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

The publishing revolution already happened.

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

Solopreneur Writers: 10 Nitty Gritty Pickies

Thousands of little details afflict us as artisanal publisher-authorpreneurial Han Solo writer-heroes. A couple of authors publishing books for the first time have asked me about nitty-gritty details to watch for. Here are ten that came up in our discussions of new book launches.

1. When you set your price on Amazon, the calculator will automatically set comparable prices in other countries. Set it lower for India. The “comparable” price would actually buy three books in India (and so, is too expensive.)

2. If you have a list of book bloggers to whom you wish to send Advanced Reading Copies, check their guidelines carefully to see their preferred reading mode. PDFs are free to email but some people don’t want to sideload their e-reader or read on their computer.

The easiest solution is to gift the book to your list of reviewers, preferably during a pulse sale at 99 cents to minimize the cost of promotion. You get credit for the sales and potential reviewers are more likely to check it out with Amazon’s happy, one-click experience.

Smashwords has a solution that’s free: Promo codes. Send the code to potential reviewers so they can redeem it for a complimentary copy. Inexplicably, no other platform has stolen this idea yet. Still!

3. Services like Smashwords and Draft2Digital can upload to multiple platforms at once. However, there is often a delay if you want to change your prices across retailers. This makes a BookBub promotion, for instance, a logistical problem. And by “problem,” I mean a red-hot skewer in the gluteus maximus.

I’ve noticed the worst delays seem to happen between Smashwords and Apple. One of my books took more than six months to show up on Apple. Draft2Digital had problems with Kobo. Those issues are fixed now.

4. KDP Select’s five days of giving your book away for free isn’t the great tool it once was, though other platforms still seem at a loss as to how to promote effectively and boost discoverability. The commitment to exclusivity with KDP Select is five days out of ninety. 

If you are using free day promotions, I suggest you don’t promote for more than two days at a time. Better to stop while sales are still coming in and visibility is high rather than allow the sale to lose steam over an extended period.

Use Author Marketing Club to identify sites that will promote your promotions so you maximize promotion power.

5. Some intermediaries charge much more to upload your book to various platforms. Avoid them. More important than the fee they charge, you’ll sacrifice power over your book and flexibility to promote.

If you don’t have the technical skills to do it yourself, get someone else to help you for a fraction of the cost (and a one-time fee instead of bleeding cash on an ongoing basis.)

6. Box sets are the latest tool for discoverability. I’m involved in one now and, though we’re still at the very early stages, my visibility on Amazon has already gone up.

How it works is, several authors get together. After a cage match, the Alpha who has the most resources and the one they all trust, publishes a sampler. They might give away whole books. Everybody promotes the box set at 99 cents and bam, the tide raises all boats and more readers find you. 

Some people are sneering at box sets, but I think it’s because they misunderstand the intent. It’s not about making money, particularly. This is us playing the long game and working with allies to fire off flares. It’s about raising your rank, giving strangers a chance to fall in love with your work and selling your other books. (So write more books.)

7. Publishing is a business and, despite the fact that we’re all cybering and telecommuting from our worldwide basement headquarters, you’ll still have to run errands. The thing you track least for tax time is mileage. Keep a notebook in the car and track it. Canadians, use a pencil because you know that pen will freeze each winter (August to June).

It might not add up to much, but it’s a lot when you’re making nothing. You wouldn’t burn cash just for fun, would you? Then keep your receipts and track the little things. Claiming a home office may be all that justifies your new publishing venture to your accountant, and your spouse, for the first couple of years.

8. Word was built for office use. Scrivener was built for writers. The program allows you to bounce around your manuscript with ease and format for publication. Get Scrivener. If you’ve already written your text in Word, importing to Scrivener is not a big deal. Yes, there is a learning curve, but it’s worth it.

9. Before you publish and make all the other edits you’re going to make, search the text for two spaces. Those extra spaces sneak in if you don’t scrub them out.

10. Yes, you need an author website, but a simple WordPress site (preferably with your own name) will do. Eventually, with more books under your belt and future changes in the publishing landscape, you may choose to sell books straight from your site. It’s a cool idea that doesn’t really have elegant delivery solutions for the reader (yet).

