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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

They’re going to kill us

AFTER Life INFERNO

is free today and tomorrow

AFTER was a medical miracle. Researchers weaponized it.

Deep in an underground vault, the weapon is waiting.

It wants out.

The Two Ways Series Fiction Can Go

Back when I was co-hosting the Self-publishing Roundtable (RIP), one of our guests was the amazing Wayne Stinnett. Wayne writes compelling page turners set in Florida. He had some interesting advice: In an episodic series, don’t raise the stakes. The adventure happens. The hero saves the day. Next book: new adventure.

Think of it like James Bond movies. Bond goes out, saves the world and comes back to save the world in the next movie. He’s eternal and unchanging. To my mind, the failing of the more recent movies with Daniel Craig is the focus on his age. In the first movie, he’s a terminator bursting through walls and new to the 007 license to kill. In the next, his superiors are ready to put him out to pasture.

In the movies, directors did the same to the original crew of the Enterprise. “Spock, am I too old for this shit?” As a fan I say this sincerely, we didn’t want to hear all that. In a perfect galaxy, Spock and Kirk are still out there saving us again and again. Kirk’s space karate is still strong and no one worries about arthritis. 

Wayne’s not wrong about the benefits of an unchanging protag whose focus is gunshoeing rather than saving the world once and then moving to Arizona to raise Alpacas. Sam Spade and Nero Wolfe never retired, either.

(For more of his excellent advice, check out Wayne’s non-fiction book, Blue Collar to No Collar: From Trucker to Bestselling Novelist in Two Years.)

That said, there is another way to go. Just know that some reviewers will kill you for it. 

In most of my series, I failed to take Wayne’s excellent advice. I raise the stakes. Stuff that happens in the first book has a big impact later on. Story arcs are long. Not everybody is going to like that. Not every casual reader has the patience to get a big pay off in Book 3 whose seeds were planted in Book 1. Alas, that’s usually what I’ve got for readers. I certainly provide thrills and jokes along the way, but the world-saving stakes are often built across multiple books.

I ran across a book blogger who didn’t like Tamara Smythe in Haunting Lessons. In the foundation book of the Dimension War series, Tam was an ordinary and innocent girl in her senior year in high school when she lost her high school sweetheart to the Grim Reaper. That’s how she found out she wasn’t ordinary. She can see ghosts and gets institutionalized for it. As her story develops over three books, she learns that our world has been invaded by interdimensional beings bent on our destruction. Tamara becomes a warrior on our side with blessed weapons and holy bullets. The blogger in question didn’t like it. She wanted Tam to be a badass warrior woman from the first page.

Okay, cool. There are lots of books like that and good for them. That wasn’t our story so my co-author and I didn’t write it that way. Across three books, we were able to tell a story with a bigger scope. And we got to enjoy training montages! People love training montages. From Rocky to the Karate Kid, that’s what makes up the bulk of those movies: learning, growing, changing, building up to kicking ass on a grand scale.

Another example, This Plague of Days definitely raises the stakes. The clues are there, but it’s a slow burn. First, we watch civilization fall. Through the lens of a mute boy on the spectrum, it starts out as a zombie apocalypse without a ton of zombies. As the action rises across the trilogy, the world-building is ambitious and many elements grow and change. New species develop. The Big Bad in Book 1 may seem over the top, but in Book 3, it is revealed why she does what she does and it’s a real kick in the brain pan. I could not deliver those twists within the confines of one book (unless that one book is the big honkin’ omnibus).

In AFTER Life, we follow a Toronto cop, Dan Harmon, into the depths of a weapons research lab. In the rest of the trilogy, he shares the spotlight with Dr. Chloe Robinson as they battle nanotech-powered brain parasites and sentient zombies bent on world domination. Surprising twists emerge that no one reading the first book could have foreseen.

My crime thrillers are a tad more episodic in nature. Jesus Diaz is the funny anti-hero who isn’t quite as good at being a hitman as he thinks he is. He doesn’t change much as a person. Kind of a slow learner. Even so, he messed with the FBI in Bigger Than Jesus. That doesn’t get forgotten just because he’s in a new city in Higher Than Jesus or Hollywood Jesus

Caveat: 

Writing more episodically, some readers may accuse you of “taking the easy way out” and writing the same book over and over. In most cases, they’re dead wrong. I have heard of an author who keeps the same plot and just changes the names and places. That’s not the norm. Conscientious writers publishing episodic series put a lot of effort into their books and aren’t out to provide any less of a thrill to their readers. I don’t think many authors go to the trouble of writing entire series with the goal of short-changing anyone. Sure, there are grifters, but most of us think we’re artistes, dadgummit!

But! And this is a big ole hairy day-glo orange monkey butt:

Many successful series are based on the episodic model and their fans love it. A lot of readers won’t give you a chance after the first book. Tons of readers want “the same thing, only different.” Just like Bond and the original Star Trek crew, the familiar is comforting. Many readers read for comfort. Books in series, particularly long series, tend to make more money.
If writing and eating is your goal, this is the way to bet.

One more time for the doubters in the back: If you want to make more money and catch more readers, refusing to raise the stakes and build castles in the sky might be a safer, more lucrative choice. 

If I had to do it all again, I tell myself I’d write under more pen names and make sure the branding of all my covers was entirely consistent. If I had to do it all again, I tell myself I’d write solely in long series instead of standalones and shorter series that continually raise the stakes until my protagonists are out to save the world instead of themselves. I should have been more strategic and planned series that power on for 27 iterations and go deep on one genre.

I tell myself these things, but I know I’m lying to myself. I don’t write that way, but I probably should have. Shrug. I’d take a lot of really good advice, if only I were an entirely different person.

~ Pick up your complimentary ebook of AFTER Life Inferno today or tomorrow. It’s a quick, breezy read that will get your blood pumping. (Lock the door, too. You’ll feel safer.)

For a look at all my thrill rides, check out my author site, AllThatChazz.com and, while you browse, hit the subscribe button.

AFTER Life is a fast-paced trilogy featuring flawed people, sentient zombies, and brain parasites with aspirations to take over the world. From a task force officer filled with regrets to a nanotech researcher charged with saving the world, the story arc is full of action and twists. The ending will surprise you.

The ebook for Inferno is free today and tomorrow to download at your Amazon store.

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

Marketing Experiments, Promotional Pricing and Free Books

Written Word Media came up with a survey that found optimum pricing to boost author income in fiction ranges from 99¢ to $4.99. Not surprisingly, the more books you write the more you are likely to make. There’s a ton of useful info in their report. Here’s the link.

Here’s how I’m applying that information to my situation (and more)


I’ve been running a lot of experiments with my book marketing this fall. (For instance, after watching the Game Changers movie, I’ve gone vegan.) But you want to hear about my book marketing experiments, not what I’m eating.

From running a ton of Amazon ads to Bookbub ads and featured deals, it’s been a tough go to get visibility and traction. If I hadn’t been publishing since 2011, I’d be in more trouble. You want the what, not the how. Rather than get into the weeds of how I arrived at my conclusions, I’m going to skip to the end and tell you what I’m going to do moving forward based on my experiments.

Here’s the no-bullshit skinny:

  1. I’m no longer interested in running Facebook ads for a variety of reasons. More than the expense, the ethics of a company so willing to subvert democracy by publishing lies and advocating racist news outlets means I’ve got to be out of it. So Ex Parte Press doesn’t commit suicide, I will continue to use it as a free service so I can connect with readers in my FB fan group. That’s the best I can do right now.
  2. Paying for Bookbub ads to go at the bottom of their newsletters? That’s out, too. I tried to make it work. The budget got spent too fast and it did not pay off.
  3. In the past month, I’ve had two Bookbub featured deals. The first was somewhat successful. The second was a disaster. I ignored applying for BB featured deals for their newsletters for too long. Despite the uneven results, I love Bookbub! They’ve been the most reliable book promotion service. However, after getting knocked in the dirt yesterday, my enthusiasm is somewhat deflated.

    The trouble was that they didn’t allow me to promote to the American market in those adverts. For thrillers set in Michigan and New York, that would have been great. I will continue to apply for Bookbub promotions but I’m more willing to say no to a promotion that doesn’t match well with my best market. I make 65% of my income from Amazon.com. Amazon India is just not a factor for me.
  4. By the close of the year, I will have written and published five books in 2019. I’ve written down my plans for 2020 and the pace is going to be about the same. That is my pace. If I write faster, the quality of the reader experience may degrade. No disrespect to anyone who writes faster or slower. That’s just me. However, four of the five books I have planned will be more carefully aimed at a niche market. One of the books is more literary rather than genre so I might shop that to publishers.
  5. I intend to take one series “wide” beyond Amazon’s ecosystem in 2020.
  6. I’m trying to get new covers for my most popular series. Nothing wrong with the covers, necessarily. Just needs a fresh face after being on the market for several years.
  7. I will continue to work with the Amazon ad platform because I can control the budgets better. Unlike Facebook ads, for instance, Amazon ads don’t blow through their budgets as quickly and I feel more in control of the variables. Still, it takes a lot of monitoring and tinkering. I don’t love it but it’s necessary. (Beware of any set-it-and-forget-it marketing schemes.)
  8. No Instagram ads. Tried it. That dog won’t hunt for me. Love the platform but also don’t want to give any money to Zuckerberg.
  9. I’ve become a big fan of BookBrush. For $8 a month, you can make beautiful images for marketing, blogs, posts, etc. I also like cheap image editing services like Crello and Canva. Picmonkey is also useful for a small fee.
  10. I used to appear on several podcasts quite often. I’d like to do more of that again. Remember Author Strong and the Self-publishing Roundtable? Damn, those were fun. A recent study says podcasts help move the needle, too.
  11. That’s a lot of what’s out. What’s else is in, Rob? Give it to me faster!
    (A) Continuing to connect with my readers personally through my Facebook fan group. I post there daily. They get me. I love them. It’s personal and real and real fun.

    (B) I’ll be using free promotions for first in series more often. I’d abandoned that for a long while and focused all my energy on writing. I have to allot a couple of hours a day to tinker with ads, blurb copy, blog posts etc. I write for three or four hours a day. Then I hit the wall and have to sit back and think a bit.
    (C) Focus. I’m tracking time better. I write full-time and work with a great editor (strawnediting.com). That helps me get those five books a year out there. Conscious time management makes me more productive.

    I have a big backlist and a lot of work to do to promote that catalog. However, completing one project at a time would be better. I occasionally do book doctor work, for instance. When I’m doing that for another author, I don’t do any work on my own books.
    (D) Audiobooks. We’ve completed the sound booth in my basement AKA the Blanket Fort. I’m taking an excellent audiobook narration and production course from Udemy.com. Audiobook recording and editing take a lot of time but that’s where the market is going. I hope to have two audiobooks on the market by this time next year.
    (E) Community knowledge and support: The 20Booksto50K Facebook group is a great resource for authors. My resolution is to check in there once a day to see what’s up and what’s new. I don’t post there but I lurk quite enthusiastically.
    (F) Ordinarily, I would be doing NaNoWriMo but that doesn’t fit my schedule this year. I have to come up with a series bible for Item G below and I’ll be editing my new dystopian thriller. That pushes out writing new stuff in November. However, if you’re looking for support and community while you write, sign up for NaNoWriMo now.
    (G) Starting in December, I’ll be writing two books with my buddy Armand Rosamilia. Team writing is a little like tennis. We lob chapters back and forth so writing two books will be more like writing one in terms of word count. If you want to write more, cooperate and coordinate for greater gains, consider teaming up with a co-author.
    (G) According to Written Word Media: Promo sites are the most effective marketing channel. I will be focusing on a few lower-cost sites and sites that are specific to my chosen genres. There is Bookbub, but there are lots of other services, as well. I like Freebooksy and Bargain Booksy, for instance.

Please note: These are my conclusions based on my experiments over the last few months. Your mileage may vary. Educate yourself and experiment to find what works for you. There are no guarantees in this business. Sometimes book sales will take off and we aren’t even sure why. Good books can fall by the wayside and that’s an irritating mystery, too. Only one thing remains constant: Someone helpful and condescending who doesn’t know all your variables will come up with plenty of ideas about why you messed up. (Sorry. Still wincing from yesterday’s failed experiment.)

Okay, deep breath.

What else you got for me, Rob?

More? You want more? How about this:
Two free thrillers and a fan-priced thriller. This is your universal Amazon link to pick them up, binge and love.

Also, here are my latest posts from my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Eight Things You Didn’t Know

Why The Night Man?

Titles, Arcs and ARCs

Sign up for my newsletter while you’re visiting AllThatChazz.com.

And here’s that universal link to my Amazon pages again because, hey, bills to pay and lettuce to buy. Thanks!

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

Book Marketing: Three Tips

Sometimes I clue into useful writing, publishing and publicity tools late. Here are three book marketing tips I’m using now.

Booklinker

The tool I just started using in Booklinker. Instead of breaking out links by individual store, one free link boosts international sales. Make it easier for readers to connect to their home stores with one click and they’ll find our books clickety-quick.

Here’s what mine looks like:

viewauthor.at/RobertChazzChute

Canva

I have been using Canva for social media posts and more for quite a while, actually. It’s free and the user interface is friendly. However, it hadn’t occurred to me before that I could use custom sizing to make buttons for my newsletters and websites. Combine this feature with Booklinker and BOOM:

TAKE ME TO YOUR BOOKS!

Speaking of newsletters, catch my thoughts on how I changed my mind about writing newsletters in my latest blog post. It’s called The Newsletter Deal.

 

Facebook Live:

Authors and publishers are in a pay-to-play environment now. To become visible and sell books, you must advertise. The only thing better to connect with readers and the love of books is to spread your words by word of mouth and personal interaction.

Note: I still don’t recommend hanging out at bookstores and doing signings unless you already have a huge following. It was sad to see one long line of fans for Kelly Armstrong as eight forlorn and lonely unknown authors watched and waited for someone to give them a single glance. Digital interaction is much more efficient and even more fun because I don’t have to leave my house.

Facebook Live is a nice alternative to shouting your name and tossing business cards from a careening car. I’ve done plenty of podcasts so Facebook is the live video equivalent without the longterm commitments podcasts demand.

I’ll be experimenting with my first Facebook Live event tonight at 8 PM EST. I’ll let you know if I throw up from nerves. If that happens, I’ll just keep going. If the event goes well, it’s fun but if it’s an utter disaster, it could be a viral sensation. As long as it isn’t a burning sensation, I’m good.

Find me on Facebook tonight, December 19 at 8 PM EST. I’ll be the one sweating questions and doing my Joker impression.

 

BONUS: The Big Giveaway

Christmas comes early this year. On Friday, December 21, I’m giving away ten of my ebooks for free, no strings attached. Happy holidays! Go to Amazon on Friday and choose what you like among the following ebooks (or download them all!):

AFTER Life Inferno (my new zombie apocalypse)

Machines Dream of Metal Gods (the first book in the Robot Planet Series)

Bigger Than Jesus (The Hit Man novel that started the series)

All Empires Fall, Signals from the Apocalypse (an anthology of end-of-the-world tales)

Wallflower (my time travel novel featuring Kurt Vonnegut as a character)

Dream’s Dark Flight (a paranormal urban fantasy stand-alone novel in the Dimension War universe)

Brooklyn in the Mean Time (my autobiographical crime thriller)

Murders Among Dead Trees (my fiction anthology featuring the award winners)

Self-help for Stoners (a fiction anthology for introspection)

Do the Thing (non-fiction to help you deal with stress)


To subscribe to my newsletter and get a heads up on more giveaways and deals, join up at AllThatChazz.com.

To join me at the Fans of Robert Chazz Chute Facebook group and get behind the curtain daily interaction, click here.

 

Filed under: book marketing, 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.

You can pick this ebook up for free today at this link: http://bit.ly/TheNightMan

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

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