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

The publishing revolution already happened.

Cost control for the Indie Author

(Editor’s Note: Everybody tracks income. We aren’t so enthused about tracking outgo, me included. Fortunately, author Mark Victor Young has some thoughts on that today. ~ Chazz)

Guest Post by Mark Victor Young

“When embarking on a new venture where the returns are likely to be modest, or at the very least uncertain, the quickest way to get into the black is to keep your costs to a minimum.” This has been my guiding principle since the beginning of my Indie Author journey. I’m having a great time doing it and all, but I want this thing to be real first and foremost, so anything I can do myself, I will do. My time is free and I don’t mind spending it on myself.

 There are tons of Book Marketing platforms out there who will tell you they have the magical key to success for an Indie Author and it will only cost you $20 per month, or $100 per year, etc. Just put “Indie Author” in your twitter bio and see how fast they find you and promise you success… for a small fee. But at $2.99 per e-book, I make $2.00/book, so I have to sell 50 books just to break even on a $100 expense. How much would I have to do by myself, using free self-promotional tools, to sell 50 e-books? I don’t know, but I know that when I did, I’d be $100 to the good.

 Let’s look at my start-up expenses and see what I consider to be necessary costs and where you could cut corners.

 Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 2.01.30 PM

 

Scrivener is an Indie Author’s best friend. It is a compositional and editing platform that allows you to format your book as a PDF, ePub, Kindle or Paperback and upload it directly to the various sales platforms. This allows you to control your own destiny and not have to rely on one platform (ie. Smashwords) acting as an intermediary with all the others and grabbing a slice of your revenues in the process. It costs about $40 (I found a 10% off coupon online – that is two e-books worth of revenue saved!) and it is well worth it.

 Registering your business as a Sole Proprietorship or Corporation says to the world that yours is a serious venture and is worthy of respect. Registering your business will also have some tax advantages down the line if your sales start rolling. Likewise, paying for a custom domain (myname.com) is a small cost that sends a message that you might be worthy of someone’s hard earned three bucks. Sure, you could just operate as an individual and go with a myname.wordpress.com or myname.blogspot.com and save both fees. I have nothing against this and would commend you on your frugality.

 If you’re planning to offer your books for sale in paperback, you are going to need to see the physical items to really make sure you are putting a quality product out there that will reflect well on you. This will mean shipping yourself some proof copies as well as taking a hard look at the online editing software. But this is also an opportunity to grab some hard copies to use for local, in person sales opportunities (as long as they are what you expected and aren’t full of formatting problems or whatever). CreateSpace (division of Amazon.com) will let you have up to 5 proof copies for a few bucks each plus postage. Make a small change to alter the file and they will let you proof it again (by ordering 5 more copies – see where this is going? J).

 I contacted hundreds of book bloggers through e-mail and social media to ask them to review my first book and only one required a physical copy. This is good, because the postage was frightening! There were plenty out there who would gladly accept a free ePub or Mobi (that I could supply, thanks to Scrivener) for their e-readers. One even purchased the e-book to review it, because she felt it was important to support Indie Authors. Can’t argue with that! But this is a great example of something time consuming but free which will pay off in publicity and promotion. Several bloggers even agreed to publish an interview or promotional feature on me with no mention of a charge at all. I only heard back from about 1 in 20 that I contacted, but I was happy with those responses, I can tell you.

 You’ll notice that I have incurred no costs for book cover design. That’s an interesting story that may be unique to me. My wife is an excellent artist and has a background in marketing and publishing. She designs all my covers for free, so I don’t have any costs in that regard. Sorry – don’t hate me! Here are the covers for my first two novels, which have garnered all kinds of compliments and positive attention:

 Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 2.01.38 PM

 

But that doesn’t mean that someone who is not similarly wedded need bear heavy costs in this area. You may know an artist who could help with this in exchange for you promoting their services on your website or social media. Find an author whose covers you love and ask who they use. If you can’t find something fabulous and free, Smashwords has a list of cover designers, some of whom will charge less than $100 to design your book cover. Sometimes you can also save money by going with a ready-made cover. Here are some my wife came up with and here are some by Kit Foster.

 This is not an area for skimping. Don’t send your book out into the world if it looks like a public domain work from Project Gutenberg. That will send a message that your book should be free, or worse, isn’t considered worthy of a great cover, so won’t be worthy of their time. Don’t settle for something that LOOKS self-published (in the amateurish sense). People do judge a book by its cover, unfortunately, so you will need a great-looking, professional finished product whichever way you go.

 There are no guarantees of success for Indie Authors. But there are no guarantees with or without spending money on third party promos. The more you spend in chasing book sales, the more profit gets eaten up by these marketing and promotional expenses. If you consider this to be a long term, truly independent venture and you keep at it and keep adding to your list of books for sale, even a modest success will be income that is all yours to keep. If, that is, you haven’t already paid out all your profits to third parties in advance. If you’re determined to use some service that you think will really pay off, make a deal with yourself. Wait until you’ve made $100 more in revenues than all the expenses you’ve incurred and then spend it on that great book marketing opportunity. That way every sale it generates will be putting money in your pocket. J

 Best of luck on your own Indie Author journey!

~ Find out more about Mark on his website, MarkVictorYoung.com.

 

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

Art matters. Writing matters. We matter.

Graphic designers make a big difference to readers and the success of authors. A snarky writer once told me I was a hack, too concerned about the look of my book covers. Once.

Everyone else knows, yes, of course we do indeed judge books by their covers.

You can say it shouldn’t matter all you want, but beautiful people and beautiful things get more attention. I won’t find out if you have a great personality and keen intelligence if, when I spot you from across the room, you appear to be surrounded by flies because you’ve rubbed dog feces in your hair. That’s life. That’s science. 

My graphic designer is the brilliant Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com. Check out his portfolio.

Kit is my friend and ally. He helps to make my existence matter. He’s helping me get my message out, subliminal and subtextual. It’s that important. All my books are about escaping who I was. They’re about all of us rising to the higher potential of what we could be. Everything I write is about making our existence — yours and mine — matter. Book covers are the come hither stare that lets me into your brain, to play in the Mindfield, to turn the words, to entertain, laugh and think. That’s what it means and why Art matters.

That’s the why. A book cover with solid art is part of the how.

Here is the new cover for the This Plague of Days, Omnibus Edition. It’s not at all what I pictured for the Omnibus cover. It’s better. I just let Kit do what he does best so I can concentrate on what I do best.

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)

To find out about more about secret video and to get a free ebook with your purchase of the TPOD Omnibus Edition, click here.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute and, even though I occasionally write books with zombies in them, I am not a hack. It’s not the subject matter that makes the hack. It’s a lack of passion. Ultimately, with every twist, turn, joke and murder, I’m writing about me. And you. 

The suspense is in making our existence matter. Can we do it?

We will.

 

Filed under: book marketing, self-publishing, This Plague of Days, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

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

How Amazon’s new sales dashboard got me moving (plus Art that sells books)

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Click here to get Bigger Than Jesus

Click here to get Bigger Than Jesus

I wasn’t going to blog about the new Amazon sales dashboard.

Then I gave it a second look. The quick, detailed analysis is interesting and sometimes disheartening. Seeing all the outcomes across various countries at one glance is great. (Thanks, Australia. This Plague of Days is gaining ground Down Under.) I suspect the new dashboard will be an obsession to which we can lose a lot of time. The clarity delivered is better than what other retailers offer and absolutely crushes mainstream publishers for their lack of transparency. 

More information (or at least data that informs more easily) can change behavior. It just did that for me. Knowledge of weaknesses is more useful than knowing strengths. I checked through which books were moving and which weren’t. I asked myself which books could move better than they do. 

The ebook is also available in paperback for $9.99.

I settled on my funny crime novel, Bigger Than Jesus.

I’d just received three more fantastic reviews recently, so the book is sitting, highly rated, with 17 reviews. But it’s not selling. Several people have told me Bigger Than Jesus is my best book. It’s a fast read with a careening plot and there’s a follow-up with Higher Than Jesus

So why no love for Jesus?

There’s an issue with the title (you can guess) which I plan to remedy with the third installment in the Hit Man Series. Meanwhile,Bigger_Than_Jesus_Cover_for_Kindle I’ve failed to market it well enough. I think of myself as a suspense novelist, but most of my sales are coming from the horror side of the equation with This Plague of Days. Because I was letting Bigger Than Jesus sell “organically” (translation: not doing anything) I wasn’t paying attention to promoting my luckless Cuban hit man.

