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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

To Tweet or Not to Tweet? That is the Question.

Yesterday I mentioned ReaderScout.com to keep an eye on price drops Amazon may put on your books without you knowing. Today, I have useful alternatives for book marketing, graphics, and social media.

  1. Goodreads can be good, but it would be a lot better with less drama. You probably already know the upsides and downsides of GR’s rep. Though it’s owned by Amazon, it still has its old clunky user interface. Infamous for harsh reviews, bullying, and lack of moderation, it’s not always a fun place to hang out. Authors get called out for bad behavior (good), but not so with readers behaving badly (less good). It’s a site best suited for avid readers. I admit, it’s a huge platform that can be useful. However, authors must tread very carefully. It’s all eggshells and landmines over there.

    I’ve just signed up for bookwyrm. Upon further research, there are many more sites available for readers to find and track books and authors they enjoy. Here’s a link to a comprehensive article at Rigorous Themes. Though many of these sites aren’t as well known, there are readers there. It might serve you to be a bigger fish in a smaller, friendlier pond.
  2. If you’re writing for profit, you need to market your books. Personally, I’m fed up with Facebook and Amazon ads, so let’s talk TikTok. Many authors are flocking to TikTok in hopes of getting traction on #booktok. It’s a great platform in many ways and I just love, love, love seeing so many people who love, love, love fiction! You may notice, however, that much of #booktok is about the same books over and over again. If you break through, it’s fantastic.

    I’m using TikTok wrong in that my page is not just for readers, but also for other writers. It’s best to stick to a theme, but I just can’t shut up about writing and book publishing, In addition to talking about my books and recommending other books, I’m often on #writertok and #writingcommunity. I frequently pontificate on stuff on topics I could be covering here. I know that, but video is fun and I reach more people daily using video than I do with blog posts.


    Find me on TikTok @therealchazzchute. It’s this blog, but shorter, faster, pithier, and with my sexy, sultry tones. (Sorry about the face.)
  3. What else can you do to market your books? Graphics for your ads, blogs, and extra content, bien sur! But how do you do that? Photoshop used to be a gimme on Apple computers, but they took that away and now it’s expensive. Bookbrush can be useful, but it’s not cheap, especially if you opt for the escalated options with more deliverables. Here are your Bookbrush pricing options:

There’s the free and paid version of Canva and Picmonkey. Of these, for ease of use, Canva is my favorite.

However, if you’re marketing aggressively and want a free graphics option with the muscle of Photoshop, check out PhotoPea. The deliverables are powerful, and did I mention it’s free? It’s free. Free is our friend.

4. And finally, you know we have to talk about it. To tweet or not to tweet? That is the question.

Elon Musk has proven he’s no Tony Stark. He’s Phony Stark. His takeover of Twitter has been ham-handed and I don’t think I need to go into details on those facts. I’m still on Twitter because I’m familiar with the user interface and I’ve built a little following there. It’s still where a lot of people are for as long as it lasts. Perhaps when it goes into receivership, someone else will take it over and unfuck it. In the meantime, where else can we go in case Twitter breaks?

Alternatives to the Sick Bird

I’ve signed up on Mastodon and Counter Social. My first reaction is that this open-source software is not ready for prime time. It’s bewildering at first glance. Second and third glances, too. Several people have complained that they unwittingly started more than one account before they settled in. Honestly, I’m still not comfortable with either platform.

There’s also the time issue. I’m all for spending those in-between moments on social media that would otherwise be wasted. I’m not for wasting time on social media. Add more platforms and you’re spreading yourself thinner.

To let people know about my latest book promotion, I found myself posting on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Mastodon, Counter Social, and Facebook. For a marketing push, that’s acceptable to me. For everyday use, though? I’d prefer to have fewer platforms to manage. Better to let them fight it out and go with the one that dominates. Until the conqueror takes the battlefield, we’re stuck in a kind of limbo. Setting up a new social media account can be exciting until you realize how hard it is to start all over again building a following.

When all’s said and done, we will go where we find value and where the people are. That’s why you’re still on Facebook. At least there we get birthday reminders, and that’s great value!

P.S. Moments after uploading this post, I found out about BeReal. It feels like Now on TikTok. This whirlwind of new platforms is exhausting. Read the BeReal breakdown on HuffPo.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. Check out my killer crime thrillers and apocalyptic epics on my author site, AllThatChazz.com. (And TikTok! Platform of the future today! I’m @therealchazzchute.)

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

Keep a Wary Eye on Your Sales Pages

I got an ugly and unhelpful surprise this morning. Make sure this doesn’t happen to you.

It used to be that you could go to Author Central on Amazon to check for your latest reviews. I am encouraging you to check your book’s sales pages regularly because, sadly, Amazon is not reliable. Pardon my tone, but my wife is ill, and I’m concerned about that. I’m feeling not so great, either, so my frustration is compounded by seeming to be thwarted at every turn and told to suck it up. (More on that bit of shit further down this post.)

For anyone who has been pushed around. Against those who do the pushing.

The First Assault

Regular readers here may recall that Amazon sabotaged the launch of my award-winning novel, Endemic. I couldn’t advertise it at all (for reasons unknown) in the first critical weeks after its release. I am so proud of that book, and to see its wings get clipped before it could fly was incredibly frustrating. I soldiered on, but yes, I’m bitter. It’s difficult enough to get any novel air and attention without unwarranted obstacles along the path.

Since that shaky start, Endemic has won first place in science fiction at both the Hollywood and New York Book Festivals. It also garnered a Literary Titan award. I know the novel is in the running for the North Street Book Prize since they let me know it’s in the semi-finals. In other words, this one is particularly important to me (and to my bottom line.) Book sales have tanked generally, so Endemic is the central weight-bearing pillar of my tiny castle.

And Now, This

This morning, on a whim, I had a peek at my Amazon author page. It looked fine until I clicked on reviews to take a deeper look. I guess I was looking for a little ego boost. Instead, I got an itch I could not scratch. The reviews for Endemic from the United States were not about Endemic. They were happy reviews of a vacuum cleaner!

That does not help me. (Curses ensued, several quite imaginative and not fit for general consumption.)

I contacted Amazon immediately, of course. While I checked my other books for linking errors, the kind gentleman on the help desk did some research. He couldn’t fix the problem himself manually, so it was elevated to the tech division. He hoped my little marketing disaster would be rectified within five days. I’m not blaming him. He did all he could within a system that could use more organization.

Amazon has been making big changes lately. From adding Goodreads ratings, to categorization limits and snafus, to their new Top Picks feature, maybe they are moving too fast. When any system gets too big, there are bound to be logistics errors and smelly clogs in the plumbing.

Shots Fired

There is another annoyance when legitimate problems such as these arise. Some folks will insist your concerns are illegitimate and gloss over your lived experience. Some who fancy themselves leaders and book marketing experts have a filthy habit of putting a happy face on anything and everything Amazon does to us. They tell you to just write another book, relax, and ignore your crumbling sales data. They suggest that the Zon can do no wrong and everything they do is customer-focused. Uh, nope! Don’t pee on me and tell me it’s raining (and nutritious, to boot!)

It is undeniable that Amazon has done a lot right compared to other book sales platforms. I’m concerned those smart moves may be confined to history. Just because they’re the top sales platform doesn’t make me any less screwed today. If they are immune to criticism when they mess up, it’s like saying cops have all the power so they can do no wrong.

Whenever an author dares to cry foul because their income is taking a direct hit, they get gaslit by those who are comfortable with such chaos. By comfortable, I mean they are privileged enough to have more of a cash cushion. Hint: Some of those knobs aren’t necessarily sanguine about your troubles because they’re making a boodle off their books. They’re selling services to the indie community instead of writing fiction. Their compassion deficit is as deep as their pockets. Don’t listen to people who are too comfortable with your pain. You are not a whiner. You’re bleeding and need a tourniquet and a kind word.

So? What Now?

I’m not going to slap on a shit-eating grin and enthuse, “Don’t worry, be happy!” You can’t trust that all you have to do is wait and they’ll fix any problems. You have to remain vigilant to alert them to problems. The central premise of this blog has always been to track the ups and downs of writing and publishing without the bullshit, so here’s my honest advice:

Check your book pages to make sure the listings are correct. Check again regularly. You can’t set it and forget it because the Amazon platform has become too technically complex to be trusted. Or maybe get into the vacuum cleaner business. They seem to have a bunch of happy customers.

~ Oh, and please do check out Endemic. I’m so pleased with this novel because, beyond the apocalyptic scenario, it’s about people who don’t fit in, how they change and how they don’t. The dedication reads: For anyone who has ever been pushed around. Against those who do the pushing.” That seems especially appropriate this morning. Listings and links for all my books are on my author page at AllThatChazz.com.

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

Amazon Confusion Continues

Many authors have discovered that their author pages are not displaying their full catalogue. Oddly, it’s not actually clear to everyone what’s going on, including the people you talk to at the Zon. From Amazon, I heard directly that they are working on it as a glitch. However, dive into a writing group or two and you’ll find that some of us are receiving a very different message: It’s not a glitch. It’s by design. Mixed signals are frustrating. Beta test? New normal? Mistake? Well, I definitely think it’s a mistake, and today I’ll detail why and what you might do about it.

What some of us are told is that the new algorithm shows Amazon customers an author sales page tailored to their browsing history. For instance, if you’ve read my apocalyptic stuff like This Plague of Days, you could go to my author page and only my other apocalyptic stuff would be served up: Endemic, AFTER Life, Citizen Second Class, Robot Planet, Our Alien Hours, Our Zombie Hours and Amid Mortal Words. You would not see any of my other work on my author page. Following this new modus operandi, there is no place to see my full catalogue on Amazon. You would not see all my crime thrillers. To get links to my full backlist, you’d have to go to my author site.

There are no doubt a lot of authors who have not looked at their author page lately. I habitually check for new reviews through Author Central and monitor sales using Book Report. Again, if you haven’t seen what’s happening on your author page, it’s a good idea to have a look.

To be clear, the books have not disappeared completely from the platform. However, to find them all, you’d have to search by title or by my name. (Searching by author name alone often serves up a mix that is not on point.)

In short: Visibility is down, discoverability is hampered, and your backlist sales are hobbled.

If they stick with this new algo, only a determined fan, not a casual browser, would go to the trouble to find all my stuff easily. There’s a ribbon across the top, but in my experience, readers go down the author page, they don’t click across multiple times. That’s just how people have been programmed to read, and the more a customer has to click, the less shopping they do.

How do I know this fiddling is bad for authors and readers?

I can see the failure of this strategy in my falling book sales. It’s down to a dribble. That’s the key factor for me. Like everyone else, I’ve got bills to pay and I’m more worrier than warrior.

The frustrating detail is that Amazon is such a vast company that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. You know, that cute cliche that actually hints at brain damage? From Amazon, after about 48 hours, I received an email to say it’s a glitch and they are working on it. “Our technical teams are aware of this problem and we’re working toward a resolution as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, other authors are hearing a different story as detailed above. One author spoke to a supervisor who told her (a) they are getting a lot of negative feedback, (b) they tried this before and it didn’t work, and (c) they may reverse course.

Amazon’s priority has always been to optimize the customer experience. I understand that and don’t have a problem with it. The other book sales platforms could learn a thing or two from Amazon’s customer focus. However, this is a case where what’s good for readers is better for authors, too. Maybe we’ll go back to what worked better. Maybe we won’t. While they work that out, my focus will be to try to mitigate the damage no matter what they do.

That’s for another post on another day. For now, please buy my stuff and check on your stuff. If your author page does not display all your wares, let Amazon Central Customer Support know you’re not altogether pleased. Check your income, too. Moving the system with data points will be more effective than an emotional appeal.

Also, please be kind with whomever you correspond. It’s not their fault. The root of this endeavor lies somewhere deep in the Hell Realm where misguided accountants’ avarice and programmers’ warped aspirations intersect to whisper dark incantations over bubbling cauldrons of code slurry.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute, a frustrated multiple award-winning writer with a heart of gold and not enough money. Find all my books on my author site AllThatChazz.com.

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

Amazon Glitches You Don’t Want

I checked my author page today to find that several of my books were not displaying on my Amazon author profile! Several of my most popular books lacked visibility on the Zon. By reloading the page, they might come back and they might not. I just checked this afternoon and even fewer of my books were to be found on my author page! No wonder my book sales have been plummeting.

(It was at this point Rob began to sweat and curse. He had cursed before, but as he reflected on financial ruin, he brought fresh verve and creativity to the activity.)

Visibility on Amazon is always a challenge, but when the problem is indistinguishable from sabotage, it’s time to hit the panic button. I got KDP on the horn very quickly and the rep was nice, but she also informed me that I had to talk to a different department to rectify the glitch. For that, no phone call. I had to send an email. I did so and struck just the right note: polite yet 911 urgent, on fire, yet congenial. The robot told me to expect to wait twenty-four hours, longer if research is required.

In the meantime, what to do, what to do, what to freakin’ do? I reasoned there must be something more to take action on than merely sweating, cursing, and making a TikTok about it.

Action steps:


1. Do what I’m told and wait patiently for a reply. I can do that. (Butt wiggles like a chihuahua that needs to pee.)

2. Direct you to my author site at AllThatChazz.com for direct links to my books.

3. Failing that, please search Robert Chazz Chute on Amazon to find my beguiling suspense and unputdownable science fiction. (Yes, I have some financial ground to make up this month. God, how long has this been going on?!)

4. That done? Read this article from Kindlepreneur about how to deal with suspensions, terminations, and other disasters on the Amazon platform.

5. Go to your author page and see if all your books are there sittin’ pretty. If they are, huzzah! No problem. If not, revisit Step 4.

We now return to my previously scheduled sweating , cursing, and butt wiggling.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute. I pen apocalyptic epics with heart and killer crime thrillers with muscle. I’m really quite sweet and adorable most of the time. Find my stuff at AllThatChazz.com.

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

Two awards! I’m happy.

Find Endemic on Amazon

Happy News!

My apocalyptic epic, Endemic, won two awards recently! The novel won the science fiction and horror category at the New York Book Festival and I just found out it won a Literary Titan Award. This is my tenth award for my writing, but it never gets old.

Endemic tells the story of Ovid Fairweather, a misfit haunted by her past who, guided by her dead therapist, makes her way through the end of the world as we know it. Ovid is a nerdy book editor who used to work in traditional publishing and has some sassy takes on her former profession. I suspect that amused the judges. Despite her many quirks, our protagonist is relatable in that she’s been pushed around a lot and she’s fed up with all that. Aren’t we all?

For a more in-depth review, read what Literary Titan had to say about it here.

You can also read my interview with Literary Titan at this link.

Or, best of all, start your binge read of Endemic now

(available in ebook, paperback, or hardcover).

Filed under: awards, Endemic, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What’s Changed in Publishing and What Hasn’t?

If you’re new or newish to independent publishing, you may wonder how much has changed since the early days. Some things have changed little. Here are a few similarities and a lot of differences between now and a decade ago:

  • Ten years ago, champions and detractors of the movement both called our new outlet self-publishing or indie publishing. Indie creators pointed to filmmakers who also called themselves indie. The cred didn’t transfer well. Now we understand that readers shouldn’t be able to tell the difference between an independently published book and the latest from Simon & Schuster.
  • When KDP was new, we called it the Amazon Gold Rush. As soon as the term was coined, everyone speculated how long it would last. There’s no firm time of death, but it’s definitely been over for a long while.
  • Bookbub promotions were much easier to get. Advertising was generally cheaper, though reach was a bit shorter.
  • More book promotion sites are available now, and their newsletter lists are longer than they used to be. (Search book promo sites and you’ll get a lot of options. e.g. Booksends, Robin Reads, Freebooksy, Bargainbooksy, The Fussy Librarian, Ereader News Today, Kindle Nation Daily, Book Barbarian, Rebel Reads, Books Butterfly, and so on.)
  • We didn’t have Vellum to format books. I even formatted one or two books before Scrivener came along. That was a slog. Vellum makes formatting easy now, but Scrivener also serves as a writing tool and is cheaper.
  • There weren’t as many programs to assist with editing and those that were around weren’t nearly as good as they are now. We still need human editors, but the machines are saving us time with the easy catches.
  • The publishing camps were more entrenched in the old days. You were either indie or you had a contract with trad pub. If you were the latter, you pointedly referred to yourself as a “published author” on social media. There are many more trad-pubbed authors crossing the line to go indie or hybrid now. They figured out it was possible to gain control, make more money, and get more transparency. (No more waiting for incomprehensible sales reports from a publisher twice a year. Now you can get a tally of each day’s sales! Whee!)
  • Agents used to wield more power. Some even made sport of the submissions in their slush piles. Then most realized such denigrating behavior was bad for their business. A lot of would-be authors wised up and stopped being wannabes. Rumors of bad agent behavior get called out quicker and the bad smell lingers.
  • Even though you can hire the same editors and graphic designers who once worked in traditional publishing, there’s still some stench on publishing your own books. Outdated ideas die slowly, usually along with the brains that held those stale ideas.
  • As new publishing developed, a bunch of gurus emerged with plenty of courses to sell. They are not all created equal. Be especially cautious of those who break their arms patting themselves on the back. If they get most of their money from courses instead of selling their own books, that’s a red flag.
  • Organic reach used to be easier. You could sell your old book simply by publishing your new book. A popular blog might be enough to gain sustained attention. Now you’ve got to advertise and promote more. Successful authors tend to have podcasts, eager fans, a fast publishing schedule, and newsletter subscribers to the moon and back.
  • Reviews seem much harder to get these days. (Insert heavy sigh here.)
  • You used to be able to respond to Amazon reviews. Few authors thought it was a good idea to do so, but on those occasions when it seemed necessary, it was nice to have the option.
  • Way back when, we were all convinced a savvy competitor would rise and give better terms than Amazon. It was logical and expected. Didn’t happen.
  • One might assume that non-Amazon platforms would copy their business model because Amazon sells more books. (There are exceptions, mostly dependent on genre. However, for most authors, Amazon income dominates.) Anyway, that didn’t happen. Amazon puts customers over curation. Others still treasure curation, so who you know matters.
  • Draft2Digital has made uploading to multiple sales platforms a breeze. I remember contacting Apple in the early days of the revolution. I asked how to upload a book to their sales platform and their reply could be characterized as both bewildered and useless.
  • Goodreads always had an angry contingent of meanies. The site’s user interface was never intuitive. If they were going to fix those problems, surely they would have by now.
  • Audiobooks were a thing, but they were much less accessible to creators. They are still expensive to produce unless you go DIY. However, the future of audio isn’t just bright. It’s loud. Audiobooks demand less attention. You can do the dishes and listen to an audiobook. That’s why we must make the move to record our books.
  • From my sampling of indie creators, many of us are more professional in our presentation than we used to be. As ever, we hate typos and plot holes. Now we have editorial teams, street teams, and beta readers to help us out. Many books from independent creators have more eyes on the lookout for problems than books created by big publishers. To trim costs, many big publishers purged their editorial departments years ago. That’s often where your skilled freelance workforce comes from.
  • Hardcovers on Amazon are a recent addition. Ingram Spark has some competition is this regard now. Endemic is my first book available in hardcover and it is beautiful!
  • There are plenty of podcasts about books and book publishing now and some are excellent. I miss some of the old ones, though. Old heads will remember Simon Whistler’s pod. The Self-publishing Roundtable and the Self-publishing Podcast are gone. So is the Author Strong podcast. Alas. Good times.
  • Good news: There are so many resources available, we can all improve or maintain our level of skill and professionalism.
  • Bad news: Your parents still wish you’d finished dental school or gone ahead and become a corporate lawyer who hates her job, herself, and everyone else.

