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

Write and publish with love and fury.

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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So you want to be the next big thing?

Odium The Dead Saga cover

~ Guest post by Claire C Riley

Most writers start out on this crazy train wreck of a journey with one thing in their mind: to tell a story. Okay, so maybe they have two things on their mind.

Tell a story, and have people read it.

Oh, wait. Maybe three things if they are feeling especially ambitious.

Tell a story, have people read it, and maybe, if they dare to dream…earn a living doing it.

Throughout my journey, I’ve met many different types of writers, all with different ambitions when it comes to their words/books/stories/novels whatever. Some dream big. They write a great novel and wait for it to be snapped up and make them their millions. Others write a great novel, work their socks off to get it traditionally published, and sit back and wait for their millions to roll in.

And then there are those who are more realistic about it all.

They write a great book. They want it to be read by people, and maybe they pimp it out to the big five, maybe they don’t, either way, that book gets published. And then they…write the next damn book!

Because to be a writer, that’s what it takes. Not one great book, but several. Readers don’t like investing in one book, because that’s a shoddy investment, and it’s not the book that they are investing in—it’s you, the author. They want to know that if they fall in love with your work that there is more to come. More ready for them to buy, more for them to look forward to. Just more.

I’ve met a lot of authors who are waiting.

Waiting for sales, waiting for fans, waiting for…who the hell knows what they’re waiting for, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but don’t sit up at night wondering when the big bucks are going to roll in.

As a reader I like to know that there’s more after I turn that final page—or slide the final page if I’m reading with my kindle. And I hate waiting for a year for a sequel.

So as a writer, I don’t. I try to get out several novels a year, both full length and novellas, and in between I like to write short stories in anthologies. That way I get to keep drip-feeding my readers my words, to keep them interested and hungry for more, and yes, invested in me. Because surely I owe them that much? After all, they took a punt on me by reading my book. And in return the more they read my stories, the more they talk about them, and the more word spreads, thus increasing my reach to potential new readers.

So for me being the next big thing isn’t about that traditional publishing contract, or making a million on my first book (though, of course that would have been nice.) It’s about continuously moving forwards, listening to feedback and improving with each book, making my readers happy, and maybe, just maybe, the next book will be the next big thing.

But I’m not waiting around to see, I’m too busy writing my next book.

Claire C Riley profile photo~ Claire C Riley is the author of “Limerence,” “Odium. The Dead Saga,” “Odium Origins. A Dead Saga Novella Part One,” “Odium II The Dead Saga” “Odium Origins A Dead Saga Novella Part Two” a contributor to several zombie apocalypse anthologies, including the upcoming ‘Fading Hope’, ‘State of Horror Illinois’ and a proud contributor to the charity anthology “Let’s Scare Cancer to Death.”

Odium. The Dead Saga is a top #100 dystopian selling book on Amazon.com for 2013, ‘Indie book of the day’ winner December 2013 and ‘Indie Author Land 50 best self-published books worth reading 2013/14’

Limerence was a featured book in the ‘Guardian newspaper for best Indie novel 2013’ and is currently a finalist for the eFestival of Words ‘best novel’ category.

Odium II The Dead Saga is a #1 Best Selling British Horror book.

She can be stalked at any of the following.

http://www.clairecriley.com

https://www.facebook.com/ClaireCRileyAuthor

http://bit.ly/clairecrileyamazon/

https://twitter.com/ClaireCRiley

https://www.google.com/+ClaireCRiley

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

Being Banned Ain’t All Bad

Image

Photo Credit: Besa Photography

Guest post by Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar

My colleague came bouncing into my office. “Put it up here!” He said, expecting a high-five, and confirming that being a banned author in the Middle East isn’t all bad.

He was referring to the news story that had posted the night before, on the national blog, that everyone, expat and national, reads like the rest of the world peruses the Huffington Post. The breaking news was that my novel, the one without any sex, atheism or politics, had been banned for sale in the country in which it was set because it was about the country and her citizens.

I published Love Comes Later, the book in question, in the summer of 2012 as an e-book. American literary agents told me it was too foreign, too male and therefore completely unsellable. After two years of reaching out to book bloggers, 72 Amazon.com reviews, and several paperback editions, the Ministry of Culture in Qatar was telling me it was too racy to sell in bookshops.

This was clearly a book without a home; a literary identity crisis.

But would the ban help the book’s sales?

Well, that’s not a straightforward story either. The night that the news daily posted their piece, the Amazon.com ranking rose swiftly, climbing for about a week, peaking in the low 80s of top 100 paid listings for Family Sagas and Literary Fiction.

When I logged into my Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) sales report, yes, the notorious Love Comes Later, was selling steadily.

I’m pleased not be in jail or to have lost my job, due to the decision by authorities not to sell my book in the country where it was set. Both of these, and far worse would have been the consequences – and still could be – in parts of the Middle East even five years ago. The congratulatory vibes from Arabs and Americans (and the lowered voices asking where, by the way, can they get the book?) are all indications of a changing ethos. 

~ Dr. Rajakumar is my most recent guest on the Cool People Podcast. Hear my interview with her about her books (and getting banned from distribution in Qatar) at CoolPeoplePodcast.com.

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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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The Secret Alphabet of Independent Publishing

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

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

A is for All of it, which is what we want. (A used to stand for Agent.)

B is for Book, of course, and ebooks are “real” books, too. Literature is about the content not the container.

C is for Cutting prices. It would be bad for writers, but at 70%, we’re still getting paid more per unit sold than in traditional publishing. Also, price cuts sure make now a great time to be a reader.

D is for Deadlines. Don’t take forever to write your book. More time procrastinating doesn’t make a better book.

E is for E-books on E-readers. But you know your kindle is a transitional device, right? The phones are getting bigger again and tablets are coming down in price. We don’t want a device to do one thing. We want one device to be a web surfer, camera, phone, app catalogue, music box, GPS, ebook reader and best friend on our hip.

F is for Future. It’s the direction to look. If you don’t like it, you can change it whereas the past requires an annoying child named Sherman, a dog named Mister Peabody and a Wayback machine.

G is for Guidelines, because guidelines are malleable. There really aren’t many unbreakable rules worth obsessing over. You already know the rules because they’re obvious or you ignore common sense or you’re a slave to unthinking tyranny. The cool kids prefer more options.

H is for Hope. It’s good to have some, especially in this business. When there’s no reason to have any, that’s when you need it most.

I is for Intermediator. Have as few of these as possible. Upload your books yourself if you can, or get help from an independent contractor. This will allow you more choices of forks down the road.

J is for Just you. The myth and prejudice against independent publishing is that’s it’s just you. You are alone, except for the editors, graphic artist, beta editorial team, volunteers, publicity teams and whoever else you can hire or cajole into helping you get your book discovered. Sure, other than that little cyclone of industry, it’s all you.

K is for Killing characters. Killing someone readers love who they were sure would make it to the end? Delicious. (Note: killing darlings is overrated.)

L is for Love. It’s why we write. If you have other motivations, that’s fine, but releasing dopamine as you create is, like reading, a very rewarding addiction. The biological pharmacy in your brain simulates love. Endorphins won’t land you in a dirty rehab unit with a roommate who won’t stop telling that story about the time he tried to get high on burnt bananas and smoking his own hair.

M is for Money. It can happen, but probably not so don’t write for money. As above, write for love. If money does happen, people will resent you slightly less when you claim you never expected it.

N is for Naysayers. Most of them will never write near as many books as you will. Just say no to naysayers. If you sleep with your naysayer, someone’s in the wrong bed.

O is for the Obsession to know things. It seeps into the writing so you can drench your fiction with non-fiction and trenchant verisimilitude. For instance, This Plague of Days, Season Two weaves the Apocalypse with interesting tidbits about Irish legends, military history and the mortal wounds inflicted by the blue-ringed octopus. Mine is the only zombie/plague/autism story that teaches you Latin in an entertaining way, guaranteed!

P is for Portent. Warnings that something big is about to happen are especially fun when you give readers an earnest warning and they still don’t see it until it coming. They’ll only see the clues in retrospect. Secret trails to revelation and love of language are why people reread books. Do it well and someone might think your book isn’t just suspense, but maybe even “literary” or (praise Thor) “important”.

Q is for Quitting. If the project is wrong, quit. If it’s right and you’re just whining, quit whining and finish it. If you aren’t excited to write this book, find another you will be excited about all the way through or for our sake, please do stop. 

R is for Ripoffs. It’s a minefield out there: Fake agents who try to make money off reading fees; publishers who won’t pay; people who use disreputable business practices and call them policies. (R is also for Research. It’s how to avoid R is for Ripoffs.)

S is for Sustained Action. Promoting your work need not be an exhausting blitz. Dig in for the long game and promote at a slower pace. Don’t promote the same stuff to the same audience all the time lest you exhaust them. Keep writing new books. Don’t pin your hopes to one book. Sure, you might accidentally hitch your wagon to a star, but chances are excellent you’ll hitch your wagon to a stump, especially if this is your first rodeo.

T is for Trying. You’ll hate yourself if you don’t try. Losers will hate you because you did try. That’s why they’re called losers. They work from a different definition of failure than you and I. They confuse boring with winning.

U is for Unpublish. If something isn’t working, take it off the market and replace it with your tweaked story, new cover or new edition. Unlike traditional publishing, you have more options. You can adapt. Ours is a different, more flexible, business model. Use that advantage.

V is for Victory. There is no victory. Banish the concept from your life. There are only ups and downs and we’re all trying to make more ups.

Victory is very useful in fiction, however. Readers want to escape real life’s mundanity so it makes them happier when the protagonist achieves victory at the end of a story.

To go all Conan and see your enemies driven before you and to hear the lamentation of the Evil Mort from Accounting? That’s fiction. Working in a cubicle farm with no hope of retirement while Mort gets promoted and vacations in Brazil? That’s real. The real-life Mort is why we all crave escape into stories.

W is for Wit. They say brevity is wit’s soul, but I can take a pounding of wit in dialogue all day and all night, Mr. Sorkin.

Please note that snark is not quite wit. That’s a blunt tool meant only for peeling the outer layer of flesh. Meanness is the opposite of wit. That’s a blunt fool’s weapon. Wit’s funny and smart. When that sword cuts, we see light flashing down the steel blade. Wit allows the victim to take the hit and nod, “Touché!” with a smile.

X is for X-ray vision. All writers have this power. I can see into purses and pockets and the lives of strangers at the mall. I can work backward or forward to tell you who they are and their story of heartbreak in their senior year of high school. I diagnose disease at a distance. I know what you did last summer. I can give your life history and your death meaning, so do not screw with me.

Z is for Zero. It’s what we’re paid for writing. We are never paid for writing. We write for love, remember? If the money ever arrives, we’re paid for putting up with dehumanizing reviews, pretending to take them well and staying silent about them forever. We’re paid for the sad paperwork at tax time. We’re paid for the sting when someone sneers with casual cruelty, “So, are you a big deal yet?” We’re paid pennies an hour for the sacrifices our loved ones make so we can keep writing. 

Writing a good book is a happy, selfish act for the writer.

We are addicts, helpless in our defiance and desperate to monetize our work so we can have the freedom 

to score more of Creation’s sweet biochemical cascade.

Escape reality. Get high on a story.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute, the author of Self-help for Stoners and this was the high I was talking about. This Plague of Days, Season Two scintillates brains October 1. Get Season One and check out all my books here. I hope to be your favorite candy man one day.

Filed under: author platform, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writers: Are you sitting on the money?

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

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

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

Case #1

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

Self Help for Stoners JPEGCase #2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dark Higher Than Jesus banner ad

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

Books: Ventures, Misadventures, Adventures and Brutal Honesty

Crack the Indie Author CodeWhen George Lucas screened  Star Wars, most of his fellow filmmakers in the room looked at each other and said, “American Graffiti was awesome, George, but this space opera thing…yuck!” It was Stephen Spielberg who played the contrarian. “You guys don’t get it!” he said. “This is going to be huge!” And of course, Spielberg was right.

My personal Lord and Saviour of The Written Word, William Goldman, famously said of the Hollywood film business, “Nobody knows anything.” It’s true, no one can know what will hit and which will miss. Someone comes up with the somewhat moronic expression YOLO (the idiot’s “Carpe diem”) and it’s suddenly on t-shirts everywhere. True for us, too. You may write a heavy, ambitious tome, but it’s a tiny book like The Little Prince that captures the hearts and imaginations of generations of readers.

So it is with marketing books.

Agents say they can “guide your career”, but if that were true, anyone with a sentient agent would have a fabulous career. No one knows anything in publishing, either. That’s not meant as an insult, but as a reflection of reality. Publishing is famous (or infamous) for placing bets on many horses, hoping the big bets will pay off and cover the losers’ ubiquitous failures. Few industries have a miss rate as high as book publishing (though Hollywood’s screwing up even more than usual lately.)

So it is with my books, too!Self Help for Stoners JPEG

The summer is winding down and I find I must split my mania among many ventures. I’m in a philosophical mood and looking back at what took off, what has not, and why. We at Ex Parte Press are not lounging in the money, chocolate and champagne pool at the moment. (But we still have high hopes.)

  • Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus are critical successes among the few critics who are aware of my funny Cuban hit man and his tragic past. Alas, hardboiled and funny suspense isn’t trending at the moment. Nonetheless, I have more Hit Man books planned. Jesus Diaz will just have to wait a bit longer as I concentrate my efforts where readers have demonstrated more enthusiasm. I love Jesus, and can’t wait to get him back on the warpath in Hollywood. An assassin who can make movie references and quick quips while getting beaten up deserves more books. He’ll get them.
  • My first funny short story collection, Self-help for Stoners, sells just a little but steadily. It’s a tribute to Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com that the cover is repinned on Pinterest several times a week, every week. Later this fall I will stop using an intermediary so I can take back control of marketing that book. I have no doubt I can take it much higher once that happens. I’d have done it by now but I’ve been perpetually swamped for months with This Plague of Days.
  • Six Seconds, my book about using the Vine app to market your business was an instant book with lots of great advice. I’ve moved books and marketed my podcasts having fun with mini videos. Though Vine remains the superior product, Instagram changed their app to ape Vine so Instagram has many more users. I bet on the wrong horse, not every at bat is a home-run, insert your metaphor for failure here.
  • This Plague of Days, Season One is getting traction. It might even be on the cusp of taking off. I’ll find out when Season Two hits at the end of September. (Here’s my latest post with hints and expectations for Season Two.) Early feedback is very encouraging. As in this, from the beta team: “Suspense and plot and action – all of them are on steroids in this book…overall impression is you have brought this thing to the next level.”

Mind the towering caveat in the following paragraph:

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

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

So you see, I’m no better (or worse) at stabbing at the imagination of readers than anyone else. I don’t know what will sell buckets of books. No one does. It’s something that happens to you, as long as you pretend your destiny is under your control and do everything you can to get discovered. You can hit the target. We’re all shooting blindfolded in the dark, sure, but if you take enough wild shots, aiming matters less. You write the best book you can and engage more readers and attend some sad, ill-attended bookstore signings and do whatever else you can think of to fire off signal flares without becoming a Twitter pariah.

This is not to say that good advice isn’t out there. It’s just that so much good advice conflicts!

The great Chuck Wendig talks about voice (or the force of personality) being more important than “brand”. Others can’t talk about anything else but brand, stats and system gaming. Hugh Howey is the outlier that didn’t really market anything when he started Wool (though he says Facebook helps him most these days.) Some insist on lots of links to your other work in the back of each book. Others say that’s overkill and intelligent readers will find you easily if they love you enough to bother with a google search. Some book marketers are passive as a policy (or lazy.) Others are so active, it’s pretty close to obnoxious.

And still, nobody knows anything. Not for sure. There are too many variables to success and the situation is fluid. We, writers and publishers all, dance on tightropes while juggling feathers in wind storms and hope readers will cast a glance our way and enjoy the silly monkey dance.

Still, you’ll find advice about tactics everywhere.

Just this week, I pushed the Author Marketing Club and Bookbub. Solid advice I stand behind. But keep in mind, these are tactics. The potency of tactics can wax and wane according to many variables. That’s what’s hot now and into the near future. After that? New tools will emerge because good ideas get copied. Sometimes imitators are new and improved and often the copier doesn’t have enough toner.

Strategy is long-term thinking. Strategy says: Write more. Get more feedback. Write more books. Get better. Higher+than+Jesus+Front+1029

This is the only advice I know that lasts. (You’ll find that and much more about the writing and publishing life in Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire. Crack sells a bit while the second book hardly moves at all. Why? Who knows? Nobody. Nobody knows anything! My Lord and Saviour told me so.

However, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I have a third book about writing and publishing in the chamber ready to fire. When This Plague of Days hits big, readers will pick up all my books about writing and publishing. After the fact, they’ll say, “Well, no wonder.” 

The Johnny-come-latelies won’t know what you know. My overnight success wasn’t overnight. Success always seems inevitable, but only in retrospect. Until you make it, no one cares about you and your book. Those who do give you any thought probably think you a fool. (Insert an image of your disapproving in-laws here.)

Ah. But, afterwards? You’re a genius.*

~ *Afterwards, You’re a Genius is a wonderful book I recommend for anyone interested in scientists with lyrical sensibilities.

For more on the rising action and scary high stakes in the spiralling weirdness of an autistic boy fighting zombies, read this post at ThisPlagueOfDays.com. 

For more on my adventures in self-pubishing, swallowing bitter pills and my peculiar brain mania, there’s this post on the writing life at my author site. 

 

Filed under: author platform, getting it done, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FAQs: Would I go with an agent?

Crack the Indie Author CodeWhen I attended the Banff Publishing Workshop, most attendees were bent on writing and managing magazines and publishing houses.* I knew one nice woman who wanted to be agent. I wonder what she’s doing now? There’s an excellent chance she’s selling real estate. Too bad. She really was nice. Same is true of all my classmates in journalism school who were let go from their newspaper jobs about the time they turned 40. Changing media delivery paradigms sure do stir up chaos.

Given my last post, you might think I’m against agents. Not at all. I think agents could be very useful for negotiating foreign rights for my imprint in the future, for instance.

However, their role is much reduced and smart agents are changing their games. At a recent writing conference, writers were not chasing agents so much. The Meet-An-Agent appointment schedule could not be filled. Now more agents are chasing writers and they’re very interested in how your self-published books are doing. They weren’t at all interested a short time ago. In fact, some were quite pissy about the prospect. But now? Establish a happy track record and they might come a courtin’.

The short answer to this post’s title is:

I’d be interested in hearing what an agent feels he or she could do for me. There are good agents out there. I think hybrid publishing maximizes exposure and opportunities for you and your readers. Look at Wool author Hugh Howey’s experience. An agent found him and she was willing to travel outside the ruts of old publishing’s logging road to get Hugh a deal that worked for everyone.

The long answer? Let’s go with bullet points so I can make this shorter:

  • The submissions process can be a long ordeal. Long as in, are you young enough to begin now?)
  • You may be asked to make major changes to your manuscript. If you succeed in getting a book deal, you’ll make even more major changes.
  • You may choose to make the requested changes and they still won’t take you on. (They may even forget the changes they suggested. Yes, that’s happened.)
  • You can get an agent but still fail to place the book with a publisher. An agent is a person, not a guarantee of slinging back cosmos in Manhattan with your new editor.
  • The myth is that you choose an agent. The fact is if someone sends you a contract, most authors pee their pants and quickly sign. Regret is for later.
  • You can find an agent, dance joyously and then find out it’s a scam (as happened to a friend of mine.)
  • You could bypass the agent and submit directly to publishing houses and they’ll still read it. (They say they don’t, but most will.)
  • As Dean Wesley Smith has said, agents should be your employees. I’m sure he’s right. Guess how many agents see their professional status that way?
  • Submit to the wrong agent who blogs and they’ll mock your submission. Unprofessional, I’d say. As Will McEvoy said recently, “Snark is the idiot’s version of wit.”
  • Good agents have precious few slots open for new clients. Bad agents and scammers demand reading fees.
  • Rather than submit query letters to agents, many agents find new clients via recommendations from the authors in their stable. Who you know? Yeah, that’s still a thing. It’s called networking. Ignore the denials.
  • Getting an agent is tougher than getting published. Why not publish it yourself first and start selling now? As I’ve said many times, Amazon is the new slush pile.
  • Some agents live in fear of submitting manuscripts that might not be accepted. They have to be so sure, they’re too risk averse. One agent complained that one false move with a particular editor would lose her access forever. This sad story tells me that’s a crazed editor. It also tells me that’s an agent who is too fearful, forever doomed to be chasing trends instead of helping to make them.
  • The agent/author relationship is like a marriage: They have a piece of you forever even after the divorce.
  • Lazy agents say, “This would be hard to sell.” As a former sales rep for many publishing companies, I can assure you that there are few easy sales. We don’t need you for easy sales. Selling is part of the job. The better question is, “How can I sell this and to whom?”
  • Often when they say, “This would be a hard sell”, they aren’t lazy. It’s a euphemism for, “I think this is crap but why not be diplomatic?” They’re being kind. Don’t resent them for it. Move on.
  • You’ll get a better deal with a good agent than without her. A good agent will more than pay for herself. However, some agents are getting paid for doing very little. They treat the publisher’s contract as set in stone. That’s supposed to be the publisher’s attitude. It’s a bad attitude for the person negotiating for you.
  • Good agents can act as a buffer and help resolve conflicts with editors. Bad agents are the source of personality conflicts.
  • You have to trust your agent. You don’t have to love your agent. It’s a business relationship. That’s less clear in the beginning when you’re riding high. It’s very clear when they dump your mid-lister ass.
  • A good agent can do things you can’t and navigate the tiny details of contracts. A good agent can pay great dividends for their fifteen percent.
  • But an entertainment lawyer can practice law and navigate the tiny details of contracts and you pay them once. Hm.
  • A good agent can justify their participation in your enterprise without sounding old-school entitled about it. They work in listening mode.
  • Trad publishing has changed. Good agents know it and are adapting to serve their clients better.

TPOD 0616 EP 1 coverAuthors who love their agents are everywhere. A plethora of horror stories about agents also span the Internet, just as there are snarky complaints about clueless authors everywhere.

A better question is about the human variable: You.

Would you feel better with an experienced, connected agent helping you on an ongoing basis?

Or does the prospect fill you with anxiety?

Are you happier as a publisher/author/entrepreneur who pays for an entertainment lawyer’s expertise on an ad hoc basis?

Enter the relationship self-aware, eyes open.

Even better:

How do you find a good agent if you want one?

Ask an author in your genre who is already delighted with their agent.

*FYI: A magazine is something people used to subscribe to and read, like a blog but made out of glossy paper. Publishing houses were places that had an undeserved reputation for great cocktail parties that were vaguely upper crust, literate and British, no matter where they were located or how little the worker drones were paid.)

~ Robert Chazz Chute was one of those worker drones. He is the author of This Plague of Days World flu pandemic! Autism! Zombies! Oh, my!

Filed under: agents, Books, publishing, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FAQs: What book promotion are you paying for?

I sent a close friend the gift of an ebook hoping that he would read it, enjoy it, possibly review it and maybe even spread the word to his vast network of connections. Instead, he sent me a scolding reply: “You’re paying people to read your books!” And by people, he meant him. Ouch. In my defence, I don’t know that he’s read it yet, so that’s my double fail.

Before anybody thinks he’s harsh, a little history and context: I understand that he felt fine paying for the book himself. Also, I got him his first job in book publishing. He’s still thinking about publishing from that perspective. I’m sure he didn’t want to sound mean. I caught him on a bad day. Also, I’m sure he’s worried about me and that’s why he was so undiplomatic and reactive.

However, he’s only thinking of me as a friend and writer. I’m also a publisher.

Publishers have a long history of sending out Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) to key reviewers, the sales force, bookstores and media. That doesn’t require an apology. That’s business and doing less is hiding your light under a shitstorm called, “Everything else that exists to read, do and enjoy.” Yes, you’re even competing against sex! Clearly, books are doomed!

How many ARCS go out from traditional publishers? Hundreds per book. I can’t afford to do that, but I do send out some that way. I wasn’t paying anyone to read my book. I was paying for advertising and promotion (to teh wrong target, I found out.) You can do the same thing for free by emailing a pdf, though if they can’t instantly stick it on their kindle, most people won’t bother with it. Chances are good they won’t get around to reading it even if you make it very easy for them so avoid handicaps where possible. That’s why I prefer to use Amazon’s gift option where possible and within budget.

About sending copies to book blogs

Check out the book blog first. Review the reviewers and their guidelines before you send anything. Many book blogs are awesome. However, I’ve encountered noobs whose site is nigh-illegible, their traffic is minuscule and their reviews give spoilers without warning. I’d rather let a blindfolded med student practice minor surgery on my tingly bits.

Services to invest in

In the previous post, I mentioned Bookbub is a worthwhile investment. The cost of advertising with BookBub varies depending on genre. Horror and science fiction is $70 to push a free ebook. Find the full range of pricing here.

I also mentioned the Author Marketing Club. That costs $105 per year for an annual membership and it’s worth it for the tools and seminars. My book descriptions look better than ever, for instance. The free submission tool got This Plague of Days at number one in Dystopian and Post-apocalyptic. The book sales widget looks awesome.

Where can you cut corners?

Anyone reading this is probably working on a shoestring budget. To make any money, we have to keep our expenses down to nothing or close to it. We blog and tweet and use Pinterest and Facebook and do Google+ and throw Tumblr in the air and shout out of windows because it’s free and we’re trying to engage new readers. I’ve used Fiverr for videos* (see my video/book promotion strategy here) and free apps from Apple and the Chrome Store. 

We get what services we can for free where and when it makes sense. We swap services and cooperate and consult and promote each other for free. We learn to format books and publish DIY wherever we can so we can keep something of what money might trickle in, knowing the odds are heavily against us. (That sounds bleak, but more indie authors are making a living from their efforts than the traditionally published so it’s not all bad news.)

About ineffective promotion services

Lots of advertising isn’t worth the expense. Some sites say they can promote your books and they’ll do so for a fairly low fee. However, you won’t get even that small fee back. Before you go with another of those sites, review the promoters. Reach out to the indie authors you know. Use your Facebook connections to gather intelligence and ask about other authors’ experiences and results. This is most valuable if their books are similar in genre, quality and look to your own. (In other words, don’t blame the book promotion service when a bad cover sunk the author’s efforts.)

I’m always looking for ways to save money so I can put it into pushing books. The other day I realized I was the only 48-year-old walking around a bookstore in old jeans with ripped up hems. I don’t buy new pants! Think what Bookbub advertising I could buy for the price of a couple of pants! And you know what? I wish I had a bigger budget because however you promote your books, you pay. (And I want new pants. I rocked this look in college but it doesn’t fly now.)

If you don’t pay in money, you pay in time.

Without the cash, you lose time with your family (okay, not always a bad thing). You will lose time going to the gym and end up paying with your health. Time is more important than money because you can make more money but the waking hours are all you get. Worse, if you aren’t careful, marketing cuts into writing time. Be careful. Hemingway was Hemingway, but he never had to share your problems.

Expect to pay something.

Can you go viral and pay nothing and still be successful?  It could happen, but to expect it is stupid. That’s not a strategy. That’s hoping something will happen to you instead of making it happen and that’s not the way to bet. Use AMC and Bookbub now at least. Then be clever and different and promote your brand with long-term strategies that will make a career.

Should I set a budget of $10,000 for a book promotion budget?

I’m not buying new pants. 

*I have a new intro video at AllThatChazz.com, in addition to the intro video at CoolPeoplePodcast.com and of course, here at ChazzWrites.

Filed under: author platform, book marketing, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Authors and Publishers: Six things to do immediately to get more readers and keep them

We are in a battle for attention. Here are three things to consider today to get readers’ attention and keep it:

1. List posts, like this one, are popular because they are easier for readers to scan. (They’re also pretty quick to write.)

2. There’s a good chance your blog posts are too long. Mine often have been. I changed that once I realized how few people give blogs a deep reading. You probably aren’t reading this. You’re scanning this for what you can use.

3. I put the font for this blog in bold after a few readers complained the font was thin. Some readers, either because of their devices or their eyesight, still had problems reading the font. I bumped it up again.

4. When you write a blog post, you often have the option of adding links outside your blog. Click the underlined word and blog readers get whisked away for more on “kerning” and its history. I used to do that within blog posts but not now. Those links are excuses for readers to put their attention elsewhere. If they need something explained, explain it for them. I still provide related articles at the bottom of most posts for added value. New readers often find me through those links.

5. Go to your author profile on whatever sales platforms you use. Shorten it. I wrote a hilarious profile for Amazon. It was funny and informative, but it wasn’t doing its job because it was too long. People want to know enough to have confidence you could write an informative or entertaining book. Leave some mystery and make it an invitation instead of forcing the full bodacious on them all at once. If they want to know more about me, they can visit my author site or (gasp!) purchase my books. We want browsers to read our books, but they’re merely scanning our author profiles, if that.

6. Add video. Your blog is a charging at us too hard on the first date and it’s intimidating.

You’ll notice a new feature at the top of this blog on the main page. A spokesperson tells you about some of my websites and the free ebook promotional offer. I added the text to the video for added punch. Since adding the video a couple of nights ago, traffic to my author site has risen 66 percent.

New visitors will stay if you use video to welcome them and get them acclimated to what you’re about. Regular visitors will discover something about you they didn’t know. We’re visual creatures and people are used to taking in information that way. Too much text all at once puts them off. Text is for books. (I use a spokesperson for the  Cool People Podcast page, too. “What? You have two podcasts, Chazz?” See, somebody found out something new already. Notice, I’m tickling their ears with yet another medium: podcast.) For my author site, I’ll soon add a personal message from me instead of using a spokesperson.

To win eyeballs, hearts and minds, heavy text isn’t the answer. That’s for book readin’!

More white space and YouTube helps readers discover how awesome you are.

Robert Chazz Chute

Robert Chazz Chute

~ Add an author profile, pic or note (like this one) at the end of your blog posts, too, if you want. Glad you found me!

I’m a former journalist and columnist who has worked in all aspects of book and magazine publishing. Have you checked out all the cool videos and excerpts from my book about an autistic boy facing the end of the world? Go to ThisPlagueOfDays.com to learn more about my serial. Looking to lose weight and be healthier? Check out another of my blogs, DescisionToChange.com.

Filed under: author platform, blogs & blogging, book marketing, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

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

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

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

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

Write to live

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

See my books, blogs, links and podcasts.

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