Bigger Than Jesus is not getting the visibility it deserves, so I must make it visible.

There are many complicated and expensive ways to do that. I’m opting for the easiest vector. This morning, through the Author Marketing Club website, I set up various free ebook sites to give the book away next week. I’ve applied to BookBub and paid a visit to The Fussy Librarian. More visibility and reviews will translate into more love, and more buyers, down the line. 

Dark Higher Than Jesus banner ad

I wouldn’t have changed my strategy if not for the change in the sales dashboard.

The changes make it easier to identify where the ball is not bouncing. Since my crime novel is well placed to fly higher, I’m attaching a booster rocket to it. 

~ Now you’re wondering about the art, right? That’s awesome work done by my buddy, Kit Foster of Kit Foster Design. More than just awesome covers, he can do ads and web banners, too. Spruce up your author sites and campaigns to sell books. He’s a very nice guy and his rates are very reasonable. You’ll be glad you did. Tell Kit that Chazz sent you.

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

Top Ten: Renew your readers’ interest between books

As I finish revisions to the finale of This Plague of Days, I’m entering that crazy time between the writing and the publishing. We all go through it. There’s still editing and proofreading to do and you aren’t done until you’re sick of it and not even then. But I am excited!

Today, I had my first back and forth with Kit Foster, my graphic designer. We talked cover designs. Out of context, my description of what I had in mind was pretty dumb or nigh-impossible, but through the magic of his art, Kit will transform that raw material into something awesome that makes browsers into buyers.

But how do you keep the sales going between books?

Sales always drop off. They call Day 30 after your book launch “The Cliff” because you lose attention from readers as you disappear from the bright, shiny new thing list. Interest can be buoyed and sustained, however. You don’t have to try all the strategies from this list (or any), but I do suggest you try at least one. Experiment and let me know what works for you.

Here are some ideas to extend your influence with all your books.

1. Write more than one book because your next book helps promote the last one. At a book event, authors talk about the next book, but readers talk about the last book.

2. Write more books. The bigger the stable, the more horses you have in the race, cross-promoting each other.

3. Write (slightly) shorter books. Sadly, my next tome (after TPOD) will (again!) be more than 100,000 words. I’m writing huge books. Many will see this as over-delivering and they’ll love it. It can also intimidate those less invested. The main problem is it makes you appear less prolific even if you’re very productive. It’s #2’s horse and stable issue.

I’m not saying you should shortchange anyone, but keep it reasonable. Few reviewers complain about a quick read. If you’ve got that much to say in a single book and you can’t make it shorter, make it a series.

The complete series for This Plague of Days will be over 300,000 words. The first draft took ten months and then I doubled its size in another eight months. Down the line, I’ll put out more books by keeping them down around 60,000 – 70,000 words.

My crime novels took 3 months each, for instance, from concept to completion. That length is what I’ll be aiming for in the future. Feeling more productive and hitting more milestones also feeds my excitement between books and keeps energy high. Less time between books also gives readers less time to forget about you.

4. Write in one genre. If you can dominate one list, you’ll be more effective in focussed marketing efforts and provide consistent branding. (I should have done this, but it’s not how my mind works.)

5. Collaborate. Writing with another author can expand your influence to each other’s audience and, if you work it correctly with the right person, you’ll get more done faster. Some people think writing with a partner is more work for half the money, but actually you have more people helping with the load, increasing productivity. The guys at Self-Publishing Podcast have proved it over and over, so there you go.

6. Cooperate. Soon, a new horror anthology will be released and I’m in it. My bit will be a sampler of Episode 1 of This Plague of Days. In joining forces with other authors, we’ll co-promote and raise each other up.

7. Have more to give away. I serialized the first two seasons of This Plague of Days. In the run up to the launch of Season 3 and the stand alone (This Plague of Days, The Complete Series), I’m using KDP Select to give away episodes as samples. Those giveaways always bump up my sales in between books when I would otherwise be in the doldrums. I’m a big believer in pulse sales to help new readers find me.

8. Diversify. To sell more between books, have more to sell in different media. There’s interest in turning This Plague of Days into a TV series. (It helps that I wrote the story like an HBO or Netflix dramatic series in the first place.) However, I’d love to see it as a graphic novel, too. I want to sell it as an audiobook. Each iteration feeds the potential for another opportunity.

9. Repackage. Converting This Plague of Days from serialized episodes into seasons, and then into one, big book that stands alone? That’s one example of repackaging. It’ll also give a new crew of readers what they wanted since quite a few people seem to misunderstand the cliffhangers and twists of a serial or they hate serials on principle. (I don’t know what that principle is, but I recognize it and I’m listening.)

Taking different books and selling them as one bundle is another way to go. (I’ll be doing this with the Hit Man Series by turning three books into a bundled trilogy with a new and better name for the whole.)

10. Stay in touch with readers between books. I don’t have a large mailing list, but I do connect with a lot of readers on Facebook and through podcasts. I also have a blog dedicated to This Plague of Days.

Recently, when I needed to add more beta readers to my team, I went to Facebook first because I knew I’d find people who are already into what I’m doing. I’ve got three new, enthusiastic volunteers now.

Staying in touch with readers keeps projects alive for authors, too. When I get another tweet or email asking when the next book is coming out, it helps drive me to get to the keyboard as fast as I can to oil the roller coaster. I know my readers and I can’t wait to make them scream.

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

It’s time for your Coolest People nominations

Cool+People+Podcast+FinalOne of my podcasts is the Cool People Podcast. I’m making a list and checking it twice. Guests can be naughty or nice, but they have to be cool. I’m looking for your nominations for 2014. What interviews would you like to hear (or would you like to be heard yourself)?

Who’s cool?67113_196559600480167_927925947_n

I’m interested in speaking with guests about their passions. From director Chris Richardson talking about his latest film to Renee Pawlish talking about the book business, all my guests have strong opinions about the what they do and their place in the world.

Jordanna 2I’ve interviewed Wool author Hugh Howey, Dying Days author Armand Rosamilia, scientific and skeptical person Gordon Bonnet, erotica author Eden Baylee, Middle East foreign policy expert Shermin Kruse, graphic artist Kit Foster, funny sci-fi guy Mark Rayner, musician Mosno Al-Moseeki. Jordanna East shared her experiences with writing and publishing and I spoke with bestselling author Jessica McHugh about True Romance, among other things.

LeRon Barton talked about drug culture and Janice Landry spoke about the Jessica McHugh Shermin picdramas first responders face (and even took a fun quiz about ’80s music as a bonus, so have a listen and play along.)

Actor Dave Straus told us about his worst audition ever and I talked acting and graphic novels with actor Jay Hash.

What about you?

Know somebody you think should get heard? Got a cool project like a graphic novel or a TV show or a movie in the works? Want to talk science, psychology, how the world works (and how it doesn’t)?

There’s a podcast for that. It’s the Cool People Podcast.

If you’d like to be featured on the Cool People Podcast in 2014, here’s the site. Click on the Be My Guest tab for answers to your questions and use the contact information so you make your nomination. I enjoyed every interview in 2013. I’m looking forward to adding new friends through the Cool People Podcast in 2014.

Who knows? I might be giving you a call on Skype soon and we’ll talk to the world about you. And have a listen at CoolPeoplePodcast.com.

Filed under: podcasts, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Way of the Hack: Writers, you might be a hack if… (plus death threats from space)

Long before computers, a hack was a worn-out horse used for pulling tourists around parks. You know, because before you propose marriage to your sweetie in Central Park, you need to build up your courage by bathing in elderly equestrian flatulence. Then unimaginative comedians were dubbed hacks in the fifties, after a decade of tired jokes (mostly about hateful mothers-in-law.) I wish it stopped there. Writers get called hacks, too. Let’s dodge that fate (and, as you’ll see, you’ll also get one last chance to avoid dying by giant rock). Those two things seem equally important, so read on.

For writers, “hack” is a pretty bad insult.

Recently, on a podcast I’ll never listen to again, the host asked, “So, do you write about zombies or are you a serious writer?” Dude! Dangers, betrayal, and ordinary people facing grim existences and horrific mortality? That (and rampant, grisly cannibalism in line at the post office) is what we’re all facing every day! A book’s subject matter doesn’t make the author a hack. Failure of execution makes the hack.

To avoid becoming a hack, do not follow The Way of the Hack:

1. Tired subjects with no fresh takes. Ever read a book and somehow you’re reminded of a disappointing salad, measly on the croutons with brown lettuce? You might have been reading a hacky book.

On sale now for just $2.99. I mean, c'mon!

On sale now for just $2.99. I mean, c’mon!

On the other hand, ever read a zombie story with an autistic hero, whales, evolutions of numerous cannibalistic species and Shakespearian trees, all in three books called This Plague of Days? I think you see where I’m going here: this is a blatant plug so you’ll buy This Plague of Days, Seasons One and Two. Season Three, and the conclusion of the serial, hits this spring. Very well, on with the helpful, preachy bits…

2. Don’t write stories that look, feel and sound like a ton of other stories. Sometimes you can spot a hack book by its cover. You want your cover to convey what genre it’s in, but you don’t want potential readers to think they must have already read it. That’s why you should consider the services of my buddy Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com. Your book needs a distinctive cover. Okay, no more sweet little commercials for my friends and me (today).

My point is, there are no new stories, but there are still plenty of ways to surprise readers, even the jaded ones. Hit your readers in the brainpan and adrenals. Read any novel by William Goldman if you aren’t sure how. (Okay, that was sort of a plug, but he’s not a friend. I just wish the most underrated, living American novelist was a drinking buddy, that’s all.)

3. Clichés. Hacks love them. Don’t. And why would you? It’s so easy to take a familiar cliché and give it a new twist. Don’t avoid clichés “like the plague.” Avoid them “like a stampede of zombie office workers, oddly indistinguishable from non-zombie office workers.”

4. Hacks lack complexity in plotting. If the story is too easy, the subtle message to the reader is the author is too stupid to create something more interesting. Or possibly the subtext you convey is, the author is a smart, lazy hack who thinks readers are stupid. Either way, readers won’t like the book and they’ll really hate you. So be like Batman — always be Batman — and be complex.

5. Villains who are just bad because they’re bad are hacky. Everybody, even psychos, have reasons and rationalizations and justifications. Don’t be lazy about their motivations. Writers who aren’t hacks take the time to construct origins and context so we understand why they broke bad.

6. Heroes who lack any flaw are hackneyed, boring cartoons. Or Superman. (But I repeat myself.) Protagonists without flaws and weaknesses have it too easy.

For a better example, watch the movie The Rainmaker. It’s about a young lawyer taking on what should be impossible odds and…things go incredibly smoothly for him. You’ll think, that’s it? He just had to show up and obstacle after obstacle falls down and his path is cleared? Really? It may be a good book. I haven’t read it. The movie appeared to be written by a hack who had one eye on the clock and the other on a ham on rye. 

For contrast, a great courtroom drama is 12 Angry Men. You’ve no doubt seen it. Watch it again. Henry Fonda slowly convinces eleven other jurors there is room for doubt. It seems such an unlikely outcome, but every minute of that film is riveting as you watch the dominoes fall.

7. The free online dictionary defines a hack as “One who undertakes unpleasant or distasteful tasks for money or reward; a hireling.” (Whoa! That’s most anybody with a regular job, isn’t it? But I digress.)

If you aren’t finding any joy in the writing, you might be a hack. No fun for you? None for the reader.

8. Some snobs conflate “hack” with “commercial.” Wrong. Those are two separate issues. A book can be commercial and not be the work of a hack. JK RowlingThis Plague of Days Season 2 is one of the most successful writers ever. Who but the most dedicated troll would dare to call her a hack?

Also, just because a book fails commercially doesn’t mean it was hacky writing. Moby Dick was never a commercial success in Herman Melville’s lifetime. Lots of good books fail. Don’t let The Way of the Hack be the reason for your book’s commercial failure.

I’m hoping the reason for my books’ commercial failure is everybody dies when a rogue asteroid hits Earth…but don’t worry, there’s still time. Just click here and buy my books so I can succeed and we avoid the grisly alternative near-future where the world’s population chokes to death in fire as the planet’s oxygen burns away in the ugly celestial calamity to come. Hey, it’s all on you now. Please don’t think of this as an ultimatum. It is, but please don’t think of it that way. And thanks for contributing to the Arts. Congratulations on having children and grandchildren and having another February.

9. Lack of research. If you’re banging out your manuscript to make a word count without care for details, you might be a hack.

10. Lack of humor. When a book has one unrelenting, dour tone, I begin to suspect the author just put his or her head down and said to themselves through gritted teeth, “By all that is unholy, I will get through this and grind it out.” You miss opportunities for non-linear thinking when you’re rushing to a deadline like that. Slow down, Speed Racer! Enjoy the ride more. Give it another read and look for new angles, holes and opportunities to deepen and lighten the tone and give that prose roller coaster more hills and valleys. Take the time to threaten your readers with certain death once in a while. Carpe noctem!

Get this one, too, just to be safe. Post holiday sale: just $4.99.

Get this one, too, just to be safe. Post holiday sale: only $4.99. Shake out the couch change.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. Today I have plugged my books, garishly, but I tried so very hard to be polite about it. Later on I threatened genocide by giant burning rock from space. Clearly, you need to buy Murders Among Dead Trees, The Little Book of Braingasms, Bigger Than Jesus, Higher Than Jesus and, of course, This Plague of Days, Seasons One and Two. They are each on sale at a special low price for January 2014. Now is the time. Or an asteroid kills us all. Those are the only two possible outcomes. But, like I said, It’s up to you, killer. Yeah, let’s just click here, ‘kay? Again, thanks so much.

If more than 70 happy reviews don’t convince you, learn more about This Plague of Days and how a boy on the autism spectrum could possibly fit into the plot, at ThisPlagueOfDays.com.

For podcasts and more about the books and the author, check out AllThatChazz.com. I’m starting to feel needy now, so I’ll stop.

Filed under: Amazon, What about Chazz?, What about you?, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Brainstorming better book titles (and what can kill a good one)

1. The tone of the title should match the genre. If your thriller’s title makes potential readers think of young adult romance, keep brainstorming.

2. Non-fiction titles tend to be linear promises to provide solutions to a problem you have identified. Deliver.

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

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

3. Intriguing is good. Confusing is not. That’s a fine balance. I loved the titles Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus. However, it’s pronounced “Hay-soose” and it’s about a funny, hardboiled Cuban hit man. Titles you (and I) have to explain (endlessly!) are not good titles. The cover treatment by Kit Foster of Kit Foster Design saves me from readers who buy my crime novels thinking they are religious books. Also, I do have another solution to this problem. I’ll explore that next year, after a couple more books are written. In the meantime, I remain an idiot for thinking those titles would serve me better than they did.

What? You thought I write these blog posts because I get everything right the first time? Ha! No.

4. When you’re brainstorming, think in terms of keywords. A short, killer, catchy title can be helped a lot by a more explanatory subtitle. Don’t go overboard with keywords, though. If you run out of breath, forget the rest halfway through, or can’t cram the whole title on the cover, rethink. We’ve got to be able to read the title without squinting, so don’t cram it.

5. Generally try to avoid titles that are very long. After catching the title in a wisp of conversation, the potential customer has to remember it all the way back to their computer or the bookstore so they can order it.

6. What’s the central theme, promise or event that’s crucial to your story? Brainstorm titles out of that.

7. Think in terms of brand and series. Can you connect titles in some way? A is for Alibi is already taken, but think about what might fit. I have two new series planned for the end of next year that connect tangentially to existing books.

8. Come up with a bunch of titles and throw out a bunch. Don’t get too attached to a title early on. Some authors feel they need a title before they can begin to write. Your story may change, so just keep that WIP title tentative and to yourself for now.

9. You can take titles from phrases from the Bible or Shakespeare or be completely original. Go for memorable. However, don’t let the absence of a title stop you from beginning to write. It will probably emerge from the manuscript organically. Use a focus group of trusted friends or fellow writers to save you from your worst impulses.

10. Build a brand around your author name, not your title. I don’t want people more excited about my title than they are about me writing another book. That’s why the name “Robert Chazz Chute” is so big on the cover. Make them want to buy the next [insert your name here], not the title. I don’t really like the title, Doctor Sleep, for instance. But it’s Stephen King! Of course I want to read it!

I’m convinced that titles really don’t matter quite as much as we’d like to think.

I can name a lot of titles that shatter these ten well-meant suggestions. It’s like naming a band. Lots of band names sound pretty stupid or obtuse at first, but if the music is any good, people don’t even think about it much. I doubt everyone was enthused about the name The Beatles or Led Zeppelin on their first encounter (before hearing the songs.) I didn’t like the title Fight Club. The book is about so much more than that. However, I got over it quickly.

It’s true for TV shows, too. The first time I heard the name MASH as a little kid, I thought the TV series had something to do with potatoes. The Pink Panther? I didn’t know it was animated, so I pictured an actual pink panther skulking through the jungle. Without seeing it (and hearing its musical theme by Henry Mancini) I had no idea it was destined to become so iconic.

To sell more books, what’s ultimately more important than the title? Your graphic artist.

A good graphic artist can build on an awesome hook. A bad cover can sabotage even your most clever title.

A great title doesn’t matter if no one can see it. Don’t undermine that title you’ve put so much thought into. You need an excellent graphic artist to support your efforts. A great cover maximizes the power of your title and your author name. That’s why I use…wait for the shameless, enthusiastic plug for my Scottish buddy…

Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com

Check out his portfolio for powerful images

that pump up all the authors he serves.

By the way, Crack the Indie Author Code 2nd Edition is out in paperback at $9.99. Smaller format, with jokes.

By the way, Crack the Indie Author Code 2nd Edition is out in paperback at $9.99. Smaller format, with jokes.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. With my serial, This Plague of Days, I’ve written two bestsellers. However, my catalogue of my inspirational errors in the early going will tell you more about the challenges of being an indie author. Get Crack the Indie Author Code. I don’t scold you and it’s actually pretty funny. The 6 x 9 print version is about ten bucks and Christmas is coming, so get on that or Christmas is cancelled and Santa’s elves will turn into goblins. It’s up to you to save Christmas from rampaging goblins. It’s up to you and you alone. No pressure.

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

This Plague of Days: Season One arrives in paperback! (Plus stuff for you)

Special thanks to Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com for his kick-ass cover skills! 

If you’re looking to get a cover, I always recommend Kit! Plus, he’s Scottish!

Have a look at the beauty below (i.e. buy it) and be sure to check out his portfolio.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00004]

This Plague of Days, Season One teaches Latin proverbs and brings you into the mind of a very unlikely hero on the autistic spectrum. Zombies attack and royal Corgis are in big trouble. Maybe the Queen, too. (That’s my motto: Give the people what they want.)

This book makes a great Halloween gift, Christmas present or something to scare the bejeebers out of friends, family and enemies. If you’ve been waiting for the paperback, here you go. Working on getting Season Two out in print next. 

Serialization pros and cons

Not into my books but want more about publishing in savvy ways?

Season 2 is the quest. Expect big trouble in Ireland and Iceland because I think countries beginning with I are narcissistic and need to be taken down a peg or two by bloodthirsty zombies.

Season 2 is the quest. Expect big trouble in Ireland and Iceland because I think countries beginning with I are narcissistic and need to be taken down a peg or two by bloodthirsty zombies.

Okay, if you came for the pithy stuff about the downside of serialization and why I collapsed to the haters and won’t serialize Season Three of This Plague of Days, you’ll want to check out this post: 

Why I won’t do this again

The contest that challenges you to find a secret hidden in plain sight

Yes, there’s also an intriguing contest going on and your immortality is at stake.

Find the secret, win a life everlasting in book and audio form.

I love a mystery wrapped in an enigma concealed in a burrito, don’t you?

~ Robert Chazz Chute is…writing in the third person again. Get your NaNoWriMo inspiration and hope for the publishing future by reading Crack the Indie Author Code in paperback and ebook. Just kidding about the Ireland being narcissistic thing. You know I love the land of my ancestors. But Iceland? Well, you’re on notice for realsies, Icepops!

Filed under: Amazon, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, self-publishing, This Plague of Days, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Top 10 How to be happy (oddly, this will infuriate people it’s meant to help)

This is probably the sort of topic where, if you get it, you don’t need it. If you don’t see it, you probably never will. (Then why blog about it? Because I don’t see any windmills! Now gimme that lance! Let’s go tilting!)

Change can happen though.

A bureaucracy, that shall remain nameless, gave off a lot of bad hoodoo. They’re infamous for holding the people they serve in contempt. The way they related to people led, in part, to the installation of bulletproof glass in their place of business. (I’m not kidding.)

Recently, they responded to the wails from those who paid their salaries. The video they sent out stopped short of an apology, but they did acknowledge they needed to set a new tone. They promised to work on changing their corporate culture.

I was one of their most strident critics. If they’re sincere, I’m surprised how willing I am to forgive and forget. The changes I see so far are free and subtle. I dealt with them again recently and a few pleases and thank yous was all it took to ease my wariness. It seemed, in the span of a few short paragraphs, that they weren’t trying to make me feel like a dirtbag. Refreshing.

Which brings us to blogging and relating to people.

I’ve found myself skipping past the blog titles that say, “Here are X number of reasons your blog sucks.” Maybe there’s good information in there, but I’m an author with an Irish family on one flank and teenagers closing in on the other. I’ve got enough negativity in my life. I already have a dim view of the world and I enjoy it in fiction. Less so, when someone harangues me.

I attended a webinar that made me sad.

The guy was knowledgeable, but the way he communicates needs to soften. The louder he talked, the less we heard. He then confessed that a big business opportunity fell through because of “conflicting styles and interpersonal stuff.”

I think I know the problem. It was the abrasive guy. “Go-getter” and “jerk” don’t have to be synonymous. The adage is not that you get more flies with corpses.

Which brings us to Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com.

My friend, supporter and sounding board, Kit’s a graphic artist who is a great resource for any publisher. He works with all of us, big and small. But that’s the least of why you should do business with him.

He knew I was feeling down the other day. He took the time to write a kind note that hit me at just the right time. Clearly, if you’re an author or publisher, this is the sort of person with whom you want to work. He does great work and his portfolio is impressive. You’ll get great covers and he’s not done until you’re happy. Work with Kit Foster and you’ll sell more books.

But many people can deliver book covers at a reasonable price, right?

Sure, I guess. But how many will bother to send you an email that makes you feel better when you’re down?

For a lot of people, anytime they see you’re down is when they start kicking.

How can we make more people like Kit?

1. Go back in time and get nicer parents, smoke helpful medicines or be Scottish, I suppose. I’m not sure what makes Kit the way he is.

2. Some medical schools use actors to teach doctors what compassion looks like so they can fake it. I don’t know if that sticks. I’ve often said the only thing I learned from Survivor was that jerks and psychotics can’t fake being nice for a month, even for a million dollars.

3. We can practice random acts of kindness and see if that elevates our mood. Happier people are nicer people. This doesn’t apply to people who get happy for the wrong reasons. If you’re one of those psychos, seek professional help before the rest of us rise up and throttle you.

4. We can practice gratitude (I guess I’m doing that now.) It sounds kind of hippie, but there’s science that shows the more thankful you are for what you already have, the happier you will be.

5. If you can’t manage these suggestions, professional scuba diving limits your ability to damage the rest of us, so take one for the team and go scream at fish. 

6. Use Kit’s services at KitFosterDesign.com. Maybe exposure helps by osmosis.

7. If you’re angry at somebody, make sure you know why you’re really angry.

Here’s how you’ll know you’re angry or sad about something else besides the target of your ire: You should have a range of emotional responses. If you review a book with the same level of vitriol that should be reserved for skinning live puppies? You’re Monty Burns and you have a problem, no matter how catchy the tune you sing about making fur coats.


8. If you’re already happy, spread it like fertilizer. Maybe it will grow. A bookstore employee told me she didn’t aim for happy. She aimed for contentment. Ironically, that suggestion made me happier.

9. Exercise. Meds to treat depression and disorder. Talk therapy. Total gene and personality transplant or personal tragedy that leads to an unlikely transformation. I don’t recommend leaving the problem so long that the solution is that last option.

10. Take Joe Rogan’s suggestion and pretend a documentary film crew is following you around, recording the lost time, outbursts and ill temper. Do that for one day and you might decide it’s time to change all your other days.

When you look up to find you’re surrounded by happy, creative, productive people and you don’t resent them for it?

You’ll know then you’re on the right track.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I am not happy all the time. I am working on improvement. Check out my books and podcasts at AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: author platform, getting it done, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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