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

Write and publish with love and fury.

The Secret Alphabet of Independent Publishing

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

“You will laugh your ass off!” ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

A is for All of it, which is what we want. (A used to stand for Agent.)

B is for Book, of course, and ebooks are “real” books, too. Literature is about the content not the container.

C is for Cutting prices. It would be bad for writers, but at 70%, we’re still getting paid more per unit sold than in traditional publishing. Also, price cuts sure make now a great time to be a reader.

D is for Deadlines. Don’t take forever to write your book. More time procrastinating doesn’t make a better book.

E is for E-books on E-readers. But you know your kindle is a transitional device, right? The phones are getting bigger again and tablets are coming down in price. We don’t want a device to do one thing. We want one device to be a web surfer, camera, phone, app catalogue, music box, GPS, ebook reader and best friend on our hip.

F is for Future. It’s the direction to look. If you don’t like it, you can change it whereas the past requires an annoying child named Sherman, a dog named Mister Peabody and a Wayback machine.

G is for Guidelines, because guidelines are malleable. There really aren’t many unbreakable rules worth obsessing over. You already know the rules because they’re obvious or you ignore common sense or you’re a slave to unthinking tyranny. The cool kids prefer more options.

H is for Hope. It’s good to have some, especially in this business. When there’s no reason to have any, that’s when you need it most.

I is for Intermediator. Have as few of these as possible. Upload your books yourself if you can, or get help from an independent contractor. This will allow you more choices of forks down the road.

J is for Just you. The myth and prejudice against independent publishing is that’s it’s just you. You are alone, except for the editors, graphic artist, beta editorial team, volunteers, publicity teams and whoever else you can hire or cajole into helping you get your book discovered. Sure, other than that little cyclone of industry, it’s all you.

K is for Killing characters. Killing someone readers love who they were sure would make it to the end? Delicious. (Note: killing darlings is overrated.)

L is for Love. It’s why we write. If you have other motivations, that’s fine, but releasing dopamine as you create is, like reading, a very rewarding addiction. The biological pharmacy in your brain simulates love. Endorphins won’t land you in a dirty rehab unit with a roommate who won’t stop telling that story about the time he tried to get high on burnt bananas and smoking his own hair.

M is for Money. It can happen, but probably not so don’t write for money. As above, write for love. If money does happen, people will resent you slightly less when you claim you never expected it.

N is for Naysayers. Most of them will never write near as many books as you will. Just say no to naysayers. If you sleep with your naysayer, someone’s in the wrong bed.

O is for the Obsession to know things. It seeps into the writing so you can drench your fiction with non-fiction and trenchant verisimilitude. For instance, This Plague of Days, Season Two weaves the Apocalypse with interesting tidbits about Irish legends, military history and the mortal wounds inflicted by the blue-ringed octopus. Mine is the only zombie/plague/autism story that teaches you Latin in an entertaining way, guaranteed!

P is for Portent. Warnings that something big is about to happen are especially fun when you give readers an earnest warning and they still don’t see it until it coming. They’ll only see the clues in retrospect. Secret trails to revelation and love of language are why people reread books. Do it well and someone might think your book isn’t just suspense, but maybe even “literary” or (praise Thor) “important”.

Q is for Quitting. If the project is wrong, quit. If it’s right and you’re just whining, quit whining and finish it. If you aren’t excited to write this book, find another you will be excited about all the way through or for our sake, please do stop. 

R is for Ripoffs. It’s a minefield out there: Fake agents who try to make money off reading fees; publishers who won’t pay; people who use disreputable business practices and call them policies. (R is also for Research. It’s how to avoid R is for Ripoffs.)

S is for Sustained Action. Promoting your work need not be an exhausting blitz. Dig in for the long game and promote at a slower pace. Don’t promote the same stuff to the same audience all the time lest you exhaust them. Keep writing new books. Don’t pin your hopes to one book. Sure, you might accidentally hitch your wagon to a star, but chances are excellent you’ll hitch your wagon to a stump, especially if this is your first rodeo.

T is for Trying. You’ll hate yourself if you don’t try. Losers will hate you because you did try. That’s why they’re called losers. They work from a different definition of failure than you and I. They confuse boring with winning.

U is for Unpublish. If something isn’t working, take it off the market and replace it with your tweaked story, new cover or new edition. Unlike traditional publishing, you have more options. You can adapt. Ours is a different, more flexible, business model. Use that advantage.

V is for Victory. There is no victory. Banish the concept from your life. There are only ups and downs and we’re all trying to make more ups.

Victory is very useful in fiction, however. Readers want to escape real life’s mundanity so it makes them happier when the protagonist achieves victory at the end of a story.

To go all Conan and see your enemies driven before you and to hear the lamentation of the Evil Mort from Accounting? That’s fiction. Working in a cubicle farm with no hope of retirement while Mort gets promoted and vacations in Brazil? That’s real. The real-life Mort is why we all crave escape into stories.

W is for Wit. They say brevity is wit’s soul, but I can take a pounding of wit in dialogue all day and all night, Mr. Sorkin.

Please note that snark is not quite wit. That’s a blunt tool meant only for peeling the outer layer of flesh. Meanness is the opposite of wit. That’s a blunt fool’s weapon. Wit’s funny and smart. When that sword cuts, we see light flashing down the steel blade. Wit allows the victim to take the hit and nod, “Touché!” with a smile.

X is for X-ray vision. All writers have this power. I can see into purses and pockets and the lives of strangers at the mall. I can work backward or forward to tell you who they are and their story of heartbreak in their senior year of high school. I diagnose disease at a distance. I know what you did last summer. I can give your life history and your death meaning, so do not screw with me.

Z is for Zero. It’s what we’re paid for writing. We are never paid for writing. We write for love, remember? If the money ever arrives, we’re paid for putting up with dehumanizing reviews, pretending to take them well and staying silent about them forever. We’re paid for the sad paperwork at tax time. We’re paid for the sting when someone sneers with casual cruelty, “So, are you a big deal yet?” We’re paid pennies an hour for the sacrifices our loved ones make so we can keep writing. 

Writing a good book is a happy, selfish act for the writer.

We are addicts, helpless in our defiance and desperate to monetize our work so we can have the freedom 

to score more of Creation’s sweet biochemical cascade.

Escape reality. Get high on a story.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute, the author of Self-help for Stoners and this was the high I was talking about. This Plague of Days, Season Two scintillates brains October 1. Get Season One and check out all my books here. I hope to be your favorite candy man one day.

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

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

Tucker Max’s strategy to triple his royalties

Check out this link on Huffington Post Books in which Tucker Max, the author of I Hope They Serve Bell in Hell (et al), details his  strategy to make much more money than the ordinary bear, or author. Instead of going for a book deal, he explains how he entered an arrangement where the publisher could do the one thing he couldn’t do on his own (and what they do best): Distribute his books to bookstores.

You’ll notice he insists that he’s definitely not self-publishing and doesn’t want that stinky stigma touching him. (Please note: He’s definitely self-publishing.) What’s different is getting the contract for distribution, rather than publication. The publisher is printing his next book, but he’ll absorb all front end costs with freelancers.)

Tucker Max is a clever guy who knows how to seize an opportunity. As he notes, this deal isn’t for small fish. However, I suspect this may be the future for many authors and the fate of many publishers. Learn at the link and see what you think. ~ Chazz

(I changed the title from how HuffPo had it. That headline reeked of so much late night infomercial cheese that I’m sure some passed over the article, which has some good and interesting points.) 

 

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

Shocked yet not surprised: Indigo halves its bookshelf space

Here’s the link to Five Rivers publisher Lorina Stephens’ excellent post on how Indigo is changing its returns policy (45 days and you’re out!) and cutting its space for books in half. So much for anybody whose name isn’t Rowling, King, Meyer and whoever the guy is who came up with Go the F**k to Sleep. This stirs up a lot of questions for people whose names are not those names. For instance, how many scented candles does anyone really need to buy in one lifetime? And how will traditional publishing cope?

For me personally, this is not a big deal because I am not in the least surprised. As I’ve been saying, this is not an if. It’s just about when. Blockbuster is battered senseless and HMVs are shrunk to nubs. I am so the opposite of an early adopter of new tech I’m nearly Amish and I don’t go near the Busted Block nor do I buy CDs anymore (though I understand some people still make them, everybody’s just picking the songs they want off iTunes.) I anticipated this boostore shift and consider it to be The Half-Measure of Doom on the Road to Bookstore Apocalypse.

Ahem. Pardon the hyperbole, but I’ve encountered a bunch of resistance from people who are convinced that my sole focus on ebooks was career suicide. No matter what I said, the doubters were sure a book had to be in a bookstore to be “real” and “worthy” and “made of paper and stuff.”

And I said, “What’s a bookstore?” Now I’m doing my “Told you so” dance and though I should be ashamed of myself, to be honest, I’m not feeling it.

But seriously, bookstores are literally farther and fewer between. As they cut down on shelf space to make room for doodads to dust, yo-yos and novelty pens, there will be no shelf for indies. You want choice, variety and a taste of the new? Go look online because you won’t find it in a bricks and mortar chain store.

But enough from me and my reactionary delusions of grandeur. Lorina says it all in detail in her usual reasonable, convincing tone, so do go read what she has to say. 

Filed under: authors, Books, ebooks, Useful writing links, , , , , , , , ,

The “But At What Cost?” Miscalculation

John Locke has written a book: How I Sold 1 Million Ebooks in Five Months.* (I recommend it) How_I_sold_1_million_ebooks_in_5_months

LA Times writer Carolyn Kellogg wrote a piece that asks, “At What Cost?” Here’s that nonsense argument and my bit of nonsense follows.

The upshot is, Ms. Kellogg thinks Mr. Locke undersold himself. He sold a million ebooks, but charged 0.99 for many of them. She says he could have made a million of with higher pricing instead of making do in the $300,000 range. (A figure that would make many authors swoon.) There are many interesting observations in the comments section of the LA Times article that pick apart Ms. Kellogg’s worries very well.

Here’s my take away: I had never heard of John Locke until now. He used 0.99 loss leaders to sell a shit-ton of books. Yes, he “only” made 0.30 on the 0.99 ebooks, but  low or no pricing allowed wary readers to try him out. And now many more people know  about him. And I bought his non-fiction ebook which details his success so far. And I bought it for $4.99.

Kellogg is saying Locke was an idiot for leaving money on the table, assuming he could have moved so much and so quickly with a middle man trad publisher involved. Why would she assume that, I wonder? There’s no basis for it. The new world is not the old world and hers is classic old world thinking.

Now you know, if you didn’t, who John Locke is. And now you’re thinking, maybe I should buy one of his books and give it a try. Maybe more than one, huh?

*Thanks to Joanna Penn for her post on Mr. Locke. I love Joanna’s blog and podcast, The Creative Penn. Subscribe if you haven’t!  

Filed under: authors, DIY, ebooks, getting it done, links, Media, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, self-publishing, Writers, , , , , , , ,

Robert Chazz Chute: Literature hater & narcissistic bastard!

I realized something about myself the other day. I’ve been writing since I was a kid. So why haven’t I published a string of books yet?

Narcissistic Bio (Feel free to skip this paragraph to get closer to the point arrived at below): I went to journalism school. I wrote for newspapers and magazines. I worked in book publishing for five years in several positions, making books, editing books, selling books and promoting books. I’ve written a column for a magazine for three years. I submitted to and won writing awards or honorable mentions. And yet…I never pushed to get a book written. I have written several books, but I never got to the point with one where I was satisfied enough. For  a long time I thought this was just laziness or perfectionism or both. Even as I edited other people’s books, I still had my own cooking in the background. But I never sent out manuscripts or pestered agents or got anything really done, except short stories and feature articles, speeches and presentations. I’ve written about writing extensively, attended publishing conferences and writing workshops, chewed through publishing issues and edited several books this year for Five Rivers Chapmanry. I’m proud of all these things and enjoy them.

But everything I’ve accomplished centered around tasks with a short deadline, stuff that paid up front, stuff that required short bursts of intensity. I wasn’t working on my personal long term writing and publishing dreams. I wasn’t digging in to do the long hail work. It’s as if I’ve been mixing dough, letting it rise, shoving it in the oven and letting it bake…and never eating any bread.

I used to think that I wanted to be a writer because I love literature. I read and read and read and still can’t get enough, it’s true. (At least some of the above headline is supposed to be ironic, folks!) Obviously I don’t hate literature, but I don’t love literature as much as I thought I did. If I loved it all that much for its own sake, I would have either settled for reading tons of books without thoughts of my own. Or I’d have finished those revisions and delivered my stuff over publishers’ transoms. I would have added to slush piles and wallowed in rejection slips until I finally started breaking through. I didn’t do that. I raised kids, did piece work, indulged another career, dabbled around the edges and did other stuff.

So why self-publish now? I was disillusioned with the failures of traditional publishing when I worked within it (another post for another time.) I loved reading, still do. I love that floaty feeling you get when you write, go deep and a story comes together.

But these loves weren’t enough on their own.

I’m self-publishing now because ebooks have finally arrived. I can finally indulge my loves as well as my need to remain independent. Clearly, I’ve got a problem with authority.

My motto is Question authority before authority questions you. I do not wear a tie and I’m the kind of dog who pulls out of his collar.

 Love of literature wasn’t enough. Love of literature plus love of self plus digital opportunity was the ticket.

Embrace independence:

Control freaks! Unite! 

(Ahem…well, do what you want. Far be it from me to tell you what to do.) 

The revolution

(I didn’t know I was waiting for)

has arrived. 

Filed under: e-reader, ebooks, Rant, self-publishing, What about Chazz?, , , , , , , ,

Writing Conference: 10 Bad things

When you go to a writing conference, there’s going to be information that’s good and information that doesn’t apply to you and information that’s quite bad. Here are some of the things that came up at my most recent conference which you can safely ignore as wrong or silly or misguided:

1. How will we curate all those bad books coming from self-publishers? I’m so tired of this objection, and have dealt with it so much elsewhere here, I’m not ev–zzz. (See Related articles below for that rehash if you feel the urge.)

2. Don’t mix gay narrative with straight narrative. So…ghettoize gays and keep everyone separate, as if our gayness or straightness is our single defining characteristic? Nope! I reject the premise. Screw you…in whatever way you prefer.

3. Order 1,000 books because, due to cost per unit, 1,000 won’t cost much more than 200 books. This, versus the more experienced publisher who pointed out that he only ordered what he needed because he knew it would take him two years to sell 500 books. (Plus a garage full of books is so depressing and unnecessary with the advent of POD.)

4.  Any worries about Amazon’s first novel contest. You have nothing to lose from participating in it.

5. Any worries that someone will steal your idea. There is a scientific correlation to this particular worry: The more you worry about it, the more your idea sucks anyway.

6. This is the end of publishing. Publishing’s changing, that’s all. Adapt or die.

7. I shudder at e-books. Then you’re old. Get over it or wait and that problem will resolve itself.

8. “Twitter is awful. What can I say in 140 characters?” This, from an editor. My internal monologue was: You must be a really lousy editor and you’re telling me you are committed to not being at all clever.

9. “Twitter cuts into my writing time.” This, from the same editor. If she read my blog (DEATH STARE!) she’d know (CHAZZ LAW) Twitter is for time that would be unproductive anyway. Fully functional adults manage their time. (And addicts have to want to change.)

10. “Get an editor for your self-published book!” This is not bad advice. It’s not wrong. However, it is condescending. The people who will take this advice are already on board. The people who won’t take this good advice won’t change no matter what you say.

Filed under: Books, Writers, Writing Conferences, writing tips, , , , , ,

Publishers: What do I need you for?

Over at The Ranting Crone, my friend Pam Brierley has a great post about an encounter she had with a panel of publishers at last year’s Canadian Authors Association conference.

If they aren’t editing and they aren’t marketing, what are they doing (and is it worth it?)

These very sorts of questions are what’s pushed me to self-publishing.

Go visit Pam! 

Filed under: DIY, ebooks, publishing, self-publishing, Writers, Writing Conferences, , , , ,

The Nerdist Scott Sigler Interview

Scott Sigler

Image by Sebastian Bergmann via Flickr

I’m an addict.

Food. Comfort. Book-buying.

And podcasts. Lots and lots of podcasts.

If you’re a self-publisher or interested in how a self-publisher used podcasts to go from freemium to premium, from ignored to in demand, from reject to popular author, check this out: The Nerdist.

Favourite story: After so many rejections, Scott Sigler was sure publishers would chase him down if he could just get a huge following for his podcasted book.

He achieved the goal he set for himself and called up the publishers again.

“Howdayalikemenow?”

And they said, “What’s the internet?”

Filed under: Author profiles, author Q&A, authors, podcasts, self-publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , ,

The publisher’s temperament

Last week a baby video went viral. Two little twin boys babbled at each other. Back andSelfpublishing forth they went with a lively conversation “Da! Da! Da! Da!” Though unintelligible, they both were excited to talk to each other. I couldn’t hep but think of the conversation that goes back and forth about whether you should publish, or self-publish. There’s a lot of energy but not a lot of signal getting through.

The answer to the question of whether you should self-publish depends on the “you”.

Are you prepared to think of yourself as more than a hobbyist? Are you intimidated by new and unknown practices so much that you’re frozen? Do you prefer that others take care of things for you without you hiring them? Do you have any financial cushion? Are you prepared to take a chance? What is your real tolerance for risk? What is your tolerance for some people underestimating your work’s worth because you went your own way. Are you open to learning what you don’t yet know and ready to be a beginner?

There are a plethora of other factors to consider,  but first and foremost, it’s about you. Some people just aren’t interested in entrepreneurship. That’s not a judgment. Starting a business is not for everyone. You have to have a lot of discipline and interest in things beyond simply writing a good book (and god knows there’s nothing simple about that.)

Ask yourself, do you really want to do this?

We’ll have better self-published books when more authors ask themselves this question first. Why? Because they won’t just be self-publishers and the negative things that currently implies. We’ll have more publishers who happen to be publishing themselves.

Filed under: DIY, getting it done, publishing, self-publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , ,

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

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

See my books, blogs, links and podcasts.

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