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

Write and publish with love and fury.

What to talk about with readers

Sometimes you get to talk about a new cover, but there’s plenty more to talk about when we engage with readers.

It’s a common question: What do I say to readers?

If you’re meeting readers in person at a book signing, your engagement is generally as follows: a friendly hello, an inquiry about what they like to read and your elevator pitch tailored to their preferences. Ask their name and autograph it. Collect email addresses for your newsletter. Sell your paperbacks and/or have a QR code so they can buy ebooks on the spot.

If you have multiple books and a following who specifically came to see you (congrats!), they’ll talk to you about the last book of yours they read as they buy the next.

If you’re signing at a bookstore and the turnout is disappointing, don’t worry about it. Your mission isn’t to sell a few paperbacks and grub pocket change. Your job is to make sure the bookstore employees love and remember you. They’re the ones recommending books to their customers every working day, after all. You’re planting seeds in that case, not necessarily harvesting.

I’m not a great fan of in-person book signings. A few of my friends do marathons of signings and schlep to every festival, comics convention, bookstore and cafe. A buddy of mine is so prolific and peripatetic, he’d show up the opening of an envelope. More power to them. I live in Canada. Everything is far away from everything else. I’d rather stay home and talk to readers from the comfort of my writing bunker.

Before and after: Fresh, on-point covers may translate to increased sales. Consult with fans. They can help you choose covers and titles, too.

Which brings us to how most of us engage with readers: electronically.

We all know we should engage readers through newsletters, preferably not through a gmail account (so your news doesn’t go to spam), preferably keeping the list warm by sending out the mass email at some reasonable frequency so you are not forgotten. There are newsletter builders for most genres and autoresponders help convert casual readers into fans. I’m no newsletter ninja and my attitude about newsletter engagement is poor. I worry too much about bothering anyone too often. Unsubscribes from a small list are a bit depressing. However, I know a newsletter ninja who does it right so why listen to me about newsletters? I recommend Newsletter Ninja 1 & 2 by Tammi L. Labrecque.

Here’s how I love to engage with readers: my FB fan group

I list my books and links in the back of my books, of course. I also invite the die-hard fans to join us in my private fan group, Fans of Robert Chazz Chute. You can spend a month or years working on books, creating worlds in isolation. This group is one of the joys of the writing life and makes it less lonely. If not for them, I’d talk to three people on an average day. Four, if I order coffee.

Be honest, be real

These readers are fans who are mostly like-minded. They tend to share my worldview. I’m left of center, as is some of my fiction, I suppose. I know, I know! We’re told that, as authors, we lose readers if we’re political. Ha! That advice is common but it surely is not as universal as you’ve been told. Ever check out Stephen King’s Twitter feed or Chuck Wendig’s?

This topic is a longer discussion and another post. However, everything is political, especially now. Choosing not to speak up is a political choice, too. The market is fractionated. Everybody picks a side and everyone has their outlet. I was a citizen before I was a writer. I act like it and I’m real about my worries for the future. The climate crisis is real. The pandemic threat is real. Fascism, economic and governmental failures are real. Useful positions when you’re writing dramas about the end of the world, right?

Might I lose some readers? Possibly. I’d likely gain more readers than I’d lose. I don’t think I’d lose many readers who would dig my work so, frankly, I can’t worry about that much. To appeal to everyone, I’d have to say nothing. That’s not me and the writing would suffer. My fiction is richer because it’s informed by dark and stark realities of non-fiction. (Plus jokes. I make a lot of jokes.)

The Fan Group Offer

Members are entered into a raffle and, with their consent, lend their names to characters in my fiction. Nobody turns down the offer. It’s kind of a blast to find a character named after you in a book. I write apocalyptic epics and crime thrillers so even though safety is not guaranteed, people take it as a fun bonus of membership.

Pros and Cons

As discussed in last week’s post, there are problems with Facebook’s policies, post visibility and politics. You’re undoubtedly already familiar with those issues. However, talking with readers within the group is very rewarding for me. People do see my posts within the group, they want to see me succeed and the bond is tight. To me, newsletters often feel like missives to the ether. Within the group, I get replies in the comments, often instantaneously. It’s great to hang out with supportive people who get you and what you do. On some level, I think every writer needs that kind of edge. This is a fun way to make a living. It’s not an easy path.

The group is a club, the only kind I think I’d enjoy. This is not for the casual reader who can take me or leave me. Will it expand my readership? Honestly, not as well as a large newsletter list or a big investment in advertising might. The concrete benefits of the group are mostly indirect. It’s a time investment, not a monetary one and I never miss that time.

The experience is chummy. My editor is in the group. I’m more likely to find beta readers who know my catalogue there (and they can catch if I’m repeating myself). They know my genres. I have up and down days and I’m honest about both. Because of this blog and the podcasts I’ve been on, a lot of people in the group are not only readers, but authors, too. It helps to have friends in the know who you can PM occasionally to ask for a book blurb or get the answer to a question.

How often do I post to the fan group?

Pretty much daily. Sometimes I take a day off on Sundays.

Daily?! WTH do you say to them daily, Rob?!

What to say to readers:

Update them about deals, of course. These two gems are set to free today (Nov. 19/19), for instance. http://author.to/RobertChazzChute

There’s plenty to talk about that is not spammy:

  • Share compelling snippets from your WIP.
  • Consult with them about titles and covers.
  • Share your hopes, dreams and frustrations. The writing life is a dream. Sometimes it’s a nightmare. Tell them the truth.
  • Share their successes. These aren’t just fans. I think of every one of them as trusted friends. If a troll wandered in I’d bounce them immediately but no one has let me down yet.
  • Ask their advice. I’ve got mice in my attic. I vented. Suggestions were made.
  • Pictures. I shared holiday pix of my trip to Chicago and growled about the Christmas tree my son put up way too early.
  • Sometimes the post is a music video I like or a book recommendation.
  • I congratulate readers on completing another orbit around the sun. I’m glad for every birthday. Readers are precious. I want them to live.
  • I share blog posts, especially this one since it’s all about the sweet, sappy love.
  • Tell jokes and stories. More than once I’ve shared amusing anecdotes about territorial disputes with other folks at my coffee office. It’s war!
  • We talk a bit about the news but that’s more for the main news feed. I mean, sure, as noted above, I’m politically aware. However, I don’t hit anyone over the head with minute-to-minute coverage of the impeachment hearings. That’s already ubiquitous.
  • Never miss an opportunity to be kind, helpful and grateful.

If this sounds like a diary, you’re not wrong

Don’t just talk like an author, stiff and selling. Talk like a human. Despite who I am, I can provide a reasonable facsimile of human interaction. Maybe not normal human interaction, but they can get that shit anywhere, right? Entertain yourself and you’ll inevitably entertain someone else while you’re at it.

It’s okay to be random. I recently switched to a whole foods, plant-based diet (nutritarian, specifically.) I’m losing weight and feeling great. I’ve shared recipes, cooking successes and failures alike. We’ve laughed about the pumpkin pie that was supposed to be the best in the world. It sure wasn’t. Why should anyone care? They care because it’s honest and relatable. Ironic that the same is true of the lies you tell within the covers of a novel, isn’t it? Honest and relatable lies make compelling stories.

This is not a marketing chore. Have fun with it. I love the writing life and my people allow me to enjoy it every day, not just when I hit publish or read a happy review.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I write apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers. Subscribe to my teeny newsletter at AllThatChazz.com. Apparently, I won’t bother you with it often enough.

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

Selling Books: Strategy Versus Tactics

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marketing Tactics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Caveats

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

Marketing Strategy

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

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

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

Thinking Bigger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I had to be a little braver, too.

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

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

Facebook Live Fallout

Happy Christmas comes early Day!

Today, Friday, December 21, is special. I’m giving away ten of my books on Amazon, free for everyone to download. Yes, this means you, too! Go get your gifts!

Now, about my Facebook Live experiment:

In my last post, I mentioned that I was going to try Facebook Live for the first time. I promised to report back so here I am. It was a grand success and, to my surprise, I enjoyed it. I’ve done a ton of podcasting but Facebook Live doesn’t have any of the administrative issues or costs of podcasting. FB Live video can be replayed and repurposed, all for free. Free is a good fit for my budget. There are a lot of pros and very few cons.* 

What’s best about FB Live?

Engagement in real time! To be able to connect with readers personally and efficiently (read: without having to leave my house) is fantastic.

People showed up for the video I didn’t expect to appear. Readers also engaged in the comments after the live video was over. I didn’t expect that. Engagement is investment. The fact that people were willing to give up some time and attention to say hello, listen to me talk about my books and make a few jokes truly warmed my heart.

How often can we say book marketing is fun and even (gasp!) encouraging?!

The fallout is that I’m all in. Beginning in January I’m going to do a Facebook Live broadcast every Wednesday night at 8 p.m. EST.

Wanna see? Friend me on Facebook here.

To catch my first Facebook Live video

and pick up a bunch of free reading,

head over to AllThatChazz.com.

Feel free to download them all,

share the happy news with your reader friends

and enjoy your early Christmas presents!

 

Happy reading and merry Christmas, everybody!

~ RCC

*Total honesty post-script: I don’t like the way I look on camera. I got over it. Nobody cares. That was my mental block. I wore clothes. That’s sufficient.

 

 

Filed under: book marketing, publishing, robert chazz chute, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

TOP 10 Better Business Systems for Authors: Paradigm Shift

FYI: There’s free stuff for you at the end of this super important post so, y’know, hang in for that.

There’s a lot of talk about “getting your head screwed on straight” to deal with the business challenges of indie publishing. We’re told we have to cultivate the right attitude and mindset before we can do anything effectively. If that’s true, how come so many authors are out on a ledge? Maybe we’re proceeding from a false premise. How about we do what grown-up businesses do and stop talking quite so much about “mindset”? Let’s talk more about getting shit done and done well and on time with less hassle. That will change your mindset.

Let’s turn our prevailing paradigm and some frowns upside down. Let’s talk systems.

You’ll have a better mindset once you set up systems and deal with the mechanics of your business effectively. If you aren’t managing your time, others will impose their schedules on you. A stranger’s top priority is not achieving your goals. They’re trying to achieve their goals. If your mood is dependent on your latest review, the state of your mind and therefore your productivity is being outsourced to more strangers, some of whom are troglodytic wackadoodles.

Here are my suggestions to get in control.

Do this stuff and you won’t have to self-medicate, eat, meditate and worry so much:

1. Record your income and expenses as you go and there’s no tax time suck in April.

2. Defend your writing time and keep it sacred. Not just for you. Others must know you’re at work. Use Google Calendar, for instance, and stick to it. This is Art. It’s also a Job.

3. Let your team know your production schedule so editorial, artwork and marketing decisions are not made in a panic. The last minute is not your friend. More accidents and errors occur in the last minute.

4. Set writing deadlines because you’ll get more done. It’s not arbitrary, it’s essential. You’ll write more books if you stick to deadlines.

5. Email isn’t for all day. Constantly checking email drains energy and time. Stop that and schedule that task, like you’re about to schedule all tasks. (See #2 and act on it.)

6. Social media are for in-between times. It’s fine to stop to make a six second Vine when you take a break. It’s professional suicide to get drawn into endless surfing of funny videos. Vine, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are never done, so you have to set the time limit and stop. Remain in control and stop being such a massive consumer. You’re a producer. You make and sell stuff. 

7. Stop checking your sales stats and do more to change those stats. There is a time to check stats, but there’s no reason to check them often and certainly not several times a day. Writers write and producers produce. Write and produce so you meet your deadlines and send that brilliance out into the world.

8. If reviews drain energy instead of boosting you up, don’t read them more than once. Every group has its culture. If you find the tone of a review site is degrading you, your work and your mood, focus on your work, not the website.

9. Automate what you can so you are not constantly putting out fires. Schedule posts for the future, outline and plot and plan ahead. Use auto-responders and FAQ templates. Save your answers in a template so you can stop starting from scratch every time when someone comes looking for help. Solve each problem and resolve each query once so you don’t have to repeat yourself. Establish SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) and record them in a step by step list so you don’t have to relearn how to format with each new book.

10. Outsource what you can so you don’t major in your minor. Some authors use virtual assistants for research, marketing, formatting and minutiae. Admit that you can’t be good at everything and don’t even try to do it all alone. Graphic designers are better at covers than you are because that’s what they do all day. Let them take care of that so you major in your major.

Outsourcing frees time to write, but it also allows others to use their expertise on your books and business. The term independent publisher means you’re the boss. It doesn’t mean you work alone. That’s why I prefer “indie publisher” to “self-publisher.” There’s a mindset change that’s worthwhile.

FREE STUFF

~ Have a new All That Chazz Podcast, free, now and here. Check it out to discover why this podcast is like bad sex.

~ Oh, and have a free thriller on me, too. Grab your complimentary journey into funny, fast and hardboiled action here and sign up for more at AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: author platform, business, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

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

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

How to reach readers in a way most writers don’t

When you think of using video to promote your book, you probably think of a book trailer, like this:

I made the trailer above and it turned out pretty slick, I think. But there’s a better way. A book trailer broadcasts out. I want to motivate readers to find me, not just talk at them. Sure, book trailers can be cool, but there’s little to no evidence they motivate people to purchase more books. (Click on my old post here for thirteen options for using video. I especially like the Scott Sigler strategy.)

Here’s how I added value to This Plague of Days, Omnibus Edition.

The better way is to use video is to thank readers and engage them with a question or a reward. I opted to do both with a link to a secret video at the back of the TPOD Omnibus Edition. It’s three books in one, so, for those who care to, they can make one purchase and save a couple of bucks.

Here are the specifics of my latest launch strategy:

1. I’ve just launched two books, This Plague of Days, Season 3 and This Plague of Days, Omnibus Edition.

2. I dropped the price on the first novel to 99 cents and marked the second book down to $2.99. I’m selling the Omnibus (three big books in one) for $6. 

3. At the back of the Omnibus, exclusive to those readers, is a link to a private video. In it, I talk about the saga. It’s been years in the making. This is my Star Wars. Putting it to bed is a big deal to me and I give some behind-the-scenes origin information.

4. I ask a sincere question. A secret has been buried in this series from Season One and it pays off late in Season 3. It’s a huge surprise that a lot of people tried to figure out but they only saw it in retrospect. (My beta readers all said the same thing. “Oh! Of course! You dog!”)

5. As long as Omnibus readers answer the question in the comment thread at the private video link this year, I’ll send each of them my next thriller ebook as a gift. Free. No strings or demands for a newsletter sign-up. The new thriller comes out later this summer and it even ties other books together. It’ll be a fun ride and also a solid bridge to my other books even though it’s not in TPOD‘s genre.

6. Video is a more personal way to thank readers. By adding another book to the six-dollar Omnibus, readers won’t just save some bucks. They’ll get four books (three huge ones and one decent-sized novel.) Readers will benefit and I hope to gain readers who are already enthusiastic about my particular brand of crazy. 

7. I know this approach trips some fear alarms for some authors. Please don’t tell me I’m devaluing literature by pricing it too low and giving too much away. I’ve lowered the price, not the value. The literature that is devalued most is that which is read least. Times are tough for a lot of people, me included. But I still believe that generosity and helping others wins over greed. Give more and you’ll attract the people you want to be your readers. When they find you, they’ll buy all your books. Don’t chase anyone. Count the giveaway as the cost of advertising, something any business does. Let readers come to you willingly and they’ll bring you joy instead of heartache. 

How did I do it?

I used iMovie, but you could use a cell phone. It doesn’t matter as long as it uploads to Youtube and designate the link “unlisted” so only those who have the link can access it. It doesn’t have to be slick and fancy or have a kickass soundtrack that sounds like it’s calculated to accompany an invasion of Libya.

Your video might even be better if it’s not slick. I love my energetic little book trailer, but heartfelt and speaking into the camera? Heartfelt is more important than slick.

But how did I sell the TPOD Big Deal Book Launch to readers?

Here’s exactly how I did it.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute and no one can begin to fathom the depths of my exhaustion at this moment. I am puddin’. But I’m also happy. Anxious and happy. Mostly anxious. Go make a video. Of love. (No, I don’t mean like that!…okay…maybe like that.) 

Filed under: author platform, book marketing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The blog and book promotion tool you’ll love (that’s easy, effective and free)

Here's one of my Haiku Decks to start off your writing week right.

Here’s one of my Haiku Decks to start off your writing week right.

Haiku Deck is a free presentation tool that uses royalty-free images so you can make a statement with visual impact. Change up your next blog post or make a slick book trailer in minutes, for instance.

Click this link to ThisPlagueOfDays.com to see how I used Haiku Deck to remind readers that my next book is coming soon (and they better buckle up!) It’s actually quite beautiful and even easier and quicker than a YouTube video. The slideshow at the link was my first experiment with Haiku Deck. It took less time to put my trailer for This Plague of Days together than I needed for this short blog post.

There’s nothing wrong with YouTube, Instagram, Vine, and iMovie etc,…. Video can be useful and powerful if used well (and oooh! Moving pictures!) The advantage of Haiku Deck is that it’s free, fast and fun to play with. Consider adding it to your author platform’s arsenal. 

Want to sign up and start making your own trailers, presentations, charts and messages?

You’ll find the way to sign up at the end of each Haiku Deck presentation above. It’s easy to do and easy to share on multiple platforms, but if you do have trouble sharing on your non-self-hosted WordPress blog, no problem. Do what I did with the slideshows above. Load and link a screen shot and bam, it’s there.

Pretty cool, huh?

If you need tips on using video more effectively to promote your books or business, I wrote a quick book on marketing with Vine that highlights what you should be aware of to make it work better. Click the cover for Six Seconds below, for that chewy goodness (for the princely sum of just 99 cents!)

Six+Seconds+copy

~ Okay. We’ve started Monday morning off right. Let’s keep the healthy and happy vibes going. Pardon my excessive happiness today. It’s not characteristic of me, but I’m all ramped up about entering the final stages of publishing my eleventh book. Progress is being made. BAM! Okay, let’s go get ’em!

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

What did not help me sell This Plague of Days: Publishing problems and solutions PART III

I’ve tried a lot of things to get the word out about my books. Here’s what didn’t work and some things I’d do differently now.

PUBLICITY PROBLEMS

A. There was no detectable return on investment with most of my experiments with book videos from Fiverr.com. Fortunately, I paid little or nothing for them, so call that a reasonable experiment gone awry. Book trailers are generally weak (as I’ve blogged about many times.) If someone ever figures out how to make movie-trailer quality promo videos inexpensively, they’ll have a viable business case. There’s a better way to use video (see Solutions below.)

TPOD T-shirtB. Promises of rewards for spreading the word about This Plague of Days didn’t work. I wasted my time and that of my graphic designer trying to come up with cool t-shirts for the campaign. (Fortunately, Kit at KitFosterDesign.com, is patient and kind.) I ended up ordering two t-shirts of my design. They were way too expensive. I wear them.

C. My podcasts (AllThatChazz.com and CoolPeoplePodcast.com) don’t cause people to read my books…mostly or directly. (Interestingly, I can track stats that show a correlation in sales: I sell the most print books in those areas where my podcast is most popular. ) However, as you’ll see below, I think my podcasts help me most in indirect ways.

PROMOTION SOLUTIONS

1. I do have plans to use video again in different ways. Video can work well if done cheaply and with the right content. For instance, the Jesus video has worked to help me sell my crime novel. It’s on the front page of ChazzWrites.com and I’ll leave that up forever. People love that one because it’s so funny and silly and effective. I like the ink in water video at the top, too. That one does grab attention.

I found both on Fiverr.com. Fiverr offerings can be hit and miss. I’ve mostly used the site for video animation. Some other offerings strike me as ineffective, silly and ineffective or sleazy ploys.

One more detail about video 

Using the Vine app did connect me with new readers as well as help me discover a guest for the Cool People Podcast. In the future, I’ll do more short, informal videos. Video book reviews are very effective.

Any video can work if it’s funny, informational or contains a more personal message. The problem with Fiverr videos is that they’re impersonal. Just like with Twitter accounts, people want to hear from the author, not an intermediary. With Vine, Instagram or a quick video (shorter’s better) posted through your YouTube account and to your blog, video is still powerful. Make it yourself while you’re walking around. Make cheap and DIY work for you instead of against you.

For more tips on using video effectively to promote your book or business, there’s this:

Click it to grab it. On sale now for just 99 cents.

Click it to grab it. On sale now for just 99 cents.

2. For future promotions, I need to reach more people. My goal is to plug into a larger network. I’m working toward it. Over the last week or so I have over 1,000 more followers on Twitter. In the future, I also have to find a local company that can make a decent t-shirt without charging an arm, leg and kidney.

WHAT SAVED ME? YOU.

When word did spread about This Plague of Days, I ended up having little to do with it directly. It happened organically.

People with relatives who were on the autism spectrum fell in love with the protagonist. It began to snowball from there, one tweet, email and review at a time.

When you can’t make it happen immediately, sometimes all you can do is wait patiently. If there is resonance, people will find you. I’m eternally grateful to those who share their love of my books simply because they felt moved to do so. People want to share stuff they love so others can enjoy it. If you can’t do anything else, connect with readers viscerally. When book lovers step up to be heard about book recommendations, they are loud!

3. My podcast helps immensely, but not in the way I expected. Because of my podcasts, I’ve appeared on many other podcasts. That sells books. My podcasts also connect me with great people (especially the Cool People Podcast.) I would never have connected with those great people without getting into podcasting.

I became friends with fellow horror author Armand Rosamilia through the show. He’s blurbed my covers and is a great supporter of my work, including this blog. I’ve made new friends and reconnected with old ones. I’ve appeared on Inverse Delirium twice and I’ve been promoted on The 40-year-old Boy and the School of Podcasting many times. Around the launch of Season 3 of This Plague of Days, I will appear on the Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast. That’s a big deal to me.

Some strategies fail in one way but succeed in ways you didn’t expect. Experiment as much as you can afford. The more shots you take, the more you hit.

And finally:

Spend more time on writing and more money on the books themselves.

Don’t think about marketing and promotion all the time.

Don’t think about it at all if you only have one book to sell.

Write another book instead.

Whatever else you do, the writing must come first.

Tips and inspiration for the writer's journey to publication.

Tips and inspiration for the writer’s journey to publication.

~ Hey did you know I also wrote a couple of books full of inspiration and writing advice that also manage to be funny? Yeah. That’s right. I made it funny instead of writing another of those scolding kinds of writing and publishing books that make you feel like crap. It would be a good idea to go get those now. You’ll learn a lot from my petty successes and catalogue of failures. Crack the Indie Author Code, people!

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

TOP TEN: Publishing paradoxes and problems

1. We discount one-star reviews because of their typically venomous, dismissive hatred yet we read every one.

2. We strive to get on big media to help sell, but not much media is big anymore and it won’t move the sales needle anyway.

3. We hope to be picked up by old traditional media, but we’d connect with our audiences better and get more time, for free, going after podcasts.

4. We’re putting ourselves out there, daring to dream big, but get discouraged by people who do neither of those things.

5. We get jealous of the success of other authors when we should learn, emulate and be inspired.

6. We say “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but that’s what covers are for.

7. We spend time thinking about being a writer instead of writing.

8. We all hope to catch fire with our first book, but if success came today, many of us would be unprepared for it and wouldn’t have anything else to sell.

9. We spend months or years on our manuscripts, but many of us aren’t taking a few minutes to make sure our hard work is safely backed up (in two different ways.)

10. We call it self-publishing, but it’s a team effort and the author who truly tries to go it alone is a fool or a monster.

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

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

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

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

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

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

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

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

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

See my books, blogs, links and podcasts.

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