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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Publishing: Rules are Rules (except when they aren’t)

I didn’t make up any of the following. I’ve observed it.

1. When Margaret Atwood writes dystopian sci-fi, it’s not dystopian sci-fi. If you wrote The Year of the Flood, you can be darn sure professional reviewers would call it dystopian sci-fi. Some special subgroup would think less of you for writing SFF, even if your work is as brilliant as Atwood’s work.

2. If you write an about-to-be-divorced, mid-life crisis novel from a man’s perspective, I know of at least one agent who would reject it without reading a word. Apparently, those authors are “wrong” to write that story. Roth had the last word and no more need be attempted. Ev-er! (Thank Thor for choices.)

3. If you’re young and writing an autobiographical, coming-of-age novel, many skeptics will sneer at your offered manuscript and declare that it is undoubtedly, “Too autobiographical.” Rewrite it to make that less transparent and, in round two, they’ll say it “lacks verisimilitude.”

4. If you’re a teen quoting your peers, a much older agent or editor may declare that “teens don’t talk that way.” (Yes. That happened.)

“B-but — “

“No. No one speaks that way. Anywhere, ever, in any world real or imagined.”

5. If a well-known author writes an homage to hardboiled fiction, it’s an homage to hardboiled fiction. If you do it, you’re plagiarizing Mickey Spillane.

6. If you attempt something different and innovative, it’s experimental and stupid. If it’s attempted in mainstream publishing (rarely), it’s different, innovative and brave. (Forget that. Always be brave. That’s often where the fun is.)

7. You may have lived in Dublin all your life, but some reviewer will tell you your characters, “don’t sound Irish enough.” That’s because they think the cartoon presentation of Irish dialect in a cereal commercial is a documentary. Not all Irish people sound like leprechauns.

Don’t worry about it. If you wrote it their way, you’d turn off too many readers with awkward depictions and hard to read dialect. And earn the wrath of all of Ireland. I like Amy Adams, but the movie Leap Year was an affront. Not a single Irish person had even a passing interest in particle physics, but the old men were all afraid of black cats. Nice.

8. You have a clever plot twist in your manuscript. That black sheep beta reader will rush to tell you he’s read that same twist in two books, so it’s a cliché. Back to square one for another rewrite. Never mind that the execution is different, all stories are similar in some regard and those two books he’s talking about were published before 1975.

9. Win a writing contest and somebody will spend a blog post on how undeserved the win was. They will claim they did not submit a losing entry into the same contest. However, the heat of their condemnation (a sun-surface temperature usually reserved for Nazis and pedophiles and Nazi-pedophiles) will reveal their jealous motives and their cowardly lies.

10. Someone will assume that, since you wrote a zombie novel, you’re a hack chasing money and trends. (And by “you”, I mean, “me.”) Never mind that I started writing This Plague of Days before there was a Walking Dead. I don’t chase trends and, while zombie readers tend to be rabid readers, it’s really a small sub-genre. I know few rich zombie writers, though I know several who deserve riches.

Sadly necessary addendum:

Someone called my serial “clichéd.” I won’t say whom and no hard feelings, really. It actually struck me as funny. Say what you will (and I know some will.) But really? “clichéd?” I guess it’s virtually indistinguishable from all the other zombie books where the zombies aren’t really zombies, the vampires aren’t really vampires, the humans might be the supernatural players, bio-terrorists attack in very weird ways, three worldwide plagues evolve as the virus spreads across continents and, oh, yeah, the hero of my zombie apocalypse is an autistic boy with an obsession for Latin proverbs who sees auras and is a selective mute.

Just like all the others.

The crux

I guess what I’m saying is, no matter how many manuscripts you read professionally or personally, for consideration or for review or for whatever, don’t fall into cynicism. Come to each manuscript or book innocent and free of preconceptions. Give us a day in court before you condemn. You might fall in love. That happens, too.

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes a lot of books. Check them out and click those affiliate links at AllThatChazz.com. Season 3 of This Plague of Days and This Plague of Days, The Complete Series, launches June 15, 2014. Find out more about This Plague of Days at ThisPlagueofDays.com.

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

Publishing numbers & Atwood on us

Author Margaret Atwood attends a reading at Ed...

Image via Wikipedia

Want a freak out? Here are some US publishing numbers on top distribution channels, most important factors in book purchases, top five book formats etc.,….

And Margaret Atwood on the changes in publishing. (I don’t agree with everything she says here, but much of it’s on track.)

What don’t I agree with? I’m not an anchovy. I’m Dr. David Banner (geek test!)

Filed under: authors, Books, publishing, , , , ,

#Writers: How much should you tweet?

Emergency "Twitter was down so I wrote my...

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This article in the Globe and Mail advises you drop tweeting from your schedule. The main point is, writers waste time tweeting when they don’t have something to sell.

Well, yeah, but…

I’m not sure why anyone thinks a writer’s e-marketing time should be all or nothing. It’s probably useful to market to your audience, present or future. Your marketing time should not cut into your writing time. If it does, you either aren’t writing enough or not prioritizing. Blogging and tweeting to your market (present or future) should be a fun thing for you to do. If you don’t like it, then don’t do it.

I tweet, but always during time that would otherwise be dead time (e.g. waiting for something, while suffering insomnia or during commercials when I forgot to PVR something.) I enjoy blogging about writing and I make time for it. As a result, I watch a lot less TV than I used to do.

But writing time has to come first. The real question is, must you blog or make a book trailer or tweet to your followers? Can’t you just leave that to someone else when the time comes? (Answer: No. Selling anything means selling yourself.)

The Globe article suggests that it is often contests that curate bestsellers (especially in Canada.) Mm, yes, but what if you don’t write the sort of fiction that’s likely to even be considered by the Giller Prize panel? You can’t leave your book’s promotion to the whim of a handful of people, not when the power of the Internet is right in front of you.

It’s worth noting that publishers expect authors to shoulder most of the responsibility for promoting their books. Your publisher and agent will want you to have a blog as a home base that all your marketing efforts feed. If you’re into self-publishing, it’s all you, though that’s arguably not much different from what it ever was. (I’ve been a publicist and I’ve worked with publicists. What they’re doing is not rocket science. You can do it and if you won’t do that, at least control it.)

Do people follow you on Twitter and then buy your books based on those interactions? I bought a Scott Sigler book after he shot me a kind tweet. If Margaret Atwood alerted to her Twitter followers that she was holding a book signing at a particular bookstore, not only would they all get her message, that’s free targeted marketing to a group very likely to show up if they can.

Is social media marketing the norm for book marketing? Answers: Yes, no and not yet. Yes, because it’s the cheapest way to go. No, because the are many authors and publishers out there who haven’t embraced the full power of social media’s potential. Lots of people still think Twitter is about letting people know about that spicy burger from lunch backing up on you. They don’t get that Twitter can push information you want to you (sometimes information you didn’t even know you needed.) And finally, not yet, because I wouldn’t count on that “no” remaining stable.

Yes, there have been authors who did not promote themselves. JD Salinger became a recluse and never tweeted. However, that’s a lousy example for two reasons:

1. He was JD Salinger and we aren’t.

2. The world (and the world of publishing) has changed drastically, even among those who are reluctant to embrace new models.

For instance, the number of book sales reps has plummeted. Interactions through Twitter and Amazon Reviews and Blogs and search engines: All that technology has turned up the volume on the marketing environment so it’s hard to hear the tiny books by unknown authors who aren’t stepping up to speak for themselves.

Yes, I know you have lots of books on your shelves and most of your buying decisions were not influenced by anything you saw on Twitter. You’re right. But as e-books flood the market from self-publishers, you won’t be right about that for long.

Build your following now so when you do have something to sell, you’ll have lots of people to spread the word. If you don’t begin to market yourself until you have a book to sell, you’re already late.

First I have to buy in to you. Then I consider your product. Twas always thus, but now more than ever.

Filed under: blogs & blogging, book reviews, Books, links, Media, publishing, Rant, self-publishing, Twitter, Useful writing links, web reviews, , , , , , , , , , ,

Envying Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood recently turned 70. Don’t think about how many books she’s published while you’ve been thinking about writing your first book. Focus on all her unknown poetry books (not because her poetry sucks but because no one buys poetry books.)

Do not compare yourself to Margaret Atwood (especially not in a query letter but not in your head, either.)

That way madness lies.

Concentrate. Head down. Claws on keyboard. Teeth gritted. Weiner untouched.

Filed under: publishing, Writers, ,

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

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

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