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

Write and publish with love and fury.

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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sanity: Another reason to write more books

Do you ever feel like you’re reaching for success and someone is slapping your hand? Does every Monday feel like Thwart Day?

I just had one of those days that drains energy. I read a review from a guy who apparently thinks I believe in the supernatural because I often write about it. (Fiction, people! Fiction!) A cop stopped me today. He was unnecessarily dickish. That put me in a dark mood. I haven’t been feeling great so I had to go for some medical tests. A nurse was in a panic over my paperwork and apparently trying to panic me, too. I’ve got a big birthday coming up which I’m not excited about. I feel pressure. Sometimes, despite my big plans, it seems time is running out and the news for indie authors seems to be all whoa and woe at the moment.

Therefore, it’s not time to give up.

It’s time to put the hammer down (because I was thinking of doing terrible things with that hammer) and remember what’s working. To review:

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)

I got this letter today:

“This Plague of Days, Omnibus Edition was awarded an Honorable Mention for Writer’s Digest’s Self-Published e-Book Awards in Genre.”

Whoo. Also? Hoo!

Check out the Top 100 Kindle Short from my coauthor Holly Pop

Check out the Top 100 Kindle Short from my coauthor Holly Pop

I’m collaborating with several authors and a publisher in 2015. The first was Holly (Pop) Papandreas, author of Ouija

We wrote The Haunting Lessons. In this fun and dark fantasy, a girl from Iowa discovers she has amazing capabilities. The world is a richer and more dangerous place than she ever imagined. Parts of it may remind you of This Plague of Days, but the tone is lighter and the pace is lightning quick. Don’t miss out on 81 lessons to survive Armageddon. I like you and I want you to live.

Just released for Christmas reading!

Just released for Christmas reading!

My friend and author of Butterfly Stitching, Sher Kruse, has invited me to participate in a non-fiction anthology.

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More on that in 2015.

I’ll be contributing to a horror anthology for a publisher and working with another author friend of mine on a secret book project to take paranormal readers by storm. I also have big plans for several books in the Ghosts and Demons Series, a big standalone book and more Hit Man books.

It’s been a big building year for me. I put together six books in 2014, so Mom and Dad will have to take back those accusations that I’m too lazy to live. 

PLAYBOOK COVER FINAL
It’s so fun and gritty and fast, I’m very happy with Hollywood Jesus, the third adventure in the Hit Man Series. The John Leguizamo joke alone makes it for me!

"Perhaps the most underrated crime novel of all time." ~ Robert Chazz Chute

“Perhaps the most underrated crime novel of all time.” ~ Robert Chazz Chute

 

And, maybe best of all, I wrote my criminal autobiography!

That's one adorable bear holding that bloody knife.

That’s one adorable bear holding that bloody knife.

And I’m part of the Horror Within Box Set with some very heavy hitters in horror fiction.

Horror Within Box Set

In other words, it’s been a productive year. It seems I have a lot to live for, after all. I can’t wait to get more of my ebooks into print, too. So stay busy. It will keep you out of trouble. Works for me. When you’re feeling down, write another book. That’s what I do. I’m all nerves a lot of the time, obviously. Writing soothes me and keep me from acting on impulses to hammer things.

Writing works that way for many people. Writing or reading, I hope you find escape, as I do, in imagination.
Merry Christmas.

If you had mixed feelings about 2014, let’s make 2015 better, hm?

Filed under: author platform, Horror, publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The power of the pulse giveaway: 99 cents or nothing?

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)

When I did my Bookbub promotion of This Plague of Days, Omnibus Edition, my dentist said, “You’re giving it away? Really?”

“Yup.”

“Okay.” He chuckled at me. He also didn’t know what I know.

That giveaway boosted my author rank and sales after the promotion was over. Most important to me was getting more reviews on that property. I got more reviews, thank Thor. The giveaway met my goals. If I had stuck to one genre (horror/fantasy) I would have seen more profits, too. However, I write across genres so that’s on me. My crime novel readers are not typically my horror and fantasy readers. Though there’s a little cross-pollination, readers are often fiercely interested in only one genre, no matter how much action and fun they’d find in Hollywood Jesus (my favorite of the Hit Man Series.)

"Perhaps the most underrated crime novel of all time." ~ Robert Chazz Chute

“Perhaps the most underrated crime novel of all time.” ~ Robert Chazz Chute

 

This week I’ve put just about everything except the Plague of Days series up for sale (just 99 cents!) on Amazon. That sale will end soon, but in the meantime, my strategy seems to have worked. But perhaps not as you or I expected. 

Here’s the thing:

You never know which book will crash hardest or fly highest until you put it out there.

Murders+Among+Dead+Trees+1121-1

I happen to think Murders Among Dead Trees might be my best book. However, it’s a collection of short stories. Collections are notoriously difficult to sell. The collection features several award winners yet it still only has four reviews on Amazon. My Cyber Week Sale hasn’t moved more than one or two copies of Murders Among Dead Trees.

A few more people bought Self-help for Stoners this week, but the sales numbers don’t bowl me over. Self-help for Stoners is a fun and quirky little short story collection that sells a little at a time, but steadily, and the paperback sells more than the ebook, especially this time of year. (You’re thinking it sells because of Christmas. I think it sells because there’s a great story about how to get away with murder using a skunk.)

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

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

 

A cursory glance might make you think that big free works and little 99 cent pulse sales don’t work.

That’s not what I get from this sales experiment. My sales of This Plague of Days (which stayed at their old price) went up.

99 cent pulse sales can boost visibility, but readers still have their favorite things to read and This Plague of Days outsells everything else I’ve done. I promoted everything else but buyers still gravitated to what are already my most popular books even though they weren’t on sale! 

Price matters less to some buyers. For those who are price sensitive, they still have the opportunity to pick up some great books for 99 cents. I have no regrets. The occasional pulse sale can move books…just not necessarily the books we think they will move. I’m also happy to give readers a break on price this time of year. Without cheap ebooks, a lot of people don’t feel they can afford to read more books. Believe me, I understand. This is a tough time of year for a lot of us and I’m glad to help stretch a dollar’s value.

My conclusions:

Write more books to get more shots at the readers’ sweet spot. Write more books to figure out what readers want most from you. (Authors can be terrible judges of what readers want unless we have empirical evidence, like sales numbers.)

To get more out of pulse sales, consider promoting them more than I did. I relied on my G+, Twitter and Facebook networks for my Cyberweek giveaway. Bookbub and several other sites promote 99 cent books as well as free books. I didn’t plan ahead with paid advertising, but I didn’t want to spend money on the giveaway if I could avoid it at this time. (Holding back might have been a mistake.)

Many authors prefer the 99 cent buyer to free seekers. That tiny commitment may tend to attract more committed readers instead of hoarders who may never get around to reading the books they download. (And why not? Supermarket chains have figured out that a mere quarter is enough to reduce the drastic loss of very expensive shopping carts.)

If you’re trying to make a living from your writing, write more books like the ones that are already successful for you. That’s why my next book is The Haunting Lessons, now available for a short time for free on Wattpad. It has some commonalities with This Plague of Days, but is more upbeat, faster and funny. I’ll put the whole book up on Wattpad, but I’ll take it down when it’s published on Amazon, closer to Christmas 2014.

Until then, you can read The Haunting Lessons for free by clicking the cover below. Enjoy it now because its time on Wattpad is running out.

Have a look at the beginning of my new series, free on Wattpad.

Have a look at the beginning of my new series, free on Wattpad.

What’s your experience with free versus 99 cent sales?

~ Please check out my author site at AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: author platform, book marketing, My fiction, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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?, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Seven Words or Less Contest

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

As I wrote Higher Than Jesus, the second in my crime novel series, I held the Six Words or Less Contest. It was so much fun, I’m doing it again, but with an extra word to give you the flexibility you need for a great entry.

Here’s the deal:

You can have a character running around in a crime novel with your name on him or her. All you have to do to win is come up with the funniest slogan for the side of a bakery delivery truck you can imagine. The catch? It has to be seven words or less and it has to be original, funny, memorable and somewhat plausible (so swearing is out for this one.) The contest ends December 7. Enter as many times as you like in the comments section below. 

The winning entry will be used in my next crime novel, Hollywood Jesus. (You guessed it. It takes place in California.) The winner will be chosen by a vote held from Dec. 7 to Dec. 10, 2012. The top three entries get a digital copy. The grand prize winner will get a free copy of the book in digital and paperback. Have fun with it! 

~ Robert Chazz Chute’s favorite bakery product is chocolate croissants with rich coffee. He’s also written two guides to writing, publishing and promotion. Crack the Indie Author Code is currently #1 in publishing and #4 in writing, and FREE this week on Amazon. Get your copy of Crack the Indie Author Code before Friday at midnight or before the sun explodes, whichever comes first. For more publishing and promotion tips, get Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire. For more on books by Chazz and to hear the All That Chazz podcast, go to AllThatChazz.com.

Free to you Nov. 26 – 30, 2012. Click it to grab it now, please, or I shoot this puppy.

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#NaNoWriMo: Evolving a series from one book

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

Readers love books in a series. Maybe when you’re done your NaNoWriMo manuscript, you may consider turning one book into several. I’m having an interesting experience with my crime novel series I thought I should share with you because it’s a new thing for me and it may be helpful to pull back the curtain on the process as it’s evolving.

Last year, I wrote a short story about Jesus Diaz, a hit man I included in my suspense collection Self-help for Stoners. The assassin I wrote about was a mature and experienced, cold-blooded sort of guy who, at the request of their soon-to-be ex wives, killed men going through divorce. Jesus (pronounced Hay-soose) knew what he was doing and was very slick. Still, things went awry in an interesting way. That was the beginning of the Hit Man Series, but I didn’t know that then.

The revelation came when I thought, I want to write a Coen brothers’ movie! Self-help for Stoners has a lot of funny stuff in it (my favorite is the funny erotica) but I wanted to write a whole novel that played with one character in a quirky way. I thought about what origins a guy like Jesus might have to make him more sympathetic. Despite what he does as an enforcer, he does not see himself as the bad guy. No bad guy does. He’s a victim and a vigilante caught in the gears of New York’s Machine (the Spanish mob).  Think of all those Coen brothers’ movies and you’ll get some of the flavor: The Big Lebowski, Fargo, Raising Arizona, Blood Simple and Miller’s Crossing. Death always waits on the wide and easy road out of town. Perfect fit. I write about Escape. All my books and every one of my stories is ultimately about Escape. Along the way, I try to find a balance between realism and funny. People don’t get knocked out too easily in my stories, for instance. There are some bad guys who are entertainingly dumb, but nobody’s dumb just to make the plot work. Everyone has a goal that conflicts with everyone else’s motives and perspective.

“Worthy of Elmore Leonard with shades of Thomas Harris…”

The first book in the series is Bigger Than Jesus. I wanted to start the action off with a bang, so when we meet Jesus Diaz, he’s hanging off the side of a building in New York. The book reads like one long chase scene with a few sparse flashbacks to give depth to the character. Dexter is driven by psychological issues. Jesus is driven by circumstance and a need for money and delusions of grandeur. He’s obsessed with movies and wants the life he see in them. In the first book, there’s no sex but lots of violence and funny dialogue. I’d call it more gritty than gory. The story often plunges the reader into a web of deception and, because everything is seen from Jesus’ limited perspective, we only uncover the mystery of what waits in locker #408 as the Cuban hit man discovers the truth. Jesus begins his story arc as a guy who can lie well and has some skills he learned in the military, but he’s certainly no master assassin.

I watched and listened carefully for feedback before and after publication. People loved the jokes and surprises. Some thought there should be more sex and less swearing. I kept that in mind as I got into writing the second book in the series, Higher Than Jesus. I put in more jokes and surprises and yes, more sex. We discover new things about Jesus Diaz’s history. (That’s kind of a fun tip of the hat, playing with readers as they find out that Jesus has been lying to himself as well as others.)

Higher Than Jesus has a fast pace, but not quite as fast as Bigger Than Jesus. We slow down long enough for a funny and somewhat poignant chapter in which my hit man is failing at group therapy. We get into issues around addiction, too. From the first chapter, the tension slides in like a knife between ribs with a quarter twist as Jesus kills a bad guy on Christmas Day. Complications ensue around an arms deal that has national and historic ramifications. He’s learning and getting better at his job, but things still go awry.

Free on Amazon until November 23: A quick-moving plot with lots of surprises and a clear-eyed examination of addiction.

Through each book I used research and consulted with friends, one who’s ex-military and another who is a SWAT trainer. Some clever aspects of the plot turned on technical details my research supplied. As I write Hollywood Jesus, my hit man is still on the run from the mob and the FBI. The events from the first two books are by no means erased. What’s different as I write the third book in the series is Jesus’s confidence and competence. He’s still at the mercy of Murphy’s Law, but now the book includes the latest technology and techniques in espionage and counter-espionage. Jesus is a troubleshooter for a security firm, specializing in dealing with celebrity stalkers. He deals with them in very unorthodox ways, often using their own tactics against them. None of the tactics or tech is too far out there, so it’s not like a Bond movie, with Roger Moore. However, there’s a lot of very cool spy tech that’s available to anyone commercially. 

What’s the arc of the series so far?:

#1 was a pure crime adventure with dark childhood secrets driving the character and a mystery leading to escape. That whipped the action across the finish line.

#2 goes deeper into the character, but at its heart it’s hardboiled action with a chapter that drips with sex and a lot of violent action broken up by fast, witty dialogue. There’s less swearing, especially since one bad guy hardly says a word and the other sees himself as quite pure and above all that. I’m proudest of the psychological gameplay throughout, the funny chaos, the clever kills and a fight scene that actually reveals something about the character and his past instead of fighting for action’s sale alone.

#3: I’m still writing Hollywood Jesus, but I think that, though the story starts fast, the tension cranks up with more range of emotion. Yesterday, for instance, Jesus confronted a very deadly and powerful stalker to make Jesus (and the reader) understand the enormity of the danger he faces. That night, Jesus scans the audience at a comedy club for the celeb stalker as the client does her act onstage. We got a sense of why this celebrity is so special and worth protecting. I loved writing that scene because every line is from the stand up act I’ve had in my head for a while and I think it’s pretty hilarious. (I’ve been thinking about doing an open mic at Yuk Yuks sometime, so maybe I’ll try my material onstage myself before publication to see if I get the same laughs as Legs Gabrielle.)

The tech stuff in Hollywood Jesus fascinates me and always has. I’m drawing on a large library of dirty tricks, revenge fantasies and bad guy techniques I’ve researched for years. This is an amazing time to be a crime novelist. There’s so much information to draw on.

What’s stays the same among all three books so far?

The humor. One thing I share with Jesus is smart-assery, especially when in danger. Reversals and bad fortune plague Jesus, often because his plans and my plots are so elaborate and my hit man is not as smart as he thinks he is. The assassin’s character does change through the books. By the third, he’s wary of falling in love too quickly, which is a fatal flaw with him. He begins to see himself differently by the end of the second book so, though he’s always been clever, by the opening of Hollywood, he’s more proactive and in control…or so he thinks.

Things are rarely as they appear in the Hit Man Series. I have an outline, but I’m not sure of all the details of what’s coming. For Jesus, I’m more of a pantser than a plotter. I can’t wait to see what he does about what I throw at him tomorrow.

Grab Higher Than Jesus before midnight, Friday, November 23rd

and it’s free!

(There’s an intriguing offer for more free ebooks inside and, fair warning, all the prices will be going up soon.)

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes hardboiled suspense with quirky twists. He’s also written two books about writing and publishing: Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire.

Filed under: 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.

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

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