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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Book Marketing: Three Tips

Sometimes I clue into useful writing, publishing and publicity tools late. Here are three book marketing tips I’m using now.


The tool I just started using in Booklinker. Instead of breaking out links by individual store, one free link boosts international sales. Make it easier for readers to connect to their home stores with one click and they’ll find our books clickety-quick.

Here’s what mine looks like:



I have been using Canva for social media posts and more for quite a while, actually. It’s free and the user interface is friendly. However, it hadn’t occurred to me before that I could use custom sizing to make buttons for my newsletters and websites. Combine this feature with Booklinker and BOOM:


Speaking of newsletters, catch my thoughts on how I changed my mind about writing newsletters in my latest blog post. It’s called The Newsletter Deal.


Facebook Live:

Authors and publishers are in a pay-to-play environment now. To become visible and sell books, you must advertise. The only thing better to connect with readers and the love of books is to spread your words by word of mouth and personal interaction.

Note: I still don’t recommend hanging out at bookstores and doing signings unless you already have a huge following. It was sad to see one long line of fans for Kelly Armstrong as eight forlorn and lonely unknown authors watched and waited for someone to give them a single glance. Digital interaction is much more efficient and even more fun because I don’t have to leave my house.

Facebook Live is a nice alternative to shouting your name and tossing business cards from a careening car. I’ve done plenty of podcasts so Facebook is the live video equivalent without the longterm commitments podcasts demand.

I’ll be experimenting with my first Facebook Live event tonight at 8 PM EST. I’ll let you know if I throw up from nerves. If that happens, I’ll just keep going. If the event goes well, it’s fun but if it’s an utter disaster, it could be a viral sensation. As long as it isn’t a burning sensation, I’m good.

Find me on Facebook tonight, December 19 at 8 PM EST. I’ll be the one sweating questions and doing my Joker impression.


BONUS: The Big Giveaway

Christmas comes early this year. On Friday, December 21, I’m giving away ten of my ebooks for free, no strings attached. Happy holidays! Go to Amazon on Friday and choose what you like among the following ebooks (or download them all!):

AFTER Life Inferno (my new zombie apocalypse)

Machines Dream of Metal Gods (the first book in the Robot Planet Series)

Bigger Than Jesus (The Hit Man novel that started the series)

All Empires Fall, Signals from the Apocalypse (an anthology of end-of-the-world tales)

Wallflower (my time travel novel featuring Kurt Vonnegut as a character)

Dream’s Dark Flight (a paranormal urban fantasy stand-alone novel in the Dimension War universe)

Brooklyn in the Mean Time (my autobiographical crime thriller)

Murders Among Dead Trees (my fiction anthology featuring the award winners)

Self-help for Stoners (a fiction anthology for introspection)

Do the Thing (non-fiction to help you deal with stress)

To subscribe to my newsletter and get a heads up on more giveaways and deals, join up at AllThatChazz.com.

To join me at the Fans of Robert Chazz Chute Facebook group and get behind the curtain daily interaction, click here.


Filed under: book marketing, publishing, , , , , , , , ,

Writing & Publishing: What You’re Missing

Christmas comes early this year

The year is winding down but the writing and publishing industry just keeps bumpin’ down the road. Here’s the roundup of what you want to know:

Facebook Live: See you tomorrow night. 

But first things, though! Gotta put in the but plug. (Heh. See what I did there?)

8 PM EST Wednesday night I’m giving away books, answering questions, chewing bubblegum, kicking ass, taking names in no particular order. The first ritual of Festivus is the airing of grievances! Nah, it’s not going to be like that. I’ll be taking questions and announcing a big giveaway. It’s a very special Christmas episode of All That Chazz. Follow the link above for more details.

Got a question? Email me at expartepress@gmail.com with the subject line FB Live and I’ll tee off.

Scrivener: Just a Word Processor Now? 

I loved Scrivener. After I ran into a brick wall I liked it a lot less. It’s complicated. I mean, the software’s latest release is complicated and so are my feelings about it. Find out about that debacle and discover my truculent and trenchant suggestions at the link above.

Publishing: My Nervous Breakdown in Ten Steps 

A question came up about the writing and publishing process. Here’s how I do it (with less emphasis on the crying than you might expect.)

The Top Three Movies About Writing 

You’ve seen all the Christmas movies ten times over. Check out my top movies about writers doing the least cinematic act ever caught on celluloid and doing it well. I’ve got a killer top three, several runners-up and an also-ran (with John Goodman screaming.)

Surely some assertion in there will infuriate you, so that’s fun.

Whether I see you live or not live, merry Christmas, happy holidays and make time to read more books. We can never read enough books.

