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

The publishing revolution already happened.

A Quick Top Ten: Make revisions painless

Books in progress litter my desk. As I revise manuscripts, there are certain words I watch for. When I see them I ask, “Who cares and who needs it?”

Here are some of those watch words and cautions:

1. Sentences that begin with “And…” (It’s not that it’s wrong or bad, but it’s often not necessary.)

2. Sentences that begin with “And then…” Sentences are sequences and usually work without this tip to the reader.

3. He felt, she heard, he sensed, she saw… Just describe the scene. Not “She saw a crocodile rise from the swamp.” Instead, “A crocodile rose from the swamp.”

4. Was. This crops up a lot in most writers’ first drafts. “She was fighting,” becomes “she fought.”

Gerunds are passive and they are not our friends, especially when overused. I don’t use adverbs much, though I don’t ban them. It’s a novel, not a telegram. Besides, I’m suggesting crafty guidelines here, not edicts about what not to do.

5. Look out for: just, own, up, down, so, it. These are words that we add to sentences that sometimes fail to add meaning. 

Just surfaces a lot. We can often do without “just.” Or we might use only or merely. 

“He sat down in the chair,” becomes “He sat in the chair.”

“So, he murdered the butler,” becomes “He murdered the butler.”

“Their own boat,” becomes “Their boat.”

“It” often replaces the noun you should probably use. “It’s up to you,” could be, “This caper is up to you,” or “The fate of guinea pigs everywhere is up to you.” See how it’s better? I mean, see how specificity improves clarity?

6. Careful of exclamation points that hype excitement that does not exist.

7. Semi-colons have fallen so far out of use that they now stop readers cold. Punctuation should be visible, yet not visible. Punctuation marks are the life-preserver under your seat on the plane. You know it’s there, but you don’t want to pause a moment to think about why it’s there. 

8. Use dialogue tags besides “said” sparingly. Let what is said carry the weight of the message.

9. Empty pleasantries are death.

“Hi.”

“Hi.”

“How are you?”

“Good.”

This trite exchange is what we do every day. In a book, it’s a waste of time. Also note that those four lines possess no conflict. A better way to go would be to answer “How are you?” with “You’re late.”

Or try, “He greeted her at the conference room door with an officious sneer and ushered to her seat without a word.” 

If the dialogue isn’t clever or funny, or if the exchange fails to reveal character or advance the plot, skip it and go to the action.

Don’t count on readers’ patience. Tell the story.

10. Everyone watches for run-on sentences. We break those up, of course. Also consider varying sentence length.

Sentence length is not something many readers will register consciously, but lots of short sentences together can feel stilted and staccato. (This device can be used to great effect in an action sequence or to make a point, however.) Many long sentences in a row tire the reader and can feel like a drone.

This problem is easier to recognize when you read your manuscript aloud. If you run out of breath before the end of a sentence, it might be too long. Or you need to do more cardio.

Me B&W~ Robert Chazz Chute hates to tell anyone what to do. Ever. He’s also a fan of the sentence fragment, so this isn’t about being the grammar police. It’s about helping writers and editors make books more readable. These are guidelines. The only rule is, if it plays, it plays.

FYI, the third book in the Hit Man Series is Hollywood Jesus, Rise of the Divine Assassin. This funny, gripping crime novel launches October 1, 2014. Early feedback says it’s the fastest pace to an adventure since you fell off your bike and got road rash when you were a kid.

HJ COVER FINAL LADY IN RED

The Omnibus will be launched at the same time.

PLAYBOOK COVER FINAL

 

Filed under: Editing, manuscript evaluation, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

 

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The Chazz Redemption: Course Corrections along the Publishing Way

There is much to do. I wrote the first drafts for three books in two months. If you’ve noticed I’m not posting quite as often here, that’s why. I’m gearing up for Christmas (yeah, I said it!) and trying to catch up on a list of new priorities. Here they are:

1. I’ve got Self-help for Stoners back from BookBaby. It was my first book and I wasn’t confident I could upload it myself way back then. I was so shy. It’s out of the hands of the intermediary so now I can make changes without it costing an organ donation (because all my organs are my favorites.) After a fresh round of edits for the next edition, it’ll be available again.

2. I’m behind on my print editions of This Plague of Days. Catching up with Season 3 fast. The Omnibus will be ready soonish (i.e. a month if the formatting goes as planned.) I’ve developed a list of people I want to send the TPOD Omnibus to. Time to get the series more attention and reviews.

3. I think I’ll make Murders Among Dead Trees available in print, as well. I happen to think it’s one of my best books. Print is mostly a promotional tool for me, but paper versions are also important to some readers. Print is also useful as a price anchor for the ebooks. It lends legitimacy. Plus, I have a book fair coming up.

4. I’ve got to track outgo better than I track income. I want less drama at tax time and I have to trim expenses.

5. The next book in the Hit Man Series is now with the beta team. I’m going to change the title and change how the book ends. I decided to do that as soon as it went out to beta readers. Panic is so creative. These are small but important tweaks because I’m going to rebrand the series. (More on that in another post.)

