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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Multiple Streams of Income for Writers

I just watched The Martian again. Loved the book by Andy Weir, too. It’s still the best audiobook I’ve ever heard. The message at the end of the movie (minor spoiler alert) is that things are going to go wrong. Paraphrasing: You can accept that this is your end or you can do the math and get to work.

So it is with author careers. Shit will go south. Then what? Then you have to solve the problem, and the next and the next and so on. Even better, see upcoming problems and plan so a glitch doesn’t graduate to a disaster as soon as it strikes. 

What resources do we need to solve most problems?

To solve problems on Earth, we usually need money, support, information or time. You can buy time by outsourcing and/or sharpen discipline and management skills. You can hire support to leverage time. You can purchase someone’s expertise so you focus on the skills you’re best at. (Don’t major in your minor if you can help it.)

If you don’t have the money but you do have time, digging for information costs nothing extra except for your internet connection. However, the most common denominator here is money. We generally need more of it, especially if time is limited (and, let’s be real, when isn’t it?) Life is short when you’ve got big things to do like write books.

The answer used to be simpler: write more books. I gave that advice myself and once upon a time not long ago that was enough. Now we need more margin for error as we find our way to readers. We all need time to write and ways to find traction in the marketplace. Sure, you can find lots of advice about marketing your books, but how do we get more money to help us with all those variables? How do we pay for a Bookbub to sell more books when the books aren’t selling much in the first place? Advertising and investing in your writing career takes capital (not much, but if you’ve got nothing, not much is a lot.)

Ideally, it’s great to find multiple streams of income that are complementary to your writing career. These might include: podcasting, Patreon, selling t-shirts, selling at conferences, providing complementary services (editing, proofing, book design, formatting), advertising, educational products, ghostwriting, copywriting, publicity, virtual assistance for authors, webinars, speaking engagements, book signings, co-op ventures, organizing book promotions, co-authoring, participating in anthologies, teaching, screenplays, teaching how to write screenplays and Thor only knows what else. Cross-promotion and cross-propagation of ventures makes your other job or jobs a good fit.

What about repurposing material you’ve already created for different venues and audiences? Abel James, author of The Wild Diet, repackaged his offerings in smaller books as well as providing material (and new supplementary info) to nutritional templates he serves up in different ways on the web. For fiction authors, consider publishing prequels, sequels, box sets or an omnibus of your series. (This may not qualify as a reliable stream in your multiple incomes if it doesn’t sell or takes too long to get to market.)

But maybe none of the above appeals to you or you just can’t see a puzzle piece that fits with your writing career. Okay, work the problem. What can you do? How much do you need? What debt can you eliminate? What lifestyles choices can you do without to free up resources? What can you sell or trade? Are you willing to move? What are you willing to do to protect yourself from starvation and insecurity? How will you earn the capital you need to buy writing time, book promotion, marketing and investment in yourself as a writer? (And feed the baby?)

My solution was to take on four jobs. Two of the businesses are mine and I worked it out so I control my time juggling all my projects. Entrepreneurship suits me better than working for a boss. (Me and a boss? That couldn’t end well.) I write more books, yes, but with kids going off to university I need a cushion between me and homelessness as I help them on their way.

Until we can reliably meet our responsibilities with one source of income (preferably by selling tons of great books, entertaining the multitudes and earning fans!) we all have some financial problems to solve. If all you’ve got is a lottery ticket in your hip pocket, please give it some more thought, just in case that doesn’t pan out.

What are your multiple streams of income? Suggestions welcome. 

~ Check out my author site at AllThatChazz.com. You’ll find a helpful podcast and oodles of SF, crime thrillers, apocalyptic epics and a self-help book called Do the Thing! So do the things. It’s sexy to do things.

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Filed under: publishing, writing, , , , , ,

Writers: On Confidence

I just listened to a Tim Ferriss podcast with designer Debbie Millman. Good Q&A about designing our lives.  One of the takeaways for me was about confidence. Ms. Millman interviewed many successful people. She encountered only two who didn’t feel like impostors teetering on the precipice of defeat. The confident pair were octogenarians with long records of success. For everyone else, success is a moving target, ephemeral and slippery.

If you don’t feel successful, it’s okay. Even after you have some measure of success, chances are good you won’t feel big enough for your britches even then. On the other hand, I have run into individuals who are stunningly confident. They’re probably deluded examples of the Dunning-Kruger Effect. According to Wikipedia:

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which low-ability individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability as much higher than it really is.

From my experience, the people in publishing who sound most sure of world domination are novices. They tend to look at book publishing as a lottery and they’re a little too positive they’ve got the winning ticket with their first book.

The veterans have seen more failure so they aren’t betting on one book. They tend to look at each book as a journey, an exploration and an experiment. They also tend to look back on earlier efforts with some measure of regret: the writing that could have been improved upon or marketing mistakes were committed. More experienced authors appear more laid back about whether something hits. Even as they do a lot of smart things that make a heavy ROI more likely, they’re sanguine. They keep on producing. They don’t get sucked into review rages, shame spirals, bravado or defensiveness.

As a writer, it’s nice to have confidence but it’s not necessary. Do the work and enjoy the process more. Writing is its own reward first. Turning readers into fans is a separate thing, very different from facing the page and spinning out gold ink. 

Don’t worry about how much self-assuredness you possess or how little you’ve yet to earn. Confidence is a big soft pillow. It feels good until the stuffing gets knocked out of it. 

Just write.

~ I write science fiction, urban fantasy, apocalyptic epics and crime thrillers. Please do check out my books and podcasts on my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

 

Filed under: authors and money, publishing, Writers, writing, writing advice, , , , , ,

The Curse of the Literary Snob

Recently I listened to mega-successful author Paulo Coelho on the podcast On Being. I recommend the podcast when you need calming voices discussing big questions. The interview made me think about how I write and what I might improve.

Something Coelho said resonated with me. He spoke of visiting his Japanese publisher and finding a single flower in a lovely vase in a sparsely furnished room. Coelho commented about how pretty the flower was. The publisher responded that it was elegant because no distractions in the decor detracted from its essence. It came to Coelho that elegance was found in simplicity.

This gave me pause. Intricately plotted and densely written books are often not well-received. It is tempting to break down failure to catch fire in a snarky way. You might guess that, in accordance with Chris Rock’s worldview, most people are B and C students. If you don’t appeal to B and C levels of understanding, blame the audience and claim you are too smart for them. (Please don’t do this publicly or everyone will hate you.)

Because Rock is a comedian and attributes the George W. Bush presidency to under-informed voters, condescension is a very seductive idea, isn’t it? It flatters any writer who suffers disappointing book sales. If people don’t “get it,” it’s their fault. Trouble is, writers are supposed to be communicators. If your book fails, is it really because you aimed too high or because you didn’t engage your audience?

Good communicators find broad audiences. As Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” If you’re aiming your book at an intellectual niche, fine. Do your thing, embrace the low sales and don’t complain about it. A better way may be to take those high falutin’ ideas and share them in such a way that they are more palatable and entertaining. We must write to entertain first. If you have world shattering thoughts to share, slip that shit in between the jokes and an engaging plot, please.

For a sharp example of this kind of communication, I recommend John Oliver on Last Week Tonight. He tackles complex subjects in a way that is engaging and more understandable than most news sources ever manage. You laugh and you learn. You discover something new but you enjoy the journey. A good book can do that, too, like when Fight Club teaches you how to make soap with stolen human medical waste. Fun ride, plus some solid tips on making napalm!

Usually when we speak of elegant writing, we think of poetic, dense and literary prose. Is that truly elegant, though? Or is it a slow slog that confuses and darkens more skulls than it illuminates? When we read, it shouldn’t feel like work. Work is what we’re trying to avoid when we’re reading fiction.

