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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Writers: Beware of the Investment Gap

If you ask a proud native Portuguese speaker if their language is very different from Spanish, they might say, “Of course, Portuguese is very different! How dare you?” Some slapping and spitting might be involved.

In practice, there are many similarities and Spanish people can often understand Portuguese speakers quite well.

Welcome to the Investment Gap. 


The Investment Gap can hurt you.

An in-depth article on book design will tell you that page 1 has to start on the right. Deeper dives into old-school book design say a blank page should precede each new section. That would look wrong to many eyes but you’ll also notice a ton of praise gets thrown toward these detail-oriented articles — praise of other designers and writers, anyway.


Here’s the thing: most readers don’t even notice, let alone care. That’s not a Knowledge Gap. That’s the Investment Gap. 

We all want our work to appear professional and present our words well. Of course, we do. However, beware of minority opinions from experts who go too deep into what normies don’t give a shit about. Lean hard on your beta reading team. Enthusiastic readers look for story strength. Our fellow writers (and some tyrannical editors) can be too rigid in their opinions about what’s “right.”

Notice I just used quotes around the word “right” without actually quoting anyone? There’s that pesky Investment Gap again. To most people, those quotation marks connote irony. However, I had a professor who said that was a sin punishable by  fingernail extraction. “I wonder what they think that means?” he asked with a sneer. Well, doofus, everybody knows what that means. It’s so common, people make air quotes with their fingers in conversation to let you know they’re being ironic. Try to keep up.

Dr. Laura pretended to be mystified by the word spiritual. That’s weird because rest of us know what spiritual means: you don’t go to church, enjoy chai tea after yoga and have a ravenous appetite for cat versus yarn videos on Facebook.

I used a colon for that short list of nonsense. My Grade 9 history teacher reserved colons for longer lists. Horrors! See? There’s the Investment Gap again. And screw you, Mr. Penny. Only nine items or more, my Irish ass.

What does the Investment Gap mean to you?

Do you want to break into omniscient at the end of a chapter to convey foreshadowing? If you can do it well, go ahead. Beware of blanket bans on writing techniques. Writers sometimes do that to other writers, mistaking personal preference or what they were taught with divine proclamations. Art is more flexible than that. Close the gap between real world practice and theory that doesn’t suit your artistic preferences. Clarity is necessary but straitjackets are for insane asylums.

Cormac McCarthy wrote The Road without quotation marks for dialogue. If that choice makes your skin crawl, your skin is on too tight. The Road is a solid book and I didn’t even notice all that solid text. “But not everyone is Cormac McCarthy!” Cormac McCarthy wasn’t always Cormac McCarthy.

“Don’t ever write in second person POV! That hasn’t been done well since Bright Lights, Big City!” Jay McInerney’s monster hit was published in 1984. That was 34 years ago. Let’s live a little, shall we? (BLBC only gets a 3.8 out of five on Goodreads. That suggests to me there are a lot of rigid writers reviewing books on GR.)

Book lovers don’t mind experimentation as long as it works.

In film, the expression is, “If it plays, it plays.” That’s a useful guideline. Readers are invested in plot and characters and, for them, it’s all about the execution. Stay real. Your thousand true fans won’t use the word participle in a review. Do not cater to outliers. It’s boring.

In a debate about cliffhangers among writers: “Hate ’em!” But it keeps most readers coming back for more. They’ve been trained to accept cliffhangers by many decades of television viewing. If the story grabbed them, they’ll be back to find out what happens next. I finished every season of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul with a mixture of elation and disappointment. Wow, great story! And what? How long do I have to wait for more? 

We tend to be more sensitive to the opinions coming from the loudest people in the room. You remember the mean reviews from people who aren’t your audience. Don’t take hater advice at face value. Don’t listen to a vocal minority at the expense of your story (or your marketing). A lot people find pop-ups on author sites annoying, for instance. That’s an honest reaction but make no mistake: pop-ups work.

A very few old-fashioned folk will get their orthopedic shoes in a twist over the difference between folk and folks. Calm down, Aunt Myrtle. Go back to your crossword and try to use the word dandle in casual conversation. Weirdo.

In short: invest in writing advice that works for you and your readers. Remember the 80/20 rule and put most of your energy where it counts. Don’t trust everything you hear, think or read. Including this.*

*Sentence fragment! Murderize him!**

**Murderize is not a word!***

***I know. (Blows out match.) Your car’s on fire.


~ Robert Chazz Chute is writing another apocalypse series as you read this. His author site has a pop-up to subscribe at AllThatChazz.com. Sorry about your car.

 

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Filed under: publishing

The Job Requirement Many Writers Ignore

I’ve spoken to many authors who are trying desperately to write more books faster. I understand the giddy and nervous impulse. When we don’t publish, we can easily get forgotten. It often takes more frequent publication, more followers, more email signups, promotions, sales, pre-orders and/or constant drip advertising to keep sales inertia going. We all fear becoming forgotten. We don’t want our income to slide away so we focus on production instead of consumption. More red arrows than green in your Amazon dashboard? Panic. Spreadsheets showing a downward trend? Panic and poop out another book in your series, quick!

But we need to feed our imaginations, as well.

We need to read more books. You can feed your mind in many ways. One of those ways is reading widely, inside and outside your genre. A good writer is a good reader first.

This is not a new thought. I’m going to acknowledge up front that I’m stealing this idea from an amazing writer, Zoe York. One day last year, Zoe mentioned how lucky she felt to have writing and reading as her job. That offhand remark stuck with me. Zoe’s right. Reading is part of our job. Whether you see other authors as your competitors or comrades, we need to read more than our own manuscripts.

Confession Time

I love reading but I, too, feel the temptation to write more than I read. This is ultimately a time management problem. I have to make time to read, write, eat, exercise, sleep and do all the million other things required of adults. But people do manage these things. If they can, so can I.

Solution: Time

I committed myself again to reading more and I am doing so. Low priorities are off my list. High priorities get done. No one will give you this time. You have to make time or take it. Please do so. Reading feeds my fiction. Good books inspire me to write better. Bad books can illustrate what to avoid. Non-fiction can provide the factual context that makes fiction more believable and powerful.

Reading is the love that led you to write. Keep that love going. Tend those fires. Rekindle your love. Read.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is the suspense writer who wrote “have eye sex with a book,” in the concluding paragraph of this article. He had the good sense to delete that nonsense. Sadly, He wasn’t mature enough to hold it back from this signature line. If you’re already a fan, you can join his new fan club on Facebook here.

If you aren’t a fan yet, head over to AllThatChazz.com to explore what killer thrillers and apocalyptic fiction he has to offer.

 

 

Filed under: publishing

Should you quit the day job? Writing and finding focus.

I used to work as a Virtual Assistant off and on for the graphic designer, Kit Foster. I left his company to focus on writing. Sadly, apart from liking a Facebook post or two, I haven’t had any contact from Kit in a while. Authors still reach out to me looking for information regarding KFD. Since I haven’t worked with Kit since early 2017, I’m afraid I’m quite useless with regard to those queries. I’ve got more laser focus now and, if you can narrow your endeavors to better manage your writing and publishing energy, I recommend doing so.

A bit about quitting a job so you can spend more time writing…

I had four jobs for quite some time. Four! FOUR! Can you believe it? Neither can I but there it is. I ran myself ragged. I’m now down to two jobs: my publishing company and my clinical work. Depending on a bunch of variables, I may be down to one job by the end of this year. Working on my latest series, I’m just as busy doing two jobs as I was spinning four plates. Crazy, huh? I’m in a much better situation now. I still have to work hard to make time to get to the gym but I have to move heavy shit and do cardio to avoid falling apart. My schedule is still full but I don’t feel like I’m running a marathon day in, day out. I even take days off to relax, unwind and recharge. Don’t work so hard you forget to shower and don’t confuse busyness with business.

Negativity and scarcity can lead us to work too hard or work too hard at the wrong things.

A lot of people will tell you that publishing is more competitive than ever and the Kindle Gold Rush is over. This mindset can make you think you have to produce faster, do more and be more in an unending, self-destructive spiral. Don’t fall into that trap. Plan time off and take time off because no one will give it to you. Work at your pace rather than sacrifice quality. It’s not about filling up the page in a panic. It’s about filling the page with something good enough to revise so it becomes great (or at least solid and enjoyable).

We have to be more savvy about publishing than before, yes. Advertising has become more complex and mistakes can be costly. Though I’m very glad to have a backlist of a decent size, simply publishing more books isn’t the powerful marketing strategy it once was. Don’t be discouraged. This is still the best time in the history of the world to be a writer.

Some say the book market is oversaturated. That’s like saying there are more websites than there are stars in the sky so there are too many websites. You’re still looking at websites. Readers are still looking for books to read. You can still win fans. As I’ve said many times, I wrote for free for years and I will always write because I love it. It’s not like I have a choice! I’m not going to abandon writing to take up knitting or animal husbandry. I’m a writer. I write. You’re reading this so accept your fate. Write.

I joked the other day that Amazon pays so well I bought underwear at Walmart and didn’t even check the price before my purchase. Things are looking up. I’ve hired a new editor and I’m putting together a fresh apocalypse. (If you liked This Plague of Days, you’ll probably dig the next one, too.)

No matter the stage of your writing journey, at some point you will ask yourself  how you can best allot your work time. Is this your moment to make the jump from the midlist to the big time (or, at least, the bigger time)? Are you ready for a new beginning?

That’s not where the questions end.

Is writing a hobby, a serious income supplement or a career? (Note: there are no wrong answers to that question. Your response will frame your focus, however.)

More questions:

Can you quit the day job? Is that possible? If possible, is it desirable? Would you be happier or more stressed if you became a full-time writer? What does the money math say about how you should spend your time? Does your transition to the writing life have to be all or nothing? What sacrifices might others in your family or support network have to make? How much money do you need banked before you make the leap? Are your debts paid off? What do you need to be safe and comfortable (not just survive)? How many months of consistent sales is enough to make you confident quitting the day job is the right move now? Do you really want to write and publish or do your just want out of your old job? What are all your options? 

Even more:

What would your day look like if you could control it completely? Can you work to a schedule? Do you have to hire more help to make the writing life work? Much of our work is solitary but, generally, publishing is played best as a team sport. You’re the captain now. Got a plan, Captain?

Beyond calendars, budgets and math are the personal questions only you can answer.

Are you running away from something bad or running toward your dream? How do you feel about burning bridges? Will you be lonely if you become a writer? Do you have the discipline to take your work to “the next level,” whatever that means to you? What does success look like to you?

I’m still working on many of those variables but I can say that the more I focus my time, energy and attention, the better results I get and the happier and healthier I become. Happy writing, everyone. Happy life.

~ Chazz

To check out my books of dark and funny SF and killer thrillers, go to AllThatChazz.com. Cheers! 

 

Filed under: publishing, writing, writing advice, writing tips

New Year, Old Problem: Innocent Author Rank-Stripped For Third Time

It bothers me that some will say, “Well, you wanted scammers policed so innocent authors will get caught in the net!”

That’s like saying I want my neighborhood policed so I can’t complain when the cops shoot innocent people. C’mon, Amazon. You can do better.

David Gaughran

Kristi Belcamino is really being messed around by Amazon. Yesterday morning, she was rank-stripped for the third time, and it appears to be happening every time she puts a book free – even before she hits the promo sites or moves up the charts.

Back in September, Kristi was one of the unfortunate (and innocent) authors who were unfairly rank-stripped by Amazon for several weeks. She had a BookBub promotion which catapulted her up to #3 in the Free charts on September 18, was then rank-stripped, and didn’t have the sanction lifted until October 22 – over one month later.

Along with all the other authors I wrote about in October’s post Amazon’s Hall of Spinning Knives, Kristi received the standard form letter about rank manipulation from Amazon KDP’s Compliance team, regarding her book Blessed are the Peacemakers.

Hello,

We detected that purchases or borrows of your book(s)…

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Filed under: publishing

My Greatest Expense as a Writer in 2017 was…

An old friend of mine put the importance of keeping the receipts in stark perspective:

“You wouldn’t throw $5 in the garbage so don’t throw away that five dollar receipt if you can claim it as a deduction on your taxes.”

That really got me so, as 2017 draws to a close, it might be a good idea to review your receipts for tax purposes, too. Make sure they’re all in one spot and ready to go. You’ll miss fewer deductions if you track it as you spend, of course. Some people just toss the receipts in a box. Others use fancy software. I just use Google Sheets to track everything and hand it over to my accountant. You might be able to do it yourself but tax code is generally pretty complex and I don’t want to miss anything. I’m no accountant so I leave it to the experts. Don’t forget to record relevant mileage. Lots of people forget mileage.

My greatest expense as a writer in 2017, by far, was time. However, you’re reading this to find out where the money went.

Where the Money Went

My greatest expense for my publishing company this year was advertising: Amazon ads, Facebook, Bookbub and a few promo sites.

