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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Cost control for the Indie Author

(Editor’s Note: Everybody tracks income. We aren’t so enthused about tracking outgo, me included. Fortunately, author Mark Victor Young has some thoughts on that today. ~ Chazz)

Guest Post by Mark Victor Young

“When embarking on a new venture where the returns are likely to be modest, or at the very least uncertain, the quickest way to get into the black is to keep your costs to a minimum.” This has been my guiding principle since the beginning of my Indie Author journey. I’m having a great time doing it and all, but I want this thing to be real first and foremost, so anything I can do myself, I will do. My time is free and I don’t mind spending it on myself.

 There are tons of Book Marketing platforms out there who will tell you they have the magical key to success for an Indie Author and it will only cost you $20 per month, or $100 per year, etc. Just put “Indie Author” in your twitter bio and see how fast they find you and promise you success… for a small fee. But at $2.99 per e-book, I make $2.00/book, so I have to sell 50 books just to break even on a $100 expense. How much would I have to do by myself, using free self-promotional tools, to sell 50 e-books? I don’t know, but I know that when I did, I’d be $100 to the good.

 Let’s look at my start-up expenses and see what I consider to be necessary costs and where you could cut corners.

 Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 2.01.30 PM

 

Scrivener is an Indie Author’s best friend. It is a compositional and editing platform that allows you to format your book as a PDF, ePub, Kindle or Paperback and upload it directly to the various sales platforms. This allows you to control your own destiny and not have to rely on one platform (ie. Smashwords) acting as an intermediary with all the others and grabbing a slice of your revenues in the process. It costs about $40 (I found a 10% off coupon online – that is two e-books worth of revenue saved!) and it is well worth it.

 Registering your business as a Sole Proprietorship or Corporation says to the world that yours is a serious venture and is worthy of respect. Registering your business will also have some tax advantages down the line if your sales start rolling. Likewise, paying for a custom domain (myname.com) is a small cost that sends a message that you might be worthy of someone’s hard earned three bucks. Sure, you could just operate as an individual and go with a myname.wordpress.com or myname.blogspot.com and save both fees. I have nothing against this and would commend you on your frugality.

 If you’re planning to offer your books for sale in paperback, you are going to need to see the physical items to really make sure you are putting a quality product out there that will reflect well on you. This will mean shipping yourself some proof copies as well as taking a hard look at the online editing software. But this is also an opportunity to grab some hard copies to use for local, in person sales opportunities (as long as they are what you expected and aren’t full of formatting problems or whatever). CreateSpace (division of Amazon.com) will let you have up to 5 proof copies for a few bucks each plus postage. Make a small change to alter the file and they will let you proof it again (by ordering 5 more copies – see where this is going? J).

 I contacted hundreds of book bloggers through e-mail and social media to ask them to review my first book and only one required a physical copy. This is good, because the postage was frightening! There were plenty out there who would gladly accept a free ePub or Mobi (that I could supply, thanks to Scrivener) for their e-readers. One even purchased the e-book to review it, because she felt it was important to support Indie Authors. Can’t argue with that! But this is a great example of something time consuming but free which will pay off in publicity and promotion. Several bloggers even agreed to publish an interview or promotional feature on me with no mention of a charge at all. I only heard back from about 1 in 20 that I contacted, but I was happy with those responses, I can tell you.

 You’ll notice that I have incurred no costs for book cover design. That’s an interesting story that may be unique to me. My wife is an excellent artist and has a background in marketing and publishing. She designs all my covers for free, so I don’t have any costs in that regard. Sorry – don’t hate me! Here are the covers for my first two novels, which have garnered all kinds of compliments and positive attention:

 Screen Shot 2014-09-08 at 2.01.38 PM

 

But that doesn’t mean that someone who is not similarly wedded need bear heavy costs in this area. You may know an artist who could help with this in exchange for you promoting their services on your website or social media. Find an author whose covers you love and ask who they use. If you can’t find something fabulous and free, Smashwords has a list of cover designers, some of whom will charge less than $100 to design your book cover. Sometimes you can also save money by going with a ready-made cover. Here are some my wife came up with and here are some by Kit Foster.

 This is not an area for skimping. Don’t send your book out into the world if it looks like a public domain work from Project Gutenberg. That will send a message that your book should be free, or worse, isn’t considered worthy of a great cover, so won’t be worthy of their time. Don’t settle for something that LOOKS self-published (in the amateurish sense). People do judge a book by its cover, unfortunately, so you will need a great-looking, professional finished product whichever way you go.

 There are no guarantees of success for Indie Authors. But there are no guarantees with or without spending money on third party promos. The more you spend in chasing book sales, the more profit gets eaten up by these marketing and promotional expenses. If you consider this to be a long term, truly independent venture and you keep at it and keep adding to your list of books for sale, even a modest success will be income that is all yours to keep. If, that is, you haven’t already paid out all your profits to third parties in advance. If you’re determined to use some service that you think will really pay off, make a deal with yourself. Wait until you’ve made $100 more in revenues than all the expenses you’ve incurred and then spend it on that great book marketing opportunity. That way every sale it generates will be putting money in your pocket. J

 Best of luck on your own Indie Author journey!

~ Find out more about Mark on his website, MarkVictorYoung.com.

 

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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.

 

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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!

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How NOT to sell books at a reading

I did a reading a while back. I sold a book. Yeah. One. Let’s just take a moment to take that in. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Okay…here’s what I’ll do differently next time:

1. Advertise and/or promote more and work my network beforehand. Most of my friends are of the cyber variety. I’ve been a nomad/recluse so long that, locally, I don’t have a network. I’m connected to a lot of people who are too far away. Not just Skype calls and a long car ride. I’m talking long plane flights. I’m working on that, mostly through Twitter (#Ldnont) and connecting with local humans within handshake distance. It’s not entirely excruciating.

2. Have a sign. I had brochures, which was a good move. I didn’t have a proper sign that told people the books’ prices. A helpful friend took the money…or would have but, ahem…that turned out to be a non-issue. The forty dollar float in fives proved much more than adequate. (Do make it easy for potential customers by charging round numbers. Nobody wants to search for nickels.)

3. Rock the books you came with. I should have talked more about the books at the back of the room while I was at the front of the room. Instead, I rocked a short story that always gets laughs. I’m very confident reading that story to an audience, so I took the easy way out. I can sell that story, Another Day at the Office from Self-help for Stoners, easily. I should have pushed the books I brought instead, and harder. I should have read a piece from my books that sell most now (This Plague of Days) and a chapter from Crack the Indie Author Code (indies were the theme of the event.)

Being confident, instead of looking confident: I’ll figure it out and try it sometime.

4. I gave a good talk about writing and publishing. Actually, it was a great talk. People smiled and laughed in the right places. At one point I sang and even threatened an audience member with a grisly death, mostly for entertainment purposes. People went away smiling and happy…but they did go away.

The main problem was that I should have ended it sooner. We used the whole time allotted for the event. You’d think that would be delivering on expectations and promises. Instead, it gave people no time to shop for books. They ran to get their parking validated before the library closed. Rather than talk at the front of the room (which I enjoyed immensely) I should have mixed with the audience more before the event began and I should have built in more one-on-one chatting/selling/handshake/hip bump/high-five/hula dancing time at the end of the reading.

5. When the reading’s done, don’t get waylaid by the sweet, little old lady sitting in the third row. Push her out of your way and to the ground if necessary. She is killing you. At least, that’s what she did to me. I should have rushed straight to the back and engaged people there. By the time I answered her tangential question about who I might be related to (I wasn’t and oh, sweet Jebus, who cares?), most people had filed out, off to make sure their parking was free. Damn old lady. And damn parking. And damn me. 

To the one guy to whom I sold This Plague of Days in paperback, may Thor bless you with smart, stout-thighed, stress-resistant children with perfect teeth. It’s great signing a book for a reader who digs what you’re doing.

Back on the net that night, another audience member hit me up on Twitter to let me know he had a good time and was buying my ebooks, not paper. That was cool and eased my roiling sea of torment. Somewhat. 

I’ll do better next time.

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Amazon Overboard: Further thoughts

Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire both have bonus offers of free ebooks. Buy two books and you get four! Just released, so no reviews yet, but any second now….any second…Amazon’s doing what?! I’ve gotta sit down on a stump and think about this!

Publishing blogs will be burning up about Amazon’s new review policy tonight. Here’s my soothing balm: I think the idea of clamping down on authors reviewing their “competition” is so nuts, somebody on Amazon’s end will step in and say, “Sorry! Never mind. It was Todd’s first day and he locked himself on the bridge and took the helm and we almost crashed into that small moon.”

(Everybody all together now: “That’s no moon!”)

This is such a classic overcorrection to the comparatively minor problem of sock puppetry that I have to believe cooler, smarter heads will prevail. This is Amazon. They’re smart! (“…right?” said a small, nervous voice.)

In case they aren’t smart about this issue, here are my thoughts and predictions for what might happen if they don’t break past the locked door to the bridge and wrestle Ensign Todd to the deck.  

1. Following this logic, if Steven King were to step out of a pillar of literary white light, lay his sword upon my shoulders and give The

Steven King! Click here! Small-town terrors and psychological mayhem in Maine.

Dangerous Kind & Other Stories his blessing, Amazon wouldn’t want a share in my ensuing windfall? (I choose that book because, hey, comparisons have been made and, ahem, Steve, if you’re reading this…)

Okay, that’s not going to happen, but the principle strikes at the heart of the problem. If Steven King — or any other writer who springs to mind — says a book is good, that recommendation is given more weight in the real world, not less. We’re writers and we’re serious. We might know a little something about craft. I wrote two guides to writing and publishing and used to work in traditional publishing. For that reason, I should get less of a voice and opportunity to exercise free speech? To put it less eruditely but more succinctly: Um…huh?!

2. She Who Must Be Obeyed pointed out that the Oscars would have to be closed down by this policy’s logic. In that group, only directors can vote for directors and cinematographers vote for cinematographers. No one questions their moral fortitude and how honest their opinions are. Amazon’s giving me less credit for honesty than Hollywood people?! Again: What?!

If the core issue is trust — and we do want to trust that the review system works despite some evidence to the contrary — that trust is tested in two directions, not one.

3. Amazon’s great at a lot of things. If they keep this review policy, they will give their competitors a chance to be good at something at which Amazon, at present, suckeths. It doesn’t help that the policy is an insult aimed right at us. Most people can be trusted to write an honest review. My fear is that this move enables a lot of bad reviewers (who happen not to be authors) to go rogue and unchecked. Without balance, we all fall down.

4. I’m concerned that there’s a bunch of fear cropping up around this issue. As someone on Twitter told me today, it doesn’t help that they threaten to pull the book down if you argue with them. In dealing with artists, authors and content providers, threats are a tactical error. We’re all adults here, so let’s take this as an opportunity to solve problems. I’ve already been told, not unkindly, that I should watch what I say for fear of punishment. JA Konrath has mentioned that he’s got so many reviews, he’s above the fray. I have few enough, I’m beneath it. Take me down and I’ll get more publicity from the capricious attack. 

5. The Law of Unintended Consequences is one of my favorite laws. It rules throughout my plots. In fact, as Konrath has pointed out, it’s this bitch of a law that got us into this mess. If this policy stands I predict:

A. Fewer reviews on Amazon. Well, d’uh. If they just take them down, why bother?

B. Bad reviews stay up, depressing our star ratings. What many readers suspicious of reviews don’t understand is how incredibly difficult it is to get any reviews at all. That’s especially frustrating because many sites won’t help us promote our books until we have at least 10 reviews that yield a ranking above four stars. Put up another barrier to our livelihood and hopes and dreams and you get…

C. More paid reviews will rear up from clever, shady companies who will get around the system. Put desperate authors in a game they can’t win and more will cheat (only this time they’ll feel justified instead of furtive.)

D. Reviews will matter less than they do now. Many would say “even” less, and I repeat my oft-repeated plea: Read the sample and base your buying decisions on that, please.

E. Competitors and book review sites and book bloggers will rise higher as this policy change makes reviews less relevant. In many cases, authors will have to pay for those reviews, too, just to get to the head of the line.

Sigh. Okay…it’s off my chest. Now  what? 

My suggestions:

Sign the Change.org petition asking Amazon to please stop taking down reviews arbitrarily.

Get back to NaNoWriMo and have some fun being awesome.

Get back to reading something great and review it.

By the time you do so, this mess will probably be sorted out and Todd will be safely stowed in the brig.

*Geek test: Yes, I’m aware I mixed allusions to Star Trek and Star Wars in this post. Climb down off my back. It was a joke.

Free to download Nov 5 to Nov 9, 2012. Grab it now!

FRESH UPDATE: My crime novel, Bigger Than Jesus just reached #1 in Hardboiled and #9 in Action/Adventure. That’s an example of something Amazon does very well. Click it to grab it free until November 9!

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The Great Review Controversy, Take 2

From The Telegraph: A best-selling British crime writer, RJ Ellory, used pseudonyms to pen fake glowing reviews about his “magnificent genius” online while simultaneously criticising his rivals.

Read the link? Wasn’t that frustrating?

This time it’s a writer from the traditional side of publishing who has disappointed and embarrassed himself. As bad and individual as the act is, I’m relieved he’s not an indie author. Blame has been spread  around like confetti at a clown rally lately and I don’t want any more glitter in my jock. Will the fact that he’s traditionally published buy indies any more slack? No, but it probably won’t make things much worse for us. It’s so difficult to get reviews and build an audience that I find it disheartening to be painted with mile-wide brushes. I’m trying to make a living as a suspense novelist here!

Instead of distrusting five-star reviews — or automatically believing one-star reviews — I wish more people paid attention to reading samples. I encourage everyone to read book samples before clicking “buy” (even when, perhaps especially when, it’s “free”).

Reviews get too much weight in some people’s minds. My tastes aren’t necessarily yours, so why give so much power away to another when making reading choices? I read book samples to avoid unpleasant surprises. The first chapter usually gives me a glimpse of the quality and tone of what’s to come. Some people fail to exercise the reading sample option and then blame the author. “I wanted romance and this is fantasy! How dare she?” That’s like getting angry because the drugstore doesn’t sell coconuts.

Is Amazon really “Spamazon”? It’s the Internet. Is the fault in our tools or in ourselves? To confront the problem of bad reviews, fake reviews and attack reviews, we need to grow up, do our due diligence and keep things in perspective. You don’t believe everything you’re told. Fine. Enjoy those free reading samples and make better informed choices before the too-easy click.

Indies are mostly beautiful dreamers and bold, generous storytellers. We are not all evil scammers out to fool readers. Many of us tell entertaining stories with few resources and we perform this service for the equivalent of couch change. It’s churlish to make all authors collateral damage for the offences of others.

When the NY Times story about paid-for reviews broke last week, I was initially forgiving and didn’t take it so seriously. John Locke, for instance, may have paid for reviews, but he said he was open to honest opinions as well and he still wrote all his books which, nicely reviewed or not, a lot of people like. I wished he’d mentioned the paid-for-review strategy in his how-to book in the interest of full disclosure, but at first I figured his tactic just sped up his trip on the success train. However, when I saw so much negative reaction from potential buyers, I got sad. Unfairly or not, it hurt our reputation.

Then I realized I couldn’t approach Locke to ask for a cover blurb for my next book in The Hit Man Series. He was on my short list of authors I planned to ask for an endorsement. I’m not assuming he would have gone for it. I’m just terribly disappointed because of the damage done. (That cry of “I’ll never read indie again!” really got to me, silly as it is.) I read a few of Locke’s books and enjoyed them, but now his name is tainted with the “Paid for Reviews” badge. He’ll recover from this. Locke has a huge fan base who don’t care about this controversy. It’s probably too inside baseball for most and for people who are already fans, why would they care?

It hurt me and fellow indies, though (and we don’t have that big cash cushion to ride out the bad weather.) You know that saying, “Save a horse, ride a cowboy”? Indies need a bumper sticker, too: “Save an author, buy a book.”

Hm. That’s not near as sexy and catchy. Suggestions?

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Ultimate Blog Challenge: I am an artist, not a beggar

A forum post out of the cyber-ether really irritated me,

and not just because the person who posted was biased against self-publishing.

She was horribly misinformed and self-centered.

Her complaint is about “all these self-published authors begging for likes on their Facebook pages” and that apparently angered her by…okay, I’m not sure how that could bother her so much. Cluttering up her world, I guess. The strength  of venom I detected is usually found in a rattler’s fangs. Anyway, let’s flesh out the ugly misconception in her deluded subtext:

1. It’s not just indie authors. All authors with a Facebook page ask for “likes”. The more important likes are the like and buy buttons of our Amazon pages, but we all want to be liked. Most traditionally published authors understand that their publisher’s publicists are already stretched too thin, are often less effective than publicity that comes directly from authors and what resources that are channelled toward their books tend to be minuscule and fleeting.

2. It’s not begging. It’s asking politely and you often get something in exchange, like free entertainment, free education (like this post) and books that are much cheaper than what you’d pay a traditional publisher. All my books are currently priced at $2.99. That’s couch change — an impulse buy — for professionally published books. For less than the cost of one Starbucks coffee you get hours of entertainment I am happy to provide. I am an artist, not a beggar.

I’m not asking for loose change in exchange for nothing. I’m offering you a chance at relaxed Sunday afternoon with a book when it’s too hot to go outside; a cozy read on a winter’s night when you can’t sleep; suspense that won’t let you go to sleep;  a euphoric discovery that will delight you and might even change you. Yeah, you betcha that’s a bargain. If you refuse, no hard feelings.

3. Providing you with information or the opportunity to help out is not spam. It’s a question you don’t even have to answer. Get over yourself or turn off your Internet connection and take a break. I’m sorry the world isn’t catering to you. It’s not catering to me, either, but I suspect I hate fewer people than you do. I’d define spam as bombarding people with ads that provide no value, are out to scam you and a steady stream of blaring that gives you no opportunity to opt out. (i.e. You don’t get to complain if you decide for yourself you’re going to read it.)

4. Ignoring  the request takes nothing from you. Simply ignoring a request takes the bare minimum of tolerance. This person must be a nightmare in real life. How would she handle a real problem?

5. Why all the animus toward authors? Helping out costs nothing and I don’t think authors have any bad feelings toward those who don’t bother to “like” their books on Amazon, click “Agree with these tags” button on Amazon (it’s toward the bottom of each sales page) and “like” their Facebook page. (Thanks for helping to spread the word. And if you didn’t, no hard feelings.)

6. Ads are only irritating if you aren’t interested. On the computer, I click away. If assailed by the TV, I ignore it, fast forward, check my email or get up from the couch and get a glass of water. Indie authors (well, everyone) deserve more compassion than the complainer was willing to bestow. Sadly because the complainer might even love our work if she gave it a chance.

7. Despite my frustrated tone here, I know authors are not entitled to sales any more than Wal-mart or Toyota “deserves” your sales. We don’t even “deserve” your attention. That’s the myth of the entitled author I hear so much about. I honestly haven’t met many authors who suffer that delusion.

We get it. It’s a book. To most, “just” a book. We write them and lots of people don’t care. A lot of people don’t even read! Still, we stand behind our work and hope to find our audience. We hope our audience finds us. If I’m speaking to a crowd, I’m not speaking to everyone and I know it. Please be patient and polite while I direct my audience toward my books. I promise I won’t take long doing it and I’ll be as entertaining and quick as I can as I ask these things. You can always opt out.

Whether you’re indie or traditionally published, the promotion for your book really is up to you, your tribe, your followers and your readers. Publishers do very little for most authors. Stephen King gets a big promotional budget. That’s right. The authors who need the promotion least get the biggest boost because it’s a simple business decision: the publisher banks on the biggest title. Big publisher or small, these are the evaluations we all have to make.

I make that same evaluation every week. I have two very new titles just released in June. One is a short story

Get Bigger Than Jesus

collection bundled with a novella, The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories. The other is my crime thriller, Bigger Than Jesusthe first in a series. Which do I spend my limited resources promoting? Obviously, the crime thriller.

No short story collection will sell as well as a thriller. In all likelihood, my short story collections’ sales (there are three collections in all) will come after readers decide they like my flavor by discovering the novel. Some of the stories include characters and references that cross books, so there’s cross-pollination going on, too.  The short story collections are great, but they’re harder to sell (though they will be a valuable long term sales avenue.)

Yes, we have to interact and connect and make connections and help others to be heard.

Endure a little promotion amid all that for art’s sake.

Everybody’s trying to make a living

and civility is the grease to the gears of civilization.

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Author Blog Challenge 19: Choose how to grow your author platform

The Author Blog Challenge writing prompt was: What are the three most important things you are doing to grow your platform? This is such a good question and everyone has so many different answers. I don’t have an answer. I have a survey of what I do. How to grow your author platform? Eh…I have a menu of stuff from which to choose. Choose to do what you’ll enjoy so you can be effective and sustain it.

Just today I read a fellow indie author opine that one day a week of concentrated social media, pumping and pimping, hadn’t helped him a bit. Mind you, his sample was a bit too small. He was only talking about a month, which translated to four workdays. However, he’s not alone in the complaint. You can do a lot of work and still not move the needle in a measurable way, and measurable is really what counts. I suspect what was missing was connection. You have to be interested in people and what they’re doing. Interacting is better than spouting (he spouted.) Failing earnest interaction, when you just can’t bear to rip your heart out of your chest again for another blog post or comment thread, do what I do and make more jokes about strangling mimes.

I’m really very consistent in establishing my web presence. I do something every day and here’s what I’m active in: three Twitter accounts (though the main one is @rchazzchute); Facebook pages; a podcast broadcast two times a week; the author site (AllThatChazz.com) and, of course, this site. I even do a little bit of Google Plus. I always think of G+ last, but I know I picked up a new reader (who promised to review my book!) through G+ today. I know that’s a lot. This is part of my full-time job, no whining. The rest of the time, I’m writing, and no, there’s not time for much of anything else. Most people can’t devote the amount of time I do to marketing and promotion, and yes, I realize I’m very lucky to have such a supportive spouse in She Who Must Be Obeyed.

When you do a lot of social media, you do risk annoying people. I certainly risked that today. My Amazon free promo day was plastered across my podcast, my Twitter and retweeted across at least 50 other Twitter accounts. I emailed some people and reached out a bit through Facebook. Somebody must have thought, “Yeah, yeah, we get it. You’re excited about your book but I got a sammich here!” Even as I was promoting, I noticed a fellow author got cussed out severely on Facebook for his pleas. In my defence, everyone who tweeted me got my support, too. I share. They share. Some would say that adds up to a lot of noise and signal degradation. On the other hand, my novel rose from a dark place in my skull a couple of days ago to #545 on the general Amazon list last I checked (UPDATE: and #73 in Mysteries & Thrilers! Yay!) Self-help for Stoners shot up 140,000 places as a collateral benefit so something’s selling in addition to all those free books.

I curate a lot of helpful information for indie authors. On the one hand, this blog brings me a lot of traffic, but they (well…you) aren’t necessarily interested in reading suspense, funny and weird self-help in the form of fiction, strange humour and crime novels. Some people say writing about writing is a complete waste of time. I say write what you’re passionate about and you’ll never run out of blog posts. I don’t want to blog about animal husbandry. It’s icky hanging out with naked animals.

When I joined Klout, I had assumed most of my influence came through this blog or Twitter. Klout says it’s Facebook where I make the most impact (though my Ex Parte Press page only has 37 likes and my personal page only 177 friends. That’s lousy, though it’s almost 177 more friends that I ever had elsewhere.) I doubt Klout, but it’s hard to say. Besides, maybe that’s too reductionist. In layered marketing, you do a lot of things in order to appear to be just about everywhere at once, like The Flash or herpes.

So what are the three things I do that are most effective? I’m sorry. No easy answers. I couldn’t narrow it down that much. I think my podcast, though small, helps me reach out to new people around the world and when the podcast went up at 6 pm this evening, listeners snapped up the free promo. Triberr is effective. World Literary Cafe Tweet Teams help. I’m exploring new ways to advertise on a tiny (to zero budget) like Masquerade Crew, Kindle Nation Daily, and Kindle Book Review. I have to reach out to book reviewers to get noticed. I have to find crime novelists or suspense writers willing to give up a blurb for Bigger Than Jesus.

There’s only one thing I am sure will help me sell more books: I have to get the next book up. And the next, and the next and so on until I am discovered, die or you decide you want you r kids back with all their thumbs attached.

What to do?

Do what you can. Do what you love. Get the writing done first. Nothing should cut into your writing time.

How do I do it? I don’t sleep much. It’s like cramming for finals every day and night.

It would be hell, except I’m having fun.

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

The Jerry Maguire Moment: What is your blog’s mission statement?

I had my Jerry Maguire moment

Mission Statement

Mission Statement (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(and yes, I know that didn’t go well for him in the short-term).

Ask yourself:

What are you trying to achieve with your blog?

Is it a blog or a blahg?

My mission at ChazzWrites.com is:

1? To inform readers of this blog about self-publishing, to the point where we and others think of self-publishers simply as publishers.

2? To make you chuckle here and there as you read so you’ll keep reading. (Failing that, we’ll murder a mime, which is always good for a chuckle.)

3? To raise all indie author boats, I promote fellow authors and spread the word about their books, their links and their awesomeness.

4? To swell the how-to tide of practical knowledge about writing, marketing, and promotion for success in independent publishing.

5? To bring the obscure but deserving into the light so they may be found by a happy readership. (Yes, damn right I’m obscure but deserving, too!) 

You ask yourself: Why the question marks after the five points of the mission statement? Is that a strangely persistent typo? No. I did that because Number 1 is not always going to be Priority 1. Sometimes I just provide an informative link and shoo you away elsewhere to gulp down factoids, nuggets and precious how-to wisdom. Sometimes I want you to curl up closer to my fire and feel the warmth of my heated rants. Often, I try to combine these five elements in one post. Sometimes I’ll just kill a mime for the heck of it.

The only thing that’s continuous through every blog post is this:

I try to do what Spike Lee requires of all of us in the movie Do the Right Thing.

I try to do the right thing.

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

Indie authors unite to help a young man with leukaemia

Click the image to go to IndieGoGo and learn more.

Filed under: DIY, getting it done, What about you?, , , , , , , ,

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

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

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

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

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

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

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

See my books, blogs, links and podcasts.

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