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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

This was written by a human being

Publishing is always changing in big and small ways. There used to be a Big Six, then there was a Big Five in publishing. Now there’s a Big Four. Hot genres cool. Cold genres heat up and occasionally new genres are created. Amazon sales pages have changed for books, and in my opinion not for the better. You’ve no doubt heard that a big revolution is afoot. Artificial Intelligence is about to replace a lot of people. Maybe even you.

There’s a divide in the writing community right now over the emergence of recently improved artificial intelligence. ChatGPT, Jasper, and others can upgrade your book marketing copy. AI reconfigures and composes existing art to fulfill the parameters you plug into its engine. Artificial voices are improving to the point where some authors may choose machines over voice actors for their audiobooks. At least one person (probably many more) has already created fiction using ChatGPT. Things are changing, and we’re not ready for it,

Whenever any new technology emerges, there’s a painful transition. When cell phones came out, there was a panic over the brain tumors they could theoretically produce. That didn’t happen, of course, but in that case the volume of complaints during the the introduction of was much louder than the reality. There are valid concerns around copyright and current job roles becoming outmoded. I mean, real talk, if machines write thousands and thousands of novels faster than I can, I won’t be pleased. I think I better prepare myself for not being pleased.

Obstacles loom for the quick adoption of a non-human workforce putting art together. Currently, if you use AI art for your book covers, you are not able to claim copyright on that cover. You don’t possess the license from the amalgam of images the AI draws from. The AI is compositing, not originating. All that said, the toothpaste is already squeezed out of the tube and it’s not going back in. We’re going to have to adapt in several ways.

In the classroom, for instance, kids will have to write essays in class (if that’s what you still want). Let them go home, and ChatGPT and its alternatives will be penning those essays on The Great Gatsby. A voice actor I follow on TikTok said her solution to machines reading audiobooks is to emphasize the emotional core of her work. She’s not just a reader. Acting is her job. She is confident she can out-act any machine and she’s not afraid of the competition. Also, it should be noted that dedicated audiobook readers not only look for audiobooks by certain authors. Some voice actors have a following who listen to whatever they read. That’s leverage the machines don’t have, at least not yet.

Something that is often lost in the debate is that plenty of authors do not have the budget to pay to create audiobooks with a human voice. My solution is to go the DIY route with my audiobooks. That option is not accessible to everyone. Some will reject any non-human participation in the creation of their art. For others, using a machine reader mimicking he human voice feels like a necessity.

I’ve tested ChatGPT to optimize my marketing copy. Yes, it needed a little editing afterward, but not much. Revamping my marketing copy for so many books and paying a smug consultant exorbitant fees would be prohibitively expensive.

If readers and listeners are okay with it, and production costs less, AI art creation will increase in acceptance. We can dig in our heels and resist the future, but in the long term it feels like trying to hold back the tide with a teacup. I’m not telling you to surrender and go all in on Skynet. I am suggesting that it would be wise to figure out how to up your game and adapt to a changing landscape in the meantime.

As this sticky taffy get pulled, you will see some books published with a notation that reads something like: No machine intelligence was involved in the creation of the art on the cover of this book, nor were any used in the creation of the narrative. This novel was written by a human being.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute. Read my novels, some of which tell of machine intelligence taking everything all the way the fuck over, at AllThatChazz.com.

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

Keep a Wary Eye on Your Sales Pages

I got an ugly and unhelpful surprise this morning. Make sure this doesn’t happen to you.

It used to be that you could go to Author Central on Amazon to check for your latest reviews. I am encouraging you to check your book’s sales pages regularly because, sadly, Amazon is not reliable. Pardon my tone, but my wife is ill, and I’m concerned about that. I’m feeling not so great, either, so my frustration is compounded by seeming to be thwarted at every turn and told to suck it up. (More on that bit of shit further down this post.)

For anyone who has been pushed around. Against those who do the pushing.

The First Assault

Regular readers here may recall that Amazon sabotaged the launch of my award-winning novel, Endemic. I couldn’t advertise it at all (for reasons unknown) in the first critical weeks after its release. I am so proud of that book, and to see its wings get clipped before it could fly was incredibly frustrating. I soldiered on, but yes, I’m bitter. It’s difficult enough to get any novel air and attention without unwarranted obstacles along the path.

Since that shaky start, Endemic has won first place in science fiction at both the Hollywood and New York Book Festivals. It also garnered a Literary Titan award. I know the novel is in the running for the North Street Book Prize since they let me know it’s in the semi-finals. In other words, this one is particularly important to me (and to my bottom line.) Book sales have tanked generally, so Endemic is the central weight-bearing pillar of my tiny castle.