Businesses need to advertise, I know. However, the expense and the logistics of getting ads right involved intimidated me. I tried to get by with minimal advertising. In September, I got serious about it. My sales rose. Writing another book isn’t enough anymore. Like any other business, we have to make some noise and let readers know we’re here.

I’m here. 

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes suspenseful books to tickle your brain and melt your face. Dig what he slings at AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: publishing

Bushwick: Dare to be Different

Once in a long while, a movie comes along that sets a breathless pace and takes you to unexpected places. I just watched Bushwick. With its long, uninterrupted tracking shots, this is a war movie that plays like the cameraman is an embedded documentarian. It’s kind of terrific, mostly because it’s so different. This is a film that doesn’t hit the usual beats. It’s not even trying to get you to like it. Not liking it is part of the point.

Rotten Tomatoes rates it at only 45% and, wow, they’ve got it wrong. 

Lots of people will tell you different is bad. Hit all the tropes and give audiences what they expect. One of the reasons I loved War of the Worlds (the version with Tom Cruise) is that the focus was on the refugees. Yes, it was about alien invaders but the way they followed the action, it could have been a movie about any civilians trying to escape a war zone. Nobody’s trying to save the day. They’re just trying to make it to the end of the day.

Minor Spoiler alert:

In Bushwick, the director wants you to know that nobody is safe and, really, nobody is. The heroine, played by Brittany Snow, loses a finger early on. That’s the moment I realized I wasn’t watching a movie that would play by the rules. That’s the moment I got interested in where they were going to go and wondered how far they’d take it. Yes, it’s a shoot-em-up, but it’s a shoot-em-up that has a strong point of view and an uncomfortable sociopolitical subtext.

This B movie did something right that most movies get wrong.

Dave Bautista from Guardians of the Galaxy stars in Bushwick, but he’s no  Superman. He’s flawed and he’s got issues but they don’t even go too deep on that. He plays wounded, emotionally and physically, all the way through. One detail I loved: the actors act tired. They don’t look like they got a nice rest in their trailers between takes. Almost all movies make the mistake of allowing bad things to happen and then letting the protagonists shake off the effects, as if you can ignore a concussion by sheer force of will.

This is not a perfect movie and if you’re from the Southern states, you’re probably going to hate it. The final shot would understandably shock many Americans into hating it. However, this movie isn’t needy. It’s got something bigger to say about what war is really like.

I love different.

It is so rare for a story to really surprise me that I ended up enjoying Bushwick (although “enjoying” isn’t quite the right word). It didn’t try for easy so it shouldn’t be graded on the same curve as movies that are out to affirm audience expectations. When’s the last time a movie challenged you? Do the Right Thing? That weird moment in the MLK biopic when he doesn’t immediately deny he’s cheated on his wife? American History X? Schindler’s List? The Thin Red Line? It doesn’t happen often does it>

I’m not saying Bushwick is on par with those movies. It’s not. I’m saying, as artists, we should dare to defy reader expectations once in a while. Consider it. Yes, you’ll get dinged for it in reviews, but you’re a writer. Surely you’ve got something to say about the world besides running through a plot like it’s paint-by-numbers, right?

Bushwick isn’t going to be for everybody and I wouldn’t watch it again. However, look for the names Cary Murnion, Jonathan Milott. You’ll hear more from these directors in the future. I predict that the next time you see their work, they’ll be coming back at you with a bigger budget. They strike me as people who have something to say about the world.

~ Robert Chazz Chute likes to write twisty suspenseful books that surprise and entertain. Check out his stuff at his author site, AllThatChazz.com.

 

 

Filed under: movies, publishing

Writing: You could quit or it could be therapy

Life is stressful, isn’t it? I know. I’m on a stress leave as I write this. This isn’t a politically correct description of what I experienced recently but, I cracked up a little. I’m not scheduled to return to my day job for another month and, in total, I’ll be off two and a half months. It’s a financial hit, sure, but I either had to stop for a while to regroup or go get myself a heart attack. 

In the meantime, I’m writing new books.

I’m tweaking old covers and trying to get healthier. I’m at the gym more and watching what I eat. I worked four jobs in the last two years and I don’t mean consecutively. I mean all at once. For a while, I need to make my life about the one occupation that is my preoccupation. This isn’t time off, per se. It’s a time to focus on the long term and make some positive changes. When I return to work, I will keep it to two jobs: my clinical work and my publishing company.

It’s easier not to: not to write, not to try, not to work, not to do anything. When depressed, I want to retreat into sleep. When anxious, I want to burn energy by punching things. Sometimes I freeze. Often, the torture of insomnia robs me of the next day’s productivity. When the enormity of the psychic pain strikes, I can’t breathe. I’d change my thoughts if I had any but in the midst of the storm, I really don’t have any thoughts to change.

When the writing doesn’t come easy, lots of writers become non-writers. It’s easier to abandon an old project and start a new one. New shiny things are more exciting. When we hit that wall, most of us keep thinking of ourselves as writers but in practice we become expert procrastinators.

At its best, writing is a compulsion that calls to us. When the stress hits me hard, writing is my solace, an escape and even therapy. It helps me impose order on the worlds I create. There isn’t much order in the non-fiction world right now. Writing helps. 

Writing is the one activity that provides me with a prolonged meditative focus. When in that state, I’m here and not here. I’m “through the page” and watching the movie in my head. I can meditate for a while, sure, but when I fall into the meditation that is writing, I can go for hours without even looking up.

As I near another book deadline, I’m reminded that no one’s making me do this. No one can make me write but me. At its best, writing (and reading) is not work. It’s play. I can’t wait to find out where the stories go. Who lives and who dies? Where does this movie in my head end? Will there be another movie with the same characters? Turn to a blank page, see what comes, enjoy the floaty feeling of creation. Find the drama in what comes next. Impose order.

If it’s not working out at all and you’re in misery, quit.

If it feels like you’re going through the motions and the act of writing fails to change you on some level, don’t bother.

However, if your book wakes you up with new twists and revelations, compelling you to keep going through that page to find out where the stories lead, keep writing. 

Readers need the escape fiction provides. I need that escape hatch for myself, too.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is a suspense writer, best known for This Plague of Days. His next apocalypse will thunder down on the Amazon store before Christmas. To join the Chazz Club, sign up for updates at his author site, AllThatChazz.com.

 

Filed under: publishing

Why Your Favorite Author Probably Can’t Give You a Free Book

Bethany House Fiction

It’s a dilemma that many in my circles are puzzling over: in today’s world, authors have nearly limitless creativity and research sources and opportunities to get their stories out to a wider audience…but fewer people are willing to pay for them.

I’m an administrator for a few dozen authors’ Facebook pages, and from time to time I glimpse notifications of another message with the same question, phrased in a few different ways: “Why is your book (or ebook) so expensive?”

If you’ve ever wondered that yourself—and I don’t blame you, because I did too before I started working in publishing—here are a few thoughts that authors probably want to say but feel they can’t, because it seems a little too direct, a little too self-serving (even though it really isn’t).

It’s the same reason restaurant owners can’t give you a free dinner: because that’s how they make a living. Sure…

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First the CreateSpace EStore, Now Pronoun’s Gone!

MacMillan announced in an email today that their publishing platform for authors is closing. Several writers told me that Pronoun had issues regarding reporting in a timely manner. I’d assumed these were simply growing pains that would eventually get ironed out as the platform developed.

I had high hopes for Pronoun. Some of their terms were favorable and their user interface was super nifty and easy. I’d planned to publish a book through them but, fortunately, that release got delayed due to illness so I didn’t get stuck. Alas, they’re shutting down officially as of Jan. 15, 2018. 

If you are one of the authors who published through Pronoun and feel like you’re about to be (a) an orphan, (b) marooned or (c) highly inconvenienced, here’s a link to their FAQ page about the demise of Pronoun.

Pronoun, we hardly knew ye.

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes cool books about the end of the world, thrilling crime, time travel and kickass suspense. See all his books at AllThatChazz.com. 

Filed under: publishing

A Tale of Two Marketing Systems

BOOM! Great stuff here from David Gaughran.

David Gaughran

Lots of people right now are asking themselves whether they should leave Kindle Unlimited.

I’m generally agnostic on it, and I think writers should do what is best for them and their books, but there’s no doubt this is the big question of the moment.

That’s partly down to falling pay rates, Amazon’s inability to deal with scammers and cheaters, or the increasing concern about having all your eggs in one basket when something like this (or this, or this) regularly happens. But I think authors are asking themselves the wrong question.

The real issue, I suggest, should surround how you are going to find readers on these retailers (or on Amazon, if you have decided to swim in the other direction). Because I often see people taking the wrong approach – using the wrong tools for the job.

I gave a talk at NINC earlier this month…

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Filed under: publishing

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.

Write to live

For my author site and the Chazz network, click the blood spatter below.

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