And now a sour note about literary snobbery that might make you uncomfortable, especially if you’re an English major of a certain vintage:

Yes, I tried reading Middlemarch and Ulysses. Are those books so well known because we their original audiences had fewer entertainment choices? Are those books still taught in university due to some strange cultural inertia unique to academia? How many people say they like that stuff but never get to the last page? Do they say they like that kind of reading because they think they’re supposed to? I’ve heard people say they love Ulysses. They might think they’re telling the truth. I don’t believe them.

And now, a timely Woody Allen joke: 
Interviewer: I really enjoyed your movie.
Woody Allen: You’re mistaken.

You can like what you like. That’s okay and not my point. Like what you like and write what you write. However, if you write like James Joyce now, don’t expect it to sell.

I once worked for a publisher committed to only creating “important books.” I’m sure he impressed his guests at fancy cocktail parties in Rosedale. Sadly, fewer important books were published because he quickly went out of business, unwilling to bend to the desires of the reading public. The books that some might call trash actually finance those niche works they claim to value so much. 

My measure of a good book is as follows: Does it make me forget what time it is? I love curling up with a book that keeps me turning pages, that tells a story and makes me wonder what will happen next. I love surprises. I enjoy things happening. I want the scene to come so alive that my mirror neurons fire and I am made to care about people who do not exist. I want to chuckle or even laugh loud and long. Awaken longing in my cold black heart. Make me think if you like, but not so much I realize what you’re up to. (Read Portnoy’s Complaint, read To Kill a Mockingbird again or devour any book by William Goldman for examples.)

Assuming elegance is found in simple writing, editing is the knife that prunes the bonsai tree. We cut away the extraneous so simple beauty shines through. Write first to entertain. I used to be resistant to this idea. Now I think that sometimes, yes, I done fucked up.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute. I’m in the brain tickle business but I generally make readers happy they found me. Check out my author page at AllThatChazz.com. Buy my stuff. Laugh. Cry. Read like crazy. Occasionally projectile vomit.

Addendum: My favorite exchange with an English major.

Student: I love reading books so I’ve just started studying English.

Me: Hate it yet?

Filed under: Books, publishing, writing, writing tips

The Joy of the Staying the Hell Home

Most writers I know are trying to get out of their day jobs so they can write and do nothing but write. I’m in a bit of a different situation. I have four jobs. My wife, AKA She Who Must Be Obeyed, has three. We have plans to change that crazy trajectory but, for now, this is how we live.

Getting pulled in so many directions can be stressful, but it must also be said that we’re generally pretty enthusiastic about all we do. Nonetheless, precautions must be taken so exhaustion and burnout do not burst our overtaxed hearts. Not working ourselves to death is generally a good thing. That’s why I’m on vacation this week.

It’s not the sort of vacation where I lounge on a sun drenched beach. Who needs skin cancer? I’m not touring castles. I mean, castles are cool, but all that walking and bad food? Pfft! It’s not the sort of vacation where I fly anywhere. Especially since 9/11, air travel is a nightmare. I’m not enthused about the ordeal of going through security, allowing people to be rude to me and getting packed into a tube with irritable strangers for a death-defying trip on Air Schnitzel. I am staying the hell home.

This is a writing vacation and I couldn’t be happier. On the first day, I piled up 6,802 words. That might be a personal best. I can focus on creation and do nothing else. I don’t worry that I left the house unlocked or the stove on. I don’t have any other tasks looming overhead. What luxury!

When the economy went south, someone invented the term, “staycation,” to make a virtue out of poverty. We all need vacations though we don’t all get them. I am grateful for this opportunity. Don’t hate me because I’m relaxed. I’ve worked hard for this.

I know the story I want to write and it’s going great. It’s going so great, in fact, that I am about halfway through a new novel. I’ve committed to completing the first draft this week. The bulk of the rest of this year will be devoted to editing and publishing the many book projects I’ve managed to pile up in the last six months. You may call me lots of nasty names, but you can’t call me lazy.

