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

Write and publish with love and fury.

In each chest a clock, its spring wearing

Tonight I thanked a friend and said goodbye for the last time.

It is a grim ritual, this business of the last goodbye. My friend didn’t look like the man I knew. He appeared as a sleeping wax figure, an ill-conceived doll imitating the man, the fingers too long and too thin. He was a poor approximation of the funny, vibrant, fit fellow named Wayne. He brought joy wherever he went and now he is dead at 56. Fifty-six used to seem old, but I was very young then.

I write horror that is an escape and a distraction. This is real life and it is often horrific in the end. When such good people disappear from our lives so suddenly and unexpectedly, this is the Slow Rapture of the Taken Too Soon. I’d be furious if I didn’t feel so empty.

By now you’re wondering why on Earth I’m telling you this.

Wayne was a bucket list man. Beside his open casket, there were many pictures: Wayne in marathons; Wayne playing golf, canoeing, cycling; Wayne with his loved ones on trips and fishing with his boys. He was immune to stress. He laughed easily. He made others laugh often and strangers soon became friends.

The visitation was a huge crowd as impressive and varied as the photos from his short life. I was privileged to know Wayne well. He was a positive force for good in the universe whose heart suddenly shut down without warning a couple of days ago and I am utterly devastated.

When I’m stuck for a plot point or searching for the hidden joke, I close my eyes and I wait for the right question. When I have that, the right answer will appear. So…why am I telling you this? Does this belong here? Maybe not…

But then the answers flood in:

Because I wish Wayne was a writer so I could open a book and still have his cheery voice in my head.

Because Wayne did a lot of good things with the time he had.

Because my friend knew the power of the bucket list.

Because if you’re waiting to do something, like fulfilling your dream of writing and publishing a book, I need to ask you to stop waiting. Please.

When I told Wayne I was taking a leave from my day job to dedicate all my time to writing, he smiled and said, “It’s your bucket list.” Wayne knew men in his family often didn’t make it out of their 50s. He knew the value of time.

There isn’t time to procrastinate. That’s why I’m telling you this. Do what you need to do. Your life is more important than your writer’s block. Push through. Every clock is ticking down, some fast, some slow, but there is always less time.

This is not a threat or useless fury or powerless sympathy card verse. This is me, in grief, searching for the meaning and the inspiration to move forward. Last night, I wept for the loss of my friend. I did not write. Wayne would not have approved.

Tonight, I’m back to writing my book about a guy with a time machine trying to correct the mess he’s made of his life. Sadly, it’s fiction. We can’t go back. The clock ticks in one direction. Wayne’s clock has wound down, but if he were here, he’d tell me to get on with my obsession. He’d smile again. I so wish I could see his easy smile again.

Each book we write is that time machine, taking us closer to what and when and where we need to be. That’s one place we can often make strangers smile. Through intelligence and imagination and creativity, together we’ll find the answers to all those desperate wishes, whether it’s writing stories to distract readers from pain or breaking cruel diseases’ grip on our mortality.

Today, for you, do more than the dishes. Work in the bucket list. Work on your bucket list.

Goodbye, Wayne. Thank you so much for being you. I’m changed because you came this way. I won’t forget.

My screen is a watery blur now.

And we write on.

 

 

Filed under: Books, What about Chazz?, What about you?, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , ,

So you want to be the next big thing?

Odium The Dead Saga cover

~ Guest post by Claire C Riley

Most writers start out on this crazy train wreck of a journey with one thing in their mind: to tell a story. Okay, so maybe they have two things on their mind.

Tell a story, and have people read it.

Oh, wait. Maybe three things if they are feeling especially ambitious.

Tell a story, have people read it, and maybe, if they dare to dream…earn a living doing it.

Throughout my journey, I’ve met many different types of writers, all with different ambitions when it comes to their words/books/stories/novels whatever. Some dream big. They write a great novel and wait for it to be snapped up and make them their millions. Others write a great novel, work their socks off to get it traditionally published, and sit back and wait for their millions to roll in.

And then there are those who are more realistic about it all.

They write a great book. They want it to be read by people, and maybe they pimp it out to the big five, maybe they don’t, either way, that book gets published. And then they…write the next damn book!

Because to be a writer, that’s what it takes. Not one great book, but several. Readers don’t like investing in one book, because that’s a shoddy investment, and it’s not the book that they are investing in—it’s you, the author. They want to know that if they fall in love with your work that there is more to come. More ready for them to buy, more for them to look forward to. Just more.

I’ve met a lot of authors who are waiting.

Waiting for sales, waiting for fans, waiting for…who the hell knows what they’re waiting for, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but don’t sit up at night wondering when the big bucks are going to roll in.

As a reader I like to know that there’s more after I turn that final page—or slide the final page if I’m reading with my kindle. And I hate waiting for a year for a sequel.