6. Revise two more books. One novel is in time travel and the other is a crime story. The plan is to come out with a new one about every 30 days to boost my visibility. The cliff we all tend to hit thirty days after a book launch is horrific and I already swing back and forth from depressed to somewhat manic.

7. What’s changing with the new writing? Shorter books, generally. I still have another huge standalone book banging to escape a drawer.

Also ahead? Faster pacing. More jokes. (More on that another time, too.) I have deadlines in my mind. If I don’t meet sales targets with certain books, I’ll be changing genres. I’ll also be embracing pseudonyms. Readers of this blog know I’m averse to pen names generally. However, I reserve the right to change my mind when it suits me and when evidence arises to my first opinion.

8. Get back to podcasting. I’ve taken the summer off for a number of reasons. It’s time to find some guests for the Cool People Podcast (check out the guest page here.) I also need to finish up the Higher Than Jesus read on All That Chazz.

After that read is done, I plan to change the podcast format a bit. It’s time for a revamp with books, too. It took me years to write This Plague of Days. I’m proud of it. It’s my Star Wars. Now I’m focusing on series books that come out faster. 

That’s enough of a list for now. I have more to do, but long to-do lists are just another way to procrastinate. For more fun, write a to-done list. Plan to accomplish something specific and by when. Write it down and cross it off, all in one day. Feels good.

The kids are back in school and I’ve been bone-deep grieving dead friends.

Time to get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’, Red.

 

Filed under: author platform, What about Chazz?, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Beat the World’s Plot Against You

Life happens. It’s time for me to happen to life, not the other way around.

In the last few days, someone stole from my family and made my daughter cry. A close friend’s child died. Frustrations dot the landscape. I thought I’d be done another book by now but life keeps getting in the way. Clearly, it’s time for a pattern break.

“Rise up and take the power back.” ~ Muse from The Resistance

I am not a flake, but I speak it fluently. Once upon a time, someone told me to pick up every penny (back when Canada had pennies.) The act of picking up pennies in the street was supposed to be a message to the universe: “I am open to abundance!”

After picking up a filthy penny in the rain, it occurred to me the message I was sending the universe was, “I’ll take whatever crumbs you choose to send me.” Worse, I was sending myself a message: “This is all you’re worth.” Screw that hippie bullshit.

1. Everybody feels pushed around sometimes. Push back by doing a kindness to someone else. Transmute the energy into something positive.

2. Tonight I spotted an author’s comment on a troll’s review, thanking them for the mean review. Authors: Cherish your fans. Set trolls to ignore. You do not have to pretend to love the whip. Stop being grateful for crap. I didn’t think the author was classy and above it all for petting and encouraging the troll. It looked more like grovelling for a penny covered in dog crap.

3. Exercise. Don’t feel like taking out frustrations on weights and ellipticals? Find your jam. Dance. Make love. Make sex. Rock on. Get happy. When we act happy, we fool our bodies and brains. No? Not yet? Dance harder.

4. Get enough sleep. Black out your room. Sleep naked. Fewer blankets are better. Can’t sleep? Revisit #3, points 5 & 6.

5. Phone a friend. Complain, but not for longer than three minutes. Then ask about them. Get out of your own head. Help them solve their problem.

6. You don’t need advice. Hardly anybody does. Just give yourself the same advice you’d give a friend in the same predicament.

7. Write. Not your book. Not yet. Write what you will do (not to do. Will do.)

Choose the two top priorities. Everything else on a long list won’t get done. Mark what time you will do these things. Keep that appointment.

8. Write. Make it the first thing you do. If not that, write at your high energy time.

9. Eat something that’s good for Future You. Don’t eat what Now You wants. Now You wants a hot fudge sundae on acid. Future You wishes you’d eaten a salad.

10. Do it all again until your are out of the unproductive funk. Then keep doing it. Write on. Write harder. Can’t make happy art? Fine. Fierce art is awesome, too.

Or do what you want. This is what I’m doing.

Damn it.

One day soon, we’ll all be brilliant together….

Filed under: getting it done, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Revolutionary Writer’s Manifesto: Ride that moose!

There is a myth a few really believe. It is the Myth of Originality.

Let’s pop a bubble. There are no new stories. I’ve seen a few stabs at a truly new story, of course. Those experiments are often bloody awful and unrelatable adventures amongst amoebas dwelling in the rings of Saturn. Screw amoebas.

Plots round the same bases all the time:

1. Good versus Evil.

2. Boy gets Girl (and variations thereof).

That’s okay. When a reader complains a story is unoriginal, they probably really mean that it is derivative. Unoriginal and derivative are two different things. It’s derivative if it overshoots homage, feels too much like something familiar while falling short of plagiarism. No story fails on unoriginality alone or all movies of the last few years would be failures.

What readers want is originality in execution, a unique voice and an uncommon angle or viewpoint. You’ll either give it to them or you won’t, but don’t be a weathervane, spun by the whim of the latest review.

