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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Ultimate Blog Challenge: Indies Versus Committees

The Senate Committee on Budget (ca.1997-2001).

The Senate Committee on Budget (ca.1997-2001). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The common wisdom is that all of us together are smarter than any one of us. Combine a group’s brains and their solutions will overcome that of a genius. That’s not my experience. Here’s why one head is often better than several:

1. The smartest person in a group is not the one who gets to talk in a committee. The loudest person does all the talking and steers the ship, often into the rocks. Stupid people are always the most confident and the less a person knows about a subject, the more certain they are of their opinions. That’s called leadership.

2. Take any group and there’s always one wacko*. Said wacko will espouse insane ideas. The rest of the group will then compromise with the wacko, thus arriving at terrible ideas that only seem more sane within the room in which the committee meets. Half wacko is still wacko.

3. People vote for the lesser of two evils, so they still vote for evil.

4. Committees search for reasons to justify their existence. They don’t complete a task and disband. They say, what can we do next? How can we extend our power, budget and egos? I call this committee creep. It’s for creeps.

5. A committee is a team. It becomes an expression of our genetic gravitation to tribalism. Committees become Us Versus Those Peons over there. (For the Latin derivation of the word “peon”, break it down into syllables.)

6. A committee is a way to spread responsibility around. If an individual says, “I made this decision,” he or she will have to live with it. Put it on a group label and everybody’s hiding behind the responsibility diffusion.

7. When I make a decision about my publishing company, a book cover, a sales platform or an editorial choice, it happens immediately. I may consult my friends with expertise or bat ideas around with my graphic designer, but the decisions come fast. I’ve waited long enough. I’m not waiting anymore and I’m certainly not asking for permission. I can screw up on my own easily without help.

8. I mentioned that, without a committee, the fault gets assigned to me for bad, independent decisions. The rewards come straight back to me, too. Then I dance with naked abandon, so it’s good I’m alone at the time.

9. Without a committee, I am in control of my destiny as much as any human is. Sure, there are a lot of whims and variables beyond my control. One of those variables isn’t a pinhead named Mort from Middle Management who’s telling me what to do. Screw Mort.

10. Committees are cooperative ventures that require a lot of socializing, neckties and appropriate office behaviour. I do not share toys. I do not play well with others. I’m writing this in my underwear. There might even be a naked abandon dance party later.

I  AM INDIE AND PROUD

*If your group has no wacko, the wacko is you.

And yes, I am qualified to diagnose under the It Takes One to Know One Rule.

Get Bigger Than Jesus

~ Like my flavor? Listen to the first chapter of my crime thriller, Bigger Than Jesus. I’m podcasting the book through the summer. Enjoy!

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

Author Blog Challenge 21: My Top 20 Best (Worst?) Advice for Authors

Обкладинка книги "Над прірвою у житі"

Обкладинка книги “Над прірвою у житі” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. Be weird. Draw outside the lines. Live larger. Be different. If you can’t dare to be a little strange, or stranger, you sound too much like everyone else and there’s quite enough of that. Does your book’s title sound like all the other titles in its genre? Yes? You’re already boring me, mate, and I say that with love. Be three times more daring and ten times more clever.

2. Don’t write what you know. If we all did that, where would science fantasy be? Instead, write what you care about. You’ll get enough research to fill in the holes if you care enough to give your story verisimilitude. It’s always more about relationships, characters and action than it is about the guts of your ship’s stardrive engines, anyway.

3. Lose your thesaurus. You don’t need more words to tell me the story. The right words are the ones that come to you right away. If you use the word “epigonation”, you’re showing off and annoying your reader. A stupid thing to do, especially when you wanted to sound more intelligent. That must have been your aim because, unless you are sending your books back through a time tunnel to the time of Christ, you certainly weren’t trying for clarity in your reader’s mind.

4. Spam me. I don’t mind you telling me about your books one bit. I might be interested and I like to know what my options are. If you hit me over the head too much, of course I’ll ignore or unfollow you, but that doesn’t mean you should be silent. That means be clever and funny and engaging and giving most of the time. Lights are not for hiding under bushels. Light that bushel on fire and throw illumination.

5. Get into fights on the Internet. If you are getting along with everyone all the time, you’ve either got nothing to say or you’ve got no spine. Neither attribute attracts me to what else you might have to say within your book. I’m not advocating douchebaggery or fighting for fighting’s sake. Instead, have the courage to disagree with idiots while pretending to be civil and acting as if you don’t want them dead. We all know the truth.

