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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Top Ten: Sell better. Sell Sideways with Video, Podcasts, Pop-ups and Free.

I’m always mystified by people who use the hard sell. Telemarketers hear me say, “No, thanks.” Then they charge forward anyway, following their sales script:

“Can I ask you one question, Mr. Chute?”
“Is that question designed to verbal judo, Jedi mind trick me into thinking I have to buy your duct cleaning service or else I’m doomed?”
“I…beg your pardon?”
“No means no! No means no!” Click!

You get the idea. 

And so it is with everything, including books.

Sometimes someone snags my attention with a come-hither headline I can’t resist. I click the link and bang! The pop-up comes at me a little too fast. I know nothing about the seller but they want to skip the first date and go straight to marriage and demand an email address. She Who Must Be Obeyed is awesome, but our engagement was thirteen years long. Do I sound like a guy who commits easily?

A fast pop-up is okay if I come to the seller from a blog or if I already sort of know them. I just need a formal introduction to get comfortable. But to come in blindly and have a stranger demand commitment? Slow down and buy me dinner. Seduce me. Talk slow. Tease me and…um…where were we?

Red flags and suggestions:

1. If your pop-up comes in so it obscures your content completely, I feel ambushed. There are times for a sign up or go offer, but for that to work, I think you have to give the potential subscriber something free and good (e.g. a white paper on how to make a million, a free course, killer book extras.) If you’re going for the email address early on, give them something they want.

2. Do install a pop-up on your author site, though. People say they hate pop-ups but they work and if they’re into your flavor, readers do need to be on your email list. Don’t call it a newsletter though. Call it an update or an info hub or a friendly reminder about new deals and opportunities, exclusive to subscribers.

3. Tweets from accounts with no picture but the default egg look shifty. It suggests the tweeter is a bot or clueless and we don’t follow or sign up for anything. We run away.

4. My new buddy, Buddy Gott (see the crazy fun interview below) has a nice take on Twitter. Check out his twitter account here. He tweets jokes and shows his personality. It’s not just links. He’s clearly having fun with his Twitter account so his followers will have fun, too. When I meet a fun writer, I wonder if their books are fun, too. Then I check them out.

5. If you’re going to tweet and it’s not fun, make it useful. Easy to share, useful content is good. But don’t forget to have fun, too. Follow others and promote good content that’s not coming just from you. Curate.

6. Yes, it’s okay to ask for the sale. But say hello first. Don’t push. Establish some kind of relationship. If I know you and you ask for the sale, that’s cool. If that’s the first thing I hear, or all I hear, you’re a clueless bully. Yes, tweet links to your new book, but if “BUY MY BOOK!” is all you’ve got for Facebook and Twitter, you’re headed for the circle of hell reserved for salespeople who believe Glengarry Glen Ross is a training film for humans.


7. Establishing relationships can be difficult, especially when you’re talking to a crowd. It helps to ask about them, not tell them about you. Unless you’ve got a really funny story about waking up drunk and naked in an unfamiliar bathtub, listen more than you talk, take part and respond. Come at me sideways instead of a full frontal assault.

8. You don’t want to be out there building relationships so much that you don’t have time to write your next book. Tweet in spare moments and, once you’ve established you’re not a dick, send those interested to interesting content. 

9. Stop being so afraid and precious that you can’t give something away. For instance, go grab a free thriller from me here. Yes, it’s the first in a fun and fast series about a Cuban hit man who’s quite adorable. There are three books in that series so far. Click the link, get a free ebook and maybe you’ll love your new addiction.

10. People are willing to watch video longer than they’re willing to put up with text. That’s why the TV show Lost still had some viewers at the end. (Lost wasn’t about castaways on a mysterious island. Lost referred to the people in the writing room as the series went on.) 

So, never mind my Lost snark.

Use video as a friendly get to know you. Like this.

BONUS: Based on a True Story

Check out the new episode of the All That Chazz podcast in which I discuss the relationship between bands and their sex toys. I also discuss my latest brush with the law. Have a listen. Have fun. Sell sideways.

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

Here’s a different way to engage new readers

There is an alternative to getting feedback through reviews and it’s actually pretty awesome (though we all need the happy reviews, too.) Recently, I did a Bookbub giveaway. About 20,000 people picked up the This Plague of Days, Omnibus Edition. That’s three novels in one big book. Not only am I hearing more from readers who dig my flow, but I’m engaging with them through email plus giving them another free book. I’m thinking long-term and building a readership, but it has helped in the short-term, too. Here’s how:

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)

At the back of the Omnibus is a link to a video that asks readers a question about a secret revealed in the saga. Once they comment on the secret YouTube link and email me their address, I send them the gift of another book, Intense Violence, Bizarre Themes. I also let them know there’s another book coming at Christmas called The Haunting Lessons. If you liked TPOD, you’ll probably love The Haunting Lessons.

IVBT FINAL 2D cover

You can’t generally engage with reviewers without the risk of being accused of bad author behavior, but these people are coming to me. They’re a happy bunch (only one grump among the many emails I’ve received!) and they’re happy to talk about This Plague of Days. I also take the opportunity in their gift card message to encourage reviews.

Intense Violence, Bizarre Themes (my autobiographical crime novel) also secrets behind the story. The back of that book has a blog post link readers can access with a password on my author site, AllThatChazz.com, so they can get some of their questions answered.

If this seems like a long, expensive process to find new readers, I have three answers: 

1. Long? Not really. I was writing the books anyway. I’m in this for the long haul with many more books on the way.

2. Paying for advertising in the form of gift books to a TARGETED audience is miles cheaper than any other approach I can think of.

3. Contrary to what you may have read from other authors recently, I’m finding that gifting does lift my other book sales. 

This won’t help you much if you don’t have more than a couple of books to sell, but free isn’t a concept to throw away quite yet. I’m happy with this twist on free because I’m making happy readers happier instead of throwing business cards out of moving cars and shouting at annoyed strangers.

I’m loving it most because, unfortunately, there is occasionally a hostile, suspicious or impatient dynamic between reviewers and authors. As a writer, it’s great to hear back from the people who get what you’re doing, are friendly and engaged. The conversations I’ve had over email are delightfully empty of power trips and ego. It’s fantastic to me that people just want to talk about the story’s emotional impact or the philosophy or psychology that form the underlying themes of This Plague of Days. That’s cool. (You know how some reviewers seem to hate reading? Not this crowd. They are so in!)

I think this approach works because:

a. Hey, I understand they read to the end of a long epic saga. It figures they’re more committed than the average bear.

b. People love to know secrets and behind-the-scenes stuff.

c. People love free stuff.

d. When I talk about TPOD on video they’re getting to know me as a human being.

e. When they read the secrets in the secret blog post, they’re invited into my little club. I’m touched that they got involved enough in the thriller to want to know what’s fiction and what’s not.

Your mileage may vary, as they say, but keep experimenting with new approaches. You might even stick a secret link in the back of your next book and watch the happy readers show up in droves.

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

How NOT to sell books at a reading

I did a reading a while back. I sold a book. Yeah. One. Let’s just take a moment to take that in. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Okay…here’s what I’ll do differently next time:

1. Advertise and/or promote more and work my network beforehand. Most of my friends are of the cyber variety. I’ve been a nomad/recluse so long that, locally, I don’t have a network. I’m connected to a lot of people who are too far away. Not just Skype calls and a long car ride. I’m talking long plane flights. I’m working on that, mostly through Twitter (#Ldnont) and connecting with local humans within handshake distance. It’s not entirely excruciating.

2. Have a sign. I had brochures, which was a good move. I didn’t have a proper sign that told people the books’ prices. A helpful friend took the money…or would have but, ahem…that turned out to be a non-issue. The forty dollar float in fives proved much more than adequate. (Do make it easy for potential customers by charging round numbers. Nobody wants to search for nickels.)

3. Rock the books you came with. I should have talked more about the books at the back of the room while I was at the front of the room. Instead, I rocked a short story that always gets laughs. I’m very confident reading that story to an audience, so I took the easy way out. I can sell that story, Another Day at the Office from Self-help for Stoners, easily. I should have pushed the books I brought instead, and harder. I should have read a piece from my books that sell most now (This Plague of Days) and a chapter from Crack the Indie Author Code (indies were the theme of the event.)

Being confident, instead of looking confident: I’ll figure it out and try it sometime.

4. I gave a good talk about writing and publishing. Actually, it was a great talk. People smiled and laughed in the right places. At one point I sang and even threatened an audience member with a grisly death, mostly for entertainment purposes. People went away smiling and happy…but they did go away.

The main problem was that I should have ended it sooner. We used the whole time allotted for the event. You’d think that would be delivering on expectations and promises. Instead, it gave people no time to shop for books. They ran to get their parking validated before the library closed. Rather than talk at the front of the room (which I enjoyed immensely) I should have mixed with the audience more before the event began and I should have built in more one-on-one chatting/selling/handshake/hip bump/high-five/hula dancing time at the end of the reading.

5. When the reading’s done, don’t get waylaid by the sweet, little old lady sitting in the third row. Push her out of your way and to the ground if necessary. She is killing you. At least, that’s what she did to me. I should have rushed straight to the back and engaged people there. By the time I answered her tangential question about who I might be related to (I wasn’t and oh, sweet Jebus, who cares?), most people had filed out, off to make sure their parking was free. Damn old lady. And damn parking. And damn me. 

To the one guy to whom I sold This Plague of Days in paperback, may Thor bless you with smart, stout-thighed, stress-resistant children with perfect teeth. It’s great signing a book for a reader who digs what you’re doing.

Back on the net that night, another audience member hit me up on Twitter to let me know he had a good time and was buying my ebooks, not paper. That was cool and eased my roiling sea of torment. Somewhat. 

I’ll do better next time.

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

FAQs: What book promotion are you paying for?

I sent a close friend the gift of an ebook hoping that he would read it, enjoy it, possibly review it and maybe even spread the word to his vast network of connections. Instead, he sent me a scolding reply: “You’re paying people to read your books!” And by people, he meant him. Ouch. In my defence, I don’t know that he’s read it yet, so that’s my double fail.

Before anybody thinks he’s harsh, a little history and context: I understand that he felt fine paying for the book himself. Also, I got him his first job in book publishing. He’s still thinking about publishing from that perspective. I’m sure he didn’t want to sound mean. I caught him on a bad day. Also, I’m sure he’s worried about me and that’s why he was so undiplomatic and reactive.

However, he’s only thinking of me as a friend and writer. I’m also a publisher.

Publishers have a long history of sending out Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) to key reviewers, the sales force, bookstores and media. That doesn’t require an apology. That’s business and doing less is hiding your light under a shitstorm called, “Everything else that exists to read, do and enjoy.” Yes, you’re even competing against sex! Clearly, books are doomed!

How many ARCS go out from traditional publishers? Hundreds per book. I can’t afford to do that, but I do send out some that way. I wasn’t paying anyone to read my book. I was paying for advertising and promotion (to teh wrong target, I found out.) You can do the same thing for free by emailing a pdf, though if they can’t instantly stick it on their kindle, most people won’t bother with it. Chances are good they won’t get around to reading it even if you make it very easy for them so avoid handicaps where possible. That’s why I prefer to use Amazon’s gift option where possible and within budget.

About sending copies to book blogs

Check out the book blog first. Review the reviewers and their guidelines before you send anything. Many book blogs are awesome. However, I’ve encountered noobs whose site is nigh-illegible, their traffic is minuscule and their reviews give spoilers without warning. I’d rather let a blindfolded med student practice minor surgery on my tingly bits.

Services to invest in

In the previous post, I mentioned Bookbub is a worthwhile investment. The cost of advertising with BookBub varies depending on genre. Horror and science fiction is $70 to push a free ebook. Find the full range of pricing here.

I also mentioned the Author Marketing Club. That costs $105 per year for an annual membership and it’s worth it for the tools and seminars. My book descriptions look better than ever, for instance. The free submission tool got This Plague of Days at number one in Dystopian and Post-apocalyptic. The book sales widget looks awesome.

Where can you cut corners?

Anyone reading this is probably working on a shoestring budget. To make any money, we have to keep our expenses down to nothing or close to it. We blog and tweet and use Pinterest and Facebook and do Google+ and throw Tumblr in the air and shout out of windows because it’s free and we’re trying to engage new readers. I’ve used Fiverr for videos* (see my video/book promotion strategy here) and free apps from Apple and the Chrome Store. 

We get what services we can for free where and when it makes sense. We swap services and cooperate and consult and promote each other for free. We learn to format books and publish DIY wherever we can so we can keep something of what money might trickle in, knowing the odds are heavily against us. (That sounds bleak, but more indie authors are making a living from their efforts than the traditionally published so it’s not all bad news.)

About ineffective promotion services

Lots of advertising isn’t worth the expense. Some sites say they can promote your books and they’ll do so for a fairly low fee. However, you won’t get even that small fee back. Before you go with another of those sites, review the promoters. Reach out to the indie authors you know. Use your Facebook connections to gather intelligence and ask about other authors’ experiences and results. This is most valuable if their books are similar in genre, quality and look to your own. (In other words, don’t blame the book promotion service when a bad cover sunk the author’s efforts.)

I’m always looking for ways to save money so I can put it into pushing books. The other day I realized I was the only 48-year-old walking around a bookstore in old jeans with ripped up hems. I don’t buy new pants! Think what Bookbub advertising I could buy for the price of a couple of pants! And you know what? I wish I had a bigger budget because however you promote your books, you pay. (And I want new pants. I rocked this look in college but it doesn’t fly now.)

If you don’t pay in money, you pay in time.

Without the cash, you lose time with your family (okay, not always a bad thing). You will lose time going to the gym and end up paying with your health. Time is more important than money because you can make more money but the waking hours are all you get. Worse, if you aren’t careful, marketing cuts into writing time. Be careful. Hemingway was Hemingway, but he never had to share your problems.

Expect to pay something.

Can you go viral and pay nothing and still be successful?  It could happen, but to expect it is stupid. That’s not a strategy. That’s hoping something will happen to you instead of making it happen and that’s not the way to bet. Use AMC and Bookbub now at least. Then be clever and different and promote your brand with long-term strategies that will make a career.

Should I set a budget of $10,000 for a book promotion budget?

I’m not buying new pants. 

*I have a new intro video at AllThatChazz.com, in addition to the intro video at CoolPeoplePodcast.com and of course, here at ChazzWrites.

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

How I’ll sell more books by studying my author ranking

Before you read this article about author rankings, a quick heads up: I’m inviting you to something fun that could help you in your writing endeavours. The link at the bottom of this article will take you to ThisPlagueOfDays.com for a post you’ll like about the advantages of serialization. At the bottom of that post, click on The Link for the Curious to get a secret (not a spoiler!) about This Plague of Days.

Episode 4 releases today!

Episode 4 releases today!

Go to Author Central and have a look at your author rank. This shows you how you’re doing compared to other authors on Amazon. That’s not very useful information, but there is something to be gleaned from these charts.

Author rank on Amazon is interesting or depressing, depending on your score. However, the public never sees your author rank unless you’re in the top 100. As you click through and look at charts, the blue points are your highest rank on any given day (not your average for the day). The orange point is your placement right now.

These rankings are based on sales figures of digital, paper and audio. (So, as I’ve mentioned in this space, if you aren’t exploring your audio options yet, get on that.)

It’s good to own a genre if you can

If you’re really smart, you picked a genre and tried to dominate it. All or most of your books will be in one category and you won’t have many charts to click through. I’m not all that smart. I think focussing all your energy in one genre is probably a good idea. It is good advice I couldn’t take. I bubble over with ideas for books in various genres. Many of us are cursed that way.

For instance, I came up with an insta-book on doing business with the Vine app simply because (a) I was so enthused about the new app, and (b) I was working on the gargantuan This Plague of Days and felt like it had been too long since I’d published anything new. Not wanting to be forgotten, I wrote and published Six Seconds in one week. (Publishing gave my other books a bit of a boost, too, so there’s that.)

Gleaning what’s good to know from Amazon’s author rank 

I have three books in non-fiction (business and publishing).

For the Hit Man Series, I ranked higher in mystery than I did in thrillers, though I ranked consistently higher in action/adventure and science fiction and fantasy.

I don’t consider myself a sci-fantasy writer. However, This Plague of Days fits neatly in the sci-fi subcategory of apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic.

According to my author ranks, I rank best as a horror writer. I have several books of short stories on Amazon, but since they’re under the too vague “literature and contemporary fiction” categories, my rank there is weaker. Too general doesn’t help. I could and should put Murders Among Dead Trees under the horror category, too. It fits the tone for that collection.

Beware, however, of drilling too deep into a stagnant subcategory. The Hit Man Series sells better when categorized as action adventure and mystery. Hardboiled is a stagnant subcategory Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus languished in too long. They were ignored because I messed up my category choice.

The mind virus is created. Spread the infection. Each of five episodes is only 99 cents each. Get the whole Season for the discount at $3.99. (And if you already have read it, please review it.) Thanks! ~ Chazz

The mind virus is created. Spread the infection. Each of five episodes is only 99 cents each. Get the whole Season for the discount at $3.99. (And if you already have read it, please review it.) Thanks! ~ Chazz

Bonus hint

How can you tell if a subcategory is too small or dead? Check out a few forums on the genre. If the board has few members or the most recent posts aren’t in the current calendar year, uh-oh!)

Don’t major in your minor

People major in their minor all the time. They’re lousy at formatting but they spend days on a task they should farm out to someone else. They should be writing but since they don’t want to delegate, they’re doing something other than writing and revising. The author ranking by genre shows us what we do best by identifying what books people want more.

Author ranking gives us clues how we should categorize our books on Amazon for greater discoverability and tells us what our major is. You could look at bare book sales, but with author rankings by genre, Amazon does that for you in a clearer way that doesn’t allow you to fool yourself with short-term variables. Look for trends across categories for clues to optimize your books’ chances.

What the clues from author rankings told me

1. As I studied my rankings, I was reassured that I made a good choice to pursue the horror category.

2. I have two more books in the Hit Man Series in the chamber, but I won’t pull the trigger on those until things slow down with my plague serial. This Plague of Days, Season Two hits in September, so Jesus Diaz fans will have to wait just a bit longer while I major in my major.

3. As I write the next book about my loveable but luckless Cuban hit man, I’ll amp up the mystery so it fits more comfortably in that category.

4. For the books that perform less powerfully, I have some ideas that will breathe life into old titles as I create new ones.

5. The work that stands alone doesn’t perform as well. I knew this, of course, but I can see it in the charts. This is bad news because I have another huge book that was to be a one-off. Then it occurred to me. This is good news. It’s so huge, I could serialize it as I’m doing with This Plague of Days.

For more on the beauties of serialization, click here.

(That’s also where you’ll find the link to my defiant secret.)

~ Robert Chazz Chute is the author of Self-help for Stoners, Murders Among Dead Trees, Crack the Indie Author Code, Six Seconds, Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire, Bigger Than Jesus, Higher Than Jesus and the zombie apocalypse serial, This Plague of Days. Read, love, review and please spread the word.

Filed under: Amazon, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Amazon sales secrets you’re probably missing

When you scan your book sales page and stats, it can be pretty dry, depressing and really not tell you much except what happened in the past. I’m more interested in what will happen and how I can make it so. There’s more information on Amazon than you’re currently using, but it’s all right there if you look. You can use this data to become more profitable. Delve deeper to divine what’s really going on with your readers. Here are some ideas about discovering who your readership is and how to reach them:

1. Categorize for Visibility

Yesterday I mentioned optimizing your books’ visibility by examining your sales and how your books are categorized. You may be invisible in a large genre category, but if you can drill down and pinpoint an appropriate category you could make your book a bigger fish in a smaller pond. In a category that is too general, you’re in a sea of books and harder to find. But don’t just look at the stats and numbers Amazon supplies at Author Central. There’s much more you can do. Let’s go further than the usual cursory glance at graphs, numbers, green up and red down arrows.

2. Surprise: Paperbacks versus Ebooks Revisited

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

“You will laugh your ass off!” ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

Micro-publishers are often told that ebooks are the crux of our business and that’s where our focus should be. I agree that’s true in general but that doesn’t hold true for all books.

Naturally, we often compare sales of one book to another. Each of us probably has a good handle on which of our  books sells most and least, if only for curiosity’s sake. Now compare each ebook against its brother in paper. I discovered one of my books in paperback, Self-help for Stoners, outsells the ebook version. I’ll hold back on making easy jokes about why this would be (Okay: Paper makes for good rolling after you read it. Happy, Stoner Stereotype Brigade?)

The why is just guessing and doesn’t matter, but the what is significant to me. It tells me the revamp and reload I’m planning for Self-help for Stoners (also discussed in yesterday’s post) is worth my time. A new edition in paper will be worth the effort.

The same thing is happening with my writing and publishing guides. I’m sure this is so because they are reference books. According to a recent study, students still prefer paper reference books to ebook texts. Since they sell better in paper than ebook form, I plan to reformat Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire

When I revamp these paperbacks, I’ll sell them in a smaller size. They’re currently huge honking trade paperbacks. I couldn’t get them down in size on my first attempt, but the next edition will be more like a thick 5 x 9. If the software won’t cooperate, I’ll call on a friend who is a book designer to help. With a smaller format, I’ll be able to bring the price down and sell more paperbacks. (Expect the format change at the end of summer to coincide with release of my next guide on writing and publishing. Don’t wait! Get them now or grab the ebooks. People are loving them.)

3. “Frequently bought together”

Crack the Indie Author CodeFrom your sales page topped with your author bio, click through to see what’s selling under the “Customers Also Bought” list.

We spend a lot of time, energy and free giveaway days trying to get on this list on other author’s sales pages to increase our books’ visibility. When Self-help for Stoners came out, over time it became clear that readers found me through my connection with director Kevin Smith. On the Self-help for Stoners sales page, Amazon still has my book paired with his book, Tough Sh*t, under “Frequently bought together.” However, on my main sales page, Kevin’s not on the author list anymore (discussed in #4). I noticed him dropping away as other authors took his place.

If your book is paired with another author’s, you could work together to promote both books, either through advertising together or doing a podcast for mutual benefit, for instance. 

4. “Customers Also Bought Items By” 

On your main sales page on Amazon, look at the list of authors under this category, down the right sidebar. Number one for me as of this writing is John Locke. That makes sense since Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus are funny and fast-paced crime novels with contemporary references. (I’m suddenly self-conscious about constantly plugging my books here, but since it’s my damn blog and I’m drawing on case study experience — poof! — I’m over that self-consciousness. I’ll hold on to all the other neuroses, though.)

Here’s the current screenshot from my sales page:

Screen Shot 2013-01-21 at 3.07.29 PM

If the same authors turn up consistently over time, that’s a stronger indication you share a common niche and audience. The Guy Kawasaki occurrence here is no doubt because he just came out with APE and that’s the identical reader demographic who would go for my Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire.

How is this useful and what does it tell you?

Aspire to Inspire eBook JPGThinking about the authors on your page could give you an idea where your readers are coming from. For instance, if you did a blog tour and soon noticed a familiar author on your sales page list, it would serve you well to guest blog for them again or host them on your blog.

It’s rare in book marketing that we can identify a causative marketing solution. That’s positive feedback that is actionable. (Is “actionable” too jargony?) Usually, when we see our sales go up and down, we can’t link it to a particular event. For instance, maybe your sales today came about because of a recent press release or maybe it was that giveaway you held two months ago. Who knows? Establishing causal relationships between promotion, publicity and sales is rare unless you’re doing a measurable campaign (like a rewards program, for instance.) Whenever you can identify something that worked, do it again!

I know a couple of authors on my “Customers Also Bought Items By” list personally. I suspect they show up here because they’ve been kind enough to promote me. I’m especially pleased to see Chuck Wendig on this list. I don’t know him. All we’ve exchanged are a couple of funny tweets and I’ve read a couple of his books. However, we both wrote funny writing advice books, so that’s undoubtedly the common audience.

From what I know of the other authors, it suggests to me that I’m hitting male readers somewhat. I reach writers who read about writing and publishing, of course. However, from that list, I suspect most of my readers are female, between thirty and fifty-six, well-educated and into suspense with romantic elements. It’s my crime novels in the Hit Man Series that will make the splash with most of them.

What this analysis could reveal

I want to know who reads my stuff so I get more ideas about how to reach them. That helps me target bookBigger_Than_Jesus_Cover_for_Kindle reviewers who have demonstrated that they tend to like similar work by authors on my “Customers Also Bought Items By” list. It might also help me choose which blogs to apply to for a guest post. If the authors on this list have already guest blogged there, that’s a clue. I might also request guest blog spots from some of the authors on the list directly since we already have readers in common.

This awareness is most helpful by finding those authors most like you. Watch success and emulate it. What might I learn from these authors whose audience overlaps with mine? I could learn a lot from figuring out where my fellow authors appear, which book reviewers adore their flavor of madness, how they handle their blogs, their book releases etc.,….

I loved Stephen King’s On Writing, but as much as my Maine town has in common with Derry, I can’t learn much from him about reaching new readers with a shoestring book promotion budget in the New World Ebook Order. In the author hierarchy, Mr. King is on a distant planet from little old me. Authors closest to me talk my language and we can relate to each other’s problems.

What this analysis shouldn’t tell you

Don’t avoid engaging your audience by relying on numbers and conjecture. The real fans will tell you what they like best (and, if polite, let you figure out what they liked less by simple deduction.) I don’t write what I’m told to write, but I listen. Readers have told me that, after reading the Poeticule Bay short stories, they want full novels about the creepy town in Maine everyone wants to escape. That bumped it up on my priority list. Others have emailed to request that I please get to that dystopian thriller with the autistic protagonist I mentioned once. I’m on it. Thank you for your encouragement and support as I prioritize what comes next from Ex Parte Press.

Love acknowledged and that said, I write what I’m inspired to write. This analysis is to figure out how to be found by more people, not to figure out what to Higher+than+Jesus+Front+1029produce before I’m found. I’m not interested in identifying my audience so I can try to write for, or pander to, any one demographic. That’s artificial and would yield sub par results (at least in my case.) I write for myself first and hope others enjoy what I enjoy. The writing, insulated from any audience but one, comes first.

This analysis gives me ideas about how to help readers discover my books once I unleash my mind viruses upon the world. In art (or Art, if you prefer) the customer always comes second. I don’t chase markets. I stay true to my vision. The market will chase me…eventually.

Me B&W~Robert Chazz Chute writes blog posts that are way too long. He even (by Thor!) writes about himself in the third person in that little bio thingy at the end of blog posts. He’s also the nut behind the All That Chazz Podcast. But perhaps, if you aren’t allergic, he’s your kind of nut. Find out at AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: Amazon, ebooks, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Publishing: New strategies, plots & plans

I have four books up for sale so far. In less than three months, I plan to release four more. This is the critical, make or break, time for me that requires a little experimentation as we swing into the high season of book sales. Here are my goals and rationales:

1. A friend asked if I planned to put my two short story collections, The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories and Sex, Death & Mind Control into print. I began to say they are a little short for paper. Then an inspiration came. Here’s the experiment: I’ll combine the two, add seven stories that I’ve banked plus a chapter that’s a sneak peek from a coming novel. I’ll also add a little introductory commentary at the top of each story. I will make this collection available only in print.

“You will laugh your ass off!” ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

2. Within a week or two, Higher Than Jesus will be released. This is the follow-up to Bigger Than Jesus and the second in The Hit Man Series. I listened carefully to the reception Bigger Than Jesus got. Higher Than Jesus will be lighter on the swearing and mix in a little more sex. Add in skip tracer techniques, an assassination conspiracy, an arms deal and a lot more jokes and it’s a winner. Lots of pre-publication buzz on this one from the First Readers Club.

3. Crack the Indie Author Code: Aspire to Inspire is next. I just got the manuscript back from the editor and I’m working through revisions. Anyone who reads this blog will enjoy this, the first non-fiction book that has my name on it. (Ghost writing doesn’t count.) It’s inspiration for writers, but it’s got a lot of useful information and jokes, too.

Paranormal persuasion and scary stories (including two award winners.)

4. This Plague of Days is the story of a boy who is a selective mute on the autistic spectrum. He travels with his family through North America as society collapses. A killer flu has killed more than a third of the population and chaos descends. We see the world through his odd perspective. I wrote this book over the course of a year and I just have to plunge into revisions. It’s a huge book, my longest and most ambitious. 

Small-town terrors and psychological mayhem in Maine.

These are high goals over a short time, but I have worked toward these books for a long time. Everything is written. It’s all revisions and editorial pipe now. It’s time to go big. I’m powered by kale shakes and naïve optimism. I can do this.

Intern! Brew me another kale espresso, less pulp this time! It’s go time!

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

Bookstores, buying habits, digital rights and the end of the world as we know it

I went cross-border shopping. In all our travels, I saw one bookstore and it was an empty, boarded up Borders. In the huge (and I mean huge) shopping centres we wandered through, there was not one bookstore. Not. One. I am not celebrating the shrinkage of the paper book market. I will miss bookstores and what they were. As their bookshelves shrink to bestsellers-only and mid-list authors find no (non-virtual) place for their books, we have lost shrines to knowledge and literature. When they’re gone (or when I have to travel many miles to get to one) I will feel the same nostalgia I feel now for friendly garbage collectors and milk men who brought their products to my door when I was a child.

How many years will it be before the economics of book production don’t make any sense at all? Economies of scale will, at some point, require that all books go digital unless they are specialty items for very high-end books, hobbyists with very low-end books or novelty items. Paper books are still big, but as the gifts, candles and coffee spaces in bookstores grow and book return times shrink, anyone can see where this train is going.

I still run into people who think a mid-list author should pursue paper book deals within traditional publishing to the exclusion of the electronic marketplace. Unless an author holds his or her e-rights, though, in most cases that math won’t make sense. John Locke held on to his e-rights. Locke stuck to what he was good at and the publisher acknowledged that by making the unprecedented deal. (Joe Konrath wrote convincingly that the deal was an admission of industry failure and was, in effect, a sign of End Times for trad publishing.)

Naysayers object, “Any self-published author would jump at a traditional deal.” Uh. No, that’s not true. A traditional deal will often yield the author about a buck after a book sale. Self-publish digitally, sell for just $2.99, and you’ll get about $2.00 with each sale. For those who would jump at traditional deals, authors may well make that decision for personal, emotional reasons, not as a pure business decision. The math doesn’t change but people are variable and are welcome to their (informed) choices. Video on demand, PVR and satellite replaced Blockbuster, but movies are still getting made.

As bookstores shrink and collapse, consumers are already turning away from the old model, even when it’s available.

For instance, I’ve noticed my buying habits have changed.

Here’s my shopping habit arc:

1. I bought books in bulk. Even though I sold a bunch, my many bookshelves are still groaning under the weight of shelves packed with books in double rows.

2. Then I bought half of my books in bookstores and half on Kindle. (I use my Sony Reader much less because it’s not wireless.)

3. If it’s a reference book, I’d still prefer to read it in paper for ease of use. I picked up a tech manual for my computer last week because I wanted instant answers.

4. If it’s fiction, it’s on my Kindle. I love that I can download so quickly and easily. It’s so easy, in fact, I don’t know when I’ll get to read all of my purchases.

5. I’ve pretty much given up on magazines because of all I can read on the web (on blogs, for instance.) There’s just as much expertise and good deal more depth in many blogs than magazines have space for.

6. Shipping: Paper books at a bookstore are more expensive. If I order them straight from Chapters or Amazon or download to the Kindle, I’m paying for the same products at a discount and the shipping is free, right to my door.

7. The local bookstore is for recon missions to find books I’ll order electronically. When our bookstores can’t afford looky-lou sessions and close, I’ll be doing that research exclusively by going through catalogues, watching for recommendations on book blogs and on sites like Goodreads. And my friends will tell me what they enjoyed. And I’ll say, “I used to get out of the house more.”

8. There will still be bookstores in the future. You’ll have to travel a long way to get to them and most of them will be specialty bookstores. The big inventory will be on the web. Just like now.

The eventual end of the common bookstore is not the end of the world. 

It’s only the end of the world as we know it. 

 

 

 

Filed under: DIY, e-reader, ebooks, self-publishing, , , , , , , ,

Shocked yet not surprised: Indigo halves its bookshelf space

Here’s the link to Five Rivers publisher Lorina Stephens’ excellent post on how Indigo is changing its returns policy (45 days and you’re out!) and cutting its space for books in half. So much for anybody whose name isn’t Rowling, King, Meyer and whoever the guy is who came up with Go the F**k to Sleep. This stirs up a lot of questions for people whose names are not those names. For instance, how many scented candles does anyone really need to buy in one lifetime? And how will traditional publishing cope?

For me personally, this is not a big deal because I am not in the least surprised. As I’ve been saying, this is not an if. It’s just about when. Blockbuster is battered senseless and HMVs are shrunk to nubs. I am so the opposite of an early adopter of new tech I’m nearly Amish and I don’t go near the Busted Block nor do I buy CDs anymore (though I understand some people still make them, everybody’s just picking the songs they want off iTunes.) I anticipated this boostore shift and consider it to be The Half-Measure of Doom on the Road to Bookstore Apocalypse.

Ahem. Pardon the hyperbole, but I’ve encountered a bunch of resistance from people who are convinced that my sole focus on ebooks was career suicide. No matter what I said, the doubters were sure a book had to be in a bookstore to be “real” and “worthy” and “made of paper and stuff.”

And I said, “What’s a bookstore?” Now I’m doing my “Told you so” dance and though I should be ashamed of myself, to be honest, I’m not feeling it.

But seriously, bookstores are literally farther and fewer between. As they cut down on shelf space to make room for doodads to dust, yo-yos and novelty pens, there will be no shelf for indies. You want choice, variety and a taste of the new? Go look online because you won’t find it in a bricks and mortar chain store.

But enough from me and my reactionary delusions of grandeur. Lorina says it all in detail in her usual reasonable, convincing tone, so do go read what she has to say. 

Filed under: authors, Books, ebooks, Useful writing links, , , , , , , , ,

Book promotion: I was wrong

I used to be a book publicist and, as a book sales rep, have worked with book publicists. Gotta say: not impressed with the breed. Most have a shiny coat, bark loudly, no teeth. I expected a lot of them. I don’t think I was wrong then, but now that the tech and culture have changed, I realize I’ve expected too much from publishers and their publicists.

In the old days, publicists organized events, book tours, mailed out advanced reading copies (ARCs) and hoped for reviews. The publicists I knew were pretty smug and full of themselves, especially considering how frequently they were unsuccessful.

The other wrinkle in the mix from an author’s point of view is, if you’re with a trad publisher, the publicity department has little time to get attention to any one book or author. The other continual complaint is, besides the small media/promotion window, most of the promotion budget always goes to the author who seems to need it least. That’s the publisher trying to maximize profits (rather than pimping a mid-list author.)

The world has changed and authors need to shift expectations: Publishers don’t publicize your book much and mostly download marketing duties to the author. That annoyed me. Now I think that’s the way it should be.

My reasoning is that the author/reader relationship has changed. Readers don’t want to interact with your publisher. They want to interact with you. Who cares about publishers. With the exception of Harlequin—the one company where you always know what you’re going to get—publishers don’t have brands. Authors have brands.

Old model:

Send stuff out (press releases, ARCs, bookmarks, catalogs, book tours) hoping media will bite.

New model:

Engage readers directly with Twitter conversations, blogger reviews and blog tours and hoping they will bite.

Yes, there’s still room for old model tactics, but they are either limited, outmoded, less effective or costly.

So nevermind that your publisher’s publicists aren’t returning your calls two weeks out from your book launch. Chances are they’re busy with another book and have expended your promotional budget. You can do better for yourself over the long run, anyway. (Or you can hire your very own publicist and do it up right for a longer time.)

Publishers unloaded marketing responsibilities to authors for budgetary reasons. Authors should shoulder that responsibility for a better reason:

Your readers want to talk to you, not them. 

Filed under: authors, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Rant, , , , , , , ,

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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