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

Write and publish with love and fury.

20 on Book Publishing, 1 on Making Money and 1 for a laugh

We’ve all listened to the Rocking Self-publishing Podcast, The Sell More Books Show and Self-publishing Podcast. However, there are more than those three. Here are some more publishing podcasts to look into:

1. The Digital Publishing Podcast (it’s on hiatus but listen to the archives)

2. Dead Robots Society

3. The Kindle Chronicles (Check out the latest Seth Godin interview!)

4. Self-publishing Answers

5. Writers Rebellion

6. Ebook Publishing Podcast

7. Books, Business and Beyond

8. Write 2B Read

9. Buddy’s Writing Show

10. Self-Publishing Questions

11. The Creative Penn Podcast (Listening now to The Story Grid with Joanna Penn’s guest, Shawn Coyne.)

12. Arm Cast Dead Sexy Horror Podcast

13. The Publishing Profits Podcast

14. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast

15. And every Thursday at 10 PM EST, listen to the Self-publishing Roundtable. 

16. The Writing Biz

17. The Author Biz (Check out the latest interview with Kristine Katherine Rusch!)

Overwhelming isn’t it?

Just remember to write first. Podcasts are for treadmills, washing dishes, driving and down time.

I have two more recommendations. Though it’s not specific to self-publishing, I’d say we all have to listen to Pat Flynn’s podcast, Smart Passive Income.

Then, a palate cleanser. How about a little comedy? Last week’s target was Sarah Palin. This week, zee vorld!

Yes, I changed the format to the All That Chazz Podcast. Check out the latest episode here and have a laugh.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is your friendly lunatic suspense novelist. Find my weird at AllThatChazz.com.

UPDATE:

The first book about my funny assassin trying to get out of the mob is now finally FREE! Click the cover to grab it now!

Bigger_Than_Jesus_Cover_for_Kindle

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

Step One in Book Cover Design: Find a Wonderfully Mad Genius…

Striking covers are more important than seeing the author’s whole name. Your name is with the listing of the book, so don’t sweat that. What’s more important? Choose a cover designer with skill, confidence and experience who is easy to work with. For me, that’s award-winning designer Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com.

Thanks for two great covers, Kit. You’re one of Scotland’s national treasures.

I’ve spoken with some of my mastermind group about my omnibus for This Plague of Days and the Hit Man Series. Readers seem to love binge reads these days more than they love serialization. I know some authors are turning to serialization again with the changes that Kindle Unlimited has wrought, but I think you’ll see more omnibuses and box sets as the writing community adjusts, and possibly writes faster than they have done in the past.

Or read the trilogy all at once for one low price.

Read the trilogy all at once for one low price.

~ For more of my mad genius, please subscribe for updates about new books, podcasts and more at AllThatChazz.com. Thanks!

Filed under: author platform, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What’s the right price for a book?

When discussing book marketing, writers often debate free versus cheap versus charging what a book is worth. “What a book is worth” can be a moving target, depending on who you ask and when. Here are some factors to consider:

1. Length of the book.

My friend and co-author, Holly Pop, wrote a novella, Ouija: Based on a True Story. It charted at 99 cents, but since going up to $2.99, it’s still charting and doing well. Short doesn’t have to mean 99 cents. It’s around 8,000 words and people still want it. Pick it up. It’s really compelling.

2. Genre.

Some genres, like epic fantasy or historical romance, seem to have readers who expect higher word counts. They often want more than 100,000 words.

I think many readers are becoming less sensitive to word count. That’s good. What should matter to us, as readers and writers, is providing value for money. My books are getting shorter. I start looking for the exit around 50,000 words and I generally find it north of 60,000 words. Still a good-sized book that doesn’t feel to the reader like it’s full of shortcuts. Consider that a lot of people are grooving on shorter, fast-paced books, too. They don’t feel they have time for very long books. (I think that trend will continue.)

3. Intent and timing.

Is this book a loss leader? Is it meant to be an introduction and sales funnel for a series? You might put it at perma-free or you might decide to offer an introductory price of 99 cents. You might also choose to put it at whatever you consider full price and hold a sale once in a while to move more books (and include a call to action to your other, similar, books.) You might even just write the bloody book, slap on the price you think is fair, never drop the price ever. You might start high and slowly drop (the traditional approach) or you might start low to get more attention and reviews and slowly raise the price.

4. Is it time to reevaluate your book prices? 

Here’s my little case study:

I had the first Season of This Plague of Days set at 99 cents for a long time. I don’t personally like that price — not much sense having a pulse sale on a 99 cent book — but it got people looking at it who might have passed me by otherwise. It’s at 100 reviews now and more people are opting for the This Plague of DaysOmnibus Edition (greater value for the price and it contains all three books for an epic saga many compare favorably to The Stand.) All things considered, time to assert worth, right?

I put the price up to $3.99 today. According to Amazon’s price estimation tool, I should be charging $5.99 for a revenue increase of 451% and a drop in unit sales by half. However, Season One is the first in the series and the other books are also $3.99 each (while the TPOD Omnibus is at $6.99 and around 300,000 words.) No reasonable reader could say I’m trying to gouge them by keeping the price to $3.99. Arguably, I priced the first book in the series too low for too long. In the long-term, price should reflect value, but value is not the lone factor.

5. You.

Another consideration when setting prices is your sensibility and your confidence in the value of your product. Do you feel you’re well-known enough to set a higher price or are you still stuck enticing them with a low price? (Note: that strategy may well be deep in the Law of Diminishing Returns since competing on price is far less effective now.)

Also: Is the quality high? Do the reviews back that up for someone happening across your author page for the first time? Are you marketing your work well? What does “full price” mean to you, anyway? If you get a complaint about a price point, comparing it unfavorably to a low word count, for instance, will that send you reeling into a rage and/or depression?

Here’s one thing you don’t have to worry about: history.

If you priced a book too low or too high, you can always change it. You can experiment with price until you find the price that moves books effectively but still pays. Some writers worry that readers will complain about cost, comparing it to what it has been priced in the past. That’s rare. If I hadn’t just given you the history of a couple of my book prices, how many of you would really know what I charged yesterday? A few to none. Feel free to experiment.

6. Don’t discount free unnecessarily, either.

The truth is this: I think my crime novels rock. The Hit Man Series is a fun and funny romp with some serious power and punch behind it. (My fave is Hollywood Jesus, for the John Leguizamo joke alone.) However, it’s one of those best kept secrets that needs to get out there and mingle. I’m not seeing enough movement nor enough reviews on those titles. To get more readers to take a chance on my funny Cuban hit man, Jesus Diaz, I’m going to make the first novel in the series perma-free or at least tempo-free. Bigger Than Jesus is already on Kobo for free and I’m hoping Amazon will price match soon.

(Let Amazon know it’s free on Kobo here.)

If a series isn’t moving the way it should, consider doing a giveaway so you draw more readers into the fold. It’s not necessarily that your book series is ugly. It could be that Book #1 hasn’t gone on enough dates yet. Those who know it, love it, so eventually, everybody is going to love Jesus.

7. Stay flexible.

It may take a lot of experimentation and experience before you find the price move that’s right for you. Then you’ll have the same journey of discovery when you publish the next book, too. I’m on that journey, still experimenting. I don’t think that experimentation ever really stops. It’s just forgotten for a while until we figure it’s time to reassess sales and marketing and pricing again.

~ Robert Chazz Chute will publish his next novel (with co-author Holly Pop) later this week. It’s called The Haunting Lessons, an urban fantasy about a young woman from Iowa who, when tragedy strikes, discovers she has powers she never suspected. It’s the beginning of a fun series packed with jokes and disaster. If you want to join the fight and survive Armageddon, look for it on Amazon this weekend.

Filed under: Amazon, author platform, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What if What We Think We Know About Writing, Publishing & Promotion is Wrong?

TWEAKED JESUS OMNIBUS COVER WITH CROSS

Problem:

Blogging is dead. I’ve been spinning out gold here for years. Maybe I should have spent more time writing books instead because my blog stats are fairly static. This site gets pretty decent traffic when I post, but it’s not growing as I’d hoped. Still glad to do it because it’s a compulsion, but I don’t do it as often and I don’t do it to sell books. I’m here to gain allies, share information and rant when the pressure builds too high.

My book sales come through Amazon promoting me, perhaps the occasional ad, pulse sales and, most important, word of mouth. I experiment with categorization and keywords and KDP Select. I write surprising books with many twists and turns and emotional gut punches. Sometimes it feels like I’ve been teetering on the cusp of success a long time and sometimes that’s lonely and sad. That’s when I stalk around the house naked, overcompensate for my doubt, pour a stiff coffee and start shouting, “Tonight I shall drink from the Chalice of Glory!” 

Solution:

We all need an author page, but do we really need to blog? Instead, go where it’s easier for consumers of information to consume. Twitter, when used well, is one option and less time-consuming.

Note, too, there are far fewer podcasts than there are blogs. I’m back podcasting after taking a hiatus. My podcast stats not only bounced up nicely with one new episode this past week, but the numbers were pretty steady in my absence. To catch the latest All That Chazz podcast (The Hit Man Edition) click here.

The Oft-repeated Wisdom May be a Lie.

Gird your loins because this is going to get scary. Here’s what we think we all know for sure:

Market your books by writing more books.

Well, yes and no. If you have a hit, your new adoring readers may want to read everything you write and then it finally will pay to have a huge back list. However, it amazes me how many readers are very genre-specific in their tastes. More books doesn’t necessarily translate to more sales.

I know this goes against everything you’ve read and it goes against what I believed until recently. But, as Tucker Max said on the Self-Publishing Podcast recently, “Book discovery is broken.”

My Evidence: 

1. Some authors are making good money writing fairly crappy books, and fairly few. (So much for the “Make-it-great-and-it-will-certainly-sell meme.”) What makes them hot? Genre choice is one major factor, I suspect.

2. It’s surprising how many authors seem to do okay with their first book or two. Or they get featured on podcasts and whatnot despite being relative novices. Is it their marketing machine, their genre of choice or luck? (More about the touchy subject of luck in a moment.)

3. It’s disheartening to find (in my informal and unscientific survey) that there are solid, experienced authors who:

(A) appear to be great at marketing,

(B) have an impressive number of books to sell, and yet,

(C) one of their series is actually selling and just about everything else is not. Read (C) again. Aren’t you glad your girded your loins? I know it’s counterintuitive, but it’s what I’ve been told by authors with a lot of books out there (as in more than thirty).

Some authors are blaming cannibalization from Kindle Unlimited for their recent sales dip. Or is it that the recession still rolls on in too many places? Or is it that readers already have too many free books to read? Can we blame our sales platforms? The narrow availability of Bookbub and the ineffectiveness of non-Bookbub sales tools? As a last resort, I suppose we could blame ourselves, but don’t wallow. I’m here to open the Box of Depression, not stuff you in deeper.

The Lie We All Need to Believe

On a recent publishing podcast, somebody who is making many thousands of dollars a month said something like: “Any author with persistence will make it big.”

Math says that’s not true. We won’t all make it big. Many of us won’t make it at all. Like the stock market, everybody can’t ride high by sheer force of will. If persistence alone were the issue, I’d have fewer writer friends constantly worried about money. I think some of us have to work smarter, but many of us are certainly working very hard. Telling us to bear down even more isn’t really helpful and may be damaging to our health, our relationships and our self-esteem.

HJ COVER FINAL LADY IN RED

About luck

People who do make it big will usually say something humble about being lucky. Then they’ll detail the strategies to which they attribute their success. They might be right or they may be rationalizing. They might not attribute enough of their success to luck and organic growth. But more important, can their experience translate to ours? If you’re not in the same genre and working in the same time frame with the same resources, can you replicate what they did to earn readers?

My strategies going forward:

1. Still blogging, but less so. Podcasting more. Worrying less.

2. I’m holding off on the spin-off of the Hit Man Series I’d planned. Common wisdom is that many thriller series don’t seem to take off until you’re at book #5 or above. Hollywood Jesus and The Divine Assassin’s Playbook, Omnibus Edition just launched and I’m at Book #3. I hope to bring the sales of my crime novels up as the charms of my funny Cuban assassin, Jesus Diaz, are discovered. Therefore, I’ll write more of the Hit Man Series, faster. Come for the action and stay for the jokes as he falls out of the frying pan and into the napalm.

3. Work in popular genres. I’m not talking about chasing trends so much as acknowledging that I can write in more genres than I’ve allowed myself in the past. To get where I need to go so I can write more on a full-time basis, the work needs to pay.

Choosing more popular genres first is the equivalent of choosing to paddle the white water to get where I need to be (and get there faster.) I can still make any book a labor of love without throwing away profitability.

For instance, I love my upcoming time travel book. I’ve been stunned to discover there are a lot of fans of time travel who are asking me to hurry up and put that one out. My next book is another crime novel, but I’ll get to it all. I am putting books out faster now, but it may be speed of production within a genre (not necessarily flat numbers of books) that helps me avoid the infamous Cliff of Visibility from which we drop after thirty days on the market.

I also produce more books because, as with this blog, it’s about doing what I love. Produce as much as you want, but don’t pin all your hopes on any one book. Just write because you want and need to.

Opening up to New Possibilities is Another Way Forward

Recently, a publisher approached me about writing a ghost story for an anthology. It’s an honor to be asked, but that genre doesn’t appeal to me. Or rather, it didn’t appeal to me.

I noodled with a few ideas. Then I started losing sleep over it. Unless we’re talking Poltergeist, my problem with ghosts is their lack of agency. What does a ghost want? How are they a threat? How could I make readers care? Did I really want to write this at all?

The key question I ask for all my book ideas persisted:

How could I transform an old idea into a fresh and cool story?

She Who Must Be Obeyed doesn’t ask about my insomnia, anymore. She just meets me at the breakfast table with, “Busy brain?” The insomnia finally paid off. I found the hook and the angle I needed to get into the story. I want to write for that anthology now because I found the key to the main character. I also want to write a series of books on that foundation.

I never looked down on ghost stories. I just figured they were for other writers to write. Now I know I can still write whatever I want. The difference is now I’m going to let myself play in a much larger playground.

Excuse me. I have to go write a metric crap-ton of books now. For the love of it.

 

 

 

Filed under: Publicity & Promotion, publishing, self-publishing, What about Chazz?, What about you?, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sell More Books Top 10: Variables that build success

We often don’t know for sure which strategies sell more books so we have to fire a lot of bullets into the darkness. Last week, the best advice I heard, repeated from a couple of authors, was about the willingness to experiment.

When it comes to radioactive isotopes, infant juggling and indie publishing, it’s good fun to mess around. Play with the variables to sell more books. What are some of those variables? Here we go:

1. If your cover doesn’t sell the book hard enough, change it.

Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire wasn’t selling the numbers I wanted. I changed the cover.

WYB NEW COVERcover

2. I played with categories for the Hit Man Series.

My funny and luckless assassin is Cuban, so I tried the Hispanic & Latino category. Didn’t work. I switched it back. Each failure is a refinement. It’s not permanent so relax and fire more shots into the dark.

3. I’m experimenting with keywords, too.

Did you know you don’t have to use a single word (i.e. crime, thriller, action, romance) for keywords? You can add up to seven phrases and it can pay to make them less generic. Cater to your niche and, for more on this strategy, listen to Nick Stephenson’s interview on the Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast with host Simon Whistler. It’s called “Quadruple Your Kindle Sales.” That got your attention and turned you into a podcast listener, didn’t it?

Don’t forget to play with changes to your book descriptions, as well. Use keywords where appropriate. Don’t fall into the trap of awkwardly stuffing keywords into the description so it sounds like you’re straining to please search engine robots.

While you’re plugging podcasts into your head, please do listen to my interview on Episode #60 of Rocking Self-publishing. We had a lot of fun talking about how to enjoy marketing your book.

4. I changed the cover for my poetry book, too.

Poetry is hard enough to sell so don’t handicap your efforts with a sad cover like I did. I changed the cover using an image from Pond5 and switching back and forth from two photo editors, Picmonkey and KD Renegade. 

As always, I recommend the awesome cover design work of Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com. He wasn’t available this week, so I improvised. It’s an improvement on the original cover (which was my fault, not Kit’s. The original crap cover was my design, too.)

BRAINGASMS FINAL cover

5. My biggest change was long overdue.

My first book was a fun, funny and thoughtful short story collection to read on the toilet. It’s called Self-help for Stoners. Unfortunately, I uploaded my first indie published foray through an intermediary. To make changes to the text cost a lot of money. It needed another edit so I have reclaimed the book from the intermediary. Huzzah!

I did the edit for the second edition. I added bonus material (big tastes of two of my series) so it could act as an introduction to my kind of crazy. Finally, it’s also a sales funnel to my newer books. 

Self Help for Stoners JPEG

I can do more with this book now, like experiment with variables. I can play with the price, keywords and categories. I can change strategies as needed and put it in KDP Select and try countdown deals etc,….

The print version of the second edition will be for sale again soon so I’ll have more to sell for the Christmas season. Most important, with these changes, I’m delivering a better reading experience along with all that awesome hilarity. It’s a relief to be back in the driver’s seat.

6. Speed.

I’ve been thinking a lot about production speed as marketing. I’m changing my production timetable. The third book in the Hit Man Series hits October 1.

HJ COVER FINAL LADY IN RED

The goal is to put out another crime novel thirty days after that. Thirty days later, the plan is to put out a time travel novel. The books are all written and in the editorial pipeline. I’ll also add an omnibus edition of the first three books in the series.

TWEAKED JESUS OMNIBUS COVER WITH CROSS

The goal is to avoid falling off the cliff. All authors experience the cliff. After a month on Amazon, your beautiful baby is old news and sales tend to begin to slide as you disappear from the list of freshly minted books. Publish a new book more often and all your sales may be buoyed…assuming all the other variables are properly in place. For instance, if the story sucks, nothing can save us.

7. Accept failure as part of the play in the gears.

Please keep in mind that you can put all the sales variables in place, but that does not necessarily mean the book will move. It should move more, but there are too many variables we can’t control. Maybe you’re going head to head against a book with tons of mojo and money behind it. Maybe you’re at the top of a genre that is stone cold. Maybe the book just isn’t that good or you’re an unrecognized genius. (So many of us are. I empathize.)

All we can do is write more books and play with the variables that we can control. I should get a blurb for the Self-help for Stoners cover, for instance. That task is on my list. Blurbs help. More reviews help. Maybe more review copies to book bloggers is something to change up. Or do you need to change the book bloggers on the list you already have?

8. Make plans.

This might be a new idea you want to resist because you’re an artiste, dammit! I know, but work to word count or page count goals and editorial deadlines, anyway. I always get more done when I pretend I’m a grown up.

9. in that vein, establish systems.

When you learn the steps to how to do something once (e.g. putting out a podcast or compiling manuscripts in Scrivener), write what you did right. That way, you don’t have to start at zero knowledge each time you repeat the task. Systems are flow charts of mistakes you corrected. It’s a great way to avoid making the same mistakes with your next project. Put it in a binder within reach of your desk. Update it as you go.

Sure, taking the time to put what you’ve learned into binders sounds like drudgery. However, systems actually make you efficient and eliminate the drudgery of reinventing the wheel each time. Tiny course corrections steal far less from our precious writing time. (Tip: Take screenshots of your winning Scrivener process to make it less tedious.)

10. Speaking of finding efficiencies, track results.

That which is not measured cannot be improved. Repeat the variables that seem to work. Dump what doesn’t work, no matter how much you loved those seemingly brilliant ideas. Old ideas that don’t work can weigh us down as we climb the mountain.

BONUS:
Get better with each book.

This will happen organically. It will happen faster if you organize the variables in that binder.

Pretty soon, you won’t be firing bullets in the dark. You’ll see what hit and become a sharpshooter.

 

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

A Quick Top Ten: Make revisions painless

Books in progress litter my desk. As I revise manuscripts, there are certain words I watch for. When I see them I ask, “Who cares and who needs it?”

Here are some of those watch words and cautions:

1. Sentences that begin with “And…” (It’s not that it’s wrong or bad, but it’s often not necessary.)

2. Sentences that begin with “And then…” Sentences are sequences and usually work without this tip to the reader.

3. He felt, she heard, he sensed, she saw… Just describe the scene. Not “She saw a crocodile rise from the swamp.” Instead, “A crocodile rose from the swamp.”

4. Was. This crops up a lot in most writers’ first drafts. “She was fighting,” becomes “she fought.”

Gerunds are passive and they are not our friends, especially when overused. I don’t use adverbs much, though I don’t ban them. It’s a novel, not a telegram. Besides, I’m suggesting crafty guidelines here, not edicts about what not to do.

5. Look out for: just, own, up, down, so, it. These are words that we add to sentences that sometimes fail to add meaning. 

Just surfaces a lot. We can often do without “just.” Or we might use only or merely. 

“He sat down in the chair,” becomes “He sat in the chair.”

“So, he murdered the butler,” becomes “He murdered the butler.”

“Their own boat,” becomes “Their boat.”

“It” often replaces the noun you should probably use. “It’s up to you,” could be, “This caper is up to you,” or “The fate of guinea pigs everywhere is up to you.” See how it’s better? I mean, see how specificity improves clarity?

6. Careful of exclamation points that hype excitement that does not exist.

7. Semi-colons have fallen so far out of use that they now stop readers cold. Punctuation should be visible, yet not visible. Punctuation marks are the life-preserver under your seat on the plane. You know it’s there, but you don’t want to pause a moment to think about why it’s there. 

8. Use dialogue tags besides “said” sparingly. Let what is said carry the weight of the message.

9. Empty pleasantries are death.

“Hi.”

“Hi.”

“How are you?”

“Good.”

This trite exchange is what we do every day. In a book, it’s a waste of time. Also note that those four lines possess no conflict. A better way to go would be to answer “How are you?” with “You’re late.”

Or try, “He greeted her at the conference room door with an officious sneer and ushered to her seat without a word.” 

If the dialogue isn’t clever or funny, or if the exchange fails to reveal character or advance the plot, skip it and go to the action.

Don’t count on readers’ patience. Tell the story.

10. Everyone watches for run-on sentences. We break those up, of course. Also consider varying sentence length.

Sentence length is not something many readers will register consciously, but lots of short sentences together can feel stilted and staccato. (This device can be used to great effect in an action sequence or to make a point, however.) Many long sentences in a row tire the reader and can feel like a drone.

This problem is easier to recognize when you read your manuscript aloud. If you run out of breath before the end of a sentence, it might be too long. Or you need to do more cardio.

Me B&W~ Robert Chazz Chute hates to tell anyone what to do. Ever. He’s also a fan of the sentence fragment, so this isn’t about being the grammar police. It’s about helping writers and editors make books more readable. These are guidelines. The only rule is, if it plays, it plays.

FYI, the third book in the Hit Man Series is Hollywood Jesus, Rise of the Divine Assassin. This funny, gripping crime novel launches October 1, 2014. Early feedback says it’s the fastest pace to an adventure since you fell off your bike and got road rash when you were a kid.

HJ COVER FINAL LADY IN RED

The Omnibus will be launched at the same time.

PLAYBOOK COVER FINAL

 

Filed under: Editing, manuscript evaluation, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How Amazon’s new sales dashboard got me moving (plus Art that sells books)

Lily BG-1

Click here to get Bigger Than Jesus

Click here to get Bigger Than Jesus

I wasn’t going to blog about the new Amazon sales dashboard.

Then I gave it a second look. The quick, detailed analysis is interesting and sometimes disheartening. Seeing all the outcomes across various countries at one glance is great. (Thanks, Australia. This Plague of Days is gaining ground Down Under.) I suspect the new dashboard will be an obsession to which we can lose a lot of time. The clarity delivered is better than what other retailers offer and absolutely crushes mainstream publishers for their lack of transparency. 

More information (or at least data that informs more easily) can change behavior. It just did that for me. Knowledge of weaknesses is more useful than knowing strengths. I checked through which books were moving and which weren’t. I asked myself which books could move better than they do. 

The ebook is also available in paperback for $9.99.

I settled on my funny crime novel, Bigger Than Jesus.

I’d just received three more fantastic reviews recently, so the book is sitting, highly rated, with 17 reviews. But it’s not selling. Several people have told me Bigger Than Jesus is my best book. It’s a fast read with a careening plot and there’s a follow-up with Higher Than Jesus

So why no love for Jesus?

There’s an issue with the title (you can guess) which I plan to remedy with the third installment in the Hit Man Series. Meanwhile,Bigger_Than_Jesus_Cover_for_Kindle I’ve failed to market it well enough. I think of myself as a suspense novelist, but most of my sales are coming from the horror side of the equation with This Plague of Days. Because I was letting Bigger Than Jesus sell “organically” (translation: not doing anything) I wasn’t paying attention to promoting my luckless Cuban hit man.

Bigger Than Jesus is not getting the visibility it deserves, so I must make it visible.

There are many complicated and expensive ways to do that. I’m opting for the easiest vector. This morning, through the Author Marketing Club website, I set up various free ebook sites to give the book away next week. I’ve applied to BookBub and paid a visit to The Fussy Librarian. More visibility and reviews will translate into more love, and more buyers, down the line. 

Dark Higher Than Jesus banner ad

I wouldn’t have changed my strategy if not for the change in the sales dashboard.

The changes make it easier to identify where the ball is not bouncing. Since my crime novel is well placed to fly higher, I’m attaching a booster rocket to it. 

~ Now you’re wondering about the art, right? That’s awesome work done by my buddy, Kit Foster of Kit Foster Design. More than just awesome covers, he can do ads and web banners, too. Spruce up your author sites and campaigns to sell books. He’s a very nice guy and his rates are very reasonable. You’ll be glad you did. Tell Kit that Chazz sent you.

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

How I’ll sell more books by studying my author ranking

Before you read this article about author rankings, a quick heads up: I’m inviting you to something fun that could help you in your writing endeavours. The link at the bottom of this article will take you to ThisPlagueOfDays.com for a post you’ll like about the advantages of serialization. At the bottom of that post, click on The Link for the Curious to get a secret (not a spoiler!) about This Plague of Days.

Episode 4 releases today!

Episode 4 releases today!

Go to Author Central and have a look at your author rank. This shows you how you’re doing compared to other authors on Amazon. That’s not very useful information, but there is something to be gleaned from these charts.

Author rank on Amazon is interesting or depressing, depending on your score. However, the public never sees your author rank unless you’re in the top 100. As you click through and look at charts, the blue points are your highest rank on any given day (not your average for the day). The orange point is your placement right now.

These rankings are based on sales figures of digital, paper and audio. (So, as I’ve mentioned in this space, if you aren’t exploring your audio options yet, get on that.)

It’s good to own a genre if you can

If you’re really smart, you picked a genre and tried to dominate it. All or most of your books will be in one category and you won’t have many charts to click through. I’m not all that smart. I think focussing all your energy in one genre is probably a good idea. It is good advice I couldn’t take. I bubble over with ideas for books in various genres. Many of us are cursed that way.

For instance, I came up with an insta-book on doing business with the Vine app simply because (a) I was so enthused about the new app, and (b) I was working on the gargantuan This Plague of Days and felt like it had been too long since I’d published anything new. Not wanting to be forgotten, I wrote and published Six Seconds in one week. (Publishing gave my other books a bit of a boost, too, so there’s that.)

Gleaning what’s good to know from Amazon’s author rank 

I have three books in non-fiction (business and publishing).

For the Hit Man Series, I ranked higher in mystery than I did in thrillers, though I ranked consistently higher in action/adventure and science fiction and fantasy.

I don’t consider myself a sci-fantasy writer. However, This Plague of Days fits neatly in the sci-fi subcategory of apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic.

According to my author ranks, I rank best as a horror writer. I have several books of short stories on Amazon, but since they’re under the too vague “literature and contemporary fiction” categories, my rank there is weaker. Too general doesn’t help. I could and should put Murders Among Dead Trees under the horror category, too. It fits the tone for that collection.

Beware, however, of drilling too deep into a stagnant subcategory. The Hit Man Series sells better when categorized as action adventure and mystery. Hardboiled is a stagnant subcategory Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus languished in too long. They were ignored because I messed up my category choice.

The mind virus is created. Spread the infection. Each of five episodes is only 99 cents each. Get the whole Season for the discount at $3.99. (And if you already have read it, please review it.) Thanks! ~ Chazz

The mind virus is created. Spread the infection. Each of five episodes is only 99 cents each. Get the whole Season for the discount at $3.99. (And if you already have read it, please review it.) Thanks! ~ Chazz

Bonus hint

How can you tell if a subcategory is too small or dead? Check out a few forums on the genre. If the board has few members or the most recent posts aren’t in the current calendar year, uh-oh!)

Don’t major in your minor

People major in their minor all the time. They’re lousy at formatting but they spend days on a task they should farm out to someone else. They should be writing but since they don’t want to delegate, they’re doing something other than writing and revising. The author ranking by genre shows us what we do best by identifying what books people want more.

Author ranking gives us clues how we should categorize our books on Amazon for greater discoverability and tells us what our major is. You could look at bare book sales, but with author rankings by genre, Amazon does that for you in a clearer way that doesn’t allow you to fool yourself with short-term variables. Look for trends across categories for clues to optimize your books’ chances.

What the clues from author rankings told me

1. As I studied my rankings, I was reassured that I made a good choice to pursue the horror category.

2. I have two more books in the Hit Man Series in the chamber, but I won’t pull the trigger on those until things slow down with my plague serial. This Plague of Days, Season Two hits in September, so Jesus Diaz fans will have to wait just a bit longer while I major in my major.

3. As I write the next book about my loveable but luckless Cuban hit man, I’ll amp up the mystery so it fits more comfortably in that category.

4. For the books that perform less powerfully, I have some ideas that will breathe life into old titles as I create new ones.

5. The work that stands alone doesn’t perform as well. I knew this, of course, but I can see it in the charts. This is bad news because I have another huge book that was to be a one-off. Then it occurred to me. This is good news. It’s so huge, I could serialize it as I’m doing with This Plague of Days.

For more on the beauties of serialization, click here.

(That’s also where you’ll find the link to my defiant secret.)

~ Robert Chazz Chute is the author of Self-help for Stoners, Murders Among Dead Trees, Crack the Indie Author Code, Six Seconds, Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire, Bigger Than Jesus, Higher Than Jesus and the zombie apocalypse serial, This Plague of Days. Read, love, review and please spread the word.

Filed under: Amazon, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writers, Writing and When to Swear

TPOD 0420 2

Apocalypse Art for This Plague of Days by Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com

As I work on This Plague of Days revisions, there’s a big difference: This is the first of my books my 13-year-old daughter is allowed to read. No one is swearing in TPOD and any sex is PG-13, at most. Sometimes I think this serial (to be released at the end of May) could be suitable for Young Adult. However, I’m also not pulling back on elements of horror that range from Hitchcockian allusion (The Birds) to classic horror (a gross-out or three). It’s a post-apocalyptic world and things aren’t pretty. 

Crass Commercial Considerations

A cross-genre flurry about  society's collapse under the crush of the Sutr Virus combined with a boy's love for odd words, Latin dictionaries and his father.

A cross-genre flurry about society’s collapse under the crush of the Sutr Virus combined with a boy’s love for odd words, Latin dictionaries and his father.

I’ll admit it: I want This Plague of Days to sell to a wide audience. I want it to go huge! Multiple translations and audiobooks and mass consumption. I want this serial to be made into a movie or a franchise with TPOD lunch boxes and T-shirts at conventions. I don’t want to return to a day job and a very popular serial without cursing will help me toward that goal. I watched an interview with director Kevin Smith recently in which he breaks down the movie market. The same principles apply to us: R sells less than PG-13. Soften the blow. Make more money.

Yes, I know Fifty Shades of Gray is bondage porn that makes a ton of money off a wide audience. However, this isn’t that. This Plague of Days is about an autistic boy who is a selective mute. A plague spreads across the earth and as the mayhem goes up, society spirals down. Bad things happen. However, the story revolves around the boy and, though it’s third-person limited omniscient, much of it unfolds through the boy’s filter. His special interest is English dictionaries and Latin phrases. Nothing is lost if I don’t make TPOD a cursefest and I’ll gain more readers.

The Irony I Frankly Don’t Understand

Many people are comfortable with just about any depiction of violence but get squeamish about certain words and sex. We’re downright weird about cursing. It’s in mainstream media and on any school playground, but in print, daily newspapers put in coy asterisks like this: f***. As if our brains don’t just fill in the word automatically. Swearing is ingrained in everyday conversations, but we pretend it’s not.

Watching a show like Dexter on a non-Showtime channel, censors ensure the dialogue sounds silly. “Mothertruckers?” Really? (The practice was played to great comedic effect when, in the latest Spider-Man movie incarnation, our beloved hero blurts, “Mother Hubbard!“)

Meanwhile, I get queasy about certain entertainment that is considered mainstream even though it’s extremely violent. I’ll never see Jodi Foster in The Accused and I refuse to watch A Time to Kill. Frank depictions of sexual assault and child rape are not something I want to

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

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

see. I can’t watch CSI or its many iterations. That whole Special Victims Unit thing feels way too voyeuristic and definitely not for me. (I’m not campaigning for a cleansing, by the way. I don’t want art censored. What I don’t like, I don’t watch, read or listen to and that solves my problem nicely.)

Ever since I had kids, I’m generally more queasy about violence that’s too realistic. I’d rather keep my violence diet to thrillers like Bigger Than Jesus. Though there’s plenty of death and even allusions to Jesus’s abuse as a young teen, it’s treated carefully, not graphic, and balanced by the hero’s sense of humor. The funny makes the horrible feel safe, somehow. 

This Plague of Days’ post-apocayptic genre puts the story into a realm that isn’t ours…at least not quite yet. 

Sex and Curses Have Their Place: Serving the story

Jesus is resurrected in Chicago. Sex with the Queen of Giants. Violence with Very Bad Men.

Jesus is resurrected in Chicago. Sex with the Queen of Giants. Violence with Very Bad Men.

My crime novels are funny but still gritty and hardboiled. The swearing in the Hit Man Series is a need. It would have been unnatural to write workarounds for simple, salty language. Acting too coy would have drained too much realism away. 

As for sex, in Bigger Than Jesus, Jesus Diaz is constantly running for his life. The book plays out like a long chase scene. Beatings and murder don’t put the hero and heroine in the mood, even for a quickie. There is a great romantic love interest in Lily Vasquez, but her intimacy issues with the hit man aren’t about sex. Lily and Jesus’s drama deepens character and shows the impact of his awful history on his life. Through their interaction, the reader understands Jesus more and sees why he’s so screwed up (particularly about women). The reader ends up empathizing with a guy who kills for money. As for Higher Than Jesus, the sex scene with Willow Clemont and Jesus is both integral to the plot and erotic. Sex raises the stakes.

The Balance:

Despite any commercial considerations and the joy I feel at being able to show my daughter what I really do,

story has to come first.

Gee, I hope she likes it.

~ Chazz has new websites: CoolPeoplePodcast.com, onlysixseconds.wordpress.com, DecisionToChange.com. In the latest podcast at the author site, AllThatChazz.com, there’s some swearing (in a funny rant) and a fresh reading from Higher Than Jesus.

Filed under: book marketing, Genre, Horror, rules of writing, This Plague of Days, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I screwed up. I’m going to need a bigger boat.

I screwed up

I had a publishing schedule and a plan. I committed to ship books on time. As Seth Godin says, “Artists ship.” This is business, so make a good plan and Cool+People+Podcast+Finalstick to it. But what if the plan sucks?

Time to adapt

Adaptation is what a small company can do that a big company often can’t. Big companies have committees and hierarchies and approval processes. I’ve got me and a couple of freelancers and an ad hoc committee of friends and allies I bounce ideas back and forth with. All the decisions, blame and reward go to me. It’s time to take blame and make new plans.

The Excuses Not to Ship

Six+Seconds+copyI had stalled out on writing fiction for a couple of weeks because of time management issues and sickness: My daughter got sick; I started a new podcast; I wrote a book about Vine. All those things were necessary to deal with and I have no regrets. I’m rather fond of the sick kid, so there’s that. I’m excited about adding another podcast (the Cool People Podcast!) to my tiny empire. Six Seconds, The Unauthorized Guide to How to Build Your Business with the Vine App, was a fun exercise that could actually help people get more attention to their brands with a new social media tool. Diversifying helped my other books’ sales, too. As diversions go from the main war plan, these are pretty good ones. However…

The Reasons to Adapt

My production plan was off target because I need to launch a new series to get more attention to my other books. I try not to think too much about all that I have planned for this year. If I try to grok it all at once, my cerebellum pounds my brain pan until I lie down clutching an Advil bottle.

The core issue is the crime fiction I write is hardboiled, but funny. That’s a tough nut to crack. Many would call sardonic neo-noir Bigger_Than_Jesus_Cover_for_Kindlea forgotten niche. The reviews of the Hit Man Series (Bigger Than Jesus, Higher Than Jesus) are great, but I realized I had to diversify to get the whole line of books more attention.

Self-help for Stoners, for instance, sells the best consistently, but it’s also been around longest and by some people’s lights, it’s experimental fiction, too (or at least weird and maybe challenging). The Hit Man Series would be considered experimental by some. I don’t agree. In fact, I think that’s a bit silly, but who cares what I think when I have numbers to evaluate? I have to diversify to get the tide to raise all the boats.

The Original Plan

I was going to write the third book in the Hit Man Series, Hollywood Jesus, next. I’m already more than halfway through it and I love that character and his story. The book after Hollywood Jesus will be a real twist, too. I’m going to revisit characters from the original book. My pitiable assassin, Jesus Diaz, will share the book with…ahem…no spoilers yet…but the twist will make that series achieve lift off in a huge way, I’m sure. I can hardly wait. However, in publishing Six Seconds, I’ve seen how one book can help other books in surprising ways. By giving new readers a surprising book that delivers in a more conventional way in a comfortable genre, I’ll open them up to trying my other brands of inspired lunacy.

The New Plan

Higher than Jesus Final NEW copyI have a post-apocalyptic, coming-of-age plague thriller that’s already written. It took me a year to write. I’m revising it now. It’s 125,000 words and ripe for serialization. This book has some strange elements to it since much of the action is seen through the eyes of a boy with Aspergers. I’m going to publish the Aspergers/plague book next, instead of Hollywood Jesus. Though the subject matter can be strange and wonderful and scary and terrible, it’s an adventure story told in third person, limited omniscient. In other words, it won’t scare anyone off because it feels “experimental”. Strange at times, sure, but it’s ultimately about a family and family relationships strained by a crisis. In the Hit Man Series, there’s a lot created to make you laugh. In this series, you’ll take me seriously.

I will deliver the plague thriller in two months. Anybody who wrote me off as too weird for them just because I write stuff that challenges preconceptions of how stories should be told? Buckle up. I’m coming for you and I won’t even have to shanghai and coerce you up the plank to my party cruise. You’re going to want to be a passenger on my pleasure boat. I’m making it bigger, just for you.

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

“You will laugh your ass off!” ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

Game on.

~ Chazz’s author site is AllThatChazz.com where you can find out more about his books or check out his rants and author readings on the All That Chazz Podcast. His new website is CoolPeoplePodcast.com. The first episode features horror author Armand Rosamilia in conversation about zombies, The Walking Dead and writing more books, faster (among other things.) Check it out. 

Filed under: book marketing, Books, ebooks, podcasts, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, What about Chazz?, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

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

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

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

See my books, blogs, links and podcasts.

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