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

Write and publish with love and fury.

The Joy of the Staying the Hell Home

Most writers I know are trying to get out of their day jobs so they can write and do nothing but write. I’m in a bit of a different situation. I have four jobs. My wife, AKA She Who Must Be Obeyed, has three. We have plans to change that crazy trajectory but, for now, this is how we live.

Getting pulled in so many directions can be stressful, but it must also be said that we’re generally pretty enthusiastic about all we do. Nonetheless, precautions must be taken so exhaustion and burnout do not burst our overtaxed hearts. Not working ourselves to death is generally a good thing. That’s why I’m on vacation this week.

It’s not the sort of vacation where I lounge on a sun drenched beach. Who needs skin cancer? I’m not touring castles. I mean, castles are cool, but all that walking and bad food? Pfft! It’s not the sort of vacation where I fly anywhere. Especially since 9/11, air travel is a nightmare. I’m not enthused about the ordeal of going through security, allowing people to be rude to me and getting packed into a tube with irritable strangers for a death-defying trip on Air Schnitzel. I am staying the hell home.

This is a writing vacation and I couldn’t be happier. On the first day, I piled up 6,802 words. That might be a personal best. I can focus on creation and do nothing else. I don’t worry that I left the house unlocked or the stove on. I don’t have any other tasks looming overhead. What luxury!

When the economy went south, someone invented the term, “staycation,” to make a virtue out of poverty. We all need vacations though we don’t all get them. I am grateful for this opportunity. Don’t hate me because I’m relaxed. I’ve worked hard for this.

I know the story I want to write and it’s going great. It’s going so great, in fact, that I am about halfway through a new novel. I’ve committed to completing the first draft this week. The bulk of the rest of this year will be devoted to editing and publishing the many book projects I’ve managed to pile up in the last six months. You may call me lots of nasty names, but you can’t call me lazy.

I am always reluctant to take any time off but She Who Must Be Obeyed insists and she’s always right. Without fail, I return to work fresh and full of new energy and new ideas. 

My vacation’s writing schedule is full. I know it’s not a vacation in the truest sense. I really mean that I’m down to doing one job: writing stories to melt hearts, tickle brains and make you say: ah-ha, ha-ha-ha, oh my gawd and wowzers (repeatedly, in no particular order.) Since I’m used to juggling four commitments, one job seems remarkably easy, especially when that one job is writing. I love writing. I’ll even get more reading done this week, too.

I’m having a great time. If you want to talk, email or dance the samba, I’ll be available next week. If you haven’t had a pure writing vacation this year, I urge you to plan one if you can. When I make the big move back to having one job and one job only, every day will be like this: coffee, couch and laptop. Writing is the one job from which one can never really retire. Happily so.

Love and kisses to all (substituting man-hugs where appropriate.)

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. Catch all my sexy hexy texty epic weirdness at AllThatChazz.com.

 

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Filed under: All That Chazz, self-publishing, writing, writing advice, , , , ,

How to keep moving forward.

My wife, She Who Must Be Obeyed, deals with a lot of sad, difficult and traumatic situations in her noble work. She helps a lot of people but it’s not easy. To combat the downside, she keeps what she calls a perk file. That’s where she holds on to commendations and thank you letters from those she has helped. Writers should have a similar file.

As an author, you will have disappointments. It’s inevitable. As I wrote in a post below (The Writer’s Curse) we are imaginative and therefore perpetually dissatisfied. Copy and paste your fave reviews to a special file for those dark days to come. When the disappointments arise, reread those five star reviews and fan letters. Cherish them and keep going.

I’ve often thought about quitting, especially when I’m overwhelmed. (Quitting isn’t always a bad idea, either. More on that in a coming post.) I did stop writing completely for almost five years. Those were not good years. For me, the dissatisfaction of not writing is worse than the bad writing days.

This week, a reader reminded me why it’s important to keep going. Stories are powerful. I replied, thanking her for being a reader, of course, but her letter is too important an inspiration not to share with fellow writers. She wrote:

Dear Robert Chazz Chute,

I read zompoc because I need to read something that takes me away from my reality – a genetic condition that slowly transformed the woman who could turn somersaults in mid-air to the woman in a wheelchair.
Fortunately,my sense of humour is intact.
Friends, family and NHS have stuck with me, so I’m lucky compared to most disabled people.
And the connection with This Plague of Days?
It distracted me from my pain – always present unless I’m asleep.
Yep. Stories are that powerful.
Even when they’re stories about unrelenting terror.
This Plague of Days is an epic piece of writing.
But you know that already.
I just felt like telling you that I know that too.
And thank you for writing something that set me free, for a while.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute and I am often sad. I get misty reading this letter, but in a good way. I am less sad this week thanks to this reader. You can check out all my stuff at AllThatChazz.com, or just read and reread this letter to get inspired to write something epic that distracts readers from their pain. Distracting us from pain is, I think, what it’s all about.

Now I’m off to write more. Thanks again, to all the readers.

Filed under: All That Chazz, publishing, Writers, writing, writing advice, writing tips, , , , ,

The Movie of Your Book

People are still reading books, so don’t freak out. Humans are still voracious for good stories. However, that doesn’t mean they want to read words on paper or pixellated pages. We have a lot of competition for our inky offerings. Who has time to read a book when Netflix, Facebook videos and YouTube offer so many diversions to suck up our potential reading time? It makes sense that we leverage that video competition instead of merely combatting or denying it.

Sell more books by selling the movie of the book, too.

You’ve written a book or maybe a bunch of books. Meanwhile, Netflix and Amazon are doubling their offerings of original programming. They need stories. Maybe they need your stories. If you’re beating your brains out trying to make money on online bookstores alone, it’s time to think about expanding your repertoire to screenwriting.

If you’re interested in doing this, get a program to format your script correctly. Scrivener can do it. Final Draft is the industry standard. Final Draft will cost you about $250. Celtx is a free script program (with some paid upgrades for a small fee.) None of the above are terrible.

Amazon made the free StoryWriter App to make the formatting task easier, but it has one other little feature that is intriguing. In addition to saving your work anywhere you want, Storywriter includes a button to submit your screenplay directly to Amazon Studios. Yes, Amazon is serious about competing with Netflix by making it easy to send them scripts. Their desperate search for more original programming and the next big hit means another barrier to the gatekeepers has fallen.

This is not to say that getting a movie made is at all easy. It’s a complex endeavour. Odds are against your grand success, just like with anything creative. But we aren’t writers because it’s easy money. We’re writers because we have stories to tell and we want to reach a wide audience. Video means a wide audience.

Of all my books, I have two series that would best lend themselves to film adaptation, the Hit Man Series and Ghosts and Demons. One is a crime thriller and the other’s quite Buffy. Both would be fun to write so I’m fitting scripts into my publishing schedule this year. 

If you dig this, be sure to subscribe to the Scriptnotes podcast. On Scriptnotes, two working screenwriters educate, explode myths and comment about the art and business writing movies.

I’m not saying it’s easy. Nothing’s easy. I’m saying it’s possible. Maybe it’s for you.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute and I write suspense, mostly about the apocalypse. Check out all my happy diversions from your doom at AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: All That Chazz, Amazon, author platform, movies, My fiction, publishing, , , , , , ,

“Writing a book by committee is a great idea in every way!” said everyone but the writer.

Imagine all the people from all the classes you’ve ever taken in one room. Each group has its own character, but today we’re going to focus on the outliers and oddball characters with whom you’ve gone to school. I’m not talking about those who stand out for their smarts and sweetness. I’m talking about the girl who, just before the last bell rang, reminded the teacher about extra homework for the class just before the long weekend. Remember the annoying guy who always had another question or inane comment to add long after a subject was beaten to death? And don’t forget the person who was really stupid, but for some reason thought he should speak a lot. Worse, he was smug about it.

Now put all those people you didn’t like in school and put them in charge of your work in progress.

That pressure behind your eardrums is your brain trying to escape.

This scenario isn’t entirely theoretical.

Recently, I listened to two different podcasts about two of the most successful television shows that exist. These were true fans…but:

1. On several points, they seemed determined to be confused about plot points even though the answers were readily available on screen, if only they’d looked.

2. Several weenies missed subtleties that weren’t really that subtle. It’s not the fault of the show’s writers if you aren’t paying attention. If you’re missing something, stop tweeting while you watch The Walking Dead

3. Someone objected to issues within the shows that are non-issues. e.g. Is Leonard’s mom on The Big Bang Theory really a licensed psychiatrist? If true, she’s terrible! Answer: it’s a comedy and you aren’t supposed to like that character and it’s a comedy and it’s a comedy and oh, for the love of Thor! Stop!

4. These dedicated amateurs had one or two good suggestions (I’m guessing by accident.) The rest of their requests for changes were objectively terrible, like dumping beloved characters that made the shows work, for instance.

There’s a reason we don’t write by committee.

It’s good that writing is a lonely job. You don’t get book ideas and plot points from other people. The elements develop organically, rising up from character and logic and by answering the question, “What’s next?” And then answering it again and again until you stop writing or die. The writing grows from the act of writing.

Input is helpful after you’ve done the work, sure, but don’t even ask a trusted friend what to do when you’re still in the second draft. He doesn’t know. How can he? You wouldn’t ask if you should turn left or right when all he knows is that you’re somewhere in New Mexico.

“Is this the right direction? Should the Mom die in the middle of the book?” A good friend will tell you to keep writing and hang up on you so you can get back to it. Finish something before you show it to anyone. You’re in command. Steer your ship solo. Lots of people will have their say later.

Everyone has an opinion on everything, even more so when they know less about the subject.

Once upon a time at a writing conference, an author asked me about the book I was writing. I gave him the broad strokes and he said, without hesitation, that my second act was “wrong”. If there’s a high school suicide in the first act, then the main character has to be torn up about it.

“Not if he hated the suicidal kid’s guts to begin with,” I replied. 

“Dude!” he said without a microbe of doubt, “High school kids don’t act that way. They shouldn’t act that way!”

“In my book they do.”

Summarily dismissed, I slunk away and have since dedicated my life to hating Stephen King with the fiery heat of a thousand suns. (No! I’m kidding! The offending author was not Stephen King. I love Steve! Him, I would have believed.)

Here’s the crux:

There are few rules in writing, but one I’m sure of is this, “If it plays, it plays.” You can make anything work in context. You can sell anything if the story sells it.

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

People doubted me, but I created a sympathetic hit man named Jesus (in second-person throughout, no less.) I create a lot of anti-heroes and no, I don’t care if readers love and agree with all my characters. Loving and agreeing with characters is overrated. Interesting is more important than loving.

Many of my stories don’t yield an easy happy ending but give unexpected, yet satisfying endings instead. I rarely do happily ever after, but you’ll often find transcendence there.

My main character in This Plague of Days is on the autistic spectrum and hardly ever speaks (and when he does, it’s often in Latin phrases.) When Doubting Tommy asks, “How the heck are you going to make that work?”, the answer is, “Watch me.”

My mission isn’t to write something easy that entertains. My mission is to write something different that entertains. Too much consultation, especially early on, would squelch my process. We don’t write by committee because committees are how most things don’t get done. Committees are where good ideas go to die. Committees are where you’ll find three reasonable, intelligent and helpful people compromising with one insane fascist to arrive at something closer to crazy than good.

Choose your beta readers, editors and allies carefully and don’t show them anything too early in your process. The book is only yours as long as you’re writing it. After that, it goes out to the world and it’s up to thousands of readers to decide if your vision pleases them. 

Make sure that, whatever you write, it pleases you.

~ The latest All That Chazz podcast is up at AllThatChazz.com. You’ll also find helpful affiliate links to my books there so you can buy them, which is quite a happy coincidence, isn’t it? Thanks. For a topic sort of related to this one, you can also get the latest update on Season 3 of This Plague of Days here.

Filed under: All That Chazz, publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How Weird Al, Kevin Smith, Hugh Howey and Scott Sigler Succeed

The mind virus is created. Spread the infection.

The mind virus is created. Spread the infection.

Price alone doesn’t get attention anymore. Being an author isn’t so special. To really stand out and sell more books,  you’re going to have to be you. 

We in the brain tickle business have never had so much freedom and opportunity  to talk directly to readers. We’ve also never been so invisible. The essence of our book marketing problem is that readers are flooded with noise but our signal isn’t getting through. A plethora of fractured choices leaves us catering to smaller niches. The world has exploded with feasts for the senses and books are not central to our cultural dining experience.

How do we help readers find us? 

To figure out how to better reach our niches, let’s look at artists who successfully engage their fans: Hugh Howey, Scott Sigler, Weird Al Yankovic and Kevin Smith.

Be famous for something else first.

When director Kevin Smith’s Clerks hit, that movie was his introduction to his niche. He has described the film as as a handshake to America that said, “Hi, How are you? I’m Kevin Smith!” Being famous first isn’t  helpful advice, but it’s so obvious, I had to get this one out of the way first.

Pioneer something new.

When Kevin Smith jumped on the podcast bandwagon, there weren’t many musicians in that band or on that wagon. He’s always up for something new or a twist on something old. He abandoned the big studio promotion model to take his movie, Red State, on tour to his fans. Now he’s taking his Super Groovy Cartoon Movie on the road.

The same willingness to adapt applies to Scott Sigler. When his manuscripts weren’t selling to publishers, he sat in his closet and recorded his books as podcasts. When he went back to the publishers, it was still so early in the game, the publishers replied, “What’s a podcast?” But Sigler’s readers found him through audio and ended up buying his work in digital and paper.

Think it’s too late to get into something new? Podcasting is still new. You probably write a blog, but there are millions of blogs vying for attention. There are only a few hundred thousand podcasts.

POD Chazz 2I have two podcasts and I sell the most books where my podcast is most popular. Also, I’m connecting with cool people on Vine. I don’t know what the next big thing will be, but I’m open to jumping into anything early if it makes sense to test it. Just don’t wait until the new social media platform makes sense to everyone.

Embrace Different and get noticed.

Hugh Howey has taken a contrarian approach to fan fiction. He’s embracing it. Instead of guarding the realm of Wool, he’s invited others to play in his sandbox. That one move has already gained him new fans and more publicity. The fact that Amazon decided to promote fan fic makes me think he’s on to something. (And before we get snotty about it, don’t forget fan fic is where the Fifty Shades of Gray‘s success sprang from.)

Kevin Smith just pressed a new album for his cult of rabid fans. That’s right. As in vinyl. They’ll buy it, too. They love him.

Scott Sigler appeared on The Joe Rogan Experience recently. Lots of fiction authors (like me!) would love to get on that show. He got there because he’s interesting, does tons of research for his books and he’s technologically innovative. Couldn’t happen to a smarter guy.

Meanwhile, Weird Al expanded his empire into our territory. He’s written a children’s book. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

Build a body of work.

After his many movies, Smith has a plethora of podcasts he’s begun, sponsored, abandoned and continued. His motto is, “Monetize.” He monetized conversation and found a way to keep his connection with his fan base between movies. Before podcasts, his ongoing conversation with fans happened through Twitter. Before that, his was one of the first message boards on the Internet. Keep up with innovation.

Weird Al has made music parodies for decades now (and weirdly, he does not appear to be aging.) It might surprise you to discover that half his songs are originals, not parodies of popular music. His fans know every lyric of his extensive musical inventory, though. Weird Al puts on an amazing show and, though many love him as a comedian, he doesn’t get the respect he deserves as a musician. He and his band have incredible range. They have to be great to convincingly parody so many artists of different styles. Keeping up with the music and being brilliant explain his staying power. His fan base renews so parents and their children have grown up loving Al. He didn’t get that status by being a one-hit wonder.

A bigger inventory is key to successful book marketing. Like I said repeatedly in Crack the Indie Author Code, your one sure, long-term strategy is to write plenty of good books. By occupying more digital real estate (like “Also boughts”), we send up a bigger flare to help readers find us.

The more shots you take, the more chances you have to hit. Once one book hits, all your sales rise. Do not bet it all on one spin of the wheel.

Be available.

Cool+People+Podcast+FinalQuite often you will read complaints about social media, particularly from authors. How many more blog posts will bleat, “But I just want to concentrate on writing my book…”? That’s not social media’s problem. That’s your time management problem. Figure it out and do what you enjoy when you can. (For instance, Vine’s a blast, it goes to my Facebook and Twitter, and it takes six seconds.)

Don’t complain about social media. Complaining about having to talk to readers makes you sound like someone potential fans don’t want to know, love and support. Whining doesn’t make you a diva or an auteur. It makes you a pain in the ass. 

Hugh Howey bubbles over with success, but he’s definitely not churlish. He’s friendly and nice. When I asked him about appearing on the Cool People Podcast, he got back to me right away even though he was on the road. (I’m interviewing him for the show next week! Can’t wait! If you have questions you want me to ask him, submit them to expartepress [AT] gmail [DOT] com.) 

Be available where readers congregate.

Smith and Weird Al tour. Scott Sigler is as close as your earbuds for free and when I sent him a tweet, he got back to me. Hugh Howey’s YouTube channel is plenty busy. If you aren’t talking where people are, you’re either praying or talking to yourself. Whether it’s social media or speaking events, go meet new people.

But it’s not just about sending signals out.

You don’t get much love hiding in a hole. To  engage people, be responsive when you can. For instance, Weird Al found himself waiting for a plane. He tweeted a phone number. “Anybody want to chat? I’ve got five minutes to boarding.” All his fans who couldn’t get through undoubtedly appreciated the gesture. It speaks to the sort of person he is (i.e. someone you want to know, love and support.)

When I met Kevin Smith, he couldn’t have been nicer to me. (Same with comedian Mike Schmidt, who has the same knack for remembering the name of everyone he meets and putting them at ease.)

Here’s the key: Be nice and listen to what they’re saying.

When you’re talking to someone, speak to that person as if, for that moment, he or she is the only person in the world. It sounds easy, which is why it’s so crazy more people don’t do it. (I’m confident divulging this open secret because, if you aren’t already genuinely nice, you won’t be able to fake it.)  Also, successful authors are always interesting, intelligent people with diverse interests. To be interesting, be interested in your world and in others.

Social media isn’t working for everyone.  

Episode 3 launches today! If you've been holding back on jumping in, now's the time!

Episode 3 launches today! If you’ve been holding back on jumping in, now’s the time!

Maybe that’s because we aren’t loveable, helpful or engaged enough. I’m not saying you have to engage “everyone”. That way madness lies. Besides, the writing has to come first and getting everyone on board isn’t the point. The point is to engage with people who get you and your work. I don’t need millions of readers who can take me or leave me. I need a few thousand die-hard cultists who call themselves an army, build fan clubs, buy books, leave happy reviews and don’t hate. That seems achievable. At least it’s easier than attempting to appeal to everyone (which too many people try to do.)

To the naysayers, I ask, “If social media is a lost cause, what is the alternative? Smoke signals?”

And are you being Weird Al enough?

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I’ve written the Hit Man Series, writing and publishing guides and most recently, This Plague of Days. TPOD is about a flu pandemic that turns into a zombie apocalypse as seen through the eyes of an autistic boy. It’s a serial, so you can gamble 99 cents on Episode One and buy the episodes a bit at a time, or grab the discount and get all of Season One for just $3.99. And by the way, when I’m nice to you, I’m not faking it. I only fake orgasms. In supermarkets.

Filed under: All That Chazz, audiobooks, author platform, book marketing, podcasts, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writing and Podcasting: Blog Highlights from The Week That Was

A cross-genre flurry about  society's collapse under the crush of the Sutr Virus combined with a boy's love for odd words, Latin dictionaries and his father.

A cross-genre flurry about society’s collapse under the crush of the Sutr Virus combined with a boy’s love for odd words, Latin dictionaries and his father.

The book I lost a job for…and why zombies? at ThisPlagueofDays.com

This post is as much about writing, characterization and process as it is about my horror serial. You’ll want to check this out.

Cool LeRon Barton Writes Straight Dope at CoolPeoplePodcast.com

I sat down with LeRon Barton to discuss drug culture in America for the Cool People Podcast. LeRon interviewed a host of people in the drug Cool+People+Podcast+Finaltrade and looked at it from all angles, from meth users to legal marijuana growers. Then he wrote a book, Straight Dope, about those candid interviews. It was a great conversation you’ll want to hear listen to and ponder. We dare to ask the question, “Why does Lindsay Lohan get so many breaks?” The answer we come up with is surprising.

The One That Gets Sexy on the All That Chazz podcast

Each week I read from Higher Than Jesus, my crime novel. In this episode, Jesus Diaz (my loveable Cuban assassin) deals with fallout from a life Dark Higher Than Jesus banner adof violence as he gets busy for the first time with Willow Clemont AKA the future Mrs. Diaz. The childhood trauma that shapes Jesus’ life is the core of the book, but it’s the erotic unveiling that will keep you riveted as this chapter gets sexy. (Yes, I use my sexy voice.)

Photo on 12-12-05 at 4.33 PMThey versus We: From Slave to Immortal in One Manifesto 

This is an artist’s cry of defiance. We need to be defiant. We must be unique to survive. There are dark forces united against us in a system that does not care about us. Consider this manifesto our rallying cry in the war of Art.

This Plague of Days: The Pitch

If you’re looking to see how a pitch is constructed, here it is. I’m not sending this off to agents, but if I were, this would be what the TPOD pitch wouldThis Plague of Days III look like.

First it was kale shakes. Buttered bulletproof coffee is next!

Behold! The awesome power of the kale shake!

Time Management for Weight Loss and Everything Else

DecisionToChange.com is my fastest growing blog. You’ll find all sorts of interesting tidbits about health, food diaries and more here. Don’t forget to like, subscribe and spread the word as I work on my weight loss journey. You may even want to join me.

Uncomfortable answers to questions about blogging

This was my most popular post by far this week. If you missed it, you’ll probably want to have a look for ideas about when to post, how to improve the look of your blog and how much to post. Plenty of issues tackled here, including the most troubling answer to a question rarely asked: Why blog at all?

What new on Vine?

Click it to grab it.

Click it to grab it.

Have you updated your author site’s links and pages recently? I updated several pages on my author website this week. Perhaps most important this week, I added an update page to supplement my guide to the Vine App, Six Seconds. This book, about marketing using this very cool app came out not long ago, but each month the developers have tweaked it somewhat. I’ve added notes about those improvements on a timeline as the upgrades come in. Note to all: Vine had 13 million users last week, but it’s on Android now, too! That’s a lot of eyeballs and a free way to spread your word on video Twitter.

I appear on the Inverse Delirium podcast

POD Chazz 2I love podcasting. I love comedy, stand up and otherwise. I love it so much, sometimes I appear on other podcasts. I did a comedy sketch for Inverse Delirium, a podcast from Baltimore. I play Professor E. Coli. I’ll be in another Inverse Delirium later this summer, sort of playing myself.

(This week, I was briefly mentioned on The School of Podcasting and The 40-Year-Old Boy podcast, too! Love those guys! Checkout their podcasts and subscribe to them, too.)

Filed under: All That Chazz, blogs & blogging, book marketing, Books, getting it done, podcasts, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, readers, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What you missed, what you need & rewards programs

1. From AllThatChazz.com: A new video trailer (brace yourself for the audio surprise)

2. How to protect your home from thieves, ninjas and quirky assassins

3. How I handle trouble (like Jesus) 

This is fun. Don’t expect the usual WWJD? angle.

4. PODCAST: The Moving Forward Edition

I begin with a fun Alex Jones parody and end with the first chapter of Higher Than Jesus, a story particularly scary in light of recent events and the upcoming presidential inauguration. (You’ll see.)

5. PODCAST: The No Excuses Edition

This is a get up and go get ’em start to a kick-ass 2013.

Dark Higher Than Jesus banner ad~ BONUS: Have you subscribed to the newsletter at AllThatChazz.com yet? Membership will have its rewards. Speaking of rewards, are you aware that three of my books offer more ebooks for free? Look for the gold sticker on the covers.

Filed under: All That Chazz, blogs & blogging, ebooks, , , , , , , ,

The Perfect Pitch: The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest begins

Crack the Indie Author CodeAs I write this, we’re just two hours away from the entry form becoming available for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. It’s fun to think you might win $15,000 or even $50,000 and a publishing contract. There’s a trip involved, as well, but they fly you coach so that’s more penance for choosing this insane profession. I once attended a writing conference where someone worried if entering this contest was the right thing to do. Well…I suppose obscurity has its advanta—no, wait. No, it doesn’t. If you have a novel that fits their categories (i.e. Thriller/Mystery, Romance, Sci-fi/Fantasy/Horror, Young Adult, General Fiction) and you’re of a mind to get more attention to your work, the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award is one good place to do it. They stop accepting entries after 10,000 contestants, so get on it if you are going to attack this project.

You’ll need to supply an excerpt (3,000 to 5,000 words) and the whole manuscript must be scrubbed of any features that identify you as the author. Get all the contest rules and enter at CreateSpace.com.

Most people will struggle with getting the pitch just right.

Even if you’re a genius, you should struggle. The contest requires an awesome pitch of up to 300 words. At the first stage, there are so many competitors that the pitch has to be very sharp to cut a swath through the half-assed entries. Make it memorable, touching, funny, seductive and/or beguiling. It’s got to flow from one perfect sentence to the next. It has to be as sweet as Pam Dawber on Mork & Mindy and as sexy as Pam Anderson before the hepatitis. (And it can’t be as dated as those references, oh, fellow child of the ’70s and ’80s.) 

Quick story

As I wrote the jacket copy for Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire, I labored a long time over just a couple of hundred words. I sweated. Then I sent the jacket copy off to Kit, my graphic designer. He created the covers quickly. That was good, because I made a nuisance of myself. I went back at it and changed the copy again the next day. (Kit is patient.)

All our writing has to be right and tight, but advertising copy is its own crass poetry. You have to deliver a lot in a few words and entice without coming across as douchey. That’s remarkably tough to get right, as a plethora of lousy ads on TV attest.

I write a couple of thousand words a day, but novels and sales copy are related, but different arts. It takes a lot of writing, revising and honing to hit the compelling note so your reader feels a need to explore your offerings further.

Writing the pitch for The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest today was like that.

I agonized, maybe even too much. Then I rewrote some more. Then I let it sit while I worked on formatting the entries. I came back and tinkered until I finally asked She Who Must Be Obeyed to read it. She smirked in the right places.

Not good enough! I couldn’t be satisfied until I got a full-throated laugh or possibly an out of control giggle. She Who Must Be Obeyed is not an easy audience. She rarely giggles.

I revised again and rearranged the set ups so the punchlines hit harder. When I was sure I had it, I called her back to reread the pitch to the contest. Even though she was already familiar with the material, she burst out laughing. Then I tweaked it a couple more times.

My pitch to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest is all of 237 words and it took hours until I was sure it was the best I could make it.* If I don’t make it to the second round of the contest, I’ll probably be quite cross. By “quite cross” I mean that, wherever you live, you will hear my howl. Strap in.

*It’s worth noting that the novel also has to live up to the pitch.

Aspire to Inspire eBook JPG~ Robert Chazz Chute is the author of a bunch of suspense, thrillers, two writing guides and one very weird book of self-help. He also podcasts with righteous abandon. For more, check out his flavor at AllThatChazz.com. 

Filed under: All That Chazz, Writers, writing contests, writing tips, , , , , ,

The mistake I made with my book cover (and how I fixed it)

Here's the new cover design for my novella. The graphic designer is Kit Foster of kitfosterdesign.com. IF YOU CAN'T SEE THIS IMAGE IN YOUR BROWSER, you can get the new cover image here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/83426

The Dangerous Kind is a top-notch, heart-wrenching novella of suspense (and I don’t just say so myself). Happy with the guts of the story, I put a bad cover on a good book. My reasoning at the time was that I didn’t want to spend money on any book that wasn’t a full-length work. I priced The Dangerous Kind at just 99 cents to introduce my flavor  to new readers. I did not consider that you can’t sell a gorgeous mansion if the front of the house looks condemned.

I created the first cover for my novella using picnik and morguefiles.com. I’m actually happy with some of the short story ebook covers I created, but with The Dangerous Kind? I made a mistake. The original cover makes sense to readers only after they’ve read the story. If I were a freakish hybrid with Bones McCoy after an unfortunate transporter accident, I might say, “Dammit, Jim! I’m a writer, not a graphic designer!” I should have asked for professional help instead of trying to do it on the cheap. I can recognize a good cover, but there’s a big gap between flying the plane and riding in back.

I was shortsighted. Once an ebook is for sale, you get to sell it forever. Why not make the best first impression you can? It will make a better return with a pretty face and you have forever to make back the investment. That’s what a good cover is: an investment, not a cost. My graphic designer is Kit Foster of kitfosterdesign.com (great guy!) so the cost was reasonable, too.

The other good move I made (finally!) was to ask for a cover endorsement from a fellow suspense novelist. I got one from a bestselling author: Jeff Bennington, author of Twisted Vengeance (and more). Jeff read The Dangerous Kind and gave me some nice quotes for the cover. Cover endorsements give readers courage to make that first click to buy our work and get sucked into our worlds.

Thanks Kit and Jeff. I may find new mistakes to make, but I don’t think I’ll be repeating this one moving forward.

Filed under: All That Chazz, authors, Books, ebooks, Publicity & Promotion, self-publishing, writing tips, , , , , , , , ,

Review, Interview and Podcast News

Many regular readers expect a new podcast from me right about now. Since my throat has closed up and I’m currently absorbing oxygen through my pores, there’s no podcast this evening (though if you missed any, they can all be found at AllThatChazz.com.)

Twisty and twisted. Click the pic for more.

However, I do have sweet and tasty candies for you:

From the NSFW category, erotica author Eden Baylee asks me some piercing Proustian questions and I give some earnest, logical and scatological answers. Not only is it not safe for work, it may not even be safe for your living room. Click here, read there and have a laugh.

Over at The Raven’s Quill, Krista Walsh gives a lovely review of Sex, Death & Mind Control.There are allusions to Dr. Hannibal Lecter. She’s beguiled, so I know my experiments with mind control really are working. See what the fuss is all about and read the review on her site.

Recently, RaeBeth McGee interviewed me at The Writing World. I’m all about the pithy answers about writer’s block, verisimilitude and my enemies will get a clue as to where to search for the hidden secret to my weaknesses! Enjoy in a click.

A new cover is coming for The Dangerous Kind. This time it will be pretty since Kit at KitFosterDesign is pinch hitting for me. It will be more effective because the new cover will include a happy endorsement from a bestselling author.

If you don’t have a Kindle, but still want The Dangerous Kind edition with the vintage cover, you can get it on Smashwords here. I’ve had great reviews of this suspenseful novella. You could be the next happy reader to review this claustrophobic story of greed, betrayal and inner demons in the Maine woods. (Still for just 99 cents! Couch change!)

I shall be podcasting again when my throat is no longer full of razor blades. For now, I think you’ll find these links plenty entertaining. For me? Each of these links taste like affirmation of me as a writer and acknowledgement that I’m a player…excuse me, that should be playah. And all that tastes like chocolate croissant. My thanks to Eden, Krista and RaeBeth! That was fun!

I have major announcements cooking, so stay tuned.

Cool stuff is coming your way.

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Filed under: All That Chazz, ebooks, My fiction, publishing, reviews, self-publishing, short stories, What about Chazz?, , , , , , , , ,

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

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Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

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

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