’s right! Now you’re wondering if I’ve lost my mind or if I’m just into quirky gimmicks. You’ll soon find out, but let’s talk about why I’m annoyed and you might get that way, too.

I ran across a chapter on point of view. The upshot on using second-person was that it’s best for short books (good, mine is) and is tricky to pull off. I agree with that. It is tricky. However, I have had good experience using it and several stories in Self-help for Stoners have more punch in part because of that unorthodox choice.

Then I got really annoyed because the author warned that editors and agents would be quick to reject any such manuscript because the attempt screams: I’m a Jay McInerney knock-off! You’re trying to do Bright Lights, Big City! I’m paraphrasing rather than quoting because I didn’t buy the book. I will buy the digital edition to delve further, by the way. I don’t write off a book or conclude the author is wrong just because I disagree with one paragraph. I’m annoyed not because the author is necessarily wrong, but because he may very well be right that traditional publishing is that quick to pull the trigger on any book that challenges the status quo (as if the status quo is all that hot.)

Bright Lights, Big City is a novel I admire. I found it quite engaging and funny. I wasn’t put off by all the “You, you, you,” that got so much press and critical attention but misses the point of the novel entirely. It was considered somewhat experimental at the time (and I guess it still is if the author of the advice book is correct.) Bright Lights was different, but it didn’t really deserve the “experimental” label. Aside from the use of the second-person point of view, it’s really quite a conventional novel that reminds some of Catcher in the Rye. (Try Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk if you want experimental fiction. That’s far more daring and demanding of readers.)

The use of the word “you” — some would say overuse — doesn’t get in the way of my enjoyment of Bright Lights because it’s the jokes, the hipster context of New York ’80s nightlife and a stab or two at the literary establishment that appealed to me. I was working in the Toronto literary establishment at the time I first read it, so it spoke to me even though I didn’t have the cash or inclination to indulge in Bolivian marching powder.

We used the word experimental because there weren’t many well-known antecedents that employed second-person point of view. Now Bright Lights, Big City is the well-known antecedent and apparently some publishing professionals have long memories but very narrow minds. Bright Lights, Big City came out in 1984! So…Jay McInerney did it once and now the use of second-person is a reason for quick  rejection? He slipped under the gate but it must never allowed again! Really? They haven’t got over the shock after 28 years?

Wussies!

When my novel comes out this June, readers will agree it’s awesome like chocolate croissants, merely palatable or they’ll decide it sucks like a Dyson vacuum cleaner powered by the fearsome gravity well of a black hole. I’m betting it works and fortunately, my imprint, Ex Parte Press, will publish it. The boss can be kind of a dick, but I’m tight with him. The only gatekeepers I have to worry about are the readers traipsing the digital forests of the Amazon. I know it’s a gamble, but I don’t write so I can sound like everyone else. As much as I respect Jay McInerney*, I’m not trying to emulate him. We write to express ourselves. This is me being me. I hope you’re being you and taking some artful and calculated risks, too.

*If you’re a martial artist, please try Jay McInerney’s Ransom. If you want a distinctive voice by a confident author, read McInerney’s Story of My Life. These, along with Bright Lights, Big City, were Mr. McInerney’s first three books. They were his least conventional and I believe they were his most successful. They were the ones that were most successful with me, anyway.

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Who reviews the reviewers? You could.

The second generation Amazon Kindle, showing t...

The second generation Amazon Kindle, showing the book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe we need to make a concerted effort to review some reviewers so they’ll either change, cheer up or shut up. Allow me to explain before you give this blog post a one-star review.

I’m in the home stretch in completing my crime novel and after a hard day sweating over a hot keyboard, I dip into my Kindle to unwind. As I search for new books to load up on, I find myself drawn to scan Amazon reviews. The sad truth is, I haven’t been reading the five-star or four-star reviews much. I’ve been clicking on the one-star reviews and reading with horror.

There are several reasons for my self-abusive behavior: 

1. I’m looking for mistakes to avoid. Not all one-star reviews are wrong and I’m trying to glean the honest from the brutally honest. Some books are plain bad.

2. Cranky people can be funny sometimes. Sometimes on purpose. Just as villains can be more interesting to write than heroes, a bad review is often more interesting than a positive one…at least to write, possibly to read and, as far as achieving the purpose reviews are meant for? We’ll get to that in a moment. Hang in for the punch.

3. Five-star reviews tend to sound alike while the one-stars should be more interesting. This is the Anna Karenina/book review version of “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Generally, reading one-star reviews has proved a mistake because either it’s depressing or annoying. I should probably quit reading them. Or, we could review the reviewers in the hope they might improve just as they supposedly do for our betterment. That is the purpose, isn’t it? Or is it?