This Plague of Days, my apocalyptic saga, has been criticized because it started out in one plausible place and ended in another, rather magical place. That place is not derivative. It is merely unexpected and I make no apologies. I confess, I’m a little flummoxed by folks who find zombies plausible but roll their eyes when vampires show up.

Anyway, why should I apologize? The reasons given why a few don’t like my story choices are the same reasons the majority love it. If, amongst the action, we take a chapter to deal with the origins of good and evil in the universe, that’s my choice. The metaphysics chapter is my favorite…well…that and the many chapters where a horde of the infected attack Wilmington, Vermont.

Write for you, the writer.

If it doesn’t sell, that one was always just for you. At least you’ll be happyish with it. If you write for the crowd you imagine, you’ll often write for no one. Some people manage it well. They make a good living writing similar books and plumb expected veins. If that’s you, you do you and I won’t complain if you’ll let me do my thing, too. In fact, congratulations and good for you!

For instance, I don’t read Dan Brown, but millions do and they love his work. I bet he achieved that by writing for himself. Yes. Let’s not be cynical. He’s not writing by committee and poll and he’s entertained millions. Consider JK Rowling, too. Harry Potter started a copycat industry, but what she was doing wasn’t popular when she began. She wasn’t chasing a market. She was chasing her dreams despite being told by so-called experts that children’s literature would never give her a big payday.

Follow your vision. As we say in the snowbound depths of Canada ten or so months of the year, “Break trail. Ride that moose!”

The Feedback Tightrope

I’m not advocating that anyone operate in an echo chamber. I do get feedback from beta readers and I’ve altered choices because of that valued feedback.

However, some people seem to think they should have more input into those choices. “I wouldn’t have written it that way.” To which I say, “Go write your book. I wasn’t trying to read your mind through a time machine when I wrote mine.”

The Statute of Limitations

I’m not going to give you solid numbers on what or when anyone can use a recognizable device again. There is no number. All I ask is reasonableness.

If This Plague of Days feels too much like The Stand to you, my reply is:

1. Thank you for the compliment! I love The Stand and it’s a big favorite among Stephen King fans. I’m not copying it but I recognize the similar elements, sure. I regret nothing.

2. “Similar elements” does not equal derivative. My characters are unique. It’s a different story in the same genre, that’s all.

3. The Stand was published in 1978. If not now, when am I allowed to write This Plague of Days or any other book that has any commonality with any other book you’ve read? Keep in mind that I’m almost fifty and not as fit as I should be. I can’t wait forever.

About Unconventional Choices

1. My crime novels are written in second person. Recently I read some twit announce that no book written in second person could have literary merit. Ev-er. “Too much you, you, you,” I guess. And yet, first person is all “I, I, I…” Somehow, we manage to soldier on with our lives and no link has yet been found between second person POV and killer tornadoes.

2. Bright Lights, Big City was published in 1984 to great acclaim in second person POV. Another author, (me, for instance) will get permission to use that POV again…when? From the curmudgeons? We’ll never get permission, so I’m not asking.

I need no one’s permission and neither does any writer.

That felt daring and liberating, didn’t it? But really, what’s the point of being in charge of what you publish if you can’t steer the ship where you want to go? Nobody gets into publishing for their health or to be safe. If you want safe, get into an industry that’s too big to fail: guns, drugs, banking, sugar, corn syrup or manufacturing lies for politicians.

The danger

I know this sounds dangerously close to the “I’m not here to make friends,” defense. (That’s what mean people on TV pseudo-reality shows always say. That and, “I’m not a dick, I’m just brutally honest.”)

Not every reader will agree that you should ignore them and simply follow your instincts when you write. They’ll punish you by not buying your next book. But really, is your autonomy and vision for sale for a couple of measly bucks? Is that the whorish vision of yourself you really want to embody? I doubt it. Besides, you’ll flourish when you write what you love. Follow your love and you’ll write more books. Only hacks write what they hate.

I’m not looking for 10,000 true fans by trying to be what they want.

That’s a moving target, and fickle. I’ll be me. Surely, somewhere out there, there are 10,000 people who are enough like me that they’ll dig what I’m doing. Right? Right? Oh, dear gawd! (Shoulda gotten into running guns and drugs for lying politicians!)

Doesn’t matter. I only know my mind. I’ll write for that audience and hope you appreciate my flavor. It’s okay if you don’t, by the way. No one is drafted into my army. I only take volunteers and my people do not clutch pearls or get the vapors easily. We’re here to escape the status quo, take the world and bend it to our will. Or fail. But we’re not here to be pushed around.

If I’m wrong, I’ll be wrong but happyish.

~ With the loss of a treasured friend, I had a tough week last week. It’s not really getting easier. One thing that has provided some solace is the number of people who have wished me peace here and on Facebook and Twitter. In my grief, I wrote. So many readers responded with kindness. I appreciate it so much. Thank you again. 

Filed under: author platform, My fiction, publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , ,

TOP TEN: What you were waiting for…THE THONG OF COURAGE!

