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

Write and publish with love and fury.

What’s next? More. Much more.

In a plot, the question is always, “What’s next?”

Here’s what’s next for me in the publishing business:

1. I’ll be in a horror anthology next spring. 

2. I’ll be in a self-help anthology next spring.

3. I have a new collaborator in an urban fantasy series. The first book in the Ghosts & Demons Series launches later this week. It’s called The Haunting Lessons. It’s a fast and fun supernatural story packed with a powerful female protagonist and lots of jokes. (More on that on launch day!)

4. I’m teaming up with another author for a secret project and I expect big things in 2015.

5. Increased speed of production. I’m getting more help and a larger beta read team so I can focus on a narrower range of tasks. 

6. The focus for the first six months is going to be more paranormal/urban fantasy books. This Plague of Days has become very popular and I need to write more supernatural stories. The new work has a lighter tone with more laughs per page instead of straight horror.

7. I’m diversifying on the non-fiction end of the business doing some author management work in 2015. 

8. More podcasting. I’ve been so busy writing, I haven’t been Skype-social enough with cool people for the Cool People Podcast. I also have more planned for the All That Chazz podcast.

There’s lots to do, but I’m not overwhelmed. I’m excited. I’m using some Tim Ferris sorts of life hacks to focus and manage my time so I can do more through collaborations, competition and coopetition.

What are your plans for world domination in 2015?

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Here’s a different way to engage new readers

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

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)

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

IVBT FINAL 2D cover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think this approach works because:

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

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

c. People love free stuff.

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

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

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

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#Retweet this Top Ten: For the love of Twitter

Though often useful, Twitter can be a strange place. For instance, I just discovered I’ve been blocked by a user who retweeted me. That was odd because I’ve never had a nasty exchange with them. What did I do? That bothered me for a few seconds.

No, that’s a lie.

It bothered me for about a minute. I hate a mystery, so I googled the user who blocked me and checked out their website. Into the second minute of cyber stalking I realized I was acting like a guy who should be blocked. I let it go and I’ll never know what terrible thing I did. (Cries into pillow, wipes tears, big breath…)

Besides, I was breaking my prime directive about Twitter. Twitter is for in-between times. It’s not a primary activity. Writing books is what I do. Everything else — bathing, childcare, self-respect — is secondary.

Tweet when you can’t do something more productive and keep it fun.

Here are ten more Twitter productivity tips: 

1. I look at a lot of Twitter profiles. If the avatar is just an egg, I don’t follow back. The default avatar suggests a spam account or a lack of care or effort.

2. If, in an attempt to be humorous, the profile description sounds aggressively mean, I don’t follow back. Why people do that is a mystery. It can’t be that effective, can it? Is that how mean people gather into rage storms across the Internet? (But don’t be too bland, either. Gimme some salt and sugar, please.)

3. If a Twitter profile says your name and then simply, “Author”? I don’t follow back.

I don’t think that’s enough effort even if you’re a really famous author. At least tell me your genre because readers don’t read everything. Add to your description so I have an idea what I’m getting into.

4. When I decide to follow someone, I’ll often look through their Twitter feed first. I want to get some sense of the user’s personality and interests or at least see if they tweet and retweet useful information. Don’t follow back too randomly. What use to me is a huge following of cement mixer companies?

5. When I follow on Twitter, I don’t send DMs.

It’s not that I really see anything wrong with direct messages. Some people think direct messages to new followers are impolite or spammy. I don’t think they have to be. (You followed, after all. That implies a little bit of buy-in to me.) However, I don’t send DMs for a more practical reason: They rarely add value and my feed is overwhelmed with direct messages. It’s a time management thing and really, there are very few diamonds glittering under the outhouse.

6. Instead of sending a direct message to new followers, I generally try to retweet something from their feed. I’m looking for the helpful or humorous. If I see that and retweet it, that’s a way of acknowledging them without sending a generic direct message.

7. The favorite button is another way of acknowledging new and old followers. I used to think I’d use the favorite button as a reference to come back to the link. That doesn’t happen. I either read the link immediately or it’s somewhere far back in the rearview mirror. For time management purposes, I guess that’s best. I use it as a “like” button on Facebook.

8. Don’t just read your notifications feed looking for mentions of the magic that is you. You won’t get information or engagement that way. Just like a dinner party, if you are only interested in you, you’ll live alone in that fascination.

9. Don’t expect an acknowledgement for every retweet.

I read a rant from one Twitter user who got angry because she expected a thank you for each retweet. I’m generous with retweets of good material because I want to curate good stuff for my followers. Too many people retweet me for me to be able to thank them all individually. There are only so many hours in the day. (I do try to retweet or say thanks for devoted retweeters, but Twitter is a fast-paced assault of information so let’s not be too precious about it.) Share generously.

