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

Write and publish with love and fury.

The Big To-do: Here’s what happened…

(Heads up: Number 10 might affect you personally.)

Here’s what’s I’m doing lately:

1. I’m managing three businesses.

2. I’m halfway through my Camp Nano manuscript for the third book in the Ghosts & Demons Series.

3. I changed the focus of my podcast, All That Chazz, to lifestyle, health and wellness.

4. You can pre-order my next book, The End of the World As I Know It, here. It’ll be released April 30.

5. My knee injury is fully rehabbed, so I got to cancel the MRI. I have no cane and no pain.

6. I had an epiphany and a major change in attitude and started writing a business book, in addition to the fiction addiction.

7. I’m quite a bit happier now.

8. Depending on scheduling and co-authors and whatnot, Ex Parte Press will publish seven to nine new books this year.

9. Despite all this, I’m quite relaxed.

10. (You skipped straight down here after reading the heads up, didn’t you? It’s okay. I don’t blame you.)

I’ve been promoting my graphic designer’s work for years, advertising him on my podcasts and generally acting like a happy booster. I see what he does as a useful need. We’re friends. Now we’re also business partners. I’m Alfred to his Batman, taking care of the nitty and the gritty so he can focus on creating fantastic book covers that deliver results. We’re organized, efficient and ready to serve you.

Head over to KitFosterDesign.com to check out Kit’s portfolio. I hope to talk to you soon about your next book, web banner, quote art, print and ebook covers.

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

Top Ten: Sell better. Sell Sideways with Video, Podcasts, Pop-ups and Free.

I’m always mystified by people who use the hard sell. Telemarketers hear me say, “No, thanks.” Then they charge forward anyway, following their sales script:

“Can I ask you one question, Mr. Chute?”
“Is that question designed to verbal judo, Jedi mind trick me into thinking I have to buy your duct cleaning service or else I’m doomed?”
“I…beg your pardon?”
“No means no! No means no!” Click!

You get the idea. 

And so it is with everything, including books.

Sometimes someone snags my attention with a come-hither headline I can’t resist. I click the link and bang! The pop-up comes at me a little too fast. I know nothing about the seller but they want to skip the first date and go straight to marriage and demand an email address. She Who Must Be Obeyed is awesome, but our engagement was thirteen years long. Do I sound like a guy who commits easily?

A fast pop-up is okay if I come to the seller from a blog or if I already sort of know them. I just need a formal introduction to get comfortable. But to come in blindly and have a stranger demand commitment? Slow down and buy me dinner. Seduce me. Talk slow. Tease me and…um…where were we?

Red flags and suggestions:

1. If your pop-up comes in so it obscures your content completely, I feel ambushed. There are times for a sign up or go offer, but for that to work, I think you have to give the potential subscriber something free and good (e.g. a white paper on how to make a million, a free course, killer book extras.) If you’re going for the email address early on, give them something they want.

2. Do install a pop-up on your author site, though. People say they hate pop-ups but they work and if they’re into your flavor, readers do need to be on your email list. Don’t call it a newsletter though. Call it an update or an info hub or a friendly reminder about new deals and opportunities, exclusive to subscribers.

3. Tweets from accounts with no picture but the default egg look shifty. It suggests the tweeter is a bot or clueless and we don’t follow or sign up for anything. We run away.

4. My new buddy, Buddy Gott (see the crazy fun interview below) has a nice take on Twitter. Check out his twitter account here. He tweets jokes and shows his personality. It’s not just links. He’s clearly having fun with his Twitter account so his followers will have fun, too. When I meet a fun writer, I wonder if their books are fun, too. Then I check them out.

5. If you’re going to tweet and it’s not fun, make it useful. Easy to share, useful content is good. But don’t forget to have fun, too. Follow others and promote good content that’s not coming just from you. Curate.

6. Yes, it’s okay to ask for the sale. But say hello first. Don’t push. Establish some kind of relationship. If I know you and you ask for the sale, that’s cool. If that’s the first thing I hear, or all I hear, you’re a clueless bully. Yes, tweet links to your new book, but if “BUY MY BOOK!” is all you’ve got for Facebook and Twitter, you’re headed for the circle of hell reserved for salespeople who believe Glengarry Glen Ross is a training film for humans.


7. Establishing relationships can be difficult, especially when you’re talking to a crowd. It helps to ask about them, not tell them about you. Unless you’ve got a really funny story about waking up drunk and naked in an unfamiliar bathtub, listen more than you talk, take part and respond. Come at me sideways instead of a full frontal assault.

8. You don’t want to be out there building relationships so much that you don’t have time to write your next book. Tweet in spare moments and, once you’ve established you’re not a dick, send those interested to interesting content. 

9. Stop being so afraid and precious that you can’t give something away. For instance, go grab a free thriller from me here. Yes, it’s the first in a fun and fast series about a Cuban hit man who’s quite adorable. There are three books in that series so far. Click the link, get a free ebook and maybe you’ll love your new addiction.

10. People are willing to watch video longer than they’re willing to put up with text. That’s why the TV show Lost still had some viewers at the end. (Lost wasn’t about castaways on a mysterious island. Lost referred to the people in the writing room as the series went on.) 

So, never mind my Lost snark.

Use video as a friendly get to know you. Like this.

BONUS: Based on a True Story

Check out the new episode of the All That Chazz podcast in which I discuss the relationship between bands and their sex toys. I also discuss my latest brush with the law. Have a listen. Have fun. Sell sideways.

Filed under: author platform, book marketing, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

TOP 10 Tips: KDP Ads, Updates and the Writing Biz

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This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)

The only zombie apocalypse with an autistic hero. If you liked The Stand, you’ll like this.

Tip #1: Tweak your print descriptions. 

I use the Author Marketing Club description tool to develop my book descriptions for Amazon. The template makes ebook descriptions look great. Don’t just copy and paste your ebook descriptions to your print book descriptions, though. The text will run together into one big block.

Add editorial reviews and more information to your author sales page Author Central. Give the readers more reasons to check you out and revisit those descriptions from time to time to try out fresh ad copy.

Tip #2: Update old books.

I know it’s a pain, but after a new book comes out, go back and reload old books to update your calls to action. I used to give readers too many choices when they were done reading. Now I just send them to AllThatChazz.com and encourage them to subscribe for updates.

Tip #3: When something isn’t working, change it.

I realized I was getting behind in podcasting because I hate reading my own work aloud. I remember being called upon to read aloud in class in fifth grade and I don’t like it anymore now. (If you must read, don’t rush it like I did.)

It took me forever to get through reading a book I love when I turned on the microphone. Lesson learned: renew the All That Chazz podcast. Changing the format. Go back to my comedy roots.

Also, I’ll get voice over artists for my audiobooks. Podcasting is so much fun as long as I’m having fun. I’m back to that with the latest episode. Click below to hear some jokes.

ALL THAT CHAZZ pod pic

Tip #4: Experiment

KDP Select came out with an advertising tool within Amazon that’s sort of like Google Adwords without all the bells and whistles. The beta test of this new discovery tool did not go well and the changes since the beta run are not apparent to users.

So far, according to my totally unscientific survey of players in the know and my own testing with three campaigns, it’s not working…yet. It may not. However, it’s CPC (cost per click) so, it’s not like it’s a huge risk. It’ll either work or it won’t.

Opt in or opt out for your books within Select via your bookshelf. Don’t decide to avoid early adoption because your still angry about Kindle Unlimited. These are business experiments and business decisions.

By the way, not for nothing but once again, Amazon innovates and experiments while the other platforms watch and wait for…something.

UPDATE: So far, a lot of impressions but no clicks. I imagine an underground marketing bunker on high alert far below Amazon. The accounting and IT departments are running in circles like they’re at Defcon 2 and they’re screaming at each other, “Figure it out! Figure it out! Why is this so much worse than Adwords?”

The experiment continues.

Tip #5: Tweak pricing

If you go through Draft2Digital, for instance, notice from your pricing dashboard that you can manage pricing for individual territories. The automatic pricing tool is based on the US dollar.

I fiddle with pricing a bit. For instance, the book price they set for India is always high. The figure you see on Amazon that is commensurate with the US dollar exchange could buy you three books in India. Also, when I see an odd number, say $4.11, I change it to $4.25 or 3.99. If I see a price where I’m also charged the VAT, I bump up the price a bit more to cover the VAT in that territory. People are used to prices that end in .99 or .25, .50, or .75. Odd numbers look too odd.

Tip #6: Perspective.

I won an honorable mention from Writer’s Digest for the This Plague of Days Omnibus. This is my eighth writing award, but the truth is that, sadly, these awards don’t really matter much.

The win did boost my sales of the Omnibus a bit. However, unless you win first prize, it’s not going to change your life (and not even then.) I’m happy to win an honorable mention. Also, the judge said nice things about TPOD I used for a strong editorial review. I got $50 worth of WD books that cost me $30 to ship so that puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?

Entering the contest cost $100, so I hope the prestige pays off in the long-term. I’m leveraging the happy as much as possible. The book is up forever so that balances out the expense somewhat, but the usefulness of the recognition is an unknown value. I don’t know how to solve for x in this case.

Tip #7: Productivity

If you missed last night’s podcast with Mat Morris, it was fun and informative. For instance, Mat talked about what he has learned from an app called Rescue Time and I’m a new disciple of that software. You can watch that episode of the Self-publishing Roundtable here.

Good tips amongst the hilarity, though sadly you missed my Sean Connery impression in the after-party. Tune in every Thursday night at 10 PM EST.

Tip #8: From to-do until to-done

Since the beginning of January I’ve added an old-school method of tracking my work, daily sales and expenses. I mark it all on a paper calendar. I don’t write down what I will do. I write down what I’ve accomplished at the end of the day. (And now I’m adding metrics from Rescue Time).

That which is not measured will not be changed, so word counts are of prime importance. You can use your project targets and stats in Scrivener to keep on track, too. It feels good to fill up that calendar each day and it tells me when I’ve gone off the rails. 

BEST (1)

Coming soon! Get The Haunting Lessons now so you’re ready for Book 2! THL is about a young woman from Iowa trying to stop Armageddon while dodging ghosts, demons, a bad doctor and a dead boyfriend. Come to New York. Join the Choir Invisible. Fight for the future.

Tip #9: Reassess

This Plague of Days is by far my flagship, but I have other books that sell well on Amazon. As long as that continues, I’m still exclusive to KDP Select with those products. I take note of the books that aren’t moving. That’s when I give the other sales platforms a chance at selling my brain babies.

On Amazon, my branding is diffuse. On Kobo, I appear to be a crime novelist and only a crime novelist. I’m told thrillers can move on Kobo. We’ll see, but I do like that my brand is more focussed on other platforms.

Tip #10: Consider teaming up

I am collaborating with three authors on three separate projects this year in addition to my own lonely and solitary writing. If you find the right partners, you can divide the work and multiply effort and resources.

Keeping up with their pace on Google Drive is motivating. I often write faster by the power of pure excitement. I don’t want to let my writing partners down, so guilt works, too.

~ I hope you found one of these suggestions helpful. Find out about deals, review copies and advanced review copies first by subscribing for updates at AllThatChazz.com. In the new podcast, I do terrible, terrible, entertaining things.

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Here’s a different way to engage new readers

There is an alternative to getting feedback through reviews and it’s actually pretty awesome (though we all need the happy reviews, too.) Recently, I did a Bookbub giveaway. About 20,000 people picked up the This Plague of Days, Omnibus Edition. That’s three novels in one big book. Not only am I hearing more from readers who dig my flow, but I’m engaging with them through email plus giving them another free book. I’m thinking long-term and building a readership, but it has helped in the short-term, too. Here’s how:

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)

At the back of the Omnibus is a link to a video that asks readers a question about a secret revealed in the saga. Once they comment on the secret YouTube link and email me their address, I send them the gift of another book, Intense Violence, Bizarre Themes. I also let them know there’s another book coming at Christmas called The Haunting Lessons. If you liked TPOD, you’ll probably love The Haunting Lessons.

IVBT FINAL 2D cover

You can’t generally engage with reviewers without the risk of being accused of bad author behavior, but these people are coming to me. They’re a happy bunch (only one grump among the many emails I’ve received!) and they’re happy to talk about This Plague of Days. I also take the opportunity in their gift card message to encourage reviews.

Intense Violence, Bizarre Themes (my autobiographical crime novel) also secrets behind the story. The back of that book has a blog post link readers can access with a password on my author site, AllThatChazz.com, so they can get some of their questions answered.

If this seems like a long, expensive process to find new readers, I have three answers: 

1. Long? Not really. I was writing the books anyway. I’m in this for the long haul with many more books on the way.

2. Paying for advertising in the form of gift books to a TARGETED audience is miles cheaper than any other approach I can think of.

3. Contrary to what you may have read from other authors recently, I’m finding that gifting does lift my other book sales. 

This won’t help you much if you don’t have more than a couple of books to sell, but free isn’t a concept to throw away quite yet. I’m happy with this twist on free because I’m making happy readers happier instead of throwing business cards out of moving cars and shouting at annoyed strangers.

I’m loving it most because, unfortunately, there is occasionally a hostile, suspicious or impatient dynamic between reviewers and authors. As a writer, it’s great to hear back from the people who get what you’re doing, are friendly and engaged. The conversations I’ve had over email are delightfully empty of power trips and ego. It’s fantastic to me that people just want to talk about the story’s emotional impact or the philosophy or psychology that form the underlying themes of This Plague of Days. That’s cool. (You know how some reviewers seem to hate reading? Not this crowd. They are so in!)

I think this approach works because:

a. Hey, I understand they read to the end of a long epic saga. It figures they’re more committed than the average bear.

b. People love to know secrets and behind-the-scenes stuff.

c. People love free stuff.

d. When I talk about TPOD on video they’re getting to know me as a human being.

e. When they read the secrets in the secret blog post, they’re invited into my little club. I’m touched that they got involved enough in the thriller to want to know what’s fiction and what’s not.

Your mileage may vary, as they say, but keep experimenting with new approaches. You might even stick a secret link in the back of your next book and watch the happy readers show up in droves.

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

The Business of Writing Top 10: How to have more fun

Have you ever watched shows like World’s Funniest Commercials?

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)When the show took a commercial break, did you sit on your couch and watch the regular commercials and wonder why they had to be so bland? Or did you go make a sandwich or run for the bathroom? Commercials don’t have to be as bad as they often are. Think of the annual hype around Superbowl commercials. How is it that the rest of the year, commercials are background noise for making sandwiches and flushing? The ad industry should try harder.

And so should we. Book promotion can be fun. We should take fun more seriously.

When we write our books, we are at our best. We’re witty and play with ideas and irony. We tell stories. We’re in the entertainment business. So why lose all that buoyancy when it comes to promoting our work? Advertising is writing, too. Yes, writing back cover blurbs and advertising copy is a somewhat different skill set, but this is not rocket science. Examples of good and bad sales copy are all around us. Emulate what works on you.

Some copywriters will enthuse that, sure, maybe you can write a book, but leave a couple of paragraphs of sales copy to a professional. That sounds rather convenient and self-serving, doesn’t it? IRobert Chazz Chute This Plague of Days: Season 3 don’t believe it. It’s great to be able to hand off such work to others with confidence, but for most of us, we’re writing our own promotional copy. Let’s loosen up and raise the bar.

If you can write a book, you can promote your work effectively without falling back on the cliché of “Buy my book!” I admit, there are writers who only say “buy my book” on Twitter and they are derided everywhere. I think this happens because no one has given them permission to be as imaginative and bouncy as they are when they write their books. It’s all writing, not a separate challenge. If it feels too different from writing books, it’s probably erring on the side of bland.

This is your permission slip:

1. Have more fun. There’s a reason it’s Rule #1. It’s that important, for you and your readers.

2. Use more pull quotes from your work of genius.

3. Make a joke. Be self-deprecating. Be different. Dare to show some personality. Let the joy leak through from your usual writing.

4. Craft something you’d want to read and act upon as a reader.

5. Relax. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Your sales plan doesn’t have to come together within a week or two of your book launch. Ebooks are forever and there are plenty of kicks at the marketing can ahead.

6. Sell less and interact more. Conversations are good. Blaring at is bad.

7. If you can’t interact, curate.

8. Selling effectively is never about selling. It’s about helping your tribe identify their want and need for you. I’m not here to sell. I’m here to help you buy. Stop being so self-conscious and apologetic about what you’re doing and do what you do in books: Put on a show!

9. Not all books are for everyone. Identify where your readers hang out and go there. Advertising for a niche and to a tribe willing to spread your good word is more important than trying to be all things to all people.

Smile. Rejection is a gift. It relieves you of the stress of dealing with boneheads later.

10. Tell more stories, not just in writing books, but in your promotional efforts, too.

Here’s an example of some fun I had on Facebook today:

Newspaper

“Abandoned to an unfeeling universe, an increasing number of Americans are turning to This Plague of Days to confront ‘the horror of it all,'” an anonymous State Department official said. High-level advisors at the White House confirm, “An autistic boy named Jaimie Spencer, 16, of Kansas City, Missouri, may be key to resolving existential ennui. There are jokes, too, but mostly it freaks us out.”

Senator John McCain stated that Congress still can’t decide if Chute’s book is “literary bull****, zombie bull**** or ‘some other bull****.'” The gridlock continues.

Senator Rand Paul is threatening a filibuster, stating, “This is not horror per se! This is dark fantasy and President Obama knows it!” The secret of This Plague of Days remains classified to all but those who read to the end. Rumors of secret video and an offer of a free ebook are confined to those who read the TPOD Omnibus Edition. While Progressives call that anti-egalitarian and elitist, Secretary of State John Kerry said (in a speech that felt like three hours), “That’s capitalism. Whaddaya gonna do?

Meanwhile, the US Congress approval rating has sunk to a new low of 8%, still above public approval of McDonalds’ fishwich and slightly below mononucleosis as a diet strategy.

However, in a stunning break from party lines in a gracious “hands across the aisle” gesture, Speaker John Boehner and Liberal Senator Harry Reid did come to some concord and issued a joint statement. “The pace really picks up in Season 2 and the gross outs were balanced by some high-minded stuff neither of us really understood. We are all frightened for the Spencer family and keep them in our prayers.”

Robert Chazz Chute Bio Picture~ That was fun. I wrote a post recently answering reader’s questions about This Plague of Days. Find that here.

Filed under: author platform, book marketing, Publicity & Promotion, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The blog and book promotion tool you’ll love (that’s easy, effective and free)

Here's one of my Haiku Decks to start off your writing week right.

Here’s one of my Haiku Decks to start off your writing week right.

Haiku Deck is a free presentation tool that uses royalty-free images so you can make a statement with visual impact. Change up your next blog post or make a slick book trailer in minutes, for instance.

Click this link to ThisPlagueOfDays.com to see how I used Haiku Deck to remind readers that my next book is coming soon (and they better buckle up!) It’s actually quite beautiful and even easier and quicker than a YouTube video. The slideshow at the link was my first experiment with Haiku Deck. It took less time to put my trailer for This Plague of Days together than I needed for this short blog post.

There’s nothing wrong with YouTube, Instagram, Vine, and iMovie etc,…. Video can be useful and powerful if used well (and oooh! Moving pictures!) The advantage of Haiku Deck is that it’s free, fast and fun to play with. Consider adding it to your author platform’s arsenal. 

Want to sign up and start making your own trailers, presentations, charts and messages?

You’ll find the way to sign up at the end of each Haiku Deck presentation above. It’s easy to do and easy to share on multiple platforms, but if you do have trouble sharing on your non-self-hosted WordPress blog, no problem. Do what I did with the slideshows above. Load and link a screen shot and bam, it’s there.

Pretty cool, huh?

If you need tips on using video more effectively to promote your books or business, I wrote a quick book on marketing with Vine that highlights what you should be aware of to make it work better. Click the cover for Six Seconds below, for that chewy goodness (for the princely sum of just 99 cents!)

Six+Seconds+copy

~ Okay. We’ve started Monday morning off right. Let’s keep the healthy and happy vibes going. Pardon my excessive happiness today. It’s not characteristic of me, but I’m all ramped up about entering the final stages of publishing my eleventh book. Progress is being made. BAM! Okay, let’s go get ’em!

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

This Plague of Days: How I sold my autistic zombie apocalypse through serialization PART 1

This week, I’m making This Plague of Days a case study for those interested in drilling deep. This will be a series of blog posts about strategies, platforms and book marketing: what worked, what hasn’t worked, what won’t and what might. I hope it helps you to sell your books, if only by avoiding my errors.

Topics will include various format releases, selling in different ways, pricing and publicity. You’ll find out how This Plague of Days became a bestseller (in its teeny-tiny category) and the ways in which I’ve failed miserably. I’ll also hit on how my strategy is changing for the conclusion of This Plague of Days. Season 3 comes out this spring. I’m always experimenting, looking for new and different ways to reach readers and make them happy. Sometimes what I thought was the wide road to glory turned into a goat path into a dead-end. As always, I’ll be honest about it.

On sale now for just $2.99. I mean, c'mon!On sale until Feb. 1, 2014 for just $2.99. I mean, c’mon!

HOW I LAUNCHED THE SERIAL

My strategy for launching This Plague of Days, Season One was to put the whole ebook out first. I waited a week. The sky didn’t shatter with raging need for my latest contribution to suspense and horror literature. Then, over the next five weeks, I released the book broken into episodes as a serial. Each episode came one week apart at 99 cents each.

Each section ended on a cliffhanger so readers were given a choice:

Wait another week to find out what happens next, come back to Amazon and download the next episode. (0.99 x 5 = $4.95)

Or, preferably:  forget all that nonsense and just buy the book for less money than it cost to get all the episodes piecemeal. I sold the ebooks at $3.99 with pulsing price dips to $2.99 plus a couple of promotional giveaways at $0.00. (More on that in another post, but hey, Seasons One and Two are at $2.99 until Feb 1. Take a hint and have some fun. It’s too cold to go outside so you might as well read.)

Print has been so little of my income in the past that creating the paperback was a low priority. I did that last. (That’s changing, as you’ll soon see in a post coming later this week.)

HOW TO SERIALIZE CORRECTLY

My nastiest reviewer noted with dismay that I’d written it like a television serial (as if I’d somehow done so by accident.) Most people actually liked the format and appreciated its quirks as added value.

That said, serialization doesn’t work if you break the narrative the wrong way. Take an ongoing television drama. Let’s say, The Walking Dead or House of Cards. Cliffhangers, wit, surprises and reversals are the gears of the engine that give a serial forward momentum. Each transition should scream, “That’s not the end you expected. Now turn the page for more!”

Not all books are suited to the serial format and it’s not just about taking any book, breaking it apart and selling off the chunks. It’s about adding value to the reader and certainly not making more cash off selling episodes at 99 cents. For get-rich-quick ideas, boy, are you on the wrong blog!

ABOUT ADDED VALUE AND STANDING OUT

With an autistic hero who mostly doesn’t speak and a story that spans Europe, America and Canada, my story is unusual. You meet a lot of characters but they don’t meet each other for a long time, if at all. The plagues start off based in reality and later supernatural elements à la The Stand develop as the Sutr virus evolves. I did weird things with how I laid the saga out, too.

The Table of Contents comprises a long, dark poem with clues to what’s coming. Each episode begins with “Notes from The Last Cafe”, which adds to the intrigue. That mystery is not actually solved until late in Season 3. Also, Seasons One and Two contain a secret. The first three readers to guess it correctly will get characters named after them. I’m receiving guesses every week, but so far, no one has won. (Check out ThisPlagueOfDays.com for more on that.)

THE PROS OF SERIALIZATION

1. My also-boughts proliferated on Amazon so customers saw the work of my brilliant graphic designer, Kit Foster, pepper those lists. They didn’t just see one cover. They saw six, each different, but in keeping with the tone and theme of each season. Repetition and increased exposure got attention to the book it wouldn’t have caught otherwise. Here’s what that looked like:

TPOD 0616 EP 1 cover
The Also-boughts (below) harnessed the power of repetition in advertising.

Screen Shot 2014-01-26 at 3.49.28 PM

 

2. Best of all, readers who dig This Plague of Days went ahead and bought the entire season immediately. Some even took Season One, Episode One as a big, cheap sample and went back to buy both seasons in their entirety.

An important detail that’s a pro and a con

Those people who were tepid on an autistic kid in the zombie apocalypse tended to just try Episode One. Each episode ranges from 15- 25,000 words, so they got a generous read. The zombies don’t actually show up for a while and they aren’t even “true” zombies in the Romero sense. If readers didn’t care for the pace at which I built the tension, early instalments took the hits of less-than-entranced reviews and readers dropped away.

The majority loved it and went on to leave stellar reviews on each season. This somewhat inoculated the books from negative ratings because the non-enthused bailed out. Serialization gave them that easy option.

THE CONS

1. Serials are a harder sell. Some people hate serials and won’t buy them. Others click indiscriminately and then will rank you lower even if they like the book. (Yes, I know that’s crazy, but I’ve seen it. Fortunately, those few are outliers.)

2. Despite going to great lengths to explain and differentiate between seasons and episodes with covers and sales copy warnings, some readers still got confused about what they were buying in what sequence. Each cover was clearly labelled and to some, that didn’t matter. (Too quick to click the one-click buy, I guess.) That got me a couple of bad reviews. I explained to those reviewers in the comment thread of their review that anyone who buys something in error can easily return it to Amazon for a full refund. Still, those negative reviews remain.

3. Episodes that sell for 99 cents make next to no money. Somebody’s going to object to that, but the math on my sales reports says it’s true. I’d have to sell way more episodes to equal the sale of one book/season. In my quest to find 1,000 true fans, this is one of the trade-offs along the way to helping us find each other. I don’t resent the journey.

4. Maybe it’s my sense of price resistance, but I don’t see charging more than 99 cents per episode. You could give less in word count per episode, but you also have to ask yourself, how much and how often do you want to format and upload files? Drag it out with more episodes and other costs rise higher.

5. I can see by my sales stats that The Law of Diminishing Returns has kicked in with respect to sales of each episode. With so many positive reviews on Season One and Two, it makes less sense for me to serialize now. As I move away from serialization in Season 3, those who liked serialization might ding me for it (even though, with the way I priced it, that’s irrational.) 

6. Serialization that’s not hooked up to Amazon’s auto-delivery system is problematic. The customer has to remember to come back each week and download the new episode. I did apply to Amazon to publish this serial with them. I never heard back. Had they gone for it, you might have heard of me before today.

7. Now that my Amazon sales page is populated with all those episodes from Seasons One and Two, it looks too busy. I’d rather just display the seasons (and eventually The Complete This Plague of Days) so it’s easy for readers to zero in on those books and click buy. How long must I wait before I can clean it up? I can’t simply unpublish the episodes in case someone’s still thinking of getting around to finishing the serial episode by episode? Do I wait a year? Two? Three?

CONCLUSIONS

You’ll note that the Pro column has two entries and I list seven disadvantages. I wish the analysis were that simple.

In my final analysis — not necessarily yours — the disadvantages I list are the cost of getting the book known. In this case, any damage was mitigated by moderate success. Serialization helped readers and hardcore fans find This Plague of Days (and in some cases, my other books.) Therefore, the sacrifice of getting roughly 30 cents on the sale of episodes is the cost of experimentation. For advertising so well in the also-boughts on Amazon, it was worth it. Season One has 72 reviews so far. Season Two has 31. That’s much more attention than my other books got. (Shocking because Murders Among Dead Trees is genius, dammit! And only 99 cents until February 1, 2014. I’m trawling for reviews from the bargain bin so…well, you know. Check it out, if only to read my favorite three-star review ever.)

Those two pros carry more tonnage than the feather-light cons. I don’t regret serializing Seasons One and Two. Without serialization, I wouldn’t have those problems. Some problems are the good kind to have. Without serialization, I’d probably be (even more!) anonymous in the literary landscape.

That’s why marketing Season 3 will be interesting. The revolution will not be serialized. Stay tuned.

~ This is a case study which may or may not apply to you. I’m not telling anyone what they should do. This is just my experience and my reasoning on serialization. Next post: Amazon, Bookbub and all those other platforms.

 

Filed under: author platform, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, self-publishing, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Easy tech tools for authors and publishers Part 1

Time to tell you about BannerSnack. With this app, you can easily construct banners and ads for your author site. You’re going to love it.

This is a free tech tool I picked up at the Chrome Store. I just started playing with it, but I’m already very impressed. Not being comfortable with HTML often holds us back from doing more with our websites. There are several ways to work around that problem without learning programming language. BannerSnack makes it easy (even if you just go for the free options with watermarks). If you’re going to use it a lot, premium options aren’t unreasonably priced.

Here’s an ad I created for a book promotion on my author site, AllThatChazz.com:

Screen Shot 2013-07-24 at 11.50.29 PM

Screen Shot 2013-07-24 at 11.50.39 PM

You can start from scratch or choose to start from a wide variety of templates and sizes to get your unique message out.

If you want to make your website more spiffy, I suggest you play with BannerSnack. The interface is intuitive so you’ll have a banner, ad or button up and running quickly.

In Part II, I’ll show you an even cooler and easier tool to make presentation of your books,

and your author site, beautiful and inviting.

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

Today’s ordeal: Insults aren’t a marketing strategy

I talked to a bad sad person today who tried to push me around and deceive.

After a little more research, I figured out he was trying to sell me more of his own services but he wasn’t up front about it. Devious! I responded with reluctance because I hate hard sells and I’m suspicious of verbal sleight of hand. Then he switched from persuasion to an attempt at bullying. Why does any marketer think mean works? I guess he knew he wasn’t getting a sale so he had to get the venom out of his system. (Note: He’s not alone in thinking bullying works in sales. I suppose there are some gym memberships that prove bullying does work, but I don’t recommend it.)

He tried to spin a few dollars into “consulting”, amping a cheap offer ($15) into (I’m guessing) one or two thousand dollars. That’s quite a stretch to the next sales level, isn’t it? If he was as savvy at marketing as he says he is, he’d recognize he’s fishing in the wrong pool. And he’s angry at the fish.

When he wasn’t clear on his offer, I tried to determine if he was willing to work within a budget (any budget!) He went from wheedling to puffery to obfuscation to contempt in four sentences. I figured out what he was up to. What it amounted to was, “That thing I tried to sell you for $15 that I said would be awesome? Tricked you! What I said would be awesome is worthless and sucks, but if you don’t buy the platinum package (which I won’t define) you’re an idiot…” Blah-de-blah. Nonsense and hurt feelings ensue.

So that was eight minutes and ten seconds from hell. Skype tells you exactly how long you’ve been in hell. Convenient. He told me I’d wasted 15 minute of his time. Odd, he wasn’t worried about wasting my time with deception and insults, but we’re all the centre of our own universes, aren’t we?

Here’s my Twitter stream (read from the bottom up) from today’s encounter with the outside world. This is why I hide in my writing cave and avoid human contact. It was a delightful reminder of what not to do. Okay, not so delightful, but instructive. Basically, desperate and mean doesn’t work.

Does this seem mean? I don’t think so. If I were mean, I’d tell you his name. Instead, I’ll say, caveat emptor and hang up faster than I did.

Screen Shot 2013-07-18 at 4.47.17 PM

Screen Shot 2013-07-18 at 4.45.36 PM

Start here and read up for the details of how not to market.

On the other hand, it was fun getting a phone call through to SPP!

Click here to see how I'm recruiting allies in the struggle to get visible (without dealing with Mr. Nasty Meany Big Time).

Click here to see how I’m recruiting allies in the struggle to get visible (without dealing with Mr. Nasty Meany Big Time).

~ For the record, I didn’t hang up on him because my mama raised someone who’s hopelessly polite. I also believe it’s important to give nasty people enough rope to hang themselves so I can spin the ordeal into a post on my blog. At least I get something out of it that way. Click either of the images above and you’ll see my latest marketing attempt for This Plague of Days. It’s the opposite of what was tried on me today. My approach is to go for win-win instead of deceive-insult. If my approach doesn’t work, I guess I could move to New York and give berating potential customers a try. Okay, now I’m officially letting this go. Have a peaceful day.

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

Amazon: Throttled Part 1

In today’s mega post, Part 1 of 3, I explore Amazon’s change of Terms of Service that throttles free ebook promotion and what it might mean to you.

Or, skip to Part 2, where I give new, pointed advice about book promotion dos and don’ts (and some of it is not very nice )

Or skip to Part 3, where I invite you to join me in a new way to reach readers who would otherwise never know you or your work.

 

Amazon’s Terms of Service have changed.

Amazon sent out this decree recently:

“In addition, notwithstanding the advertising fee rates described on this page or anything to the contrary contained in this Operating Agreement, if we determine you are primarily promoting free Kindle eBooks (i.e., eBooks for which the customer purchase price is $0.00), YOU WILL NOT BE ELIGIBLE TO EARN ANY ADVERTISING FEES DURING ANY MONTH IN WHICH YOU MEET THE FOLLOWING CONDITIONS:
(a) 20,000 or more free Kindle eBooks are ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links; and
(b) At least 80% of all Kindle eBooks ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links are free Kindle eBooks.”

Ed Robertson broke down the numbers and some possible implications here. 

Free is throttled.

That’s okay. For most of us, free was in a coma, anyway.

From the flaking, protective teflon coating of your brain pan to the tip of the peak of Despair, indie authors everywhere wonder, “Amazon is discouraging websites that publicize free books? What Next?” Amazon doesn’t make emotional decisions. It makes business decisions. Now it’s time for us to make business decisions, too. I come to praise Amazon, not to bury it. (I’m relieved Free is over or at least reined in, but that’s because of Parts 2 and 3 of this thought train. If you only depend on KDP Select free days to promote your work, it’s time to get new egg baskets.)

Why Amazon’s bad news is a good thing and what we can do about it in three parts:

You’re going to hear a lot of uproar about free days going away. It’s understandable. Websites promoting free ebooks won’t be getting those juicy affiliate commissions anymore, so there are fewer choices in promoting our books. Authors need help to get the word out about their books. Some thoughts on our predicament:

1. For some, Free rocked as a short-term strategy. Free was always a poor long-term strategy. It undermined the market. Many readers, feeling entitled and smug, filled their kindles but never got around to reading all those hoarded books. I sure couldn’t read them all. Aim a 500-pound-per-square-inch fire hose at a teacup. That teacup will not retain a lot of water. Our overly full kindles are teacups.

2. Free was over, anyway. Everywhere I look, someone’s offering a giveaway but I’m already overloaded. I’m giving Six Seconds away as gifts to get honest reviews, but I’m not trying the scatter shot of Amazon free days anymore. Free helped for a short time. The biggest bumps came in the earliest KDP Select Days. If you got in early, you had a good shot at making money. After the algorithm changed? For most of us, the answer is “much less so”.

3. Some people still made money, and will continue to do so, with Free. These sturdy outliers have good books, but just as important, they have marshalled forces to get the word out about their books without relying on those throttled websites to spread the word. I know a couple of authors who did so well with free listings that they don’t cower one bit at paying a bunch for advertising their books. They’re happier because we can expect more signal and less noise since free ebooks won’t crowd out the paid ones as much.

4. Some of those free ebook websites will continue without the affiliate sales. Amazon is like the cops announcing it’s time to shut off the stereo, end the party and go home. Some other sites will simply shrug and start referring their subscribers to non-Amazon platforms.

5. Some websites will adapt well. The TOS changes were pretty much met with a shrug at Digital Book Today because their business model doesn’t rely on free book links to make them rich.

6. Fore sites that do rely heavily on those affiliate links, far fewer free ebooks will be pushed and it will be harder for us to be among the chosen few. For many of those sites, it was already darn hard to get your giveaway listed anyway, so many authors won’t notice a difference.

7. Cheap books can be pushed without punishment, therefore 99 cents is back in play. The “I’d buy that for a dollar!” price point is back. It had a brief spike before Free rose up to crush it, but now 99 cents looks fresh and ready for vengeance. Thirty cents or so isn’t an impressive pay out to authors. It is more than zero, but the bad news is you’ll still have to sell whatever tattoo space that is left on your body on Fiverr.com to pay for a can of beans to share with the other hobos under a bridge.

8. The good news is that there’s a huge gap in the buyer’s mind between free and cheap. With that tiny investment, you’ll get fewer one-star reviews from disappointed people who mistakenly grabbed up your book in a free book spree. (You know the sort. They blame you for their unwillingness to read a product description.)

9. We’re going to have to adapt more. Even more. Sure, you probably aren’t making money and this profession is usually a glorified hobby that disappoints your parents. Your friends make encouraging sounds with their mouths, but their sidelong glances say they’re worried about you. Nonetheless, this is the game. Calling this a game suggests this is play. That might help you get through this. Take it too seriously and you’ll be out here with me on a ledge worrying about bills. If you’re a worried indie author out on a ledge, take comfort in the fact that (look left, look right) twas always thus and plenty of traditionally published authors are out in the wind contemplating doom, too.

10. KDP Select has less and less to offer. Are those library sales worth it? Are five free days (over 90-day, exclusive commitments) going to pay off when you have a harder time promoting them? Probably not, in most cases. It’s a reasonable guess that Amazon throttled back on free because they were paying out too much for those affiliate referrals. Will Amazon come up with another program to address our problem created by their solution? I don’t know. No one knows (but I do doubt it.)

Despite the TOS change, a lot of authors are still stuck in KDP Select until their 90-day term is over. It happens I have only one book left in KDP Select and I used up all my free days before Christmas as I launched Murders Among Dead Trees. Lucky timing. If I was stuck with all my books in KDP Select now, I would be very annoyed at being in that canoe without a paddle.)

11. Kobo and Apple smell opportunity. Draft2Digital rises and maybe Smashwords will, at least and  finally, update their look. The great migration across other platforms had already begun. KDP Select has been steadily turning off authors since last spring. Now there’s more reason for us to explore our options. Perhaps the #2 contender, Kobo, will offer a new program to lure us to their lair. Or maybe you’ll get around to selling books straight from your website.

12. As detailed in Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire, the only book promotion tool I have confidence in (that isn’t unethical) is: Write More Books! I amended that decree with: Write shorter books. And more of them.

But what else can we do to promote our books?

I have some ideas about what we can do and

some strong ideas about what we shouldn’t do.

CLICK HERE FOR

PART 2: THROTTLING YOU (AND SOME OF THIS ISN’T VERY NICE)

SKIP TO PART 3: What we can do about this, together.

Filed under: book marketing, 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.

Write to live

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