6. Tell, don’t show. I know, I know. Somebody’s head just exploded and no amount of repainting ever covers up that mess. However, in grown up writing class, we encounter circumstances where telling is sometimes more appropriate. It saves the reader time and skips over stuff the reader doesn’t care about so we can get to the good stuff. Be more Elmore Leonard. Be less mime. Tell when you need to. Show when you need to. There aren’t rules, only guidelines. Learning all the rules before you break them? Sounds like a waste of time on a detour, doesn’t it? Instead, just write what works and stop mucking about.

7. Strangle your strict inner grammarian. If you write for clarity, that will cover most grammar rules, anyway. Some people are still holding on to stuff from eighth grade simply because it’s what they learned in eighth grade. The rest of us are splitting infinitives with wild, naked abandon, ending sentences with prepositions and using the word “hopefully” like a normal human (i.e. technically historically wrong) — and we don’t care. And sentence fragments? Rock! Common parlance trumps grammar. If it didn’t, none of us would communicate the way we do now. Strict grammarians fantasize about a language that isn’t organic and instead is frozen in amber from Dickensian England. They’re nuts. If language could freeze (and therefore die), we’d all still be angry cave people, grunting and pointing like New Yorkers in a Brooklyn deli.

8. Stop rewriting. I’m talking about your first chapter. You’re never going to get your book finished that way. Plunge! Get your atomic turbines to speed, Batman! Write and keep moving forward. Write like I’ll chase you in my Mustang with a twelve-gauge full of rock salt if you don’t finish two chapters tonight. (Because I will.) Rewriting is for later. A first chapter, endlessly written  and rewritten to perfection, does not a book make. Rewriting too soon is a formula for you, drooling on your deathbed, wondering if you should have taken out that comma on page three, and then put it back one more time before all trace of your existence is erased and there’s no book as evidence you ever were, you zero legacy stiff!

9. Stop reading old classics and start watching more movies and reading more comic books. Your english professor thinks Hemingway is the shit because that’s what he was taught in 1980. This is generational data lag. If you insist on classics, read: Crime and Punishment (so dates will think you’re deeper than you are); Hemingway’s short stories (not his novels); Portnoy’s Complaint to instil the value of a sense of humour in literature (a rare thing, that); A Confederacy of Dunces (for douchebag cred with hot Lit. majors at the dean’s cocktail parties and the nerdy chick at the bookstore) and Catcher in the Rye (in case the writing thing doesn’t work out and you turn to the next logical career choice: serial killer.) And nothing at all from Ayn Rand. Nothing! You have nothing to learn from her unless you’re going for what not to write, do, think or be.

Why movies and comic books? Because you need to make your storytelling more visual. (Hint: If most of your “action” takes place in a suburban living room much like your own, think harder. If you’re writing a certain kind of literary fiction that demands domestic ennui and the reader’s patience (yes, the reader — as in one reader — your mom), at least spice it up somehow. Make your main character do their sensitive contemplation by the river (so they can fall in or throw themselves in or get thrown in by a helpful plot enhancer). Or put them in the kitchen, next to the handy knife block so we get a sense that something might actually happen. Events must occur!

10. Stop writing huge, ambitious books. Write shorter books and make it a series so you have hope of making some money.

11. Write for the money. You think love and passion will get you through a whole book? No. There will come a time when you hit a wall, figuratively and literally, with your manuscript. Maybe you won’t want to do one more draft or you won’t have the energy to get up early and write another chapter. Screw that weak, loser talk. If you’re writing with the hope you’ll make some money some day, you get up. You’ll go the extra clichéd mile to yank out the clichés from your manuscript like black, seething tumours. Your kid wants to see Disney before she’s too tall for the rides. Your other kid wants to finally get an iPod for his birthday since he’s the last of his friends to get one. (Ooh, that one hits close to home.) Write for money because you need it. Write for money because, if it’s just a pleasant hobby, what’s at stake when the going gets rough?

12. Pay attention to how much better every other indie author is doing than you. Get angry, envious and jealous of those talentless, lucky hacks. The reasons are similar to #11. Take your ugly motivation wherever you can find it. (Notice I just told instead of showed — #6 — and you didn’t mind.)

13. Put references to popular culture in your books. Traditional publishers always eschewed that in manuscripts.  That’s why you have to infer so much about pop culture from old novels instead of knowing specifically what people paid attention to. The worry was that contemporary references to movies and issues would date the book. I can’t imagine why. What’s modern now will be a period piece in the future. So what? They might sell more books if they paid attention to what served the story and what was most entertaining instead of sticking to rules from from Lit. 101. (See #9) It works for John Locke’s readership.

14. Stop confusing process with product (Part 1). Neo-Luddites who wax poetic about the feel of a paper book are fetishizing the medium of dead trees over the book’s content and are possibly high on glue from all that sniffing. For people who claim they value the written word so much,  they seem overly concerned about the package it’s wrapped in. It’s fine to prefer a paperback to an ebook, but expect to pay more for the privilege and, by Thor’s hammer, stop whining to authors of ebooks about your fetish! When’s the last time you went out of your way to tell a used car salesman you think he’s shifty even though you weren’t buying a car from him anyway? What purpose does complaining serve if you never intend to buy our books? If you don’t want ebooks, then don’t buy them and don’t feel you have to tell me about it. We’re getting creeped out. (Alternative: buy my paperbacks, too.)

15. Stop confusing process with product (Part 2). Last week somebody called someone else a hack because he advocated writing fast. (No, it wasn’t me who was called out, though I have advocated writing faster if you’re up for it.) It’s the writing snob’s equivalent to a George Carlin joke: “Anybody driving slower than you is an idiot and anyone driving faster is a maniac!”

The mistaken subtext here is to think that anyone writing more quantity than you must be suffering in the Quality Assurance Department of the Writer’s Brain. Consider that A. Slow writing is no guarantee of quality, either. B. What counts is the end product, not the speed with which it arrived. (The slow writing advocate in this case admitted she hadn’t actually read any of The Speedy Author’s books, so she was letting her ass talk too much, wasn’t she? C. If someone else can write faster than you and you resent them for it, that might be jealousy talking. (See #12) Or D. Maybe you just aren’t as smart as The Speedy Author, you prejudiced dummy.

16. Wait for inspiration before you write because less competition would be great for me. Oh. For you? Not so much.

17. Offend your family. Disguise them, but use them. If they didn’t want you to use all of that useful childhood trauma, they should have been nicer when they had the chance. That time you got locked in the closet after the unjust beating? That’s rich writerly soil, right there. Rename your brother Larry so he’s Harry in the book. That ought to do it. Larry’s a moron.

18. Start building your author platform long before you need it and don’t whine that it’s hard. Your book is a loudspeaker. Without a platform, your loudspeaker is pointed at empty stands in a cavernous stadium. You don’t want to do this. Why do you think that matters?

19. In fact, hey, that’s another rule! No whining, period! Nothing worth doing is going to be easy. Besides, it’s unattractive. I once stopped watching a blog because a writer felt people weren’t grateful enough for her words. Gratitude is great (see yesterday’s author blog challenge post, below) but demanding unending thanks when you really haven’t done that much in the first place is petty narcissism. Writing professionally is about generous narcissism.

20. Stop reading Writers Digest and Publishers Weekly. There’s nothing in a paper magazine you can’t get in pixels faster and cheaper. WD is a holdover from traditional publishing and that’s why their advice is still weighted toward agents and the New York cadre. Those are lengthy pursuits with questionable ends that eat up your life. It’s procrastination in the guise of relevance and productivity. It’s patriarchal, systemic paralysis by matriarchal, editorial analysis. Chasing slush pile dreams is what my friend, author Al Boudreau, refers to as “dinosaur hunting”. (Brilliant, yes?)

As for all that crap in Publishers Weekly that spouts everything you need to know about traditional publishing? That’s all stuff you never need to know before you have a book written and probably not even then. What possible difference could knowing the industry make when they only ever talk to themselves? They talk too much about trad publishing because that’s where the ads come from. It’s incestuous, out of date and out of touch. If you want to know something about publishing that’s not out of date, read Konrath and Dean Wesley Smith and Passive Guy and Russell Blake and Jeff Bennington or even (for the love of Thor) this blog’s curations for that matter.

BONUS TIP: Instead of listening to the dinosaurs who refuse to see the meteor coming, be a contrarian. Contrarians are more interesting.

Wait.

What do you mean, you agree? What kind of contrarian are you, listening to some twit you don’t even know telling you, “My Top Twenty Best (Worst?) Advice for Authors”? As if I’m preaching the bloody sermon on the Mount! What kind of nonsense is that? Go ahead and write and make your own mistakes and write your own rules.

This blog post was for, as they say, “entertainment purposes only.”

Does anybody really learn anything much from another person’s mistakes?

For anything that really matters, you have to make those life altering mistakes for yourself.

I’m not your dad. I’m another writer, tap dancing for change.

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

Don’t Be the Sneetch: An Open Letter Response to Shannon Hale

See on Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction

English: Mint Julep candies, made by Necco.

English: Mint Julep candies, made by Necco. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This was an interesting post. The original post Anna Elliot refers to (Shannon Hale slamming self-publishing and asserting the superiority of the rotten treehouse that is trad pubbing) sounds like a rather quaint, outdated and out of touch view of indie publishing. Rather than feed the flame of division with further comments, I shall retire to my hammock with a mint julep and allow Jorge to fan me as I contemplate what an idiot Shannon thinks I must be. When the sobbing’s done, I shall focus on Anna’s anti-Sneetch letter so I can recover from the drubbing. I’ll let Anna do the work on this one because I could not reply without using harsh, four-letter words. Such is my rage and sorrow. Decide for yourselves at the link. ~ Chazz

See on indiechickscafe.com

Filed under: publishing, , , , ,

Day 8 of the Author Blog Challenge: Indie Self-defence

English: Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock - &q...

English: Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock – “The Big Bang Theory”. Español: Un diagrama de la resolución del juego «Piedra, papel, tijera, lagarto, Spock.» (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When indie authors rock so hard they succeed after traditional publishers have turned them down, they sometimes get news coverage or, naturally, blog about it. Then some people accuse said authors of gloating. I recently read a complaint that the tone of those indie author success stories are always, “Neener! Neener! Neener!” Here’s…the truth? Well, here’s what no one else is saying anyway that I think needs to be said: 

1. When you’ve been turned down and kept down and toiled for little or no money and then you win, some gloating is in order! You get to be happy when you prove your doubters and detractors wrong. No need to name names or burn down anybody’s house, but we inspire others to aspire when we tell them the truth of our success stories, defy the status quo and flip the power differential from institutions to individuals. Some people get pissed at Konrath for his aggressive tone, for instance. I notice the people who get really angry at him often lack facts to back their complaints. It appears they are mad, not because he is wrong, but because he is right. You don’t have to be Mr. Spock to see that’s a bad reason to be angry.

2. Consider: Not everyone who is supposed to be an expert is; not everyone wants you to keep trying; not everyone acts professionally when they reject a writers’ work; and there are a lot of people who aren’t happy when you’re doing well. A friend began a pitch to a famous New York agent. Nearby diners were startled when, not one sentence into the pitch, the agent shouted, “Spare me!” That author found success with that same book elsewhere, and continues to, with his subsequent books. The big New York agent isn’t so big anymore. In fact, I don’t think he’s in the business anymore. What a loss.

3. What? We don’t get to celebrate our successes but you, in traditional publishing, do? There’s an appropriate two-word response to that assertion. The second word is “you”. The first word is not “thank”. Of course, not all of trad publishing hates indies. When I hear people in traditional publishing trash successful indies, I suspect that’s a vocal minority who are wary of change. It’s not even about the indies, per se. According to a recent survey, most traditionally published authors aren’t happy with their publishers and many plan to self-publish in the future. Only 37% of authors want the status quo of 2007. That’s okay. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone and doing it all by yourself is often a drag. (You will figure out who is bitter or behind the times pretty quick when you hear the words “vanity press”, though.) Many indies would still take a traditional book deal if the terms were sane. It doesn’t have to be either/or. It can be both. I hope traditional publishing not only survives but perseveres. Book proliferation is good for the human race.

4. As a newspaper and magazine reporter, I looked for the interesting angle on any story. You have a new book coming out? So what? So do lots of people. You have a new book coming out that agents and editors all turned down several dozen times and now it’s a bestselling series? And an editor and an agent was abysmally rude to you along the way? Bonus! Now there’s a story people will read. The “Neener-neener!” tone may well have been determined long before the reporter called up the indie novelist for the interview. That’s not the novelist’s fault. (And if you turned down the bestselling book and were rude about it, that’s your fault.)

5. If you begrudge indies their success after you turned down their work, you didn’t just make one, forgivable error in judgment in a subjective business. Now you’re revealing yourself to be a petty person, as well. Doubters will note a defiant tone in this post, but I’m not pushing. I’m pushing back. I do value civil discourse and keeping exchanges classy (Caveat: Except in self-defence where humour disarms and on those occasions when mean is funny and the target deserves it.) What I’m reacting to is the flack indies get for choosing independence. Amazon changed the equation and we’ve all got to get used to the new math.

So here’s a link to a happy self-publishing story. If you are of a certain mindset, you’ll read it as a bitter tale of “Vengeance is mine!” If you’re of another mindset, you may well think, here’s an inspiring story of self-determination, self-reliance, perseverance and success. This is a test.

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

Self-help for Stoners is now available on Stitcher (plus the Christmas message of hope and gooeyness)

What a week! Self-help for Stoners is now available in paperback. I have a new short story up at Smashwords and tonight I just got an email from Stitcher that my podcast, the companion to the book Self-help for Stoners, is available on their app. Here’s part of the email they just sent me:

Self-help for Stoners is now available on Stitcher! Thank you
so much for joining the Stitcher lineup. We are thrilled to offer the
show on the app! We are really excited that you have joined the platform. Your show
will now be available with one click on mobile phones and iPads all
over the world, SONOS systems, in-car dashboards and more to come!
I hope your audience will enjoy the flexibility and ease of the Stitcher app.
I know many of our Stitcher listeners will enjoy your show as a new
listening option.

Yes, I know it’s a form letter. That knowledge doesn’t detract a bit. I’m thrilled. (The Self-help for Stoners podcast is also available, as usual, at iTunes or straight from my website —which, as of today, is officially all mine— at allthatchazz.com.)

I plan for a busy “holiday” in that there won’t really be one. I have a lot of writing and revising to do to make the novels available faster and who takes a vacation from playing, anyway? I usually feel harried, but I think I’m learning to embrace the chaos. I’m having so much fun that I don’t want to take a break from writing at all. I’ve also learned to take advantage of my manic phases of activity when they strike. Given my Getting-Stuff-Done Mode lately, I imagine it’s like being on Adderall minus that pesky expense. This Christmas, my present to myself is the gift of repairing broken promises I made when I was eight years old. I wanted to publish books. I’m doing it now and staying in the driver’s seat. This wasn’t possible just three or four years ago. Now, for better and worse, I’m in control.

And I’m so grateful. I’m working full-time, working longer hours than I ever have. It feels like I’m in university again and it’s always crunch time. I knew working full-time as a writer and publisher would take up a lot of my time. I didn’t expect it would be this much fun. When my family asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year, I told them, “Nothing. I don’t deserve anything.” Oddly, I don’t mean that I’m in Hate-Myself Mode. I mean, every day is already a gift. Cliche. And true.

Whether you buy my books or not, I hope you find value in this blog because it’s a labor of love that gives back to me in so many ways. I learn so much by the research I do for the blog. If not for the blog, I never would have met author Jeff Bennington, for instance. He ended up formatting my paperback and he always has advice that makes me think. If not for this blog, I would have missed out on the talent of Kit Foster, my amazing graphic designer, who, so far, has made three book covers for me. I made friends with Dave Jackson at The School of Podcasting. He helped with starting the podcast and also with the author website. There are so many talented authors I’ve met through Chazz Writes who have been so helpful,  like Lorina Stephens, Rebecca Senese, Roz Morris, Reena Jacobs, Lisa Stull, Eden Baylee and many more.

Take a trip through the archives here and you’ll find many articles on the craft of writing and editing, but also author profiles of intrepid fellow writers who are putting themselves out there. We wave banners and take risks. We reject the rejectionists. We say no to the naysayers. We aren’t looking for followers. We are recruiting revolutionaries to our cause and that cause is free expression. We are all so lucky to live at a time when dissemination of our words, broadcasting our thoughts and publishing our books has never been easier or less censored. The rising voices are a din, yes, but I don’t hear desperation in the new wave of information and entertainment. I hear joy and bravery. I hear greater independence and more choice. You can buy books cheaply and quickly. We can debate how healthy this is for writers. We can worry about the state of traditional publishing and bookstores. Though some people whine about to many books, that’s crazy. More choice means more freedom. Whatever happens next, one group has already won: readers.

There are too many people to name here who have helped me to begin this journey. If you have helped me by example, with advice, with encouragement, with proofing, with editing, with design or financially by buying into my fiction, please know that I appreciate it so very much. If we already know each other, I’ve already thanked you for your part in helping me move forward and I’ll no doubt thank you again! One more concrete way I thank people is by promoting your books and hosting guest posts and retweeting your posts and aggregating the best information I can find for you here and on my Scoopit! page. I’ll continue to do so. I promise.

After putting off this life for a long time, my present has finally arrived. This has got to be the gooiest post I’ve written. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, I’m sorry for all this sugar and syrup (but it springs from a happy place.)

This will be my last blog post until 2012. (Okay, I’ll be checking in, continuing Scoopit! and I might pop in with more good news if I get some.) However, my plan is to disappear into some pages and go on a writing binge and get some more stuff done. The guy who gets stuff done is the new me.

This Christmas, I wish you the gift of happiness. 

If you don’t have it yet, know that you can make it so.

If I can, you can.

Filed under: All That Chazz, getting it done, podcasts, publishing, What about Chazz?, What about you?, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Self-publishing: The gold rush is not over. Believe.

Logo of LIFE magazine.

Image via Wikipedia

A couple of indie publishers have expressed concerns about the whole self-publishing venture lately.“Concerns” is too weak a word. They’re talking like the self-publishing revolution is over and already lost, an infant succumbed to Crib Death. It was, they say, a gold rush and only those who got in early with paranormal romance and lame thrillers made it big (or at all.) As I embark on a new career in self-publishing, it’s pretty scary to hear people you respect talk like they might fold their cards and curl up like cute little hedgehogs poked with a stick.

Writing a great book is always the main problem. If you don’t have that, there really is no hope. Then there’s the problem of obscurity. How will people find your great book? The easiest way to be a bestseller is to already be a bestseller, so that’s no use to most of us. What to do? Nobody knows how to make anything “go viral” unless it involves a basket of kittens in danger of being crushed by an anvil. (You wince at that image, but you’d click that link on YouTube, if only to express your outrage.)

Self-publishers must believe in themselves and their work, especially when it is unreasonable to do so. To be heard, to go viral, to get any attention at all, we must engage with others, often individually. Such promotional activity eats up a lot of time, but I don’t know any other solid way to do it. (Actually, I do have some other ideas I’m acting upon, TBA soon.)

If your self-publishing strategy isn’t working, you’re going to have change your strategy. Evaluate what you’re publishing and then evaluate again. Do your covers suck? Are you publishing to your taste without regard to your audience? Do you have an identifiable audience you can reach out to? What do you have to do differently to make this crazy Scooby Gang scheme work? (Hint: It’s not what you have been doing, more and louder.)

If you don’t find that hope you once had, what will you do? Take up selling real estate and self-loathing? No. We write because we must write. It wasn’t really a choice. Giving up and doing something else is a choice, but if you’re here, the writing bug sank its fangs in early and that burning venom never leaves the body.

No whining or blaming. I’m sympathetic to problems in self-publishing, of course. I was in traditional publishing for years, sold a lot of books for others and eventually got fed up with the hierarchy. Now that I’ve switched to self-publishing, it’s all shiny and new and I’m full of foolish missionary zeal and silly hope and I haven’t been worn down by grim reality yet. I get that. But what are the alternatives to getting fatigued by the Sisyphian task of promoting your books in an environment where most people think your babies are ugly and your promotional efforts are spam?

Start with unreasonable hope. Move on from there to taking a refreshing break (possibly with peers over scotch) and some reevaluation time to figure out how you’ll change your game. Don’t put down the slush of ebooks that obscure your precious work. Rise above it by being just that damn good. If what you’re doing isn’t working, find alternative paths to indie success. Retitle your book to something catchier. Get a power endorsement from someone you might now think is inaccessible. Figure out what successful people are doing and model your strategy on theirs.

I haven’t sold a lot of my books yet. I’m maintaining the delusion that I will until I make these lies I tell myself true. Steve Jobs had a Reality Distortion Field to motivate himself and others to believe they could accomplish big things. We need to energize our own Reality Distortion Fields. That’s what gets this crappy reality bent to the reality you want.

Comfort yourself in knowing that the gold rush isn’t over. It’s barely begun. When I go out in the world with my Kindle, people still slow down and say, “What’s that?” Last Christmas, readers got a big boost. There will be another big boost this Christmas in e-reader sales. Buck up. Believe.

Remember when you started self-publishing and were innocent of the struggle? Find that person in the mirror. You’re going to need him or her to face getting that big rock up that big hill. If it be a failure, make it glorious so you’ll know you really tried. The most powerful words I know are, “Begin again.”

If you’re indie, you are not a cute little hedgehog.

You are a lion.

Click here to get your free sample of Self-help for Stoners, Stuff to Read When You’re High

Filed under: DIY, e-reader, ebooks, getting it done, self-publishing, What about Chazz?, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writers & Readers: I say something new & cranky

Joe Rogan

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Alfred Hitchcock once said a painter needs a brush, a writer a pen and a director an army. The numbers needed to make a film are coming down, but it’s still a collaborative, team sport (or a war, depending how indie you are as a filmmaker.) Painting  is still a solo pursuit and for a long time writing was solitary. Then writing got decidedly less solitary. And now, with self-publishing, the game has changed again.

Authors used to have publishers. Later, agents entered the industry and took pressure off editors by curating. They helped many authors get better deals. Now a lot of agents want to intermediate and perform more of an editorial function, possibly because other traditional roles they have fulfilled are shrinking. See this post for more on that and much more.

Now there can be fewer people between you and publication. Publishing isn’t necessarily a team sport anymore. Publishing with a group of lovers of all things literary  has produced many great books (and has probably interfered with the production of great books, too.) You may think many minds produce better material because all of us have more brain power than one of us. I used to believe that was true in all cases.

Then comedian Joe Rogan challenged that idea for me and articulated something that was slowly percolating through my cranium. In his experience as a comedian on The Man Show, he found that more suits on the set diluted the funny. His stand-up is a pure art form, moderated only by his own sense of humor and direct feedback from his audience. (I saw him at Massey Hall in Toronto recently. He rocks hard.)

It’s an old adage that too many cooks spoil the broth. Now science, as presented in the fascinating book 59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute, has disproved the notion that more brains help a creative project. The most creative solutions are not arrived at by the most creative person in the room. They are directed by the loudest person in the room.

So, if your agent says “I’m not submitting your work because I don’t think it’s ready,” and you cede that power, your work isn’t going to market whether your agent is right or not.

This is the sort of thing that drives the traditional world of publishing nuts. Without those mediators, obstacles, curators, gatekeepers, shepherds and rabbis, the worry is that we shall be inundated with a slew of awful, awful books. The deluge shall be as a fire hose pointed at the tiny tea cup of our fevered minds. Without those helpful interlocutors, who will keep the bad books away?

Rather than address the curation question directly (and I’ve already addressed it many times on this blog), I’d like to say something new on the subject:

Even if that objection is valid, so the f**k what? I reject the premise. I say this is not about your convenience in going to a legacy publisher you trust for all your curation wants. This is about my freedom to express my art, which you can enjoy or not. As they say at the convenience store, “Buy or leave!”

The marketplace of ideas is opening up to a lot more shelf stock. Buckle up and put on your big boy Underoos and your big girl panties. Soon you might find more variety and much more current reading material to explore and fill your mind.

I value my sovereignty of expression more than your convenience.

I said this was a revolution. I asked you to join me.

Did you really think no one would get hurt along the way to the shinier, freer new world we’re creating? 

The results will surely be messy, but the cost of your tender sensibilities is really negligible. There will be a lot of bad books delicate grammar doilies will decry. You’ll see a lot of typos (though I see a lot of typos in traditional books, too, by the way, and yet the earth keeps on spinning.)

We value freedom and freedom of expression. A lot. The US Supreme Court allows the Westboro Baptist Church to protest at funerals with ghoulish signs without regard to the feelings of the families of the dead. Evidence obtained illegally is routinely thrown out and murderers are sometimes set free as a result. We accept some consequences far worse than inconvenience so that greater individual sovereignty is assured.

If it sounds like I’m saying your worries

about all the coming bad books don’t matter,

you’ve read this blog post correctly. 

Filed under: agents, authors, Books, censors, publishing, self-publishing, , , , , , , ,

Write. Commit. Do.

Last Saturday night I went for a long walk with She Who Must be Obeyed. We talked about the future.  I’d analyzed the finances. I’d considered my options. Now I have  a plan. I’ve been on both sides of the argument for and against self-publishing (and a lot of those arguments against were good objections when they were true not so long ago.)

It’s time for some grown-up decisions since I’ve been a kid in long pants for some time now. I have a manuscript to publish. Well, several, actually (and plans for more.) What to do with them though?

I’ve read Seth Godin, JA Konrath, Dean Wesley Smith, Barry Eisler and Cory Doctorow. I’ve read multiple defences of the status quo from legacy publishing. In the end, the latter were not convincing. I’ve spoken to Rebecca Senese about her experience with Smashwords and Jeff Bennington blogged in this space about Lightning Source. I kept an open mind as long as I could and decided I have to jump. Now.

Inspired by Kevin Smith, I see where the puck is going and I will not chase after where the puck has been. I’ve decided to pick myself, go big, go indie and publish my books myself. I’ll be using Smashwords and Lightning Source.

What are the main reasons I’m committing to indie? I’m looking forward to having the first book out by November. Traditional publishing would take much, much longer than that even if I struck a deal tomorrow (and the royalty rates are not favorable.)

I have had mainstream interest in the first book. I was concerned that self-publishing is seen by some as cheating the system, an evasion of gatekeepers who ensure quality. As I’ve explained in previous posts, I reject that premise.

JA Konrath ran the numbers. Ross Laird was very persuasive. Barry Eisler really got my attention when he said opting for self-publishing came down to a business decision versus an ego decision. That rang true for me personally.

Self-publishing is not the quick route to publication some people think it is. I won’t be skipping lightly over editing. I’ll be doing most everything a traditional publisher would do. I’m a tad intimidated by the tech side of things, but I’m a smart guy. I can generally figure most things out or ask for help. And I worked inside traditional publishing for five years so I’m not intimidated by a lot of things that would worry others. I’ve written and published a lot already so I’m not going in starry-eyed. But I am optimistic and excited. Much of the time, this is going to be fun!

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t go with a New York publisher, a Canadian press, a university press, a small press or a micro press. I am saying this is the right choice for me because it suits my temperament and it suits the material (cross-genre, late YA with humor and sex, drugs and school bullying wrapped up with some literary pretensions.) Books coming later fall into horror (a plague’s coming so buckle up) and two fantasies (one with a vampire cannibal cult, the other is angels in the End of Days). Also, there’s a sexy and occasionally horror-oriented short story collection. Down the road I can see two non-fiction books, as well. Lots to do.

This is my time (before it’s too late…I hope.) I’ve started up several businesses to  employ myself. I haven’t had a “real” job working for someone else since 1991! I’m used to living on the edge of the real world. Self-publishing is for me. It might not be for you. I need choice and independence. I need to be a control freak about some things. (Okay, a lot of things.)

So, thank you to everyone who responded to my Twitter announcement last week with such kind wishes.

And before anybody tries jumping on my head about my decision,

let’s try this:

I’ll be me. You be you.

Filed under: My fiction, self-publishing, short stories, , , , , , , , , ,

Writers: DIY vs traditional publishing

Figure 1:Conceptual Model of Philosophical Com...

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Last month I posted a piece in appreciation of director Kevin Smith after attending one of his Q&As.

Today I ran across Alex Greenwood’s guest post, Shoot the Gatekeepers on Shelly Kramer’s blog. It reminded me again of that indie spirit I love to see.

I’m not telling anyone to go independent exactly. Going rogue is not for everyone because not everyone has the entrepreneurial spirit.

You can find the knowledge and tech support you need to make it happen, but if you don’t want to do all that in the first place, it’s not for you. I guess that’s why I straddle the line here between traditional publishing and going indie. I talk about how to get an agent and a publisher. I also talk a lot about maintaining control of your work, DIY, and marketing yourself to the world. Authors from both sides of the coin need many of the same skill sets, anyway. For instance, even if you’re a traditionally published author, you’re crazy to depend on your publisher to promote and publicize you much at all and none of those efforts are sustained.

It’s frustrating when one entrenched camp mocks the other for their choices. It’s especially bad when those opinions are not so much informed as they are outmoded dogma. For instance, once again today I ran across writers and editors who fail to make a distinction between vanity publishing and independent publishing. I gritted my teeth. Then I found the link above, took a few deep breaths and smelled the roses of someone who gets it. Thanks for a solid post, Mr. Greenwood. I love the indie spirit.

Here’s the shameless plug: If going alone is for you, I’m an editor so I can help. However, if you’re going the traditional route, I’ve been on the inside, so I appreciate what you’re going through and can help with that, too. (At my business site you’ll find more information on getting editing help for your manuscript or web content.)

Here’s the crux: I love books, no matter how they’re produced. It’s about story! Love of story is at the heart. Contrary to what you’ve heard, the medium is not the message. I care much less about a book’s process to publication than I do its narrative. Sometimes I think people who fetishize paper over electronic books love stories much less than they think they do. They’re worrying too much about how the story go to their brains. Dump that worry. Just get your art out there!

Write your story. Make it the best you can. Send it to agents, publishers or directly to fans. Whatever. Just commit to art and the value of your creativity.

Filed under: DIY, getting it done, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Rejection, 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.

You can pick this ebook up for free today at this link: http://bit.ly/TheNightMan

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

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