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

The publishing revolution already happened.

What resources do new publishers need (besides a darn good book)?

You’re a writer. You have a winning attitude and you clean up nice. You’re determined to publish a book this year. What’s needed?

Scrivener

Scrivener helps me write all my books. After experiencing its ability to organize a manuscript so I can bop around and rearrange elements easily, I’d never go back to Word. There’s a free trial or buy it for $45 USD. I now consider this software a need, at least for me.

Editors

Lionheart for editorial services. They did great job (fast and very reasonably priced) formatting my last book for print. I plan to use their services much more in the future. After many frustrating attempts, I realized I could lose my writing time to formatting or I could hand it over to an expert. (Special thanks to Jordanna East for the tip.)

This editor, Jason Whited, also comes highly recommended by the guys at Self-Publishing Podcast. (I guess he had a small hole in his schedule because if  you use his services before February 15, 2014, he’s knocking 25% off his fee.)

The Graphic Artist

Hire Kit Foster at KitFosterDesign.com to design your covers (ebooks, print, audiobook, web banners, logo designs, advertising.) He works for traditional publishers and indies makes beautiful covers. As regular readers of this blog know, I can’t say enough nice things about Kit.

A website

You at least need an author page. WordPress is cheap and easy. If you expect to sell with affiliate links, self-hosted is better. If you’re going with GoDaddy or Hostgator for a domain name, just get the minimum and avoid all the upsells on features you don’t need. Hover is now my preferred place for domain names because they don’t do all the upselling and the price includes a lot of what other places sell piece by piece. Hover isn’t evil.

If you want to get more fancy so you have superior design, support and a badass sales page, try Squarespace.com. The domain name is included in the price at SquareSpace. I’d have moved my author site over to Squarespace already, but the platform isn’t as friendly to podcasting as WordPress (yet).

Social Media

You’ll need a Twitter account and Facebook. (Free to begin, cheap to advertise upon and of limited effectiveness in that regard.) You’ll notice I haven’t included LinkedIn. That’s because I’m not sold on its efficacy as a tool for authors. Some authors like LI more than I do. It can be useful if you’re looking for a job.

You’ll also find forums for authors there, but I put LinkedIn and Tumblr in the same category: nice but optional. My Tumblr posts my stuff automatically. I don’t hang out there. Sadly, Google+ hasn’t really caught on as much as it will. Google+ will get bigger once Facebook alienates more users.

Sales Platforms

An Amazon account for ebooks and CreateSpace for printing. All these accounts are free to open. Other sales platforms like Kobo etc.,… are by choice and as needed. (Many indies will tell you that you must be on all platforms. That’s a debate for another post. Read that here.)

Understand that you are the publisher now and (what fun!) you’re a business owner. Amazon, Kobo, Apple and the like are not publishers. They are sales platforms. The money you hope to get from these online catalogues is not a royalty. Those are sales figures, not royalties.

Since you’re the publisher, I’d form a LLC (US) or register a sole proprietorship (Canada). Do you have to? No. But I think it’s more professional, keeps the bank account out of the hobby category and the Ex Parte Press logo on the spine of my books says, “Yeah, this is real.” ex parte press logo 1

Some platforms don’t require ISBNs. I think they’re a good idea. In the United States, you purchase them through Bowker. In Canada, ISBNs are free except for sending books to the national library.

An accountant

The tax system is far too complicated for mere mortals. When looking for an accountant, don’t ask for a referral from your kid’s orthodontist. He’s got lots of money and will have a slick, high-priced suit for an accountant a young start-up such as ours can’t afford. Ask a dental hygienist instead. She’ll have someone reliable she’s used for years whose fees are not exorbitant. Your accountant won’t wear a $3,000 suit, but who needs that for a bit of handholding? Big companies need high power to hide their assets. We just need a friendly guide through the system so we can have some peace of mind.

Use Wave or Easy Accounting Pilot or any simple spreadsheet program to record all the income, receipts, mileage, publishing and equipment expenditures. This is a do-it-yourself project. Don’t show up at the accountant’s office with a box full of receipts. If you do, no matter how inexpensive their services, the time they have to take to peer at crumpled receipts will run up your accounting bill.

Report all income and pay your taxes. The good news is, chances are excellent you won’t have any such thing as income for a while. However, that laptop, if used for your publishing business, is a write-off. Consult with your accountant. Ask how much of your office space is allowable to claim. Software and hardware have different allowable claims. Find out how much your government is allowing for mileage this year and keep a mileage log. It probably won’t be much, but when’s the last time you burnt a $20 bill? Lose track of receipts and you torch money and Thor knows we can’t afford to do that.

Author Marketing Club

Spend $100 on an Author Marketing Club membership, though even their free tools are good. Do not spend thousands on a publicist. This is especially true if you don’t have thousands of dollars or if you have only one book to sell. Most authors are their own publicity department (just as it is with most traditionally published authors, really).

And remember, the writing always comes first. Twitter, Facebook and promotion is for time that would be otherwise unproductive.

Friends

I don’t have many friends, but through my books, I’ve made friends with new people for the first time in a couple of decades. As I detailed in a recent and surprisingly popular post, friends and allies are not afterthoughts and frivolous relationships. They’re important to help us deal with our questions, our stress and even our workload. No indie who is successful is truly independent. We depend on others for street teams, beta readers, information and support. We’re publishers who crowdfund. We swap services, advice and guest posts and play in our allies’ blog tours and promotional opportunities. This is shoestring publishing that stretches our resources to the limit as we make books to the best of our ability.

Don’t try to publish without support from a writer’s group or like-minded indies, friends and/or family. (Not everyone will be onboard, so don’t expect moon pies from everybody, either.) I’m lucky to have beta readers with extensive military experience. One of my best friends trains elite SWAT and all their input has been invaluable to my crime novels and This Plague of Days. One of my friends is an English major and writer who is vigilant for plot issues and insists I never take a shortcut. Another beta reader is a proud and vocal member of the Grammar Police. Most friends and family won’t buy your books, but with help from a chosen few, you can reach the strangers who will buy your books. Have as big a beta reading team as you can manage, as long as it remains productive.

We need friends to save us from ourselves. I guess that’s true no matter what we’re doing.

What would you add to this list for new publishers who are taking their first steps into the indie pool?

~ This week I went through a bunch of this stuff with a budding self-publisher over the phone. She didn’t have a Twitter account yet, so it got me thinking about the necessities to begin. I think if you start off with the items I’ve listed above, you’ve got a lot of bases covered as you start your journey. I’m sure I’ve forgotten something and I know there are advanced options to add to the list. For instance, going to ACX for audiobook creation is a logical next step after you’ve published an ebook and you’re in print. Please add your recommendations in the comments thread so we can help new indies start off well.

Filed under: author platform, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

When Readers Wander Away

Readers wander away.

There’s so much new and shiny stuff out there. There are new word confections to smell and taste, luring readers away from The Magic That is You. Let’s talk about reader attrition and how to combat it because keeping an old reader, fan, friend, client or spouse is easier (and less expensive) than gaining a new one.

I used to listen to all of the Smodcast podcast network religiously. Then I wandered away to get lost in the labyrinth of choice. I subscribe to more than 100 podcasts. Smodcast had some funny stuff, but I’m more into news and politics as the world blows up in slow motion, so I moved on to the plethora.

Almost everybody moves on.

Crack the Indie Author CodeAudiences are fluid. In my first book on writing and publishing, I said ten percent of people love you no matter what you do and ten percent hate you no matter what you do. The remaining eighty percent are consumers who may enjoy what you offer them, but they aren’t committing to the long haul. The passengers you have on the Crazy Train now won’t be aboard at the last station.

Confession Time

This week I went through boxes of files looking up addresses of former clients for my new business venture. It felt like cavorting in the Huge Catalogue of My Carnival of Past Failures. I had names in there I didn’t recognize. There were a bunch of clients I saw, once, years ago. Another group saw me a few times and they felt that was plenty. People move, lose jobs, get new ones, divorce, move again, remarry, forget about us and die. I probably pushed a few away by not nodding on cue, too. I’m lousy at that. I wonder how many of those addresses aren’t dead and stale?

In the end, I came up with a minute mailing list of hardcore fans and a few fringe possibilities. Twenty years in the business and to count the letters I’m sending out? You could count them all on your fingers and toes…but not all your toes.

Nurture the readers who think of themselves as fans.

The people who dig what you do? We all dig them back. Fans are awesome. They’re helpful and they’re motivated to leave reviews and they get us. Engage them. And why wouldn’t you? They’re fun and they know where you’re coming from so you have lots to talk about.

Fans are the people who are most like you. Our minds connect.

Be tolerant of people who don’t get you. 

You can even welcome these folks because most of them don’t hate you.* These people can change their minds. They might take you or they might leave you. They aren’t invested in you, but they might buy what you’re selling.

Ignore haters

They won’t change their minds because they hate everything. Hate is all they have and most of them can’t even be funny about it because they’re serotonin-disenfranchised. Haters are in no one’s demographic and they’re already cursed enough. They’re unhappy and it’s not really about you. The poor things can’t seem to enjoy anything. Move on quickly and don’t let them get any of their default setting on you. 

Own a genre

If I had to do it all again, I’d focus on one genre and write only that. That’s not how my mind works, but that’s my problem. I’d also write series exclusively. Preferably I’d set out to claim a beachhead in a big, well-read genre. (Read: Hardboiled with jokes wasn’t a big enough genre.) 

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

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

When you get lost in the woods, experts tell you to stay in one spot so you can be found. Same with literature. Moving targets, unless you’re Isaac Asimov forty years ago, are harder to find.

Go out of your way to find new readers and maybe even fans.

Facebook is the place to nurture community. Twitter is the place to find new people, discover new things and begin conversations. LinkedIn is where you go for people to talk at each other and say how everyone’s doing everything wrong in order to impress potential employers. (Sorry. That was my experience.)

Bookbub is hot. Author Marketing Club is hot. Publicists with small lists or lists that are too general and unsegmented** are cold. 

Write more quality books.

With each book, we get better. We refine our style and process. Write more. Be better. Build a bigger fire so the rescuers can find you.

Be different enough that you stand out.

People love identifiable genres that challenge expectations. Everyone loves “same thing only different.” It makes them comfortable, and you discoverable, without boring them. I’ve already said enough about this in previous posts, and this post is too long, so…

Go where readers are.

Writers are excited to meet with other writers. Meeting readers often freaks us out. Feel the fear and poop your pants anyway. It’ll make a great story. Do signings, readings, conventions (for readers) and get a business card with your hottest book cover on it. Everyone has hot and cold runs. Make sure readers get a chance to remember you at the top of the hill so you have some inertia to get up the next hill.

Be honest, but be nice. Be a person.

From the I-shouldn’t-have-to-say-this Department: Jerks around the world try to justify the jerkiness with, “I’m just being honest.” Probably a lie. Chances are, they’re just being mean to make themselves feel better.

A blogger I’ve followed a long time lost me today. I detected a mean tone in something they wrote that didn’t sit right and gave me indigestion. It didn’t sound like they were trying to be helpful and the smart and funny didn’t outweigh the nastiness. I need more positivity in my life. I’m a bit low on serotonin, too. Goodbye, blogger.

You’re supposed to lose some readers.

The only thing you can depend on is Change. As you progress as an artist, a bunch who did like you won’t be along for the whole trip. Maybe you switched to a genre they don’t read. Maybe they’re the sort of people who prefer bands “before they sell out.” (Read: “…before they become popular” or “before they repeat themselves too much.”) Maybe they only love underdogs or you squeaked out too much happiness when your book took off and now they feel resentment. Maybe they outgrew you or vice versa. Perhaps we aren’t so awesome after all and don’t deserve them. Not every book is going to be a home run and that’s where some readers will step off.

I lost a reader recently who loved Season One of This Plague of Days but didn’t like where Season Two took them. I’m helpless in this regard. I followed where the Art took me and Season Two is markedly different in some aspects. However, for the characters and story to evolve and do things and go places, I had to use different gas in the narrative engine. I promised something different from the usual zombie apocalypse and I’m delivering. Most people dig it. However, it pains me most to lose a reader who loved the first iteration but was less enthused about the next. It saddens me they won’t see the big payoffs on the way in Season Three.

I’m the literary engineer and the conductor, but I’m also a passenger on the Crazy Train. I go where the train takes me to the end of the line. I wonder how many fellow passengers I’ll have at the last stop?

This is why we all need those fans to nurture us in return.

People will buy your stories or not, but most readers will never say a word to you. As a writer working alone, driving the train through the night? It’s lonely work. We go through long, black tunnels between books. In the dark, every engineer looks back into the quiet train and wonders, Is anyone really still back there?

*Note: It’s not you, the writer, who should be hated. It’s a book, not genocide, though some people come on so strong in their negative reviews, you’d think babies were being slaughtered with each chapter.

It is legitimate to dislike a book, of course. But readers don’t generally distinguish a book from its author. Neither do authors. When we see a bad review, we don’t think, Oh, they didn’t like that book. We think, She hates me. She probably does. A lot of people are that harsh, for one thing. Also, since your book is a product of your mind, so naturally we identify with our work.

**Unsegmented refers to mailing lists where the subscriber doesn’t identify which genres they’re interested in hearing about. Send your romance sample out to everyone and a bunch of readers will grab it and dislike it because they signed up for steampunk and wouldn’t read a romance with a gun to their head.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I write a bunch of stuff that’s funny and suspenseful and strange. I’d tell you more, but I have to dash off to be ignored and invisible in a totally different field. See my books here. Buy them, even. Thanks.

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

Writers, Readers, Nonsense and the Perpetual War on Anonymity

I have secrets to reveal about the true source of my fearsome power. And jokes. And weird East Coast expressions. Click the cover to get that article.

I have secrets to reveal about the true source of my fearsome power. And jokes. And weird East Coast expressions. Click the cover to get that article.

We complain about having to market our books. It is tough and I wish there were more and better missiles for the War on Anonymity. A few things to keep in mind:

1. Traditional or self-published, you’re still stuck doing most of your own publicity. No one will save you. You’ll have to save yourself. If you’re in the right mood, that statement can, theoretically, feel empowering.

2. Some strategies won’t work. Dump them and move on. You will, however, have to make some forays and investments here and there. Don’t let holding on to a little money now hold you back from making more money later. The risk-averse always arrive late to the party after all the daring, beautiful people have gone home with each other for a Chess Orgy…or whatever it is the beautiful people do.

3. You are not above marketing. I mean, unless you don’t care if anyone reads your work. Hm…actually, that would be quite freeing.

4. Everybody can and should do something to sell their books. Too shy does not serve you. Bookbub costs money, sure, but it’s effective. There’s also a lot you can do that costs nothing but time. I’m doing it right now and you’re watching. Is it hot in here, or is it just you?

5. When something is less effective than it used to be (Bookbub, KDP Select, pleading for sex) that doesn’t mean it’s not at all effective. You may have to spank your rump harder to get going, that’s all. 

6. When I see those tweets from collectives trying to sell books for authors, more often than not, I’m turned off.

By the way, Crack the Indie Author Code 2nd Edition is out in paperback at $9.99. Smaller format, same old information if you need a NaNoWriMo kick in the inspiration. With jokes.

By the way, Crack the Indie Author Code 2nd Edition is out in paperback at $9.99. Smaller format, same old information if you need a NaNoWriMo kick in the inspiration. With jokes.

Sorry, it’s a visceral thing that is not routed through my brain. I’m not saying they’re all bad or that you shouldn’t use those services. It’s that image of one person acting relentlessly enthusiastic about the constant steam of recommended books that bothers me. Equally enthusiastic and paid to be so. It doesn’t feel organic.

I would say that if outsourcing to others is your only strategy, your rocket needs more fuel.

7. The best is when an actual reader loves your neuro-fudge book mojo so much, she has to spread the word to share the adventure to her friends so she will, in turn, gain love, respect and immortal life. Word of mouth is the hardest cake to find, but it’s the tastiest. You start by asking friends to read your book. If you’re like me, you run out of friends fast, so you have to get used to engaging strangers. I’ve made a lot of friends out of strangers lately. I like it. I wish I’d known how to chat in high school.

Facebook is your friend (except, of course, when Facebook is evil.)

8. Stop just looking for mentions of your Twitter handle and go discover more people through Twitter.

Blogs lie there, hoping to be discovered. Blogs used to be so come-hither and stick your tongue in my…um…ear. Now blogs are feeling entitled to the attention they no longer receive, getting drunk and screaming at the DJ to play Copacabana. (See, this is a blog and you’re losing interest now, but I’ll mention Silver Surfer, Klingon and a date gone bad soon, so read to the end.)

With Twitter, you go find people who are talking about your areas of interest. I’m fascinated by neurology, psychology, brutish and funny poetry, autism, comedians, alternative health, weird facts, pathology, writing, publishing and righteous vengeance as a lifestyle choice. I will never run out of new strangers who might become friends. You won’t, either. We’re writers. We’re at least a little interested in lots of things. (Search hashtag #zombies and #vampires and #agoraphobia, #writing, #insomnia, #anxiety, #depression and #headaches, slam-bam-boom…the info-cornucopia only ends when the EEG is a flat line and your heirs start arguing over your Hummel figurines.)

Aren't you sick to death of me telling you what to do? Click the cover to read jokes and confessions about my life in Not-Maine.

Aren’t you sick to death of me telling you what to do? Click the cover to read jokes and confessions about my life in Not-Maine.

9. Big-time authors who have an assistant tweet for them? Nobody’s “big-time” enough for that. Galactus could write a book and (even though he’s his herald!), if the Silver Surfer tweets about Eating Planets for Fun and Profit, we riot and unfollow.

10. There are dozens of technological solutions to most of your marketing problems, but you have to get out there. I appear, at times, curmudgeonly and a contrarian. The jokes make that easier to take…in short bursts. No technological solutions can help you if you’re a pain all the time. Don’t do that.

Do this: Be friendly. The more readers you gain, the easier it is to be friendly. Get out on Twitter and meet people. Learn about them. I like learning things. That’s an excellent place to start, and think of all the high school trauma I could have avoided if I’d known how to talk to humans.

Also, get off Twitter and meet real people at book signings, fairs, conventions and readings. Be the best you that you can attain and all that rah-rah Anthony Giant Within Robbins stuff. (Hey, that works for some cult members!)

I rush in where devils fear to tread.

On November 14 at 7 pm I’ll be interacting with actual humans in the Meatspace of London, Ontario’s Central Library. Author Mark Rayner and I will give readings and answer questions about publishing, writing and discuss the people of Whoville and how we can fight The Great Suessian Nostril Menace.

I will drink champagne from an old lady’s boot while doing a ventriloquist act with Mark on my knee. Then he’ll breakdance for about two hours straight while I recite Klingon love poetry. We work without a net, so if you’re in the area and want to see me stammer while being bludgeoned, this is the best blunt force trauma event of the night. (Lesser blunt force trauma will be at play after the show at Joe Kool’s.)

Last chance to read the blog post about Not-Maine. People with ten toes will want to check this out. Unless all the toes are on one foot. Those freaks need to move out from under the power lines and then click the link and get a few grim laughs at ThisPlagueOfDays.com.

~ Not to be too forward, but you’re very attractive and I’m feeling very drawn to you. Feeling down and vulnerable and mad at your dad? Oh, good! I thought you looked like the sort of adventurous person who needs something special tonight. The way that dress clings…I mean…wow, have you even tried fabric softener? How about you come with me? You can lie down, put some Nina Simone on low so she won’t burn, and have a sweet, hot book. C’mon back to my place. The drinks are on the bar and the books are in the sidebar. I’m Robert, by the way. Robert Chazz Chute…Isn’t that last name quite unfortunate? Buy my nonsense! Hold my books! Ease the pain…sir? It’s one night early for Halloween. I didn’t recognize you in that dress…dad. Well, this got awkward fast.

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

I like you more when your dog dies: Niches, conversations, dead blogs and a contest.

We don’t sell anything unless we tell stories. To sell stories, we must have stories about our books.

Seth Godin’s blog and books sell because they’re short, pithy, smart and he owns his niche. To own a niche now, you’d do better define a new one. Don’t try to take Seth’s purple cow, tribe or incisive observations about case studies. (Note: “Case studies” is the more scientific word for “stories.”)

Define your own niche and you’ve got a better shot at selling more books.

For instance, my next book is about Romeo in a drug-infested, coming-of-age thriller in New York. Shakespeare plays a role in finding the modern Juliet. Coming-of-age and thriller aren’t normally such cozy neighbors. My last book was a zombie apocalypse with an autistic hero and Latin proverbs. Not a lot of competition in that end of the zombie market.

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege.

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege.

Familiarity is overdone. Differences define us in the market. (e.g. Bookstores are still crammed with Harry Potter knock-offs, but there’s only one JK Rowling.) Take something familiar and find a way to make it original again and you’ve got something.

Story is the most important thing. Story works.

Podcasts don’t sell unless they’re rich in content and tell stories. From business success to how-to and gee-whiz science, podcasts don’t work as sales engines unless they tell aspirational stories. From the startlingly different (Welcome to Night Vale) to personal confession (Marc Maron’s WTF) stories must be told and be relatable.

I’ve noticed more authors seem to be shifting their cyber-presence to Facebook and away from Twitter. They’re all Twittered out. Tweets are solid tools of discovery and live-tweeting makes the Oscars watchable, but Twitter tends to be less about story and connection. We need a little more space to achieve resonance.

Facebook offers more opportunity for personal connection. FB’s post length helps, but it’s also subtext. On Facebook, you have friends

Twitter is less friendly and more competitive. On Twitter, people have followers and people pay attention to numbers gained and lost. On Twitter you use ManageFlitter and WhoUnfollowedMe. On Facebook, if crazy Aunt Sadie unfriends you, you’re relieved you can swear again and her abandonment confirms your politics are sane.

Personal stories help us plug into each other’s pleasure centres.

The mind often fails to make distinctions among what’s real and illusory, cyber and real world. On Facebook, Story is the carrier wave of connection: “This is my child, my dog, my life!” we tell each other.

Since we don’t know what the hell we’re doing and we’re all scared, our connections reassure us. “Maybe I’ve screwed everything up, but at least I’m making the same mistakes as everyone else in our journey toward a better tomorrow.”

That’s why your photo catalogue of a glorious tropical vacation on Facebook doesn’t fit into the brain’s three-prong plug of connection. People love shared stories of failure, vulnerability and happiness, but only after that happiness is earned by failure and vulnerability. We root for the underdog and rags-to-riches stories, not Donald Trump. Your new car is nice for you, but I like you more when your dog dies. My dog died. Commonality is currency. Because I want to be loved, I love you when you’re suffering insomnia from worry, too. Misery doesn’t just love company. It insists on it.

Though we are each mysteries, we like to imagine we are each other.

Each of us is just as challenged and sad and lonely, but we hope to be rich some day, too. When the money and success roll in, we tend to forget all this stuff about connection. We blame the poor for their poverty, give luck no credit for our rise and trumpet all our hard work to the exclusion of any variable that does not bow to our big ol’ brains.

No wonder the rich and poor hate each other (except the poor want to join the resented rich, too.) Meanwhile, the rich would rip out their own throats with car keys from their repossessed Lexus if they had to get by on less than $100,000 a year.

Our class boundaries break connections. That’s why celebrities seem so otherworldly in person. They lost their shock collars and passed the invisible electric fence! They made it, so we can, too! Unless they’re the children of celebrities. Those lucky devils get a sneer and a Barry Bonds asterisk beside their fame.

Our stories about who we are become who we are.

That quest for privacy? Quaint. Adorable. Amish.

Jonathan Franzen worries about our attention spans, the death of literature and loss of privacy. He worries about the horrors of the Internet, just about every week it seems, in the Huffington Post. Horrors.

Blogs are dead sales platforms.

You have to have an author site, but you’ll get more juice from connecting on Facebook. Twitter will serve you better than a blog because it serves more people.

A blog is too much of a commitment for the reader. Too few blogs are “appointment reading”. A blog is a magazine at the doctor’s office. You only pick it up when there’s nothing else to do and you’d rather be doing something else.

I am subscribed to many blogs. They’re up there somewhere, forgotten in an RSS reader, added to a long reading list I will never get to. The blogs I actually read daily don’t have to be stuck in my bottomless bookmark bin. I go to them.

Blogs fail because signals go out but they don’t connect. Like this post, a bad blog post pontificates. I’m doing it now, connecting less, to fewer people. Still here? You’re already hoping the meta will stop and I’ll somehow pull out of the dive and land a punch and a point in the final sentence. How will I bring us home after such a depressing, meandering trip? I’ll show you. Indulge, a moment more, before the doctor calls you in to talk about those test results.

There are exceptional blogs, still breathing.

You can tell which blogs still have a heartbeat. They have a large and active comment community who aren’t just there to fight. (The Passive Voice is necessary to indie writers, for instance, as is David Gaughran’s blog.) Their lure is a story of aspirational subtext: Read this and you will succeed as we analyze the mistakes and triumphs of others.

And what are comments but the back from the forth? The best comments are more stories, resonating and rising up in conversation.

Commenting as a sales tool is less effective than it once was, back when people still asked, “What’s a blog?” Commenting doesn’t sell, though it can hurt you if you’re a dick. Some commenters never communicate human warmth. They think their intellect and snark will win people over and drag eyeballs back to their own dead blogs. They’re wrong. We only go back to their blogs to see if they’re rude to everyone (yes, always, yes) and make mental notes of what books not to buy.

Living sales platforms are conversations.

Facebook is a bigger sales engine at the moment, coming at you sideways, fun and friendly and under your defences.  We tell stories in conversation with friends. That’s where the connection lies, even if it’s a lie. We share our failures and hopes and dreams and we don’t look at our watch when we’re on Facebook. (That’s how the wasted hours slip away and books don’t get written, too.)

Facebook falls short in some ways, but that’s where I can talk with Hugh Howey or Chuck Wendig or Robert J. Sawyer. Facebook is alive with conversation. That’s the hot, three-pronged brain plug of connection we crave.

So who cares about this shit? Too long to read. Meet me on Facebook and maybe we’ll connect in a conversation. Blogs are dead. I killed it. Just now. I regret nothing.

Season 2 is the quest.

Season 2 is the quest.

~ There is a secret in This Plague of Days. You’ve already read it. No one has guessed it yet. If you suspect you know, DM me on Facebook or DM me on Twitter. Praise and adulation will be heaped upon those who guess correctly. First prize is a signed paperback. Three winners will appear in my next book. Adulation for all will happen on the All That Chazz podcast.

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

Top Ten for Writers: What matters?

1. Don’t take a paragraph (or a whole post!) to apologize for not posting to your blog recently. They didn’t notice your absence. You have their eyeballs for a few seconds now. Don’t waste their time with throat-clearing or they’ll click away because you don’t have anything to say.

2. “Cover reveals” don’t attract anyone but the people who are already into you. They might not hurt. I’m saying they don’t help. Find a topic that matters to you and your readers instead. To spin an old quote, mere familiarity breeds contempt, but commonality makes friends.

3. Character interviews may be interesting to a few people, but only after they’ve read your book. It gets no new readers. Character is revealed through dialogue and action within the book. In promoting a book, it’s boring without narrative content and context.

A better suggestion:

Soon I’ll interview author Mark Rayner for the Cool People Podcast. When I asked him what he’d like to talk about, he didn’t say his characters, publishing or his writing process. He wants to talk about the themes of his book. I’m looking forward to a cool interview about the singularity and how technology affects all our lives, for good and bad. It’ll be less about him and and his book and more about readers. Then they’ll want to buy The Fridgularity, his funny, smart, entertaining novel.

4. Lose long dedications in ebooks. I’ve done this because I have much for which to be grateful, but it cuts into the online sample. Stick it in the back or put a link to it on your author site. Active links to your websites and other books will expand your circle. Your inner circle will understand.

5. The Table of Contents in your ebook doesn’t have to be in the front. That’s inertial thinking from paper publishing. For fiction, at least, stick it in the rear of the book. They can get to it on their e-reader, if they want it, by hitting “Go to”.

This is especially egregious when you have a long, dark poem as a TOC (as I do in This Plague of Days). It’s something else that cuts into the length of the online sample if it’s up front.

6. Do not complain about the demands of marketing your books. That’s telling readers that trying to reach them is a burden and they are unworthy of your time.

I’m still seeing this. Any potential reader who’s done manual labor, worked retail, been unemployed and/or worked for a boss? Yeah, they all hate you when you complain about being a writer. We have the best job on earth. Even if we aren’t getting paid for it yet, it’s still that awesome.

Instead, do what’s fun for you in otherwise unproductive time, after you’ve hit your word count for the day. If a Twitter account in the voice of your character is fun for you, try that. Unless your character is amazingly funny, profound, unique or wanted for spying by the NSA, it probably won’t pay dividends, but at least you’ll be having fun.

Connect on Facebook with people. My most meaningful interactions probably happen there. Since a reader helped me identify how my Facebook settings shut people out, I’m interacting with more people.

You can even go out and meet people in the real world. I understand non-virtual, human interaction is still a thing. I read about it on the Internet. It sounds dangerous, but you can sell paper books that way.

7. The demands of the work drain our energies so we talk too much about being a writer knocking back coffee. I’ve done it, too, and it’s cliche. Time to say something new. Something about wrestling elementary school teacher-dragons naked maybe. Hm. Gotta work on that metaphor so it sounds less fun.

8. Cramming too much information on your business card doesn’t work. Trying to cram the whole story on your book cover doesn’t work. Any promotional stuff that is too long doesn’t get read. Get your graphic design and white space to do more of the work for you.

The British Special Boat Service’s former motto was “Not by strength but by guile.” Good news! We’re writers! We have the resources to use guile. Writers and small publishers don’t have enough money to attack with strength.

9. Speak with. Engage with readers. Do not talk at readers so much. Talk less about you. Talk more about them. (Nice jammies you’re wearing today, by the way, and I especially like the lacy, red bustier…sir. Better turn off that laptop cam.)

10. Talk more about what you love and less about what you hate.

People enjoy reading about what people hate, but they don’t like the hater or even believe them. For readers to get to know you, they want to know what you’re for and what you read and what you think. Or that you think. Talk about what matters, both to you and to them.

Some writers steer clear of religion and politics for fear of offending.

Sounds like a quick way to be irrelevant and bland.

As a writer, your ability to communicate makes you important to any heavy discussion. You can even contribute as a human being. Your thoughts on violence, poverty and all the ills of the world are far more important than your little writing career. If someone doesn’t read your book because you’re a vegan, for instance, do you really think you’re missing out on a thoughtful and fair review from that person?

Kids are starving and you’re really worried about losing a few reactive sci-fi readers because you’re for X and they’re for Y? Really? Surely the kids are worth losing a few bucks, aren’t they?

I’d rather express my politics on Facebook from time to time. I’d rather win more readers I like. I don’t have to have readers who agree with me about everything. However, I don’t write books for dumb people. Trying to be liked by everyone is chasing a goose into an acid factory that’s on fire. We may be poor and desperate for readers. That doesn’t mean we have to be pathetic.

But yes, it does matter that reasonable readers generally like you. (So follow the Wil Wheaton edict and “Don’t be a dick.”)

I don’t want people to be excited to read the next This Plague of Days. I want them excited to read the next book by Robert Chazz Chute, no matter if I’m writing about zombies or Shakespeare or my funny assassin. Most readers tastes are very genre-specific, but if they like you, they’ll try your other stuff.

I’ve read all of Stephen King’s work except for The Dark Tower stuff. But I did try it. That’s all anyone can ask. After that, it’s down to individual tastes.

So be nice. Be authentic. Be committed to The Good.

And write good stories. Tell the truth through lies. Bypass prejudice and reach their minds by making them laugh first.

Writing good stories will get you more readers. Write great stories and that will come. Or maybe it won’t, but the writing and the stories matter. It matters much less than starving children and nuclear proliferation, but be fully in this world as you create better worlds.

To be heard, we must have something to say that matters to readers.

Filed under: author platform, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Marketing books: Thirteen video options

Season One of This Plague of Days is free until midnight tonight.

Season Two launches in two weeks.

Book trailers are problematic. Video can be done well. It often isn’t.

Most of them are too long. Production values are typically lower than viewers’ expectations. We’re trained to expect CGI on the level of major movie studios. Also, there’s little evidence trailers generate any sales. Go big and you’ll spend money with no return on the investment. Go too small and you might not be proud of it. Here are magnificent options, ranging from giving up and doing zilch to going big. Since I’m in touch with reality, most options are no-budget or low-budget.

Alternative 1

Don’t do it. It’s not worth the bother.

Alternative 2

Play with iMovie in your spare time. If it’s fun, great, but certainly don’t lose writing time to it. 

Alternative 3

Rather than worry about making a little movie and learning an editing program, do six seconds on Vine and/or fifteen seconds on Instagram. Focus on one quick, easy message. Don’t spell out the link to the camera. Leave the link in the caption. Note that people love video with cats.

Alternative 4

Upload to Youtube from your camera, iPod, iPhone or Android. Viewers will be more forgiving of low production values if they see you didn’t try to make it fancy. Just talk to the camera with a joke and/or announcement.

Alternative 5

Video pulls more clicks to your blog. Combine it with punchy posts for greater effect and more subscribers.

People have more tolerance for a short, laid back video than they will for long blog posts. For instance, yesterday’s post went deep into serialization and book pricing strategy. It was only for the most serious of book marketers and publishers. However, many more readers will click the video above and read this blog post for information because it has video and the text is breezy and scannable.

Alternative 6

Focus on what’s cool or ironically cool. Make it fun for you and the viewer. Try for the opposite of earnest and don’t try to tell too much of the plot of your book. Let the visuals do more work. Entertain first and come sideways at giving out information. One of the best book trailers I’ve seen was an author who talked about the glamour of the writing life while he scrubbed toilets.

Alternative 7

As I’ve suggested in the past, try a quote trailer. A quote trailer simply pulls intriguing quotes from your book. Don’t forget to include a buy link. Keep it short. No spoilers.

Alternative 8 

Use Animoto, as I did, for the video above. I already had the book covers. It took all of five minutes to use the free option for a video shorter than 30 seconds. The fire effect was appropriate and the music was a nice fit. Cool, huh? Animoto includes sharing options so you can export it to Vimeo, YouTube, Facebook, etc.,…

Alternative 9

If people don’t respond to your stabs at filmmaking, try making it more about you and how you can help others instead of making it about the book. Video reviews and how-to stuff get more hits. Funny’s always good, too.

I put up video of my podcasts to get more viewers and listeners. Some people simply prefer video to audio, or a YouTube video is how they will discover a podcast. Interaction in an interview setting can be easier to pull off than talking directly to the camera. Some people, like Hugh Howey, do it well and even dance for reviews. For most of us, solo videos look like hollow-eyed, stuttering hostage videos pleading for ransom under the threat of death.

Alternative 10

Have you set up your YouTube channel yet? It’s a great place to collect your video book reviews, too. Video reviews get more attention on Amazon than written ones, so it’s worth doing, for you and for authors.

Alternative 11

Go with Fiverr.com and get help to create quick videos like I did for my promotion plan for This Plague of Days. Check out my video samples at the link.

Alternative 12

If you really want to go big, get a semi-pro involved. There’s no proven ROI and most professional video production is expensive. Therefore, consider approaching a drama class or a film school. If your book trailer becomes a school project, at least your vanity project will benefit the education of a young actor or filmmaker in a concrete way. You could go the Scott Sigler route and make it a contest. Since every entry went up on YouTube for judging, Sigler’s books got multiple ads and multiple hits.

Alternative 13

I think Kevin Smith and Steven Spielberg are available for princely sums, but if you’ve just won the lottery, go with any of the above options and get your video production done free or cheap. Starving children everywhere would appreciate your generous donations. If you’re rich enough to consider professional directorial help, good karma’s the better way to go.

BONUS

Are you on Bookbub? Here's what the email looks like for my TPOD promo. Sale ends at midnight, never to return. Enjoy.

Are you on Bookbub? Here’s what the email looks like for my TPOD promo. Sale ends at midnight, never to return. Enjoy.

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 12.53.17 PM

Bookbub allows you to showcase deals to many targeted readers who are interested in your genre. Got a deal? Get noticed with Bookbub.

Filed under: author platform, book trailer, Books, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FAQs: What book promotion are you paying for?

I sent a close friend the gift of an ebook hoping that he would read it, enjoy it, possibly review it and maybe even spread the word to his vast network of connections. Instead, he sent me a scolding reply: “You’re paying people to read your books!” And by people, he meant him. Ouch. In my defence, I don’t know that he’s read it yet, so that’s my double fail.

Before anybody thinks he’s harsh, a little history and context: I understand that he felt fine paying for the book himself. Also, I got him his first job in book publishing. He’s still thinking about publishing from that perspective. I’m sure he didn’t want to sound mean. I caught him on a bad day. Also, I’m sure he’s worried about me and that’s why he was so undiplomatic and reactive.

However, he’s only thinking of me as a friend and writer. I’m also a publisher.

Publishers have a long history of sending out Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) to key reviewers, the sales force, bookstores and media. That doesn’t require an apology. That’s business and doing less is hiding your light under a shitstorm called, “Everything else that exists to read, do and enjoy.” Yes, you’re even competing against sex! Clearly, books are doomed!

How many ARCS go out from traditional publishers? Hundreds per book. I can’t afford to do that, but I do send out some that way. I wasn’t paying anyone to read my book. I was paying for advertising and promotion (to teh wrong target, I found out.) You can do the same thing for free by emailing a pdf, though if they can’t instantly stick it on their kindle, most people won’t bother with it. Chances are good they won’t get around to reading it even if you make it very easy for them so avoid handicaps where possible. That’s why I prefer to use Amazon’s gift option where possible and within budget.

About sending copies to book blogs

Check out the book blog first. Review the reviewers and their guidelines before you send anything. Many book blogs are awesome. However, I’ve encountered noobs whose site is nigh-illegible, their traffic is minuscule and their reviews give spoilers without warning. I’d rather let a blindfolded med student practice minor surgery on my tingly bits.

Services to invest in

In the previous post, I mentioned Bookbub is a worthwhile investment. The cost of advertising with BookBub varies depending on genre. Horror and science fiction is $70 to push a free ebook. Find the full range of pricing here.

I also mentioned the Author Marketing Club. That costs $105 per year for an annual membership and it’s worth it for the tools and seminars. My book descriptions look better than ever, for instance. The free submission tool got This Plague of Days at number one in Dystopian and Post-apocalyptic. The book sales widget looks awesome.

Where can you cut corners?

Anyone reading this is probably working on a shoestring budget. To make any money, we have to keep our expenses down to nothing or close to it. We blog and tweet and use Pinterest and Facebook and do Google+ and throw Tumblr in the air and shout out of windows because it’s free and we’re trying to engage new readers. I’ve used Fiverr for videos* (see my video/book promotion strategy here) and free apps from Apple and the Chrome Store. 

We get what services we can for free where and when it makes sense. We swap services and cooperate and consult and promote each other for free. We learn to format books and publish DIY wherever we can so we can keep something of what money might trickle in, knowing the odds are heavily against us. (That sounds bleak, but more indie authors are making a living from their efforts than the traditionally published so it’s not all bad news.)

About ineffective promotion services

Lots of advertising isn’t worth the expense. Some sites say they can promote your books and they’ll do so for a fairly low fee. However, you won’t get even that small fee back. Before you go with another of those sites, review the promoters. Reach out to the indie authors you know. Use your Facebook connections to gather intelligence and ask about other authors’ experiences and results. This is most valuable if their books are similar in genre, quality and look to your own. (In other words, don’t blame the book promotion service when a bad cover sunk the author’s efforts.)

I’m always looking for ways to save money so I can put it into pushing books. The other day I realized I was the only 48-year-old walking around a bookstore in old jeans with ripped up hems. I don’t buy new pants! Think what Bookbub advertising I could buy for the price of a couple of pants! And you know what? I wish I had a bigger budget because however you promote your books, you pay. (And I want new pants. I rocked this look in college but it doesn’t fly now.)

If you don’t pay in money, you pay in time.

Without the cash, you lose time with your family (okay, not always a bad thing). You will lose time going to the gym and end up paying with your health. Time is more important than money because you can make more money but the waking hours are all you get. Worse, if you aren’t careful, marketing cuts into writing time. Be careful. Hemingway was Hemingway, but he never had to share your problems.

Expect to pay something.

Can you go viral and pay nothing and still be successful?  It could happen, but to expect it is stupid. That’s not a strategy. That’s hoping something will happen to you instead of making it happen and that’s not the way to bet. Use AMC and Bookbub now at least. Then be clever and different and promote your brand with long-term strategies that will make a career.

Should I set a budget of $10,000 for a book promotion budget?

I’m not buying new pants. 

*I have a new intro video at AllThatChazz.com, in addition to the intro video at CoolPeoplePodcast.com and of course, here at ChazzWrites.

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

Combat the horrors of self-promotion (with fun)

Recently an article appeared in The Weeklings that was picked up by Salon. It was called The Horrors of Self-promotion by author Sean Beaudoin. I felt sorry for the author and, I admit, a touch of impatience, too. His problem is not unique. Most of us suffer hypothermia from a lack of limelight heat. I have the feeling he doesn’t read this blog. Alas. His best marketing so far was complaining about marketing and getting picked up by Salon. I don’t know how many more times that will work since I’ve seen this kind of story on Salon before. Repeatedly!

So, to solutions:

You know that rule about writing a book that states: If you’re bored, readers are bored? Same goes for self-promotion. Find a way to get them invested. Yes, give stuff away! Reward them for being helpful. Helping others helps you and never hurts. (That link will show you how to get stuff by reposting a video from my author site.)

Joanna Penn calls authors helping authors “coopetition”. That sums up why I do podcasts with authors, for instance. Besides, we’re in a lonely profession. It’s fun to talk to like-minded people like Hugh Howey, Jessica McHugh and Armand Rosamilia.)

If you hate Twitter, you won’t use it right. It’s supposed to be a fun, social discovery tool. If you hate Facebook, maybe it’s not the place for you. Those are supposed to be friends and fans you’re hanging out with. These are platforms to discover cool stuff and have conversations. I often can’t converse for long, so usually I choose to tweet useful information. (Follow me @rchazzchute and I’ll prove it.) However, there are plenty more options, both DIY and getting assistance.

We’re writers! We’re creative people. Find a way to have fun with promotions!

1. I’ve said this many times, but it bears repeating: The writing comes first. Social media is for in-between times that would otherwise be unproductive. Most of my tweeting happens from my iPod for that reason. If I’m at my desktop, I’m writing and revising Season Two.

2. For most authors, working with a publicist doesn’t make sense. However, if you really hate promoting books, maybe you should consider how you can farm it out. Can’t afford a publicist? Start with Fiverr.com. My buddy Jeff Bennington has a post about that here. Need more? Outsource or get an intern with whom you can teach and share. Contact your local college or get on Kijiji and find someone who needs experience in your subject or business.

(Please note: It’s not an internship if they aren’t learning anything. Interns don’t do laundry and are not slaves. They learn writing skills, gain publishing information and an important, perhaps first, entry for their resume. That said, if you’re predisposed to go this route, you’ll probably learn tech skills from them, too.)

3. Work with the platform that suits you best. Every day someone repins the cover to my book Self-help for Stoners on Pinterest. I do no other promotion for that book (since I still don’t have time to get it out from under Bookbaby’s distribution yet.) It’s passive, but the word spreads and it sells despite my lack of effort beyond Pinterest and Vine. (Vine’s discussed in #10.)

4. Some people over-correct and fail to promote at all. Maybe that’s shyness, although most authors who make a point of telling you how awful social media is are snobs. Mostly, they’re really complaining about a personal time management issue. We all have the same amount of time: 24 hours in a day. Use it right, don’t complain and reread Item #1. 

5. Some authors are snobs about social media because they’re tired of all the bad promotion that happens on Twitter. They need to exercise more patience, but they aren’t wrong, either. (See my post below, Book Marketing Top 10: When Less is More and tweet to content, not sales links!)

6. Don’t go into denial. Someone said their readers don’t hang out on social media. One in four people worldwide are on social networks and more than half of North Americans are on social media. That number will only grow. If your readers aren’t on social media (Amish people and older people who frequent Renaissance fairs), you better go to them. Get a booth by the guy who sells beer but calls it mead. Compensate somehow because otherwise you’re hurting your discoverability. Go where readers are, electronically or in person.

Readers have hungry minds. Therefore, they are so on social media!

7. Write another book. Too often I speak to nice people who believe their one book should find its audience organically. However, even organic plants need water. More books give your readers more opportunities to discover your awesomeness. Do not deny them your awesomeness. That way, madness lies.

8. I’ve recently posted about the many advantages of the Author Marketing Club and the tools they make available. With their free submission tool, you can harness the power of book promotion websites without hammering your own audience repeatedly. If you’re only tweeting to your followers, you’re doing it wrong. First, write stuff that’s useful, funny or retweetable. Then get on Triberr and expand your reach.

9. Blog. I have many blogs (all listed here) and reach out to varied audiences (writers, readers, podcast lovers, polymaths, the morbidly obese and schlubs like me, just trying to get their shit together.) However, ChazzWrites is the blog with the highest Alexa score. I do them all for the fun of it. If I hated it, I wouldn’t do it. I suggest ideas and try to be useful and helpful. I often try to be funny. People who get my flavor and like the taste will click the ubiquitous links to my books. Or not. But if you don’t blog, there’s no way for anyone to get what you’re about except unconvincing sales links that mostly sound the same.

Should books sell themselves? Yes, in a perfect world. You saw the news feed this morning. Does this look like a perfect world to you?

Are there exceptions and can you do nothing and still be a hit? Sure. It happened to Hugh Howey. His success is quite organic and, of course, well-deserved. However, that’s not the way to bet. Hugh told me so himself on the Cool People Podcast. Unfortunately, the norm is that many deserving books are ignored. It’s not that many of them aren’t good or even great. It’s that no one has helped readers find them effectively. Yet!

Look, I know all you want to do is write. We all just want to write and be taken care of by legions of adoring loved ones and fans. It would be great if we all had robot butlers, too. We don’t. Grow up and find a way to have fun with your chores so they aren’t chores anymore.

10. Do something different. Twitter isn’t everything. I get love and attention using Vine, for instance. If you don’t know Vine, I wrote a book about it. Basically, it’s six-second video and it’s surprisingly fun and addictive. I can choose to post the videos only to Vine, to Facebook, to Twitter or even embed vines (videos) like these fun and/or disturbing examples. 

Find what works for you. Then go do that as much or as little as you can stand. But please, no more complaining. There’s too much fun to be had and too many options to enjoy to waste time complaining. Unless you get picked up by Salon. Then maybe that worked. Sean Beaudoin! Did that work? Are you feeling better? Let us know!

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute because “Robert Chute” is already taken by a Native American author and poet who surely wouldn’t want to be confused with a crime novelist and horror author. I was recently challenged about why I wrote a book with zombies in it. (Well…not the Romero kind. More the 28 Days Later variety.) Anyway, I justified my love over at ThisPlagueofDays.com with this saucy post. You might enjoy that post, too. Fewer links, more sass.

Filed under: author platform, book marketing, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Book Marketing Top 10: When less is more

Some marketing efforts are hurt by doing too much. Here are 10 examples:

Season One: Sponsor of the Cool People Podcast.  Can't have just one chip? Season One has five episodes. Get each one for 99 cents or get all of Season One at a discount for $3.99. Season Two hits this September.

Season One: Sponsor of the Cool People Podcast.
Can’t have just one chip? Season One has five episodes. Get each one for 99 cents or get all of Season One at a discount for $3.99. Season Two hits this September.

1. First there were big author tours. Then radio. Now, podcast and blogging niches are more effective.

Many marketing efforts benefit from going small, personal and specific. Instead of getting a few minutes on radio (while people are in their cars or having breakfast and definitely not buying) better to get on a podcast. Instead of planes and multi-city tours and paying for plane fare, podcasts yield more exposure to a smaller, targeted and invested audience.

Podcasts are usually easier to access. You’ll get more time and sell more books with a podcast interview than by trying to squeeze in a few words between car ads and the giggling Morning Zoo Crew. 

The same principle applies to blogging. I’d rather be featured by a big book blogger than in a local newspaper. (Ask your dad what a newspaper is. If he’s old enough, he might even still get one.)

2. Curation with commentary from bloggers is valuable. Bots drawing from dozens of tweets are not.

Before I knew what Paper.li was, I emailed someone to thank them for including me in their daily electronic newspaper. I soon realized that there’s nothing special about inclusion by bots in an array of harvested tweets. However, when someone reblogs my posts, that’s a personal recommendation that’s much more effective. (Thanks for all the reblogs, Armand Rosamilia!) When someone gives me the mucho bump of love on Twitter, it means more and helps more. (Thanks for your ongoing support and enthusiasm, Eden Baylee!)

Curation tools like Scoopit! are also valuable, as long as the post includes commentary. The difference is that a human makes those choices. “Set it and forget it” is nice for thermostats, but bleating out content without evaluation and recommendation is craptacular, both for the tweeter, the tweeted and, most importantly, our readers.

3. Too much email contact leads to friction. Ease off.

I have a couple of newsletter subscriptions that hit me daily. They’re too relentless. When I fall behind, the emails pile up in my inbox. I tell myself I’ll get around to reading it all, but deletion is more likely. I do open newsletters that fire at me at a slower rate. Give me a chance to look forward to hearing from you.

How much is too much? Wait until you have something to say, something new to announce or something to offer. Too much rah-rah-rah is so much blah-blah-blah.

Similarly, If you’re relying on book event promotions that arrive in an email blast crammed with other book events, find a way to stand out. My morning Goodreads email feels like a firehose aimed at a teacup. (Sadly, the teacup in this analogy is my brain.) Do something different and approach potential readers in varied ways. When one nail is hit too much, too often, it cracks the wood. (That’s a better analogy!) See Item 5 for what I’m doing differently and Items 7 and 8 for effective e-blast options.

4. Use a professional to get things sorted out.

I was briefly part of an affiliate program on another of my blogs. The product was good, but the program was plagued with technical problems. A day didn’t go by without an update on how said problems were being fixed. Then they weren’t. Again! I dumped the program.

I am an Amazon affiliate on my author site. It’s relatively simple. I get updates from them once a month and each update is relevant to me. That’s what to aim for.

5. Complications make us weary.

Make your offers uncomplicated.

My first draft of my viral video offer (details here) was too complicated. I ran it past a friend who suggested tweaks. I had explained too much and made too many jokes instead of getting right to it. I make a lot of jokes in my books, but when it comes to offers and promotions, people just want to know their rewards and prizes and what they have to do to get them. That’s all.

6. Tweet to content.

I use tweet teams sometimes, but much less than I used to and only for special occasions. We all have book tweet and email fatigue, don’t we? Make your tweets funny or intriguing. Tweet to your blog. Your website is the proper locus of sales. Twitter is not where to sell hard or often. Twitter is a place to help people find good stuff.

This has several positive effects:

Helping people tells them you’re not an ass (and if you are an ass, you can’t hide.)

You build your mailing list on your website, not on Twitter.

Your author site is your public face. Potential readers connect with you there, not through a sales link.

Twitter can still be useful, but when it’s not hooked up to content, readers stop paying attention.

7. Aim at targets.

Bookbub works best as a book promotion service because it doesn’t send out a long list of books to everyone. Bookbub knows what genres subscribers are most interested in. Romance readers don’t get sales copy to horror books. Fewer people receive the message, but those people are more likely to buy and less likely to saddle you with one or two-star reviews because they just aren’t that into you.

in the marketing war for our attention, sniper rifles work at long distances. Shotguns do not.

8. Be choosy.

For the last two days, I’ve done a free promotion of Episode One of This Plague of Days. (The sale ends at midnight and, as I type this, it’s the last few hours of the sale. Grab it free or, if you got this too late, Episode One is only 99 cents so, you know the drill.

I’ve held #1 in Dystopian and #1 in Post-apocalyptic for most of the two-day run. That’s probably mostly due to being chosen as a featured author on Freebooksy. They’re choosy, so their email blasts are taken more seriously than some other book promotion services.

Thanks to everyone who helped me give thousands of copies of Episode One away to spread the word. I appreciate your Facebook entries, tweets and clicks. And I don’t forget who helped me. Sincerely, thank you. I have a lot of friends and allies through this blog and I’m grateful.

9. More text = more confusion.

You’ll notice I have a lot of sales links to the right. This blog has gone through several redesigns over the years and I’ll be renovating again soon. However, the other day as I was researching book promotion services, I ran across a website that was literally like reading a phone book. The crammed type fuzzed the signal to noise. It was nearly unreadable. That’s not a good sign when the blog owners set themselves up as book marketing experts. More white space adds focus and more punch to the text. (See below for my post on blog scanning vs blog reading.)

Crack the Indie Author Code10. Small is an attitude that’s easier to relate to.

My writing and publishing guides are journeys through the mud of independent publishing. I chronicled the struggles more than the success. Success teaches less than mistakes can. I was (and continue to be) very honest about my mistakes over the last couple of years of steering the Ex Parte Press imprint. Instead of telling anyone what to do, I did research and gave opinions and examples. I experimented. I tell you what worked for me and what didn’t work. I’m just now beginning to feel like I have a solid idea of what I’m doing. Mostly because now we have more tools at our disposal than we used to have. Independent publishing has matured.

We’re walking together to find our way here. I don’t listen to some experts because their viewpoints come from such a different experience. One indie guru’s solution to marketing problems is to throw money. I don’t know what he’s talking about or to whom. Others are well-established because they came to self-publishing early with trad publishing inertia and lineage mojo. 

They aren’t us. We’re small, but we are getting bigger.

We’re getting traction. We have better tools now and we’re honing them.

No matter what, we’ll remember where we came from and the friends who helped us up and out.

 

 

Filed under: blogs & blogging, book marketing, book trailer, Books, getting it done, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writing and Publishing: The balls I juggle

Cool+People+Podcast+Final

I’m currently adding a scene to This Plague of Days in which Queen Elizabeth’s Corgis get fed to rampaging zombies as an appetizer before the main (royal) course. As I move through the day, fueled by coffee and rage, I stop to take care of details: Fun details, critical details, tiny details. Here’s the last few days:

1. Sent uncorrected ARCs of This Plague of Days Episode 1 to a bunch of people. The early reviews are happy ones.

2. Published a new Cool People Podcast. I interviewed Renee Pawlish about her strategies for writing and selling books. Good stuff and of particular interest if you read this blog regularly.

3. Updated several plugins across my five blogs, but the change to the Image Rotator Widget screwed up so the covers of my books were displayed in too huge a fashion. Sigh.

4. Sent off a couple more suggestions to Kit, graphic designer extraordinaire, for promotional T-shirts, prizes and giveaways. I plan to sell the shirts in the future, too. Fun, dark and brilliant designs by my man Kit. I knew he was great at book covers. He’s got an impressive flair for t-shirt designs, too. (Hint: hire him for your next book cover, website header, Zazzle product, etc.,…)

5. Commented on some blogs on a few Facebook posts and blogs of interest. Posted to my own blogs. (There are five now. I post to DecisionToChange.com almost daily.)

6. Wrote several new scenes for This Plague of Days and posted some excerpts as teasers. A novel is slightly different from a serial. I’m a teasing, surprising, cliffhanger guy anyway, but to keep the readers moving from one episode to the next, I added new material for extra punch.

7. I recorded a new All That Chazz podcast. I have to edit it and publish it later this weekend since that’s behind schedule. Sickness and book launch prep has eaten into my podcast time, but something had to give.

8. Emailed back and forth with future guests on the Cool People Podcast. People are asking to be on, so it’s picking up.

9. Did some promotions on Vine and performed an experimental giveaway with Murders Among Dead Trees. Hit #34 in free on Amazon on the short story collection list with one day of promotion. Lessons learned: Get a higher profile on Vine and post more often. Most of the people who picked up the freebie came through my friends on Facebook.

10. Did some research on book sales and picked up Chuck Sambuchino’s new book Create Your Writing Platform. I also listened to the Self-Publishing Podcast in which the hosts believe free on Amazon is dead (as is the 99-cent price point.)

Bonus 1: I just learned that the plural is Corgis, not “Corgies”. 

Bonus 2: I learned a blog post about publishing with the word “enema” in the title, gets a lot of traffic.

Question:

How about it? Is free dead to you? Does 99 cents mean the book is inexpensive or just crap? The guys on the Self-Publishing Podcast advised putting your stuff out on all platforms. I’d feel better about that if the other platforms sold more and had a more active review culture. What do you think?

And now back to edits with The Little Things by Danny Elfman as my soundtrack…

Me B&W~ Follow Chazz on Twitter @rchazzchute. If you’re feeling down, go make a kale smoothie and dance sweaty. If you’re feeling up, make sure you have permission and then get sweaty.

Filed under: author platform, blogs & blogging, book marketing, This Plague of Days, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

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.

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