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

Write and publish with love and fury.

I like you more when your dog dies: Niches, conversations, dead blogs and a contest.

We don’t sell anything unless we tell stories. To sell stories, we must have stories about our books.

Seth Godin’s blog and books sell because they’re short, pithy, smart and he owns his niche. To own a niche now, you’d do better define a new one. Don’t try to take Seth’s purple cow, tribe or incisive observations about case studies. (Note: “Case studies” is the more scientific word for “stories.”)

Define your own niche and you’ve got a better shot at selling more books.

For instance, my next book is about Romeo in a drug-infested, coming-of-age thriller in New York. Shakespeare plays a role in finding the modern Juliet. Coming-of-age and thriller aren’t normally such cozy neighbors. My last book was a zombie apocalypse with an autistic hero and Latin proverbs. Not a lot of competition in that end of the zombie market.

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege.

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege.

Familiarity is overdone. Differences define us in the market. (e.g. Bookstores are still crammed with Harry Potter knock-offs, but there’s only one JK Rowling.) Take something familiar and find a way to make it original again and you’ve got something.

Story is the most important thing. Story works.

Podcasts don’t sell unless they’re rich in content and tell stories. From business success to how-to and gee-whiz science, podcasts don’t work as sales engines unless they tell aspirational stories. From the startlingly different (Welcome to Night Vale) to personal confession (Marc Maron’s WTF) stories must be told and be relatable.

I’ve noticed more authors seem to be shifting their cyber-presence to Facebook and away from Twitter. They’re all Twittered out. Tweets are solid tools of discovery and live-tweeting makes the Oscars watchable, but Twitter tends to be less about story and connection. We need a little more space to achieve resonance.

Facebook offers more opportunity for personal connection. FB’s post length helps, but it’s also subtext. On Facebook, you have friends

Twitter is less friendly and more competitive. On Twitter, people have followers and people pay attention to numbers gained and lost. On Twitter you use ManageFlitter and WhoUnfollowedMe. On Facebook, if crazy Aunt Sadie unfriends you, you’re relieved you can swear again and her abandonment confirms your politics are sane.

Personal stories help us plug into each other’s pleasure centres.

The mind often fails to make distinctions among what’s real and illusory, cyber and real world. On Facebook, Story is the carrier wave of connection: “This is my child, my dog, my life!” we tell each other.

Since we don’t know what the hell we’re doing and we’re all scared, our connections reassure us. “Maybe I’ve screwed everything up, but at least I’m making the same mistakes as everyone else in our journey toward a better tomorrow.”

That’s why your photo catalogue of a glorious tropical vacation on Facebook doesn’t fit into the brain’s three-prong plug of connection. People love shared stories of failure, vulnerability and happiness, but only after that happiness is earned by failure and vulnerability. We root for the underdog and rags-to-riches stories, not Donald Trump. Your new car is nice for you, but I like you more when your dog dies. My dog died. Commonality is currency. Because I want to be loved, I love you when you’re suffering insomnia from worry, too. Misery doesn’t just love company. It insists on it.

Though we are each mysteries, we like to imagine we are each other.

Each of us is just as challenged and sad and lonely, but we hope to be rich some day, too. When the money and success roll in, we tend to forget all this stuff about connection. We blame the poor for their poverty, give luck no credit for our rise and trumpet all our hard work to the exclusion of any variable that does not bow to our big ol’ brains.

No wonder the rich and poor hate each other (except the poor want to join the resented rich, too.) Meanwhile, the rich would rip out their own throats with car keys from their repossessed Lexus if they had to get by on less than $100,000 a year.

Our class boundaries break connections. That’s why celebrities seem so otherworldly in person. They lost their shock collars and passed the invisible electric fence! They made it, so we can, too! Unless they’re the children of celebrities. Those lucky devils get a sneer and a Barry Bonds asterisk beside their fame.

Our stories about who we are become who we are.

That quest for privacy? Quaint. Adorable. Amish.

Jonathan Franzen worries about our attention spans, the death of literature and loss of privacy. He worries about the horrors of the Internet, just about every week it seems, in the Huffington Post. Horrors.

Blogs are dead sales platforms.

You have to have an author site, but you’ll get more juice from connecting on Facebook. Twitter will serve you better than a blog because it serves more people.

A blog is too much of a commitment for the reader. Too few blogs are “appointment reading”. A blog is a magazine at the doctor’s office. You only pick it up when there’s nothing else to do and you’d rather be doing something else.

I am subscribed to many blogs. They’re up there somewhere, forgotten in an RSS reader, added to a long reading list I will never get to. The blogs I actually read daily don’t have to be stuck in my bottomless bookmark bin. I go to them.

Blogs fail because signals go out but they don’t connect. Like this post, a bad blog post pontificates. I’m doing it now, connecting less, to fewer people. Still here? You’re already hoping the meta will stop and I’ll somehow pull out of the dive and land a punch and a point in the final sentence. How will I bring us home after such a depressing, meandering trip? I’ll show you. Indulge, a moment more, before the doctor calls you in to talk about those test results.

There are exceptional blogs, still breathing.

You can tell which blogs still have a heartbeat. They have a large and active comment community who aren’t just there to fight. (The Passive Voice is necessary to indie writers, for instance, as is David Gaughran’s blog.) Their lure is a story of aspirational subtext: Read this and you will succeed as we analyze the mistakes and triumphs of others.

And what are comments but the back from the forth? The best comments are more stories, resonating and rising up in conversation.

Commenting as a sales tool is less effective than it once was, back when people still asked, “What’s a blog?” Commenting doesn’t sell, though it can hurt you if you’re a dick. Some commenters never communicate human warmth. They think their intellect and snark will win people over and drag eyeballs back to their own dead blogs. They’re wrong. We only go back to their blogs to see if they’re rude to everyone (yes, always, yes) and make mental notes of what books not to buy.

Living sales platforms are conversations.

Facebook is a bigger sales engine at the moment, coming at you sideways, fun and friendly and under your defences.  We tell stories in conversation with friends. That’s where the connection lies, even if it’s a lie. We share our failures and hopes and dreams and we don’t look at our watch when we’re on Facebook. (That’s how the wasted hours slip away and books don’t get written, too.)

Facebook falls short in some ways, but that’s where I can talk with Hugh Howey or Chuck Wendig or Robert J. Sawyer. Facebook is alive with conversation. That’s the hot, three-pronged brain plug of connection we crave.

So who cares about this shit? Too long to read. Meet me on Facebook and maybe we’ll connect in a conversation. Blogs are dead. I killed it. Just now. I regret nothing.

Season 2 is the quest.

Season 2 is the quest.

~ There is a secret in This Plague of Days. You’ve already read it. No one has guessed it yet. If you suspect you know, DM me on Facebook or DM me on Twitter. Praise and adulation will be heaped upon those who guess correctly. First prize is a signed paperback. Three winners will appear in my next book. Adulation for all will happen on the All That Chazz podcast.

Filed under: author platform, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Twitter: The Cull and The Call

Click here to get Bigger Than Jesus

Click here to get Bigger Than Jesus

This morning I unfollowed a couple of hundred people on Twitter. They didn’t do anything wrong, but they weren’t following back after I followed them for a long time. I feel like I’m asserting my worth. Every few minutes, someone retweets articles from this blog and I really appreciate that. I try to be helpful and (sometimes in theory, often in practice) spreading the word helps readers.

But what does following and unfollowing on Twitter mean for you?

1. Fellow crime fictioneer Claude Bouchard built a huge Twitter following by unfollowing anyone who didn’t follow him (after giving them a few days to get around to it.) Then he follows new people. He’s gathered a group of readers and fans who have discovered he’s one of the good guys who writes about bad guys. (He also gave me a great review and cover blurb for Bigger Than Jesus, so clearly, he’s an adorable genius.) Unfollowing makes room for people who are into you.

2. There’s dignity in not chasing. I recently let a business deal slide because I felt I was dealing with someone who wanted to be chased but not necessarily caught. If I’m the one who always has to initiate, they just aren’t that into me. I don’t do business with people who aren’t into me, even if it costs me money in the short term. Finding a business partner is like finding a life partner. If it doesn’t start with love, there’s a much greater than 50/50 chance that you’ll be sitting across from them at a conference table someday looking sad. When they screw you over, they’ll say, “Thank you for your years of service. This isn’t personal. It’s just business.” If you’re friends, too, they won’t have the “just business” excuse.

3. Some people on Twitter demand “engagement”, as in personally. Yet they never initiate engagement themselves. “Engaging” everyone on a follow list of decent length is bad math. I’m happy to answer questions and talk to people, but there aren’t enough hours in the day to cater to every prince and princess’s self-centered whim. Twitter is a conversation at its best, but nothing is at its best all the time. That’s feel-good advice masquerading as good advice. If Twitter were really a conversation, none of us would have had time to write or read any books or go to the bathroom. (Okay, we could go to the bathroom and be on Twitter, but it’s icky. Don’t!)

4. Following people who aren’t into you is a self-inflicted wound. I should have unfollowed  a bunch of people a long time ago. They didn’t succumb to my charms so I’m not asking them to junior prom anymore. It’s embarrassing. However, if they do that thing where they announce who unfollowed them or get pissy about being unfollowed, that’s ego and entitlement talking.

5. The TrueTwit validation thing? Please stop it. If I want to follow you, I don’t want to jump through hoops. It’s much easier for you to block the odd spammer than it is for me to “apply”. I work for myself. One of the reasons I work for myself is I don’t want to apply for a job, especially the non-paying job of following people on Twitter. It’s supposed to be the Internet. That means no arbitrary rules and fun! Don’t be Dean Wormer putting us on double secret probation.

What’s the easiest way to reclaim your dignity, grow your Twitter following and find people who are into you? Manageflitter. It’s free and details who is inactive and who isn’t following you. There are plenty of other metrics but those are the ones I use most. That and if anyone has an egg for a profile pic, they’re purged.

BONUS

Every day is be independence day here. Here comes the stirring call to action.

There are people who automatically don’t like indie authors because they’re indie. They come in suspicious and paint everyone with nasty broad brushes. I believe these curmudgeons are a vocal minority and I refuse to chase them or worry about them. People who insist classical music is the only real music aren’t into my taste no matter how hard I sell the joys of Green Day, Everlast and the Pixies. I am an independent author with an independent mind. To form a beachhead, I must find readers with independent minds. I’m an indie author. Are you an indie reader? Follow me @rchazzchute. Or unfollow me @rchazzchute.

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

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

~ Robert Chazz Chute is a nice guy, despite the grumpy tone of this post. To hear the All That Chazz podcast, go to AllThatChazz.com. You’ll also find links to his books of suspense and very quirky crime novels there. Whatever you do, do it with dignity. 

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

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

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

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

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

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

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

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

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