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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

Keep a Wary Eye on Your Sales Pages

I got an ugly and unhelpful surprise this morning. Make sure this doesn’t happen to you.

It used to be that you could go to Author Central on Amazon to check for your latest reviews. I am encouraging you to check your book’s sales pages regularly because, sadly, Amazon is not reliable. Pardon my tone, but my wife is ill, and I’m concerned about that. I’m feeling not so great, either, so my frustration is compounded by seeming to be thwarted at every turn and told to suck it up. (More on that bit of shit further down this post.)

For anyone who has been pushed around. Against those who do the pushing.

The First Assault

Regular readers here may recall that Amazon sabotaged the launch of my award-winning novel, Endemic. I couldn’t advertise it at all (for reasons unknown) in the first critical weeks after its release. I am so proud of that book, and to see its wings get clipped before it could fly was incredibly frustrating. I soldiered on, but yes, I’m bitter. It’s difficult enough to get any novel air and attention without unwarranted obstacles along the path.

Since that shaky start, Endemic has won first place in science fiction at both the Hollywood and New York Book Festivals. It also garnered a Literary Titan award. I know the novel is in the running for the North Street Book Prize since they let me know it’s in the semi-finals. In other words, this one is particularly important to me (and to my bottom line.) Book sales have tanked generally, so Endemic is the central weight-bearing pillar of my tiny castle.

And Now, This

This morning, on a whim, I had a peek at my Amazon author page. It looked fine until I clicked on reviews to take a deeper look. I guess I was looking for a little ego boost. Instead, I got an itch I could not scratch. The reviews for Endemic from the United States were not about Endemic. They were happy reviews of a vacuum cleaner!

That does not help me. (Curses ensued, several quite imaginative and not fit for general consumption.)

I contacted Amazon immediately, of course. While I checked my other books for linking errors, the kind gentleman on the help desk did some research. He couldn’t fix the problem himself manually, so it was elevated to the tech division. He hoped my little marketing disaster would be rectified within five days. I’m not blaming him. He did all he could within a system that could use more organization.

Amazon has been making big changes lately. From adding Goodreads ratings, to categorization limits and snafus, to their new Top Picks feature, maybe they are moving too fast. When any system gets too big, there are bound to be logistics errors and smelly clogs in the plumbing.

Shots Fired

There is another annoyance when legitimate problems such as these arise. Some folks will insist your concerns are illegitimate and gloss over your lived experience. Some who fancy themselves leaders and book marketing experts have a filthy habit of putting a happy face on anything and everything Amazon does to us. They tell you to just write another book, relax, and ignore your crumbling sales data. They suggest that the Zon can do no wrong and everything they do is customer-focused. Uh, nope! Don’t pee on me and tell me it’s raining (and nutritious, to boot!)

It is undeniable that Amazon has done a lot right compared to other book sales platforms. I’m concerned those smart moves may be confined to history. Just because they’re the top sales platform doesn’t make me any less screwed today. If they are immune to criticism when they mess up, it’s like saying cops have all the power so they can do no wrong.

Whenever an author dares to cry foul because their income is taking a direct hit, they get gaslit by those who are comfortable with such chaos. By comfortable, I mean they are privileged enough to have more of a cash cushion. Hint: Some of those knobs aren’t necessarily sanguine about your troubles because they’re making a boodle off their books. They’re selling services to the indie community instead of writing fiction. Their compassion deficit is as deep as their pockets. Don’t listen to people who are too comfortable with your pain. You are not a whiner. You’re bleeding and need a tourniquet and a kind word.

So? What Now?

I’m not going to slap on a shit-eating grin and enthuse, “Don’t worry, be happy!” You can’t trust that all you have to do is wait and they’ll fix any problems. You have to remain vigilant to alert them to problems. The central premise of this blog has always been to track the ups and downs of writing and publishing without the bullshit, so here’s my honest advice:

Check your book pages to make sure the listings are correct. Check again regularly. You can’t set it and forget it because the Amazon platform has become too technically complex to be trusted. Or maybe get into the vacuum cleaner business. They seem to have a bunch of happy customers.

~ Oh, and please do check out Endemic. I’m so pleased with this novel because, beyond the apocalyptic scenario, it’s about people who don’t fit in, how they change and how they don’t. The dedication reads: For anyone who has ever been pushed around. Against those who do the pushing.” That seems especially appropriate this morning. Listings and links for all my books are on my author page at AllThatChazz.com.

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

Amazon Confusion Continues

Many authors have discovered that their author pages are not displaying their full catalogue. Oddly, it’s not actually clear to everyone what’s going on, including the people you talk to at the Zon. From Amazon, I heard directly that they are working on it as a glitch. However, dive into a writing group or two and you’ll find that some of us are receiving a very different message: It’s not a glitch. It’s by design. Mixed signals are frustrating. Beta test? New normal? Mistake? Well, I definitely think it’s a mistake, and today I’ll detail why and what you might do about it.

What some of us are told is that the new algorithm shows Amazon customers an author sales page tailored to their browsing history. For instance, if you’ve read my apocalyptic stuff like This Plague of Days, you could go to my author page and only my other apocalyptic stuff would be served up: Endemic, AFTER Life, Citizen Second Class, Robot Planet, Our Alien Hours, Our Zombie Hours and Amid Mortal Words. You would not see any of my other work on my author page. Following this new modus operandi, there is no place to see my full catalogue on Amazon. You would not see all my crime thrillers. To get links to my full backlist, you’d have to go to my author site.

There are no doubt a lot of authors who have not looked at their author page lately. I habitually check for new reviews through Author Central and monitor sales using Book Report. Again, if you haven’t seen what’s happening on your author page, it’s a good idea to have a look.

To be clear, the books have not disappeared completely from the platform. However, to find them all, you’d have to search by title or by my name. (Searching by author name alone often serves up a mix that is not on point.)

In short: Visibility is down, discoverability is hampered, and your backlist sales are hobbled.

If they stick with this new algo, only a determined fan, not a casual browser, would go to the trouble to find all my stuff easily. There’s a ribbon across the top, but in my experience, readers go down the author page, they don’t click across multiple times. That’s just how people have been programmed to read, and the more a customer has to click, the less shopping they do.

How do I know this fiddling is bad for authors and readers?

I can see the failure of this strategy in my falling book sales. It’s down to a dribble. That’s the key factor for me. Like everyone else, I’ve got bills to pay and I’m more worrier than warrior.

The frustrating detail is that Amazon is such a vast company that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. You know, that cute cliche that actually hints at brain damage? From Amazon, after about 48 hours, I received an email to say it’s a glitch and they are working on it. “Our technical teams are aware of this problem and we’re working toward a resolution as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, other authors are hearing a different story as detailed above. One author spoke to a supervisor who told her (a) they are getting a lot of negative feedback, (b) they tried this before and it didn’t work, and (c) they may reverse course.

Amazon’s priority has always been to optimize the customer experience. I understand that and don’t have a problem with it. The other book sales platforms could learn a thing or two from Amazon’s customer focus. However, this is a case where what’s good for readers is better for authors, too. Maybe we’ll go back to what worked better. Maybe we won’t. While they work that out, my focus will be to try to mitigate the damage no matter what they do.

That’s for another post on another day. For now, please buy my stuff and check on your stuff. If your author page does not display all your wares, let Amazon Central Customer Support know you’re not altogether pleased. Check your income, too. Moving the system with data points will be more effective than an emotional appeal.

Also, please be kind with whomever you correspond. It’s not their fault. The root of this endeavor lies somewhere deep in the Hell Realm where misguided accountants’ avarice and programmers’ warped aspirations intersect to whisper dark incantations over bubbling cauldrons of code slurry.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute, a frustrated multiple award-winning writer with a heart of gold and not enough money. Find all my books on my author site AllThatChazz.com.

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

Amazon Glitches You Don’t Want

I checked my author page today to find that several of my books were not displaying on my Amazon author profile! Several of my most popular books lacked visibility on the Zon. By reloading the page, they might come back and they might not. I just checked this afternoon and even fewer of my books were to be found on my author page! No wonder my book sales have been plummeting.

(It was at this point Rob began to sweat and curse. He had cursed before, but as he reflected on financial ruin, he brought fresh verve and creativity to the activity.)

Visibility on Amazon is always a challenge, but when the problem is indistinguishable from sabotage, it’s time to hit the panic button. I got KDP on the horn very quickly and the rep was nice, but she also informed me that I had to talk to a different department to rectify the glitch. For that, no phone call. I had to send an email. I did so and struck just the right note: polite yet 911 urgent, on fire, yet congenial. The robot told me to expect to wait twenty-four hours, longer if research is required.

In the meantime, what to do, what to do, what to freakin’ do? I reasoned there must be something more to take action on than merely sweating, cursing, and making a TikTok about it.

Action steps:


1. Do what I’m told and wait patiently for a reply. I can do that. (Butt wiggles like a chihuahua that needs to pee.)

2. Direct you to my author site at AllThatChazz.com for direct links to my books.

3. Failing that, please search Robert Chazz Chute on Amazon to find my beguiling suspense and unputdownable science fiction. (Yes, I have some financial ground to make up this month. God, how long has this been going on?!)

4. That done? Read this article from Kindlepreneur about how to deal with suspensions, terminations, and other disasters on the Amazon platform.

5. Go to your author page and see if all your books are there sittin’ pretty. If they are, huzzah! No problem. If not, revisit Step 4.

We now return to my previously scheduled sweating , cursing, and butt wiggling.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute. I pen apocalyptic epics with heart and killer crime thrillers with muscle. I’m really quite sweet and adorable most of the time. Find my stuff at AllThatChazz.com.

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

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, , , , , , ,

Cliffhangers and Amazon KU

So there I was reading a blog from Wise Ink about the ups and downs of Amazon’s new page count policies for Kindle Unlimited payouts. I ran across this concern:

“But no piece of writing should have a cliffhanger at the end of each and every chapter.”

That’s one of the dangers? Compelling page-turners?

Um…hm.

I think some people (a vocal minority) say they hate cliffhangers. It’s that thing that keeps us reading and keeps us coming back to television shows from week to week and year to year. Even if we think we hate it, we keep coming back.

Dickens did it. Many authors I love do it. I think every chapter deserves a word button that encourages the reader to stay up all night and get fired for falling asleep at work the next day. Isn’t that part of the fun?

Wise Ink is a fine blog with a lot of great content. I’m not crapping all over them for one statement. Let’s not make it about Wise Ink. 

Instead, I will ask this:

Look at that bold assertion and let me know: Why or why not?
Discuss.
Am I way wrong?

Thank you.

Filed under: Amazon, , , , ,

Amazon policy changes. We probably don’t.

Amazon has announced that KU will pay per page. Previously, authors were credited with a “borrow” only after the reader got past 10% of the book. Now the pay will be based on how far the reader actually gets so authors of longer works will be compensated more (and, perhaps, fewer people will write shorter works or try to “game the system.”)

The above statement is how many people seem to be reading the new Kindle Unlimited policy change announcement. 

That’s not how I see it. Here’s my take:

1. It doesn’t matter. Write your books to whatever length tells the story satisfactorily. Readers don’t care about this behind-the-scenes drama so you shouldn’t worry overly much about it, either.

2. A lot of people are talking about jumping out of Select because of the surprise change. Here’s the thing: after July your revenue may go up or it may go down. That depends less on KU and more on your books. For instance, you can write a really long book and assume you’ll get handsomely compensated under the new system. However, if readers abandon the book in the early going when they encounter a saggy middle, you’re no farther ahead than if you wrote a ripper at a shorter length that the reader fully devoured.

3. I plan to write some shorter fiction. I’m not altering that plan because I’d rather have more stories in a series or in a world. I can always box them up later for length later if need be.

4. Shorter work still has another advantage everyone seems to ignore: increased visibility. Publish more often, be seen more often. Every 30 days, every author faces the dreaded Cliff. Focusing on page count alone blinds us to other variables.

5. Once again, Amazon is innovating. Don’t be afraid of change. Roll with it. Adapt. Crush your enemies and drink wine from their skulls and whatnot. The writing biz is not for pussycats.

6. Again, the other sales platforms are not changing a thing. Hm. That’s not stability you’re smelling. That’s rot.

7. If you take a hit from Amazon’s change in policy, it may be time to go wide to other platforms and build your readership elsewhere (if you aren’t working on that already.) The catch is, though Amazon may suck in one regard for you, that still does not equate to improvement on the other platforms. I make all my money on Amazon US and that’s pretty much it. 

8. Panic is not a plan. I’ll leave it to others who are geniuses with calculators to do the calculating. I’m waiting and watching to learn if there’s anything to learn (besides write more great books.) I’m also expanding my plans for serious promotional tactics in any case. Even before yesterday’s announcement of changes with KU, I’ve noticed slower sales and fewer reviews. Like it or not, ready or not, it’s time to spend money to make money to stay in this game.

9. I never tried to “game the system.” But I think people who wrote shorter after KU was introduced weren’t necessarily “gaming” anything. They were being flexible and using business acumen. Serials made a comeback. Their popularity has always waxed and waned. And what’s wrong with writing short, anyway? Many people tell us that many readers prefer shorter books because it fits their lifestyle demands, their attention span and their time management choices. Write what you want and what you think your readers want (or what you can make them want.) Fashion changes. Winds change. Leaders go out front with a lantern, a will and a plan to break the trail.

10. If you write short books, you might take a hit. Or box sets are going to come roaring back. (I have omnibuses, so cool.) You know what else is growing and only going to get bigger? Audiobooks. There’s plenty to sell on Amazon besides mobis. KU is only one segment of sales.

11. This really doesn’t change anything for me. I’ll write short books. I’ll write long books. I’ll find out what I get paid when the Amazon check arrives. It is, as always, about the writing. Arguably, judging books by pages read means it’s about pleasing the reader, now more than ever.

12. Everybody relax. We’ll all live longer if we relax. Breathe. Repeat. Continue.

Okay? Okay. Oorah.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute and I’m giving away super duper cool stuff on my author site right now. Download your free review copy here while the offer still lasts. Thanks.

Filed under: Amazon, , , , , , ,

What’s the right price for a book?

When discussing book marketing, writers often debate free versus cheap versus charging what a book is worth. “What a book is worth” can be a moving target, depending on who you ask and when. Here are some factors to consider:

1. Length of the book.

My friend and co-author, Holly Pop, wrote a novella, Ouija: Based on a True Story. It charted at 99 cents, but since going up to $2.99, it’s still charting and doing well. Short doesn’t have to mean 99 cents. It’s around 8,000 words and people still want it. Pick it up. It’s really compelling.

2. Genre.

Some genres, like epic fantasy or historical romance, seem to have readers who expect higher word counts. They often want more than 100,000 words.

I think many readers are becoming less sensitive to word count. That’s good. What should matter to us, as readers and writers, is providing value for money. My books are getting shorter. I start looking for the exit around 50,000 words and I generally find it north of 60,000 words. Still a good-sized book that doesn’t feel to the reader like it’s full of shortcuts. Consider that a lot of people are grooving on shorter, fast-paced books, too. They don’t feel they have time for very long books. (I think that trend will continue.)

3. Intent and timing.

Is this book a loss leader? Is it meant to be an introduction and sales funnel for a series? You might put it at perma-free or you might decide to offer an introductory price of 99 cents. You might also choose to put it at whatever you consider full price and hold a sale once in a while to move more books (and include a call to action to your other, similar, books.) You might even just write the bloody book, slap on the price you think is fair, never drop the price ever. You might start high and slowly drop (the traditional approach) or you might start low to get more attention and reviews and slowly raise the price.

4. Is it time to reevaluate your book prices? 

Here’s my little case study:

I had the first Season of This Plague of Days set at 99 cents for a long time. I don’t personally like that price — not much sense having a pulse sale on a 99 cent book — but it got people looking at it who might have passed me by otherwise. It’s at 100 reviews now and more people are opting for the This Plague of DaysOmnibus Edition (greater value for the price and it contains all three books for an epic saga many compare favorably to The Stand.) All things considered, time to assert worth, right?

I put the price up to $3.99 today. According to Amazon’s price estimation tool, I should be charging $5.99 for a revenue increase of 451% and a drop in unit sales by half. However, Season One is the first in the series and the other books are also $3.99 each (while the TPOD Omnibus is at $6.99 and around 300,000 words.) No reasonable reader could say I’m trying to gouge them by keeping the price to $3.99. Arguably, I priced the first book in the series too low for too long. In the long-term, price should reflect value, but value is not the lone factor.

5. You.

Another consideration when setting prices is your sensibility and your confidence in the value of your product. Do you feel you’re well-known enough to set a higher price or are you still stuck enticing them with a low price? (Note: that strategy may well be deep in the Law of Diminishing Returns since competing on price is far less effective now.)

Also: Is the quality high? Do the reviews back that up for someone happening across your author page for the first time? Are you marketing your work well? What does “full price” mean to you, anyway? If you get a complaint about a price point, comparing it unfavorably to a low word count, for instance, will that send you reeling into a rage and/or depression?

Here’s one thing you don’t have to worry about: history.

If you priced a book too low or too high, you can always change it. You can experiment with price until you find the price that moves books effectively but still pays. Some writers worry that readers will complain about cost, comparing it to what it has been priced in the past. That’s rare. If I hadn’t just given you the history of a couple of my book prices, how many of you would really know what I charged yesterday? A few to none. Feel free to experiment.

6. Don’t discount free unnecessarily, either.

The truth is this: I think my crime novels rock. The Hit Man Series is a fun and funny romp with some serious power and punch behind it. (My fave is Hollywood Jesus, for the John Leguizamo joke alone.) However, it’s one of those best kept secrets that needs to get out there and mingle. I’m not seeing enough movement nor enough reviews on those titles. To get more readers to take a chance on my funny Cuban hit man, Jesus Diaz, I’m going to make the first novel in the series perma-free or at least tempo-free. Bigger Than Jesus is already on Kobo for free and I’m hoping Amazon will price match soon.

(Let Amazon know it’s free on Kobo here.)

If a series isn’t moving the way it should, consider doing a giveaway so you draw more readers into the fold. It’s not necessarily that your book series is ugly. It could be that Book #1 hasn’t gone on enough dates yet. Those who know it, love it, so eventually, everybody is going to love Jesus.

7. Stay flexible.

It may take a lot of experimentation and experience before you find the price move that’s right for you. Then you’ll have the same journey of discovery when you publish the next book, too. I’m on that journey, still experimenting. I don’t think that experimentation ever really stops. It’s just forgotten for a while until we figure it’s time to reassess sales and marketing and pricing again.

~ Robert Chazz Chute will publish his next novel (with co-author Holly Pop) later this week. It’s called The Haunting Lessons, an urban fantasy about a young woman from Iowa who, when tragedy strikes, discovers she has powers she never suspected. It’s the beginning of a fun series packed with jokes and disaster. If you want to join the fight and survive Armageddon, look for it on Amazon this weekend.

Filed under: Amazon, author platform, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

TOP 10 in Publishing: What’s changed again? Amazon.

If hope you enjoyed my interview with Simon Whistler on The Rocking Self-publishing Podcast (see the post below this one for details if you missed it.) We recorded the episode on July 4. It didn’t take long at all for some details to change since the interview. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Yes, on too much coffee, I can get pretty manic. Also, some of the interview was edited for excessive Sean Connery impressions.

2. I was in Kobo briefly. I made $27. Finally and at last! I can retire! …Mm…no, actually, I pulled the plug on Kobo except for some short stories.

Everybody agrees. The folks at Kobo are nice people. Then I heard a horror story of someone who couldn’t move books on Kobo even when Kobo promoted them! I was to meet with the good people of Kobo in Toronto. After evaluating the track record and potential, I blew off the meeting so I could stay home and write and edit my next books. The trip literally wasn’t worth the gas. I do hope things will improve in this regard in the near future for Kobo and several other platforms. Amazon needs healthy, not anemic, competition.

3. Kindle Unlimited was introduced soon after the interview. Seeing so little movement on Kobo, I promptly pulled out and slapped my books back into KDP Select. With their value added proposition, suddenly there is more marketing juice to squeeze out of Amazon. 

4. Kindle just announced they will reward early adopters of the program by relaxing the 10%-read-to-get-paid rule on the first round. They also added to the shared fund for borrows. I missed out on the money bump when they introduced KDP Select in the first place. I wasn’t going to miss out again.

5. Since returning to Select, My KU earnings frequently surpass my regular sales. People are taking to the program. This is especially nice because This Plague of Days, Season One is a whole book, the first in the trilogy. It’s selling at just 99 cents. More readers are willing to check it out through the KU program. That pays roughly a couple bucks per borrow instead of 30 cents. Am I a huge success, yet? No. However, I’m getting exposure that other platforms can’t seem to give.

6. This Plague of Days is getting promoted on a couple different lists by Amazon. Seems it’s getting some traction with teens most, science fiction second and fantasy third. (Interesting, yes? Maybe I should revamp the sales descriptions to skew away slightly from horror since its layers and appeal may lie elsewhere.)

7. Amazon just upped the ante in the value added column by opening up the pre-order button to little guys like me. Holy crap! I have some thoughts on how that could be useful, but I’ll save it for another post once I’ve gone through their submission process firsthand.

8. When we recorded the interview, Simon and I discussed whether the Amazon-Hachette debacle would still be a thing by the time the interview aired August 14th. As I recall, neither of us were that optimistic the battle would be over by then and we were right. In an attempt not to bore the audience or appear dated too soon, we largely avoided that discussion. We’re all suffering Amazon versus Hachette fatigue, aren’t we? Looking forward to the titans figuring it out for themselves.

9. We had a great time with that interview and I hope you laughed along with us. There’s some good information sifting through that hour of self-publishing talk. The field is growing and changing so fast — or at least Amazon is changing their game so fast — several things changed in a very short time.

The other platforms? Um. Can anybody name an innovation from any of the other platforms in the last six months? (There must be something, but nothing strong has stuck with me.)

10. What didn’t change? Pretty much everything else. I’m still glad I serialized This Plague of Days but I don’t intend to serialize again (too many gears and pulleys and cons versus pros on that machine.) 

What’s next?

More series (not serialization) and another omnibus edition. 

Stay tuned.

Filed under: Amazon, author platform, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

We are not gambling writers. We are working writers.

I saw it again, today. Too often, people take the extreme end of an argument and generalize back to the middle to suit their worldview. It’s not logical. It’s bubble poppin’ time!

Example 1: Amazon’s trying to tell Hachette that it should sell the next Stephen King ebook for $9.99 or less. 

There are a couple of problems with this statement.

First, Amazon has categorically stated that some ebooks should be priced higher. Though Amazon’s statement on contract negotiations was short, lots of people missed that crucial detail:

“Is it Amazon’s position that all e-books should be $9.99 or less? No, we accept that there will be legitimate reasons for a small number of specialized titles to be above $9.99.”

If an author has lots of fans who won’t wait for a price drop, the exemption for authors at that level of success makes sense. The math will reveal which way to go. For most of us, lower prices are the way to go. Amazon speaks unusually clearly on this point:

“The author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. And that 74% increase in copies sold makes it much more likely that the title will make it onto the national bestseller lists. (Any author who’s trying to get on one of the national bestseller lists should insist to their publisher that their e-book be priced at $9.99 or lower.)”

Amazon beat Hachette’s argument to death with math. Everybody makes more money by charging less than the inflated ebook prices Hachette wants to set. By “everybody”, it’s obvious we mean everybody but Stephen King and a handful of the 1% authors who are doing really well because that’s where the analysis of sales points us.

The default author we should be concerned with is not anyone at the extreme end of success. It’s you and me. There’s hope for us, but probably not the fictional Mansions in Tahiti Level of Hope. Which brings me to the other argument I see far too often…

Example 2: People say, “Hugh Howey is an outlier and most self-published authors will not equal his success.”

Hugh says himself that he’s a lucky outlier. (Talented, smart, likeable and writing solid books helps immensely, too.) Most self-published authors know they won’t become millionaires. That’s an aspiration that non-self-publishers often put on us as they sneer. We’re not stupid. We know the odds. We’re look at our sales stats seven times a day. We know! 

What some of self-publishing’s critics don’t seem to get, though, is that there are many author/publishers who are making a living by selling at lower prices for a 70% return. They aren’t millionaires, but they are meeting their financial obligations, paying mortgages and getting by. Some are doing even better than simply getting by. They are not rich. Few writers of any ilk ever make it to rich. However, writing is their job. They’re frequently doing better financially than traditionally published authors. (I’m not saying this to make anyone feel bad. I am saying I’m tired of all or nothing thinking among the mathphobic and terminally cranky fact-allergic.)

Still, there are those who refuse to acknowledge that, since the creation of the ebook market, the authorpreneur is a growing possibility for those with middle class aspirations. Not a probability, but a possibility. If you doubt that’s possible, I have evidence from The Passive Voice.

The role of writer has rarely paid well, but it’s a better deal for more of us now than it has ever been. We are not hoping to be lottery winners. We’re hoping to sell the next book at reasonable prices for a growing audience of enthusiastic fans. (There’s also never been a better time to be a reader, by the way.)

If I make it to middle class, that’s awesome. But it’s not about the money, Lebowski. It’s about the writing. It’s always been about the writing. I wrote books for years and never submitted them anywhere. I just wrote for me. Writing is an obsession. Obsessions don’t change whether I make seven figures or a single, dirty dime.

I write. So do you. Let’s keep it real out there. We don’t do it for the money. We do it for love.

Filed under: Amazon, author platform, Books, self-publishing, Writers, , , , , , , , , , ,

Helpful Mother’s Day Advice plus what’s tiring me out in publishing this week

At the end of this post, we’re going to find the happy. You’ll feel the height and breadth of the contrast to the rest of the article when we bring this post in for a landing. Also, at the bottom, you’ll get some excellent Mother’s Day advice. Now, here’s ten things that suck:

1. Relentless Facebook group “marketing.”

How can I miss you if you don’t go away? Spread that stuff out! Give me some space instead of pummeling me with spam. I am begging you.

2. Publishing gurus saying (smugly) that ebook sales are slowing down.

Slowing down from a rocket launch still gets us to high orbit. Nobody said we’d grow 800% every year. Slow down from that a bit and the growth curve still exceeds any reasonable expectations. E-publishing is a young industry and it’s doing great.

3. Certain players in traditional publishing complaining about Amazon’s “monopoly.”

It is not, by any definition, a monopoly. Amazon dominates the market because in most areas of marketing and innovation, they’re ahead of their competitors. I want Amazon to have healthy competition. If other platforms happen to suck, that’s not Amazon’s fault. Attention other platforms: up your game. Complaining about Amazon is not solving your problems. Consider emulating best practices instead of bitching about them.

4. Bagging on box sets.

I’m in on a box set with seven other awesome horror authors. Together, we’re amping up our discoverability and finding new readers with what Joanna Penn calls “coopetition.” It doesn’t devalue my books to charge 99 cents. It’s a valuable investment in new readers. It’s one strategy that says, “I value readers.” Generosity is one worthwhile strategy for any author who isn’t out to make a quick buck. We’re in this for the long game and we stand proud.

5. Libel in book reviews.

A friend of mine, whom I shall not name so she draws no further ire, has been insulted personally, maligned and called a fraud on Amazon. Her bio has been questioned. Go ahead and hit the “Report abuse” button. Many people have done so and pointed out to Amazon that this is libel. The review remains. Still! That sucks.

6. Spoilers in reviews.

Please don’t tell the whole story in a review. That’s what reading the book is for. I was further outraged recently to find that a review of a new author’s book (which is great) contained a spoiler. Worse, that three-star spoiler was ranked “most helpful.”

7. The fun police.

Popularity, and pendulums, swing back and forth. Today’s fans can have a strange propensity to turn into tomorrow’s haters if an artist dares to change. It’s not selling out, dude. It’s growing. If you now hate a superstar author you used to love, please examine why you’d venture into “hate” territory over a piece of entertainment. Maybe this book isn’t you. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. It means it’s not to your taste. Everybody’s had food poisoning a few times but we all keep eating. Chill.

8. All or nothing.

Don’t quit after one book because that book didn’t win the sales lottery. We focus too much on rare outliers and not enough on the people who are merely doing well. As if good isn’t good enough. This life is about the journey, not the dead stop at the end. It’s about the writing and the joy of creation. If someone else finds joy in your creation, fantastic! (Be assured, no matter how bad your early attempts are, someone will love it.) Relax.

People ask why billionaires keep trying to make money after so many millions or billions are already in the bank. How many homes do you need? But I think it’s more than just smelly greed. There’s a clue in the mentality of the writer: this is simply what we do. That’s where the fun is. We would do this for free. Many of us already write for free or are in debt because of our obsession for the written word. Enjoy the process and stop thinking in terms of winning and losing.

Think in terms of doing.

9. Fake outrage.

Despite the tone of this post, I’m a nice guy. But when one writer calls another a “hack” on the Internet, I have to ask a question or two: You do realize the object of your casual derision is a human being doing the best they can, right? Do you think you’d walk away unbloodied if you treated people in person the way you do when you’re safe behind a keyboard? Right.

So don’t be a troll. And if you’re trying to sabotage another author to make yourself look or feel good, you know that won’t work, right? We know the truth and you know trashing other authors with fake reviews doesn’t advance your books, right? You want fan love? Earn it. You aren’t climbing over anybody’s body any other way. And what if those nasty tactics actually did work? You’d always know you earned nothing. That angry, fake review from a fake account just makes you look angry and dumb and we all know it’s not real. Be real.

10. “It’s been done.”

Everything has been done. However, not everything has been explored in quite the unique way only you, Mr./Ms./Mrs./Dr./Whatever Author, can write it.

“It’s been done,” is a lazy agent’s way of saying no. “It’s been done,” is the dismissive wave of a critic who doesn’t bother to look deeper. “It’s been done,” is the casual cruelty of a dream crusher. These people aren’t your readers. They’re incurious, boring people. Don’t believe them. You can make anything fresh. Some will say there are only twelve plots, or ten, or five. I say there are two: Good versus Evil (and variations thereof) and Boy gets Girl (and variations thereof.)

Maybe the next trend will be westerns. These things go in cycles and westerns haven’t been hot for a while. Maybe you will be the pioneer to break new ground in the genre and spawn a thousand vacuous imitators who will spur critics to, once again, proclaim the genre dead. All genres are proclaimed dead at some point and every critic who says so is (almost) always proven wrong. Genres get resurrected and everything runs how and cold. Don’t chase these trends. Heat them up again in new ways.

You be you. Have a blast. We’ve stepped through the darkness with this post. Now let’s go be lights. Blow them away with what you can do. Let’s flounce out on to the field, put ourselves out there, karma-positive and ready to write amazing fiction so hot we melt fans’ faces.

I already love you. Know why? Because you aren’t done. You’re a writer. You’ll always be a writer and nobody’s pulling down your flag.

~ To find out more about my books, go to AllThatChazz.com. To see Spiderman 2, go to a theater. For a nice, cool drink, squeeze some limes into some cold water from the fridge. To hear cool interviews with cool people, try CoolPeoplePodcast.com. To stay in the will, call you Mom on Sunday. It’s Mother’s Day. Forgive her for what she said about your boobs in front of your friends that time in grade 9.

 

Filed under: Amazon, Writers, , , , , , ,

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

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

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

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

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

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

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

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

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