Ten Rules About Everyone:

1. We’re all scared. The ones who say they aren’t haven’t experienced loss yet or they’re afraid of appearing weak. It’s okay to be afraid. Fear can be wise, but not so useful it should take over your life. Feel that fear and wear The Thong of Courage!, anyway.

2. We’re all frightened of being wrong or looking stupid. Worse, some graceless people are hoping to catch us making one wrong move. Worse still, at some point, we will all be caught. 

What do we do next?

We snap The Thong of Courage! to remind us we are not defined by our mistakes if we learn from them. Forward! Down the Catwalk of Begin Again! Work it!

3. Everyone thinks they’re right all the time. Statistically impossible. Never happens. However, no matter what you do, someone is sure you’re wrong because you didn’t do it their way.

That’s okay. They think their subjective opinion cancels out yours. Maybe it would have yesterday, but today? Today you’re wearing The Thong of Courage! Behold, The Power of Thong!

4. We are all dependent on each other. Our stories are often about the one person who makes all the difference that saves the world. That’s almost always false.*

*Notable exception: a Russian officer defied military command protocol when the computers in his bunker told him US ICBMs were on the way. While his peers demanded a decision, he remained calm and thought it through. He averted global thermonuclear war by ignoring all the warnings on his screen. He determined that the attack was a computer malfunction and, of course, he was right. There was no “of course” about it at the time, though. We came so incredibly close to not being here and most people don’t even know it happened. His name is Petrov and that day he was wearing two Thongs of Courage!

5. We all envy people without knowing their struggles.

An author who is incredibly fortunate and gifted discovered that someone who had been a friend would not attend the launch party for her book. The friend was envious. What the friend did not understand was, even with all those blessings, nothing comes easy. It’s all work. There is no one clear path forward.

One person’s success takes nothing from another’s potential. When we slip The Thong of Courage! up our thighs and give a little wiggle, we feel inspired, not thwarted, by what others have achieved.

6. We are all humans. That means weakness. That means strength. To be human is a special thing, but too often we fall in with tribalism and blind nationalism. We choose teams and sides and brands. We see other people as The Other and distrust too easily.

“When we only seek enemies, we only find enemies.” That quote is from Superman in a Justice League of America cartoon I watched when I was eight. Often true, too. Superman is so thonged up, his underwear looks too thick to be a thong.

7. When we operate from fear, we often make bad decisions. (Bad news considering Items #1 and #2, eh?)

We’re scared we’ll get screwed over by Kindle Unlimited. We’re afraid of what Amazon might do someday, like change the royalty to two pennies. However, there’s not enough data yet in the first case and we’re worrying over a hypothetical in the latter.

But Thongers? We unite in the Now of the Isness of This Moment. Feel the raw psychosexual power of The Thong of Courage!

8. Worries about hypotheticals will still sneak under the Thong sometimes. What if we don’t have enough money to pay the bills if we get sick? Will we have enough money to get an education to get a good job? What if the roof leaks? There are infinite negative hypotheticals. 

Projecting negative possibilities into the future isn’t as useful as it once was. If you’re reading this on a computer (as opposed to psychically), you probably aren’t in a survival situation where you have to figure out how to cure meat in case the crops fail.

What might be more useful is to use our imaginations to attack problems and be proactive about the future. Instead of getting stuck in paranoia, try pronoia. (That’s the state of suspecting the world could be a positive place and not everything is terrible and out to stab you in the eye with an icicle.) Pronoia is the magic stuff The Thong of Courage! is made of.

9. We are all more alike than we’d like to think. 

I met a macho guy from another culture. He spoke in familiar, aggressive rhythms. He was forceful, but a nice guy. If I heard that same tone in another language, I might suspect he wasn’t a nice guy. However, as I listened to him in English conversation, I wanted to laugh at my foolish preconceptions. The guy only sounded angry. He was pontificating about pop culture to his friends.

As writers, our tool is imagination. When we aren’t writing, many of us use our imaginations as a weapon against ourselves. We fuel worry and create stress and that tears at the fabric of the Thong of Courage! True Thongers depend on evidence, not irrational, fearful maybes. We can use our imaginations for good. Start with pronoia. (#8)

10. We all seek validation. Too much, I think. We hope readers recognize our brilliance. We want Someone Else We Respect (and may not even know) to give us the nod and let us into the Successful People Club. There is no club. Worse, luck is more involved than we’d like to think in success. Worse still, if it existed, membership in that club would often be temporary.

Most of us won’t get such public validation. The outliers — those few, stellar successes — will be chosen for acknowledgement, adoration and jealousy, yes. Mid-list authors who do reasonably well will toil on, keeping the size of their checks secret. They’ll shut up about making $40 ~ $60,000 a year in part because it’s more than most get but also because it’s not as much as they’d hoped and they’re embarrassed by arbitrary expectations. Someone won’t approve. Always, someone won’t approve.

Most of us will fail by the usual monetary measures and chances are excellent Mom and Dad will lose sleep over the lawyer you could have been.

So don’t write for validation. Seeking other’s approval is not The Way of the Thong! Don’t wait for your parents to give your writing career their blessing. Stop expecting everyone to understand your obsessions. Do the work. Write. Write for the joy of creating and what comes will come. Or it won’t. Doesn’t matter. You’re a writer in an awesome thong, for God’s sake!

We talk about writer’s block too much. Write through the fear to create joy in yourself and possibly in others. It’s supposed to be fun for you and the reader, you know? It’s not really all that hard, either.

You know who really needs The Thong of Courage!? Roofers in the hot sun and sweaty ditch diggers and worried caregivers and people with real problems who don’t have the joy of being writers. We are so lucky to do what we do. When we understand that, we won’t even need The Thong of Courage! anymore. We’ll go commando, naked and unafraid.

You are the answer you’ve been waiting for.

Do it.

~ My name is Robert Chazz Chute. I write stuff. Pantsless.

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)

 

 

Filed under: getting it done, What about Chazz?, What about you?, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Why you’re going to make it

As indie authors, we’re all encouraged to work harder. That’s frustrating to hear because I don’t know any indie authors who aren’t working hard. But I’ve got good news. Your chances of achieving some measure of success are better than we’ve been led to believe. Here’s why:

1. Businesses fail all the time, big and small. But our overhead is so low, we can continue after we fail! When your hardware store goes out of business, you’re done. We get a few kicks in the ass, but authors also get more kicks at the can.

2. Every business that ever made it to sustainable got there because the boss/producer didn’t quit. Many of the biggest success stories come from people who failed and failed and failed at their chosen path but were too dumb to quit. Stubborn is our advantage.

Being a writer isn’t just a job. It’s an identity. It’s a compulsion. How often do you really consider quitting? For many of us, we never seriously consider stepping on the brake. We’re writers and we always will be.

3. We have the right attitude and mindset about what we do. When a software engineer keeps his head down through seventy days straight of boring coding to come up with an amazing game, he’s applauded. Wow! Look at the art he created after all the boring stuff he did! Imagine all the fun stuff he went without to produce all that work!

Coding relentlessly may sound boring to us, but he’s probably into it precisely the same way we’re into books. Everyone has parts of their job they don’t like, of course, but could coding be any more boring than your eighth round of edits on a 100,000 word manuscript where the timeline and logistics still don’t quite work? 

What we admire in entrepreneurs is true of authorpreneurs. We make things happen in our business because we have passion for detail and it never occurs to us to quit. People who don’t quit write more books.

4. People who write more books have a greater chance at rewards, monetary and otherwise. 

Years ago, I met Dick #1 who asked Guy #1 what he did for a living. “I’m into convenience stores,” Guy #1 said.

Later, after Guy #1 walked away, Dick #1 said something disparaging about how little money anyone could make out of a convenience store. 

“You’re a fraction right,” I said. “How much do you think somebody could make out of a convenience store in a year?”

Dick #1 sneered. “Not much. $10,000. $15,000, maybe.”

“Well,” I said, “don’t get too judgy. He makes a lot more than you think he does.”

“Impossible!”

“Guy #1 owns ten convenience stores,” I explained. “And stop being a #1 Dick.”

So it is with books. Publish and somebody will dig your flavor and spread the word. Put a lot out there (improving with each book.) We can do okay in the long run. This isn’t an all or nothing game. It’s just a really long game.

5. The path to success is linear. You know what to do or you can learn what to do. All you have to do is continue.

Years ago, it seemed like the biggest topic was writer’s block and finding time to write. Finding time is still a challenge, but people whine less about writer’s block and I think I know why. They know they will be published now. Your destiny is in your hands and it’s not in anyone else’s. 

We aren’t worried about gatekeepers now. We’re anxious for many reasons, but our entrails don’t go into knots because we could spend years writing a book that no one will have a chance to read. We know we are spending energy toward a realizable goal that will happen: publication. If you knew you were going to the Olympics to stand before the world no matter what, you’d train every day. That’s us. To get to the big show, all we have to do is get on with it. 

6. There is a low bar to success. I’m not talking about becoming a millionaire. Not necessarily, anyway (though that indicates a high level of achievement.) Success is different for everyone, but you’ve got a much better shot at success than anybody daring to open a new yoga studio, hardware store or any other endeavour that requires employees, rent and huge bank loans. So cheer up. Authorpreneur is actually a pretty safe business venture.

Like many businesses, it starts off as a hobby and grows or it doesn’t, but you probably aren’t risking everything to do it. Plus, you get to do what you love. A lot of people are stuck in frustrating businesses where they feel thwarted. I often feel thwarted as a writer. I’m often envious of other people’s success. But I don’t love what I do any less. Loving what you do is perhaps the only immediate success, but it’s powerful.

7. Does finding 1,000 true fans really feel that intimidating? Many gurus say (as a general rule) 1,000 true fans is all we really need to reach sustainability. That’s less than the number of people in the tiny village I’m from. My goal is eventually to find 10,000 true fans. I can picture that. It doesn’t seem unreasonable.

