A is for All of it, which is what we want. (A used to stand for Agent.)
B is for Book, of course, and ebooks are “real” books, too. Literature is about the content not the container.
C is for Cutting prices. It would be bad for writers, but at 70%, we’re still getting paid more per unit sold than in traditional publishing. Also, price cuts sure make now a great time to be a reader.
D is for Deadlines. Don’t take forever to write your book. More time procrastinating doesn’t make a better book.
E is for E-books on E-readers. But you know your kindle is a transitional device, right? The phones are getting bigger again and tablets are coming down in price. We don’t want a device to do one thing. We want one device to be a web surfer, camera, phone, app catalogue, music box, GPS, ebook reader and best friend on our hip.
F is for Future. It’s the direction to look. If you don’t like it, you can change it whereas the past requires an annoying child named Sherman, a dog named Mister Peabody and a Wayback machine.
G is for Guidelines, because guidelines are malleable. There really aren’t many unbreakable rules worth obsessing over. You already know the rules because they’re obvious or you ignore common sense or you’re a slave to unthinking tyranny. The cool kids prefer more options.
H is for Hope. It’s good to have some, especially in this business. When there’s no reason to have any, that’s when you need it most.
I is for Intermediator. Have as few of these as possible. Upload your books yourself if you can, or get help from an independent contractor. This will allow you more choices of forks down the road.
J is for Just you. The myth and prejudice against independent publishing is that’s it’s just you. You are alone, except for the editors, graphic artist, beta editorial team, volunteers, publicity teams and whoever else you can hire or cajole into helping you get your book discovered. Sure, other than that little cyclone of industry, it’s all you.
K is for Killing characters. Killing someone readers love who they were sure would make it to the end? Delicious. (Note: killing darlings is overrated.)
L is for Love. It’s why we write. If you have other motivations, that’s fine, but releasing dopamine as you create is, like reading, a very rewarding addiction. The biological pharmacy in your brain simulates love. Endorphins won’t land you in a dirty rehab unit with a roommate who won’t stop telling that story about the time he tried to get high on burnt bananas and smoking his own hair.
M is for Money. It can happen, but probably not so don’t write for money. As above, write for love. If money does happen, people will resent you slightly less when you claim you never expected it.
N is for Naysayers. Most of them will never write near as many books as you will. Just say no to naysayers. If you sleep with your naysayer, someone’s in the wrong bed.
O is for the Obsession to know things. It seeps into the writing so you can drench your fiction with non-fiction and trenchant verisimilitude. For instance, This Plague of Days, Season Two weaves the Apocalypse with interesting tidbits about Irish legends, military history and the mortal wounds inflicted by the blue-ringed octopus. Mine is the only zombie/plague/autism story that teaches you Latin in an entertaining way, guaranteed!
P is for Portent. Warnings that something big is about to happen are especially fun when you give readers an earnest warning and they still don’t see it until it coming. They’ll only see the clues in retrospect. Secret trails to revelation and love of language are why people reread books. Do it well and someone might think your book isn’t just suspense, but maybe even “literary” or (praise Thor) “important”.
Q is for Quitting. If the project is wrong, quit. If it’s right and you’re just whining, quit whining and finish it. If you aren’t excited to write this book, find another you will be excited about all the way through or for our sake, please do stop.
R is for Ripoffs. It’s a minefield out there: Fake agents who try to make money off reading fees; publishers who won’t pay; people who use disreputable business practices and call them policies. (R is also for Research. It’s how to avoid R is for Ripoffs.)
S is for Sustained Action. Promoting your work need not be an exhausting blitz. Dig in for the long game and promote at a slower pace. Don’t promote the same stuff to the same audience all the time lest you exhaust them. Keep writing new books. Don’t pin your hopes to one book. Sure, you might accidentally hitch your wagon to a star, but chances are excellent you’ll hitch your wagon to a stump, especially if this is your first rodeo.
T is for Trying. You’ll hate yourself if you don’t try. Losers will hate you because you did try. That’s why they’re called losers. They work from a different definition of failure than you and I. They confuse boring with winning.
U is for Unpublish. If something isn’t working, take it off the market and replace it with your tweaked story, new cover or new edition. Unlike traditional publishing, you have more options. You can adapt. Ours is a different, more flexible, business model. Use that advantage.
V is for Victory. There is no victory. Banish the concept from your life. There are only ups and downs and we’re all trying to make more ups.
Victory is very useful in fiction, however. Readers want to escape real life’s mundanity so it makes them happier when the protagonist achieves victory at the end of a story.
To go all Conan and see your enemies driven before you and to hear the lamentation of the Evil Mort from Accounting? That’s fiction. Working in a cubicle farm with no hope of retirement while Mort gets promoted and vacations in Brazil? That’s real. The real-life Mort is why we all crave escape into stories.
W is for Wit. They say brevity is wit’s soul, but I can take a pounding of wit in dialogue all day and all night, Mr. Sorkin.
Please note that snark is not quite wit. That’s a blunt tool meant only for peeling the outer layer of flesh. Meanness is the opposite of wit. That’s a blunt fool’s weapon. Wit’s funny and smart. When that sword cuts, we see light flashing down the steel blade. Wit allows the victim to take the hit and nod, “Touché!” with a smile.
X is for X-ray vision. All writers have this power. I can see into purses and pockets and the lives of strangers at the mall. I can work backward or forward to tell you who they are and their story of heartbreak in their senior year of high school. I diagnose disease at a distance. I know what you did last summer. I can give your life history and your death meaning, so do not screw with me.
Z is for Zero. It’s what we’re paid for writing. We are never paid for writing. We write for love, remember? If the money ever arrives, we’re paid for putting up with dehumanizing reviews, pretending to take them well and staying silent about them forever. We’re paid for the sad paperwork at tax time. We’re paid for the sting when someone sneers with casual cruelty, “So, are you a big deal yet?” We’re paid pennies an hour for the sacrifices our loved ones make so we can keep writing.
Writing a good book is a happy, selfish act for the writer.
We are addicts, helpless in our defiance and desperate to monetize our work so we can have the freedom
to score more of Creation’s sweet biochemical cascade.
Escape reality. Get high on a story.
~ I am Robert Chazz Chute, the author of Self-help for Stoners and this was the high I was talking about. This Plague of Days, Season Two scintillates brains October 1. Get Season One and check out all my books here. I hope to be your favorite candy man one day.