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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Uncomfortable answers to questions about blogging

1. When’s the best time to post to your blog?

There are better times than others to post to your blog. Late at night isn’t generally so good. There’s a lot less browsing after 9 pm and prime time seems to be the morning hours. Mondays are big blog stats days as people ease into their week. Fridays suck, so I post less on Fridays. The earlier in the day and the earlier in the work week, the better.

2. Should you blog every day?

I think you should post only when you have something to say. If your content is rich and if you post often, the more traffic you’ll get. At DecisionToChange, I often blog several times a day, but with short posts.

3. What should you blog about?

Blog what you care about. If you try to blog about stuff that doesn’t interest you for some audience-centric, strategic reason, you’ll run out of gas before long. People say you shouldn’t blog for writers, but of my six blogs, this is the one that gets the most traffic so far and I did get two books out of writing ChazzWrites, (Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire) so there’s that.

4. How long should my posts be?

Shorter and to the point is generally better (though this particular post will get pretty long). I used to write very long essays. It’s better to break them up into a series if you’re writing long. If you’re writing at great length, don’t blog it. Book it. You can sell it on Amazon. That’s what I did with Six Seconds.

5. What’s the least I can post?

You can have a static page you don’t update, but don’t expect a ton of traffic unless you’re doing something else to drive eyes there. I do two free podcasts (All That Chazz and Cool People Podcast) and frequently appear on other podcasts. (I’m on a comedy podcast called Inverse Delirium this week).  Even with that weekly boost, I wouldn’t do a static page. Websites are either growing or dying. If I can’t update a page at all, I’d rather abandon it for a more active, and therefore more useful, site.

6. Can you post too much?

Yes, if posting burns out you or your readers, that’s too much.

If it takes away from your core work (i.e. writing books) then prioritize and manage your time so you do the core work first. I post to six blogs, a tumblr, Youtube, iTunes, Vine, Facebook and Twitter. However, I watch almost no TV and writing is my full-time job. That list of social media belongs on the secondary activity, fun stuff and stolen moments list of things to do. Writing new stuff, editing and revising is always number one.

7. Where do you get your ideas for blog posts?

My life and work is research. I’m interested in making kale shakes healthier and more appetizing, so I find out about that and share the wealth. I’m interested in all aspects of the book business and subscribe to various feeds that feed that passion.

8. If you talk about your books on your blog, is it spammy?

Some might complain I talk too much about my own books here. My reply is (A) It’s my blog and if you aren’t that into me, I’m not pestering you with phone calls to visit my blog and (B) working my book stable is where all that real world experience comes from. I’m building a cult out of supplying free information, so it’s hard to feel bad about that. I also help writers and promote other authors and their blogs here frequently, so any outrage is misplaced.

9. What’s the most important element of a website?

A. Some websites I self-host and others I don’t. For the long-term, owning it is important. Ownership allows advertising, monetizing and more control.

B. Having a list for people to subscribe to is critical to monetization. (My mailing list subscription is on the front page at AllThatChazz.com and I use MailChimp.) I give new subscribers perks like sneak peeks and shout outs on the All That Chazz podcast. Some subscribers got Advanced Reading Copies of This Plague of Days.

C.  Your website should look good, but opinions vary on what good looks like. Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com creates my web banners. That adds a lot without dealing with webmasters and giant makeovers.

D. Strong content. Everyone says “Content is king.” It’s kind of useless advice because that can be awfully subjective. If you live a sufficiently exciting life with plenty of sex among celebrities, you could rock a diary and make it work. Otherwise, go for useful and newsy so readers feel the value that way.

10. What helps a blog’s readability?

A. List posts like this one.

B. Make it easy for the reader to scan with sub-heads like this post uses.

C. Use a less fancy font to increase legibility. I also bold the type so it’s easier for everyone to read. I dumped the dark background and the light text a long time ago.

11. What are the most useful blogging tools?

A. I think WordPress is the best blogging platform (and essential if you run a podcast.)

B. I love Scoopit! The tool allows me to point readers to useful information on other websites. I can add my thoughts so I’m still adding value without looking like a parrot. I dislike WordPress’s reblog feature because I don’t post pictures on my blogs unless I’m sure there are no copyright issues. Scoopit! allows me to easily delete images. 

C. Rebelmouse. This free tool allows me to post all my blog feeds to one page so if you want to get a look at all I did in a day that was blog or podcast-related, it’s all there in one place. Every blog entry and podcast is displayed in a Pinterest-like array that’s easy to take in and stimulates the senses in a happy way without expensive and tech-heavy interventions. (You can do fancier things with Rebelmouse if you want to pay a bit of cash.)

12. Why should we blog?

(Sorry, I can only tell you why I blog.)

A. Sharing information builds the indie writer community and elevates the general level of expertise, discussion and product quality.

B. Ego and narcissism. I want you to love me and think I’m smart and funny. How else to explain six blogs and two podcasts? Pathetic and needy, isn’t it?

C. Honesty is the best policy unless questioned by Nazis. Honesty builds trust. (See 12B.)

D.  I’ve made friends and allies through my blogs and even a few readers for my books. You might even find a few people willing to be reviewers, ARC readers, beta readers, proofers, donors and helpers. My blogs and podcasts provide ways to help my friends by spreading the good word about great people.

However, if I were blogging just to find book lovers, I’d be disappointed. Only after I’m a huge success as an author using other strategies that have nothing to do with blogging will there be a clamour for all my blogs (and then I’ll have much less time to blog.)

Photo on 12-09-25 at 3.23 PM~ This fall, I’ll tell you about those “other strategies”, after I’ve given them a test run with This Plague of Days.

Have you read the manifesto for artists who want to live forever yet? Read that here.

Have you heard the latest All That Chazz podcast. The reading slips toward erotica toward the end, so this is the NSFW podcast episode you’ll probably want to hear. Check out The One That Gets Sexy here.

 

Filed under: blogs & blogging, book marketing, Books, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

#Giveaway: The Free Download Experiment

I’m conducting an experiment with my blogs and Vine account with this giveaway.

I’m giving Murders Among Dead Trees to you for free until midnight May 13th on Amazon (assuming that you might like weird suspense with 57 flavors.)

This gift is coming and going fast (that’s part of the experiment), so please act now and click the pretty cover. Hope you love it.

 

Free until midnight May 13!

Free until midnight May 13!

There’s lot of strangeness in Murders Among Dead Trees.

It’s huge, so if you don’t like the flavor of one story, the next one might appeal to the inner demon you’re pretending isn’t there. (That’s adorable, by the way.)

If you like the book, please review it.

Thanks! Enjoy!

Filed under: book marketing, Books, self-publishing, Vine, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Great ebook cover design: More on what to look for

Our book covers must not sucketh.

But how do we make covers that blow readers away?

You don’t have to know how to make a cover to recognize a good one, but it helps to be guided in the principles of solid design by experts. Fortunately, I know a couple people whose art and instruction are incredibly helpful to authors and publishers.

Joel Friedlander’s ebook Cover Design Awards are here! 

Regular readers know my covers are magically manifested by Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com. Incredibly, Kit won another non-fiction design award for the second month in a row.

His previous winner was this little guide to Vine marketing by someone or other:

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

How deliciously self-serving.

Congratulations to Kit, of course. Make sure you read all the comments on Joel’s site to cram all that good art learnin’ inside your brain box.

Filed under: awards, book marketing, ebooks, , , , , , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to stop hurting yourself on #Twitter

I’m in a bind. I hate scolds, but occasionally I fall into that category. Usually, I stay silent when a righteous rebuke is all lined up for the tee off. Not today.

CASUAL INDIGNITIES AT THE MALL

When the cashier at A&W refers to the restaurant as “the store” and my dinner as “your chicken product”, I’m embarrassed to be there. I bite my tongue and swear again I’ll learn how to cook.

When I redeem  a lotto ticket and the counter guy says, “You’re a gambler! Come around to this counter, not that one!” Even though no one else is in the store (and, no matter what, I AM F#$@!%! NEXT!) I say, “Sure.” Then I walk around to the other counter. The controlling nit doesn’t move. I get a lousy two bucks and my dose of humiliation. I swear never to return to this inconvenience store and never again shall I lay eyes on the smug bonehead who runs his petty fiefdom with an iron fist of passive aggression. 

I try to be a nice guy. But the rage…these urges. No wonder I write about killing people. Crime fiction is my passive aggression at work.

BUT NOW…THE CALL TO END TWITTER PROMO MADNESS

It’s time to assert. I try to appear somewhat adorable and mask my true whiny/murderous nature, but the time to stay silent and patient has passed. I’ve asked this before. I’ve reasoned and cajoled. I’ve stopped short of insisting. I said please and thank you. I’ve led, but few followed. It’s time to say it again and to get tougher:

Authors, stop just tweeting Amazon links! Please!  Stop it!

Okay, there are times to do it. If you’re launching a book or doing something different and new, fine. Free days on Amazon spawn a lot of lookalike tweets and we can’t help that. Tweet away! I don’t believe in spam per se, but I do believe in dumb and dumb is dangerous.

It is, of course, entirely up to you what you decide to commit on social media. However…

I’M STEPPING UP BY STEPPING DOWN

I won’t be retweeting those repetitive tweets from now on. To interest readers, you need to offer fresh content and many of my fellow aspirants aren’t doing that. The practice does not help your book and it hurts my Twitter following. I have to tweet content, not air to grow my cult. You do, too.

I’ve retweeted many authors, happily and generously. Well…lately it’s been less happy because I’m too often asked to sow the same seeds in the same field. That’s not healthy for us or the crops. And consumers? They hate it. It tastes like rerun roadkill when they see the same tweet repeatedly. Grow your reader farm: Tweet and retweet more randomly.

Book promotion laziness has fallen into too many Twitter streams. For instance, how about more of a clue what your book is about and/or what genre it is? I know it’s only 140 characters, so be clever and craft your message so we understand. Use hashtags or a short quote. Telling is not selling.

Not everybody’s on board with using fresh, imaginative tweets to seduce new readers so I must participate less. It should be that the more I take part, the more followers I gain. I don’t see that in my stats at the moment.

WHAT WORKS ON TWITTER

What I see is, the more I tweet and retweet fresh content that’s funny or useful, the more followers I gain. The more I retweet stale links, the more Follow drop off I suffer. I want to help with RTs and I often do, but I won’t do so if what you want me to retweet hurts me.

HOW TWITTER FAILS AS ADVERTISING

Unless your title screams exactly what your book is about and you’re hitting the Twitter browser at just the right time, broadcasting your title and a link isn’t effective. This is exactly what it’s not like:

“Oh, there’s an Amazon link to a book called Survive Your Ambulance Ride! and I happen to be having a heart attack right now! Tis kismet! Uh-oh! I can’t feel my left arm! Quick, Helen! Before calling 911, help me click that Buy link! Good thing I have one-click buying! Um…oh, god, the blinding pain! How’s your speed reading, Helen?”

THE MYTH OF HELPFUL REPETITION

Small business owners have always been told that, for ads to be effective, they have to be seen over and over, between nine and twenty-seven times, depending on how greedy the salesperson is. The people telling them that were selling Yellow Pages advertising (or, as I now call it: Yellowed Pages.)

The Crazy Expensive Repetitive Advertising Model might even have been true then. We have more choices now. When I detect you’re trying to skate by on the same bland tweets, it feels less like a marketing plan and more like blackmail: “Buy my book and maybe I’ll stop asking you to buy my book.”

Good news: You can run as many ads for your books as you like, but bury that ad in new, better and varying content. For instance, the content always changes on this blog, but I hope my book covers at least look familiar by now, right? Right?! (What’s left of Chazz’s soul dies a little more under the crush of ice-cold anonymity.)

SOLUTION: GET SOMETHING NEW TO TWEET

Write a new blog post (with plenty of links to your books). Go ahead and go crazy. It’s your blog. Just make the posts helpful or funny and new. We all love New.

Write about the setting for your latest novel (especially if it’s exotic and you had angry monkey sex in a hot tub under a palm tree on your last vacation there.) Tell us what true events inspired you. Get on a podcast and tweet about that. Write a guest post. Reblog more for easy, fresh content your readers will appreciate (and the original blogger will thank you for.) Stop depending on the same tweet to get us to buy that same book. Change it up! Rotate tweets at least! Say something amusing, interesting, offensive, odd, surreal, whatever! Anything! Just stop pounding that same key hoping for a new note. Resolve now to tweet new stuff.

And for Thor’s sake, for readers and for your career,

write a new book!

~ Robert Chazz Chute has recoiled, turtle-like and appalled, at having published this post. He wishes it wasn’t needed. He feels bad making anyone feel bad. He’s distancing himself from this post even now by writing this in the third person. Sure, he means well, but who cares about that? You can hear his latest rant about something else entirely at the All That Chazz podcast. 

Filed under: Publicity & Promotion, Twitter, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Amazon sales secrets you’re probably missing

When you scan your book sales page and stats, it can be pretty dry, depressing and really not tell you much except what happened in the past. I’m more interested in what will happen and how I can make it so. There’s more information on Amazon than you’re currently using, but it’s all right there if you look. You can use this data to become more profitable. Delve deeper to divine what’s really going on with your readers. Here are some ideas about discovering who your readership is and how to reach them:

1. Categorize for Visibility

Yesterday I mentioned optimizing your books’ visibility by examining your sales and how your books are categorized. You may be invisible in a large genre category, but if you can drill down and pinpoint an appropriate category you could make your book a bigger fish in a smaller pond. In a category that is too general, you’re in a sea of books and harder to find. But don’t just look at the stats and numbers Amazon supplies at Author Central. There’s much more you can do. Let’s go further than the usual cursory glance at graphs, numbers, green up and red down arrows.

2. Surprise: Paperbacks versus Ebooks Revisited

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

“You will laugh your ass off!” ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

Micro-publishers are often told that ebooks are the crux of our business and that’s where our focus should be. I agree that’s true in general but that doesn’t hold true for all books.

Naturally, we often compare sales of one book to another. Each of us probably has a good handle on which of our  books sells most and least, if only for curiosity’s sake. Now compare each ebook against its brother in paper. I discovered one of my books in paperback, Self-help for Stoners, outsells the ebook version. I’ll hold back on making easy jokes about why this would be (Okay: Paper makes for good rolling after you read it. Happy, Stoner Stereotype Brigade?)

The why is just guessing and doesn’t matter, but the what is significant to me. It tells me the revamp and reload I’m planning for Self-help for Stoners (also discussed in yesterday’s post) is worth my time. A new edition in paper will be worth the effort.

The same thing is happening with my writing and publishing guides. I’m sure this is so because they are reference books. According to a recent study, students still prefer paper reference books to ebook texts. Since they sell better in paper than ebook form, I plan to reformat Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire

When I revamp these paperbacks, I’ll sell them in a smaller size. They’re currently huge honking trade paperbacks. I couldn’t get them down in size on my first attempt, but the next edition will be more like a thick 5 x 9. If the software won’t cooperate, I’ll call on a friend who is a book designer to help. With a smaller format, I’ll be able to bring the price down and sell more paperbacks. (Expect the format change at the end of summer to coincide with release of my next guide on writing and publishing. Don’t wait! Get them now or grab the ebooks. People are loving them.)

3. “Frequently bought together”

Crack the Indie Author CodeFrom your sales page topped with your author bio, click through to see what’s selling under the “Customers Also Bought” list.

We spend a lot of time, energy and free giveaway days trying to get on this list on other author’s sales pages to increase our books’ visibility. When Self-help for Stoners came out, over time it became clear that readers found me through my connection with director Kevin Smith. On the Self-help for Stoners sales page, Amazon still has my book paired with his book, Tough Sh*t, under “Frequently bought together.” However, on my main sales page, Kevin’s not on the author list anymore (discussed in #4). I noticed him dropping away as other authors took his place.

If your book is paired with another author’s, you could work together to promote both books, either through advertising together or doing a podcast for mutual benefit, for instance. 

4. “Customers Also Bought Items By” 

On your main sales page on Amazon, look at the list of authors under this category, down the right sidebar. Number one for me as of this writing is John Locke. That makes sense since Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus are funny and fast-paced crime novels with contemporary references. (I’m suddenly self-conscious about constantly plugging my books here, but since it’s my damn blog and I’m drawing on case study experience — poof! — I’m over that self-consciousness. I’ll hold on to all the other neuroses, though.)

Here’s the current screenshot from my sales page:

Screen Shot 2013-01-21 at 3.07.29 PM

If the same authors turn up consistently over time, that’s a stronger indication you share a common niche and audience. The Guy Kawasaki occurrence here is no doubt because he just came out with APE and that’s the identical reader demographic who would go for my Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire.

How is this useful and what does it tell you?

Aspire to Inspire eBook JPGThinking about the authors on your page could give you an idea where your readers are coming from. For instance, if you did a blog tour and soon noticed a familiar author on your sales page list, it would serve you well to guest blog for them again or host them on your blog.

It’s rare in book marketing that we can identify a causative marketing solution. That’s positive feedback that is actionable. (Is “actionable” too jargony?) Usually, when we see our sales go up and down, we can’t link it to a particular event. For instance, maybe your sales today came about because of a recent press release or maybe it was that giveaway you held two months ago. Who knows? Establishing causal relationships between promotion, publicity and sales is rare unless you’re doing a measurable campaign (like a rewards program, for instance.) Whenever you can identify something that worked, do it again!

I know a couple of authors on my “Customers Also Bought Items By” list personally. I suspect they show up here because they’ve been kind enough to promote me. I’m especially pleased to see Chuck Wendig on this list. I don’t know him. All we’ve exchanged are a couple of funny tweets and I’ve read a couple of his books. However, we both wrote funny writing advice books, so that’s undoubtedly the common audience.

From what I know of the other authors, it suggests to me that I’m hitting male readers somewhat. I reach writers who read about writing and publishing, of course. However, from that list, I suspect most of my readers are female, between thirty and fifty-six, well-educated and into suspense with romantic elements. It’s my crime novels in the Hit Man Series that will make the splash with most of them.

What this analysis could reveal

I want to know who reads my stuff so I get more ideas about how to reach them. That helps me target bookBigger_Than_Jesus_Cover_for_Kindle reviewers who have demonstrated that they tend to like similar work by authors on my “Customers Also Bought Items By” list. It might also help me choose which blogs to apply to for a guest post. If the authors on this list have already guest blogged there, that’s a clue. I might also request guest blog spots from some of the authors on the list directly since we already have readers in common.

This awareness is most helpful by finding those authors most like you. Watch success and emulate it. What might I learn from these authors whose audience overlaps with mine? I could learn a lot from figuring out where my fellow authors appear, which book reviewers adore their flavor of madness, how they handle their blogs, their book releases etc.,….

I loved Stephen King’s On Writing, but as much as my Maine town has in common with Derry, I can’t learn much from him about reaching new readers with a shoestring book promotion budget in the New World Ebook Order. In the author hierarchy, Mr. King is on a distant planet from little old me. Authors closest to me talk my language and we can relate to each other’s problems.

What this analysis shouldn’t tell you

Don’t avoid engaging your audience by relying on numbers and conjecture. The real fans will tell you what they like best (and, if polite, let you figure out what they liked less by simple deduction.) I don’t write what I’m told to write, but I listen. Readers have told me that, after reading the Poeticule Bay short stories, they want full novels about the creepy town in Maine everyone wants to escape. That bumped it up on my priority list. Others have emailed to request that I please get to that dystopian thriller with the autistic protagonist I mentioned once. I’m on it. Thank you for your encouragement and support as I prioritize what comes next from Ex Parte Press.

Love acknowledged and that said, I write what I’m inspired to write. This analysis is to figure out how to be found by more people, not to figure out what to Higher+than+Jesus+Front+1029produce before I’m found. I’m not interested in identifying my audience so I can try to write for, or pander to, any one demographic. That’s artificial and would yield sub par results (at least in my case.) I write for myself first and hope others enjoy what I enjoy. The writing, insulated from any audience but one, comes first.

This analysis gives me ideas about how to help readers discover my books once I unleash my mind viruses upon the world. In art (or Art, if you prefer) the customer always comes second. I don’t chase markets. I stay true to my vision. The market will chase me…eventually.

Me B&W~Robert Chazz Chute writes blog posts that are way too long. He even (by Thor!) writes about himself in the third person in that little bio thingy at the end of blog posts. He’s also the nut behind the All That Chazz Podcast. But perhaps, if you aren’t allergic, he’s your kind of nut. Find out at AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: Amazon, ebooks, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Market A Spy Thriller With Zombies In 2013

MSG Cover

Armand Rosamilia is the badass author of Miami Spy Games and much more. Today he guest blogs on leveraging cross-genre marketing for more book sales and happier readers.

Is it a spy story? A thriller? A zombie tale? Yes. Yes. Yes. But so much more!

I’ve self-published many a novella and short story in my time writing, and they have been pretty straight-forward in regards to subgenre: the Dying Days series is about zombies, Skulls And Bones collection is horror, Keyport Cthulhu is Lovecraftian horror, Death Metal was a thriller, and the Birthday Series (writing as K. Lee Thorne) is erotica. Regardless, there were a few slight mixes of genre, but I could put a finger on each pretty quickly when asked.

Miami Spy Games? Not so fast. The fun, for me as a writer, is knowing I have a great publisher backing me up in Hobbes End Publishing. They set everything up and let me just write the story. I enjoyed that, and I got lucky with a great cover and marketing plan. But in interviews I get asked all the time what the genre is. My cheat answer? It depends on who I’m talking to.

Recently I was a guest on the Zombiepalooza Radio Show, and I talked about it and worked the angle it was a zombie story with spies and thrills mixed in. I’ve done interviews for websites that cater to thrillers and crime stories, and I don’t talk so much about the zombies. Obviously with a title like Miami Spy Games: Russian Zombie Gun, you can figure it out. But the focus on the spies and the thrills is the most important part.

This year, with so many eBooks and print books being poured into the already huge system of releases, you need to keep your head above water and see if you can get noticed. When I mention zombies to people, quite a few are turned off immediately. They have no interest, but if I hit them with the word thriller or spies, they might be. Or vice versa.

The key is to know your current target audience and see how you can hook them with something as simple as ‘yeah, I wrote a cool story about zombies.’ Adapt and market your book the way you need to in order to sell it.

67113_196559600480167_927925947_nIf you have any questions about the Miami Spy Games series, I’d love to hear them: armandrosamilia@gmail.com

Miami Spy Games on Amazon Kindle only $3.99!

 

Filed under: book marketing, Books, Guest blog post, publishing, , , , , , , , , , ,

The sorts of people a writer needs

"A quick-moving plot with lots of surprises and a clear-eyed examination of addiction."

“A quick-moving plot with lots of surprises and a clear-eyed examination of addiction.”

I used to have this fantasy about being a writer: I’d take vengeance on all my enemies through a thin veil. (Did that and continue to do so. Ha! Take that, Norman!) I’d make serious money. (Not yet. Working on it. So far, it’s just cartoon money.) And finally, instead of an acknowledgments page I’d have a “Ha! Told you so! Page”. I wanted to say I did it all on my own. I believed what Hitchcock said about film: A writer needs a pen, a painter a brush and a director, an army.” He was wrong. We write in solitude, but it takes an army to get it produced, pretty and read. Here, in no particular order, are my four-star generals and uber-admirals:

1. Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com. He’s a graphic artist who is really good for indie authors (and trad authors, too). His book covers are great, but it’s his patience and determination to get it right that compel me to promote him at every opportunity.

2. Mark Young of MondaysAreMeatless.blogspot.ca. Mark is the fellow writer who read a twist in Higher Than Jesus and said, “I don’t buy it. Try again.” He’s the one who told me I was being too coy about the major sex scene. He also tells me what’s working so his edits and suggestions aren’t a moving target. Mark’s input has helped me make better books.

3. Brian Wright is one of my beta readers. When he came back with comments on Bigger Than Jesus, we talked for three hours and he gave me an idea for the most clever murder ever in Higher Than. It’s fun to know weapons and explosives experts. It’s scary what he knows…stuff people aren’t supposed to know.

4. Eden Baylee. Eden is an erotica writer who got me involved in the campaign to help Joshua, a young man with leukaemia, early this year. By participating in the campaign, I met a lot more great people. We helped Joshua (his father is the great Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl) and Eden is very supportive of my work, encouraging likes and follows and even interviewing me on her blog. (Fun interview. I was too honest. It’s NSFW.) Check out Eden’s books here. 

5. I wanted a radio show to reach out to strangers worldwide. Dave Jackson at the School of Podcasting helped me with my author website and got my podcast, All That Chazz, up and running.

6. She Who Must Be Obeyed. She makes Me at My Desk possible. That’s especially good because Me in the Real World doesn’t work so well. Plus she’s hot and right about everything. Can’t complain. 

7. Jeff Bennington, author of Reunion. Jeff was an ally early on. He designed my first book, Self-help for Stoners, in print and has given me a couple of great cover blurbs. I always make sure to read his informative and encouraging updates on The Writing Bomb. A good guy to know.

8. Armand Rosamilia, zombie master and author of many, many booksArmand’s made it clear he’s a fan of this blog and he gave me a great cover blurb for Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire. But there’s another reason I like Armand: He’s got a professional writer’s work and word count ethic to emulate. He doesn’t know it (until now) but he’s one to watch because he’s a pacer and regularly posts his progress on his blog. If you can keep up with Armand, you’re writing plenty.

9. Claude Bouchard, author of Vigilante. I’m pathologically shy about asking for cover blurbs. When I approached Claude, he couldn’t have been more friendly. He read, reviewed and ended up blurbing Bigger Than Jesus. He treats fellow writers as part of a community and he also took the time to teach me a few things about Amazon listings and building a following.

10. You. If you read this blog, buy my books, review my books or listen to my podcast, I appreciate it. You’re in the army now (for Art’s sake). Thank you for your service.

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

2012: The Peak of Independent Authors?

See on Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction

Back in October, when my sales weren’t really strong, I simply figured everyone was waiting until mid-November to get their early Holiday shopping in. Once December hit, I’d be off to t…

Robert Chazz Chute‘s insight:

Today’s disturbing observation comes from the King of Disturbing, zombie master Armand Rosamilia. Learn more and soak up Armand’s brutal honesty at the Scoopit! link below.

We can look at falling sales as a challenge to write more. (I do.) We can try to  find new and creative ways to market. I agree, though I’m not sure what that manna from heaven might look and taste like, if it arrives. We can write better books, though sadly, it’s actually debatable how important that really is. (See Fifty Shades of Gray…actually don’t! Buy a book from an author who could actually use the dough to eat.)

A while back, a fellow author confessed she saw no need to buy any books, ever again. Why buy when so much is free? I confess I’ve ridden the KDP Select free train and contributed to that problem. I can’t say Amazon’s  destination is riches with those magic five days of free. Last I checked, with Kobo, it’s free as much as you want (!). It shakes the foundations of the market when an author says she sees no reason to purchase a book.

To that, I say we must develop our voices so our reader base appreciates our unique, special snowflakeness. I don’t think authors are interchangeable, but with infinite choice, prices do fall toward zero. (I’m still betting on my unique voice and sticking with my prediction that all ebook prices are about to rise. Mine will, anyway. We’re going to be cheaper than big house ebooks, but compete on the new algorithm’s terms.)

It’s not that the Mayans were right and it’s not about a false sense of entitlement. It’s that if book sales are really bad across the board, we don’t care much if it’s the end of the world. Am I worried about the end of the world? No. That solves the VISA problem. Am I worried about the state of publishing? I’m writing this under my desk in the fetal position.

(Armand’s not alone scary observations about book sales. Author Derek Haines wrote Self-published Authors Get Ready, You’re being Dumped on his blog, The Vandal. Find that at this link: http://bit.ly/WQdWIu)

Mull both links and riddle me this, Batman: Are you hopeful that post-Christmas morning (after all those new tablets and e-readers are unwrapped) authors might then feel a sales deluge?

Sucking my thumb… ~ Chazz

See on armandrosamilia.com

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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