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

The publishing revolution already happened.

My Year in Indie Publishing: Lessons learned

Just released! Paranormal, crime, weirdness and murdering Delusion.

Just released! Paranormal, crime, weirdness and murdering Delusion.

Hundreds of mugs of coffee and almond milk later…where am I now? I quit my part-time job to work at writing full-time. It’s been one year, one month and sixteen days. Today, a look back on the first year of Ex Parte Press and lessons learned:

1. I published Self-help for Stoners and Sex, Death & Mind Control first, just before I quit. I went with Bookbaby as the intermediary on those two. In hindsight, not the best choice. To change absolutely anything costs. I should have gone more DIY up front so I’d have more flexibility with those titles. (Also, their responses to my requests for information have been very slow.) Unless things improve with BB, I will pull them eventually and republish without the intermediation.

2. I published some short stories through Smashwords. Smashwords hasn’t paid off, though I think it will the more I publish through that platform. I hurt myself early on with a bad DIY cover. Short stories are a tough sell, but my collections sell better. (Oh, hey! Just published the definitive collection: Murders Among Dead Treeswhich is two previous ebooks plus much more, bonus commentary and a sneak peek. More about that later. Nice cover, huh? No more DIY covers for me! My graphics guy and go-to dude is Kit Foster. Check his portfolio.)

3. In the first few months of the year, I wrote a lot but worked on promotion too much, too soon. I should have allocated my time to get more books done and worry about promotion less on the front end. Writing more books and expanding your bookshelf is the only sure way of grabbing more eyeballs in the long run.

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

“You will laugh your ass off!” ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

4. In May, in a simulcast across North America, I gave director Kevin Smith an autographed copy of  Self-help for Stoners. It now resides in his bathroom. Though I got onstage, I was still too shy about promoting myself and hampered the opportunity by getting offstage too quick. The follow-up press release campaign was a waste of money and time. The appearance on Smodco’s podcast was a better stab at being a publicity monster, but due to a mistake that wasn’t mine, that effort, too, was hobbled because it aired at the very end of the Valentine’s Day podcast. Personally, it was a very positive thing. Professionally, less so. (When I see Self-help for Stoners stats go up, I have to wonder if that’s a delayed positive outcome, though.)

5. I had a disappointing falling out with a publisher in June. Everything was peachy until the promised money didn’t arrive on the timetable agreed upon. I relearned a lesson I should have picked up by now: Don’t work with angry people (and, when they are uncommunicative, that doesn’t mean all’s well.) Good luck to them. I remain righteous.

"Worthy of Elmore Leonard with shades of Thomas Harris..."

“Worthy of Elmore Leonard with shades of Thomas Harris…”

6. By June I’d published another collection, The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories. In July, Bigger Than Jesus, my first crime novel, was ready.

I later discovered that TDK &OS had production issues. I think Scrivener used an earlier draft it shouldn’t have. As soon as I found out about it, we went into whirlwind mode, corrected the text and published a new edition of The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories. (Nonetheless, sales plummeted on that title. Nuts.)

I found some things I want to change in the paperback of Bigger Than Jesus, though the same problems didn’t appear in the ebook. Scrivener is a great program, but there’s still quite a learning curve. Next problem, finding an equally great and affordable program for editing print books. Formatting print books in Scrivener is too hard (at least for me.) 

7. I podcast Bigger Than Jesus through the summer, a chapter at a time. The podcast continues to grow and the last episode of 2012 (airing this week) will be #62. I’m pleased with it, but my mistake was to focus too much on marketing the first book. I’d named the podcast Self-help for Stoners (reasoning that at least I’d have an identifiable and easily entertained audience.) I later switched it to the All That Chazz podcast because my author site is AllThatChazz.com and the new title reflects the variety of whimsies I offer. The podcast has listeners worldwide, but I’m still most popular with the beautiful stoners of California.

A quick-moving plot with lots of surprises and a clear-eyed examination of addiction.

A quick-moving plot with lots of surprises and a clear-eyed examination of addiction.

8. By September, Higher Than Jesus, the second in the Hit Man Series was ready. I need to get more reviews, but the feedback tells me I’m on the right track (i.e. clever twists and reversals, even more funny dialogue, less swearing, more sex.) There’s a prejudice among some authors that a book has to take a long time to write for it to be any good. I don’t agree, if it’s the right book and the right writer. That’s one of the many points I argued in…

9. Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire released this fall. I drew on years of experience from working in traditional publishing and I’d been writing about writing for years. It was going to be one book, but that proved too big and overwhelming. I made it into two books. Boiled down from more than 1,000 posts on this blog, I revised, revamped and added bonus and updated material. I need more sales and reviews, of course, but in the long-term, these two are a score on the non-fiction side of Ex Parte Press. I’m sure there will be more books in the Writing and Publishing Series in 2014.

Grab Crack the Indie Author Code here.

Grab Crack the Indie Author Code here.

So what was learned? This is Item #9. By now, you’ve no doubt noticed there’s always a kick in the teeth. I learned that when you farm out editing work to an unfamiliar editor who misses deadlines and doesn’t get back to you, don’t be surprised when you’re disappointed. When the manuscript finally arrived, she’d made four or five corrections toward the end (perhaps trying to make me think she’d read the whole thing.) That set production back two months so all that editing had to be accomplished by someone else.  A costly delay.

10. Anxious to publish, I had plans for two more books in 2012. I wanted to get on with revising the big book: my ambitious, dystopian, coming-of-age thriller. I also began writing the third in the Hit Man Series, Hollywood Jesus.

More tips and tricks to steer your authorship. This book is free to you until Saturday, Dec. 15! Please click to get it now.

More tips and tricks to steer your authorship.

Then I learned the most important lesson yet: Balance. My work schedule caused problems with my health. Family obligations were  ignored. You can work nineteen and twenty-hour days. I don’t recommend it for long. I slowed a little and took more time with Murders Among Dead Trees. I got stuck on a couple of the stories and needed to take my time to make them better. The short, “Another Narrow Escape”, flowed out all at once and came easily. Others needed tinkering. I took the time I needed and Murders Among Dead Trees is just out. That’s the last of my short story collections. People buy novels and series much more, so that’s what I will write.

I’ll release the next books in early 2013…but I’ll be more flexible about what “early” means. I’ll also wrestle with the kids more.

So, as 2012 draws to a close, I have eight books up on Amazon (that by February will mostly be available across all platforms, not just Amazon.) ChazzWrites.com is a finalist among the best self-publishing blogs of 2012. This morning, Roger Colby from Writing is Hard Work (say that a little louder, Candy! It sure is hard work!) nominated me for Blog of the Year. John the Aussie never misses an opportunity to hit the “like” button on my posts. The books on writing and publishing will help a lot of people and the Hit Man Series will distract many from their pain and doom as they enjoy hilarious and hardboiled revenge fantasies. Today, I’ve never been more poor, but I don’t think I’ve been happier. 

What did I do right in 2012? I wrote every day and consistently. Then I rewrote. I got Dave Jackson to help me with my podcast and I got Kit Foster to design my covers. I asked for help when I realized I couldn’t do it all. I gathered allies and made a lot of friends through this blog. This is good. This is what beginning again looks like. It’s only my first year in indie publishing, not the last.

Never mind the Mayans. Year Two starts now. Tally-freakin’-ho!

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

Inspiration and Unreasonable Belief

I’m feeling the love at The Writing Bomb.

Thanks to Jeff for allowing me to spout off about inspiration, perspiration and what self-publishers need.

READ MY GUEST POST HERE.

Now please share with me, what inspires you?

Filed under: All That Chazz, ebooks, Publicity & Promotion, self-publishing, What about Chazz?, Writers, , , , , , ,

Self-publishing: The gold rush is not over. Believe.

Logo of LIFE magazine.

Image via Wikipedia

A couple of indie publishers have expressed concerns about the whole self-publishing venture lately.“Concerns” is too weak a word. They’re talking like the self-publishing revolution is over and already lost, an infant succumbed to Crib Death. It was, they say, a gold rush and only those who got in early with paranormal romance and lame thrillers made it big (or at all.) As I embark on a new career in self-publishing, it’s pretty scary to hear people you respect talk like they might fold their cards and curl up like cute little hedgehogs poked with a stick.

Writing a great book is always the main problem. If you don’t have that, there really is no hope. Then there’s the problem of obscurity. How will people find your great book? The easiest way to be a bestseller is to already be a bestseller, so that’s no use to most of us. What to do? Nobody knows how to make anything “go viral” unless it involves a basket of kittens in danger of being crushed by an anvil. (You wince at that image, but you’d click that link on YouTube, if only to express your outrage.)

Self-publishers must believe in themselves and their work, especially when it is unreasonable to do so. To be heard, to go viral, to get any attention at all, we must engage with others, often individually. Such promotional activity eats up a lot of time, but I don’t know any other solid way to do it. (Actually, I do have some other ideas I’m acting upon, TBA soon.)

If your self-publishing strategy isn’t working, you’re going to have change your strategy. Evaluate what you’re publishing and then evaluate again. Do your covers suck? Are you publishing to your taste without regard to your audience? Do you have an identifiable audience you can reach out to? What do you have to do differently to make this crazy Scooby Gang scheme work? (Hint: It’s not what you have been doing, more and louder.)

If you don’t find that hope you once had, what will you do? Take up selling real estate and self-loathing? No. We write because we must write. It wasn’t really a choice. Giving up and doing something else is a choice, but if you’re here, the writing bug sank its fangs in early and that burning venom never leaves the body.

No whining or blaming. I’m sympathetic to problems in self-publishing, of course. I was in traditional publishing for years, sold a lot of books for others and eventually got fed up with the hierarchy. Now that I’ve switched to self-publishing, it’s all shiny and new and I’m full of foolish missionary zeal and silly hope and I haven’t been worn down by grim reality yet. I get that. But what are the alternatives to getting fatigued by the Sisyphian task of promoting your books in an environment where most people think your babies are ugly and your promotional efforts are spam?

Start with unreasonable hope. Move on from there to taking a refreshing break (possibly with peers over scotch) and some reevaluation time to figure out how you’ll change your game. Don’t put down the slush of ebooks that obscure your precious work. Rise above it by being just that damn good. If what you’re doing isn’t working, find alternative paths to indie success. Retitle your book to something catchier. Get a power endorsement from someone you might now think is inaccessible. Figure out what successful people are doing and model your strategy on theirs.

I haven’t sold a lot of my books yet. I’m maintaining the delusion that I will until I make these lies I tell myself true. Steve Jobs had a Reality Distortion Field to motivate himself and others to believe they could accomplish big things. We need to energize our own Reality Distortion Fields. That’s what gets this crappy reality bent to the reality you want.

Comfort yourself in knowing that the gold rush isn’t over. It’s barely begun. When I go out in the world with my Kindle, people still slow down and say, “What’s that?” Last Christmas, readers got a big boost. There will be another big boost this Christmas in e-reader sales. Buck up. Believe.

Remember when you started self-publishing and were innocent of the struggle? Find that person in the mirror. You’re going to need him or her to face getting that big rock up that big hill. If it be a failure, make it glorious so you’ll know you really tried. The most powerful words I know are, “Begin again.”

If you’re indie, you are not a cute little hedgehog.

You are a lion.

Click here to get your free sample of Self-help for Stoners, Stuff to Read When You’re High

Filed under: DIY, e-reader, ebooks, getting it done, self-publishing, What about Chazz?, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Improving ourselves: Bruce Lee, Reading self-help, writing horror

I’ve been trying to improve myself to make me worthy of your love. I’m not eating sugar so I’ll lose more weight (after gaining some back.) I’ll get to the gym. I’ll keep slogging on making my ebooks. I’ve been reading a time management book by the Bruce Lee of Time Management.

I’d tell you more about the book, but it turns out the author and Bruce Lee have something in common:

good at what they do, sure, but jerks.

Bruce Lee was a kung fu legend who made some interesting movies for 14-year-old boys and those with chronically arrested development. (Yes, I was so afflicted until quite recently.) But Bruce Lee also picked a lot of fights just so he could beat up his physical lessors . (You didn’t see that much in the biopic Dragon, but getting into too much trouble and buying too deeply into his macho bullshit was one of the reasons he had to flee Hong Kong for the United States.) Bruce Lee was also (struggling for a kind euphemism here) an intense individual. He had a thing about staring into people’s eyes as he spoke, even when he was driving. He got into several fender benders because of that macho man/genius policy. Bruce was an amazing innovator and there is much about him that is enviable. He’s inspired people far beyond the bailiwick of kung fu. The legend obscures the flawed person who stands behind the fiction.

Then there’s the time management guru: He started off with some good points, though his unexpected obsession with making more time for sex hit kind of a weird note. I’m sex positive, so I didn’t write him off quickly. Making more time for sex is a good thing rarely spoken, so good on him for speaking it. Then, for some reason (no editor or an editor who got overruled) he veered off into a narrative ditch. People in China die without healthcare because they don’t have money, he said, and that’s the way it should be. If you want to be able to afford healthcare and not die horribly, get off your lazy ass. Surgery is for closers!

Whoa.

His vision of getting the best out of life seems to be scheduling your time properly in an Ayn Rand hellscape where only the strong survive as you drive your enemies before you, crush them and hear the lamentation of their women. Okay, I’m paraphrasing Conan the Barbarian there, but seriously, the author crammed some pretty ugly beyond-far-right politics into his time management book and derailed his book.

I’ll learn to manage my time from someone else. I admit it, I’m not reading the whole thing. This isn’t a book review. It’s a warning to keep your inner disregard for fellow humans tucked away when you write a self-help book. Unless you’re a horror writer. I don’t want to read more and share a mind meld with someone whose concept of compassion for the sick is to cackle while he watches the poor die, drinking from a gold goblet while scheduling a spa treatment on his oh-so-organized Blackberry.

Hey, come to think of it…I am writing a book that has “self-help” in the title and there is a lot of horror in it.

Hm. I’m complex. And I’m trying to do better.

In my horror stories, I hint at a high regard for the worth of humanity.

There’s no horror at the loss of a life if you’re just losing another nosey neighbour you never liked anyway.

Filed under: book reviews, Books, writing tips, , , ,

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

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

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

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

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