And Now, This

This morning, on a whim, I had a peek at my Amazon author page. It looked fine until I clicked on reviews to take a deeper look. I guess I was looking for a little ego boost. Instead, I got an itch I could not scratch. The reviews for Endemic from the United States were not about Endemic. They were happy reviews of a vacuum cleaner!

That does not help me. (Curses ensued, several quite imaginative and not fit for general consumption.)

I contacted Amazon immediately, of course. While I checked my other books for linking errors, the kind gentleman on the help desk did some research. He couldn’t fix the problem himself manually, so it was elevated to the tech division. He hoped my little marketing disaster would be rectified within five days. I’m not blaming him. He did all he could within a system that could use more organization.

Amazon has been making big changes lately. From adding Goodreads ratings, to categorization limits and snafus, to their new Top Picks feature, maybe they are moving too fast. When any system gets too big, there are bound to be logistics errors and smelly clogs in the plumbing.

Shots Fired

There is another annoyance when legitimate problems such as these arise. Some folks will insist your concerns are illegitimate and gloss over your lived experience. Some who fancy themselves leaders and book marketing experts have a filthy habit of putting a happy face on anything and everything Amazon does to us. They tell you to just write another book, relax, and ignore your crumbling sales data. They suggest that the Zon can do no wrong and everything they do is customer-focused. Uh, nope! Don’t pee on me and tell me it’s raining (and nutritious, to boot!)

It is undeniable that Amazon has done a lot right compared to other book sales platforms. I’m concerned those smart moves may be confined to history. Just because they’re the top sales platform doesn’t make me any less screwed today. If they are immune to criticism when they mess up, it’s like saying cops have all the power so they can do no wrong.

Whenever an author dares to cry foul because their income is taking a direct hit, they get gaslit by those who are comfortable with such chaos. By comfortable, I mean they are privileged enough to have more of a cash cushion. Hint: Some of those knobs aren’t necessarily sanguine about your troubles because they’re making a boodle off their books. They’re selling services to the indie community instead of writing fiction. Their compassion deficit is as deep as their pockets. Don’t listen to people who are too comfortable with your pain. You are not a whiner. You’re bleeding and need a tourniquet and a kind word.

So? What Now?

I’m not going to slap on a shit-eating grin and enthuse, “Don’t worry, be happy!” You can’t trust that all you have to do is wait and they’ll fix any problems. You have to remain vigilant to alert them to problems. The central premise of this blog has always been to track the ups and downs of writing and publishing without the bullshit, so here’s my honest advice:

Check your book pages to make sure the listings are correct. Check again regularly. You can’t set it and forget it because the Amazon platform has become too technically complex to be trusted. Or maybe get into the vacuum cleaner business. They seem to have a bunch of happy customers.

~ Oh, and please do check out Endemic. I’m so pleased with this novel because, beyond the apocalyptic scenario, it’s about people who don’t fit in, how they change and how they don’t. The dedication reads: For anyone who has ever been pushed around. Against those who do the pushing.” That seems especially appropriate this morning. Listings and links for all my books are on my author page at AllThatChazz.com.

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

Amazon Confusion Continues

Many authors have discovered that their author pages are not displaying their full catalogue. Oddly, it’s not actually clear to everyone what’s going on, including the people you talk to at the Zon. From Amazon, I heard directly that they are working on it as a glitch. However, dive into a writing group or two and you’ll find that some of us are receiving a very different message: It’s not a glitch. It’s by design. Mixed signals are frustrating. Beta test? New normal? Mistake? Well, I definitely think it’s a mistake, and today I’ll detail why and what you might do about it.

What some of us are told is that the new algorithm shows Amazon customers an author sales page tailored to their browsing history. For instance, if you’ve read my apocalyptic stuff like This Plague of Days, you could go to my author page and only my other apocalyptic stuff would be served up: Endemic, AFTER Life, Citizen Second Class, Robot Planet, Our Alien Hours, Our Zombie Hours and Amid Mortal Words. You would not see any of my other work on my author page. Following this new modus operandi, there is no place to see my full catalogue on Amazon. You would not see all my crime thrillers. To get links to my full backlist, you’d have to go to my author site.

There are no doubt a lot of authors who have not looked at their author page lately. I habitually check for new reviews through Author Central and monitor sales using Book Report. Again, if you haven’t seen what’s happening on your author page, it’s a good idea to have a look.

To be clear, the books have not disappeared completely from the platform. However, to find them all, you’d have to search by title or by my name. (Searching by author name alone often serves up a mix that is not on point.)

In short: Visibility is down, discoverability is hampered, and your backlist sales are hobbled.

If they stick with this new algo, only a determined fan, not a casual browser, would go to the trouble to find all my stuff easily. There’s a ribbon across the top, but in my experience, readers go down the author page, they don’t click across multiple times. That’s just how people have been programmed to read, and the more a customer has to click, the less shopping they do.

How do I know this fiddling is bad for authors and readers?

I can see the failure of this strategy in my falling book sales. It’s down to a dribble. That’s the key factor for me. Like everyone else, I’ve got bills to pay and I’m more worrier than warrior.

The frustrating detail is that Amazon is such a vast company that the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. You know, that cute cliche that actually hints at brain damage? From Amazon, after about 48 hours, I received an email to say it’s a glitch and they are working on it. “Our technical teams are aware of this problem and we’re working toward a resolution as soon as possible.”

Meanwhile, other authors are hearing a different story as detailed above. One author spoke to a supervisor who told her (a) they are getting a lot of negative feedback, (b) they tried this before and it didn’t work, and (c) they may reverse course.

Amazon’s priority has always been to optimize the customer experience. I understand that and don’t have a problem with it. The other book sales platforms could learn a thing or two from Amazon’s customer focus. However, this is a case where what’s good for readers is better for authors, too. Maybe we’ll go back to what worked better. Maybe we won’t. While they work that out, my focus will be to try to mitigate the damage no matter what they do.

That’s for another post on another day. For now, please buy my stuff and check on your stuff. If your author page does not display all your wares, let Amazon Central Customer Support know you’re not altogether pleased. Check your income, too. Moving the system with data points will be more effective than an emotional appeal.

Also, please be kind with whomever you correspond. It’s not their fault. The root of this endeavor lies somewhere deep in the Hell Realm where misguided accountants’ avarice and programmers’ warped aspirations intersect to whisper dark incantations over bubbling cauldrons of code slurry.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute, a frustrated multiple award-winning writer with a heart of gold and not enough money. Find all my books on my author site AllThatChazz.com.

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

Amazon Glitches You Don’t Want

I checked my author page today to find that several of my books were not displaying on my Amazon author profile! Several of my most popular books lacked visibility on the Zon. By reloading the page, they might come back and they might not. I just checked this afternoon and even fewer of my books were to be found on my author page! No wonder my book sales have been plummeting.

(It was at this point Rob began to sweat and curse. He had cursed before, but as he reflected on financial ruin, he brought fresh verve and creativity to the activity.)

Visibility on Amazon is always a challenge, but when the problem is indistinguishable from sabotage, it’s time to hit the panic button. I got KDP on the horn very quickly and the rep was nice, but she also informed me that I had to talk to a different department to rectify the glitch. For that, no phone call. I had to send an email. I did so and struck just the right note: polite yet 911 urgent, on fire, yet congenial. The robot told me to expect to wait twenty-four hours, longer if research is required.

In the meantime, what to do, what to do, what to freakin’ do? I reasoned there must be something more to take action on than merely sweating, cursing, and making a TikTok about it.

Action steps:


1. Do what I’m told and wait patiently for a reply. I can do that. (Butt wiggles like a chihuahua that needs to pee.)

2. Direct you to my author site at AllThatChazz.com for direct links to my books.

3. Failing that, please search Robert Chazz Chute on Amazon to find my beguiling suspense and unputdownable science fiction. (Yes, I have some financial ground to make up this month. God, how long has this been going on?!)

4. That done? Read this article from Kindlepreneur about how to deal with suspensions, terminations, and other disasters on the Amazon platform.

5. Go to your author page and see if all your books are there sittin’ pretty. If they are, huzzah! No problem. If not, revisit Step 4.

We now return to my previously scheduled sweating , cursing, and butt wiggling.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute. I pen apocalyptic epics with heart and killer crime thrillers with muscle. I’m really quite sweet and adorable most of the time. Find my stuff at AllThatChazz.com.

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

About Your Worst Book Reviews

This is a little boost of encouragement to writers who obsess over a few bad reviews. First, here’s a link to a fabulously successful epic fantasy called Assassin: A Dark Epic Fantasy Novel. Look at all those wonderful reviews! Most people are extraordinarily happy with their reading experience. It’s rated 4.3 out of 5 and has over 1500 reviews. Wow!

Now, if you need bother, read a few of the one-star reviews. You’d think it was an utter failure.

Clearly, much to the dismay of a tiny minority, many readers pick up what Andy Peloquin is putting down. Congratulations to Mr. Peloquin! Check out all his books here: http://www.andypeloquin.com. Enjoy.

What This Means for You, the Writer

Too often, I see worried scribes kowtow to their worst critics. They join writing groups (not a bad thing) and write by committee, trying to appease everyone (a terrible idea). Some insist they learn things from their worst reviews. Sometimes, maybe that’s true, especially if you’re a noob. More often, though, you’re giving too much weight to a troll whose hobby is crop dusting negativity.

I learned a lot about writing from working as a journalist and reading excellent novels. These days, I learn most from Gari, my editor (strawnediting.com) and from beta readers. Reader feedback is best found higher up the editorial pipeline, while you’re still in the draft phase and long before you publish. For reviews, the most useful feedback you’re likely to get is what most fans enjoyed about your work, not what a few angry people hate. Hatred is lazy and too easy. I know because it’s so easy to find. I mean, GEE-ZUZZ, just watch the news.

I can already hear the objections. No! Those are all legitimate critiques!

Sometimes they are worth noting. However, if you’ve ever received a disproportionately scathing review, check out that person’s other reviews. Too often, leaving nasty reviews is their sport. You know the type. They go over the top, sometimes even attacking an author personally for daring to think they might entertain someone. I have to wonder, do they bring that same vitriol to everything? “I must defend proper literature and this beach read most people enjoy is the death of all literature! Once I fix that, then I’ll solve the Russian-Ukraine conflict!”

Art is subjective. If you take detractors too seriously, you will become paralyzed and resort to the safest and stupidest path: You will write nothing. Worse, you might even join the ranks of the wannabe writers who love nothing. Don’t become one of those people who hate everything with pedantic zeal. A few make it their unholy mission to proclaim, “Not only did I hate it, it’s impossible anyone else could and all these happy reviews must be fake!” (Notice that they write those reviews as if authors don’t see them, as if they’d bring that same energy if they dared to be in the same room with us. Heh. Silly little rabbits.)

I was once accused of having thirty-five friends leave happy reviews on one of my books. First, ha! As if I have thirty-five friends! This person clearly had no idea how hard it is to get anyone to leave a review. Second, for that same book, that was a few hundred happy reviews ago. That particular objection looks really silly now. Again, ha!

A Note About Your Humanity

If you manage to release all your negativity about nasty reviews, let me know how. The only sure cure is to never read your reviews. That’s one option. For me, I’m prone to anxiety and depression and my happy readers keep me going. Writing a book already feels like putting a note in a bottle and tossing it into the ocean. That’s lonely business, so I need to read my reviewers, at least those who enjoy my work. One nasty review can make me sad once, but I return again and again to satisfied readers who bring me up and get me back to the keyboard.

You’ll also smell a lot of shit of the bull about “developing a thick skin.” How often have you read that in an article about writing? Unless you have the apathy of a non-artist and the arrogance of a serial killer, that’s all nonsense posturing. Writers are human, too. If you prick us, do we not bleed ink?

Not only do writers fail to separate themselves from their work, readers do that, too. They’ll assume you hold opinions you attributed to a fictional character. If they think the book is bad, they’ll think you’re bad. Once, a reviewer (oozing hatred from every pore) noted that I am Canadian. To his acidic review, he added, “I certainly hope he stays there.” A reasonable response, right? Anyway, no worries, mate! I never leave my blanket fort far beneath the frozen tundra. Also, not for nothing, go fuck yourself gently with a wire brush. Don’t be mad. I did say gently.

Alternatives for the Sweaty Writer

  1. Have someone else read your reviews and pass on the ones that won’t paralyze you. That’s one of the few things agents used to be good for, but any pal who won’t mess with you will do.
  2. If reviews scare you, go with a pen name. Go with five pen names. It’s amazing how calming it is to have a negative review fall on the head of a fictional persona. It gives you distance. “Sure, you think she should abandon her dreams and take up scuba diving in Antarctica, but at least that’s my nom de plume, not me!”
  3. Know that there is a number. The exact count will vary, but at some point, you will get enough happy reviews on a book that the nasty ones will matter much less. They may only ruin your afternoon instead of your whole day.

    Bad news: the measure resets to zero with each new book. Gird your loins and sally forth. I wouldn’t classify writing as heroic duty, but it’s not for cowards, either.
  4. C’mon! Remember? You love to write! And you write for the fans, not for the bastards. You’re not going to hit a home run every time. Keep playing because you love the game.
  5. Go read the reviews on your favorite books. Check out what’s considered high literature and/or the top ten bestsellers of all time. They all have reviews from people who hated their reading experience. Why should your masterpiece be any different?
  6. Any book that has all positive reviews has a small audience. When you start getting people who don’t dig what you do, it doesn’t mean you’ve suddenly done anything wrong. It means you’re expanding your audience and someone who is not your target audience stumbled upon it. After a free promotion, you’ll get one or two who snapped it up because it was free and now they’re sad. It’s the classic, “I don’t read books about unicorns but decided to give this a try, thus reaffirming why I hate unicorn books.” This is the equivalent of suffering celiac disease but gorging on bread because it’s free.
  7. This is all simpler than your worst imaginings. They’re wrong. I have read a couple of reviews of my work where they attributed missing bits to story failures. But there aren’t missing bits. The reviewer’s reading comprehension was poor, or they were too hurried. You can always catch a careless reading when they get basics of the plot wrong. This falls under the category of, “Tell me you’re a dummy without telling me you’re a dummy.” Do not sweat these reviews. We write for readers, not scanners.
  8. What if they’re right? So what? What if your book did have problems? Let’s not be so precious. You didn’t botch a heart transplant. You wrote a book that maybe wasn’t your best. You only get one best and nobody can agree on which one that will be. Somebody will still love it. Authors learn and grow. We have to allow for skill development. Kurt Vonnegut considered himself a failure until Slaughterhouse-Five hit, then everyone agreed just about everything he wrote was genius. (Watch Unstuck in Time, the documentary of Kurt’s life and career. It’s a salve for all your writerly burns.)
  9. Try to keep your energy on those who love you and love what you do. Love yourself more. Daring to put yourself out there, naked and vulnerable, demands a lot of self-love and not a little hubris. Most of those trolls you worry about? The longest thing they will ever write is a few paragraphs of narrow meanness. Even better? What they hated will be the reason someone else will buy and love your work.Too much puppet porn, Amish accountants, and seventeenth-century profanity? Oh, no!(Clicks buy immediately.)
  10. Let’s get practical. You’ve got groceries to buy! Couples often divorce because there isn’t any money coming in! You don’t even have time for people who will never buy another of your books! Write! Rewrite! Produce, goddammit!

Happy Conclusions

My point is not that you should never listen to your critics or dismiss every opinion. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. However, take it all with a big ole bag of salt. Some will love your work no matter what. Some will hate it no matter what. Most of the world is indifferent. A lot of people don’t even read, so don’t sweat so much. Once you release it to the world, everybody gets a vote on your work, but you always have the deciding vote. You liked it and did your best? Solid.

As for those few reviews that make you question your worth as a human being, please understand what the harshest critics do not:


Not everything is for everybody.

And that’s okay.

Hold on to that.
There’s plenty to enjoy in this world. Go find it. Go make it.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute. I write apocalyptic epics with heart and killer crime thrillers with muscle. Find all my work on my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

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

10 Myths of Publishing

There are myths writers are told and sold. Let’s tackle them:

  1. Myth: Follow the various book proposal guidelines for each and every agent to the letter.

    Reality: That’s a waste of time, equivalent to the old days when magazines insisted they refused simultaneous submissions and then took a year to get back to you. Instead of tailoring your book proposal to 158 different individuals, make one really good book proposal and send it out. If it’s good enough and looks profitable, they will respond. If they’re so capricious they value protocol over profit, they wouldn’t have accepted your book proposal in any case. There. Saved you time and aggravation. Be professional, but treat them like peers. Don’t be a desperate supplicant. You’re better than that.
  2. Myth: Publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

    Reality: A bunch of publishers, in confidence, will admit they read everything from the slush pile. Scared of rejecting the next Harry Potter, I guess. You can submit directly to publishers without going through an agent. You may be thinking that doing so decreases your odds of success. That feeling will ease when you consider that agents may take on one or two new clients in an entire year. Sure, agents know acquisitions editors, but you’ve also added another gatekeeper and speedbump to your publishing journey.
  3. Myth: You need an agent to sell your book.

    Reality: If you are doing a deal with a publisher, the publisher may recommend their favorite agent to you. You may want an agent, but it’s optional. Better? An entertainment (AKA intellectual property lawyer). One fee, no percentage that lasts forever. There seem to be fewer agents than there used to be. It’s not that they are useless, but a bunch of them sure were. (And rude, to boot.) If you are going to deal with an agent, read their blogs, tweets, and reviews from other authors.
  4. Myth: A traditional publisher will take care of the marketing of my book.

    Reality: Very briefly, and only if your book has a high profit potential. You will have the attention of the Promotions Department for a very short time before they move on. After that, it’s pretty much all up to you. They want you to have your own website, a bunch of followers and engagement on social media, etc. Big promotional budgets push big authors to make them bigger, not to lesser-known authors to take a blind stab at minimal profit.
  5. Myth: I suck at book marketing, so I’ll simply outsource all of that ballyhoo to someone else.

    Reality: If you have a big bag of money, this can work. Advertising is expensive and requires experimentation and data. Getting someone else to do it for you, someone who knows how to do it well, will cost you in a big way. Most books don’t make enough to justify that kind of outlay on spec. Instead, you’re probably going to have to learn how to do that shit you don’t want to do all by your lonesome.
  6. Myth: To write in any genre, you must be familiar with many books in the same genre. Don’t write in a genre you don’t read!

    Reality: If you read a few of the best-loved books that are on point for the genre, you’re on the right track. No need to go so deep you put off writing your books forever. Yes, romance readers will be furious if your protagonists don’t get their happily ever after. But you knew that after reading one or two samples. What’s more important is that you grasp the essentials of storytelling. If you understand narrative structure and dramatic tension, you’re most of the way there already. Good stories are good stories. Don’t listen to the gatekeepers who insist you’re not qualified until you fulfill their ridiculously long list of arbitrary essentials.
  7. Myth: Write what you know.

    Reality: Write what you care about. If we only wrote what we knew, the field of science fiction wouldn’t be a field. It would be a small patch of bare dirt.
  8. Myth: Readers demand happy endings.

    Reality: Readers don’t know what they want until you give it to them. I like surprising endings, but conclusions need to be logical and, in retrospect, inevitable. Give them a happy ending if it fits your worldview and the story. I don’t necessarily do happy endings every time, but I always strive to provide a satisfying ending. Don’t try to shove a square peg into a radiator. (See? Surprise!)
  9. Myth: If an agent or publisher contacts me, I’ll accept that deal. Where do I sign? I’m on my way!

    Reality: I was contacted by an agent and a publisher. Then…crickets. Proposals don’t just go through people. They go through committees. An accountant may be blocking your route to publication. That breeze filling your sails might be pushing you onto the rocks. It’s not a done deal until you sign on the dotted line. Agents and publishers may express interest, but that doesn’t mean anything until it really means something.
  10. Myth: A publisher is a publisher.

    Reality: They aren’t all created equal. Some masquerade as publishers, but they’re really vanity presses. Some may call themselves publishers when, in fact, they’re in the book formatting and uploading business. Also, sad to say, you as an author are not guaranteed better treatment by either a large or small press. Integrity, attention to detail, and follow-through depend on the people you’re dealing with, not the size of the firm. Before you commit, read reviews of the company. Cautionary tales abound.

    Bonus: If it’s transparency you’re looking for, nothing beats getting daily sales numbers. That data is what you get when you publish your stuff independently.

    ~ Recently, I wrote 31 Ways We All Fall Down. It’s more advice to writers. Check it out on my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Bullied her whole life, Ovid Fairweather is a book nerd trapped in an apocalyptic New York. With only her dead therapist to guide her, this survivor will become a queen.

READ ENDEMIC NOW TO DISCOVER THE POWER OF YOUR CURSE

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

Are you ready to fix what’s not working?

Publishing gurus are full of ideas for you. To optimize your sales, they might suggest new covers. They will tell you that your only barrier to startling success is a simple (yet costly) tweak to your book description. Playing with the variables to turn your frown upside down can be exhausting. Maybe you’re burnt out on trying to make Amazon ads pay. Perhaps you’re tired of plugging away at one series. As you’re losing that spark, you’re also afraid of disappointing your dwindling fan base. Why dare to piss off the few people who are still reading your novels?

It’s tough, isn’t it? This is a mean business where attention is fleeting and endlessly fragmented. For instance, I enjoyed watching the first few seasons of Cobra Kai. Now? I can’t bring myself to give it another go. Some things just overstay their welcome, you know?

We’re wired to be alert for whatever’s new. That’s not always a bad thing. If your writing business strategy isn’t paying off as much as you need or want, doing something new may be your answer. Let’s talk about switching lanes, when to do it, and why.

How do we adapt? Consider these questions:

  • To you, what is success? To you (not your parents or partner) what is failure?
  • By whatever metric you use, what’s working for you?
  • What isn’t working for you?
  • Have you tested your assumptions?
  • Have you played with the variables to identify how you could make things better?
  • Are you willing to get rid of what isn’t working?
  • Are you willing to do more of what is working?
  • What might work that you haven’t tried yet?
  • Are you willing to try that new thing?
  • Before you chase after the shiny new idea, have you completed the projects that were once so shiny and new just?
  • Have you identified the pros and cons of a new strategy (e.g. switching genres)?
  • Have you identified your costs?
  • What’s the cost-benefit ratio of this strategy change?
  • How much money do you need to ensure your needs being met?
  • How much more money do you need to pay for your wants?
  • Do you have the resources, technical know-how, coaching, mentor etc., to make this change?
  • Whatever you work on takes the money and time. Does that feel like an investment or just money spent?
  • Is the new strategy worth the mental health or time toll it will require?
  • Is it inertia, stubbornness, or fear that’s keeping you chained to what’s not working?
  • What’s the worst that could happen?
  • What’s the best that could happen?
  • Is the new project a passion, an excuse, or an escape?
  • What makes your new approach significantly different from old projects that failed?
  • Are you happy or excited to make this new commitment? Or does thinking about it make you want to go back to bed? (If you’re cuddling a teddy bear right now, you may not be ready to make any changes yet.)

Here’s the mean trouble in deep water:

Ideas are cheap and easy to come by. Many great ideas are never implemented. Change can be an exciting challenge or scary. It’s up to each of us how to frame what lies ahead.

I’m rooting for you. If I’ve ruined your day, sorry. Maybe go back to bed and maybe think on these questions some more after a nap?

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I write apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers. FInd the links to all my books on my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Here’s the latest review of Endemic (below):

A Passive Double Aggressive Thriller

I am impressed; I read this book in an all night marathon, I couldn’t put it away. Well written, recommended and totally different from most apocalyptic stories. The protagonist stands out and as the story progresses I found myself wanting to roar with each triumph as she succeeds against her antagonists. And an A-plus as a darn good how-to survival story.

AuroraWolf a Literary Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy

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

For Anyone Who Has Been Pushed Around

Writing book descriptions is difficult, especially when your novel crosses genres. Mix apocalyptic and literary, for instance, and you’ve got a marketing problem. (And by you I mean me.)

Boil any premise down to its bare bones and it often sounds ridiculously stupid. You’ve seen the meme for The Wizard of Oz? Girl gets swept up in a tornado and kills a witch. Meets three strangers and goes off to kill again. How about Iron Man? Rich dude becomes a turtle to save the world repeatedly. Or The Metamorphosis: Salesman wakes up to discover he’s transformed into a cockroach. Nothing else much happens.

Endemic is set in a decaying New York after multiple rounds of the viral apocalypse have ravaged the United States. To cater to certain genre expectations, I gave readers the broad brushstrokes. Survivalists who respond to the title will get some tips they’ll like. Decoy gardens, solar stills, and compost toilets will intrigue that group of readers. But it goes much deeper than survivalist tips and doomsday prepper fantasies. The subtitle is Within Each of Us, A Power and a Curse.

Though Endemic is a dystopian novel, what’s it really about?

Amid the action, this is a deeply psychological novel. It’s about getting bullied and standing up to bullies. Ovid Fairweather is a highly sensitive person, an introverted book editor unsuited to dealing with marauders. And yet, with the help of her dead therapist, she grows and changes. She becomes a survivor thanks to her quirks, her strange obsessions, and the voices in her head. What’s her power and her curse? Memory. It’s the basis for all her regrets and all her potential.

Ovid has almost as much trouble with her abusive father as she does with the meanies out to steal her food. Several readers have contacted me to say (a) they love the novel, and (b) it reminded them of when they, too, were bullied. Resonance is great, but it’s not always comfortable. Events beyond her control force Ovid to adapt. In these troubled times, that’s a challenge we all face no matter who we are.

Writing Endemic was therapeutic for me. Through fiction, I got the weight of real angst and anger off my chest. That may not be what the survivalists who read apocalyptic fiction came for, but I’m betting the larger audience will dig it. (I’ve played this balancing act before in This Plague of Days, AFTER Life, and Amid Mortal Words.)

