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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Novel Novella Experiments & a #FREE book

Metal Immortal (Small)

I’ve published three long SF novellas in the last few months. Metal Immortal is free today, so click that beautiful Kit Foster Design cover to get on board for some kick ass military SF reminiscent of War of the Worlds.

It’s a robot uprising that’s pulpy fun. Before Asimov made robots three laws nice, this is what robot mayhem looked like: the Next Intelligence taking over the world, subterranean subs and giant Zilla Class city-killers lumbering across the landscape. Lt. Avery is a Sand Shark pilot on a recon mission in the desert. Things go wrong quickly and get worse. 

What’s different is the experiment: four novellas build one big novel.

I love novellas for their lack of fat. This is action, action, action with nary a break. You’ll love Deborah Avery for her competence and jokes, but characterization comes through action. It’s still hefty enough at 30,000+ words, but it will go so fast, you’ll think it’s shorter.

You can read each of the three novella as stand-alones. The stories are interconnected, true. However, all the threads come together in Book 4 of the Robot Planet Series. The characters that survive the robo-apocalypse  join forces for the final epic battle in book 4: Metal Forever (coming in December.)

As usual, nothing’s usual. Big surprises and fun ahead. Please click the pic to join the adventure and, if you dig it, I’d really appreciate it if you left a review.  Thanks!

Talk soon,

Chazz

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Filed under: ebooks, free ebooks, My fiction, new books, publishing, Science Fiction, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Further thoughts on the challenges and solutions around free book promotions

1. Problem: Annoyance when free stops

The beta version of my next book, The Haunting Lessons is on Wattpad for free. However, Christmas is here and I’ve got bills to pay and children who expect presents on Christmas morning. Odd, huh? Greedy little creatures.

I can’t leave it on Wattpad for free while I’m selling it elsewhere. Naturally, my first worry is that I’ll annoy Wattpad readers when I pull it on December 15th. I once saw a Wattpad reader characterize a writer’s move from free to paid as “a cash grab.” Ye gods! Alfred! My cape! My cowl! Polish my batarangs! Tonight I hunt Entitlement to its lair!

So, yeah. That’s a problem, but let’s not overstate it. It’s probably a minor quibble. Most people are reasonable. They’ll take an inch, but that doesn’t really mean they’ll take your shirt and your shoes, too.

Solution: Make concessions

I have warned readers on Wattpad that THL won’t be there long (though some will miss that warning.)

When I pull it and publish on Amazon, I could put the book into KDP Select and offer it for free for a couple of my five free days. That’s one way to get more reviews faster. However, that ambition will be hampered because I won’t be able to promote it anywhere (except my network). We can’t promote effectively without a bunch of reviews.

Question: Anybody know of an effective book promotion service that really moves books on the first day without requiring 10-15+ reviews? Anybody want to invent one?

Alternate solution: Expand beta read team.

Also send out more ARCs to avoid this conundrum.

2. Problem: Time

Though The Haunting Lessons is the first book in a series, the next books are not yet written. Many authors find making the first book free in a series attracts the power of discovery, gets true fans and raises sales of the books. Yes, but that’s not helpful until I have at least three books in the Ghosts and Demons Series.

Confession: I’m uncomfortable with perma-free.

Making a book perma-free is an unreliable and unpredictable process. It can be reversed, but that’s also unreliable and unpredictable. It all takes time and, of course, every book is a massive investment of energy. Perma-free does feel like lost sales no matter how much I tell myself it’s an investment in advertising and promotion. (More on those feelings below.)

Solution to the Time Problem: Compose, produce, ship

I’ll write the next books in the series fast and include a CTA (Call to Action) for similar books in my list. People who liked This Plague of Days will have a great time with The Haunting Lessons and vice versa.

This dovetails with a strategy that is long overdue for me: stop being stubborn and write a lot of books in one genre. Expect more horror/urban fantasy from me in 2015 and fewer crime thrillers.

Alternate solution: Invent a time machine. 

Write the entire series ten years ago. Mental note: invest in Google, Facebook and Apple.

3. Problem: Logistics

Coordinating giveaways is a logistical nightmare if you’re on multiple platforms. Change a price on Amazon in the morning and the price change takes effect the same day. On other platforms (and especially if you publish through Smashwords), price drops and rises can take days to weeks and you’re never even sure when the new price will take effect.

Solution: Improvement by the competition

It helps if you publish to those multiple platforms directly instead of going through an intermediator. Uploading individually instead of going through Smashwords or Draft2Digital will also take time, so there’s always a caveat and a corollary. That’s about all we can do, though.

The solution is not in our hands. It’s up to the other sales platforms to match Amazon’s response time. Those platforms also have to work on their problems with discoverability. I tried to find a friend’s book on Barnes & Noble and Kobo the other day. It took two searches. For searchability and discoverability, Apple is probably the worst. They are also the least user-friendly for uploading and publishing.

4. Problem: When free is worth nothing

A lot of people will snap up free but they’re hoarding. They never get around to reading the book. I do that myself.

Though it still kind of sucks, I prefer 99 cents as an introductory price for a series (Season One of This Plague of Days is set at 99 cents.) It’s not about the 30 cents I might get for selling a 100,000-word book. It’s that people are more likely to actually read it if they make that minimal investment. It’s the shopping cart analogy from my previous post: just a quarter is enough to stop a lot of people from walking off with shopping carts.

Solution: Reach the masses

Free is used best when it’s leveraged by the power of promotional platforms like Bookbub. There are many more such services but Bookbub is still the big dog at the moment. You can argue Bookbub is hard to get into and provides less value than it once did, but it does appear to reach more readers than any other service.

Go to AuthorMarketingClub.com to use the free submission tool for multiple ebook marketing sites. They’re great additions to a Bookbub promotion and, failing that, might be an alternative. Most of these sites are free or inexpensive. They require application time and a varying number of reviews and ratings. Author Marketing Club tools reduce application time and can even help you get more reviews.

5. Problem: Perception

Some readers think that if it’s free it must be a bad book.

Solution: Over-deliver

Surprise them with a good book and we may even be rewarded in the reviews for overcoming their low expectations. It’s not their fault they don’t understand the problems of indie authors trying to grow our readership. It’s not their problem that they mistake price for value. It’s our problem.

Additional solution: Ignore Mr. and Mrs. Crankypants.

Recently I read a comment in a review where a vituperative minority cast aspersions on indies for daring to write series. If it was a series, it couldn’t possibly be any good. That was an odd and new prejudice to me. But so what? That’s not a reader who’s going to become anyone’s true fan. That’s a bomb thrower and all they love is the sound of their own voice. Forget it. (And if you figure out how to forget it, tell me how you do that. I’m still a boiling cauldron of rage at any injustice and slight.)

6. Problem: The Devaluation Argument

Literature hurts to produce. Squeezing out a novel is excruciating. Surely, we should never gift our books to anyone, even temporarily, in the dim hope we’ll gain new readers who have never heard of us. We’ll send the message that our work is worthless to Mr. and Mrs. Crankypants.

Solution: Get off the fainting couch and get over yourself, Butch.

This is a neurosis writers commit on themselves before any nasty reviewer gets a chance to sneer at us for being entrepreneurial artists and independent publishers. Sure, writing books is hard, but it’s not that hard. If it is that hard, maybe you aren’t enjoying the writing process enough. (I hear crocheting is calming for the sensitive neo-hippie plus you get garish hangers for your potted ferns when you’re done.)

The Devaluation Argument might not be all wrong. I’ve already confessed my discomfort with perma-free. (Yes, there’s the math of it. Math doesn’t stop me from feeling what I feel.) But to cut off the most effective tool for discovery that I know of? That smacks of Self-aggrandizement calling itself But What About the Pricelessness of Literature? Let’s not be so precious about the writing process that we write good books too few ever get to read.

Writers need to promote to be read. Most sales platforms suck at promoting and advertising our work successfully. Until they improve, this is our lot and the value of discovery and growing our readership is going to cost us. We have to suck it up.

Alternate Solution 1: Reframe the problem

When you give your book away, that’s generous. A lot of people don’t have money for an entertainment budget and you’re helping them out. That feels good doesn’t it?

Alternate Solution 2: Go back to the math despite how you feel

This week I consulted with an author whose ebook was priced at $9.99. I suggested he drop the price.

The author frowned so we went to Amazon’s pricing tool. It’s in beta but it’s interesting and can be useful. I don’t set all my prices by it, but I do pay attention to it. You’ll find it on the Rights and Pricing page of your KDP Select Dashboard.

At $3.99, the tool predicts that his profits will rise by over 400%. How do they do it? Volume. Free promotions create volume and inertia, too. Better than doing nothing, right?

Alternate Solution 3: Know that many people are price sensitive for good reasons

One guy told me recently, “I don’t pay attention to price. If I want a book, I buy it.” 

I nodded. What I didn’t say was, “Yeah, but, dude! You’re rich. You didn’t ask the salesperson what your new car would cost.”

Some of those same price-sensitive people will become true fans, and buyers, once you demonstrate that you and your work are worth their time and investment. Without free, a lot of them won’t give you the chance to prove your writing’s worth. Think long-term.

Give coy readers a chance to fall in love with what you do. And why wouldn’t they? You’re adorable.

~ The Christmas thing is happening. You’ll find all my ebooks and paperbacks here. I’d appreciate it if you bought a book or fifteen. Thanks!

 

 

 

Filed under: author platform, free ebooks, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, readers, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

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

Dystopian Braingasm: For word nerds and horror readers who love autistic heroes

Click it to grab it free before midnight tomorrow night!

Click it to grab it free before midnight tomorrow night!

It’s time to glimpse your future. The plague is coming. The pandemic will hit us in waves. One strange boy with hidden talents will determine whether this is the end of the world or the just the end of the world as we know it.

Get Episode One of This Plague of Days free until midnight tomorrow night.

Horror lovers have plenty of surprises ahead with this dystopian serial. The infected are not what you expect and the heroes and villains of this zombie apocalypse are like nothing you’ve experienced.

Jaimie Spencer is a selective mute on the autistic spectrum. Read Episode One for free now and find out why parents of autistic children love This Plague of Days.

A savage virus spreads around the globe and society collapses. In Britain, the story has the flavor of the international thriller. In America’s heartland, you’ll see what happens when the Sutr plague comes for a family just like yours.

This serial is two books in one on a collision course.

Five stars from reviewers:

“Not your average Zombie story!”

*

I think this storyline is brilliant. It’s not your cliched, run-of-the-mill zombie apocalypse story. It’s character driven. It’s cerebral. It’s awesome.

The first episode of This Plague of Days is the perfect balance of back story, anecdotes, and the events of the present crisis. Jaimie, the main character, is fantastically written and surprisingly well thought out.

*

Plague of Days Episode 1 takes the reader into a new perspective-the autistic. A different concept, refreshing as well as illustrating the challenges faced in real life as well as in fiction.

*

I’ve read and watched several zombie novels and TV shows. This one is told from a unique perspective and I can’t wait to read the next episode. I think this would translate to a miniseries!

Can't have just one chip? Season One has five episodes. Get each one for 99 cents or get all of Season One at a discount for $3.99. Season Two hits this September.

Can’t have just one chip? Season One has five episodes. Get each one for 99 cents or get all of Season One at a discount for $3.99. Season Two hits this September.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is a former journalist, columnist and podcaster. This Plague of Days is his ninth book. 

Filed under: free ebooks, publishing, Science Fiction, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Write to live

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

See my books, blogs, links and podcasts.

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