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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Writing Process: How to screw it up

1. Talk about it too much without typing. Lose energy that could go on the page. Talking is so much easier than typing. In fact, maybe you should be in radio.

2. Don’t write notes as soon as great ideas, additions and twists occur to you. Better to stay in bed another few minutes than catch the lightning.

3. Don’t outline at all for fear it will screw up your spontaneity. You’re an artiste, man! Let the muse sing! Planning is for wussies and many successful writers.

4. Even if a new and brilliant scene occurs to you, don’t stray from your outline because letting OCD control you is much more important than writing a better book. Readers will understand. Well, not readers plural….

5. Take all opinions from your writing group and try to accommodate everyone. They must know your story better than you do, or you wouldn’t be asking everybody, right?

6. Write it quickly and keep going no matter what, even if it appears you’re headed for a dead end because your track coach told you to run through the pain (that spring you tore your knee up and were on crutches all summer.)

7. Write it slowly because the longer it takes, the better it will be, even if the process and the manuscript become so long and involved you can’t keep the core of the story straight in your head anymore. It’s okay, you’ll live forever so it doesn’t matter when, or if, you ever finish the book.

8. Don’t bother with taking any notes for a character guide or story bible. Who cares if your heroine’s eye colour changes eight times and her name changes four times in the space of two paragraphs? You can hate yourself forever, sure, but you were going to do that anyway, right?

9. Don’t read any books in your genre. You wouldn’t want to risk being influenced by anyone good or be aware of what clichés to avoid. That sounds like a task for nasty reviewers.

10. Don’t defend your writing time. Everyone’s more important than you and your dreams. If you don’t allow everyone to stomp all over you, how will you be the martyr who never published because…well, life is just too darn hard, isn’t it? But you could have been great! You’ll always have that.

BONUS:

Hate everything you write. There’s no time to improve it later in revisions so everything sucks and always will. Well…that’s a timesaver!

Love everything you write. History will realize your genius after death. It’s just the editors in this epoch who have you all wrong.

Advertisements

Filed under: Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , ,

One to read. One to hear. One to love.

“This is the post I shouldn’t write. I shouldn’t therefore I must.”

You know that post I just wrote about being contrary? Sometimes something catches fire when you say what you aren’t supposed to say out loud. It just happened on one of my other blogs, ThisPlagueOfDays.com. It was picked up by the Passive Voice and spread hither and thither. So far I’ve received two stern talking-tos (one of which I didn’t understand), appreciative notes and emails and offers of Prozac. The piece is about writing: the frustrations, the joys and the braingasms. You’re invited to have a look at my heart under the klieg lights.

And the All That Chazz podcast is finally back.

Have a listen if you dare. It’s not safe for work. I touch on control issues, the joys of colonoscopies, and get to an overdue reading from my crime novel Higher Than Jesus.

Oh, and Season Two of This Plague of Days is going great. If you’ve read it but haven’t reviewed it yet, please do. Thanks!

October’s mandates are stacked higher than September’s to-do list, but I’m dancing as fast as I can.

“Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight? I ask that of all my prey.”

Filed under: author platform, Author profiles, ebooks, Useful writing links, Writers, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writers: Are you sitting on the money?

They call it the Cliff. You can do Author Marketing Club and Bookbub and free promotions and blow giveaways out the digital door. You can even start catching fire and getting traction and selling books for (gasp!) actual money. Then, the fall from grace comes. Sales drop off, often steeply. What happened? You ran off the Cliff. Lots of people do. In this post, we’re going to think about climbing back up and promoting our previous works again (and doing it better this time) because I suspect we’re sitting on money.

I’m rethinking the old marketing paradigm that’s always oriented to what’s new. 

It’s the thing we should question most: accepted wisdom. Despite all my efforts, old wave thinking is still permeating my brain. In traditional publishing, you get a short window to get traction and then the bookstores return your books to the publisherCrack the Indie Author Code for credit. That’s the structure of the short tail market. In long tail marketing, our books are up forever (or at least until the cyber war brings us all low). Still, we tend to think of our books as hitting big (or not) and then the graph points down. We’re mimicking thinking and marketing patterns from traditional wisdom because all old ideas are awesome, right? Oh, wait…

Case #1

I’ve been meaning to do this for a while and by not sleeping, I’m finally getting to it. I pulled Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book, Aspire to Inspire from print. I didn’t like the look of the interior design. I’m fixing them and will make Crack the Indie Author Code available in print again soon. (They’re both still out there as ebooks.)

Self Help for Stoners JPEGCase #2

Self-help for Stoners was my first book. It’s funny and strange and with an intermediary. I used Bookbaby for that collection and I want to get it back at Ex Parte Press and put it out myself. I’m sure I can make it go higher once I have full and instant control of the marketing. I queried Amazon about the process today because I’m afraid of losing the reviews. Either way, I do need to steer my ship and reach out to stoners and non-stoners, alike and anew. (If you’re a Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus fan, my luckless Cuban hit man appears first in Self-help for Stoners, by the way.)

This post won’t help you much if you only have one book to sell, but here are my thoughts on renewed marketing efforts: 

If you have one book, write more. No whining,

If you have a backlist, who is to say what’s old and what’s renewable? You’re the one to say.

If you have a bunch of books, I bet you’re a better writer by now. Why not revisit those books and do new editions?

Consider the power of bundling books. You could enliven your Amazon dashboard with more happy green up arrows. Stop sitting on the money.

Lots of people missed your fledgling efforts the first time. You didn’t know what you were doing. Who did? Any book they haven’t read is new to them. 

The most powerful promotions tend to be the first ones. But maybe that’s because we don’t put the same marketing efforts into books we published a couple of years ago. In digital, the term backlist is less relevant. As long as it’s clear it’s a new edition or a new launch or you’ve added material, what’s the problem? 

Maybe those early efforts flopped because you had a lousy cover. Get a new, better cover* and launch it right this time. With all you’ve learned about marketing since your early efforts, it’s bound to do better, right?

Most fiction doesn’t get stale. Our efforts get stale because we want to focus on the new thing. Maybe the old thing is only old in your mind. With some tweaking, a fresh edit and a new campaign, you might have a book people will love and buy. Reuse, recycle, repurpose. Turn short stories into collections. Open up to new possibilities with prequels to your books. Tie books together. Add to your series. Serialize. There’s plenty of fun to be mined in what you’ve already accomplished.

Your problem with these suggestions isn’t necessarily that my head is full of feathers. Your problem is the same as mine. This will take a lot of time and you feel you’ve already covered this ground. But most of us didn’t cover this ground well the first time. There are new promotional tools now. Yes, time management can be tough and we can only do what we can do. But that’s business. We are not special snowflakes, but we’re letting good stuff go cold.

*About good covers, I know a guy. He’s Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com. He’s an award-winning graphic artist with an extensive portfolio who works well with indies and traditional publishers. Like my covers? Kit did them all. Check out his site. You’ll be glad you did.

Dark Higher Than Jesus banner ad

Filed under: author platform, Books, ebooks, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Books: Ventures, Misadventures, Adventures and Brutal Honesty

Crack the Indie Author CodeWhen George Lucas screened  Star Wars, most of his fellow filmmakers in the room looked at each other and said, “American Graffiti was awesome, George, but this space opera thing…yuck!” It was Stephen Spielberg who played the contrarian. “You guys don’t get it!” he said. “This is going to be huge!” And of course, Spielberg was right.

My personal Lord and Saviour of The Written Word, William Goldman, famously said of the Hollywood film business, “Nobody knows anything.” It’s true, no one can know what will hit and which will miss. Someone comes up with the somewhat moronic expression YOLO (the idiot’s “Carpe diem”) and it’s suddenly on t-shirts everywhere. True for us, too. You may write a heavy, ambitious tome, but it’s a tiny book like The Little Prince that captures the hearts and imaginations of generations of readers.

So it is with marketing books.

Agents say they can “guide your career”, but if that were true, anyone with a sentient agent would have a fabulous career. No one knows anything in publishing, either. That’s not meant as an insult, but as a reflection of reality. Publishing is famous (or infamous) for placing bets on many horses, hoping the big bets will pay off and cover the losers’ ubiquitous failures. Few industries have a miss rate as high as book publishing (though Hollywood’s screwing up even more than usual lately.)

So it is with my books, too!Self Help for Stoners JPEG

The summer is winding down and I find I must split my mania among many ventures. I’m in a philosophical mood and looking back at what took off, what has not, and why. We at Ex Parte Press are not lounging in the money, chocolate and champagne pool at the moment. (But we still have high hopes.)

  • Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus are critical successes among the few critics who are aware of my funny Cuban hit man and his tragic past. Alas, hardboiled and funny suspense isn’t trending at the moment. Nonetheless, I have more Hit Man books planned. Jesus Diaz will just have to wait a bit longer as I concentrate my efforts where readers have demonstrated more enthusiasm. I love Jesus, and can’t wait to get him back on the warpath in Hollywood. An assassin who can make movie references and quick quips while getting beaten up deserves more books. He’ll get them.
  • My first funny short story collection, Self-help for Stoners, sells just a little but steadily. It’s a tribute to Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com that the cover is repinned on Pinterest several times a week, every week. Later this fall I will stop using an intermediary so I can take back control of marketing that book. I have no doubt I can take it much higher once that happens. I’d have done it by now but I’ve been perpetually swamped for months with This Plague of Days.
  • Six Seconds, my book about using the Vine app to market your business was an instant book with lots of great advice. I’ve moved books and marketed my podcasts having fun with mini videos. Though Vine remains the superior product, Instagram changed their app to ape Vine so Instagram has many more users. I bet on the wrong horse, not every at bat is a home-run, insert your metaphor for failure here.
  • This Plague of Days, Season One is getting traction. It might even be on the cusp of taking off. I’ll find out when Season Two hits at the end of September. (Here’s my latest post with hints and expectations for Season Two.) Early feedback is very encouraging. As in this, from the beta team: “Suspense and plot and action – all of them are on steroids in this book…overall impression is you have brought this thing to the next level.”

Mind the towering caveat in the following paragraph:

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

So you see, I’m no better (or worse) at stabbing at the imagination of readers than anyone else. I don’t know what will sell buckets of books. No one does. It’s something that happens to you, as long as you pretend your destiny is under your control and do everything you can to get discovered. You can hit the target. We’re all shooting blindfolded in the dark, sure, but if you take enough wild shots, aiming matters less. You write the best book you can and engage more readers and attend some sad, ill-attended bookstore signings and do whatever else you can think of to fire off signal flares without becoming a Twitter pariah.

This is not to say that good advice isn’t out there. It’s just that so much good advice conflicts!

The great Chuck Wendig talks about voice (or the force of personality) being more important than “brand”. Others can’t talk about anything else but brand, stats and system gaming. Hugh Howey is the outlier that didn’t really market anything when he started Wool (though he says Facebook helps him most these days.) Some insist on lots of links to your other work in the back of each book. Others say that’s overkill and intelligent readers will find you easily if they love you enough to bother with a google search. Some book marketers are passive as a policy (or lazy.) Others are so active, it’s pretty close to obnoxious.

And still, nobody knows anything. Not for sure. There are too many variables to success and the situation is fluid. We, writers and publishers all, dance on tightropes while juggling feathers in wind storms and hope readers will cast a glance our way and enjoy the silly monkey dance.

Still, you’ll find advice about tactics everywhere.

Just this week, I pushed the Author Marketing Club and Bookbub. Solid advice I stand behind. But keep in mind, these are tactics. The potency of tactics can wax and wane according to many variables. That’s what’s hot now and into the near future. After that? New tools will emerge because good ideas get copied. Sometimes imitators are new and improved and often the copier doesn’t have enough toner.

Strategy is long-term thinking. Strategy says: Write more. Get more feedback. Write more books. Get better. Higher+than+Jesus+Front+1029

This is the only advice I know that lasts. (You’ll find that and much more about the writing and publishing life in Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire. Crack sells a bit while the second book hardly moves at all. Why? Who knows? Nobody. Nobody knows anything! My Lord and Saviour told me so.

However, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I have a third book about writing and publishing in the chamber ready to fire. When This Plague of Days hits big, readers will pick up all my books about writing and publishing. After the fact, they’ll say, “Well, no wonder.” 

The Johnny-come-latelies won’t know what you know. My overnight success wasn’t overnight. Success always seems inevitable, but only in retrospect. Until you make it, no one cares about you and your book. Those who do give you any thought probably think you a fool. (Insert an image of your disapproving in-laws here.)

Ah. But, afterwards? You’re a genius.*

~ *Afterwards, You’re a Genius is a wonderful book I recommend for anyone interested in scientists with lyrical sensibilities.

For more on the rising action and scary high stakes in the spiralling weirdness of an autistic boy fighting zombies, read this post at ThisPlagueOfDays.com. 

For more on my adventures in self-pubishing, swallowing bitter pills and my peculiar brain mania, there’s this post on the writing life at my author site. 

 

Filed under: author platform, getting it done, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FAQs: Would I go with an agent?

Crack the Indie Author CodeWhen I attended the Banff Publishing Workshop, most attendees were bent on writing and managing magazines and publishing houses.* I knew one nice woman who wanted to be agent. I wonder what she’s doing now? There’s an excellent chance she’s selling real estate. Too bad. She really was nice. Same is true of all my classmates in journalism school who were let go from their newspaper jobs about the time they turned 40. Changing media delivery paradigms sure do stir up chaos.

Given my last post, you might think I’m against agents. Not at all. I think agents could be very useful for negotiating foreign rights for my imprint in the future, for instance.

However, their role is much reduced and smart agents are changing their games. At a recent writing conference, writers were not chasing agents so much. The Meet-An-Agent appointment schedule could not be filled. Now more agents are chasing writers and they’re very interested in how your self-published books are doing. They weren’t at all interested a short time ago. In fact, some were quite pissy about the prospect. But now? Establish a happy track record and they might come a courtin’.

The short answer to this post’s title is:

I’d be interested in hearing what an agent feels he or she could do for me. There are good agents out there. I think hybrid publishing maximizes exposure and opportunities for you and your readers. Look at Wool author Hugh Howey’s experience. An agent found him and she was willing to travel outside the ruts of old publishing’s logging road to get Hugh a deal that worked for everyone.

The long answer? Let’s go with bullet points so I can make this shorter:

  • The submissions process can be a long ordeal. Long as in, are you young enough to begin now?)
  • You may be asked to make major changes to your manuscript. If you succeed in getting a book deal, you’ll make even more major changes.
  • You may choose to make the requested changes and they still won’t take you on. (They may even forget the changes they suggested. Yes, that’s happened.)
  • You can get an agent but still fail to place the book with a publisher. An agent is a person, not a guarantee of slinging back cosmos in Manhattan with your new editor.
  • The myth is that you choose an agent. The fact is if someone sends you a contract, most authors pee their pants and quickly sign. Regret is for later.
  • You can find an agent, dance joyously and then find out it’s a scam (as happened to a friend of mine.)
  • You could bypass the agent and submit directly to publishing houses and they’ll still read it. (They say they don’t, but most will.)
  • As Dean Wesley Smith has said, agents should be your employees. I’m sure he’s right. Guess how many agents see their professional status that way?
  • Submit to the wrong agent who blogs and they’ll mock your submission. Unprofessional, I’d say. As Will McEvoy said recently, “Snark is the idiot’s version of wit.”
  • Good agents have precious few slots open for new clients. Bad agents and scammers demand reading fees.
  • Rather than submit query letters to agents, many agents find new clients via recommendations from the authors in their stable. Who you know? Yeah, that’s still a thing. It’s called networking. Ignore the denials.
  • Getting an agent is tougher than getting published. Why not publish it yourself first and start selling now? As I’ve said many times, Amazon is the new slush pile.
  • Some agents live in fear of submitting manuscripts that might not be accepted. They have to be so sure, they’re too risk averse. One agent complained that one false move with a particular editor would lose her access forever. This sad story tells me that’s a crazed editor. It also tells me that’s an agent who is too fearful, forever doomed to be chasing trends instead of helping to make them.
  • The agent/author relationship is like a marriage: They have a piece of you forever even after the divorce.
  • Lazy agents say, “This would be hard to sell.” As a former sales rep for many publishing companies, I can assure you that there are few easy sales. We don’t need you for easy sales. Selling is part of the job. The better question is, “How can I sell this and to whom?”
  • Often when they say, “This would be a hard sell”, they aren’t lazy. It’s a euphemism for, “I think this is crap but why not be diplomatic?” They’re being kind. Don’t resent them for it. Move on.
  • You’ll get a better deal with a good agent than without her. A good agent will more than pay for herself. However, some agents are getting paid for doing very little. They treat the publisher’s contract as set in stone. That’s supposed to be the publisher’s attitude. It’s a bad attitude for the person negotiating for you.
  • Good agents can act as a buffer and help resolve conflicts with editors. Bad agents are the source of personality conflicts.
  • You have to trust your agent. You don’t have to love your agent. It’s a business relationship. That’s less clear in the beginning when you’re riding high. It’s very clear when they dump your mid-lister ass.
  • A good agent can do things you can’t and navigate the tiny details of contracts. A good agent can pay great dividends for their fifteen percent.
  • But an entertainment lawyer can practice law and navigate the tiny details of contracts and you pay them once. Hm.
  • A good agent can justify their participation in your enterprise without sounding old-school entitled about it. They work in listening mode.
  • Trad publishing has changed. Good agents know it and are adapting to serve their clients better.

TPOD 0616 EP 1 coverAuthors who love their agents are everywhere. A plethora of horror stories about agents also span the Internet, just as there are snarky complaints about clueless authors everywhere.

A better question is about the human variable: You.

Would you feel better with an experienced, connected agent helping you on an ongoing basis?

Or does the prospect fill you with anxiety?

Are you happier as a publisher/author/entrepreneur who pays for an entertainment lawyer’s expertise on an ad hoc basis?

Enter the relationship self-aware, eyes open.

Even better:

How do you find a good agent if you want one?

Ask an author in your genre who is already delighted with their agent.

*FYI: A magazine is something people used to subscribe to and read, like a blog but made out of glossy paper. Publishing houses were places that had an undeserved reputation for great cocktail parties that were vaguely upper crust, literate and British, no matter where they were located or how little the worker drones were paid.)

~ Robert Chazz Chute was one of those worker drones. He is the author of This Plague of Days World flu pandemic! Autism! Zombies! Oh, my!

Filed under: agents, Books, publishing, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FAQs: How to write books agents will hate (but readers might love)

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

Yesterday I told you how a well-meaning friend with experience in traditional publishing gave me advice I thought was askew. As we struggle to gain traction in the marketplace, we get a lot of well-meaning advice we can’t take. (You’ve probably read that sort of advice here from me.) My friend’s other foray at saving me from myself was to tell me to court agents. “With World War Z, zombies are big this summer! Find horror agents and get traditionally published!” he said.

It’s not that it’s necessarily bad advice. However, it’s bad advice for me. Here’s a list of the things I do in my books that repel agents like fried bat armpits at the wedding feast:

1. Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus is written in second person, present tense. Unconventional scares agents away. They’re trying to make money after all. I don’t blame them, but I’m in the Art and Brain Tickle business first. I have this crazy notion that being me will lead to making money. Eventually.

2. The assassin/anti-hero in the Hit Man Series is neurotic and afraid of women. (Name another hardboiled gunner who has that problem. Take your time. I’ll wait.)

3. My hit man suffered childhood sexual abuse. He’s also hilarious. Those elements rarely sit side by side comfortably.

4. Hardboiled isn’t selling hard right now. Or is it humor? Or is it action adventure? Easily classifiable is really important to a lot of people who aren’t me.

5. The titles may offend some Christians, especially since it’s crime fiction with a lot of swearing.

6. The titles are confusing until you understand that the assassin, Jesus Diaz, is Cuban and it’s pronounced “HAY-SOOSE”. In fairness, agents and publishers should be repelled by these titles. It wasn’t the best strategy because any title that requires explanation sucks. After two books, I’m committed and in love. I also have a plan around this problem after the next novel in the series is published early next year.

7. In my zombie series, This Plague of Days, the zombies aren’t “true” and “traditional”. It begins with a flu pandemic. You get to see how society gets to dystopian before the action kicks into ever higher gear. The slow burn requires more buy-in from sophisticated readers. Underestimating readers’ intelligence is an easier bet.

Season One has five episodes. Get each one for 99 cents or get all of Season One at a discount for $3.99.

Season One has five episodes. Get each one for 99 cents or get all of Season One at a discount for $3.99.

8. This Plague of Days has an autistic hero who rarely speaks and whose special interest is dictionaries and Latin phrases. Sounds like sales suicide when I put it like that, huh? That sort of gamble can pay off in a book. It’s death in the tough sell of a query letter.

9. The table of contents is a long, dark poem embedded with clues to the bigger story. Reread that and tell me I’m not silly. I know it.

10. Who will serialize a book unless I do it with my imprint? (Amazon Serials didn’t bite but readers are buying in.) Besides hooking up with Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com for his awesome covers, serialization has been my best sales strategy yet. This Plague of Days is a sprawling story tracking action over two continents with a big cast of characters. (At times you may wonder, is Chazz British or American? Split the difference. I’m Canadian.) It was too long to publish as just one book and the serialization model fit best.

When you look at that list, which idea comes across stronger? A or B?

A. All agents are evil, lazy and lack imagination.

B. I am determined to fail.

It pains me to say that all agents are not evil. I’ll save further discussion of agents for my next post.

For more on the why of this post, the writer’s character and how this relates to Joyland by Stephen King

click here for my latest post on ThisPlagueOfDays.com:

Writing Against the Grain: B Movies, A Treatments and the Deceptive Familiar

 

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

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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writers: Was this post helpful to you?

I bought a book today by an author previously unknown to me. At six bucks plus, it was the most expensive ebook I’ve purchased in a long time. (Usually my ebook purchases are from indies, not trad publishers.) I bought this ebook because of one of its reviews. I did not buy because the review raved. The book caught my attention because the review’s tone was so damnably condescending, I had to make the purchase. This wasn’t a case of pitying the author. There were good reviews, too. Also, it helped that I suspected this was a book I would enjoy. It sounded smart and sure and people who liked it said it elevated and challenged its genre.

Whatever the book’s merits will be, the key component for the purchase was that the reviewer was too much of a jerk. What is it about bad reviews that so often reveal more about the reviewer than the book being reviewed? I emailed the author to tell him I bought his book. It sounded interesting and I wished him success with it. I look forward to reading it, but what can the rest of us take from this?

Take this post as a small salve to authors’ bruised egos.

People will love your work and others will hate it, but I want you to know that readers are generally intelligent people. They often see through the reviewer’s veil more than you might think. Readers divine intent when they read over-the-top malice and subtract value from a nasty review. Yea or nay, readers like thoughtful reviews. They get it when a reviewer sounds disrespectful or less than literate. Good readers (people who buy a lot of books!) aren’t easily impressed by cheap shots and snarky remarks. When a review is especially egregious, you might even get a sale out of it. 

I’m not saying bad reviews are better than happy ones, but don’t take the bad ones too much to heart. Also, when you spot a really nasty one that goes at the author personally instead of the book? Be sure to click “No” beside the question, “Was this review helpful to you?”

Filed under: reviews, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Great ebook cover design: More on what to look for

Our book covers must not sucketh.

But how do we make covers that blow readers away?

You don’t have to know how to make a cover to recognize a good one, but it helps to be guided in the principles of solid design by experts. Fortunately, I know a couple people whose art and instruction are incredibly helpful to authors and publishers.

Joel Friedlander’s ebook Cover Design Awards are here! 

Regular readers know my covers are magically manifested by Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com. Incredibly, Kit won another non-fiction design award for the second month in a row.

His previous winner was this little guide to Vine marketing by someone or other:

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

How deliciously self-serving.

Congratulations to Kit, of course. Make sure you read all the comments on Joel’s site to cram all that good art learnin’ inside your brain box.

Filed under: awards, book marketing, ebooks, , , , , , , , , , , ,

One of us! One of us! Burn that bushel to sell more books

Crack the Indie Author CodeI’ve rethought free lately and I see now that I got something wrong. I didn’t wade deep enough into the free pool. When we give books away, we shouldn’t focus on getting those same people to buy more of our books, as awesome as that would be. We should build a team of enthusiastic disciples. As marketing guru Seth Godin says, “Nobody says I can’t make a living because too many people are reading my book for free.” 

I had assumed that he simply meant that same group of “too many people” would turn around and purchase the rest of your bookshelf. Therefore, publish a lot of books.

It’s still a great idea to publish a lot of books, but we can go much deeper. Here’s how:

INVERT THE CURRENT STRATEGY

Most authors try to get traction in the short-term by having friends and family buy their books and hope that, somehow, word will spread. That’s a flawed strategy, not least because it’s incredibly hard to get anyone to write a review.

Instead, think long-term leverage. What we should do is give books away to our true believers to build our network of reviewers, allies and preachers of your gospel. Your biggest fan isn’t necessarily your dad (at least mine isn’t.) My biggest allies are on my newsletter subscription list and those who have declared themselves fans. That’s my beachhead. We seed the morphogenetic field and percolate through the culture by sending out free information. (That’s even happening now as you read these words.) To infest the culture, you’re going to need a cult.

HOW TO BUILD AN AUTHOR CULT WITHOUT BEING EVIL

If some loon can convince a group of nerds to become eunuchs because aliens are arriving in a comet’s tail (yeah, that happened) building a cult shouldn’t be too much harder than convincing friends to help you move a piano. Okay, it’s going to be pretty f&$#!!! hard to reach critical mass, but the alternative is obscurity and failure, so gird your loins and strap in.

What each of us needs is a cult of proselytizers to spread our word. They’ll tell two friends and they’ll tell two friends etc.,… We need people — author CJ Lyons calls them “street teams” — to read, review and spread the happy word. We build those teams by giving away free books. This is not new. However, when most of us think about free promotion, we think of a contest giveaway or our five KDP Select free days. There’s much more to do and these strategies require your generosity.

CULT LEADER ACTION PLAN

1. The long-term money starts with your list. Build one. If you don’t already have one, set up a subscription for a newsletter on your author site. I use Mailchimp at my author site, AllThatChazz.com, I give shoutouts on the All That Chazz podcast to new subscribers. I’m thanking them, but I’m also giving their book, business, blog or website free promotion. You have to incentivize now to monetize later.

2. In advance of your next book release, give away review copies to people on your list. CJ Lyons gives away fifty books at a time to her street team (out of a pool of 200, so she’s not asking the same people for an advance review all the time. She published eight books last year.*)

Some churlish people think there’s something wrong with reviews appearing as soon as a book is published. That’s not cheating. It’s actually standard practice in publishing to give out advance review copies (ARCS). Every publishing house gears their publication dates to when reviews can appear in major publications. CJ Lyons admits she’s received a three-star review from a street team member, so obviously membership in her cult doesn’t equal idolatry for every book.

3. Speaking of standard practices, send out more review copies to book bloggers and review sites. Sharing an epub file or a kindle mobi costs you nothing so there’s no reason to hold back. I’ve switched my thinking about paperbacks recently, too, so my focus with CreateSpace is usually (though not always) for promotional purposes and much less for direct sales. I always send signed paperbacks to influential people, editorial team members and people who have inspired me as a special thanks.

4. Write something that is meant as an introduction to your flavor and make it extremely cheap or free forever. It doesn’t have to be long but make sure you show off. Here’s a NSFW example from Johnny B. Truant. He says this one essay about our place in the universe gets 60 downloads a day. It takes just a few minutes to read, but he’s spreading his word and beginning induction into his cult.

Naturally, some authors will object to these strategies. I’ve anticipated objections so…

SKEET SHOOTING

PULL! But giving away free books devalues my art!

BLAM! What devalues your art is, though no doubt brilliant, it’s sitting unread. Your light is hiding under a bushel of entitlement. To burn that bushel: Get generous, make friends, build a list and inspire a network.

PULL! But I don’t want a “cult”. 

BLAM! Don’t get so deep in the metaphor that you miss the tasty cheesecake. Chuck Pahlaniuk’s fans really are called “The Cult” but they haven’t established an armed, fortified compound. They’re just really into Chuck’s books…okay, and possibly punching each other in the face. But who isn’t into Fight Club?

PULL! I want my success to happen organically so it’s not a flash-in-the-pan cult of personality. 

BLAM! No worries there, mate. If they don’t like your books, they’ll hate you. Everyone confuses the book with the worst potential of its author.

BLAM! The marketplace is so congested, one “flash in the pan” might be our best chance. Success could come without getting others to blow your horn, sure. However, it’ll probably be a post mortem-type deal. Your genius will be discovered when an Amazon hard drive is pulled from the sand of a burnt Earth by a curious alien who discovers he’s really into cozy mysteries set in Maine with a ghost unicorn as the retired detective out to solve the murders of syphilitic elves. Best of luck.

PULL! I really just want to write my books and do no marketing.

BLAM! Most authors get into micro-publishing to take control of their fate, not leave it to the whims of strangers. (No offense intended, but what are you doing reading this far then?)

BLAM! You can just write more books and hope for the best. That’s not the way to bet, though. This is Art + Business = Art that is read + More Art. If marketing makes you feel impure, why publish at all?

PULL! Free is the finish line for the race to the bottom in book prices!

BLAM! Since few will heed this advice, don’t worry about what the unread herd does. The herd focusses on losing 100 book sales. Your intention is to stun with sales of 100,000 to a million or more.

BLAM! Good art will survive. You can’t build a cult around your books if they suck. In fact, give away more bad books and you’ll sink faster.

PULL! Free means more one-star reviews from people who will never like my books!

BLAM! Why worry about people will only ever download it if it’s free? They aren’t eligible to be cult members. One-star reviews are usually so poorly thought out, no one takes them seriously besides people who give out one-star reviews. When you’re selling chocolate, you don’t grieve for those freaks who only eat vanilla. Sell more chocolate.

*The Self-publishing Podcast has a great interview with CJ Lyons in Episode 32.

Aspire to Inspire eBook JPG~ For more from me on micro-publishing and book marketing, pick up Crack the Indie Author Code and Write your Book: Aspire to Inspire by clicking the covers on this post.

I’m hunting for cool and interested people for my cult. Are you one of us? To sign up for my free newsletter and get a shoutout on the All That Chazz Podcast, go to AllThatChazz.com and do the drill in the right sidebar.

I’m looking for cool and interesting people. Are you one? To be interviewed on the All That Chazz podcast, click the Chazz Has Guests tab at the top of this page.

 

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

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.

See my books, blogs, links and podcasts.

I interview the people you need to get to know.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 10,587 other followers

Brain Spasms a la Twitter

%d bloggers like this: