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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

What’s Changed in Publishing and What Hasn’t?

If you’re new or newish to independent publishing, you may wonder how much has changed since the early days. Some things have changed little. Here are a few similarities and a lot of differences between now and a decade ago:

  • Ten years ago, champions and detractors of the movement both called our new outlet self-publishing or indie publishing. Indie creators pointed to filmmakers who also called themselves indie. The cred didn’t transfer well. Now we understand that readers shouldn’t be able to tell the difference between an independently published book and the latest from Simon & Schuster.
  • When KDP was new, we called it the Amazon Gold Rush. As soon as the term was coined, everyone speculated how long it would last. There’s no firm time of death, but it’s definitely been over for a long while.
  • Bookbub promotions were much easier to get. Advertising was generally cheaper, though reach was a bit shorter.
  • More book promotion sites are available now, and their newsletter lists are longer than they used to be. (Search book promo sites and you’ll get a lot of options. e.g. Booksends, Robin Reads, Freebooksy, Bargainbooksy, The Fussy Librarian, Ereader News Today, Kindle Nation Daily, Book Barbarian, Rebel Reads, Books Butterfly, and so on.)
  • We didn’t have Vellum to format books. I even formatted one or two books before Scrivener came along. That was a slog. Vellum makes formatting easy now, but Scrivener also serves as a writing tool and is cheaper.
  • There weren’t as many programs to assist with editing and those that were around weren’t nearly as good as they are now. We still need human editors, but the machines are saving us time with the easy catches.
  • The publishing camps were more entrenched in the old days. You were either indie or you had a contract with trad pub. If you were the latter, you pointedly referred to yourself as a “published author” on social media. There are many more trad-pubbed authors crossing the line to go indie or hybrid now. They figured out it was possible to gain control, make more money, and get more transparency. (No more waiting for incomprehensible sales reports from a publisher twice a year. Now you can get a tally of each day’s sales! Whee!)
  • Agents used to wield more power. Some even made sport of the submissions in their slush piles. Then most realized such denigrating behavior was bad for their business. A lot of would-be authors wised up and stopped being wannabes. Rumors of bad agent behavior get called out quicker and the bad smell lingers.
  • Even though you can hire the same editors and graphic designers who once worked in traditional publishing, there’s still some stench on publishing your own books. Outdated ideas die slowly, usually along with the brains that held those stale ideas.
  • As new publishing developed, a bunch of gurus emerged with plenty of courses to sell. They are not all created equal. Be especially cautious of those who break their arms patting themselves on the back. If they get most of their money from courses instead of selling their own books, that’s a red flag.
  • Organic reach used to be easier. You could sell your old book simply by publishing your new book. A popular blog might be enough to gain sustained attention. Now you’ve got to advertise and promote more. Successful authors tend to have podcasts, eager fans, a fast publishing schedule, and newsletter subscribers to the moon and back.
  • Reviews seem much harder to get these days. (Insert heavy sigh here.)
  • You used to be able to respond to Amazon reviews. Few authors thought it was a good idea to do so, but on those occasions when it seemed necessary, it was nice to have the option.
  • Way back when, we were all convinced a savvy competitor would rise and give better terms than Amazon. It was logical and expected. Didn’t happen.
  • One might assume that non-Amazon platforms would copy their business model because Amazon sells more books. (There are exceptions, mostly dependent on genre. However, for most authors, Amazon income dominates.) Anyway, that didn’t happen. Amazon puts customers over curation. Others still treasure curation, so who you know matters.
  • Draft2Digital has made uploading to multiple sales platforms a breeze. I remember contacting Apple in the early days of the revolution. I asked how to upload a book to their sales platform and their reply could be characterized as both bewildered and useless.
  • Goodreads always had an angry contingent of meanies. The site’s user interface was never intuitive. If they were going to fix those problems, surely they would have by now.
  • Audiobooks were a thing, but they were much less accessible to creators. They are still expensive to produce unless you go DIY. However, the future of audio isn’t just bright. It’s loud. Audiobooks demand less attention. You can do the dishes and listen to an audiobook. That’s why we must make the move to record our books.
  • From my sampling of indie creators, many of us are more professional in our presentation than we used to be. As ever, we hate typos and plot holes. Now we have editorial teams, street teams, and beta readers to help us out. Many books from independent creators have more eyes on the lookout for problems than books created by big publishers. To trim costs, many big publishers purged their editorial departments years ago. That’s often where your skilled freelance workforce comes from.
  • Hardcovers on Amazon are a recent addition. Ingram Spark has some competition is this regard now. Endemic is my first book available in hardcover and it is beautiful!
  • There are plenty of podcasts about books and book publishing now and some are excellent. I miss some of the old ones, though. Old heads will remember Simon Whistler’s pod. The Self-publishing Roundtable and the Self-publishing Podcast are gone. So is the Author Strong podcast. Alas. Good times.
  • Good news: There are so many resources available, we can all improve or maintain our level of skill and professionalism.
  • Bad news: Your parents still wish you’d finished dental school or gone ahead and become a corporate lawyer who hates her job, herself, and everyone else.

What I hope hasn’t changed too much is you.

Learned and grown in the past decade? Of course. But I hope your level of passion for making art with words still burns bright. I hope you still get up each morning eager to entertain, inspire, and inform readers. Artists die, but they don’t stop creating. The connections, wonder, and experiences we share live on. If you’re a writer and you have readers, you’ve got a chunk of immortality.

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What to do when the wheels fly off

Between illness and trying to bounce back from Amazon sabotaging my book launch, December has been rough. However, I’m making the effort to look on the bright side even when things are damn dark. My outlook tends to be grim and all the news events confirm that bias. However, giving up isn’t an option and pessimism isn’t a great strategy. Optimists may be wrong often, but they get more done so they get more chances to score. In my defense, at least I’m usually funny about my grim worldview. (That’s right, Rob! Sublimate your rage with humor.)

One Quick Parable

I was riding a tandem bike with my wife when the road we were on suddenly turned to dirt and then nothing. Dead end. Trying to find our way back in unfamiliar surroundings, we crossed a large property with a mansion on it. A couple of the curious workers looked at us askance but we pedaled by quickly. Then the bike’s front wheel fell off. One of the seats flew off in the crash, too. My wife and I weren’t really hurt, but we found ourselves lost, far from home, and carrying the parts to a broken bike.

The mansion’s owner came out and asked if we were okay. Then he asked how he could help. I was embarrassed and felt like a trespasser. The homeowner, Cyrus, didn’t treat us that way, though. He must have had better things to do than to cater to a couple of forlorn strangers. Instead of shooing us away, he asked us to follow him to the workshop in his huge garage. Together, we worked on putting the bike back together. That wasn’t what pulled my attention, though. What got me was how relentlessly positive Cyrus was. He was both kind and eager to problem-solve.

And all the while, I thought, I wish I could be more like you, you beautiful sunny bastard.

But I could. It does require forming new habits to rewire my neural network. Fortunately, a full personality transplant isn’t necessary. Mindset sets the tone for whatever comes next.

Unfortunately, cynicism is often associated with intelligence.

Skepticism is valuable, and it’s not the same as cynicism. Being mean isn’t smart and being mean to ourselves is downright dumb. I want to be more like Ted Lasso, but I resonate more with Dexter.

My encounter with Cyrus reminded me of three people. There’s Dan, a friend who seems immune to worry. Wayne was a relentlessly positive guy whose presence elevated everyone around him. Then there was the guy who worked at one of the dining room stations at a resort in Cuba. These are people with genuine smiles who are pretty sure things are going to work out okay. If things don’t work out the way they want, they hold on to their sunny attitudes, secure in the belief they can at least make things better.

I don’t always make things better or easier for myself. Anxiety is always ready in my pocket. What I wrote about Ovid Fairweather in Endemic comes straight out of my brain. “When I say, ‘I love me,’ I mean the opposite.'”

Solutions, not Resolutions

I’m very aware that it’s easy to fall back into my old habits of thinking. Between the pandemic and… (gestures everywhere), I can be downright sour. With Cyrus in mind, I’m working on putting things back together. Recently, I ran into someone else who has a lot of that positive Ted Lasso energy. I need that. Besides continuing to watch Ted Lasso, I have to reinforce my optimism with:

  1. Positive self-talk.
  2. Self-care (e.g. healthier lifestyle, more water and vegetables, exercise).
  3. Interacting with positive people more.
  4. Avoid too much negative reinforcement (AKA the dark side of social media).
  5. Avoid overdosing on the news.
  6. Problem-solving.
  7. Fewer side missions, more purpose.
  8. Setting boundaries so I’m not stuck trying to be rational with irrational people.
  9. Especially avoid comment sections on the internet, because trolls used to live under bridges but now they’re coming for our minds.
  10. Focus on what I can control and letting go of the variables I can’t control.

The wheels flew off my metaphorical bike. I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions, so this is just my commitment. Not for 2022. Right now. Nothing metaphorical about that.

We all pretty much know what to do already. That’s not the challenge. The challenge is to be consistent in the application of what we know.

Filed under: mindset, the writing life, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

When I get up, you better watch out

First comes the whining

Anyone remember the fight music from the original Star Trek? Na-na, na! Na! Na! Na! Na! Na-na, na! Na! That’s the soundtrack in my head right now.

November was about fighting Amazon over an unjust review freeze (see the post How Amazon killed My Book.)

December started with a terrible head cold. The subsequent inner ear infection is persistent and has knocked me flat. I’ve got antibiotics going and I think I might be on the mend, but not nearly fast enough to suit me. As soon as the ear infection clears, I’m off to get my booster in the hope that Omicron won’t kill me. I’ll have to choose which of the remaining days of 2021 I will ruin because, though I’m glad to take the booster, each one has made me achy and shaky for days.

Not going to lie, Amazon tanking the launch of Endemic was a harsh blow. The only terrible event I could compare it to would be losing a complete manuscript.

Then comes the winning. I’m looking at solutions.

  • Endemic‘s launch was sabotaged by its own sales platform, so revenue from my masterpiece must depend on the long tail of retail. It’s disappointing, but I’m pointing my nose forward and refusing to look in the rearview mirror. No point in obsessing over that loss now. There’s too much to do.
  • I joined a mastermind group for writers in 2021. They are a good group. The people are encouraging and supportive. The writing room alone got me writing more and more often. Kind hearts help.
  • I successfully completed NaNoWriMo and have an alien anthology to edit because I harnessed the power of friendly competition, consistency, and metrics.
  • I have plans for a non-fiction podcast with a partner. She’s an expert ghostwriter. I’m there to tell jokes and pick her brain on behalf of the audience. Various tech issues and sickness slowed the start on that podcast. We’ve been thwarted at every turn, but the new year is looking good.
  • I have plans for a fiction podcast I’m excited about.
  • A prequel to This Plague of Days is two-thirds written.
  • I have covers in the chamber ready to fire off more projects.
  • I’m looking forward to getting back to my exercise program and joined an on-line group whose focus is healthy living.

The Gist

I’m going to stop there because I learned my lesson about exhaustive to-do lists in 2020. Too many to-dos and not enough to-don’ts can rob us of focus. Overwhelm is dangerous to productivity.

The Commitment

Years ago, I moved to a new city where I knew no one. I started up a business from a cold start with no clients and no allies. A guy I met my first week in the city made it clear he was skeptical of my prospects for success. He ended his list of my disadvantages with, “Aren’t you afraid?”

“No,” I replied. “I’m excited.” (You dick!)

Once I get past this illness, I’ll get excited again. There’s plenty to do to right my ship. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

http://mybook.to/MakeEndemicGoViral
NEW from ROBERT CHAZZ CHUTE

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

NaNoWriMo is not a bad thing

NaNoWriMo is a good thing.

We’re coming up on the halfway point of November already (which scares the rabbit pellets out of me because Christmas is coming fast. I wasn’t going to do National Novel Writing Month this year, but changed my mind at the last moment. I enjoy their metrics and I’m a little ahead of the pace so everything is chunky hunky.

Some authors are down on NaNoWriMo, but I have to say their arguments against it are often made of straw and soggy bran cereal. It’s not just for novices who’ve always dreamed of writing a book. I write every day anyway. That doesn’t mean NaNo doesn’t give me a boost. A little friendly competition can get me started earlier and makes me write a bit longer than I might have otherwise. 2479 words last night!

NaNo is so big, sure, there are inevitably a few people in the mix who think they should fire their first draft off to an agent. However, most people are sane. The vast majority won’t commit that sin. NaNo doesn’t encourage that kind of slapdash approach, either, so ease off of those worries and enjoy a chocolate chip cookie.

Some question the word count. Why 50,000 words? Isn’t that too short for a novel? It didn’t used to be. Those word count conventions are a bit dated considering that the numbers are less of a factor with ebooks. More to the point, the originators of NaNoWriMo chose 50,000 words as a suitable goal for good reasons. It’s not too short for veterans nor too long for first-timers. It also happens to be the approximate word count for The Great Gatsby.

There’s a little Apocalypse Now energy around NaNo that I find helpful. I’m Martin Sheen at the beginning of the movie whispering, “Every minute I’m in this hotel room I get weaker. Every minute Charlie is out in the jungle he gets stronger.” Then I break a mirror because someone out there somewhere is writing.

Then I write.

~ The newest novel from Robert Chazz Chute is Endemic. Highly sensitive, bookish, and alone, Ovid Fairweather is bullied by her father, haunted by her dead therapist, and trapped in the viral apocalypse.

Get Endemic now. It’s about to go viral.

Filed under: NanNoWriMo, writing, , , , , , , , , ,

The ProWritingAid Premium Lifetime Deal

ProWritingAid Lifetime Premium Membership is 55% off for a few days. It’s a Black Friday thing. No app can replace a good human editor yet, but using this could help you improve your writing (and make your editor’s life easier).

To analyze your writing from all angles (and get quite a deal), here’s the link:

https://prowritingaid.com/en/Landing/Promotion/L6d90

Filed under: Editing, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Fans are Sexy

Unless you write as a hobby, authors need fans. Not just casual readers. Fans. Here are the 5Ws of getting sexy.

The Why

  1. Authors need reviews as social proof in order to gain more readers.
  2. Promotional sites often require a minimum number of reviews and/or a minimum rating before we can advertise on those platforms to find more readers.
  3. When we’re feeling down and hopeless, it’s the fans that bring us back up and get us writing again.

The What

  1. Buy our art so we can make more art. Poverty and hunger pangs distracts us from our mission. (Also please be aware, pirate sites give your devices cancer and infect your soul with incurable scabies.)
  2. Tell other readers about your favorite authors. Word of mouth makes our kung fu strong.
  3. Please review our books.
  4. Stock up on our books for Christmas gifts.
  5. Let your favorite author know you’re rooting for them. A quick email or tweet will make their day. This is a tough business, and some of us are prone to anxiety and depression. (Stares hard.)

The Where

  1. Review what you love wherever you bought the book. Seek out that “Write a Review” button. It’s on the book’s sales page somewhere.
  2. Tell your local bookstore you want to order your favorite author’s book.
  3. Tell your librarian the same.
  4. Tell your friends down at the ole swimmin’ hole, during a bank heist, at the golf course, and on Zoom.
  5. Suggest books to your enemies with the passive aggressive message that reading more will contribute to their personal growth and increase their capacity for empathy. Those bastards probably won’t take your recommendation, but you can walk away feeling good about that sick burn.
  6. Share your reviews and book recommendations on social media.

The Who

  1. You, if you’re a reader and you like art someone produced.
  2. If you’re an author reading this, I get it. You’re too humble. You’re self-conscious about asking for help. Your Dad, who loves David Baldacci books, isn’t keen on your thrillers, and hates your horror and science fiction. It’s okay. The people who support you understand you need to keep writing and buy groceries. Ask for help.
  3. Dad, if you’re reading this, I won’t be sending you my latest apocalyptic novel for Christmas. A David Baldacci book is on the way. Never mind, go back to listening to Lawrence Welk. And no, we won’t be talking about this.*

    *Okay, #2 and #3 of this section might involve some…ahem…projection.

The When

  1. No time like the present.
  2. See #1.
  3. The Rule of 3 compels me to add #3. (Also, it should be CDO because OCD is in the wrong order.)

BONUS: What Fans Receive in Return

  1. Writers give you their dreams for a small price and, by spreading the love, you help them fulfill their dreams. Priceless.
  2. You might get more books from that author or more books in a series you enjoy. If there aren’t enough sales and/or reviews on a series, the ROI isn’t there so chances are solid said series could die on the vine.
  3. The joy of helping other readers discover something they might love. Recommending books feels good.
  4. The fun of having someone share the experience of the book. Then you’ll have a fellow reader with whom you can discuss the book.
  5. Being the sort of person who reads and recommends books makes you look smarter. It’s more powerful than the nerdiest of nerd glasses and you will instantly become 87% sexier. 87%! That’s just science.
  6. In reading our pithy, funny amazing novels, you will find jokes you can later pass off as your own in casual conversation.
  7. You will earn our eternal gratitude, and who doesn’t want the warm fuzzies from a group of maniacs who sit around all day fantasizing about new and clever ways to get away with murder?

    EDIT: The police inform me that #7 came off as more threatening than I intended. So…hey! Eternal gratitude! You got it!

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. Find all my apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers at AllThatChazz.com.

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

The Real Writing Life

To be an author requires a lot of patience and not a little audacity. You spend many hours working alone, charting your own course and assuming someone will want your art. Of course, to bring your creation to market, you’ll need help from editors, proofreaders, beta readers, and graphic artists. I’m speaking here of all the time you face the blinking cursor and the blank page. I was reminded this week of the joys and frustrations of sailing solo.

The Obstacles in Your Way

The Movies That Made Us (on Netflix) has a great behind-the-scenes breakdown of what it took to get Elf made. When the primaries were brought together to create a modern Christmas classic, none of them were considered bankable. Even Will Ferrell wasn’t considered leading man material. The amazingly talented director, Jon Favreau, wasn’t money yet. The writer was unknown, but what they did have was vision. Film is a collaborative medium, and in this case, the creative team were all on the same page. It was the studio that stood in the way, even going so far as to try to edit it down to something it wasn’t. The higher-ups just didn’t “get it.”

Fortunately, a more ambitious artistic vision won out over the cynical studio execs. Favreau’s vision won out and commerce was served without compromising a film with real heart. Working by committee is difficult. Hollywood is full of stories of great scripts that got squashed, derided, or ignored for years before somehow making it to the screen and becoming a triumph. There’s a great book titled Afterwards, You’re a Genius. Looking back, everybody says, “Of course, it’s a success!” Going forward, people aren’t so sure.

Do anything, and plenty of naysayers will emerge to helpfully inform you what you’re attempting won’t work. Often, the people who say they’d do it differently don’t do anything at all. Sometimes I wonder how anything great makes it to the big screen.

And then there’s Paterson

The tiniest movie I’ve watched in a long time is Paterson, starring Adam Driver. It’s so low-key, you’ll watch it thinking, Where is this going? It’s a small, meditative film that flirts with the surreal. It’s a fairly uneventful week in the life of a bus driver who loves poetry. That’s it. No explosions. No action sequences. I can’t even say there’s a plot per se. However, it does have charm, and it offers an experience where the quotidian is the point. If you’re a Fast & Furious devotee, you might find this one soporific. I found something to love, though.

First, it’s kind of amazing this movie exists. No matter how small the movie is, big money and an army of participants are needed. Remember when a movie only required one production company? Now, movies are so expensive, I get tired and irritated just slogging through the opening credits as we get a slew of title cards and logos. (For example: A production of A Working Title Films, in association with Armchair Studios, a film by Lawrence Blahdiblah, with Fade in Innovators, and The Super8 Incubator and oh my God, get to it, I’m already out of popcorn!)

Second, Paterson is about an artist trying to create while dealing with the day-to-day struggle to survive. He writes poetry for the experience itself. Money must be made, and that’s what the day job is for. However, passions must be fostered and he draws on the mundane to create something beautiful.

The bus driver steals precious moments from the beginning of his shift to jot down a few lines in his notebook. His partner stays at home, painting everything while dreaming of becoming a country music star who’s also hoping to become a cupcake entrepreneur. The bartender aspires to win a chess tournament while a rapper works on spitting rhymes in a laundromat.

Meeting the rapper, the bus driver looks around the empty laundromat and says, “This is your lab?”

“Wherever I am,” the rapper replies, “that’s where it happens.”

That’s the creative spirit, always on duty, always practicing and perfecting, taking in everything to feed the muse.

Despite the surreal undertones, Paterson does not happen in an alternative universe. This is the world of any artist in our world. We create because something within urges us to do so. Most of those efforts will go unheralded. There is only one Jon Favreau, but we’re all out here, doing our thing. Most of us couldn’t tell you why. We just love words and stories. We’re trapped in the amber of the everyday, but we dream of more. We create worlds.

This sounds like a romantic notion, but it’s not. Yesterday, I completed final edits on my next big book. I think I’ve created an apocalyptic classic in Endemic (to be released early November). At 390 pages and 100,000 words, it’s an ambitious story about a neurotic book nerd facing down marauders in a plague-ravaged New York City. I was elated to send out the ARCs and excited to finally get the graphics set up for the hardcover and paperback. This has been two years in the making, so I could barely contain myself as my ARC team replied with their excitement and congratulations.

Pop the champagne, right? Um, no.

While still in the throes of self-congratulation, I had to go get winter tires on my car. Due to a miscommunication on my part, my son had taken the car to work. I stepped onto an empty driveway and panicked a little. I had to run to his workplace to pick up the car. Meanwhile, my laptop has failed and my desktop is iffy, too, so I’m struggling with how to afford to buy a new dream machine.

And that, my friends, is the writing life. Toil in obscurity, do the dishes, get your ass back in the chair in front of the keyboard. Maybe you’ll win an award, but that’s one night and then it’s back to work. Maybe you’ll make it big and have assistants to fetch you scones and coffee one day, but probably not. There’s only one Jon Favreau, but there are millions of writers across the world doing their thing because…I don’t know. Just because, man. We have to.

~ Check out my apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers at my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: the writing life, , , , , , ,

Show me you are a writer

You know this meme:

Tell me you’re X without telling me you’re X.
It just occurred to me that this is another version of a good writing guideline: Show, don’t tell.

Good fiction exploits resonance and a certain amount of circuitousness. Don’t tell me your heroine is brave. Let the character demonstrate her bravery. Book readers want to meet the author halfway to achieve an immersive experience. They don’t want a telegram.

Of course, there are times to tell, not show. When dialogue is interesting and clever, let it be said in quotes. If the dialogue is merely informative and delivers zero bam-pop-pow, then it’s time to tell instead of show.

Telling:

He asked me if I wanted a coffee before the interview, and I declined.

Showing:

“Fancy a hot cup of java?”

“No offense, sir, but I make it my policy to never accept any beverage from a person of interest in a poisoning case.”

~ Robert Chazz Chute shows and tells appropriately. His killer crime thrillers and apocalyptic epics deliver lots of bam-pop-pow. Check out his books on his author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: writing, writing advice, writing tips, , , , , , , ,

War Stories from Trad Publishing

When I moved to Toronto to enter the heady field of publishing, I had romanticized the profession. Profession, see? I didn’t know yet that it is mostly an industry. I dreamed that, surrounded by the glittering literati, it would be all wonderful words, sharp wit, and too many cocktails at book launches. Here are a few things I learned in short order:

1. If you’re looking for opportunities to trade bon mots, people in publishing don’t have a monopoly on that skill. They might have cornered the market on a false sense of superiority and condescension, but funny? Nope! Most of us were poor. Trying to survive in one of the most expensive cities in the world does tend to dampen one’s spirits.

2. If you’re new to the industry, anyone who’s been at it for two years longer will step back to see if you’re wearing shoes. At my first cocktail party, someone held forth on the strife of the former Yugoslavia and denigrated my opinion. She may have thought me a young hick, but I was the only one in the room who had actually traveled there and witnessed the damage bullets can do.

Snobs tend to gravitate to the profession. Stephen King left a publisher who profited well off his books because, despite his early success, they couldn’t seem to remember his name when they passed in the hallway. “Only a genre author, you know.”

3. After working in traditional publishing for five years, I can assure you that they don’t have a disproportionate number of smarter people than any other industry. I was chronically underwhelmed by many of my colleagues. There were a few gems, of course, but plenty of folks whose job was to make judgments had lousy judgment. One publisher I worked for ran himself out of business because he only wanted to put out “important” books. He may have briefly impressed his friends on the Rosedale circuit, but his list did not sell enough to sustain. I remember telling my sales manager, “Another sodbuster? Fine, but would it kill him to put out a cookbook people will actually buy this Christmas?”

4. People on the editorial side, mostly women, are infamously underpaid. They do not share the wealth. The moolah all funnels up. (And don’t get me started on the unpaid intern scam.)

5. Some editors and not a few salespeople denigrate authors’ efforts. Publishing companies buy manuscripts to sell books, but their respect for those who produce those manuscripts varies widely.

Hey! Want to break free of the blank page and work inside trad publishing? If you were impressed by the dismissive speech Meryl Streep gives Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada, this might be the job for you! If, on the other hand, you have self-respect and intolerance for workplace abuse, at least work at a firm big enough for an HR department.
(I put a bad boss in a hammerlock once. That fucker still owes me $5,000.)

6. Perhaps driven by desperation, some authors are pills, too. For instance, Bookstore X refused to sell books by a particular author who had a bad reputation. Bookstore X stood just down the street from the publishing house, so naturally, when the author got taken to a liquid lunch, they stopped in. The author discovered Bookstore X did not carry any of his books. “But I’m a literary icon!” the author wheedled.

Embarrassed, the publisher blamed the sales rep (i.e. me) and sent a memo to my boss. “What’s going on?” she wailed. It wasn’t a conspiracy. What was going on was the bookstore owner didn’t like the author personally. Nobody liked either of them, in fact. In hurting himself, the author tried to hurt me. (That writer is dead now. I claim to have had nothing to do with it.)

7. Speaking of bookstore owners, I liked most of them, but they had romantic ideas getting into their business, too. They thought they’d be reading books constantly, maybe even hobnobbing with famous authors. Instead, they were often saddled with businesses pushed out and pushed down by big box retail and online stores. Calculating GST payments all day and worrying about impending doom does make one surly.

One guy made a big deal out of the fact a sales rep didn’t want to get up at 4 in the morning and travel up from Toronto to pay a visit at 5:30 a.m. to a little bookstore in the back of the beyond. (Wasn’t me, but I felt bad for the sales rep from another house.) Another bookstore owner got very pissy that I dared to use the word comedy instead of humor. That person is now out of business, but I assume she’s yelling at some retail worker somewhere on Instagram.

I was tasked with presenting an extensive list for 16 publishers to a board of librarians. There were more than a
dozen people around the table as I went into my spiel. One guy thought the enthusiasm I had for my list made me stupid. I made a joke and he rolled his eyes. “Ba-dum-bump!”

I was young and full of blue piss, so I stopped my show and pushed back. “You don’t want me to be funny and energetic in my sales pitch? Fine. I. Can. Deliver. The. Entire. List. In. Robotic.
Fashion. If. You. Want. You wanna stop busting my balls now?” Everyone laughed but the guy I called out, but how can badly behaving customers learn if we don’t teach them?

8. Not everyone has romanticized ideas about what they do. My first two publishing jobs were at Harlequin. An exec struck up a conversation with me in the company cafeteria. “Why did you come here?” he asked. I told him my background was in journalism, but I loved books so I got into publishing.


“We’re not really publishers, though,” he said. “We’re book packagers.”

Meeting him, I vowed to escape before my innocence and light of aspiration in my eyes went dead.
You do want to keep some of your beginner’s mind as you move through your career. Otherwise, the days are long and sad.

9. A wannabe novelist and poet who worked as a copy editor told me, “Many people who want to write gravitate to this industry.” Then he cackled on at length about an author whose typo mixed up desert and dessert.
Maybe he wouldn’t have been so mean to actual writers if he didn’t still have a novel of his own trapped in his head. Frustrated writers make the most truculent editors.

You used to see this kind of behavior on social media, and the worst offenders were snotty agents. I don’t know if there are still high-profile agents making sport of the authors and unsolicited manuscripts in their slush piles. There are fewer agents now, perhaps for good reason.

10. This may be the worst one: Plenty of authors betting big on their first book have a romanticized idea of what New York or Toronto can do for them. They think if they get a traditional pub contract, they’re set for life. They won’t have to do a thing but write. Most authors don’t make much, and there are quite a few independent authors who do better financially. Either way, most of the marketing is on you. Some marketing requirements will feel onerous and still come to naught.

Unless you’re a controversial political figure or a hot celebrity, your advance will be lower than it was thirty years ago (and it wasn’t great then.) You may never earn out your advance and get royalties. Promotional opportunities that independent authors routinely use are denied you by traditional publishers. You don’t have the flexibility. If your first book fails to clear the bar, a trad publisher is unlikely to bet on you twice. Organize your own company, editorial team, and marketing, and you’ll get as many kicks on goal as you want.


Trying to negotiate a trad contract? Your publisher will inform you all contracts are boilerplate. Ignore them and have an IP lawyer negotiate for you before you sign your rights away. Nobody’s looking out for you but you. The acquiring editor is not your enemy, but this is the business part, not the art part.

About trad pub transparency: Your advance will come slowly, in stages, and you’ll have to rely on accounting reports from the publisher that obfuscate reality. At best, you’ll find out how your book is doing a couple of times a year, too late to respond in a timely manner.


FULL DISCLOSURE:

I’ve been independent since 2010, but I’m not saying you shouldn’t try your luck, talent, and skill in the traditional publishing arena. I am saying you should go in with your eyes open. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone.

Last year, a NY publisher approached me about submissions. I admit, I was excited. I sent an outline for a thriller. I haven’t heard anything from them since. I would still consider going hybrid, for sure. Any chance to expand my readership is an alluring thing. On the other hand, knowing what I know about all the variables, I’m not into chasing after anyone, either. (Cue Cheap Trick singing, “I Want You to Want Me!”)


BONUS MYTHS:

Some writers believe they are bound to get treated better by a boutique publishing house. At small operations, whoever answers the phone is more likely to know your name. However, a business on the brink is not more likely to treat you better. They don’t have the budget for that. They are more likely to go out of business.

Big versus little isn’t the issue. It’s about the people. It’s nice to work with nice, competent people who love what they do and share a sense of urgency about your work and concerns. But there’s another fly in the ointment. Editorial staffs have been downsized for years in favor of cheaper outsourcing. That editor at Big Publishing House who loved you and your work last year may not be there this year. She’s selling alpacas in Arizona now, and she’s much happier.



~ My next novel launches this September. In the meantime, please do check out links to my killer crime thrillers and apocalyptic epics at AllThatChazz.com.

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

The Honest Get Rich Quick Scheme

Sometimes writers spend so much time writing, they read much less or not at all. Try not to fall into that trap. I was reminded how important it is to make time for both reading and writing recently. Somewhat ironically, the reminder came in the form of a movie.

There aren’t many good movies about writing. Finding Forrester is my go-to, but I found another gem. 84 Charing Cross Road is a plotless yet charming period piece starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins. The 1987 film of Helene Hanff’s book is about her decades-long correspondence with an antiquarian bookseller in London. A writer in New York, she was obsessed with English books that were difficult to obtain. She goes to great lengths to get the old tomes she desires. Bless her.

The movie is less about writing and more about a quirky character and her love affair with books. As the world transforms through the late ’40s to 1971, Hanff smokes, drinks, writes Ellery Queen TV scripts, and reads obsessively. God, I love people who read. Sometimes it feels like they’re an endangered species that should be protected, doesn’t it?

The experience made me long for a time when books were so much more important to the culture and didn’t have to compete with social media and video games. Still, there are readers out there waiting for something special. Maybe your next creation is what they don’t know they’re waiting for.

Often, those movies the masses come to love spring from literature. Maybe getting a book made into a movie is our best shot at riches, but that’s debatable. The book usually has to hit big before a movie gets made years or even decades later. So, what to do? While you’re waiting for fame and fortune to find you…oh, no, I’m kidding. You don’t actually wait for those things that may never come. You gotta go hunting.

Aspiring heavy hitters wade through podcasts and courses about the tactics of segmenting mailing lists to grow their readership. The details of advertising and newsletter marketing aren’t sexy, but the gurus aren’t wrong. I’m annoyed by some of the requirements of modern publishing, especially since Facebook ads can be such a recalcitrant bitch these days. But this is the business side of the art we’re in.

I’m more obsessed with craft than marketing, a position which in today’s media consumption landscape makes me sound stupid and quaint, or at least naive. None of that is true. I’m just a bit tired. Though I’m glad to have received my second vaccine, it knocked the stuffing out of me for a few days.
Now that I’m vertical again, it’s back to the brain tickle business.

In sum, you became a writer for the love of books, so don’t just write them. Reading more will improve your writing, but do it all for the love of books. We may never become wealthy or even recognized, but reading makes our lives richer in the here and now.



~ Get richer in the here and now. I’m Robert Chazz Chute and I write killer crime thrillers (try The Night Man) and apocalyptic epics (read AFTER Life right now!) You’ll find links to all my books on my author site, AllThatChazz.com. And thanks, that’s super cool of you, you sexy undistracted butterfly.

Filed under: movies, publishing, reading, , , , , , , , , , ,

http://mybook.to/OurZombieHours
A NEW ZOMBIE ANTHOLOGY

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

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