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

Write and publish with love and fury.

The Business of Writing Top 10: How to have more fun

Have you ever watched shows like World’s Funniest Commercials?

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)When the show took a commercial break, did you sit on your couch and watch the regular commercials and wonder why they had to be so bland? Or did you go make a sandwich or run for the bathroom? Commercials don’t have to be as bad as they often are. Think of the annual hype around Superbowl commercials. How is it that the rest of the year, commercials are background noise for making sandwiches and flushing? The ad industry should try harder.

And so should we. Book promotion can be fun. We should take fun more seriously.

When we write our books, we are at our best. We’re witty and play with ideas and irony. We tell stories. We’re in the entertainment business. So why lose all that buoyancy when it comes to promoting our work? Advertising is writing, too. Yes, writing back cover blurbs and advertising copy is a somewhat different skill set, but this is not rocket science. Examples of good and bad sales copy are all around us. Emulate what works on you.

Some copywriters will enthuse that, sure, maybe you can write a book, but leave a couple of paragraphs of sales copy to a professional. That sounds rather convenient and self-serving, doesn’t it? IRobert Chazz Chute This Plague of Days: Season 3 don’t believe it. It’s great to be able to hand off such work to others with confidence, but for most of us, we’re writing our own promotional copy. Let’s loosen up and raise the bar.

If you can write a book, you can promote your work effectively without falling back on the cliché of “Buy my book!” I admit, there are writers who only say “buy my book” on Twitter and they are derided everywhere. I think this happens because no one has given them permission to be as imaginative and bouncy as they are when they write their books. It’s all writing, not a separate challenge. If it feels too different from writing books, it’s probably erring on the side of bland.

This is your permission slip:

1. Have more fun. There’s a reason it’s Rule #1. It’s that important, for you and your readers.

2. Use more pull quotes from your work of genius.

3. Make a joke. Be self-deprecating. Be different. Dare to show some personality. Let the joy leak through from your usual writing.

4. Craft something you’d want to read and act upon as a reader.

5. Relax. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Your sales plan doesn’t have to come together within a week or two of your book launch. Ebooks are forever and there are plenty of kicks at the marketing can ahead.

6. Sell less and interact more. Conversations are good. Blaring at is bad.

7. If you can’t interact, curate.

8. Selling effectively is never about selling. It’s about helping your tribe identify their want and need for you. I’m not here to sell. I’m here to help you buy. Stop being so self-conscious and apologetic about what you’re doing and do what you do in books: Put on a show!

9. Not all books are for everyone. Identify where your readers hang out and go there. Advertising for a niche and to a tribe willing to spread your good word is more important than trying to be all things to all people.

Smile. Rejection is a gift. It relieves you of the stress of dealing with boneheads later.

10. Tell more stories, not just in writing books, but in your promotional efforts, too.

Here’s an example of some fun I had on Facebook today:

Newspaper

“Abandoned to an unfeeling universe, an increasing number of Americans are turning to This Plague of Days to confront ‘the horror of it all,'” an anonymous State Department official said. High-level advisors at the White House confirm, “An autistic boy named Jaimie Spencer, 16, of Kansas City, Missouri, may be key to resolving existential ennui. There are jokes, too, but mostly it freaks us out.”

Senator John McCain stated that Congress still can’t decide if Chute’s book is “literary bull****, zombie bull**** or ‘some other bull****.'” The gridlock continues.

Senator Rand Paul is threatening a filibuster, stating, “This is not horror per se! This is dark fantasy and President Obama knows it!” The secret of This Plague of Days remains classified to all but those who read to the end. Rumors of secret video and an offer of a free ebook are confined to those who read the TPOD Omnibus Edition. While Progressives call that anti-egalitarian and elitist, Secretary of State John Kerry said (in a speech that felt like three hours), “That’s capitalism. Whaddaya gonna do?

Meanwhile, the US Congress approval rating has sunk to a new low of 8%, still above public approval of McDonalds’ fishwich and slightly below mononucleosis as a diet strategy.

However, in a stunning break from party lines in a gracious “hands across the aisle” gesture, Speaker John Boehner and Liberal Senator Harry Reid did come to some concord and issued a joint statement. “The pace really picks up in Season 2 and the gross outs were balanced by some high-minded stuff neither of us really understood. We are all frightened for the Spencer family and keep them in our prayers.”

Robert Chazz Chute Bio Picture~ That was fun. I wrote a post recently answering reader’s questions about This Plague of Days. Find that here.

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

Publishing Advice: Don’t Believe a Word

The writing and publishing business is full of, “On the one hand, this. Oh, yeah, but on the other foot, what about this BS?” Here’s the conflicting advice on my mind this week, to and fro, pro and con:

1. People complain about marketing on Twitter, “What can I say of value in 140 characters?”

It gets worse. It’s better if you say it in 100 characters. Say more with less and it’s more likely to be read and retweeted. Leaving more room allows for additions, links and commentary from enthusiastic retweeters. So be pithier. You’re a writer. You can handle that. 

2. More blog posts, daily, equals more traffic to your blog.

Unless you’re blogging a book, you’re losing time you could be using to write your next book. There are still many writers who struggle with time management and discipline. The writing — the book writing — has to come first. Promotion is secondary because you aren’t in the promotion business. You’re in the writing business. Promotion is for the stolen time that would otherwise be unproductive.

Hint: If you’re still flogging the same book, and you only have one book, and that was published over a year ago? You aren’t in the writing business. Finish something new.

3. Some people say we should begin promoting the book as soon we conceptualize what it will be….someday.

However, you’re going to change the title before you publish it at the very least and if you take too long, someone will steal that great title. Promoting too soon is an exercise in chicken counting that could just as easily wear out potential readers if you talk about the potential book, too much, forever. 

Corollary: Don’t write your blog or push your book until you have something solid to say.

And don’t repeat yourself too often, please. If I see one more blog post with the title proclaiming “Content is king!” I might have to shoot somebody with a water pistol full of skunk juice. And then kill them. (Note: Don’t swing sledgehammers in small rooms. Ice picks to brain stems are efficient. A disposable raincoat and a friend who gives alibis without asking questions is essential. Ask a mystery writer for best strategies…though you might have to wipe them out, too, just to cover your tracks.)

4. We all look forward to being discovered by a huge audience.

That’s where the negative reviews come from, too. Brace yourself.

My quest isn’t for a huge audience. It’s for 50,000 true fans. Yes, I know people usually say 1,000 true fans, but I’m ambitious and we all need to stretch and reach. (Plus 50,000 true fans fits my budget better. Daddy’s got bills!)

5. We aren’t supposed to respond to reviews.

It is a bad idea, generally….which means the false and misleading reviews stay up, uncorrected. This one isn’t about the conflict in the advice. It’s about the conflict that arises in you. You crave justice for your innocent book babies.

This one? Live with it. It’s not worth it. It’s annoying, but the Authors Behaving Badly meme is much stronger than the Reviewers Behaving Badly meme. We’re outnumbered.

Unless they’re threatening you physically, forget it. If they are threatening you physically, revisit #3 for helpful, murderous suggestions if you’re not into dialling 911. And click the Report Abuse button with gusto.

6. Everybody wants to write the great American novel.

It’s been written and it’s probably The Great Gatsby. The problem here is some writers get caught up in what they think they should write and how that ideal should look and sound. Don’t be the serious guy who takes himself too seriously. He is tiring to be around and his shoulds are misplaced.

Originate, do not emulate. If someone else did it better, we’ll go read the original. Of the hundred Harry Potter clones, how many do you really want to read? Do not chase trends. A trend is so fast, it runs you over and leaves you far behind at the same time.

7. Everyone says social media marketing is about having Internet “presence.”

Presence is weak. It says, “I’m here. I hope you find me.” Hunters don’t wait for deer to come to their house, knock on the door, peel some potatoes and conveniently slip into the oven. Hunters go hunting.

We’ll find more readers if we’re active and proactive. Go find book bloggers. Go where readers are. Make a list and follow people on Twitter as a planned approach. There are people out there who already proclaim their love of Steampunk in their Twitter profiles. If you write Steampunk, why haven’t you introduced yourself already? Stop waiting for them to come to you.

8. Gurus say, “Be everywhere.”

Maybe “everywhere” isn’t for you. Is LinkedIn really helping you as an author or is that medium best built for job searches? Unless there are forums there you love, maybe that’s wasted energy. What about Tumblr? It might be an excellent spot for you, but Tumblr’s users tend to be young, hip and artistic. Is pushing historical fiction about railway trains of the Klondike really the best use of your time there? Choose a platform or two or three you love. Focus.

Almost everyone says we should dump the exclusivity of KDP Select and be on all sales platforms. Maybe not or maybe not yet. I’ve written extensively on this issue in the past so I won’t beat that zebra into a coma again. However, when you do make that decision, don’t jump (or not jump) because someone told you to do so. Have a plan how you’re going to move those books on those other platforms (because, with few exceptions, those platforms don’t have tools you can use to raise that crop of readers.)

Don’t believe a word. Test suggestions instead.

9. When publishing gurus have nothing else to offer, they say, “Work harder.”

I don’t know a single author who isn’t working hard. Writing despite kids, day jobs, lost sleep, and long hours? Check, check, check, check. “Work harder,” for most of us, does not add value. It’s a bad math teacher telling a student staring, clueless, at an algebraic equation on the blackboard: “Stare harder and you’ll solve for X.”

Excuse me, sir, but your pants are on fire. With napalm.

“I will work harder,” is the horse that gets carted off for meat and glue in Animal Farm. What we need is to test strategies, first on a small scale. If Slideshare works for you and gets more clicks to your author site and conversions to your newsletter, do more of that. If one lure to your mailing list doesn’t work, add value and try again. Always focus on what works instead of trying everything at once. Eighty percent of results come from twenty percent of your efforts. Find your twenty percent.

Also, please, please, don’t work harder. We’re already sitting too much and worrying ourselves into an early grave while some consultants are actually making money off poor writers by yelling, “Work harder!” That damn whip arm never seems to tire. Screw those guys. We’re already putting in the time. We need smarter tools, not louder barking from the water boys.

Instead of working harder, when you’re writing, please write more joyously. Take chances. Have more fun. You can even enjoy the creative aspects of marketing, believe it or not. Joy translates to all your work. Readers won’t necessarily know why they love the joyous writer more, but they’ll feel it and respond.

10. We’re told to market to readers only.

Don’t bother writing a writing blog. There’s too much of that already and writers don’t buy books. They’re too busy writing them. Forget writers!

Hm. If true, that’s worrisome. Writers should read a lot. I think, generally, we do read plenty. I’m a voracious reader. I wrote two books about writing that emerged from this blog, so there’s that. But more important, the friends I’ve made through blogging to writers and podcasting with writers? They’ve been an immense help to me. I’ve connected with allies who’ve blurbed my books and been my beta readers and helped me expand my reach in many ways. The indie writing community is a very supportive group.

Through this blog and my podcasts, there are literally dozens of people who have helped me publish and publicize. I started to write a list of helpful fellow authors and fans, but the list got too long and I worried I’d forget somebody. Connecting with allies here, not aiming exclusively at readers, has delivered great opportunities. 

I hope I’ve helped my allies plenty, too.

Thank you all. Much love.

~ Robert Chazz Chute isn’t as mean as he sometimes sounds. His next books are This Plague of Days, Season 3 and This Plague of Days, The Complete Series. They’ll launch June 15th. For more on This Plague of Days, the international zombie thriller with an autistic hero, go to ThisPlagueOfDays.com.

Filed under: author platform, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Solopreneur Writers: 10 Nitty Gritty Pickies

Thousands of little details afflict us as artisanal publisher-authorpreneurial Han Solo writer-heroes. A couple of authors publishing books for the first time have asked me about nitty-gritty details to watch for. Here are ten that came up in our discussions of new book launches.

1. When you set your price on Amazon, the calculator will automatically set comparable prices in other countries. Set it lower for India. The “comparable” price would actually buy three books in India (and so, is too expensive.)

2. If you have a list of book bloggers to whom you wish to send Advanced Reading Copies, check their guidelines carefully to see their preferred reading mode. PDFs are free to email but some people don’t want to sideload their e-reader or read on their computer.

The easiest solution is to gift the book to your list of reviewers, preferably during a pulse sale at 99 cents to minimize the cost of promotion. You get credit for the sales and potential reviewers are more likely to check it out with Amazon’s happy, one-click experience.

Smashwords has a solution that’s free: Promo codes. Send the code to potential reviewers so they can redeem it for a complimentary copy. Inexplicably, no other platform has stolen this idea yet. Still!

3. Services like Smashwords and Draft2Digital can upload to multiple platforms at once. However, there is often a delay if you want to change your prices across retailers. This makes a BookBub promotion, for instance, a logistical problem. And by “problem,” I mean a red-hot skewer in the gluteus maximus.

I’ve noticed the worst delays seem to happen between Smashwords and Apple. One of my books took more than six months to show up on Apple. Draft2Digital had problems with Kobo. Those issues are fixed now.

4. KDP Select’s five days of giving your book away for free isn’t the great tool it once was, though other platforms still seem at a loss as to how to promote effectively and boost discoverability. The commitment to exclusivity with KDP Select is five days out of ninety. 

If you are using free day promotions, I suggest you don’t promote for more than two days at a time. Better to stop while sales are still coming in and visibility is high rather than allow the sale to lose steam over an extended period.

Use Author Marketing Club to identify sites that will promote your promotions so you maximize promotion power.

5. Some intermediaries charge much more to upload your book to various platforms. Avoid them. More important than the fee they charge, you’ll sacrifice power over your book and flexibility to promote.

If you don’t have the technical skills to do it yourself, get someone else to help you for a fraction of the cost (and a one-time fee instead of bleeding cash on an ongoing basis.)

6. Box sets are the latest tool for discoverability. I’m involved in one now and, though we’re still at the very early stages, my visibility on Amazon has already gone up.

How it works is, several authors get together. After a cage match, the Alpha who has the most resources and the one they all trust, publishes a sampler. They might give away whole books. Everybody promotes the box set at 99 cents and bam, the tide raises all boats and more readers find you. 

Some people are sneering at box sets, but I think it’s because they misunderstand the intent. It’s not about making money, particularly. This is us playing the long game and working with allies to fire off flares. It’s about raising your rank, giving strangers a chance to fall in love with your work and selling your other books. (So write more books.)

7. Publishing is a business and, despite the fact that we’re all cybering and telecommuting from our worldwide basement headquarters, you’ll still have to run errands. The thing you track least for tax time is mileage. Keep a notebook in the car and track it. Canadians, use a pencil because you know that pen will freeze each winter (August to June).

It might not add up to much, but it’s a lot when you’re making nothing. You wouldn’t burn cash just for fun, would you? Then keep your receipts and track the little things. Claiming a home office may be all that justifies your new publishing venture to your accountant, and your spouse, for the first couple of years.

8. Word was built for office use. Scrivener was built for writers. The program allows you to bounce around your manuscript with ease and format for publication. Get Scrivener. If you’ve already written your text in Word, importing to Scrivener is not a big deal. Yes, there is a learning curve, but it’s worth it.

9. Before you publish and make all the other edits you’re going to make, search the text for two spaces. Those extra spaces sneak in if you don’t scrub them out.

10. Yes, you need an author website, but a simple WordPress site (preferably with your own name) will do. Eventually, with more books under your belt and future changes in the publishing landscape, you may choose to sell books straight from your site. It’s a cool idea that doesn’t really have elegant delivery solutions for the reader (yet).

You can switch your author site to a more complex configuration later, if need be. Don’t worry about that for now. Now is the time to build a base of readers. You could sell straight from your website, but most authors would prefer not to sacrifice their visibility and reviews across the current sales platforms. 

~ There are many more details to attend to, but that’s a start. Hi, by the way. I’m Robert Chazz Chute. Good to meet you. Find me on Twitter @rchazzchute. Connect with me on Facebook here.

Filed under: author platform, DIY, publishing, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writer’s A, B, C: Free tools for finding happy new readers

1. Anonymity is the problem.

2. Discoverability is the issue.

3. Being broke is the obstacle.

4. Prolificacy is the strategy.

5. Generosity is the solution.

Today, I’ll give you three strategies I’m using to sell more books. First, there’s this:

Murders+Among+Dead+Trees+1121-1

This book of suspense is FREE until midnight, March 7, 2014. Have a look, if only to read my favorite three-star review of all time. You might also enjoy it so see for yourself. 

Okay, we all know we can do giveaways to increase our visibility by lowering the risk to new readers, but how to promote it? Here’s what I’m doing:

A. Stop ignoring Facebook groups.

I didn’t mean to ignore anyone. In fact, I’m quite active on Facebook and have made new friends there. After the release of a new book, there’s often a flurry of new friend requests and it’s great fun to interact with readers there because they’re enthused and friendly.

Over time, I’ve joined several relevant Facebook groups. If I had a spare moment (more rare these days) I’d lurk more than I’d participate. Mostly, I’d concentrate on the main news feed. That’s what draws the eye. However, there are plenty of groups to join where you can connect with like-minded people. I’m paying more attention now, making new friends and finding potential readers there.

B. I’m using Wattpad.

It’s a free platform for interaction, improvement, encouragement, feedback, sharing and promotion. Best of all, writers are welcome. Wattpad is not new, but I’ve pretty much been ignoring it. That stops now. It could be a great addition to your platform, too.

Several authors I’ve spoken to have not felt that Wattpad led to conversions. However, like me, they weren’t really active on the site nor did they promote it. To build an audience for the long-term, go where the readers are. Since these readers are also writers, you can expect respect there. It’s a friendly atmosphere.

So, for instance, you can get a sneak peek at my new book now. It doesn’t come out until spring, but I’ve put up the first chapter (The Prelude) of Season Three on Wattpad. It’s not for the faint of heart. Click here to get the link to see the big opening and you’ll also find out what Batman has to do with the apocalypse.

Wattpad’s membership is young and vibrant. I joined early but I wasn’t over there enough. I’m paying better attention now and encouraging my readers, new and old, to get that free sample there. But remember, it’s a social platform. Follow people. Read their stuff. Interact. If you find yourself having fun, congratulations. You’ve just discovered another social medium that’s for you.

I plan to use Wattpad for developing book ideas and finding new authors to read. It would be fun to write short stories as prequels and sequels. Best of all for me and for readers, I’m interested in writing more stories within the worlds I create. 

For instance, This Plague of Days takes place across continents. It’s a vast and sweeping story of the fall of our civilization. Beyond the books, there are many facets I couldn’t tell within the stream of the serial. I’d like to try out Wattpad for stories about minor characters. What happened to Brandy before Jack finds her at the opening of Season 2? What happened at the Joint Air Base in Charleston, before we get to it in Season 3 of This Plague of Days? Stories like that are fun and lead new readers back to all the work you’re selling. (Mental note: Write more books.)

But Chazz, I hate free. Free is evil.

Pre-sold readers are the best audience for any work. Free short stories are a powerful way to find them. If you hate free, write them on Wattpad and, when you’re ready, delete them from Wattpad. Then put your book up for sale as you normally would. That way, your work is doing more work for you while you’re creating it! You might even get valuable feedback through the process as you gain new potential readers for the rest of your books. Considering all that, do you still hate free?

C. Find your audience with more coopetition.

Horror authors Armand Rosamilia and Tim Baker put their talents together in a scary pack two novellas for only 99 cents. Click here to check out Dying Days: Siege 1 and 2. Working together, these guys are louder and reach more readers. That statement about being loud is also affirmed by their weekly radio show, Friday Night Writes. See you in the forum there tonight. Don’t forget to tune in at 8 pm EST. (I use the TuneIn app so you can listen to Surf 17 in Flagler Beach, Florida no matter where you are.)

Next logical question:

Got a novella or some short stories? Who are you going to team up with so you and another author or authors can get more visible?

Triberr is free, too.

I’ve already suggested Triberr as a way for authors to promote each other more effectively and systematically. This week I was invited to join a new tribe that targeted my readers. It’s a good fit because the niche is more specific and my tribe mates are all really strong bloggers.

This is coopetition (a phrase coined by author Joanna Penn, I believe.) The bloggers with whom I’m cross-promoting share similar interests so, as we tweet together, we expand our reach. Blogs generally aren’t very powerful tools, but Triberr is a fulcrum to gain leverage.

Do it right.

Lately I’ve noticed that a few “gurus” in the business are coming off…well…a tad dickish. “Prideful” my Baptist minister grandfather would say. The barrage of narcissism is off-putting and surely hurting them in the long run. I’m worried they might break their arms clapping themselves on the back that hard. That’s why this is such a great time to be generous and humble.

This isn’t about cheap marketing strategies. It’s an attitude that will make you happier. It’s about being the sort of person who elevates their circumstance by helping others instead of stomping them down and standing on their necks. To quote Patrick Swayze as Dalton from Roadhouse (again!), “It’s nice to be nice.”

Better Twitter.

Every day I scan my Twitter stream for people doing cool stuff. It might be an enthusiastic book review or a factoid or a joke. I don’t care what it is as long as it’s cool, fun or helpful. Retweet freely. Too often, I think we’re looking at Twitter’s “Interactions” stream. That’s a mirror. Look out the window instead. Look at what other people are doing and promote them to your followers to expand your view and your visibility. Your followers will appreciate the curation effort and you’ll have more fun with Twitter.

I’ve also made a conscious effort to go find new cool people I want to get to know. How do we find cool readers who are hot for our work? Hashtags are search handles. Use key words to find and follow avid readers of your genre. Active is faster than passive.

By sharing more, we all get to eat and have a more enjoyable meal. 

~ You read all the way down here? Oh, Sweetie, Baby, Cookie, Honey! For your endurance alone, you deserve Murders Among Dead Trees by Robert Chazz Chute. Click!

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Top Ten for Writers: What matters?

1. Don’t take a paragraph (or a whole post!) to apologize for not posting to your blog recently. They didn’t notice your absence. You have their eyeballs for a few seconds now. Don’t waste their time with throat-clearing or they’ll click away because you don’t have anything to say.

2. “Cover reveals” don’t attract anyone but the people who are already into you. They might not hurt. I’m saying they don’t help. Find a topic that matters to you and your readers instead. To spin an old quote, mere familiarity breeds contempt, but commonality makes friends.

3. Character interviews may be interesting to a few people, but only after they’ve read your book. It gets no new readers. Character is revealed through dialogue and action within the book. In promoting a book, it’s boring without narrative content and context.

A better suggestion:

Soon I’ll interview author Mark Rayner for the Cool People Podcast. When I asked him what he’d like to talk about, he didn’t say his characters, publishing or his writing process. He wants to talk about the themes of his book. I’m looking forward to a cool interview about the singularity and how technology affects all our lives, for good and bad. It’ll be less about him and and his book and more about readers. Then they’ll want to buy The Fridgularity, his funny, smart, entertaining novel.

4. Lose long dedications in ebooks. I’ve done this because I have much for which to be grateful, but it cuts into the online sample. Stick it in the back or put a link to it on your author site. Active links to your websites and other books will expand your circle. Your inner circle will understand.

5. The Table of Contents in your ebook doesn’t have to be in the front. That’s inertial thinking from paper publishing. For fiction, at least, stick it in the rear of the book. They can get to it on their e-reader, if they want it, by hitting “Go to”.

This is especially egregious when you have a long, dark poem as a TOC (as I do in This Plague of Days). It’s something else that cuts into the length of the online sample if it’s up front.

6. Do not complain about the demands of marketing your books. That’s telling readers that trying to reach them is a burden and they are unworthy of your time.

I’m still seeing this. Any potential reader who’s done manual labor, worked retail, been unemployed and/or worked for a boss? Yeah, they all hate you when you complain about being a writer. We have the best job on earth. Even if we aren’t getting paid for it yet, it’s still that awesome.

Instead, do what’s fun for you in otherwise unproductive time, after you’ve hit your word count for the day. If a Twitter account in the voice of your character is fun for you, try that. Unless your character is amazingly funny, profound, unique or wanted for spying by the NSA, it probably won’t pay dividends, but at least you’ll be having fun.

Connect on Facebook with people. My most meaningful interactions probably happen there. Since a reader helped me identify how my Facebook settings shut people out, I’m interacting with more people.

You can even go out and meet people in the real world. I understand non-virtual, human interaction is still a thing. I read about it on the Internet. It sounds dangerous, but you can sell paper books that way.

7. The demands of the work drain our energies so we talk too much about being a writer knocking back coffee. I’ve done it, too, and it’s cliche. Time to say something new. Something about wrestling elementary school teacher-dragons naked maybe. Hm. Gotta work on that metaphor so it sounds less fun.

8. Cramming too much information on your business card doesn’t work. Trying to cram the whole story on your book cover doesn’t work. Any promotional stuff that is too long doesn’t get read. Get your graphic design and white space to do more of the work for you.

The British Special Boat Service’s former motto was “Not by strength but by guile.” Good news! We’re writers! We have the resources to use guile. Writers and small publishers don’t have enough money to attack with strength.

9. Speak with. Engage with readers. Do not talk at readers so much. Talk less about you. Talk more about them. (Nice jammies you’re wearing today, by the way, and I especially like the lacy, red bustier…sir. Better turn off that laptop cam.)

10. Talk more about what you love and less about what you hate.

People enjoy reading about what people hate, but they don’t like the hater or even believe them. For readers to get to know you, they want to know what you’re for and what you read and what you think. Or that you think. Talk about what matters, both to you and to them.

Some writers steer clear of religion and politics for fear of offending.

Sounds like a quick way to be irrelevant and bland.

As a writer, your ability to communicate makes you important to any heavy discussion. You can even contribute as a human being. Your thoughts on violence, poverty and all the ills of the world are far more important than your little writing career. If someone doesn’t read your book because you’re a vegan, for instance, do you really think you’re missing out on a thoughtful and fair review from that person?

Kids are starving and you’re really worried about losing a few reactive sci-fi readers because you’re for X and they’re for Y? Really? Surely the kids are worth losing a few bucks, aren’t they?

I’d rather express my politics on Facebook from time to time. I’d rather win more readers I like. I don’t have to have readers who agree with me about everything. However, I don’t write books for dumb people. Trying to be liked by everyone is chasing a goose into an acid factory that’s on fire. We may be poor and desperate for readers. That doesn’t mean we have to be pathetic.

But yes, it does matter that reasonable readers generally like you. (So follow the Wil Wheaton edict and “Don’t be a dick.”)

I don’t want people to be excited to read the next This Plague of Days. I want them excited to read the next book by Robert Chazz Chute, no matter if I’m writing about zombies or Shakespeare or my funny assassin. Most readers tastes are very genre-specific, but if they like you, they’ll try your other stuff.

I’ve read all of Stephen King’s work except for The Dark Tower stuff. But I did try it. That’s all anyone can ask. After that, it’s down to individual tastes.

So be nice. Be authentic. Be committed to The Good.

And write good stories. Tell the truth through lies. Bypass prejudice and reach their minds by making them laugh first.

Writing good stories will get you more readers. Write great stories and that will come. Or maybe it won’t, but the writing and the stories matter. It matters much less than starving children and nuclear proliferation, but be fully in this world as you create better worlds.

To be heard, we must have something to say that matters to readers.

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

Book Marketing Top 10: When less is more

Some marketing efforts are hurt by doing too much. Here are 10 examples:

Season One: Sponsor of the Cool People Podcast.  Can't have just one chip? Season One has five episodes. Get each one for 99 cents or get all of Season One at a discount for $3.99. Season Two hits this September.

Season One: Sponsor of the Cool People Podcast.
Can’t have just one chip? Season One has five episodes. Get each one for 99 cents or get all of Season One at a discount for $3.99. Season Two hits this September.

1. First there were big author tours. Then radio. Now, podcast and blogging niches are more effective.

Many marketing efforts benefit from going small, personal and specific. Instead of getting a few minutes on radio (while people are in their cars or having breakfast and definitely not buying) better to get on a podcast. Instead of planes and multi-city tours and paying for plane fare, podcasts yield more exposure to a smaller, targeted and invested audience.

Podcasts are usually easier to access. You’ll get more time and sell more books with a podcast interview than by trying to squeeze in a few words between car ads and the giggling Morning Zoo Crew. 

The same principle applies to blogging. I’d rather be featured by a big book blogger than in a local newspaper. (Ask your dad what a newspaper is. If he’s old enough, he might even still get one.)

2. Curation with commentary from bloggers is valuable. Bots drawing from dozens of tweets are not.

Before I knew what Paper.li was, I emailed someone to thank them for including me in their daily electronic newspaper. I soon realized that there’s nothing special about inclusion by bots in an array of harvested tweets. However, when someone reblogs my posts, that’s a personal recommendation that’s much more effective. (Thanks for all the reblogs, Armand Rosamilia!) When someone gives me the mucho bump of love on Twitter, it means more and helps more. (Thanks for your ongoing support and enthusiasm, Eden Baylee!)

Curation tools like Scoopit! are also valuable, as long as the post includes commentary. The difference is that a human makes those choices. “Set it and forget it” is nice for thermostats, but bleating out content without evaluation and recommendation is craptacular, both for the tweeter, the tweeted and, most importantly, our readers.

3. Too much email contact leads to friction. Ease off.

I have a couple of newsletter subscriptions that hit me daily. They’re too relentless. When I fall behind, the emails pile up in my inbox. I tell myself I’ll get around to reading it all, but deletion is more likely. I do open newsletters that fire at me at a slower rate. Give me a chance to look forward to hearing from you.

How much is too much? Wait until you have something to say, something new to announce or something to offer. Too much rah-rah-rah is so much blah-blah-blah.

Similarly, If you’re relying on book event promotions that arrive in an email blast crammed with other book events, find a way to stand out. My morning Goodreads email feels like a firehose aimed at a teacup. (Sadly, the teacup in this analogy is my brain.) Do something different and approach potential readers in varied ways. When one nail is hit too much, too often, it cracks the wood. (That’s a better analogy!) See Item 5 for what I’m doing differently and Items 7 and 8 for effective e-blast options.

4. Use a professional to get things sorted out.

I was briefly part of an affiliate program on another of my blogs. The product was good, but the program was plagued with technical problems. A day didn’t go by without an update on how said problems were being fixed. Then they weren’t. Again! I dumped the program.

I am an Amazon affiliate on my author site. It’s relatively simple. I get updates from them once a month and each update is relevant to me. That’s what to aim for.

5. Complications make us weary.

Make your offers uncomplicated.

My first draft of my viral video offer (details here) was too complicated. I ran it past a friend who suggested tweaks. I had explained too much and made too many jokes instead of getting right to it. I make a lot of jokes in my books, but when it comes to offers and promotions, people just want to know their rewards and prizes and what they have to do to get them. That’s all.

6. Tweet to content.

I use tweet teams sometimes, but much less than I used to and only for special occasions. We all have book tweet and email fatigue, don’t we? Make your tweets funny or intriguing. Tweet to your blog. Your website is the proper locus of sales. Twitter is not where to sell hard or often. Twitter is a place to help people find good stuff.

This has several positive effects:

Helping people tells them you’re not an ass (and if you are an ass, you can’t hide.)

You build your mailing list on your website, not on Twitter.

Your author site is your public face. Potential readers connect with you there, not through a sales link.

Twitter can still be useful, but when it’s not hooked up to content, readers stop paying attention.

7. Aim at targets.

Bookbub works best as a book promotion service because it doesn’t send out a long list of books to everyone. Bookbub knows what genres subscribers are most interested in. Romance readers don’t get sales copy to horror books. Fewer people receive the message, but those people are more likely to buy and less likely to saddle you with one or two-star reviews because they just aren’t that into you.

in the marketing war for our attention, sniper rifles work at long distances. Shotguns do not.

8. Be choosy.

For the last two days, I’ve done a free promotion of Episode One of This Plague of Days. (The sale ends at midnight and, as I type this, it’s the last few hours of the sale. Grab it free or, if you got this too late, Episode One is only 99 cents so, you know the drill.

I’ve held #1 in Dystopian and #1 in Post-apocalyptic for most of the two-day run. That’s probably mostly due to being chosen as a featured author on Freebooksy. They’re choosy, so their email blasts are taken more seriously than some other book promotion services.

Thanks to everyone who helped me give thousands of copies of Episode One away to spread the word. I appreciate your Facebook entries, tweets and clicks. And I don’t forget who helped me. Sincerely, thank you. I have a lot of friends and allies through this blog and I’m grateful.

9. More text = more confusion.

You’ll notice I have a lot of sales links to the right. This blog has gone through several redesigns over the years and I’ll be renovating again soon. However, the other day as I was researching book promotion services, I ran across a website that was literally like reading a phone book. The crammed type fuzzed the signal to noise. It was nearly unreadable. That’s not a good sign when the blog owners set themselves up as book marketing experts. More white space adds focus and more punch to the text. (See below for my post on blog scanning vs blog reading.)

Crack the Indie Author Code10. Small is an attitude that’s easier to relate to.

My writing and publishing guides are journeys through the mud of independent publishing. I chronicled the struggles more than the success. Success teaches less than mistakes can. I was (and continue to be) very honest about my mistakes over the last couple of years of steering the Ex Parte Press imprint. Instead of telling anyone what to do, I did research and gave opinions and examples. I experimented. I tell you what worked for me and what didn’t work. I’m just now beginning to feel like I have a solid idea of what I’m doing. Mostly because now we have more tools at our disposal than we used to have. Independent publishing has matured.

We’re walking together to find our way here. I don’t listen to some experts because their viewpoints come from such a different experience. One indie guru’s solution to marketing problems is to throw money. I don’t know what he’s talking about or to whom. Others are well-established because they came to self-publishing early with trad publishing inertia and lineage mojo. 

They aren’t us. We’re small, but we are getting bigger.

We’re getting traction. We have better tools now and we’re honing them.

No matter what, we’ll remember where we came from and the friends who helped us up and out.

 

 

Filed under: blogs & blogging, book marketing, book trailer, Books, getting it done, Publicity & Promotion, 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?, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writers: Shorter is better

Six+Seconds+copyI found a way to get more traction selling books. The short story is, write shorter books for greater success. The long story? I’ll try to keep it short.

Last week I wrote a book, Six Seconds, The Unauthorized Guide to How to Build Your Business with the Vine App. It’s a long subtitle for an 18,000 word ebook, but it’s SEO-friendly and therefore easy to find. Six Seconds is breezy and fun, but it’s also a useful book that achieves the task I set for it: To get people on Vine (the new video Twitter). It helps them use the toy and tool to its greatest promotional potential. It took me a week to write, from concept to completion. That little book is selling and helping my other books’ sales.

Readers can choose from many lengths of text, but for you, the writers, I hope you’ll begin writing shorter books for your greater success.

Here’s more about why:

1. With ebooks, length matters less. There are no page numbers. Get over that Amish worrying. It’s hurting you.Higher than Jesus Final NEW copy

2. One of my favorite books, The Stranger by Albert Camus, is a short book (around 50,000 words or so). That length wasn’t uncommon in the ’40s and ’50s. Book length is fashion and convention. Fashion and convention are not static conditions. You can change them. Do.

Bigger_Than_Jesus_Cover_for_Kindle3. My crime fiction in the Hit Man Series is 60 – 65,000 words. That’s fine. One reviewer thought Bigger Than Jesus was a “short, humorous novel”, but that range isn’t so short. (The story just seemed short because it powered along so fast with swift Awesomeness, so there.) Readers pop genre fiction, especially hardboiled sex and violence with quirky, noble anti-heroes, like a fat guy tosses back chocolate croissants. (Ooh, that simile hit a little too close to home.) If I can deliver a steady supply, I might have an actual career on my hands. You, too.

4. Series sell better than stand-alone books. The audience knows the characters and become invested in them. For instance, in Bigger Than Jesus, we learn about tragic events in Jesus Diaz’s childhood. In Higher Than Jesus, readers learn new things about what they thought they knew. My loveable hit man gives an adult perspective on his family history. That changes the meaning of those events and how we view his father, Marco Diaz. It’s fun to flesh out characters and play with the audience this way. It’s fun for the reader, too. They join the The Special Club of the Knowing and become as gods!

5. Some authors experiment with serialization of longer books. I’ll be one those experimenters soon. My post-apocalyptic plague tome weighs in at 125,000 words. I’m going to break that up and sell it in four or five episodes (depending on the logical break points that appear in the revision stage.) Eventually, I’ll sell it as one huge collection, I suppose. In the meantime, four or five ebooks serialized is a cheap way to feed a growing addiction.

6. More books on your electronic bookshelf give more chances for your readership to discover you. Give them more chances to discover you! Write more books.

7. Don’t pin your hopes on one book, especially if it’s your first book. That way lies Death. Well…at least Disappointment. You’ll make more selling two shorter books than one big brick, especially in the early going when you’re still finding a readership and earning their trust.

8. My biggest surprise is that selling Six Seconds is not necessarily a big boost to my other non-fiction books. It’s helping the fiction!

Crack the Indie Author CodeAspire to Inspire eBook JPGCrack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire haven’t moved much this week. Don’t ask me to make sense of that. I even included sample chapters from Crack the Indie Author Code at the end of Six Seconds. Despite having much of the same breezy, jokey tone as Six Seconds, it’s the fiction that got the happy green arrow bump.

My working theory is that I don’t understand people’s buying behaviors; they’re crazy; I’m crazy; we’re all crazy.

~I’m launching yet another podcast soon. It’s called the Cool People Podcast. Want a sneak  peek? Click here. It’s airing soon. Meanwhile, you can listen to “The Unknown Man Edition” of the All That Chazz podcast here.

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

Free ebook offer: How to drive traffic to you with Vine

This the first book about Vine. The Vine app is the most fun available on the Internet since all that nakedness. It’s quick and easy video that could help you promote your blog, website and business.

Six+Seconds+copy

My new book, Six Seconds, The Unauthorized Guide to How to Build Your Business with the Vine App is now available on Amazon. It’s Ex Parte Press’s first instant biz book (Instabiz book?). If you liked the breezy tone of Crack the Indie Author Code, you might like this even more since it’s mercifully short at 18,000 words. Come for the jokes, stay for the Internet marketing ideas.

It’s about Vine, invented by Twitter but video Twitter. It’s the wave of the future and damn fun, so you need to get in early (like a Twitter do-over.) I fell in love with the app as a toy and then figured out how it could be a tool. When I mentioned my podcast, traffic to my author site shot up. I’m relieved to find a fun way to promote my work and enliven my Twitter stream with video.

The free ebook offer:

I’m giving away 20 copies to anyone willing to have a look and give the book an honest review.

Send your email address* to expartepress AT gmail DOT com

I’ll send a kindle copy your way immediately, no questions asked.

There won’t be any free days in the future since I’m opting out of KDP Select and making it available across all major platforms. This is the freeness here and now. (I’m doing a separate offer on Facebook. FYI: this is an additional 20 copies.)

And now a special note about your email privacy:

*I won’t keep your email address and I won’t give it away or sell it. And I’ll lobotomize the ninja monkey clone assassin who acts as my assistant in the lab if he even glimpses your email address.

Igor! I have some bad news for you!

~ On the other hand, if you’d like to receive my All That Chazz newsletter, you can subscribe to that at my author site, AllThatChazz.com. Thank you.

Filed under: Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Video, Vine, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

#VINE: A new way to use #VIDEO to get new readers & listeners

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

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

What’s Vine? It’s video Twitter. Make a six-second movie and spread your word. I’m all over this and I’m telling you now as your fellow author and good buddy, get in early. Not a lot of authors are there yet, so join me, join the fun and build your platform, too. It’s a fun tool and toy. We need tools like this to muster more promo mojo and muscle our way into minds. I’ll explain why we need Vine to build our book cults.

I’ve used Vine so far to let people know about my podcast and books, but also just to let people know I can be witty in six-second bites. I hope they’ll conclude I’m worth more of their time in other media. (Oh, and not for nothin’, the new free All That Chazz podcast is gripping. The What’s Uncool Edition is available to your ears here and now.) 

Why video? Video and audio are easier for people to consume than books. Yes, there are still actual readers out there, but to stick a barbed hook in an eyeball, we have to reach out to them where they are. If rabid video consumers aren’t already readers, don’t complain. Convert them to your cult.

I expect objections from a few.

There’s a neo-Luddite reflex in many authors that says:

1. “I shouldn’t have to do this!”

Waaah! I don’t want to floss, either. However, I like my teeth. Besides, if you do it right, marketing and promotion can actually be fun and productive.

2. “Here’s another piece of technology that takes us away from books!”

Here’s another piece of technology to attract new readers to your books.

3. “Video is the death of literature!”

Video is another medium. People who really love reading books will still make time for reading books.

4. “Real book lovers won’t be watching six-second video loops of cats playing.”

Have you ever met a bibliophile? Your demographic loves cats to the point it may be unhealthy. “Real” book lovers have varied interests because, mostly, they’re intelligent. 

5. “This is yet another promotional thing to spam and annoy people.”  

Not if you’re clever and fun. (Are you saying you aren’t clever and fun? Get off my blog! You can’t possibly be a friend or fan of mine!)

6. “I don’t know…sounds hard.”

Check it out. It’s easy, intuitive and took the shortest time to set up than anything else I’ve ever set up. Vine is definitely worth the minor time investment and it’s free. You will need an iPad, iPhone or iPod. I use an iPod because it’s the cheapest option that makes my life better. If I couldn’t do that, I’d borrow an Apple device from a friend once a week for a few minutes.

7. “But how will people find it?”

It not only works like Twitter, it’s integrated with Twitter and Facebook.

8. “But what can you do in only six seconds?”

Remember when I told you the story about the editor who said of Twitter, “I can’t say anything of value in 140 characters.” Translation: She was telling the world she was a lousy editor. Lots of people manage it so we can, too.

9. “I heard Vine is just filled with porn.”

They had issues with pornography but Apple made Vine’s developers scrub it. That end of the story got a lot of media coverage as Vine launched. That was last week. That data is out of date.

10. “I’m already on too many social media and can’t take the time.”

To the second point, it’s six seconds. You can spare six seconds. (Okay, maybe it takes me a minute and six seconds to get it right and post it.)

Aspire to Inspire eBook JPGAs for being on too many social media platforms: Evaluate what’s working and delete what isn’t. For instance, if you’re not looking for a job, dump LinkedIn. I did.

We call them platforms because that’s where we climb up to speak to a larger crowd. Do it and, if you’re tragically unsexy like me, do what I do and let puppets do the talking.

As soon as you download the app and get set up, find me, follow me and show me your videos. It will be great to put voices and faces to all of you. Without video, I’m just imagining you’re all lingerie-clad Angelina Jolies, Joan Chens and Beyonces. Even the guys. Especially the guys.

 

Filed under: author platform, book marketing, podcasts, Vine, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Write to live

For my author site and the Chazz network, click the blood spatter below.

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