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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Selling Books: Strategy Versus Tactics

Today we’re talking long-term versus short-term, investments is your author career versus the expenses along the way. It’s going to be honest and some of it is going to be painful. Strategy versus tactics, here we go:

But first, FYI, I’m running a promotion for the first book in my apocalypse trilogy, This Plague of Days. Pop over to AllThatChazz.com to grab your copy for just 99¢! The sale ends September 2.

I wrote This Plague of Days over several years. Though I’ve written many books since, my greatest earning power is in the backlist, possibly because I wrote TPOD when it was much easier to get reviews. (Separate issue for another time.) Though TPOD is my biggest seller, even successful books need a boost and a refresh. (Google the art of The Stand, for instance. It’s interesting how the cover art changed over the years.) TPOD will be getting a fresh face with new covers in the near future. In the meantime, I got a Bookbub. Let’s talk a little about selling books, short-term and long-term.

On the advice of several trusted author friends, I have moved away from giving books for free as a promotional device. If someone can afford to read on a phone or an e-reader, they can afford 99¢. I’ve heard rumblings that free isn’t as effective as it used to be. Selling at 99¢ is not a profit strategy, either. My first aim is to entertain, delight and absorb readers into my Mindscape until we are all one big ball of braingasms. Before the Well, Actually Guy shows up, yes, we have to write great books. That’s first and foremost. Okay, Well, Actually Guy? Now sit down.

To afford to continue to do my thing, my goal is to gain visibility, traction, and read-throughs for the rest of the TPOD series and the rest of my list. I have to find readers who value my work enough to support the enterprise. That tiny barrier to entry into my worlds (99¢!) might deter free seekers but readers who only buy when art is free have other options. I’d direct those readers to their local library or to the many free books that are offered daily in various promotions elsewhere.

Stacking promotions on various platforms, staggered instead of hitting all on one day, can help a book’s rank and visibility. Here’s what I’m doing to let people know they’ve got a binge read waiting for them for a very low price.

Marketing Tactics

1. The Bookbub hits on September 1 so that’s the biggest deal for me. For a long time, I have ignored Bookbub. I got several Bookbub deals years ago but let it go when it became obvious how hard it is to get a submission accepted. That was wrong of me. It doesn’t take long to submit a book and, though it’s difficult to get in, it’s not outside the realm of possibility so why not at least try? I tried, it worked. I should always have something submitted to Bookbub until such time as they prove a useless expense.

2. Facebook ads running for three days. I’m not a fan of FB ads but, using Bookbrush, I came up with something that looked good. I’m keeping the budget on the FB foray tight because I don’t trust it. I’ve read and listened to the experts on FB ads. They make it sound like it’s a full-time job to get it just right before it goes to shit again. The most successful authors who use FB ads seem to have very deep pockets. We can optimize all our variables to appeal to readers but that doesn’t matter much if we’re outbid every time.

However, big mindset shift: Expensive is bad. Expenses are to be expected. Thinking of expenses in terms of investments is best. Look for the payoff and cut what’s not working.

3. I’m also running a paid Bookbub ad for three days. (That’s different from the featured deal. I’m talking about the ad you bid for that, if successful, appears at the bottom of BB newsletters to curated audiences. BB says that helps to optimize featured deal promotions. We’ll see. I don’t have a great track record of making these sorts of ads work for me but they may be more effective in coordination with the featured deal.

4. This promo came together last minute. If I’d had more time, I would have hoped for an Ereader News Today promo for the day before the Bookbub. It’s set for September 2, instead. Still better than pouring all resources into a one day sale. No one knows Amazon’s algorithms for sure but to achieve higher ranking and stickiness, stacking helps.

5. Many Facebook groups are hostile to author promotion and I respect that. Fortunately, there are relevant Facebook groups that do welcome an author letting them know about a book deal. I’ll do that.

6. I’ve already told my readers on my Facebook fan page. Next stop: my newsletter. I don’t have a big newsletter list. I encourage you to join us at AllThatChazz.com. (The pop-up will soon pop-up when you go there.) I won’t bother you often and only when I have something new to say.

7. I’ve boosted the budget on my AMS ads temporarily. Once again, the goal is visibility and finding more and new readers who will pick up what I’m putting down. Whale readers, superfans, normal fans, casual readers: All are welcome. It’s not about immediate profit. I won’t make immediate profit on a book priced at 99 cents. As soon as this promotion is over, I’ll tally my investment in advertising and weep a little. I will lose money on this tactic in the short-term. It’s a loss leader, as in, I’m leading the way in losses. Yech. However, I’m hoping the readers will come through and pay for more tickets on my Crazy Train. This Plague of Days is one trilogy. I have several other offerings in the same genre: AFTER Life, Robot Planet, and the Dimension War Series.

Note: I also write killer crime thrillers. I don’t expect many crossover readers from the apocalyptic genre. That’s not part of the calculation. If you’re an author who writes in multiple genres, it’s more fun but it’s a tougher go. If I could go back to 2011 and do it all again, I would have probably done the same thing again, anyway. Writing in two genres I love is how my mind works. If your mind doesn’t work that way and you’re just starting out now, I’d recommend either cranking up a pen name to separate and solidify your market brand or simply pick a lane.

Other Caveats

Free may not be as effective as it used to be. Some say Bookbub isn’t as effective as it once was, either. AMS ads are often a quagmire. Some of my experimentations with AMS ads have been somewhat successful and plenty have been low-grade disasters. Worse disaster happen at sea, so let’s not panic. My most successful AMS ad tests have been achieved by concentrating on selling the paperbacks. Higher price point = lower ACos. Yep, some people still love paperbacks, may Thor bless them.

Marketing Strategy

Giving a series fresh covers that are on point and impact sales is a great thing to do as books age. I think too many authors ignore the gold in their backlist. It’s always fun to run off to the coffee shop to write a new book. I had plans for other releases this fall but I got a novel stuck in my head and had to write it immediately. The new shiny thing is always more fun to chase. However, as I write for a living and try to make it all work, it’s not easy juggling business versus art. Sadly, some books fail to launch and trip right out of the gate. Reviews are harder to get. Many would-be guru authors talk about how we have to art harder and be brainful instead of brainless. Few talk about their failures. We all have them. This biz is not for the weak of mind but we’re also going to need big spirits to keep going.

When the going gets tough, make time to go outside, smell the fresh air and chuck rocks at your enemies. Or scream into a pillow.

Then get back to the question: “What am I going to do next? How can I think bigger to do better?”

Thinking Bigger

As I stood in line at the grocery store with my daughter, I complained that book sales were flattening out. The stats about the number of people who read are grim. This is still the best time to be a writer overall but with fewer readers, new tactics aren’t enough. Strategies have to change.

“So what are you going to do?” my daughter asked.

My reflex answer has always been, “Write more books, see what sticks.” I’m proud of my books. They’re packed with wit, action and surprises. I work with a sharp-eyed editor who helps to bring out my best. That should be good enough but it isn’t. It used to be good enough but the market is pay-to -play now. Excellence in one facet is not enough. Writing great books alone won’t keep me going as a full-time writer. (And, at 54, who’s going to hire me for much? I’ve got to make this work!)

To be seen, like every other business, we must invest in advertising, engage with readers where appropriate and spur word of mouth. There are plenty of book marketing strategies and tactics to try. I’m working on a new angle in the run-up to Christmas but that’s just a tactic. It’s not a game changer. I need a new strategy and a far better answer to my daughter’s question.

“So what are you going to do?” my daughter asked.

Audiobooks. Some of you are yawning. This is not new to many authors. It will be new to me. It’s long past time I jumped into audiobook production but there were reasons I didn’t until now. (Good reasons? Debatable, but here we are.)

First, I complained ACX wasn’t available to Canadians. Without ACX, I didn’t see a way for me to enter the audiobook market. (This was before Findaway Voices.) When ACX finally became available in Canada, the costs were too prohibitive for my budget. Then, quite recently, I did some more research and saw my way in. I read articles from authors who took the DIY approach. We don’t need a fancy recording studio worthy of Quincy Jones to create audiobooks. I’m in the midst of turning a basement room into a sound booth and I’m doing it cheaply.

This promotion for This Plague of Days, Season One is a short-term marketing tactic which I hope will gain lifetime readers. Audiobooks production is a long-term strategy that opens up new possibilities. Fewer people are reading but they are listening to books while they’re on the treadmill, commuting or doing the dishes. That’s where the puck is going and that’s where I’ll be.

I’ve produced four podcasts and guested on many more so I was already halfway to adding an audiobook branch to Ex Parte Press. I thought I couldn’t afford the investment or do it right on my own. I had to think different and think bigger.

I had to be a little braver, too.

Please visit my author website, AllThatChazz.com, to pick up your copy of This Plague of Days for only 99¢. The sale ends September 2, 2019. Enjoy! Thanks!

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

On Writing Well: Openings, Distractions and the next Million Dollar Idea

The Challenge of the Slow Open

Crack the Indie Author CodeAs I work on revising my coming-of-age, love story cleverly disguised as an apocalyptic plague thriller, I worry about the beginning most. (I’ll give you a minute to digest that first sentence.)

This is a long book I will serialize (soon). The story unfolds largely through the eyes of a boy with Aspergers Syndrome, sixteen-year-old Jaimie Spencer. He’s a selective mute. I wanted to impress upon the reader how different he is from the first page. The story starts with the boy observing the plague as it infects his next-door neighbor. The neighbor is a pilot who happens to be having sex with a flight attendant at the time, but Jaimie is detached about such things. He’s asexual. His point of view is an interesting hook, but it’s not really an action hook. It reads like a character hook.

I’m going for intrigue and showing this book is more serious than much of my other work. I’m satisfied it’s a good start, but it’s a risk because of that slow start. I’m starting the novel with a long lit fuse instead of an explosion. That could be a problem and I will have to revisit this issue several more times before I commit to the slow burn open. There are plenty of explosions, strained family dynamics, obstacles, reversals, betrayals, realizations, death and a long journey  ahead. Amid the chaos, Jaimie is a detached, almost Christlike figure. The world is falling apart and he’s fascinated with dictionaries. (Expect Latin phrases, weird words and an amusing annoyance over homonyms.) The boy perceives the world as an alien might. His peculiar point of view questions how everyone else sees the world.

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

Big openings hook more readers faster. For instance, is it a cheap ploy to kill somebody off in the first paragraph? Many critics, both amateur and professional, seem to think so. However, I suspect the average reader doesn’t think that way at all. Some lit snobs say they shouldn’t think that way. Irrelevant. Many readers do think that way.

Every story should jump right in without throat-clearing, of course. (Don’t start your book with a weather report, as a baffling number of novels still do.) But how late should you enter the action? Bigger Than Jesus starts in media res with my loveable hit man out on a slippery ledge high over Tribeca with the bad guy hiding behind a gargoyle. Higher Than Jesus starts with a slower open in a dive bar, but right from the start, you know Jesus Diaz is there to kill someone on Christmas Day. Crime fiction should start with action. But can Jaimie Spencer do it?

Distractions

I’m confident in the writing for those who stick around for the show. However, we, as writers, are not competing with other books in our genre. We’re competing with Call of Duty, Game of Thrones (on TV), people working second and third jobs to earn enough to live, laughing babies on YouTube, the gym, the laundry, and all the other paperwork of life. Readers have so many distractions, it almost makes me yearn for a time when books were much more central to our culture. The good news is, if you survive the coming world flu pandemic that will wipe out billions, there will be fewer distractions and a bit more reading time.

Solutions and Opportunities

Jesus is resurrected in Chicago. Sex with the Queen of Giants. Violence with Very Bad Men.

Jesus is resurrected in Chicago. Sex with the Queen of Giants. Violence with Very Bad Men.

I have a suggestion to help combat The Distraction Problem. It’s not really open to me at the moment* but you might be able to use this suggestion: If you’re American, make audiobooks on ACX part of your publishing platform so people will be able to consume your goodness while they do the laundry, commute to their second job, run on a treadmill or play Call of Duty. Publish an audiobook on ACX and it goes to Amazon, iTunes and Audible. Audio is the future. That, and the massive killer virus thingy.

*I encouraged writers to go for ACX in Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire. Since I’m a Canuck, they aren’t set up to deal with me yet. That creates a huge hole in the market for audiobooks worldwide. If I had the money, I’d start a company to compete with ACX and deal with all them foreigners immediately.

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

~ Earlier today I published an article on ChazzWrites.com that was meant for my website about Six Seconds, The Unauthorized Guide to How to Build Your Business with the Vine App. Apologies for the mix-up and a suggestion: If you’re on WordPress, don’t ever use the Quick post feature. Any problems I’ve ever had posting to WordPress started there. I decided to leave it up since it automatically shot out to subscribers and I never did announce a page dedicated to that book, so…yeah, I’ve got a web page just about Vine and the useful glory that is Six Seconds. If you’re interested in checking out Vine and promoting your books with it, here’s the link to onlysixseconds.

If you’re on Vine and would like to hear a reading from Self-help for Stoners, find “Robert Chazz Chute” on Vine. I’m doing the first author reading on the Vine app. Interested in winning a signed copy of Bigger Than Jesus? I’m running a contest with that reading. Get the details on how you could win from this link to AllThatChazz.

Filed under: audiobooks, blogs & blogging, book marketing, Editing, My fiction, publishing, Vine, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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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