What I hope hasn’t changed too much is you.

Learned and grown in the past decade? Of course. But I hope your level of passion for making art with words still burns bright. I hope you still get up each morning eager to entertain, inspire, and inform readers. Artists die, but they don’t stop creating. The connections, wonder, and experiences we share live on. If you’re a writer and you have readers, you’ve got a chunk of immortality.

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

What to do when the wheels fly off

Between illness and trying to bounce back from Amazon sabotaging my book launch, December has been rough. However, I’m making the effort to look on the bright side even when things are damn dark. My outlook tends to be grim and all the news events confirm that bias. However, giving up isn’t an option and pessimism isn’t a great strategy. Optimists may be wrong often, but they get more done so they get more chances to score. In my defense, at least I’m usually funny about my grim worldview. (That’s right, Rob! Sublimate your rage with humor.)

One Quick Parable

I was riding a tandem bike with my wife when the road we were on suddenly turned to dirt and then nothing. Dead end. Trying to find our way back in unfamiliar surroundings, we crossed a large property with a mansion on it. A couple of the curious workers looked at us askance but we pedaled by quickly. Then the bike’s front wheel fell off. One of the seats flew off in the crash, too. My wife and I weren’t really hurt, but we found ourselves lost, far from home, and carrying the parts to a broken bike.

The mansion’s owner came out and asked if we were okay. Then he asked how he could help. I was embarrassed and felt like a trespasser. The homeowner, Cyrus, didn’t treat us that way, though. He must have had better things to do than to cater to a couple of forlorn strangers. Instead of shooing us away, he asked us to follow him to the workshop in his huge garage. Together, we worked on putting the bike back together. That wasn’t what pulled my attention, though. What got me was how relentlessly positive Cyrus was. He was both kind and eager to problem-solve.

And all the while, I thought, I wish I could be more like you, you beautiful sunny bastard.

But I could. It does require forming new habits to rewire my neural network. Fortunately, a full personality transplant isn’t necessary. Mindset sets the tone for whatever comes next.

Unfortunately, cynicism is often associated with intelligence.

Skepticism is valuable, and it’s not the same as cynicism. Being mean isn’t smart and being mean to ourselves is downright dumb. I want to be more like Ted Lasso, but I resonate more with Dexter.

My encounter with Cyrus reminded me of three people. There’s Dan, a friend who seems immune to worry. Wayne was a relentlessly positive guy whose presence elevated everyone around him. Then there was the guy who worked at one of the dining room stations at a resort in Cuba. These are people with genuine smiles who are pretty sure things are going to work out okay. If things don’t work out the way they want, they hold on to their sunny attitudes, secure in the belief they can at least make things better.

I don’t always make things better or easier for myself. Anxiety is always ready in my pocket. What I wrote about Ovid Fairweather in Endemic comes straight out of my brain. “When I say, ‘I love me,’ I mean the opposite.'”

Solutions, not Resolutions

I’m very aware that it’s easy to fall back into my old habits of thinking. Between the pandemic and… (gestures everywhere), I can be downright sour. With Cyrus in mind, I’m working on putting things back together. Recently, I ran into someone else who has a lot of that positive Ted Lasso energy. I need that. Besides continuing to watch Ted Lasso, I have to reinforce my optimism with:

  1. Positive self-talk.
  2. Self-care (e.g. healthier lifestyle, more water and vegetables, exercise).
  3. Interacting with positive people more.
  4. Avoid too much negative reinforcement (AKA the dark side of social media).
  5. Avoid overdosing on the news.
  6. Problem-solving.
  7. Fewer side missions, more purpose.
  8. Setting boundaries so I’m not stuck trying to be rational with irrational people.
  9. Especially avoid comment sections on the internet, because trolls used to live under bridges but now they’re coming for our minds.
  10. Focus on what I can control and letting go of the variables I can’t control.

The wheels flew off my metaphorical bike. I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions, so this is just my commitment. Not for 2022. Right now. Nothing metaphorical about that.

We all pretty much know what to do already. That’s not the challenge. The challenge is to be consistent in the application of what we know.

Filed under: mindset, the writing life, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

When I get up, you better watch out

First comes the whining

Anyone remember the fight music from the original Star Trek? Na-na, na! Na! Na! Na! Na! Na-na, na! Na! That’s the soundtrack in my head right now.

November was about fighting Amazon over an unjust review freeze (see the post How Amazon killed My Book.)

December started with a terrible head cold. The subsequent inner ear infection is persistent and has knocked me flat. I’ve got antibiotics going and I think I might be on the mend, but not nearly fast enough to suit me. As soon as the ear infection clears, I’m off to get my booster in the hope that Omicron won’t kill me. I’ll have to choose which of the remaining days of 2021 I will ruin because, though I’m glad to take the booster, each one has made me achy and shaky for days.

Not going to lie, Amazon tanking the launch of Endemic was a harsh blow. The only terrible event I could compare it to would be losing a complete manuscript.

Then comes the winning. I’m looking at solutions.

  • Endemic‘s launch was sabotaged by its own sales platform, so revenue from my masterpiece must depend on the long tail of retail. It’s disappointing, but I’m pointing my nose forward and refusing to look in the rearview mirror. No point in obsessing over that loss now. There’s too much to do.
  • I joined a mastermind group for writers in 2021. They are a good group. The people are encouraging and supportive. The writing room alone got me writing more and more often. Kind hearts help.
  • I successfully completed NaNoWriMo and have an alien anthology to edit because I harnessed the power of friendly competition, consistency, and metrics.
  • I have plans for a non-fiction podcast with a partner. She’s an expert ghostwriter. I’m there to tell jokes and pick her brain on behalf of the audience. Various tech issues and sickness slowed the start on that podcast. We’ve been thwarted at every turn, but the new year is looking good.
  • I have plans for a fiction podcast I’m excited about.
  • A prequel to This Plague of Days is two-thirds written.
  • I have covers in the chamber ready to fire off more projects.
  • I’m looking forward to getting back to my exercise program and joined an on-line group whose focus is healthy living.

The Gist

I’m going to stop there because I learned my lesson about exhaustive to-do lists in 2020. Too many to-dos and not enough to-don’ts can rob us of focus. Overwhelm is dangerous to productivity.

The Commitment

Years ago, I moved to a new city where I knew no one. I started up a business from a cold start with no clients and no allies. A guy I met my first week in the city made it clear he was skeptical of my prospects for success. He ended his list of my disadvantages with, “Aren’t you afraid?”

“No,” I replied. “I’m excited.” (You dick!)

Once I get past this illness, I’ll get excited again. There’s plenty to do to right my ship. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

http://mybook.to/MakeEndemicGoViral
NEW from ROBERT CHAZZ CHUTE

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

How Amazon Killed My Book

I wrote about a book nerd who went through life feeling like a nail. Through an incredible ordeal, Ovid Fairweather becomes a hammer. Tonight, I feel like a nail and my head is pounding.

It took me two years to pen my latest apocalyptic epic. Endemic, partially informed by the unfolding global pandemic, is an action-packed psychological story that pits a flawed and highly sensitive protagonist against a collapsed system. I love this book, but now I’m the one with the sensory-processing sensitivity suffering at the hands of a system. Amazon killed my book. What follows is a cautionary tale.

The Timeline

Endemic launched on October 27, 2021. I soon received three reviews, all five-stars. I noticed a new five-star that appreciated the humor. The next time I checked, that review mysteriously disappeared. Thinking that strange, I reached out to the Amazon Review Moderation team to ask what was going on and could that lovely review get reinstated? Oddly enough, that same reviewer remembered another of my novels and reviewed that one, too. That review of the previous book is still up, no problems. Clearly, the reviewer was not the issue. But what was? My questions and frustrations outpaced the answers I was to receive.

On November 20, I finally heard something from the Amazon Review Team regarding my query. “We removed your review because we detected unusual review behavior on this product and are not accepting reviews of it at this time… Once we remove a review that does not comply with our guidelines, the reviewer may not submit any new reviews on the same product.” This is done to enhance customer trust in reviews. I understand that, but Amazon’s handling of this situation did serious damage to my trust.

In the same email, they invited me to review their community guidelines. I did, and I can assure everyone that didn’t help because I did nothing wrong. When did the review freeze actually begin? I have no idea. From the moment I accidentally stumbled on the problem to now is eighteen days, but it could be longer, taking a mortal chunk the critical first thirty days from launch day.

Innocence does not protect us.

I sent an appeal with three key questions.

1. How long does this review freeze last?
2. Is this a tech issue from an overly aggressive algorithm?
3. How can I appeal or resolve this?


I ended the email with the standard, “Thank you for your attention to this matter.”

The trouble was that there was no attention to this matter. After a two-year hiatus since publishing my last book, my new novel was quickly dying on the vine. I received no reply to the three key questions.

The Twist

The next day I did get a message from someone claiming to be from Amazon Spain. (I suppose my book are available there, but I write only in English so I sell few if any books there.) They wrote:

Hello from Amazon Selling Partner Support,

I understand you are facing issues with customer reviews.

Your account is currently in an inactive status and no further subscription fees will be charged to your account. If you take no further action on your account, it will remain inactive.

That was a little scary. The first thing I did was to make sure Endemic and the rest of my backlist was still available for sale. Yep! So what was this about?

A link was included to take me to a dashboard, but suspecting it might be a scam, I didn’t click it. Instead, I called Amazon immediately. The connection was so bad that the customer service agent sounded like she was underwater. The upshot was that the email was not from KDP, so I could safely ignore it. That line about knowing I was “facing issues with customer reviews” sure made me question what the heck was going on, though. Was the scammer at the root of the “unusual review behavior” setting me up? No idea. When I spoke to someone at Amazon who was helpful, they declined to speculate. (But that helpful phone call didn’t happen right away. Read on.)

Trying again

Hearing nothing from Amazon for a week, I sent a second query. On November 30, I finally heard back, but the answer I got was infuriating. It was strictly boilerplate stuff answering a question I did not ask. Instead, they asked me for specifics on what review had possibly violated Customer Review Guidelines. None that I’m aware of. That was the whole point!

Was this a reading comprehension problem? I have heard other authors are experiencing the phenomenon of disappearing reviews. Perhaps customer support is overwhelmed with queries. Nonetheless, that response was worse than useless. Writers write for many reasons. One is to be heard. I was not being heard.

Finally, a crack of light

Fed up, I tried the phone again and got a helpful agent. John informed me that when there are review freezes, the investigation isn’t supposed to last longer than five days. We were well past that and John was sympathetic to my plight. He asked for a case number, but I was not given a case number from the Amazon Review Moderation Team. He said he would send them an email and encouraged me to send an email again detailing our call. Hoping that would spur some action, I thanked him for his kindness and shot off another email. Hoping for the review freeze to thaw, I detailed it all again. Tired yet? I sure was. Still am.

Then I waited.

And waited. No new emails arrived. I was in limbo. I got depressed. My immune system crashed. I got sick and I’m still recovering.

As I write this, it’s December 9. Last night, someone rated Endemic with three stars, no review. Ordinarily, I’d grumble something to myself about being appreciated after I’m dead. However, that was how I found out the freeze had finally thawed. I began to alert my street team and a fresh, happy review is up! Hurray! Well, not quite hurray. I’m grateful for reviews, but the first month is critical to gaining momentum and getting happy attention from Amazon’s algorithms. Readers love a new book, and my work was frozen in amber for too long. Reheating is difficult and requires a bigger investment in advertising and publicity. (Yes, I guess this post is my stab at the free publicity part. Venting my spleen might also be therapeutic. Am I bitter? Sure, why wouldn’t I be?)

Lessons learned

  1. The Amazon Review Moderation Team is a walled garden. I could phone KDP Customer Support, but not the ARMT. They should probably fix that, but I’m betting it would make for an angry call center with high turnover. There’s a need for the work the review team does and it must be difficult. Crushing hopeful authors should not be one of the bullet points on their whiteboard in the break room.
  2. As noted above, you can do nothing wrong and everything right and still get screwed over. That’s life. But what was the “unusual review behavior”? No idea. Will I ever know? No. Is there anything I could do to avoid this happening again? No. I have published well over 30 books with Amazon, mostly under my name, some with pen names. This is the first trouble with Amazon I’ve had, but am I gun shy now? You bet.
  3. Note that I was never warned that a review freeze had been enacted. I only found out because I inquired. They assigned no case number to the issue. They also didn’t tell me the results of their investigation or that the review freeze had been lifted. Feedback is not their strong suit. (I can’t say for sure what their strong suit is.) As a result, I can’t tell you how to immunize yourself from the same treatment.
  4. I suspect an overly aggressive algorithm, not a human being, is to blame for freeze and review removal. Humans are to blame for not assigning case numbers, failing to alert authors about investigations, and failing to complete investigations in a timely manner. Nor was there any report of the outcome of said investigation. I guess we could point fingers at the programmer who came up with the algo, too. After that initial stumble, the shit rolled downhill pretty fast, huh?
  5. For any cynical readers here, suppose for a moment that, after 30+ books, I did do something to contravene terms of service. I don’t know what that would be, so I couldn’t even course correct were I guilty of something.
  6. As this debacle unfolded, the head of my writers’ mastermind group told me there was probably not much I could do. He was right. Another guru’s answer was, “Don’t worry about it, just keep marketing,” I did waste money on Facebook and Amazon advertising in the dim hope of salvaging the launch. Hard to get any traction on a book with only three reviews, though.
  7. The obvious lesson is to go wide and sell beyond Amazon. That’s not the insurance one would hope, as I explain below. Will I take Endemic wide as soon as it’s out of KDP Select? That’s not the easy answer many might think. It will depend on how high I can get this dead cat to bounce.
  8. Last year a big publisher approached me about going hybrid. I’m reconsidering that offer now. Is that trading one uncaring master for another? Possibly, but it would be nice to be able to talk to a human when they mess up. At least smaller organizations have identifiable humans to speak to.
  9. Due to depression, anxiety, and isolation, the pandemic got me in nasty ways without actually infecting me. That’s why it took two years to write Endemic. Putting my excuses aside for a moment, it might be better to write more and publish more often. That way, this one torpedoed novel might not have been so devastating.
  10. So keep writing, I guess. Sometimes this work feels like an expensive hobby. Sometimes I think about quitting, but what else could I do? This is my last of four careers and I’m unsuited for much else. Fortunately, I had NaNoWriMo to fall back on. November would have been much tougher without it. A little friendly competition among friends kept me writing through this nonsense.

A word about Amazon Derangement Syndrome

I’ve sold books on Amazon since 2010. For the past several years, it’s been my only source of income. I have migrated a bunch of my backlist to other platforms, but frankly, that’s pennies compared to the amount I’ve sold on Amazon. I’ve found it to be the superior sales platform in most ways for me and my genres for over a decade. Amazon gets bookselling right, except when they don’t.

Did I feel trepidation about publishing this post? Sure, but not because I fear Amazon cares what I think. They’ve demonstrated they don’t. The root of my hesitation comes from other writers whose reflex is to defend Amazon no matter what.

Some writers will not entertain criticisms of The Mighty Zon. Their reasoning is that they’re grateful to a platform which provides them income. Where would we be without them? I agree with that to an extent. However, we can point out problems when they exist. Not doing so with Amazon is like saying, “We depend on cops to protect us, so don’t you dare complain when they stomp you for no reason.”

Don’t bite the hand that feeds us, some say. But Amazon didn’t feed me this time out. With discourtesy and caprice, they sabotaged me. As of tonight, the all-time income from Endemic’s ebook, paperback, and hardcover is $104.34. I spent more on that getting author copies.

Hint: If your reflex is to dismiss my little troubles, go away. If your inclination is to blame the victim, assume I did something shady, or leave a nasty comment, go away. I’ve already been sufficiently abused through this ordeal. How badly? As I write this, Endemic is #490,296 in the Kindle Store, #4,303 in Dystopian Fiction, #5,461 in Dystopian Science Fiction, and #8,220 in Science Fiction Adventure.

Endemic deserves much better.

There’s risk in writing for a living, of course. I’ve worked in trad and independent publishing and I accept the dangers of my calling. However, do you? Like I said, this isn’t merely whining. This is a cautionary tale. If you are about to embark on a writing career, this is your warning from someone who has been at it for quite a while. Don’t bank too hard on one book. There are so many variables you can’t control. There are venomous snakes in the grass and booby-traps. Best-laid plans and all that.

Is there hope? In the long tail of retail, yes. Endemic will be available forever. It’s a solid book I’m proud of, bound to entertain. However, barring a stellar turnaround, I’ll probably always go to sleep each night thinking my hard work got shortchanged. I have an eidetic memory for unfortunate events and this sting will feel hot for a long time.

Some think the writing life isn’t work. True, sometimes the words come easy. I’ve often found this work is wonderful even when it’s not so easy. And sometimes, like any great love, it can break your heart.

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

Curious about my criminal past?

Brooklyn in the Mean Time

If you can’t remember your sins, are you still guilty?

A long time ago, I ran away from home. Coming back is going to be murder.

On the run from bad debts and dangerous people, petty criminal Chazz Chute tries to start over and do things right. However, his father doesn’t know him anymore and his brother wants him dead.

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Filed under: Books, , , , , , , , , ,

http://mybook.to/OurZombieHours
A NEW ZOMBIE ANTHOLOGY

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

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An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

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Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

You can pick this ebook up for free today at this link: http://bit.ly/TheNightMan

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