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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

NaNoWriMo is not a bad thing

NaNoWriMo is a good thing.

We’re coming up on the halfway point of November already (which scares the rabbit pellets out of me because Christmas is coming fast. I wasn’t going to do National Novel Writing Month this year, but changed my mind at the last moment. I enjoy their metrics and I’m a little ahead of the pace so everything is chunky hunky.

Some authors are down on NaNoWriMo, but I have to say their arguments against it are often made of straw and soggy bran cereal. It’s not just for novices who’ve always dreamed of writing a book. I write every day anyway. That doesn’t mean NaNo doesn’t give me a boost. A little friendly competition can get me started earlier and makes me write a bit longer than I might have otherwise. 2479 words last night!

NaNo is so big, sure, there are inevitably a few people in the mix who think they should fire their first draft off to an agent. However, most people are sane. The vast majority won’t commit that sin. NaNo doesn’t encourage that kind of slapdash approach, either, so ease off of those worries and enjoy a chocolate chip cookie.

Some question the word count. Why 50,000 words? Isn’t that too short for a novel? It didn’t used to be. Those word count conventions are a bit dated considering that the numbers are less of a factor with ebooks. More to the point, the originators of NaNoWriMo chose 50,000 words as a suitable goal for good reasons. It’s not too short for veterans nor too long for first-timers. It also happens to be the approximate word count for The Great Gatsby.

There’s a little Apocalypse Now energy around NaNo that I find helpful. I’m Martin Sheen at the beginning of the movie whispering, “Every minute I’m in this hotel room I get weaker. Every minute Charlie is out in the jungle he gets stronger.” Then I break a mirror because someone out there somewhere is writing.

Then I write.

~ The newest novel from Robert Chazz Chute is Endemic. Highly sensitive, bookish, and alone, Ovid Fairweather is bullied by her father, haunted by her dead therapist, and trapped in the viral apocalypse.

Get Endemic now. It’s about to go viral.

Filed under: NanNoWriMo, writing, , , , , , , , , ,

How Authors Disappear

I had a fun chat with an author friend who started publishing about the same time I did. We’ve both been in independent publishing for a decade or so. Many aspects have changed in that time. Way back when, pretty much the only marketing advice was to write good books, write more, and hope to get a BookBub. The best way to advertise your book was to write another. For a while, that was true. It’s not enough and hasn’t been enough for a long time. “Organic” alone isn’t going to get you juice.

As the industry matured. savvy gurus encouraged us to fire up newsletters, gather subscriber emails, and create autoresponder sequences. Full disclosure: Little of that interested me much. I didn’t want to market books. I did that kind of thing when I worked in traditional publishing. I’ve always been more interested in the craft. Marketing can be creative, but it’s never as creative as building a novel.

Visibility Then

For a time, I had a higher profile in the indie community. Through this blog I made friends with some heavy hitters and that got me on Simon Whistler’s podcast. From there, I appeared on one of Armand Rosamilia’s pods, was a regular on the sadly defunct Author Strong podcast, and became a co-host on the Self-Publishing Roundtable. I also had several podcasts of my own. NaNoWriMo asked me to provide one of those encouraging how-to, you-go-girl posts. Perhaps most helpful was publishing my best-known trilogy, This Plague of Days.

Then…well…what did happen exactly?

My Disappearance

My friend said, “I had no idea how many books you’d written! It seemed like you disappeared, and all of a sudden you’ve written over 30 books!”

I burst out laughing at “all of a sudden” and she joined me. Of course, it took a while. That’s 30+ books over 10 years, plus all those under pen names and projects where I served as a book doctor. Whether I was working full-time or part-time at my day job, I was always writing something. Passion, consistency, a dedicated space to write, and a closed door are keys to productivity.

However, I did not do a few things that would have helped me. I pulled back on writing this blog daily. I had a day job then and, frankly, some stuff was going on behind the scenes that knocked me flat. I experienced a lot of frustration and several anxiety attacks before I left all that nonsense behind for good. (My good. Writing has been my full-time job for a few years now.) As the pandemic progressed, I didn’t write fast, but I was always writing.