Cheers and all the best,


Filed under: publishing, , , , , , ,

Publishing: Troubles and Solutions

We’ve got publishing trouble, right here in River City. Sure, many authors have figured out how to make Amazon ads work and are reporting solid sales. I know a few indies personally who are crushing it so hard their success makes Envy and Inspiration do battle in tortured my heart. For many writers, the financial picture is not so rosy.

Between Amazon glitches, scammers, pay to play and the evaporation of also-boughts, sales are tougher for writers of late. Change is the only thing we can depend on. We have to learn more, grow faster, adapt willingly, try new strategies and do the old things better.

I’m confident in my writing craft, my fantastic editorial team, and our publishing processes. It’s visibility that’s the problem.

In 2011, I dove into writing full-time. I got a head start on what is now my fabulous back catalog. However, I wasn’t making enough to do fancy things, like eat regularly. I made news on The Passive Voice when I admitted in 2013 that I was crawling back to the day job. People so love bad news when it happens to others.

On June 29 of this year, I retired from that same day job to go full-time as a writer again. Huzzah! The dream is reborn! No one noticed the good news. There was no parade. Thud.

Last night I was reminded again of how rocky publishing can be. A fellow author is a successful guy others look to for advice. He reported that he’s going back to the 9 – 5. Not quitting, mind you, but writing will be a part-time thing again. This, after publishing oodles of books! He was making a living but he needs a life. Despite what homeless yogis might say, we need at least some money for good things. Homeless yogis use old shitty flip phones. (I’m guessing.)

What’s next for writers in 2019?

We all have to master advertising. We have to up our game. Publishing another book won’t necessarily do the trick like it used to. This Plague of Days was well-received so I gave the world another zombie apocalypse called AFTER Life. It’s a fun adventure packed with action. So far, few have noticed. I’ll turn that around eventually but the launch was kitty litter and that’s a major opportunity cost. It hurts.

Mistakes have surely been made. 

In 2017 I was caught in a net of illness and anxiety. I didn’t start writing what I needed to write until I staggered into a stress leave. I still didn’t publish anything for a year and a half. It’s easy to become forgotten, especially since I let my small mailing list go cold. These mistakes are all mine. Mea culpa, dammit.

It’s not all bad news.

Despite the doom and gloom, I’m hearing from many writers, Ex Parte Press is actually trotting along better than most. However, the decline in sales started last summer and the trend is discouraging. I have been taking courses, bingeing on the right podcasts and studying book marketing to get this pony up and galloping again. I’ve made significant money on Amazon before. I will do it again. I brainstormed and came up with a lot more irons for my creative fire. Here’s proof.

I’m taking up the blogging torch again, too. Help often arrives in unexpected ways. I finally started up a Facebook fan page (Fans of Robert Chazz Chute). That experience got me over my reluctance to send out newsletters. Touching base with my people is fun again. Fans on Facebook get a little dose of me daily. Newsletter updates are for every couple of weeks. My blogging spirit has also been restored.

The Return of Blogging

Curious about the writing lessons I pulled from three famous authors? There’s a link for that: Three Famous Authors Who Changed My Life.

The Flash just passed a major milestone with its 100th episode. I didn’t think I’d be a fan. However, I resonated with several writing choices by the show’s creators. It’s really a rant about what fiction is for. Read, The Flash: Five Surprises for a New Fan over at AllThatChazz.com. (And please do subscribe while you’re there. Thanks!)

Lots more will change as I dive into writing and publishing in 2019.

A couple of collaborations are in the works and I have a long list of books in my editorial pipeline. After being exclusive to Amazon for years, I will be taking some of my books wide in the New Year. Audiobooks await.

Side Deals

With a couple of geniuses to help put through university, I’m not averse to doing other writing work. I’ve got a couple of projects for which I will serve as a book doctor. Someone needs a speechwriter. Someone else wants me to blog for their business. I get hit up for critiques of early drafts from time to time. Rather than consider a return to the day job, I am doubling down on the writing biz.

Focus Energy, Manage Time

I have been podcasting Excellent Not Perfect but I’m going to switch back to being a podcast guest. I love internet radio and making jokes in ear buds is a lot of fun. However, podcasting took a day a week from my schedule. It’s much more time efficient to play in sandboxes that belong to other people. Talking to cool people, I get all the laughs and whatnot without any of the scripting, editing, and administration.

I will continue to post new links and reminders here at ChazzWrites.com. However, all the action is really going to be confined to my author site from now on. I hope to see you over at AllThatChazz.com as I go to war with the blank page and an uncaring world. My apocalyptic epics are up and I’m going to focus on suspenseful thrillers for the next 365 days.

I’m sure most of you understand the publishing struggle. This is nothing new, really. We are writers. This is what we do because it is what we have always done. Like sharks, to survive we must keep moving forward.

I’m going to do it. Oh, and by the way, yeah, I’ll get that fucking parade.

~Robert Chazz Chute is painfully honest for a guy who tells jokes and lies professionally on paper and in pixels. Check out all his fiction and spread the word. AllThatChazz.com is where the fun is.


Filed under: author platform, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Rant, Writers, , , , , , , , , ,

Books as Milestones of Life

I just started reading Quantum Night by Robert J. Sawyer, one of my top three favorite Canadian writers of science fiction. In the Acknowledgments, he mentions that he hadn’t published anything for three years due to the loss of his younger brother to cancer. That sad note got me thinking about my life’s milestones for reading and writing. Reading is an escape and a reward for me. Sometimes it’s a job. Through it all, I associate certain books with my development as a person. I wonder if you feel the same.

Farmer Boy, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, made me grateful not to be born earlier in history. I didn’t think I could do better than the Hardy Boys Series as a kid. Later, Ian Fleming fed macho dreams of becoming a killer spy. Growing up in rural Nova Scotia, I couldn’t wait to escape to big cities. Books and movies fueled my teenage dreams of doing something different, of being someone different. I wanted a life that offered more choices and I was sure that, somehow, the life of a writer would make that dream come true.

A boy trained by Martians in Stranger in a Strange Land taught me more about theme than any dry book report at school. That book also taught me that fiction can reach beyond being merely entertaining. Stranger in a Strange Land is about how to view the world through clear, innocent eyes. 

Hanging out in Spider Robinson’s Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon taught me science fiction doesn’t have to take itself too seriously. I met Spider a few times when we both lived in Halifax. Nice guy. He is his fiction. He tells fun, optimistic and humane tales. (Callahan’s Law: “Shared pain is lessened; shared joy, increased — thus do we refute entropy.”) Optimism isn’t quite my thing but I do try to hit hopeful notes or else, what’s the point? Even my apocalyptic stories have a lot of jokes.

In my first year of university, I enrolled in a survey course about the philosophies of history. It was like a year devoted to Wikipedia, speeding from the Bible and Gilgamesh to Dante to interpreting the art of the Renaissance and well beyond. I learned a lot. The experience also gave me a humbling inkling of how much I didn’t know.

I read a lot of American authors in university. Holed up in my dorm, I had so much time to read. I wish I had that kind of time now. Norman Mailer’s Tough Guys Don’t Dance, Mickey Spillane’s I, the Jury and Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood made me think I could write killer thrillers one day. (I did and do.)

At 20, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior felt like a revelation. Seven years later, it would feel trite. I couldn’t sense the magic anymore. I’d like to go back to enjoy Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint and Goodbye, Columbus. However, it’s a rare book that I read twice with the same level of enjoyment. You can only read Fight Club once for the first time.

At 22, I moved to Toronto. I stayed with a friend for my first month in the city. I should have devoted all my time to the job and apartment hunt. All I wanted to do was read The Stand and It. And then everything else by Stephen King.

Reading Bright Lights, Big City, Ransom and Story of My Life, I wanted Jay McInerney’s career. American Psycho made me think Bret Easton Ellis’s fame would be fun, or at least interesting. Working for a publisher, I sold American Psycho to bookstores when it came out. (Oh, the arguments we had about freedom of expression. Some of those dainty cocktail parties came close to devolving into a melee.)

Though I’d trained in journalism, my education about writing novels began with William Goldman. I was on the 28th floor of my apartment building on a summer night. I thought I was safely in the dénouement. Goldman ambushed me with a killer last line. I threw that book across the room as I shouted, “He got me again!” You know Goldman wrote The Princess Bride and many famous movies. Please read his novels. He’s the most underrated American novelist still living.

Working at Harlequin, I read a lot of manuscripts, both vetting and proofreading them. One romance about three lottery winners stands out in my mind as a really great story. Honestly, I’ve pretty much forgotten the rest of that year and a half of romances and men’s adventure novels except for this one awful line: “She bounced ideas like balls off the walls of her mind.”

Unhappy and angry at a rude co-worker, I began writing a short story. It was pretty much a silly revenge fantasy. A quarter of the way through I tore it up and threw it away. I didn’t want to be that guy. I gave up on all writing for years. Depressed and frustrated, I didn’t dream of becoming Jay McInerney anymore. At 28, it was too late to be a Boy Wonder. I told myself it was all too late. Find something else to obsess over, Rob. I still had no idea I would write thirty books by the age of 53.

I went back to school. My reading diet was non-fiction, entirely medical. Anatomy suggested to me there might be a god. Pathology told me there had to be a devil, too. I learned a lot but read nothing for pleasure. Coming out the other end of that training felt like coming off a starvation diet. I got back to reading voraciously. I started writing again, too. I did some freelance work writing magazine articles, columns, and speeches. I also submitted short stories to contests and won a few. (Several of those stories wound up in one of my first self-publishing efforts, Murders Among Dead Trees.)

A long trip across Canada made me appreciate fiction in audiobook form. I’ve read Stephen King’s On Writing once but I’ve listened to it twice. I wouldn’t have enjoyed A Song of Ice and Fire if I hadn’t stuck it in my head via audio. (Too much heraldry for me to slog through on the page. However, the audio performance is truly a master class in voice acting. Audio was my way in when the printed word felt like work.)

I got something out of the books I didn’t like, too. The pace of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was too slow for me but I loved Oryx & Crake. I don’t write off authors simply because they wrote one book that wasn’t for me. I love Kurt Vonnegut’s work and the man so much I made him a character in Wallflower, my time travel novel.

I’ve read almost everything Vonnegut wrote but I couldn’t get into Galapagos. Sometimes you’ll see pissy proclamations that promise, “I’ll never read anything by this writer again!” Okay, but that suggests that might be a reader who wants the same book over and over again. (If you want to go deeper on this, I recommend the latest Cracked podcast about fandom, both positive and toxic. It’s a great and funny episode.)

I make time for reading because I love it. As a writer, reading is part of my job, too. The joy of good fiction is that it makes a movie in my head. One Christmas when I was very young, I received Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming. As a snowstorm raged, I crawled into bed with that book and a tall canister of Smarties. I ate the candy and read about an inventor, his children, and their magical car. I felt warm and safe and transported reading that book. Every time I read or write, I’m trying to get back to that same feeling, that retreat from a raging world.

Our world often feels broken and rageful now. It’s a relief to step back into fiction and get shelter from the storm. My teenage dream came true, by the way. I’m writing full-time. With a few adjustments and compromises, I’m pretty close to being the person I meant to be.

And now I offer shelter.

~ Robert Chazz Chute just released a new apocalyptic trilogy called AFTER Life. Check out all his books at AllThatChazz.com.


Filed under: Books, My fiction, publishing, robert chazz chute, Science Fiction, Writers, writing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Downsizing: A dire warning for writers

I finally saw Downsizing, a (black?) (comedic?) sci-fi movie with Matt Damon on Netflix. Anyone who writes should see it. It’s a clinic in how a story can go terribly awry.

There are so many approaches to writing. I’m not usually so Judgy McJudgypants. Someone objected to my use of foreshadowing in one of my series, for instance. You know what? Hop on the bus, Gus. There must be fifty ways to leave your lover…um, I mean, there are lots of ways to write and they aren’t all for you. That said, Downsizing is really bad. 

(Warning: very mild spoilers follow.)

The movie is so bad it’s fascinating. It can’t decide what it is. Kristen Wiig is in it for a hot minute and you’ll soon miss her. I like Matt Damon in most any movie. Christoph Waltz is being Christoph Waltz, for God’s sake! That almost always works! The cinematography is pretty, the actors are able and the premise gets lots of points for originality. This is a watchable mess. However, you’ll soon understand why the film wasn’t a hit. The marketing couldn’t hit a target because the plot was so incoherent.

This movie falls down in the writing and directing departments. At first, the story fails because the plot takes too long to get going. The show starts 10 years before the action begins! They invent a science (and hey, look, I’m sympathetic. That’s hard. I just did that in my latest book.) Sadly, the plot has no destination once it’s finally on its way. This thing is all over the road. Is it a goofy marriage story? Sci-fi utopia? Sci-fi dystopia? Cli-fi? Apocalypse? A mid-life crisis? Is it about a person finally asserting their personhood and making some decisions, daring to be selfish…or unselfish? The director didn’t know, either. You’ll be left a little baffled.

(For a much better movie about a mid-life nebbish figuring out how to take control of his life, watch The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with Ben Stiller. Or the original with Danny Kaye, for that matter.)

When we’re talking novels, it’s often a good idea to “come in late.” In other words, you plop the reader into the action. No info dumps. Get the story up and moving and sift the needed detail and character development amid the action as needed. This is not always so. A common trope in the zombie genre: They don’t show you how the apocalypse begins. In The Walking Dead, Rick Grimes wakes up from a coma and BOOM! Zombies! Same with a movie I love, 28 Days Later. Swimming against that tide, I devoted the first book in the Plague of Days trilogy to the fall of civilization. It’s interesting to me to see how things come apart when societal norms and services break down. In AFTER Life, Inferno, my new zombie apocalypse, we start in media res and get right to the action.

Necessary ad: AFTER Life, Purgatory was just released. 

This post continues below.


In the end of Downsizing, the main character arrives at a decision. This is the confusing climax of the movie. You really don’t know what to root for. Did Matt Damon win or lose? You will not understand whether his decision is a brave choice or if he’s just being weak and caving again. (At least I wasn’t sure. They even make the mistake of undermining the global emergency. You won’t even be sure how serious the peril really is. What are the stakes? Who knows?)

Your parents can be a wonderful example or a serve as a terrible warning about what you don’t want to become. So it is with Downsizing. As a writer, you probably won’t like it but you could learn a lot from it. I did.

~ Robert Chazz Chute sometimes comes off as crotchety. He’s really Canada’s sweetheart. Sorry, eh? Check out his latest releases at AllThatChazz.com.


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

CreateSpace and KDP Are Merging

It’s finally happening. We knew this was coming. I’m hoping for a smooth transition.



It’s a logical business decision.

The one significant change has to do with when royalty payments are made. See the section entitled Royalties towards the end of this article.

In 2008 I published my first book with CreateSpace, and in 2009 I published my first Kindle eBook.

When I was learning about publishing with Kindle, I asked myself the following question:

Why does Amazon use a different company for publishing eBooks than it does for publishing paperbacks?

It seemed like it would be convenient for authors and cost-effective for Amazon to have a single self-publishing service.

This is finally happening in 2018.

This is the way it should be, and should have been all along.


It benefits authors for CreateSpace to merge with KDP.

  • It’s convenient to check royalty reports at a single location.
  • It’s convenient to have a single account…

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Filed under: publishing

Writers, Writing and Finding Our Way

I didn’t publish for a year and a half. I was always writing but I’d lost my way. Things got grim for a long time before I found the way out of my storm. A side hustle went away. The demands of an extra job to pay taxes made my hands ache. A business deal went sideways. I felt betrayed. My day job was hard on me physically and arthritic pain woke me at night. Bad health and worries about the future made me an insomniac. Then came the tide of anxiety attacks. Those drowned me. Overwhelming anger and frustration made it hard for me to catch my breath. I was dying and plastering on a happy smile.

A stress leave from my day job reminded me how much solace I found in writing. Abandoning a book I’d been wrestling with for nine months, I started writing fiction I loved. It was good, but I hadn’t learned my lesson yet.

Too soon I was back on the day job. I felt like someone who had gone too far down the wrong road to turn back. Then on March 29, I needed emergency surgery for a detached retina. A gifted surgeon saved the vision in my left eye but the recovery was trying. After two weeks, the doctor told me I was safe to return to my normal routine. “Go live life,” he said. But I didn’t want to go back to my normal routine.

I couldn’t continue with my day job indefinitely. I loved some of my work in healthcare but I needed more of a return on my emotional, financial and health investments. At work, I was a cog in someone else’s machine mired in professional obligations that could often be silly or onerous. Surgery reminded me I was mortal. Time is short. I had to work at what I was meant to do. I was a writer first.

Luck was on my side. I’d published many books and some were selling. I found the exit from the day job. Early last year I was involved in four businesses. Now I just have one job. I write in a coffee shop every day. That’s a great privilege. I’m in the brain tickle business again full-time. We live by our wits. Bills must be paid and that is truly scary. I’d tried to escape the gears of the machine once before. I failed then. I’d written plenty but I hadn’t learned enough about ads and marketing. Though I couldn’t make my writing life work in 2011, now, I think I can.

Writers talk about satisfying readers, serving and delighting them. We don’t talk much about the selfish part, the stuff that’s just for us. It’s hard to express the joy of writing fiction, that buoyant vibe that sifts through your brain when you see the movie in your head. It’s a lot of fun turning phrases, spinning the yarn, twisting the plot and discovering what’s next. We get to create. Not everyone does.

I’m not part of someone else’s machine anymore. At 52, I’ve taken control. My father’s about to celebrate his 92nd birthday. I hope I inherit his longevity because I’m just getting started.

I’ve got three books of science fiction coming out over the next three weeks and two more thrillers this fall.

Here’s the first of my new apocalyptic trilogy.



The deep vaults of a virology lab have lost containment. They will call this Apocalypse. We call it Revolution.

From the author of This Plague of Days comes a new zombie apocalypse trilogy about nanotechnology gone horribly awry.

AFTER is a biomimetic stem cell capable of enhancing intelligence, health and longevity. Weaponized using brain parasites, it becomes an agent of biological warfare capable of transforming 70% of humans into rampaging killers. No one is safe. Take a deep breath. Get ready. Fight to the death. You might even have to fight beyond death.

Torn between regret and heroic aspirations, Daniel Harmon is a noob whose job is to stop the monster epidemic before it begins. As his Emergency Task Force moves in to secure the Box, the body count rises. A dark conspiracy at the crossroads of corporate greed and science will change our fate forever.

The Revolution has begun. On which side will you fall?

AFTER Life Purgatory will launch August 27 and AFTER Life Paradise will be off the leash September 3.

Robert Chazz Chute’s author page is AllThatChazz.com. You’re welcome to find more fun there. 

Filed under: All That Chazz, new books, publishing, robert chazz chute, Science Fiction, Writers, writing, , , , , , ,

How to Add Expanded Distribution to KDP Print Books

I’m gradually switching away from CreateSpace since they seem to be on track for a shutdown, anyway. Good stuff in this article.



KDP’s print option now includes an Expanded Distribution channel.

It may not (yet) be equivalent to CreateSpace’s Expanded Distribution, but it’s another big step in the right direction.

When KDP print originally rolled out, CreateSpace was a much better option.

Since then, KDP has added printed proofs and author copies.

(For authors based in Europe, KDP offers a huge advantage: You can order proofs and author copies printed in Europe.)

KDP lets you advertise paperback books through AMS.

CreateSpace automatically distributes to Canada and pays the same royalties as the US for Canadian sales, which is nice.


If you already published a paperback book using KDP print before the Expanded Distribution option became available, your book isn’t included in Expanded Distribution yet.

Go to the pricing page.

Check the box to enroll in the Expanded Distribution channel.

(This checkbox is quirky. Make sure you only click…

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Writers: The Advantages of Building Your Own Team.

After my last post, someone asked, “What are those competitive advantages indie authors enjoy?”

Deep breath. Here we go.

A bunch of factors spring to mind first: control so you aren’t at the mercy of writing by committee, transparency in reporting, fewer middlemen, no gatekeepers (except the end reader), quicker to market, flexibility in pricing, flexibility in marketing, choice of covers, the ability to switch covers, choice of blurb, the ability to change a blurb, choice of editor, getting paid monthly, control of your career options. Oh, yeah, and a 70% return. The math is good.

Independence is awesome.

Victory has a thousand fathers. It feels great to create art and build a business by your wits without someone else claiming they “discovered” or “nurtured” you for 15% of the take and a license to condescend. And that shit stains forever, y’all.

I’ve made a whack of bold artistic choices I’m sure a mainstream publisher would discourage me from accomplishing. Too bad. Sad baby. I made those unsafe choices anyway and most people tend to dig it. (And if they don’t, I handle it like a man. I cry alone in the car, stare into the existential abyss until I hear the echo and move the fuck on.)

About the shaky detente between agents, publishers and We Who Submit

Let’s step back and admit that not every author is so bitter they want to strangle an agent or editor with their own intestines. Still, there’s a lot of tension in those relationships and anger building to chaos is not always an overblown claim. I’ve worked for many publishers. From the inside, I can tell you many editorial staff exhibit contempt for their stable of writers. There’s conflict and desperation on both sides, especially since authors and editors tend to be paid poorly for all their trouble.

Authors are the backbone of the business but are sometimes seen as inconvenient. When computers can write novels well, publishers will welcome our robot overlords. Stephen King got pissed off at his first publisher because they could never seem to remember his name even though he was making them a fortune. Take a look at some big agent blogs and you’ll see the same symptoms of contempt.

For some damn reason, there are fewer big agents now.

The indie revolution was tragic for them. I don’t know if they’re still making fun of the writers who submit to them under the guise of educating us as to what’s good and bad. I stopped looking at obnoxious agent blogs about the time I started up this obnoxious blog. I got fed up with imperious pronouncements about how “Plots about midlife crises are over!” and “Don’t send me another manuscript that uses the gimmick of synesthesia!”

You made too many mean pronouncements that denigrated good work and nice people, Karen. I hope you enjoy selling real estate now.

On Writing by committee. 

When you’re making the decisions, an agent or editor can’t demand, “Rewrite the whole thing in third person,” and then months later rudely declare that it should be written in first. Again.

Yes, that and similar things have happened many times over. Funny how writers used to worry about getting blackballed by pillars of the industry. I used to know a bunch of pillars of the industry. They hated each other’s guts. Everybody was so sure they were smarter than everyone else. That probably explains the seething hatred and petty squabbles.

Horror stories abound about agents and some editors and publishers. Writers are all Chatty Cathies. We spread gossip faster than the clap and swoon with displeasure. We rage in secret Facebook groups and we don’t forget. I personally haven’t forgiven anyone for anything since…well…never, actually. Anyhoosles, those tearful stories of betrayal have driven many writers to publish their work independently.

Are there good agents? Of course. Ironically, there are probably better agents now. Since they’ve retreated somewhat from the limelight at writing conventions, I hear they look less knowing and are acting more polite. Instead of a struggle to establish who’s the boss in Hell, the business relationship between authors and agents may have a better chance at working on an even keel now.

Quicker to market

Publishers sometimes tell authors they don’t want to “flood the market” by publishing too many books in the same series too close together. That horse poop has nothing at all to do with flooding the market. As any indie will tell you, hungry readers want the next book in the series now (and they’ll forget you if you leave that next book too long.)

This flood warning from on high is beneficial to companies with schedules that work at a glacial pace. It’s about the publisher fitting your book into their timetable and their limited production budget. Print runs are expensive. Big lumbering companies are about the big picture and making your fans wait is part of the slow cook model of making books.

Trouble is, readers don’t appreciate you more when your book finally arrives next year. They want your next novel when you have it ready editorially. Your readers are not interested in the logistical problems of begging the printer in Taiwan to load 5,000 copies onto a container ship. Sure, the publisher is stretching out the bill payments to that printer because the CEO’s golden parachute has to be funded but that’s not the reader’s problem. Turns out, it’s your problem and, surprise! When you’re playing on someone else’s team, you’re the least powerful variable in the publishing equation. 

The crucial difference between us and big publishers.

As Tim Ferriss puts it, publishing is a hit-driven business. They’re all head hunting. Many of us are hunting for the big score, too, of course. It would be great to have one book that moves huge numbers and pays for books that perform less well…and a cabin cruiser in Fiji.

However, our biz does not have to be hit-driven. Many successful indies are going another way, publishing more books to build a backlist that delivers a reliable living. Pulp speed is back, baby! (But, take heart, even slower tortoises can win this race.)

But what about getting into bookstores?

It’s a rigamarole, yes, but you can get into bookstores. You’ll have to go through Ingram. A friend of mine even got his masterpieces into Costco. All it took was good books, persistence, phone calls and salesmanship. I’ve been on bookstore shelves on consignment but decided it wasn’t worth the gas and time to go around restocking. Online is where I make my money and I prefer income that is so passive I can fall asleep on a couch while the gears keep turning.

We can compete on quality and price.

Why aren’t traditional authors more worried about selling online? I know what you’re thinking. Of course, they’re ubiquitous online. They are, but often in a less effective way. The companies that represent them fought Amazon for the privilege of posting prices that are hard for many customers to swallow. If you sell a book for $2.99 or $3.99, do you really think books that sell for three times as much are three times better? These are uncertain times for the average reader.

I’d rather delight more readers at a low price and make up the loss in volume. I know it works because we’re already doing it. It’s still 30% or 70% instead of a big publisher’s boilerplate contract. Independent authors have a better shot at going full-time. If you want to write full-time, I’d encourage you to consider all your options before signing a contract that uses obfuscating terms like “net-net.”

I still see traditionally published Kindle books at prices of more than $15. Some authors can command that. If so, cool! However, some companies even charge more for the ebook than the paper version. That’s messed up and bears no relation to costs of delivery.

My most expensive ebook is $7.99, an omnibus containing three large books. I have a first in series that’s only 99 cents and it makes a profit. I don’t have the expenses of an office in Manhattan and I’m not trying to prop up Barnes and Noble with my pricing. That’s a huge competitive advantage.

But what about those deep pockets big publishers spend on book promotion?

Irrelevant, for two reasons. First, they aren’t spending those big bucks on you. Shelf space for midlist authors has shrunk. The chain bookstores had to make more space for pillows, candles, the coffee bar and more useless crap people buy so they have something to dust. Publishers bet big on the hits so they promote the shit out of the name authors you grew up reading and idolizing.

Second, a couple posts back I talked about a bunch of promotional options for authors. Just like you can have the same iPhone a billionaire possesses, you have access to most of the same promotional options as the rich. You might not be able to afford a billboard or a full page ad in the New York Times, but that stuff doesn’t work, anyway — not compared to the smarter and more efficient online options.

The Real Deal

Many debut authors who go the traditional route are surprised how little their new business partners do for them in the publicity and promotion department. Nobody cares about your book as much as you do. If a company has a couple dozen authors to promote, how much energy do you really think will go your way? Answer: not much.

This is one reason it makes sense to go for the biggest advance you can, by the way. The more the publisher has invested in your contract, the more they’ll want to put into the book’s success. Of course, if you don’t move enough books to justify that big advance, they’ll hold it against you when you try to come back to them with your next book. It’s always your fault as a writer, not their fault as a marketer.

It’s a crazy whirly-gig, isn’t it? Willie Wonka’s murdering kids in that factory and he’s the hero of this surreal business.

All authors must promote themselves.

Big budget or small, it’s pretty much up to you. Even if you get a little flurry of activity around the launch of your book, you’re tasked with keeping the good vibes coming. To put that in perspective, I’ve published a lot of books but the biggest hit is still paying out five years after its launch. If I were with a big publisher, I’d be old news, remaindered and forgotten by now. The window for success is so much narrower in the trad world. Bookstores return books for credit and they are not patient with a book that has a slow build. I hung in there long enough to take off eventually. Big publishers and bookstores don’t do “eventually.”

The Less Cruel Way Out

Your parents want you to be a doctor and they probably know best. Go save lives. However, if you’re bent on breaking their hearts, publish now and kill them fast. The alternative is too cruel. To get that publishing contract and a tiny advance, you could blow the best years of your life — or the time you were supposed to be in med school — building a Jenga tower of form rejection slips.

Worse? Leave it to a stranger you don’t know but somehow respect more than your judgment if you want. You might never get published if you wait for your turn in the machine.

The odds are forever not in your favor. A worthy agent may take on one or two clients a year. That is one tiny needle to thread with your big ole creative camel. You could be the writer-in-residence in Permanent Aspiring Mode. It’s a dingy place and you might deserve better.

Sure, it’s possible your writing sucks. However, lots of great work goes unpublished for reasons that have nothing to do with quality of writing.

Here are some examples of why you may not be among the chosen few:

Shrug. Sorry, we’re still not ready to bring back Westerns. We’ll jump on that bandwagon after somebody else does it. We’ll try to catch the market after that genre is played out because we’re donkey slow. Still got a metric shit-ton of poor Harry Potter knock-offs in the back. Those skids of books insulate the warehouse.

And vampires will never come back (except they always do) and we’ll manage to be amazed every time.

And we only aspire to publish serious literary works that don’t sell and oh, look, we won’t be publishing anything this fall because we’re out of business. Time to parlay this utter failure into an industry consultant job at Hachette. I know what the kids want these days with their “Hey!” and “Whoa!” and, “Like…gnarly!”

And zombies are dead. Except they aren’t, but they are…we’re confused. We don’t understand why that market still sells and we don’t think it should. We lead readers…or we would if only they liked what we tell them to like.

Shut up! The grown-ups know what they’re doing! 

In conclusion

Suddenly, the independent route to publishing seems much less fraught with obstacles and terrors, doesn’t it?

~ Humbly submitted for your consideration by Robert Chazz Chute. Check out my books at AllThatChazz.com if you’re of a mind to love suspenseful SF and killer thrillers. And if’n you ain’t, well, shucks.

Filed under: publishing

The revolution is over. We won.

When you’re going through Hell, keep going. Heaven is waiting on the other side.

If you’re an indie author who dares to tell someone you write books, eventually, some knob will ask, “Self-published?” As if you’re supposed to be ashamed that you not only write but run a publishing business. We’re getting past that stigma but good news, like progress, doesn’t arrive everywhere at the same time. A cousin of mine, for instance, is convinced I’m staying up nights, pining for a publishing deal from Manhattan. Nope. Sleeping pretty well these days, actually.

Casual observers don’t know that “self-published” does not mean you’re working alone. You hire editors and designers. You’ve got spreadsheets to manage. There’s advertising to pay for, stats to watch, taxes to pay and lots of invigorating work to do. It’s a business pretty much indistinguishable from many publishing firms. There’s pressure, sure, but we can boast several competitive advantages. We’re typically small businesses but small businesses are the backbone of the economy, right? Independent doesn’t mean we’re starry-eyed goofballs (at least, no more so than in any other industry.)

I worked in traditional publishing for several years so I don’t feel much allure from that camp. That’s not where I get my validation. I’d consider a hybrid deal but my terms and aims would not fit the boilerplate contracts most publishers offer. And I’m not complaining, by the way. There’s room for everybody to do their thing. Personally, I don’t need to be in bookstores if I’m finding readers and making money from online platforms. This is not a rant against the traditionally published, merely an assertion that we are taking our place as peers, not wannabes and also-rans. All my writing heroes were traditionally published (or hybrid) so no disrespect at all. 

Here’s the thing about building confidence: don’t look for validation from the uninformed.

Relatives don’t understand that our art is not necessarily a hobby, a simple passion project or pathetic therapy. It’s okay if it hasn’t taken off and grown wings but most of us expect to make a profit from all that hard work. We value and respect what we do with the written word. We’re deadly serious about telling great stories and writing books that can stand up to any competition.

Many of us are going from business losses to supplementary income to careers as full-time writers. Going from loss to profit is the arc of great redemption stories and many businesses, too. If you don’t feel good about your status in the industry — and many of us have been unsure — it’s time to relax into the rhythm of creativity, productivity, quality assurance and self-assurance.

Why should casual observers know our business, anyway? That’s not on them. It’s on us.

Outsiders don’t know the advantageous math of independent publishing. I don’t blame them for that and I don’t worry about it, either. A fierce commitment to independence and control insulates me from that criticism. Now, when someone looks at me askance and asks if I’m self-published as if it’s a dirty word, I tell them I’m an author and a publisher. I’m in the publishing business. Entrepreneurial artists aren’t losers. We are beasts clawing and chewing up our share of the market and finding readers who love our work. For us, the market is the gatekeeper.

When I started this blog, we talked about a lot about the self-publishing revolution. That’s so 2011. I’m over it. The foundation is built. We’ve gone through Hell. Now we’re doing the daily work to build larger readerships, legacies, empires and castles in the sky. 

I’m a writer and a publisher, all in, loud and proud. 

~ You can check out my books of science fiction and suspense at AllThatChazz.com.

If you’re a fan of my work, just into the Inner Circle on Facebook here.

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.

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

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