I am always reluctant to take any time off but She Who Must Be Obeyed insists and she’s always right. Without fail, I return to work fresh and full of new energy and new ideas. 

My vacation’s writing schedule is full. I know it’s not a vacation in the truest sense. I really mean that I’m down to doing one job: writing stories to melt hearts, tickle brains and make you say: ah-ha, ha-ha-ha, oh my gawd and wowzers (repeatedly, in no particular order.) Since I’m used to juggling four commitments, one job seems remarkably easy, especially when that one job is writing. I love writing. I’ll even get more reading done this week, too.

I’m having a great time. If you want to talk, email or dance the samba, I’ll be available next week. If you haven’t had a pure writing vacation this year, I urge you to plan one if you can. When I make the big move back to having one job and one job only, every day will be like this: coffee, couch and laptop. Writing is the one job from which one can never really retire. Happily so.

Love and kisses to all (substituting man-hugs where appropriate.)

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. Catch all my sexy hexy texty epic weirdness at AllThatChazz.com.

 

Filed under: All That Chazz, self-publishing, writing, writing advice, , , , ,

How to keep moving forward.

My wife, She Who Must Be Obeyed, deals with a lot of sad, difficult and traumatic situations in her noble work. She helps a lot of people but it’s not easy. To combat the downside, she keeps what she calls a perk file. That’s where she holds on to commendations and thank you letters from those she has helped. Writers should have a similar file.

As an author, you will have disappointments. It’s inevitable. As I wrote in a post below (The Writer’s Curse) we are imaginative and therefore perpetually dissatisfied. Copy and paste your fave reviews to a special file for those dark days to come. When the disappointments arise, reread those five star reviews and fan letters. Cherish them and keep going.

I’ve often thought about quitting, especially when I’m overwhelmed. (Quitting isn’t always a bad idea, either. More on that in a coming post.) I did stop writing completely for almost five years. Those were not good years. For me, the dissatisfaction of not writing is worse than the bad writing days.

This week, a reader reminded me why it’s important to keep going. Stories are powerful. I replied, thanking her for being a reader, of course, but her letter is too important an inspiration not to share with fellow writers. She wrote:

Dear Robert Chazz Chute,

I read zompoc because I need to read something that takes me away from my reality – a genetic condition that slowly transformed the woman who could turn somersaults in mid-air to the woman in a wheelchair.
Fortunately,my sense of humour is intact.
Friends, family and NHS have stuck with me, so I’m lucky compared to most disabled people.
And the connection with This Plague of Days?
It distracted me from my pain – always present unless I’m asleep.
Yep. Stories are that powerful.
Even when they’re stories about unrelenting terror.
This Plague of Days is an epic piece of writing.
But you know that already.
I just felt like telling you that I know that too.
And thank you for writing something that set me free, for a while.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute and I am often sad. I get misty reading this letter, but in a good way. I am less sad this week thanks to this reader. You can check out all my stuff at AllThatChazz.com, or just read and reread this letter to get inspired to write something epic that distracts readers from their pain. Distracting us from pain is, I think, what it’s all about.

Now I’m off to write more. Thanks again, to all the readers.

Filed under: All That Chazz, publishing, Writers, writing, writing advice, writing tips, , , , ,

San Andreas, The Rock, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and Bad Reviews

I cleared my calendar and, full of energy, I looked forward to an afternoon of writing. Then I accidentally ran across a negative review of one of my favorite books. Worse, it’s one of my favorites that I wrote. I didn’t agree with the review. In fact, this person might have been reviewing a different book because the reviewer made a point that…honestly, I have no idea what they’re talking about.

And so I started thinking about the futility of trying to please everyone and, yes, this is part of the business…it happens to all who dare… be mature…and blah-de-blah you’ve heard all that crap before. We aren’t supposed to have feelings. Certainly some reviewers write reviews as if we don’t. I’m still human so, I admit, I didn’t tough it out and set my jaw and type on bravely. My enthusiasm died. Instead of writing, I retreated to a darkened theater alone to watch a disaster movie because that seemed like the metaphor for my life.

From Wikipedia:

The Kübler-Ross model, or the five stages of grief, is a series of emotional stages experienced by survivors of an intimate’s death, wherein the five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

And so…The Writer’s Five Stages of Grief after a Bad Review:

1. Denial.

“No! Can’t be! That book is really good! Maybe even great!”

2. Anger

“My book is fantastic, dammit! Whose house have I got to burn down to get some justice in this cock-eyed universe?”

3. Bargaining

Maybe if I talked to the reviewer… (instantly rejected as a terrible idea, but that bad idea always flashes by.)

4. Depression

“What’s the point? Maybe I could do something else to finally prove my worth to Dead Mom.” When I read that bad review (and reread it over and over) I thought I might write a blog post entitled, Writing in the Post-enjoyment Age, or something similarly grim.

And then…a light.

The movie started. San Andreas is a really cheesy movie that makes me want to see the original 1974 Earthquake starring George Kennedy, Charlton Heston and Ava Gardner. San Andreas is packed full of tropes and cliches and plot holes and a startling amount of product placement and a few unintentionally funny lines that sound like a rehash of a dozen movies.

But you know what? That’s some tasty cheese! I forgot about my bad review and watched the Pageant of Crazy that is this disaster movie. I couldn’t quite decide who was prettier, Dwayne Johnson or Alexandra Daddario. (She edged him out for gorgeous, but The Rock makes me want to work out more and get huge.)

As the destruction flag unfurled before me, I remembered a review of San Andreas that complained there were no awe-inspiring moments. WHAAAAAAaaaat?

CGI is the star of this show! Nothing is left standing! C’mon! How could it not be awe-inspiring? What more could anyone possibly want from a silly disaster movie on a Friday afternoon?

Ah.

Somebody didn’t get what San Andreas was doing just like the reviewer didn’t get what I did. It wasn’t for that person.

That’s okay. I’m looking for 10,000 true fans who want to board my crazy train. There are other readers who do get it, and will. Just as people like music but they don’t like all music, people like books but my preferred form of Chazz jazz isn’t for them. It doesn’t make them wrong or bad necessarily. They just aren’t into my flavor.

Finally…

5. Acceptance.

Deep breath.

You can find what you’re looking for in the strangest places sometimes.

Back to writing….

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute and I invite you to partake of a couple of free ebooks, podcasts and a fair degree of whatnot on my author site, AllThatChazz.com

Filed under: writing, writing advice, , , , , ,

Writing and Publishing: It’s not too late

I’ve heard from several people about their experiences at the London Book Fair. After writing two books about publishing, writing this blog for years and publishing fifteen books or so, sometimes it feels like we’re all on the same page. We talk to each other so much about the depths of Independent publishing that we forget there are a lot of people for whom this is all brand new. They’re still hovering at the edge of the pool thinking the water looks too cold.

We’ve all read a snarky review or two that criticizes an instructional book as being “basic”, “nothing new here,” and “just for beginners.” Well, beginners need books, too. In fact, they really need them. I’ve made the mistake of thinking that, four or five years after establishing Ex Parte Press, everybody knows the basics. They don’t. It’s not old hat. It’s new hat. (That metaphor is really weird now that I see it in print. We’ll stick with the swimming metaphor from here on out.)

At the London Book Fair, author Joanna Penn mentioned that she had to explain what “KDP” meant to people. A lot of writers who have focussed their energies solely on traditional publishing don’t know the nitty nor the gritty of self-publishing yet. They’ve never dealt with the tiny details of formatting an ebook or hired a cover artist or had to fire an editor. This is wonderful news. It means you and I aren’t too late to the game. You’re already in, reading this blog, listening to podcasts about publishing and ahead of many who are still considering whether they should wait another year for an agent to find them and then maybe…maybe…maybe….

Meanwhile, we’re writing, publishing and selling books now. It’s good to get in early and, to my surprise, it’s still early.

Today I’m at London’s Central Library from 11 to 2 p.m. I’ll give a highly entertaining reading, meet some author friends I haven’t seen for a while and mingle with readers. I’ll sign and sell my books and answer some questions on a panel. Most of the audience will be readers.

Someone I meet today is a writer, but they aren’t a writer/publisher yet. By this afternoon, they could begin. They could choose themselves. They could stop waiting and start making their dreams come true. I hope so. C’mon in. The water’s warm.

Beginners welcome. Now swim!

Filed under: author events, author platform, author Q&A, author reading, book signings, business, Friday Publishing Advice Links, London Book Fair, publishing, robert chazz chute, self-publishing, suspense, writing, writing tips

Writers: Who influences you?

NEW THL COVER JAN 2015 COMPLETE

FYI: Grab your free dark fantasy and a free crime novel here. The Haunting Lessons is free today and tomorrow only!


Everything that has ever happened to us goes into our books. Every slight and terrible vengeance, real or imagined, gets poured in. Here are some of my influences:

1. During a podcast, the guest talked about the Hagakure, the book of the Samurai. It had been a long time since I’d read it, but as soon as he mentioned it, I knew I had an empty place for that puzzle piece in the next book in the Ghosts & Demons Series.

2. When John Cleese was a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Jon mentioned the Choir Invisible. Besides being a funny sketch and a great poem, the reference set off fireworks in my mind. The Choir Invisible became a complex secret society that fights evil in The Haunting Lessons. (We don’t read enough poetry anymore, by the way. Lyricism seeps into our writing when we drink enough of it.)

3. William Goldman, author of The Princess Bride (among many other wonderful novels and screenplays) always catches the reader by surprise. When you are sure what is going to happen next? That’s when he’s got you. I love that. I do that. It makes plot development a joy and dares you to stop turning pages, even when it’s late and you have to be at work early in the morning.

4. I studied The Divine Comedy in school. When you’re writing about demons and the fight between good and evil (or bad and evil), a quote from the classics slipped into the narrative makes for a big moment that adds to the depth of the atmosphere I want to achieve in a key scene.

5. I loved the action in Mickey Spillane novels. Film is definitely in the mix, as well. When I’m writing the Hit Man Series, Quentin Tarantino, the Coen brothers and Guy Ritchie are never far away.

6. Stephen King’s structural devices from The Stand and It went into This Plague of Days. Chuck Palahniuk’s appreciation for the macabre is in all the horror. Contextualizing the bizarre with the weird and real is a lesson learned from The X Files.

7. As a disappointed humanist, I want to be Kurt Vonnegut. Not the writer per se, but the man. If I ever release my time travel novel, he’s in the mix in a big way. I miss him.

8. When I’m writing action and suspense, Skrillex, Eminem and Everlast are playing in the background. Visceral goes with viscera. A steady diet of standup comedy balances out the blood. The path between horror and humor can be a knife edge. 

9. Fight scenes and sex scenes: draw on experience and each variety of conquering and surrender is all the more delicious.

10. Director Kevin Smith and comic Joe Rogan inspired me to write my first book, Self-help for Stoners. Chasing that dream long into the night continues to keep me going in the face of adversity.

I write original books (if it can be said there is such a thing.) However, we all have our artistic ancestry. What’s yours? What do you recommend?

~ FYI, one more time: The Haunting Lessons is free today and tomorrow and my first crime novel, Bigger Than Jesus, is also free everywhere. Hit AllThatChazz.com now for the links.

Bigger_Than_Jesus_Cover_for_Kindle

Filed under: Books, Writers, writing, 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

"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.

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