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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Is blogging dead? To blog or not to blog?

As we move into 2015, I’m reevaluating what works and what doesn’t. In talking with another author, I suggested that blogging is all but dead. I could boost traffic to this blog by posting twice or more each day and pushing hard. However, I’d be luring back many of the same people. Blogging, for me, doesn’t pass the evaluation required by the 80/20 rule. There are ways to blog better and draw more eyeballs, but I don’t think that’s the most efficient use of my time. (Your mileage may vary, as always. I’ve got too many books to create to devote that much writing to blogging.)

It’s not that blogging hasn’t helped me in the past.

If blogging was all I did and if I was working a different business model, it could work. However, the odds against are steep. There is little time and plenty to do and not that many destination blogs. By “destination blogs,” I mean blogs we feel we have to visit every day. The best blogs are those that don’t need to remind you to check them out.

Sure, there are a few blogs that stand out.

I anxiously await the latest from The Passive Voice each day. Seth Godin’s blogs are short, pithy and easily digestible. Copyblogger is a place I should visit. However, the truth is, I only check out a few blogs on a regular basis.

A fellow author challenged my thinking on my stance.

His said blogging isn’t dead. It’s just that too many bloggers do it wrong.

I really took my time thinking about that. If true, that means that most of us are doing a bad job, and by most, I mean a staggering majority. We’re not all that dumb are we? Gee, I hope not. So…

Nope. I don’t buy it. Reading habits have changed from 2006. Those popular blogs are the few outliers. If you don’t have heavy traffic to your blog, don’t feel bad about it. You’re with the vast majority.

What am I doing instead of reading a lot of blogs?

I’m listening to podcasts. We’re listening to Smart Passive Income, the Sell More Books Show and the Rocking Self-publishing Podcast. 

YouTube and podcasts are where the action is. Through podcasts, I’m reaching out to readers on the Cool People Podcast and the All That Chazz Podcast. Blog reading time (and sadly, much book reading time) has been displaced with conversations overheard and videos shared. We’re multitasking, running on treadmills, doing dishes and commuting while listening to conversations from Stitcher and iTunes. Maybe my podcasts aren’t huge, either, but there is less competition there and there are other audiences to reach worldwide.

Besides podcasts, we’re also listening to audiobooks whilst doing the hamster wheel thing at the gym. (So create audiobooks.)

That said, I do continue to blog.

I’ve made a lot of friends through this blog, several of whom I’ve worked with. I came up with two books from this blog. However, my Pareto Principle Assessment stands going forward. I don’t blog every day but, when you subscribe, you’ll get a notice in your inbox when I decide I have something to say. That’s usually 2-3 times a week, not 2-3 times a day.

If you want to build your author platform around your blog, I’m not saying you shouldn’t. I’m saying it’ll take more effort than I’m willing to invest. That’s a project that’s a challenging time management problem and it’s not for me. I do enjoy blogging and, like all my writing, it’s a compulsion and an itch to be scratched.

Going forward, I’ll be creating and co-creating a lot of books this year. The math is, fiction that sells forever has to be the focus.

The choice isn’t really binary, of course, but I’m putting my weight behind more books and podcasts. I’m not alone in this assessment, either. I’ve noticed several more authors who are turning their efforts to video and audio and leaving blogging to trail behind, almost forgotten.

What’s your choice? Have you noticed you are reading blogs and books less and listening more?

Filed under: author platform, blogs & blogging, , , , , , , ,

As a writer, what’s optional? What’s necessary? What’s real?

1. I think charity, political action and social justice is important. Let’s not lose sight of what’s important.

(For instance, I’m trying to help a guy find a kidney.) 

This post is about doing what’s necessary and managing our time better as writers and publishers. Don’t click away. It’ll be fun. You’re going to like this post a lot, trust me, but before we proceed, please consider that at least one good kidney is what’s really necessary. Please sign your donor card. Follow @RSawatsky and retweet him. #DudeNeedsAKidney! Spread the word to change and save lives. Thank you.

We now return to your regularly scheduled programming…

Organ donation matters to all of us but Amazon and Hachette’s machinations really don’t much. I try not to get too caught up in industry debates that don’t affect me and hurt my productivity if I give them too much energy. I’ve commented on Amazon versus Hachette, but I don’t live and breathe that debate because I feel no agency in changing the outcome. Amazon and Hachette are gonna do what they’re gonna do.

Meanwhile, I’m publishing my fifteenth book at the end of the month. (That averages out to five a year, so clearly I’m a slacker.) My point is, it’s better that I spend time telling stories instead of scurrying around the ankles of giants.  