Hm. We’re writers. We should be able to do a better job than many reviewers at reviewing. Shouldn’t we?

With regard to point 1: The one-star reviewers often haven’t finished much of the book they’re reading and their criticisms are often inarticulate, too harsh or too vague. “Yuck” doesn’t inform anyone of anything except the reviewer might be a dim seven-year-old with a limited vocabulary and access to their parents’ Amazon account.

As far as point 2 goes, the hate comes through, but there’s not often a lot of creativity in the funny department. The problem is that too brutal a review isn’t a message conveyance system. It’s just a knife slashing from out of the darkness wielded by a bitter, blind assailant. Some reviewers offer such consistent patterns of hatred, I suspect they don’t enjoy reading but reviews are an outlet for problems that are traditionally worked out on a couch with the aid of powerful psychopharmaceuticals.

As for point 3: I was wrong and Anna Karenina was wrong. The hate sounds more alike than the all-out loving reviews. People love different aspects of a book but they repeat the same stuff that bothers them, often within the same one-paragraph review.

The Internet is mean because it’s anonymous. Some people mistake mean for being intelligent or funny. Nah, it’s often just mean and dumb. We keep hearing the rule “Don’t say anything on the Internet you wouldn’t say within bitch slapping distance.” It’s good advice crazy people don’t take.

Recently one of my books, Self-help for Stoners, got its first three-star review. (The others were four and five stars and wow did those make me happy!) The reviewer who gave that book three stars wasn’t in love with the drug use aspect of the book. Instead, he winced and I don’t think he meant metaphorically. I’m always intrigued how people react to that book because some have told me it’s anti-drug (Get off your ass, stoner!) and most assume it’s pro (What a wonderful world it could be. [insert trill of violins rising here] ) When people ask me straight out, I say it’s anti-censorship and pro-freedom but mostly it’s stories of suspense that challenge readers to draw their own conclusions.

Though it was a three-star review, the reviewer found a lot to love and respected the work enough to give it very thoughtful consideration that I appreciated. It was largely complimentary despite the aspects he disapproved of. That’s pretty decent and open-minded of him, don’t you think? Lots of people have three settings: love, hate and apathy. The mark of a good book review is an appreciation for nuance. Would I prefer unmitigated bouquets and cyber kisses? Of course, but it was still a good review from him and a good review for me. (In retrospect, I wish I’d sent him Sex, Death & Mind Control. He probably would have enjoyed that book more. The style has similarities and the subject matter is still suspenseful fun but there’s nothing there that could be considered advice.)

Which brings us back to those hateful one-star reviews. You know those little boxes that say: x number of y customers found this review helpful? Yes? No? I’ve been clicking “No” a lot lately. Too many of them are just too mean or uninformative or uninformed. If you think a review breaks the bitch-slapping guideline, click No. (Or click Yes if it was disapproving but helpful, funny, clever, civil or anything non-hateful and crazy.)

Suggestions:

If you only gave the book five minutes or a few pages, you aren’t qualified to review it. Move on. (I don’t know how much of a book you have to read before you’re qualified to review it. 50%? 75% 100% including the ISBN? Hence the Question of the Day at the bottom of this post.)

If you couldn’t wait to delete it because it’s somehow digitally sullying your Kindle, okay, but very often these folks are really mad at a book that was free. I’m not suggesting a free book should be bad. I’m saying, let’s keep our rage in check and our world in perspective. You tried something and it cost you nothing but time and you didn’t really give it much of that, did you? I don’t waste time finishing a book that I don’t like. There are too many good books out there and life is too short to get all OCD with, “But I got it so I’m committed to this living hell now!” C’mon. Let it go.

Please read a sample before you buy: “I thought by the title that it would be a summer romance and it turned out to be borderline porn about a war between foot-fetishistic elves and fairy vampires! I’m pissed!” We are all the star of our own movie, but just because you hated it doesn’t mean the extras milling around at the back of your set wouldn’t enjoy it. Leave it for those foot-loving peons and weirdos. Stars should be gracious with the supporting cast.

Nastiness is forever, so please check yourself before you wreck somebody else. An ill-intentioned review could  have real-world consequences. At best, you could dissuade someone from something that they could enjoy or maybe even love though you didn’t. At worst, you’re the one taking money away from some poor sod whose only crime is using too many adverbs. Ease up on the stick and don’t overshoot the runway.

What’s your motivation behind a bad review? A friend of mine has mentioned that once his book hit high rankings on Amazon, the nasty reviewers boiled out of the woodwork as if to make a point of taking him down a peg or two for having the audacity to do something that pleased a lot of other, happier people. Another author got a nasty review on her book which she suspected was payback from a writer who had asked for an honest critique and got one she didn’t like. (Warning to the petty and petulant: You don’t get help or even civility in the future if the word gets around that you’re a nit. This is the Internet. Word will get around.)

When you make a big deal about the book being a sub-standard work from an indie press, you’re smearing all hard-working, low-resource indies and dreamers with the same acid-tipped brush who are providing some grateful people with very inexpensive information and entertainment. That’s an ad hominem argument which is Latin for “Shut the $#@! up.”

Are you counting typos as you read? I recently mentioned a reviewer who said he liked a book but started off his review with the fact that he found five typos. If you can’t handle a book with five typos over 250 pages, we have a tank lined with cotton waiting that will protect you from the world. You’re too fragile for earth’s atmosphere. Once again, ease up, man! Many of us (most?) are doing all we can to prevent typos and as much as it may annoy you to find a mistake in someone else’s work, it kills writers to find it in our own books. (You can read a traditionally published book with as many typos. Lots of people hate that argument, so let’s try this tac: You can have a traditionally published book  with (what you perceive) as no typos! Yay! You will, however, have to pay ten times more money for it. Deal? Deal.)

Authors: Please read the whole review and weigh it with due consideration. Just as we hope book reviewers will be civil, gentle and thoughtful and read enough to have a reasonably informed opinion, we should assess reviews individually before clicking that dismissive “No” button. Let’s not let our egos impair our journey to improvement. (If you figure out how to do this, please write me explaining how. I’ll do anything short of meditation, a word whose language root comes from a Latin phrase meaning “Boring as $#@!”

I do thank people for decent reviews. I don’t encourage anyone replying to a nasty review. We can legitimately use the “Was this review helpful?” buttons as they were intended without getting sucked into a black hole of bitterness. If you find yourself explaining why someone should love your book — my baby! my baby! — either you wrote something incomprehensible or they’re kind of dim. Either way, arguing is a waste of time. Use that time to instead write another (great!) book and accept that no one book is for everyone.

Try this: Take a book you love. Look up the best book you ever read! Read the reviews. See all those one-star reviews? Yeah, that’s what I mean.

Question of the Day: How much of a book do you read before you feel you can honestly review it? I welcome your (helpful) comments.

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , ,

How to Use Google Search Stories Video: Watch me be the drama king!

Google Logo officially released on May 2010

Google Logo officially released on May 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You’ve seen how Go!Animate works in the previous post. Now check out Google Search Stories. This is free video software that’s even easier to use than Go!Animate. You’re telling a story with images, news, maps,

google searches and books (yes, books!) This could be a very useful promotional tool for indies when used correctly.

Easy to do: plug in search terms, tell your story creatively, add music, preview and publish to YouTube. And free.

Click here to see my Quit My Day Job post and Google Search Stories video. 

The link to make your own Google Search Story is at the bottom of the video post on my author site.

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Use GoAnimate to spread the word about your book

Go!Animate is a free YouTube program that allows you to make short cartoons quickly and easily. You can pay a little more to make it more complex, but it seems much cheaper than several of the other video animation options. Here’s my little cartoon I experiment for Sex, Death & Mind Control now posted to the world on YouTube to promote my author site AllThatChazz.com. It’s not perfect, but it was a first attempt and only took a few minutes. Something to consider. I know I’ll play around with it further for future book promotion projects.

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , ,

On The Media – How Publishing and Reading Is Changing

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Publishers are trying to adapt as the book industry changes dramatically, and they’re doing so in the face of rapidly changing reading habits among consumers.

See on www.onthemedia.org

Filed under: publishing

Can you tie your book’s title to something larger?

When I put together my collection of short stories, I knew I had a problem: traditionally, short story collections don’t sell. I think that’s changing. With e-readers, we’re turning away from ever bigger Stephen King-size  tomes. Digital brings the short form (or at least shorter forms) back because page counts don’t count. I looked at the themes of the collection and added chapters that were inspirational and thought-provoking. I thought about how it was director Kevin Smith who inspired me to write full-time. What emerged was a bathroom book of stories: Self-help for Stoners, Stuff to Read When You’re High. It’s suspenseful, yet full of parables. Yep, it’s an odd book.

Image

Today is 4/20. I’m hoping that, because of the tie-in to a niche, my book will find readers who would otherwise have passed it by. Every day I say you don’t have to be a stoner to love it and that’s true. However, I wanted to have a hook with an identifiable market because, sadly, a book that’s for everyone is for no one.

When you choose your next title, what event or group could you tie it to? For instance, if you can legitimately come up with a book that has “Christmas” in the title, it might sell much better than a title that sounds too much like a bunch of other titles.

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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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