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

The publishing revolution already happened.

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

Writers: Clean your manuscript with these enema tricks

There are mistakes in every book, but there are tricks to avoid some pesky problems. For instance, I’m in the midst of proofing This Plague of Days. In Scrivener, I do a quick and easy

A cross-genre flurry about  society's collapse under the crush of the Sutr Virus combined with a boy's love for odd words, Latin dictionaries and his father.

Society collapses around a strange autistic boy with a deep love of odd words, Latin dictionaries and his father The plague is coming. Buckle up.

search for odd mistakes that creep in. Here are a few things I plug into the search box to search and destroy:

1. Hit the space bar twice and eliminate those pesky double spaces that find their way into your ebook (and look like chasms on a kindle.)

2. Put “the the” in the search box. Take one out unless it shows up as “the theme…” It’s startling how easy it is for the human eye to skip over a brain stutter like the the.

3. Search “awhile”. Change it to “a while” when appropriate. Here’s when it’s right to do so.

4. “Exact same” = A redundant expression we use in spoken language and in the excited flurry of our first drafts. Excise from later drafts.

5. Search “..” Double periods appear occasionally, usually from an edit you did instead of a typo. 

The fewer mistakes you give your editors, beta readers and proofers to find, the fewer mistakes they will miss.

When you get all your revisions back and make your changes, do these searches again (and whatever common mistakes you discover you are prone to.) After the edit, the act of going back to make corrections often introduces mistakes. This is especially true if you’re working with extensive edits using Track Changes. It’s often helpful to bump up the text size so you can better understand where all the little red lines are pointing for edits. I prefer Scrivener and recommend it for writing, editing, compiling and publishing.

Also check the copy again once it’s published. I have had some file management issues in the past with Scrivener where I published an earlier draft, not the final draft. It was frustrating and embarrassing, but fortunately it was easy to fix quickly. Now that I’m aware of that potential, I’m extra paranoid so things keep getting better. Editing and proofing these little details can be arduous but, like a 10k run uphill, you’ll feel great about your work when it’s done.

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Filed under: Books, Editing, getting it done, grammar, publishing, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , ,

A free and easy editing program that works

TPOD 0420 2As I revise my upcoming horror serial, This Plague of Days, I find some passages that I can’t wait to share. There are plenty of big reveals to come, but a few teasers along the way are fun (so click here to get a taste of horror and weirdness.) As I plod along, I’ve found a helpful way to polish the writing I want to share with you and improve my manuscript. The good news is there’s nothing to buy and you probably already have it but haven’t used the program in this way.

Before I tell you about this helpful editing program…

I have to tell you there are other editing programs that aren’t nearly so helpful. They aren’t as good as human eyes (so always keep some human eyes in your pocket.) You can subscribe to these programs at varying rates, from cheap to expensive. Some are better than others. I tested one and it told me there were 43 areas of concern in the first paragraph. Of course, even a terrible writer probably doesn’t have 43 areas of concern in one paragraph. It wasn’t even a very long one! I shuddered, cursed and looked closer.

The problem was the program threw up red flags (as in vomited red flags) everywhere. In an effort to be thorough, it overshot into ridiculously unhelpful. The grammar problems weren’t grammar problems. The spelling suggestions were all just alternative words. Stylistic choices were only that. Of the 43 problems, I found two things I might change. Might! I get that from rereading any paragraph!

The signal to noise ratio was clearly way off in the program. If I ever hate a writer with OCD, I’ll be sure to gift him or her a subscription. We’ll never hear from them again and they’ll never write another book.

So, to the “new” suggestion

It’s not new, but it is useful. I write in Scrivener (which I love). When I find quotes and snippets I want to reveal as appetizers at ThisPlagueOfDays.com, naturally I post it into WordPress. I’ve found the WordPress editor has helped me reconsider some things. It suggests neither too much nor too little. It’s elegant, free and easy to use for that little added polish to make you feel excited about getting to your last draft and publishing your book. 

Grab a chapter from your WIP, paste it into WordPress, test it and consider adding it to your editorial production process. I like it.

 

Filed under: Editing, getting it done, grammar, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Free tech tools to help you edit and proofread

Proofing and revising can be fun, especially if you have sharper tools to help you do the job better. I now have a new tech tool in my editing arsenal that’s a huge help: free text to speech (tts) software.

I’m in the last stages of revising Higher Than Jesus, the next instalment in The Hit Man Series. I had plot problems to review and choices to make about how fast the action would evolve for my Cuban hit man. Then there are the typos to catch, Chicago street names and geographical logistics to marry up and more jokes to make.

Necessary aside: The tech tool I’m about to recommend is not Scrivener, it’s text to speech software. However, if you aren’t already using Scrivener, I recommend it, not least because Scrivener already has tts built in. (Click speech on the Edit menu.) Last night I needed to know if I’d revealed a name in an earlier chapter. With Scrivener, it was easy. With Word, it would have been a time-consuming pain. Writing Higher Than Jesus is like putting together a puzzle and using Scrivener helped me make sure I wasn’t screwing up. Scrivener is $45 USD and compiles your book for manuscript, print or any ebook platform. This concludes the Scrivener PSA.

As I podcast Bigger Than Jesus, chapter by chapter, I find things that I’d like to change (and do so as I record.) At the microphone, some edits are clearer, especially when you have to speak them. Yes, I know editing never ends, but still, I find things that bug me. Finding those niggles on the mic, I make a note to edit the print and ebook edition. (That’s the beauty of ebook and print-on-demand publishing. I can go back and make those minor adjustments quite easily.)

One way people edit is to go through a draft reading backwards. That’s very tiring and I don’t know anyone who has actually accomplished that for a work of any length. For short stories, that’s reasonable. Another way is to read your book aloud. I do that, but one chapter at a time, one podcast at a time. When I read too long aloud, my throat gives out. TTS helps me catch problems by getting the computer to read the book to me and saves my vocal cords. 

I catch much more than I thought I would. As I prepare to hand the book off to my editorial team, I’m saving them a lot of time by giving them a more polished draft. I really don’t want to waste the team’s time. Perfection is impossible, but excellence we can reach.

The Read4Me app is free software that can read you your story, for instance. With tts apps you can, of course, control the speed of the narration. For editing, let it read slow. I listen at 141 – 149 words per minute and follow along as the highlighted text lights up.

One problem is the available voices can sound a bit too much like Stephen Hawking (who still hasn’t updated his speech software! I’d love to hear him talk about black holes as gateways to other universes in a Texas drawl, wouldn’t you?) I tried “Alex’s” voice. Alex is familiar to all Mac users as the computer voice that cuts in and says, “Excuse me,” when a program you don’t want to deal with now requires your attention. I switched to one of the female voices because it punched me in the ears less over time. If you’ve got a long book to read, you want a pleasant voice in your head.

I found another option that’s available free to Microsoft users: NaturalReaders.com. The voices are pleasant and you can easily test out that assertion on the landing page. I’m very impressed with what NaturalReaders.com offers, but here’s a much more extensive list of tts products on Squidoo for your evaluation. And yes, they’re all free.

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

Ultimate Blog Challenge: Top 10 Things I know I don’t know (yet)

THINGS I DON’T KNOW INCLUDE:

1. How to push my stats for my author site (AllThatChazz.com) as high as this writing blog (though spillover should be inevitable.

English: John Leguizamo at the 2007 Toronto In...

English: John Leguizamo at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Or should it? Not so far.)

2. How to get more attention to my podcast (though numbers have gone up since I started reading Bigger Than Jesus a chapter at a time.)

3. Have I put off more readers than I’ve gained with my strange titles?

4. Should I have pushed the title of Self-help for Stoners harder when I met Kevin Smith in a video simulcast, or would that have made me look like a douche?

5. If I’d started writing books seriously twenty years ago, would I be happier now, or trapped in contracts I’d hate?

6. Did John Leguizamo ever read the blog post about casting him in the movie of Bigger Than Jesus? Probably not, but we all go ego surfing from time to time, don’t we?

7. Will I ever get Scrivener to work the way it says it works when I format my books? So far I just play with it until I get incrementally better but so far it’s more like stabbing a keyboard in the dark than arriving at solutions logically.

8. Will Amazon look at the numbers and switch their algorithm back to the way it was in December so giving away a ton of books means something useful in selling books on the paid side? (When an Amazon fan like Joe Konrath says, okay, I’m out of KDP Select until they change terms, we should all take notice.)

9. Will my books take off before I run out of money completely? I am in a race. (I just got some help with this and things might be looking up if a strategy I’m working on takes off. More on that later.)

Get Bigger Than Jesus

10. I don’t know if my gamble/mid-life crisis will pay off. I do know I’m glad I pulled the trigger. I’ll find out. It’s better than not ever knowing and looking back in regret at what might have been.

(UBC #14)

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Author Blog Challenge: In 12 hours, Bigger Than Jesus

A lot can happen in twelve hours. Twelve hours ago I began work on formatting my debut crime novel, Bigger Than Jesus. I used Scrivener and I was feeling pretty optimistic that I could knock it out pretty quickly. I’ve formatted plenty before, but not with Scrivener. I’ve been writing with Scrivener, but today was the test to see if I could get the book over to Amazon in one day. Foolish pressure.

I couldn’t put the front matter in for the longest time. At one point I had two tables of contents and neither of them was quite right. I started with the Scrivener video tutorials — fell into a spiral of anguish and frustration — and then got hopelessly lost in the Scrivener manual. I found my way back to sanity by searching for people who had the same frustrations I did. Google. It’s the thing you need when you’re stuck.

That didn’t get me quite all the way to done. Some alchemy and experimentation was involved but, just a few minutes ago I yelled, “It’s alive! IT’S ALIIIIVE!” Twelve hours ago I began formatting. Twelve hours from now, it’ll be up on Amazon (fingers crossed!) I won’t believe it until I see it up there with my other precious babies.

What a day. What a night. I’ll have much more to say about Bigger Than Jesus, of course. I want to tell you about how I worked with my amazing graphic designer, Kit Foster, to come up with the cover. I want to talk about the book and the factors that brought it to fruition. I want to hint at what’s next for the series and all my other books. The important thing for me was to give it a rigorous editorial scrubbing and then send it out in the world. I’ll play catch up with all the other things I have to do to make this baby grow, but sunlight took priority over having everything in place.

And there’s so much yet to do! I have to ask people to review the book, buy the book, get blurbs. It’s going to be an audiobook and a paperback (and soon!). I have big plans for my funny, clever, hit man Jesus Salvador Diaz. People will like and pity him despite themselves because Murphy’s Law will take him down long before the NYPD, if the lovely Lily doesn’t break his heart irreparably first. His stories are a Coen brothers’ movie: bad things happen on the wide and easy road out of town.

For tonight, though, I’m going to toast my milestone, sit back and watch Real Time with Bill Maher and maybe Bridesmaids and know that I’ve put in my full day at Ex Parte Press and I don’t have to feel guilty for sitting back and watching TV tonight.

If you don’t know this feeling yet, I hope you experience it soon.

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

Author Blog Challenge 14: Eleven ways writers get surprised

Gremlins will push you 'round^ Look where you'...

Gremlins will push you ’round^ Look where you’re going^ Back up our battleskies^ – NARA – 535380 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some surprises you’re in for when you publish your book

Please note: This list of surprises for writers is not meant to be comprehensive. The worst surprises, like dying by flaming harpoon attack to the forehead (before you finish your novel) or a hard drive exploding and taking out two floors of your house are not included. Those circumstances just aren’t lighthearted enough for my intent here. Oops. Well, I guess you’re worried about that stuff now, too.

1. You thought your manuscript was clean and it was, it was! Gremlins went in and put those ugly typos in there! That’s the only reasonable explanation.

2. Publishing your book is a huge event in your life. Remember when you had a baby and you expected the world to pause to acknowledge your contribution to, and sacrifice for, the human race? Wars should stop and the earth’s rotation should cease for a moment, if only so we can all bow. Sadly, it’s not a huge event in everyone’s else’s life. Many people are indifferent and it’s just not efficient to go out and kill all of them with a rusty axe.

3. The people you thought would love your book? They don’t. My dad still hasn’t read anything I’ve written. He’s waiting for me to write about him. (What he doesn’t know is that he really doesn’t want that!)

4. Lots of people are readers but they do not write reviews. You’ll expect reviews. Eventually you probably beg for reviews. Worse? You still won’t get them, even from friends and family! I thought about it, but there is no joke I can tag on this item that will soothe the sting. It’s more tragic than a flaming harpoon to the crotch.

5. Someone will object to something you wrote. What will surprise you is what they object to. For example, some people get riled up about which font you chose for your cover. You’ll assume that joke your main character made about religion was, at most, funny. At worst? Somewhat innocuous. Some blogger, somewhere, will call you the Anti-Christ and call on Jesus to smite you because, apparently, Jesus loved capital punishment. Oh, wait… (At least outrage and threats of censorship increase sales, so there’s that.)

6. Some people will treat you better, briefly, because you’re an author. Then they’ll treat you worse when they find out you’re a self-published author. For some reason, you have to answer for every grammatical mistake and every (so-called) undeserved success of your breed. Corollary: If you become a very successful traditionally published author, some people will hate you because lots of people read your books. Or the haters will hate because they aren’t you. Suggestion: A dog is reliably faithful. Definitely buy a dog. They can’t read so they’re blameless.

7. Formatting will be tough the first time. The first time, you’re a dim-witted chimpanzee with a keyboard. The second time you do it, you’ll be surprised how easy it is. You will have evolved to a very intelligent Rhesus monkey.

8. By the time you’re through revisions and formatting, you and your editorial team will have gone through the manuscript so many times you’ll be sick of it. This is the story you loved so much. Now your cute baby has grown into an angry, gangly, acne-scarred teenager and you just want them out of the house they can go make money and so you can make room for a sweet new baby who loves to cuddle.

9. Actual publication won’t be quite as momentous as you anticipated. How could it equal all those dreams you’ve had since childhood? You pictured a limo and an elegant cocktail party. Instead, it’s you in sweats, late at night and a little drunk on weighty potential and rum and Coke, debating if you’ve done everything you can before pushing a button. It will feel more like pulling a trigger. You may be filled with more dread of bloody failure than anticipation of success. I’m about to push that button and I’ve had stress headaches all week. I just want to sleep instead of poking around Scrivener‘s bowels to prep the manuscript for Amazon and CreateSpace. You’re not alone in the struggle, but that’s of little solace because you are alone in the room.

10. Getting someone to read your book is harder than writing your book. You’ll spend more time marketing than you ever dreamed necessary, even if you figured it would take a lot of time. Triple your marketing expectations and get a treadmill desk so your ass won’t get as big and wide as your hopes and dreams for your writing career.

11. But here’s the biggest surprise: Though you will get luckier the harder you work, it’s still a lot about luck and timing and some happenstance. Nobody admits this variable. When you win, it’s all attributable your meteoric wisdom. When you succeed, you’ll figure it’s because you made all the right moves and you knew what you were doing with every step. Revising history and shining up the truth is natural. Everybody does that. It keeps us from running away screaming from that “Click to Publish” button.

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Scrivener: 3 Reasons You Should Use It For Your Book

Via Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction

 

(I just started using Scrivener for a new book. The learning curve was a bit steep at first, but I’m starting to like it now that I’m getting used to it. The Video Tutorials help, though Joanna references a manual in this article, too. ~ Chazz)
I used Scrivener for my latest book, Prophecy.
Via www.thecreativepenn.com

Filed under: ebooks, publishing, scriptwriting, self-publishing, writing tips, , , , , , , , ,

Launched today!

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

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

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

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

Write to live

Publish, conquer your fears, inspire others

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