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

Write and publish with love and fury.

We are not gambling writers. We are working writers.

I saw it again, today. Too often, people take the extreme end of an argument and generalize back to the middle to suit their worldview. It’s not logical. It’s bubble poppin’ time!

Example 1: Amazon’s trying to tell Hachette that it should sell the next Stephen King ebook for $9.99 or less. 

There are a couple of problems with this statement.

First, Amazon has categorically stated that some ebooks should be priced higher. Though Amazon’s statement on contract negotiations was short, lots of people missed that crucial detail:

“Is it Amazon’s position that all e-books should be $9.99 or less? No, we accept that there will be legitimate reasons for a small number of specialized titles to be above $9.99.”

If an author has lots of fans who won’t wait for a price drop, the exemption for authors at that level of success makes sense. The math will reveal which way to go. For most of us, lower prices are the way to go. Amazon speaks unusually clearly on this point:

“The author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. And that 74% increase in copies sold makes it much more likely that the title will make it onto the national bestseller lists. (Any author who’s trying to get on one of the national bestseller lists should insist to their publisher that their e-book be priced at $9.99 or lower.)”

Amazon beat Hachette’s argument to death with math. Everybody makes more money by charging less than the inflated ebook prices Hachette wants to set. By “everybody”, it’s obvious we mean everybody but Stephen King and a handful of the 1% authors who are doing really well because that’s where the analysis of sales points us.

The default author we should be concerned with is not anyone at the extreme end of success. It’s you and me. There’s hope for us, but probably not the fictional Mansions in Tahiti Level of Hope. Which brings me to the other argument I see far too often…

Example 2: People say, “Hugh Howey is an outlier and most self-published authors will not equal his success.”

Hugh says himself that he’s a lucky outlier. (Talented, smart, likeable and writing solid books helps immensely, too.) Most self-published authors know they won’t become millionaires. That’s an aspiration that non-self-publishers often put on us as they sneer. We’re not stupid. We know the odds. We’re look at our sales stats seven times a day. We know! 

What some of self-publishing’s critics don’t seem to get, though, is that there are many author/publishers who are making a living by selling at lower prices for a 70% return. They aren’t millionaires, but they are meeting their financial obligations, paying mortgages and getting by. Some are doing even better than simply getting by. They are not rich. Few writers of any ilk ever make it to rich. However, writing is their job. They’re frequently doing better financially than traditionally published authors. (I’m not saying this to make anyone feel bad. I am saying I’m tired of all or nothing thinking among the mathphobic and terminally cranky fact-allergic.)

Still, there are those who refuse to acknowledge that, since the creation of the ebook market, the authorpreneur is a growing possibility for those with middle class aspirations. Not a probability, but a possibility. If you doubt that’s possible, I have evidence from The Passive Voice.

The role of writer has rarely paid well, but it’s a better deal for more of us now than it has ever been. We are not hoping to be lottery winners. We’re hoping to sell the next book at reasonable prices for a growing audience of enthusiastic fans. (There’s also never been a better time to be a reader, by the way.)

If I make it to middle class, that’s awesome. But it’s not about the money, Lebowski. It’s about the writing. It’s always been about the writing. I wrote books for years and never submitted them anywhere. I just wrote for me. Writing is an obsession. Obsessions don’t change whether I make seven figures or a single, dirty dime.

I write. So do you. Let’s keep it real out there. We don’t do it for the money. We do it for love.

Filed under: Amazon, author platform, Books, self-publishing, Writers, , , , , , , , , , ,

To all writers: A Call to End Hostilities (and focus on writing)

I should be writing my book and not blogging, so I’ll try to make this brief. This week someone I like very much called for self-publishers to stop pooping on traditional publishers for their choice to be awesome with the Big Five, agents and brick and mortar bookstores. There is a perception by some, possibly fuelled by the release of the Author Earnings Report, that indies hate writers who aren’t indie. Not true of anyone I know, by the way. It’s largely a myth. No one’s mad at traditional authors. What we often object to are contract terms from traditional publishers. Many of us consider Big Five ebook royalties egregious, for instance. Many of the authors trapped within the tight confines of those contracts feel much more grumpy about it and take it personally, so no controversy there.

Hugh Howey is calling for publishers to amend their contracts for ebook royalties that better reflect reality. Not so long ago, a famous agent claimed that ebooks were priced as high as paper books because they cost as much to produce and deliver. The fact that this statement was clearly nonsense didn’t seem to perforate the screen of what Romanian Canadians call “bool-sheet.” However, said agent is no longer an agent so maybe the dizzying cognitive dissonance corrected that person’s career path.

The debates and finger pointing comes in cycles.

I’d hoped the internecine vitriol had died down but it’s back, wearing tap shoes and has gone from acoustic and unplugged to plugged in, amped up and cranked up to eleven. The shite is stirred and the reaction to Hugh’s numbers, by some, is to complain those numbers aren’t accurate. Oddly, admissions to those mathematical vagaries are already in the report, but why discuss the truth of the big picture when you can argue over details that will eventually be revealed as more data pours in.

Amid this fracas, the call went out not to allow the pro-indie rhetoric to get out of hand.

Indie publishing is not, I’m told, a religion. Agreed. Good. As an atheist, I’m allergic. I was also told self-publishing is not a revolution but a disruption. With that, I do respectfully disagree. “Disruption” suggests impermanence to me. After self-publishing, how are you going to keep us down on the farm now that we’ve seen Paris? Contrary to what you may have heard, not all indies are hoping to be picked up by a “real” publisher. Some sure are hoping for that and good luck and bless them, too. (Me? I’d rather get a graphic novel going, or a series with Netflix, HBO or AMC or a movie contract or a video game deal or domination of zee vorld!…but that’s another post.)

Some (many?) traditionally published authors are going indie and others straddle the fence and opt for the hybrid sweet spot. All excellent choices as long as we go in eyes open with informed consent. As I’ve stated many times, this blog is about indie publishing, but I love all writers: aspiring, published, unpublished, indie, hybrid and mutant. The only writers I don’t care for are the ones who talk more than they type.

When I heard the call for indies to behave themselves, I nodded. Frankly, I’m tired of the indie versus trad argument. Having gone through this news cycle several times before in its various incarnations, I’m done. Nothing wrong with saying, “Let’s all play nice.” It’s about the least controversial thing anyone could say, surely!

Then the other shoe dropped through the glass coffee table.

In the very same thread that called for indies to be nice (ahem, to our betters) shots were fired the other way and several commenters took the call for indie authors to mind our manners as license to tell us how much we all suck. I don’t think that’s in the spirit of the peace treaty. I respect your choices. Please do not make assumptions about why I’m an indie author. Please do not generalize about why we’re “all” anything. No one has to justify their life choices to anyone who isn’t a business partner, spouse, federally appointed judge or priest, okay? And maybe not even then. I’m not fighting you, so why are you still fighting?

Repeat after me: We are all individuals! We are all individuals! If you write or read, by all that is unholy and wrapped in bacon, I love you all more than a basket of puppies and kittens slathered in chocolate sauce under a pile of thousand dollar bills.

Go in peace to your pad of paper or laptop or rock and chisel.

Write a book.

Read a book.

Love a book.

 

Filed under: author platform, publishing, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , ,

Radio Show: Author Earnings Report and self-inflicted burns

Sure, it’s Valentine’s Day, so naturally you’ll want to…oh, right, we’re 21st century writers. There’s no time for that. So cuddle up with your honey and listen to Friday Night Writes with Tim Baker tonight on Surf 1700 AM Flagler Beach Radio, 8 PM EST. (Use the TuneIn Radio App if, like me, you aren’t in Florida). And if you don’t have a honey, Tim will be a fine substitute, I’m sure.

Tonight’s topic (possibly among other things): The Author Earnings Report

Co-host Armand Rosamilia is off tonight because he actually respects his love life. Without Armand, Tim will have to talk doubly loud as he discusses what’s on everyone’s mind, Hugh Howey’s Author Earnings Report. As detailed in my last post, definitely read the report, please.

Also, make time to read Hugh’s latest blog post, Luck and the Lottery, on some well-meaning alarm about self-publishing’s allure. You can be happy about the Author Earnings Report, but some are concerned your joy might be premature and unbridled.

I think most of those worries are like the instructions you get with a new iron. Company lawyers insist customers be warned not to iron their clothes while they’re still wearing them.

We get it. Most of us really aren’t that dim.

I appreciate the caveats about self-publishing, I really do. In truth, I think just about everybody understands that indie does not equal gold rush. The worries are misplaced.

What about the people who really don’t get it?

They’re probably determined not to get it, either because they’re selling you something or they’re hopelessly deluded and blinded by desperation and greed. You can’t save everyone from themselves and they might kill you if you try.

Hugh Howey is a great advocate for self-publishing, but as he says, he’s also been warning people to be realistic about their expectations for years. Surely he doesn’t have to keep warning them forever, does he?

Luck, as well as your meteoric talent, are involved. There are no guarantees of success where luck is a factor and there are too many variables to control.

Granted.

To which I reply, that’s true of traditional publishing, as well. 

And then there’s this quote from the Author Earnings Report: 

“More writers today are paying bills with their craft than at any other time in human history.”

Traditional publishing hasn’t budged much. What changed? Self-publishing is the new variable.

To me? BOOM! That’s the argument. Done!

~ Did you know I interviewed Hugh for the Cool People Podcast? He’s a really good guy. Give it a listen.

Filed under: author platform, publishing, self-publishing, , , , , , , , ,

The Author Earnings Report: You can stop being embarrassed now

I wasn’t going to blog about this since I wanted to get out my microscope and go through all the data and get deep. However, this week on ChazzWrites.com is all about resources for writers and publishers. The Author Earnings Report is out and there are some shockers in there. And not steak-knife-in-the-eye-first-thing-in-the-morning shockers, either. These are pleasant, somebody-else-made-the-coffee-and-oh-look-donuts! surprises. Well…lots of good news for indie authors, anyway.

It’s a big moment for us. I cannot let this slide until I’ve gone through it all. Besides, greater minds than mine are on the case. Joe Konrath, a must-read resource mentioned in the previous post, has jumped in with lots of easily digestible analysis at Newbie’s Guide to Publishing.

One important fact I’ve gleaned so far? I’m glad I’m writing in the genres I’m writing. Read for yourself. These numbers are inspiring.

In coming days, prepare yourself for some flailing spin from the Big Five saying the numbers mean nothing. They were quite happy with previous studies that touted the efficacy of traditional publishing, but those studies were flawed in favour of their confirmation bias. Whatever they say now is quite suspect, so read and think for yourself as more analysis gets out. You can also join the Author Earnings Report project and submit your data so it will only get more accurate and in-depth in the future.

Looking at the volume of ebooks sold, it does appear trad publishing has a lot to worry about. I expect this information will seduce some trad authors to move to publish themselves, as soon as, or if, they can get out of the cruel straitjackets of their contractual obligations and non-compete clauses. (And if traditional publishing is working for you, that’s fine, too. We’re not about naming fingers and pointing shame here. It’s about making informed choices and informed consent.)

This week a friend of mine (who had been screwed over by a small press) decided to self-publish. There was interest in the manuscript and she’s eminently promotable, but the years-long process filled with dead ends finally helped her hit the tipping point. She’ll start selling her book soon. Hers is both a marvellous and important addition to literature and readers won’t have to wait much longer to finally enjoy it. Once we get more data and analysis, I’m sure the numerical conclusions will support the decision she’s earned through personal experience.

Is it premature to say the revolution is complete?

Probably, but if you were embarrassed about going indie before this report, you’ve got enough data to dump that psychological baggage now.

Call up your parents and tell them that, despite their misgivings, your decision to publish your books yourself wasn’t an idiotic failure of mind and character. You stopped trying to woo frigid agents and pursue disdainful traditional publishing and it can be good, maybe even great. Your parents can be proud. You can be proud.

Let your indie freak flag fly!

Filed under: author platform, publishing, Useful writing links, , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s time for your Coolest People nominations

Cool+People+Podcast+FinalOne of my podcasts is the Cool People Podcast. I’m making a list and checking it twice. Guests can be naughty or nice, but they have to be cool. I’m looking for your nominations for 2014. What interviews would you like to hear (or would you like to be heard yourself)?

Who’s cool?67113_196559600480167_927925947_n

I’m interested in speaking with guests about their passions. From director Chris Richardson talking about his latest film to Renee Pawlish talking about the book business, all my guests have strong opinions about the what they do and their place in the world.

Jordanna 2I’ve interviewed Wool author Hugh Howey, Dying Days author Armand Rosamilia, scientific and skeptical person Gordon Bonnet, erotica author Eden Baylee, Middle East foreign policy expert Shermin Kruse, graphic artist Kit Foster, funny sci-fi guy Mark Rayner, musician Mosno Al-Moseeki. Jordanna East shared her experiences with writing and publishing and I spoke with bestselling author Jessica McHugh about True Romance, among other things.

LeRon Barton talked about drug culture and Janice Landry spoke about the Jessica McHugh Shermin picdramas first responders face (and even took a fun quiz about ’80s music as a bonus, so have a listen and play along.)

Actor Dave Straus told us about his worst audition ever and I talked acting and graphic novels with actor Jay Hash.

What about you?

Know somebody you think should get heard? Got a cool project like a graphic novel or a TV show or a movie in the works? Want to talk science, psychology, how the world works (and how it doesn’t)?

There’s a podcast for that. It’s the Cool People Podcast.

If you’d like to be featured on the Cool People Podcast in 2014, here’s the site. Click on the Be My Guest tab for answers to your questions and use the contact information so you make your nomination. I enjoyed every interview in 2013. I’m looking forward to adding new friends through the Cool People Podcast in 2014.

Who knows? I might be giving you a call on Skype soon and we’ll talk to the world about you. And have a listen at CoolPeoplePodcast.com.

Filed under: podcasts, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Marketing books: Thirteen video options

Season One of This Plague of Days is free until midnight tonight.

Season Two launches in two weeks.

Book trailers are problematic. Video can be done well. It often isn’t.

Most of them are too long. Production values are typically lower than viewers’ expectations. We’re trained to expect CGI on the level of major movie studios. Also, there’s little evidence trailers generate any sales. Go big and you’ll spend money with no return on the investment. Go too small and you might not be proud of it. Here are magnificent options, ranging from giving up and doing zilch to going big. Since I’m in touch with reality, most options are no-budget or low-budget.

Alternative 1

Don’t do it. It’s not worth the bother.

Alternative 2

Play with iMovie in your spare time. If it’s fun, great, but certainly don’t lose writing time to it. 

Alternative 3

Rather than worry about making a little movie and learning an editing program, do six seconds on Vine and/or fifteen seconds on Instagram. Focus on one quick, easy message. Don’t spell out the link to the camera. Leave the link in the caption. Note that people love video with cats.

Alternative 4

Upload to Youtube from your camera, iPod, iPhone or Android. Viewers will be more forgiving of low production values if they see you didn’t try to make it fancy. Just talk to the camera with a joke and/or announcement.

Alternative 5

Video pulls more clicks to your blog. Combine it with punchy posts for greater effect and more subscribers.

People have more tolerance for a short, laid back video than they will for long blog posts. For instance, yesterday’s post went deep into serialization and book pricing strategy. It was only for the most serious of book marketers and publishers. However, many more readers will click the video above and read this blog post for information because it has video and the text is breezy and scannable.

Alternative 6

Focus on what’s cool or ironically cool. Make it fun for you and the viewer. Try for the opposite of earnest and don’t try to tell too much of the plot of your book. Let the visuals do more work. Entertain first and come sideways at giving out information. One of the best book trailers I’ve seen was an author who talked about the glamour of the writing life while he scrubbed toilets.

Alternative 7

As I’ve suggested in the past, try a quote trailer. A quote trailer simply pulls intriguing quotes from your book. Don’t forget to include a buy link. Keep it short. No spoilers.

Alternative 8 

Use Animoto, as I did, for the video above. I already had the book covers. It took all of five minutes to use the free option for a video shorter than 30 seconds. The fire effect was appropriate and the music was a nice fit. Cool, huh? Animoto includes sharing options so you can export it to Vimeo, YouTube, Facebook, etc.,…

Alternative 9

If people don’t respond to your stabs at filmmaking, try making it more about you and how you can help others instead of making it about the book. Video reviews and how-to stuff get more hits. Funny’s always good, too.

I put up video of my podcasts to get more viewers and listeners. Some people simply prefer video to audio, or a YouTube video is how they will discover a podcast. Interaction in an interview setting can be easier to pull off than talking directly to the camera. Some people, like Hugh Howey, do it well and even dance for reviews. For most of us, solo videos look like hollow-eyed, stuttering hostage videos pleading for ransom under the threat of death.

Alternative 10

Have you set up your YouTube channel yet? It’s a great place to collect your video book reviews, too. Video reviews get more attention on Amazon than written ones, so it’s worth doing, for you and for authors.

Alternative 11

Go with Fiverr.com and get help to create quick videos like I did for my promotion plan for This Plague of Days. Check out my video samples at the link.

Alternative 12

If you really want to go big, get a semi-pro involved. There’s no proven ROI and most professional video production is expensive. Therefore, consider approaching a drama class or a film school. If your book trailer becomes a school project, at least your vanity project will benefit the education of a young actor or filmmaker in a concrete way. You could go the Scott Sigler route and make it a contest. Since every entry went up on YouTube for judging, Sigler’s books got multiple ads and multiple hits.

Alternative 13

I think Kevin Smith and Steven Spielberg are available for princely sums, but if you’ve just won the lottery, go with any of the above options and get your video production done free or cheap. Starving children everywhere would appreciate your generous donations. If you’re rich enough to consider professional directorial help, good karma’s the better way to go.

BONUS

Are you on Bookbub? Here's what the email looks like for my TPOD promo. Sale ends at midnight, never to return. Enjoy.

Are you on Bookbub? Here’s what the email looks like for my TPOD promo. Sale ends at midnight, never to return. Enjoy.

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 12.53.17 PM

Bookbub allows you to showcase deals to many targeted readers who are interested in your genre. Got a deal? Get noticed with Bookbub.

Filed under: author platform, book trailer, Books, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ebook pricing, free promotions and you

The complete first season is FREE for two days. Click now.

The complete first season is FREE for two days. Click now.

Generosity feels great and, in this incarnation of the book business, generosity is a marketing strategy if done right. Today, a giveaway and a case study in real time. (If you don’t know anything about This Plague of Days, check out ThisPlagueOfDays.com for sneak peeks.)

I released This Plague of Days, Season 1 as a serial. There were many reasons for doing it this way. I wrote it like a television mini-series and serialization opens up marketing opportunities. On the first day of Season One, I published the complete first season and Episode 1. Four more episodes followed each Monday. The episodes sold for 99 cents each or readers could get the whole season for $3.99.

For my initial giveaway, I put the first episode up for free for two days. I don’t believe in long promotions. By the time you’re done more than two days, you’ve exhausted your connections and momentum slows. I gave away about 1500 downloads of Episode 1 and stayed at the top of the Post-apocalyptic and Dystopian charts on the free side of Amazon for those two days. It’s really exciting sitting at #1 and #2 beside Hugh Howey.

An interesting thing happened next:

A bunch of readers liked Episode 1 but they stuck with the individual episodes. I watched my dashboard charts light up green with sales of Episodes 2, 3, 4 and 5 as people who got Episode 1 for free worked their way through the serial. The complete book of the season sold a bit, too, (at $3.99) but it seemed for readers to jump from episodes to the season at once, the discount would have had to be even deeper.

Pros and Cons of This Strategy

Pro: I gained a bunch of reviews for This Plague Of Days. Most readers dug it.

Con: Readers of Episode 1 only see the dad is an atheist and they may not stick around for the sweep of the story’s longer arc. The atheist dad has doubts about his lack of belief and his religious wife has doubts about her faith. I don’t dump it all in Episode 1 so, with serialization, you get judged by what you lead with. I’m not complaining. If you do something similar to what I’m doing, stay true to your vision, but don’t expect everyone to wait patiently for the payoffs later on. I have secret seeds planted in Season One that don’t bloom until Season Three.

Con: You’ll always get your worst reviews from free promotions.

Con: Some people who click free will never click “buy”. (Actually, that’s unfortunate, but it’s not really a “con” per se. I mention it because I anticipate resistance to these tactics. However, it’s not a true deficit in that it’s mostly irrelevant. These readers aren’t in my long-term equation for the same reasons the cobalt industry, Cadillac and Vera Wang don’t target me as a customer. Just as I’ll never be in those businesses’ target demographics, I’m hunting for converts, not free book shelvers.

Pro: All those downloads got me Also-bought listings and Amazon started selling the book for me with their mailing list. That’s a major plus on the brand visibility side of the argument.

Pro: As summer sales of Season One ebbed, I saw the momentum from July evaporate. I did what few say makes sense. I put the price up to $4.99. No one’s buying the episodes now, but they are buying the complete first season at the higher price. That could indicate that Season One was underpriced. Probably, but as I’ll argue below, that’s okay. I’m in this for the long-term. Discoverability is more important than sales for now.

What I’m doing differently for Season Two

In This Plague of Days, I’m trying to give a B movie an A treatment. To get traction for an unknown serial aimed at a smart crowd in an unfamiliar format, I think the starting price was fair and good for Season One. If you didn’t jump aboard before, for two days only, Season One of This Plague of Days is free to download on September 18 and 19th. (If you love it, please review it.) Season Two will also have some bonus material in the back.

Why give away an entire book? Isn’t that evil and the death of literature?

Season One is the gateway drug to Season Two and, for two days only, the first taste is free.

I’m using Freebooksy and Bookbub to let the world know. This publicity does cost money, potentially a few nasty reviews and maybe I’m leaving money on the table. However, it will get my name and Season One into the hands of at least 5,000 people. (If that doesn’t sound like much to you, consider that 5,000 paid sales equals a bestseller in Canada. I expect to hit #1 and #2 again and have some sales momentum behind me as I slide into the October launch of Season Two. This is marketing as an exercise in delayed gratification. I’ll sell more of Season Two because I’ll get more readers in on the ground floor of the serial. Besides, it’s a one-time only sale. Most readers will find the cash for the full price under their couch cushions, so let’s not get too dramatic about the losses or gains.

To put it another way, a la Seth Godin, “Too many people are reading my free ebook is not a problem” (as long as there are other books to sell.) To paraphrase author Cory Doctorow, Free isn’t my problem, “obscurity is my problem.” And finally, I quote myself for emphasis, “Generosity feels great…(and) discoverability is more important than sales for now.”

Season 2 launches Oct 1.

Season 2 launches Oct 1.

The Rationale: Season Two of This Plague of Days launches in a couple of weeks.

The story and the virus evolve together. This time out, TPOD has a different pace. Season One was like a television serial. Season Two is the action movie. It gets more paranormal and it’s loaded with surprises, chills and blood spills. Expect new villains and more twists from Ireland to Iceland to the Indianapolis Speedway. You’ll see the invasion of New York, the Midwest and the terrible events at Canada’s border with Michigan. It’ll sell for $4.99 this fall. In a month or so I’ll do a giveaway of Season Two, Episode 1 only.

Eventually I’ll put This Plague Of Days across more platforms and go for a price match so Episode 1 of Season One will be perma-free. I’ll experiment with price points, but the complete Season Two will never go free. The law of diminishing returns kicks in if you’re trying to get people to jump into the middle. (Ironically, you could jump straight into Season Two without reading Season One and you wouldn’t be lost at all. However, people don’t believe that. I never got into Ally McBeal because I missed the first episode.)

About Audiences

People who love zombies were very patient with Season One. The zombies don’t show up immediately but the dread keeps rising so I guess the suspense satisfied them until the heavier horror kicked in. They don’t have to wait for any action in Season Two, so I expect this phase of TPOD will go big all the way to Christmas (especially as other promotions kick in.)

The other thing that surprised me was how readers with family connections to autism, developmental delays and handicaps responded to the story. The protagonist is on the spectrum and those readers enjoyed seeing the world through his eyes. It’s not a long screed (and certainly punchier than this post) but those readers responded well to discussions of what it’s like to be the parent of an autistic kid. The family loves Jaimie, but they don’t romanticize his disabilities and his sister treats him like a normal kid treats a sibling who is often difficult to live with.

About Price Resistance

Selling episodes at 99 cents with 30% to me won’t keep me in cat food, but it did help with visibility. I gather those who started buying episodes in Season One will mostly choose to get the complete second season so they can find out right away what happens to the Spencer family and the British refugees.

It seems the greatest resistance to price increases lay not with the readers, but with yours truly. More readers are discovering my books at higher price points. I guess those higher prices make them confidant I know what I’m doing. So, while I’m still advocating short-term discount promotions, the trend with all my book prices is for them to climb. Done right, with a giveaway of sufficient numbers, free can still work. If I thought I could get more traction on other platforms, I’d try a different strategy. However, regarding promotion, it appears the other platforms are still lacking.

If you’re reading this on September 18 or 19th, 2013,

grab your free copy of the complete first Season of This Plague of Days here.

And please tell a friend. Thanks!

 

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

Writers: Are you sitting on the money?

They call it the Cliff. You can do Author Marketing Club and Bookbub and free promotions and blow giveaways out the digital door. You can even start catching fire and getting traction and selling books for (gasp!) actual money. Then, the fall from grace comes. Sales drop off, often steeply. What happened? You ran off the Cliff. Lots of people do. In this post, we’re going to think about climbing back up and promoting our previous works again (and doing it better this time) because I suspect we’re sitting on money.

I’m rethinking the old marketing paradigm that’s always oriented to what’s new. 

It’s the thing we should question most: accepted wisdom. Despite all my efforts, old wave thinking is still permeating my brain. In traditional publishing, you get a short window to get traction and then the bookstores return your books to the publisherCrack the Indie Author Code for credit. That’s the structure of the short tail market. In long tail marketing, our books are up forever (or at least until the cyber war brings us all low). Still, we tend to think of our books as hitting big (or not) and then the graph points down. We’re mimicking thinking and marketing patterns from traditional wisdom because all old ideas are awesome, right? Oh, wait…

Case #1

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while and by not sleeping, I’m finally getting to it. I pulled Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book, Aspire to Inspire from print. I didn’t like the look of the interior design. I’m fixing them and will make Crack the Indie Author Code available in print again soon. (They’re both still out there as ebooks.)

Self Help for Stoners JPEGCase #2

Self-help for Stoners was my first book. It’s funny and strange and with an intermediary. I used Bookbaby for that collection and I want to get it back at Ex Parte Press and put it out myself. I’m sure I can make it go higher once I have full and instant control of the marketing. I queried Amazon about the process today because I’m afraid of losing the reviews. Either way, I do need to steer my ship and reach out to stoners and non-stoners, alike and anew. (If you’re a Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus fan, my luckless Cuban hit man appears first in Self-help for Stoners, by the way.)

This post won’t help you much if you only have one book to sell, but here are my thoughts on renewed marketing efforts: 

If you have one book, write more. No whining,

If you have a backlist, who is to say what’s old and what’s renewable? You’re the one to say.

If you have a bunch of books, I bet you’re a better writer by now. Why not revisit those books and do new editions?

Consider the power of bundling books. You could enliven your Amazon dashboard with more happy green up arrows. Stop sitting on the money.

Lots of people missed your fledgling efforts the first time. You didn’t know what you were doing. Who did? Any book they haven’t read is new to them. 

The most powerful promotions tend to be the first ones. But maybe that’s because we don’t put the same marketing efforts into books we published a couple of years ago. In digital, the term backlist is less relevant. As long as it’s clear it’s a new edition or a new launch or you’ve added material, what’s the problem? 

Maybe those early efforts flopped because you had a lousy cover. Get a new, better cover* and launch it right this time. With all you’ve learned about marketing since your early efforts, it’s bound to do better, right?

Most fiction doesn’t get stale. Our efforts get stale because we want to focus on the new thing. Maybe the old thing is only old in your mind. With some tweaking, a fresh edit and a new campaign, you might have a book people will love and buy. Reuse, recycle, repurpose. Turn short stories into collections. Open up to new possibilities with prequels to your books. Tie books together. Add to your series. Serialize. There’s plenty of fun to be mined in what you’ve already accomplished.

Your problem with these suggestions isn’t necessarily that my head is full of feathers. Your problem is the same as mine. This will take a lot of time and you feel you’ve already covered this ground. But most of us didn’t cover this ground well the first time. There are new promotional tools now. Yes, time management can be tough and we can only do what we can do. But that’s business. We are not special snowflakes, but we’re letting good stuff go cold.

*About good covers, I know a guy. He’s Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com. He’s an award-winning graphic artist with an extensive portfolio who works well with indies and traditional publishers. Like my covers? Kit did them all. Check out his site. You’ll be glad you did.

Dark Higher Than Jesus banner ad

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

Books: Ventures, Misadventures, Adventures and Brutal Honesty

Crack the Indie Author CodeWhen George Lucas screened  Star Wars, most of his fellow filmmakers in the room looked at each other and said, “American Graffiti was awesome, George, but this space opera thing…yuck!” It was Stephen Spielberg who played the contrarian. “You guys don’t get it!” he said. “This is going to be huge!” And of course, Spielberg was right.

My personal Lord and Saviour of The Written Word, William Goldman, famously said of the Hollywood film business, “Nobody knows anything.” It’s true, no one can know what will hit and which will miss. Someone comes up with the somewhat moronic expression YOLO (the idiot’s “Carpe diem”) and it’s suddenly on t-shirts everywhere. True for us, too. You may write a heavy, ambitious tome, but it’s a tiny book like The Little Prince that captures the hearts and imaginations of generations of readers.

So it is with marketing books.

Agents say they can “guide your career”, but if that were true, anyone with a sentient agent would have a fabulous career. No one knows anything in publishing, either. That’s not meant as an insult, but as a reflection of reality. Publishing is famous (or infamous) for placing bets on many horses, hoping the big bets will pay off and cover the losers’ ubiquitous failures. Few industries have a miss rate as high as book publishing (though Hollywood’s screwing up even more than usual lately.)

So it is with my books, too!Self Help for Stoners JPEG

The summer is winding down and I find I must split my mania among many ventures. I’m in a philosophical mood and looking back at what took off, what has not, and why. We at Ex Parte Press are not lounging in the money, chocolate and champagne pool at the moment. (But we still have high hopes.)

  • Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus are critical successes among the few critics who are aware of my funny Cuban hit man and his tragic past. Alas, hardboiled and funny suspense isn’t trending at the moment. Nonetheless, I have more Hit Man books planned. Jesus Diaz will just have to wait a bit longer as I concentrate my efforts where readers have demonstrated more enthusiasm. I love Jesus, and can’t wait to get him back on the warpath in Hollywood. An assassin who can make movie references and quick quips while getting beaten up deserves more books. He’ll get them.
  • My first funny short story collection, Self-help for Stoners, sells just a little but steadily. It’s a tribute to Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com that the cover is repinned on Pinterest several times a week, every week. Later this fall I will stop using an intermediary so I can take back control of marketing that book. I have no doubt I can take it much higher once that happens. I’d have done it by now but I’ve been perpetually swamped for months with This Plague of Days.
  • Six Seconds, my book about using the Vine app to market your business was an instant book with lots of great advice. I’ve moved books and marketed my podcasts having fun with mini videos. Though Vine remains the superior product, Instagram changed their app to ape Vine so Instagram has many more users. I bet on the wrong horse, not every at bat is a home-run, insert your metaphor for failure here.
  • This Plague of Days, Season One is getting traction. It might even be on the cusp of taking off. I’ll find out when Season Two hits at the end of September. (Here’s my latest post with hints and expectations for Season Two.) Early feedback is very encouraging. As in this, from the beta team: “Suspense and plot and action – all of them are on steroids in this book…overall impression is you have brought this thing to the next level.”

Mind the towering caveat in the following paragraph:

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

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

So you see, I’m no better (or worse) at stabbing at the imagination of readers than anyone else. I don’t know what will sell buckets of books. No one does. It’s something that happens to you, as long as you pretend your destiny is under your control and do everything you can to get discovered. You can hit the target. We’re all shooting blindfolded in the dark, sure, but if you take enough wild shots, aiming matters less. You write the best book you can and engage more readers and attend some sad, ill-attended bookstore signings and do whatever else you can think of to fire off signal flares without becoming a Twitter pariah.

This is not to say that good advice isn’t out there. It’s just that so much good advice conflicts!

The great Chuck Wendig talks about voice (or the force of personality) being more important than “brand”. Others can’t talk about anything else but brand, stats and system gaming. Hugh Howey is the outlier that didn’t really market anything when he started Wool (though he says Facebook helps him most these days.) Some insist on lots of links to your other work in the back of each book. Others say that’s overkill and intelligent readers will find you easily if they love you enough to bother with a google search. Some book marketers are passive as a policy (or lazy.) Others are so active, it’s pretty close to obnoxious.

And still, nobody knows anything. Not for sure. There are too many variables to success and the situation is fluid. We, writers and publishers all, dance on tightropes while juggling feathers in wind storms and hope readers will cast a glance our way and enjoy the silly monkey dance.

Still, you’ll find advice about tactics everywhere.

Just this week, I pushed the Author Marketing Club and Bookbub. Solid advice I stand behind. But keep in mind, these are tactics. The potency of tactics can wax and wane according to many variables. That’s what’s hot now and into the near future. After that? New tools will emerge because good ideas get copied. Sometimes imitators are new and improved and often the copier doesn’t have enough toner.

Strategy is long-term thinking. Strategy says: Write more. Get more feedback. Write more books. Get better. Higher+than+Jesus+Front+1029

This is the only advice I know that lasts. (You’ll find that and much more about the writing and publishing life in Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire. Crack sells a bit while the second book hardly moves at all. Why? Who knows? Nobody. Nobody knows anything! My Lord and Saviour told me so.

However, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I have a third book about writing and publishing in the chamber ready to fire. When This Plague of Days hits big, readers will pick up all my books about writing and publishing. After the fact, they’ll say, “Well, no wonder.” 

The Johnny-come-latelies won’t know what you know. My overnight success wasn’t overnight. Success always seems inevitable, but only in retrospect. Until you make it, no one cares about you and your book. Those who do give you any thought probably think you a fool. (Insert an image of your disapproving in-laws here.)

Ah. But, afterwards? You’re a genius.*

~ *Afterwards, You’re a Genius is a wonderful book I recommend for anyone interested in scientists with lyrical sensibilities.

For more on the rising action and scary high stakes in the spiralling weirdness of an autistic boy fighting zombies, read this post at ThisPlagueOfDays.com. 

For more on my adventures in self-pubishing, swallowing bitter pills and my peculiar brain mania, there’s this post on the writing life at my author site. 

 

Filed under: author platform, getting it done, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FAQs: Would I go with an agent?

Crack the Indie Author CodeWhen I attended the Banff Publishing Workshop, most attendees were bent on writing and managing magazines and publishing houses.* I knew one nice woman who wanted to be agent. I wonder what she’s doing now? There’s an excellent chance she’s selling real estate. Too bad. She really was nice. Same is true of all my classmates in journalism school who were let go from their newspaper jobs about the time they turned 40. Changing media delivery paradigms sure do stir up chaos.

Given my last post, you might think I’m against agents. Not at all. I think agents could be very useful for negotiating foreign rights for my imprint in the future, for instance.

However, their role is much reduced and smart agents are changing their games. At a recent writing conference, writers were not chasing agents so much. The Meet-An-Agent appointment schedule could not be filled. Now more agents are chasing writers and they’re very interested in how your self-published books are doing. They weren’t at all interested a short time ago. In fact, some were quite pissy about the prospect. But now? Establish a happy track record and they might come a courtin’.

The short answer to this post’s title is:

I’d be interested in hearing what an agent feels he or she could do for me. There are good agents out there. I think hybrid publishing maximizes exposure and opportunities for you and your readers. Look at Wool author Hugh Howey’s experience. An agent found him and she was willing to travel outside the ruts of old publishing’s logging road to get Hugh a deal that worked for everyone.

The long answer? Let’s go with bullet points so I can make this shorter:

  • The submissions process can be a long ordeal. Long as in, are you young enough to begin now?)
  • You may be asked to make major changes to your manuscript. If you succeed in getting a book deal, you’ll make even more major changes.
  • You may choose to make the requested changes and they still won’t take you on. (They may even forget the changes they suggested. Yes, that’s happened.)
  • You can get an agent but still fail to place the book with a publisher. An agent is a person, not a guarantee of slinging back cosmos in Manhattan with your new editor.
  • The myth is that you choose an agent. The fact is if someone sends you a contract, most authors pee their pants and quickly sign. Regret is for later.
  • You can find an agent, dance joyously and then find out it’s a scam (as happened to a friend of mine.)
  • You could bypass the agent and submit directly to publishing houses and they’ll still read it. (They say they don’t, but most will.)
  • As Dean Wesley Smith has said, agents should be your employees. I’m sure he’s right. Guess how many agents see their professional status that way?
  • Submit to the wrong agent who blogs and they’ll mock your submission. Unprofessional, I’d say. As Will McEvoy said recently, “Snark is the idiot’s version of wit.”
  • Good agents have precious few slots open for new clients. Bad agents and scammers demand reading fees.
  • Rather than submit query letters to agents, many agents find new clients via recommendations from the authors in their stable. Who you know? Yeah, that’s still a thing. It’s called networking. Ignore the denials.
  • Getting an agent is tougher than getting published. Why not publish it yourself first and start selling now? As I’ve said many times, Amazon is the new slush pile.
  • Some agents live in fear of submitting manuscripts that might not be accepted. They have to be so sure, they’re too risk averse. One agent complained that one false move with a particular editor would lose her access forever. This sad story tells me that’s a crazed editor. It also tells me that’s an agent who is too fearful, forever doomed to be chasing trends instead of helping to make them.
  • The agent/author relationship is like a marriage: They have a piece of you forever even after the divorce.
  • Lazy agents say, “This would be hard to sell.” As a former sales rep for many publishing companies, I can assure you that there are few easy sales. We don’t need you for easy sales. Selling is part of the job. The better question is, “How can I sell this and to whom?”
  • Often when they say, “This would be a hard sell”, they aren’t lazy. It’s a euphemism for, “I think this is crap but why not be diplomatic?” They’re being kind. Don’t resent them for it. Move on.
  • You’ll get a better deal with a good agent than without her. A good agent will more than pay for herself. However, some agents are getting paid for doing very little. They treat the publisher’s contract as set in stone. That’s supposed to be the publisher’s attitude. It’s a bad attitude for the person negotiating for you.
  • Good agents can act as a buffer and help resolve conflicts with editors. Bad agents are the source of personality conflicts.
  • You have to trust your agent. You don’t have to love your agent. It’s a business relationship. That’s less clear in the beginning when you’re riding high. It’s very clear when they dump your mid-lister ass.
  • A good agent can do things you can’t and navigate the tiny details of contracts. A good agent can pay great dividends for their fifteen percent.
  • But an entertainment lawyer can practice law and navigate the tiny details of contracts and you pay them once. Hm.
  • A good agent can justify their participation in your enterprise without sounding old-school entitled about it. They work in listening mode.
  • Trad publishing has changed. Good agents know it and are adapting to serve their clients better.

TPOD 0616 EP 1 coverAuthors who love their agents are everywhere. A plethora of horror stories about agents also span the Internet, just as there are snarky complaints about clueless authors everywhere.

A better question is about the human variable: You.

Would you feel better with an experienced, connected agent helping you on an ongoing basis?

Or does the prospect fill you with anxiety?

Are you happier as a publisher/author/entrepreneur who pays for an entertainment lawyer’s expertise on an ad hoc basis?

Enter the relationship self-aware, eyes open.

Even better:

How do you find a good agent if you want one?

Ask an author in your genre who is already delighted with their agent.

*FYI: A magazine is something people used to subscribe to and read, like a blog but made out of glossy paper. Publishing houses were places that had an undeserved reputation for great cocktail parties that were vaguely upper crust, literate and British, no matter where they were located or how little the worker drones were paid.)

~ Robert Chazz Chute was one of those worker drones. He is the author of This Plague of Days World flu pandemic! Autism! Zombies! Oh, my!

Filed under: agents, Books, publishing, self-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.

See my books, blogs, links and podcasts.

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

Join 10,058 other followers

Brain Spasms a la Twitter

%d bloggers like this: