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

Write and publish with love and fury.

How to create your own audiobooks

See on Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction

For authors who want to use their own home equipment to narrate an audio version of their own books, or if you want to record your kids reading their favorite stories for posterity, you can do it with a microphone, and iPad and GarageBand.

Robert Chazz Chute‘s insight:

At the link, you’ll find an interesting how-to breakdown on DIY audiobook creation by Geoffrey Goetz. Learn at the link!

The post brings up a question that isn’t much dealt with in this particular article. It’s not a how-to question. It’s a should-you? Would you be comfortable putting a DIY audiobook up for sale on iTunes?

Standards for what’s acceptable vary.

A comedian friend refused to sell a recording because the audience wasn’t on mic. Without their reactions, he didn’t feel the funny was legitimized to the listener (even though he killed.) He thought selling that recording would be “mercenary”. Meanwhile, another professional comedian performed a special for an audience of two: Her parents. (The review was on the Slate Culture Gabfest and they loved it.)

I record author readings on the All That Chazz podcast. I do the podcast for free, but I’d worry about production quality if it were on iTunes. But maybe I’m being too shy or plain wrong about that. Maybe I’ve been indoctrinated with historic audiobook rules instead of looking to the future.

Do you need a full studio to produce something to sell? A video engineer friend of mine announced recently that he’s ditching the heavy, $6,000 camera and making movies with an iPhone now. You can produce high production values with relatively inexpensive equipment. New tech can often deliver higher production value than what the richest Hollywood studios had a few years ago. If you can rise to the occasion in employing that tech, you could come pretty close to par. The first no-budget Paranormal movie comes to mind.

Back to audio:

On Podiobooks, audiobooks are given away free. There are still hoops to jump through, but since it’s free, few listeners really expect perfection. Up the capitalist foodchain, if you go with ACX, you’ve got professional voice talent and an expensive production that’s still much cheaper than it used to be and you maintain control of your art.

As the bar to entry has lowers through easily accessible technology,will the audiobook production industry undergo an influx of independents as has happened with the book industry? Audio purists will likely be resistant to that idea.

We touched on this issue in a post last week: Experts recommend their services and condemn all intruders in their realm. This isn’t just in publishing. To illustrate, let me paraphrase an old medical adage: If you go to a surgeon for advice, his advice is going to be, “I’ll cut you” Every specialty is predisposed to recommend their intervention.

Could we sell a DIY recording on iTunes (through CD Baby)? Yes.

Should we? Before we rush to judgment, consider that independent musicians reach professional standards from their garages and basements all the time. People who call themselves “Indie” in the music and film industries get much more respect than Indies in the book industry. Musicians and filmmakers are called brave, innovative and entrepreneurial. In the book industry, outdated views still hold with the term “vanity press”.

I can’t fathom why this is so. I’m not pretending. I’m publishing.

~ Chazz

See on gigaom.com

Filed under: audiobooks, , , , , ,

Book cover troubles and solutions

Too many books won’t be read, and not because they aren’t great. They don’t look good enough for a second glance. There are graphic design solutions. I just fired off an email to my solution, author and cover designer Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com. He sent me some samples of ideas for the cover of my upcoming plague thriller. One image was particularly strong and we’ll definitely go with some variation of that draft. You want great, not just good. Book covers are not easy. Unless you’re a graphic designer, get professional help with your cover. Maybe even then, you should outsource. Most authors who edit still need editors, so why don’t cover designers need another set of eyes on their book project?

Book art is hard to get right. With his first inkling about my book, Kit has already balanced out two opposing demands: We want readers to be struck by the uniqueness of the image on the one hand (and compelled by graphic design magic to buy, of course). However, the tone of the cover must also be so familiar that the reader will know intuitively and instantly to what genre the book belongs. Unique, yet familiar. Quite a feat, really, isn’t it? I’ve seen some indie authors insist they can do a DIY cover with PowerPoint. Looking at their cover art, I’m sorry, but I can’t agree. I want a cover that’s a delicious chocolate croissant, not a lentil and sewage burrito. I’m glad those writers can succeed despite their covers, but I’m sure they’d sell even more without the self-inflicted handicap of DIY delusion.

My discussion with Kit got me thinking again about what makes a great book cover. A solid title that grabs the

Click to get Bigger Than Jesus here

reader can make a difference. A recognizable name is bigger factor. If you have a bland, soundalike title (change it!) or haven’t broken through (yet), your best hope is a great cover image and hiring a graphic designer create it. As I’ve already confessed in this space, I experimented with DIY and I hurt myself. I’ve sold enough books in trad publishing that I know a good cover when I see one, but actually creating a decent book cover? Ha! No. I’m not the graphic designer. All hail Kit. He’s a book cover solution.

The problem I see with some book covers is they try to do too much at once. Covers are crammed, as if the author hopes the image will tell the whole story instead of giving the reader an intriguing taste and tease. It’s tempting to try that. I’ve almost succumbed myself, which is another reason to have a helmsman with a steady hand on the wheel to keep you from crashing into all those pretty icebergs. It’s tempting because, admit it, we still think we should pull in anybody and everybody who can read. In my opinion, that’s a mistake. I want readers who really love mystery and suspense mixed with witty repartee. All others need not apply because “all others” probably won’t like my books. That’s okay. You don’t like “music”. Our tastes are much more specific than that. You like neo-thrash synth-metal, industrial-Asian jazz fusion and Tom Jones singing It’s Not Unusual in a duet with the ghost of Tupac. Go after whatever your niche is. Instead of taking little bits from all over your plot and compressing them into a graphical soup, more specific, evocative and emotional images make compelling book cover art.

Please avoid a cover that only makes sense after you’ve read the entire book. The purpose of the cover is to seduce innocent virgins. Don’t require Holmesian cryptographic skills from people who aren’t even your readers yet. Before they are your readers, they are disinterested browsers. Convert them to actual readership with book covers that promise a secret revealed, invite them on a journey and make them hope for a braingasm. (Then deliver it when they actually buy it and read it.)

I see a lot of books where the author’s name is too small. That’s not an ego problem. That’s a branding problem. I understand how that happens. Readability is sacrificed so more elements can be crammed on the cover. It’s the Throw Everything at the Wall and Hope Something Sticks Approach. Take that cover down to thumbnail size and it’s not just readability that’s sacrificed, but legibility and sales. Kit goes with powerful, evocative images so we move toward covers that show and sell. I’m proud to be indie, but I want author name recognition in the long term. To do that, the cover has to look like a traditionally published cover. What’s common among trad published covers? Bigger author name tags.

For more on what makes a great cover, check out e-book cover design awards for insightful commentary that helps make better book covers and sells more books. Or just head over to Kit’s website and get going on your new book cover (or revamp an old one that isn’t selling. I did that with my DIY cover.) Kit Foster is a very helpful guy who does so much for authors at very reasonable rates. You’ve put so much work into your book. Give it a fighting chance to be read. Give your book, and all those virgins, a striking cover.

The paperback has arrived. For $9.99. Did you hear that? Distant thunder of the Book Gods mumbling to each other. Oooh, shivers!

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

Review: The highs and lows of a book promotion campaign. What works?

Suspense, parables, inspiration, surprise.

Last week I wrote about my campaign to drag Self-help for Stoners into the world’s consciousness. If you’re new to the blog, long story short: I wrote a book of suspenseful fiction with a self-help twist dedicated to director Kevin Smith. When I had the honour of handing the book to my DIY hero at a comedy event simulcast to theatres across the US and Canada, I felt I had to take advantage of this unique opportunity. I tried an experiment with a press release distribution service called PR Web. For more on that review of the troubles I had getting the press release accepted for wide distribution, check out the original post here. 

Soon after the press release went into wide distribution, I got a small increase in traffic, but not, it seemed, in the way I’d hoped. 

The Dangerous Kind

Murder might solve your problems. Two brothers go hunting. Only one will see home again.

A fellow on Google+ was complimentary to me (I have balls!) but thought the money ($240) was wasted. He wasn’t being unkind…at least I don’t think he meant to be. He just thought there were better uses of my time and newer, more innovative ways to spread the word about my book’s existence. I’m always interested in learning more and I’m particularly interested when people have ideas about what to do instead of what not to do. (More on that in another post after I conduct more field research.)

Imagine my chagrin when I read a post by Dead Wesley Smith who decreed that spending money on book promotion is a waste of time and money until you have 50 books for sale. That’s right. Fifty! I double-checked to make sure it wasn’t the cloying cloud of depression and stress headaches obscuring my vision misleading me. Kurt Vonnegut only wrote fourteen novels in his lifetime. If Dean Wesley Smith is right, is there any place for book promotion for most of us? Maybe I struck the iron too early, but given the scope of the simulcast, my press release appeared to be a now-or-never opportunity.

My speed of production isn’t near as quick as Dean Wesley Smith, but how many of us can write (good) books that fast? Maybe I should write faster, but even at once every three months, I wouldn’t be gambling a promotional penny to let the world know I exist until 2024. Will I even live long enough to ever have to bother with book promotion at that rate? Hm. That would be a great solution except for  the part about me being dead. I do agree with Dean on one point thoroughly and I’ve said it many times myself: your best book promotion idea is to get to work on the next book and I’m certainly doing that. I’ll be coming out with three books this year (so that’s one every four months, though I confess that two and half are already written and I’m mostly in the revision stage.) I’m not as skilled as Dean Wesley Smith because I’m not up to the pace he’s setting. I honestly wouldn’t have confidence in the end product if I pushed that fast. No worries or apologies on that score. We’re all just doing the best we can. (For more on what indie production actually costs, check out Dean Wesley Smith’s post here.)

But what you’re wondering is, what did the PR Web press release actually do and could that work for your book? It’s too early to tell, so once again, my results are

Don't argue over parking spots with strangers. Or else.

preliminary. The cycle of Google analytics is 28 days long, and what follows is just the first week of results. (However, isn’t it already old news now that the event is over a week stale?) I can tell you that PR Web’s marketing guy sounded very pleased. He phoned me yesterday morning to say that I’d worked the SEO right (five links maximum was how it worked out with my word count) and he said the response to the press release was “great.”

“How do I quantify ‘great’?” I asked. I’m sure I whacked him with a heavy note of skepticism but he seemed no less bouncy at my glorious prospects. He told me how to get the analytics for the press release. Apparently, the number of people who read the release, liked the headline and read to the end of the article was impressive, perhaps even unusual. Nice, though I wish I liked the press release more. (For more on that, once again, refer to the original post.)

8,027 media deliveries boiled down to 49 “interactions” (where a link was clicked or a pdf was downloaded) and eight “pickups”. The report contains a sample of Web sites that picked up or syndicated my story. It’s apparently not the full list, but media outlets included: Hollywood Industry, Mac DVD Pro, Digital Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, Corporate Media News, Yahoo! News, and Consumer Electronics Net.

But these aren’t the numbers you really want to know. Has this press release helped sales? Sadly, not much so far that is measurable. I saw a bit of a bounce up on my Amazon sales, but that settled quickly. And the truth is, since I’m doing several other things, I could easily attribute that blip to the success of other marketing tactics. But before I draw conclusions in this review, see if you can follow the roller coaster of author thrust and bureaucratic parry that has brought me to my sad current state.

Here are the highs and lows and forays

of my marketing campaign for Self-help for Stoners:

High: I sent out several press releases about meeting Kevin Smith to CBC shows and to my local paper. These forays cost me nothing.

Low: CBC didn’t call back. The local columnist who showed enthusiasm seems to have lost my number. Or he’s sick and not at work. Gee, I hope he’s sick.

What if God gives you what you want? What if you win an argument against God?

High: Kevin Smith has a cult and for a shining moment I was in front of them. I paid $200 for a one-minute ad to run on Smith’s Smodcast network the day he got back on the mic. I figured since he hadn’t been on the mic for such a long time, the first day he got back on the show would have high ratings and many downloads. And maybe they’d remember said shining moment from the broadcast of the Live from Behind Show in Toronto.

Low: The ad didn’t run on schedule. There was a communication breakdown. Despite my best efforts at keeping in touch with the ad guy at Smod, it didn’t happen. It’s supposed to run today (February 14th on Smodcast Internet Radio. I’m sacrificing a goat to Thor, hoping it happens this time. Don’t worry about the goat. He’s suicidal.)

High: I did two podcasts about my Kevin Smith experience, before and after. They’ve been well-received by those who have heard them. “One and a quarter hours of narrative gold,” said one, Thor bless him. Bliss. (See all the podcasts here.)

Low: Though they may catch on in the long term, not many people have actually heard them! I screwed up the metadata so, on Stitcher, the first words that show up in the tiny window that give the podcast summary are not Chazz Meets Kevin Smith and Jay Mewes. Instead it reads: Show notes and podcast details… That won’t get anybody new to check out my filthy jokes and stream of consciousness trips in order to find me utterly delightful and worthy of their love and bucks.

Twisty and twisted. Click the pic for more.

High: I thought KDP Select might be my salvation to really get things going. Amazon told me all I’d have to do was tell Bookbaby to withdraw from all other platforms to meet the exclusivity caveat. Any other action might risk duplication on Amazon’s site.

Low: BookBaby disagrees. I got a nice email (eventually—BookBaby seems awfully slow to respond to me of late) saying that they would have to withdraw the books from all channels, it would be permanent, and I’d have to enter my books into KDP Select myself. With no confidence in how long that might take, I don’t want to risk not having any books for sale anywhere, especially with all the promotion work I’ve done. I replied to BookBaby that rather than risk a screw up and no availability of my books for an indeterminate amount of time, I’d keep my books where they were through BookBaby and just get the new books straight into KDP Select without them next time. That’s a loss all around, I’d say, but I’m the one who will feel it most.

There are a lot of tragic starts and stops to this tale, aren’t there?

The word “thwarted” is pushing into the centre of my brain like the capricious thumb of an angry god.

High: I tried to organize a Buy X Get Y promotion for my book on Amazon.

Low: Amazon Advantage said they couldn’t do it because fulfilment for my paperback is through CreateSpace, which is POD and they’d need stock on hand. After a light scolding, they told me to go to CreateSpace for a similar promotion program.

Asia_Unbound

Are we ever free from our secrets? Find out here.

Lower: CreateSpace said they’d call back. Then they sent me an email instead saying they have no idea what Amazon is talking about. (Note that CreateSpace is owned by Amazon, too, but never the twain shall meet, I guess, even if the plan would have made a buttload of money.) Once again, Chazz hurts moms. So much so, he begins to write about himself in the third person. With loathing,

Lowest: As I write this, I’m feeling a bit emotional and teary. The sum of the message so far is: Nobody knows me, I don’t matter and as good as the book is, it still doesn’t matter if I can’t convince anyone to try it out. And a fresh pile of bills arrived yesterday. There isn’t an author on earth who hasn’t felt this way, yet the lash feels equally new for every person every time.

Clawing and climbing out of the mire: So there are a few things I am doing which I’m more positive about. Writing and revising the new stuff is going well. (Three new novels this year! Whoo, and also hoo!) The Writing World will run an interview with me in early March. My friend Eden Baylee will also run a saucy little interview with me soon. I’ve sent out a couple more copies for book reviewers and will continue to seek out reviewers for all my books. The Self-help for Stoners podcast continues weekly and I had a clip broadcast on Succotash, a popular comedy clip show. I think I’ll have an excerpt from Self-help appear on the next The Word Count Podcast, in support of #IndiesUnite4Joshua (fun and a great cause.) I’m also getting quite a few nice mentions on other podcasts, like Logical Weightloss and The School of Podcasting.

But wait, Chazz! How do you account for that blip where sales came up a bit? It could be my promise on my podcast to gain converts individually by tying each new reader up and torturing them with sexual delights to gain converts. It could be that some new people I met lately have checked out my books or some found me through the Kevin Smith event when I was on

Get Vengeance and get surprised.

camera. Maybe the press release had some effect, but I tend to doubt it, at least until more evidence arrives through Google analytics.

So what have we learned about promoting our books? So far? We need more data.

I’d say I’ve learned this much:

1. Triberr has helped me get more new traffic to my blogs than anything else. I can see that clearly in my stats and my Twitter feed.

2. I have to find more innovative ways to get the word out. I’m working on that. (More later.)

3. I have to get more reviews. I have had excellent feedback on much of my work, but even when people are enthused, it doesn’t necessarily translate to reviews. I am soliciting reviews as my writing schedule allows.

4. I have to remember how much I believe in my books, because in the beginning, no matter who you are and no matter your experience, you’re just another schmo until you’re discovered. After you’ve made it, you’re a genius. Until then? Schmo. The writing awards and all the experience don’t matter. Yet.

Most important?

Did I mention I have more books coming out?

That will be what counts more than anything.

I have to provide a larger target for my readership to find me. 

My people are out there. I will find them. They will find me.

UPDATE: In keeping with the theme of getting thwarted, the Smashwords website is down at the moment, so the links from the short story covers are directed back to the author site until Smashwords is back up. The links in the The Dangerous Kind, Self-help for Stoners and Sex, Death & Mind Control (for fun & profit) covers work fine. You can still get everything I write across most digital book platforms, of course, (i.e. search Kobo and there they are) but as long as Smashwords is down, you can’t grab the short stories directly from that site. I will update as soon as the Smashwords server is back up. It’s all very…consistent with today’s theme, isn’t it?

LATEST UPDATE: SMASHWORDS IS NOW BACK ONLINE AND THE SHORT STORY COVERS NOW LINK BACK TO THAT SITE. Find out more about these short stories here.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is the author of Sex, Death & Mind Control (for fun and profit), the novella The Dangerous Kind, Self-help for Stoners and several suspenseful short stories with gut-punch endings, available at Smashwords. He’s in suspense, figuratively and literally and his comedy podcast, Self-help for Stoners, airs each Friday on Stitcher and iTunes. Visit the author site, AllThatChazz.com,  for updates on Chazz’s fiction and to download the podcast.

page10image5960
page10image6232
page10image6504

Filed under: Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Rejection, reviews, web reviews, What about Chazz?, What about you?, Writers, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Using mass press release distribution to let the world know about your books

Hi everyone. This post is meant to be a helpful preliminary review of a press release service you could use to promote your books. Then it devolves into a self-pitying, snarly, snarky rant in which a tiny, hairless pig feels threatened. No animals were harmed in the making of this post…I think. Okay, he may be psychologically wounded.

I’ve had an eventful week. I got to meet director Kevin Smith and Jay Mewes (of Jay & Silent Bob fame) and handed them each a copy of my book, Self-help for StonersNext, how to capitalize on that?

I tried to organize a confluence of events around the book.

It’s basically a fiction collection of dark suspense with a self-help twist. (Yes, not an easy categorization which is both an advantage and a curse.) I’d met Kevin Smith in unusual circumstances in that when I handed him the book, thousands of his fans were watching on movie theatre screens across North America. I didn’t think the press release would be as hard as it was, especially since my training is in journalism and I’ve seen hundreds of press releases (and dumped hundred of press releases in the wastebasket.)

Then a friend of mine convinced me I should send out a press release. Well…a bunch of them. I sent them to several CBC shows and my local newspaper. The local columnist bit and me and my books will be profiled. So there’s that.

Then I remembered PR Web.

It’s basically a press release distribution service. It cost me $240 and to meet their editorial guidelines was a real bitch. Their marketing guy assured me they work with authors “all the time”. Non-fiction authors, maybe. They gave me a lot of hassle about getting into the widest distribution channel. (They offered to let me print it the way I wanted, if I were to accept a smaller distribution channel. For $240? Hell, no! I kept banging my head against the wall four or five times and they kept pushing the goal posts back to get into that wider distribution channel.) Finally, today it went out and was reprinted verbatim on a major website. (ONE website so far with little appreciable increase in blog traffic or sales. So far. UPDATE: By the way, here’s the link for the final draft: http://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/578381. It’s not what I envisioned at all, but it’s okay I guess. )

On the other hand, it just went out this afternoon. It was delayed for “editorial reasons” They wanted it to be more newsy, fewer back links etc., no opinion… Basically they require that it look like any other press release, which isn’t what I was going for, but maybe I’m wrong and maybe they know what they’re doing. I’ll be the judge of that in coming days.

In the meantime, I have an ad running soon on the Smodcast Internet Radio network and one of the bits from my podcast (also called Self-help for Stoners cuz mama didn’t raise no dummy) will run on Succotash, a popular comedy clip show podcast. I just recorded a podcast today that will air Friday that details the whole experience meeting my DIY hero. The cult is into it.

And frankly, I am so tired of marketing! I normally don’t mind it, but with the PR Web delays and frustrations, I just want to crawl into bed with a coffee and write the next book uninterrupted, under the covers in my cowboy jammies with Alfred bringing me M&Ms (he brings the cape and cowl at midnight.)

This morning I screamed bad words at no one several times. The kids’ skinny pig is above my office and he probably shit himself in terror.

I haven’t finished my evaluation of PR Web yet, but I’d say go over their editorial guidelines to be sure you can meet them. As a fiction writer, it’s obviously difficult to be “newsy” enough. I had a very specific hook, several references to new technology (a first, in fact) and a major celebrity to piggyback the story. And they still didn’t zoom it through.

Even if I get a thousand hits tomorrow morning, here are the things I didn’t like:

the editorial person I spoke to on the phone wasn’t friendly (and I was… I only scream at empty rooms and tiny, terrified pigs); the marketing guy started out bouncy and helpful but then seemed anxious to dump me after he requested the draft (and his department couldn’t communicate with editorial); their user interface wasn’t all that intuitive; you pay before you can actually see the template you’re using to create the press release and they artificially delay the release of the news. (On that last point, I was concerned the information was getting more stale by the minute, but they make you pay more for the express line and I thought $240 was plenty, especially since $40 of that was to get a “star” to bump me up a list to improve visibility. Frustrating.)

I hope this helps someone here. Biggest issue for sure would be: being just another fiction author without a big hook. I had it and still encountered resistance I hadn’t anticipated that was a huge time drain.

Back to writing and revising…and lower blood pressure.*

 I wrote this post on Devin O’Branagan’s writer’s forum first, a couple of days ago and I’m sharing it here again for my blog readers.

__________________
~ Robert Chazz Chute is the author of Self-help for Stoners, The Dangerous Kind, and Sex, Death & Mind Control (for fun & profit). I’m in suspense, literally and figuratively.

Filed under: Publicity & Promotion, publishing, self-publishing, Social Media, What about Chazz?, What about you?, Writers, , , , , , , , , ,

Writing Conferences: What we need

Grand Bend, Ontario. The beach seen from the p...

Image via Wikipedia

Writing conferences are great opportunities to learn and be inspired. Though self-publishing is growing, by far most topics tend to be very oriented to traditional publishing. The experts are agents and editors. What these conferences will need in the future are workshops for the indie author.

I’m not denying we still need to hear from traditional publishing. But there are people I want to speak with, like experts in web development,  DIY e-book uploading and publicity. (Watch for some savvy writing and publishing conference organizers to court Amanda Hocking as their next keynote speaker.)

I’ve already posted about the possibility of a writer’s union for the self-published. Maybe soon we’ll see new kinds of workshops from writing conference organizers, workshops that acknowledge the new reality doesn’t match the old reality.

Are you planning to attend a writing conference this year?

Here are some to consider:

Ontario Writers’ Conference, Ajax, Ontario, April 30

Canwrite, Grand Bend, Ontario, May 2 – 8

Surrey International Writers’ Conference, Surrey BC, Oct. 21 – 23

Related Articles

Filed under: DIY, self-publishing, Writing Conferences, , , , , , , ,

Writers: What I learned from Kevin Smith about AUDIENCE (they don’t own you)

Follow me on Twitter logo

@RChazzChute

The other day I was feeling feisty and I said something about DIY on Twitter (full of bravado):

Burned bridges with a blog I wrote tonight. Fuck the bridge. I’ll swim. Go indie. Live free or die hard.

Someone shot back with a sarcastic:

Proudly alienate those who are not your fans. Awesome.

Well…yeah. People who don’t get me are not my fans. Why should I chase people who don’t like me for me? I have a particular voice and point of view, in my fiction and non-fiction and my blog, that will appeal to you or it won’t. If it doesn’t, no hard feelings and I hope you find something you do enjoy. However, when I dilute my voice, I lose the little tribe I have and any hope of real fans in the future. I’ve heard the quote attributed to a couple of celebrities, but basically it goes like this:

I don’t know what the secret to success is,

but to guarantee failure, try to please everyone.

Which brings us to my personal icon for all things indie, director Kevin Smith. For years, he argued with people who didn’t love him. If you look at his old tweets, he had a serious anger (and sometimes still does) for media, critics and haters. He would do battle with them and, despite all his success and wealth, would still end up arguing with some loser living in his parents’ basement. People who complained about what he did in his career—sometimes about everything he attempted—really bothered him. (Think on that a second: Some people wouldn’t even give him credit for getting something right once in a while even by accident!) Mr. Smith engaged in flame wars while his lovely wife looked on perplexed saying, “You have a wonderful life and live in a mansion! Why do you care?”

Mr. Smith is more relaxed now. Part of his new attitude is the prodigious amount of weed he smokes, but it’s not just that. He’s been successful for so long that he recognizes the pattern: People who are haters don’t do much else. People who don’t write will tell you how to write. People who can’t do, don’t teach. They snipe and snark.

You don’t find your audience so much as your audience finds you. As you try to build your platform and reach out to express your art, you’re going to dredge up some people who are pissed you aren’t what they’re looking for. We don’t do this with things other than art. You don’t go to the pharmacy and get pissed off because they don’t have coconuts in stock. You go to the grocery store for coconuts instead.

Do what you do. Write what you write. Define your voice through your expression and remember that it is your voice. I think harsh critics think they own your art (even if they haven’t paid a dime for it) because, unlike those coconuts, they take what you write into themselves. That doesn’t mean they own it, though. And they certainly don’t own you. They can react to it. They can criticize it. They can argue with it. They can move on (which makes the most sense.)

People who do nothing but hate think hate is art.

They’re wrong.

Art is a creative force, not a destructive one.

What does matter is your core audience. Now if you write and write and produce and put your stuff out there and very few people are feeling any love for it, that’s a different problem. However, if your core audience can be built big enough, that’s all you need. You don’t have to go chasing after the people who are running away from you. No one gets universal acceptance. Don’t even try for it. Expect obstacles and naysayers and pay little or no attention to them if you can. For everything you love, for everything you think is the best, there are millions of people who sneer and call it shit.

Check the comments on any book you love on Amazon.com. See all those nasty reviews? Now, do you really love that book any less because some guy  you don’t know thinks it’s the worst thing on earth since the rise of Hitler and Pottery Barn?

Great people make you feel like you can be great, too.

Haters don’t do that. They don’t even know how to do that.

Now is the time for all good indies to stand up. You now have the technology in your hands to let your unique voice be heard. You can be read when, just a short time ago, gatekeepers could hold you back. There are no gatekeepers anymore. You don’t have to approach publishing or film or any other art as if you’re going to The Man for a job! You can employ yourself and deploy yourself. You can Crowd Source your financing or  convince a fan of your blogged fiction to spend a few bucks for an e-book that costs nothing to distribute. You can grow your fan base without old media’s distribution system and middle man percentages. You can be the boss if you want to be. Your art doesn’t have to wait and you don’t have to ask permission. Make your art and see who shows up. Whoever shows up and stays is your audience.

Remember Chili Palmer in Get Shorty? Some guy tells him how easy it is to write a screenplay. “We can do this…we can do that…” Chili lights a smoke and says, “It’s really that easy? Then I got one question. What do I need you for?”

Here’s today’s message for you if you’re my core audience:

Not sure how to proceed? Resolve to ask questions, learn and try.

When you mess up, resolve to begin again.

If you’re new here and like it, welcome. I’m Chazz.

If you don’t like it, via con dios, friend. I hope you find what you’re looking for.

If you don’t like it and you choose to stay, well, that’s your own damn fault

because you’re looking for coconuts at the drugstore, you idiot!

Oh, and the person who felt alienated by my Twitter post? I saved her some trouble. I agreed with her.

Then, in honor of Kevin Smith’s fine example, I didn’t just block that bitch. I KA-blocked her.

Filed under: publishing, self-publishing, Twitter, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Opportunity knocks? Self-published writers could unionize (plus association links for writers)

A map of Canada exhibiting its ten provinces a...

Image via Wikipedia

We started off The Writer’s Union of Canada symposium with the presenter announcing,Self-publishing is mainstream!” Dead on and right on, brother! Come to Jesus! Most of the day was dedicated to authors taking hold of their careers, navigating through the logistics of self-publishing and going indie. As I’ve mentioned in several posts since, it was a great event filled with exciting information that went deep. The kick in the nuts didn’t come until the end of the day.

As we wrapped things up with questions to the presenters, someone asked if she qualified to join The Writers’ Union of Canada. Nope. It looked by the show of hands that about half of the attendees (at least) were not TWUC members, but they couldn’t join to lend their voice to Canadian professional writers.  Publishers decide who is traditionally published and only if you are traditionally published does TWUC recognize you as a candidate for the union. (Yes, there’s an appeals process in which a committee could decide your worthiness on a case-by-case basis, but I didn’t get the feeling that opened a lot of doors for the great unwashed.*)

There are people within the union who want to change this, but there is resistance. Despite all the DIY enthusiasm and knowledge of self-publishing displayed at the symposium, so far it seems the only writers the union recognizes are — and will be for the foreseeable future — the traditionally published. The concern, they say, is about quality. I’ll grant you many self-published books suck. They often are not edited or are not edited well. (In fact, I wrote a blog post not long ago entitled Why self-publishing sucks (and what you can do about it.)

However, the larger point is, you don’t professionalize a group by shutting them out. You raise the standard by bringing them in. Amateurs often become professionals by mentoring and community interaction. Self-publishers can also bring a lot to the table. Many DIY authors will have a lot of information and support to share when many trad authors switch to independent publishing. (Gasp! We talk and share and know things, too! Imagine that!)

Here’s a secret: quality is a myth. You don’t use traditional publishers as gatekeepers. Not anymore. You already refuse to read much of what they publish. You have your unique tastes. You use curators you trust to let you know about a great book to read. Anyone reading this post could name several books traditionally published that, according to their lights, do not constitute “quality.” It’s all, trad or indie, subjective. Do I have to remind anyone that The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis was rejected by trad publishing? That book  only saw the light of day  (and won the Stephen Leacock Award and CBC’s Canada Reads contest) because Fallis self-published first.

The presenters were not necessarily against letting self-published writers in. They seemed to say that it was the system that was slow on the uptake. “It’s an evolution,” said one.

Yeah? Since we spent the day talking about the publishing revolution, maybe we should splice some DNA and catch up!

“Apply anyway,” another presenter advised. “If they (meaning the admissions committee) get enough applications, maybe they’ll be moved.”

Bewildered, one participant asked, “Why wouldn’t you be proactive and lead” by going ahead and accepting self-published authors? Good question. I asked him if he wanted to be president of a new self-published writers union. He grinned and said, “Sure!” The presenter looked at me with…was that disdain?

Opening up the TWUC membership means a larger, more powerful and better-financed union. Look at the Romance Writers of America. If you’re interested and actively pursuing a writing career, you’re in. That is a big tent that’s open to anyone interested in romance books. They’re big enough they could stand up to their biggest sponsor (Harlequin) when necessary.

A powerful union filled with fresh blood and entrepreneurial, proactive people makes a small union into a big (and relevant) union.

But why should you care? What’s the alternative? Well…I’m not trying to start anything here, but since TWUC isn’t being especially proactive, there is a huge opportunity to start up a union for self-published writers. If you’re DIY, you could join, hold events, help with disputes, etc.,… Oh, and get some fucking respect.

I’m not saying we should. I’m saying we could if TWUC continues at a glacial pace while the old media models implode around them. The crazy part is there are forces within TWUC that agree. Apparently there aren’t enough of those like-minded individuals on the admissions committee. We could unionize. Should we? There are benefits, though if TWUC loosens up we wouldn’t have to invent that wheel.

Maybe they better move before you take the idea of a Self-published Writers of Canada and run with it. (SWOC? Nah, that’s the Steel Workers.) Shutting out the self-published is a major tactical error considering the self-published are a determined group of people who don’t take kindly asking permission to do things. We are all about git ‘er done, DIY ASAP.

Brain food, comrade. If they aren’t as forward-thinking as their own symposium, they could go from The Writers’ Union of Canada to A Writers’ Union of Canada.

*Alternatives? Where you live, there’s some kind of association of varying applicability to your writing career, amiability and varying strength.

Here’s a list of links which is by no means comprehensive: The Canadian Authors Association, the Editors Association of Canada and the Periodical Writers Association of Canada, the Horror Writers Association, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, SF Canada, Crime Writers Association (UK), Crime Writers of Canada, Mystery Writers of America and the aforementioned Romance Writers of America . Check each association’s membership criteria and see if their goals match your own. Another aspect to consider is how active each organization is in your area.

Tomorrow’s posts: If you’re up early, a style ruling on when to use “each other” instead of “one another” (well, never ‘use’ another human being) and at 11:45 EST, one of the good things The Writers’ Union of Canada is trying to do. You know me, I’m all about the yin/yang balance of the universe.

Filed under: authors, Books, DIY, ebooks, getting it done, publishing, Rant, Rejection, self-publishing, Writers, Writing Conferences, , , , , , , , , ,

Writers: Self-publishing links

Patricia Benesh writes in the Huffington Post about the five questions you should ask yourself before going the self-publishing route.

At Self-publishing Central there’s a blog post about the journey to publication and finding peer support along the way.

Eoin Purcell‘s blog writes about the state of the traditional publishing industry and how it’s not all bad news. In fact, libraries are trending up.

And Jeff Bennington over at The Writing Bomb writes a compelling post evaluating Lightning Source versus Create Space. Do check that out!

Related Articles

Filed under: authors, blogs & blogging, Books, DIY, ebooks, self-publishing, Useful writing links, web reviews, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Publishing: Change or Die

Cover of "Change or Die: The Three Keys t...

Cover via Amazon

I read a fascinating book called Change or Die recently. It documents what makes us change and what makes us resist change. Quoting heart disease and lifestyle specialist Dr. Dean Ornish, “People don’t resist change. They resist being changed.” But change is coming and it’s happening faster than so-called experts predicted just a few months ago.

The premise is that for people to adapt, they must harness the power of community, process and engagement. Leaders must lead by example. Facts and fear don’t change people, even in dire circumstances. The author looks research showing how heart patients and career criminals made real positive change and adapted.  Real change is collaborative.

What’s interesting about the changes that are happening to publishing is that, despite a long history to draw on, the changes are still happening to publishers. Publishers are harnessing the awesome power of denial to affirm that they are still on top and will always be on top. We’ve heard this tune before and you know it ends with a swan song.

For instance, in Change or Die, we can see the same pattern with GM. GM insisted their cars were superior despite facts. GM execs even changed the scale of how they measured their success (i.e. number of car defects) to protect their illusions. Throughout, they would not acknowledge the superior reliability of foreign cars. GM had to lose a fortune before they began to see they sucked. Arrogance nearly killed them. Thanks to a huge reality check and huge government checks, they got saved from themselves. (Publishers aren’t too big to fail though, so we’ll see many big publishers disappear or become micro-publishers soon. Well, that’s really already happening.)

Traditional publishers have had market dominance so long, many still think it will last forever. They take the facts—self-publishing and ebooks are going through growing pains—and affirm their eternal dominance. Nevermind all those people buying e-readers! Nevermind the expansion of self-publishing and DIY due to technological changes. The e-book ad POD problems aren’t a sign of their demise. That’s growth. No technology emerges in its final form. There is no final form until we’re extinct.

The market is changing under publishers. They aren’t, on the whole, acting in a proactive way. And yet, we can’t scare them into believing the revolution is here. Facts don’t work, but fear doesn’t, either. (I’m not writing this to scare anybody, though inevitably it will scare some.) The publishers and agents of the traditional structure will survive long-term when they decide these aren’t problems but opportunities.

When they turn from despair for the old models to hope, then they can begin to adapt to new market conditions. Then they can change and thrive. There will be room for everybody. There are more readers reading more (but they are reading in new and fractured media.)

As a writer, I see the opportunity to promote my work. I might sell part of it myself and go the traditional route with other parts. (No, publishers can’t assume they get all the rights anymore. I’ll have to work harder and diversify and they’ll have to accept less or get nothing. Everybody gets to take part in the adaptation process and it won’t all be fun, but how much of business is all fun? Suck it up, writers and publishers.)

As an editor, I see more opportunities to work with diverse authors on their self-published books. I don’t have to live in Toronto anymore to work in Canadian publishing. In fact, where I am isn’t at all relevent. (Loved T.O, but I like raising my kids in a smaller city.)

As a reader in an electronic world, I can get easier access to books I never would have been aware of in my local bookstore. Yes, there’s more curation to do, but there’s always been curation to do. Now I can find out from friends and trusted blogs new stuff to read that isn’t on a top ten list.

Digital books are easier for me to access and eat. Digital books are easier for me to produce. E-books are easier to edit. Oh, look, I’m a curator, too! Look at all those links to check out!

And now you have another book to buy: Change or Die by Alan Deutschman.

Filed under: authors, book reviews, Books, ebooks, Editing, Editors, links, publishing, Rant, self-publishing, , , , , , , ,

Writers: Craft your pitch carefully.

DSC03939

Image by Nitin Parmar via Flickr

It’s very difficult to summarize your novel. When we pitch a story, we talk about broad strokes and the rest is about theme. The reason is that when we summarize in depth, the story often sounds dumb.

Let’s try it with a popular movie and you’ll see what I mean:

In the mostly great and totally watchable  A Few Good Men, a Gitmo soldier is killed and two Marines are charged with his killing. So far, so good.

The base commander goes to great lengths (all behind the scenes) to cover up his part in the crime. The rest is about how a young lawyer who has never stepped inside a courtroom goes against the military establishment to get the commanding officer to admit in court that it was he who ordered the Marines to attack the soldier as a training exercise. The commanding officer will admit his guilt proudly and then be surprised he’s under arrest. The two Marines don’t go to prison but do get discharged dishonorably. The young lawyer feels good about himself in the end. And no, he doesn’t get to sleep with Demi Moore.

Were you to pitch it like that (and if you aren’t actually Aaron Sorkin) it’s very hit-and-miss…uh, no, actually it’s all miss. The context and detail is necessarily missing in a summary. The person you’re pitching won’t know about the nuance that the young lawyer will try to live up to his father’s courtroom legend. The clever sarcasm won’t be much on display to sell the idea of the script.

You would pitch about visiting the base and the sinister base commander. However, the subplot about the deputy-commander who can disappear because he’s former Special Ops (and turns suicidal) stretches credibility. It’s a spot where you could easily lose your audience. The pitch won’t get into the nitty-gritty of the interplay among the defense team. Kevin Pollak is the glue, but his role’s power would be difficult to flesh out in a short meeting and could derail you. 

When you pitch a movie, play or book, the odds are stacked against you in a huge way. It is statistically very unlikely someone will invest in your art. Put a lot of time perfecting your query letter (or your pitch) so you cram in your art and style.

The inherent difficulties of the pitch reduce your work so you want to look for ways to show your competence and still stay within the parameters of the pitch (e.g. format, brevity and economy of communication must be balanced by characters whose motivations are compelling and narrative arcs that make people want to hear more.)

If you don’t pitch it well, they won’t get it. If you have no track record, the only evidence that they have that you can articulate and execute an idea is confined within the straitjacket of a pitch meeting or query letter.

That’s why so many unknown writers, directors and artists of all sorts stay unknown.*

*Or, as we’ve frequently discussed, you could reject the premise of The Man’s hierarchical paradigm and find a way to DIY. (See yesterday’s post for further thoughts on that.)

UPDATE: Here’s a great survey on the things that drive agents away from you.

Filed under: authors, DIY, Editors, manuscript evaluation, movies, queries, writing tips, , , , , , , , , ,

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

All the dark fantasy fun of the first three books in the Ghosts & Demons Series for one low price.

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

You never know what's real.

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.

Write to live

For my author site and the Chazz network, click the blood spatter below.

See my books, blogs, links and podcasts.

I interview the people you need to get to know.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 10,691 other followers

%d bloggers like this: