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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Cliffhangers and Amazon KU

So there I was reading a blog from Wise Ink about the ups and downs of Amazon’s new page count policies for Kindle Unlimited payouts. I ran across this concern:

“But no piece of writing should have a cliffhanger at the end of each and every chapter.”

That’s one of the dangers? Compelling page-turners?

Um…hm.

I think some people (a vocal minority) say they hate cliffhangers. It’s that thing that keeps us reading and keeps us coming back to television shows from week to week and year to year. Even if we think we hate it, we keep coming back.

Dickens did it. Many authors I love do it. I think every chapter deserves a word button that encourages the reader to stay up all night and get fired for falling asleep at work the next day. Isn’t that part of the fun?

Wise Ink is a fine blog with a lot of great content. I’m not crapping all over them for one statement. Let’s not make it about Wise Ink. 

Instead, I will ask this:

Look at that bold assertion and let me know: Why or why not?
Discuss.
Am I way wrong?

Thank you.

Filed under: Amazon, , , , ,

Amazon policy changes. We probably don’t.

Amazon has announced that KU will pay per page. Previously, authors were credited with a “borrow” only after the reader got past 10% of the book. Now the pay will be based on how far the reader actually gets so authors of longer works will be compensated more (and, perhaps, fewer people will write shorter works or try to “game the system.”)

The above statement is how many people seem to be reading the new Kindle Unlimited policy change announcement. 

That’s not how I see it. Here’s my take:

1. It doesn’t matter. Write your books to whatever length tells the story satisfactorily. Readers don’t care about this behind-the-scenes drama so you shouldn’t worry overly much about it, either.

2. A lot of people are talking about jumping out of Select because of the surprise change. Here’s the thing: after July your revenue may go up or it may go down. That depends less on KU and more on your books. For instance, you can write a really long book and assume you’ll get handsomely compensated under the new system. However, if readers abandon the book in the early going when they encounter a saggy middle, you’re no farther ahead than if you wrote a ripper at a shorter length that the reader fully devoured.

3. I plan to write some shorter fiction. I’m not altering that plan because I’d rather have more stories in a series or in a world. I can always box them up later for length later if need be.

4. Shorter work still has another advantage everyone seems to ignore: increased visibility. Publish more often, be seen more often. Every 30 days, every author faces the dreaded Cliff. Focusing on page count alone blinds us to other variables.

5. Once again, Amazon is innovating. Don’t be afraid of change. Roll with it. Adapt. Crush your enemies and drink wine from their skulls and whatnot. The writing biz is not for pussycats.

6. Again, the other sales platforms are not changing a thing. Hm. That’s not stability you’re smelling. That’s rot.

7. If you take a hit from Amazon’s change in policy, it may be time to go wide to other platforms and build your readership elsewhere (if you aren’t working on that already.) The catch is, though Amazon may suck in one regard for you, that still does not equate to improvement on the other platforms. I make all my money on Amazon US and that’s pretty much it. 

8. Panic is not a plan. I’ll leave it to others who are geniuses with calculators to do the calculating. I’m waiting and watching to learn if there’s anything to learn (besides write more great books.) I’m also expanding my plans for serious promotional tactics in any case. Even before yesterday’s announcement of changes with KU, I’ve noticed slower sales and fewer reviews. Like it or not, ready or not, it’s time to spend money to make money to stay in this game.

9. I never tried to “game the system.” But I think people who wrote shorter after KU was introduced weren’t necessarily “gaming” anything. They were being flexible and using business acumen. Serials made a comeback. Their popularity has always waxed and waned. And what’s wrong with writing short, anyway? Many people tell us that many readers prefer shorter books because it fits their lifestyle demands, their attention span and their time management choices. Write what you want and what you think your readers want (or what you can make them want.) Fashion changes. Winds change. Leaders go out front with a lantern, a will and a plan to break the trail.

10. If you write short books, you might take a hit. Or box sets are going to come roaring back. (I have omnibuses, so cool.) You know what else is growing and only going to get bigger? Audiobooks. There’s plenty to sell on Amazon besides mobis. KU is only one segment of sales.

11. This really doesn’t change anything for me. I’ll write short books. I’ll write long books. I’ll find out what I get paid when the Amazon check arrives. It is, as always, about the writing. Arguably, judging books by pages read means it’s about pleasing the reader, now more than ever.

12. Everybody relax. We’ll all live longer if we relax. Breathe. Repeat. Continue.

Okay? Okay. Oorah.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute and I’m giving away super duper cool stuff on my author site right now. Download your free review copy here while the offer still lasts. Thanks.

Filed under: Amazon, , , , , , ,

The writer, depression and getting the word music to play again

By the way, Crack the Indie Author Code 2nd Edition is out in paperback at $9.99. Smaller format, with jokes.

By the way, Crack the Indie Author Code 2nd Edition is out in paperback at $9.99. Smaller format, with jokes.

A fellow writer meant well when she told me that if you can allow anyone to discourage you from writing, you shouldn’t be a writer. That sounds tough-minded and strong, doesn’t it? It would be good advice to take, but unfortunately, I’m still human. Darn the luck, my skin is no thicker or thinner than it ever was. It will surprise no one, given the sort of dark stuff I often write, that I obsess over the negative. I do not remember sunny days. That’s who I am. Maybe I could fix it with some talk therapy, gene manipulation and a personality transplant.

So, yes, rude email hurt can me and my productivity. A bad review can ruin the morning and robs me of a night’s rest. I’m prone to depression and yes, I’m feeling it now. Due to several factors, I haven’t faced the blank screen bravely in days. I’ve been ill and trying to keep up with the demands of my new day job and, not to whine, but the depletion started with one condescending, presumptuous email. 

I’m letting a terrorist win. The worry treadmill is running. I’ve written ten books, but the negative cyclotron has kicked in. “How can I be a writer? I can’t even type properly.”

When I observe the disparity between Goodreads ratings and Amazon ratings (work is often valued one star less on GR even if the review sounds equally positive), I have an urge to reevaluate my life choices. If I’d gone to that Second City audition or to film school instead…but that way madness lies. At least until I fix the time machine. But enough about me.

Murders+Among+Dead+Trees+1121-1

What to do when you’re feeling down and not writing*:

1. Call a friend. Do not talk about your problem. Talk about what your friend wants to talk about.

To shore up your ego defences, you’ve already read and reread your happy reviews. Your friend isn’t going to tell you anything new and you’ve already got your “Atta-boy!”

The point of this phone call is to break the obsessive cycle of repetitive arguments, cutting retorts and vengeful homicide plots running through your head. This is a time for jokes. Ask about your friend’s life. 

2. Okay, so, being human, naturally you want another “Atta-boy!” Engage a fan who can’t wait for the next book. A little positive pressure may be all you need to get back to writing the next book in the series.

3. Write a blog post to vent, but only if you must and your friends aren’t answering their phones. (Ooh! Meta!)

4. Remind yourself that this is the firstiest of First World Problems and set the oven timer. How much more wallowing do you plan to allow yourself? More than one more pathetic hour and you’ll burn your life.

The three most powerful words are “I love you.”

The two most powerful? “Begin again.”

~ from Crack the Indie Author Code

5. Read the negative reviews of your favorite books. Choose the classics that you think everyone simply must adore. Realize some people will not be pleased.

Now in paperback!

Now in paperback!

Ev-er.

Or they’re trolls feeding an emotional need that has nothing to do with literary criticism. Or they’re too stupid to get you. I used to think that all readers, because they can read, must be smarter than average. Read some one-star reviews, especially the ones that bring down an author’s rating because Amazon didn’t deliver the book fast enough or they don’t like reading on a kindle and would have preferred paper. Clearly, my supposition about all readers being intelligent was not true.

6. Help somebody else with something. Shovel the walk and bring in the wood and be productive. Productiveness is a habit. This tip works better is you don’t do it for yourself. Do it for the old neighbor with the bum ticker and the broken leg.

7. Read something good that inspires you. Remember this feeling of transcending the great, dirty world? This delicious escape is why you are a writer. 

8. Realize that nothing will be perfect and the critics might have a point about something. Correct errors and move on.

9. But if they’re too harsh and stop you from writing at all, you’ve allowed a rude outlier to rob you, and most readers, of joy. It’s too easy for trolls to throw bombs. You write books, not a few, nasty paragraphs. We’re not allowed to critique reviewers so they’re safe from what you’re feeling now. Don’t let bullies win. Not letting bullies win is another reason you’re a writer.

10. Bing! The oven timer went off.

Start writing again. Anything. Just start. Within five minutes, you’ll be sucked into the other world again. Just get through that first five minutes and write. You aren’t facing a whole book. You don’t have to worry about word count or bad reviews or bruised egos or where to find a Luger, thick rope and kerosene at three in the morning. All you have to do is start writing and get through the first five minutes. Maybe less.

You can gut out five minutes. You don’t even have to act tough to start. Just start. An appreciative audience is out in the future, waiting and hoping you’ll get through the next five minutes. Maybe less.You will fall back into the groove and the word music will begin to play. And a one, and a two and a three…

If none of these suggestions work, call a doctor. Maybe it’s exercise, kale shakes and an anti-depressant you need to elude the mean reds.

 

Filed under: book reviews, publishing, web reviews, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Et tu, Kobo? Anger and the Cost-benefit Analysis

By now, most authors know about Kobo’s rash move to yank all indie authors from its platform. Today, we talk about Kobo and reevaluating our marketing strategies so we can manage time and energy and make more money.

If you came in late to the debacle, here’s what started it:

They condemned indie authors in an over-reaction to a news story about pornographic ebooks invading WH Smith through Kobo. Instead of weeding out individual books they deemed offensive, they painted us all with the same brush and pulled a digital-ton of indie ebooks.  They didn’t just hit indie porn and erotica titles. They hit all of us, the tall and the small, and legal. (For more details, check “Related articles” below).

Hitting the big, red nuke button was a major tactical error. Failing to open lines of communication also didn’t help. Kobo was put in a tough position because of their relationship with WH Smith. Kobo did announce the bulk removal was temporary and they’d review books before putting them up for sale. How long that could take, we have no idea. Kobo probably doesn’t know, either. Sounds like a gargantuan task. Better filters would have served them well.

Two of my crime novels were pulled from Kobo.

Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus disappeared from the store. Bigger Than Jesus is now back, but not for long. I’m pulling it from Kobo and everywhere else, except Amazon and CreateSpace. I’ll also begin selling paperbacks from my website (but more on that another time.)

Some authors are (or were) making money with Kobo. Amazon is not the only game to play, so you’ll see the same advice everywhere: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket! Put your books across all platforms! Amazon’s free books scheme with KDP Select doesn’t work anymore.”

Today, I’m going to challenge the egg basket wisdom. First, let’s talk Kobo beef.

1. Kobo’s platform is flawed. Where are the reviews? And (I’ve said this many times) why aren’t they stealing the best ideas from the other platforms? Amazon is the model they aren’t emulating. Kobo isn’t alone in this regard. Over at Smashwords, the website is still very ’90s. Still!

2. Instead of taking the time and energy to spread ourselves across many platforms, I suggest you look where books are actually moving. This won’t help you if you have one book, but after a few, you know which platforms butter your bread and which poop in your cereal bowl. My books sell on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and in print. That’s it. Avengers, assemble! Activate the 80/20 rule! 

3. Some people love Kobo. They’re in a lot of markets and there are nice people there. I’ve spoken to someone from the company and she couldn’t have been nicer. I’ve heard interviews on the Self Publishing Podcast. Kobo has awesome representatives who communicate their respect for authors and care about what we’re doing. I want to love them! But the company screwed up all that good will in one big, bad move that was not thought through.

4. Then I got this email this morning from Draft2Digital, informing me that a book I published to Amazon (within 24 hours) back in February 2013 was finally on, you guessed it, Kobo.

Screen Shot 2013-10-23 at 9.27.16 AM

Barnes and Noble published Six Seconds in July and Kobo’s right on the case, finally getting my book about marketing with the Vine app out into the world today? What the bloody hell? It’s been so long, I’d forgotten I’d even selected them as a sales channel.

Trying to publish this book with Apple is also a hassle. That’s two of Amazon’s competitors failing the cost-benefit analysis. The tragedy is that Amazon doesn’t have to be perfect to dominate. It just has to avoid the razor wire and landmines its suicidal competitors throw themselves upon. In a healthier market, the competition would be smarter and closer on Amazon’s heels.

5. Then there’s the hypocrisy. Kobo says they aren’t for censorship as they pull indie authors. They’re free to publish and not publish what they want, but this was a blanket condemnation of indies. That no doubt pleased traditional publishers. It must have been particularly gleeful for the legacy publishers of erotica who were immune from the cull.

It has to be said, there are all kinds of works of literature that contain intense violence. Many of my books contain violence, but not all were pulled. I’m arguing none should be pulled because, if you want to protect children from pornographic ebooks, it’s your job to make sure your kids don’t buy them. Kobo is a company. Parents are parents.

I don’t want media companies to act like parents, especially when we’re talking about fiction. I had parents already and look how that turned out. I’m nobody’s kid anymore and I’ll make my choices for me and my kids, thanks. (As all preachers’ kids know, it’s the suppressed and repressed ones that go too wild once they hit Frosh Week, anyway.)

6. Okay, so that’s enough spanking Kobo. Let’s talk book marketing strategy and rethink it.

As far as KDP Select goes, it’s true it doesn’t work as well as it did. However, does it not work for so many authors because they’re expecting it to work on its own? The book has to be strong and the cover art must be awesome. We all know that, but are author-publishers stopping short, assuming those variables are enough gas for their sales engine? How many oft-referenced cases of KDP Select “failures of free” are actually KDP failures? Are authors doing enough to promote those free days?

Using Author Marketing Club tools and Bookbub, Freebooksy and other advertising and promotion services in combination with free promo days through the exclusive Select program, This Plague of Days, Seasons One and Two became bestsellers. This was long after many authors abandoned KDP Select because “free doesn’t work anymore” became common currency among us.

Your cost-benefit analysis may be different, but I urge you to do a cost-benefit analysis.

As pressures mount, spreading ourselves everywhere takes time and energy we could be using more profitably. If you sell books on Kobo, keep them. If you’re that one author who makes cash selling on Sony or Diesel, go for it. The only platform I’d say everyone should to be on is Amazon because they’re the bus that’s gassed up.

“But what if Amazon makes the same mistake Kobo did? They’ve pulled books willy-nilly before! Isn’t Kobo’s fiasco an example of why we have to spread our books to all platforms to minimize risk?”

After the hoopla Kobo’s decision caused, I don’t think Amazon would be or could be that stupid. Besides, it’s not about allegiance to a platform or blind tribalism. It’s going with what works for you. At worst, if you really can’t stand being in Amazon’s exclusive contract, you can reevaluate and bail at 90 days.

True, spreading everywhere insulates us from dumb mistakes, but it would also minimize potential profit drastically. Unsuccessful businesses play not to lose.  Play to win. I mentioned I sell some books on B&N, but the return is so low, it’s not even a factor. Until the other platforms come up with better ways to market us, Amazon is my puddin’. 

This is math. Look at where your books are selling.

Put your time and energy into getting more books into those channels and leveraging that advantage with books like Let’s Get Visible by David Gaughran. (And if you haven’t published yet, buy Crack the Indie Author Code by some thoughtful and encouraging idiot.)

Are you selling even a little bit on Kobo? Who cares? Use the 80/20 rule. Focus your energy where it does the most good. That’s why I’m pulling my crime novels from Kobo. I had other plans to market the Hit Man Series. Now I’m going to pull them back to KDP Select and leverage that series better than I did the first time. I wasn’t in the Author Marketing Club when Bigger Than Jesus came out. I only have two series, so I must reevaluate non-Amazon successes and failures and act accordingly.

This is also emotion.

I admit it, emotion plays a role. Nothing’s broken so I’m not in a rage. I am annoyed. Kobo made their decision for short-term reasons that did not respect indie authors. We are the publishing revolution, remember? They pulled our books without warning. We don’t matter to them and I’m hurt. It’s not just the principle. It’s the money.

I’m sure I don’t matter to Amazon, either, but at least Amazon can publish my books in a timely manner and move them. Ultimately, I’m not leaving because of Kobo’s instability. My annoyance led me to reevaluate what Kobo was doing for me. I’m not punishing Kobo at all, but the fact that I can pull my crime novels and not hurt myself tells me I should refocus my energies.

I’ll go back to Kobo one day, if they’re still around by then. Who knows? Maybe this debacle is just what they needed to reevaluate their platform and marketing strategies, too.

Tips and inspiration for the indie author's journey to publication.

Tips and inspiration for the indie author’s journey to publication.

~ Hi. My name is Chazz and I’m much nicer than I appear here. I’m usually pretty sweet and funny unless I’m writing suspense. Then the serrated knives come out and things get twisty. I love people, though books give me less back sass. I’m a contrarian, but not for the sake of being contrary. I just don’t understand how the world works. There are so many example of how it doesn’t work, I get distracted easily.

I believe in love and readers and curiosity and the written word’s power to release dopamine. I’m in the brain tickle business and I’m grateful for that every day. Find all my books here for the foreseeable future.

Filed under: author platform, Books, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Defying expectations: When going the other way works.

Season Two is out today! To learn more about This Plague of Days, please head over to ThisPlagueOfDays.com. 

To order the book from Amazon, please click the affiliate links in the right sidebar at AllThatChazz.com. Thanks.

Now, on to some wicked confessions of incompetence, poor judgment and a sad lifetime of reflexive defiance.

Defying expectations has not, in general, worked well for me.

At an old job, I was joking with office staff one day. I’m a funny guy. I thought I was killing. Then I looked up and a waiting room full of clients gave me that look. You know that mean look? I smiled and said, “I’m sorry. I was showing too much personality again, wasn’t I?” I wandered away wondering why boring people get to control everything. Yeah. Bad attitude, I’m sure, but don’t boring people run the world? And look what they did with it!

And so it is with books. I have a defiant streak I’d probably do much better without.

Self-help for Stoners is a funny little book of short stories with a few preachy moments. I might have sold more books if I’d ditched that title. But I might have sold less, too. My thinking was, at least I’ll hit an identifiable niche. Try it, for stoners and non-stoners alike.

I was so flummoxed that Self-help didn’t sell more, I compiled my big book of short stories. I put together my award winning stories and, desperate to be taken seriously, made some “serious” fiction. Pathetic lack of confidence on my part. Murders Among Dead Trees has a lot of gems in it. I’m especially proud of the three-star review that acknowledged the great writing but said it’s full of violence and “bizarre themes.” Sounds like a winner to me! It sells worse than “the stoner book.”

With crime fiction, I called the books Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus.

In crime fiction, titles that have to be explained! (It’s pronounced Hay-soose.) Worse? Funny crime fiction! Worse than that? The hero is a Cuban hit man, not a detective. Readers tend to have certain expectations and I defied them with quirky titles that may offend some people at first glance. We usually don’t get a second glance.

I still think those books are fun, fast-paced thrill rides and the people who like them, like them a lot. A pity there aren’t more of those readers, but I’m sure the charm of Jesus Diaz will be discovered over time. In fact, I have several more books planned in the Hit Man Series because apparently I don’t know when to cut my losses. (Try them. They’re damn funny.)

But it turns out having trouble with Authority isn’t bad all the time.

I lost/resigned from another job because I would not bow my head. It’s okay. It was a lousy job and that incident became fodder for Season One of This Plague of Days.

I switched to suspenseful horror with an unconventional zombie serial and lost some rebel cred.

Zombie fans might have hated it because it wasn’t what they expected. Instead, it became a bestseller on Amazon. I made it a serial to further handicap myself, but serialization seems to have worked for me.

A comedian I love by the name of Mike Schmidt named one of his enterprises “The Success is Not An Option Tour”. I love a guy who’s the underdog and Mike’s turned “underdog” into a profession with The 40-year-old Boy Podcast, a CD and flying across the continent to perform his one-man show to a loyal fan base.

I’m not as brave as Mike. I’m make stuff up in a bunker, afraid to go outside. I didn’t set out to proclaim that success is not an option, spit Life in the eye and try to make a living out of attracting chaos and making fine comedy out of it. When I wrote my books, my reasoning was, “That’s weird and different enough to grab eyeballs.”

How weird and different? In Season One, it’s a slow build. I didn’t start in the middle of the action. I showed how the plague began and developed and it didn’t even start with a zombie virus. It started with a world flu pandemic. All the zombie action remains in Europe until Season Two! (Out now. Did I mention that? Right. Good.)

You want weirder? I’ll give you weirder.

The protagonist is a boy on the autism spectrum. Most heroes in zombie books are gun-totin’ ex-military types. Instead, Jaimie Spencer is a selective mute who’s fascinated with words and dictionaries, especially Latin dictionaries! Also, all the chapter titles? They make up one long, dark poem with twisted clues to the future of the story. Poetry! In a zombie book! The survivors argue about God and struggle with finding compassion and worry about losing their humanity. Not much gun totin’ in Season One.

Hm. Maybe I was setting out to fail and screwed it up. That premise sounds ridiculous!

And yet…writing something unconventional worked this time.

Which takes us back to novelist and screenwriter William Goldman who said of Hollywood, “Nobody knows anything.”

I sure don’t. I was just being me. I was just writing the story that pleased me. I followed the Art.

What readers want?

That’s too nebulous, has too many variables and it’s a moving target. I write for me first. I could try to play it safe, but I really don’t know how. Until they perfect personality transplants, I gotta be me. I’m not bragging. I think it would be easier being somebody else.

Filed under: This Plague of Days, What about Chazz?, What about you?, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writers: Are you sitting on the money?

They call it the Cliff. You can do Author Marketing Club and Bookbub and free promotions and blow giveaways out the digital door. You can even start catching fire and getting traction and selling books for (gasp!) actual money. Then, the fall from grace comes. Sales drop off, often steeply. What happened? You ran off the Cliff. Lots of people do. In this post, we’re going to think about climbing back up and promoting our previous works again (and doing it better this time) because I suspect we’re sitting on money.

I’m rethinking the old marketing paradigm that’s always oriented to what’s new. 

It’s the thing we should question most: accepted wisdom. Despite all my efforts, old wave thinking is still permeating my brain. In traditional publishing, you get a short window to get traction and then the bookstores return your books to the publisherCrack the Indie Author Code for credit. That’s the structure of the short tail market. In long tail marketing, our books are up forever (or at least until the cyber war brings us all low). Still, we tend to think of our books as hitting big (or not) and then the graph points down. We’re mimicking thinking and marketing patterns from traditional wisdom because all old ideas are awesome, right? Oh, wait…

Case #1

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while and by not sleeping, I’m finally getting to it. I pulled Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book, Aspire to Inspire from print. I didn’t like the look of the interior design. I’m fixing them and will make Crack the Indie Author Code available in print again soon. (They’re both still out there as ebooks.)

Self Help for Stoners JPEGCase #2

Self-help for Stoners was my first book. It’s funny and strange and with an intermediary. I used Bookbaby for that collection and I want to get it back at Ex Parte Press and put it out myself. I’m sure I can make it go higher once I have full and instant control of the marketing. I queried Amazon about the process today because I’m afraid of losing the reviews. Either way, I do need to steer my ship and reach out to stoners and non-stoners, alike and anew. (If you’re a Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus fan, my luckless Cuban hit man appears first in Self-help for Stoners, by the way.)

This post won’t help you much if you only have one book to sell, but here are my thoughts on renewed marketing efforts: 

If you have one book, write more. No whining,

If you have a backlist, who is to say what’s old and what’s renewable? You’re the one to say.

If you have a bunch of books, I bet you’re a better writer by now. Why not revisit those books and do new editions?

Consider the power of bundling books. You could enliven your Amazon dashboard with more happy green up arrows. Stop sitting on the money.

Lots of people missed your fledgling efforts the first time. You didn’t know what you were doing. Who did? Any book they haven’t read is new to them. 

The most powerful promotions tend to be the first ones. But maybe that’s because we don’t put the same marketing efforts into books we published a couple of years ago. In digital, the term backlist is less relevant. As long as it’s clear it’s a new edition or a new launch or you’ve added material, what’s the problem? 

Maybe those early efforts flopped because you had a lousy cover. Get a new, better cover* and launch it right this time. With all you’ve learned about marketing since your early efforts, it’s bound to do better, right?

Most fiction doesn’t get stale. Our efforts get stale because we want to focus on the new thing. Maybe the old thing is only old in your mind. With some tweaking, a fresh edit and a new campaign, you might have a book people will love and buy. Reuse, recycle, repurpose. Turn short stories into collections. Open up to new possibilities with prequels to your books. Tie books together. Add to your series. Serialize. There’s plenty of fun to be mined in what you’ve already accomplished.

Your problem with these suggestions isn’t necessarily that my head is full of feathers. Your problem is the same as mine. This will take a lot of time and you feel you’ve already covered this ground. But most of us didn’t cover this ground well the first time. There are new promotional tools now. Yes, time management can be tough and we can only do what we can do. But that’s business. We are not special snowflakes, but we’re letting good stuff go cold.

*About good covers, I know a guy. He’s Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com. He’s an award-winning graphic artist with an extensive portfolio who works well with indies and traditional publishers. Like my covers? Kit did them all. Check out his site. You’ll be glad you did.

Dark Higher Than Jesus banner ad

Filed under: author platform, Books, ebooks, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What should I get upset about today?

I was somewhat amused to find that Goodreads has just about doubled its membership to 20,000,000 members in the last year. They reportedly added 4,000,000 in the last four months!

This post is not about the success of Goodreads. It about perspective and resistance to change.

When Amazon bought Goodreads, remember the wailing that GR had sold out to the Devil? Some threatened to cancel their GR memberships. A few actually did so. I wonder how many have quietly returned?

In a related story that doesn’t look like one, the guys behind Triberr invented a new button for the site a while back. You hold your cursor over the button for a flicker of a second and the post you’re about to share is approved. Soon after, someone complained about the improvement. What did these guys think they were doing? Why can’t we just click? If we don’t go back to the way things were, dogs and cats will live together!

Today? What was different and strange and scary is not so scary. New normals can be dangerous, but not all new normals are equal. Buttons and Goodreads? Not a big deal compared to all the serious problems. For instance, we live in a surveillance state yet most people shrug and ask, “Well, what can we do? Pass the mashed potatoes garnished with cynicism, helplessness and ennui.” Puts a bad book review in the right light, does it not?

I’m not saying we can’t complain. I’m saying that some problems require louder complaints, and action. The Gatling Gun of Despair is firing constantly. Choose your targets wisely.

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Filed under: Amazon, publishing, Triberr, , , , , , , , ,

How I’ll sell more books by studying my author ranking

Before you read this article about author rankings, a quick heads up: I’m inviting you to something fun that could help you in your writing endeavours. The link at the bottom of this article will take you to ThisPlagueOfDays.com for a post you’ll like about the advantages of serialization. At the bottom of that post, click on The Link for the Curious to get a secret (not a spoiler!) about This Plague of Days.

Episode 4 releases today!

Episode 4 releases today!

Go to Author Central and have a look at your author rank. This shows you how you’re doing compared to other authors on Amazon. That’s not very useful information, but there is something to be gleaned from these charts.

Author rank on Amazon is interesting or depressing, depending on your score. However, the public never sees your author rank unless you’re in the top 100. As you click through and look at charts, the blue points are your highest rank on any given day (not your average for the day). The orange point is your placement right now.

These rankings are based on sales figures of digital, paper and audio. (So, as I’ve mentioned in this space, if you aren’t exploring your audio options yet, get on that.)

It’s good to own a genre if you can

If you’re really smart, you picked a genre and tried to dominate it. All or most of your books will be in one category and you won’t have many charts to click through. I’m not all that smart. I think focussing all your energy in one genre is probably a good idea. It is good advice I couldn’t take. I bubble over with ideas for books in various genres. Many of us are cursed that way.

For instance, I came up with an insta-book on doing business with the Vine app simply because (a) I was so enthused about the new app, and (b) I was working on the gargantuan This Plague of Days and felt like it had been too long since I’d published anything new. Not wanting to be forgotten, I wrote and published Six Seconds in one week. (Publishing gave my other books a bit of a boost, too, so there’s that.)

Gleaning what’s good to know from Amazon’s author rank 

I have three books in non-fiction (business and publishing).

For the Hit Man Series, I ranked higher in mystery than I did in thrillers, though I ranked consistently higher in action/adventure and science fiction and fantasy.

I don’t consider myself a sci-fantasy writer. However, This Plague of Days fits neatly in the sci-fi subcategory of apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic.

According to my author ranks, I rank best as a horror writer. I have several books of short stories on Amazon, but since they’re under the too vague “literature and contemporary fiction” categories, my rank there is weaker. Too general doesn’t help. I could and should put Murders Among Dead Trees under the horror category, too. It fits the tone for that collection.

Beware, however, of drilling too deep into a stagnant subcategory. The Hit Man Series sells better when categorized as action adventure and mystery. Hardboiled is a stagnant subcategory Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus languished in too long. They were ignored because I messed up my category choice.

The mind virus is created. Spread the infection. Each of five episodes is only 99 cents each. Get the whole Season for the discount at $3.99. (And if you already have read it, please review it.) Thanks! ~ Chazz

The mind virus is created. Spread the infection. Each of five episodes is only 99 cents each. Get the whole Season for the discount at $3.99. (And if you already have read it, please review it.) Thanks! ~ Chazz

Bonus hint

How can you tell if a subcategory is too small or dead? Check out a few forums on the genre. If the board has few members or the most recent posts aren’t in the current calendar year, uh-oh!)

Don’t major in your minor

People major in their minor all the time. They’re lousy at formatting but they spend days on a task they should farm out to someone else. They should be writing but since they don’t want to delegate, they’re doing something other than writing and revising. The author ranking by genre shows us what we do best by identifying what books people want more.

Author ranking gives us clues how we should categorize our books on Amazon for greater discoverability and tells us what our major is. You could look at bare book sales, but with author rankings by genre, Amazon does that for you in a clearer way that doesn’t allow you to fool yourself with short-term variables. Look for trends across categories for clues to optimize your books’ chances.

What the clues from author rankings told me

1. As I studied my rankings, I was reassured that I made a good choice to pursue the horror category.

2. I have two more books in the Hit Man Series in the chamber, but I won’t pull the trigger on those until things slow down with my plague serial. This Plague of Days, Season Two hits in September, so Jesus Diaz fans will have to wait just a bit longer while I major in my major.

3. As I write the next book about my loveable but luckless Cuban hit man, I’ll amp up the mystery so it fits more comfortably in that category.

4. For the books that perform less powerfully, I have some ideas that will breathe life into old titles as I create new ones.

5. The work that stands alone doesn’t perform as well. I knew this, of course, but I can see it in the charts. This is bad news because I have another huge book that was to be a one-off. Then it occurred to me. This is good news. It’s so huge, I could serialize it as I’m doing with This Plague of Days.

For more on the beauties of serialization, click here.

(That’s also where you’ll find the link to my defiant secret.)

~ Robert Chazz Chute is the author of Self-help for Stoners, Murders Among Dead Trees, Crack the Indie Author Code, Six Seconds, Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire, Bigger Than Jesus, Higher Than Jesus and the zombie apocalypse serial, This Plague of Days. Read, love, review and please spread the word.

Filed under: Amazon, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

My Indie Author Mistake

Crack the Indie Author CodeIf I had to do it again, I wouldn’t call my first writing guide Crack the Indie Author Code. It’s on my sales page and proclaims to everyone I’m indie. Don’t get me wrong. I’m proud to be indie! I make lots of friends here who are indie authors or are aspiring indie authors. I buy inde books and feature indie authors. I’ve learned and gained so much from being part of the indie community.

However, we shouldn’t look indie.

When someone picks up our books, it should not occur to them that it doesn’t come from a traditional (read: huge) publishing house.

A bookstore clerk looked at my books and loved them, adding that they obviously weren’t from CreateSpace. The logo on the spines for my publishing EP IIcompany is Ex Parte Press, but yes, the print copies are done by CreateSpace.  His perception of where it came from affected his expectations.

To a lot of people, indie means amateurish. I know, it sucks and indie musicians and filmmakers don’t have this stigma. Lots of traditionally published books suck yadda yadda. We know. I’m not happy about unfair comparisons, either.

However, let’s help prejudiced people overcome those prejudices by fooling them. Make sure your cover is awesome, your writing is sharp and standards are high. Once they turn from readers to fans, let your indie freak flag fly.

Crack the Indie Author Code will be disappearing from my sales pages soon. It will still be for sale, but it will be pushed down the page by my This Plague of Days serial. It’s eight books plus the print version plus secret variations to come. That will take up a lot of real estate on my Amazon page.

Go here for sneak peaks of This Plague of Days. It’s horror, with twists from Latin dictionaries. 

And GO INDIE! (Sh…Stealth indie.)

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

Amazon buys Goodreads. Mostly? So what?

Death and Resurrection (How appropriate!)

Sometimes change is forced upon us. It sure was forced on me today so I had to redesign this blog. Then I got the news Amazon bought Goodreads. More change. In both cases, it was worrisome at first, but I think it will work out fine. Mostly.

This Plague of Days 0328Today’s trouble started as I redesigned one of my new websites. I clicked a few buttons. Nothing good can come of that. I tried what I thought would be a five-minute experiment with this blog. I found I couldn’t revert to the merely acceptable design you usually see here. (The user interface in WordPress themes is a little different from with my self-hosted blogs, so I hit unexpected snags.) I couldn’t put the broken vase back together and Mr. and Mrs. Brady told me not to throw the football in the house! My five-minute experiment turned into lost hours. I did some pretty creative swearing. 

After I worked through the redesign, I reloaded my lost widgets. That took quite some time. Then, too late, I realized WordPress had saved my widgets. I just had to scroll down farther to find them. I lost a lot of time reinventing the wheel. However, perhaps it’s for the best. I found a couple of things that needed updating and now I’m pretty happy with how the blog looks. I get enough traffic here that it was time to spruce up. I won’t wear a tie, but I had a shower and put on clean underwear for you guys. Hope you like the new look.

Let’s talk about the Goodreads acquisition by Amazon

Some are panicky that this move heralds further world domination by the mighty Zon. Getting Goodreads is good for Amazon, but will it make that much difference to us? Some GR reviewers are saying they won’t be back since their independence has been compromised. Some authors are hoping the change will help them sell more books (yes), revamp GoodReads’ awkward interface (God, I hope so) and clean up the overly hostile atmosphere at GR some have suffered (which probably won’t change.) 

I don’t recall making a buying decision based on a GoodReads review. I prefer the user interface at Shelfari, by the way, but I don’t think I made any buying decisions over there, either. Like most people, I go to where I’m buying and decide there. I weigh genres, covers, descriptions and samples. I read reviews, but I don’t decide not to buy because of reviews. However, not everyone makes their shopping decisions the way I do. I’m guessing most people probably read the reviews and never look at samples. 

I’m not worried about the dreaded Amazon monopoly. Amazon made a good move for Amazon, but I don’t think they’re out to get us. Indie authors are a tiny factor among many larger variables. Interestingly, GoodReads assures us that the links to Kobo will not be shut down and GoodReads will remain an independent entity. I’m sure that’s true…for a while.

The part I don’t believe

Neither Amazon nor GR wants reviewers fleeing to some new, truly independent site. Their announcement about the buy-out makes the right noises about not shutting down the feed to Kobo. However, I can’t believe that will remain GR policy. Amazon is getting their data now and will further optimize with that information. However, if you spent a buttload of money to buy a company, would you let it continue to feed your competitors? I wouldn’t and I’m the nicest guy you know. I’d wait a bit to let the happy PR machine make everyone settle down and get comfortable. Then I’d announce one day that “There’s been a slight change in policy.” Do what everyone feared incrementally and you can do almost anything. I’ve seen it happen before.

I’ll leave you with that quibble, and refer you to the great David Gaughran’s blog, Let’s Get Digital,  where he has a much more sober, non-alarmist analysis. Be sure to check out the comment thread, too.

Happy Bunny Day! I understand he craps chocolate eggs…so…no, I wouldn’t eat that if I were you.

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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