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

Write and publish with love and fury.

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, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to create your own audiobooks

See on Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction

For authors who want to use their own home equipment to narrate an audio version of their own books, or if you want to record your kids reading their favorite stories for posterity, you can do it with a microphone, and iPad and GarageBand.

Robert Chazz Chute‘s insight:

At the link, you’ll find an interesting how-to breakdown on DIY audiobook creation by Geoffrey Goetz. Learn at the link!

The post brings up a question that isn’t much dealt with in this particular article. It’s not a how-to question. It’s a should-you? Would you be comfortable putting a DIY audiobook up for sale on iTunes?

Standards for what’s acceptable vary.

A comedian friend refused to sell a recording because the audience wasn’t on mic. Without their reactions, he didn’t feel the funny was legitimized to the listener (even though he killed.) He thought selling that recording would be “mercenary”. Meanwhile, another professional comedian performed a special for an audience of two: Her parents. (The review was on the Slate Culture Gabfest and they loved it.)

I record author readings on the All That Chazz podcast. I do the podcast for free, but I’d worry about production quality if it were on iTunes. But maybe I’m being too shy or plain wrong about that. Maybe I’ve been indoctrinated with historic audiobook rules instead of looking to the future.

Do you need a full studio to produce something to sell? A video engineer friend of mine announced recently that he’s ditching the heavy, $6,000 camera and making movies with an iPhone now. You can produce high production values with relatively inexpensive equipment. New tech can often deliver higher production value than what the richest Hollywood studios had a few years ago. If you can rise to the occasion in employing that tech, you could come pretty close to par. The first no-budget Paranormal movie comes to mind.

Back to audio:

On Podiobooks, audiobooks are given away free. There are still hoops to jump through, but since it’s free, few listeners really expect perfection. Up the capitalist foodchain, if you go with ACX, you’ve got professional voice talent and an expensive production that’s still much cheaper than it used to be and you maintain control of your art.

As the bar to entry has lowers through easily accessible technology,will the audiobook production industry undergo an influx of independents as has happened with the book industry? Audio purists will likely be resistant to that idea.

We touched on this issue in a post last week: Experts recommend their services and condemn all intruders in their realm. This isn’t just in publishing. To illustrate, let me paraphrase an old medical adage: If you go to a surgeon for advice, his advice is going to be, “I’ll cut you” Every specialty is predisposed to recommend their intervention.

Could we sell a DIY recording on iTunes (through CD Baby)? Yes.

Should we? Before we rush to judgment, consider that independent musicians reach professional standards from their garages and basements all the time. People who call themselves “Indie” in the music and film industries get much more respect than Indies in the book industry. Musicians and filmmakers are called brave, innovative and entrepreneurial. In the book industry, outdated views still hold with the term “vanity press”.

I can’t fathom why this is so. I’m not pretending. I’m publishing.

~ Chazz

See on gigaom.com

Filed under: audiobooks, , , , , ,

On Writing Well: Openings, Distractions and the next Million Dollar Idea

The Challenge of the Slow Open

Crack the Indie Author CodeAs I work on revising my coming-of-age, love story cleverly disguised as an apocalyptic plague thriller, I worry about the beginning most. (I’ll give you a minute to digest that first sentence.)

This is a long book I will serialize (soon). The story unfolds largely through the eyes of a boy with Aspergers Syndrome, sixteen-year-old Jaimie Spencer. He’s a selective mute. I wanted to impress upon the reader how different he is from the first page. The story starts with the boy observing the plague as it infects his next-door neighbor. The neighbor is a pilot who happens to be having sex with a flight attendant at the time, but Jaimie is detached about such things. He’s asexual. His point of view is an interesting hook, but it’s not really an action hook. It reads like a character hook.

I’m going for intrigue and showing this book is more serious than much of my other work. I’m satisfied it’s a good start, but it’s a risk because of that slow start. I’m starting the novel with a long lit fuse instead of an explosion. That could be a problem and I will have to revisit this issue several more times before I commit to the slow burn open. There are plenty of explosions, strained family dynamics, obstacles, reversals, betrayals, realizations, death and a long journey  ahead. Amid the chaos, Jaimie is a detached, almost Christlike figure. The world is falling apart and he’s fascinated with dictionaries. (Expect Latin phrases, weird words and an amusing annoyance over homonyms.) The boy perceives the world as an alien might. His peculiar point of view questions how everyone else sees the world.

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

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

Big openings hook more readers faster. For instance, is it a cheap ploy to kill somebody off in the first paragraph? Many critics, both amateur and professional, seem to think so. However, I suspect the average reader doesn’t think that way at all. Some lit snobs say they shouldn’t think that way. Irrelevant. Many readers do think that way.

Every story should jump right in without throat-clearing, of course. (Don’t start your book with a weather report, as a baffling number of novels still do.) But how late should you enter the action? Bigger Than Jesus starts in media res with my loveable hit man out on a slippery ledge high over Tribeca with the bad guy hiding behind a gargoyle. Higher Than Jesus starts with a slower open in a dive bar, but right from the start, you know Jesus Diaz is there to kill someone on Christmas Day. Crime fiction should start with action. But can Jaimie Spencer do it?

Distractions

I’m confident in the writing for those who stick around for the show. However, we, as writers, are not competing with other books in our genre. We’re competing with Call of Duty, Game of Thrones (on TV), people working second and third jobs to earn enough to live, laughing babies on YouTube, the gym, the laundry, and all the other paperwork of life. Readers have so many distractions, it almost makes me yearn for a time when books were much more central to our culture. The good news is, if you survive the coming world flu pandemic that will wipe out billions, there will be fewer distractions and a bit more reading time.

Solutions and Opportunities

Jesus is resurrected in Chicago. Sex with the Queen of Giants. Violence with Very Bad Men.

Jesus is resurrected in Chicago. Sex with the Queen of Giants. Violence with Very Bad Men.

I have a suggestion to help combat The Distraction Problem. It’s not really open to me at the moment* but you might be able to use this suggestion: If you’re American, make audiobooks on ACX part of your publishing platform so people will be able to consume your goodness while they do the laundry, commute to their second job, run on a treadmill or play Call of Duty. Publish an audiobook on ACX and it goes to Amazon, iTunes and Audible. Audio is the future. That, and the massive killer virus thingy.

*I encouraged writers to go for ACX in Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire. Since I’m a Canuck, they aren’t set up to deal with me yet. That creates a huge hole in the market for audiobooks worldwide. If I had the money, I’d start a company to compete with ACX and deal with all them foreigners immediately.

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

~ Earlier today I published an article on ChazzWrites.com that was meant for my website about Six Seconds, The Unauthorized Guide to How to Build Your Business with the Vine App. Apologies for the mix-up and a suggestion: If you’re on WordPress, don’t ever use the Quick post feature. Any problems I’ve ever had posting to WordPress started there. I decided to leave it up since it automatically shot out to subscribers and I never did announce a page dedicated to that book, so…yeah, I’ve got a web page just about Vine and the useful glory that is Six Seconds. If you’re interested in checking out Vine and promoting your books with it, here’s the link to onlysixseconds.

If you’re on Vine and would like to hear a reading from Self-help for Stoners, find “Robert Chazz Chute” on Vine. I’m doing the first author reading on the Vine app. Interested in winning a signed copy of Bigger Than Jesus? I’m running a contest with that reading. Get the details on how you could win from this link to AllThatChazz.

Filed under: audiobooks, blogs & blogging, book marketing, Editing, My fiction, publishing, Vine, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Have you ever thought of audio recording your book?

It seems easy enough. Here’s a little film Sue Kenney made with the BLOOPERS from the recording of My Camino. 
Okay, after hearing the bloopers, maybe it’s not so easy. 
PLUS! Here’s Sue’s free offer:
8 Days of Inspiration. You’ll be able to download the Audiobook My Camino for FREE over the next 8 days starting January 1, 2012. 

Filed under: audiobooks, authors, , , , , ,

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

All the dark fantasy fun of the first three books in the Ghosts & Demons Series for one low price.

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

You never know what's real.

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

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

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

Write to live

For my author site and the Chazz network, click the blood spatter below.

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