10. Don’t just curate good stuff. Generate sometimes, too. If I’m following you, it’s because I’m hoping you’re awesome. Let us get to know you. If you put out a decent amount of good information and make a few jokes, followers may even forgive you for the occasional plea to “Buy my book.” Just don’t use those exact words.

BONUS

I use Manageflitter.com to manage Twitter, delete fake followers and delete those who don’t follow back.

If you want to follow me, I’m @rchazzchute. That’d be nice…assuming you don’t sell cement mixers.

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Kindle Unlimited: Connection and Market Correction?

Kindle Unlimited is up and running at Amazon. For about ten bucks a month, readers can read a lot and authors will get paid if 10% of the book is read. Across the writerverse, we are speculating. Is it good news or bad news?

I suspect it’s good news. Here’s why I’m not worried:

1. There are other subscription services and there wasn’t really much outrage about them. Questions, certainly. Usually the question was, “Is this new thing I’ve never heard of legit?” Since it’s Amazon, the question is often, “Why are they out to destroy the world?”

The answer is, they want to own it, just like every other company. Competition and all that. That’s all of us. We’re all selling something, so let’s keep calm and bang a gong. 

2. Those other subscription services have failed to usher in The End Times. This is one marketing idea among many. Some of the loudest concerns seem to be raised from a section of the marketplace that generates no new ideas. I’m suspicious they are decrying Amazon’s potential for success because they’ve failed to remain agile and open to new ideas. New ideas are always scary, but being scared and playing a defensive game is no way to score. 

3. Amazon often knows what it’s doing. They test and survey ideas and probably didn’t come up with this just last week. They want reader and author participation so they want to make the new service profitable for Amazon and for us. If it doesn’t feel good, too many authors will drop out. A lot of authors left KDP Select’s Clause of Exclusiveness. This will probably bring a bunch back, to test the waters if nothing else.

4. You can limit your participation. It’s just for those titles enrolled in KDP Select so, just like always, any 90-day commitment you may choose today is only 89 days long if you change your mind tomorrow.

5. Anyone who subscribes to this service is a hardcore, enthusiastic reader. Different rules apply to power users.

The parallel to piracy is obvious. Some authors worry about pirates, but there is evidence that pirates are power users. They take a lot, but they also tend to be power buyers. Ultimately, I most want to connect with readers who want to read the next Robert Chazz Chute book. Power readers are more oriented to author brand and less so to particular genres.

To build 10,000 true fans, I need to find those people who say, “I liked the autistic boy versus the apocalypse. But I wonder how that voice shows up in Murders Among Dead Trees or his crime novels?”

6. Subscribers who will go for this deal are a subset of the reading public. It’s not for everybody. Many will stay away because they’re already paying for a gym membership they don’t use. They’ll prefer to buy books one-by-one because they’re already stressed out and guilty about they’re TBR pile.

7. If you’re making money from other platforms, stay diversified. If you’re unknown, this is another avenue to consider to become better known.

If you’ve already got it made, there is an argument that you might make more money if you lived in a plane of existence that doesn’t include Kindle Unlimited. If that’s you, you may need to work your massive email list harder, diversify further, sell direct or use a few dozen other strategies to stay relevant.

However, we have no data on that group yet. The good news is, they’re in a good position to finance adaptation.

8. When Amazon innovates, it makes me more hopeful because it’s more pressure on other platforms to up their game. The market is changing, but once again, it’s Amazon that’s innovating and trying new things to reach readers, not trad publishing or the other sales platforms.

If I were CEO of another sales platform, I wouldn’t be sleeping well. I’d be offering bonuses to my creative teams to be creative. Come up with new tools and plans to boost market share. KU is pressure that may squeeze a diamond out of their competition’s butt.

9. However, I’m not “all in” for Amazon. Some people think that. They don’t know I’m moving more of my books across many platforms and I don’t have anything in KDP Select at the moment.

I am in favor of experimentation.

I’ll have another couple of books ready soon. When they are ready, just as before, they’ll go into KDP Select and therefore into Kindle Unlimited automatically, too. I’ll see how they do and make more decisions from there.

We need more data, but cautious optimism seems reasonable at this point. Let’s try it out, maybe find more readers. Let’s write more, read more and worry less. In the end, it’s all about you, you, you and the readers you have not yet met.

Me B&W~ Robert Chazz Chute is a suspense novelist who does not tend to be Zen about anything so, in light of today’s post, maybe there really is nothing to worry about in this one, tiny regard. Otherwise, we can be sure the universe is indeed out to get us. And it will.

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Writing: The Pregnant Pause and Slacking to Win

One thing about being an indie author that nobody ever seems to say is, relax and stop running from time to time.

Sometimes, the Internet seems like it’s all about motion. We push books and try to pull people in. We follow endlessly and sometimes joylessly. It should be fun to meet new people and find out about what’s new and cool. But everybody needs a break, if it’s at the right time.

I’ve found the right time.

You haven’t seen me lately, unless you checked out my review of Transcendence at AllThatChazz.com or my article on food and emotion at DecisionToChange.com. After doing a major promotion for my crime novel, Bigger Than Jesus, I felt it was time to step back. I’m still busy, but sometimes it makes a lot of sense to get out of your followers faces for a bit. Give your tribe some time off from The Magic That is You.

Spend more time reading and writing.

(I’m reading LT Vargus’ Casting Shadows Everywhere at the moment. Go get it. It’s the kind of demented joy I love.)

I’m working on new books and revising old books, too. This Plague of Days Season 3 launches in June along with The Complete This Plague of Days. I had to get my taxes done (blech!). A collaboration with another author is on the horizon and, between promotions and events and blog tours, I’ll be boosting my marketing and visibility plenty this summer. I don’t want to wear out my welcome by peaking too soon.

The problem is overwork and overexposure. 

There’s a podcast I loved to listen to that I’m now a little sick of. I might love it again, but if I have to hear the same stuff from the same guys too often…well, maybe it’s me. I needed to take a break from them. The relentless self-promotion machines of the Internet? Geez, guys, shut up and take a breath.

I mean, really, don’t you get sick of me banging on and on about writing and publishing sometimes? I would, and I love me (except when I hate me.) 

It’s not just about giving readers and listeners a break, either.

You need a break sometimes. I know you’re all out there crushing it a la Gary Vaynerchuk and perfecting your marketing simplicity through Seth Godin’s genius and…well, slamming your head against the wall. Marketing should be a creative and joyful thing. It certainly can be fun if you are doing the right things and going into it with the right attitude.

The right attitude is excitement.

(Here’s a guy who knows how to enjoy the marketing process and make it fun for others. Help Armand Rosamilia name his new podcast here.) BONUS hint: Many authors complain about marketing. They’d have more fun if they weren’t so whiny about the necessities of business and, instead, look for opportunities to help others and make publicity and marketing into an interactive game with and for readers. But that’s a post for another time. Tonight, we dance.

Take it easy on yourself and others.

If you push the accelerator through the floor all the time, your car’s engine will blow up. Don’t burn out your engine.

Push too hard too often and you’ll end up pushing people away. Instead, try discovering and promoting others, or be still and listen. Let your mind be that cabin in the woods, free of distractions so you can hear the peaceful hum of the Om of the world and the anguished screams of your tormented enemies burning out, flailing and failing.

How do I know when it’s time to take a break?

When my patience wears thin.

When I catch myself getting cynical.

When every interaction with a kid I made feels like an interruption.

When I’m too tired to do anything else.

When I’m too tired to do anything. 

The rewards of slacking to win are:

Rejuvenation, physical and mental. 

New excitement upon your return.

Fresh ideas.

Balance and peace.

Excitement for the tasks ahead instead of weariness.

Writing is my retreat and my solace.

I write every day. But it’s a great relief to you and to me not to talk about it at recess ad nauseum. This week (if it suits you and the timing’s right and if you’re feeling cranky at the world anyway) let’s talk less about writing and, instead, write more.

~ Full disclosure: Between writing sessions I do post excerpts of upcoming books on Facebook or just share goofy news and interesting memes. I love interacting with readers there and I find it relaxing. Hit me up with a friend request there. We’ll be cool together. Bring margaritas.

 

Filed under: author platform, blogs & blogging, book marketing, getting it done, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Rant, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writers: Fire Your Guru

As I suggested in my quotes for this post at tripthroughmymind.com (by Jerry Benns), we learn more from our allies than from self-publishing’s outliers and traditional publishing’s pundits.

Time for a reality check about perception and consequence.

This week I met a lovely and lively someone who was pleasantly surprised to learn I’m friendly and actually quite nice in person. After reading this blog for a long time, she thought I’d be snarky and “difficult”. I was a little shocked by this news. I thought I was funny, but I guess sometimes I do have a tone. I regret that when it leaks out. Mostly, I try to be a people pleaser. She suggested I let people in on my secret niceness by saying a spider crossed my desk and I let it live. That made me laugh because any spider meandering across my desk must die. Horribly.

Anyway, that experience got me thinking about the way we come across online.

For instance, I read a review of a friend’s book about book marketing. The nastiest review I’d read in a long time shredded his work at length because the reader claimed to already be familiar with all his suggestions. The problem with this is that not everybody has the same level of expertise. For the neophyte (at least!), that book would be very helpful. For this self-proclaimed expert, the book is less than nothing.

Worse, the nasty review got praise. “Thanks for the great review!” Really? Don’t ever praise anyone for a review designed to make the author feel bad. It only encourages dickishness. (I will not name the book I’m talking about, to discourage any further acts of dickishness.)

As for me, I wrote two books about writing and publishing. I think they’re very useful to anybody and the reviews reflect that. However, when I pitch it, I always lower the bar of expectation and tell people they’re for newbie writers, to inspire them to write and publish. If I had more confidence, I guess I wouldn’t sell it so short. But those reviewers who insist you write just for them, at their level of knowledge and no lower (or higher!), are waiting. For some egos, criticism is oxygen. It’s easier on my psyche to pitch Crack the Indie Author Code as an entry level book.

YMMV

Often online, when we come close to pontification, we add “Your Mileage May Vary”. That’s pretty elegant and humble. Few of us really want to tell others what to do for free. We’re trying to be helpful. 

When I was a kid, I visited Bermuda. I rented swim fins. I’d never worn fins so huge in the ocean. I tried to put them on while I was at the edge of the water and I was having trouble. A stranger came up to me and suggested I get into the surf first and then put them on. I ignored him and then he said, “I’m trying to help you.” When somebody tells me to do one thing, I really want to do the opposite. (And no, often that attitude has not served me well.)

Anyway, I’d thought he was bossy, but when I looked in his face I could see his intent was pure. I thanked him. I did as he suggested and, once wet, it was easy to get those big fins on and go swim.

Now some people seem to say your mileage won’t vary.

Since I’m resistant to telling anyone what to do, it irks me when anyone gets too full of themselves. Lately, I’ve noticed some authors who have achieved a little success, are getting bossy. They are laying down rules instead of suggestions. Even if they sell non-fiction and you sell romance, they’re sure all books are marketed the same in all venues. They’re assuming there’s only one way to go and it happens to be their way. Isn’t this why we got away from agents and other gatekeepers and published ourselves?

There’s an element of luck and timing involved in any success.

Results aren’t necessarily duplicable. I suspect some pontificators don’t really know why any particular book hit big or even semi-big. Or, they do know, but the market has changed since they hit it big and we can’t replicate that strategy now. Maybe they can afford Bookbub and you can’t, or they got into Bookbub and you can’t break past the application process. Maybe they had a track record and a fan base first. Maybe they have a huge mailing list and you don’t. Maybe they succeeded because of grassroots support and the author is attributing their success to their marketing brilliance in error. Maybe their book is simply better than yours.

Here are a few things you probably won’t read elsewhere:

Maybe [insert successful author name here]’s book is not so good, but it caught on anyway. We all push perfection pretty hard. We all fall short of perfection. Often writers and reviewers are hypercritical and, thank Thor, the average reader is not. Sometimes an author’s marketing skills are far superior to their writing. Meanwhile, some brilliant authors would be better known if they gave one crap about marketing. To each his or her own.

There are too many variables for one opinion to reign supreme. There are many paths up the mountain. There is no one way.

The writers who are too sure of themselves think that everyone is waiting for their next book. They should be more humble because people like me, who are easily irked by condescension, won’t buy their books. Lots of people are popular. That shouldn’t be confused with respect.

I’m sorry.

If I’ve come across too snarky here from time to time, I apologize. I don’t want to be one of those pontificators I complain about. I know I’ve said it occasionally, but maybe I should add the disclaimer more often: I try to help fellow writers and publishers. What I try to do here is make suggestions in an entertaining way.

Look in my face and I hope you’ll see my intent is pure. I’m trying to help.

Fire your gurus. Keep your friends.

 

 

 

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Writers, Readers, Nonsense and the Perpetual War on Anonymity

I have secrets to reveal about the true source of my fearsome power. And jokes. And weird East Coast expressions. Click the cover to get that article.

I have secrets to reveal about the true source of my fearsome power. And jokes. And weird East Coast expressions. Click the cover to get that article.

We complain about having to market our books. It is tough and I wish there were more and better missiles for the War on Anonymity. A few things to keep in mind:

1. Traditional or self-published, you’re still stuck doing most of your own publicity. No one will save you. You’ll have to save yourself. If you’re in the right mood, that statement can, theoretically, feel empowering.

2. Some strategies won’t work. Dump them and move on. You will, however, have to make some forays and investments here and there. Don’t let holding on to a little money now hold you back from making more money later. The risk-averse always arrive late to the party after all the daring, beautiful people have gone home with each other for a Chess Orgy…or whatever it is the beautiful people do.

3. You are not above marketing. I mean, unless you don’t care if anyone reads your work. Hm…actually, that would be quite freeing.

4. Everybody can and should do something to sell their books. Too shy does not serve you. Bookbub costs money, sure, but it’s effective. There’s also a lot you can do that costs nothing but time. I’m doing it right now and you’re watching. Is it hot in here, or is it just you?

5. When something is less effective than it used to be (Bookbub, KDP Select, pleading for sex) that doesn’t mean it’s not at all effective. You may have to spank your rump harder to get going, that’s all. 

6. When I see those tweets from collectives trying to sell books for authors, more often than not, I’m turned off.

By the way, Crack the Indie Author Code 2nd Edition is out in paperback at $9.99. Smaller format, same old information if you need a NaNoWriMo kick in the inspiration. With jokes.

By the way, Crack the Indie Author Code 2nd Edition is out in paperback at $9.99. Smaller format, same old information if you need a NaNoWriMo kick in the inspiration. With jokes.

Sorry, it’s a visceral thing that is not routed through my brain. I’m not saying they’re all bad or that you shouldn’t use those services. It’s that image of one person acting relentlessly enthusiastic about the constant steam of recommended books that bothers me. Equally enthusiastic and paid to be so. It doesn’t feel organic.

I would say that if outsourcing to others is your only strategy, your rocket needs more fuel.

7. The best is when an actual reader loves your neuro-fudge book mojo so much, she has to spread the word to share the adventure to her friends so she will, in turn, gain love, respect and immortal life. Word of mouth is the hardest cake to find, but it’s the tastiest. You start by asking friends to read your book. If you’re like me, you run out of friends fast, so you have to get used to engaging strangers. I’ve made a lot of friends out of strangers lately. I like it. I wish I’d known how to chat in high school.

Facebook is your friend (except, of course, when Facebook is evil.)

8. Stop just looking for mentions of your Twitter handle and go discover more people through Twitter.

Blogs lie there, hoping to be discovered. Blogs used to be so come-hither and stick your tongue in my…um…ear. Now blogs are feeling entitled to the attention they no longer receive, getting drunk and screaming at the DJ to play Copacabana. (See, this is a blog and you’re losing interest now, but I’ll mention Silver Surfer, Klingon and a date gone bad soon, so read to the end.)

With Twitter, you go find people who are talking about your areas of interest. I’m fascinated by neurology, psychology, brutish and funny poetry, autism, comedians, alternative health, weird facts, pathology, writing, publishing and righteous vengeance as a lifestyle choice. I will never run out of new strangers who might become friends. You won’t, either. We’re writers. We’re at least a little interested in lots of things. (Search hashtag #zombies and #vampires and #agoraphobia, #writing, #insomnia, #anxiety, #depression and #headaches, slam-bam-boom…the info-cornucopia only ends when the EEG is a flat line and your heirs start arguing over your Hummel figurines.)

Aren't you sick to death of me telling you what to do? Click the cover to read jokes and confessions about my life in Not-Maine.

Aren’t you sick to death of me telling you what to do? Click the cover to read jokes and confessions about my life in Not-Maine.

9. Big-time authors who have an assistant tweet for them? Nobody’s “big-time” enough for that. Galactus could write a book and (even though he’s his herald!), if the Silver Surfer tweets about Eating Planets for Fun and Profit, we riot and unfollow.

10. There are dozens of technological solutions to most of your marketing problems, but you have to get out there. I appear, at times, curmudgeonly and a contrarian. The jokes make that easier to take…in short bursts. No technological solutions can help you if you’re a pain all the time. Don’t do that.

Do this: Be friendly. The more readers you gain, the easier it is to be friendly. Get out on Twitter and meet people. Learn about them. I like learning things. That’s an excellent place to start, and think of all the high school trauma I could have avoided if I’d known how to talk to humans.

Also, get off Twitter and meet real people at book signings, fairs, conventions and readings. Be the best you that you can attain and all that rah-rah Anthony Giant Within Robbins stuff. (Hey, that works for some cult members!)

I rush in where devils fear to tread.

On November 14 at 7 pm I’ll be interacting with actual humans in the Meatspace of London, Ontario’s Central Library. Author Mark Rayner and I will give readings and answer questions about publishing, writing and discuss the people of Whoville and how we can fight The Great Suessian Nostril Menace.

I will drink champagne from an old lady’s boot while doing a ventriloquist act with Mark on my knee. Then he’ll breakdance for about two hours straight while I recite Klingon love poetry. We work without a net, so if you’re in the area and want to see me stammer while being bludgeoned, this is the best blunt force trauma event of the night. (Lesser blunt force trauma will be at play after the show at Joe Kool’s.)

Last chance to read the blog post about Not-Maine. People with ten toes will want to check this out. Unless all the toes are on one foot. Those freaks need to move out from under the power lines and then click the link and get a few grim laughs at ThisPlagueOfDays.com.

~ Not to be too forward, but you’re very attractive and I’m feeling very drawn to you. Feeling down and vulnerable and mad at your dad? Oh, good! I thought you looked like the sort of adventurous person who needs something special tonight. The way that dress clings…I mean…wow, have you even tried fabric softener? How about you come with me? You can lie down, put some Nina Simone on low so she won’t burn, and have a sweet, hot book. C’mon back to my place. The drinks are on the bar and the books are in the sidebar. I’m Robert, by the way. Robert Chazz Chute…Isn’t that last name quite unfortunate? Buy my nonsense! Hold my books! Ease the pain…sir? It’s one night early for Halloween. I didn’t recognize you in that dress…dad. Well, this got awkward fast.

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I like you more when your dog dies: Niches, conversations, dead blogs and a contest.

We don’t sell anything unless we tell stories. To sell stories, we must have stories about our books.

Seth Godin’s blog and books sell because they’re short, pithy, smart and he owns his niche. To own a niche now, you’d do better define a new one. Don’t try to take Seth’s purple cow, tribe or incisive observations about case studies. (Note: “Case studies” is the more scientific word for “stories.”)

Define your own niche and you’ve got a better shot at selling more books.

For instance, my next book is about Romeo in a drug-infested, coming-of-age thriller in New York. Shakespeare plays a role in finding the modern Juliet. Coming-of-age and thriller aren’t normally such cozy neighbors. My last book was a zombie apocalypse with an autistic hero and Latin proverbs. Not a lot of competition in that end of the zombie market.

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege.

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege.

Familiarity is overdone. Differences define us in the market. (e.g. Bookstores are still crammed with Harry Potter knock-offs, but there’s only one JK Rowling.) Take something familiar and find a way to make it original again and you’ve got something.

Story is the most important thing. Story works.

Podcasts don’t sell unless they’re rich in content and tell stories. From business success to how-to and gee-whiz science, podcasts don’t work as sales engines unless they tell aspirational stories. From the startlingly different (Welcome to Night Vale) to personal confession (Marc Maron’s WTF) stories must be told and be relatable.

I’ve noticed more authors seem to be shifting their cyber-presence to Facebook and away from Twitter. They’re all Twittered out. Tweets are solid tools of discovery and live-tweeting makes the Oscars watchable, but Twitter tends to be less about story and connection. We need a little more space to achieve resonance.

Facebook offers more opportunity for personal connection. FB’s post length helps, but it’s also subtext. On Facebook, you have friends

Twitter is less friendly and more competitive. On Twitter, people have followers and people pay attention to numbers gained and lost. On Twitter you use ManageFlitter and WhoUnfollowedMe. On Facebook, if crazy Aunt Sadie unfriends you, you’re relieved you can swear again and her abandonment confirms your politics are sane.

Personal stories help us plug into each other’s pleasure centres.

The mind often fails to make distinctions among what’s real and illusory, cyber and real world. On Facebook, Story is the carrier wave of connection: “This is my child, my dog, my life!” we tell each other.

Since we don’t know what the hell we’re doing and we’re all scared, our connections reassure us. “Maybe I’ve screwed everything up, but at least I’m making the same mistakes as everyone else in our journey toward a better tomorrow.”

That’s why your photo catalogue of a glorious tropical vacation on Facebook doesn’t fit into the brain’s three-prong plug of connection. People love shared stories of failure, vulnerability and happiness, but only after that happiness is earned by failure and vulnerability. We root for the underdog and rags-to-riches stories, not Donald Trump. Your new car is nice for you, but I like you more when your dog dies. My dog died. Commonality is currency. Because I want to be loved, I love you when you’re suffering insomnia from worry, too. Misery doesn’t just love company. It insists on it.

Though we are each mysteries, we like to imagine we are each other.

Each of us is just as challenged and sad and lonely, but we hope to be rich some day, too. When the money and success roll in, we tend to forget all this stuff about connection. We blame the poor for their poverty, give luck no credit for our rise and trumpet all our hard work to the exclusion of any variable that does not bow to our big ol’ brains.

No wonder the rich and poor hate each other (except the poor want to join the resented rich, too.) Meanwhile, the rich would rip out their own throats with car keys from their repossessed Lexus if they had to get by on less than $100,000 a year.

Our class boundaries break connections. That’s why celebrities seem so otherworldly in person. They lost their shock collars and passed the invisible electric fence! They made it, so we can, too! Unless they’re the children of celebrities. Those lucky devils get a sneer and a Barry Bonds asterisk beside their fame.

Our stories about who we are become who we are.

That quest for privacy? Quaint. Adorable. Amish.

Jonathan Franzen worries about our attention spans, the death of literature and loss of privacy. He worries about the horrors of the Internet, just about every week it seems, in the Huffington Post. Horrors.

Blogs are dead sales platforms.

You have to have an author site, but you’ll get more juice from connecting on Facebook. Twitter will serve you better than a blog because it serves more people.

A blog is too much of a commitment for the reader. Too few blogs are “appointment reading”. A blog is a magazine at the doctor’s office. You only pick it up when there’s nothing else to do and you’d rather be doing something else.

I am subscribed to many blogs. They’re up there somewhere, forgotten in an RSS reader, added to a long reading list I will never get to. The blogs I actually read daily don’t have to be stuck in my bottomless bookmark bin. I go to them.

Blogs fail because signals go out but they don’t connect. Like this post, a bad blog post pontificates. I’m doing it now, connecting less, to fewer people. Still here? You’re already hoping the meta will stop and I’ll somehow pull out of the dive and land a punch and a point in the final sentence. How will I bring us home after such a depressing, meandering trip? I’ll show you. Indulge, a moment more, before the doctor calls you in to talk about those test results.

There are exceptional blogs, still breathing.

You can tell which blogs still have a heartbeat. They have a large and active comment community who aren’t just there to fight. (The Passive Voice is necessary to indie writers, for instance, as is David Gaughran’s blog.) Their lure is a story of aspirational subtext: Read this and you will succeed as we analyze the mistakes and triumphs of others.

And what are comments but the back from the forth? The best comments are more stories, resonating and rising up in conversation.

Commenting as a sales tool is less effective than it once was, back when people still asked, “What’s a blog?” Commenting doesn’t sell, though it can hurt you if you’re a dick. Some commenters never communicate human warmth. They think their intellect and snark will win people over and drag eyeballs back to their own dead blogs. They’re wrong. We only go back to their blogs to see if they’re rude to everyone (yes, always, yes) and make mental notes of what books not to buy.

Living sales platforms are conversations.

Facebook is a bigger sales engine at the moment, coming at you sideways, fun and friendly and under your defences.  We tell stories in conversation with friends. That’s where the connection lies, even if it’s a lie. We share our failures and hopes and dreams and we don’t look at our watch when we’re on Facebook. (That’s how the wasted hours slip away and books don’t get written, too.)

Facebook falls short in some ways, but that’s where I can talk with Hugh Howey or Chuck Wendig or Robert J. Sawyer. Facebook is alive with conversation. That’s the hot, three-pronged brain plug of connection we crave.

So who cares about this shit? Too long to read. Meet me on Facebook and maybe we’ll connect in a conversation. Blogs are dead. I killed it. Just now. I regret nothing.

Season 2 is the quest.

Season 2 is the quest.

~ There is a secret in This Plague of Days. You’ve already read it. No one has guessed it yet. If you suspect you know, DM me on Facebook or DM me on Twitter. Praise and adulation will be heaped upon those who guess correctly. First prize is a signed paperback. Three winners will appear in my next book. Adulation for all will happen on the All That Chazz podcast.

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Top Ten for Writers: What matters?

1. Don’t take a paragraph (or a whole post!) to apologize for not posting to your blog recently. They didn’t notice your absence. You have their eyeballs for a few seconds now. Don’t waste their time with throat-clearing or they’ll click away because you don’t have anything to say.

2. “Cover reveals” don’t attract anyone but the people who are already into you. They might not hurt. I’m saying they don’t help. Find a topic that matters to you and your readers instead. To spin an old quote, mere familiarity breeds contempt, but commonality makes friends.

3. Character interviews may be interesting to a few people, but only after they’ve read your book. It gets no new readers. Character is revealed through dialogue and action within the book. In promoting a book, it’s boring without narrative content and context.

A better suggestion:

Soon I’ll interview author Mark Rayner for the Cool People Podcast. When I asked him what he’d like to talk about, he didn’t say his characters, publishing or his writing process. He wants to talk about the themes of his book. I’m looking forward to a cool interview about the singularity and how technology affects all our lives, for good and bad. It’ll be less about him and and his book and more about readers. Then they’ll want to buy The Fridgularity, his funny, smart, entertaining novel.

4. Lose long dedications in ebooks. I’ve done this because I have much for which to be grateful, but it cuts into the online sample. Stick it in the back or put a link to it on your author site. Active links to your websites and other books will expand your circle. Your inner circle will understand.

5. The Table of Contents in your ebook doesn’t have to be in the front. That’s inertial thinking from paper publishing. For fiction, at least, stick it in the rear of the book. They can get to it on their e-reader, if they want it, by hitting “Go to”.

This is especially egregious when you have a long, dark poem as a TOC (as I do in This Plague of Days). It’s something else that cuts into the length of the online sample if it’s up front.

6. Do not complain about the demands of marketing your books. That’s telling readers that trying to reach them is a burden and they are unworthy of your time.

I’m still seeing this. Any potential reader who’s done manual labor, worked retail, been unemployed and/or worked for a boss? Yeah, they all hate you when you complain about being a writer. We have the best job on earth. Even if we aren’t getting paid for it yet, it’s still that awesome.

Instead, do what’s fun for you in otherwise unproductive time, after you’ve hit your word count for the day. If a Twitter account in the voice of your character is fun for you, try that. Unless your character is amazingly funny, profound, unique or wanted for spying by the NSA, it probably won’t pay dividends, but at least you’ll be having fun.

Connect on Facebook with people. My most meaningful interactions probably happen there. Since a reader helped me identify how my Facebook settings shut people out, I’m interacting with more people.

You can even go out and meet people in the real world. I understand non-virtual, human interaction is still a thing. I read about it on the Internet. It sounds dangerous, but you can sell paper books that way.

7. The demands of the work drain our energies so we talk too much about being a writer knocking back coffee. I’ve done it, too, and it’s cliche. Time to say something new. Something about wrestling elementary school teacher-dragons naked maybe. Hm. Gotta work on that metaphor so it sounds less fun.

8. Cramming too much information on your business card doesn’t work. Trying to cram the whole story on your book cover doesn’t work. Any promotional stuff that is too long doesn’t get read. Get your graphic design and white space to do more of the work for you.

The British Special Boat Service’s former motto was “Not by strength but by guile.” Good news! We’re writers! We have the resources to use guile. Writers and small publishers don’t have enough money to attack with strength.

9. Speak with. Engage with readers. Do not talk at readers so much. Talk less about you. Talk more about them. (Nice jammies you’re wearing today, by the way, and I especially like the lacy, red bustier…sir. Better turn off that laptop cam.)

10. Talk more about what you love and less about what you hate.

People enjoy reading about what people hate, but they don’t like the hater or even believe them. For readers to get to know you, they want to know what you’re for and what you read and what you think. Or that you think. Talk about what matters, both to you and to them.

Some writers steer clear of religion and politics for fear of offending.

Sounds like a quick way to be irrelevant and bland.

As a writer, your ability to communicate makes you important to any heavy discussion. You can even contribute as a human being. Your thoughts on violence, poverty and all the ills of the world are far more important than your little writing career. If someone doesn’t read your book because you’re a vegan, for instance, do you really think you’re missing out on a thoughtful and fair review from that person?

Kids are starving and you’re really worried about losing a few reactive sci-fi readers because you’re for X and they’re for Y? Really? Surely the kids are worth losing a few bucks, aren’t they?

I’d rather express my politics on Facebook from time to time. I’d rather win more readers I like. I don’t have to have readers who agree with me about everything. However, I don’t write books for dumb people. Trying to be liked by everyone is chasing a goose into an acid factory that’s on fire. We may be poor and desperate for readers. That doesn’t mean we have to be pathetic.

But yes, it does matter that reasonable readers generally like you. (So follow the Wil Wheaton edict and “Don’t be a dick.”)

I don’t want people to be excited to read the next This Plague of Days. I want them excited to read the next book by Robert Chazz Chute, no matter if I’m writing about zombies or Shakespeare or my funny assassin. Most readers tastes are very genre-specific, but if they like you, they’ll try your other stuff.

I’ve read all of Stephen King’s work except for The Dark Tower stuff. But I did try it. That’s all anyone can ask. After that, it’s down to individual tastes.

So be nice. Be authentic. Be committed to The Good.

And write good stories. Tell the truth through lies. Bypass prejudice and reach their minds by making them laugh first.

Writing good stories will get you more readers. Write great stories and that will come. Or maybe it won’t, but the writing and the stories matter. It matters much less than starving children and nuclear proliferation, but be fully in this world as you create better worlds.

To be heard, we must have something to say that matters to readers.

Filed under: author platform, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Authors: Build a better business card with these tweaks

I met Facebook friend and author Carolyn Arnold as she sold books at an event. She’s given me permission to show you her business card. It’s important because she did something very right.

I think it’s important because I’ve seen a lot of bad business cards. A card that looks cheap might hurt you. A card that’s crammed with too much information really repels people.

Cards that advertise the publisher on one side and another unrelated business on the back? Don’t do that. It saps credibility from both companies.

Look at what Carolyn’s done.

The logos for each platform show where you can get Carolyn’s books. Very good idea. I also like seeing the books in 3D, with spines. (# 147 on the things I need to do to make web presentations of my books prettier.)

Also note the QR code. Scan it with a mobile device and it takes you to her website, carolynarnold.net.

I’m not that technologically advanced yet, but it’s a pretty nifty feature for those who are into QR codes.

Carolyn Arnold Business Card Front 2013

 

 

Carolyn Arnold Business Card Back 2013

 

And perhaps best of all is the killer quote from The Examiner‘s book critic. If you can incorporate any of these helpful elements into your business card, I recommend it. It comes off very professional.

Even when they aren’t aware of it, readers want to be assured they’re in good hands with someone who knows what they’re doing. A business card alone won’t earn you a new reader. You have to be nice and skilled and have good books to sell. There are many variables that contribute to success. If one of those variables isn’t in place, it can suck all the gas out of your engine. Carolyn nailed it.

Have another look at your business card.

Then get out to more events where you can actually use it.

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

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

Write to live

For my author site and the Chazz network, click the blood spatter below.

See my books, blogs, links and podcasts.

I interview the people you need to get to know.

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