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

The publishing revolution already happened.

Since I can’t rock a pencil skirt: My Writing Process

I don’t look good in a pencil skirt, even the neon pink one (dammit!) However, my friend, awesome author Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar (who does look sharp in a pencil skirt), asked me about my writing process. Since my fashion sense sucks, we stuck to talking about writing.

What are you working on, Chazz?

I’m putting the finishing touches to my apocalyptic series, This Plague of Days. It’s about a boy on the autistic spectrum facing the end of the world with his family. He’s our very unlikely champion. This is the third and last book in the series, but I’m putting all three seasons into one big ebook, too. At the moment, I’ve got five other books in the editorial pipeline at various stages of production.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I wrote it kind of like a television series. Three seasons (books) with five episodes per season. It’s not your typical shoot ‘em up of a zombie story. There are three plagues and a large cast of characters so you see the crisis develop across continents. Lots of seeds and secrets were dropped along the way so the big payoffs and reveals all culminate in a story that builds and builds. It’s ambitious and really takes the reader on unexpected journeys. All the questions are answered in the end. This is my Star Wars.

Why do you write what you do?

I’m not attached to any one genre, but I do love suspense. My obsession is to take the reader on a roller coaster ride with lots of fun twists and turns, hanging off cliffs and chased by dragons and whatnot. You know…imagine the roller coaster at Hell’s amusement park. And just when you’re sure you’re safe, you aren’t.

How does your writing process work?

Typically, I write one chapter a day. That’s usually 1200 to 2500 words. I used to be more nocturnal, but now I find I’m more productive when I work earlier in the day. Since writing This Plague of Days as a serial, I’m really enjoying interacting with readers on Facebook as I write. I’ll finish a chapter and pick out a tidbit I like as a teaser or a taster and post it for some insta-reaction. That’s fun and buoys me through the parts of writing and publishing I enjoy less.

The writing process, for me, is to write myself lost. There I am in a corner. How will I find my way out? At the end of my crime novel, Higher Than Jesus, for instance, I figured a way for Jesus Diaz to kill an armed bad guy, credibly, while Diaz is bound to a chair eight feet away. That was quite a trick and one I’m proud of.

I don’t write by-the-numbers fiction. That bores me. Frequently, the only firm thing I know as I write is what the last line of the book will be. I write to discover what I think and for the joy of creativity and to surprise myself. If I can surprise myself, I’ll definitely surprise the reader.

This Plague of Days will launch in early June. Find out more about This Plague of Days at ThisPlagueOfDays.com. My author site is AllThatChazz.com.

~ Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar included me in her blog hop so a string of writers could share how they approach their writing process. She is a South Asian American who has lived in Qatar since 2005. Moving to the Arabian Desert was fortuitous in many ways since this is where she met her husband, had two sons, and became a writer.

To learn about her writing process and to check out her books, go to www.mohadoha. Follow her on Twitter @moha_doha. Click here for her Amazon author page.

You can also hear my interview with Mohana on the Cool People Podcast. She speaks of her experience in Qatar as a writer whose book has been banned. Why listen? Because she’s cool, of course.

Filed under: What about Chazz?, Writers, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One to read. One to hear. One to love.

“This is the post I shouldn’t write. I shouldn’t therefore I must.”

You know that post I just wrote about being contrary? Sometimes something catches fire when you say what you aren’t supposed to say out loud. It just happened on one of my other blogs, ThisPlagueOfDays.com. It was picked up by the Passive Voice and spread hither and thither. So far I’ve received two stern talking-tos (one of which I didn’t understand), appreciative notes and emails and offers of Prozac. The piece is about writing: the frustrations, the joys and the braingasms. You’re invited to have a look at my heart under the klieg lights.

And the All That Chazz podcast is finally back.

Have a listen if you dare. It’s not safe for work. I touch on control issues, the joys of colonoscopies, and get to an overdue reading from my crime novel Higher Than Jesus.

Oh, and Season Two of This Plague of Days is going great. If you’ve read it but haven’t reviewed it yet, please do. Thanks!

October’s mandates are stacked higher than September’s to-do list, but I’m dancing as fast as I can.

“Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight? I ask that of all my prey.”

Filed under: author platform, Author profiles, ebooks, Useful writing links, Writers, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Uncomfortable answers to questions about blogging

1. When’s the best time to post to your blog?

There are better times than others to post to your blog. Late at night isn’t generally so good. There’s a lot less browsing after 9 pm and prime time seems to be the morning hours. Mondays are big blog stats days as people ease into their week. Fridays suck, so I post less on Fridays. The earlier in the day and the earlier in the work week, the better.

2. Should you blog every day?

I think you should post only when you have something to say. If your content is rich and if you post often, the more traffic you’ll get. At DecisionToChange, I often blog several times a day, but with short posts.

3. What should you blog about?

Blog what you care about. If you try to blog about stuff that doesn’t interest you for some audience-centric, strategic reason, you’ll run out of gas before long. People say you shouldn’t blog for writers, but of my six blogs, this is the one that gets the most traffic so far and I did get two books out of writing ChazzWrites, (Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire) so there’s that.

4. How long should my posts be?

Shorter and to the point is generally better (though this particular post will get pretty long). I used to write very long essays. It’s better to break them up into a series if you’re writing long. If you’re writing at great length, don’t blog it. Book it. You can sell it on Amazon. That’s what I did with Six Seconds.

5. What’s the least I can post?

You can have a static page you don’t update, but don’t expect a ton of traffic unless you’re doing something else to drive eyes there. I do two free podcasts (All That Chazz and Cool People Podcast) and frequently appear on other podcasts. (I’m on a comedy podcast called Inverse Delirium this week).  Even with that weekly boost, I wouldn’t do a static page. Websites are either growing or dying. If I can’t update a page at all, I’d rather abandon it for a more active, and therefore more useful, site.

6. Can you post too much?

Yes, if posting burns out you or your readers, that’s too much.

If it takes away from your core work (i.e. writing books) then prioritize and manage your time so you do the core work first. I post to six blogs, a tumblr, Youtube, iTunes, Vine, Facebook and Twitter. However, I watch almost no TV and writing is my full-time job. That list of social media belongs on the secondary activity, fun stuff and stolen moments list of things to do. Writing new stuff, editing and revising is always number one.

7. Where do you get your ideas for blog posts?

My life and work is research. I’m interested in making kale shakes healthier and more appetizing, so I find out about that and share the wealth. I’m interested in all aspects of the book business and subscribe to various feeds that feed that passion.

8. If you talk about your books on your blog, is it spammy?

Some might complain I talk too much about my own books here. My reply is (A) It’s my blog and if you aren’t that into me, I’m not pestering you with phone calls to visit my blog and (B) working my book stable is where all that real world experience comes from. I’m building a cult out of supplying free information, so it’s hard to feel bad about that. I also help writers and promote other authors and their blogs here frequently, so any outrage is misplaced.

9. What’s the most important element of a website?

A. Some websites I self-host and others I don’t. For the long-term, owning it is important. Ownership allows advertising, monetizing and more control.

B. Having a list for people to subscribe to is critical to monetization. (My mailing list subscription is on the front page at AllThatChazz.com and I use MailChimp.) I give new subscribers perks like sneak peeks and shout outs on the All That Chazz podcast. Some subscribers got Advanced Reading Copies of This Plague of Days.

C.  Your website should look good, but opinions vary on what good looks like. Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com creates my web banners. That adds a lot without dealing with webmasters and giant makeovers.

D. Strong content. Everyone says “Content is king.” It’s kind of useless advice because that can be awfully subjective. If you live a sufficiently exciting life with plenty of sex among celebrities, you could rock a diary and make it work. Otherwise, go for useful and newsy so readers feel the value that way.

10. What helps a blog’s readability?

A. List posts like this one.

B. Make it easy for the reader to scan with sub-heads like this post uses.

C. Use a less fancy font to increase legibility. I also bold the type so it’s easier for everyone to read. I dumped the dark background and the light text a long time ago.

11. What are the most useful blogging tools?

A. I think WordPress is the best blogging platform (and essential if you run a podcast.)

B. I love Scoopit! The tool allows me to point readers to useful information on other websites. I can add my thoughts so I’m still adding value without looking like a parrot. I dislike WordPress’s reblog feature because I don’t post pictures on my blogs unless I’m sure there are no copyright issues. Scoopit! allows me to easily delete images. 

C. Rebelmouse. This free tool allows me to post all my blog feeds to one page so if you want to get a look at all I did in a day that was blog or podcast-related, it’s all there in one place. Every blog entry and podcast is displayed in a Pinterest-like array that’s easy to take in and stimulates the senses in a happy way without expensive and tech-heavy interventions. (You can do fancier things with Rebelmouse if you want to pay a bit of cash.)

12. Why should we blog?

(Sorry, I can only tell you why I blog.)

A. Sharing information builds the indie writer community and elevates the general level of expertise, discussion and product quality.

B. Ego and narcissism. I want you to love me and think I’m smart and funny. How else to explain six blogs and two podcasts? Pathetic and needy, isn’t it?

C. Honesty is the best policy unless questioned by Nazis. Honesty builds trust. (See 12B.)

D.  I’ve made friends and allies through my blogs and even a few readers for my books. You might even find a few people willing to be reviewers, ARC readers, beta readers, proofers, donors and helpers. My blogs and podcasts provide ways to help my friends by spreading the good word about great people.

However, if I were blogging just to find book lovers, I’d be disappointed. Only after I’m a huge success as an author using other strategies that have nothing to do with blogging will there be a clamour for all my blogs (and then I’ll have much less time to blog.)

Photo on 12-09-25 at 3.23 PM~ This fall, I’ll tell you about those “other strategies”, after I’ve given them a test run with This Plague of Days.

Have you read the manifesto for artists who want to live forever yet? Read that here.

Have you heard the latest All That Chazz podcast. The reading slips toward erotica toward the end, so this is the NSFW podcast episode you’ll probably want to hear. Check out The One That Gets Sexy here.

 

Filed under: blogs & blogging, book marketing, Books, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writers, Writing and When to Swear

TPOD 0420 2

Apocalypse Art for This Plague of Days by Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com

As I work on This Plague of Days revisions, there’s a big difference: This is the first of my books my 13-year-old daughter is allowed to read. No one is swearing in TPOD and any sex is PG-13, at most. Sometimes I think this serial (to be released at the end of May) could be suitable for Young Adult. However, I’m also not pulling back on elements of horror that range from Hitchcockian allusion (The Birds) to classic horror (a gross-out or three). It’s a post-apocalyptic world and things aren’t pretty. 

Crass Commercial Considerations

A cross-genre flurry about  society's collapse under the crush of the Sutr Virus combined with a boy's love for odd words, Latin dictionaries and his father.

A cross-genre flurry about society’s collapse under the crush of the Sutr Virus combined with a boy’s love for odd words, Latin dictionaries and his father.

I’ll admit it: I want This Plague of Days to sell to a wide audience. I want it to go huge! Multiple translations and audiobooks and mass consumption. I want this serial to be made into a movie or a franchise with TPOD lunch boxes and T-shirts at conventions. I don’t want to return to a day job and a very popular serial without cursing will help me toward that goal. I watched an interview with director Kevin Smith recently in which he breaks down the movie market. The same principles apply to us: R sells less than PG-13. Soften the blow. Make more money.

Yes, I know Fifty Shades of Gray is bondage porn that makes a ton of money off a wide audience. However, this isn’t that. This Plague of Days is about an autistic boy who is a selective mute. A plague spreads across the earth and as the mayhem goes up, society spirals down. Bad things happen. However, the story revolves around the boy and, though it’s third-person limited omniscient, much of it unfolds through the boy’s filter. His special interest is English dictionaries and Latin phrases. Nothing is lost if I don’t make TPOD a cursefest and I’ll gain more readers.

The Irony I Frankly Don’t Understand

Many people are comfortable with just about any depiction of violence but get squeamish about certain words and sex. We’re downright weird about cursing. It’s in mainstream media and on any school playground, but in print, daily newspapers put in coy asterisks like this: f***. As if our brains don’t just fill in the word automatically. Swearing is ingrained in everyday conversations, but we pretend it’s not.

Watching a show like Dexter on a non-Showtime channel, censors ensure the dialogue sounds silly. “Mothertruckers?” Really? (The practice was played to great comedic effect when, in the latest Spider-Man movie incarnation, our beloved hero blurts, “Mother Hubbard!“)

Meanwhile, I get queasy about certain entertainment that is considered mainstream even though it’s extremely violent. I’ll never see Jodi Foster in The Accused and I refuse to watch A Time to Kill. Frank depictions of sexual assault and child rape are not something I want to

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

see. I can’t watch CSI or its many iterations. That whole Special Victims Unit thing feels way too voyeuristic and definitely not for me. (I’m not campaigning for a cleansing, by the way. I don’t want art censored. What I don’t like, I don’t watch, read or listen to and that solves my problem nicely.)

Ever since I had kids, I’m generally more queasy about violence that’s too realistic. I’d rather keep my violence diet to thrillers like Bigger Than Jesus. Though there’s plenty of death and even allusions to Jesus’s abuse as a young teen, it’s treated carefully, not graphic, and balanced by the hero’s sense of humor. The funny makes the horrible feel safe, somehow. 

This Plague of Days’ post-apocayptic genre puts the story into a realm that isn’t ours…at least not quite yet. 

Sex and Curses Have Their Place: Serving the story

Jesus is resurrected in Chicago. Sex with the Queen of Giants. Violence with Very Bad Men.

Jesus is resurrected in Chicago. Sex with the Queen of Giants. Violence with Very Bad Men.

My crime novels are funny but still gritty and hardboiled. The swearing in the Hit Man Series is a need. It would have been unnatural to write workarounds for simple, salty language. Acting too coy would have drained too much realism away. 

As for sex, in Bigger Than Jesus, Jesus Diaz is constantly running for his life. The book plays out like a long chase scene. Beatings and murder don’t put the hero and heroine in the mood, even for a quickie. There is a great romantic love interest in Lily Vasquez, but her intimacy issues with the hit man aren’t about sex. Lily and Jesus’s drama deepens character and shows the impact of his awful history on his life. Through their interaction, the reader understands Jesus more and sees why he’s so screwed up (particularly about women). The reader ends up empathizing with a guy who kills for money. As for Higher Than Jesus, the sex scene with Willow Clemont and Jesus is both integral to the plot and erotic. Sex raises the stakes.

The Balance:

Despite any commercial considerations and the joy I feel at being able to show my daughter what I really do,

story has to come first.

Gee, I hope she likes it.

~ Chazz has new websites: CoolPeoplePodcast.com, onlysixseconds.wordpress.com, DecisionToChange.com. In the latest podcast at the author site, AllThatChazz.com, there’s some swearing (in a funny rant) and a fresh reading from Higher Than Jesus.

Filed under: book marketing, Genre, Horror, rules of writing, This Plague of Days, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Book Marketing: Problems and Solutions

It’s time to talk book marketing again and this time, I’m going to get up close and uncomfortably personal. One key to book promotion success — there are many keys and nobody knows where they all are — is to step outside our echo chambers. I’ll explore how to get out of that box and sleep with strangers…um, I mean, help new readers find us. But first…

Problems

1. I’ve noticed lately that Twitter love for me has faded somewhat. I’m getting fewer retweets. My Klout score is down to 62 from 65.8 (the horror of first world problems!) and the rate of new follows has slowed. That or, as someone told me recently, Twitter isn’t showing retweets as doggedly as they once did. 

2. I gifted copies of Six Seconds to a bunch of people who indicated their eagerness to give an honest review in exchange for a free copy. It only has two reviews thus far, and none from those who received the ebook from me. Six Seconds is a short guide to Vine, so I don’t know how to encourage them to review it without sounding churlish or whiny. Yet, I do need those reviews. I need reviews of everything.

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

I did receive a fresh review of Bigger Than Jesus recently and that was a great thing that happened organically. The trouble is, to promote the books on some websites, I need at least ten reviews. If I wait for it to happen organically, it’s a trickle. If you have any ideas on how to nudge reviewers without sounding like a bad guy, please let me know. Or perhaps I should risk it because as it is, I’m screwed, silent or sounding off. 

3. Promotionally, I’m in the doldrums between book launches. This Plague of Days is a monster-size book so the editorial logistics require a longer wait between publication dates. I’m very aware that if the time between books is too long, it’s easy to be forgotten.

4. I doubt more KDP Select for old books is not the answer. I’ve already done those promotions. I’ll do them again for each fresh book launch, but after the first 90 days, I’ll switch to more platforms. KDP isn’t worth its exclusivity anymore since they made free less attractive. Free isn’t dead, but it’s not as alive as it once was, either. Use KDP to give away enough copies to get more reviews if you can, but after one 90-day period of exclusivity, I’ve taken my shot and it’s time to spread the word wider. (This could change if Amazon sweetens the pot again, but I see no evidence of that on the horizon.)

5. I have a standing offer to subscribe to my mailing list at AllThatChazz.com. Subscribers get promoted on the podcast. Though All That Chazz is heard in more than 60 countries weekly, I’m not exactly flooded with subscribers. “Not exactly flooded” is my pitiful attempt to save a shred of dignity. It’s not really not working. Therefore, I have to go to them because they aren’t coming to me.

Solutions

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

1. Attitude adjustment = no whining. Over Christmas and into January, I had a bout of depression and self-doubt that crippled my creativity and work ethic. I still wrote and produced and put out podcasts. I think no one knew for sure, but I was down-dooby-do-down-down. I kept it to myself and pretended everything was peachy. It wasn’t. That put a dent in things. I can swing back and forth from high creativity to much less when Seasonal Affective Disorder hits. When I feel down, I sleep more and life feels like pushing a truck uphill without wheels. That was then. I’m feeling better, getting more sun and exercise and drinking more kale shakes. I’m back and looking for trouble to shoot.

2. I’ve stepped out of the echo chamber by adding a new podcast. On All That Chazz, I monologue, crack wise and unwise and read from my work. (Currently reading HigherCool+People+Podcast+Final Than Jesus. Get on board on iTunes, Stitcher, or from my author website.)

With the new Cool People Podcast, I have fun interviews with interesting guests. That helps step outside the echo chamber by expanding my connections, mixing networks with more people and best of all, did I mention I get to talk to cool people?  If you like the podcasts, please leave a review on iTunes. That helps.

3. I’m expanding my following on Vine faster than on Twitter.

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

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

The number of people following me so far isn’t that impressive. However, the rate at which people are getting on board through the Vine app is pleasing. They’re a tech-savvy, young and creative audience who are into what I’m doing. To let the right ones in, I’m doing an author reading on Vine from Self-help for Stoners. “Another Day at the Office” is one of my favorite, funniest stories and I’m running a contest, too. (Details on contest rules, the prize and entries at AllThatChazz.com.)

4. I’ve created more book-specific websites to inspire more qualified (read: interested) traffic. For instance,  Six Seconds, The Unauthorized Guide to How to Build Your Business with the Vine App, now has its own website. It’s useful and expands on the guide’s suggestions. Vine (the equivalent of video Twitter) just upgraded so I wrote about that development. This is a significant change because the upgrade allows vines to be embedded. Some viners will become stars on Vine just as some power users are stars on YouTube. Twitter has optimized the social sharing component of the app so I can enliven my websites with vines and spread my word wider.

This Plague of Days 03285. My newest website is ThisPlagueofDays.com. The primary focus of the blog is not just my serial of the same name. The book has a lot of angles. For instance, I’ve done extensive research in survivalism and sustainability over the years. I had a battered, paranoid youth so my past is dumped into the post-apocalyptic landscape.

I’m sure this serial will have a wide appeal, but providing specifics about surviving a world flu pandemic provides more added value than being yet another author talking about his or her book endlessly. I recently posted about the best books on disaster preparedness. In an upcoming post, I write about the SARS crisis in Toronto that killed 44 people, the mistakes that were made and how they’ll be made again in the next contagious disease crisis.

Find your angle and help people with it. If you’ve got a romance set in Martha’s Vineyard and you don’t think you’ve got an angle, write about tourism to Martha’s Vineyard. Find the angle and you’ll find a niche that’s identifiable. I’m sure Self-help for Stoners sells best because stoners recognize it’s fiction especially for them. That was by design. Bigger Than Jesus doesn’t sell as well because, on hearing it, someone will think my funny crime novel is a religious book or has something to do with the Beatles. That’s why those books have the covers they do.

6. Go to your niche. TweetAdder has a bad rap because last year, whoever is in charge of what’s polite on the Internet decided auto-tweeting is rude. Okay, but there’s more to TweetAdder than that. To find more readers who might be interested in This Plague of Days, I can search for Twitter users who are into post-apocalyptic fiction, emergency preparedness, Aspergers and survivalism. I can follow those who follow big names in post-apocalyptic fiction and interact with them. What’s your book’s area of interest? Readers want to know about you (assuming your intrinsic awesomeness bears up under examination.)

7. Advertise. As the power of free spirals out of the heights it has occupied, those of us who tried to get away with less promotional investment will have to change our patterns. I’ve been reluctant to use tools I don’t respond to as a consumer. For instance, I’ve never clicked on a Facebook ad once. However, I’m not all consumers and it’s time I got over myself to give my books a better shot. Other authors have had success with pay-per-click advertising and you can limit how much you spend. Spending is scary. I’m still working with a very limited budget, but I can limit the risk so it doesn’t get out of hand. This is the time to double-down on my bet on myself, not stick to the nickel a chip table. We used to be able to get away with zero ad budgets. We at least have to promote the crap out of free days now (if we have them) and that means paying some ad fees.

8. Send out more copies to book bloggers. More reviews will allow me to post the books to those sites that require a minimum of ten reviews above four stars. Sites like BookBub, for instance. I’ve heard good things about BookBub, but because of pricing, timing and review restrictions, it’s still out of reach for me.

9. Ask for help. I guess we’re out of the theoretical and I’m talking directly to you. If you’re interested in an advanced copy of the serial, please let me know at expartepress (AT) gmail (DOT) com. The serial overall is over 130,000 words, but the episodes are short. I’m still in revisions, so I haven’t nailed down episode word counts yet. However,  it won’t be an arduous read for those interested in a plague apocalypse pitted against an Aspergers kid who is a selective mute. His special interest is Latin and the nuances of the English language and it’s quite possible he’s hiding strange powers. Also, if you’ve read any of my books and liked them, please review them.

10. Take suggestions on how to effectively spread the word about my books that do not, as Guy Kawasaki suggests, require $10,000. Got any ideas?

All about the love...and vengeance.

All about the love…and vengeance.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is everywhere, yet nowhere, at the fork in the writing road. One path goes up and the other goes down-dooby-do-down-down.

 

Filed under: author platform, book marketing, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ebooks: What makes a great cover? What makes a bad one?

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

It’s very instructive to read the analysis of what makes covers better or worse. What makes a great ebook cover? It’s often easier to learn what makes a poor one. Art is subjective. We often don’t know what components go into making art “good”. We just know what we like. However, there are graphic designers who, with skill and experience, inject more objective analysis into art than we ordinary mortals. Joel Friedlander, at The Book Designer, is one of those magicians who can break down why a cover works, or, at the very least, he knows why it doesn’t work.

 This week, Six Seconds won February’s ebook cover design award on Joel’s website. Check it out, but have a look at all the books. Once you see the covers through Mr. Friedlander’s eyes, you’ll begin to reevaluate all the covers you see. You’ll look for what’s missing as well as what design elements hit the mark.

Kit Foster: The Dude Came Through

My graphic designer is Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com and he gets all the credit for the win. Sometimes we have long discussions about what the covers of my books should look like. For instance, our back and forth over Higher Than Jesus was exhaustive.

For Six Seconds, I was in a hurry to get the instant guide out because it’s the first book about the Vine app. All I told Kit was: “Gimme a stopwatch wrapped in vines, please. Here’s the title. Do your thing and I won’t ask for any tweaks, I swear to God.” Kit’s solid and, as usual, he delivered excellent art. (He also won for his cover of Higher Than Jesus in the hardboiled mystery category of the Venture Galleries Award recently.) 

Cool guy talk

Higher than Jesus Final NEW copyI’ve plugged Kit plenty over time because I think authors need him and skilled designers like him. If you’re still shy, then you’ll love to eavesdrop on a conversation I had with Kit recently. I just interviewed Kit on the Cool People Podcast. You’ll find him sweet, friendly and Scottish. We talk a little about a lot of things: bad drugs, bad drug laws, good drugs, Breaking Bad, what inspires us and, of course, what goes into making a book cover work or fail. 

Step 1. Have a listen to the Cool People Podcast. (Subscribe, donate, apply to be a guest @rchazzchute on Twitter, do jumping jacks etc.,…) Enjoy.Cool+People+Podcast+Final

Step 2. Go to KitFosterDesign.com and start up your conversation with Kit about your next book cover.

 ~ If you like the Cool People Podcast, you may also enjoy my other podcast, All That Chazz, wherein I monologue, do readings from my crime novels and goof around. Find those podcasts and links to all books by Robert Chazz Chute at AllThatChazz.com. For  highlights from all my various feeds and content, check out my Rebelmouse page here.

Filed under: awards, book marketing, Books, podcasts, publishing, What about you?, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Grab more business mojo: What Jedis know about Fear

Crack the Indie Author CodeI have more changes to make at Ex Parte Press and those changes involve some of you. (Heh. Didja hear that nervous giggle from across the globe, too?) It’s time to be the Jedis we secretly are, even though we’re Jedi school dropouts and Yoda said that thing about Fear leads to Hate…no wait, Hate leads to Fear and…um…gingivitis? Yoda talked backward a lot, okay?! Stupid syntax!

Anyway, I’ll be unveiling new plans for the Deathstar soon. I’d tell you everything right away, but I have to chaw on it to refine the details and call up a few people to bounce some ideas off their heads.

THE BROAD GOALS

1. Get more subscribers to my email list to enjoy my newsletters and giveaways (please sign up in the sidebar at AllThatChazz.com.)

2. Get my podcast to pay for itself and grow the listenership. (Try any of the current 67 episodes here.)

3. Find more allies, readers and reviewers, build a small cult, raise a large army for world domination and finally fix shit. I’ll start with the first three items on the list (i.e. allies, readers and reviewers) and sell more books. There’s much to do.

THE LONG-TERM GOALS

Eventually? Wi-fi for everyone and use Tesla’s secret plans for free electricity from the air. Everybody gets fed, lives in peace, low calorie ice cream will actually taste good and even make you thin. The new job for cancer cells will be to eat pollution since people will be made immune to the disease through the power of hemp oil. We’re going to cut down on a lot of the fear that rules our lives. That’s the Jedi way! (The Chicago  way — he brings a knife, you bring a gun — bodies everywhere.)

Anyone who doubted me will be cast in a remake of BJ and the Bear and will never be allowed off air, even when they need to poop. (They will, however, be broadcast on one of those cable channels high up no one watches on purpose. Am I not merciful?) Oh, and, of course, all coconut trees will be genetically engineered to sentience and yield coffee beans the size and flavor of coconuts in exchange for hyper-intelligence and all that free wi-fi. See, I’ve thought the big stuff through.

THE SHORT-TERM GOALS

Sure, everybody wants all those tiny miracles, but I’m working on the how of optimizing my micro-publishing empire. It’ll involve a little more technology, dancing outside my tiny comfort zone and opening up other income streams based on what I already do. It will involve calling up people to ask for help and, of course, continuing to smash through those writing and production deadlines. It ain’t all just sit back and be witty for a living, y’all.

THE REQUISITE MARATHON METAPHOR

It’s really about doubling down on this crazy bet I made on myself. It’s about not stopping as I hit the wall at mile 22. (Whispers) It’s mile 22 right about now actually. My shins are killing me.

This is where most people quit, but if I did that, I’d hate myself. There are only a few more miles to…well, that’s not the finish line. It’s the end of the beginning. But up ahead, past this hard part? The slopes are more gentle. Up ahead, I get a bike! The race isn’t as frenzied and I can coast a bit here and there. Sure, eventually we’ll all fall on our knees before our coconut-coffee hybrid overlords, but I’ll reign for 1,000 years first, so it all evens out.

GOOD FEARS, BAD FEARS

I’ll reveal the details when all the hunter-killer satellites’ particle beam arrays are in place. My most important point today is more general. I’ve been listening again to The Four-hour Workweek by Tim Ferris. No, as an author, I don’t expect to get all of Ex Parte Press’s business done in four hours a week. However, the book pushes my buttons and tells me where I have operated out of fear. Fear has held me back from projects which could help my work immensely…like that particle beam thingy, for instance. 

In my heart — left ventricle  the big decisions are already made, but the ghostly voice in the back of my head asks: What if it doesn’t work? What if you don’t have enough time? What if it’s already too late? What if you don’t have enough money to make it work? What if it’s all too much? (Smother? Is that you?)

And yet, in the big picture these are small gambles with potentially big payoffs. I don’t have that much to lose and I might gain everything I need. Fear keeps you from doing stupid stuff, like parachuting without a parachute, eating old meat or jogging in winter (or summer).

But fear can hold you back from the most important bets you make on yourself. And when I say “you”, I mean “definitely me” and “maybe, probably you.”

THE CLICHED BUT NECESSARY FISHING METAPHOR

Aspire to Inspire eBook JPGThing is, the good fishing is in the far fishing hole, where most people won’t go. The better fishing hole is not a secret. It’s just that, for many, it’s too far for the hike and the trail is a bit narrower up there. I might fall in and get cold and wet and cry a bit. Chances are better than average I’ll come back with big fish, though.

Stay tuned for more…All That Chazz.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is a crime novelist. They aren’t mysteries. They’re grab-you-by-the-cojones thrillers, with obstacles and surprises, twists and explosions. They’re also funny amid the sex, violence, psychological chaos, bon mots, general smart-assery and the cool hit man with the divine name. Chazz has also written several suspenseful books with bizarre themes. He wrote two writing and publishing guides, too — the only funny ones. The All That Chazz podcast is broadcast everywhere weekly but never weakly. You can get the podcast from AllThatChazz.com, Stitcher, iTunes and you can even receive the kick-ass signal on your braces Marsha! Marsha! Marsha! Join Chazz’s revolution, or suffer the wrath of the chimp named Bear. 

Filed under: book marketing, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One of us! One of us! Burn that bushel to sell more books

Crack the Indie Author CodeI’ve rethought free lately and I see now that I got something wrong. I didn’t wade deep enough into the free pool. When we give books away, we shouldn’t focus on getting those same people to buy more of our books, as awesome as that would be. We should build a team of enthusiastic disciples. As marketing guru Seth Godin says, “Nobody says I can’t make a living because too many people are reading my book for free.” 

I had assumed that he simply meant that same group of “too many people” would turn around and purchase the rest of your bookshelf. Therefore, publish a lot of books.

It’s still a great idea to publish a lot of books, but we can go much deeper. Here’s how:

INVERT THE CURRENT STRATEGY

Most authors try to get traction in the short-term by having friends and family buy their books and hope that, somehow, word will spread. That’s a flawed strategy, not least because it’s incredibly hard to get anyone to write a review.

Instead, think long-term leverage. What we should do is give books away to our true believers to build our network of reviewers, allies and preachers of your gospel. Your biggest fan isn’t necessarily your dad (at least mine isn’t.) My biggest allies are on my newsletter subscription list and those who have declared themselves fans. That’s my beachhead. We seed the morphogenetic field and percolate through the culture by sending out free information. (That’s even happening now as you read these words.) To infest the culture, you’re going to need a cult.

HOW TO BUILD AN AUTHOR CULT WITHOUT BEING EVIL

If some loon can convince a group of nerds to become eunuchs because aliens are arriving in a comet’s tail (yeah, that happened) building a cult shouldn’t be too much harder than convincing friends to help you move a piano. Okay, it’s going to be pretty f&$#!!! hard to reach critical mass, but the alternative is obscurity and failure, so gird your loins and strap in.

What each of us needs is a cult of proselytizers to spread our word. They’ll tell two friends and they’ll tell two friends etc.,… We need people — author CJ Lyons calls them “street teams” — to read, review and spread the happy word. We build those teams by giving away free books. This is not new. However, when most of us think about free promotion, we think of a contest giveaway or our five KDP Select free days. There’s much more to do and these strategies require your generosity.

CULT LEADER ACTION PLAN

1. The long-term money starts with your list. Build one. If you don’t already have one, set up a subscription for a newsletter on your author site. I use Mailchimp at my author site, AllThatChazz.com, I give shoutouts on the All That Chazz podcast to new subscribers. I’m thanking them, but I’m also giving their book, business, blog or website free promotion. You have to incentivize now to monetize later.

2. In advance of your next book release, give away review copies to people on your list. CJ Lyons gives away fifty books at a time to her street team (out of a pool of 200, so she’s not asking the same people for an advance review all the time. She published eight books last year.*)

Some churlish people think there’s something wrong with reviews appearing as soon as a book is published. That’s not cheating. It’s actually standard practice in publishing to give out advance review copies (ARCS). Every publishing house gears their publication dates to when reviews can appear in major publications. CJ Lyons admits she’s received a three-star review from a street team member, so obviously membership in her cult doesn’t equal idolatry for every book.

3. Speaking of standard practices, send out more review copies to book bloggers and review sites. Sharing an epub file or a kindle mobi costs you nothing so there’s no reason to hold back. I’ve switched my thinking about paperbacks recently, too, so my focus with CreateSpace is usually (though not always) for promotional purposes and much less for direct sales. I always send signed paperbacks to influential people, editorial team members and people who have inspired me as a special thanks.

4. Write something that is meant as an introduction to your flavor and make it extremely cheap or free forever. It doesn’t have to be long but make sure you show off. Here’s a NSFW example from Johnny B. Truant. He says this one essay about our place in the universe gets 60 downloads a day. It takes just a few minutes to read, but he’s spreading his word and beginning induction into his cult.

Naturally, some authors will object to these strategies. I’ve anticipated objections so…

SKEET SHOOTING

PULL! But giving away free books devalues my art!

BLAM! What devalues your art is, though no doubt brilliant, it’s sitting unread. Your light is hiding under a bushel of entitlement. To burn that bushel: Get generous, make friends, build a list and inspire a network.

PULL! But I don’t want a “cult”. 

BLAM! Don’t get so deep in the metaphor that you miss the tasty cheesecake. Chuck Pahlaniuk’s fans really are called “The Cult” but they haven’t established an armed, fortified compound. They’re just really into Chuck’s books…okay, and possibly punching each other in the face. But who isn’t into Fight Club?

PULL! I want my success to happen organically so it’s not a flash-in-the-pan cult of personality. 

BLAM! No worries there, mate. If they don’t like your books, they’ll hate you. Everyone confuses the book with the worst potential of its author.

BLAM! The marketplace is so congested, one “flash in the pan” might be our best chance. Success could come without getting others to blow your horn, sure. However, it’ll probably be a post mortem-type deal. Your genius will be discovered when an Amazon hard drive is pulled from the sand of a burnt Earth by a curious alien who discovers he’s really into cozy mysteries set in Maine with a ghost unicorn as the retired detective out to solve the murders of syphilitic elves. Best of luck.

PULL! I really just want to write my books and do no marketing.

BLAM! Most authors get into micro-publishing to take control of their fate, not leave it to the whims of strangers. (No offense intended, but what are you doing reading this far then?)

BLAM! You can just write more books and hope for the best. That’s not the way to bet, though. This is Art + Business = Art that is read + More Art. If marketing makes you feel impure, why publish at all?

PULL! Free is the finish line for the race to the bottom in book prices!

BLAM! Since few will heed this advice, don’t worry about what the unread herd does. The herd focusses on losing 100 book sales. Your intention is to stun with sales of 100,000 to a million or more.

BLAM! Good art will survive. You can’t build a cult around your books if they suck. In fact, give away more bad books and you’ll sink faster.

PULL! Free means more one-star reviews from people who will never like my books!

BLAM! Why worry about people will only ever download it if it’s free? They aren’t eligible to be cult members. One-star reviews are usually so poorly thought out, no one takes them seriously besides people who give out one-star reviews. When you’re selling chocolate, you don’t grieve for those freaks who only eat vanilla. Sell more chocolate.

*The Self-publishing Podcast has a great interview with CJ Lyons in Episode 32.

Aspire to Inspire eBook JPG~ For more from me on micro-publishing and book marketing, pick up Crack the Indie Author Code and Write your Book: Aspire to Inspire by clicking the covers on this post.

I’m hunting for cool and interested people for my cult. Are you one of us? To sign up for my free newsletter and get a shoutout on the All That Chazz Podcast, go to AllThatChazz.com and do the drill in the right sidebar.

I’m looking for cool and interesting people. Are you one? To be interviewed on the All That Chazz podcast, click the Chazz Has Guests tab at the top of this page.

 

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

Author Platform: Problems, Solutions & Stuffed Speedos

THE AUTHOR BLOG PROBLEM

This blog is quite the writing and publishing funfest. I blog plenty and happily.* However, I needed a bigger boat to carry my words to readers who weren’t interested in all the backstage stuff that goes into publishing a book. I needed an author site, too. I created AllThatChazz.com some time ago to fill that need, but that was a Fat Problem stuffed into a tiny Solution Speedo. This post is about The Big Blog Fix. Read this and you’ll pull in more readers by updating your author site.

I started both ChazzWrites and AllThatChazz on the free side of WordPress. I needed AllThatChazz to become a destination website like ChazzWrites. I’ve researched many author blogs. The content is often pretty dusty and largely ignored. Author blogs tend to either static sales sites (static = not good) or they become the author’s personal blog (but I don’t have a cat!) What to do to make AllThatChazz a place people want to visit? It gets worse…

THE GRIM REALITY

Most author sites are ineffective platforms for gathering new readers. They’re useful for readers who are already on board with your books. Once they discover your books in other ways, then maybe (Big Maybe) they’ll happen to check out the author site to see what you’re about. That’s not good enough!

MY AUTHOR WEBSITE SOLUTION

I started my author site the same way everyone does. I put up some stuff about my books with links to sales pages. However, to make it a destination site, I must add fresh content often and I need to reach strangers I wouldn’t reach any other way.

Solution, Stage One:

The same month my first books went up for sale, I got into podcasting. Dave Jackson of the School of Podcasting set me up when the initial tech became too frustrating. His service was inexpensive and, after a few minor technical hurdles, broadcasting to the world on no-rules Internet radio became easy. I’d done radio in college and, despite a stammer that emerges as my brain races ahead of my mouth, it’s fun. It started out as the Self-help for Stoners podcast because I was too focussed on selling the first book. It’s now the All That Chazz podcast and I reach people in 60 countries at last count. Okay, but I can do better…

STRENGTHEN YOUR AUTHOR PLATFORM

I asked for help with my website last year and either didn’t get it or the help I needed was too expensive for me. (Webmasters are so often unreliable it seems everyone has a horror story.) Dave swooped in again to help me put AllThatChazz.com over on the paid side of WordPress. Dave’s my hero and, now that I was on the paid side of WordPress, I felt I had the freedom to do more with the site. It became a better tool for the job I needed done.

AllThatChazz was functional, but I needed to do  more with the site to make it look more appealing. It needed an makeover — okay, it was actively repellant and stunk of old feet  but I didn’t feel I was up to making those changes. Frankly, with so much to do, aesthetics were my lowest priority. I was worried about losing widgets or data in the switch. Lots of people had a horror story about that, too. But then…

Solution, Stage Two:

Apparently WordPress has changed so now it’s easy to switch themes. I didn’t have to copy all my widgets, though I ended up throwing plenty away before I was done revamping the site. Halfway through the changes, I began to understand how much the old look of my author site must have hurt me. She’s pretty now and her feet don’t stink.

HOW TO MAKE YOUR BLOG BETTER, STRONGER, FASTER

I have a thing for smart girls in glasses. That’s what AllThatChazz.com is now. Here’s what I did:

1. Ditched the sliding Amazon book widget. A moving sidebar is distracting and annoying.

2. Chucked out a bunch of widgets that weren’t selling anything anyway. Never look desperate, even if you are. Don’t underestimate the effect giving your blog a good airing. I didn’t realize how much stress I was dumping until I got rid of all that clutter! 

3. I switched to a very clean and simple theme. White background, black text and white space. It’s plenty legible without looking blocky. It’s more focused on content delivery now. The changes aren’t complete yet, either. When I connect with my graphic designer, Kit, we’ll change the site’s header to a brighter banner.

4. I plan to host an affiliate link, but just one or two, carefully chosen. I’m plotting some cool stuff for the sales page. However, aside from links, I’m keeping the sales stuff to that one area. Author platforms should be about helping interested readers buy, not squeezing sales. Letting go of the sales mentality frees up time and energy for writing. I admit, I’ve sold too hard on the podcast in the past. These website changes allow me to relax and let the website do more of that work.

5. I changed the menu to a minimalist solution that’s really cool. Instead of over explaining everything and hitting the desperation anvil with the heavy sales hammer, I designed an intriguing page menu that invites exploration with carefully chosen verbs. (Yeah, weird, but you’ll see.)

I’m not telling. I’m seducing. That Speedo is looking pretty good all of a sudden. 

 Check out the improvements at AllThatChazz.com.

Crack the Indie Author Code~ *I’ve already talked about the potential folly of writing about writing unless you have writing and publishing guides to sell. I do, though I still stand by a higher creative maxim: Write what you care about.

Will I use my lessons learned to change ChazzWrites, too? I’ve already added a couple of menu items at the top of this page that may interest you. However, since the traffic is already pretty good here, I’m going to focus on writing the next two books first, thanks.

Filed under: author platform, blogs & blogging, book marketing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Stuff not to say on your blog

I’m all for free speech. I want to start this post by being very clear about that. I’ve actually paid dearly for my belief in free speech (as in losing a job and a career.) What follows isn’t about censoring anyone. It’s about what’s best for a happier reader experience. In the spirit of honesty — without being brutal about it — here are things make me run from your blog:

1. Please don’t start a post by apologizing that you haven’t posted in a while. Everybody says sorry when there’s a lull, but few readers would notice if you don’t tell us. I see it with podcasts all the time, too. When I see that apology as the lead paragraph, I don’t expect awesomeness to follow and I move on quickly. Maybe you feel bad for letting us down, but it’s blogging, not a kidney donated too late. Ease up on the throat clearing and tell us the crux of your post up front. Have something to say.

2. Unless a hurricane has taken your house away or you’re facing extreme weather bravely (or even in a cowardly manner), your blog isn’t the place to talk about the weather. That’s what Twitter and Facebook are for. (Facebook is for people who at least sort of know you and it’s the place to be funny/political/share grumpy cat pics; Twitter is for strangers you hope to make into friends; blogs are the place for us to be honest/helpful/funny/entertaining/whatever you’re into.) 

3. Don’t make your blog post so short that it feels like a cheat post (i.e. you posted just to post and put no thought or effort into it.)

4. Don’t make it as long as I did yesterday. Confession: I should have broken that post up into three days of blog posts. I was just so excited about my little epiphany, I blurted it all out at once, unable to contain myself, eager to help and share. That was a mistake, but if you managed to get to the end of it, you’re probably pretty happy you snuggled into your blankie with provisions for the endurance read. Sorry about that. I messed up.

5. Snark can be funny, but a steady diet is wearing. Mean can be funny as long as it’s deserved and you’re punching up, not down. However, a blogger of my acquaintance recently went on at too much length about how she’d been wronged. She had a point, but by the time she finished dissecting the person who wronged her, I almost felt worse for the offender than the pedantic victim. Keep it on track and if you feel you have to slag someone in public, be concise. (Better, keep it between you two and try to find a way to work it out privately without embarrassing anyone.)

I’m not big on rules. Break these rules if you want. It’s doubtful, but maybe you can be the first to actually make the admission that you haven’t blogged in a while entertaining. Call these warnings or guidelines. There’s probably lots more neither of us should ever say, but it’s a free country and a free Internet. That’s the beauty of it. It’s the Old West and there ain’t no sheriff to poop on our free expression parade. Usually when things go awry it’s because we somehow managed to poop on ourselves.

Aspire to Inspire eBook JPG~ Robert Chazz Chute writes books. The first few minutes of each writing session are stressful. Then the wings spread.

Learn more about Chazz’s books and the All That Chazz podcast at AllThatChazz.com.

 

Filed under: blogs & blogging, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, , , , , , , , , , ,

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

Build your brand 6 seconds at a time

For my author site and the Chazz network, click the blood spatter below.

See my books, blogs, links and podcasts.

I interview the people you need to get to know.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 8,100 other followers

Brain Spasms a la Twitter

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,100 other followers

%d bloggers like this: