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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

What’s Changed in Publishing and What Hasn’t?

If you’re new or newish to independent publishing, you may wonder how much has changed since the early days. Some things have changed little. Here are a few similarities and a lot of differences between now and a decade ago:

  • Ten years ago, champions and detractors of the movement both called our new outlet self-publishing or indie publishing. Indie creators pointed to filmmakers who also called themselves indie. The cred didn’t transfer well. Now we understand that readers shouldn’t be able to tell the difference between an independently published book and the latest from Simon & Schuster.
  • When KDP was new, we called it the Amazon Gold Rush. As soon as the term was coined, everyone speculated how long it would last. There’s no firm time of death, but it’s definitely been over for a long while.
  • Bookbub promotions were much easier to get. Advertising was generally cheaper, though reach was a bit shorter.
  • More book promotion sites are available now, and their newsletter lists are longer than they used to be. (Search book promo sites and you’ll get a lot of options. e.g. Booksends, Robin Reads, Freebooksy, Bargainbooksy, The Fussy Librarian, Ereader News Today, Kindle Nation Daily, Book Barbarian, Rebel Reads, Books Butterfly, and so on.)
  • We didn’t have Vellum to format books. I even formatted one or two books before Scrivener came along. That was a slog. Vellum makes formatting easy now, but Scrivener also serves as a writing tool and is cheaper.
  • There weren’t as many programs to assist with editing and those that were around weren’t nearly as good as they are now. We still need human editors, but the machines are saving us time with the easy catches.
  • The publishing camps were more entrenched in the old days. You were either indie or you had a contract with trad pub. If you were the latter, you pointedly referred to yourself as a “published author” on social media. There are many more trad-pubbed authors crossing the line to go indie or hybrid now. They figured out it was possible to gain control, make more money, and get more transparency. (No more waiting for incomprehensible sales reports from a publisher twice a year. Now you can get a tally of each day’s sales! Whee!)
  • Agents used to wield more power. Some even made sport of the submissions in their slush piles. Then most realized such denigrating behavior was bad for their business. A lot of would-be authors wised up and stopped being wannabes. Rumors of bad agent behavior get called out quicker and the bad smell lingers.
  • Even though you can hire the same editors and graphic designers who once worked in traditional publishing, there’s still some stench on publishing your own books. Outdated ideas die slowly, usually along with the brains that held those stale ideas.
  • As new publishing developed, a bunch of gurus emerged with plenty of courses to sell. They are not all created equal. Be especially cautious of those who break their arms patting themselves on the back. If they get most of their money from courses instead of selling their own books, that’s a red flag.
  • Organic reach used to be easier. You could sell your old book simply by publishing your new book. A popular blog might be enough to gain sustained attention. Now you’ve got to advertise and promote more. Successful authors tend to have podcasts, eager fans, a fast publishing schedule, and newsletter subscribers to the moon and back.
  • Reviews seem much harder to get these days. (Insert heavy sigh here.)
  • You used to be able to respond to Amazon reviews. Few authors thought it was a good idea to do so, but on those occasions when it seemed necessary, it was nice to have the option.
  • Way back when, we were all convinced a savvy competitor would rise and give better terms than Amazon. It was logical and expected. Didn’t happen.
  • One might assume that non-Amazon platforms would copy their business model because Amazon sells more books. (There are exceptions, mostly dependent on genre. However, for most authors, Amazon income dominates.) Anyway, that didn’t happen. Amazon puts customers over curation. Others still treasure curation, so who you know matters.
  • Draft2Digital has made uploading to multiple sales platforms a breeze. I remember contacting Apple in the early days of the revolution. I asked how to upload a book to their sales platform and their reply could be characterized as both bewildered and useless.
  • Goodreads always had an angry contingent of meanies. The site’s user interface was never intuitive. If they were going to fix those problems, surely they would have by now.
  • Audiobooks were a thing, but they were much less accessible to creators. They are still expensive to produce unless you go DIY. However, the future of audio isn’t just bright. It’s loud. Audiobooks demand less attention. You can do the dishes and listen to an audiobook. That’s why we must make the move to record our books.
  • From my sampling of indie creators, many of us are more professional in our presentation than we used to be. As ever, we hate typos and plot holes. Now we have editorial teams, street teams, and beta readers to help us out. Many books from independent creators have more eyes on the lookout for problems than books created by big publishers. To trim costs, many big publishers purged their editorial departments years ago. That’s often where your skilled freelance workforce comes from.
  • Hardcovers on Amazon are a recent addition. Ingram Spark has some competition is this regard now. Endemic is my first book available in hardcover and it is beautiful!
  • There are plenty of podcasts about books and book publishing now and some are excellent. I miss some of the old ones, though. Old heads will remember Simon Whistler’s pod. The Self-publishing Roundtable and the Self-publishing Podcast are gone. So is the Author Strong podcast. Alas. Good times.
  • Good news: There are so many resources available, we can all improve or maintain our level of skill and professionalism.
  • Bad news: Your parents still wish you’d finished dental school or gone ahead and become a corporate lawyer who hates her job, herself, and everyone else.

What I hope hasn’t changed too much is you.

Learned and grown in the past decade? Of course. But I hope your level of passion for making art with words still burns bright. I hope you still get up each morning eager to entertain, inspire, and inform readers. Artists die, but they don’t stop creating. The connections, wonder, and experiences we share live on. If you’re a writer and you have readers, you’ve got a chunk of immortality.

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Your Plan for 2022

As I write this, it’s the morning of January 3. According to discoverhappyhabits.com, a 2019 survey found “7% of survey participants stuck to all their resolutions in 2019, while 19% kept some but not all of their resolutions (and) 8% of participants failed to keep any resolution.” It’s also instructive that 57% of those surveyed rejected making any New Year’s resolutions. I’m with the 57%.

Here’s what I do instead:

  1. Resolutions come from resolve and that often fades. Motivation is temporary. Focus on forming habits instead. Writing goals down and putting them in a prominent place can help to keep you focused.
  2. To get the changes you want, make it fun. Gamify your changes the way NaNoWriMo makes writing friendly competition. Hate running? Me, too. But maybe volleyball or tennis is for you. Training can be grueling and lifting heavy things repeatedly can be boring. A sport can get you to exercise without noticing.
  3. Suffering is overrated. Your “diet” food still has to taste good if your new lifestyle is to be sustainable. Muscling through the whole way is performative gym bro bullshit. Ignore anyone who is posturing. Even bootcamp doesn’t go on forever.
  4. Reject perfection. Perfectionism is a form of self-loathing that only leads to procrastination.
  5. Environment and supports trump motivation. For instance, you can’t binge on chips if you don’t bring them home from the grocery store. A chaotic environment burdens you with extra stress you don’t need.
  6. That which is not measured does not change. Metrics can be helpful as long as they aren’t a chore. (I use MyFitnessPal, for instance, to keep my meals on track. I also check my blood sugar.)
  7. Tracking when I’m consistent encourages me to form streaks. A streak is the seed of a habit. The FitOn app encourages me to keep going with my workouts by earning badges. Meaningless badges? Sure, theoretically. Those badges have no monetary value, but Iin practice, they work for me.
  8. Accountability can be a gym partner or reporting your hits and misses to a trusted friend. People make fun of posting pictures of meals on Instagram, but many use social media as an accountability tool. It’s not for the audience. It’s for the intrepid poster.
  9. Reject punishment and judgmental paradigms. Being mean to yourself (or others) is added stress you don’t need, and it’s counterproductive. Assuming you’re not striving for world domination, your goals are in alignment with love of self and others.
  10. The toughest part is right before you start. Making plans is exciting. Establishing systems helps you succeed. Many people don’t get that far because they don’t begin.

    My suggestion is to start by doing a little. Say, “I’ll write 500 words today,” and go do that ASAP. Once you get into it, you’ll often find you’re on a roll and will write more. Same with going for a walk or a jog. “I’ll just go for a short walk” might turn into a longer walk. Even if it doesn’t, you got out and did something for you.

    Martyrdom is overrated. Do things for you. You deserve love, too.

For more tips and tricks, try Do The Thing by some guy:


mybook.to/DoTheThing

~ Robert Chazz Chute mostly writes apocalyptic epics with heart and crime thrillers with muscle. Do The Thing is his only non-fiction book. For all this books, check out his author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: mindset, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

No More Loser Talk

It’s Friday, December 24, 2021! A few thoughts on marketing to round things out before the end of the year:

  1. Don’t feel bad if you aren’t selling a ton of books for Christmas because (a) you’re competing with a lot of people who are trying to sell their stuff at the same time, and (b) a bunch of those other advertisers have deep pockets.
  2. Page reads down? That’s understandable. People are busy now and many don’t take their foot off the gas pedal and slow down until after Christmas.
  3. January is often a better month for promotions because the cost of advertising goes down. Your ad bids are competing with fewer advertisers with deep pockets.
  4. Sometimes book sales are even better in February because people are still getting over their credit card shock in January. Admittedly, I’m looking for the blue sky in a storm here, but more lockdowns appear imminent and that’s been good news for some readers. They have more time to immerse themselves in a novel while they stay safe.
  5. Though people may be unwrapping their brand new kindles on Christmas day, don’t launch your book on December 25th. A marketing expert I don’t like advised against it, so naturally I did it, anyway. I let my emotions cloud my judgment. He was right. (Guy’s still a dick, though.) The novel recovered, but it could have had a better launch if I weren’t a contrarian.
  6. Something I’ve learned to focus on is the long tail of retail. Not every book launch is a home run, but once you’ve published an intellectual property, it’s yours forever. It can take a while for a book to be discovered after a soft launch. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
  7. What almost no one talks about is luck. A friend of mine who worked in trad publishing told me about a couple of books that weren’t selling well. Then a minor celebrity with a decent following picked it up and tweeted her love for the novel. That’s when the book took off. Some major movie deals have started similarly, too.
  8. Kurt Vonnegut declared that the novel was dead in the ’70s. And yet, we keep writing and people keep reading. Fiction isn’t the force it once was, but there are still enough readers to sustain us. When the sales aren’t coming through, remember to love what you’re doing right now. Not every painter expects to end up a millionaire. Most artists aren’t that delusional. As all the gurus say, remember your why.
  9. Discovery is often a slow process. Word of mouth is slow. Reviews come in slowly. Your audience’s attention is fragmented in hundreds of ways. Be patient. What I’ve just described is the norm, but stories of instant success tend to pull focus. This isn’t loser talk. I’m keeping it real.
  10. When you’re down, low on energy, and disappointed, find balance. A bunch of people will tell you to do more research, invest more in what didn’t work, and keep fighting. Maybe you need to step back and enjoy the holidays without obsessing about the number of words you didn’t write today. This goes especially for those writing machines intent on churning out a new book every month. Because a bunch of us are running scared, some writers think it sounds crazy to slow down, take a break, or even take a breath. Burnout is a serious danger. When the writing isn’t fun, give yourself permission to step back. That’s a sign your readers won’t have fun, either.

I’m taking this time to enjoy the holidays and get back into exercise after a long illness. Still recovering, actually, but feeling more grateful and relaxed these days. I’ll be blogging again soon, but not too soon. See you in 2022?

Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

~ Robert

Reviews of Endemic are coming in!

Timely, unique, and entertaining tale!

December 22, 2021 Format : Paperback | Verified Purchase A deadly virus has brought the world a half step away from the apocalypse. Neurodivergent book editor Ovid Fairweather struggles to function in the new reality. When a terrifying incident threatens her survival, everything changes. Armed only with the voices in her head, her fabulous vocabulary, her knowledge of the steps of the hero’s journey, and her finely nuanced understanding of plot structure, Ovid is forced to focus on the world around her in order to save herself. In doing so, she may just save us all.


I enjoy Robert Chazz Chute’s books. They are always refreshingly unique and original. This one was no exception. The critical importance of perception is a central theme in this story. As we are at a point in society when perception is reality, this book is indeed both relevant and timely. Highly recommended!


Timely, Gripping, Excellent

December 19, 2021 Format : Paperback | Verified Purchase Written by a gifted author and subtle philosopher, Endemic clutches the reader’s hand to pull him into an uneasy existence where nothing is certain but danger and the unknown. Ovid Fairweather’s life, off-balanced from the beginning by an unloving and unreasonable mother, teeters from one chapter to the next, and readers will seek comfort when they finish the tale and lay the book down. Excellent in storytelling and skillful in technique, Chute is a fabulous author.


An apocalypse of the soul

December 17, 2021 Format : Paperback | Verified Purchase There are no zombies in ‘Endemic’. No vampires either. Instead there are human-shaped monsters who profit from the degradation of others and glory in the exercise of power.


Not that different from the here and now. The only real difference is that waves of plague have stripped away the veneer of civilization that hid the darkness within. Now the monsters are out in the open and free to indulge their most outrageous whims.
And then there is Ovid Fairweather, a survivor who was broken to begin with and finally finds her niche in a broken world.


I’ve been a huge fan of Robert Chazz Chute since I first read This Plague of Days, but I have to say that Endemic is even better. It’s a brilliant read and highly recommended.


Can’t stop thinking about COVID? Same.

December 14, 2021 Format : Paperback One of the best books I’ve read this year. And timely as heck! Robert writes so well, and I read everything he puts out but rarely have time to leave reviews. This one, though—I came straight to share with you. Read Endemic, so so good.


A Story With a Soul

November 2, 2021 Format : Paperback | Verified Purchase If you’re tired of the formulaic schlock that clutters dystopian literature, then you need to read Endemic. The author has created a unique tale that serves up the best of deep characterization, nuanced plot, and emotional impact. Read this and you’ll soon be looking for other books by Robert Chazz Chute.


A Chilling Reflection of What Could Be

Reviewed in Canada on December 9, 2021 I’ve read quite a bit of Chute’s stuff, enough that I could probably pick out a passage of his in a blind taste test. He normally has a way of turning a phrase but for ENDEMIC he pulled out all the stops. Every chapter, and indeed it seems like almost every page, Chute crafts the perfect sentence full of imagery and depth. In spite of the fact that this book outlines a not-entirely-unrealistic pandemic scenario, I enjoyed every bit of it.

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , ,

What to do when the wheels fly off

Between illness and trying to bounce back from Amazon sabotaging my book launch, December has been rough. However, I’m making the effort to look on the bright side even when things are damn dark. My outlook tends to be grim and all the news events confirm that bias. However, giving up isn’t an option and pessimism isn’t a great strategy. Optimists may be wrong often, but they get more done so they get more chances to score. In my defense, at least I’m usually funny about my grim worldview. (That’s right, Rob! Sublimate your rage with humor.)

One Quick Parable

I was riding a tandem bike with my wife when the road we were on suddenly turned to dirt and then nothing. Dead end. Trying to find our way back in unfamiliar surroundings, we crossed a large property with a mansion on it. A couple of the curious workers looked at us askance but we pedaled by quickly. Then the bike’s front wheel fell off. One of the seats flew off in the crash, too. My wife and I weren’t really hurt, but we found ourselves lost, far from home, and carrying the parts to a broken bike.

The mansion’s owner came out and asked if we were okay. Then he asked how he could help. I was embarrassed and felt like a trespasser. The homeowner, Cyrus, didn’t treat us that way, though. He must have had better things to do than to cater to a couple of forlorn strangers. Instead of shooing us away, he asked us to follow him to the workshop in his huge garage. Together, we worked on putting the bike back together. That wasn’t what pulled my attention, though. What got me was how relentlessly positive Cyrus was. He was both kind and eager to problem-solve.

And all the while, I thought, I wish I could be more like you, you beautiful sunny bastard.

But I could. It does require forming new habits to rewire my neural network. Fortunately, a full personality transplant isn’t necessary. Mindset sets the tone for whatever comes next.

Unfortunately, cynicism is often associated with intelligence.

Skepticism is valuable, and it’s not the same as cynicism. Being mean isn’t smart and being mean to ourselves is downright dumb. I want to be more like Ted Lasso, but I resonate more with Dexter.

My encounter with Cyrus reminded me of three people. There’s Dan, a friend who seems immune to worry. Wayne was a relentlessly positive guy whose presence elevated everyone around him. Then there was the guy who worked at one of the dining room stations at a resort in Cuba. These are people with genuine smiles who are pretty sure things are going to work out okay. If things don’t work out the way they want, they hold on to their sunny attitudes, secure in the belief they can at least make things better.

I don’t always make things better or easier for myself. Anxiety is always ready in my pocket. What I wrote about Ovid Fairweather in Endemic comes straight out of my brain. “When I say, ‘I love me,’ I mean the opposite.'”

Solutions, not Resolutions

I’m very aware that it’s easy to fall back into my old habits of thinking. Between the pandemic and… (gestures everywhere), I can be downright sour. With Cyrus in mind, I’m working on putting things back together. Recently, I ran into someone else who has a lot of that positive Ted Lasso energy. I need that. Besides continuing to watch Ted Lasso, I have to reinforce my optimism with:

  1. Positive self-talk.
  2. Self-care (e.g. healthier lifestyle, more water and vegetables, exercise).
  3. Interacting with positive people more.
  4. Avoid too much negative reinforcement (AKA the dark side of social media).
  5. Avoid overdosing on the news.
  6. Problem-solving.
  7. Fewer side missions, more purpose.
  8. Setting boundaries so I’m not stuck trying to be rational with irrational people.
  9. Especially avoid comment sections on the internet, because trolls used to live under bridges but now they’re coming for our minds.
  10. Focus on what I can control and letting go of the variables I can’t control.

The wheels flew off my metaphorical bike. I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions, so this is just my commitment. Not for 2022. Right now. Nothing metaphorical about that.

We all pretty much know what to do already. That’s not the challenge. The challenge is to be consistent in the application of what we know.

Filed under: mindset, the writing life, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

When I get up, you better watch out

First comes the whining

Anyone remember the fight music from the original Star Trek? Na-na, na! Na! Na! Na! Na! Na-na, na! Na! That’s the soundtrack in my head right now.

November was about fighting Amazon over an unjust review freeze (see the post How Amazon killed My Book.)

December started with a terrible head cold. The subsequent inner ear infection is persistent and has knocked me flat. I’ve got antibiotics going and I think I might be on the mend, but not nearly fast enough to suit me. As soon as the ear infection clears, I’m off to get my booster in the hope that Omicron won’t kill me. I’ll have to choose which of the remaining days of 2021 I will ruin because, though I’m glad to take the booster, each one has made me achy and shaky for days.

Not going to lie, Amazon tanking the launch of Endemic was a harsh blow. The only terrible event I could compare it to would be losing a complete manuscript.

Then comes the winning. I’m looking at solutions.

  • Endemic‘s launch was sabotaged by its own sales platform, so revenue from my masterpiece must depend on the long tail of retail. It’s disappointing, but I’m pointing my nose forward and refusing to look in the rearview mirror. No point in obsessing over that loss now. There’s too much to do.
  • I joined a mastermind group for writers in 2021. They are a good group. The people are encouraging and supportive. The writing room alone got me writing more and more often. Kind hearts help.
  • I successfully completed NaNoWriMo and have an alien anthology to edit because I harnessed the power of friendly competition, consistency, and metrics.
  • I have plans for a non-fiction podcast with a partner. She’s an expert ghostwriter. I’m there to tell jokes and pick her brain on behalf of the audience. Various tech issues and sickness slowed the start on that podcast. We’ve been thwarted at every turn, but the new year is looking good.
  • I have plans for a fiction podcast I’m excited about.
  • A prequel to This Plague of Days is two-thirds written.
  • I have covers in the chamber ready to fire off more projects.
  • I’m looking forward to getting back to my exercise program and joined an on-line group whose focus is healthy living.

The Gist

I’m going to stop there because I learned my lesson about exhaustive to-do lists in 2020. Too many to-dos and not enough to-don’ts can rob us of focus. Overwhelm is dangerous to productivity.

The Commitment

Years ago, I moved to a new city where I knew no one. I started up a business from a cold start with no clients and no allies. A guy I met my first week in the city made it clear he was skeptical of my prospects for success. He ended his list of my disadvantages with, “Aren’t you afraid?”

“No,” I replied. “I’m excited.” (You dick!)

Once I get past this illness, I’ll get excited again. There’s plenty to do to right my ship. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

http://mybook.to/MakeEndemicGoViral
NEW from ROBERT CHAZZ CHUTE

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

How Amazon Killed My Book

I wrote about a book nerd who went through life feeling like a nail. Through an incredible ordeal, Ovid Fairweather becomes a hammer. Tonight, I feel like a nail and my head is pounding.

It took me two years to pen my latest apocalyptic epic. Endemic, partially informed by the unfolding global pandemic, is an action-packed psychological story that pits a flawed and highly sensitive protagonist against a collapsed system. I love this book, but now I’m the one with the sensory-processing sensitivity suffering at the hands of a system. Amazon killed my book. What follows is a cautionary tale.

The Timeline

Endemic launched on October 27, 2021. I soon received three reviews, all five-stars. I noticed a new five-star that appreciated the humor. The next time I checked, that review mysteriously disappeared. Thinking that strange, I reached out to the Amazon Review Moderation team to ask what was going on and could that lovely review get reinstated? Oddly enough, that same reviewer remembered another of my novels and reviewed that one, too. That review of the previous book is still up, no problems. Clearly, the reviewer was not the issue. But what was? My questions and frustrations outpaced the answers I was to receive.

On November 20, I finally heard something from the Amazon Review Team regarding my query. “We removed your review because we detected unusual review behavior on this product and are not accepting reviews of it at this time… Once we remove a review that does not comply with our guidelines, the reviewer may not submit any new reviews on the same product.” This is done to enhance customer trust in reviews. I understand that, but Amazon’s handling of this situation did serious damage to my trust.

In the same email, they invited me to review their community guidelines. I did, and I can assure everyone that didn’t help because I did nothing wrong. When did the review freeze actually begin? I have no idea. From the moment I accidentally stumbled on the problem to now is eighteen days, but it could be longer, taking a mortal chunk the critical first thirty days from launch day.

Innocence does not protect us.

I sent an appeal with three key questions.

1. How long does this review freeze last?
2. Is this a tech issue from an overly aggressive algorithm?
3. How can I appeal or resolve this?


I ended the email with the standard, “Thank you for your attention to this matter.”

The trouble was that there was no attention to this matter. After a two-year hiatus since publishing my last book, my new novel was quickly dying on the vine. I received no reply to the three key questions.

The Twist

The next day I did get a message from someone claiming to be from Amazon Spain. (I suppose my book are available there, but I write only in English so I sell few if any books there.) They wrote:

Hello from Amazon Selling Partner Support,

I understand you are facing issues with customer reviews.

Your account is currently in an inactive status and no further subscription fees will be charged to your account. If you take no further action on your account, it will remain inactive.

That was a little scary. The first thing I did was to make sure Endemic and the rest of my backlist was still available for sale. Yep! So what was this about?

A link was included to take me to a dashboard, but suspecting it might be a scam, I didn’t click it. Instead, I called Amazon immediately. The connection was so bad that the customer service agent sounded like she was underwater. The upshot was that the email was not from KDP, so I could safely ignore it. That line about knowing I was “facing issues with customer reviews” sure made me question what the heck was going on, though. Was the scammer at the root of the “unusual review behavior” setting me up? No idea. When I spoke to someone at Amazon who was helpful, they declined to speculate. (But that helpful phone call didn’t happen right away. Read on.)

Trying again

Hearing nothing from Amazon for a week, I sent a second query. On November 30, I finally heard back, but the answer I got was infuriating. It was strictly boilerplate stuff answering a question I did not ask. Instead, they asked me for specifics on what review had possibly violated Customer Review Guidelines. None that I’m aware of. That was the whole point!

Was this a reading comprehension problem? I have heard other authors are experiencing the phenomenon of disappearing reviews. Perhaps customer support is overwhelmed with queries. Nonetheless, that response was worse than useless. Writers write for many reasons. One is to be heard. I was not being heard.

Finally, a crack of light

Fed up, I tried the phone again and got a helpful agent. John informed me that when there are review freezes, the investigation isn’t supposed to last longer than five days. We were well past that and John was sympathetic to my plight. He asked for a case number, but I was not given a case number from the Amazon Review Moderation Team. He said he would send them an email and encouraged me to send an email again detailing our call. Hoping that would spur some action, I thanked him for his kindness and shot off another email. Hoping for the review freeze to thaw, I detailed it all again. Tired yet? I sure was. Still am.

Then I waited.

And waited. No new emails arrived. I was in limbo. I got depressed. My immune system crashed. I got sick and I’m still recovering.

As I write this, it’s December 9. Last night, someone rated Endemic with three stars, no review. Ordinarily, I’d grumble something to myself about being appreciated after I’m dead. However, that was how I found out the freeze had finally thawed. I began to alert my street team and a fresh, happy review is up! Hurray! Well, not quite hurray. I’m grateful for reviews, but the first month is critical to gaining momentum and getting happy attention from Amazon’s algorithms. Readers love a new book, and my work was frozen in amber for too long. Reheating is difficult and requires a bigger investment in advertising and publicity. (Yes, I guess this post is my stab at the free publicity part. Venting my spleen might also be therapeutic. Am I bitter? Sure, why wouldn’t I be?)

Lessons learned

  1. The Amazon Review Moderation Team is a walled garden. I could phone KDP Customer Support, but not the ARMT. They should probably fix that, but I’m betting it would make for an angry call center with high turnover. There’s a need for the work the review team does and it must be difficult. Crushing hopeful authors should not be one of the bullet points on their whiteboard in the break room.
  2. As noted above, you can do nothing wrong and everything right and still get screwed over. That’s life. But what was the “unusual review behavior”? No idea. Will I ever know? No. Is there anything I could do to avoid this happening again? No. I have published well over 30 books with Amazon, mostly under my name, some with pen names. This is the first trouble with Amazon I’ve had, but am I gun shy now? You bet.
  3. Note that I was never warned that a review freeze had been enacted. I only found out because I inquired. They assigned no case number to the issue. They also didn’t tell me the results of their investigation or that the review freeze had been lifted. Feedback is not their strong suit. (I can’t say for sure what their strong suit is.) As a result, I can’t tell you how to immunize yourself from the same treatment.
  4. I suspect an overly aggressive algorithm, not a human being, is to blame for freeze and review removal. Humans are to blame for not assigning case numbers, failing to alert authors about investigations, and failing to complete investigations in a timely manner. Nor was there any report of the outcome of said investigation. I guess we could point fingers at the programmer who came up with the algo, too. After that initial stumble, the shit rolled downhill pretty fast, huh?
  5. For any cynical readers here, suppose for a moment that, after 30+ books, I did do something to contravene terms of service. I don’t know what that would be, so I couldn’t even course correct were I guilty of something.
  6. As this debacle unfolded, the head of my writers’ mastermind group told me there was probably not much I could do. He was right. Another guru’s answer was, “Don’t worry about it, just keep marketing,” I did waste money on Facebook and Amazon advertising in the dim hope of salvaging the launch. Hard to get any traction on a book with only three reviews, though.
  7. The obvious lesson is to go wide and sell beyond Amazon. That’s not the insurance one would hope, as I explain below. Will I take Endemic wide as soon as it’s out of KDP Select? That’s not the easy answer many might think. It will depend on how high I can get this dead cat to bounce.
  8. Last year a big publisher approached me about going hybrid. I’m reconsidering that offer now. Is that trading one uncaring master for another? Possibly, but it would be nice to be able to talk to a human when they mess up. At least smaller organizations have identifiable humans to speak to.
  9. Due to depression, anxiety, and isolation, the pandemic got me in nasty ways without actually infecting me. That’s why it took two years to write Endemic. Putting my excuses aside for a moment, it might be better to write more and publish more often. That way, this one torpedoed novel might not have been so devastating.
  10. So keep writing, I guess. Sometimes this work feels like an expensive hobby. Sometimes I think about quitting, but what else could I do? This is my last of four careers and I’m unsuited for much else. Fortunately, I had NaNoWriMo to fall back on. November would have been much tougher without it. A little friendly competition among friends kept me writing through this nonsense.

A word about Amazon Derangement Syndrome

I’ve sold books on Amazon since 2010. For the past several years, it’s been my only source of income. I have migrated a bunch of my backlist to other platforms, but frankly, that’s pennies compared to the amount I’ve sold on Amazon. I’ve found it to be the superior sales platform in most ways for me and my genres for over a decade. Amazon gets bookselling right, except when they don’t.

Did I feel trepidation about publishing this post? Sure, but not because I fear Amazon cares what I think. They’ve demonstrated they don’t. The root of my hesitation comes from other writers whose reflex is to defend Amazon no matter what.

Some writers will not entertain criticisms of The Mighty Zon. Their reasoning is that they’re grateful to a platform which provides them income. Where would we be without them? I agree with that to an extent. However, we can point out problems when they exist. Not doing so with Amazon is like saying, “We depend on cops to protect us, so don’t you dare complain when they stomp you for no reason.”

Don’t bite the hand that feeds us, some say. But Amazon didn’t feed me this time out. With discourtesy and caprice, they sabotaged me. As of tonight, the all-time income from Endemic’s ebook, paperback, and hardcover is $104.34. I spent more on that getting author copies.

Hint: If your reflex is to dismiss my little troubles, go away. If your inclination is to blame the victim, assume I did something shady, or leave a nasty comment, go away. I’ve already been sufficiently abused through this ordeal. How badly? As I write this, Endemic is #490,296 in the Kindle Store, #4,303 in Dystopian Fiction, #5,461 in Dystopian Science Fiction, and #8,220 in Science Fiction Adventure.

Endemic deserves much better.

There’s risk in writing for a living, of course. I’ve worked in trad and independent publishing and I accept the dangers of my calling. However, do you? Like I said, this isn’t merely whining. This is a cautionary tale. If you are about to embark on a writing career, this is your warning from someone who has been at it for quite a while. Don’t bank too hard on one book. There are so many variables you can’t control. There are venomous snakes in the grass and booby-traps. Best-laid plans and all that.

Is there hope? In the long tail of retail, yes. Endemic will be available forever. It’s a solid book I’m proud of, bound to entertain. However, barring a stellar turnaround, I’ll probably always go to sleep each night thinking my hard work got shortchanged. I have an eidetic memory for unfortunate events and this sting will feel hot for a long time.

Some think the writing life isn’t work. True, sometimes the words come easy. I’ve often found this work is wonderful even when it’s not so easy. And sometimes, like any great love, it can break your heart.

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

Writing Easy, Advertising Hard

Authors, be especially careful with advertising your books at this time. It’s the Christmas season, so every writer, particularly those with deep pockets, is flogging their wares. I was about to put up another Amazon ad for my latest book. Then I looked at the suggested bids and, boy howdy, I was discouraged from even running that experiment. The suggested bids were simply too high. You don’t have to go with the suggested bids, of course. However, cut down too much and your ad will be invisible.

Depending on the popularity of your genre, you may find it takes way too much money to

(a) get your ad delivered at all, and

(b) make a profit on the sale.

Watch your math and consider saving your advertising dollars for the new year rather than competing head to head with Big Trad.

I have changed my advertising strategy and returned to experiments with to Facebook. My experience with Facebook was that they can burn through your advertising budget very quickly.

Please keep in mind, no advertising strategy is safe enough to gamble on set it and forget it.

However, I do like the granular targeting I can do with Facebook. With a keen eye for monitoring the ad spend, I’m hoping to find new readers for Endemic.

UNIVERSAL LINK TO YOUR AMAZON STORE:
mybook.to/MakeEndemicGoViral

What happens if the pandemic never ends?

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. Check out all my apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers on my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

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

NaNoWriMo is not a bad thing

NaNoWriMo is a good thing.

We’re coming up on the halfway point of November already (which scares the rabbit pellets out of me because Christmas is coming fast. I wasn’t going to do National Novel Writing Month this year, but changed my mind at the last moment. I enjoy their metrics and I’m a little ahead of the pace so everything is chunky hunky.

Some authors are down on NaNoWriMo, but I have to say their arguments against it are often made of straw and soggy bran cereal. It’s not just for novices who’ve always dreamed of writing a book. I write every day anyway. That doesn’t mean NaNo doesn’t give me a boost. A little friendly competition can get me started earlier and makes me write a bit longer than I might have otherwise. 2479 words last night!

NaNo is so big, sure, there are inevitably a few people in the mix who think they should fire their first draft off to an agent. However, most people are sane. The vast majority won’t commit that sin. NaNo doesn’t encourage that kind of slapdash approach, either, so ease off of those worries and enjoy a chocolate chip cookie.

Some question the word count. Why 50,000 words? Isn’t that too short for a novel? It didn’t used to be. Those word count conventions are a bit dated considering that the numbers are less of a factor with ebooks. More to the point, the originators of NaNoWriMo chose 50,000 words as a suitable goal for good reasons. It’s not too short for veterans nor too long for first-timers. It also happens to be the approximate word count for The Great Gatsby.

There’s a little Apocalypse Now energy around NaNo that I find helpful. I’m Martin Sheen at the beginning of the movie whispering, “Every minute I’m in this hotel room I get weaker. Every minute Charlie is out in the jungle he gets stronger.” Then I break a mirror because someone out there somewhere is writing.

Then I write.

~ The newest novel from Robert Chazz Chute is Endemic. Highly sensitive, bookish, and alone, Ovid Fairweather is bullied by her father, haunted by her dead therapist, and trapped in the viral apocalypse.

Get Endemic now. It’s about to go viral.

Filed under: NanNoWriMo, writing, , , , , , , , , ,

The ProWritingAid Premium Lifetime Deal

ProWritingAid Lifetime Premium Membership is 55% off for a few days. It’s a Black Friday thing. No app can replace a good human editor yet, but using this could help you improve your writing (and make your editor’s life easier).

To analyze your writing from all angles (and get quite a deal), here’s the link:

https://prowritingaid.com/en/Landing/Promotion/L6d90

Filed under: Editing, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dexter, My Panic Attack, and You

Michael C. Hall is reprising his most famous role in Dexter, New Blood. That this limited series is back is remarkable. The original series ended in 2013 and it did not end well. A bit about that, then let’s talk about The Bounce and how it applies to you and me.

In 2013, I listened to a podcast that was all about Dexter. This pod went deep, right down to the music cues. This was for hardcore fans who obviously loved the series. Most viewers agree that the show peaked at the end of the season with John Lithgow (no spoilers here.) This podcast was for fans who stuck with it to the bitter end. Count me among that hardy crew of diehards.

That so stipulated, the podcast had two letters shows wherein fans wrote to express their final thoughts. The overwhelming evidence was that most people were terribly disappointed. Let’s be real about this: endings are hard.

Evidence

  1. Kim’s Convenience’s end was anticlimactic and seemed mostly pointless, as if they didn’t know what to do with it. And don’t get me started on the end of the second-last season, where I thought my TV cut out prematurely.
  2. The Sopranos end is memorable for the wrong reasons. I thought the bartender Tony beat up several times should have come back to kill him for personal beef, not mob business. That end seems fitting since he was such a shitty person.
  3. Breaking Bad was fantastic, but they missed an opportunity when he meets his end without ever sampling his own product. That’s my only complaint there.
  4. I didn’t see the final season of Game of Thrones for a while. I heard it was terrible. When I finally did see it, honestly, I couldn’t figure out what everyone was complaining about. Was the end really that bad. I found it quite consistent. It seems bad is the consensus since so many fans have disavowed it and GOT disappeared from pop culture so thoroughly.
  5. How I Met Your Mother met with outrage at the end. They tried something and I applaud the experiment. The problem with the execution was it was a comedy that managed to land as a downer rather than achieving romance. That’s not why fans tuned in for so many years.

    Let’s first acknowledge there is such a thing as toxic fandom. If you’ve written a book, eventually some reviewer who thinks they’re helpful will try educate you on how you should have done it better. Even though the longest thing they ever wrote was three paragraphs of a sour review, they’re very confident they could have saved you if only they’d sat on your shoulder and told you what to do. Note to those reviewers: better not to do that. Like it or don’t like it. Write your own. You’ll probably find it’s not as easy as you think.

The Triumph of Hope Over Experience

Most famously, the fans brought Star Trek back to become a fantastic franchise with so many iterations it’s a disappointment again. Firefly returned as a movie because fans campaigned for it. It is generally acknowledged that the space western got short shrift from network execs who couldn’t find their ass with both hands. Similar story with Family Guy. The network canceled the series, but after three million DVD sales, brought it back to great success. FOX cancelled twenty-nine other shows in the meantime, so when it came back from its hiatus, Family Guy mocked them for it. Twenty-nine! The Winston Churchill joke comes to mind: “You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing after they’ve tried everything else.”

Finding the Way Back

The return of Dexter is a little different from other risings from the grave. They’re coming back to fix it. The final episode was so ill-conceived and ill-received, it was not relegated to the dustbin of TV trivia. It failed so hard, they’re getting another kick at the can. That’s what I call The Bounce. And you know what? It’s a good thing. We can learn from this,

I know it can be frustrating to see old ideas get recycled. It often seems like there are no original ideas in Hollywood. Perhaps your book should be made into a movie or a popular TV series. I know several of my books deserve to be made into films to stir the soul and make boffo box office. However, Dexter was very good before it went sour and it was always watchable. It’s taken a weird circuitous route to get to this place, but I think it deserves another chance to entertain us. Let’s be happy about it. Skepticism is understandable, but cynicism isn’t fun and hey, stay real. The stakes are low.

I miss Dexter living in Miami. I miss Angel Batista being sweet and kind and utterly oblivious to Dexter’s serial killer ways. Masuka was hilarious as comic relief in the original series. But there are new and fun characters to enjoy in this new iteration. I’m glad Dexter is back, and I enjoyed the first episode.
Welcome back, buddy!

What does The Bounce have to do with us?

As writers, you are the studio. If a book fails, you can kill the series or resurrect it in a new iteration. You have the freedom to edit it again, to add or delete chapters, to relaunch it. You don’t have to appeal to a network or suck up to a committee. You’re free to bounce back as many times as you can stand.

Last night, I had a panic attack. Those Bookbub ads I was experimenting with only worked on the first-in-series of AFTER Life, the one I give away for free. Three or four problems hit me all at once and I spiraled down. I couldn’t catch my breath. Caught up in catastrophizing, I felt like I was drowning and maybe dying.

This morning, I’m back to writing. I’m in NaNoWriMo and the word count is on track. I’m happy with what I’m creating. I am committed to bouncing back.

Lots of things fall apart for many reasons. You can’t control all the variables that lead to failure or success. As a writer, you are positioned to steer your own ship. If you steered into the rocks, you can fix the hull or jump onto another ship. It’s okay. We’re going to be okay.

The old joke is that a second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience. Art is a different story. Every book launch is full of hope. Every writer tends some small fire that signals they’ll “make it” (whatever that means to you.)

Make art. Just make art. Try not to panic.

Filed under: writing, writing advice, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

http://mybook.to/OurZombieHours
A NEW ZOMBIE ANTHOLOGY

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

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

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 can pick this ebook up for free today at this link: http://bit.ly/TheNightMan

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