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

Write and publish with love and fury.

The very nearly here, not quite yet, Post-review World

Once upon a time an author named Hale stalked a book reviewer, wrote about it in The Guardian and…well, things got crazy. I haven’t weighed in on this because you’ve no doubt read plenty about this debacle. Besides, I didn’t have anything new to say. I still don’t have anything new to say about that particular incident. It was a bad idea to respond to a negative review and there’s no need to pile on.

I do understand the urge. Oh, yes, every writer knows that urge to respond and demand an apology or…something. Instead, I stay indoors, never go anywhere, and write scary, funny books. It’s a better use of my time and the right thing to do.

So let’s talk about reviews more generally.

We all want them. We can’t promote our books effectively without a minimum number of happy reviews. But there are problems:

1. If you get a lot of happy reviews, someone who didn’t like your book will accuse you of having lots of friends and family shilling for you. Ha! I wish! It’s very difficult to get any reviews on anything and I don’t speak to my family. The point is, some people (I have no idea how many) think five-star reviews shouldn’t be trusted. However, if you didn’t have any five-star reviews, those same people would slay you for it. Crazy, huh?

2. Some people can’t help themselves. They condemn authors for their books and pedophiles for their despicable actions with nigh equal vehemence. Well…I assume so, anyway. I mean, I’ve read some vitriolic reviews where, once you dial it up to eleven, there’s no place to go, is there? But (silver lining) no one really takes one-star reviews seriously anymore, either. They are, with few exceptions, troglodytic. We read them for sick entertainment value, not for direction as to what to read.

3. Some people put spoilers in reviews without warning. That’s not a review anymore. That’s a spoiler and it’s a shitty thing to do. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean others won’t and spoiling a work that was years in the making in one ill-considered paragraph? Yes, that’s bad. What’s worse is Amazon lets it happen and allows those spoilers to remain posted without warning.

4. Likewise, authors have been libelled in reviews. Once again, Amazon does nothing if you complain. Unacceptable, and yet we are, at the moment, powerless. It’s the Internet. We’re supposed to shrug and hope the happy reviews drown out the unhappy ones (and eventually, mostly, they do.)

There’s a study somewhere that shows how unreliable reviews can be in an odd way. If the first review that goes up is negative, ensuing reviews tend to be more negative than they would have been otherwise. That’s less about the book, I suppose, and more piling on, hoping to be seen in agreement with whoever spoke up first. Weird.

5. Here’s where it gets weirder: Authors shouldn’t respond to reviews. Goodreads doesn’t even want authors to thank anyone for a nice review. That strikes me as forcing authors to be rude, but it’s their site policy so I abide by it.

Pretty much everyone accepts the No Response to a Bad Review Policy as a given, but no one knows who established this all-encompassing edict. Other industries routinely respond to reviews, hoping to ease their unsatisfied customers’ fury. We don’t. The argument goes that reviews aren’t for authors (true) but we aren’t even supposed to respond when reviews are misleading. We’re supposed to, as Hugh Howey so aptly put it once, “enjoy the burn.”

But wait. If we’re writers who should be thick-skinned and stoic since we put something out in the world…aren’t reviewers putting stuff out in the world, too? How come their writing is exempt from criticism but mine isn’t? Hm. No. Stop thinking about it. Nothing good can come from following the logical conclusion of that reasoning.

I am not arguing for responding to reviews.

The system is broken when reviews allow spoilers, libel authors or when so many people seem to distrust reviews.

Someone at The Passive Voice recommended we tell people, “If you liked it, please tell a friend,” in lieu of reviews. I kind of like that, but that’s what reviews were supposed to be anyway, right? Telling people what you liked so they can share the experience of an interesting, entertaining or enlightening book. I encourage people happy with my books to review them on Amazon. A review anywhere else (except perhaps a busy book blog) doesn’t really get more people to my books.

When I worked in magazines, we rarely gave negative book reviews (or the negative reviews were significantly shorter) because the point was to direct readers to the good stuff. The prevailing opinion was, the good stuff is too hard to find to waste time talking about the stuff we don’t like. I feel the same way. I may find commonality with reviews that tell me what they liked and why. What they dislike often seems more idiosyncratic (and some reviewers can’t seem to bring themselves to like much of anything.)

Maybe hoping for organic discovery through old-fashioned social networks is the way to go. But not quite yet. The apparatus for book discovery is broken. I still need happy reviews to get a Bookbub promotion going. That’s one of the few book promotion services that seems to have muscle and mojo behind it. I also suspect people don’t talk about books enough. I’m unwilling to rely on chats over fences with neighbors to spread word of my literary heights efficiently. Podcasts might be a better answer.

So what to do?

Stop stressing about reviews. Beat up a punching bag. (Reminder from Mom: human beings are not punching bags.)

If necessary, stop reading reviews. Read more books. Write more reviews.

Keep asking for reviews because, hey, that’s all we can do for now.

Don’t stalk book bloggers or book reviewers. Do not go near their homes or places of employment. And if you do (which you definitely shouldn’t!) don’t tell anyone. Jeez!

Cry quietly and not in public.

Treasure the many good reviewers who don’t mistake snark and disrespect for intelligence.

Read your four and five-star reviews obsessively to get your energy and esteem up. Read the negative reviews once, if you feel you’ll have something to gain from them (a murder plot, perhaps?) But never read them twice. That’s just masochism and revenge fantasies.

But there’s a better reason not to respond to negative reviews:

It takes time and energy that you could use to write your next book. And frankly, if someone hates your book, they won’t change their mind. If you try to use your best politician’s smile and the it’s-all-part-of-the-game clap on the shoulder, they won’t buy it. They know. You hate them. They hate your book and therefore they hate you. People will tell you this is wrong. Shit’s about to get real.

Yes, you’ll read lots of crap about how writers should separate themselves from their books. It’s a book, not a baby. Except it is. It’s the product of your mind and anyone who hates the book is calling you feeble in the brain. Be real. People tell you to be thick-skinned, but nobody really is. Many of the most successful writers, actors and entertainers on the planet confess that they remember every word of every bad review. You’d have to be a robot sociopath to be so far above the fray when someone criticizes something you put so much of yourself into.

However…when you write more books and get some success, it does hurt less. You become less invested in each book because you know you will write many. Just like having children, if you make enough of them, a few start to look expendable. (It’s a joke, for Thor’s sake. Relax.) 

Anyway, when the happy reviews drown out the negative reviews, that one-star review starts to look silly. You can also take some solace in knowing that if a reviewer hates you enough, they won’t feel the need to come back for more and you’ll be rid of them…if they actually read books before they review them, of course. Oh, yeah. There’s another reason so many people don’t trust reviews anymore. Sigh.

So, to sum up:

Write books and pretend you don’t bleed.

Don’t be a dick. Be nice. Play nice. Pretend you’re nice. Fake it and kill offenders in your next book. (I did.) Cover your tracks so they’ll never recognize themselves.

Pretend you’re happy all the time, especially when you’re not. Rant to a friend if you must. (Mental note: get a friend.)

Try to keep some perspective. You won’t, but it’s true that a review is merely one person’s opinion. It is not a scary diagnosis from a stone-faced internist.

We’re in the entertainment business. Entertain. Seek out entertainment. Don’t be so damn serious.

Remember that no matter how good your book is, someone will say they don’t like it. Don’t let them discourage you from following your star and writing, though. If that happened, then a bad review would really matter.

Until a new way to discover genius books is found, this is the way we live now.

Keep having fun. Don’t forget, this is supposed to be fun.

~ I forget sometimes.

 

 

Filed under: reviews, web reviews, Writers, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Review: Storytelling problems and the finale of #Dexter

This isn’t my usual sort of blog post, but it’s time to talk about storytelling problems and, unfortunately, the Dexter series finale is Exhibit A. Spoilers ensue, so you’ve been warned.

1. The final season of Dexter was mostly rudderless. Masuka has a daughter. Yay! If she was a plant from the FBI, she would have been useful to the plot. Instead, she gave the comic relief guy no opportunities to do comedy. Nice topless sports bar, but otherwise, why is she there? We want Masuka to be Masuka with lines like, “Science is a cold-hearted bitch…”

2. Dexter’s struggle to become human is betrayed in the final scene. Okay, Pinocchio becomes a real boy and decides feelings suck. He returns to being a monster with his final look. The struggle wasn’t interesting enough because it more internal than external. Hard to do in film. Easier in a novel, but still tricky.

3. The last scene felt tacked on and dragged on too long. Were we really supposed to wonder if that’s Dex, or perhaps the satellite flipped the channel to a lugubrious episode of Ice Road Truckers? If they wanted to sap the power of “And the body was never found,” they should have done it in a strobe flash POV shot with bearded Dexter standing over a kill table in a cabin, long knife in hand, snowshoes on the wall. 

4. The show made us love a serial killer’s exploits in Miami. Dexter had a good life and an endless supply of pulled pork sandwiches. Now he’s alone in Alaska or Canada. Dex is alone so no one he cares for will get killed. We get it. However, you don’t leave Batman poor with no Batcave and no Batmobile. A downer ending would have been okay, but this punished viewers. He’s still Dexter, but now he’s got no inside track from inside a police station and fewer opportunities to be the Avenger. We want him on that wall! We need him on that wall!

5. The show worked best when Dexter was constantly in danger of being caught. I didn’t think Dex was ever in much danger of being caught. Maybe it was a lack of lines and physical presence, but Elway and the US Deputy Marshall never came close to feeling like a credible threat. The Marshall reminded me of Ty Pennington and looked like he should be giving one lucky family an extreme home makeover instead of closing in on Dexter. Elway’s hair looked like he might have been the front man for a New Wave band in the ’80s, but the private dick, the cat who won’t cop out when there’s danger all about? We’re not talking about Shaft here.

6. With the build up to the arrival of the hurricane, I pictured a Hitchcockian ending complete with a fight to the death aboard the Slice of Life. Once Oliver is caught (again) the narrative drive is lost and there’s no goal except to explore feelings. The folks behind the show overestimated our patience for repeated flashbacks to Deb and Dex in the maternity ward. For that to work, they needed to at least bring Rita into the flashback. (We would have forgiven so much for that cameo.) They bring Miguel’s wife back as a real estate agent, but the name “Rita” is never spoken? (They came close with Harrison’s drawing, but no.)

7. Plot holes abound through the season. It really bugs me when the mechanics of a script only work if the characters do incredibly dumb things. This season, no computer was password-protected, the Deputy Marshall doesn’t recognize Oliver and Hannah stays at Deb’s house. Perhaps most egregious (because it was in our faces every time we saw her) Hannah always looks exactly like her mugshot and it never occurs to her or Dex that she could cut and dye her hair. Even the most brainless fugitive would do that much. Man or woman, if you’re on the run, shave your head!

8. The season progressed as if there was no plan. From one episode to the next, Zack goes from being so clueless he doesn’t know to wear gloves to leaving Dex a clue behind on purpose? Anybody from the later seasons of Lost working on this thing? Can we have the writers from John Lithgow’s season, please? How about we get a mulligan?

9.  The theme of the season was the ties that bind: mother-son, father-son, sister-brother, friends and family. What got us hooked on Dexter was none of the above. Anybody else notice that when Harry disappears, it doesn’t feel like a strong beat? Harry’s been Dexter’s coach for years, but when he’s gone, it feels faster than Rick Schroeder’s throwaway disappearance from NYPD Blue.

10. The wasted opportunities made me sad. If I’d written the final season (and were king of the universe so I could do anything I want) it would have been a cat and mouse game between Dexter and Quinn and Batista. Batista had a box of paper LaGuerta left behind that contained the phone records that made her suspicious. Quinn had already been suspicious of Dex (which he let go and forgot about after Dex did him a solid.) Those suspicions are the seeds of a plot that would have carried the inertia from last season and given LaGuerta’s death significance and consequence.

Batista was the single most underused character and, I would argue, the beating human heart of the show. If he’d pursued an investigation that led to a showdown in the end, Dexter fans would be having much happier water cooler conversations today. Oh, and killing Quinn would have been a very acceptable sacrifice to drive the final wedge between Dex and Deb.

We cared about Batista because he cared about everyone else. Dex once said that if he could be anyone, he’d want to be Batista. There’s talk of a spin-off. It should be Batista, now more jaded and suspicious of everyone. Save Masuka’s return for a Three’s Company reboot.

I hate to be this guy. I’m not a hater. I loved most of Dexter. When it was good, it was great! What did they do right?

1. “I’m going to kill you with that pen.” (Plus the saucy little hesitation before pressing the alarm and the instant switch to “He tried to kill me!”)

2. Batista’s reaction to watching the recording and seeing Dexter in a whole new light. Excellent acting as always by David Zayas.

3. Jennifer Carpenter is a great actress. It’s hard to act drunk for a long time without looking silly. She did it. (Question: What does she say to Quinn just before she goes into surgery? We replayed that three times at increasing volumes and still couldn’t quite catch it. It was the worst sound work since we all came back from watching Brokeback Mountain to google what Heath Ledger’s last line was.)

4. Michael C. Hall. Excellent actor. Even in casual moments, there’s something lupine about his face. In his last look at the camera, he delivered. His best moment? There are many to choose from, but I’d go with the moment he discovers that’s not Miguel’s blood on the shirt and rams his hands through glass in a rage.

5. Charlotte Rampling is an excellent actor. I’d like to see her in more stuff. Is Bates Motel looking for a creepy neighbor lady to run against Norman’s mom on Town Council?

6. I watched the penultimate Breaking Bad immediately after watching Dexter. That flushed some of the gunk out. That’s not something Dexter got right. In fact, they went up against the Emmys, but it was fortuitous.

Filed under: reviews, writing tips, , , , , , , , ,

Write! Like a Boss!

One of the movies we love here in the secret bunker is The Incredibles. I love a good Bond movie and The Incredibles is superheroes in a Bond movie. It’s a lot of fun, though, for me, the most effecting scene is where the missiles close on the plane with kids on board. Having kids makes you cry easily and I’ve cried during that scene several times over.

Kind of a Spoiler

In the original plot for The Incredibles, the plot called for the plane to be piloted by an ordinary human — a sweet old man and friend of Elastigirl — who gets killed in the explosion. That was revised when they decided it was too dark a turn for a kids’ movie.

The best scene

For my wife, She Who Must Be Obeyed, the scene she always brings up first is the attack on the city.

Samuel L. Jackson, primed to defend innocents and come out of retirement, really sells it when he sees the devastation and shouts, “Honey! Where is my super suit?!” 

His wife’s reply: “Oh, no you don’t! I have been planning this dinner with the Robinsons for weeks!”

Honey! Where is my super suit?!” 

The juxtaposition of the mundane with a superhero’s clothing needs is funny, but it doesn’t stand out as much for me. She Who Must Be Obeyed is not wrong. (That can never happen.) However, it underlines that we can’t predict how our writing will be received. We must write for ourselves and hope others of like mind will find us (or we must find them). When I wrote for magazines, I was often surprised which bit of a column provoked outrage and what spurred letters of admiration. People won’t necessarily unpack your book the way you thought you sent it.

And then… 

Yesterday I read one-star reviews of a few of Shakespeare’s plays. One star. Really? I know it’s a subjective universe, but The Freakin’ Bard only gets one star? 

Write more. Worry less.

You could concern yourself with the trend of reviews. Report the abusive reviews. Consider correcting fallacies in reviews (like author Elle Lothlorien). Refuse to read your reviews (like author JA Konrath).

Reviewers are not your boss. You are your boss. Being boss is one of your best reasons to write. Don’t give it up. Write! Like a boss!

Stop worrying so much and just write your next best thing. The next best thing could be your best book ever (which someone will load down with a one-star review). Just write. Not everyone will love your book or they’ll love different parts of your book for different reasons. Those who dislike your work aren’t your readers of the future, so they don’t matter. They don’t pay you for your books so they literally don’t figure into the accounting. 

There really is no accounting for taste.

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes like a boss. Check out his books at AllThatChazz.com (where he also podcasts like a boss.) He interviews like a boss at CoolPeoplePodcast.com. He loses weight like a boss at DecisionToChange.com. He vines like a boss and writes about Vine here. He prepares an apocalypse like a ghoulish boss full of verisimilitude and magic realism at ThisPlagueOfDays.com.

Filed under: Rejection, reviews, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , ,

Writers: Was this post helpful to you?

I bought a book today by an author previously unknown to me. At six bucks plus, it was the most expensive ebook I’ve purchased in a long time. (Usually my ebook purchases are from indies, not trad publishers.) I bought this ebook because of one of its reviews. I did not buy because the review raved. The book caught my attention because the review’s tone was so damnably condescending, I had to make the purchase. This wasn’t a case of pitying the author. There were good reviews, too. Also, it helped that I suspected this was a book I would enjoy. It sounded smart and sure and people who liked it said it elevated and challenged its genre.

Whatever the book’s merits will be, the key component for the purchase was that the reviewer was too much of a jerk. What is it about bad reviews that so often reveal more about the reviewer than the book being reviewed? I emailed the author to tell him I bought his book. It sounded interesting and I wished him success with it. I look forward to reading it, but what can the rest of us take from this?

Take this post as a small salve to authors’ bruised egos.

People will love your work and others will hate it, but I want you to know that readers are generally intelligent people. They often see through the reviewer’s veil more than you might think. Readers divine intent when they read over-the-top malice and subtract value from a nasty review. Yea or nay, readers like thoughtful reviews. They get it when a reviewer sounds disrespectful or less than literate. Good readers (people who buy a lot of books!) aren’t easily impressed by cheap shots and snarky remarks. When a review is especially egregious, you might even get a sale out of it. 

I’m not saying bad reviews are better than happy ones, but don’t take the bad ones too much to heart. Also, when you spot a really nasty one that goes at the author personally instead of the book? Be sure to click “No” beside the question, “Was this review helpful to you?”

Filed under: reviews, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Review, Interview and Podcast News

Many regular readers expect a new podcast from me right about now. Since my throat has closed up and I’m currently absorbing oxygen through my pores, there’s no podcast this evening (though if you missed any, they can all be found at AllThatChazz.com.)

Twisty and twisted. Click the pic for more.

However, I do have sweet and tasty candies for you:

From the NSFW category, erotica author Eden Baylee asks me some piercing Proustian questions and I give some earnest, logical and scatological answers. Not only is it not safe for work, it may not even be safe for your living room. Click here, read there and have a laugh.

Over at The Raven’s Quill, Krista Walsh gives a lovely review of Sex, Death & Mind Control.There are allusions to Dr. Hannibal Lecter. She’s beguiled, so I know my experiments with mind control really are working. See what the fuss is all about and read the review on her site.

Recently, RaeBeth McGee interviewed me at The Writing World. I’m all about the pithy answers about writer’s block, verisimilitude and my enemies will get a clue as to where to search for the hidden secret to my weaknesses! Enjoy in a click.

A new cover is coming for The Dangerous Kind. This time it will be pretty since Kit at KitFosterDesign is pinch hitting for me. It will be more effective because the new cover will include a happy endorsement from a bestselling author.

If you don’t have a Kindle, but still want The Dangerous Kind edition with the vintage cover, you can get it on Smashwords here. I’ve had great reviews of this suspenseful novella. You could be the next happy reader to review this claustrophobic story of greed, betrayal and inner demons in the Maine woods. (Still for just 99 cents! Couch change!)

I shall be podcasting again when my throat is no longer full of razor blades. For now, I think you’ll find these links plenty entertaining. For me? Each of these links taste like affirmation of me as a writer and acknowledgement that I’m a player…excuse me, that should be playah. And all that tastes like chocolate croissant. My thanks to Eden, Krista and RaeBeth! That was fun!

I have major announcements cooking, so stay tuned.

Cool stuff is coming your way.

Related articles

Filed under: All That Chazz, ebooks, My fiction, publishing, reviews, self-publishing, short stories, What about Chazz?, , , , , , , , ,

The Writing Bomb: Amazon is Publishing Reviews? Will You be Next?

Via Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction

(Here’s something new for authors to worry about! Imagine you get a review stuck on your book that’s negative and that’s the first thing potential readers see before they know anything more about your book! Find out more by clicking the link below to hear what my friend Jeff Bennington found out. ~ Chazz)
Via thewritingbomb.blogspot.com

Filed under: publishing, reviews, Useful writing links, web reviews, , , , , , , ,

Review: The highs and lows of a book promotion campaign. What works?

Suspense, parables, inspiration, surprise.

Last week I wrote about my campaign to drag Self-help for Stoners into the world’s consciousness. If you’re new to the blog, long story short: I wrote a book of suspenseful fiction with a self-help twist dedicated to director Kevin Smith. When I had the honour of handing the book to my DIY hero at a comedy event simulcast to theatres across the US and Canada, I felt I had to take advantage of this unique opportunity. I tried an experiment with a press release distribution service called PR Web. For more on that review of the troubles I had getting the press release accepted for wide distribution, check out the original post here. 

Soon after the press release went into wide distribution, I got a small increase in traffic, but not, it seemed, in the way I’d hoped. 

The Dangerous Kind

Murder might solve your problems. Two brothers go hunting. Only one will see home again.

A fellow on Google+ was complimentary to me (I have balls!) but thought the money ($240) was wasted. He wasn’t being unkind…at least I don’t think he meant to be. He just thought there were better uses of my time and newer, more innovative ways to spread the word about my book’s existence. I’m always interested in learning more and I’m particularly interested when people have ideas about what to do instead of what not to do. (More on that in another post after I conduct more field research.)

Imagine my chagrin when I read a post by Dead Wesley Smith who decreed that spending money on book promotion is a waste of time and money until you have 50 books for sale. That’s right. Fifty! I double-checked to make sure it wasn’t the cloying cloud of depression and stress headaches obscuring my vision misleading me. Kurt Vonnegut only wrote fourteen novels in his lifetime. If Dean Wesley Smith is right, is there any place for book promotion for most of us? Maybe I struck the iron too early, but given the scope of the simulcast, my press release appeared to be a now-or-never opportunity.

My speed of production isn’t near as quick as Dean Wesley Smith, but how many of us can write (good) books that fast? Maybe I should write faster, but even at once every three months, I wouldn’t be gambling a promotional penny to let the world know I exist until 2024. Will I even live long enough to ever have to bother with book promotion at that rate? Hm. That would be a great solution except for  the part about me being dead. I do agree with Dean on one point thoroughly and I’ve said it many times myself: your best book promotion idea is to get to work on the next book and I’m certainly doing that. I’ll be coming out with three books this year (so that’s one every four months, though I confess that two and half are already written and I’m mostly in the revision stage.) I’m not as skilled as Dean Wesley Smith because I’m not up to the pace he’s setting. I honestly wouldn’t have confidence in the end product if I pushed that fast. No worries or apologies on that score. We’re all just doing the best we can. (For more on what indie production actually costs, check out Dean Wesley Smith’s post here.)

But what you’re wondering is, what did the PR Web press release actually do and could that work for your book? It’s too early to tell, so once again, my results are

Don't argue over parking spots with strangers. Or else.

preliminary. The cycle of Google analytics is 28 days long, and what follows is just the first week of results. (However, isn’t it already old news now that the event is over a week stale?) I can tell you that PR Web’s marketing guy sounded very pleased. He phoned me yesterday morning to say that I’d worked the SEO right (five links maximum was how it worked out with my word count) and he said the response to the press release was “great.”

“How do I quantify ‘great’?” I asked. I’m sure I whacked him with a heavy note of skepticism but he seemed no less bouncy at my glorious prospects. He told me how to get the analytics for the press release. Apparently, the number of people who read the release, liked the headline and read to the end of the article was impressive, perhaps even unusual. Nice, though I wish I liked the press release more. (For more on that, once again, refer to the original post.)

8,027 media deliveries boiled down to 49 “interactions” (where a link was clicked or a pdf was downloaded) and eight “pickups”. The report contains a sample of Web sites that picked up or syndicated my story. It’s apparently not the full list, but media outlets included: Hollywood Industry, Mac DVD Pro, Digital Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, Corporate Media News, Yahoo! News, and Consumer Electronics Net.

But these aren’t the numbers you really want to know. Has this press release helped sales? Sadly, not much so far that is measurable. I saw a bit of a bounce up on my Amazon sales, but that settled quickly. And the truth is, since I’m doing several other things, I could easily attribute that blip to the success of other marketing tactics. But before I draw conclusions in this review, see if you can follow the roller coaster of author thrust and bureaucratic parry that has brought me to my sad current state.

Here are the highs and lows and forays

of my marketing campaign for Self-help for Stoners:

High: I sent out several press releases about meeting Kevin Smith to CBC shows and to my local paper. These forays cost me nothing.

