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

Write and publish with love and fury.

9 Ways to Improve AMS – Amazon Ads For Authors

I find I always reblog David because he digs deep. If you’re struggling with Amazon ads, this might give you a clue why. I’m currently reading Mastering Amazon Ads by Brian D. Meeks, hoping to find my way around the potholes and pitfalls.

David Gaughran

More product searches start on Amazon than anywhere else, even Google. It’s the world’s biggest bookstore and by far the largest ebook retailer.

But Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) is still very much a work-in-progress, particularly the slightly pared-back version authors get to advertise books.

Self-publishers tend to focus on making books visible on Amazon. Aside from being a market leader, and having famed frictionless purchasing, there is another key reason why such a focus often gets the best return. Unlike other popular sites, anyone visiting Amazon is generally there for one reason: to buy stuff. You aren’t interrupting them while they share dank memes with friends, or search how fast a raven can fly during winter.

AMS is often referred to as “new” but it has been around for more than two years now. While AMS offers a variety of ads to third-party sellers which can increase app downloads…

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On Writing Advice

A few years ago I published posts to this blog daily. It was the beginning of the publishing revolution and I had a lot to say. I post much less often now because it’s all in the archives, I’ve got books to write and mouths to feed. Recently, I was reminded of the Thomas Mann quote: 

“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

A writer asked for advice on a single, short sentence. The votes poured in. People gave advice on what wording they preferred and their rationale for their preference. Some were a little…uh…strident. This post is not about their choices. It’s about our approach to writing and how we can get in our own way.

I’ve gotten in my own way during the editing process many times. I’m doing it right now! I’ve analyzed until I’m anal. I’ve reworded, polished, refined, worried, revisited and reworked. Conscientiousness is one thing. However, sometimes writers get too precious, to the point of procrastination. We make a virtue out of a fault. We can edit so hard that natural wording becomes unnatural. We can be so precise that we never get a book done, so exacting that the life and voice is deleted from our storytelling.

I wrote a couple of books about writing a few years ago. I unpublished one because I felt it had become too specific to its time. The other (Crack the Indie Author Code) I’ve left up on Amazon because it’s less about mechanics and mostly about inspiration. I drew on my experiences in traditional publishing and encouraged readers to take the leap to writing in the indie world. I provided guidelines and tips but no laws. Sometimes the ear is more important to the storyteller than the eye.

Professionalizing writing would suggest we avoid words like professionalization. Never verb a noun, not even in dialogue, not even for a joke. No sentence fragments. Some agents will tell you not to use prologues and epilogues, never ever! Pedants will stop reading if they — gadzooks!— encounter any use of passive voice. All adverbs must die! Rabid grammarians will go on endlessly about the horrors of the split infinitive. Some will demand the Oxford comma or pretend they don’t know what “scare quotes” mean. Don’t you dare break the fourth wall, either. Edit, revise and edit again until you hate your book because if you aren’t insecure, if you don’t loathe it, it can’t be any good. Don’t publish it because it’ll never be good enough, anyway. Know-it-alls will lecture the innocent on the use of commas until you’re too scared to commit a single line to paper.

Many of these scolds mean well. They may, in fact, love writing and editing. I’m not sure they love reading anymore, though. The danger is they’ll pound the love of books out of you, too.

Worse, they’re so goddamn sure they know what is best for everybody else. In their minds, creativity is fine but there is only one right way! Hang ee cummings, screw Walt Whitman and you can learn nothing from the pulp writers. It’s the Iowa Workshop or nothing! The War on Fun never ends.

Writers editing other writers can be extremely helpful or among the worst offenders. Writers need to read as the average reader. Civilians read for enjoyment. Writers often forget that trick. Meanwhile, many of the most successful writers working today are writing fast, telling simple, straightforward and linear stories. And they’re having fun. Sometimes they start sentences with conjunctions, too. Odd, huh?

I encourage writers to listen to editors, beta readers and their readers but don’t try to listen to them all. Don’t let your voice get edited away. Preserve the you in your writing. (On my first pass I wrote, “Preserve your unique voice in your work,” then, “Preserve your unique voice,” and “Preserve your unique writer’s voice.” That’s a symptom of today’s complaint. No one but another writer would pause to analyze that. A reader skips over it as quick as they can and gets the hell on with their day.)

Not all writing has to sound the same. I’d prefer it didn’t.

Be careful who you listen to. Be careful to whom you listen…um. No, don’t…uh….sigh.

God damn it. Goddammit!

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes fun suspenseful thrillers and scary epics about the end of the world. Find his work on his author site, AllThatChazz.com.

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This Self-Publishing Course Is Free… And Great Too

Here’s some good news.

David Gaughran

When I heard someone was giving away a self-publishing course, I was a little skeptical, presuming it was either some kind of bait-and-switch or an opportunity for some hardcore upselling.

But I was wrong.

Iain Rob Wright has done something pretty amazing. He has created a pretty damn comprehensive course on self-publishing and marketing – over 50 hours of HD Video – and he has made it all free. Not the first bit free. Not free for a limited time. Not free if you also buy this, or agreed to be assailed by that.

Just free.

Iain had originally planned to charge quite a lot of money for it, but the idea didn’t sit right with him and just before launching he made the decision to make the whole thing free. The course is called Self-Publishing Mastery and you can enroll here.

You are probably skeptical. And you…

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The 7 Writer Types You Should Avoid Becoming

Chicago Review of Books

In my thirty years as a writer and editor, I’ve worked with, talked to, and corresponded with thousands of writers, in addition to observing their interactions and words online. Many I’ve taken as exemplary of how to lead a productive, imaginative, and ethical literary life. But, as in any field, it’s also clear that writers often work against the flow of their own efforts, create conflict where none should exist, and are as adept in their own lives as in their stories of creating narratives that are actually fictions. All of this is instructional, although you wish it wouldn’t have to be. But the truth is that people aren’t machines and we’re all a bit less rational than we let on.

Full confession: I have been some of the writer types below at various points in my career (although never the last type). And what I’ve come to find incredibly…

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The Only Rule Amazon Truly Cares About

Another great article from David Gaughran, and it’s worrisome. I’m waiting for someone to pop up in the comments to say we can’t fight City Hall and Amazon will be Amazon. They might not be wrong but it’s shitty to say we shouldn’t even complain, be grateful and take our lumps for the privilege of selling there. (This is a common theme when objections to Amazon’s policies come up. It’s the inverse of Amazon Derangement Syndrome where everything Amazon does is evil.) Not complaining to Amazon to try to change the situation doesn’t sound very businesslike to me, though.

There are calls to go wide as a protest. The problem is, the other sales platforms tend to suck for many genres. I tried going wide but I’m all in with KDP because I could profit there. Until they come for my head, anyway. To Amazon, listen to authors as well as customers. To Apple, Google, Kobo etc.,… please step up your game and give Amazon stiffer competition.

David Gaughran

On Monday, I found out that some bug hit a German e-book site causing the reactivation of long-dead listings, including one of mine, putting myself and some other authors in breach of KDP Select’s exclusivity rule.

Amazon pounced into action and cancelled my Countdown deal which was scheduled for this week, screwing up a carefully planned promotion. And despite pledging to resolve the matter and restore the promo, Amazon has not done so.

I’m going to go through what happened in detail so you can be sure that I acted correctly at all points – because there is a lot of shadiness going on at the moment – but feel free to skim some of the details if you wish.

Let’s Get Digital and Let’s Get Visible had never been in Select, so I decided to throw them in for one term as an experiment at the start of July…

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When Reader Targeting Goes Wrong

David Gaughran

Taking a non-scammy tangent from Saturday’s post, I’d like to talk about what happens when you target the wrong readers, because being too scattergun with promo can really hurt your book.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the last few months. Currently, I’m in the process of both updating Let’s Get Digital for a third edition and writing a book on the topic which is tentatively called The Reader’s Journey: From Strangers to Superfans – as well as working on a third, secret project for writers that is all about using a certain kind of targeting in a very specific way to build audience and drive sales.

And I’ve been putting all these theories into practice too, working with a bestselling author on their launches and promotions, with some pretty amazing results. More on that when I can share, but the cool thing is I’ve had the opportunity to…

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Scammers Break The Kindle Store

David’s reportage is always excellent and the concerns he raises are infuriating. ~ Chazz

David Gaughran

On Friday, a book jumped to the #1 spot on Amazon, out of nowhere; it quickly became obvious that the author had used a clickfarm to gatecrash the charts.

The Kindle Store is officially broken.

This is not the first time this has happened and Amazon’s continued inaction is increasingly baffling. Last Sunday, a clickfarmed title also hit #1 in the Kindle Store. And Amazon took no action.

Over the last six weeks, one particularly brazen author has put four separate titles in the Top 10, and Amazon did nothing whatsoever. There are many such examples.

I wrote at the start of June about how scammers were taking over Amazon’s free charts. That post led to a phone conversation with KDP’s Executive Customer Relations.

Repeated assurances were given that the entire leadership team at Amazon was taking the scammer problem very seriously indeed. But it was also stressed that the…

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Wonder Woman: In Praise of Little Moments

Whether we’re writing screenplays, plays, novels or short stories, look for the little moments that reveal character. Last week I saw Wonder Woman. The action is big and there are many great moments in the movie. There is one moment, however, that I keep thinking about. 

OBLIGATORY SPOILER ALERT: This observation doesn’t affect the plot but I found it inspiring as a writer. Okay? Okay.

Diana is in London. Early on, she’s excited to spot a baby in the street. They don’t have those where she comes from. Soon we’re shown the Pretty Woman Trying On Dresses Montage. It’s the classic fish out of water set up. Nothing new there but fun enough.

In London, it’s clear she has great empathy for the wounded returning from war. (Note: we also see nurses caring for the wounded as they get off the ship.) This reveals character. One funny moment sticks with me more than others. I’m so glad the filmmakers took the time to show us this little bit extra.

As she’s leaving London, Diana tastes ice cream for the first time and enjoys it very much. She goes back to the vendor (whom we cannot see) to say, “You should be very proud!” Giggles and sweetness. That one line reveals character and a value of her culture, too.

Unlike the dark knight, in Wonder Woman we have a hero who is as innocent as she is powerful. In that tiny moment more than any other, the character charmed us. From the trailers, it looks like Spider-Man Homecoming strikes this same chord. 

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was lifeless because it had only one relentless tone. It would have done better if somebody had a sense of humor to punch up the script. (The Lex Luthor character was reviled in the reviews but Jesse Eisenberg stopped that film from becoming completely airless.) The heroes in Batman V. Superman had no small moments to charm us.

Suicide Squad, though not as terrible as its reviews, ultimately failed for me because I didn’t really like anybody enough. We all want someone in the story to cheer for and with whom we can, on some level, identify. 

I would watch Wonder Woman again someday just as I’ve watched Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man multiple times. The successful journeys do not pitch one relentless tone. There’s humor, action, heart and pathos. Those are fun roller coaster rides and that’s what I strive for in my entertainment, whether I’m watching it, reading it or writing it.

~ Want a ride on a roller coaster? See what I write at AllThatChazz.com.



Filed under: publishing

Amazon Has A Fake Book Problem

Need to know.

David Gaughran

Fake books – powered by clickfarms – are gatecrashing Amazon’s charts. And despite being aware of the issue for well over a year, Amazon has failed to resolve it.

If you look at the Kindle Store Best Seller charts right now, and click over to Free Books, you will see that the Top 20 currently has five suspicious-looking titles.

None of them have reviews. All were published in the last week. They have no Also Boughts – meaning they have had very few sales. Each of these titles are around 2,500 pages long, seem to have duplicated content, and are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.

What is going on here?

For over fifteen months now, scammers have been raiding the Kindle Unlimited pot using a well-worn trick. They usually pilfer the content first of all – often by stealing an author’s original work and running it through a synonymizer – and…

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What I learned from House of Cards and a young ventriloquist


House of Cards has returned to Netflix and I binge watched, just like all the other seasons. As I took it in, I wondered what lessons I could apply to my own writing.

Here are my thoughts:

  1. When too much time passes between seasons (or between books in a series) it’s easy to lose the thread. I sat there thinking, who are these people and what are they talking about? I have to put out my books in series faster. If I can’t, I need good recaps.
  2. I’m a fan of varying the tone. House of Cards was especially witty in its first season. Now it’s relentlessly grim. Plots should be music with up ups and down downs. This is the drone of an air conditioner.
  3. When the plot gets so convoluted that you have to make a character say, “I meant to do that all along,” the plot’s not working. I get the feeling the writers are as lost as I am.
  4. Why aren’t they doing what hooked us in the first place? In earlier seasons, when Kevin Spacey turned to the camera for a witty aside, it was magic. The soliloquies were intimate. In the latest iteration, he hardly does it and, when he does, it’s big and over the top, stepping much farther out of the moment. It was clever and well-written before. What the critics complained about before finally seems true: it does feel like a gimmick now.
  5. Those loose threads where problems just seem to float away (hint: somebody taking a fall) are irritating. That’s not suspense. That’s providing a temporary solution that’s too easy.
  6. Do the deaths from past seasons matter or not? While some crusaders are digging into the mystery and corruption, we’re also given the message that losses have no consequence.
  7. Who am I supposed to be rooting for? There seem very few people to like. I loved Dexter and he was a serial killer. Frank Underwood’s charm is gone. Even the hypnotizing cadence of his speech pattern seems muted now.
  8. When the main character willingly abandons his goal that was clearly his mission from the very beginning of the journey, it’s a betrayal. They told us we were going to Disney. Nope. It’s a trip to the vet.
  9. Some of the sex scenes were hot. Some were grim. At least one seemed unnecessary. Were they just filling time or trying to keep our attention?
  10. House of Cards is overstaying its welcome. There seems a lot of filler. When I got to the end I was surprised to find they weren’t wrapping it up. This show seems destined to dissipate with a whimper, not a bang.

And now the good news

What I learned from a brilliant young ventriloquist:

  1. Wanks will tell you it’s all been done. Maybe so, but if you’ve got charm and panache, you can breathe life into something stale, make it new and different. Some people told me zombie apocalypses were dumb. This Plague of Days goes outside what’s expected of the genre and that trilogy is still my biggest seller years later.
  2. Little moments can make a huge difference. When she says, “Oh, boy,” in the video, I knew this was going to be awesome. When Petunia puts a paw over her mouth to stop her from singing and that girl’s eyes pop, MAGIC!
  3. To stand out, go bigger, bolder and better. Blow us away!
  4. To be loved, stay humble and sweet.
  5. Dare to do what could look nerdy to those who don’t understand.
  6. Perfect your craft. Here’s a kid who spends hours practicing in front of the mirror.
  7. Have fun with it.
  8. The work is an extension of you. Embrace that and you’ll have authenticity.
  9. Don’t expect a standing ovation. When it hits, soak it in. That kind of appreciation for a grand performance? It’s the best.
  10. Art is worth it.* The most unexpected things can have a great impact. I’ve watched that video three or four times now. I cry every time. If you don’t weep for such greatness, change out that motherboard you call a heart, you robot!

*Except mime and juggling. That shit is never worth it.

~ Check out my latest stress relief podcast at AllThatChazz.com. Buy some cool books while you’re there because that relieves your stress and mine. There are rewards for patrons. 

Filed under: publishing

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

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

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

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

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

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