2. If you can’t afford to pay an editor, you can swap services, use your writing group or crowdsource. Finding a good editor is hard. Harnessing the hive mind, if you have enough solid people on your side, is easier in some ways. If you can afford to hire an editor, don’t stop there. You probably still need to crowdsource to get a lot of eyes on your manuscript before you release it. More proofreaders in your beta team now mean fewer problems later.

Beware of people who approach you about editing your next book. Better not to answer them. Best to depend on the team you develop and choose. Finding help gets easier as you go along. Don’t despair and take the time you need. Also, there’s zero shame in taking that job you need to pay for the professional assistance you need. You’re a full-time author if you put in a lot of hours, no matter what job is listed on your tax form.

3. I got a bill. As a result, I have never been so focussed as I am now on the famous 80/20 rule. That which does not advance my writing career in some tangible way is a waste of my time and I am ruthless. Priorities are: family and friends, exercise, writing, a certain degree of social interaction and the pursuit of happiness along career lines.

I write and exercise early in the day to make sure that gets done. Everything has a schedule and I am plugged into it.

Why exercise? Because we’re sitters and sitting is the new smoking. Self-care puts the oxygen mask on yourself before assisting other passengers in need. Do that or we’re all gonna die.

4. Experiments are conducted. That which works, stays. That which does not is jettisoned. Bookbub and BookGorilla and Freebooksy are still in. I try smaller services sequentially (separating promotions) to see if they have an effect on daily sales. They don’t (for now) so they’re out. I’ll revisit them periodically to see if they’ve grown their subscriber lists substantially, especially if they’re free services.

If I can spend an afternoon at some kind of author event and if I’ve just reached one new reader and touched their hearts? I’ve wasted that afternoon. 

I’m not playing small ball, anymore. I don’t hang out hoping for individual conversions. I make alliances with my fellow author army for mass mind invasions. I experiment with keywords and categorization. I give sermons to the masses. Scalable stuff. I don’t want twelve disciples. I want a vast cult of love that spreads among strangers by word of mouth in airport lounges and through the matrix as fast as the newly converted can warble at each other excitedly about my last book and my next book. I am a happy infection.

Don’t get me wrong. I love every reader who gets me. I’m not trying to sound harsh. I’m trying to maximize my time because I’m not immortal (yet.) Only the willing are drafted. I’m prepared to sell my books and ideas but it’s an invitation, not a hard sell that makes me hate myself and lose psychic energy.

If I have to spend time convincing them to take my book into their hands? They aren’t ready for me. They’re ready for James Patterson. Godspeed.

5. It’s best to hire someone to do your graphic design. I always recommend Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com. He is awesome and if you employ his talents you’ll undoubtedly sell more books.

If you can’t do that (due to financial emergency or scheduling issues), kdrenegade and picmonkey are options that work best together. There are many editing programs. Whatever we do won’t be as good as what a professional can do for us, but it might do until we can redo those covers with the pros.

Do do your best or you’ll rue your doo doo book covers.

6. Book formatters can make your work look great and elevate your art with their art and sensibility. Pay them if you can afford to do so. Otherwise, let’s not be quite so hard on amateur formatting attempts as long as it’s functional.

For instance, book formatters will insist that your print book must begin on the right. The people who care about this are book formatters. They can be hypercritical of details no one else notices. Also, unlike the formatting experts, I prefer seeing the title at the top of each screen of an ebook. I tend to read ten books at a time and the header they disparage as unprofessional reminds me which book I’m looking at instantly. (Did I mention I don’t have a lot of time to spare? Yeah.)

If you don’t care about certain details, you can do it yourself without expense or worry you’re doing too much that is wrong. Experts love to tell you you’re wrong. Non-experts, too. Especially non-experts.

There is much to obsess over. This is not one of those things. Prioritize what matters to you.

7. I blog when I have something to say. Otherwise, I write books.

Chasing the dragon by posting to a blog twice daily (or more) in an effort to boost blog traffic is so 2004.

8. YouTube videos of cats freaking out = a gravity well from which no one escapes. Don’t go there. If you do, you’ll write one less book this year.

You can’t feed your cat by watching cats on YouTube unless you film your own cat to make money on YouTube. You didn’t think all those crazy situations caught on video were accidents, did you? No. That’s a conscious plan to monetize cute (and steal your writing time.)

9. Don’t complain. Never explain. 

Someone at Thanksgiving dinner and on Christmas Day is caught up in outdated misconceptions of what you do. This is an energy suck. Do you really want to have that same conversation about how ebooks aren’t real books, the smell of paper blah-de-blah and your publishing venture is not legit unless a trad publisher pays you a pittance and abuses you with ferocious contract terms? 