You can switch your author site to a more complex configuration later, if need be. Don’t worry about that for now. Now is the time to build a base of readers. You could sell straight from your website, but most authors would prefer not to sacrifice their visibility and reviews across the current sales platforms. 

~ There are many more details to attend to, but that’s a start. Hi, by the way. I’m Robert Chazz Chute. Good to meet you. Find me on Twitter @rchazzchute. Connect with me on Facebook here.

Filed under: author platform, DIY, publishing, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writing Process: Ten Moments in the Writer’s Life

1. You become a writer.

It’s usually not something you really decide. It happens to you, like disease. It’s a life where you’re either writing or you’re distracted and feeling you should be writing, forever. Like homework, for adults, 24/7. And some of the teachers mark really hard.

2. You escape the life of mortals.

You become so involved in the story that time flies and you don’t care that you’re cursed to do homework for life. In fact, you feel fortunate you’ve found this for yourself. You dream of seeing your name in print. And the accolades! That will be sweet! Finally, self-worth fed to you by strangers!

3. You meet your first dream killer.

Someone scolds you for daring to use an adverb and shrieks that, “A sentence fragment is not a sentence!”, as if you didn’t know. Then they tell you not to bother with writing.

“Perhaps you’ll find animal husbandry more fulfilling,” they’ll say, because they’re full of terrible advice and, oddly, they sound very confident.

This is a critical juncture.

If the person has too much influence over you or you’re young enough, you might quit. If quitting is an option, that’s okay. Writing isn’t for everyone. 

4. You enter the Octagon.

You send out queries and manuscripts and you get rejection slips but you don’t care because it means you’re putting yourself out there and you’re in the game. You’re not talking about writing like it’s a dream in a far off retirement. You’re doing it now. Every moment of it feels important.

5. You get feedback on your writing that’s really useful.

You put away the first bunch of stories or your novella or even your first novel or two and you begin again. You improve.

6. You get your first success.

It might be a writing award or an article in a magazine. Maybe you get $25 or maybe you don’t, but the money’s not important to you. Your parents will ask how much you won or got paid. That dagger in your heart comes from a place of love. Probably.

7. You get your first hater.

I won third place in short story contest and $1000. Someone was offended that my story won and wrote a screed about how it sucked, I sucked and this was what was wrong with the world (and possibly this side of the galaxy.) He didn’t win so, naturally, now we’re all gonna die!

The thing about the Internet is, people will say things on their blog that, if said in person, would lead them on a trip to major reconstructive surgery and not a judge in the land would convict. As far as I know, that dude still hasn’t written anything besides his doctoral thesis in English literature. Poor guy is still unread and still brings joy to no one. If only he’d pursued animal husbandry, we’d all be happier (though that’s a terrible thing to do to innocent animals.)

8. Your finger hovers over the mouse.

You’re about to hit the “publish” button. It’s nerve-wracking. How many mistakes have you missed? How mean will the reviews be? How good might they be? You thought this would be one of the highs moments of your writing career. Instead, hitting publish is remarkably stressful. After you hit that button, birth that book and send it out into the cold air, you might even feel postpartum depression for days or weeks. I do, every time.

9. You get your first true fan.

For some reason, vague to both writer and reader, something you wrote connects viscerally. Someone loves what you wrote and you love them for it. They are invaluable. They are your chief five-star reviewer, defender, cheerleader and advocate. They’re so awesome, you’re pretty sure they don’t poop. Inexplicably, they think the same of you.

Through the simple mechanism of words on the page, you’ve bypassed his or her brain and you have their heart. Then you start to worry that, with your next book, you’ll screw it up and lose them. The thought of losing a die-hard fan? Hello, Insomnia.

10. You go deeper with your writing.

You tell yourself you’re sufficiently seasoned now so the haters should bother you less. Maybe they shouldn’t bother you, but they will. I got a belittling letter at Christmas that knocked me so far down I didn’t write anything for a month.

But then you get back to it and you remember what cartoonist Lynda Barry calls “that floaty feeling” you get as a creative.

Publication per se? That matters less. It’s the writing process itself that is the thing. Yes, you want readers and lots of them, but you write for yourself first. You discover what you think and feel by writing. The writing journey is the reward. You lose yourself in the prose and in a small way, there’s something immortal and divine about that dopamine drip, washing your neocortex as you write and dream and create.

It’s just so darn godlike to kill people…

Um…in fiction. Right. That’s what I meant.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute and I poop. I also create worlds. If you create worlds, too, you’d probably enjoy reading this.

If you like to read stories that make you question whether the author may or may not poop, try this.

Also, right now, for a more buck, you can get a box set from me and seven other writers who are so awesome, they definitely don’t poop. Get the Horror Within box set now. 

This is the most I’ve written the word “poop” in one blog post. Or 3,000 blog posts. Why was I denying you this joy for so long? Now I feel bad. Better go kill some people…

 

Filed under: Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Genre Writing: How to make your book funnier if you want to (and why funny is important)

I’m not talking about writing comedy per se. I’m talking about giving a too-serious book some oomph. (Oomph is funny. Ooh-la-la is erotica, and that’s a different post.) It’s not for every author or every book, but if you’re looking for ways to add a lighter touch to your work in progress, consider this:

1. Say what everyone else is thinking but would never say. Explore why you, too, love disco. You have always loved disco and yes, you, like everyone, have had angry sex in the back of a taxi. It made you feel disappointed in yourself and oddly Germanic. But that was this afternoon, so let’s not live in the past and…

2. Punch up, not down. This is why Jon Stewart is funny and Rush Limbaugh isn’t. Rush mocks the poor while Stewart goes after power. Mocking our betters is what betters are for, apparently. Not many of them seem to be good for much else.

3. Have a sense of humor about yourself and let your protagonist be less monolithic, too. Self-deprecating humor works because, well…few of us are really that great but anybody who thinks they’re great sounds like a donkey. Watch Grosse Pointe Blank or High Fidelity and fall in love with John Cusack (again) because of that funny vulnerability. John Cusack is a funny puppy in those movies (even when he’s killing people for profit.)

4. Juxtaposition can be funny. For instance, I wrote on Twitter that I had an awkward encounter with someone I’d accidentally insulted. I added, “Hiding in my office. Like a man!”

5. Twist it. “I love kids. Not mine, but…” Attack jokes are hard to pull off without supreme confidence. They’re more suited to villains or more minor characters who have a terrible vengeance coming to them. When the boss is caustic and sarcastic, the reader will achieve greater satisfaction when the twit is hoisted screaming by his own penis. Or someone else’s. Hey, I’m not here to judge your book.

6. Find the funny in the character. In Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon would add Xander to a scene to deliver a particular line because, though everyone on the show could be funny, a Xander joke coming from Willow’s mouth would break Willow’s character. Jokes and characters have a point of view, so make sure the joke sounds right coming from your character.

The jokes that spring from my autistic hero in This Plague of Days originate in his innocence. He doesn’t see the world as others do so he often says the unexpected, but from his unique, laconic perspective. There is nothing angry or world-weary in his observations, only wide-eyed, what the heck are they doing now and why? This is normal?

7. Don’t be afraid to deliver a line in a low-key way. In Bigger Than Jesus, Jesus Diaz gets beaten terribly. His girlfriend, the lovely Lily, finds him lying on his kitchen floor icing his blackened eyes. When she tells him that his situation does not look good, the hit man deadpans, “I don’t know why you’d say that.”

8. Outrageous works. Rants can be awesome. Give it a context to sell it and an entertaining rant can go a long way. For instance, in this little Season 3 spoiler from This Plague of Days, Shiva gets some good lines: 

“Please don’t hurt anybody.”

“Darling, I’m the Queen of Hearts.”

“So, you’ll rule with love?”

“No, stupid. I mean I can say, ‘Off with their heads,’ at any time. Love takes time, Rahab. Fear takes root in the second it takes to slap a child.”

9. Writing jokes is difficult. There are many more comedians than there are comedians who are really killing. To improve your chances of hitting the right notes to a killer joke, don’t sweat it so hard on your first draft. Jokes are easier to find and unearth when you’ve already laid the foundation of character, action and dialogue. Jokes are for the second and third pass where you’ve already got something to riff from. Lots of people aren’t quip machines on their own, but when they hang out with friends and loosen up, they can bounce lots of funny ideas off what’s already in the ether over the cocktail bar.

10. A joke is set up, punch. The punch should be fast and short. Don’t reach for it. Eschew dumb, easy jokes and never make a joke you have to explain. Use the fewest words possible to get to the POW! 

BONUS: Why is funny important?

I write suspense. I deliver on a lot of grim scenaria. Horror presents many opportunities to be funny because both scares and laughs are about playing with the audience’s brains and delivering the unexpected. When the reader expects you to zig, zag. These devices are necessary because few readers want to read a long horror story if it’s not an emotional roller coaster. The horror on the next page will have a heavier punch if I can get you to chuckle on this page.

One of the things I don’t like about some books is that they are relentlessly monotone. The reader begins to feel like there’s little emotional payoff and the book becomes a grim march to the finish. Grim can be fun, but a book with only one tone and no cookies and candy along the way isn’t rewarding the reader with enough wit. One tone for a whole book is so hard to pull off, I don’t recommend trying it in most genre fiction. Life’s tough enough. We all need comic relief. (Yes, I can think of exceptions, but I’d rather read the exceptions less often.)

Funny helps your characters. In Die Hard (the original), the hero gets a lot of funny lines. Bruce Willis was a lot easier to like when he was more of a hapless, shoeless badass instead of being the go-to smart ass tough guy out of the gate. Heroes in real danger are compelling. Heroes who face that danger with at least some appreciation for the absurd? We love a wry hero more than the strong, silent type.

Hold back on the easy joke if it saps another emotion’s power moment. In the final battle for the survival of the human race, don’t let your hero suddenly turn into Andy Dick. (If your villain in that scenario suddenly turns into Andy Dick, however, that could work.)

It’s not that hard to give your reader a story with emotional range. Send in the clowns. When you’re done terrifying them with clowns, give them something to laugh at and light some tax accountants on fire.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute and some people think I’m funny. I wasn’t always funny. I learned that when you hide your rage behind jokes, you get fired less. I’m not very funny on Twitter, but it would be cool if you followed me there @rchazzchute.

If you like to laugh, and breathe, and eat things, then continue laughing, I recommend Bigger Than Jesus. Bestselling author of Vigilante, Claude Bouchard called it “Wickedly real and violently funny!” and Claude would not lie.  Seriously, he wouldn’t. I tried to get him to write me a better blurb, but that’s it.

Filed under: funny, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writing Process: How to screw it up

1. Talk about it too much without typing. Lose energy that could go on the page. Talking is so much easier than typing. In fact, maybe you should be in radio.

2. Don’t write notes as soon as great ideas, additions and twists occur to you. Better to stay in bed another few minutes than catch the lightning.

3. Don’t outline at all for fear it will screw up your spontaneity. You’re an artiste, man! Let the muse sing! Planning is for wussies and many successful writers.

4. Even if a new and brilliant scene occurs to you, don’t stray from your outline because letting OCD control you is much more important than writing a better book. Readers will understand. Well, not readers plural….

5. Take all opinions from your writing group and try to accommodate everyone. They must know your story better than you do, or you wouldn’t be asking everybody, right?

6. Write it quickly and keep going no matter what, even if it appears you’re headed for a dead end because your track coach told you to run through the pain (that spring you tore your knee up and were on crutches all summer.)

7. Write it slowly because the longer it takes, the better it will be, even if the process and the manuscript become so long and involved you can’t keep the core of the story straight in your head anymore. It’s okay, you’ll live forever so it doesn’t matter when, or if, you ever finish the book.

8. Don’t bother with taking any notes for a character guide or story bible. Who cares if your heroine’s eye colour changes eight times and her name changes four times in the space of two paragraphs? You can hate yourself forever, sure, but you were going to do that anyway, right?

9. Don’t read any books in your genre. You wouldn’t want to risk being influenced by anyone good or be aware of what clichés to avoid. That sounds like a task for nasty reviewers.

10. Don’t defend your writing time. Everyone’s more important than you and your dreams. If you don’t allow everyone to stomp all over you, how will you be the martyr who never published because…well, life is just too darn hard, isn’t it? But you could have been great! You’ll always have that.

BONUS:

Hate everything you write. There’s no time to improve it later in revisions so everything sucks and always will. Well…that’s a timesaver!

Love everything you write. History will realize your genius after death. It’s just the editors in this epoch who have you all wrong.

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Writing: How to get it done

1. Write what you’ll finish and publish soonest, first. Propulsion increases closer to payoff.

2. Don’t tinker forever. Set a deadline. Stick to it, on penalty of noogies.

3. If you’re a slow writer, outline first so you’ll stay on track. Stop at a place where you know what happens next. You’ll start tomorrow without pausing, stopping or getting stumped.

4. Think of how great it’s going to be once you’ve published. Alert your readers to your progress so they know when to expect the next book launch. You’ll keep your momentum going with a little positive pressure. There are numerous free word count bars you can put on your author site to display your daily progress. That which is measured, improves. That which is not, is rued.

5. Give your graphic designer enough warning so when you’re ready with the manuscript, he’s ready with the cover. You’ll deliver rather than stretch it out past the deadline you set.

6. Give editors, proofreaders and beta readers a deadline so the manuscript gets read, checked and back to you in a timely manner. Write an editorial and production schedule down but put it up where you can see it.

7. Write to a word count or write to a page count or write to a timer. Write. The hardest part is to start. If the story is any good, you won’t want to stop.

8. Don’t wait for inspiration. Go find it by sitting down to write. (My bills, narcissism and terror are all the inspiration I need. What motivates you? Use that.)

9. Don’t count procrastination, marketing, or Internet distractions as writing time. The earlier in the day you get your writing done, the more you’ll get done because your greatest resistance is at the beginning. Start early and you’ll write longer and more.

10. Sleep, exercise and eat well so you don’t rob from your writing time by having to take a nap (due to a gluttonous, glutenous binge.) Naps can be great and rejuvenating, if they’re short and scheduled. (If you’re sleeping to retreat to a safe place, stop reading your bad reviews.)

BONUS:

If you aren’t lost in fun as you write, something’s probably wrong.

Spice it up and twist that plot like you’re wringing out a wet towel.

No one willingly gives time. Take it. Have a schedule and control it.

Write.

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

Writers: Fire Your Guru

As I suggested in my quotes for this post at tripthroughmymind.com (by Jerry Benns), we learn more from our allies than from self-publishing’s outliers and traditional publishing’s pundits.

Time for a reality check about perception and consequence.

This week I met a lovely and lively someone who was pleasantly surprised to learn I’m friendly and actually quite nice in person. After reading this blog for a long time, she thought I’d be snarky and “difficult”. I was a little shocked by this news. I thought I was funny, but I guess sometimes I do have a tone. I regret that when it leaks out. Mostly, I try to be a people pleaser. She suggested I let people in on my secret niceness by saying a spider crossed my desk and I let it live. That made me laugh because any spider meandering across my desk must die. Horribly.

Anyway, that experience got me thinking about the way we come across online.

For instance, I read a review of a friend’s book about book marketing. The nastiest review I’d read in a long time shredded his work at length because the reader claimed to already be familiar with all his suggestions. The problem with this is that not everybody has the same level of expertise. For the neophyte (at least!), that book would be very helpful. For this self-proclaimed expert, the book is less than nothing.

Worse, the nasty review got praise. “Thanks for the great review!” Really? Don’t ever praise anyone for a review designed to make the author feel bad. It only encourages dickishness. (I will not name the book I’m talking about, to discourage any further acts of dickishness.)

As for me, I wrote two books about writing and publishing. I think they’re very useful to anybody and the reviews reflect that. However, when I pitch it, I always lower the bar of expectation and tell people they’re for newbie writers, to inspire them to write and publish. If I had more confidence, I guess I wouldn’t sell it so short. But those reviewers who insist you write just for them, at their level of knowledge and no lower (or higher!), are waiting. For some egos, criticism is oxygen. It’s easier on my psyche to pitch Crack the Indie Author Code as an entry level book.

YMMV

Often online, when we come close to pontification, we add “Your Mileage May Vary”. That’s pretty elegant and humble. Few of us really want to tell others what to do for free. We’re trying to be helpful. 

When I was a kid, I visited Bermuda. I rented swim fins. I’d never worn fins so huge in the ocean. I tried to put them on while I was at the edge of the water and I was having trouble. A stranger came up to me and suggested I get into the surf first and then put them on. I ignored him and then he said, “I’m trying to help you.” When somebody tells me to do one thing, I really want to do the opposite. (And no, often that attitude has not served me well.)

Anyway, I’d thought he was bossy, but when I looked in his face I could see his intent was pure. I thanked him. I did as he suggested and, once wet, it was easy to get those big fins on and go swim.

Now some people seem to say your mileage won’t vary.

Since I’m resistant to telling anyone what to do, it irks me when anyone gets too full of themselves. Lately, I’ve noticed some authors who have achieved a little success, are getting bossy. They are laying down rules instead of suggestions. Even if they sell non-fiction and you sell romance, they’re sure all books are marketed the same in all venues. They’re assuming there’s only one way to go and it happens to be their way. Isn’t this why we got away from agents and other gatekeepers and published ourselves?

There’s an element of luck and timing involved in any success.

Results aren’t necessarily duplicable. I suspect some pontificators don’t really know why any particular book hit big or even semi-big. Or, they do know, but the market has changed since they hit it big and we can’t replicate that strategy now. Maybe they can afford Bookbub and you can’t, or they got into Bookbub and you can’t break past the application process. Maybe they had a track record and a fan base first. Maybe they have a huge mailing list and you don’t. Maybe they succeeded because of grassroots support and the author is attributing their success to their marketing brilliance in error. Maybe their book is simply better than yours.

Here are a few things you probably won’t read elsewhere:

Maybe [insert successful author name here]‘s book is not so good, but it caught on anyway. We all push perfection pretty hard. We all fall short of perfection. Often writers and reviewers are hypercritical and, thank Thor, the average reader is not. Sometimes an author’s marketing skills are far superior to their writing. Meanwhile, some brilliant authors would be better known if they gave one crap about marketing. To each his or her own.

There are too many variables for one opinion to reign supreme. There are many paths up the mountain. There is no one way.

The writers who are too sure of themselves think that everyone is waiting for their next book. They should be more humble because people like me, who are easily irked by condescension, won’t buy their books. Lots of people are popular. That shouldn’t be confused with respect.

I’m sorry.

If I’ve come across too snarky here from time to time, I apologize. I don’t want to be one of those pontificators I complain about. I know I’ve said it occasionally, but maybe I should add the disclaimer more often: I try to help fellow writers and publishers. What I try to do here is make suggestions in an entertaining way.

Look in my face and I hope you’ll see my intent is pure. I’m trying to help.

Fire your gurus. Keep your friends.

 

 

 

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

The blog and book promotion tool you’ll love (that’s easy, effective and free)

Here's one of my Haiku Decks to start off your writing week right.

Here’s one of my Haiku Decks to start off your writing week right.

Haiku Deck is a free presentation tool that uses royalty-free images so you can make a statement with visual impact. Change up your next blog post or make a slick book trailer in minutes, for instance.

Click this link to ThisPlagueOfDays.com to see how I used Haiku Deck to remind readers that my next book is coming soon (and they better buckle up!) It’s actually quite beautiful and even easier and quicker than a YouTube video. The slideshow at the link was my first experiment with Haiku Deck. It took less time to put my trailer for This Plague of Days together than I needed for this short blog post.

There’s nothing wrong with YouTube, Instagram, Vine, and iMovie etc,…. Video can be useful and powerful if used well (and oooh! Moving pictures!) The advantage of Haiku Deck is that it’s free, fast and fun to play with. Consider adding it to your author platform’s arsenal. 

Want to sign up and start making your own trailers, presentations, charts and messages?

You’ll find the way to sign up at the end of each Haiku Deck presentation above. It’s easy to do and easy to share on multiple platforms, but if you do have trouble sharing on your non-self-hosted WordPress blog, no problem. Do what I did with the slideshows above. Load and link a screen shot and bam, it’s there.

Pretty cool, huh?

If you need tips on using video more effectively to promote your books or business, I wrote a quick book on marketing with Vine that highlights what you should be aware of to make it work better. Click the cover for Six Seconds below, for that chewy goodness (for the princely sum of just 99 cents!)

Six+Seconds+copy

~ Okay. We’ve started Monday morning off right. Let’s keep the healthy and happy vibes going. Pardon my excessive happiness today. It’s not characteristic of me, but I’m all ramped up about entering the final stages of publishing my eleventh book. Progress is being made. BAM! Okay, let’s go get ‘em!

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

Writers and Readers: Cutting the pie so you get the right slice

Imagine we’re speed dating.

Between awkward pauses and wondering if my cow lick is showing, I ask, “So, do you like music?”

“Sure! I love music!”

“Great! What kind of music? Jazz, something heavy you can groove to or…?”

“Oh, you know…just…I don’t know…music.”

“Um…okay…how do you feel about comedy?”

“Love it!”

“Carlin or Hedberg? Stewart or Colbert?”

“Oh, you know…comedy.”

The little speed dating bell rings signalling our time is up. We both collapse onto the tabletop. “Oh, thank god! Next!”

I’ve set up something that doesn’t happen in this cute little scenario, of course.

People don’t go out for a night of music. They go out to dance to a beat or to listen to music or they want it played low and far away so they can talk.

People who love comedian Joe Rogan might just storm the stage if an improv troupe shows up. If that same improv troupe makes all their jokes through the magic of interpretive dance, the audience might just murder the performers and not a judge in the land would convict.

And so it is with books.

Some people (not enough) love reading, but there’s more to it than that.

I write across genres, but people who love my take on our collective dystopian future (killer pandemic starting any day now) won’t necessarily snap up my crime novels. I’d argue the sensibility and voice are similar and the jokes are still there. However, (a) nobody argues their way into a sale, and (b) even the most avid readers are often specific about which genres they will and will not read.

If I had to do it all again, I’d try to focus on writing in one genre and try to dominate that field. However, that’s not really how my mind works and plays. I should say, if I were a different person, I would have done things differently. D’uh. Useless!

But even within a genre, there’s plenty of variability.

If you want a zombie apocalypse with a lot of military action, This Plague of Days probably isn’t for you. There are military elements, sure, but there aren’t any robo-Rambo zombie-killing machines in This Plague of Days.

Instead, the series features three strains of the Sutr virus, each with different effects. The zombies aren’t your classic rise-from-the-dead variety. They’re infected bio-weapons. Instead, ordinary people gain some supernormal capacities and it’s humans versus zombies versus Maybe That’s God versus the crazy stuff that comes next.

Mostly, the story is about what underdogs do under pressure when all appears lost. As for Jaimie Spencer, my protagonist on the autistic spectrum from Kansas City, Missouri? I guess I’ve dominated the autism/zombie niche. You won’t find a lot of Aspergers in this genre.

I always set out to be entertaining, but different.

My Cuban assassin, Jesus Diaz, was kidnapped as a child and abused. Now he’s a hit man who loves movies and makes a lot of jokes to cope with pain. He wants to escape into a Hollywood daydream the same way we dream of winning the lottery. Even though both of them were military policemen, Jesus is not Jack Reacher, not that there’s anything wrong with Jack Reacher. Bigger Than Jesus is different, that’s all. (Somewhere, comfortably ensconced in a platinum writing palace, Lee Child is chortling and happy not to be me.)

So, dear readers, please read the sample provided before you click. I want you to be happy with your purchase. If you purchased anything in error, Amazon is great about refunds.

That’s fair, right?

~ Want a sneak peek of Season 3 of This Plague of Days? Read the Prelude to the next season here. It’s horrific, possibly in the right ways, and possibly for you.

Filed under: Genre, publishing, readers, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

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

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

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

Write to live

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