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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

Ultimate Blog Challenge: Writing Books on Writing

Can writing be taught?Sure, but what most people mean by the question is, can anyone write to a professional level? One

On Writing

On Writing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

newspaper colleague of mine insisted that it was something you were born with or you weren’t. I think the desire to immerse yourself in writing might spring from a quirk of genetics, but after that it’s up to you.

Certainly, anyone’s writing can be improved. Eliminate excess adverbs and don’t strain a metaphor until it breaks and you’re off to a good start. I’ve taught a couple of writing classes now and I suspect that writing skill is self-selecting anyway. If you aren’t interested in writing to begin with — as it is with anything — you probably won’t improve much. The best training in writing I got was first to read extensively early on. In my childhood home, books were a big deal and they still are now that I’m supposed to be a grown-up. Toward the end of journalism school, I think the best training I got in writing was to write copiously for a daily newspaper with feedback from editors.

There are a ton of books on writing advice and I’m sure I’ve read just about all of them. Reading about writing is often less about learning something new (there’s not really that much new to say about craft, is there?) as it is confirming my thoughts, feelings and biases. Sometimes a unique idea will rise out of that reading. Mostly I read writing advice books to enjoy the voice and the company of likeminded writers and to find inspiration. It’s motivating, yet cozy as a warm blanket, to read a book on writing advice and think, “Yes, I agree. I’m doing that. I could try that. I should go write some more now.” I end up reading writing advice for the same reasons I drink coffee. It’s a stimulant that makes you feel warm inside.

That’s ultimately why I decided I will soon add to the tonnage of writing advice books. Some books are very specific and prescriptive about writing. Others give excellent advice and strategies for marketing for the indie author (like Jeff Bennington’s intrepid Indie Author’s Guide to the Universe.)

Mine will be a softer approach for newer writers, like Bird by BirdI’ve gone back to Stephen King’s On Writing again and again. These are the books that told me I wasn’t alone and this wasn’t so hard or crazy if I just pecked away at it. It was simply craft and there isn’t a secret besides sitting down (or getting on my treadmill desk) and doing the work I knew I could do.

The aspiration for this book is more modest than some who take a step-by-step, flow chart approach. My book on writing will be inspiration for the new indie author, much of it drawn from posts on this blog. Early on I linked to others less and wrote more about craft (instead of focusing on marketing the Indie Author Revolution as I seem to do now.) I selected the best and most useful posts from over 900 articles on ChazzWrites.com, then added to them, wrote some new stuff and edited again.

My book won’t be as ambitious as some who (may Thor bless them) give strict advice on what to do and how to do it. My ideal reader will be a writer like me who wants to grab a steaming coffee, curl up in an armchair and read Crack the Indie Author Code: Aspire to Inspire (yes, that’s what I called it and yes, it’s coming soon). Readers will find an ally, inspiration and company on the journey to publication. For me, the work is about the writing first and foremost. The real fun happens in our heads as we write and nurture that spark of inspiration into a flame that throws light and heat. I’m happiest at my keyboard hooked up to the coffee in the intravenous drip.

Do I think writing can be taught? Sure. If you want it enough to bother to go looking for the education, that’s the cardinal sign and symptom that you’re already infected with the writing bug, anyway.

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

What moves books? And what is ‘Parketing’ anyway?

Successful book marketing campaigns often do a lot of things at once, especially at first, before awareness of your book grows. Author Jeff Bennington, for instance, has noticed that online marketing of his books takes an hour out of each day or sales begin to dip. (More on getting you and your books’ global fame in a minute, but first let’s talk attitudes, parketing and my terrible personal deficiencies as a book marketer.)

Someone’s already saying, “An hour a day? Who has that kind of time? When will I have time to write?” You’re an artist, but you’re an artist in business. Businesses need to advertise. You’d make time to send out invoices, so make time to make people aware of your books unless you’re content writing for yourself and your kids. (Fortunately, lots of online marketing is cheap, free and fun, so there’s that.) Down the road, once you reach critical mass, maybe you’ll be able to get away with doing less marketing, but I doubt it. Coke still advertises. Manage your time and make it work.

Here’s one cheap way to promote local awareness of your books: I first heard of parketing (though it wasn’t called that then) at a writers’ conference three years ago. The marketing guru fired lots of ideas at us: blogging, tweeting, podcasts…the usual, though it was all newer, scarier stuff then. Then the guru asked, “How many of you have a car magnet advertising the cover of your book?” Not a single hand was raised, of course. The marketing guru snarked, “Yeah, why would you want to let anyone know you have a book for sale?” Park your car where lots of people will see it with your lovely book cover on it and voilà! That’s parketing.

It’s a digital world, so old-school attempts to market a book are often overlooked, often with justification. However, you may want to consider parketing in certain circumstances. This is one of those advertising strategies that has “short term” written all over it. It could work for the short term because no one is doing it. No one is doing it because your first reaction is that it sounds silly or maybe even naive or worse, beneath your dignity. If you habitually park your car in a high-visibility area (say, outside a bookstore at the mall) it sounds a little less silly. When you consider the number of businesses that do advertise this way, successfully, it sounds even less nuts. If your pockets are shallow, you can still do this. I got my car magnet from Vistaprint for less than $20.

Parketing works much better if you’re prepared to ask a bunch of friends to put car magnets on their vehicles, too. If your pockets are very deep, you could even go for the full paint job. Do that and you’ve got a marketing campaign started in your city and the basis for a press release to local newspapers and magazines. Sure, we market our ebooks globally, but we shouldn’t turn up our noses at getting noticed locally. That’s one way to get critical mass going. People in your own city, especially media, are more interested in local authors because they have a sense of ownership and familiarity with local authors. There’s a business in my city that seems to be everywhere because each employee gets a free paint job on their vehicle advertising the business. Everywhere they drive, they are advertising. It’s not that large a company (or even a particularly good one), but their ad-plastered cars seem ubiquitous, reminding everyone daily, “Here we are!”

The ad on my van gets attention because it’s just so damn weird. There is surely not another author advertising his or her book with a car magnet for hundreds of miles, so people slow down to read it. I’ve watched them slow down to look. Has it translated to sales? I don’t know. It’s just one car magnet for one book, but I do know people are reading the ad. For me, this little strategy is really  just about promoting awareness so I get my name familiar. For what I spent, I’m okay with that. We gravitate toward the familiar, buying name brands instead of the unknown product (which could be just as good or better but you don’t recognize the label.) When I shop the local Asian food market, I’m actually physically uncomfortable with the cans of unknown weird stuff even though I know it’s not weird. It’s merely different. (I’m weird.)

It’s all the other stuff I do that will make the difference in the long term. There is no one way to move books. Online marketing is going to do much more  because it’s everywhere. For instance, I’ve been on the air, or talked about, on six different podcasts recently (besides my own weekly podcast). That will go a lot further toward gaining some vague familiarity with my name as an author than a car magnet will for one book. Plus, I love podcasting, so I’ll always have that.

Have you guessed this post is not really about putting a magnet on your car? It’s about using multiple strategies to get attention to your books. Marketing campaigns that are single-pronged attacks do not move books. Try a lot of things, even the weird ideas if they make sense to you. Experiment and have fun with it if you can. Try to get your name out there, arriving from several places, preferably at once. We must reach outside of our circles of family and friends to move books.

I’m often reluctant to try new book marketing  strategies until I see them tested by others. That’s why I missed out on the benefit of KDP Select while some others made whacko cash last December. I haven’t jumped on Pinterest because I read one blog about their scary terms of service. These are my deficiencies. I’m often too timid about doing things that are good for me. Everything new feels weird at first. Unfamiliar doesn’t mean wrong. Unfamiliar simply means unfamiliar. In our marketing efforts, should we proceed with caution? Sure. Don’t get taken,  but do proceed and make progress.

What are the book marketing basics? Write a good book. Get it edited. Get a great cover design. Price it right. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know all that.

What then? Then go buy my buddy Jeff Bennington’s new book, The Indie Author’s Guide to the Universe. I’m reading it right now and I especially like the things you can do to sell your books that are free. Let him show you the way forward. The best marketing strategies are not static. They come and go and rise and fall so we have to stay current and open to experimentation with new opportunities as they arise.

That’s what I’m trying to do, anyway, and that’s what this blog is about.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is the author of a bunch of great ebooks of suspense with titles he now realizes generally repel you. He podcasts a comedy/narrative show, Self-help for Stoners, every Thursday night. To learn more, go to AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: ebooks, Media, My fiction, podcasts, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Useful writing links, web reviews, What about Chazz?, What about you?, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


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

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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.

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