Low: CBC didn’t call back. The local columnist who showed enthusiasm seems to have lost my number. Or he’s sick and not at work. Gee, I hope he’s sick.

What if God gives you what you want? What if you win an argument against God?

High: Kevin Smith has a cult and for a shining moment I was in front of them. I paid $200 for a one-minute ad to run on Smith’s Smodcast network the day he got back on the mic. I figured since he hadn’t been on the mic for such a long time, the first day he got back on the show would have high ratings and many downloads. And maybe they’d remember said shining moment from the broadcast of the Live from Behind Show in Toronto.

Low: The ad didn’t run on schedule. There was a communication breakdown. Despite my best efforts at keeping in touch with the ad guy at Smod, it didn’t happen. It’s supposed to run today (February 14th on Smodcast Internet Radio. I’m sacrificing a goat to Thor, hoping it happens this time. Don’t worry about the goat. He’s suicidal.)

High: I did two podcasts about my Kevin Smith experience, before and after. They’ve been well-received by those who have heard them. “One and a quarter hours of narrative gold,” said one, Thor bless him. Bliss. (See all the podcasts here.)

Low: Though they may catch on in the long term, not many people have actually heard them! I screwed up the metadata so, on Stitcher, the first words that show up in the tiny window that give the podcast summary are not Chazz Meets Kevin Smith and Jay Mewes. Instead it reads: Show notes and podcast details… That won’t get anybody new to check out my filthy jokes and stream of consciousness trips in order to find me utterly delightful and worthy of their love and bucks.

Twisty and twisted. Click the pic for more.

High: I thought KDP Select might be my salvation to really get things going. Amazon told me all I’d have to do was tell Bookbaby to withdraw from all other platforms to meet the exclusivity caveat. Any other action might risk duplication on Amazon’s site.

Low: BookBaby disagrees. I got a nice email (eventually—BookBaby seems awfully slow to respond to me of late) saying that they would have to withdraw the books from all channels, it would be permanent, and I’d have to enter my books into KDP Select myself. With no confidence in how long that might take, I don’t want to risk not having any books for sale anywhere, especially with all the promotion work I’ve done. I replied to BookBaby that rather than risk a screw up and no availability of my books for an indeterminate amount of time, I’d keep my books where they were through BookBaby and just get the new books straight into KDP Select without them next time. That’s a loss all around, I’d say, but I’m the one who will feel it most.

There are a lot of tragic starts and stops to this tale, aren’t there?

The word “thwarted” is pushing into the centre of my brain like the capricious thumb of an angry god.

High: I tried to organize a Buy X Get Y promotion for my book on Amazon.

Low: Amazon Advantage said they couldn’t do it because fulfilment for my paperback is through CreateSpace, which is POD and they’d need stock on hand. After a light scolding, they told me to go to CreateSpace for a similar promotion program.

Asia_Unbound

Are we ever free from our secrets? Find out here.

Lower: CreateSpace said they’d call back. Then they sent me an email instead saying they have no idea what Amazon is talking about. (Note that CreateSpace is owned by Amazon, too, but never the twain shall meet, I guess, even if the plan would have made a buttload of money.) Once again, Chazz hurts moms. So much so, he begins to write about himself in the third person. With loathing,

Lowest: As I write this, I’m feeling a bit emotional and teary. The sum of the message so far is: Nobody knows me, I don’t matter and as good as the book is, it still doesn’t matter if I can’t convince anyone to try it out. And a fresh pile of bills arrived yesterday. There isn’t an author on earth who hasn’t felt this way, yet the lash feels equally new for every person every time.

Clawing and climbing out of the mire: So there are a few things I am doing which I’m more positive about. Writing and revising the new stuff is going well. (Three new novels this year! Whoo, and also hoo!) The Writing World will run an interview with me in early March. My friend Eden Baylee will also run a saucy little interview with me soon. I’ve sent out a couple more copies for book reviewers and will continue to seek out reviewers for all my books. The Self-help for Stoners podcast continues weekly and I had a clip broadcast on Succotash, a popular comedy clip show. I think I’ll have an excerpt from Self-help appear on the next The Word Count Podcast, in support of #IndiesUnite4Joshua (fun and a great cause.) I’m also getting quite a few nice mentions on other podcasts, like Logical Weightloss and The School of Podcasting.

But wait, Chazz! How do you account for that blip where sales came up a bit? It could be my promise on my podcast to gain converts individually by tying each new reader up and torturing them with sexual delights to gain converts. It could be that some new people I met lately have checked out my books or some found me through the Kevin Smith event when I was on

Get Vengeance and get surprised.

camera. Maybe the press release had some effect, but I tend to doubt it, at least until more evidence arrives through Google analytics.

So what have we learned about promoting our books? So far? We need more data.

I’d say I’ve learned this much:

1. Triberr has helped me get more new traffic to my blogs than anything else. I can see that clearly in my stats and my Twitter feed.

2. I have to find more innovative ways to get the word out. I’m working on that. (More later.)

3. I have to get more reviews. I have had excellent feedback on much of my work, but even when people are enthused, it doesn’t necessarily translate to reviews. I am soliciting reviews as my writing schedule allows.

4. I have to remember how much I believe in my books, because in the beginning, no matter who you are and no matter your experience, you’re just another schmo until you’re discovered. After you’ve made it, you’re a genius. Until then? Schmo. The writing awards and all the experience don’t matter. Yet.

Most important?

Did I mention I have more books coming out?

That will be what counts more than anything.

I have to provide a larger target for my readership to find me. 

My people are out there. I will find them. They will find me.

UPDATE: In keeping with the theme of getting thwarted, the Smashwords website is down at the moment, so the links from the short story covers are directed back to the author site until Smashwords is back up. The links in the The Dangerous Kind, Self-help for Stoners and Sex, Death & Mind Control (for fun & profit) covers work fine. You can still get everything I write across most digital book platforms, of course, (i.e. search Kobo and there they are) but as long as Smashwords is down, you can’t grab the short stories directly from that site. I will update as soon as the Smashwords server is back up. It’s all very…consistent with today’s theme, isn’t it?

LATEST UPDATE: SMASHWORDS IS NOW BACK ONLINE AND THE SHORT STORY COVERS NOW LINK BACK TO THAT SITE. Find out more about these short stories here.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is the author of Sex, Death & Mind Control (for fun and profit), the novella The Dangerous Kind, Self-help for Stoners and several suspenseful short stories with gut-punch endings, available at Smashwords. He’s in suspense, figuratively and literally and his comedy podcast, Self-help for Stoners, airs each Friday on Stitcher and iTunes. Visit the author site, AllThatChazz.com,  for updates on Chazz’s fiction and to download the podcast.

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Filed under: Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Rejection, reviews, web reviews, What about Chazz?, What about you?, Writers, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Plots and Plans: The great ebook giveaway & other book marketing thoughts

I promised a follow-up report on the Corrective Measures giveaway. After two weeks, 113 people downloaded the free short story about the serial killer who wants to kill someone over a parking space dispute. I received a

CLICK HERE TO CHECK IT OUT

couple of nice reviews immediately and I’m hoping for more when people get around to it soon. The upshot of the gift giving is, I don’t know how well it did yet. People kindly took me up on the offer, but who knows how long it will take them to get around to reading and reviewing it? The toughest thing has got to be getting reviews. Several people have told me how happy they were with my work and that they intend to write reviews. However, they have lives, too, and I can only hope they’ll get to it. Soonish.

So what’s the next step? Patience and see what happens with Corrective Measures. It’s now for sale at the same price as all the other short stories (a colossal 99 cents!)

But that’s just one thing. I’ve got lots of egg baskets. Tomorrow, another brick in the marketing campaign for Self-help for Stoners hits and next week I’ll be running an ad on Smodcast Internet Radio that ties in with said brick. I’m also planning for another  ad (on a different podcast)  for Sex, Death & Mind Control (for fun and profit). My podcast is up every week, as well, reaching people I wouldn’t ordinarily meet. Yesterday I fired off a pdf of The Dangerous Kind for a book blogger to review.

I think there is one area I need to focus upon: Send out more review copies to book reviewers.

Most important? Get on with the next book. I’m aiming for April 20 for the release of my novel; think Incredible Journey meets autistic boy’s family in the post-apocalypse. It’s called This Plague of Days and it is a very ambitious story. Stay tuned.

FOR MORE SCARY THOUGHTS ON FREEBIE BOOK PROMOTION,

READ THE VANDAL HERE.

And now…back to work.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute, author of Self-help for Stoners, the bathroom book of suspense, packed with points and punches. It’s not what you think it is: you don’t have to be a stoner to love it. (Check a sample here.) Sex, Death & Mind Control is a dark short story collection that includes a couple of award winners; try the magical realism express. The Dangerous Kind is a suspenseful novella packed with edgy family dynamics and small-town claustrophobia. I write from experience. My home town fit me like a fat kid fits in a sandpaper leotard. (Came up with that simile in a writers’  forum this morning. Weird images make me chuckle.)

Filed under: podcasts, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, reviews, self-publishing, What about Chazz?, What about you?, , , , , , , , , , ,

The ebook pricing and gifting experiment

Click here for your free story!

Self-published authors have found success in serialization.

Cross-pollination is the cousin to serialization that no one talks about. 

I have some big promotional events coming up, but January can be the doldrums for sales. Many of us, me included, are sifting through our new reading from Christmas and looking forlornly at our VISA bills. Publishing is so easy now, but obscurity is hard. I thought it was time to do something to spark the imagination of readers. It’s time to build my readership and, I hope, new readers will review my books and spread the word.

That’s why, until the end of January, I’m giving away a very special story for free.

I have ebooks selling at various price points: 99 cents, $1.99 and $2.99 and one in paperback for $13.99. When the big promotional event hits, I expect there will be a run on the paperback and ebook of Self-help for Stoners. The Self-help for Stoners podcast is also going well with over 300 downloads already.

But why free and why now?

Honestly, my sales kind of suck so far and I’m trying to light a fire to signal rescue planes.

My gamble is that once I’m picked up, readers won’t want to stop the ride at just one story.

Book sales need momentum. Fortunately, I had just the right story in my holster to fit this pricing/gifting experiment. The story, Corrective Measures, stands on its own. However, two characters from this story appear in several of my other stories in two other books. I won an award for End of the Line, a short about Dr. Circe Papua. Hounded by an unscrupulous bill collector, she uses magical powers of persuasion to get him off her back. That story appears in Sex, Death & Mind Control (for fun and profit). Dr. Papua shows up in different incarnations in several stories in that book, but also appears in Vengeance is #1, an ebook on sale for $1.99.

My main character from Corrective Measures is Jack, a serial killer and Dr. Papua’s patient. He tries not to kill anybody unless Dr. Papua says it’s okay, but after a minor argument over a parking space, Jack wants to murder a woman simply for pissing him off. (By the way, The Parking Lot Incident, happened to me. And no, there are no warrants out for my arrest.)

Here’s where the cross-pollination comes in:

Jack appeared in another award-winning story, The Clawed Bathtub, which is the last story in Sex, Death & Mind Control. I love it when stories nest beside each other. In Corrective Measures, there is a reference to events in The Clawed Bathtub that answers a question that was left a mystery in that story. Read one and you won’t notice the seams. Readers who buy them all will get a bigger picture and enjoy the inside jokes. I didn’t write the stories with this strategy in mind. That arose organically. I only write stories I need to write. However, these characters I know so well keep popping up. In The Fortune Teller, Papua is an old seer at a fair. In another story from Sex, Death & Mind Control (The Express) Dr. Papua is the same psychotherapist from Corrective Measures, but she’s dealing with an older version of Paul, the man who is abusive to women in The Fortune Teller.

You don’t need a flow chart or to keep score. It’s just that as I wrote about these characters, I found they had more to say than could be shoehorned into one story. There’s no timeline to follow. It’s about characters who are so compelling, I had to revisit them and explore them further. Each story explores extraordinary people in ordinary circumstances and makes it funny, suspenseful and scary. I found that as I wrote these stories, I pulled back on the gore because, frankly, the battery acid scenes would shock some readers out of the story. The results are tighter, more clever stories that make you think, make you laugh and make you a little more wary of strangers.

Please accept my invitation to go grab Corrective Measures now while it’s still free.

I hope you will be inspired to spread the happy word to your friends and through reviews.

I’ll let you know how this pricing/gifting experiment works out.

Filed under: All That Chazz, book reviews, DIY, ebooks, getting it done, podcasts, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, readers, reviews, self-publishing, short stories

In writing dialogue, what sounds real?

This week, as I listened to some NPR folks talk about writing on a podcast called Culturetopia, I found myself getting agitated. They were coming down hard on Diablo Cody for her dialogue in Juno. The

Diablo Cody, writer of the film Juno

Image via Wikipedia

complaints were variations on a theme: teens don’t talk like that. They grudgingly admitted that some of the dialogue was funny, but added it was the actors’ charm that sold dialogue that wasn’t “real.” (Whatever this reality thing is…but that’s another post in which I discuss quantum physics, multiple earths and Twinkies.)

How charming do these critics imagine actors can be if they’re mute? Do they really believe the charm oozes off the screen just because actors walk onscreen? (In my experience, that only happens in porn where dialogue is tertiary. Primary? Looks. Secondary? Action (and, equally, the presence of umbrellas open indoors…but that’s my fetish.) In so-called real life and on film, actors have to speak the lines in the script (and possibly throw in some improv) to sell a performance. JK Simmons is a great actor. But if he played the dad in Juno as a mime bereft of Cody’s dialogue, I would have to kill him. (As is my mission with all mimes.) What I’m saying is, Juno as a silent movie wouldn’t work nearly so well for me.

There are so many lines from that comedy I loved:

“It’s a pilates machine.” 

“Great! What’s it make?”

And the teenage mother played by the wonderful Ellen Page tossing off the reaction of her peers to her advancing pregnancy:

“They call me the cautionary whale.”

Cody’s critics were even cheering her “failure” with her second movie, Jennifer’s Body, to teach her humility (presumably so she can write another, more banal movie that’s not so threatening to their self-image and worldview.)

There are three answers to this line of attack on Diablo Cody:

1. It was a comedy. Lighten the fuck up.

2. “Teens don’t talk that way”: Really? All teens? Everywhere? Ever? Every teen and every adult must conform to one sound, one point of view, one CLICHE?! Ellen Pages’ character was a smart, glib kid who spoke in one-liners. Sometimes I speak in one-liners and the only writer working for me is me. Maybe the critics don’t know any smart people who are funny at the same time. They need to meet more comics because that’s what some of them can sound like on and offstage. Maybe after giving up her baby to Jennifer Garner, Juno went off to work the Comedy Store. Or she took up particle physics. Funny and smart at the same time is possible, at least in the form of Juno.

3. Critics: Don’t be so damn churlish. I’m thinking of two words. The second word is “you.” The first word is not “thank.”

Filed under: publishing, Rant, Rejection, reviews, scriptwriting, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , ,

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

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