The Staples Centre in Toronto has 19,000 seats and that’s just one city showing up to watch the Raptors play! (Sure, a Canadian invented basketball, but few are that excited about the Raptors. Still, they have enough die hard fans to keep the lights on and the refreshment stands busy.)

Getting half as big as the Raptors at the the writing game seems doable if I live long enough. That’s why I’m drinking more green smoothies, working out and eating less sugar. And writing my ass off.

8. Remember the statistic about how most indies make less than $500? Sure. That’s depressing. But I look at it like mortality stats. We used to die a lot younger, but that was because of the infant mortality rate. It’s a myth that people only lived to thirty a few hundred years ago. Many people lived longer but the infant mortality rate dragged down the average age.

You’ve just read all the way down to Item #8 on a blog post about writing that’s more than a 1,000 words. I’d say you’re pretty serious about this writing thing. Lots of people aren’t. Lots of people weren’t and they could imagine doing something else besides writing. For them it was TL; DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read.) They’re off pornsurfing while you stayed to hear me out to the end. You are not going to let your writing perish due to crib death. You’re in the survivors club and you know what I’m talking about when I talk about the writing life. Your chances of doing better than average are better than average. That’s why you are going to make it.

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)~ I am Robert Chazz Chute and I’ve written eleven books. I’ll write at least three more this year and they are going to be awesome. I am your happy warrior of the word. Check out my books at the author site, AllThatChazz.com. Find out more about my doomsday book with the autistic hero at ThisPlagueOfDays.com.

If you’ve read, This Plague of Days, Omnibus Edition (pictured and clickable, above), please review it. That would be awesome. Thanks!

 

Filed under: publishing, self-publishing, What about Chazz?, What about you?, Writers, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

On Writers, Publishing and Entitlement (with jokes in parentheticals)

This is not a story about titles. You’re thinking of “titling.” We digress today from the relentless cheerfulness and positivity of this blog to have a look at how some in traditional publishing still see us.

But first, since what’s to come triggered a memory of indignity, a story from the trenches: 

I was once a sales rep representing several publishing houses. Hang in there for the big honkin’ point at the end.

Once upon a time I worked for an oh-so-serious publishing house in downtown Toronto. We published oh-so-serious books that were sometimes hard to sell. No surprise. We were Canadian, after all. Worse, we published books that had to sound Canadian, or vaguely British, and not even of the 20th Century. (Told you this was an old war story.)

Unfortunately, the publishing house was close to a then-fairly-famous bookstore. The publisher would take authors out to lunch. On the way back from that hoity-toity lunch, the publisher would take authors to that bookstore to say, “We put your book on that shelf and aren’t we both so lucky to be fabulous swells? No promises on your next novel, but I’ll try to get you a government subsistence grant which I shall pen from my Swiss Chalet.” (Not the chicken restaurant. An actual Swiss Chalet. You get the classist dynamic.)

The publisher, a wealthy glitterati, was draped in diamonds even during the day, not knowing that was gauche and should be reserved for dining at night (with Queen Elizabeth.)

The author, a poverty-stricken member of the lowly literati, wore elbow patches on his ratty old sports jacket. Not to appear avuncular and professorial. To cover actual holes. The ink-stained wretches get the crumbs their betters forget to throw to the dogs. Traditional publishing hasn’t changed that much through the years. (This was the late ’80s. Now, there are no lunches with the wretches. Just ignored emails. Anyway, you get the income inequality dynamic.)

One terrible day, the bookstore tour backfired.

The nearby bookstore did not have the author’s book. We published it and it was not there. (Clutch those pearls. Here’s where it gets ugly.) The bookstore owner, infamous for being a dick, did not order the book in question in any quantity. They weren’t “out”. They didn’t order and didn’t plan to do so. (“Ev-er!” as we used to say.) The publisher was wounded and embarrassed, of course, for herself and for the author. (Soon the rage would be turned on me, your-ever-loving Chazz, so don’t feel too bad for her.)

The dick didn’t want that crap novel in his store, as was his right. He didn’t like the author’s work and he didn’t like the author personally. That was perfectly understandable. Nobody but snobs liked that author’s books and nobody but his mom liked the author. I especially didn’t like him after he threw (as we called it back in the day) “a hissy.”

I was the sales rep to that bookstore. I received the publisher’s anguished memo recounting her horror. The note ended with two words, “What’s wrong?!”

Since she was the boss and also the acquisitions editor for this boring book and this insipid author, naturally, we couldn’t tell her the truth. I wanted to express exactly what I’ve written here since I wasn’t being paid enough to lie. I campaigned for the truth. However, a cooler head prevailed and my immediate boss dragged his sorry ass over to the dick’s bookstore and grovelled to get it in stock.

I felt bad for him. And me. I’d already done my job. I tried to sell the dick a book and he said no and we moved on to the other 100 books in the catalogue because that’s what grown-ups do, even when they hate each other’s guts. (That bookstore is now closed. The dick is still alive. In related news, voodoo dolls do not work. At least they don’t work this far north of the equator.)

The first point is that no one can force any place that sells books into selling any particular book. Free will and freedom and eagles and moose and all that and whatnot. It’s a business and the author in question wasn’t a social fellow. The bookstore owner wasn’t a social fellow. Their poor sales rep (i.e. me) was in the middle and I didn’t appreciate dealing with either of them.

Do I regret my time as a sales rep for big publishing? I’ve learned more as a micro-publisher. As a micro-publisher, I finally found love. Thank you. 

And now…the point: A video to blow your mind.

Today I witnessed a spectacle of what The Passive Guy of The Passive Voice refers to as Amazon Derangement Syndrome. I’m about to provide you a link that shows a lot of things. I see derangement, certainly. Also, a sharp tang of smug even I have never aspired to. On the video you’ll see a lot of fear and other weirdness. Calling Amazon a monopoly when they are merely winning at competition, for instance, is pretty weird.

You will also witness entitlement. Make that Entitlement with a big E. As in, how dare Amazon not carry certain books even though they are available elsewhere? (It wouldn’t actually matter if they weren’t carried elsewhere, by the way. No bookstore carries all books. Not even online bookstores.)

Or how about this one: How dare Amazon sell Big Publishing’s books at the price that’s stamped on their books? The word “democracy” is floated out there willy-nilly. There is a distinct disconnect from reality. There are also a few lies or blind falsehoods and errors. I’ll let you figure out which belongs to whom. (See the comment thread — below — for help with that.)

For every problem Big Publishing has, they have someone else to blame. Well…one thing, actually. It’s always Amazon’s fault. Pay attention to the guy beside the woman who isn’t really moderating the debate. That’s Passive Guy himself AKA the rational one. The rest are very afraid and make few good points. When James Patterson wheels off into something about burning books, I have no clue what the #$@! he is on about. 

Here’s the video of the most lopsided debate ever.

You’ll also find the comment thread over at The Passive Voice illuminating.

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

The Business of Writing Top 10: How to have more fun

Have you ever watched shows like World’s Funniest Commercials?

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)When the show took a commercial break, did you sit on your couch and watch the regular commercials and wonder why they had to be so bland? Or did you go make a sandwich or run for the bathroom? Commercials don’t have to be as bad as they often are. Think of the annual hype around Superbowl commercials. How is it that the rest of the year, commercials are background noise for making sandwiches and flushing? The ad industry should try harder.

And so should we. Book promotion can be fun. We should take fun more seriously.

When we write our books, we are at our best. We’re witty and play with ideas and irony. We tell stories. We’re in the entertainment business. So why lose all that buoyancy when it comes to promoting our work? Advertising is writing, too. Yes, writing back cover blurbs and advertising copy is a somewhat different skill set, but this is not rocket science. Examples of good and bad sales copy are all around us. Emulate what works on you.

Some copywriters will enthuse that, sure, maybe you can write a book, but leave a couple of paragraphs of sales copy to a professional. That sounds rather convenient and self-serving, doesn’t it? IRobert Chazz Chute This Plague of Days: Season 3 don’t believe it. It’s great to be able to hand off such work to others with confidence, but for most of us, we’re writing our own promotional copy. Let’s loosen up and raise the bar.

If you can write a book, you can promote your work effectively without falling back on the cliché of “Buy my book!” I admit, there are writers who only say “buy my book” on Twitter and they are derided everywhere. I think this happens because no one has given them permission to be as imaginative and bouncy as they are when they write their books. It’s all writing, not a separate challenge. If it feels too different from writing books, it’s probably erring on the side of bland.

This is your permission slip:

1. Have more fun. There’s a reason it’s Rule #1. It’s that important, for you and your readers.

2. Use more pull quotes from your work of genius.

3. Make a joke. Be self-deprecating. Be different. Dare to show some personality. Let the joy leak through from your usual writing.

4. Craft something you’d want to read and act upon as a reader.

5. Relax. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Your sales plan doesn’t have to come together within a week or two of your book launch. Ebooks are forever and there are plenty of kicks at the marketing can ahead.

6. Sell less and interact more. Conversations are good. Blaring at is bad.

7. If you can’t interact, curate.

8. Selling effectively is never about selling. It’s about helping your tribe identify their want and need for you. I’m not here to sell. I’m here to help you buy. Stop being so self-conscious and apologetic about what you’re doing and do what you do in books: Put on a show!

9. Not all books are for everyone. Identify where your readers hang out and go there. Advertising for a niche and to a tribe willing to spread your good word is more important than trying to be all things to all people.

Smile. Rejection is a gift. It relieves you of the stress of dealing with boneheads later.

10. Tell more stories, not just in writing books, but in your promotional efforts, too.

Here’s an example of some fun I had on Facebook today:

Newspaper

“Abandoned to an unfeeling universe, an increasing number of Americans are turning to This Plague of Days to confront ‘the horror of it all,'” an anonymous State Department official said. High-level advisors at the White House confirm, “An autistic boy named Jaimie Spencer, 16, of Kansas City, Missouri, may be key to resolving existential ennui. There are jokes, too, but mostly it freaks us out.”

Senator John McCain stated that Congress still can’t decide if Chute’s book is “literary bull****, zombie bull**** or ‘some other bull****.'” The gridlock continues.

Senator Rand Paul is threatening a filibuster, stating, “This is not horror per se! This is dark fantasy and President Obama knows it!” The secret of This Plague of Days remains classified to all but those who read to the end. Rumors of secret video and an offer of a free ebook are confined to those who read the TPOD Omnibus Edition. While Progressives call that anti-egalitarian and elitist, Secretary of State John Kerry said (in a speech that felt like three hours), “That’s capitalism. Whaddaya gonna do?

Meanwhile, the US Congress approval rating has sunk to a new low of 8%, still above public approval of McDonalds’ fishwich and slightly below mononucleosis as a diet strategy.

However, in a stunning break from party lines in a gracious “hands across the aisle” gesture, Speaker John Boehner and Liberal Senator Harry Reid did come to some concord and issued a joint statement. “The pace really picks up in Season 2 and the gross outs were balanced by some high-minded stuff neither of us really understood. We are all frightened for the Spencer family and keep them in our prayers.”

Robert Chazz Chute Bio Picture~ That was fun. I wrote a post recently answering reader’s questions about This Plague of Days. Find that here.

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

Sweet Book Pie: Bonuses for readers, a tip for writers

When ebooks first emerged, the goal was to make them appear as much like paper books as possible. Generally, we’re still doing that and that’s a good thing. I’m not a fan of “enhanced” ebooks that pack in distractions. I don’t want the soundtrack to the battle scene as I read. I want to immerse myself in the story. A movie is a movie and the media don’t mix well. The movie we make in our heads from reading is usually superior, anyway.

I did use video in a different way to reach out to readers in This Plague of Days, but it’s a link buried in the back of the TPOD Omnibus, not something to accompany the story. (I told you about that secret video and the free ebook bonus last week, so click here if you missed that.) 

But yet another secret awaits in the This Plague of Days Omnibus.

Many readers may not really be aware of it. This is where thinking about ebooks as ebooks comes in. I did something fun with the Table of Contents, but you have to look for it to see it all at once. The key is, the Table of Contents doesn’t have to go in the front of ebooks.

Go find it Scooby Gang! 

To get the TOC in This Plague of Days, Omnibus Edition, you have to “go to” the TOC (which I placed in the back of the book.) I did this for several reasons. The main one is that it’s another Easter egg for TPOD readers. 

The TPOD TOC is one long, dark poem. It contains veiled hints and clues to the story arc from beginning to end. Much of the poem will make more sense in retrospect. To get all of it at once, it’s in the back of the TPOD Omnibus Edition, but the individual ebooks (Seasons 1, 2 and 3) yield chunks of it, as well. 

 

Why I love it:

It was fun to create. I like poetry, especially dark and mysterious poetry. I enjoy the fact that readers will see how it all comes together upon finishing the trilogy. I love the fact that I did something different from the expected. That’s my thing. To be perfectly honest, I love that I’ve done something a mainstream publisher probably wouldn’t allow me to do. I don’t consider myself an experimental novelist, at all. I just think it’s a fun add-on in this case.

Sure, readers could skip from chapter head to chapter head to get it, but that’s awkward. Most people won’t do that and you don’t get the full effect reading it piecemeal. Will it gain more readers? Nah, probably not many. I think of it as a little extra for people who are deep into TPOD. Cater to them what dig your grooviness and you’ll get more of those groovy people.

But there’s a much more important reason to put the TOC in the back of your ebook.

It’s about the size of the free sample on your sales page. When readers look at samples, they want to get into the story quickly. With non-fiction, I do want a peek at the TOC up front so I can grok what will be covered. With fiction, the TOC gets in the way of the narrative and cuts down on the sample size. To get readers deeper into the story, we have to get that TOC out of the way so we give the reader a bigger sample of sweet book pie.

Whenever possible, give the readers more pie so they can decide if they like your flavor. I’d rather have thousands read the sample before buying and say no than have dissatisfied readers who were looking for dragon/Big Foot erotica and, inexplicably, bought my book instead. Unread samples are where most bad reviews come from.

Generous samples get people to buy cartloads of stuff from Costco every weekend. Much of it they didn’t know they wanted until somebody said, “Would you like to try a taste?” 

Add value. Add fun. Play with the reader. Give ‘em more pie. Always give more pie. Put your next novel’s TOC in the back of the book.

 

Robert Chazz Chute Bio Picture~ This Plague of Days book bargains continue. Find out about that here. 

Or not. I mean, geez. It’s a low pressure situation, man. Chillax and enjoy as the apocalypse unfolds all around us. You’re already soaking in it so you may as well soak it in.

Filed under: author platform, Books, ebooks, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , ,

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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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