Don’t get sucked in. Instead, agree with the Uncle Bozo. Tell him he’s absolutely right. He hasn’t changed his mind about anything ever, anyway, so stop butting foreheads. Your aspirations don’t matter and books don’t pay. Tell him what he wants to hear.

Then tell him, “Fortunately, you can remedy that.” Thank him for his concern as you say, “I’ve got my books in the trunk of the car. You can buy them right now! Thanks again! Be right back!” Don’t wait for his reply.

Bring them all. Before he can protest, tell him you have change for big bills. (With Square, you can also take his credit card.) Refuse to leave until those boxes are empty and his trunk is full. His choice is to buy your stuff or admit he was being a prick and trying to make you feel bad about your aspirations.

Uncle Bozo will never bother you again.

10. Look to others’ successes to figure out how to proceed and what practices to copy.

Don’t waste a minute worrying that everyone else is playing this game better and getting luckier and selling more books than you.

They are all doing much better (often succeeding by accident while you try guile!) They’re all doing great and thinking about buying a boat. You suck. I suck, too. I know! I know! But worry doesn’t help that. Writing the next book helps that.

You’re going to write that next book, anyway, no matter what the “market conditions” are. So go do that. No bullshit.

And stop checking your sales dashboard stats for green arrows ten times a day!

~ This post was briefly titled, “As an authorpreneur…” Then I changed it to “As an writer…” and it went out like that. Oh, for God’s sake! We now return to our regularly scheduled self-loathing….

 

Filed under: author platform, publishing, Rant, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What if What We Think We Know About Writing, Publishing & Promotion is Wrong?

TWEAKED JESUS OMNIBUS COVER WITH CROSS

Problem:

Blogging is dead. I’ve been spinning out gold here for years. Maybe I should have spent more time writing books instead because my blog stats are fairly static. This site gets pretty decent traffic when I post, but it’s not growing as I’d hoped. Still glad to do it because it’s a compulsion, but I don’t do it as often and I don’t do it to sell books. I’m here to gain allies, share information and rant when the pressure builds too high.

My book sales come through Amazon promoting me, perhaps the occasional ad, pulse sales and, most important, word of mouth. I experiment with categorization and keywords and KDP Select. I write surprising books with many twists and turns and emotional gut punches. Sometimes it feels like I’ve been teetering on the cusp of success a long time and sometimes that’s lonely and sad. That’s when I stalk around the house naked, overcompensate for my doubt, pour a stiff coffee and start shouting, “Tonight I shall drink from the Chalice of Glory!” 

Solution:

We all need an author page, but do we really need to blog? Instead, go where it’s easier for consumers of information to consume. Twitter, when used well, is one option and less time-consuming.

Note, too, there are far fewer podcasts than there are blogs. I’m back podcasting after taking a hiatus. My podcast stats not only bounced up nicely with one new episode this past week, but the numbers were pretty steady in my absence. To catch the latest All That Chazz podcast (The Hit Man Edition) click here.

The Oft-repeated Wisdom May be a Lie.

Gird your loins because this is going to get scary. Here’s what we think we all know for sure:

Market your books by writing more books.

Well, yes and no. If you have a hit, your new adoring readers may want to read everything you write and then it finally will pay to have a huge back list. However, it amazes me how many readers are very genre-specific in their tastes. More books doesn’t necessarily translate to more sales.

I know this goes against everything you’ve read and it goes against what I believed until recently. But, as Tucker Max said on the Self-Publishing Podcast recently, “Book discovery is broken.”

My Evidence: 

1. Some authors are making good money writing fairly crappy books, and fairly few. (So much for the “Make-it-great-and-it-will-certainly-sell meme.”) What makes them hot? Genre choice is one major factor, I suspect.

2. It’s surprising how many authors seem to do okay with their first book or two. Or they get featured on podcasts and whatnot despite being relative novices. Is it their marketing machine, their genre of choice or luck? (More about the touchy subject of luck in a moment.)

3. It’s disheartening to find (in my informal and unscientific survey) that there are solid, experienced authors who:

(A) appear to be great at marketing,

(B) have an impressive number of books to sell, and yet,

(C) one of their series is actually selling and just about everything else is not. Read (C) again. Aren’t you glad your girded your loins? I know it’s counterintuitive, but it’s what I’ve been told by authors with a lot of books out there (as in more than thirty).

Some authors are blaming cannibalization from Kindle Unlimited for their recent sales dip. Or is it that the recession still rolls on in too many places? Or is it that readers already have too many free books to read? Can we blame our sales platforms? The narrow availability of Bookbub and the ineffectiveness of non-Bookbub sales tools? As a last resort, I suppose we could blame ourselves, but don’t wallow. I’m here to open the Box of Depression, not stuff you in deeper.

The Lie We All Need to Believe

On a recent publishing podcast, somebody who is making many thousands of dollars a month said something like: “Any author with persistence will make it big.”

Math says that’s not true. We won’t all make it big. Many of us won’t make it at all. Like the stock market, everybody can’t ride high by sheer force of will. If persistence alone were the issue, I’d have fewer writer friends constantly worried about money. I think some of us have to work smarter, but many of us are certainly working very hard. Telling us to bear down even more isn’t really helpful and may be damaging to our health, our relationships and our self-esteem.

HJ COVER FINAL LADY IN RED

About luck

People who do make it big will usually say something humble about being lucky. Then they’ll detail the strategies to which they attribute their success. They might be right or they may be rationalizing. They might not attribute enough of their success to luck and organic growth. But more important, can their experience translate to ours? If you’re not in the same genre and working in the same time frame with the same resources, can you replicate what they did to earn readers?

My strategies going forward:

1. Still blogging, but less so. Podcasting more. Worrying less.

2. I’m holding off on the spin-off of the Hit Man Series I’d planned. Common wisdom is that many thriller series don’t seem to take off until you’re at book #5 or above. Hollywood Jesus and The Divine Assassin’s Playbook, Omnibus Edition just launched and I’m at Book #3. I hope to bring the sales of my crime novels up as the charms of my funny Cuban assassin, Jesus Diaz, are discovered. Therefore, I’ll write more of the Hit Man Series, faster. Come for the action and stay for the jokes as he falls out of the frying pan and into the napalm.

3. Work in popular genres. I’m not talking about chasing trends so much as acknowledging that I can write in more genres than I’ve allowed myself in the past. To get where I need to go so I can write more on a full-time basis, the work needs to pay.

Choosing more popular genres first is the equivalent of choosing to paddle the white water to get where I need to be (and get there faster.) I can still make any book a labor of love without throwing away profitability.

For instance, I love my upcoming time travel book. I’ve been stunned to discover there are a lot of fans of time travel who are asking me to hurry up and put that one out. My next book is another crime novel, but I’ll get to it all. I am putting books out faster now, but it may be speed of production within a genre (not necessarily flat numbers of books) that helps me avoid the infamous Cliff of Visibility from which we drop after thirty days on the market.

I also produce more books because, as with this blog, it’s about doing what I love. Produce as much as you want, but don’t pin all your hopes on any one book. Just write because you want and need to.

Opening up to New Possibilities is Another Way Forward

Recently, a publisher approached me about writing a ghost story for an anthology. It’s an honor to be asked, but that genre doesn’t appeal to me. Or rather, it didn’t appeal to me.

I noodled with a few ideas. Then I started losing sleep over it. Unless we’re talking Poltergeist, my problem with ghosts is their lack of agency. What does a ghost want? How are they a threat? How could I make readers care? Did I really want to write this at all?

The key question I ask for all my book ideas persisted:

How could I transform an old idea into a fresh and cool story?

She Who Must Be Obeyed doesn’t ask about my insomnia, anymore. She just meets me at the breakfast table with, “Busy brain?” The insomnia finally paid off. I found the hook and the angle I needed to get into the story. I want to write for that anthology now because I found the key to the main character. I also want to write a series of books on that foundation.

I never looked down on ghost stories. I just figured they were for other writers to write. Now I know I can still write whatever I want. The difference is now I’m going to let myself play in a much larger playground.

Excuse me. I have to go write a metric crap-ton of books now. For the love of it.

 

 

 

Filed under: Publicity & Promotion, publishing, self-publishing, What about Chazz?, What about you?, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Beat the World’s Plot Against You

Life happens. It’s time for me to happen to life, not the other way around.

In the last few days, someone stole from my family and made my daughter cry. A close friend’s child died. Frustrations dot the landscape. I thought I’d be done another book by now but life keeps getting in the way. Clearly, it’s time for a pattern break.

“Rise up and take the power back.” ~ Muse from The Resistance

I am not a flake, but I speak it fluently. Once upon a time, someone told me to pick up every penny (back when Canada had pennies.) The act of picking up pennies in the street was supposed to be a message to the universe: “I am open to abundance!”

After picking up a filthy penny in the rain, it occurred to me the message I was sending the universe was, “I’ll take whatever crumbs you choose to send me.” Worse, I was sending myself a message: “This is all you’re worth.” Screw that hippie bullshit.

1. Everybody feels pushed around sometimes. Push back by doing a kindness to someone else. Transmute the energy into something positive.

2. Tonight I spotted an author’s comment on a troll’s review, thanking them for the mean review. Authors: Cherish your fans. Set trolls to ignore. You do not have to pretend to love the whip. Stop being grateful for crap. I didn’t think the author was classy and above it all for petting and encouraging the troll. It looked more like grovelling for a penny covered in dog crap.

3. Exercise. Don’t feel like taking out frustrations on weights and ellipticals? Find your jam. Dance. Make love. Make sex. Rock on. Get happy. When we act happy, we fool our bodies and brains. No? Not yet? Dance harder.

4. Get enough sleep. Black out your room. Sleep naked. Fewer blankets are better. Can’t sleep? Revisit #3, points 5 & 6.

5. Phone a friend. Complain, but not for longer than three minutes. Then ask about them. Get out of your own head. Help them solve their problem.

6. You don’t need advice. Hardly anybody does. Just give yourself the same advice you’d give a friend in the same predicament.

7. Write. Not your book. Not yet. Write what you will do (not to do. Will do.)

Choose the two top priorities. Everything else on a long list won’t get done. Mark what time you will do these things. Keep that appointment.

8. Write. Make it the first thing you do. If not that, write at your high energy time.

9. Eat something that’s good for Future You. Don’t eat what Now You wants. Now You wants a hot fudge sundae on acid. Future You wishes you’d eaten a salad.

10. Do it all again until your are out of the unproductive funk. Then keep doing it. Write on. Write harder. Can’t make happy art? Fine. Fierce art is awesome, too.

Or do what you want. This is what I’m doing.

Damn it.

One day soon, we’ll all be brilliant together….

Filed under: getting it done, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

TOP TEN: What you were waiting for…THE THONG OF COURAGE!

Ten Rules About Everyone:

1. We’re all scared. The ones who say they aren’t haven’t experienced loss yet or they’re afraid of appearing weak. It’s okay to be afraid. Fear can be wise, but not so useful it should take over your life. Feel that fear and wear The Thong of Courage!, anyway.

2. We’re all frightened of being wrong or looking stupid. Worse, some graceless people are hoping to catch us making one wrong move. Worse still, at some point, we will all be caught. 

What do we do next?

We snap The Thong of Courage! to remind us we are not defined by our mistakes if we learn from them. Forward! Down the Catwalk of Begin Again! Work it!

3. Everyone thinks they’re right all the time. Statistically impossible. Never happens. However, no matter what you do, someone is sure you’re wrong because you didn’t do it their way.

That’s okay. They think their subjective opinion cancels out yours. Maybe it would have yesterday, but today? Today you’re wearing The Thong of Courage! Behold, The Power of Thong!

4. We are all dependent on each other. Our stories are often about the one person who makes all the difference that saves the world. That’s almost always false.*

*Notable exception: a Russian officer defied military command protocol when the computers in his bunker told him US ICBMs were on the way. While his peers demanded a decision, he remained calm and thought it through. He averted global thermonuclear war by ignoring all the warnings on his screen. He determined that the attack was a computer malfunction and, of course, he was right. There was no “of course” about it at the time, though. We came so incredibly close to not being here and most people don’t even know it happened. His name is Petrov and that day he was wearing two Thongs of Courage!

5. We all envy people without knowing their struggles.

An author who is incredibly fortunate and gifted discovered that someone who had been a friend would not attend the launch party for her book. The friend was envious. What the friend did not understand was, even with all those blessings, nothing comes easy. It’s all work. There is no one clear path forward.

One person’s success takes nothing from another’s potential. When we slip The Thong of Courage! up our thighs and give a little wiggle, we feel inspired, not thwarted, by what others have achieved.

6. We are all humans. That means weakness. That means strength. To be human is a special thing, but too often we fall in with tribalism and blind nationalism. We choose teams and sides and brands. We see other people as The Other and distrust too easily.

“When we only seek enemies, we only find enemies.” That quote is from Superman in a Justice League of America cartoon I watched when I was eight. Often true, too. Superman is so thonged up, his underwear looks too thick to be a thong.

7. When we operate from fear, we often make bad decisions. (Bad news considering Items #1 and #2, eh?)

We’re scared we’ll get screwed over by Kindle Unlimited. We’re afraid of what Amazon might do someday, like change the royalty to two pennies. However, there’s not enough data yet in the first case and we’re worrying over a hypothetical in the latter.

But Thongers? We unite in the Now of the Isness of This Moment. Feel the raw psychosexual power of The Thong of Courage!

8. Worries about hypotheticals will still sneak under the Thong sometimes. What if we don’t have enough money to pay the bills if we get sick? Will we have enough money to get an education to get a good job? What if the roof leaks? There are infinite negative hypotheticals. 

Projecting negative possibilities into the future isn’t as useful as it once was. If you’re reading this on a computer (as opposed to psychically), you probably aren’t in a survival situation where you have to figure out how to cure meat in case the crops fail.

What might be more useful is to use our imaginations to attack problems and be proactive about the future. Instead of getting stuck in paranoia, try pronoia. (That’s the state of suspecting the world could be a positive place and not everything is terrible and out to stab you in the eye with an icicle.) Pronoia is the magic stuff The Thong of Courage! is made of.

9. We are all more alike than we’d like to think. 

I met a macho guy from another culture. He spoke in familiar, aggressive rhythms. He was forceful, but a nice guy. If I heard that same tone in another language, I might suspect he wasn’t a nice guy. However, as I listened to him in English conversation, I wanted to laugh at my foolish preconceptions. The guy only sounded angry. He was pontificating about pop culture to his friends.

As writers, our tool is imagination. When we aren’t writing, many of us use our imaginations as a weapon against ourselves. We fuel worry and create stress and that tears at the fabric of the Thong of Courage! True Thongers depend on evidence, not irrational, fearful maybes. We can use our imaginations for good. Start with pronoia. (#8)

10. We all seek validation. Too much, I think. We hope readers recognize our brilliance. We want Someone Else We Respect (and may not even know) to give us the nod and let us into the Successful People Club. There is no club. Worse, luck is more involved than we’d like to think in success. Worse still, if it existed, membership in that club would often be temporary.

Most of us won’t get such public validation. The outliers — those few, stellar successes — will be chosen for acknowledgement, adoration and jealousy, yes. Mid-list authors who do reasonably well will toil on, keeping the size of their checks secret. They’ll shut up about making $40 ~ $60,000 a year in part because it’s more than most get but also because it’s not as much as they’d hoped and they’re embarrassed by arbitrary expectations. Someone won’t approve. Always, someone won’t approve.

Most of us will fail by the usual monetary measures and chances are excellent Mom and Dad will lose sleep over the lawyer you could have been.

So don’t write for validation. Seeking other’s approval is not The Way of the Thong! Don’t wait for your parents to give your writing career their blessing. Stop expecting everyone to understand your obsessions. Do the work. Write. Write for the joy of creating and what comes will come. Or it won’t. Doesn’t matter. You’re a writer in an awesome thong, for God’s sake!

We talk about writer’s block too much. Write through the fear to create joy in yourself and possibly in others. It’s supposed to be fun for you and the reader, you know? It’s not really all that hard, either.

You know who really needs The Thong of Courage!? Roofers in the hot sun and sweaty ditch diggers and worried caregivers and people with real problems who don’t have the joy of being writers. We are so lucky to do what we do. When we understand that, we won’t even need The Thong of Courage! anymore. We’ll go commando, naked and unafraid.

You are the answer you’ve been waiting for.

Do it.

~ My name is Robert Chazz Chute. I write stuff. Pantsless.

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)

 

 

Filed under: getting it done, What about Chazz?, What about you?, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

TOP 10 in The Art of Seduction (and getting read)

Helpful or informative blog posts shouldn’t be hampered by headlines that repel readers. Here are some how-to suggestions for better headlines and variables that hurt the spread of your word:

1. Relentlessly negative headlines. Occasionally going negative with headlines can increase the number of people checking out what you have to say. If condemnation is all you’ve got, I’d rather watch puppies and kittens wrestle on YouTube.

2. Sex sells, but not too much. You’ll get fewer retweets among the squares. Many of the people who aren’t square won’t retweet, either. It’s not that they’re prudes, but Mom’s on Twitter, too. Stay classy…like “The Art of Seduction” instead of the sexier headline I’m really thinking of. 

3. Insular headlines don’t help. “Cover reveal”, for instance. Please give us more of a reason to click that link. It’s not that cover reveals are necessarily bad. It’s that it’s only for the people who already know you. We all want to expand our audiences beyond our inner circles, so be more welcoming to the uninitiated.

4. Vague headlines. “Author interview” seems a tad lacklustre, especially if you don’t at least name the author.

5. Pull quotes are better. You just did a hilarious interview with an author. Quote them in the headline or add the joke to your tweet. To get us to click the link, we want to know we’ll have fun when we get to your blog.

6. Provocative is fine. Don’t be misleading or a dick. In the case of today’s headline, I added the parenthetical “getting read” so those clicking quick would still have their clothes on by the time the page loaded. Please note that all my blog content is enjoyed best naked, however. That’s how I write it.

7. A headline is a promise of a sort. The headline should fit the content, but make both more fun. When I was in Journalism school we were told to only write headlines with verbs in them. I don’t believe in putting writers in straitjackets, but it’s not a terrible idea.

8. Brief is better but your tweet doesn’t have to be limited to your headline. Add appropriate hashtags. Add a pull quote. Offer more clues so we know what to expect. Can’t do it with one attention-grabby headline? Follow up with another tweet tomorrow that doesn’t use the headline but points out an angle of the content. Or write a better headline in the first place. 

9. Spend more time on writing headlines. What would get you to click? The words, “how to” and “review” get more clicks. Asking a question can get people to check out what you have to say. Using key words in your tags will help you find more readers, so think about what words you would search to find out about your topic. However, don’t overuse key words. Google spiders are smarter than they used to be about that and, worse, that kind of thinking lends itself to flat, repetitive articles.

10. Write your headline last. Some people write headlines first to maintain focus, but that can lead to plain and linear headlines (which aren’t necessarily bad if it’s something people need immediately and it’s something they’re searching for.) The first stab is not always best and it will be more clever if you give it some time to percolate as you write. People like Top 10 lists, perhaps for the brevity (and so they get less of me naked.)

BONUS

It’s okay to tweet old posts if the material is evergreen. Get more mileage out of your work. It’s still going to be new to a lot of people.

Robert Chazz Chute Bio Picture~ Have you seen that new gorgeous and bodacious you asked for? Check this out at ThisPlagueOfDays.com.

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

The book marketing tool! (That’s a five dressed up as a nine?)

Every marketing guru will tell you to build your mailing list because that’s where the money is. They’re not wrong and I’m no marketing guru, but here are some deeper considerations, past the hype:

1. It’s gotten much harder to build that mailing list. The tools are there. I use Mailchimp on my author site (AllThatChazz.com.) Aweber is another good mailing list management tool. It’s lovely to be able to announce your latest book launch to a huge mailing list of eager fans. It’s also much more rare than the marketing gurus pretend. Everybody’s got a mailing list and they aren’t all equally special.

2. You need a really great giveaway to entice someone to subscribe to a mailing list: free fiction, a useful white paper or some other shiny thing. I offer free mentions on the All That Chazz podcasts, but through Facebook, Twitter, my blogs, Triberr, enthusiastic readers and my rebel writer allies, I’ve got a much wider reach.

3. If people are subscribing to the mailing list just for free stuff, will they keep that subscription after they’ve scooped up said free stuff? Periodically prune your mailing list by asking if your subscribers are still into you. Wise list owners seem to ask if you wish to continue receiving mailings annually.

You can check open rates and find out when interest has waned. A huge mailing list boosts the ego. However, if they’re mostly disinterested and cruising on momentum, that big list can cost you money and, worse, it won’t help. Better to have a smaller list of people who can’t wait for your next mailing.

4. Are your blog readers more interested in your latest blog post than your pestering through the mailing list? I’d rather be a destination blog than an obligation blog. By that I mean, it’s great when people make a point to come here or follow my posts.

Mailing list subscriptions are often ignored or deleted. Test your mailings and ask your subscribers what sort of material they want. It may be that all they really want is to know what your next book is and when and where they can buy it.

5. Subscriptions get deleted or ignored, especially when they come too fast and too furiously. Sure, you’ll mark it to read for later, but when the email is rolling in too often, it’s easier to delete it.

6. I’m currently following many blogs officially. Unofficially, with as many as 200 emails a day or more, I tend to stick with reading destination blogs. In other words, there are certain blogs I feel I have to check out and I don’t need a subscription service to remind me to go look.

7. If you’re producing material for a mailing list and for your blog, too, you’re doubling your effort. True, we all hope email subscribers are more invested in what we do. However, the folks who come to ChazzWrites just because they’re into what I do (which is to generally inform in a more entertaining fashion than I’m doing today)? They might be much more invested than those on the mailing list. Mailing lists aren’t quite as hot as advertised.

So my suggestions are:

Keep in touch with mailing list subscribers, but don’t overwhelm them.

I’m far behind on Seth Godin’s blog, but at least his posts are pithy and short. I’ll never get to some I’m subscribed to. If that describes you, save time and unsubscribe. Deleting posts each day as they come in is a time suck.

Content is king. Yeah, yeah, sure.

Lots of bloggers repeat that mantra, but they all think their content is great so it’s kind of an empty slogan. All I can add is, don’t post unless you have something to say. If you’re straining for a topic, you’re working too hard. Rest it. You’ll get more hits the more you post, until it feels to the reader like too much good content too often or too much drivel. Blogging is a high wire act, isn’t it? (And if all your content is that good every day, sell it as a book, instead.)

Take the opportunity to promote someone else’s excellent content instead banging your own drum.

Not feeling inspired for a blog post? No problem. Write your books instead or reblog. Point to other great content. You don’t have to be brilliant every day if you’re an excellent curator. Scoopit is another tool you can use to curate content and build a following.

Ease back on the throttle sometimes.

We talk a ton about getting out there and marketing books like mad and spreading the literary word. However, lots of readers appreciate us more if we know when to shut up.

I’m shutting up.

~ Chazz is preparing to release This Plague of Days, Season 3, on Father’s Day. The full TPOD compendium will launch then, too. Find out more about the zombie apocalypse with the young, autistic hero at ThisPlagueOfDays.com. It’s much more than a single zombie apocalypse. It’s your future.

 

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

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.

 

 

 

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

How to ignore your blog and still get lots of traffic

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege.

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege.

I have six blogs and two podcasts. I admit that’s insane, but let’s move on from that briskly and let me tell you about the nice surprise that spurred this post.

I did something that, in the podcast world, is frowned upon. Until last week I hadn’t put out a new show since August. (Letting a show dwindle like that is called “pod fade”.) When I looked at my time management issues in the prep for the launch of This Plague of Days, something had to be deleted from my schedule. I pulled back the throttle on podcasting temporarily.

Just like with blogging, the less you put out into the universe, the less you get back. It’s smart to send up flares and broadcast signals frequently so we can escape anonymity and indifference.

Here’s the surprise.

When I published my All That Chazz podcast last week, I didn’t want to look at the numbers. I clicked on my stats, prepared to wince. Listenership had dropped, but it wasn’t the dreaded flatline I expected. I also know why.

Here are the usual tools for signal amplification for any blog:

Season 2 is the quest.

Season 2 is the quest.

1. Write great headlines.

The words “how to” and “review” are particularly strong link bait. Have a look through my blog for headline ideas. They aren’t all killers, but generally I think they’re pretty sexy.

2. Write great content.

Everybody says this, but it’s not very valuable advice. Lots of gurus in the “content is king” crowd don’t write great content. Nobody sits at their keyboard planning to write lousy posts. My suggestion is more specific: Be useful or be funny. If you can do both? Even better.

3. Triberr.

Being on Triberr definitely helps me get the word out. I know there are detractors. The detractors typically get less traffic. It doesn’t pay to be too shy and helping others always helps you, even if you don’t grok the kind karma connection immediately.

4. Overshare from the heart and get lucky. 

It’s better to write more, of course. When you fire more shots, sometimes you get lucky and hit a distant target.

I wrote a post about the frustrations of publishing and the joys of writing that got picked up by The Passive Voice last week. When a big site reblogs your work, you’re introduced to people who have never heard of you. I got my best stats on that blog by writing this post: This is the post I shouldn’t write. I shouldn’t, therefore I must.

5. Give people what they came for.

Posts that are too short feel like a cheat. Posts that are too long aren’t read. Posts that drag out the suspense too long are irritating, so here’s what you came for:

Tweet Old Post is a plug-in that works while I’m sleeping. There are over 1200 posts on ChazzWrites alone. The plug-in pulls old posts up and tweets them to the universe. That’s how my podcast was still alive when I came back to it. I had 81 episodes of All That Chazz still firing through Twitter and getting retweeted because of my headlines. (I’ve also got a lot of really nice followers on Twitter. Join us @rchazzchute.)

With this plug-in, you can post by category. Sometimes dated content slips through my filter.  (Try tweaking your categories so the evergreen content gets fed to Tweet Old Post.) More people find me because of this plug-in. If you have a lot of posts on your blog, they can still keep working for you long after you’ve forgotten about them.

Here’s the description of Tweet Old Post:

“This plugin helps you to keeps your old posts alive by tweeting about them and driving more traffic to them from twitter. It also helps you to promote your content. You can set time and number of tweets to post to drive more traffic.”

Go to your blog dashboard, search the plug-ins for “Tweet Old Post” and install it. Ta-da!

I wrote a post about book formatting frustrations and time management any writer who follows this blog will want to read. For that rant and my time management strategy, click here now.

This Plague of Days 2 E1 0918 AMAZON~ I am Robert Chazz Chute. I write suspense and horror. Episode One of Season Two of This Plague of Days is available at Amazon. You can begin eating this delicious serialized story of an autistic boy versus the end of the world with Ep. 1.

I recommend you cave to my charm and guile and just grab the complete seasons of Season One and Two, but whatever. I will possess your minds, my pretties. I love you for your minds, among other things. No one wants to be loved for their minds alone.

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

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

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

All the dark fantasy fun of the first three books in the Ghosts & Demons Series for one low price.

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

You never know what's real.

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.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 10,703 other followers

Brain Spasms a la Twitter

%d bloggers like this: