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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Publishing: Troubles and Solutions

We’ve got publishing trouble, right here in River City. Sure, many authors have figured out how to make Amazon ads work and are reporting solid sales. I know a few indies personally who are crushing it so hard their success makes Envy and Inspiration do battle in tortured my heart. For many writers, the financial picture is not so rosy.

Between Amazon glitches, scammers, pay to play and the evaporation of also-boughts, sales are tougher for writers of late. Change is the only thing we can depend on. We have to learn more, grow faster, adapt willingly, try new strategies and do the old things better.

I’m confident in my writing craft, my fantastic editorial team, and our publishing processes. It’s visibility that’s the problem.

In 2011, I dove into writing full-time. I got a head start on what is now my fabulous back catalog. However, I wasn’t making enough to do fancy things, like eat regularly. I made news on The Passive Voice when I admitted in 2013 that I was crawling back to the day job. People so love bad news when it happens to others.

On June 29 of this year, I retired from that same day job to go full-time as a writer again. Huzzah! The dream is reborn! No one noticed the good news. There was no parade. Thud.

Last night I was reminded again of how rocky publishing can be. A fellow author is a successful guy others look to for advice. He reported that he’s going back to the 9 – 5. Not quitting, mind you, but writing will be a part-time thing again. This, after publishing oodles of books! He was making a living but he needs a life. Despite what homeless yogis might say, we need at least some money for good things. Homeless yogis use old shitty flip phones. (I’m guessing.)

What’s next for writers in 2019?

We all have to master advertising. We have to up our game. Publishing another book won’t necessarily do the trick like it used to. This Plague of Days was well-received so I gave the world another zombie apocalypse called AFTER Life. It’s a fun adventure packed with action. So far, few have noticed. I’ll turn that around eventually but the launch was kitty litter and that’s a major opportunity cost. It hurts.

Mistakes have surely been made. 

In 2017 I was caught in a net of illness and anxiety. I didn’t start writing what I needed to write until I staggered into a stress leave. I still didn’t publish anything for a year and a half. It’s easy to become forgotten, especially since I let my small mailing list go cold. These mistakes are all mine. Mea culpa, dammit.

It’s not all bad news.

Despite the doom and gloom, I’m hearing from many writers, Ex Parte Press is actually trotting along better than most. However, the decline in sales started last summer and the trend is discouraging. I have been taking courses, bingeing on the right podcasts and studying book marketing to get this pony up and galloping again. I’ve made significant money on Amazon before. I will do it again. I brainstormed and came up with a lot more irons for my creative fire. Here’s proof.

I’m taking up the blogging torch again, too. Help often arrives in unexpected ways. I finally started up a Facebook fan page (Fans of Robert Chazz Chute). That experience got me over my reluctance to send out newsletters. Touching base with my people is fun again. Fans on Facebook get a little dose of me daily. Newsletter updates are for every couple of weeks. My blogging spirit has also been restored.

The Return of Blogging

Curious about the writing lessons I pulled from three famous authors? There’s a link for that: Three Famous Authors Who Changed My Life.

The Flash just passed a major milestone with its 100th episode. I didn’t think I’d be a fan. However, I resonated with several writing choices by the show’s creators. It’s really a rant about what fiction is for. Read, The Flash: Five Surprises for a New Fan over at AllThatChazz.com. (And please do subscribe while you’re there. Thanks!)

Lots more will change as I dive into writing and publishing in 2019.

A couple of collaborations are in the works and I have a long list of books in my editorial pipeline. After being exclusive to Amazon for years, I will be taking some of my books wide in the New Year. Audiobooks await.

Side Deals

With a couple of geniuses to help put through university, I’m not averse to doing other writing work. I’ve got a couple of projects for which I will serve as a book doctor. Someone needs a speechwriter. Someone else wants me to blog for their business. I get hit up for critiques of early drafts from time to time. Rather than consider a return to the day job, I am doubling down on the writing biz.

Focus Energy, Manage Time

I have been podcasting Excellent Not Perfect but I’m going to switch back to being a podcast guest. I love internet radio and making jokes in ear buds is a lot of fun. However, podcasting took a day a week from my schedule. It’s much more time efficient to play in sandboxes that belong to other people. Talking to cool people, I get all the laughs and whatnot without any of the scripting, editing, and administration.

I will continue to post new links and reminders here at ChazzWrites.com. However, all the action is really going to be confined to my author site from now on. I hope to see you over at AllThatChazz.com as I go to war with the blank page and an uncaring world. My apocalyptic epics are up and I’m going to focus on suspenseful thrillers for the next 365 days.

I’m sure most of you understand the publishing struggle. This is nothing new, really. We are writers. This is what we do because it is what we have always done. Like sharks, to survive we must keep moving forward.

I’m going to do it. Oh, and by the way, yeah, I’ll get that fucking parade.

~Robert Chazz Chute is painfully honest for a guy who tells jokes and lies professionally on paper and in pixels. Check out all his fiction and spread the word. AllThatChazz.com is where the fun is.

 

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

The Business of Writing Top 10: How to have more fun

Have you ever watched shows like World’s Funniest Commercials?

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)When the show took a commercial break, did you sit on your couch and watch the regular commercials and wonder why they had to be so bland? Or did you go make a sandwich or run for the bathroom? Commercials don’t have to be as bad as they often are. Think of the annual hype around Superbowl commercials. How is it that the rest of the year, commercials are background noise for making sandwiches and flushing? The ad industry should try harder.

And so should we. Book promotion can be fun. We should take fun more seriously.

When we write our books, we are at our best. We’re witty and play with ideas and irony. We tell stories. We’re in the entertainment business. So why lose all that buoyancy when it comes to promoting our work? Advertising is writing, too. Yes, writing back cover blurbs and advertising copy is a somewhat different skill set, but this is not rocket science. Examples of good and bad sales copy are all around us. Emulate what works on you.

Some copywriters will enthuse that, sure, maybe you can write a book, but leave a couple of paragraphs of sales copy to a professional. That sounds rather convenient and self-serving, doesn’t it? IRobert Chazz Chute This Plague of Days: Season 3 don’t believe it. It’s great to be able to hand off such work to others with confidence, but for most of us, we’re writing our own promotional copy. Let’s loosen up and raise the bar.

If you can write a book, you can promote your work effectively without falling back on the cliché of “Buy my book!” I admit, there are writers who only say “buy my book” on Twitter and they are derided everywhere. I think this happens because no one has given them permission to be as imaginative and bouncy as they are when they write their books. It’s all writing, not a separate challenge. If it feels too different from writing books, it’s probably erring on the side of bland.

This is your permission slip:

1. Have more fun. There’s a reason it’s Rule #1. It’s that important, for you and your readers.

2. Use more pull quotes from your work of genius.

3. Make a joke. Be self-deprecating. Be different. Dare to show some personality. Let the joy leak through from your usual writing.

4. Craft something you’d want to read and act upon as a reader.

5. Relax. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Your sales plan doesn’t have to come together within a week or two of your book launch. Ebooks are forever and there are plenty of kicks at the marketing can ahead.

6. Sell less and interact more. Conversations are good. Blaring at is bad.

7. If you can’t interact, curate.

8. Selling effectively is never about selling. It’s about helping your tribe identify their want and need for you. I’m not here to sell. I’m here to help you buy. Stop being so self-conscious and apologetic about what you’re doing and do what you do in books: Put on a show!

9. Not all books are for everyone. Identify where your readers hang out and go there. Advertising for a niche and to a tribe willing to spread your good word is more important than trying to be all things to all people.

Smile. Rejection is a gift. It relieves you of the stress of dealing with boneheads later.

10. Tell more stories, not just in writing books, but in your promotional efforts, too.

Here’s an example of some fun I had on Facebook today:

Newspaper

“Abandoned to an unfeeling universe, an increasing number of Americans are turning to This Plague of Days to confront ‘the horror of it all,'” an anonymous State Department official said. High-level advisors at the White House confirm, “An autistic boy named Jaimie Spencer, 16, of Kansas City, Missouri, may be key to resolving existential ennui. There are jokes, too, but mostly it freaks us out.”

Senator John McCain stated that Congress still can’t decide if Chute’s book is “literary bull****, zombie bull**** or ‘some other bull****.'” The gridlock continues.

Senator Rand Paul is threatening a filibuster, stating, “This is not horror per se! This is dark fantasy and President Obama knows it!” The secret of This Plague of Days remains classified to all but those who read to the end. Rumors of secret video and an offer of a free ebook are confined to those who read the TPOD Omnibus Edition. While Progressives call that anti-egalitarian and elitist, Secretary of State John Kerry said (in a speech that felt like three hours), “That’s capitalism. Whaddaya gonna do?

Meanwhile, the US Congress approval rating has sunk to a new low of 8%, still above public approval of McDonalds’ fishwich and slightly below mononucleosis as a diet strategy.

However, in a stunning break from party lines in a gracious “hands across the aisle” gesture, Speaker John Boehner and Liberal Senator Harry Reid did come to some concord and issued a joint statement. “The pace really picks up in Season 2 and the gross outs were balanced by some high-minded stuff neither of us really understood. We are all frightened for the Spencer family and keep them in our prayers.”

Robert Chazz Chute Bio Picture~ That was fun. I wrote a post recently answering reader’s questions about This Plague of Days. Find that here.

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

Publishing Advice: Don’t Believe a Word

The writing and publishing business is full of, “On the one hand, this. Oh, yeah, but on the other foot, what about this BS?” Here’s the conflicting advice on my mind this week, to and fro, pro and con:

1. People complain about marketing on Twitter, “What can I say of value in 140 characters?”

It gets worse. It’s better if you say it in 100 characters. Say more with less and it’s more likely to be read and retweeted. Leaving more room allows for additions, links and commentary from enthusiastic retweeters. So be pithier. You’re a writer. You can handle that. 

2. More blog posts, daily, equals more traffic to your blog.

Unless you’re blogging a book, you’re losing time you could be using to write your next book. There are still many writers who struggle with time management and discipline. The writing — the book writing — has to come first. Promotion is secondary because you aren’t in the promotion business. You’re in the writing business. Promotion is for the stolen time that would otherwise be unproductive.

Hint: If you’re still flogging the same book, and you only have one book, and that was published over a year ago? You aren’t in the writing business. Finish something new.

3. Some people say we should begin promoting the book as soon we conceptualize what it will be….someday.

However, you’re going to change the title before you publish it at the very least and if you take too long, someone will steal that great title. Promoting too soon is an exercise in chicken counting that could just as easily wear out potential readers if you talk about the potential book, too much, forever. 

Corollary: Don’t write your blog or push your book until you have something solid to say.

And don’t repeat yourself too often, please. If I see one more blog post with the title proclaiming “Content is king!” I might have to shoot somebody with a water pistol full of skunk juice. And then kill them. (Note: Don’t swing sledgehammers in small rooms. Ice picks to brain stems are efficient. A disposable raincoat and a friend who gives alibis without asking questions is essential. Ask a mystery writer for best strategies…though you might have to wipe them out, too, just to cover your tracks.)

4. We all look forward to being discovered by a huge audience.

That’s where the negative reviews come from, too. Brace yourself.

My quest isn’t for a huge audience. It’s for 50,000 true fans. Yes, I know people usually say 1,000 true fans, but I’m ambitious and we all need to stretch and reach. (Plus 50,000 true fans fits my budget better. Daddy’s got bills!)

5. We aren’t supposed to respond to reviews.

It is a bad idea, generally….which means the false and misleading reviews stay up, uncorrected. This one isn’t about the conflict in the advice. It’s about the conflict that arises in you. You crave justice for your innocent book babies.

This one? Live with it. It’s not worth it. It’s annoying, but the Authors Behaving Badly meme is much stronger than the Reviewers Behaving Badly meme. We’re outnumbered.

Unless they’re threatening you physically, forget it. If they are threatening you physically, revisit #3 for helpful, murderous suggestions if you’re not into dialling 911. And click the Report Abuse button with gusto.

6. Everybody wants to write the great American novel.

It’s been written and it’s probably The Great Gatsby. The problem here is some writers get caught up in what they think they should write and how that ideal should look and sound. Don’t be the serious guy who takes himself too seriously. He is tiring to be around and his shoulds are misplaced.

Originate, do not emulate. If someone else did it better, we’ll go read the original. Of the hundred Harry Potter clones, how many do you really want to read? Do not chase trends. A trend is so fast, it runs you over and leaves you far behind at the same time.

7. Everyone says social media marketing is about having Internet “presence.”

Presence is weak. It says, “I’m here. I hope you find me.” Hunters don’t wait for deer to come to their house, knock on the door, peel some potatoes and conveniently slip into the oven. Hunters go hunting.

We’ll find more readers if we’re active and proactive. Go find book bloggers. Go where readers are. Make a list and follow people on Twitter as a planned approach. There are people out there who already proclaim their love of Steampunk in their Twitter profiles. If you write Steampunk, why haven’t you introduced yourself already? Stop waiting for them to come to you.

8. Gurus say, “Be everywhere.”

Maybe “everywhere” isn’t for you. Is LinkedIn really helping you as an author or is that medium best built for job searches? Unless there are forums there you love, maybe that’s wasted energy. What about Tumblr? It might be an excellent spot for you, but Tumblr’s users tend to be young, hip and artistic. Is pushing historical fiction about railway trains of the Klondike really the best use of your time there? Choose a platform or two or three you love. Focus.

Almost everyone says we should dump the exclusivity of KDP Select and be on all sales platforms. Maybe not or maybe not yet. I’ve written extensively on this issue in the past so I won’t beat that zebra into a coma again. However, when you do make that decision, don’t jump (or not jump) because someone told you to do so. Have a plan how you’re going to move those books on those other platforms (because, with few exceptions, those platforms don’t have tools you can use to raise that crop of readers.)

Don’t believe a word. Test suggestions instead.

9. When publishing gurus have nothing else to offer, they say, “Work harder.”

I don’t know a single author who isn’t working hard. Writing despite kids, day jobs, lost sleep, and long hours? Check, check, check, check. “Work harder,” for most of us, does not add value. It’s a bad math teacher telling a student staring, clueless, at an algebraic equation on the blackboard: “Stare harder and you’ll solve for X.”

Excuse me, sir, but your pants are on fire. With napalm.

“I will work harder,” is the horse that gets carted off for meat and glue in Animal Farm. What we need is to test strategies, first on a small scale. If Slideshare works for you and gets more clicks to your author site and conversions to your newsletter, do more of that. If one lure to your mailing list doesn’t work, add value and try again. Always focus on what works instead of trying everything at once. Eighty percent of results come from twenty percent of your efforts. Find your twenty percent.

Also, please, please, don’t work harder. We’re already sitting too much and worrying ourselves into an early grave while some consultants are actually making money off poor writers by yelling, “Work harder!” That damn whip arm never seems to tire. Screw those guys. We’re already putting in the time. We need smarter tools, not louder barking from the water boys.

Instead of working harder, when you’re writing, please write more joyously. Take chances. Have more fun. You can even enjoy the creative aspects of marketing, believe it or not. Joy translates to all your work. Readers won’t necessarily know why they love the joyous writer more, but they’ll feel it and respond.

10. We’re told to market to readers only.

Don’t bother writing a writing blog. There’s too much of that already and writers don’t buy books. They’re too busy writing them. Forget writers!

Hm. If true, that’s worrisome. Writers should read a lot. I think, generally, we do read plenty. I’m a voracious reader. I wrote two books about writing that emerged from this blog, so there’s that. But more important, the friends I’ve made through blogging to writers and podcasting with writers? They’ve been an immense help to me. I’ve connected with allies who’ve blurbed my books and been my beta readers and helped me expand my reach in many ways. The indie writing community is a very supportive group.

Through this blog and my podcasts, there are literally dozens of people who have helped me publish and publicize. I started to write a list of helpful fellow authors and fans, but the list got too long and I worried I’d forget somebody. Connecting with allies here, not aiming exclusively at readers, has delivered great opportunities. 

I hope I’ve helped my allies plenty, too.

Thank you all. Much love.

~ Robert Chazz Chute isn’t as mean as he sometimes sounds. His next books are This Plague of Days, Season 3 and This Plague of Days, The Complete Series. They’ll launch June 15th. For more on This Plague of Days, the international zombie thriller with an autistic hero, go to ThisPlagueOfDays.com.

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

Top Ten: Renew your readers’ interest between books

As I finish revisions to the finale of This Plague of Days, I’m entering that crazy time between the writing and the publishing. We all go through it. There’s still editing and proofreading to do and you aren’t done until you’re sick of it and not even then. But I am excited!

Today, I had my first back and forth with Kit Foster, my graphic designer. We talked cover designs. Out of context, my description of what I had in mind was pretty dumb or nigh-impossible, but through the magic of his art, Kit will transform that raw material into something awesome that makes browsers into buyers.

But how do you keep the sales going between books?

Sales always drop off. They call Day 30 after your book launch “The Cliff” because you lose attention from readers as you disappear from the bright, shiny new thing list. Interest can be buoyed and sustained, however. You don’t have to try all the strategies from this list (or any), but I do suggest you try at least one. Experiment and let me know what works for you.

Here are some ideas to extend your influence with all your books.

1. Write more than one book because your next book helps promote the last one. At a book event, authors talk about the next book, but readers talk about the last book.

2. Write more books. The bigger the stable, the more horses you have in the race, cross-promoting each other.

3. Write (slightly) shorter books. Sadly, my next tome (after TPOD) will (again!) be more than 100,000 words. I’m writing huge books. Many will see this as over-delivering and they’ll love it. It can also intimidate those less invested. The main problem is it makes you appear less prolific even if you’re very productive. It’s #2’s horse and stable issue.

I’m not saying you should shortchange anyone, but keep it reasonable. Few reviewers complain about a quick read. If you’ve got that much to say in a single book and you can’t make it shorter, make it a series.

The complete series for This Plague of Days will be over 300,000 words. The first draft took ten months and then I doubled its size in another eight months. Down the line, I’ll put out more books by keeping them down around 60,000 – 70,000 words.

My crime novels took 3 months each, for instance, from concept to completion. That length is what I’ll be aiming for in the future. Feeling more productive and hitting more milestones also feeds my excitement between books and keeps energy high. Less time between books also gives readers less time to forget about you.

4. Write in one genre. If you can dominate one list, you’ll be more effective in focussed marketing efforts and provide consistent branding. (I should have done this, but it’s not how my mind works.)

5. Collaborate. Writing with another author can expand your influence to each other’s audience and, if you work it correctly with the right person, you’ll get more done faster. Some people think writing with a partner is more work for half the money, but actually you have more people helping with the load, increasing productivity. The guys at Self-Publishing Podcast have proved it over and over, so there you go.

6. Cooperate. Soon, a new horror anthology will be released and I’m in it. My bit will be a sampler of Episode 1 of This Plague of Days. In joining forces with other authors, we’ll co-promote and raise each other up.

7. Have more to give away. I serialized the first two seasons of This Plague of Days. In the run up to the launch of Season 3 and the stand alone (This Plague of Days, The Complete Series), I’m using KDP Select to give away episodes as samples. Those giveaways always bump up my sales in between books when I would otherwise be in the doldrums. I’m a big believer in pulse sales to help new readers find me.

8. Diversify. To sell more between books, have more to sell in different media. There’s interest in turning This Plague of Days into a TV series. (It helps that I wrote the story like an HBO or Netflix dramatic series in the first place.) However, I’d love to see it as a graphic novel, too. I want to sell it as an audiobook. Each iteration feeds the potential for another opportunity.

9. Repackage. Converting This Plague of Days from serialized episodes into seasons, and then into one, big book that stands alone? That’s one example of repackaging. It’ll also give a new crew of readers what they wanted since quite a few people seem to misunderstand the cliffhangers and twists of a serial or they hate serials on principle. (I don’t know what that principle is, but I recognize it and I’m listening.)

Taking different books and selling them as one bundle is another way to go. (I’ll be doing this with the Hit Man Series by turning three books into a bundled trilogy with a new and better name for the whole.)

10. Stay in touch with readers between books. I don’t have a large mailing list, but I do connect with a lot of readers on Facebook and through podcasts. I also have a blog dedicated to This Plague of Days.

Recently, when I needed to add more beta readers to my team, I went to Facebook first because I knew I’d find people who are already into what I’m doing. I’ve got three new, enthusiastic volunteers now.

Staying in touch with readers keeps projects alive for authors, too. When I get another tweet or email asking when the next book is coming out, it helps drive me to get to the keyboard as fast as I can to oil the roller coaster. I know my readers and I can’t wait to make them scream.

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

Book Launch Prep: Funnels, marketing, and tap dancing as fast as I can

A cross-genre flurry about  society's collapse under the crush of the Sutr Virus combined with a boy's love for odd words, Latin dictionaries and his father.

A cross-genre flurry about society’s collapse under the crush of the Sutr Virus combined with a boy’s love for odd words, Latin dictionaries and his father.

As the launch of my serialized novel, This Plague of Days, approaches, there’s still a lot to do that has little to do with writing the book. This preliminary work is about charming the unsuspecting into the back of my mind candy van, building happy buzz and marketing funnels. It’s time I gave you a glimpse of some of the things I do in that vein. (For more, check out Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire.)

I’m working on reaching out beyond people who already know me to the people who don’t know me yet. It will come as a huge surprise to you, that figure is still in the billions. (WTH?, man?!) Being unknown is the curse. And so we put ourselves out there to grasp for the blessing of new readers who will fall in love with us (dammit!)

This is, in part, what I did this weekend to reach out:

1. Approached an author about seeing an ARC of This Plague of Days in hopes of getting a cover blurb. (I get all squirrelly about this, but I have to do it more.)

2. Published several articles to my newest and fastest-growing blog, DecisionToChange.com. It’s about weight loss, life’s struggle, healthy recipes and becoming a healthier, happier person. (I know that doesn’t sound like me at all, but I’m playing against type.)

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

3. Posted something similar to #2 on Vine*. (Repurposing is not rehashing, so it comes across as much more amusing on video.)

4. Published a full excerpt of the first chapter of TPOD at ThisPlagueOfDays.com

5. Published the excerpt to WattPad. I haven’t used Wattpad enough. It’s an easy way to share stories and help readers find us.

Cool+People+Podcast+Final6. Published a new Cool People Podcast with erotica author Eden Baylee. The podcast is about the lovely and smart Eden and her cool worldview (but I’m there, too, so it counts.)  I also tweaked the site so it has a new slider bar which will draw attention to recent guests on the podcast.

7. Researched innovative ways to further publicize the coming launch. Innovative, as in different and untested. I’ll let you know how it works out once they are tested.

8. In giving someone else advice on merchandising, I figured out a new way to do that better with TPOD. (I’m not being coy, but more on that in a different post once I experiment with it.)

9. Wrote this post, giving you links to a couple of my other blogs you wouldn’t otherwise check out. (Hope you like the excerpt and sneak peeks.)

10. Most important: 

I worked on the revisions of This Plague of Days and added a new beta reader to my team. I wrote new scenes with more action where it was slower. I tweaked old scenes so they sparkle anew. I’m writing the best book I can. No matter what else you do to promote your book, #10 is the principle that’s most solid.

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

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

~ Robert Chazz Chute is writing horror instead of a funny hardboiled thriller for a change, but he loves it all and hopes you will, too.

*Want to reach out to more people and discover more about the Vine app? Go here to find out more about Six Seconds, The Unauthorized Guide to How to Build Your Business with the Vine App.

Filed under: book marketing, My fiction, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, self-publishing, This Plague of Days, Vine, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Travesty: The Slate Culture Gabfest “bludgeoned” by books

Bad news

Some people have committed to never buying another book again. Their e-readers are stuffed full of all the free books they could load. They’ll probably never get to most of them. Downloads do not equate to reading. When they do give your book a chance, some nasties are predisposed to one-star reviews. They’ll give your books less of a chance than you dare hope. They’re far less invested in reading it because they’ve got way too much to read already. And “How dare you attempt to entertain me for free!”

It gets worse…

From several literate sources, I’ve heard intellectual folks complain about having a book recommended to them. On the Book Fight podcast (which I generally enjoy), the hosts — who honestly love literature! — talked about recommendation fatigue. Attempts to share the glory of a good story might be viewed with a cynical eye over there. Instead of an open hand of welcome for a recommendation, book boosters can expect to be seen as mindless parrots and promoters. Holy crapballs! These guys write and teach writing. Maybe they’re tired. One host yearned to have a job fixing cars instead of writing for a living. Somebody needs a vacation, or to remember how much hard labor can suck. This? From people who love literature?

But it gets much worse…

The Slate Culture Gabfest, a podcast you’d hope wouldn’t have room for cynicism, is not a safe space for books. You’d think people who talk about culture professionally wouldn’t be so disengaged and full of resentment when book recommendations come their way. One of the hosts even said they were less likely to read a book because someone suggested he should. I guess host Stephen “I hate everything but the counter-intuitive” Metcalf is past the giddy burble some of us feel as we read a book that genuinely excites us.

You know that feeling, right? When you consciously slow your reading to make the experience last longer? Remember those books that disappoint, not because they’re bad? Remember those books that, as you close them, it feels like the last roller coaster ride of the day is over and the amusement park’s closing up for the night?

Someone’s forgotten that wistful love. The three Slate podcasters felt “bludgeoned” because they got too many recommendations. (From here, that sounds like they’re complaining they get too many valentines.)

How’s their wariness and weariness working out for them? So far, they’ve successfully avoided A Visit from the Good Squad by Jennifer Egan, or any Barbara Kingsolver or any Alice Munro. This, from culture critics. Culture is their business, but I guess that’s no reason to get too bookish about it. Let’s nerd out over Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, instead. Lord knows that poor director never had his proper shot at fame and fortune. I guess I won’t hold my breath for them to give Bigger Than Jesus a go.

Where does that leave authors who don’t get to meet Stephen Colbert on their fabulous press junket?

(Hat tip to Slate’s Emily Bazelon. I still love you, Emily.)

Stuck in the desert with a cactus in our ass is where that leaves us. You can pump your books on Triberr and Twitter and Facebook and pay for all the advertising you can afford, but some people who review books are overstimulated and it seems to have soured their milk. One of the Book Fight guys suggested that if you hardly ever recommend a book and then you finally do, he’d give that recommendation more weight. That paradigm doesn’t fit into most authors’ promotional campaigns very well, does it?

That last point struck me as particularly disagreeable this week when I ran across a brilliant author who does no promotion. I won’t embarrass him here (but I’ll promote him later). For the purposes of this post, I’ll simply say that being brilliant might get you readers in the long-term, but he isn’t getting the attention he deserves without promotion. A good marketer who writes will outpace a better writer who fails to market well.

Slate’s jaundiced eye toward any recommendation I could make suggests his brilliance will stay a secret. The gatekeepers to publishing have been sent into the forest to learn other trades and reinvent themselves, but there are still gatekeepers to publicity and attention. And they are sick of us, no matter how casually and sidelong our book recommendations.

How am I going to pull this post out of its dive into a dark, hard place?

This has been a test of the emergency broadcast system. If this were a real emergency, everybody would feel this way about book recommendations. However, there are still plenty of readers who are not fatigued and may even thank you for reviewing and sharing. They might love our books. I sure hope they love mine. When you get depressed about people who seem predisposed to ignoring our efforts (or even despise us, our silly dreams and possibly even our dogs) focus your energy elsewhere. Continue with the quixotic! Quixotic is the most noble category of quests.

Now please go write something the critics can’t possibly ignore.

Or go write something someone will dare to recommend to someone, with shamefaced humility,

in a passive way that somehow won’t erect some critics’ inborn defences against a kind suggestion.

(And don’t tell them what kind of day to have.)

Filed under: book marketing, Media, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, readers, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writers: Shorter is better

Six+Seconds+copyI found a way to get more traction selling books. The short story is, write shorter books for greater success. The long story? I’ll try to keep it short.

Last week I wrote a book, Six Seconds, The Unauthorized Guide to How to Build Your Business with the Vine App. It’s a long subtitle for an 18,000 word ebook, but it’s SEO-friendly and therefore easy to find. Six Seconds is breezy and fun, but it’s also a useful book that achieves the task I set for it: To get people on Vine (the new video Twitter). It helps them use the toy and tool to its greatest promotional potential. It took me a week to write, from concept to completion. That little book is selling and helping my other books’ sales.

Readers can choose from many lengths of text, but for you, the writers, I hope you’ll begin writing shorter books for your greater success.

Here’s more about why:

1. With ebooks, length matters less. There are no page numbers. Get over that Amish worrying. It’s hurting you.Higher than Jesus Final NEW copy

2. One of my favorite books, The Stranger by Albert Camus, is a short book (around 50,000 words or so). That length wasn’t uncommon in the ’40s and ’50s. Book length is fashion and convention. Fashion and convention are not static conditions. You can change them. Do.

Bigger_Than_Jesus_Cover_for_Kindle3. My crime fiction in the Hit Man Series is 60 – 65,000 words. That’s fine. One reviewer thought Bigger Than Jesus was a “short, humorous novel”, but that range isn’t so short. (The story just seemed short because it powered along so fast with swift Awesomeness, so there.) Readers pop genre fiction, especially hardboiled sex and violence with quirky, noble anti-heroes, like a fat guy tosses back chocolate croissants. (Ooh, that simile hit a little too close to home.) If I can deliver a steady supply, I might have an actual career on my hands. You, too.

4. Series sell better than stand-alone books. The audience knows the characters and become invested in them. For instance, in Bigger Than Jesus, we learn about tragic events in Jesus Diaz’s childhood. In Higher Than Jesus, readers learn new things about what they thought they knew. My loveable hit man gives an adult perspective on his family history. That changes the meaning of those events and how we view his father, Marco Diaz. It’s fun to flesh out characters and play with the audience this way. It’s fun for the reader, too. They join the The Special Club of the Knowing and become as gods!

5. Some authors experiment with serialization of longer books. I’ll be one those experimenters soon. My post-apocalyptic plague tome weighs in at 125,000 words. I’m going to break that up and sell it in four or five episodes (depending on the logical break points that appear in the revision stage.) Eventually, I’ll sell it as one huge collection, I suppose. In the meantime, four or five ebooks serialized is a cheap way to feed a growing addiction.

6. More books on your electronic bookshelf give more chances for your readership to discover you. Give them more chances to discover you! Write more books.

7. Don’t pin your hopes on one book, especially if it’s your first book. That way lies Death. Well…at least Disappointment. You’ll make more selling two shorter books than one big brick, especially in the early going when you’re still finding a readership and earning their trust.

8. My biggest surprise is that selling Six Seconds is not necessarily a big boost to my other non-fiction books. It’s helping the fiction!

Crack the Indie Author CodeAspire to Inspire eBook JPGCrack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire haven’t moved much this week. Don’t ask me to make sense of that. I even included sample chapters from Crack the Indie Author Code at the end of Six Seconds. Despite having much of the same breezy, jokey tone as Six Seconds, it’s the fiction that got the happy green arrow bump.

My working theory is that I don’t understand people’s buying behaviors; they’re crazy; I’m crazy; we’re all crazy.

~I’m launching yet another podcast soon. It’s called the Cool People Podcast. Want a sneak  peek? Click here. It’s airing soon. Meanwhile, you can listen to “The Unknown Man Edition” of the All That Chazz podcast here.

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

If you won the lottery, what would you do with your new book publicity budget?

Free until Nov. 30, 2012. Click it to grab it now!

Gizmodo ran a piece on what to buy if you won the Powerball lottery. Almost all of their suggestions were pretty silly. (I admit, I kind of liked the RV that has its own built-in garage. My house doesn’t have a garage.) But let’s assume you’d try to help some people and you’d take that trip you’ve always dreamed of: Paris, Disney, Madrid, Paducah…whatever. You’d get your brother into rehab and your mom out on bail. If you’re younger, you’re thinking: red sports car. If you’re my age, you’re thinking how utterly drop-dead sexy it would be to be debt-free and have a college fund for the kids. You’d do lots of wonderful things for others (mosquito nets for African children so they don’t die from malaria comes to mind.) Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re a saint and responsible. We get it. Now let’s talk about your fantasy book publicity budget.

Here’s mine after giving this about thirty seconds thought:

I’m a podcast guy. With relatively little money (which I don’t have), I could get on a lot of podcasts and really make the most of what money I allotted to this project. I’d get on the majors: Slate, Rogan, Smodcast, Carolla, WTF etc.,… The next thing that comes to mind is to set up my website to sell directly, stock up and prepare for a big push. Major newspapers (they still print those, right?) would be a fun project. Imagine ad space in the top right hand corner of several key newspapers in major markets: Bigger Than Jesus taking up a quarter page. Turn the page, there’s Higher Than Jesus. Turn the page, there’s Hollywood Jesus, and so on. No TV. Who watches commercials anymore? A big launch party in a theatre (with Everlast as the closing act would be good.)

And I’d hit everywhere on one day. Heck, we’re talking Powerball. Let’s say, do it all in a blitz of one colossal week where my books appear everywhere you look and listen. If that somehow caught sufficient fire,then hire a publicist for the big tour in that fancy RV I mentioned.

Would it pay for itself? No. How could I justify the expense? I couldn’t, although I wouldn’t do a lot of things lottery winners do when they come into the big money, so there’s that.

That’s my frivolous fantasy. Your turn. What would you do to promote your books (besides quit the job at the rendering plant to write full-time)? Non-writers will wonder, if you win the lottery, why continue to write at all? If you thought that, get out! Get out now! I don’t understand you! SLAM!

I’ll be pleased to hear your thoughts on book publicity where money is no object. Please leave your suggestions in the comments thread below. Thank you.

~ Robert Chazz Chute fantasizes a lot. Then he writes that down. Then he scratches that out because you can get arrested if it look like an actual plan. Then he writes crime novels and no one’s the wiser. Enter the 7 Words or Less Contest and your name could be the name of a character in Hollywood Jesus. Get the inspirational book of tips, plots and plans about writing and publishing, Crack the Indie Author Code for FREE until this Friday.

 

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

Why Amazon’s KDP Select Is God’s Gift to Authors

Via Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction

In this guest post on The Creative Penn, my buddy Jeff Bennington lays out how KDP Select worked for him, with numbers! ~ Chazz
Via www.thecreativepenn.com

Filed under: ebooks, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, self-publishing, Useful writing links, Writers, , , , , , , , , ,

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

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

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

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

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

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

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

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