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

Write and publish with love and fury.

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.

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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, , , , , , ,

How Amazon’s new sales dashboard got me moving (plus Art that sells books)

Lily BG-1

Click here to get Bigger Than Jesus

Click here to get Bigger Than Jesus

I wasn’t going to blog about the new Amazon sales dashboard.

Then I gave it a second look. The quick, detailed analysis is interesting and sometimes disheartening. Seeing all the outcomes across various countries at one glance is great. (Thanks, Australia. This Plague of Days is gaining ground Down Under.) I suspect the new dashboard will be an obsession to which we can lose a lot of time. The clarity delivered is better than what other retailers offer and absolutely crushes mainstream publishers for their lack of transparency. 

More information (or at least data that informs more easily) can change behavior. It just did that for me. Knowledge of weaknesses is more useful than knowing strengths. I checked through which books were moving and which weren’t. I asked myself which books could move better than they do. 

The ebook is also available in paperback for $9.99.

I settled on my funny crime novel, Bigger Than Jesus.

I’d just received three more fantastic reviews recently, so the book is sitting, highly rated, with 17 reviews. But it’s not selling. Several people have told me Bigger Than Jesus is my best book. It’s a fast read with a careening plot and there’s a follow-up with Higher Than Jesus

So why no love for Jesus?

There’s an issue with the title (you can guess) which I plan to remedy with the third installment in the Hit Man Series. Meanwhile,Bigger_Than_Jesus_Cover_for_Kindle I’ve failed to market it well enough. I think of myself as a suspense novelist, but most of my sales are coming from the horror side of the equation with This Plague of Days. Because I was letting Bigger Than Jesus sell “organically” (translation: not doing anything) I wasn’t paying attention to promoting my luckless Cuban hit man.

Bigger Than Jesus is not getting the visibility it deserves, so I must make it visible.

There are many complicated and expensive ways to do that. I’m opting for the easiest vector. This morning, through the Author Marketing Club website, I set up various free ebook sites to give the book away next week. I’ve applied to BookBub and paid a visit to The Fussy Librarian. More visibility and reviews will translate into more love, and more buyers, down the line. 

Dark Higher Than Jesus banner ad

I wouldn’t have changed my strategy if not for the change in the sales dashboard.

The changes make it easier to identify where the ball is not bouncing. Since my crime novel is well placed to fly higher, I’m attaching a booster rocket to it. 

~ Now you’re wondering about the art, right? That’s awesome work done by my buddy, Kit Foster of Kit Foster Design. More than just awesome covers, he can do ads and web banners, too. Spruce up your author sites and campaigns to sell books. He’s a very nice guy and his rates are very reasonable. You’ll be glad you did. Tell Kit that Chazz sent you.

Filed under: Amazon, book marketing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The real value of TBR lists (that you hardly ever get to)

Besides the chance at author discoverability through also-boughts, what is the value of all those to-be-read books you and I will probably never get to? (I say this with love and without judgment, as an author and fellow hoarder of books and ebooks.)

To shine a light in the dark, I spoke recently with an author who has her books for sale everywhere but Amazon.

(It matters little why she wasn’t on Amazon, except to say it was a misunderstanding of the platform’s requirements, not a principled, moral stance.)

“But we have to be on Amazon,” I told her. “Exclusive or not is your choice, but if you want to reach more readers, you must be on Amazon.”

“Why?”

“Because that’s where so many readers are. Amazon is out front and will remain so for the foreseeable future.”

“Why?”

“Because their customers are locked in.”

“What do you mean ‘locked in’? Everyone could switch to Kobo tomorrow.”

“But they won’t. Amazon has millions of customers whose first device was a kindle and so their library is on kindle. Kindle devices have come down in price and improved, so those readers will stick with kindle. They’re suffering the delusion that someday they’ll win the lottery, move to the French Riviera and finally have time to read all those hoarded books on a topless beach.”

“That’s not rational,” she sniffed.

“If I switched devices, it would be like burning all my books. And maybe that’s irrational, but we are talking about humans, yes? I have so few Vulcan readers.”

“But devices and companies go away. Look at MySpace and AOL and Kodak.”

“And the not-so-bright future of the Nook,” I added. “Yeah, companies go away if they fail to adapt to competition. But all those free downloads to long TBR lists give Amazon an immense legacy advantage. Kobo might be #2 in the e-reader market, but they’re a distant #2. Amazon’s the greyhound out front chasing the rabbit. The others are three-legged purse dogs running in circles around the starting line.”

“That’s ridiculous. If I wanted to switch, why couldn’t I just port my Kindle downloads over to Kobo?”

“Amazon would have to permit that, I’m guessing. They’re different systems. There are workarounds, but most readers won’t do it. For instance, I’ve got Calibre but I hardly ever use it.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s harder to use and more time-consuming than the one-click buy that shoots straight to my kindle. People stick with what they know and what’s easy. For instance, everyone complains about Facebook, but they hardly ever leave and a bunch of those who do leave come back for more abuse. They don’t hang out at G+ because all their friends and family are still on Facebook. Their network is locked in, even if they don’t want to be. For Amazon and Facebook to start to worry, they must have a real threat of competition.”

“I heard Instagram is getting even more popular than Facebook with young people,” she said. “Facebook has serious competition there.”

“For that niche and possibly into the future, yeah, which must be why Facebook bought it already. No competition.”

“Oh,” she said.

“To compete with the greyhound, the little yappy dogs have to take steroids and get going in the right direction. But the greyhound will probably eat their steroids. The big dog always has more money for R&D.”

“You’ve lost me in the canine metaphor. I don’t hang out at the dog track.”

“Come up with a new way to reach customers and someone will finance it. If it’s a really good idea, it will probably be the leader of the pack buying you out, making sure they stay the pack leader.”

“But what about all those companies that fail?”

“Nothing lasts forever, sure. Apple seems to have lost some direction since Jobs died and the stock’s down. Mostly, big companies fail because they lower their standards or try to hold on to the old paradigm instead of improving and evolving. Like how the Big Six publishers became the Big Five. Soon to be fewer, probably.”

“Ah. So…you really think I should sell on Amazon?”

“It’s up to you, but for me, it’s the only platform that’s not optional. There are exceptions. Some authors seem to move romance and crime better on B&N and Kobo. If they choose to pull you out of the haystack and promote you, you might have a shot. But mostly, and for me? If I wasn’t selling on Amazon, I wouldn’t be selling books.”

“So all those free ebooks on my TBR cyber-pile is just Amazon insuring customer loyalty?”

“I wouldn’t call it loyalty. No matter what the Supreme Court and Mitt Haircut say, corporations aren’t people, my friend. Companies rarely inspire love. Call it inertia. Also, I’m sure they really do hope you’ll buy somebody’s books and make a ton of money the way they say it was intended. I’m talking more about customer behavior here, not whether Amazon’s packed to the rafters with cynical geniuses who can see into the future.”

“So what do you think of free ebooks as a promotional tool?”

“It’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, but most of the discoverability tools are pretty dull.”

“Sounds like you love Amazon,” she said, her eyes narrowing.

“No. If the little dogs started running faster, I’d bet on them. Until then, I’m riding the big dog. And you know…sometimes…once in a long while, I’ll find an author in that TBR pile I thought I’d never get to. And sometimes, I’m blown away and I want to read more of their books. Then I’m in true buying mode. Free ebooks is fake buying mode. But it does happen that I find someone I like there and spend real dough.”

“Name one,” she said.

“I’ll name three. Alex Kimmell, Jordanna East and Armand Rosamilia.”

“I’ll add them to my TBR pile,” she said.

“Make sure you get to them.”

~ Robert Chazz Chute is an author with ten books in your TBR pile you still haven’t gotten to. How will you ever fall in love? 

Filed under: Amazon, author platform, book marketing, Books, e-reader, ebooks, free ebooks, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Writers, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

World’s Biggest: The Unfortunate Death of the Last Big Bookstore and What Happens Next

For a long time I’ve predicted the thinning of bookstores. They’re not going away completely, but you’ll have to drive farther afield to get to one. When I was a sales rep for numerous publishers, the bookstore chains decimated independent bookstores. Most of the little stores I visited with my sample case and catalogues are long gone. Now, it’s the chain’s turn.

Still, I got a shock this week. My shrine is closing.

In the heart of Toronto lies a huge bookstore, three levels and 64,000 square feet. Soon it will empty to the bare walls. The World’s Biggest Bookstore is shutting its doors in February. It was great for treasure hunting. The Indigo book chain’s lease won’t be renewed and tourists and book lovers won’t wander into World’s Biggest anymore. This store, a champion of the paper book, will be no doubt be replaced by high-end condos for people who trade stocks on Bay Street. 

When the sale was announced, the owner of the property (son of the original bookstore owner, Jack Cole, who founded the store in 1980) said the deal is about a real estate sale, not the slow death of the bricks and mortar bookstore. Whether for a massive real estate sale or for other reasons, World’s Biggest is the flagship of the Indigo fleet. It’s going down and will not resurface.

It was a destination bookstore and we won’t see its like again.

Whenever in downtown Toronto, if you could read, you just had to go there to browse. I never left without an armful of books. I took out-of-town friends there to wander the aisles. It was such a great place to hang out and…brace yourself for the unexpected…they didn’t even have to sell coffee, knick knacks and dustables in order to lure people to shop.

There are many other bookstores, of course, but they’re all lookalikes.

In the announcement, the owners of World’s Biggest invited customers to slip down a block or two to visit nearby Indigo locations. I have a chain bookstore down the street from my home that looks exactly like all the others. I don’t need to go to Toronto to get that experience. I don’t even have to drive five minutes to my nearest Indigo bookstore to look at paperbacks. The Starbucks looks busier than the bookstore most days and Amazon’s catalogue is more extensive than any bookstore could possibly offer, anyway.

Amazon is the World’s Biggest now.

My social scene will have to come from Skype and social media. My destination now is my keyboard, my kindle and the ease of the one-click buy. For the Starbucks experience, I’ll set the coffeemaker between the couch and the wood stove. Goodbye, World’s Biggest. I won’t dwell on nostalgia or write a treatise on the tragedy of any more lost bookstores or pen an ode to the smell of book glue.

I write. I read. I stay home. The world turns, turns away, and moves on.

Filed under: Amazon, book marketing, publishing, , , , , , , , ,

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

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