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

Write and publish with love and fury.

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

CreateSpace eStore is Closing Effective October 31, 2017

chrismcmullen

Image from ShutterStock.

CREATESPACE ESTORE IS CLOSING

Beginning October 31, 2017, customers will no longer be able to purchase paperbacks directly from the CreateSpace eStore.

If you have a link to your CreateSpace eStore and a customer clicks on it, the customer will be redirected to the corresponding page at Amazon.com.

According to CreateSpace, the reasons behind the change include:

  • It’s much easier to search for books across Amazon’s site than it is to search for books on CreateSpace.
  • Amazon offers a much better checkout process than CreateSpace does.
  • Amazon offers better shipping options, including Amazon Prime.
  • Amazon sends out tracking notifications for orders placed through Amazon.
  • Amazon’s storefront is a much more familiar interface for customers.
  • Several customers have requested the features described above.

Unfortunately, when a customer clicks on a link to a CreateSpace eStore and is redirected to Amazon, authors will earn Amazon.com royalties (not eStore…

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Filed under: publishing

9 Ways to Improve AMS – Amazon Ads For Authors

I find I always reblog David because he digs deep. If you’re struggling with Amazon ads, this might give you a clue why. I’m currently reading Mastering Amazon Ads by Brian D. Meeks, hoping to find my way around the potholes and pitfalls.

David Gaughran

More product searches start on Amazon than anywhere else, even Google. It’s the world’s biggest bookstore and by far the largest ebook retailer.

But Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) is still very much a work-in-progress, particularly the slightly pared-back version authors get to advertise books.

Self-publishers tend to focus on making books visible on Amazon. Aside from being a market leader, and having famed frictionless purchasing, there is another key reason why such a focus often gets the best return. Unlike other popular sites, anyone visiting Amazon is generally there for one reason: to buy stuff. You aren’t interrupting them while they share dank memes with friends, or search how fast a raven can fly during winter.

AMS is often referred to as “new” but it has been around for more than two years now. While AMS offers a variety of ads to third-party sellers which can increase app downloads…

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Filed under: publishing

On Writing Advice

A few years ago I published posts to this blog daily. It was the beginning of the publishing revolution and I had a lot to say. I post much less often now because it’s all in the archives, I’ve got books to write and mouths to feed. Recently, I was reminded of the Thomas Mann quote: 

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

A writer asked for advice on a single, short sentence. The votes poured in. People gave advice on what wording they preferred and their rationale for their preference. Some were a little…uh…strident. This post is not about their choices. It’s about our approach to writing and how we can get in our own way.

I’ve gotten in my own way during the editing process many times. I’m doing it right now! I’ve analyzed until I’m anal. I’ve reworded, polished, refined, worried, revisited and reworked. Conscientiousness is one thing. However, sometimes writers get too precious, to the point of procrastination. We make a virtue out of a fault. We can edit so hard that natural wording becomes unnatural. We can be so precise that we never get a book done, so exacting that the life and voice is deleted from our storytelling.

I wrote a couple of books about writing a few years ago. I unpublished one because I felt it had become too specific to its time. The other (Crack the Indie Author Code) I’ve left up on Amazon because it’s less about mechanics and mostly about inspiration. I drew on my experiences in traditional publishing and encouraged readers to take the leap to writing in the indie world. I provided guidelines and tips but no laws. Sometimes the ear is more important to the storyteller than the eye.

Professionalizing writing would suggest we avoid words like professionalization. Never verb a noun, not even in dialogue, not even for a joke. No sentence fragments. Some agents will tell you not to use prologues and epilogues, never ever! Pedants will stop reading if they — gadzooks!— encounter any use of passive voice. All adverbs must die! Rabid grammarians will go on endlessly about the horrors of the split infinitive. Some will demand the Oxford comma or pretend they don’t know what “scare quotes” mean. Don’t you dare break the fourth wall, either. Edit, revise and edit again until you hate your book because if you aren’t insecure, if you don’t loathe it, it can’t be any good. Don’t publish it because it’ll never be good enough, anyway. Know-it-alls will lecture the innocent on the use of commas until you’re too scared to commit a single line to paper.

Many of these scolds mean well. They may, in fact, love writing and editing. I’m not sure they love reading anymore, though. The danger is they’ll pound the love of books out of you, too.

Worse, they’re so goddamn sure they know what is best for everybody else. In their minds, creativity is fine but there is only one right way! Hang ee cummings, screw Walt Whitman and you can learn nothing from the pulp writers. It’s the Iowa Workshop or nothing! The War on Fun never ends.

Writers editing other writers can be extremely helpful or among the worst offenders. Writers need to read as the average reader. Civilians read for enjoyment. Writers often forget that trick. Meanwhile, many of the most successful writers working today are writing fast, telling simple, straightforward and linear stories. And they’re having fun. Sometimes they start sentences with conjunctions, too. Odd, huh?

I encourage writers to listen to editors, beta readers and their readers but don’t try to listen to them all. Don’t let your voice get edited away. Preserve the you in your writing. (On my first pass I wrote, “Preserve your unique voice in your work,” then, “Preserve your unique voice,” and “Preserve your unique writer’s voice.” That’s a symptom of today’s complaint. No one but another writer would pause to analyze that. A reader skips over it as quick as they can and gets the hell on with their day.)

Not all writing has to sound the same. I’d prefer it didn’t.

Be careful who you listen to. Be careful to whom you listen…um. No, don’t…uh….sigh.

God damn it. Goddammit!

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes fun suspenseful thrillers and scary epics about the end of the world. Find his work on his author site, AllThatChazz.com.

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

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