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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Author Platform: Problems, Solutions & Stuffed Speedos

THE AUTHOR BLOG PROBLEM

This blog is quite the writing and publishing funfest. I blog plenty and happily.* However, I needed a bigger boat to carry my words to readers who weren’t interested in all the backstage stuff that goes into publishing a book. I needed an author site, too. I created AllThatChazz.com some time ago to fill that need, but that was a Fat Problem stuffed into a tiny Solution Speedo. This post is about The Big Blog Fix. Read this and you’ll pull in more readers by updating your author site.

I started both ChazzWrites and AllThatChazz on the free side of WordPress. I needed AllThatChazz to become a destination website like ChazzWrites. I’ve researched many author blogs. The content is often pretty dusty and largely ignored. Author blogs tend to either static sales sites (static = not good) or they become the author’s personal blog (but I don’t have a cat!) What to do to make AllThatChazz a place people want to visit? It gets worse…

THE GRIM REALITY

Most author sites are ineffective platforms for gathering new readers. They’re useful for readers who are already on board with your books. Once they discover your books in other ways, then maybe (Big Maybe) they’ll happen to check out the author site to see what you’re about. That’s not good enough!

MY AUTHOR WEBSITE SOLUTION

I started my author site the same way everyone does. I put up some stuff about my books with links to sales pages. However, to make it a destination site, I must add fresh content often and I need to reach strangers I wouldn’t reach any other way.

Solution, Stage One:

The same month my first books went up for sale, I got into podcasting. Dave Jackson of the School of Podcasting set me up when the initial tech became too frustrating. His service was inexpensive and, after a few minor technical hurdles, broadcasting to the world on no-rules Internet radio became easy. I’d done radio in college and, despite a stammer that emerges as my brain races ahead of my mouth, it’s fun. It started out as the Self-help for Stoners podcast because I was too focussed on selling the first book. It’s now the All That Chazz podcast and I reach people in 60 countries at last count. Okay, but I can do better…

STRENGTHEN YOUR AUTHOR PLATFORM

I asked for help with my website last year and either didn’t get it or the help I needed was too expensive for me. (Webmasters are so often unreliable it seems everyone has a horror story.) Dave swooped in again to help me put AllThatChazz.com over on the paid side of WordPress. Dave’s my hero and, now that I was on the paid side of WordPress, I felt I had the freedom to do more with the site. It became a better tool for the job I needed done.

AllThatChazz was functional, but I needed to do  more with the site to make it look more appealing. It needed an makeover — okay, it was actively repellant and stunk of old feet  but I didn’t feel I was up to making those changes. Frankly, with so much to do, aesthetics were my lowest priority. I was worried about losing widgets or data in the switch. Lots of people had a horror story about that, too. But then…

Solution, Stage Two:

Apparently WordPress has changed so now it’s easy to switch themes. I didn’t have to copy all my widgets, though I ended up throwing plenty away before I was done revamping the site. Halfway through the changes, I began to understand how much the old look of my author site must have hurt me. She’s pretty now and her feet don’t stink.

HOW TO MAKE YOUR BLOG BETTER, STRONGER, FASTER

I have a thing for smart girls in glasses. That’s what AllThatChazz.com is now. Here’s what I did:

1. Ditched the sliding Amazon book widget. A moving sidebar is distracting and annoying.

2. Chucked out a bunch of widgets that weren’t selling anything anyway. Never look desperate, even if you are. Don’t underestimate the effect giving your blog a good airing. I didn’t realize how much stress I was dumping until I got rid of all that clutter! 

3. I switched to a very clean and simple theme. White background, black text and white space. It’s plenty legible without looking blocky. It’s more focused on content delivery now. The changes aren’t complete yet, either. When I connect with my graphic designer, Kit, we’ll change the site’s header to a brighter banner.

4. I plan to host an affiliate link, but just one or two, carefully chosen. I’m plotting some cool stuff for the sales page. However, aside from links, I’m keeping the sales stuff to that one area. Author platforms should be about helping interested readers buy, not squeezing sales. Letting go of the sales mentality frees up time and energy for writing. I admit, I’ve sold too hard on the podcast in the past. These website changes allow me to relax and let the website do more of that work.

5. I changed the menu to a minimalist solution that’s really cool. Instead of over explaining everything and hitting the desperation anvil with the heavy sales hammer, I designed an intriguing page menu that invites exploration with carefully chosen verbs. (Yeah, weird, but you’ll see.)

I’m not telling. I’m seducing. That Speedo is looking pretty good all of a sudden. 

 Check out the improvements at AllThatChazz.com.

Crack the Indie Author Code~ *I’ve already talked about the potential folly of writing about writing unless you have writing and publishing guides to sell. I do, though I still stand by a higher creative maxim: Write what you care about.

Will I use my lessons learned to change ChazzWrites, too? I’ve already added a couple of menu items at the top of this page that may interest you. However, since the traffic is already pretty good here, I’m going to focus on writing the next two books first, thanks.

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What will you make of 2013? Help is on the way.

If you don't go for new year's resolutions, you can still get tips and inspiration for your writing life with Crack the Indie Author Code.

If you don’t go for new year’s resolutions, you can still get tips and inspiration for your writing life with Crack the Indie Author Code.

Screw wishes. We’re going to make it a happy new year.

People make resolutions. Most will fail, yet tonight, most of us will make resolutions anyway. The trick, of course, is to make the resolution turn into resolve by making the same conscious decision to choose a better life again and again, every day. Tonight, just after midnight, a new podcast will be broadcast at AllThatChazz.com. Tonight’s podcast is all about juicing up your mojo and getting your motivation to tackle 2013 amped.

We can make this the year we actually follow through on our resolutions for a better business, larger readership, a better body, better relationships…whatever your aim. You can be a happier you. Tonight we start a better life with new energy and new resolve. My children aren’t afraid to take classes, learn new things and practice skills at which they aren’t immediately perfect. That’s how they get to excellence. And Gee-ZUZZ! They’re little kids! They know this! Surely, I (a theoretical adult) can step up my game!

Part of our new commitment to ourselves is accountability with resolution partners. To succeed, you will report to someone who will keep you honest and on track. Don’t have anyone? Go to AllThatChazz.com and try out Speakpipe, the free voicemail app. (Just click on “Send me a voicemail message” at the top right at All That Chazz.) What are your resolutions to make it a Happy New Year?

Your life is a story. You write stories. So write your life.

What’s the problem? Deciding to do it.

It’s not a one-way street. Tonight I’ll reveal my commitments for 2013 at All That Chazz.

(For the three of you who care about how I’m changing my life.)

Screen Shot 2012-12-31 at 10.32.35 AM

No resolutions? We hate you for being perfect!

…nah. We envy you. 

~ Robert Chazz Chute is just some guy/crime novelist/author of Self-help for Stoners/millionaire/playboy/inventor/philanthropist…wait…no. Most of that is Tony Stark/Iron Man. Anyway, I wouldn’t listen to Chazz if I were you. On the other hand, his podcast is free, Speakpipe is free, these blogs are free and a new commitment tonight might turn our lives around and maybe even save a life. Check out AllThatChazz.com for the New Resolve podcast and Chazz will explain himself, January 1, 2013.

 

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iCarly, Art and what it means

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The news came in last night that I am no longer an artistic hero to a friend of mine. My fall from grace came when I announced on Facebook that I looked forward to seeing the series finale of iCarly. As a crime novelist whose anti-hero gets tortured and frequently kills, clearly I’d damaged any tough guy rep I’ve built in the Hit Man Series. I’m not too torn up at my fallen status in the eyes of my friend, but his joke did get me thinking about the big question: What is the nature of Art and what’s good Art?

As a stay-at-home dad, I’ve watched a lot of kid shows with my children. Most shows came and went as the kids went through stages. Teletubbies was a short foray followed by The Wiggles. Dora the Explorer was great but the kids outgrew it and declared it a “baby show” quickly. iCarly hit my kids at just the right time. As the stars of the show got taller, so have my kids. The two constants have become Spongebob and iCarly. Somebody told me they thought the stuff that qualifies as Great Art is the stuff that lasts. (Not sure about that. How long does a shooting star last?)

Let’s address the worry first: What’s a grown man doing watching iCarly? It’s simple. I have a pretty bleak outlook and monstrous rage I sublimate with humor. iCarly is silly fun and in each episode I was sure that everything would work out okay. Entertaining TV lights a candle where there is so much darkness.

It is clever silliness, though. If you are a little older and you watched the iCarly finale with your kids, there was a moment when you roared with laughter and your kids have no clue why. They did a tribute to another iconic moment in television history: The group hug/group shuffle from The Mary Tyler Moore Show. That bit was a wink and a nod for the old ones watching with their kids. I loved it.

Watching iCarly kind of balances out my favorite shows: Dexter, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. I’ve also become riveted by season 1 of a Showtime drama  called Sleeper Cell which is a taut story about an FBI agent who is out to bring down terrorists. He’s undercover and also happens to be Muslim. I mention these shows not to try to win back any lost cred, but to say that Art comes in all shapes and sizes, tastes and brands.

Please click here to get Bigger Than Jesus

Please click here to get Bigger Than Jesus

Recently a troll went to work on a colleague’s blog, acting unnecessarily rude in a comment thread. My first reaction was what troll’s want: I was annoyed. Then I thought about the chasms and vast distance between iCarly and Sleeper Cell and how I enjoyed them both for different reasons. A commentator from On The Media mentioned recently that he didn’t think a famous self-published author’s work was very well-written. He then added, “But how great does it have to be when you can buy her books for $2.99 cents?”

I suspect the troll doesn’t understand what the commentator groks: There is no real Art in the sense that “This is The Good and This is the Bad.” There is nuance and too many variables for our pea brains to handle when it comes to what people like. The commentator allows a nuance that doesn’t register in Troll World: If you get it cheap, you don’t expect it to be perfect. And what a relief that is! We all strive for excellence, but nothing is perfect. Through that lens, I saw the troll differently, too. In Troll World, criticism is used to try to control others so you feel better about yourself. How else to explain anger directed at artists that comes with a heat that should be reserved for perpetrators of genocide? My annoyance melted to pity. How sad and lonely trolls must be when they project such anger. They bring no joy because they have no joy.

There’s room for all kinds of Art. That book you love? I hate it. The book I love? You hate. Someone once said criticism (distinct from trolling) has value because it isn’t merely subjective. It is intersubjective. Yes, when it’s practiced at a high level, you can provide measures and good reasoning why I shouldn’t like something. However, like and love is like laughter: It is involuntary. Bad reviews are often irrelevant. I notice now that a vocal group (the minority?) don’t trust good reviews, either. A good critique is often entertaining, but that does not automatically equate to believing the critic. Several times I have soothed a fellow author’s hurt feelings over a bad review by pointing out that people often pay no attention to a bad review, especially if it’s poorly written or the reasoning is shaky. Criticism is an art in itself, but I give it a small a, not a capital, because it based on what others speak, write, produce, act, direct or sing first. I’ve read a lot of art criticism, but for its own sake, not to determine which movie to see on any given Saturday night. The critic is not me. To believe the critic, he or she has to share my sensibilities. How often do we match up so well that we can switch out our opinion for another’s judgment? Rarely.

Art is the place where we meet strangers in safety. You wouldn’t want to meet my characters in real life. They’re dangerous. I write

A quick-moving plot with lots of surprises and a clear-eyed examination of addiction.

A quick-moving plot with lots of surprises and a clear-eyed examination of addiction.

stories of Bad versus Evil. But I’m complex and I have an emotional range. There’s room for a sponge who flips burgers and whose best friend is a starfish who is so creative in how entertainingly dumb is. And there was room in iCarly for Sam to get into and out of trouble by beating people with a slab of butter in a gym sock. Spencer hanging with an ostrich? Priceless. And we need Gibby and Guppy to be freakishly obtuse and endearing because all your surreal friends in real life are in jail for possession.

What’s good Art? That’s not the big question I thought it was. The nature of Art trumps the question because Art is so much bigger than that question. Art is multidimensional with infinite variety, as varied as we are. There’s room for everything and for everyone’s individual taste.

And now, one last time: “Gibby!”

~ Robert Chazz Chute is the author of Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire as well as a bunch of books of suspense including Bigger Than Jesus, Higher Than Jesus and Self-help for Stoners. His new book, Murders Among Dead Trees, is the definitive collection of his short stories. It will be released later this week. To hear the All That Chazz podcast, go to the author site, AllThatChazz.com. For all the links to Chazz’s books, click here.

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Innovative ways graphic design can help sell books (and not just with hot book covers)

My recent post on using Quote Art to promote books got a lot of positive attention. Authors are combing their

Click Lily to grab the paperback or the ebook, Bigger Than Jesus. Thanks!

books for catchy quotes that sum up their characters to hook new readers with striking images. In a tough economy and a cynical marketing environment, we need to look as fresh and professional as possible. Quote Art grabs eyeballs. But the right graphic designer can do even more to help you sell more books.

What I hadn’t given a lot of thought to until recently is how much better my blog would look with a new header. That helps my professional image, too. When blogs among strangers begin to look too much alike, it’s time to make your theme more personal and unique. Enter Kit Foster again, the genius graphic designer behind Quote Art and, incidentally, the guy who creates all my covers.

Take another look up top at my new header for this blog. I liked it so much, I added it to my new Tumblr, as well. Kit can create a catchy, shiny cool header for you, too. He put together this author bio photo for me first. It reminded me of the movie poster for The Godfather for some reason, and one look says I write suspense. I use this image for my author pic on Amazon, my podcast and on my business cards. Now my promotional material is more consistent so, thanks to Kit, I’m building a brand image. (Please excuse the marketing jargon, but it exists because it works.) 

Design has to have a look and feel that represents your book. It can represent you, too. As soon as my next book’s cover is complete, I’ll ask Kit will create another header for AllThatChazz.com so more of my covers will be on display across the top of my author page.

Spruce up your promotional materials, website graphics and even your author pic in new ways to please potential readers. Check out KitFosterDesign.com and see what Kit can do for you (besides making awesome covers, though he can do that, too.) He’s helped me immensely at incredibly reasonable prices. If you still aren’t sure you’re ready to make the jump, check out how easy Kit is to work with in this post about How to talk with your graphic designer about your book cover.  

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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.

See my books, blogs, links and podcasts.

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