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

Write and publish with love and fury.

UBC #28: The zero money approach to book promotion

Small-town terrors and psychological mayhem in Maine.
Reached #18 in shorts on Amazon!

Each morning, author Al Boudreau asks a question about the writing life and publishing on Facebook. This morning, he asked which we preferred: A big launch of our books or a soft launch? Other people have their own answers. Here’s mine, as I wrote it this morning:

My short answer is: Hint and be clever about promotion rather than try to spend our way to success.

Sorry about my long answer, but it could have been even longer: I used to work in trad pub, so I kept all details secret. Now I hint and promote a bit for upcoming books (especially those in a series because, knowing it’s a series, that appeals to readers more.) The hints comprise things like the odd progress report, tweeting love and my Six Words or Less Contest in which the witty and pithy winner will have his or her name in the next book in the series. That’s really selling the foundation novel as it promotes the next one.

[Wanna play? Scroll down the page for the SIX WORDS OR LESS CONTEST. Entry deadline, July 31.>

With respect, I think there’s still a bit of inertia from old to new model with thinking in terms of a big launch. Except for ARCs to media and long lead times on seasonal books, Trad publishing is much about keeping it under wraps and then blasting PR and promotion for a short period of time (in part because they have so many other books to move on to and because the obsession is short tail vending and beating quick return deadlines in bookstores.) We’re kind of like classical music. We don’t get rock star tours and roadies, but we can sell lots in the long term because our books are available until we evolve past the Internet and start reading each other’s minds. (Or heat death and an ugly extinction, whichever comes first.)

With long tail marketing, though we don’t have the resources for a huge launch with cap displays and buying bookstore space, all our energy isn’t spent in a tiny retail window, either. Publishers have largely abandoned big launches anyway. Most midlisters never get that dreamed of release party and all their publicity is really up to authors who thought they’d get more logistical support.

Our books can go up faster with low overhead and they are on sale forever.No returns. Rather than blast potential

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

readers, I hint because I wouldn’t want to tire anybody out. “Oh, there’s Chazz talking about Self-help for Stoners and Kevin Smith again,” wears me out, too (hence more books are critical.) That’s okay, though, because we’re better at social media than trad publishing has been. Social media is personality based. Who cares what Random House’s twitter is on about? I want to hear from individual authors, not faceless corporate entities. Corporations are not people, my friend.

Big launches feel like putting all the chips on one roll of the dice, which is an awful way to start your trip to Vegas. I just hint and hope the dribble never becomes an embarrassing orgiastic fit or a drone. Just my opinion as the author of the hilarious crime novel Bigger Than Jesus. (See what I did there? Um…yeah. See, there’s such a fine line between fun promotion and self-loathing.)

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

How serious is the hate for indie authors?

I’m feeling a tad depressed. I just read a bunch of posts in a forum from The People Who Fun Forgot. They were looking for ways to avoid even looking at indie authors’ work. Any indie exposure, it seems, might burn like a spicy plutonium chalupa with battery acid sauce. Some people held on to some perspective. For others, art was something to grumble at and be protected from while searching for “real” books from “real” publishers. How dare self-published authors offer something someone else might enjoy? Perhaps it’s promotion fatigue, but some people seem to think that just because they don’t like something, it’s automatically spam and valueless to anyone! Someone even suggested the establishment of a censor board to decide which indie offerings are worthy. I had to reread that several times. I’m still not sure if the intent was satirical. Gee, I hope that was a joke, but I don’t think so.

These angry posts and censorious efforts sound far more narcissistic than anything a self-publisher has ever done.

It’s a book, not  a crime. And if it be a crime, it is not a crime against literature but against personal taste. As in “individual”, one person’s taste.

As in, “Get over yourself, Butch!”

Another complainer said she was especially picky about offerings that were inexpensive. Wait! Wait! Why not be more picky about the much more expensive ebooks from traditional publishers? As John Locke says of his 99 cent ebooks, he doesn’t have to prove he’s as good as the traditionally published. Trad authors have to prove their books are ten times better than his for the prices they charge. Many of his readers certainly don’t want him censored. They’re grateful—happy, even— to receive such cheap entertainment. I eat 99 cent books like Tic Tacs. A 99 cent book isn’t a risk. It’s a Tic tac. If you like one, have more. If you can’t afford a 99 cent ebook, what the hell are you doing with an e-reader, anyway? If that’s the case, read at the library. In the job search section.

Being super picky over indie books doesn’t make you a connoisseur of literature. It makes you the sort of person whose company you wouldn’t tolerate in a stuck elevator for more than five minutes without considering how you could make strangulation look accidental. (If this is you, please consult your therapist. Next session’s topic: “Why do I feel such a need to be a petty bully over small things? And why do I feel such joy kicking the crutches out from under people?”)

I’m not for low standards, per se. It just seems absurd to insist a 99 cent book reach a higher standard. Every ebook gives readers a sample. If you don’t like the sample, you don’t have to buy it. And no, your time is not that precious. The President of the United States has time to read fiction for pleasure and you’re not working on a cancer cure, so get over yourself and read a few reviews on Goodreads if you need some help with your book shopping, for Christ’s sake!

You know what I love about the break from traditional publishing? The range of price and the freedom of choice. The “flood” of new books is not something I’ll drown in. I revel in the onslaught. The hunt for a good book is part of the joy of reading. (You even get to read while you hunt, which was frowned upon when the prey was deer.) The search is part of the fun, like wandering through a bookstore and dipping into samples to see if I can find a treasure. And, it bears repeating, just because a book is traditionally published is no guarantee it’s going to be any good. Yes, they’ve got typos, too. (And remember all those books “by” Sarah Palin?)

What of all those indie authors who were traditionally published last week but decided to abandon that enterprise for greater creative freedom and the other allures of independence?

Are they to wear the scarlet letter, too?

I was shocked that people who you’d think were book lovers could be so down on free thought, cheap books, free speech and more choice. All those good and happy things were just too damned inconvenient for them, obstacles in their search for stuffy books only semiotics enthusiasts might approve. (And by semiotics enthusiasts, I mean people from 1980s English departments who worshipped structuralism and used literary criticism as a weapon to stab writers in the parts of the brain that connect expression to entertainment. They pretended to love literature and creativity that was a mask. They may have started out as readers, but by their third year, the joy of reading and literary escape was shamed and beaten out of them. Now they only read to tear writers down to feel good about themselves through petty power plays, bad reviews and the destruction of the world, one idea at a time. You know. Like Bond villains. With herpetic lesions on their anuses.

I don’t think these curmudgeons and snobs are the norm. Are they…?

If they are…I have to go make toast in the bathtub now.

Filed under: authors, book reviews, censors, e-reader, ebooks, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , ,

The price and value of ebooks Part II

A Picture of a eBook

Image via Wikipedia

There’s a lot of talk about ebook pricing. You’ve seen the numbers. Today I’m pointing you to the comments section on a post on this very blog because a great dialogue arose that I haven’t seen elsewhere and I don’t want it lost. A writer and a reader have a very thoughtful point-counterpoint discussion, not just about the numbers, but how they feel about the numbers.

Thanks to both Tracy Poff and Reena Jacobs for both their passion and civility as they had an impressive meeting of the minds about ebook pricing from an author’s and reader’s perspective.

You’ll find the comments under this post: Do readers expect too much of ebooks?

Filed under: author Q&A, authors, ebooks, Guest blog post, publishing, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , ,

Author Q&A: Lorina Stephens and her book From Mountains of Ice

ABOUT LORINA STEPHENS In 1980 Lorina Stephens picked up the pen professionally and never looked back. She has worked as editor, freelance journalist for national and regional printFrom mountains of ice media, is author of six books both fiction and non-fiction. She has been a festival organizer, publicist, lectures on many topics from historical textiles and domestic technologies, to publishing and writing, teaches and continues to work as a writer, artist, and publisher.

Lorina has had several short fiction pieces published in Canada’s acclaimed On Spec magazine and Marion Zimmer Bradley’s fantasy anthology Sword & Sorceress X. Her books include: From Mountains of Ice, And the Angels Sang, Shadow Song, Recipes of a Dumb Housewife among others. She lives with her husband of three plus decades, and two cats, in a historic stone house in Neustadt, Ontario.

 LS: That didn’t happen until 1980 after I had to take a short leave of absence. While I’d always crafted stories, I’d never actually committed anything to paper, and when I suddenly had all this time on my hands I found myself recording those stories.

 

Chazz: Tell us about your book. How did you get the idea for your book?

LS: The genesis for From Mountains of Ice came about because I wanted to write a story about an unlikely hero, someone who wasn’t all beauty, youth and brawn. In fact, I wanted a middle-aged man who reluctantly takes up the mantle of responsibility. That, combined with a fascination for the myriad funeral and death rituals around the world, made for the foundation of the novel. In particular, I found the Romano-Celtic legend of the cucullati of interest, and that legend plays a fundamental role in the culture of the novel, and the development of the plot.

Chazz: What research was involved in your book’s development?

LS: While there wasn’t research specifically undertaken for this particular novel, I did rely on research I’d previously done simply as part of my own interests; that is, study of Renaissance Italy; the history of the longbow as well as bow and arrow construction; death and funeral rituals, in particular the legend I mentioned previously, as well as the Indian festival that takes place annually on the River Ganges; study of historical dress; the Byzantine Empire; study of the historical basis for tattoos and their cultural impact; study of psychopathic behavior. The list really is quite expansive, and some of the resource material I used is listed in the afterword.

Chazz: Tell us about your writing process.

LS: I pretty much always begin with a concept surrounding a vehicle, usually an individual placed in an extraordinary situation. What seems to have developed over the years is that I write my first three chapters first, sometimes the ending, to get a feeling of where I want to go with the novel, to familiarize myself with the characters and milieu, and once I have that in place I write myself a fairly detailed chapter outline. I don’t always adhere to that outline, but it acts as a map.

I do try to be disciplined about my writing, working every day except for weekends, but with this current novel I’m finding that a bit difficult, partly because I’ve also taken on the role of publisher, but partly because I’m challenging myself with this novel.

Chazz: How did you arrive at the decision to self-publish and what did you have to learn and do to accomplish that task?

LS: From Mountains of Ice took about 18 months to write, although I’d had the concept slumbering for about a decade.

I decided to self-publish partly because of the changing culture of publishing, and partly because of what I write. As to the first part, so many large houses have not only shut their doors to unsolicited manuscripts, but have cut their  authors (many of whom are actually bestsellers), and that has resulted in agents closing their doors because they’re scrambling to find homes for orphaned authors. What chance would an unknown author like me stand in the face of that?

And then there’s the reality of what I write. I don’t write easily pigeon-holed stories. Moreover, I don’t write feel-good stories. My work tends to cross genres, being neither speculative, science fiction, fantasy, historical or mainstream. That makes me a difficult sell.

Given the ease with which a person can now self-publish (and I’m speaking of true self-publishing, not vanity press), and reach a market, I decided to jump into the deep end. The learning curve was interesting, but not overwhelming, given I already had some background in publishing. The most challenging thing was learning software (InDesign and Photoshop). The channels and rituals of the long tail of publishing was pretty simple. And I’m good at polite persistence.

All of that led me to expand my publishing venture and give voice to other Canadian authors so that we now have four authors (including me) publishing, and will present another four in the next two years.

Chazz: What was the biggest challenge you experienced through this book?

LS: Perhaps my biggest challenge has been overcoming lazy readers, and I know that sounds disgustingly arrogant. There was one reviewer who was convinced I’d written a knock-off of Gladiator because I had the soundtrack listed as inspirational music. Didn’t matter that I explained to him the majority of the music I listened to while writing From Mountains of Ice was in fact by the group Dead Can Dance, and even listed which tracks underpinned which scenes. I think this is how Paul Stookey must have felt when academics insisted Puff the Magic Dragon was actually a song about drugs.

I also had two reviewers trash the novel because they insisted there was a glaring error when in fact what they read was correct, heraldic terminology. I know if I read something I don’t understand, I first go and look it up before assuming what I’ve read is incorrect.

Chazz: What was the hardest part of the publishing process?

LS: For me the hardest part of publishing is convincing people my work is worth reading, worth the investment of their time. In short, it’s difficult overcoming the stigma of self-publishing, with good reason I might add. But I love what I do. I love every moment, the high and lows, the triumphs and tragedies.

Chazz: What advice would you give unpublished writers?

LS: This is perhaps not wise advice, given society’s propensity to create clones: be true to yourself. Write with your own voice, from your own heart, adhering to standards of excellence.

Chazz: Have changes in the book industry forced you to change how you published or marketed your work?

LS: Absolutely. One of the reasons I self-published, and also one of the reasons I rely heavily upon internet social networking.

Chazz: What’s your next book project and what can you tell us about it?

LS: My next book is called The Rose Guardian, and deals with a woman coming to terms with the death of her mother, and her own search for lost innocence. It is in fact three stories which occur simultaneously. I must say this is the most difficult piece I’ve written. It has been hard to find just the right tone for each of the three main characters, and to link them together in a cohesive fashion without sounding too dark or cynical. I think I’ve finally conquered that problem, and am now making headway.

Thanks, Lorina! If you want to know more about Lorina and fancy buying her books, here are several ways to find out more:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lorina-Stephens/136091476870

For Five Rivers: email: info@5rivers.org

Twitter: 5rivers

Website: http://www.5rivers.org

Blog: http://5riversnews.blogspot.com/

Filed under: Author profiles, author Q&A, authors, Books, self-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.

You can pick this ebook up for free today at this link: http://bit.ly/TheNightMan

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