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

Write and publish with love and fury.

FAQs: What book promotion are you paying for?

I sent a close friend the gift of an ebook hoping that he would read it, enjoy it, possibly review it and maybe even spread the word to his vast network of connections. Instead, he sent me a scolding reply: “You’re paying people to read your books!” And by people, he meant him. Ouch. In my defence, I don’t know that he’s read it yet, so that’s my double fail.

Before anybody thinks he’s harsh, a little history and context: I understand that he felt fine paying for the book himself. Also, I got him his first job in book publishing. He’s still thinking about publishing from that perspective. I’m sure he didn’t want to sound mean. I caught him on a bad day. Also, I’m sure he’s worried about me and that’s why he was so undiplomatic and reactive.

However, he’s only thinking of me as a friend and writer. I’m also a publisher.

Publishers have a long history of sending out Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) to key reviewers, the sales force, bookstores and media. That doesn’t require an apology. That’s business and doing less is hiding your light under a shitstorm called, “Everything else that exists to read, do and enjoy.” Yes, you’re even competing against sex! Clearly, books are doomed!

How many ARCS go out from traditional publishers? Hundreds per book. I can’t afford to do that, but I do send out some that way. I wasn’t paying anyone to read my book. I was paying for advertising and promotion (to teh wrong target, I found out.) You can do the same thing for free by emailing a pdf, though if they can’t instantly stick it on their kindle, most people won’t bother with it. Chances are good they won’t get around to reading it even if you make it very easy for them so avoid handicaps where possible. That’s why I prefer to use Amazon’s gift option where possible and within budget.

About sending copies to book blogs

Check out the book blog first. Review the reviewers and their guidelines before you send anything. Many book blogs are awesome. However, I’ve encountered noobs whose site is nigh-illegible, their traffic is minuscule and their reviews give spoilers without warning. I’d rather let a blindfolded med student practice minor surgery on my tingly bits.

Services to invest in

In the previous post, I mentioned Bookbub is a worthwhile investment. The cost of advertising with BookBub varies depending on genre. Horror and science fiction is $70 to push a free ebook. Find the full range of pricing here.

I also mentioned the Author Marketing Club. That costs $105 per year for an annual membership and it’s worth it for the tools and seminars. My book descriptions look better than ever, for instance. The free submission tool got This Plague of Days at number one in Dystopian and Post-apocalyptic. The book sales widget looks awesome.

Where can you cut corners?

Anyone reading this is probably working on a shoestring budget. To make any money, we have to keep our expenses down to nothing or close to it. We blog and tweet and use Pinterest and Facebook and do Google+ and throw Tumblr in the air and shout out of windows because it’s free and we’re trying to engage new readers. I’ve used Fiverr for videos* (see my video/book promotion strategy here) and free apps from Apple and the Chrome Store. 

We get what services we can for free where and when it makes sense. We swap services and cooperate and consult and promote each other for free. We learn to format books and publish DIY wherever we can so we can keep something of what money might trickle in, knowing the odds are heavily against us. (That sounds bleak, but more indie authors are making a living from their efforts than the traditionally published so it’s not all bad news.)

About ineffective promotion services

Lots of advertising isn’t worth the expense. Some sites say they can promote your books and they’ll do so for a fairly low fee. However, you won’t get even that small fee back. Before you go with another of those sites, review the promoters. Reach out to the indie authors you know. Use your Facebook connections to gather intelligence and ask about other authors’ experiences and results. This is most valuable if their books are similar in genre, quality and look to your own. (In other words, don’t blame the book promotion service when a bad cover sunk the author’s efforts.)

I’m always looking for ways to save money so I can put it into pushing books. The other day I realized I was the only 48-year-old walking around a bookstore in old jeans with ripped up hems. I don’t buy new pants! Think what Bookbub advertising I could buy for the price of a couple of pants! And you know what? I wish I had a bigger budget because however you promote your books, you pay. (And I want new pants. I rocked this look in college but it doesn’t fly now.)

If you don’t pay in money, you pay in time.

Without the cash, you lose time with your family (okay, not always a bad thing). You will lose time going to the gym and end up paying with your health. Time is more important than money because you can make more money but the waking hours are all you get. Worse, if you aren’t careful, marketing cuts into writing time. Be careful. Hemingway was Hemingway, but he never had to share your problems.

Expect to pay something.

Can you go viral and pay nothing and still be successful?  It could happen, but to expect it is stupid. That’s not a strategy. That’s hoping something will happen to you instead of making it happen and that’s not the way to bet. Use AMC and Bookbub now at least. Then be clever and different and promote your brand with long-term strategies that will make a career.

Should I set a budget of $10,000 for a book promotion budget?

I’m not buying new pants. 

*I have a new intro video at AllThatChazz.com, in addition to the intro video at CoolPeoplePodcast.com and of course, here at ChazzWrites.

Filed under: author platform, book marketing, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Combat the horrors of self-promotion (with fun)

Recently an article appeared in The Weeklings that was picked up by Salon. It was called The Horrors of Self-promotion by author Sean Beaudoin. I felt sorry for the author and, I admit, a touch of impatience, too. His problem is not unique. Most of us suffer hypothermia from a lack of limelight heat. I have the feeling he doesn’t read this blog. Alas. His best marketing so far was complaining about marketing and getting picked up by Salon. I don’t know how many more times that will work since I’ve seen this kind of story on Salon before. Repeatedly!

So, to solutions:

You know that rule about writing a book that states: If you’re bored, readers are bored? Same goes for self-promotion. Find a way to get them invested. Yes, give stuff away! Reward them for being helpful. Helping others helps you and never hurts. (That link will show you how to get stuff by reposting a video from my author site.)

Joanna Penn calls authors helping authors “coopetition”. That sums up why I do podcasts with authors, for instance. Besides, we’re in a lonely profession. It’s fun to talk to like-minded people like Hugh Howey, Jessica McHugh and Armand Rosamilia.)

If you hate Twitter, you won’t use it right. It’s supposed to be a fun, social discovery tool. If you hate Facebook, maybe it’s not the place for you. Those are supposed to be friends and fans you’re hanging out with. These are platforms to discover cool stuff and have conversations. I often can’t converse for long, so usually I choose to tweet useful information. (Follow me @rchazzchute and I’ll prove it.) However, there are plenty more options, both DIY and getting assistance.

We’re writers! We’re creative people. Find a way to have fun with promotions!

1. I’ve said this many times, but it bears repeating: The writing comes first. Social media is for in-between times that would otherwise be unproductive. Most of my tweeting happens from my iPod for that reason. If I’m at my desktop, I’m writing and revising Season Two.

2. For most authors, working with a publicist doesn’t make sense. However, if you really hate promoting books, maybe you should consider how you can farm it out. Can’t afford a publicist? Start with Fiverr.com. My buddy Jeff Bennington has a post about that here. Need more? Outsource or get an intern with whom you can teach and share. Contact your local college or get on Kijiji and find someone who needs experience in your subject or business.

(Please note: It’s not an internship if they aren’t learning anything. Interns don’t do laundry and are not slaves. They learn writing skills, gain publishing information and an important, perhaps first, entry for their resume. That said, if you’re predisposed to go this route, you’ll probably learn tech skills from them, too.)

3. Work with the platform that suits you best. Every day someone repins the cover to my book Self-help for Stoners on Pinterest. I do no other promotion for that book (since I still don’t have time to get it out from under Bookbaby’s distribution yet.) It’s passive, but the word spreads and it sells despite my lack of effort beyond Pinterest and Vine. (Vine’s discussed in #10.)

4. Some people over-correct and fail to promote at all. Maybe that’s shyness, although most authors who make a point of telling you how awful social media is are snobs. Mostly, they’re really complaining about a personal time management issue. We all have the same amount of time: 24 hours in a day. Use it right, don’t complain and reread Item #1. 

5. Some authors are snobs about social media because they’re tired of all the bad promotion that happens on Twitter. They need to exercise more patience, but they aren’t wrong, either. (See my post below, Book Marketing Top 10: When Less is More and tweet to content, not sales links!)

6. Don’t go into denial. Someone said their readers don’t hang out on social media. One in four people worldwide are on social networks and more than half of North Americans are on social media. That number will only grow. If your readers aren’t on social media (Amish people and older people who frequent Renaissance fairs), you better go to them. Get a booth by the guy who sells beer but calls it mead. Compensate somehow because otherwise you’re hurting your discoverability. Go where readers are, electronically or in person.

Readers have hungry minds. Therefore, they are so on social media!

7. Write another book. Too often I speak to nice people who believe their one book should find its audience organically. However, even organic plants need water. More books give your readers more opportunities to discover your awesomeness. Do not deny them your awesomeness. That way, madness lies.

8. I’ve recently posted about the many advantages of the Author Marketing Club and the tools they make available. With their free submission tool, you can harness the power of book promotion websites without hammering your own audience repeatedly. If you’re only tweeting to your followers, you’re doing it wrong. First, write stuff that’s useful, funny or retweetable. Then get on Triberr and expand your reach.

9. Blog. I have many blogs (all listed here) and reach out to varied audiences (writers, readers, podcast lovers, polymaths, the morbidly obese and schlubs like me, just trying to get their shit together.) However, ChazzWrites is the blog with the highest Alexa score. I do them all for the fun of it. If I hated it, I wouldn’t do it. I suggest ideas and try to be useful and helpful. I often try to be funny. People who get my flavor and like the taste will click the ubiquitous links to my books. Or not. But if you don’t blog, there’s no way for anyone to get what you’re about except unconvincing sales links that mostly sound the same.

Should books sell themselves? Yes, in a perfect world. You saw the news feed this morning. Does this look like a perfect world to you?

Are there exceptions and can you do nothing and still be a hit? Sure. It happened to Hugh Howey. His success is quite organic and, of course, well-deserved. However, that’s not the way to bet. Hugh told me so himself on the Cool People Podcast. Unfortunately, the norm is that many deserving books are ignored. It’s not that many of them aren’t good or even great. It’s that no one has helped readers find them effectively. Yet!

Look, I know all you want to do is write. We all just want to write and be taken care of by legions of adoring loved ones and fans. It would be great if we all had robot butlers, too. We don’t. Grow up and find a way to have fun with your chores so they aren’t chores anymore.

10. Do something different. Twitter isn’t everything. I get love and attention using Vine, for instance. If you don’t know Vine, I wrote a book about it. Basically, it’s six-second video and it’s surprisingly fun and addictive. I can choose to post the videos only to Vine, to Facebook, to Twitter or even embed vines (videos) like these fun and/or disturbing examples. 

Find what works for you. Then go do that as much or as little as you can stand. But please, no more complaining. There’s too much fun to be had and too many options to enjoy to waste time complaining. Unless you get picked up by Salon. Then maybe that worked. Sean Beaudoin! Did that work? Are you feeling better? Let us know!

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute because “Robert Chute” is already taken by a Native American author and poet who surely wouldn’t want to be confused with a crime novelist and horror author. I was recently challenged about why I wrote a book with zombies in it. (Well…not the Romero kind. More the 28 Days Later variety.) Anyway, I justified my love over at ThisPlagueofDays.com with this saucy post. You might enjoy that post, too. Fewer links, more sass.

Filed under: author platform, book marketing, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Rebelmouse Review: How to Gain Readers and Listeners with a Collage of You

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

My author platform is a sprawl of social media. I’m bringing my voice to a more effective public address system with Rebelmouse.

Recently a social media expert told an author to bring two blogs together, amalgamated to one site for better SEO. That way, more people would discover her awesomeness. The problem resonated with me. I have (deep breath) three WordPress blogs, two podcasts, three Twitter feeds, a tumblr site, a Facebook page, Google+, a Pinterest board and occasionally I send out a SONAR pulse from my one-man attack submarine. I wondered, how could I possibly bring everything together without becoming some expensive programmer’s buttockal pain? I wanted to curate all my content so my readership and podcast listeners could hit the highlights in one convenient place and receive one harmonic signal. Tough problem. I now have an easy answer, and it doesn’t include hiring a programmer I can’t afford. In fact, the solution was free. It’s me on Rebelmouse.

Showcase pics and vids

You’ll notice at the top left there’s a new Rebelmouse follow  button. Please click it for The Full Chazz Experience. It’s free and ready for your unending delight. As for signing up to curate your own stuff, you can pay for premium services at Rebelmouse (starting at $9.99 a month). I opted for free now and may upgrade later. When you go to my page, it looks remarkably like a Pinterest board. The difference is, Rebelmouse pulls the feeds from the far reaches of my book and podcast empire (mmmkay, tiny kingdom) so you get the latest from the All That Chazz podcast, The Cool People Podcast, ChazzWrites.com, AllThatChazz.com, my primary Twitter feed (@rchazzchute), Facebook and Pinterest. I even added a few videos from YouTube, which, until now, most of my readers were unaware I even made. That’s the power of Rebelmouse.

Advantages for selling books

The move to Rebelmouse was especially important to me so I could show off the work and play I do with the Vine app. I make announcements about my books and podcasts on Vine amongst quick videos of our skinny pigs chattering and having fun as a six-second comedian. I wrote an instant ebook about Vine (Six Seconds, The Unauthorized Guide to How to Build Your Business with the Vine App). I wanted to draw more attention to the book and show the fun I was having with the app all in one place. Potential readers could see what I was so enthused about in Six Seconds and I could help them with the decision to buy my book and join up by showing them vines (that’s videos made on Vine). Traffic to AllThatChazz.com shot up since I joined Vine so there’s definitely value there (and the book’s just 99 cents on Amazon, by the way. Please and thank you.)

Pros

I’ve already noticed another increase in visitors since adding Rebelmouse. One easy curation page obviously makes it much easier for readers to consume my content. You can also share your offerings on Rebelmouse back to your networks. When visitors arrive to check out one offering, they can quickly check out what else is on display and get my flavor. That’s a funnel and funnels are valuable in building an audience and getting fans who buy all your books.

The front page on Rebelmouse even has further curation options. You can click on the tabs at the top so you only see the podcast page, books page or Pinterest page. (These pages were suggested by Rebelmouse based on the tags in my feed content.) Comparisons to Pinterest are obvious, except it’s a collage of the Magic that is You instead of a collage of the things you like. The beauty of this solution is an attractive page with everything in one place that’s easy to take in. When you click on the link, you’re whisked back to the original page. Not many authors are on Vine yet and very few are on Rebelmouse (I noticed Jane Friedman is there, for one). The time to get in early on these tech solutions and enhance your author platform is now.

Cons

I did have a glitch or two when I put the page up but I figured it out pretty quickly. Be careful about which feeds you authorize and be hesitant to hit the auto-update when it is offered. That got overwhelming when everything came in at once. I clicked on auto-update and then couldn’t figure out how to switch it back. I also changed the name of the page to my name (rather than confuse readers with another All That Chazz page.) That change messed up my first announcement link so eager readers got a “404, Page not found error” when they tried to follow. That fixed, I’d say most of Rebelmouse’s interface is fairly intuitive and I really like the page now.

There are certain posts I’d like to be sticky at the top, but that might be a premium feature in my future. The Pinterest look is effective, but if you never or rarely use pictures or video on your posts, it won’t work so well for readers. Like Vine, Rebelmouse is a visual medium first and text comes second. That’s fine. We’re visual creatures. Your future boyfriend or girlfriend across the dance floor might have a great sense of humour and a powerful intellect, but your first impression is eyes, hair, cheekbones, build and how well they fit in those jeans as they do the funky chicken.

Conclusions

Rebelmouse looks great for authors, photographers, musicians, graphic artists and anyone who wants a more social pitch site (compared to a pricier, upscale, hard sell, sales site like Crushpath). As we continue to search for new ways for authors to find readers (and help readers find us), Rebelmouse is one easy way. It’s the free solution I was looking for to create a magazine experience of all that I offer in one convenient page.

Book promotion and marketing is damn tough. It just got a little easier to curate ourselves in a happy way.

Filed under: author platform, book marketing, podcasts, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, rebelmouse, Vine, web reviews, What about Chazz?, What about you?, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Elvis has left Linked In

English: Graph of social media activities

English: Graph of social media activities (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I thought I was a social media gadfly with unlimited capacity and patience. I was wrong. I thought more was always better. Usually more is better unless we’re talking gunshot wounds. However, as the reminders and posts from Linked In piled up, I found Linked In had the least to offer me of the social media options I’ve explored. Linking with friends or old acquaintances was fun. Finding out what horrible job afflicted an old enemy filled me with inappropriate glee. However, the rewards were brief. Most friends, readers and dreamers are on Facebook or Twitter anyway, so Linked In quickly became redundant. After the bottom dropped out of Facebook’s IPO this week, some pundits are saying the big FB has past its peak and will tank to become the next MySpace. Facebook still looks plenty active to me.

The primary reason for my ennui has nothing to do with Linked In: I’m not looking for a job. Publishing keeps me very busy. If I were looking for a job, I might feel differently.

However, I had thought the groups related to my interests could be useful. Theoretically, they could have been, but that’s where the corpse floated up. I’m not going to name any names, but I can tell you that far too many posts seemed to fall into one of two camps:

1. I know nothing about X and could someone explain all the basics to me so I won’t have to do a pesky Google search or look at Wikipedia or read a blog or a book on the subject?

or, far worse,

2. Everybody sucks but me and I know everything and I’ve been in this business for 40 years and you all know that because I start every snarky post with, “After 40 years in this business…”

Ugh. No, thanks. I’ve had quite enough of that attitude, thank you. I really have to protect my time, especially from big green meanies. I hadn’t encountered that much rudeness in one place in other branches of social media and my policy is I give rude people no time.

If you were trying to connect with me, there are still plenty of fun and friendly ways to do so (Twitter, Facebook, email, puppetry and interpretive dance or possibly even G+.) I don’t think Linked In is a great communications opportunity for indie authors or at least it isn’t for me. Joining was an experiment. Staying with it too long was my mistake. Leaving means one less thing to track.

(Hm? Pinterest? What’s that? Never mind what it is! Quick! Sign me up!)

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

What moves books? And what is ‘Parketing’ anyway?

Successful book marketing campaigns often do a lot of things at once, especially at first, before awareness of your book grows. Author Jeff Bennington, for instance, has noticed that online marketing of his books takes an hour out of each day or sales begin to dip. (More on getting you and your books’ global fame in a minute, but first let’s talk attitudes, parketing and my terrible personal deficiencies as a book marketer.)

Someone’s already saying, “An hour a day? Who has that kind of time? When will I have time to write?” You’re an artist, but you’re an artist in business. Businesses need to advertise. You’d make time to send out invoices, so make time to make people aware of your books unless you’re content writing for yourself and your kids. (Fortunately, lots of online marketing is cheap, free and fun, so there’s that.) Down the road, once you reach critical mass, maybe you’ll be able to get away with doing less marketing, but I doubt it. Coke still advertises. Manage your time and make it work.

Here’s one cheap way to promote local awareness of your books: I first heard of parketing (though it wasn’t called that then) at a writers’ conference three years ago. The marketing guru fired lots of ideas at us: blogging, tweeting, podcasts…the usual, though it was all newer, scarier stuff then. Then the guru asked, “How many of you have a car magnet advertising the cover of your book?” Not a single hand was raised, of course. The marketing guru snarked, “Yeah, why would you want to let anyone know you have a book for sale?” Park your car where lots of people will see it with your lovely book cover on it and voilà! That’s parketing.

It’s a digital world, so old-school attempts to market a book are often overlooked, often with justification. However, you may want to consider parketing in certain circumstances. This is one of those advertising strategies that has “short term” written all over it. It could work for the short term because no one is doing it. No one is doing it because your first reaction is that it sounds silly or maybe even naive or worse, beneath your dignity. If you habitually park your car in a high-visibility area (say, outside a bookstore at the mall) it sounds a little less silly. When you consider the number of businesses that do advertise this way, successfully, it sounds even less nuts. If your pockets are shallow, you can still do this. I got my car magnet from Vistaprint for less than $20.

Parketing works much better if you’re prepared to ask a bunch of friends to put car magnets on their vehicles, too. If your pockets are very deep, you could even go for the full paint job. Do that and you’ve got a marketing campaign started in your city and the basis for a press release to local newspapers and magazines. Sure, we market our ebooks globally, but we shouldn’t turn up our noses at getting noticed locally. That’s one way to get critical mass going. People in your own city, especially media, are more interested in local authors because they have a sense of ownership and familiarity with local authors. There’s a business in my city that seems to be everywhere because each employee gets a free paint job on their vehicle advertising the business. Everywhere they drive, they are advertising. It’s not that large a company (or even a particularly good one), but their ad-plastered cars seem ubiquitous, reminding everyone daily, “Here we are!”

The ad on my van gets attention because it’s just so damn weird. There is surely not another author advertising his or her book with a car magnet for hundreds of miles, so people slow down to read it. I’ve watched them slow down to look. Has it translated to sales? I don’t know. It’s just one car magnet for one book, but I do know people are reading the ad. For me, this little strategy is really  just about promoting awareness so I get my name familiar. For what I spent, I’m okay with that. We gravitate toward the familiar, buying name brands instead of the unknown product (which could be just as good or better but you don’t recognize the label.) When I shop the local Asian food market, I’m actually physically uncomfortable with the cans of unknown weird stuff even though I know it’s not weird. It’s merely different. (I’m weird.)

It’s all the other stuff I do that will make the difference in the long term. There is no one way to move books. Online marketing is going to do much more  because it’s everywhere. For instance, I’ve been on the air, or talked about, on six different podcasts recently (besides my own weekly podcast). That will go a lot further toward gaining some vague familiarity with my name as an author than a car magnet will for one book. Plus, I love podcasting, so I’ll always have that.

Have you guessed this post is not really about putting a magnet on your car? It’s about using multiple strategies to get attention to your books. Marketing campaigns that are single-pronged attacks do not move books. Try a lot of things, even the weird ideas if they make sense to you. Experiment and have fun with it if you can. Try to get your name out there, arriving from several places, preferably at once. We must reach outside of our circles of family and friends to move books.

I’m often reluctant to try new book marketing  strategies until I see them tested by others. That’s why I missed out on the benefit of KDP Select while some others made whacko cash last December. I haven’t jumped on Pinterest because I read one blog about their scary terms of service. These are my deficiencies. I’m often too timid about doing things that are good for me. Everything new feels weird at first. Unfamiliar doesn’t mean wrong. Unfamiliar simply means unfamiliar. In our marketing efforts, should we proceed with caution? Sure. Don’t get taken,  but do proceed and make progress.

What are the book marketing basics? Write a good book. Get it edited. Get a great cover design. Price it right. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know all that.

What then? Then go buy my buddy Jeff Bennington’s new book, The Indie Author’s Guide to the Universe. I’m reading it right now and I especially like the things you can do to sell your books that are free. Let him show you the way forward. The best marketing strategies are not static. They come and go and rise and fall so we have to stay current and open to experimentation with new opportunities as they arise.

That’s what I’m trying to do, anyway, and that’s what this blog is about.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is the author of a bunch of great ebooks of suspense with titles he now realizes generally repel you. He podcasts a comedy/narrative show, Self-help for Stoners, every Thursday night. To learn more, go to AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: ebooks, Media, My fiction, podcasts, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Useful writing links, web reviews, What about Chazz?, What about you?, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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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