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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Writers and Writing 2015: Everything is Awful Edition

Everywhere you look, it seems we’re entering 2015 under a dark cloud. In many ways, 2014 kind of sucked. Tales from the torture report and numerous shootings seemed to reinforce my chronically disappointed view of humanity…but let’s talk publishing and tackle what we can handle.

Yes, publishing news sucked, too.

The VAT has come in. If I sold much in European markets, I’d be upset about it. Almost all my book revenue comes from the US, so it’s a shrug for now and a worry for later in my case. There’s a lot of Chicken Littling going on, and even a guru or two saying indies will be begging to get trad contracts again. 

Before I go on, I want to burn a straw man argument. There’s a lot of nyaa-nya, nya-nyaa-nya about how Amazon isn’t so great anymore because Kindle Unlimited (KU) devalues books etc. The forces behind the gloating (“Do you still love Amazon now that they’ve proven they aren’t your fairy godmother?”) are arguing with ghosts. Our love for Amazon was always conditional, so chill.

Let me clear a few things up from the indie side about our prospects in 2015:

1. Amazon has grown progressively less attractive to some authors. True. I’m one of them. However, some authors report they are doing better since KU came in. Let’s calm down and evaluate on a case by case basis. Running from Amazon might not be for you even though it may be right for big sellers who aren’t selling so big anymore. KU might still serve you if you aren’t so well known and if you write short.

2. When we defended Amazon, it was because that’s where we made money. It was a business decision, just  as the decision to leave exclusivity with Amazon is a business decision now. The straw man screams we either have to love or hate Amazon’s terms. Appreciate the nuance because it’s more complex than that. Look at your numbers and consider how you feel about Kindle Unlimited’s limited payoff before you make your move.

3. KDP Select versus the other platforms is still not a binary choice. I’ll keep some books exclusive to Amazon for a time. Not all of them. Not forever. I’ve been migrating a few books to other platforms as they come out of Amazon exclusivity. That will continue. My debuts will go to Amazon, but I won’t be clicking the auto-renewal button. After 90 days, most books will be everywhere. It’s got to be strategic, not a panic.

4. Just because Amazon isn’t paying off as well as it did does not mean the other sales platforms have improved. Can you name a single recent innovation the other platforms have come up with that benefits writers? Any new discovery tools over there? No? Waiting for Amazon to devolve isn’t a proactive strategy.

5. Considerations: I’m pulling many of my books out of exclusivity because of Kindle Unlimited. Though I get new borrows all the time, I’ve written a lot of long books and who knows how long it will take readers to get around to getting past 10% on my big books? KDP and KU exclusivity, in my case, seems increasingly a place for top of sales funnel projects (i.e. prequels, short stories and novellas.)

Add a call to action to short works to help readers find the longer books. Serials appear to be gaining popularity among writers again since KU came along. I serialized This Plague of Days, but some readers get awfully confused about serials and I don’t want to have to do it again if I can avoid it. I’d rather sell the TPOD Omnibus. Serialization is an option, but the tools to make it work better are not honed. 

6. Corollary: Kindle Unlimited pays horribly, but we may not actually be losing as many sales as we think. I suspect there are book buyers and there are KU users who are into free and super cheap books. Two groups. No one knows for sure how much that Venn diagram overlaps, but my guess is many KU users tended to get their books from libraries, not bookstores, before Kindle Unlimited became available. Nothing wrong with book borrowers and library users, but I can’t afford to subsidize the lending program anymore. I believe that exclusivity is hurting me too much and I hate the uncertainty of the KU payment, so I’m getting out.

7. Caveat: To harken back to point #4, since it’s so important, the fight for dominance is between what we can gain from all the other sales platforms versus what losses we attribute to Amazon’s exclusivity and Kindle Unlimited. So far, my experiments on other platforms have convinced me they really need to develop better discovery tools. When I have to use two searches to find my own books? Ye gods! Apple sucks at discovery.

I’ve said this so many times in this space: I look forward to the other platforms developing better sales strategies and discovery tools. I want to upload my books with some confidence that Amazon’s competitors will do better for me than Kindle Unlimited’s lousy pay. When one alternative book sales platform, an innovator and leader, can show me the effort is there, I’ll be shouting their praises on this blog.

8. What’s next for indies in 2015? I suspect a new platform will emerge or one of Amazon’s competitors will offer a strong alternative. I’m not betting on Smashwords to do it. I’m thinking Alibaba.

9. What else is new(ish)? I’m not impressed by interactive books at all. I want to choose my own music to read by and all that tech takes me out of the reading experience, especially if they perfect it. That’s crap.

Early adopters and smarter indies will diversify with audiobooks and translations. Indies will found more partnerships to put out more books. Author collectives will pool resources for closer “coopetition.” I’m in one cooperative for a book project with eight authors in 2015, for instance. Working together, we’ll be a huge marketing force. Cooperatives can work in lots of ways. Most of us can’t afford even a cheap virtual assistant, but several authors working together could.

You will also see more pen names crop up as indies, desperate to chase hotter genres, will abandon what they thought they wanted to write for what might pay better. Some will sell their souls chasing that kite. Others will discover that good writing is always about the writing, not the subject matter. They may even grow to love the genre they feel was forced upon them.

Direct sales are a good idea for the few with a huge mailing list, but it won’t come to fruition for any but a few in 2015. Now’s the time to build your mailing list. Several years ago was a much better time to do that, so whip out that time machine, kill Hitler, then zip forward and build your mailing list in 2008. No time machine? Set up your Mailchimp account, put a pop up plug-in for a sign up on your blog and offer readers something really sweet to get them to sign up. It’s very difficult to get people to give up their email addresses, so make that lure with extra fudge.

Those of us who have ignored print sales will capitulate and get print editions up beside the ebooks. I’m finally printing Murders Among Dead Trees and Hollywood Jesus this week and there’s more to come in print. I typically only move a few print copies here and there, though Self-help for Stoners sold 72 copies in print in December. If nothing else, the print price makes our ebook prices look better.

10. Indies will not run to traditional publishing any more than they have in the past. Despite the hoopla, ebook growth has not stopped. It’s slowed from a pace it couldn’t possibly sustain. Amid the growing pains of any new tech experience and the cyclical shifts and bumps that are inherent in any young industry, we’re still better off keeping 70% of the profits and retaining our rights forever. As bad as things appear for us, unless it’s a sweetheart deal no one else is getting and you’re allergic to entrepreneurship, staying independent is still better than most alternatives.

That said, I think there will be more hybrid deals. I’ll be in an anthology in 2015, but the publisher is friendly and forward-thinking. These hybrid deals will be short term with small stakes and indies will generally accept them to boost their self-published works. Traditional publishers will dump their non-compete clauses, too. In fact, that’s already happening as some houses already recognize new deals won’t happen if they insist on draconian contract clauses. Non-compete clauses aren’t compatible with the current landscape, as challenging as it can be. More indies want to make a living from writing and, through ebooks, have been doing so at a greater rate than their traditionally published counterparts. Yes, things kind of suck for indie authors right now, but accepting abysmal terms from a trad house that pays pennies on net, would definitely suck.

Am I optimistic for 2015?

No, that’s not in my nature. But optimism and pessimism don’t really matter. Assessment, adaptability and strategy matter on the marketing side of this business or any other.

On the writing side?

I have to keep writing. It keeps me out of jail. I’ll keep writing no matter what. You will, too. We have an infection and that writing rash sure is itchy, isn’t it? 

~ Robert Chazz Chute is a suspense and dark fantasy novelist who is funnier and nicer than he seems in this post. Blame the headache. 

HaUNTING (6)

Filed under: author platform, ebooks, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Part I: The best life advice ever

See Part II: Losing to Win at AllThatChazz.com

Tips and inspiration for the indie author's journey to publication.

Tips and inspiration for the indie author’s journey to publication.

I’m a big fan of comedian and uber-podcaster Joe Rogan. He’s a guy with eclectic interests and an incisive mind. He shared some advice I think everyone could benefit from as we work on keeping our resolutions for 2013. (That’s right! I’m still talking about those promises we made to ourselves New Year’s Eve! Don’t quit!)

Whatever your roadblock in life, he suggests you imagine yourself as the hero or heroine of a movie. Your life is that movie. Whatever you do, a film crew is following you around and capturing each moment as you go about being that brave, smart, energetic, get-things-done protagonist. Protagonists have plots and plans and they act on them to go from zero to hero, loser to Nobel prizewinner. See yourself as if through that lens and you’ll soon find out how that changes your life.

Pop quiz, hotshot! What do you do? What do you do?

Go to AllThatChazz.com for Part II and to see what I’m doing with my movie right now.

 

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What will you make of 2013? Help is on the way.

If you don't go for new year's resolutions, you can still get tips and inspiration for your writing life with Crack the Indie Author Code.

If you don’t go for new year’s resolutions, you can still get tips and inspiration for your writing life with Crack the Indie Author Code.

Screw wishes. We’re going to make it a happy new year.

People make resolutions. Most will fail, yet tonight, most of us will make resolutions anyway. The trick, of course, is to make the resolution turn into resolve by making the same conscious decision to choose a better life again and again, every day. Tonight, just after midnight, a new podcast will be broadcast at AllThatChazz.com. Tonight’s podcast is all about juicing up your mojo and getting your motivation to tackle 2013 amped.

We can make this the year we actually follow through on our resolutions for a better business, larger readership, a better body, better relationships…whatever your aim. You can be a happier you. Tonight we start a better life with new energy and new resolve. My children aren’t afraid to take classes, learn new things and practice skills at which they aren’t immediately perfect. That’s how they get to excellence. And Gee-ZUZZ! They’re little kids! They know this! Surely, I (a theoretical adult) can step up my game!

Part of our new commitment to ourselves is accountability with resolution partners. To succeed, you will report to someone who will keep you honest and on track. Don’t have anyone? Go to AllThatChazz.com and try out Speakpipe, the free voicemail app. (Just click on “Send me a voicemail message” at the top right at All That Chazz.) What are your resolutions to make it a Happy New Year?

Your life is a story. You write stories. So write your life.

What’s the problem? Deciding to do it.

It’s not a one-way street. Tonight I’ll reveal my commitments for 2013 at All That Chazz.

(For the three of you who care about how I’m changing my life.)

Screen Shot 2012-12-31 at 10.32.35 AM

No resolutions? We hate you for being perfect!

…nah. We envy you. 

~ Robert Chazz Chute is just some guy/crime novelist/author of Self-help for Stoners/millionaire/playboy/inventor/philanthropist…wait…no. Most of that is Tony Stark/Iron Man. Anyway, I wouldn’t listen to Chazz if I were you. On the other hand, his podcast is free, Speakpipe is free, these blogs are free and a new commitment tonight might turn our lives around and maybe even save a life. Check out AllThatChazz.com for the New Resolve podcast and Chazz will explain himself, January 1, 2013.

 

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TOP TEN: Reach more readers with these blog tweaks

Tips and inspiration for the indie author's journey to publication.

Tips and inspiration for the indie author’s journey to publication.

Besides writing more books (I am), I’m always looking for ways to improve so I can reach a larger audience. Here are a few things I’m doing to help my audience find me. To reach more readers, consider these improvements for your blog, if you aren’t already doing them.

1. Scannable posts.

I tend to write long posts. If I’m going to do that, I need subheadings so readers can find the information they want quickly. The average amount of time readers spend on anyone’s blog is somewhere between two blinks and a click.

2. List posts (like this one.)

If it’s going to be long, make it a list if it’s logical to do so. Everybody loves list posts and the Top Tens in Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire are among the most read and most popular chapters.

3. Shorter posts. 

Funny is great, but I should use it to make a point memorable. Otherwise it delays getting to the point. Shutting up about that now.

4. More internal links.

Readers love certain posts more than others. They should get links to similar posts so they can fall in love more deeply…er, I mean…um, get better informed.

Chazz 25. Speakpipe.

Some readers want to connect more. Now they can leave me a voicemail on my author site. Check it out and leave me a message to see how it works. It’s the tab off to the side on the right. You can do this, too. Speakpipe is easy to sign up for and yup, it’s free.

6. Upping my verbal game.

Regular readers know I broadcast the All That Chazz podcast once a week. It’s fun, but it needs more punch. Brace yourself for the new episode airing Jan. 1. It’s full of testicular fortitude (or brass ovarian fortitude, if you prefer) and explores the subject of changing our lives and New Year’s resolutions in a way that will blow your mind. I can expand my audience to even more strangers if I podcast better.

2013 will also bring more interviews (maybe you!) for fresh energy to the podcast. My elocution is much better and my stammer less pronounced when I’m in conversation. Or when I do my Hannibal Lecter impression. The serial, week-by-week reading of Higher Than Jesus is coming, too.

Bigger Than Jesus Final 96dpi7. Serialization on the author site.

I’ve already podcast Bigger Than Jesus. I’ll soon post a new chapter on the author site weekly. Serialization seems to be working well for other authors and, since I have a long series planned for my Cuban hit man, I want as many readers as possible to get the opportunity to get hooked on Jesus (Diaz, that is.) That’s also why the Hit Man Series introductory book is only 99 cents at the moment.

8. Embedded book samples on the author site.

I will soon include more pages so you can check out each book as a kindle sample. You can do this too. India Drummond explains how here. 

9. Expansion to new platforms.

After signing on to KDP Select, I’ve acted as if Amazon is the only game in town. At the end of January, my exclusivity clause runs out the clock and I’ll expand to all other platforms so expect more download options and links for whatever your tablet or e-reader of choice is. Kobo and Apple are not as big as Amazon, sure, but they are in more markets and are coming up. With an eye to the long-term, I’ll be everywhere.

Each new book will still get its first shot at Amazon in 2013, but after that first three months, I’ll give readers everywhere a man-hug, no matter their device. Yes, I know you can read any book on Amazon with a free reading app for any device, but even if you’ve got a crappy Sony e-reader, that’s what you want to use. 

10. I’ve got to make sure I reply to every comment.

This should be a no-brainer. It’s a time management issue. I appreciate it when people leave comments. However, I don’t necessarily acknowledge them all and I have to do better at that to encourage interaction and affirm I’m fully engaged. (That’s a dickish, marketing-speak way of saying, “I care. Thank you.”) When you comment somewhere and it’s not acknowledged in some way, it feels like your hand got slapped when you were going for a friendly handshake. 

BONUS

I’ve got to do more guest posts on other blogs and I must do more with my author site.

ChazzWrites gets a lot of traffic. I need to make sure there’s more discoverability among strangers, spillage and funneling to more great content for those interested in my work. Hence, more links to the author site for more opportunities for us to fall in love with each other (in a platonic, non-creepy, man-hug sort of way.)

More tips and tricks to steer your authorship.

More tips and tricks to steer your authorship.

 ~ Robert Chazz Chute is…does this little bio at the end of posts make me look like a douchebag who takes himself too seriously? Does this bio make me look phat or just fat? Check out the All That Chazz podcast at AllThatChazz.com. For not much longer, you can find all my books of suspense and hardboiled action here.

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How-to: What can you get done?

Some time ago a writer friend on Twitter asked:

“I have two novels I’m working on. I could write this or revise that, but I really am not invested in which one I should do first.  Which should I do first?”

My answer:

“Do the thing that is closest to done.”

In the next week or so, we’re going to be inundated with advice about new year’s resolutions and changing our lives and making ourselves better people (sweating, remodelling and starving ourselves, if necessary.) I have something planned for that, too, so buckle up for more on that later.

As you evaluate what to do next, especially in your writing, do the thing that’s closest to done. You need to get your work done and out there. No, I’m not saying publishing is a sprint (though it is that and a marathon, too.) No, I’m not saying you have to change. Maybe you’re one of the few who have everything going for you. But probably not. That’s not saying anything against you. It’s just statistically likely that you’re just as screwed up as most everyone else. Few of us will keep our high-minded resolutions past January 15th. But we could. It’s our choice to screw up and our choice not to. You can do everything right and still fail, of course, b

English: Two New Year's Resolutions postcards

Image via Wikipedia

ut your chances of not failing are much better if you at least play, participate, ship, compete and do.

As Seth Godin says, “You’ve got to ship.”

As Bruce Lee said, “You must compete.”

As Larry the Cable Guy says, “Git ‘er done!”

Oh my God, I just quoted Larry the Cable Guy. Shit. I really have to change my life around.

 

Filed under: getting it done, What about Chazz?, What about you?, writing tips, , , , , ,

Writers: Stop allowing others to define you

Fire Poi at Needham's New Year's Eve celebrati...

Image via Wikipedia

Your life is a story. You define it.

My son wants to take piano lessons. He does gymnastics. He plays soccer. He’s a self-directed little dude. I didn’t take piano at his age. It was instilled in me by people who were older and taller that playing piano wasn’t so manly and therefore to be avoided. Galactically stupid, I know, but there it is.

It seems to me everyone you meet wants to put you in a box. Are you a Canadian writer? A trade writer? Which genre are you in? Lots of people have questions, but they don’t all ask for benign reasons. For instance, it was explained to me as if it wasn’t rude that questions (from some cultures) about how much money you make aren’t meant to be rude. The person asking was just trying  to measure my place in the universe so they could ascertain how much respect to give me. (Quicker answer: Give me all your respect, bitch!) 

Recently someone asked me some questions. Had I been there and read that? Nope. In a douchey style I won’t forget, they lowered their estimation of my intelligence. It took all I had to hold back from explaining to them why their artificial standard was silly, their assumptions were off base and their requirements didn’t apply. In retrospect, I wondered why I was being so polite when they weren’t managing it. Some people think they’re being clever when their passive-aggression is thinly-veiled. Newsflash: lots of people are smarter than you. We see you for what you are, you smug prick.

So, back to you. Are you allowing others to define you or are you defining yourself? On New Year’s Eve, did you make resolutions that have fallen aside? You don’t have to wait till next January 1st to make promises to yourself and rededicate to your personal makeover project. You don’t have to wait till Sunday night to promise that monday morning you’ll really get serious about that diet.

You’re making yourself over every minute. You’re defining who you are now. Who will you be? Your choices determine that. You’re only a procrastinator when you procrastinate consistently. You’re only a loser if you stop trying.

You determine that. Not your parents or the well-meaning friends telling you to get a real job. You determine your worth by what you do. Go do something. Do what you really want to do.

And the constant critics? They define themselves as naysayers who tell you what you’re doing doesn’t count. Ignore them. Every successful novelist, director, musician, artist, architect (anybody!) will tell you that long after you succeed, the critics will still be there saying, “Nah, that doesn’t amount to much.” Or, more maddening, they’ll say, “I always knew you could do it! Your welcome for all my support!”

The people who really get you?

They’re waiting.

GO!

Filed under: authors, getting it done, publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , ,

JANUARY 1: What’s your 2011 writing resolution?

WIP means Work In Progress.

This is my WIP.

First draft: 438 pages.

 

         

Romeo_Juliet_Jerome
Manuscript: Romeo, Juliet & Jerome

 

As Yoda said, “Edit it, Chazz, you must!”

By May 1.

Resolved it is.

Filed under: authors, Books, My fiction, publishing, What about Chazz?, Writers, , , , , , ,

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.

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