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

The publishing revolution already happened.

Radio Show Reminder: What Not to Say to a Writer

You know that radio show I recommended in the last post?

Friday Night Writes is on tonight (Friday February 7, 2014) and every Friday night at 8 p.m. EST. The topic is “Stupid Things People Say to Writers.” There’s a deep, rich well.

The show is on Surf 1700 Flagler Beach Radio (FlaglerBeachRadio.com.) I listen in on the TuneIn Radio app. It’s not a podcast so you can’t listen to it later. 

What’s my favorite Stupid Thing recently?

I have several to choose from, but I bristled when someone said, “I can’t imagine doing all that by oneself.” The implication of the tone and context was it couldn’t be done or be any good.

Answer: I don’t do it alone. I have a lot of help.

Unlike most podcasts, this is live radio with an active forum so you can comment and ask questions in real time. In that way, it’s a social media thing, too. Authors Tim Baker and Armand Rosamilia will answer questions in between busting each other’s — so, hey! See you tonight!

You’ll get a lot out of it, plus laughs. Don’t forget to bring your own Stupid Things suggestions.

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

The attitude (and the radio show) indie authors need to succeed

This week on a podcast I heard a couple of guys who own a small press quibble over what qualifies as “indie” versus what “self-publishing” is and OH MY THOR! WHO CARES? They don’t understand that any serious self-publisher is a publisher. I know of no one who attacks the challenge alone. We have editors and proofreaders and graphic artists. We recruit volunteers and call on experts. The distinction these podcasters were quibbling about is so two to three years ago and I’m sick of it. We don’t go it alone if we’re to have any chance at succeeding. Truly solitary efforts? Those stinkers sink like lead in a helium sea. They can keep talking. We’ll keep moving forward.

Someone else questioned the use of the word “revolution” in our little make-up-stuff context.

The tagline at ChazzWrites used to be “Join the Publishing Revolution.” I wrote that because the ability to publish and sell directly to readers on a large scale, without traditional gatekeepers, was and remains revolutionary. We’re a young industry, but we keep on proving we’re not as stupid as once accused. We pick ourselves rather than wait for anointment, but no, despite the hype and alarm, we really do understand that publishing is not just a button.

Quite a while ago, I changed the tagline for this blog to: “We are the publishing revolution.”

Since I started this blog, the publishing landscape has changed and we’re getting better. There’s a reason for that growing expertise and success and it’s about you and me and the friends we make.

I’ve never been in a business so firmly entrenched in what Joanna Penn calls “Coopetition.” Writing may be solitary, but publishing is still a team sport. Most indies help other indies. I am not threatened by any author. I’m inspired by them. I read their work. I’m often assisted by them. We’re allies. We have so few resources, we have to band together. The organization is loose and the data flow is more horizontal than vertical. We’re less isolated and we sure aren’t corporate, but you know what?

Banding together is better.

Nobody owes anyone else a helping hand. It’s not about owing. I’m talking about the joy of paying it forward. Sure, there are a few authors who don’t have time to help others. They come off a bit me, me, me. Sometimes that’s a pocket full of earned arrogance and sometimes they were born that way. They’re missing out. Suffering, even. 

Have you ever had the opportunity to help somebody out?

The answer is, of course you have. And when you do help somebody, doesn’t it feel fantastic? It’s a great feeling to pay for a stranger’s coffee at the drive-through. Random acts of kindness aren’t so popular because they help somebody who needs a boost. Random acts of kindness are so popular because they feel just as good (maybe better) for the giver.

As Indies, we need each other. We can’t afford to pay for all the expertise and experience we receive from bloggers, podcasters and fellow authors. But the rising tide of kindness paired with knowledge raises the industry’s boats. I have another recommendation, besides helpful blogs and podcasts.

Here’s a radio show for our revolution:

Friday night (and every Friday night) I listened to Friday Night Writes on Surf 17 on Flagler Beach Radio. Last week, authors Tim Baker and Armand Rosamilia talked about editing with Armand’s editor, Jenny Adams. They laugh a lot on that show and the music’s good, too. The show’s Facebook forum is active, the audience laughs along with them and they answer questions about writing and publishing in a fun way. (So see you all there Friday night. I listen in on the TuneIn Radio app.)

That’s the commercial. Here’s the point:

Writing is fun (or else maybe you’re doing it wrong). Publishing is a serious business populated with fun, intelligent and interesting people. Many of the most generous people I know are growing their readership, blowing up and getting better faster. I don’t think the intersection of generosity and success is a coincidence. Generosity not only feels good. It grows support networks, readers and fans. Energy goes out and comes back, drawing attention, interest and resonance.

We are a generous group. We are writers.

Our revolution is based not on conquering but on love of language and stories. Sharing our love of language and telling stories? It’s not frivolous. Fiction is an important way to keep the darkness at bay. It’s a welcome distraction from what ails us. Each novel is an opportunity to escape reality and a less painful way to better understand life.

We learn and share experiences through our stories. We grow and share and laugh together. We help each other. We entertain strangers from a distance for a long time very inexpensively. We’re givers and that feels awesome. Without cooperation, we would not be here. Generosity is the bedrock of our humanity. 

That’s love. 

We are the revolution we need.

 

Filed under: author platform, Media, publishing, self-publishing, Writers, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Travesty: The Slate Culture Gabfest “bludgeoned” by books

Bad news

Some people have committed to never buying another book again. Their e-readers are stuffed full of all the free books they could load. They’ll probably never get to most of them. Downloads do not equate to reading. When they do give your book a chance, some nasties are predisposed to one-star reviews. They’ll give your books less of a chance than you dare hope. They’re far less invested in reading it because they’ve got way too much to read already. And “How dare you attempt to entertain me for free!”

It gets worse…

From several literate sources, I’ve heard intellectual folks complain about having a book recommended to them. On the Book Fight podcast (which I generally enjoy), the hosts — who honestly love literature! — talked about recommendation fatigue. Attempts to share the glory of a good story might be viewed with a cynical eye over there. Instead of an open hand of welcome for a recommendation, book boosters can expect to be seen as mindless parrots and promoters. Holy crapballs! These guys write and teach writing. Maybe they’re tired. One host yearned to have a job fixing cars instead of writing for a living. Somebody needs a vacation, or to remember how much hard labor can suck. This? From people who love literature?

But it gets much worse…

The Slate Culture Gabfest, a podcast you’d hope wouldn’t have room for cynicism, is not a safe space for books. You’d think people who talk about culture professionally wouldn’t be so disengaged and full of resentment when book recommendations come their way. One of the hosts even said they were less likely to read a book because someone suggested he should. I guess host Stephen “I hate everything but the counter-intuitive” Metcalf is past the giddy burble some of us feel as we read a book that genuinely excites us.

You know that feeling, right? When you consciously slow your reading to make the experience last longer? Remember those books that disappoint, not because they’re bad? Remember those books that, as you close them, it feels like the last roller coaster ride of the day is over and the amusement park’s closing up for the night?

Someone’s forgotten that wistful love. The three Slate podcasters felt “bludgeoned” because they got too many recommendations. (From here, that sounds like they’re complaining they get too many valentines.)

How’s their wariness and weariness working out for them? So far, they’ve successfully avoided A Visit from the Good Squad by Jennifer Egan, or any Barbara Kingsolver or any Alice Munro. This, from culture critics. Culture is their business, but I guess that’s no reason to get too bookish about it. Let’s nerd out over Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, instead. Lord knows that poor director never had his proper shot at fame and fortune. I guess I won’t hold my breath for them to give Bigger Than Jesus a go.

Where does that leave authors who don’t get to meet Stephen Colbert on their fabulous press junket?

(Hat tip to Slate’s Emily Bazelon. I still love you, Emily.)

Stuck in the desert with a cactus in our ass is where that leaves us. You can pump your books on Triberr and Twitter and Facebook and pay for all the advertising you can afford, but some people who review books are overstimulated and it seems to have soured their milk. One of the Book Fight guys suggested that if you hardly ever recommend a book and then you finally do, he’d give that recommendation more weight. That paradigm doesn’t fit into most authors’ promotional campaigns very well, does it?

That last point struck me as particularly disagreeable this week when I ran across a brilliant author who does no promotion. I won’t embarrass him here (but I’ll promote him later). For the purposes of this post, I’ll simply say that being brilliant might get you readers in the long-term, but he isn’t getting the attention he deserves without promotion. A good marketer who writes will outpace a better writer who fails to market well.

Slate’s jaundiced eye toward any recommendation I could make suggests his brilliance will stay a secret. The gatekeepers to publishing have been sent into the forest to learn other trades and reinvent themselves, but there are still gatekeepers to publicity and attention. And they are sick of us, no matter how casually and sidelong our book recommendations.

How am I going to pull this post out of its dive into a dark, hard place?

This has been a test of the emergency broadcast system. If this were a real emergency, everybody would feel this way about book recommendations. However, there are still plenty of readers who are not fatigued and may even thank you for reviewing and sharing. They might love our books. I sure hope they love mine. When you get depressed about people who seem predisposed to ignoring our efforts (or even despise us, our silly dreams and possibly even our dogs) focus your energy elsewhere. Continue with the quixotic! Quixotic is the most noble category of quests.

Now please go write something the critics can’t possibly ignore.

Or go write something someone will dare to recommend to someone, with shamefaced humility,

in a passive way that somehow won’t erect some critics’ inborn defences against a kind suggestion.

(And don’t tell them what kind of day to have.)

Filed under: book marketing, Media, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, readers, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What moves books? And what is ‘Parketing’ anyway?

Successful book marketing campaigns often do a lot of things at once, especially at first, before awareness of your book grows. Author Jeff Bennington, for instance, has noticed that online marketing of his books takes an hour out of each day or sales begin to dip. (More on getting you and your books’ global fame in a minute, but first let’s talk attitudes, parketing and my terrible personal deficiencies as a book marketer.)

Someone’s already saying, “An hour a day? Who has that kind of time? When will I have time to write?” You’re an artist, but you’re an artist in business. Businesses need to advertise. You’d make time to send out invoices, so make time to make people aware of your books unless you’re content writing for yourself and your kids. (Fortunately, lots of online marketing is cheap, free and fun, so there’s that.) Down the road, once you reach critical mass, maybe you’ll be able to get away with doing less marketing, but I doubt it. Coke still advertises. Manage your time and make it work.

Here’s one cheap way to promote local awareness of your books: I first heard of parketing (though it wasn’t called that then) at a writers’ conference three years ago. The marketing guru fired lots of ideas at us: blogging, tweeting, podcasts…the usual, though it was all newer, scarier stuff then. Then the guru asked, “How many of you have a car magnet advertising the cover of your book?” Not a single hand was raised, of course. The marketing guru snarked, “Yeah, why would you want to let anyone know you have a book for sale?” Park your car where lots of people will see it with your lovely book cover on it and voilà! That’s parketing.

It’s a digital world, so old-school attempts to market a book are often overlooked, often with justification. However, you may want to consider parketing in certain circumstances. This is one of those advertising strategies that has “short term” written all over it. It could work for the short term because no one is doing it. No one is doing it because your first reaction is that it sounds silly or maybe even naive or worse, beneath your dignity. If you habitually park your car in a high-visibility area (say, outside a bookstore at the mall) it sounds a little less silly. When you consider the number of businesses that do advertise this way, successfully, it sounds even less nuts. If your pockets are shallow, you can still do this. I got my car magnet from Vistaprint for less than $20.

Parketing works much better if you’re prepared to ask a bunch of friends to put car magnets on their vehicles, too. If your pockets are very deep, you could even go for the full paint job. Do that and you’ve got a marketing campaign started in your city and the basis for a press release to local newspapers and magazines. Sure, we market our ebooks globally, but we shouldn’t turn up our noses at getting noticed locally. That’s one way to get critical mass going. People in your own city, especially media, are more interested in local authors because they have a sense of ownership and familiarity with local authors. There’s a business in my city that seems to be everywhere because each employee gets a free paint job on their vehicle advertising the business. Everywhere they drive, they are advertising. It’s not that large a company (or even a particularly good one), but their ad-plastered cars seem ubiquitous, reminding everyone daily, “Here we are!”

The ad on my van gets attention because it’s just so damn weird. There is surely not another author advertising his or her book with a car magnet for hundreds of miles, so people slow down to read it. I’ve watched them slow down to look. Has it translated to sales? I don’t know. It’s just one car magnet for one book, but I do know people are reading the ad. For me, this little strategy is really  just about promoting awareness so I get my name familiar. For what I spent, I’m okay with that. We gravitate toward the familiar, buying name brands instead of the unknown product (which could be just as good or better but you don’t recognize the label.) When I shop the local Asian food market, I’m actually physically uncomfortable with the cans of unknown weird stuff even though I know it’s not weird. It’s merely different. (I’m weird.)

It’s all the other stuff I do that will make the difference in the long term. There is no one way to move books. Online marketing is going to do much more  because it’s everywhere. For instance, I’ve been on the air, or talked about, on six different podcasts recently (besides my own weekly podcast). That will go a lot further toward gaining some vague familiarity with my name as an author than a car magnet will for one book. Plus, I love podcasting, so I’ll always have that.

Have you guessed this post is not really about putting a magnet on your car? It’s about using multiple strategies to get attention to your books. Marketing campaigns that are single-pronged attacks do not move books. Try a lot of things, even the weird ideas if they make sense to you. Experiment and have fun with it if you can. Try to get your name out there, arriving from several places, preferably at once. We must reach outside of our circles of family and friends to move books.

I’m often reluctant to try new book marketing  strategies until I see them tested by others. That’s why I missed out on the benefit of KDP Select while some others made whacko cash last December. I haven’t jumped on Pinterest because I read one blog about their scary terms of service. These are my deficiencies. I’m often too timid about doing things that are good for me. Everything new feels weird at first. Unfamiliar doesn’t mean wrong. Unfamiliar simply means unfamiliar. In our marketing efforts, should we proceed with caution? Sure. Don’t get taken,  but do proceed and make progress.

What are the book marketing basics? Write a good book. Get it edited. Get a great cover design. Price it right. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know all that.

What then? Then go buy my buddy Jeff Bennington’s new book, The Indie Author’s Guide to the Universe. I’m reading it right now and I especially like the things you can do to sell your books that are free. Let him show you the way forward. The best marketing strategies are not static. They come and go and rise and fall so we have to stay current and open to experimentation with new opportunities as they arise.

That’s what I’m trying to do, anyway, and that’s what this blog is about.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is the author of a bunch of great ebooks of suspense with titles he now realizes generally repel you. He podcasts a comedy/narrative show, Self-help for Stoners, every Thursday night. To learn more, go to AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: ebooks, Media, My fiction, podcasts, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Useful writing links, web reviews, What about Chazz?, What about you?, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What’s useful on my iPod? (Plus a treat)

For podcasts, the app you want is Stitcher. Most any podcast in the world is available there, so if you want a cool distraction or need to research how to do anything, there’s a great resource. And Stitcher is free.

Not on Stitcher (yet) but available through iTunes: The Creative Penn podcast. Joanna Penn interviews helpful people on all aspects of publishing. And she’s a great interviewer, too.

Twitterific: The interface on this app is better than Twitter. I like it very much.

Wolfram: The smarter search engine.

And a sampling of music to write by: Fountains of Wayne, Eminem, Cee lo Green’s F**k You, Earth, Wind and Fire, Daft Punk’s Technologic, Journey, Pet Shop Boys, Freeland’s We Want Your Soul, Queen, old Stevie Wonder, and the immortal Weird Al’s White & Nerdy (see Donny Osmond’s dancing on the YouTube video for full effect.)

Filed under: DIY, Media, podcasts, writing tips, , , , , , , ,

The “But At What Cost?” Miscalculation

John Locke has written a book: How I Sold 1 Million Ebooks in Five Months.* (I recommend it) How_I_sold_1_million_ebooks_in_5_months

LA Times writer Carolyn Kellogg wrote a piece that asks, “At What Cost?” Here’s that nonsense argument and my bit of nonsense follows.

The upshot is, Ms. Kellogg thinks Mr. Locke undersold himself. He sold a million ebooks, but charged 0.99 for many of them. She says he could have made a million of with higher pricing instead of making do in the $300,000 range. (A figure that would make many authors swoon.) There are many interesting observations in the comments section of the LA Times article that pick apart Ms. Kellogg’s worries very well.

Here’s my take away: I had never heard of John Locke until now. He used 0.99 loss leaders to sell a shit-ton of books. Yes, he “only” made 0.30 on the 0.99 ebooks, but  low or no pricing allowed wary readers to try him out. And now many more people know  about him. And I bought his non-fiction ebook which details his success so far. And I bought it for $4.99.

Kellogg is saying Locke was an idiot for leaving money on the table, assuming he could have moved so much and so quickly with a middle man trad publisher involved. Why would she assume that, I wonder? There’s no basis for it. The new world is not the old world and hers is classic old world thinking.

Now you know, if you didn’t, who John Locke is. And now you’re thinking, maybe I should buy one of his books and give it a try. Maybe more than one, huh?

*Thanks to Joanna Penn for her post on Mr. Locke. I love Joanna’s blog and podcast, The Creative Penn. Subscribe if you haven’t!  

Filed under: authors, DIY, ebooks, getting it done, links, Media, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, self-publishing, Writers, , , , , , , ,

Sometimes reality is far less believable than fiction

Right now, I am heartsick. It’s Sunday morning. I’m listening to CBC radio. The subject is police abuse of power at last year’s Toronto G8 conference a year ago. There are too many examples of violence against peaceful protesters, but one stands out. A group of police tackled a man who is an above-the-leg amputee. They pinned him to the ground. They said he had a weapon. They said he was a spitter. They beat him and handcuffed him. Then an officer ordered the amputee to walk. Of course, he could not.

But that’s not even the super evil part. Not yet.

The officer then ripped off the amputee’s artificial leg. He ordered him to walk again. Couldn’t. So then the officer ordered him to hop, which was too painful.

The whole story of mistakes made by police at the G8: confining people without arrest; arresting people they know are innocent, peaceful protesters; arresting people who aren’t even protesting but made the mistake of living downtown and trying to buy milk at a local convenience store. Restricting freedoms with violent, bullying tactics and demanding people move but giving them nowhere to go. Worse, these unprovoked criminal acts against innocent people, perpetrated by police, are covered up by police. Unconstitutional “containment tactics” entrapped people. Police were hyped up, spoiling for a fight where non was necessary. Hundreds of cell phones and cameras recorded these crimes, yet police refused to discipline themselves.

I know a couple of cops. I like them plenty and this isn’t about them. I’m confident they are peace officers, serving and protecting. This is about the fact that the facts are worse than what most of us could pull off in a novel. A police officer who rips off an amputee’s leg and demands he hop? You couldn’t get away with that in a novel. That’s so bad, it reads as cartoony evil. If I used that in a novel, my beta readers might well accuse me of writing “over the top.”

Meanwhile: 11909. That’s a badge number on one officer’s helmet as reported on CBC radio this morning. A protester wants to bring assault charges against the officer whose identifying number is 11909. Allegedly, that officer struck a peaceful protester with a riot shield. There’s video evidence. However, the powers that be are refusing to identify that officer so due legal process can ensue. It seems we can complain of mass arrests, police brutality and detainment without process or cause, and the bureaucracy in charge of these officers do not feel the need to respond to charges in court or in the media.

Some people think this travesty of justice doesn’t apply to them. They think only troublemakers were hurt or arrested or detained by police. Among those abused by police were many people who felt the same way, at least they did until last year this time. Where there is no accountability, when a country’s constitution can be discarded at a whim by authorities, we are all in danger. Freedom of speech without exercise isn’t freedom.

The Toronto police chief, Bill Blair, first stated that everything was fine and there was no basis for any criticism of the police. Then the video came out. Now he admits police made mistakes, but is less interested in pursuing a conversation about it. So will there be a public inquiry? It hasn’t been decided yet, even with all the video evidence. Even though many officers mistook fear of them for enforcing respect for the law. Even though accused officers are still covering up. Even though for all the mass arrests, their successful conviction rate? 2.2%! The fact that they are resisting a public inquiry at all tell you all you need to know.

I am nauseated by this. No kidding. It make me sad for my country and for the damage done to the reputation of  good officers. I wish it were fiction.

Filed under: Horror, Media, Rant

Regret: In your life and on film

You have to (must, must, must!) see this film trailer.

Get out your hankies.

Here’s the background: My friend Christopher Richardson was a journalism student with me 25 years ago. (He’d say I was with him, but this is my blog so I set the dynamic and bugger the facts!)

Chris is the big-hearted genius behind the documentary Where’s My Goat? Now he’s working on a new film about regret called (wait for it) Regret. The hub of the film is the valedictorian speech he gave to our class in 1987. Things went awry. Having no respect for institutions myself, I loved his speech, but a lot of people hated it and went out of their way to make Chris feel bad about it. Twenty-five years later he still feels bad about it. And now he’s on a journey to our reunion that will take him to dark places that make you think seriously about the inevitable clash of our hopes versus our experience. You think you’ve got it rough trying to lose a little weight before you hit your 25-year reunion? This amps up the anxiety and depth times 1,000.

See the trailer at www.regretthefilm.com.

If you have regrets to share, contact Chris Richardson at

Ihavearegret@RegretTheFilm.ca. 

I think Chris is already working through his valedictorian regret because he’s making lemons into lemonade and sharing the sugar with the rest of us. We all need to reflect on our mistakes and learn from them. This film will help us all on that path.

If your skin doesn’t crawl, it’s on too tight. If you don’t have a tear in your eye, you have no heart. If you aren’t thinking about what you should have done when you watched that guy drown, your mother was right. You’re soulless.

And it wasn’t just “some guy”! It was your baby brother, you monster!

Filed under: links, Media, movies, , , , , , ,

BREAKING NEWS: BIN LADEN DEAD

Turn on your TV. That’s it for now…

UPDATE: I turned on my TV. It’s been a long time since 2001. I knew he wasn’t in a cave (no sand fleas!) However, I was sure they’d find him in Saudi Arabia.

Anyway…they’re singing outside the White House, but it doesn’t seem like swift and terrible justice to me. More like, you  kill lots of people and we’ll get to you…eventually.

Triumphalism strikes a hollow note.

He inflicted much more horror than he got. And the terrorists won. Our lives have changed forever. he Patriot Act is still in. Git mo is still open. Secret military tribunals are still in. The borders are wary and air travel is assault, radiation and possible forced colonoscopy. Worst, the War on Terror sucks billions to defense that could have been spent on social justice and health care. More terrorists have been created and racism against innocent Muslims is powerfully strong.

To kill him now? Sounds like a fighter, beaten until unrecognizable from what he was, gloating about getting in one good punch.

I feel no satisfaction in the death of the villain. Instead I feel sadness for the America’s loss.

Turn off your TV. The pundits are about to go batshit and read way too much win into this. Unless it’s FOX. Fox News will figure out a way this is terrible news for the Obama administration.

Sigh.

Filed under: Media, , , , , , , ,

The Fatness

For a change of pace, here’s my column, Practitioner Parables, in Massage & Bodywork magazine on page 127. It’s called Therapists Through Thick and Thin. It’s about being heavy and getting thinner.

(CLICK HERE) 

Filed under: Horror, links, Media, Rant, , , , , , , , , , ,

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

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

Write to live

Publish, conquer your fears, inspire others

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