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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Ta-da! Motivation, Inspiration & Information for Writers

Whether you’re about to throw yourself into the teeth of National Novel Writing Month or every month feels like a NaNoWriMo frenzy, I have two new books (in pixels and paper) to keep your writing and publishing flow: Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire. Boiled down from over 1,000 posts on this blog, I’ve edited again, added bonus writing and publishing  tips plus new content that’s never been seen on ChazzWrites. 

Need more? How about free ebooks? When you sign up for my newsletter at AllThatChazz.com, you automatically get a shout out on the All That Chazz podcast and a plug for your website. However, there’s a new and different cross-promotion you can’t get anywhere else. Sign up for the newsletter, answer a qualifying question in the back of the books, and you get a coupon to receive a free ebook of suspense. Complete the easy giveaway instructions and you get the podcast plug, and/or Sex, Death & Mind Control and/or Self-help for Stoners! If writing and publishing books aren’t for you, there’s a similar offer in the back of Higher Than Jesus, the next instalment of The Hit man Series. (#1 was Bigger than Jesus.)

Jump in for the hardboiled fun. Higher Than Jesus promises a little less swearing, snappy dialogue and jokes, more sex, more twists and more clever violence. My Cuban hit man is embroiled in a conspiracy around an arms deal in Chicago that has dire ramifications for the entire United States. It’s a classic tale of Bad versus Evil.

LATEST PODCAST: The Halloween edition of the All That Chazz Podcast is up with a reading of “The Way Out is Through”, a chapter of Bigger Than Jesus. Hear the podcast at the AllThatChazz author site.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is the author of Bigger Than Jesus, Higher Than Jesus, The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories, Self-help for Stoners, Crack the Indie Author Code, Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire, and Sex, Death & Mind Control (for fun and profit). 

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Ultimate Blog Challenge: Considering free ebooks

July 16, 17, 18

The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories is FREE 

FREE FOR 3 DAYS.
Small-town terrors and psychological mayhem in Maine.

Last week I read a couple of debates about whether free is good or bad. JA Konrath is all for it. Blake Crouch isn’t so sure. There are good points on both sides of the debate. You’ll notice I’m offering one of my short story collections for free for three days this week in the hope that I will gain some readers who wouldn’t otherwise find me. I do so wholeheartedly and hope you’ll go grab it. It helps to get on lists like “Customers Also Viewed…” and so on. This post is about book promotion. I think Free is still a useful tool, though its edge has dulled considerably.

The root of the back and forth on the issue of using free as a promotional tool seems to break down along two main lines:

1. Argument against free from principle (i.e. Art shouldn’t be devalued and lowering readers’ expectations of price is a stupid strategy in the long term.) Argument 1 might be right in the long-term, but if I don’t get into your consciousness now, there may be no long-term for me as a writer. Also, the exclusivity that KDP Select requires — three months at a time — rubs many authors raw. Amazon has certainly lost some of its shine and if you lose too many sales because you aren’t up on Kobo etc.,… as well, free days on Amazon probably don’t make sense past your first three months of offering the book. It’s also argued, often effectively, that free feeds the trolls of the one-star review brigade who review harshly because they didn’t pay attention to what they were “buying.” Or they’re just it in to be mean trolls, I guess. So you can argue that free hurts not only the cause of enlightened literacy generally, but it hurts author’s feelings and review ratings individually.

2. Argument for free because it works (i.e. If you can write, you can sell books, but not if no one knows who you are. Give away to get new readers.) Argument 2 is weakened because, since Amazon changed its algorithms, free doesn’t work nearly as well as it did a few months ago. People are loading up their kindles, but are they ever getting around to reading all that hoarded goodness so they could, theoretically, become a fan and buy the rest of my books? (If you don’t have multiple books for sale, free surely won’t help you now. Have multiple books going before you dive into KDP Select’s free days.)

So here’s my strategy:

A. I try not to confuse an Ought with an Is. The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories is a collection of fun suspense and small-town mayhem in Poeticule Bay, Maine. In the future, I plan a series of suspenseful novels set in Poeticule Bay. Many of my stories have characters who cross-pollinate other stories. (For instance, Jesus Diaz, my luckless Cuban hit man, shows up first in a story in Self-help for Stoners.) There is worthy cross-promotion in this.

B. I added value to this collection. The novella, The Dangerous Kind and several of the stories were previously published individually and sold for 99 cents each. I added two more stories to the collection, including the award winner The Sum of Me (which brought down the house when I gave a reading at a writers conference a few years ago.) The Sum of Me appeals to writers or anyone who has struggled with credit card debt. The usual price of the collection is only $2.99 and for three days, it’s free. Good deal.

C. What I put up on Amazon for free will only be available for a limited time. After my three-month exclusivity contract with KDP Select is over, I’ll put the books up on the other platforms. (As mentioned last week on this blog, Kobo, as one instance, is changing things up and coming on stronger. Keep an eye on them.)

Questions remain: When I read a guru with a big name say we should do this or that to sell our books, I wonder, does the same strategy work for a big name as a small one? Is every bit of advice fungible? Things change. If we were still on Amazon’s old Free List to Paid List formula (and maybe if we weren’t in the middle of a glut of free) I’d already be sitting pretty.

Good strategies are realistic, doable, measurable, timely (and are always declared “good” after the fact and without factoring in luck.) I’ll let you know if this strategy moves the needle.

Free might not be as good as it once was,

but now I don’t know what else to do to get off the bench besides write another book.

I’m already doing that.

PLEASE GRAB THE DANGEROUS KIND & OTHER STORIES HERE

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AB Challenge 24: More on Free Books. Moron Free Books.

Yesterday, we talked about free ebooks and me. Now let’s talk about you, too. Recently we said, “Free is the new 99 cents!” Now free is fraught with diminished opportunity and all that lousy freeness. Let’s delve into pricing ebooks for promotions and try to figure out for ourselves if this is a time to rest and recover or should we double down on ebook marketing?

History: Last year, selling at 99 cents still moved some books and gained new readers. The royalty wasn’t great but it was a loss leader. Now 99 cents just seems to be a loss. I had my novella, The Dangerous Kind, up for 99 cents. It’s a great story that slides the steel home at around 10,000 words. After analysing the sales (took two seconds) I’ve taken it down. Later this week it will be back on Amazon for $2.99, bundled in with some Poeticule Bay short stories. My short story collections sell, but offering a deal on a shorter work didn’t attract readers and my short stories on Smashwords (each priced at 99 cents) aren’t moving as is so they’ll all be in one collection: The Dangerous Kind and Other Stories.

Part of the problem was the old cover for my novella. I’ve blogged about this issue before so I won’t rehash it. I’ll only say: Be indie if you want, but make sure your covers don’t look indie. (My graphic designer, Kit Foster can help you with that at a very reasonable price for a very professional look.)

GET BIGGER THAN JESUS

The Loss Leader Pricing Paradox: You’re pricing your work inexpensively to attract new readers. You’re hoping new people will find you, take a chance on you, dig your flavour, buy all your books and spread your holy word. However, going cheap actually repels some browsers because they associate a cheap price with a bad book. So many times I’ve read in comment threads, “If the author values their work so little, why should I?” There’s someone who doesn’t appreciate the indie author’s bind. I’ll save your life for free. Does that make your life worth less? (Ooh, he’s cranky today!)

Which brings us to the Opportunity/Problem Paradox: The same browsers who think 99 cents cheapens the inherent value of the book often think no less of an author who offers their work for free. All ebooks have free samples, of course, but I don’t think very many potential buyers look at them. They go by genre, the author’s rep, the cover and the description (not necessarily in the that order.) Free is easy and no risk and I haven’t seen many people casting aspersions on authors offering free entertainment. Free is so ubiquitous, it’s considered the norm. It’s an opportunity for the reader and the writer. Free is so ubiquitous, it’s a problem because of the glut of free ebooks on e-readers. We’re drowning in free.

The Perceived Value Corollary: There are so many free books filling up e-readers that readers have no commitment to what they download. (Amazon says, “Click to buy”, but if it’s free, it really means “Click to download”, doesn’t it?) Many of those free books will go unread. When you can click and get, click and get, click and get, there’s no investment on the reader’s part in individual books. Instead, the hoarder mentality rises. What this means for writers is, the minute you’ve dared to slow down your narrative, the quicker the reader is to dump you for another free ebook. We’ve already seen evidence of this trend: there’s less of a market for literary fiction that demands more of the reader.

PV Corollary Case study: A buddy of mine was a sales rep for Margaret Atwood and loved her to bits. I told him I couldn’t get into The Handmaid’s Tale. I bailed out after too many slow pages examining the scratchings of previous handmaids in the rear of the bedroom closet. “Chazz,” he said,”What you’ve got to learn to do when a story slows down too much is grab a few pages and flip forward.” I’m a bit OCD about reading every word so I was a bit shocked. Skipping a page  had never occurred to me. “So…” I said, “You haven’t read it, either!”

The Hidden Unintended Consequence: On an e-reader, no one knows what you’re reading on the bus to work. Sales of erotica have risen because we don’t have to hide our actual taste or pay at a bookstore register manned by a silver-haired woman who looks exactly like Baptist Grammy. Only Homeland Security and the computers that record everything know all you really want is Fifty Shades of Grey. However, it’s not just about erotica. The market has ruled and so-called “downmarket” fiction is what people buy. The readers disagree with the historic arbiters of taste about what’s important. (Did you hear that pop? Somebody’s head exploded again. Clean up, aisle three!)

The Value Addition: When you buy a book — not just download it for free — you show commitment. You’re trusting the author to show you a good time and if you throw it aside, you aren’t just tossing the book. You’re throwing away the bucks you put into it, too.

The Cost-benefit Analysis: For readers, free books are great because choice is awesome. For the writer, providing free books is a way to gain the trust of the reader at no risk (to the reader.) It’s about exposure so you get ranked on lists. Many readers don’t trust reviews (often unfairly) so free is one  avenue into their hearts and minds. We’re making a short-term sacrifice to get our work read, to get on “also viewed and also bought lists” and to get our share of that sweet lending pot of gold from Amazon. Giving our precious away for free is an advertising cost that doesn’t show up as a debit in our bank accounts, but it’s still a cost.

The Cost-benefit Caveat: Since Amazon changed their algorithm, it’s not as happy a story as it was last December. Unless you wrote Fifty Shades of Grey, sales have slumped across the board since March and we’re now into the summer doldrums of the book buying year. The market is as cyclical as the sea. The wind will come back in our sails. The readers will return as free diminishes. Some authors are opting out of KDP Select, or opting in for one three-month cycle for the promotion and then opting out to stop the exclusivity clause and give other sales outlets a chance.

The Irrational Variable Conundrum: Does free devalue literature? Will our prices be chronically depressed because of free? As an indie writer, this isn’t a question that affects me. The higher prices traditional publishers charge for ebooks doesn’t mean that their authors are getting more dough. It’s going to the publishers for their high overheads. I only have to pay me so the 70% royalty rate on my books still looks pretty sweet to me. Like they used to say in cheesy, local car commercials on cable, “How do we do it? Volume!” I’m glad traditional publishers keep their ebook prices high. It gives a guy like me a chance at being discovered.

Will these short-term sacrifices mean long-term financial pain? No, yes and maybe. Who knows? I’m suspicious of too much certainty. Your answer may vary because the fulcrum for this heavy conundrum rests of an irrational variable: How high were your expectations to begin with? Is this side money, the size, say, of the little Swiss Chalet side salad? Did you want the comfort of the double leg dinner as an income? Or did you want the richness of the full Swiss Chalet Family pack with the coconut cream pie for desert? Input your variable and solve for X.

Conclusions: Given the free ebook glut, do you market even harder now that we’re into summer’s slow days? I think I’ll just stay the course. It feels like trying to run up the down escalator and I already flog hard enough as it is. Instead, I’m focusing my energies on putting up more of the work I’ve prepared and I’m writing new stuff. I’m giving the market more time to recover so I’ll be ready with more books to sell.

Putting up more books is the only sure way I know of selling more books.

Predictions:  New strategies will emerge, but no one seems sure what The Answer is. It might not be one answer and it might not be as dramatic and sweeping as the free ebook boom that hit the market when Amazon’s KDP Select algorithms benefited us so much back in December. I suspect we’ll be actively spending more money on advertising and promotion for our books in the near future. I’m aware of a few new and clever-sounding strategies, but they are as yet untested by the market’s searing flame. I’ll revisit said strategies in a future post, but today’s post is already too long and don’t we have some serious writing to do?

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Author Blog Challenge 23: Free sex and the value of an ebook

GET BIGGER THAN JESUS

Why should he pay for the cow when he can get the milk for free? If you’re unfamiliar with this distasteful euphemism, it’s meant to control and shame women so they defy their biological needs and get married too young to the first doofus* who comes along so they won’t risk being called sluts by a repressed and repressive patriarchy and said patriarchy’s agents. It’s the same misogyny behind, “For birth control, hold an aspirin between your knees,” and “Good cowgirls keep their calves together!” It’s kind of funny the first time you hear it. Then you realize it’s a power grab meant to squelch the joys of life and your humanness. (I do love a breakdown of social constructs so the deviant subtext in revealed.) What, you ask, does that have to do with ebooks? Everything.

Yesterday began a little after 5 a.m. It continued until 3 a.m. I hasten to add there were distractions. I did stop to shower and eat. There’s a shower hose over my desk chair by the IV pole. The IV bags are full of double espresso. The desk chair is a toilet. It’s like the helpful chairs in WALL-e, before that evil little robot screwed everything up for everybody and made them get up and move around outside. Mostly, I formatted my new book. For all the work, I wonder if people will buy it when they can have it for free?

Crack the Indie Author Code: Aspire to Inspire (by Robert Chazz Chute, coming in early July!) is a book based on the best of this blog. I’m creeping up on 1,000 posts and I thought it was time I made something more concrete of it. It’ll be my favorite posts in one convenient, pithy, humorous, inspirational package. I’m editing again and updating as I go, of course. At over 90,000 words, it will be my comprehensive take on what the newbie needs to know and what the self-publishing veterans’ choir likes to sing. I wrote a note in the front matter about who the book is for. I made sure to say: Hey, if you want the milk for free, feel free to sift through the blog. ChazzWrites is free. All the podcasts at AllThatChazz are free, too. Everything I sell is so close to free in price, you’d tip the pizza guy what you’d pay for my books. Enjoy! I give freely, without remorse or hesitation or hard feelings. Surprising, because, as a cheap writer who can pinch a Canadian quarter until the moose screams (that’s “eagle screams” if you’re in the United States), I’m actually a terrible tipper.

There is a lot of information that’s free on the Internet so I try to keep ChazzWrites.com fresh and a little different — even contrarian. I think I convey that information with a certain flair, but my hairdresser thinks he’s funny, too. Meanwhile, I just wish he’d never learned to speak english. I’m not going deep  into ever-changing information, either. Crack the Indie Author Code isn’t about the latest marketing theory for self-publishing. It’s evergreen stuff — old-fashioned from a new angle —  about writing craft as seen through my lens and as told to any writer who is more eager for cozy inspiration than ebook marketing advice. (With the changes at Amazon, a lot of marketing theory is still up in the air, but if you want a solid marketing book that’s user-friendly, buy my friend Jeff Bennington’s book, The Indie Author’s Guide to the Universe and check his site for updates.)

Since my new book is hidden right here within nigh 1,000 posts, why buy it to put it on your e-reader? What’s the unique selling point? What’s the value to the customer? I’d say: ease of use; improved readability; improved searchability; updates; new content; improved content; my moral support and your grasping consumerism. I make better jokes as I make another pass at the content, too.

As I go through Crack the Indie Author Code, I can see how some of my ideas have changed over time. When I started this blog, I talked a lot more about craft and writing mechanics. Self-publishing needed more cheerleaders then.  Now we need more leaders. Early on there was more, “Rah! Rah! Rah! Those guys in trad pub don’t get it and don’t see what’s coming!” I omitted some of those posts even though I was right. They were appropriate at the time, but it’s time to mature (the jokes are still less than mature.) Self-publishing’s next step is simply to call it publishing. We need to get past hang-ups about trad versus indie. Yes, of course, there’s still value in traditional publishing. It’s not going away. It’s just changing radically. The new paradigm is not necessarily either/or. Depending on business cases, multiple variables and your temperament, you may choose to do both and only the terminally crank y will fault you. Meanwhile, successful revolutions establish regimes.

But, will anyone bother to buy another writing book? Don’t we have enough?  The broad answer is, can you get enough of whatever your passion is? More particular to my writing book, those who like my flavor will buy it. Those who won’t, won’t.  That’s all beside the point, anyway. I know it’s a business, but I don’t write for you because I can’t anticipate all your  variables and idiosyncrasies. I can only write to my taste. I write for your adulation, sure, but first, I write to entertain myself. I’m hoping you’ll say, “Oh, Chazz, how clever you are! I’ll buy umpteen copies for all my friends!” But before you ever get a chance to evaluate, that’s me sitting at my keyboard enjoying the dopamine trickling and tickling my neo-cortex. That’s me saying, “Oh, Chazz, how clever you are!” We write for ourselves first, not the reader. The act of writing is primary, sometimes even primal. The point is to form the thoughts, think through your typing fingers and transcend the blank page until you’re high on the creative rush.

Will Free beat out $3.99 in the cost-benefit analysis? No. You’ll buy my cow for convenience or for other variables, not least of which is, to have and to hold. And, to answer the ugly metaphor that began this piece? Most  people enjoy free premarital sex and yet most people still marry (some to dark and very costly ends.) At $3.99, the risk is microscopic compared to marrying someone.

To win your $3.99, I just have to create something I’ll love.

If you’re of the same mind, I have a sale.

Back to the espresso drip. I’m off to make that dopamine gush!

* Generalizations aren’t fair. Sometimes the first doofus is the right doofus, but most people these days test out several to many doofuses before selecting the one doofus they can love (and be most angry at without opting for murder) for the length of their marriage and possibly the rest of their lives.

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

Free eBooks – Get Used To It

Via Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction

Giving away the books you have written seems to defy logic. Why give away all your hard work for nothing?

(Continuing this week with the free ebook issue, Derek Haines of The Vandal points out that many of our generous ebook giveaways will languish unread. Well…darn. Click the link to get the scoop. ~ Chazz)
Via www.derekhaines.ch

Filed under: ebooks, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, self-publishing, Useful writing links, , , , , ,

Scott Nicholson: Generosity marketing is not marketing

Via Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction

Let’s continue with our exploration of generosity as marketing (not marketing? Un-marketing?) with this great post by Scott Nicholson talking about free books. I recently downloaded a lot of free books. If they weren’t digital, they’d weigh half a ton. Those books led me to download other books which ranged from 99 cents to $2.99. Free worked for someone, though not necessarily the author who gave away his book. Now…when will I get a chance to read your book with 93 books on my Kindle? Uh-oh. I think I just found another problem for authors with “free” approach. Please click the Scoopit! link below to plug Mr. Nicholson’s observations about free into your head. Good stuff to ponder. ~ Chazz
Via hauntedcomputer.blogspot.com

Filed under: ebooks, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, self-publishing, Writers, , , , , , , ,

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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