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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Defiance is part of your writer’s toolbox, too.

A short post today. Something needs to be said to writers. I touched on it in the video below but, after reading a book about writing recently, I feel the need to reiterate: Enjoy writing. If you aren’t enjoying it, take a little break and refocus.

Too many rules and prescriptions are paralyzing.

Aside from a few okay tips, the writing instruction book got so far into the rules of writing that the act began to feel like a sterile formula instead of a creative juicefest devoid of life. That book on writing and editing was a buzz kill joydrainer. (Juicefest and joydrainer aren’t words in the dictionary. Suck it up, buttercup. I’m feeling feisty.)

Then, after reading a reviewer say a book “had no new concepts,” I didn’t want to write at all. What a tired slam. There are no new concepts in fiction. If there were something truly unique, most readers would hate the book. It’s about plot and character, dialogue and action. A book’s value is not about whether an idea is repeated from another book, TV show, movie, myth or legend in existence. There are a lot of those. 

I’ve written more than sixteen books. Obviously, I enjoy writing. Today, I got tired. I didn’t want to write anymore. I wanted to stop trying. I need to squeeze the crap and frustration out of my head. I’m going to go read something for pleasure now. 

Later, I will write. I will remember the joy.

~ Find my joys at AllThatChazz.com and subscribe for updates, podcasts, deals and more.

Also, here’s this about writing and happiness from the NYT.

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Filed under: writing tips, , , , ,

Further thoughts on the challenges and solutions around free book promotions

1. Problem: Annoyance when free stops

The beta version of my next book, The Haunting Lessons is on Wattpad for free. However, Christmas is here and I’ve got bills to pay and children who expect presents on Christmas morning. Odd, huh? Greedy little creatures.

I can’t leave it on Wattpad for free while I’m selling it elsewhere. Naturally, my first worry is that I’ll annoy Wattpad readers when I pull it on December 15th. I once saw a Wattpad reader characterize a writer’s move from free to paid as “a cash grab.” Ye gods! Alfred! My cape! My cowl! Polish my batarangs! Tonight I hunt Entitlement to its lair!

So, yeah. That’s a problem, but let’s not overstate it. It’s probably a minor quibble. Most people are reasonable. They’ll take an inch, but that doesn’t really mean they’ll take your shirt and your shoes, too.

Solution: Make concessions

I have warned readers on Wattpad that THL won’t be there long (though some will miss that warning.)

When I pull it and publish on Amazon, I could put the book into KDP Select and offer it for free for a couple of my five free days. That’s one way to get more reviews faster. However, that ambition will be hampered because I won’t be able to promote it anywhere (except my network). We can’t promote effectively without a bunch of reviews.

Question: Anybody know of an effective book promotion service that really moves books on the first day without requiring 10-15+ reviews? Anybody want to invent one?

Alternate solution: Expand beta read team.

Also send out more ARCs to avoid this conundrum.

2. Problem: Time

Though The Haunting Lessons is the first book in a series, the next books are not yet written. Many authors find making the first book free in a series attracts the power of discovery, gets true fans and raises sales of the books. Yes, but that’s not helpful until I have at least three books in the Ghosts and Demons Series.

Confession: I’m uncomfortable with perma-free.

Making a book perma-free is an unreliable and unpredictable process. It can be reversed, but that’s also unreliable and unpredictable. It all takes time and, of course, every book is a massive investment of energy. Perma-free does feel like lost sales no matter how much I tell myself it’s an investment in advertising and promotion. (More on those feelings below.)

Solution to the Time Problem: Compose, produce, ship

I’ll write the next books in the series fast and include a CTA (Call to Action) for similar books in my list. People who liked This Plague of Days will have a great time with The Haunting Lessons and vice versa.

This dovetails with a strategy that is long overdue for me: stop being stubborn and write a lot of books in one genre. Expect more horror/urban fantasy from me in 2015 and fewer crime thrillers.

Alternate solution: Invent a time machine. 

Write the entire series ten years ago. Mental note: invest in Google, Facebook and Apple.

3. Problem: Logistics

Coordinating giveaways is a logistical nightmare if you’re on multiple platforms. Change a price on Amazon in the morning and the price change takes effect the same day. On other platforms (and especially if you publish through Smashwords), price drops and rises can take days to weeks and you’re never even sure when the new price will take effect.

Solution: Improvement by the competition

It helps if you publish to those multiple platforms directly instead of going through an intermediator. Uploading individually instead of going through Smashwords or Draft2Digital will also take time, so there’s always a caveat and a corollary. That’s about all we can do, though.

The solution is not in our hands. It’s up to the other sales platforms to match Amazon’s response time. Those platforms also have to work on their problems with discoverability. I tried to find a friend’s book on Barnes & Noble and Kobo the other day. It took two searches. For searchability and discoverability, Apple is probably the worst. They are also the least user-friendly for uploading and publishing.

4. Problem: When free is worth nothing

A lot of people will snap up free but they’re hoarding. They never get around to reading the book. I do that myself.

Though it still kind of sucks, I prefer 99 cents as an introductory price for a series (Season One of This Plague of Days is set at 99 cents.) It’s not about the 30 cents I might get for selling a 100,000-word book. It’s that people are more likely to actually read it if they make that minimal investment. It’s the shopping cart analogy from my previous post: just a quarter is enough to stop a lot of people from walking off with shopping carts.

Solution: Reach the masses

Free is used best when it’s leveraged by the power of promotional platforms like Bookbub. There are many more such services but Bookbub is still the big dog at the moment. You can argue Bookbub is hard to get into and provides less value than it once did, but it does appear to reach more readers than any other service.

Go to AuthorMarketingClub.com to use the free submission tool for multiple ebook marketing sites. They’re great additions to a Bookbub promotion and, failing that, might be an alternative. Most of these sites are free or inexpensive. They require application time and a varying number of reviews and ratings. Author Marketing Club tools reduce application time and can even help you get more reviews.

5. Problem: Perception

Some readers think that if it’s free it must be a bad book.

Solution: Over-deliver

Surprise them with a good book and we may even be rewarded in the reviews for overcoming their low expectations. It’s not their fault they don’t understand the problems of indie authors trying to grow our readership. It’s not their problem that they mistake price for value. It’s our problem.

Additional solution: Ignore Mr. and Mrs. Crankypants.

Recently I read a comment in a review where a vituperative minority cast aspersions on indies for daring to write series. If it was a series, it couldn’t possibly be any good. That was an odd and new prejudice to me. But so what? That’s not a reader who’s going to become anyone’s true fan. That’s a bomb thrower and all they love is the sound of their own voice. Forget it. (And if you figure out how to forget it, tell me how you do that. I’m still a boiling cauldron of rage at any injustice and slight.)

6. Problem: The Devaluation Argument

Literature hurts to produce. Squeezing out a novel is excruciating. Surely, we should never gift our books to anyone, even temporarily, in the dim hope we’ll gain new readers who have never heard of us. We’ll send the message that our work is worthless to Mr. and Mrs. Crankypants.

Solution: Get off the fainting couch and get over yourself, Butch.

This is a neurosis writers commit on themselves before any nasty reviewer gets a chance to sneer at us for being entrepreneurial artists and independent publishers. Sure, writing books is hard, but it’s not that hard. If it is that hard, maybe you aren’t enjoying the writing process enough. (I hear crocheting is calming for the sensitive neo-hippie plus you get garish hangers for your potted ferns when you’re done.)

The Devaluation Argument might not be all wrong. I’ve already confessed my discomfort with perma-free. (Yes, there’s the math of it. Math doesn’t stop me from feeling what I feel.) But to cut off the most effective tool for discovery that I know of? That smacks of Self-aggrandizement calling itself But What About the Pricelessness of Literature? Let’s not be so precious about the writing process that we write good books too few ever get to read.

Writers need to promote to be read. Most sales platforms suck at promoting and advertising our work successfully. Until they improve, this is our lot and the value of discovery and growing our readership is going to cost us. We have to suck it up.

Alternate Solution 1: Reframe the problem

When you give your book away, that’s generous. A lot of people don’t have money for an entertainment budget and you’re helping them out. That feels good doesn’t it?

Alternate Solution 2: Go back to the math despite how you feel

This week I consulted with an author whose ebook was priced at $9.99. I suggested he drop the price.

The author frowned so we went to Amazon’s pricing tool. It’s in beta but it’s interesting and can be useful. I don’t set all my prices by it, but I do pay attention to it. You’ll find it on the Rights and Pricing page of your KDP Select Dashboard.

At $3.99, the tool predicts that his profits will rise by over 400%. How do they do it? Volume. Free promotions create volume and inertia, too. Better than doing nothing, right?

Alternate Solution 3: Know that many people are price sensitive for good reasons

One guy told me recently, “I don’t pay attention to price. If I want a book, I buy it.” 

I nodded. What I didn’t say was, “Yeah, but, dude! You’re rich. You didn’t ask the salesperson what your new car would cost.”

Some of those same price-sensitive people will become true fans, and buyers, once you demonstrate that you and your work are worth their time and investment. Without free, a lot of them won’t give you the chance to prove your writing’s worth. Think long-term.

Give coy readers a chance to fall in love with what you do. And why wouldn’t they? You’re adorable.

~ The Christmas thing is happening. You’ll find all my ebooks and paperbacks here. I’d appreciate it if you bought a book or fifteen. Thanks!

 

 

 

Filed under: author platform, free ebooks, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, readers, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What Birdman got right (and what it says about writing books)

If you haven’t seen Birdman, starring Michael Keaton and Edward Norton, you’ll find no spoilers here. It’s a very unusual film and there is a lot to love in it, not least of which is the cinematography. It’s also one of those rare films I’ll need to see again before I can figure out how much I like it.  Today, I want to talk about what I loved (and how it might apply to writers and books.)

1. The movie is a tutorial in acting without self-consciousness.

Many of us are too self-conscious to try something bold in our writing. That’s too bad, I think. I like bold choices in books. The expected is too ordinary and easy. The expected is…expected. You’ll also love the instruction on the power of motivation, emotion and brevity.

2. The film is comfortable with ambiguity.

As much as I enjoyed the summer romp that was Guardians of the Galaxy, there was no need to discuss it by the time we got to the parking lot. Birdman leaves so much ambiguity, you’ll find a lot of people arguing over clues in the film. What happened and what did it all mean? That could irritate you, or you could decide it’s finally a film worthy of discussion.

3. Birdman is working on several levels.

You can take it for what it is or you can take it for what it might be and, no doubt about it, this is a story that demands some patience from its audience if they decide to try to decode it. I like books that are doing one thing while you think they’re doing something else. That’s the rich depth I look for in my reading and writing, no matter how superficial an entertainment you might expect. (For instance, shocker: This Plague of Days is less about zombies and more about you.)

4. Birdman is Art (capital A) that defines its audience.

If you’re an optimist, you’re going to want to interpret the story one way. If you’re a pessimist, you may have less fun in the movie but you’ll enjoy the discussion over coffee after the movie.

5. Pop culture references.

The movie is front loaded with some contemporary references that are pretty funny. The movie isn’t afraid to define itself by a particular time with those pop culture references. Publishers have long run screaming from books with such references for fear readers won’t get it and the book will be dated too fast. Here’s what I’ve found (especially from feedback about my crime novels): Lots of readers love pop culture references and readers don’t scare off so easily when you’re showing them a good time. Will it get dated? No. That’s just a label and what you call a thing is not the thing. (Don’t buy that? Okay. How about this: eventually, everything is a period piece.)

6. The movie talks a lot about what it means to make Art and struggle with commerce.

What we all do as artists is kind of a brave thing to do. Maybe not storming-the-beaches-at-Normandy brave, but we’re taking risks and putting ourselves out there. It’s nice to see that affirmed somewhere instead of mocking entertainment as an effete thing to do when you could be out drinking and brawling or doing nothing. I believe Art matters. So does Birdman.

7. The movie criticizes and acknowledges the power of social media.

That’s surprisingly evenhanded and grounds for more discussion about what matters and how to get to what matters. Many of us are divided on the power of Twitter and the distracting lure of YouTube. I don’t think the answer is an either/or binary, so, through the ranting, the movie has a very thoughtful core.

8. Any artist will appreciate the critique of the role of the critic: how easy, risk-free and shallow it can be.

I heard a couple of professional critics mock this aspect of Birdman. Clearly, they weren’t listening closely or their egos got in the way. Whatever else you may dislike about this film, if you’ve written a book, you’ll love that exchange.

9. Birdman is, in part, about legacy and relevance and striving.

We can all relate to that, can’t we? If you can’t, get out. You’re taking a squat in my church.

10. By turns, Birdman looks like a French art film somebody dragged you to in college, one of those movies only film students pretend to like while they’re really thinking about Star Wars.

Then Birdman does something different. In other words, if it were a book, it would be cross-genre. It’s a film that isn’t easy to categorize and define. Therefore, it’s harder to sell. They made it anyway.

Filmgoers have been crying out for films that are refreshing and different. Audiences have been moaning at Hollywood for years, “Oh, for God’s sake, give us something besides another empty sequel and come up with an original thought!” Well, you asked for it and Birdman is what the answer to that request looks like.

You know what? I take it back. Now that I’ve written this list, I can see it now. I did like Birdman a lot. I think I might love it.

 

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

The very nearly here, not quite yet, Post-review World

Once upon a time an author named Hale stalked a book reviewer, wrote about it in The Guardian and…well, things got crazy. I haven’t weighed in on this because you’ve no doubt read plenty about this debacle. Besides, I didn’t have anything new to say. I still don’t have anything new to say about that particular incident. It was a bad idea to respond to a negative review and there’s no need to pile on.

I do understand the urge. Oh, yes, every writer knows that urge to respond and demand an apology or…something. Instead, I stay indoors, never go anywhere, and write scary, funny books. It’s a better use of my time and the right thing to do.

So let’s talk about reviews more generally.

We all want them. We can’t promote our books effectively without a minimum number of happy reviews. But there are problems:

1. If you get a lot of happy reviews, someone who didn’t like your book will accuse you of having lots of friends and family shilling for you. Ha! I wish! It’s very difficult to get any reviews on anything and I don’t speak to my family. The point is, some people (I have no idea how many) think five-star reviews shouldn’t be trusted. However, if you didn’t have any five-star reviews, those same people would slay you for it. Crazy, huh?

2. Some people can’t help themselves. They condemn authors for their books and pedophiles for their despicable actions with nigh equal vehemence. Well…I assume so, anyway. I mean, I’ve read some vitriolic reviews where, once you dial it up to eleven, there’s no place to go, is there? But (silver lining) no one really takes one-star reviews seriously anymore, either. They are, with few exceptions, troglodytic. We read them for sick entertainment value, not for direction as to what to read.

3. Some people put spoilers in reviews without warning. That’s not a review anymore. That’s a spoiler and it’s a shitty thing to do. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean others won’t and spoiling a work that was years in the making in one ill-considered paragraph? Yes, that’s bad. What’s worse is Amazon lets it happen and allows those spoilers to remain posted without warning.

4. Likewise, authors have been libelled in reviews. Once again, Amazon does nothing if you complain. Unacceptable, and yet we are, at the moment, powerless. It’s the Internet. We’re supposed to shrug and hope the happy reviews drown out the unhappy ones (and eventually, mostly, they do.)

There’s a study somewhere that shows how unreliable reviews can be in an odd way. If the first review that goes up is negative, ensuing reviews tend to be more negative than they would have been otherwise. That’s less about the book, I suppose, and more piling on, hoping to be seen in agreement with whoever spoke up first. Weird.

5. Here’s where it gets weirder: Authors shouldn’t respond to reviews. Goodreads doesn’t even want authors to thank anyone for a nice review. That strikes me as forcing authors to be rude, but it’s their site policy so I abide by it.

Pretty much everyone accepts the No Response to a Bad Review Policy as a given, but no one knows who established this all-encompassing edict. Other industries routinely respond to reviews, hoping to ease their unsatisfied customers’ fury. We don’t. The argument goes that reviews aren’t for authors (true) but we aren’t even supposed to respond when reviews are misleading. We’re supposed to, as Hugh Howey so aptly put it once, “enjoy the burn.”

But wait. If we’re writers who should be thick-skinned and stoic since we put something out in the world…aren’t reviewers putting stuff out in the world, too? How come their writing is exempt from criticism but mine isn’t? Hm. No. Stop thinking about it. Nothing good can come from following the logical conclusion of that reasoning.

I am not arguing for responding to reviews.

The system is broken when reviews allow spoilers, libel authors or when so many people seem to distrust reviews.

Someone at The Passive Voice recommended we tell people, “If you liked it, please tell a friend,” in lieu of reviews. I kind of like that, but that’s what reviews were supposed to be anyway, right? Telling people what you liked so they can share the experience of an interesting, entertaining or enlightening book. I encourage people happy with my books to review them on Amazon. A review anywhere else (except perhaps a busy book blog) doesn’t really get more people to my books.

When I worked in magazines, we rarely gave negative book reviews (or the negative reviews were significantly shorter) because the point was to direct readers to the good stuff. The prevailing opinion was, the good stuff is too hard to find to waste time talking about the stuff we don’t like. I feel the same way. I may find commonality with reviews that tell me what they liked and why. What they dislike often seems more idiosyncratic (and some reviewers can’t seem to bring themselves to like much of anything.)

Maybe hoping for organic discovery through old-fashioned social networks is the way to go. But not quite yet. The apparatus for book discovery is broken. I still need happy reviews to get a Bookbub promotion going. That’s one of the few book promotion services that seems to have muscle and mojo behind it. I also suspect people don’t talk about books enough. I’m unwilling to rely on chats over fences with neighbors to spread word of my literary heights efficiently. Podcasts might be a better answer.

So what to do?

Stop stressing about reviews. Beat up a punching bag. (Reminder from Mom: human beings are not punching bags.)

If necessary, stop reading reviews. Read more books. Write more reviews.

Keep asking for reviews because, hey, that’s all we can do for now.

Don’t stalk book bloggers or book reviewers. Do not go near their homes or places of employment. And if you do (which you definitely shouldn’t!) don’t tell anyone. Jeez!

Cry quietly and not in public.

Treasure the many good reviewers who don’t mistake snark and disrespect for intelligence.

Read your four and five-star reviews obsessively to get your energy and esteem up. Read the negative reviews once, if you feel you’ll have something to gain from them (a murder plot, perhaps?) But never read them twice. That’s just masochism and revenge fantasies.

But there’s a better reason not to respond to negative reviews:

It takes time and energy that you could use to write your next book. And frankly, if someone hates your book, they won’t change their mind. If you try to use your best politician’s smile and the it’s-all-part-of-the-game clap on the shoulder, they won’t buy it. They know. You hate them. They hate your book and therefore they hate you. People will tell you this is wrong. Shit’s about to get real.

Yes, you’ll read lots of crap about how writers should separate themselves from their books. It’s a book, not a baby. Except it is. It’s the product of your mind and anyone who hates the book is calling you feeble in the brain. Be real. People tell you to be thick-skinned, but nobody really is. Many of the most successful writers, actors and entertainers on the planet confess that they remember every word of every bad review. You’d have to be a robot sociopath to be so far above the fray when someone criticizes something you put so much of yourself into.

However…when you write more books and get some success, it does hurt less. You become less invested in each book because you know you will write many. Just like having children, if you make enough of them, a few start to look expendable. (It’s a joke, for Thor’s sake. Relax.) 

Anyway, when the happy reviews drown out the negative reviews, that one-star review starts to look silly. You can also take some solace in knowing that if a reviewer hates you enough, they won’t feel the need to come back for more and you’ll be rid of them…if they actually read books before they review them, of course. Oh, yeah. There’s another reason so many people don’t trust reviews anymore. Sigh.

So, to sum up:

Write books and pretend you don’t bleed.

Don’t be a dick. Be nice. Play nice. Pretend you’re nice. Fake it and kill offenders in your next book. (I did.) Cover your tracks so they’ll never recognize themselves.

Pretend you’re happy all the time, especially when you’re not. Rant to a friend if you must. (Mental note: get a friend.)

Try to keep some perspective. You won’t, but it’s true that a review is merely one person’s opinion. It is not a scary diagnosis from a stone-faced internist.

We’re in the entertainment business. Entertain. Seek out entertainment. Don’t be so damn serious.

Remember that no matter how good your book is, someone will say they don’t like it. Don’t let them discourage you from following your star and writing, though. If that happened, then a bad review would really matter.

Until a new way to discover genius books is found, this is the way we live now.

Keep having fun. Don’t forget, this is supposed to be fun.

~ I forget sometimes.

 

 

Filed under: reviews, web reviews, Writers, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Reviews Part 1: This publishing train isn’t going where I thought it was going

I read a review of a friend’s book that bothered me. The reviewer objected to his use of the second person. It’s actually a common objection and, in my view, kind of a silly one. The common objection is the reader couldn’t “get past” all that “you, you, you.” And yet the ubiquitous use of “I, I, I” in first person narration is no problem.

What bothered me more is that reviewer seemed to address the author in a way that made the negative review more personal. “I’m sorry, NAME OF AUTHOR, but nobody does it.”

Nobody does it? Really?

I do in my crime novels and it’s part of the psychology of the hit man’s character. Jay McInerney did so famously in Bright Lights, Big City. There are plenty of novels that challenge convention.

But I’ve blogged about the use of second person before and I don’t want to repeat myself. The above is a reiteration for new visitors to this blog.

And here’s what this post is really about:

Convention. Art challenges it.

This is not to argue that anything is Art simply because it’s weird. “Weird” is a word that stands in for, “outside the reader’s experience.” This is to say that I enjoy books that are uncommon, that challenge the status quo, that defy expectations. This Plague of Days has a subtext of psychology and philosophy underlying the action. Its design is unusual and that’s done on purpose. 

That was the other thing I objected to when I read some reviews of my friend’s book. The writing was executed in such a way that it played with readers’ expectations. It was well done though it left some readers off-balance. Then a couple of reviewers complained that they didn’t know if it was the author’s skill that accomplished that feat or if he merely missed the mark.

I have an answer for them:

The author knew exactly what he was doing. He did it on purpose and it took skill. It takes a lot of skill to propel a narrative across the expanse of a book. They are entitled to their opinion, of course, but perhaps a more careful reading by the reviewers was in order. All the elements were there and it wasn’t the author’s fault that a couple of readers missed it. I was irritated that a couple of people took the time to review my pal’s book, but they didn’t seem to pay attention in the first place. Worse, despite staying with his story to the end, they opted to question his intelligence in their reviews.

A fluke doesn’t keep going for 250 pages. Writers know this. Perhaps that’s one reason why our reviews tend to be kinder.

In Part II of this essay, I’ll discuss why it’s becoming more difficult to sell books the way some of us used to write them. My suspicion is that next time, perhaps my friend won’t write such a brilliant book and, sadly, he’ll probably sell more of them.

That’s a down note to end a post on, isn’t it? It’ll probably get worse in Part II.

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

What are you waiting for?

Here are Ten Rules About No One:

1. No one is waiting for you to get your life together. They want results, not excuses.

2. No one is waiting for your next book. They say they are, but they will forget you soon and they have plenty of other things to do. Be memorable and come back quickly.

3. No one is waiting for your next blog post, so don’t apologize when you miss a day or three. Get to the topic instead.

4. No one is waiting for you to organize or self-actualize. That’s your business. Organize to build your business. If business is good, you’ll get closer to self-actualization, too.

5. No one is waiting for you to get past your procrastination, so write now.

6. No one is waiting to rescue you. If you need help, ask. Otherwise, everyone assumes you’re fine. Chances are good you’ll still have to pull off your own rescue, though. We are all struggling.

7. No one is trying to hurt you…probably. What’s more likely is they’re taking a verbal or written swing at you because of their own crap issues. You did nothing wrong. You’re just the nearest target. Or they’re wrong. Or they’re just too stupid to see (or care) what you’re doing. Or, worst case scenario, they’re right. 

Never mind. We are sharks. To live, we move forward or we die.

By the way, if it’s a physical swing they’re taking at you, be brutal enough to get away, smart enough to stay away and strong enough to call the police.

8. No one is an extra in the movie that is your life. Each is the star of their own movie.

9. No one remembers what you said. They remember what it’s like to be around you. Give them a reason to come back for more.

10. No one needs you to succeed and some would prefer you didn’t. You need to succeed and you won’t succeed with everyone. You can succeed with someone, though. Start with you.

What are you waiting for?

~ Robert Chazz Chute is a suspense novelist. And tonight? He is pissed at himself and others. Make him happier. Buy a book. Thank you.

Now off to get some more writing done, because Chazz DOES NOT WAIT. WAITING IS OVER. Happy Monday!

 

Filed under: author platform, What about Chazz?, What about you?, , , , , , , , , , ,

Publishing: Rules are Rules (except when they aren’t)

I didn’t make up any of the following. I’ve observed it.

1. When Margaret Atwood writes dystopian sci-fi, it’s not dystopian sci-fi. If you wrote The Year of the Flood, you can be darn sure professional reviewers would call it dystopian sci-fi. Some special subgroup would think less of you for writing SFF, even if your work is as brilliant as Atwood’s work.

2. If you write an about-to-be-divorced, mid-life crisis novel from a man’s perspective, I know of at least one agent who would reject it without reading a word. Apparently, those authors are “wrong” to write that story. Roth had the last word and no more need be attempted. Ev-er! (Thank Thor for choices.)

3. If you’re young and writing an autobiographical, coming-of-age novel, many skeptics will sneer at your offered manuscript and declare that it is undoubtedly, “Too autobiographical.” Rewrite it to make that less transparent and, in round two, they’ll say it “lacks verisimilitude.”

4. If you’re a teen quoting your peers, a much older agent or editor may declare that “teens don’t talk that way.” (Yes. That happened.)

“B-but — “

“No. No one speaks that way. Anywhere, ever, in any world real or imagined.”

5. If a well-known author writes an homage to hardboiled fiction, it’s an homage to hardboiled fiction. If you do it, you’re plagiarizing Mickey Spillane.

6. If you attempt something different and innovative, it’s experimental and stupid. If it’s attempted in mainstream publishing (rarely), it’s different, innovative and brave. (Forget that. Always be brave. That’s often where the fun is.)

7. You may have lived in Dublin all your life, but some reviewer will tell you your characters, “don’t sound Irish enough.” That’s because they think the cartoon presentation of Irish dialect in a cereal commercial is a documentary. Not all Irish people sound like leprechauns.

Don’t worry about it. If you wrote it their way, you’d turn off too many readers with awkward depictions and hard to read dialect. And earn the wrath of all of Ireland. I like Amy Adams, but the movie Leap Year was an affront. Not a single Irish person had even a passing interest in particle physics, but the old men were all afraid of black cats. Nice.

8. You have a clever plot twist in your manuscript. That black sheep beta reader will rush to tell you he’s read that same twist in two books, so it’s a cliché. Back to square one for another rewrite. Never mind that the execution is different, all stories are similar in some regard and those two books he’s talking about were published before 1975.

9. Win a writing contest and somebody will spend a blog post on how undeserved the win was. They will claim they did not submit a losing entry into the same contest. However, the heat of their condemnation (a sun-surface temperature usually reserved for Nazis and pedophiles and Nazi-pedophiles) will reveal their jealous motives and their cowardly lies.

10. Someone will assume that, since you wrote a zombie novel, you’re a hack chasing money and trends. (And by “you”, I mean, “me.”) Never mind that I started writing This Plague of Days before there was a Walking Dead. I don’t chase trends and, while zombie readers tend to be rabid readers, it’s really a small sub-genre. I know few rich zombie writers, though I know several who deserve riches.

Sadly necessary addendum:

Someone called my serial “clichéd.” I won’t say whom and no hard feelings, really. It actually struck me as funny. Say what you will (and I know some will.) But really? “clichéd?” I guess it’s virtually indistinguishable from all the other zombie books where the zombies aren’t really zombies, the vampires aren’t really vampires, the humans might be the supernatural players, bio-terrorists attack in very weird ways, three worldwide plagues evolve as the virus spreads across continents and, oh, yeah, the hero of my zombie apocalypse is an autistic boy with an obsession for Latin proverbs who sees auras and is a selective mute.

Just like all the others.

The crux

I guess what I’m saying is, no matter how many manuscripts you read professionally or personally, for consideration or for review or for whatever, don’t fall into cynicism. Come to each manuscript or book innocent and free of preconceptions. Give us a day in court before you condemn. You might fall in love. That happens, too.

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes a lot of books. Check them out and click those affiliate links at AllThatChazz.com. Season 3 of This Plague of Days and This Plague of Days, The Complete Series, launches June 15, 2014. Find out more about This Plague of Days at ThisPlagueofDays.com.

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

Helpful Mother’s Day Advice plus what’s tiring me out in publishing this week

At the end of this post, we’re going to find the happy. You’ll feel the height and breadth of the contrast to the rest of the article when we bring this post in for a landing. Also, at the bottom, you’ll get some excellent Mother’s Day advice. Now, here’s ten things that suck:

1. Relentless Facebook group “marketing.”

How can I miss you if you don’t go away? Spread that stuff out! Give me some space instead of pummeling me with spam. I am begging you.

2. Publishing gurus saying (smugly) that ebook sales are slowing down.

Slowing down from a rocket launch still gets us to high orbit. Nobody said we’d grow 800% every year. Slow down from that a bit and the growth curve still exceeds any reasonable expectations. E-publishing is a young industry and it’s doing great.

3. Certain players in traditional publishing complaining about Amazon’s “monopoly.”

It is not, by any definition, a monopoly. Amazon dominates the market because in most areas of marketing and innovation, they’re ahead of their competitors. I want Amazon to have healthy competition. If other platforms happen to suck, that’s not Amazon’s fault. Attention other platforms: up your game. Complaining about Amazon is not solving your problems. Consider emulating best practices instead of bitching about them.

4. Bagging on box sets.

I’m in on a box set with seven other awesome horror authors. Together, we’re amping up our discoverability and finding new readers with what Joanna Penn calls “coopetition.” It doesn’t devalue my books to charge 99 cents. It’s a valuable investment in new readers. It’s one strategy that says, “I value readers.” Generosity is one worthwhile strategy for any author who isn’t out to make a quick buck. We’re in this for the long game and we stand proud.

5. Libel in book reviews.

A friend of mine, whom I shall not name so she draws no further ire, has been insulted personally, maligned and called a fraud on Amazon. Her bio has been questioned. Go ahead and hit the “Report abuse” button. Many people have done so and pointed out to Amazon that this is libel. The review remains. Still! That sucks.

6. Spoilers in reviews.

Please don’t tell the whole story in a review. That’s what reading the book is for. I was further outraged recently to find that a review of a new author’s book (which is great) contained a spoiler. Worse, that three-star spoiler was ranked “most helpful.”

7. The fun police.

Popularity, and pendulums, swing back and forth. Today’s fans can have a strange propensity to turn into tomorrow’s haters if an artist dares to change. It’s not selling out, dude. It’s growing. If you now hate a superstar author you used to love, please examine why you’d venture into “hate” territory over a piece of entertainment. Maybe this book isn’t you. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. It means it’s not to your taste. Everybody’s had food poisoning a few times but we all keep eating. Chill.

8. All or nothing.

Don’t quit after one book because that book didn’t win the sales lottery. We focus too much on rare outliers and not enough on the people who are merely doing well. As if good isn’t good enough. This life is about the journey, not the dead stop at the end. It’s about the writing and the joy of creation. If someone else finds joy in your creation, fantastic! (Be assured, no matter how bad your early attempts are, someone will love it.) Relax.

People ask why billionaires keep trying to make money after so many millions or billions are already in the bank. How many homes do you need? But I think it’s more than just smelly greed. There’s a clue in the mentality of the writer: this is simply what we do. That’s where the fun is. We would do this for free. Many of us already write for free or are in debt because of our obsession for the written word. Enjoy the process and stop thinking in terms of winning and losing.

Think in terms of doing.

9. Fake outrage.

Despite the tone of this post, I’m a nice guy. But when one writer calls another a “hack” on the Internet, I have to ask a question or two: You do realize the object of your casual derision is a human being doing the best they can, right? Do you think you’d walk away unbloodied if you treated people in person the way you do when you’re safe behind a keyboard? Right.

So don’t be a troll. And if you’re trying to sabotage another author to make yourself look or feel good, you know that won’t work, right? We know the truth and you know trashing other authors with fake reviews doesn’t advance your books, right? You want fan love? Earn it. You aren’t climbing over anybody’s body any other way. And what if those nasty tactics actually did work? You’d always know you earned nothing. That angry, fake review from a fake account just makes you look angry and dumb and we all know it’s not real. Be real.

10. “It’s been done.”

Everything has been done. However, not everything has been explored in quite the unique way only you, Mr./Ms./Mrs./Dr./Whatever Author, can write it.

“It’s been done,” is a lazy agent’s way of saying no. “It’s been done,” is the dismissive wave of a critic who doesn’t bother to look deeper. “It’s been done,” is the casual cruelty of a dream crusher. These people aren’t your readers. They’re incurious, boring people. Don’t believe them. You can make anything fresh. Some will say there are only twelve plots, or ten, or five. I say there are two: Good versus Evil (and variations thereof) and Boy gets Girl (and variations thereof.)

Maybe the next trend will be westerns. These things go in cycles and westerns haven’t been hot for a while. Maybe you will be the pioneer to break new ground in the genre and spawn a thousand vacuous imitators who will spur critics to, once again, proclaim the genre dead. All genres are proclaimed dead at some point and every critic who says so is (almost) always proven wrong. Genres get resurrected and everything runs how and cold. Don’t chase these trends. Heat them up again in new ways.

You be you. Have a blast. We’ve stepped through the darkness with this post. Now let’s go be lights. Blow them away with what you can do. Let’s flounce out on to the field, put ourselves out there, karma-positive and ready to write amazing fiction so hot we melt fans’ faces.

I already love you. Know why? Because you aren’t done. You’re a writer. You’ll always be a writer and nobody’s pulling down your flag.

~ To find out more about my books, go to AllThatChazz.com. To see Spiderman 2, go to a theater. For a nice, cool drink, squeeze some limes into some cold water from the fridge. To hear cool interviews with cool people, try CoolPeoplePodcast.com. To stay in the will, call you Mom on Sunday. It’s Mother’s Day. Forgive her for what she said about your boobs in front of your friends that time in grade 9.

 

Filed under: Amazon, Writers, , , , , , ,

The writer, depression and getting the word music to play again

By the way, Crack the Indie Author Code 2nd Edition is out in paperback at $9.99. Smaller format, with jokes.

By the way, Crack the Indie Author Code 2nd Edition is out in paperback at $9.99. Smaller format, with jokes.

A fellow writer meant well when she told me that if you can allow anyone to discourage you from writing, you shouldn’t be a writer. That sounds tough-minded and strong, doesn’t it? It would be good advice to take, but unfortunately, I’m still human. Darn the luck, my skin is no thicker or thinner than it ever was. It will surprise no one, given the sort of dark stuff I often write, that I obsess over the negative. I do not remember sunny days. That’s who I am. Maybe I could fix it with some talk therapy, gene manipulation and a personality transplant.

So, yes, rude email hurt can me and my productivity. A bad review can ruin the morning and robs me of a night’s rest. I’m prone to depression and yes, I’m feeling it now. Due to several factors, I haven’t faced the blank screen bravely in days. I’ve been ill and trying to keep up with the demands of my new day job and, not to whine, but the depletion started with one condescending, presumptuous email. 

I’m letting a terrorist win. The worry treadmill is running. I’ve written ten books, but the negative cyclotron has kicked in. “How can I be a writer? I can’t even type properly.”

When I observe the disparity between Goodreads ratings and Amazon ratings (work is often valued one star less on GR even if the review sounds equally positive), I have an urge to reevaluate my life choices. If I’d gone to that Second City audition or to film school instead…but that way madness lies. At least until I fix the time machine. But enough about me.

Murders+Among+Dead+Trees+1121-1

What to do when you’re feeling down and not writing*:

1. Call a friend. Do not talk about your problem. Talk about what your friend wants to talk about.

To shore up your ego defences, you’ve already read and reread your happy reviews. Your friend isn’t going to tell you anything new and you’ve already got your “Atta-boy!”

The point of this phone call is to break the obsessive cycle of repetitive arguments, cutting retorts and vengeful homicide plots running through your head. This is a time for jokes. Ask about your friend’s life. 

2. Okay, so, being human, naturally you want another “Atta-boy!” Engage a fan who can’t wait for the next book. A little positive pressure may be all you need to get back to writing the next book in the series.

3. Write a blog post to vent, but only if you must and your friends aren’t answering their phones. (Ooh! Meta!)

4. Remind yourself that this is the firstiest of First World Problems and set the oven timer. How much more wallowing do you plan to allow yourself? More than one more pathetic hour and you’ll burn your life.

The three most powerful words are “I love you.”

The two most powerful? “Begin again.”

~ from Crack the Indie Author Code

5. Read the negative reviews of your favorite books. Choose the classics that you think everyone simply must adore. Realize some people will not be pleased.

Now in paperback!

Now in paperback!

Ev-er.

Or they’re trolls feeding an emotional need that has nothing to do with literary criticism. Or they’re too stupid to get you. I used to think that all readers, because they can read, must be smarter than average. Read some one-star reviews, especially the ones that bring down an author’s rating because Amazon didn’t deliver the book fast enough or they don’t like reading on a kindle and would have preferred paper. Clearly, my supposition about all readers being intelligent was not true.

6. Help somebody else with something. Shovel the walk and bring in the wood and be productive. Productiveness is a habit. This tip works better is you don’t do it for yourself. Do it for the old neighbor with the bum ticker and the broken leg.

7. Read something good that inspires you. Remember this feeling of transcending the great, dirty world? This delicious escape is why you are a writer. 

8. Realize that nothing will be perfect and the critics might have a point about something. Correct errors and move on.

9. But if they’re too harsh and stop you from writing at all, you’ve allowed a rude outlier to rob you, and most readers, of joy. It’s too easy for trolls to throw bombs. You write books, not a few, nasty paragraphs. We’re not allowed to critique reviewers so they’re safe from what you’re feeling now. Don’t let bullies win. Not letting bullies win is another reason you’re a writer.

10. Bing! The oven timer went off.

Start writing again. Anything. Just start. Within five minutes, you’ll be sucked into the other world again. Just get through that first five minutes and write. You aren’t facing a whole book. You don’t have to worry about word count or bad reviews or bruised egos or where to find a Luger, thick rope and kerosene at three in the morning. All you have to do is start writing and get through the first five minutes. Maybe less.

You can gut out five minutes. You don’t even have to act tough to start. Just start. An appreciative audience is out in the future, waiting and hoping you’ll get through the next five minutes. Maybe less.You will fall back into the groove and the word music will begin to play. And a one, and a two and a three…

If none of these suggestions work, call a doctor. Maybe it’s exercise, kale shakes and an anti-depressant you need to elude the mean reds.

 

Filed under: book reviews, publishing, web reviews, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This Plague of Days: Season One arrives in paperback! (Plus stuff for you)

Special thanks to Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com for his kick-ass cover skills! 

If you’re looking to get a cover, I always recommend Kit! Plus, he’s Scottish!

Have a look at the beauty below (i.e. buy it) and be sure to check out his portfolio.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000039_00004]

This Plague of Days, Season One teaches Latin proverbs and brings you into the mind of a very unlikely hero on the autistic spectrum. Zombies attack and royal Corgis are in big trouble. Maybe the Queen, too. (That’s my motto: Give the people what they want.)

This book makes a great Halloween gift, Christmas present or something to scare the bejeebers out of friends, family and enemies. If you’ve been waiting for the paperback, here you go. Working on getting Season Two out in print next. 

Serialization pros and cons

Not into my books but want more about publishing in savvy ways?

Season 2 is the quest. Expect big trouble in Ireland and Iceland because I think countries beginning with I are narcissistic and need to be taken down a peg or two by bloodthirsty zombies.

Season 2 is the quest. Expect big trouble in Ireland and Iceland because I think countries beginning with I are narcissistic and need to be taken down a peg or two by bloodthirsty zombies.

Okay, if you came for the pithy stuff about the downside of serialization and why I collapsed to the haters and won’t serialize Season Three of This Plague of Days, you’ll want to check out this post: 

Why I won’t do this again

The contest that challenges you to find a secret hidden in plain sight

Yes, there’s also an intriguing contest going on and your immortality is at stake.

Find the secret, win a life everlasting in book and audio form.

I love a mystery wrapped in an enigma concealed in a burrito, don’t you?

~ Robert Chazz Chute is…writing in the third person again. Get your NaNoWriMo inspiration and hope for the publishing future by reading Crack the Indie Author Code in paperback and ebook. Just kidding about the Ireland being narcissistic thing. You know I love the land of my ancestors. But Iceland? Well, you’re on notice for realsies, Icepops!

Filed under: Amazon, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, self-publishing, This Plague of Days, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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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