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

The publishing revolution already happened.

TOP 10 Better Business Systems for Authors: Paradigm Shift

FYI: There’s free stuff for you at the end of this super important post so, y’know, hang in for that.

There’s a lot of talk about “getting your head screwed on straight” to deal with the business challenges of indie publishing. We’re told we have to cultivate the right attitude and mindset before we can do anything effectively. If that’s true, how come so many authors are out on a ledge? Maybe we’re proceeding from a false premise. How about we do what grown-up businesses do and stop talking quite so much about “mindset”? Let’s talk more about getting shit done and done well and on time with less hassle. That will change your mindset.

Let’s turn our prevailing paradigm and some frowns upside down. Let’s talk systems.

You’ll have a better mindset once you set up systems and deal with the mechanics of your business effectively. If you aren’t managing your time, others will impose their schedules on you. A stranger’s top priority is not achieving your goals. They’re trying to achieve their goals. If your mood is dependent on your latest review, the state of your mind and therefore your productivity is being outsourced to more strangers, some of whom are troglodytic wackadoodles.

Here are my suggestions to get in control.

Do this stuff and you won’t have to self-medicate, eat, meditate and worry so much:

1. Record your income and expenses as you go and there’s no tax time suck in April.

2. Defend your writing time and keep it sacred. Not just for you. Others must know you’re at work. Use Google Calendar, for instance, and stick to it. This is Art. It’s also a Job.

3. Let your team know your production schedule so editorial, artwork and marketing decisions are not made in a panic. The last minute is not your friend. More accidents and errors occur in the last minute.

4. Set writing deadlines because you’ll get more done. It’s not arbitrary, it’s essential. You’ll write more books if you stick to deadlines.

5. Email isn’t for all day. Constantly checking email drains energy and time. Stop that and schedule that task, like you’re about to schedule all tasks. (See #2 and act on it.)

6. Social media are for in-between times. It’s fine to stop to make a six second Vine when you take a break. It’s professional suicide to get drawn into endless surfing of funny videos. Vine, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are never done, so you have to set the time limit and stop. Remain in control and stop being such a massive consumer. You’re a producer. You make and sell stuff. 

7. Stop checking your sales stats and do more to change those stats. There is a time to check stats, but there’s no reason to check them often and certainly not several times a day. Writers write and producers produce. Write and produce so you meet your deadlines and send that brilliance out into the world.

8. If reviews drain energy instead of boosting you up, don’t read them more than once. Every group has its culture. If you find the tone of a review site is degrading you, your work and your mood, focus on your work, not the website.

9. Automate what you can so you are not constantly putting out fires. Schedule posts for the future, outline and plot and plan ahead. Use auto-responders and FAQ templates. Save your answers in a template so you can stop starting from scratch every time when someone comes looking for help. Solve each problem and resolve each query once so you don’t have to repeat yourself. Establish SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) and record them in a step by step list so you don’t have to relearn how to format with each new book.

10. Outsource what you can so you don’t major in your minor. Some authors use virtual assistants for research, marketing, formatting and minutiae. Admit that you can’t be good at everything and don’t even try to do it all alone. Graphic designers are better at covers than you are because that’s what they do all day. Let them take care of that so you major in your major.

Outsourcing frees time to write, but it also allows others to use their expertise on your books and business. The term independent publisher means you’re the boss. It doesn’t mean you work alone. That’s why I prefer “indie publisher” to “self-publisher.” There’s a mindset change that’s worthwhile.

FREE STUFF

~ Have a new All That Chazz Podcast, free, now and here. Check it out to discover why this podcast is like bad sex.

~ Oh, and have a free thriller on me, too. Grab your complimentary journey into funny, fast and hardboiled action here and sign up for more at AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: author platform, business, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Top Ten: Sell better. Sell Sideways with Video, Podcasts, Pop-ups and Free.

I’m always mystified by people who use the hard sell. Telemarketers hear me say, “No, thanks.” Then they charge forward anyway, following their sales script:

“Can I ask you one question, Mr. Chute?”
“Is that question designed to verbal judo, Jedi mind trick me into thinking I have to buy your duct cleaning service or else I’m doomed?”
“I…beg your pardon?”
“No means no! No means no!” Click!

You get the idea. 

And so it is with everything, including books.

Sometimes someone snags my attention with a come-hither headline I can’t resist. I click the link and bang! The pop-up comes at me a little too fast. I know nothing about the seller but they want to skip the first date and go straight to marriage and demand an email address. She Who Must Be Obeyed is awesome, but our engagement was thirteen years long. Do I sound like a guy who commits easily?

A fast pop-up is okay if I come to the seller from a blog or if I already sort of know them. I just need a formal introduction to get comfortable. But to come in blindly and have a stranger demand commitment? Slow down and buy me dinner. Seduce me. Talk slow. Tease me and…um…where were we?

Red flags and suggestions:

1. If your pop-up comes in so it obscures your content completely, I feel ambushed. There are times for a sign up or go offer, but for that to work, I think you have to give the potential subscriber something free and good (e.g. a white paper on how to make a million, a free course, killer book extras.) If you’re going for the email address early on, give them something they want.

2. Do install a pop-up on your author site, though. People say they hate pop-ups but they work and if they’re into your flavor, readers do need to be on your email list. Don’t call it a newsletter though. Call it an update or an info hub or a friendly reminder about new deals and opportunities, exclusive to subscribers.

3. Tweets from accounts with no picture but the default egg look shifty. It suggests the tweeter is a bot or clueless and we don’t follow or sign up for anything. We run away.

4. My new buddy, Buddy Gott (see the crazy fun interview below) has a nice take on Twitter. Check out his twitter account here. He tweets jokes and shows his personality. It’s not just links. He’s clearly having fun with his Twitter account so his followers will have fun, too. When I meet a fun writer, I wonder if their books are fun, too. Then I check them out.

5. If you’re going to tweet and it’s not fun, make it useful. Easy to share, useful content is good. But don’t forget to have fun, too. Follow others and promote good content that’s not coming just from you. Curate.

6. Yes, it’s okay to ask for the sale. But say hello first. Don’t push. Establish some kind of relationship. If I know you and you ask for the sale, that’s cool. If that’s the first thing I hear, or all I hear, you’re a clueless bully. Yes, tweet links to your new book, but if “BUY MY BOOK!” is all you’ve got for Facebook and Twitter, you’re headed for the circle of hell reserved for salespeople who believe Glengarry Glen Ross is a training film for humans.


7. Establishing relationships can be difficult, especially when you’re talking to a crowd. It helps to ask about them, not tell them about you. Unless you’ve got a really funny story about waking up drunk and naked in an unfamiliar bathtub, listen more than you talk, take part and respond. Come at me sideways instead of a full frontal assault.

8. You don’t want to be out there building relationships so much that you don’t have time to write your next book. Tweet in spare moments and, once you’ve established you’re not a dick, send those interested to interesting content. 

9. Stop being so afraid and precious that you can’t give something away. For instance, go grab a free thriller from me here. Yes, it’s the first in a fun and fast series about a Cuban hit man who’s quite adorable. There are three books in that series so far. Click the link, get a free ebook and maybe you’ll love your new addiction.

10. People are willing to watch video longer than they’re willing to put up with text. That’s why the TV show Lost still had some viewers at the end. (Lost wasn’t about castaways on a mysterious island. Lost referred to the people in the writing room as the series went on.) 

So, never mind my Lost snark.

Use video as a friendly get to know you. Like this.

BONUS: Based on a True Story

Check out the new episode of the All That Chazz podcast in which I discuss the relationship between bands and their sex toys. I also discuss my latest brush with the law. Have a listen. Have fun. Sell sideways.

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

TOP 10 Tips: KDP Ads, Updates and the Writing Biz

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This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)

The only zombie apocalypse with an autistic hero. If you liked The Stand, you’ll like this.

Tip #1: Tweak your print descriptions. 

I use the Author Marketing Club description tool to develop my book descriptions for Amazon. The template makes ebook descriptions look great. Don’t just copy and paste your ebook descriptions to your print book descriptions, though. The text will run together into one big block.

Add editorial reviews and more information to your author sales page Author Central. Give the readers more reasons to check you out and revisit those descriptions from time to time to try out fresh ad copy.

Tip #2: Update old books.

I know it’s a pain, but after a new book comes out, go back and reload old books to update your calls to action. I used to give readers too many choices when they were done reading. Now I just send them to AllThatChazz.com and encourage them to subscribe for updates.

Tip #3: When something isn’t working, change it.

I realized I was getting behind in podcasting because I hate reading my own work aloud. I remember being called upon to read aloud in class in fifth grade and I don’t like it anymore now. (If you must read, don’t rush it like I did.)

It took me forever to get through reading a book I love when I turned on the microphone. Lesson learned: renew the All That Chazz podcast. Changing the format. Go back to my comedy roots.

Also, I’ll get voice over artists for my audiobooks. Podcasting is so much fun as long as I’m having fun. I’m back to that with the latest episode. Click below to hear some jokes.

ALL THAT CHAZZ pod pic

Tip #4: Experiment

KDP Select came out with an advertising tool within Amazon that’s sort of like Google Adwords without all the bells and whistles. The beta test of this new discovery tool did not go well and the changes since the beta run are not apparent to users.

So far, according to my totally unscientific survey of players in the know and my own testing with three campaigns, it’s not working…yet. It may not. However, it’s CPC (cost per click) so, it’s not like it’s a huge risk. It’ll either work or it won’t.

Opt in or opt out for your books within Select via your bookshelf. Don’t decide to avoid early adoption because your still angry about Kindle Unlimited. These are business experiments and business decisions.

By the way, not for nothing but once again, Amazon innovates and experiments while the other platforms watch and wait for…something.

UPDATE: So far, a lot of impressions but no clicks. I imagine an underground marketing bunker on high alert far below Amazon. The accounting and IT departments are running in circles like they’re at Defcon 2 and they’re screaming at each other, “Figure it out! Figure it out! Why is this so much worse than Adwords?”

The experiment continues.

Tip #5: Tweak pricing

If you go through Draft2Digital, for instance, notice from your pricing dashboard that you can manage pricing for individual territories. The automatic pricing tool is based on the US dollar.

I fiddle with pricing a bit. For instance, the book price they set for India is always high. The figure you see on Amazon that is commensurate with the US dollar exchange could buy you three books in India. Also, when I see an odd number, say $4.11, I change it to $4.25 or 3.99. If I see a price where I’m also charged the VAT, I bump up the price a bit more to cover the VAT in that territory. People are used to prices that end in .99 or .25, .50, or .75. Odd numbers look too odd.

Tip #6: Perspective.

I won an honorable mention from Writer’s Digest for the This Plague of Days Omnibus. This is my eighth writing award, but the truth is that, sadly, these awards don’t really matter much.

The win did boost my sales of the Omnibus a bit. However, unless you win first prize, it’s not going to change your life (and not even then.) I’m happy to win an honorable mention. Also, the judge said nice things about TPOD I used for a strong editorial review. I got $50 worth of WD books that cost me $30 to ship so that puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?

Entering the contest cost $100, so I hope the prestige pays off in the long-term. I’m leveraging the happy as much as possible. The book is up forever so that balances out the expense somewhat, but the usefulness of the recognition is an unknown value. I don’t know how to solve for x in this case.

Tip #7: Productivity

If you missed last night’s podcast with Mat Morris, it was fun and informative. For instance, Mat talked about what he has learned from an app called Rescue Time and I’m a new disciple of that software. You can watch that episode of the Self-publishing Roundtable here.

Good tips amongst the hilarity, though sadly you missed my Sean Connery impression in the after-party. Tune in every Thursday night at 10 PM EST.

Tip #8: From to-do until to-done

Since the beginning of January I’ve added an old-school method of tracking my work, daily sales and expenses. I mark it all on a paper calendar. I don’t write down what I will do. I write down what I’ve accomplished at the end of the day. (And now I’m adding metrics from Rescue Time).

That which is not measured will not be changed, so word counts are of prime importance. You can use your project targets and stats in Scrivener to keep on track, too. It feels good to fill up that calendar each day and it tells me when I’ve gone off the rails. 

BEST (1)

Coming soon! Get The Haunting Lessons now so you’re ready for Book 2! THL is about a young woman from Iowa trying to stop Armageddon while dodging ghosts, demons, a bad doctor and a dead boyfriend. Come to New York. Join the Choir Invisible. Fight for the future.

Tip #9: Reassess

This Plague of Days is by far my flagship, but I have other books that sell well on Amazon. As long as that continues, I’m still exclusive to KDP Select with those products. I take note of the books that aren’t moving. That’s when I give the other sales platforms a chance at selling my brain babies.

On Amazon, my branding is diffuse. On Kobo, I appear to be a crime novelist and only a crime novelist. I’m told thrillers can move on Kobo. We’ll see, but I do like that my brand is more focussed on other platforms.

Tip #10: Consider teaming up

I am collaborating with three authors on three separate projects this year in addition to my own lonely and solitary writing. If you find the right partners, you can divide the work and multiply effort and resources.

Keeping up with their pace on Google Drive is motivating. I often write faster by the power of pure excitement. I don’t want to let my writing partners down, so guilt works, too.

~ I hope you found one of these suggestions helpful. Find out about deals, review copies and advanced review copies first by subscribing for updates at AllThatChazz.com. In the new podcast, I do terrible, terrible, entertaining things.

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

Publishing: The Next Evolution is…

CORRECTED WAD COVER FINAL

Get a review copy for subscribing! Click this cover, go to AllThatChazz.com and subscribe for updates from Ex Parte Press. Subscribers get a complimentary ebook through Amazon. It’s Holly’s new novella, What Angels Dread, a forboding ghost story about a young actress away at college for the first time. Evil is lurking. It might even be stalking you, too.

One of the myths of independent publishing is that we go it alone. We don’t. Indie authors outsource and trade skills, collaborate, cross-promote and form partnerships. The next evolution is to form collectives and networks.

To expand our reach and range of projects, we need to think about how our varies skill sets can fit together. For instance:

♦ This summer I’ll be in a non-fiction self-help project with multiple writers. That project is headed up by my friend Shermin Kruse, author of Butterfly Stitching. Shermin is an ambitious, connected person determined to make the world a better place by organizing a team. I was shy about working with her, but who could say no to working with such heavy hitters?

♦ I’m writing a new series with a popular author. We both wanted to create another brand that was more focused. Our aspirations fit nicely, 50/50. That series will be under a new pen name for both of us. It’s exciting to experiment, and I’m finding two authors working together multiplies the energy and output. That’s a good thing, too, since we don’t plan to release any books until we have a trilogy.

♦ I just met another author with whom I hope to co-create new podcast episodes as I shift the focus of the All That Chazz podcast. (More on that another time.)

♦ I’m also co-creating the Ghosts and Demons Series with Holly Papandreas, author of Ouija: Based on a True Story.

Check out the Top 100 Kindle Short from my coauthor Holly Pop

Check out the Top 100 Kindle Short from my coauthor Holly Pop.

The first book in that dark fantasy series is The Haunting Lessons. How that partnership came to be is explained at the back of the book, but the short version is, we can all do more by helping each other out, filling holes in each other’s game plan. (Hint: not everyone who writes wants to face all the complexities of publishing, even though they don’t want to find a traditional publisher, either.)

Cool cover, huh? The story is a fast-paced adventure about a girl from Iowa who, following a tragedy, discovers she has supernatural powers that lead her into more and more trouble, like swordplay, dangerous weirdness and inter-dimensional warfare.

NEW THL COVER JAN 2015 COMPLETE

As we face the uncertainties of the book publishing industry, remain calm and carry on. If you’re one of us, you’re going to write no matter what, whether you sell a bunch of books or very few. Relax and enjoy the writing process. There have always been ups and down in writing books and there always will be. You are not alone in your worries and aspirations.

Being a writer can be a lonely business, but it doesn’t have to be. We are not alone. We have each other.

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

Here’s a different way to engage new readers

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

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)

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

IVBT FINAL 2D cover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think this approach works because:

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

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

c. People love free stuff.

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

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

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

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

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, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

81 Lessons to help you survive Armageddon.

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

You never know what's real.

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.

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.

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