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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Proving Dead Moms Wrong: Writing a book is among the least cynical things you can do.

The term “hack”, as discussed in this space recently, usually refers to someone, typically writing to tight deadlines, who is churning out words with no love for his or her work. I don’t think that applies any writer I’ve ever met, no matter the project. Every writer is optimistic as they begin a new book. We tell our spouses and girlfriends and boyfriends and basset hounds, “This will be the one that will really wow ’em. If you leave me now, you’ll miss out on all the glory, my accolades and a mention on the Acknowledgments page, so you better stick around.”

Here’s why “hack” is a poor term:

In This Plague of Days, I write about a zombie apocalypse. Maybe that sounds silly to you, but I fell in love with the characters and there are genuine emotional, serious and thoughtful moments. It’s complex and it’s not what you expect. Just as I attempted to do with my hardboiled hit man in Bigger Than Jesus, I played outside the expected conventions. I tried to do something different with the genre.

But here’s the thing: That doesn’t make me unique.

Every writer I know is reaching to the best of their ability to write something awesome, different and engaging, no matter what they’re writing. We try to write the best tweets we can, for Thor’s sake! Certainly we’re aiming for at least that clever when constructing a narrative beyond 140 characters. 

We’re all looking for a special turn of phrase or a new twist on an old cliché no matter what we’re writing. We’re searching for ways to entice and delight readers. We love language. We tell stories. I’ll leave it to readers to decide the degree to which we succeed, of course. However, when a reviewer dismisses any writer out of hand, based on their choice of subject, as a “hack”? I reserve the right to dismiss that review. I don’t think the term elucidates anything. A book takes too much work and time for us to aim low.

Say it with me and feel it: “Writing a book is among the least cynical things you can do.”

As a person who, more than once, has been dubbed “Mr. Cynical”, I speak with expertise. We may fall short, but we’re all shooting for the outer moons of Andromeda and to prove our dead moms wrong. Even if the reader thinks they’ve read it all before. Especially when that niggling voice of doubt in our heads tells us, “Some people are really going to underestimate what I can do with this material. I’m going to melt their eyeballs with my fair-bitchin’ prose.”

I suggest we all take each book on its own merits instead of painting with push brooms (and read the sample before you buy to avoid disappointed expectations.) Please don’t say this or that writer is a hack. That’s insulting and too easy, for starters. Besides, like plague viruses, authors evolve, too. Maybe you dismissed Stephen King’s Pet Sematery, but if from that judgment you dismiss all of his work, including The Long Walk, you haven’t read The Long Walk.

It is fair to say a particular plot device is hackneyed, but don’t generalize about all our work. Every author I know, me included, gets better with each new book. Disastrous experience beats the weakness out of us.

What other terms should we be careful about using? To the jargonator!

1. “Commercial”: Does that mean you liked it but felt you shouldn’t? (This is the worst, most disingenuous reaction, last spotted on The Slate Culture Gabfest. That’s right! I’m calling you out, Metcalfe. You’re so meta-snarky, you might be David Plotz.)

Does commercial really mean mass market paperback? With the advent of ebooks, that seems a dated reference.

By commercial fiction, do you mean it tells a ripping story that’s less based on character? Hm.  All writers want to make readers care about their characters, so that seems a tad empty.

By commercial, does the critic mean the author wants to sell a lot of books? “How base and singular! No person of character wants that! Are you not of independent means, Monsieur Writer Peasant?”

2. “Muscular” prose: The author is a minimalist, idolizes Hemingway and probably does not possess a MFA from the last thirty years. An obvious attempt to damn with faint praise.

3. “Workmanlike”: Same as #2, but with even fewer syllables in word choice. The critic thinks they’re getting away with being snooty, but we can read the code and the classism isn’t that subtle. Both #2 and #3 are really authorial choices, not burdens to grow past.

4. “Literary”: This means less plot and more exploration of inner worlds when not used as a euphemism for “pretentious.” Certainly this indicates that you’ll leave the book out on the coffee table to prove to the in-laws or tonight’s date that you’re deeper than you seem.

But all authors strive for literary flourishes at the very least. When we’re in composition mode, no premise sounds so tired that we can’t hit it at a different angle, make it great and spin it fresh. I know of no writer, no matter how tight the deadline or how little they are paid, who sets out to write crap. You might say it’s not to your taste. The author might even call it crap…later, after a few more books. But as we write? We’re all Hunter S. Thompson and Margaret Atwood and Kurt Vonnegut rolled up in Shakespearian dreams of legacy, love and respect.

We may fail, but we are artists.

Our hearts are in the right place.

Are you reading with an open mind?

Is your heart in the right place?

Have you dismissed something you haven’t read without even reading the sample?

Well, no, not you, of course, Gentle Reader of this Blog.

But, you know…them other jerks what don’t respect us none.

 

Filed under: book reviews, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

UBC #31: Ebooks are the new slush pile. Are they the new blog, too?

To check out all the books by Robert Chazz Chute, click here.

I once had a business meeting to attend in Toronto and, despite a snowstorm that put a lot of cars off the road, I kept going after it was clear I should turn back. After three hours of white-knuckling the steering wheel, I made it to the meeting on time only to find that I’d risked my life for nothing. The meeting was cancelled because everyone else who was to attend had their priorities straight. Clearly, I have a stupid character flaw. Once I commit to something that isn’t working, I often don’t abandon the task, even when it’s obvious it isn’t working. 

It’s time to examine priorities, not just for me but for you.

What are we doing that helps us get closer to our goals?

What needs to change? I have a cool idea.

First, let’s talk blogging. Lots of people are interested in yesterday’s blog: Your Blog Does Not Matter. I learn a lot from research and it’s fun, but the Law of Diminishing Returns is a knee in the groin. If I’m right that our blogs don’t matter as marketing tools, why blog? I should clarify that it’s not that I think writers don’t read. May Thor help them if they don’t. But a lot of power readers love books — and buy them to read copiously — without a thought to ever writing books themselves. That frees up a lot of time to read and buy more books. Writers are logophiles, but, to be read more widely, we need to reach bibliophiles and plenty of them.

We need to reach out to book reviewers and book bloggers to get word of mouth going, yes, but I think there’s a way for our blogs to matter more to the general book buyer, especially if your blog is information-oriented.* I’m going to have to try a different blogging strategy because, blogging the way I am, just for the love of it, isn’t helping my writing career. Whenever you choose choice, you choose freedom. That’s good, but, even with the old blog heater running full blast, it’s snowing so hard my windshield wipers can’t keep up and there are too many indie authors in the ditch.

Case in point: I’ve blogged a fresh entry on this blog every day for the last two months. June was the Author Blog Challenge. My blog traffic shot high consistently. I made new friends, gained subscribers and have fresh contacts. July was the Ultimate Blog Challenge (and this is my last post, #31, for that challenge.) The former had under 100 participants and I’m told the latter has five to ten times that. Still, I earned far more traffic during the Author Blog Challenge. It doesn’t take too long to figure out why the ABC was so successful for me. I talked to my audience rather than a more diverse, disinterested crowd and that crowd had to come to me. Not many did. They were into blogging qua blogging, as my old philosophy prof would say. They weren’t necessarily into suspense or the intense indie book reading proliferation experiment I promote here. I’m not blaming the Ultimate Blog Challenge. Nobody owes me their patronage. This isn’t about that. It’s about finding strategies that actually help me (and you) get discovered by new readers who care about what we write (and might even — egad! — pay for our work.)

The only strategy for growing a readership that anyone seems to be sure of is: WRITE MORE BOOKS! So, first, spend more time on your books than your blogs. The core writing has to be scheduled before any other writing you do. I haven’t been as good at this as I should be lately because I was too focussed on the Ultimate Blog Challenge. That’s stupid, stubborn me, driving through a snowstorm again. I knew the latest challenge wasn’t garnering more traffic a couple of weeks ago, but I’d made a commitment. I learned something more, though. I can blog like crazy and still not matter because I’m not publishing my blog posts where new readers and book buyers gather.

There’s an alternative marketing strategy that makes more sense. 

There’s a way to go to where readers are and

build more ebook presence on the web

instead of hoping readers will somehow discover our blogs.

Small-town terrors and psychological mayhem in Maine.
These are the foundation stories of the coming Poeticule Bay Series of suspense novels.

Here’s how: In time I’d otherwise use for blogging, I can put together a micro ebook to increase the size of my cyber bookshelf and build name recognition. It’s already been observed that Amazon is the new slush pile for traditional publishing. Maybe self-publishing isn’t just the new slush pile. Maybe ebooks are the new blog, and vice versa. I’ve already noted that I intend to make a book out of blog posts, distilling down the sweetness and goodness for indie authors. I’ve been missing out on other opportunities to expand my bookshelf for new  readers.

For instance, today, I noticed a free book on iBooks that was 10 Strategies to Something or Other. Regular readers know I have a fondness for top ten formats for blog posts and they’re pretty popular, quick and fun to write. That’s really not so different from many of the offerings on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks and so on. Why not blog for free where it can do me (and you) more good? On those platforms. You know. Where the readers are. 

CLICK: You can already publish your blog to kindle here. Or check out any top free lists to see the sort of things you can write about that hits readers where they live. In the back of every ebook/blog you publish, link to your paid books. Depending on what you write, you could even write the equivalent of a few blog posts and (gasp!) actually get reimbursed for your time, trouble and expertise. Imagine the possibilities.

Click to get Bigger Than Jesus here

Publishing our blogs on self-publishing platforms is one way, largely unexplored, we can make more sales because we’re reaching people who are already in the book marketing venue. I know most of us don’t think of blogging as publishing, even though we write our blogs and hit a button that says “Publish” every day. It’s time to slow down, turn on the GPS and figure the alternative routes out of this blinding snowstorm. It’s time to get flexible and find what works so I can find my readership, help them find me and sell more books. Maybe you, too, if you’re interested.

No, I’m not discontinuing blogging here. Now that the blog challenge is over, though, I’ll do a little more curation via Scoopit! and post a little less. I’ll prioritize better than I have done and maybe get outside while it’s still summer. I still have podcasts coming out every week and three books in the editorial pipe this year plus Bigger Than Jesus coming out in print soon so…yeah. Lots to do and, like everyone, our waking, working hours are limited. Now that I’m through the blog frenzy of the last two months, I will concentrate more of that time on coming out with more books…and maybe a few blog posts/ebooks on iBooks and Kindle. I’ll let you know how that experiment works out. 

~ BONUS: I had a fun interview on Sandi Tuttle’s show last night. We talked blogs, the publishing revolution, being indie, inspiration and ritual goat sacrifice. Have a listen here.

*Publishing more short stories could help you, but I doubt it. That might double down on getting ignored, but that’s a different post for another day.

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

The majority of book bloggers are female … and other interesting blogging stats

Via Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction

Marcie Brock, the Book Marketing Maven, supplies some interesting stats about book bloggers. “Each maintains an average of three blogs”? Wow.   But the one statistic that surprised her most surprised me most, too. Readers here might shudder a little bit. Before you click the link below, ask yourself what percentage of book bloggers own an e-reader? Now click the Scoopit! link below and feel your eyes go WIDE! ~ Chazz

The majority of book bloggers are female … and other interesting blogging stats
At long last, we’re moving on from our general conversation about social media to more specifics…
Via marciebrockbookmarketingmaven.wordpress.com

Filed under: blogs & blogging, book reviews, Books, e-reader, ebooks, publishing, readers, self-publishing, What about you?, , , , ,

Plots and Plans: The great ebook giveaway & other book marketing thoughts

I promised a follow-up report on the Corrective Measures giveaway. After two weeks, 113 people downloaded the free short story about the serial killer who wants to kill someone over a parking space dispute. I received a

CLICK HERE TO CHECK IT OUT

couple of nice reviews immediately and I’m hoping for more when people get around to it soon. The upshot of the gift giving is, I don’t know how well it did yet. People kindly took me up on the offer, but who knows how long it will take them to get around to reading and reviewing it? The toughest thing has got to be getting reviews. Several people have told me how happy they were with my work and that they intend to write reviews. However, they have lives, too, and I can only hope they’ll get to it. Soonish.

So what’s the next step? Patience and see what happens with Corrective Measures. It’s now for sale at the same price as all the other short stories (a colossal 99 cents!)

But that’s just one thing. I’ve got lots of egg baskets. Tomorrow, another brick in the marketing campaign for Self-help for Stoners hits and next week I’ll be running an ad on Smodcast Internet Radio that ties in with said brick. I’m also planning for another  ad (on a different podcast)  for Sex, Death & Mind Control (for fun and profit). My podcast is up every week, as well, reaching people I wouldn’t ordinarily meet. Yesterday I fired off a pdf of The Dangerous Kind for a book blogger to review.

I think there is one area I need to focus upon: Send out more review copies to book reviewers.

Most important? Get on with the next book. I’m aiming for April 20 for the release of my novel; think Incredible Journey meets autistic boy’s family in the post-apocalypse. It’s called This Plague of Days and it is a very ambitious story. Stay tuned.

FOR MORE SCARY THOUGHTS ON FREEBIE BOOK PROMOTION,

READ THE VANDAL HERE.

And now…back to work.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute, author of Self-help for Stoners, the bathroom book of suspense, packed with points and punches. It’s not what you think it is: you don’t have to be a stoner to love it. (Check a sample here.) Sex, Death & Mind Control is a dark short story collection that includes a couple of award winners; try the magical realism express. The Dangerous Kind is a suspenseful novella packed with edgy family dynamics and small-town claustrophobia. I write from experience. My home town fit me like a fat kid fits in a sandpaper leotard. (Came up with that simile in a writers’  forum this morning. Weird images make me chuckle.)

Filed under: podcasts, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, reviews, self-publishing, What about Chazz?, What about you?, , , , , , , , , , ,

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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