Other mistakes? I wrote (and write) in more than one genre. I did several stand-alone books rather than writing in long series. I have no regrets, but I defied several tropes of my genres. Artistically, those choices made sense. From a business point of view, less so. It also didn’t help that I held back on publishing anything under my name for a long time. Our Zombie Hours and Endemic are just out, but before that? The Night Man came out at Christmas, 2019. Even with some success, if you don’t publish regularly, it’s easy to be forgotten by readers.

Visibility Now

I’m happy to say I will be getting back into podcasting soon. I’ll announce two new podcasts, one fiction and the other non-fiction when the time comes. I mention this because a survey came out a while ago noting that many of the most successful authors are also into podcasting. Correlation or causation? Not sure. Who cares? I have a background in radio and love podcasting, so I’m in.

Speaking with my author friend, it came to me why, despite all my productivity, I seemed to disappear from her horizon. The answer: No advertising budget. I coasted on sales of my backlist. Without the budget to advertise, we disappear from view.

There are plenty of ways to stay in touch with readers. Newsletters, podcasts, blog tours, promotional platforms (like Freebooksy and Bookbub), Facebook ads, Amazon ads etc.,… Some are more expensive than others. Ours is a competitive environment. Like any business, we have to advertise to maintain visibility and viability. If you can’t invest money to remain visible, you’ll have to invest a lot of time and try to leverage that.

The gold rush died out a long time ago. I don’t like it, but the game is pay-to-play, now more than ever.

Hey, here’s an ad because I love to entertain readers, but I also like to buy groceries!

I was a nail. I am a hammer.

As the United States falls to disease, killers and thieves rule New York. Bookish, neurotic, and nerdy, Ovid Fairweather finds herself trapped in the struggle for survival. 

Bullied by her father, haunted by her dead therapist, and hunted by marauders, Ovid is forced to fight.

With only the voices in her head as her guides, a former book editor will become a queen.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. Check out my killer crime thrillers and apocalyptic epics on my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: book marketing, , , , , , , ,

How to Make Short Stories Pay

First, You Have to Write Shorts that Do Not Fizzle

One of the books I’m planning is aliens versus humans so I thought I’d check out The Invasion (new on Apple+). Inspiration comes from everywhere. Well, everywhere but The Invasion.

I respect bold choices in storytelling. I love the building tension to be found in a slow burn. However, what’s on display in The Invasion is big budget, overstuffed with melodrama, gratuitous titillation, and a lot of irrelevance. Worst of all? No aliens! It’s as if they set out to construct an alien invasion that none of the supermodel/actors notice for a long time. Whatever the producers are doing, it’s not getting to the point. I’m three episodes in. This show is beautifully shot, but they have yet to light the fuse. Any Mission Impossible script lights the fuse fast. The Invasion fizzles and fails to launch.

I’ve toyed with scriptwriting, but more of my experience that’s a close parallel comes from writing short stories. Short stories used to be so much more popular and magazines paid good money for them. Kurt Vonnegut did well with selling short stories before moving on to novels. Stephen King published shorts in porn magazines before Carrie hit. One of the joys of my childhood was reading sci-fi in Omni. If I could bring one magazine back, it would be Omni, but even then the mag was financed by the success of Penthouse. Omni was a gorgeous magazine with stunning prints of spaceships, but the business model wasn’t sustainable.

Like a Good TV or Movie Script, Short Stories are Economical

The challenge of writing short stories is to get where you’re going fast without sacrificing character development. You’ve got to paint a picture with fewer brushstrokes. The writing is tight with no room for flab.

I started out writing short stories and have won some awards for them. However, I got to a place where I thought I’d never write short stories again. There’s too little money in it and I must keep the lights on. However, I relented. My novel release schedule got punctuated by anthologies because it’s a joy. I do love writing long form, of course, but each novel is a marathon. Short stories deliver the boost of adrenaline you get from sprinting around the track.

Possible Platforms for Short Fiction

If you enjoy writing short, I’d encourage you to do so. If you want to make them pay like they did in the old days, it’s not going to be like that.

Let’s get past the age of the dinosaurs: Ignore small literary publications. They take forever, competition is stiff, they pay in bird cage lining, and their circulations are tiny. Your blog can reach more of your audience directly and immediately. Once a great thing, they’re now a pretentious holdover from a lost era. If you write genre fiction, it’s especially wasteful. If your short story is really good, you could get a sneering rejection from an MFA who attended the Iowa Workshop. So…yay? Nay.

Already got a following and a big list of subscribers? Make Patreon work for you. But really, your newsletter list better be huge because you’re going to have to promote it effectively. Patreon can be a lot of work to maintain, so set your expectations accordingly.

You could write short on Medium. Some writers enjoy that very much, but it’s not an ideal outlet for fiction.
For more on the challenges and strategies of writing fiction on Medium, read this informative blog post.

You could also try serializing your work by writing short and fast for Amazon’s new venture: Vella. However, given all I’ve read and heard about the challenges of writing and promoting on Vella, I do not recommend it at this time. It’s an interesting idea, and I did serialize some of my fiction when I started out. However, my assessment is that Vella is not ready for Primetime.

For more on the pros and cons of Vella, read this article on Medium.

Or read this writer’s experience on Vella.

If Vella still intrigues you and you want to try it out, get some help navigating it by joining a Vella Facebook group.


Before anyone complains, I must also note that there is a difference between writing serialized fiction and penning self-contained short stories. We’re already deep in the weeds here, so I’ll save that for another post.

Cool, Rob, but how do you make short stories pay?

Write novels, preferably in series, and use short stories as a way in for new readers.

You could write a short story prequel to your full-length novels and give that away everywhere (with links to your first-in-series).

I’m Your Candy Man

If you dig thrillers but you’ve never heard of The Night Man, you might not want to take a chance on me. However, my suspense anthology (Sometime Soon, Somewhere Close) isn’t the time commitment of reading a full-length thriller. It’s also cheaper. I write apocalyptic and dystopian thrillers, too, so All Empires Fall serves as a gateway drug to my novels.

Reading fiction is a lovely addiction. Give readers a taste they enjoy and they will come back for more. Whether you use short stories as a cheap entry point or as a free reader magnet for newsletter subscribers, the monetary payoff is unlikely to be immediate. It can be incredibly satisfying, though.

If you want to release rapidly to stay top of mind among your fan base, writing short can ease your stress immensely. It takes me far less time to write an anthology of short stories than it does to craft the complexity of a full-length novel. Hitting publish more often is fun and you’re throwing more spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks. In publishing, big or small, that counts as market research.

My newest anthology is Our Zombie Hours. It’s a bit of horror for the purists, just in time for Halloween (and it’s free until midnight tonight).

Take a blurb to the face:

From the author of This Plague of Days, AFTER Life, and Endemic comes five adventures from the front line of the zombie apocalypse. As society collapses, humans often prove themselves more dangerous than the infected. Enjoy these fresh stories that explore survival, heroism, and betrayal in a world gone mad. A fun night of horror awaits. 

PICK UP Our Zombie hours, NOW ON AMAZON

Today is Saturday, October 23. Get Our Zombie Hours by midnight, and it’s free. After that, the anthology is astoundingly inexpensive. I’m hoping you’re an addict looking for a word fix. I want to be your Candy Man for life.

See all my drugs at my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: short stories, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Finding the Genre Vibe

When you’re writing, understand the tropes of your genre even if you don’t adhere to them closely. Lean into those and you’ll make your readers feel comfortable that they’re getting what they expected when they clicked the buy button. It’s a truism: People want the same thing, only different. Avoid cliches, sure, but tropes are often helpful in getting a reader and keeping a reader.

I must admit, I have not always stuck with what’s expected. My two zombie trilogies colored outside the lines. This Plague of Days is vastly different from a lot of books with “Zombie Apocalypse” in the subtitle. It’s a slow burn that builds and builds and relies heavily on supernatural elements and a mute hero on the spectrum. AFTER Life has plenty of zombie action, but the nanotechnology involved places the trilogy firmly in the techno thriller and least science fiction categories.

It may seem simple, but there are plenty of niches to drill down to and you don’t always know. When I published This Plague of Days, I thought I was writing straight horror. Then I got a Bookbub, and their marketing experts helpfully informed me I was writing science fiction. I suspect the success I had with TPOD was in part because of its contrast with other zombie books.

Now, when someone asks, I follow Stephen King’s example and say I’m a suspense writer. Mostly my backlist is suspenseful sci-fi. Other times, it’s crime fiction, but it’s all suspenseful. I’m a big fan of twists and turns. As I write this, my trusty Editrix Supreme, Gari Strawn of strawnediting.com, is working on my newest big book. It’s called Endemic, a survivalist thriller set in New York during the viral apocalypse. It does not have zombies in it, but there are infected people who are zombie-adjacent. The protagonist is a 38-year-old woman who is a very unlikely heroine. I like unlikely protagonists. If someone is prepared for their mission, the stakes are lowered. Will Endemic be different enough, or too different? We’ll see.

In the Meantime

While I wait for the final edits of Endemic, I cranked out a pop-up anthology. There was a time when I thought I was done writing short stories. However, I can produce them quickly and I enjoy writing them. Anthologies don’t sell as well as full novels, but I can use it for other purposes, such as creating an IP that leads to other IPs. Need a reader magnet to boost your newsletter? Short stories can give subscribers a sense of your style without the time commitment of a full free novel.

Leaning In

I’ve been reading a couple of gurus who are very deep into writing the same thing, only different. It can be profitable catering to a particular niche. If you’ve read X author and had a good time, you’ll probably read the rest of her books to get a similarly joyful experience. Browsing around, you’ll find successful authors who do this and their branding shows it. They have no shortage of entertaining stories their readership loves. Perhaps their biggest worry is burnout or that their graphic designer will die and they’ll have to find another who can create the same style of cover art. It is a good strategy and I do not disparage it.

For this coming anthology, I’m doing something I haven’t done before. I’m leaning into the zombie/horror tropes and giving readers more what they expect from the genre. That is not to say there won’t be twists and turns. I still offer plenty of those. However, there are no sci-fi elements. I just want to scare people for Halloween (and beyond).

Meaning

For all my writing, I look for meaning. The characters have to be relatable. Even if the good guys and bad guys are wading into the Wondrous Pool of the Fantastic, it’s important that readers find resonance. We all understand jealousy, anger, and fear. Tapping into our common human experience triggers the empathic parts of our brain. That’s when the world of the book envelops the reader.

You can accomplish that state by telling an entertaining story readers expect, or you can do it while pushing at the boundaries of their expectations. The trick is to do it in such a way that you reel them in instead of freaking them out.

Please note: Some minority of readers will always freak out.

Example: This Plague of Days has zombies and vampires in it. Some readers will never accept those genres colliding. They’ll take zombies, but introduce a smarter bloodthirsty killer, and suddenly they’re breaking the spine of the book and yelling, “Bullshit!” My thought was, what’s a sentient zombie? A vampire. Never mind that evolution, and never mind if you get a few reviewers who kick back against any genre-bending. That’s okay. Everybody gets an opinion. Relax and write your book.

There’s always someone who will say, “I would have done x, y, and zombie differently.” To which I reply, “Great! Go write that. Express yourself! Then somebody can try to educate you as to what they would have done differently. Then you’ll understand me better. Heh-heh-heh!

To put it crudely, meeting reader expectations does not make any writer a hack. Ideas are cheap. It’s the execution of the story you choose to tell that will elevate the work in readers’ minds or fall short of their expectations. I like blowing through their expectations, but it can be fun to play the game within restrictions, too. As Hitchcock said, a limited budget makes one more creative.

Endemic is a big book that will defy expectations because the protagonist is older, nerdy, and neurotic. She and I share several of the same neuroses, in fact. Our Zombie Hours is a small anthology playing to readers’ expectations of the horror genre. I’m oddly optimistic each book will find a readership.

To go deeper on writing, reading, and marketing that resonates with more readers, I suggest you check out 7 Figure Fiction: How to Use Universal Fantasy to Sell Your Books to Anyone by T. Taylor. It’s an enjoyable, quick read that will get you thinking about adding butter to your writing recipe and boost reader engagement with your words.

It’s all about resonance. Do you dig my vibe?

~ Robert Chazz Chute occasionally writes about himself in the third person (like right now) to encourage you to read his books. He writes apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers. Browse them all at his author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: book marketing, This Plague of Days, writing, writing advice, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

http://mybook.to/OurZombieHours
A NEW ZOMBIE ANTHOLOGY

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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