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

Write and publish with love and fury.

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 25,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 9 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Writing Process: Ten Moments in the Writer’s Life

1. You become a writer.

It’s usually not something you really decide. It happens to you, like disease. It’s a life where you’re either writing or you’re distracted and feeling you should be writing, forever. Like homework, for adults, 24/7. And some of the teachers mark really hard.

2. You escape the life of mortals.

You become so involved in the story that time flies and you don’t care that you’re cursed to do homework for life. In fact, you feel fortunate you’ve found this for yourself. You dream of seeing your name in print. And the accolades! That will be sweet! Finally, self-worth fed to you by strangers!

3. You meet your first dream killer.

Someone scolds you for daring to use an adverb and shrieks that, “A sentence fragment is not a sentence!”, as if you didn’t know. Then they tell you not to bother with writing.

“Perhaps you’ll find animal husbandry more fulfilling,” they’ll say, because they’re full of terrible advice and, oddly, they sound very confident.

This is a critical juncture.

If the person has too much influence over you or you’re young enough, you might quit. If quitting is an option, that’s okay. Writing isn’t for everyone. 

4. You enter the Octagon.

You send out queries and manuscripts and you get rejection slips but you don’t care because it means you’re putting yourself out there and you’re in the game. You’re not talking about writing like it’s a dream in a far off retirement. You’re doing it now. Every moment of it feels important.

5. You get feedback on your writing that’s really useful.

You put away the first bunch of stories or your novella or even your first novel or two and you begin again. You improve.

6. You get your first success.

It might be a writing award or an article in a magazine. Maybe you get $25 or maybe you don’t, but the money’s not important to you. Your parents will ask how much you won or got paid. That dagger in your heart comes from a place of love. Probably.

7. You get your first hater.

I won third place in short story contest and $1000. Someone was offended that my story won and wrote a screed about how it sucked, I sucked and this was what was wrong with the world (and possibly this side of the galaxy.) He didn’t win so, naturally, now we’re all gonna die!

The thing about the Internet is, people will say things on their blog that, if said in person, would lead them on a trip to major reconstructive surgery and not a judge in the land would convict. As far as I know, that dude still hasn’t written anything besides his doctoral thesis in English literature. Poor guy is still unread and still brings joy to no one. If only he’d pursued animal husbandry, we’d all be happier (though that’s a terrible thing to do to innocent animals.)

8. Your finger hovers over the mouse.

You’re about to hit the “publish” button. It’s nerve-wracking. How many mistakes have you missed? How mean will the reviews be? How good might they be? You thought this would be one of the highs moments of your writing career. Instead, hitting publish is remarkably stressful. After you hit that button, birth that book and send it out into the cold air, you might even feel postpartum depression for days or weeks. I do, every time.

9. You get your first true fan.

For some reason, vague to both writer and reader, something you wrote connects viscerally. Someone loves what you wrote and you love them for it. They are invaluable. They are your chief five-star reviewer, defender, cheerleader and advocate. They’re so awesome, you’re pretty sure they don’t poop. Inexplicably, they think the same of you.

Through the simple mechanism of words on the page, you’ve bypassed his or her brain and you have their heart. Then you start to worry that, with your next book, you’ll screw it up and lose them. The thought of losing a die-hard fan? Hello, Insomnia.

10. You go deeper with your writing.

You tell yourself you’re sufficiently seasoned now so the haters should bother you less. Maybe they shouldn’t bother you, but they will. I got a belittling letter at Christmas that knocked me so far down I didn’t write anything for a month.

But then you get back to it and you remember what cartoonist Lynda Barry calls “that floaty feeling” you get as a creative.

Publication per se? That matters less. It’s the writing process itself that is the thing. Yes, you want readers and lots of them, but you write for yourself first. You discover what you think and feel by writing. The writing journey is the reward. You lose yourself in the prose and in a small way, there’s something immortal and divine about that dopamine drip, washing your neocortex as you write and dream and create.

It’s just so darn godlike to kill people…

Um…in fiction. Right. That’s what I meant.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute and I poop. I also create worlds. If you create worlds, too, you’d probably enjoy reading this.

If you like to read stories that make you question whether the author may or may not poop, try this.

Also, right now, for a more buck, you can get a box set from me and seven other writers who are so awesome, they definitely don’t poop. Get the Horror Within box set now. 

This is the most I’ve written the word “poop” in one blog post. Or 3,000 blog posts. Why was I denying you this joy for so long? Now I feel bad. Better go kill some people…

 

Filed under: Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Post-holiday sales and writing stronger characters readers will love (and love to hate)

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege. Sutr-X was the pandemic. Sutr-Z's next and it's coming for you and the Queen's corgis.

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege. Sutr-X was the pandemic. Sutr-Z’s next and it’s coming for you and the Queen’s corgis.

1. Good characters have secrets they are trying to keep from the other characters. For instance, there is no major character in my zombie apocalypse, This Plague of Days, who does not guard a secret that’s contributing to the hullabaloo. Plenty of room for conflict there. Secrets are hard to keep and the longer they’re kept, the bigger the explosion when the secrets are revealed.

2. Good characters do not get along. In This Plague of Days, the matriarch is a Christian. The patriarch is atheist. They love each other, despite their differences, but it makes for some friction and they cope with problems much differently. They also begin to come closer to the other’s position, so rather than getting preachy, it’s an exploration of how people cope in a crisis. These details make them relatable so readers care about them.

3. Good characters have competing motivations. In Bigger Than Jesus, my Cuban hit man kills for love. Competing characters want power, sex, money and vengeance. All those characters are after the same thing for different reasons, so tension is built as allegiances are broken.

4. Good minor characters don’t know they’re minor characters. Everyone is the star of their own movie. If your henchmen might as well have the labels “Heavy #1 and #2”, give them more life history. I have a bad guy, a drunken marauder, in Season One of This Plague of Days you don’t really get to know. He wears a wedding dress into battle (stolen from the protagonist’s mother.) It’s a brief brush stroke that lets the reader figure out the rest as to where that guy is coming from while fuelling reader outrage.

Now in paperback!

Now in paperback!

5. Good characters are conflicted and can change. Sometimes, real people do in fact do something uncharacteristic. That makes them interesting. To make this believable, give them good reasons to change their behavior. With enough correct and detailed context, you can make the reader believe an out of character choice is logical at the time. Let a bad guy aspire to be a hero. Let a hero do something petty, just for spite (and the joke.) People who are too sure of themselves are often boring, unimaginative, predictable. I hate predictable choices in plots, don’t you?

6. Good characters, even heroes, make bad decisions that make them more interesting. As with #5, context makes this work. The reincarnation of Battlestar Galactica is a perfect example. You were probably rooting for the human heroes in the show, but they made terrible decisions all the time. Overall, that didn’t make them bad per se. It made them less predictable, more interesting and more human.

So, for instance, victims who are chronically bullied are tragic figures. Push that victim too far and they can fight back believably. If the bullied person overcorrects and becomes a bully or a killer, or fights back and fails, that’s even more interesting. The reader will expect them to triumph. You could give them that happy ending, but don’t deliver it too quickly or in a way they can anticipate.

Click it now to get a huge short story collection of dark fun. On sale now for only 99 cents. Love it? Give it a review, please.

Click it now to get a huge short story collection of dark fun. On sale now for only 99 cents. Love it? Give it a review, please.

In The Dangerous Kind (ahem: my novella found in the huge collection of short stories, Murders Among Dead Trees on sale for a short time for just 99 cents) a boy forms a plan to murder his abusive older brother on a hunting trip. Complications ensue and his resolution comes in a way neither he, nor the reader, expects. No spoilers. Just go read it. You’ll love it.

7. Good characters have conversations. I’m already mentioned Tarantino recently as the apex writer of tangential dialogue, but there are many examples. Think of Tony Soprano’s conversations with his therapist or all the geeky arguments about Star Wars and comics stuffed into Kevin Smith movies.

Bigger Than Jesus, for instance, is stuffed with movie references. I didn’t do that just for the jokes. I did it so readers who were uncomfortable rooting for an assassin would discover they shared a lot of common ground with my luckless Cuban hit man. The Hit Man Series works because, despite what he does for a living, Jesus is always trying to escape his life in the Spanish mafia. He’s actually very funny and loveable. Throw in a tragic childhood and all those little conversations really aren’t tangential at all. They’re the key to the character’s choices. That connects him to readers.

8. Good characters have depth. Anybody can write a scene with two hit men disposing of a body. I’d write that scene with the details you’d expect, I suppose, but I’d have the assassins argue over the Obamacare while pouring concrete.

In This Plague of Days, we learn how a deadly octopus leads to Dayo’s migration to England. When the Sutr virus outbreak hits and Buckingham Palace is attacked by zombies. I want you to know who Dayo is and why she got that way. You don’t have to do a ton of research to give every character a rich family history (and if you do, I don’t suggest you use it all.) Give us just enough to make them feel real and just enough for us to feel like we’re witnessing a friend’s death when you murder them horrifically. (Attention Plaguers: I’m not saying Dayo will die in Season 3. I’m not saying she won’t. I’m not saying. You will find out her last name in Season 3, but that’s all I’ll promise.)

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

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

9. Good characters have physical problems. Most heroes in action movies get a scratch high on the forehead, even after a couple of hours of near misses, crashes and mortal combat. Picture wounds in most any old movie with Bruce Willis and Harrison Ford. All that fighting and not one chipped tooth? Really? Not one broken hand after all those haymakers? That’s why everyone remembers Jack Nicholson’s cut nose in Chinatown. He dared to look bad for the camera.

In Bigger Than Jesus, Jesus Diaz has the snot beaten out of him from the beginning. I’m trained in pathology, so physical ills turn up a lot as I give characters more barriers to their goals. I made the hero of This Plague of Days an autistic selective mute. In Vertigo, Jimmy Stewart’s goals wouldn’t be so tough to deal with if he didn’t have…you guessed it…vertigo. In Rear Window, he’s got a leg in a cast when the villain comes to kill him. Mo’ problems = mo’ thrills.

10. Good characters are familiar, but not necessarily archetypal.

Shiva, in This Plague of Days, is the Snidely Whiplash of the story. She’s a big character who, in the movie, will be played by Helena Bonham Carter or some dark beauty from Bollywood who isn’t afraid to chew the scenery. The whole moustache-twirling bit is archetypal. However, when her secret is revealed, we understand why she wiped out a major chunk of the world’s population and why she thinks she’s doing the right thing as a bio-terrorist. Her motivations are pure even though any sane observer sees her as pure evil. Before we’re done with This Plague of Days, you may even feel sorry for her. Sure, she’s a vain bitch, but so’s your sister and deep down, you still love her.

Crack the Indie Author CodeHere’s the thing about familiarity.

I don’t suggest you do as Larry David did, modelling the character of Cosmo Kramer on Seinfeld on an actual person. That sounds like a lawsuit in the making. However, take your crazy Aunt Sadie’s Red Rose Tea figurine collection and make it the fancy of the brutish pro wrestler you saw on TV once. Take information, life experience, Wikipedia and expertise you possess and put it in the blender of your imagination. Find their combinations and permutations. Come up with something new, familiar, yet not clichéd. Don’t make your character recognizable as a family member because Aunt Sadie will sue. She’s crazy, remember?

We are surrounded by fascinating characters. Write them and build something fresh.

Click here to get Higher Than Jesus, #2 in The Hit Man Series

Click here to get Higher Than Jesus, #2 in The Hit Man Series

~ Robert Chazz Chute is a complex character, better suited to minimal human interaction. However, I’m friendly on Twitter. Follow me @rchazzchute. I tweet about writing, books and publishing.

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How to crack writer’s block. No whining. No excuses.

There are many distractions between your bed and your writing desk. Some suggestions to discipline the monkey mind:

1. Well, write in bed then! (Pee bottle or diapers optional.)

2. Work on a computer without Internet access. Unplug the modem or get your pet rat to chew on the wires if necessary.

3. Get your spouse to activate the parental controls (so they have the code). Congratulations! Your distracting porn addiction just vanished. 

4. Commit to scheduling writing time just as you would a doctor’s appointment, the gym or any other important job. You know your writing is important work, too, right?

5. Make your commitments public. Failure yields public humiliation. Success gets you a reward. Make a bet with a writing buddy or do writing sprints in social media. Report your progress, or lack of it, so you’ll do better tomorrow.

6. Defend your writing time. Wield dual ice axes, if necessary. A sign on that door you close marking your designated writing time makes a clear stand. Your writing retreat does not have to be an expensive, remote cabin in the Rockies. It’s as nearby as the word, “No.”

7. Get out of the house and write elsewhere: Starbucks, the library or at your day job. (Write on your lunch hour if the boss keeps close tabs on you.)

8. Wear headphones and use the Brainwave apps that help you focus. Or pump nothing into your headphones. Or be like Stephen King and rock out to Grand Funk Railroad as you compose. Use WriteRoom. Whatever works for you.

9. Unplug and go write the first draft by hand. Some writers feel the words come easier when they’re connecting brain to arm to hand to pen to paper.

10. Work with your biorhythms, but find your sweet spot when your focus is best: late at night or early morning often allows you to work without interruption.

11. Got a writing group? Shape it so you can make it do double duty: make it a day care club. When my kids were little, playdates (and their nap time) were opportunities to get work done. Communal babysitting gets the kids entertaining each other and allows the writing to continue when you organize and rotate the playdates from house to house.

12. Protect your brain. This goes beyond time management. For instance, when you notice you need a nap after eating bread, take the hint. Maybe it’s the gluten making you sleepy. Thanks to a helpful reader, I’m trying a couple of products from Onnit.com and I do feel and think better lately. Exercise doesn’t just get blood to your body’s muscles. Better blood supply revs up brain muscle, too. Since dumping processed foods, losing weight and upping exercise, I’m sharper. The walls are alive, I see into souls and I write harder and longer.

13. Just start. You’re full of resistance and distractions and excuses at first, but once you begin, the words and worlds will begin to flow. Set a timer and tell yourself you’ll write for ten minutes. What? You can’t take ten minutes? Sure you can. Don’t be a weak whiner! Take ten minutes. By the time the timer goes off, you won’t want to stop.

14. Write in short, energetic bursts. Like going to the gym, many people feel they can’t do anything worthwhile unless they have big blocks of time to commit to their projects. For many of us who don’t have that luxury (and hardly anyone has that luxury) we’re actually sabotaging ourselves with that attitude. Consistency works better than bingeing in the long-term.

15. Take a course, go to a conference or read a book to energize yourself and get excited about writing again. We moan too much about writing and forget how fun it is until we’re back to doing it. If you aren’t having fun writing, you must be doing it wrong.

BONUS

Most important, remember why you’re doing this. Hold on to the Why so you’ll overcome obstacles to the How. You are not merely a consumer. You’re a productive writer, pursuing your dreams and telling stories for fun and profit. Don’t put your dreams aside only so others can achieve their goals. You’re important, too.

Filed under: getting it done, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , ,

What to do now that #NaNoWriMo is done

By the way, Crack the Indie Author Code 2nd Edition is out in paperback at $9.99. Smaller format, with jokes.

By the way, Crack the Indie Author Code 2nd Edition is out in paperback at $9.99. Smaller format, but still has lots of jokes.

Start another book. Brainstorm or sketch out another book outline or write a short story or just sit down and see where else you can go at the keyboard. Keep that feather pen scratching. Keep going. 

People will tell you to celebrate. Writers (because we aren’t “people”) will ask, “What else ya got?”

You could take a break, sure. But now that you’ve done NaNoWriMo, don’t you feel you’ve got a good habit going? Habits are hard to break into. To get into the daily writing habit takes practice, just like you’ve been doing all this month. Why stop now? To publish, you must write a lot, rewrite, revise and edit. Good habits are too easy to drop for you to waste all that behavioural inertia you have steaming in your skull engine.

Now isn’t the time to put your feet up.

If you still have some scenes from your NaNoWriMo project that you didn’t fill in right away, you can do those now. Now is the perfect time. The context is still fresh in your mind. Tackle any empty spaces you’ve left behind so when you come back to it, you won’t become perplexed and stymied later. Otherwise, leave your NaNoWriMo manuscript alone.

Why am I telling you to start a new project as quickly as you can?

Because someone might be tempted to dive right back in so they have a novel by Christmas. You know you need some time to cogitate while the manuscript rests for a bit. Otherwise, the Nano haters will run in circles with their hands over their ears screaming, “I told you so!” None of us wants those killjoys to be right.

Besides, if you go back too soon, you might be discouraged at how much work the book needs. Or worse, some might think their rush job is still brilliant. That’s lethal to ever having anyone tell you they’re a fan of your work.

And now for the tough stuff. I’m asking that you hold two contradictory ideas in your mind at one time and act accordingly.

1. Congratulations! You beat NaNo! Good on you! I bet there were days when the words came quickly and days where it felt like your brain was full of molasses. However, you faced down time management problems and got it done anyway. Sometimes it wasn’t easy, yet, you got past 50,000 words! You did it! This is a huge accomplishment!

and

2. Writing a little less than a couple of thousand words a day is no big deal.

Yes, some writers are more precious about their word count and make a great show of how slow they can produce. Mostly? I suspect they’re counting procrastination time as writing time. Screw that. I come from a journalistic background where deadlines are not livelines. We slam it in and knock it out and we’re good.

At least take that attitude with the first draft so you’ll have something to gut and edit. Blank screens have no atoms and pixels bouncing off each other to create new neural pathways and fresh angles to feed reader rapture. The first draft is usually simple, straight narrative. I always find the jokes, dialogue and theme in the second pass.

Professional writers write to deadlines all the time and they do so consistently.

You know that now, so it’s not about what “they”, the writers, do anymore. It’s what you do because you’re a writer. Keep going.

We’re creative. Writing’s what we do to wield god powers and get back at our brothers and sisters. We do it because it’s much cooler at the Christmas party to answer “What do you do?” with, “I write.” Say that and you’ve got a conversation. (Try explaining your wage ape existence in middle management to a hapless stranger and they’ll run for the punch bowl.)

We do it for play, for love and money and hope and for readers. It’s fantastic to find a scene to write that, even as you’re knocking it out, you say, “This! This will melt their faces and make them want to read me for the rest of their lives and tell all their friends! Ta-freakin’-da!

Mostly, writing is what we do because it is who we are.*

*If you didn’t carry out NanoWriMo’s challenge this November, what better testament to your mettle than to do it on your own? Now. You’ll feel more smug and self-righteous this time around. There are twelve months in a year. You don’t have to risk waiting another year for the next party bus to take you to your life’s to-do list.

See you in the trenches in the morning

with 3,000 more words. If it’s a bad day.

Yes, you may stop writing

when you’re out of blood.

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege. Sutr-X was the pandemic. Sutr-Z's next and it's coming for you and the Queen's corgis.

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege. Sutr-X was the pandemic. Sutr-Z’s next and it’s coming for you and the Queen’s corgis.

~ Robert Chazz Chute wrote a bunch of beastly books, including This Plague of Days. Season One’s in paperback. If you’re a writer looking for more inspiration, Robert also recommends Crack the Indie Author Code. But he would say that since he is me and we’re all about inspiring writers not to be weak. We’re all about the conquering and hefting the bale and writerly whatnot. And writing about ourselves in the third person apparently.

What? Still waffling? Still? After all that? Holy Jebus! Read this review of Crack the Indie Author Code then, for the love of Thor and for the love of the sweet consumer that is you and your writing career! And your family’s writing career. Don’t forget to get Mom one for Christmas, too.

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

Writers: Are you sitting on the money?

They call it the Cliff. You can do Author Marketing Club and Bookbub and free promotions and blow giveaways out the digital door. You can even start catching fire and getting traction and selling books for (gasp!) actual money. Then, the fall from grace comes. Sales drop off, often steeply. What happened? You ran off the Cliff. Lots of people do. In this post, we’re going to think about climbing back up and promoting our previous works again (and doing it better this time) because I suspect we’re sitting on money.

I’m rethinking the old marketing paradigm that’s always oriented to what’s new. 

It’s the thing we should question most: accepted wisdom. Despite all my efforts, old wave thinking is still permeating my brain. In traditional publishing, you get a short window to get traction and then the bookstores return your books to the publisherCrack the Indie Author Code for credit. That’s the structure of the short tail market. In long tail marketing, our books are up forever (or at least until the cyber war brings us all low). Still, we tend to think of our books as hitting big (or not) and then the graph points down. We’re mimicking thinking and marketing patterns from traditional wisdom because all old ideas are awesome, right? Oh, wait…

Case #1

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while and by not sleeping, I’m finally getting to it. I pulled Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book, Aspire to Inspire from print. I didn’t like the look of the interior design. I’m fixing them and will make Crack the Indie Author Code available in print again soon. (They’re both still out there as ebooks.)

Self Help for Stoners JPEGCase #2

Self-help for Stoners was my first book. It’s funny and strange and with an intermediary. I used Bookbaby for that collection and I want to get it back at Ex Parte Press and put it out myself. I’m sure I can make it go higher once I have full and instant control of the marketing. I queried Amazon about the process today because I’m afraid of losing the reviews. Either way, I do need to steer my ship and reach out to stoners and non-stoners, alike and anew. (If you’re a Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus fan, my luckless Cuban hit man appears first in Self-help for Stoners, by the way.)

This post won’t help you much if you only have one book to sell, but here are my thoughts on renewed marketing efforts: 

If you have one book, write more. No whining,

If you have a backlist, who is to say what’s old and what’s renewable? You’re the one to say.

If you have a bunch of books, I bet you’re a better writer by now. Why not revisit those books and do new editions?

Consider the power of bundling books. You could enliven your Amazon dashboard with more happy green up arrows. Stop sitting on the money.

Lots of people missed your fledgling efforts the first time. You didn’t know what you were doing. Who did? Any book they haven’t read is new to them. 

The most powerful promotions tend to be the first ones. But maybe that’s because we don’t put the same marketing efforts into books we published a couple of years ago. In digital, the term backlist is less relevant. As long as it’s clear it’s a new edition or a new launch or you’ve added material, what’s the problem? 

Maybe those early efforts flopped because you had a lousy cover. Get a new, better cover* and launch it right this time. With all you’ve learned about marketing since your early efforts, it’s bound to do better, right?

Most fiction doesn’t get stale. Our efforts get stale because we want to focus on the new thing. Maybe the old thing is only old in your mind. With some tweaking, a fresh edit and a new campaign, you might have a book people will love and buy. Reuse, recycle, repurpose. Turn short stories into collections. Open up to new possibilities with prequels to your books. Tie books together. Add to your series. Serialize. There’s plenty of fun to be mined in what you’ve already accomplished.

Your problem with these suggestions isn’t necessarily that my head is full of feathers. Your problem is the same as mine. This will take a lot of time and you feel you’ve already covered this ground. But most of us didn’t cover this ground well the first time. There are new promotional tools now. Yes, time management can be tough and we can only do what we can do. But that’s business. We are not special snowflakes, but we’re letting good stuff go cold.

*About good covers, I know a guy. He’s Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com. He’s an award-winning graphic artist with an extensive portfolio who works well with indies and traditional publishers. Like my covers? Kit did them all. Check out his site. You’ll be glad you did.

Dark Higher Than Jesus banner ad

Filed under: author platform, Books, ebooks, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

My Indie Author Mistake

Crack the Indie Author CodeIf I had to do it again, I wouldn’t call my first writing guide Crack the Indie Author Code. It’s on my sales page and proclaims to everyone I’m indie. Don’t get me wrong. I’m proud to be indie! I make lots of friends here who are indie authors or are aspiring indie authors. I buy inde books and feature indie authors. I’ve learned and gained so much from being part of the indie community.

However, we shouldn’t look indie.

When someone picks up our books, it should not occur to them that it doesn’t come from a traditional (read: huge) publishing house.

A bookstore clerk looked at my books and loved them, adding that they obviously weren’t from CreateSpace. The logo on the spines for my publishing EP IIcompany is Ex Parte Press, but yes, the print copies are done by CreateSpace.  His perception of where it came from affected his expectations.

To a lot of people, indie means amateurish. I know, it sucks and indie musicians and filmmakers don’t have this stigma. Lots of traditionally published books suck yadda yadda. We know. I’m not happy about unfair comparisons, either.

However, let’s help prejudiced people overcome those prejudices by fooling them. Make sure your cover is awesome, your writing is sharp and standards are high. Once they turn from readers to fans, let your indie freak flag fly.

Crack the Indie Author Code will be disappearing from my sales pages soon. It will still be for sale, but it will be pushed down the page by my This Plague of Days serial. It’s eight books plus the print version plus secret variations to come. That will take up a lot of real estate on my Amazon page.

Go here for sneak peaks of This Plague of Days. It’s horror, with twists from Latin dictionaries. 

And GO INDIE! (Sh…Stealth indie.)

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

Writers: Shorter is better

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

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

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

Here’s more about why:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Grab more business mojo: What Jedis know about Fear

Crack the Indie Author CodeI have more changes to make at Ex Parte Press and those changes involve some of you. (Heh. Didja hear that nervous giggle from across the globe, too?) It’s time to be the Jedis we secretly are, even though we’re Jedi school dropouts and Yoda said that thing about Fear leads to Hate…no wait, Hate leads to Fear and…um…gingivitis? Yoda talked backward a lot, okay?! Stupid syntax!

Anyway, I’ll be unveiling new plans for the Deathstar soon. I’d tell you everything right away, but I have to chaw on it to refine the details and call up a few people to bounce some ideas off their heads.

THE BROAD GOALS

1. Get more subscribers to my email list to enjoy my newsletters and giveaways (please sign up in the sidebar at AllThatChazz.com.)

2. Get my podcast to pay for itself and grow the listenership. (Try any of the current 67 episodes here.)

3. Find more allies, readers and reviewers, build a small cult, raise a large army for world domination and finally fix shit. I’ll start with the first three items on the list (i.e. allies, readers and reviewers) and sell more books. There’s much to do.

THE LONG-TERM GOALS

Eventually? Wi-fi for everyone and use Tesla’s secret plans for free electricity from the air. Everybody gets fed, lives in peace, low calorie ice cream will actually taste good and even make you thin. The new job for cancer cells will be to eat pollution since people will be made immune to the disease through the power of hemp oil. We’re going to cut down on a lot of the fear that rules our lives. That’s the Jedi way! (The Chicago  way — he brings a knife, you bring a gun — bodies everywhere.)

Anyone who doubted me will be cast in a remake of BJ and the Bear and will never be allowed off air, even when they need to poop. (They will, however, be broadcast on one of those cable channels high up no one watches on purpose. Am I not merciful?) Oh, and, of course, all coconut trees will be genetically engineered to sentience and yield coffee beans the size and flavor of coconuts in exchange for hyper-intelligence and all that free wi-fi. See, I’ve thought the big stuff through.

THE SHORT-TERM GOALS

Sure, everybody wants all those tiny miracles, but I’m working on the how of optimizing my micro-publishing empire. It’ll involve a little more technology, dancing outside my tiny comfort zone and opening up other income streams based on what I already do. It will involve calling up people to ask for help and, of course, continuing to smash through those writing and production deadlines. It ain’t all just sit back and be witty for a living, y’all.

THE REQUISITE MARATHON METAPHOR

It’s really about doubling down on this crazy bet I made on myself. It’s about not stopping as I hit the wall at mile 22. (Whispers) It’s mile 22 right about now actually. My shins are killing me.

This is where most people quit, but if I did that, I’d hate myself. There are only a few more miles to…well, that’s not the finish line. It’s the end of the beginning. But up ahead, past this hard part? The slopes are more gentle. Up ahead, I get a bike! The race isn’t as frenzied and I can coast a bit here and there. Sure, eventually we’ll all fall on our knees before our coconut-coffee hybrid overlords, but I’ll reign for 1,000 years first, so it all evens out.

GOOD FEARS, BAD FEARS

I’ll reveal the details when all the hunter-killer satellites’ particle beam arrays are in place. My most important point today is more general. I’ve been listening again to The Four-hour Workweek by Tim Ferris. No, as an author, I don’t expect to get all of Ex Parte Press’s business done in four hours a week. However, the book pushes my buttons and tells me where I have operated out of fear. Fear has held me back from projects which could help my work immensely…like that particle beam thingy, for instance. 

In my heart — left ventricle  the big decisions are already made, but the ghostly voice in the back of my head asks: What if it doesn’t work? What if you don’t have enough time? What if it’s already too late? What if you don’t have enough money to make it work? What if it’s all too much? (Smother? Is that you?)

And yet, in the big picture these are small gambles with potentially big payoffs. I don’t have that much to lose and I might gain everything I need. Fear keeps you from doing stupid stuff, like parachuting without a parachute, eating old meat or jogging in winter (or summer).

But fear can hold you back from the most important bets you make on yourself. And when I say “you”, I mean “definitely me” and “maybe, probably you.”

THE CLICHED BUT NECESSARY FISHING METAPHOR

Aspire to Inspire eBook JPGThing is, the good fishing is in the far fishing hole, where most people won’t go. The better fishing hole is not a secret. It’s just that, for many, it’s too far for the hike and the trail is a bit narrower up there. I might fall in and get cold and wet and cry a bit. Chances are better than average I’ll come back with big fish, though.

Stay tuned for more…All That Chazz.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is a crime novelist. They aren’t mysteries. They’re grab-you-by-the-cojones thrillers, with obstacles and surprises, twists and explosions. They’re also funny amid the sex, violence, psychological chaos, bon mots, general smart-assery and the cool hit man with the divine name. Chazz has also written several suspenseful books with bizarre themes. He wrote two writing and publishing guides, too — the only funny ones. The All That Chazz podcast is broadcast everywhere weekly but never weakly. You can get the podcast from AllThatChazz.com, Stitcher, iTunes and you can even receive the kick-ass signal on your braces Marsha! Marsha! Marsha! Join Chazz’s revolution, or suffer the wrath of the chimp named Bear. 

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One of us! One of us! Burn that bushel to sell more books

Crack the Indie Author CodeI’ve rethought free lately and I see now that I got something wrong. I didn’t wade deep enough into the free pool. When we give books away, we shouldn’t focus on getting those same people to buy more of our books, as awesome as that would be. We should build a team of enthusiastic disciples. As marketing guru Seth Godin says, “Nobody says I can’t make a living because too many people are reading my book for free.” 

I had assumed that he simply meant that same group of “too many people” would turn around and purchase the rest of your bookshelf. Therefore, publish a lot of books.

It’s still a great idea to publish a lot of books, but we can go much deeper. Here’s how:

INVERT THE CURRENT STRATEGY

Most authors try to get traction in the short-term by having friends and family buy their books and hope that, somehow, word will spread. That’s a flawed strategy, not least because it’s incredibly hard to get anyone to write a review.

Instead, think long-term leverage. What we should do is give books away to our true believers to build our network of reviewers, allies and preachers of your gospel. Your biggest fan isn’t necessarily your dad (at least mine isn’t.) My biggest allies are on my newsletter subscription list and those who have declared themselves fans. That’s my beachhead. We seed the morphogenetic field and percolate through the culture by sending out free information. (That’s even happening now as you read these words.) To infest the culture, you’re going to need a cult.

HOW TO BUILD AN AUTHOR CULT WITHOUT BEING EVIL

If some loon can convince a group of nerds to become eunuchs because aliens are arriving in a comet’s tail (yeah, that happened) building a cult shouldn’t be too much harder than convincing friends to help you move a piano. Okay, it’s going to be pretty f&$#!!! hard to reach critical mass, but the alternative is obscurity and failure, so gird your loins and strap in.

What each of us needs is a cult of proselytizers to spread our word. They’ll tell two friends and they’ll tell two friends etc.,… We need people — author CJ Lyons calls them “street teams” — to read, review and spread the happy word. We build those teams by giving away free books. This is not new. However, when most of us think about free promotion, we think of a contest giveaway or our five KDP Select free days. There’s much more to do and these strategies require your generosity.

CULT LEADER ACTION PLAN

1. The long-term money starts with your list. Build one. If you don’t already have one, set up a subscription for a newsletter on your author site. I use Mailchimp at my author site, AllThatChazz.com, I give shoutouts on the All That Chazz podcast to new subscribers. I’m thanking them, but I’m also giving their book, business, blog or website free promotion. You have to incentivize now to monetize later.

2. In advance of your next book release, give away review copies to people on your list. CJ Lyons gives away fifty books at a time to her street team (out of a pool of 200, so she’s not asking the same people for an advance review all the time. She published eight books last year.*)

Some churlish people think there’s something wrong with reviews appearing as soon as a book is published. That’s not cheating. It’s actually standard practice in publishing to give out advance review copies (ARCS). Every publishing house gears their publication dates to when reviews can appear in major publications. CJ Lyons admits she’s received a three-star review from a street team member, so obviously membership in her cult doesn’t equal idolatry for every book.

3. Speaking of standard practices, send out more review copies to book bloggers and review sites. Sharing an epub file or a kindle mobi costs you nothing so there’s no reason to hold back. I’ve switched my thinking about paperbacks recently, too, so my focus with CreateSpace is usually (though not always) for promotional purposes and much less for direct sales. I always send signed paperbacks to influential people, editorial team members and people who have inspired me as a special thanks.

4. Write something that is meant as an introduction to your flavor and make it extremely cheap or free forever. It doesn’t have to be long but make sure you show off. Here’s a NSFW example from Johnny B. Truant. He says this one essay about our place in the universe gets 60 downloads a day. It takes just a few minutes to read, but he’s spreading his word and beginning induction into his cult.

Naturally, some authors will object to these strategies. I’ve anticipated objections so…

SKEET SHOOTING

PULL! But giving away free books devalues my art!

BLAM! What devalues your art is, though no doubt brilliant, it’s sitting unread. Your light is hiding under a bushel of entitlement. To burn that bushel: Get generous, make friends, build a list and inspire a network.

PULL! But I don’t want a “cult”. 

BLAM! Don’t get so deep in the metaphor that you miss the tasty cheesecake. Chuck Pahlaniuk’s fans really are called “The Cult” but they haven’t established an armed, fortified compound. They’re just really into Chuck’s books…okay, and possibly punching each other in the face. But who isn’t into Fight Club?

PULL! I want my success to happen organically so it’s not a flash-in-the-pan cult of personality. 

BLAM! No worries there, mate. If they don’t like your books, they’ll hate you. Everyone confuses the book with the worst potential of its author.

BLAM! The marketplace is so congested, one “flash in the pan” might be our best chance. Success could come without getting others to blow your horn, sure. However, it’ll probably be a post mortem-type deal. Your genius will be discovered when an Amazon hard drive is pulled from the sand of a burnt Earth by a curious alien who discovers he’s really into cozy mysteries set in Maine with a ghost unicorn as the retired detective out to solve the murders of syphilitic elves. Best of luck.

PULL! I really just want to write my books and do no marketing.

BLAM! Most authors get into micro-publishing to take control of their fate, not leave it to the whims of strangers. (No offense intended, but what are you doing reading this far then?)

BLAM! You can just write more books and hope for the best. That’s not the way to bet, though. This is Art + Business = Art that is read + More Art. If marketing makes you feel impure, why publish at all?

PULL! Free is the finish line for the race to the bottom in book prices!

BLAM! Since few will heed this advice, don’t worry about what the unread herd does. The herd focusses on losing 100 book sales. Your intention is to stun with sales of 100,000 to a million or more.

BLAM! Good art will survive. You can’t build a cult around your books if they suck. In fact, give away more bad books and you’ll sink faster.

PULL! Free means more one-star reviews from people who will never like my books!

BLAM! Why worry about people will only ever download it if it’s free? They aren’t eligible to be cult members. One-star reviews are usually so poorly thought out, no one takes them seriously besides people who give out one-star reviews. When you’re selling chocolate, you don’t grieve for those freaks who only eat vanilla. Sell more chocolate.

*The Self-publishing Podcast has a great interview with CJ Lyons in Episode 32.

Aspire to Inspire eBook JPG~ For more from me on micro-publishing and book marketing, pick up Crack the Indie Author Code and Write your Book: Aspire to Inspire by clicking the covers on this post.

I’m hunting for cool and interested people for my cult. Are you one of us? To sign up for my free newsletter and get a shoutout on the All That Chazz Podcast, go to AllThatChazz.com and do the drill in the right sidebar.

I’m looking for cool and interesting people. Are you one? To be interviewed on the All That Chazz podcast, click the Chazz Has Guests tab at the top of this page.

 

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

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.

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