So as a writer, I don’t. I try to get out several novels a year, both full length and novellas, and in between I like to write short stories in anthologies. That way I get to keep drip-feeding my readers my words, to keep them interested and hungry for more, and yes, invested in me. Because surely I owe them that much? After all, they took a punt on me by reading my book. And in return the more they read my stories, the more they talk about them, and the more word spreads, thus increasing my reach to potential new readers.

So for me being the next big thing isn’t about that traditional publishing contract, or making a million on my first book (though, of course that would have been nice.) It’s about continuously moving forwards, listening to feedback and improving with each book, making my readers happy, and maybe, just maybe, the next book will be the next big thing.

But I’m not waiting around to see, I’m too busy writing my next book.

Claire C Riley profile photo~ Claire C Riley is the author of “Limerence,” “Odium. The Dead Saga,” “Odium Origins. A Dead Saga Novella Part One,” “Odium II The Dead Saga” “Odium Origins A Dead Saga Novella Part Two” a contributor to several zombie apocalypse anthologies, including the upcoming ‘Fading Hope’, ‘State of Horror Illinois’ and a proud contributor to the charity anthology “Let’s Scare Cancer to Death.”

Odium. The Dead Saga is a top #100 dystopian selling book on Amazon.com for 2013, ‘Indie book of the day’ winner December 2013 and ‘Indie Author Land 50 best self-published books worth reading 2013/14’

Limerence was a featured book in the ‘Guardian newspaper for best Indie novel 2013’ and is currently a finalist for the eFestival of Words ‘best novel’ category.

Odium II The Dead Saga is a #1 Best Selling British Horror book.

She can be stalked at any of the following.

http://www.clairecriley.com

https://www.facebook.com/ClaireCRileyAuthor

http://bit.ly/clairecrileyamazon/

https://twitter.com/ClaireCRiley

https://www.google.com/+ClaireCRiley

Filed under: author platform, Books, publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , ,

Sweet Book Pie: Bonuses for readers, a tip for writers

When ebooks first emerged, the goal was to make them appear as much like paper books as possible. Generally, we’re still doing that and that’s a good thing. I’m not a fan of “enhanced” ebooks that pack in distractions. I don’t want the soundtrack to the battle scene as I read. I want to immerse myself in the story. A movie is a movie and the media don’t mix well. The movie we make in our heads from reading is usually superior, anyway.

I did use video in a different way to reach out to readers in This Plague of Days, but it’s a link buried in the back of the TPOD Omnibus, not something to accompany the story. (I told you about that secret video and the free ebook bonus last week, so click here if you missed that.) 

But yet another secret awaits in the This Plague of Days Omnibus.

Many readers may not really be aware of it. This is where thinking about ebooks as ebooks comes in. I did something fun with the Table of Contents, but you have to look for it to see it all at once. The key is, the Table of Contents doesn’t have to go in the front of ebooks.

Go find it Scooby Gang! 

To get the TOC in This Plague of Days, Omnibus Edition, you have to “go to” the TOC (which I placed in the back of the book.) I did this for several reasons. The main one is that it’s another Easter egg for TPOD readers. 

The TPOD TOC is one long, dark poem. It contains veiled hints and clues to the story arc from beginning to end. Much of the poem will make more sense in retrospect. To get all of it at once, it’s in the back of the TPOD Omnibus Edition, but the individual ebooks (Seasons 1, 2 and 3) yield chunks of it, as well. 

 

Why I love it:

It was fun to create. I like poetry, especially dark and mysterious poetry. I enjoy the fact that readers will see how it all comes together upon finishing the trilogy. I love the fact that I did something different from the expected. That’s my thing. To be perfectly honest, I love that I’ve done something a mainstream publisher probably wouldn’t allow me to do. I don’t consider myself an experimental novelist, at all. I just think it’s a fun add-on in this case.

Sure, readers could skip from chapter head to chapter head to get it, but that’s awkward. Most people won’t do that and you don’t get the full effect reading it piecemeal. Will it gain more readers? Nah, probably not many. I think of it as a little extra for people who are deep into TPOD. Cater to them what dig your grooviness and you’ll get more of those groovy people.

But there’s a much more important reason to put the TOC in the back of your ebook.

It’s about the size of the free sample on your sales page. When readers look at samples, they want to get into the story quickly. With non-fiction, I do want a peek at the TOC up front so I can grok what will be covered. With fiction, the TOC gets in the way of the narrative and cuts down on the sample size. To get readers deeper into the story, we have to get that TOC out of the way so we give the reader a bigger sample of sweet book pie.

Whenever possible, give the readers more pie so they can decide if they like your flavor. I’d rather have thousands read the sample before buying and say no than have dissatisfied readers who were looking for dragon/Big Foot erotica and, inexplicably, bought my book instead. Unread samples are where most bad reviews come from.

Generous samples get people to buy cartloads of stuff from Costco every weekend. Much of it they didn’t know they wanted until somebody said, “Would you like to try a taste?” 

Add value. Add fun. Play with the reader. Give ’em more pie. Always give more pie. Put your next novel’s TOC in the back of the book.

 

Robert Chazz Chute Bio Picture~ This Plague of Days book bargains continue. Find out about that here. 

Or not. I mean, geez. It’s a low pressure situation, man. Chillax and enjoy as the apocalypse unfolds all around us. You’re already soaking in it so you may as well soak it in.

Filed under: author platform, Books, ebooks, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Why I unpublished from Amazon (it’s about sales pages, not Hachette)

This isn’t a story about getting away from Amazon. It’s about sales page management, and you need to be aware, sales pages are not something you can just “set and forget.” You have to keep an eye on them for glitches. A glitch just happened to me.

Today, I had a shock.

In the middle of my book launch for This Plague of Days, Season 3 and the TPOD Omnibus Edition, the Omnibus suddenly wasn’t on my Amazon sales page anymore! I checked and that’s the only reason I knew it had disappeared.

Gone! Oh, no! Not now!

I refreshed the page and knocked back a vodka.

Still gone!

I cursed my fate and invoked Thor’s intervention.

Still nothing. Dammit, Thor!

Naturally, after those early strategies failed, I contacted Amazon. They said they’d get back to me within 24 hours. If this had been my first rodeo, I would have pooped kittens. However, they generally get back faster than that and, in this case, I had the fastest response I’ve ever had.

The email assured me there was a “slight glitch” that deleted the book from my sales page. Maybe a slight glitch to them, but I just launched! My interviews are appearing across various blogs promoting my latest books. It was a big deal to me. The email further assured me that the problem would be corrected within “one to three days.”

One to three days?

Vomit.

No, not really. Like I said, this ain’t my first time on a horse. Those emails always allow a long time for their fixes, but the Amazonian techs have, invariably, acted much faster than that. And so it was. This Plague of Days, Omnibus Edition featuring the complete three seasons of the apocalyptic saga with the autistic protagonist trying to save the world? We’re back, baby!

They fixed it within a couple of hours. I have it on good authority other sales platforms don’t swoop in to fix problems nearly so quickly.

Check your pages and make sure all your books are there from time to time.

Further thoughts on sales pages and serialization

After I brought out Season 3 in my series, I had a problem. The sales page looked cluttered and my work is not displayed in the order I’d prefer for greatest sales advantage. What to do? I skipped calling on Thor since he doesn’t show up unless I dress up as a hot chick. (I’m still carrying some winter weight and can’t sell the hotpants.) I sent another email to Amazon:

Could I, perhaps, edit my sales page to make it less cluttered and show my wares to greatest advantage? 

The reply was, for now, a polite no. My Amazon contact did agree that mine was actually a good idea and they would pass the suggestion up the line. Currently, the order of book display is based on sales figures. Self-help for Stoners has been on sale longest, so it’s up top. That’s not the problem. Serial episodes are. 

My Serialization Problem. 

Season One of This Plague of Days was released as one book, but also as five episodes (and each episode’s price was 99 cents.) My Season One episodes sat there, clogging the page and confusing customers. 

I came up with a solution that fit my longer game plan.

I unpublished the five episodes from the first book and set the price for Season One at just 99 cents.

This presents several advantages:

1. At 99 cents, Season One is a low barrier to entry into the series.

2. It gives readers a break on price. 

3. It promotes my visibility and my other books. Sales are up, author rank is up.

4. It avoids (I hope) angry reviews from people mistakenly purchasing Episode IV and V at 99 cents each when they could have had all of Season One (which contains all five episodes) for one incredibly low price. It’s couch change, yes, but some reviewers go nuclear over such things and outrage is rarely expressed with a sense of proportionality. Angry? Burn down somebody’s house! Mildly annoyed? Burn down somebody’s house! See what I mean?

A note about the trouble with serialization.

Serialization certainly has its advantages and helped Season One  and Season Two get more attention. However, no matter how much you might explain it and lay it out in the descriptions and vary the cover art, some readers seem determined to confuse Seasons and Episodes despite a lifetime of watching television. Quick to click, I guess.

I’m very sensitive to criticism (so yes, wow! I know! I am in the wrong business!) Anyway, the last thing I want is for readers to be confused or feel ripped off. That’s another reason Season Three is one huge book instead of broken into episodes. Serialization put me on the map, but the Law of Diminishing Returns has kicked in.

I still have episodes of Season Two on Amazon obstructing the view on my sales page. It is, as it has always been, cheaper to buy the season than to buy the episodes. I can’t let it go at 99 cents, though, so those episodes are going to stay up for a long time. Until Amazon changes its policy and allows me to control title placement, they stay and Season Two is priced as low as I will make it. When I do get control, the eps will go to the back of the sales page. I could just unpublish them, but I don’t want to leave the few who just bought Season 2, Episode III in the lurch.

How long is long enough to wait for those readers to catch up and complete their S2 episode purchases? A year? Two? I don’t know.

~ The TPOD book launch bargains continue.

 

Tell me when you discovered the secret of the TPOD Omnibus and I’ll send you my next thriller as an ebook. Details here.

Filed under: author platform, Books, free ebooks, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writers: Please dare to be different

I’m sick as a very sick dog, so this will be brief and a little truculent. We should try harder. Far be it from me to tell anyone else what to do. However, I want more and better books to read. What am I ranting about? I’m angry at writing “by the numbers.”

I once got into a discussion where a fellow writer challenged me to define what I meant. I replied that he already knew what I meant and he had the grace to say, “Well, yeah.”

However, in case anyone is unclear, I’m talking about books that are too predictable and the tread is gone on their plots.

I’m talking about writing that is too safe. It can race along, but feels like it’s on the Indianapolis oval, always that predictable left turn. Race that car through the woods and duck some trees and crash through the stands!

When I see a cover that looks like all the other covers of a genre and read a sample that seems interchangeable with a dozen other books, I admit, I don’t go in with high expectations (or I don’t look further). Different gets eyeballs, if it’s good different. You don’t find good different without risking bad different.

No one sets out to write a bad book. There aren’t any really bad books because every author can find a raging fan for anything. There are only books that are not to your particular taste. What’s death to art is catering to one bland taste. That’s the lowest common denominator. There’s room for that and lots of people will buy it, sure, but is bland why you wanted to be a writer? It’s certainly not why I’m a reader.

Here’s what isn’t to my taste:

If the title is indistinguishable from six other titles in the genre and the plot sounds too much like all the others, it’s possible the manuscript emerged not from a printer, but from a hamburger grinder.

Take a damn risk!

Make an unpopular or forbidden artistic choice once in a while! Cross a genre boundary. Use poetic language instead of one steady drone of minimalism. Don’t kill someone when it’s the easy way to solve a plot problem. Then kill a beloved character. Do something in your art that isn’t easily defined. Try something new instead of writing the same book over and over. 

Yes, I know many authors write the same book again and again to great success. Yes, I know some (dumb) readers won’t be receptive to you taking chances. They’ll say “I don’t get it,” or “This wasn’t what I expected and I’m uncomfortable with how the story strayed.”

The story never strays. The story goes where it’s supposed to go. It’s where the author wrote it. Maybe the author didn’t write enough small words. Or maybe the author failed to make a satisfying end or a believable context or a dozen other variables that are the author’s fault. But please, dare to be different somehow.

Don’t aspire to be Hemingway or King or anybody else. Strive to develop your unique voice.

My friend, author Shermin Kruse, risks being branded “experimental” by allocating a part of her debut novel, Butterfly Stitching, to the form of a screenplay. It’s not experimental or dense. It’s cool. (I’ll let you know when the book comes out.)

Follow her lead. Do something unexpected. Some writers will say you shouldn’t. Most readers will appreciate that you did.

Now go write. And REACH!

Filed under: Books, writing tips, , , , , , , ,

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

Et tu, Kobo? Anger and the Cost-benefit Analysis

By now, most authors know about Kobo’s rash move to yank all indie authors from its platform. Today, we talk about Kobo and reevaluating our marketing strategies so we can manage time and energy and make more money.

If you came in late to the debacle, here’s what started it:

They condemned indie authors in an over-reaction to a news story about pornographic ebooks invading WH Smith through Kobo. Instead of weeding out individual books they deemed offensive, they painted us all with the same brush and pulled a digital-ton of indie ebooks.  They didn’t just hit indie porn and erotica titles. They hit all of us, the tall and the small, and legal. (For more details, check “Related articles” below).

Hitting the big, red nuke button was a major tactical error. Failing to open lines of communication also didn’t help. Kobo was put in a tough position because of their relationship with WH Smith. Kobo did announce the bulk removal was temporary and they’d review books before putting them up for sale. How long that could take, we have no idea. Kobo probably doesn’t know, either. Sounds like a gargantuan task. Better filters would have served them well.

Two of my crime novels were pulled from Kobo.

Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus disappeared from the store. Bigger Than Jesus is now back, but not for long. I’m pulling it from Kobo and everywhere else, except Amazon and CreateSpace. I’ll also begin selling paperbacks from my website (but more on that another time.)

Some authors are (or were) making money with Kobo. Amazon is not the only game to play, so you’ll see the same advice everywhere: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket! Put your books across all platforms! Amazon’s free books scheme with KDP Select doesn’t work anymore.”

Today, I’m going to challenge the egg basket wisdom. First, let’s talk Kobo beef.

1. Kobo’s platform is flawed. Where are the reviews? And (I’ve said this many times) why aren’t they stealing the best ideas from the other platforms? Amazon is the model they aren’t emulating. Kobo isn’t alone in this regard. Over at Smashwords, the website is still very ’90s. Still!

2. Instead of taking the time and energy to spread ourselves across many platforms, I suggest you look where books are actually moving. This won’t help you if you have one book, but after a few, you know which platforms butter your bread and which poop in your cereal bowl. My books sell on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and in print. That’s it. Avengers, assemble! Activate the 80/20 rule! 

3. Some people love Kobo. They’re in a lot of markets and there are nice people there. I’ve spoken to someone from the company and she couldn’t have been nicer. I’ve heard interviews on the Self Publishing Podcast. Kobo has awesome representatives who communicate their respect for authors and care about what we’re doing. I want to love them! But the company screwed up all that good will in one big, bad move that was not thought through.

4. Then I got this email this morning from Draft2Digital, informing me that a book I published to Amazon (within 24 hours) back in February 2013 was finally on, you guessed it, Kobo.

Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 9.27.16 AM

Barnes and Noble published Six Seconds in July and Kobo’s right on the case, finally getting my book about marketing with the Vine app out into the world today? What the bloody hell? It’s been so long, I’d forgotten I’d even selected them as a sales channel.

Trying to publish this book with Apple is also a hassle. That’s two of Amazon’s competitors failing the cost-benefit analysis. The tragedy is that Amazon doesn’t have to be perfect to dominate. It just has to avoid the razor wire and landmines its suicidal competitors throw themselves upon. In a healthier market, the competition would be smarter and closer on Amazon’s heels.

5. Then there’s the hypocrisy. Kobo says they aren’t for censorship as they pull indie authors. They’re free to publish and not publish what they want, but this was a blanket condemnation of indies. That no doubt pleased traditional publishers. It must have been particularly gleeful for the legacy publishers of erotica who were immune from the cull.

It has to be said, there are all kinds of works of literature that contain intense violence. Many of my books contain violence, but not all were pulled. I’m arguing none should be pulled because, if you want to protect children from pornographic ebooks, it’s your job to make sure your kids don’t buy them. Kobo is a company. Parents are parents.

I don’t want media companies to act like parents, especially when we’re talking about fiction. I had parents already and look how that turned out. I’m nobody’s kid anymore and I’ll make my choices for me and my kids, thanks. (As all preachers’ kids know, it’s the suppressed and repressed ones that go too wild once they hit Frosh Week, anyway.)

6. Okay, so that’s enough spanking Kobo. Let’s talk book marketing strategy and rethink it.

As far as KDP Select goes, it’s true it doesn’t work as well as it did. However, does it not work for so many authors because they’re expecting it to work on its own? The book has to be strong and the cover art must be awesome. We all know that, but are author-publishers stopping short, assuming those variables are enough gas for their sales engine? How many oft-referenced cases of KDP Select “failures of free” are actually KDP failures? Are authors doing enough to promote those free days?

Using Author Marketing Club tools and Bookbub, Freebooksy and other advertising and promotion services in combination with free promo days through the exclusive Select program, This Plague of Days, Seasons One and Two became bestsellers. This was long after many authors abandoned KDP Select because “free doesn’t work anymore” became common currency among us.

Your cost-benefit analysis may be different, but I urge you to do a cost-benefit analysis.

As pressures mount, spreading ourselves everywhere takes time and energy we could be using more profitably. If you sell books on Kobo, keep them. If you’re that one author who makes cash selling on Sony or Diesel, go for it. The only platform I’d say everyone should to be on is Amazon because they’re the bus that’s gassed up.

“But what if Amazon makes the same mistake Kobo did? They’ve pulled books willy-nilly before! Isn’t Kobo’s fiasco an example of why we have to spread our books to all platforms to minimize risk?”

After the hoopla Kobo’s decision caused, I don’t think Amazon would be or could be that stupid. Besides, it’s not about allegiance to a platform or blind tribalism. It’s going with what works for you. At worst, if you really can’t stand being in Amazon’s exclusive contract, you can reevaluate and bail at 90 days.

True, spreading everywhere insulates us from dumb mistakes, but it would also minimize potential profit drastically. Unsuccessful businesses play not to lose.  Play to win. I mentioned I sell some books on B&N, but the return is so low, it’s not even a factor. Until the other platforms come up with better ways to market us, Amazon is my puddin’. 

This is math. Look at where your books are selling.

Put your time and energy into getting more books into those channels and leveraging that advantage with books like Let’s Get Visible by David Gaughran. (And if you haven’t published yet, buy Crack the Indie Author Code by some thoughtful and encouraging idiot.)

Are you selling even a little bit on Kobo? Who cares? Use the 80/20 rule. Focus your energy where it does the most good. That’s why I’m pulling my crime novels from Kobo. I had other plans to market the Hit Man Series. Now I’m going to pull them back to KDP Select and leverage that series better than I did the first time. I wasn’t in the Author Marketing Club when Bigger Than Jesus came out. I only have two series, so I must reevaluate non-Amazon successes and failures and act accordingly.

This is also emotion.

I admit it, emotion plays a role. Nothing’s broken so I’m not in a rage. I am annoyed. Kobo made their decision for short-term reasons that did not respect indie authors. We are the publishing revolution, remember? They pulled our books without warning. We don’t matter to them and I’m hurt. It’s not just the principle. It’s the money.

I’m sure I don’t matter to Amazon, either, but at least Amazon can publish my books in a timely manner and move them. Ultimately, I’m not leaving because of Kobo’s instability. My annoyance led me to reevaluate what Kobo was doing for me. I’m not punishing Kobo at all, but the fact that I can pull my crime novels and not hurt myself tells me I should refocus my energies.

I’ll go back to Kobo one day, if they’re still around by then. Who knows? Maybe this debacle is just what they needed to reevaluate their platform and marketing strategies, too.

Tips and inspiration for the indie author's journey to publication.

Tips and inspiration for the indie author’s journey to publication.

~ Hi. My name is Chazz and I’m much nicer than I appear here. I’m usually pretty sweet and funny unless I’m writing suspense. Then the serrated knives come out and things get twisty. I love people, though books give me less back sass. I’m a contrarian, but not for the sake of being contrary. I just don’t understand how the world works. There are so many example of how it doesn’t work, I get distracted easily.

I believe in love and readers and curiosity and the written word’s power to release dopamine. I’m in the brain tickle business and I’m grateful for that every day. Find all my books here for the foreseeable future.

Filed under: author platform, Books, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Marketing books: Thirteen video options

Season One of This Plague of Days is free until midnight tonight.

Season Two launches in two weeks.

Book trailers are problematic. Video can be done well. It often isn’t.

Most of them are too long. Production values are typically lower than viewers’ expectations. We’re trained to expect CGI on the level of major movie studios. Also, there’s little evidence trailers generate any sales. Go big and you’ll spend money with no return on the investment. Go too small and you might not be proud of it. Here are magnificent options, ranging from giving up and doing zilch to going big. Since I’m in touch with reality, most options are no-budget or low-budget.

Alternative 1

Don’t do it. It’s not worth the bother.

Alternative 2

Play with iMovie in your spare time. If it’s fun, great, but certainly don’t lose writing time to it. 

Alternative 3

Rather than worry about making a little movie and learning an editing program, do six seconds on Vine and/or fifteen seconds on Instagram. Focus on one quick, easy message. Don’t spell out the link to the camera. Leave the link in the caption. Note that people love video with cats.

Alternative 4

Upload to Youtube from your camera, iPod, iPhone or Android. Viewers will be more forgiving of low production values if they see you didn’t try to make it fancy. Just talk to the camera with a joke and/or announcement.

Alternative 5

Video pulls more clicks to your blog. Combine it with punchy posts for greater effect and more subscribers.

People have more tolerance for a short, laid back video than they will for long blog posts. For instance, yesterday’s post went deep into serialization and book pricing strategy. It was only for the most serious of book marketers and publishers. However, many more readers will click the video above and read this blog post for information because it has video and the text is breezy and scannable.

Alternative 6

Focus on what’s cool or ironically cool. Make it fun for you and the viewer. Try for the opposite of earnest and don’t try to tell too much of the plot of your book. Let the visuals do more work. Entertain first and come sideways at giving out information. One of the best book trailers I’ve seen was an author who talked about the glamour of the writing life while he scrubbed toilets.

Alternative 7

As I’ve suggested in the past, try a quote trailer. A quote trailer simply pulls intriguing quotes from your book. Don’t forget to include a buy link. Keep it short. No spoilers.

Alternative 8 

Use Animoto, as I did, for the video above. I already had the book covers. It took all of five minutes to use the free option for a video shorter than 30 seconds. The fire effect was appropriate and the music was a nice fit. Cool, huh? Animoto includes sharing options so you can export it to Vimeo, YouTube, Facebook, etc.,…

Alternative 9

If people don’t respond to your stabs at filmmaking, try making it more about you and how you can help others instead of making it about the book. Video reviews and how-to stuff get more hits. Funny’s always good, too.

I put up video of my podcasts to get more viewers and listeners. Some people simply prefer video to audio, or a YouTube video is how they will discover a podcast. Interaction in an interview setting can be easier to pull off than talking directly to the camera. Some people, like Hugh Howey, do it well and even dance for reviews. For most of us, solo videos look like hollow-eyed, stuttering hostage videos pleading for ransom under the threat of death.

Alternative 10

Have you set up your YouTube channel yet? It’s a great place to collect your video book reviews, too. Video reviews get more attention on Amazon than written ones, so it’s worth doing, for you and for authors.

Alternative 11

Go with Fiverr.com and get help to create quick videos like I did for my promotion plan for This Plague of Days. Check out my video samples at the link.

Alternative 12

If you really want to go big, get a semi-pro involved. There’s no proven ROI and most professional video production is expensive. Therefore, consider approaching a drama class or a film school. If your book trailer becomes a school project, at least your vanity project will benefit the education of a young actor or filmmaker in a concrete way. You could go the Scott Sigler route and make it a contest. Since every entry went up on YouTube for judging, Sigler’s books got multiple ads and multiple hits.

Alternative 13

I think Kevin Smith and Steven Spielberg are available for princely sums, but if you’ve just won the lottery, go with any of the above options and get your video production done free or cheap. Starving children everywhere would appreciate your generous donations. If you’re rich enough to consider professional directorial help, good karma’s the better way to go.

BONUS

Are you on Bookbub? Here's what the email looks like for my TPOD promo. Sale ends at midnight, never to return. Enjoy.

Are you on Bookbub? Here’s what the email looks like for my TPOD promo. Sale ends at midnight, never to return. Enjoy.

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 12.53.17 PM

Bookbub allows you to showcase deals to many targeted readers who are interested in your genre. Got a deal? Get noticed with Bookbub.

Filed under: author platform, book trailer, Books, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writers: Are you sitting on the money?

They call it the Cliff. You can do Author Marketing Club and Bookbub and free promotions and blow giveaways out the digital door. You can even start catching fire and getting traction and selling books for (gasp!) actual money. Then, the fall from grace comes. Sales drop off, often steeply. What happened? You ran off the Cliff. Lots of people do. In this post, we’re going to think about climbing back up and promoting our previous works again (and doing it better this time) because I suspect we’re sitting on money.

I’m rethinking the old marketing paradigm that’s always oriented to what’s new. 

It’s the thing we should question most: accepted wisdom. Despite all my efforts, old wave thinking is still permeating my brain. In traditional publishing, you get a short window to get traction and then the bookstores return your books to the publisherCrack the Indie Author Code for credit. That’s the structure of the short tail market. In long tail marketing, our books are up forever (or at least until the cyber war brings us all low). Still, we tend to think of our books as hitting big (or not) and then the graph points down. We’re mimicking thinking and marketing patterns from traditional wisdom because all old ideas are awesome, right? Oh, wait…

Case #1

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while and by not sleeping, I’m finally getting to it. I pulled Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book, Aspire to Inspire from print. I didn’t like the look of the interior design. I’m fixing them and will make Crack the Indie Author Code available in print again soon. (They’re both still out there as ebooks.)

Self Help for Stoners JPEGCase #2

Self-help for Stoners was my first book. It’s funny and strange and with an intermediary. I used Bookbaby for that collection and I want to get it back at Ex Parte Press and put it out myself. I’m sure I can make it go higher once I have full and instant control of the marketing. I queried Amazon about the process today because I’m afraid of losing the reviews. Either way, I do need to steer my ship and reach out to stoners and non-stoners, alike and anew. (If you’re a Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus fan, my luckless Cuban hit man appears first in Self-help for Stoners, by the way.)

This post won’t help you much if you only have one book to sell, but here are my thoughts on renewed marketing efforts: 

If you have one book, write more. No whining,

If you have a backlist, who is to say what’s old and what’s renewable? You’re the one to say.

If you have a bunch of books, I bet you’re a better writer by now. Why not revisit those books and do new editions?

Consider the power of bundling books. You could enliven your Amazon dashboard with more happy green up arrows. Stop sitting on the money.

Lots of people missed your fledgling efforts the first time. You didn’t know what you were doing. Who did? Any book they haven’t read is new to them. 

The most powerful promotions tend to be the first ones. But maybe that’s because we don’t put the same marketing efforts into books we published a couple of years ago. In digital, the term backlist is less relevant. As long as it’s clear it’s a new edition or a new launch or you’ve added material, what’s the problem? 

Maybe those early efforts flopped because you had a lousy cover. Get a new, better cover* and launch it right this time. With all you’ve learned about marketing since your early efforts, it’s bound to do better, right?

Most fiction doesn’t get stale. Our efforts get stale because we want to focus on the new thing. Maybe the old thing is only old in your mind. With some tweaking, a fresh edit and a new campaign, you might have a book people will love and buy. Reuse, recycle, repurpose. Turn short stories into collections. Open up to new possibilities with prequels to your books. Tie books together. Add to your series. Serialize. There’s plenty of fun to be mined in what you’ve already accomplished.

Your problem with these suggestions isn’t necessarily that my head is full of feathers. Your problem is the same as mine. This will take a lot of time and you feel you’ve already covered this ground. But most of us didn’t cover this ground well the first time. There are new promotional tools now. Yes, time management can be tough and we can only do what we can do. But that’s business. We are not special snowflakes, but we’re letting good stuff go cold.

*About good covers, I know a guy. He’s Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com. He’s an award-winning graphic artist with an extensive portfolio who works well with indies and traditional publishers. Like my covers? Kit did them all. Check out his site. You’ll be glad you did.

Dark Higher Than Jesus banner ad

Filed under: author platform, Books, ebooks, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FAQs: Would I go with an agent?

Crack the Indie Author CodeWhen I attended the Banff Publishing Workshop, most attendees were bent on writing and managing magazines and publishing houses.* I knew one nice woman who wanted to be agent. I wonder what she’s doing now? There’s an excellent chance she’s selling real estate. Too bad. She really was nice. Same is true of all my classmates in journalism school who were let go from their newspaper jobs about the time they turned 40. Changing media delivery paradigms sure do stir up chaos.

Given my last post, you might think I’m against agents. Not at all. I think agents could be very useful for negotiating foreign rights for my imprint in the future, for instance.

However, their role is much reduced and smart agents are changing their games. At a recent writing conference, writers were not chasing agents so much. The Meet-An-Agent appointment schedule could not be filled. Now more agents are chasing writers and they’re very interested in how your self-published books are doing. They weren’t at all interested a short time ago. In fact, some were quite pissy about the prospect. But now? Establish a happy track record and they might come a courtin’.

The short answer to this post’s title is:

I’d be interested in hearing what an agent feels he or she could do for me. There are good agents out there. I think hybrid publishing maximizes exposure and opportunities for you and your readers. Look at Wool author Hugh Howey’s experience. An agent found him and she was willing to travel outside the ruts of old publishing’s logging road to get Hugh a deal that worked for everyone.

The long answer? Let’s go with bullet points so I can make this shorter:

  • The submissions process can be a long ordeal. Long as in, are you young enough to begin now?)
  • You may be asked to make major changes to your manuscript. If you succeed in getting a book deal, you’ll make even more major changes.
  • You may choose to make the requested changes and they still won’t take you on. (They may even forget the changes they suggested. Yes, that’s happened.)
  • You can get an agent but still fail to place the book with a publisher. An agent is a person, not a guarantee of slinging back cosmos in Manhattan with your new editor.
  • The myth is that you choose an agent. The fact is if someone sends you a contract, most authors pee their pants and quickly sign. Regret is for later.
  • You can find an agent, dance joyously and then find out it’s a scam (as happened to a friend of mine.)
  • You could bypass the agent and submit directly to publishing houses and they’ll still read it. (They say they don’t, but most will.)
  • As Dean Wesley Smith has said, agents should be your employees. I’m sure he’s right. Guess how many agents see their professional status that way?
  • Submit to the wrong agent who blogs and they’ll mock your submission. Unprofessional, I’d say. As Will McEvoy said recently, “Snark is the idiot’s version of wit.”
  • Good agents have precious few slots open for new clients. Bad agents and scammers demand reading fees.
  • Rather than submit query letters to agents, many agents find new clients via recommendations from the authors in their stable. Who you know? Yeah, that’s still a thing. It’s called networking. Ignore the denials.
  • Getting an agent is tougher than getting published. Why not publish it yourself first and start selling now? As I’ve said many times, Amazon is the new slush pile.
  • Some agents live in fear of submitting manuscripts that might not be accepted. They have to be so sure, they’re too risk averse. One agent complained that one false move with a particular editor would lose her access forever. This sad story tells me that’s a crazed editor. It also tells me that’s an agent who is too fearful, forever doomed to be chasing trends instead of helping to make them.
  • The agent/author relationship is like a marriage: They have a piece of you forever even after the divorce.
  • Lazy agents say, “This would be hard to sell.” As a former sales rep for many publishing companies, I can assure you that there are few easy sales. We don’t need you for easy sales. Selling is part of the job. The better question is, “How can I sell this and to whom?”
  • Often when they say, “This would be a hard sell”, they aren’t lazy. It’s a euphemism for, “I think this is crap but why not be diplomatic?” They’re being kind. Don’t resent them for it. Move on.
  • You’ll get a better deal with a good agent than without her. A good agent will more than pay for herself. However, some agents are getting paid for doing very little. They treat the publisher’s contract as set in stone. That’s supposed to be the publisher’s attitude. It’s a bad attitude for the person negotiating for you.
  • Good agents can act as a buffer and help resolve conflicts with editors. Bad agents are the source of personality conflicts.
  • You have to trust your agent. You don’t have to love your agent. It’s a business relationship. That’s less clear in the beginning when you’re riding high. It’s very clear when they dump your mid-lister ass.
  • A good agent can do things you can’t and navigate the tiny details of contracts. A good agent can pay great dividends for their fifteen percent.
  • But an entertainment lawyer can practice law and navigate the tiny details of contracts and you pay them once. Hm.
  • A good agent can justify their participation in your enterprise without sounding old-school entitled about it. They work in listening mode.
  • Trad publishing has changed. Good agents know it and are adapting to serve their clients better.

TPOD 0616 EP 1 coverAuthors who love their agents are everywhere. A plethora of horror stories about agents also span the Internet, just as there are snarky complaints about clueless authors everywhere.

A better question is about the human variable: You.

Would you feel better with an experienced, connected agent helping you on an ongoing basis?

Or does the prospect fill you with anxiety?

Are you happier as a publisher/author/entrepreneur who pays for an entertainment lawyer’s expertise on an ad hoc basis?

Enter the relationship self-aware, eyes open.

Even better:

How do you find a good agent if you want one?

Ask an author in your genre who is already delighted with their agent.

*FYI: A magazine is something people used to subscribe to and read, like a blog but made out of glossy paper. Publishing houses were places that had an undeserved reputation for great cocktail parties that were vaguely upper crust, literate and British, no matter where they were located or how little the worker drones were paid.)

~ Robert Chazz Chute was one of those worker drones. He is the author of This Plague of Days World flu pandemic! Autism! Zombies! Oh, my!

Filed under: agents, Books, publishing, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

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

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