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

The publishing revolution already happened.

Another way your cover can promote your book (and who to hire)

We are all struggling to find new ways to get readers interested and invested in our books. How do you promote reader engagement and launch your book higher? By engaging them in your process, I suppose. Here’s one way I’m doing that for the launch of two books this weekend.

Short story:

I’m giving away an ebook of the Plague of Days compendium to one random commenter on the Plague of Days website.

To enter the draw for three free ebooks in one, all you need is an opinion, so click here to see the cover choices. 

Okay, now here’s what you need to know and who you really need to hire for your next book cover:

To be clear, the covers you’ll see at the link are my designs, not those of my graphic artist. Anybody who reads this blog knows my graphic artist is the great Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com. He’s the sweet, book art genius. I came up with this idea because I already have Kit working on other designs. 

If you don’t already love his work, when I unveil This Plague of Days, Season 3, you’re going to want to check out the rest of his professional portfolio, for sure. He’s a joy to work with at very reasonable prices. Kit’s done almost all my covers. If the cover’s crappy, it’s not Kit’s work, it’s my design for The Little Book of Braingasms. Now, compare that to this cover of gorgeousness in Murders Among Dead Trees. Look at those flames! POW!

Kit also does the web banners for my websites. Those spruce up any blog and really give readers the idea (illusion?) you know what you’re doing.

Kit has even done Quote Art for me to promote my books. Don’t know Quote Art? See it here and on my Amazon author profile. It’s another way to stand out from the crowd. Quote Art would make a great poster for your next convention, too.

Kit is working on my TPOD print covers in addition to keeping all his many clients happy. When does this man sleep? He doesn’t. While he’s helping me with other stuff, I’m pitching in with the draw. It’s a new way of getting readers involved in feedback on covers for This Plague of Days, The Complete Three Seasons.

My books about the autistic zombie apocalypse that will soon kill us all launches on Father’s Day and, because of the draw, I’m sure I’ll have a few more eyeballs for the release. Because of Kit’s TPOD3 cover, they’ll keep looking and check it out.

Eventually I’ll call in Kit for a much better cover for the compendium (because he’s the sweet, book art genius, that’s why, and, yes, you’ll find my efforts sad by comparison.) In the meantime, help me move more books through your input at ThisPlagueOfDays.com. You might be the one chosen to win a free book. So there’s that.

Reader engagement is often fun but it doesn’t have to be a one-to-one thing all the time. It feels great when people are curious enough to come find you. A for a nice prize and asking for an opinion is a solid way to do that.

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Writer’s A, B, C: Free tools for finding happy new readers

1. Anonymity is the problem.

2. Discoverability is the issue.

3. Being broke is the obstacle.

4. Prolificacy is the strategy.

5. Generosity is the solution.

Today, I’ll give you three strategies I’m using to sell more books. First, there’s this:

Murders+Among+Dead+Trees+1121-1

This book of suspense is FREE until midnight, March 7, 2014. Have a look, if only to read my favorite three-star review of all time. You might also enjoy it so see for yourself. 

Okay, we all know we can do giveaways to increase our visibility by lowering the risk to new readers, but how to promote it? Here’s what I’m doing:

A. Stop ignoring Facebook groups.

I didn’t mean to ignore anyone. In fact, I’m quite active on Facebook and have made new friends there. After the release of a new book, there’s often a flurry of new friend requests and it’s great fun to interact with readers there because they’re enthused and friendly.

Over time, I’ve joined several relevant Facebook groups. If I had a spare moment (more rare these days) I’d lurk more than I’d participate. Mostly, I’d concentrate on the main news feed. That’s what draws the eye. However, there are plenty of groups to join where you can connect with like-minded people. I’m paying more attention now, making new friends and finding potential readers there.

B. I’m using Wattpad.

It’s a free platform for interaction, improvement, encouragement, feedback, sharing and promotion. Best of all, writers are welcome. Wattpad is not new, but I’ve pretty much been ignoring it. That stops now. It could be a great addition to your platform, too.

Several authors I’ve spoken to have not felt that Wattpad led to conversions. However, like me, they weren’t really active on the site nor did they promote it. To build an audience for the long-term, go where the readers are. Since these readers are also writers, you can expect respect there. It’s a friendly atmosphere.

So, for instance, you can get a sneak peek at my new book now. It doesn’t come out until spring, but I’ve put up the first chapter (The Prelude) of Season Three on Wattpad. It’s not for the faint of heart. Click here to get the link to see the big opening and you’ll also find out what Batman has to do with the apocalypse.

Wattpad’s membership is young and vibrant. I joined early but I wasn’t over there enough. I’m paying better attention now and encouraging my readers, new and old, to get that free sample there. But remember, it’s a social platform. Follow people. Read their stuff. Interact. If you find yourself having fun, congratulations. You’ve just discovered another social medium that’s for you.

I plan to use Wattpad for developing book ideas and finding new authors to read. It would be fun to write short stories as prequels and sequels. Best of all for me and for readers, I’m interested in writing more stories within the worlds I create. 

For instance, This Plague of Days takes place across continents. It’s a vast and sweeping story of the fall of our civilization. Beyond the books, there are many facets I couldn’t tell within the stream of the serial. I’d like to try out Wattpad for stories about minor characters. What happened to Brandy before Jack finds her at the opening of Season 2? What happened at the Joint Air Base in Charleston, before we get to it in Season 3 of This Plague of Days? Stories like that are fun and lead new readers back to all the work you’re selling. (Mental note: Write more books.)

But Chazz, I hate free. Free is evil.

Pre-sold readers are the best audience for any work. Free short stories are a powerful way to find them. If you hate free, write them on Wattpad and, when you’re ready, delete them from Wattpad. Then put your book up for sale as you normally would. That way, your work is doing more work for you while you’re creating it! You might even get valuable feedback through the process as you gain new potential readers for the rest of your books. Considering all that, do you still hate free?

C. Find your audience with more coopetition.

Horror authors Armand Rosamilia and Tim Baker put their talents together in a scary pack two novellas for only 99 cents. Click here to check out Dying Days: Siege 1 and 2. Working together, these guys are louder and reach more readers. That statement about being loud is also affirmed by their weekly radio show, Friday Night Writes. See you in the forum there tonight. Don’t forget to tune in at 8 pm EST. (I use the TuneIn app so you can listen to Surf 17 in Flagler Beach, Florida no matter where you are.)

Next logical question:

Got a novella or some short stories? Who are you going to team up with so you and another author or authors can get more visible?

Triberr is free, too.

I’ve already suggested Triberr as a way for authors to promote each other more effectively and systematically. This week I was invited to join a new tribe that targeted my readers. It’s a good fit because the niche is more specific and my tribe mates are all really strong bloggers.

This is coopetition (a phrase coined by author Joanna Penn, I believe.) The bloggers with whom I’m cross-promoting share similar interests so, as we tweet together, we expand our reach. Blogs generally aren’t very powerful tools, but Triberr is a fulcrum to gain leverage.

Do it right.

Lately I’ve noticed that a few “gurus” in the business are coming off…well…a tad dickish. “Prideful” my Baptist minister grandfather would say. The barrage of narcissism is off-putting and surely hurting them in the long run. I’m worried they might break their arms clapping themselves on the back that hard. That’s why this is such a great time to be generous and humble.

This isn’t about cheap marketing strategies. It’s an attitude that will make you happier. It’s about being the sort of person who elevates their circumstance by helping others instead of stomping them down and standing on their necks. To quote Patrick Swayze as Dalton from Roadhouse (again!), “It’s nice to be nice.”

Better Twitter.

Every day I scan my Twitter stream for people doing cool stuff. It might be an enthusiastic book review or a factoid or a joke. I don’t care what it is as long as it’s cool, fun or helpful. Retweet freely. Too often, I think we’re looking at Twitter’s “Interactions” stream. That’s a mirror. Look out the window instead. Look at what other people are doing and promote them to your followers to expand your view and your visibility. Your followers will appreciate the curation effort and you’ll have more fun with Twitter.

I’ve also made a conscious effort to go find new cool people I want to get to know. How do we find cool readers who are hot for our work? Hashtags are search handles. Use key words to find and follow avid readers of your genre. Active is faster than passive.

By sharing more, we all get to eat and have a more enjoyable meal. 

~ You read all the way down here? Oh, Sweetie, Baby, Cookie, Honey! For your endurance alone, you deserve Murders Among Dead Trees by Robert Chazz Chute. Click!

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

Amazon: My last stab

GET BIGGER THAN JESUS, FREE ON AMAZON TODAY, TOMORROW AND FRIDAY

Free promotions sure aren’t what they used to be. Last December, with Amazon’s old algorithm, friends of mine made big money. Success on the free list actually translated to success on the paid list. Then everything changed and many of us have been slow to react, me included. I notice that, among my writer friends, many (most?) are selling their books on KDP Select exclusively, five free days and all, for the first three months and then they aren’t renewing with KDP. They’ll continue to sell on Amazon, but there are plenty of other places to sell besides Amazon. After that first three months of trying to take advantage of the Amazon advantage, they put their work up everywhere else, too. That’s what I’m doing with the foundation book of my crime novel series, Bigger Than Jesus.

BY THE WAY: 

Bigger Than Jesus is available for free in ebook form

until Friday, and then that’s it.

As The Hit Man Series continues, I don’t know if I’ll go exclusive at all, even for those first three months. The math just doesn’t seem to add up to a marketing strategy that’s advantageous. In truth, it hasn’t been helpful to many indie authors for some time. I stuck with it because of the timing as my previous books launched. I have three books to release before Christmas and the eggs won’t be going into one basket anymore.

Someone asked me recently, “What’s the latest success strategy for indie authors?” I encountered some resistance when I replied, “There isn’t one.” We’ve had the publicists, advertising, press releases, blogging, podcasting, Twitter (and various  derivative Twitter strategies), Facebook, Pinterest (maybe?), the 99 cent strategy, blog tours, free, Goodreads, book bloggers, etc,…. Some combination of these elements may work for someone. Though they’ve all been effective for someone individually in the past, no one strategy seems to deliver a knock-out punch. When I say there isn’t one, I don’t rule out the possibility of their effectiveness in the plural, if you have the time to do all that. (You don’t. Go write instead.) 

Which brings up the question: Will Amazon change its algorithm again so it makes sense for us to stay exclusive with KDP Select? Who knows? Amazon’s algorithms and their rationale may be deduced, but are never made explicit. That information is solely on a need-to-know basis. (Apparently, we don’t need to know.)

Amazon is good at what they do — or has been — but it’s unreasonable to expect they’ll be right all the time, even with their vast resources. More to the point, Amazon’s looking out for Amazon, not me. My evidence is they aren’t making the exclusivity clause worth it for a lot of authors (even the true believers who, in the past, made a lot of dough.) I’m losing sales on other devices because I’m not selling enough with KDP. The Amazon sales don’t make up for lost sales elsewhere. Listening to my writer buddies, it’s clear I’m not alone in that assessment.

This is a business decision and has nothing to do with damning Amazon. I’m not one of the haters whining about monopolies and painting Amazon as a bully. The market is a competition and Amazon is on top because they made a lot of great decisions early on. However, I’m not looking for a new mom to take care of me, either. Being indie doesn’t mean supplanting one boss with a new boss just because it’s easy to go on inertia and formatting anew is a pain in the ass. Next month, as soon as my three months are up, Bigger Than Jesus will be available more widely (Hello Kobo, Nook, Sony, your smart phone, your iPhone, your iPad…maybe even your toaster.)

As for book marketing’s next knock out punch? People will tell you they know what the next big thing is. Some will even try to sell you books based on giving away one ultimate secret of indie author success. I think those people are often well-intentioned and they give out a lot of good information. I’ve read a bunch about marketing ebooks lately and, frankly, I’m also skeptical about some of those easy, plug-and-play answers.

Only one strategy I know of seems like anything close to a sure thing and (WARNING!) it’s a slow, steady grind. It’s not a popular idea because it’s not easy and quick. 

Write more books.

(Do a great job!)

Put them up.

(Do what promotion you can that doesn’t interfere with your writing schedule.)

Write more books.

(Make sure they are wonderful.)

I aspire to inspire, but as for marketing? Hm. Sorry.

“Write more books” is honestly all I’ve got in stock at the moment.

I’ve said it before and it’s still all I have to say on that subject.

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Ultimate Blog Challenge: Considering free ebooks

July 16, 17, 18

The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories is FREE 

FREE FOR 3 DAYS.
Small-town terrors and psychological mayhem in Maine.

Last week I read a couple of debates about whether free is good or bad. JA Konrath is all for it. Blake Crouch isn’t so sure. There are good points on both sides of the debate. You’ll notice I’m offering one of my short story collections for free for three days this week in the hope that I will gain some readers who wouldn’t otherwise find me. I do so wholeheartedly and hope you’ll go grab it. It helps to get on lists like “Customers Also Viewed…” and so on. This post is about book promotion. I think Free is still a useful tool, though its edge has dulled considerably.

The root of the back and forth on the issue of using free as a promotional tool seems to break down along two main lines:

1. Argument against free from principle (i.e. Art shouldn’t be devalued and lowering readers’ expectations of price is a stupid strategy in the long term.) Argument 1 might be right in the long-term, but if I don’t get into your consciousness now, there may be no long-term for me as a writer. Also, the exclusivity that KDP Select requires — three months at a time — rubs many authors raw. Amazon has certainly lost some of its shine and if you lose too many sales because you aren’t up on Kobo etc.,… as well, free days on Amazon probably don’t make sense past your first three months of offering the book. It’s also argued, often effectively, that free feeds the trolls of the one-star review brigade who review harshly because they didn’t pay attention to what they were “buying.” Or they’re just it in to be mean trolls, I guess. So you can argue that free hurts not only the cause of enlightened literacy generally, but it hurts author’s feelings and review ratings individually.

2. Argument for free because it works (i.e. If you can write, you can sell books, but not if no one knows who you are. Give away to get new readers.) Argument 2 is weakened because, since Amazon changed its algorithms, free doesn’t work nearly as well as it did a few months ago. People are loading up their kindles, but are they ever getting around to reading all that hoarded goodness so they could, theoretically, become a fan and buy the rest of my books? (If you don’t have multiple books for sale, free surely won’t help you now. Have multiple books going before you dive into KDP Select’s free days.)

So here’s my strategy:

A. I try not to confuse an Ought with an Is. The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories is a collection of fun suspense and small-town mayhem in Poeticule Bay, Maine. In the future, I plan a series of suspenseful novels set in Poeticule Bay. Many of my stories have characters who cross-pollinate other stories. (For instance, Jesus Diaz, my luckless Cuban hit man, shows up first in a story in Self-help for Stoners.) There is worthy cross-promotion in this.

B. I added value to this collection. The novella, The Dangerous Kind and several of the stories were previously published individually and sold for 99 cents each. I added two more stories to the collection, including the award winner The Sum of Me (which brought down the house when I gave a reading at a writers conference a few years ago.) The Sum of Me appeals to writers or anyone who has struggled with credit card debt. The usual price of the collection is only $2.99 and for three days, it’s free. Good deal.

C. What I put up on Amazon for free will only be available for a limited time. After my three-month exclusivity contract with KDP Select is over, I’ll put the books up on the other platforms. (As mentioned last week on this blog, Kobo, as one instance, is changing things up and coming on stronger. Keep an eye on them.)

Questions remain: When I read a guru with a big name say we should do this or that to sell our books, I wonder, does the same strategy work for a big name as a small one? Is every bit of advice fungible? Things change. If we were still on Amazon’s old Free List to Paid List formula (and maybe if we weren’t in the middle of a glut of free) I’d already be sitting pretty.

Good strategies are realistic, doable, measurable, timely (and are always declared “good” after the fact and without factoring in luck.) I’ll let you know if this strategy moves the needle.

Free might not be as good as it once was,

but now I don’t know what else to do to get off the bench besides write another book.

I’m already doing that.

PLEASE GRAB THE DANGEROUS KIND & OTHER STORIES HERE

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AB Challenge 24: More on Free Books. Moron Free Books.

Yesterday, we talked about free ebooks and me. Now let’s talk about you, too. Recently we said, “Free is the new 99 cents!” Now free is fraught with diminished opportunity and all that lousy freeness. Let’s delve into pricing ebooks for promotions and try to figure out for ourselves if this is a time to rest and recover or should we double down on ebook marketing?

History: Last year, selling at 99 cents still moved some books and gained new readers. The royalty wasn’t great but it was a loss leader. Now 99 cents just seems to be a loss. I had my novella, The Dangerous Kind, up for 99 cents. It’s a great story that slides the steel home at around 10,000 words. After analysing the sales (took two seconds) I’ve taken it down. Later this week it will be back on Amazon for $2.99, bundled in with some Poeticule Bay short stories. My short story collections sell, but offering a deal on a shorter work didn’t attract readers and my short stories on Smashwords (each priced at 99 cents) aren’t moving as is so they’ll all be in one collection: The Dangerous Kind and Other Stories.

Part of the problem was the old cover for my novella. I’ve blogged about this issue before so I won’t rehash it. I’ll only say: Be indie if you want, but make sure your covers don’t look indie. (My graphic designer, Kit Foster can help you with that at a very reasonable price for a very professional look.)

GET BIGGER THAN JESUS

The Loss Leader Pricing Paradox: You’re pricing your work inexpensively to attract new readers. You’re hoping new people will find you, take a chance on you, dig your flavour, buy all your books and spread your holy word. However, going cheap actually repels some browsers because they associate a cheap price with a bad book. So many times I’ve read in comment threads, “If the author values their work so little, why should I?” There’s someone who doesn’t appreciate the indie author’s bind. I’ll save your life for free. Does that make your life worth less? (Ooh, he’s cranky today!)

Which brings us to the Opportunity/Problem Paradox: The same browsers who think 99 cents cheapens the inherent value of the book often think no less of an author who offers their work for free. All ebooks have free samples, of course, but I don’t think very many potential buyers look at them. They go by genre, the author’s rep, the cover and the description (not necessarily in the that order.) Free is easy and no risk and I haven’t seen many people casting aspersions on authors offering free entertainment. Free is so ubiquitous, it’s considered the norm. It’s an opportunity for the reader and the writer. Free is so ubiquitous, it’s a problem because of the glut of free ebooks on e-readers. We’re drowning in free.

The Perceived Value Corollary: There are so many free books filling up e-readers that readers have no commitment to what they download. (Amazon says, “Click to buy”, but if it’s free, it really means “Click to download”, doesn’t it?) Many of those free books will go unread. When you can click and get, click and get, click and get, there’s no investment on the reader’s part in individual books. Instead, the hoarder mentality rises. What this means for writers is, the minute you’ve dared to slow down your narrative, the quicker the reader is to dump you for another free ebook. We’ve already seen evidence of this trend: there’s less of a market for literary fiction that demands more of the reader.

PV Corollary Case study: A buddy of mine was a sales rep for Margaret Atwood and loved her to bits. I told him I couldn’t get into The Handmaid’s Tale. I bailed out after too many slow pages examining the scratchings of previous handmaids in the rear of the bedroom closet. “Chazz,” he said,”What you’ve got to learn to do when a story slows down too much is grab a few pages and flip forward.” I’m a bit OCD about reading every word so I was a bit shocked. Skipping a page  had never occurred to me. “So…” I said, “You haven’t read it, either!”

The Hidden Unintended Consequence: On an e-reader, no one knows what you’re reading on the bus to work. Sales of erotica have risen because we don’t have to hide our actual taste or pay at a bookstore register manned by a silver-haired woman who looks exactly like Baptist Grammy. Only Homeland Security and the computers that record everything know all you really want is Fifty Shades of Grey. However, it’s not just about erotica. The market has ruled and so-called “downmarket” fiction is what people buy. The readers disagree with the historic arbiters of taste about what’s important. (Did you hear that pop? Somebody’s head exploded again. Clean up, aisle three!)

The Value Addition: When you buy a book — not just download it for free — you show commitment. You’re trusting the author to show you a good time and if you throw it aside, you aren’t just tossing the book. You’re throwing away the bucks you put into it, too.

The Cost-benefit Analysis: For readers, free books are great because choice is awesome. For the writer, providing free books is a way to gain the trust of the reader at no risk (to the reader.) It’s about exposure so you get ranked on lists. Many readers don’t trust reviews (often unfairly) so free is one  avenue into their hearts and minds. We’re making a short-term sacrifice to get our work read, to get on “also viewed and also bought lists” and to get our share of that sweet lending pot of gold from Amazon. Giving our precious away for free is an advertising cost that doesn’t show up as a debit in our bank accounts, but it’s still a cost.

The Cost-benefit Caveat: Since Amazon changed their algorithm, it’s not as happy a story as it was last December. Unless you wrote Fifty Shades of Grey, sales have slumped across the board since March and we’re now into the summer doldrums of the book buying year. The market is as cyclical as the sea. The wind will come back in our sails. The readers will return as free diminishes. Some authors are opting out of KDP Select, or opting in for one three-month cycle for the promotion and then opting out to stop the exclusivity clause and give other sales outlets a chance.

The Irrational Variable Conundrum: Does free devalue literature? Will our prices be chronically depressed because of free? As an indie writer, this isn’t a question that affects me. The higher prices traditional publishers charge for ebooks doesn’t mean that their authors are getting more dough. It’s going to the publishers for their high overheads. I only have to pay me so the 70% royalty rate on my books still looks pretty sweet to me. Like they used to say in cheesy, local car commercials on cable, “How do we do it? Volume!” I’m glad traditional publishers keep their ebook prices high. It gives a guy like me a chance at being discovered.

Will these short-term sacrifices mean long-term financial pain? No, yes and maybe. Who knows? I’m suspicious of too much certainty. Your answer may vary because the fulcrum for this heavy conundrum rests of an irrational variable: How high were your expectations to begin with? Is this side money, the size, say, of the little Swiss Chalet side salad? Did you want the comfort of the double leg dinner as an income? Or did you want the richness of the full Swiss Chalet Family pack with the coconut cream pie for desert? Input your variable and solve for X.

Conclusions: Given the free ebook glut, do you market even harder now that we’re into summer’s slow days? I think I’ll just stay the course. It feels like trying to run up the down escalator and I already flog hard enough as it is. Instead, I’m focusing my energies on putting up more of the work I’ve prepared and I’m writing new stuff. I’m giving the market more time to recover so I’ll be ready with more books to sell.

Putting up more books is the only sure way I know of selling more books.

Predictions:  New strategies will emerge, but no one seems sure what The Answer is. It might not be one answer and it might not be as dramatic and sweeping as the free ebook boom that hit the market when Amazon’s KDP Select algorithms benefited us so much back in December. I suspect we’ll be actively spending more money on advertising and promotion for our books in the near future. I’m aware of a few new and clever-sounding strategies, but they are as yet untested by the market’s searing flame. I’ll revisit said strategies in a future post, but today’s post is already too long and don’t we have some serious writing to do?

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Author Blog Challenge 23: Free sex and the value of an ebook

GET BIGGER THAN JESUS

Why should he pay for the cow when he can get the milk for free? If you’re unfamiliar with this distasteful euphemism, it’s meant to control and shame women so they defy their biological needs and get married too young to the first doofus* who comes along so they won’t risk being called sluts by a repressed and repressive patriarchy and said patriarchy’s agents. It’s the same misogyny behind, “For birth control, hold an aspirin between your knees,” and “Good cowgirls keep their calves together!” It’s kind of funny the first time you hear it. Then you realize it’s a power grab meant to squelch the joys of life and your humanness. (I do love a breakdown of social constructs so the deviant subtext in revealed.) What, you ask, does that have to do with ebooks? Everything.

Yesterday began a little after 5 a.m. It continued until 3 a.m. I hasten to add there were distractions. I did stop to shower and eat. There’s a shower hose over my desk chair by the IV pole. The IV bags are full of double espresso. The desk chair is a toilet. It’s like the helpful chairs in WALL-e, before that evil little robot screwed everything up for everybody and made them get up and move around outside. Mostly, I formatted my new book. For all the work, I wonder if people will buy it when they can have it for free?

Crack the Indie Author Code: Aspire to Inspire (by Robert Chazz Chute, coming in early July!) is a book based on the best of this blog. I’m creeping up on 1,000 posts and I thought it was time I made something more concrete of it. It’ll be my favorite posts in one convenient, pithy, humorous, inspirational package. I’m editing again and updating as I go, of course. At over 90,000 words, it will be my comprehensive take on what the newbie needs to know and what the self-publishing veterans’ choir likes to sing. I wrote a note in the front matter about who the book is for. I made sure to say: Hey, if you want the milk for free, feel free to sift through the blog. ChazzWrites is free. All the podcasts at AllThatChazz are free, too. Everything I sell is so close to free in price, you’d tip the pizza guy what you’d pay for my books. Enjoy! I give freely, without remorse or hesitation or hard feelings. Surprising, because, as a cheap writer who can pinch a Canadian quarter until the moose screams (that’s “eagle screams” if you’re in the United States), I’m actually a terrible tipper.

There is a lot of information that’s free on the Internet so I try to keep ChazzWrites.com fresh and a little different — even contrarian. I think I convey that information with a certain flair, but my hairdresser thinks he’s funny, too. Meanwhile, I just wish he’d never learned to speak english. I’m not going deep  into ever-changing information, either. Crack the Indie Author Code isn’t about the latest marketing theory for self-publishing. It’s evergreen stuff — old-fashioned from a new angle —  about writing craft as seen through my lens and as told to any writer who is more eager for cozy inspiration than ebook marketing advice. (With the changes at Amazon, a lot of marketing theory is still up in the air, but if you want a solid marketing book that’s user-friendly, buy my friend Jeff Bennington’s book, The Indie Author’s Guide to the Universe and check his site for updates.)

Since my new book is hidden right here within nigh 1,000 posts, why buy it to put it on your e-reader? What’s the unique selling point? What’s the value to the customer? I’d say: ease of use; improved readability; improved searchability; updates; new content; improved content; my moral support and your grasping consumerism. I make better jokes as I make another pass at the content, too.

As I go through Crack the Indie Author Code, I can see how some of my ideas have changed over time. When I started this blog, I talked a lot more about craft and writing mechanics. Self-publishing needed more cheerleaders then.  Now we need more leaders. Early on there was more, “Rah! Rah! Rah! Those guys in trad pub don’t get it and don’t see what’s coming!” I omitted some of those posts even though I was right. They were appropriate at the time, but it’s time to mature (the jokes are still less than mature.) Self-publishing’s next step is simply to call it publishing. We need to get past hang-ups about trad versus indie. Yes, of course, there’s still value in traditional publishing. It’s not going away. It’s just changing radically. The new paradigm is not necessarily either/or. Depending on business cases, multiple variables and your temperament, you may choose to do both and only the terminally crank y will fault you. Meanwhile, successful revolutions establish regimes.

But, will anyone bother to buy another writing book? Don’t we have enough?  The broad answer is, can you get enough of whatever your passion is? More particular to my writing book, those who like my flavor will buy it. Those who won’t, won’t.  That’s all beside the point, anyway. I know it’s a business, but I don’t write for you because I can’t anticipate all your  variables and idiosyncrasies. I can only write to my taste. I write for your adulation, sure, but first, I write to entertain myself. I’m hoping you’ll say, “Oh, Chazz, how clever you are! I’ll buy umpteen copies for all my friends!” But before you ever get a chance to evaluate, that’s me sitting at my keyboard enjoying the dopamine trickling and tickling my neo-cortex. That’s me saying, “Oh, Chazz, how clever you are!” We write for ourselves first, not the reader. The act of writing is primary, sometimes even primal. The point is to form the thoughts, think through your typing fingers and transcend the blank page until you’re high on the creative rush.

Will Free beat out $3.99 in the cost-benefit analysis? No. You’ll buy my cow for convenience or for other variables, not least of which is, to have and to hold. And, to answer the ugly metaphor that began this piece? Most  people enjoy free premarital sex and yet most people still marry (some to dark and very costly ends.) At $3.99, the risk is microscopic compared to marrying someone.

To win your $3.99, I just have to create something I’ll love.

If you’re of the same mind, I have a sale.

Back to the espresso drip. I’m off to make that dopamine gush!

* Generalizations aren’t fair. Sometimes the first doofus is the right doofus, but most people these days test out several to many doofuses before selecting the one doofus they can love (and be most angry at without opting for murder) for the length of their marriage and possibly the rest of their lives.

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

The ebook marketing experiment

Last week I announced that my short story, Corrective Measures, is free to anyone who wants one at Smashwords.com for the rest of January. It’s a look inside Jack’s mind. He’s a serial killer who has a complex

Click here for your free story!

relationship with God, his psychotherapist and the woman he wants to kill for an argument over a parking space. It’s quirky and dark and there’s even a subtle Sarah Palin joke in there.

But that wasn’t why I chose to make this ebook free. As discussed in Part I, I haven’t been happy with my sales so far. I have eight works for sale and I needed to harness the power of cross-pollination.

As I’ve often said, publishing is easy now. Being found is hard. I chose to make this ebook free because Jack and Dr. Circe Papua show up in my other stories. At the end of Corrective Measures, I discuss where these characters show up in my other work and basically advertise my podcast and what else they might like to buy. I’m hoping, of course, that if they like Corrective Measures, they might like my other stuff. That’s why I think every self-published author absolutely must be prolific. The worst circumstance is to have readers eager for more of your work and not having anything for them to buy. We’re all in a hurry. That’s why my goal for 2012 is to finish writing and revising three novels. (Two are in the revision stage. The other WIP is in the first draft stage.)

So what happened with the free ebook giveaway?

Sorry. Buried the lead. I promoted the ebook like this:

1. Twittered over three twitter accounts cool quotes from Corrective Measures. (“Your hair looks very…flammable.” Still makes me chuckle.)

2. Google+’d the post from this blog and also posted it on my author blog allthatchazz.com.

3. Announced in my Facebook timeline and my Ex Parte Press Facebook page.

4. Promoted Corrective Measures in my podcast that was released Friday across Stitcher and iTunes. Some people download the Self-help for Stoners podcast straight from allthatchazz.com, as well.

5. Made a couple of videos with iMovie that appear on my G+ profile, my author blog and on my Facebook timeline. (I also revamped my author blog with a new header—thanks again to my buddy Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com—and added fresh content.)

6. Asked for help spreading the word from my friends on Facebook.

What worked?

I have an answer, but before I tell you that, I should add that as I write this, the experiment is only three days old. Many of the people who took me up on the free ebook offer now have the story on their device, but they haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. Some of them may never get to it. It’s too early to evaluate the worth of the experiment to e-publishers yet. But I do know what’s been most effective.

Okay, but no, really. What worked?

Contacting friends and family on Facebook by messaging them individually and asking them to spread the word through their Facebook helped.

How do you know it helped?

On Smashwords, the nearest maximum download count was 19 downloads on stories that have been up for over a month. Over the weekend, as of Sunday afternoon, 53 people have downloaded Corrective Measures and I have a fresh and fabulous review. I’m hoping for more reviews to help spread the word. I am encouraged that several people who liked it and sent me feedback are not my immediate friends and family. They are friends of friends, out there in the social media ripple effect, enjoying the fiction and enhancing my credibility with their participation and kind words.

How has this helped sales, though?

So far, there is one (lonely) new sale over the weekend of Vengeance is #1. That’s a short story, too, on sale for $1.99, that features the psychotherapist from Corrective Measures. (Whoever you are, may Thor bless you!)

One sale? Really? Do you call that a success?

Nope. I call that a start. I believe in my work. I’ve got seven writing awards and years of experience that suggest I have an inking of what I’m doing. My readership will find me. I’ll let you know how the experiment works out. I’m pretty relaxed about this process. I’ve started businesses before and I know what it’s like to wait for people to find me. When they do find me, we’ll both be happy. And like I said, it’s three days into the free ebook experiment. Bread needs time to bake. This is what it’s like before you get to the place on the path where you look back and wonder where the time went. Besides, I’ve got big plans for my novels and big plans for promotion that could go huge. I’m not worried. I’m excited. The key word to keep in mind while hunting down dreams is YET.

What can self-publishers learn from this?

I’m three steps into the race. Still, I’m sure of this much:

1. Put out a general call and it’s just an announcement in a world full of announcements. If you don’t ask individuals, everyone will assume that someone else will rise to the occasion. One to one is how messages get passed.

2. Give a lot to get anything. I’m giving away an ebook and free entertainment and a free podcast every week, but big deal. There’s lots of free entertainment available. I could get sucked into watching babies laugh on YouTube for an hour. I’m not talking about the free ebook as the “give a lot.” I mean try to be giving and kind all the time. I dared to impose on my friends because they are my friends. I’ve had interactions with them that were generally pleasant. I’ve promoted several authors on the blog over the last couple of years, but I don’t feel like anyone owes me anything. I approached the people I approached based on rapport and where I felt their interest might lie. I’m wary of bothering anyone with my requests for reviews and downloads so I won’t be repeating a similar experiment like this for a very long time. I also left some people alone because, even though they are friends and family, I do not presume that they are interested in my flavor of fiction. I didn’t ask anything of anyone who I thought wouldn’t be eager to help me out by spreading the word. I’d do the same for them. That’s what friends are for. As Patrick Swayze says in Roadhouse, “It’s nice to be nice.” That little syllogism is the basis of all relationships.

3. Build an email list. This is one thing I have not pursued and I have to get on it. When people express an interest or appreciation or leave a review, that’s an audience who will be interested in the next thing I write. I should be able to email them directly to say, “Hey, here’s more of that thing you liked! Yay!”

4. Get back to writing. This ties in with my resolution to have three more novels for sale by Christmas. You might have noticed that all this social media stuff takes a lot of time and effort. Well…yeah. It does. I’m not complaining. Actually, I enjoyed saying hello to Facebook friends and playing with iMovie was a blast. I love doing the podcast and these are now essential skills in this environment. For instance, this week I’ll record a commercial for a major podcast (hint: not mine). What would have intimidated me a couple of months ago is now something I look forward to doing. I know the tech now so the prospect does not leave me at all flummoxed. However, since November 1, my focus has been getting Ex Parte Press up on its hind legs. It’s been a lot of editing and promotion and learning administrivia and technical details. This is also fun, but it’s not writing new content. It’s not getting the novels done. In a previous post, I called this period The Worst of the First. I’ve burst through that stage now and the full-length novels will be easier to market (for a plethora of reasons to be discussed in a future post.)

I’m writing now more than I’m doing anything else.

My eyes are on the prize.

The prize is your mind. You’re curled up on a couch with the aroma of fresh coffee fading in the air. You’re reading my stories and, when it gets scary, you pull up the blanket to keep warm because the body and mind do not distinguish between the imagined and the real. Your mug cools, unnoticed. Your coffee grows cold and you still haven’t touched it because you’ve pulled my fiction over your head and you’re in my world. You recognize characters you’ve never met. This world feels familiar, but is slightly skewed. You chuckle in surprise. You believe. Fiction is a participatory magic trick. You are invested in one question, “What happens next?” Time stands still and you only come up for air when you realize it’s getting dark and harder to read. The quiet winter afternoon has crept by you. You twist the knob on the lamp beside you and the room floods with a weak yellow light. You should get dinner started. You’ve got things to do. You spare a regretful glance at the full mug of cold coffee.

You pick up the book again. You keep reading.

Just a little more. 

And once more, you are swallowed.

Filed under: My fiction, Publicity & Promotion, self-publishing, short stories, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

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

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