If you want great ROI your accountant will respect, write a long series to a particular niche with consistent and narrow branding on your graphics. That’s a more dependable approach to the business of writing. Alternatively, you could write across genres, defy expectations, and write a standalone book. It’s riskier, but I’m glad I did it. Your mileage may vary.

For anyone who has ever been pushed around.

Against those who do the pushing.

The DEDICATION of ENDEMIC

Filed under: Genre fiction, writing, writing advice, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What We Don’t Know

Have you gathered all your tax receipts yet? I recorded all my expenditures as I made them in 2021, so this should be the easiest tax prep yet. Last year, we had to chase our accountant to do his job, but that’s a long story about frustration. Short story: We’re getting a new accountant.

Today’s brief post isn’t really about taxes. It’s about what we don’t know. I’ve always used an accountant because tax law is far too complicated (by design, depending on where you live). For instance, I don’t know what the latest mileage allowance is. I could look it up, but what about the deductions or pitfalls I might miss? Hiring a professional eases my mind because I don’t know what I don’t know. There’s no shame in ignorance as long as you learn or compensate.

We don’t know what we don’t know.

When you’re outsourcing work for your writing business, keep that adage in mind. My editor is far more versed in the many subtle nuances of comma placement. She’s taught me a few things (which I promptly forgot). Instead of trying to know everything, I rely on her encyclopedic knowledge of The Chicago Manual of Style. She knows her stuff inside and out and having her on my side eases my stress.

(FYI: Looking for a great editor? Email Gari at editor@strawnediting.com.)

It’s a popular (and damaging) myth that self-publishers do it all themselves. For many of us, our editorial pipeline resembles what you might expect of a traditional publisher. With the use of beta reading teams, some authors’ editorial process is superior to trad pubs. This is especially true after all the cuts to editorial budgets among traditional publishers.

Some readers and writers are stuck in the inertia of old biases. Detecting our own ignorance is the beginning of wisdom.

What work do you outsource?

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I write apocalyptic epics with heart and killer crime thrillers with muscle. Find links to all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

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

Authors versus Our Demons

If you overcome your demons and publish, more demons await. Keep these 70 pithy tips in mind when the unholy fanged ones come for you:

  1. Write for a particular person or write for yourself. Just choose the right audience.
  2. Some go to the drugstore for coconuts. Ignore them. Write for people who read your genre.
  3. When you give away free books, some readers who would never read your genre will snap it up. Lower ratings often ensue.
  4. Write for people who actually like to read. (Yes, there are posers.)
  5. Feedback from chosen supporters is helpful. Not all supporters can help in a measurable way, but boosting your morale counts, too.
  6. A slim minority of reviewers think snark is sport and heckling is intelligence. They’re mistaken, but who’s going to convince them otherwise? They’ll only know if they ever dare to write their own book.
  7. Listen to your editor and yourself, not every voice in your writing group. Do not write by committee.
  8. Occasionally, a craptacular troll will grab at you from beneath a bridge. Burn that bridge. Block and move on.
  9. Getting bad reviews may mean something is off, but it’s also quite possible someone outside your target audience found you. Congratulations! Your advertising campaign is reaching a wider audience!
  10. Some reviewers are unhappy. They will project that state on you. When you check their other reviews and discover they hate just about everything, that’s a clue.
  11. Do not outsource your self-esteem to strangers on the internet.
  12. Fame is fickle, fleeting, and sometimes fantastic. Enjoy it while it lasts, even if you’re only famous in small circles.
  13. Have teachers and follow good examples. Do not have heroes. Failing that…
  14. Do not meet your heroes. (They’re only human, and sometimes worse.)
  15. Be real about your fiction. Is it the best you could do? Are you improving? Is it close enough to your vision to be released? Do you need to give it a rest or do another draft?
  16. If you’re stuck, what’s holding you back? Dig deep. (No, deeper than that.)
  17. Do you have a dated idea of how modern fiction should sound? Develop your style and chase what compels you. Is your self-confidence so low that you’re emulating the writing style of a British nobleman from the 1800s?
  18. Aim for excellence, not perfection. Perfectionism is self-loathing in coveralls. It’s also an active form of procrastination. It may look like you’re doing something, but really, you’re just looking busy. Checking out The Huffington Post again is not writing. Wordle is not writing.
  19. Some readers will make unwarranted assumptions about you based on what you write. Don’t let that deter you from communing with whatever muse moves you.
  20. Some readers look down on certain genres without reading your work or even knowing those genres. Allow them every bit of respect you would give to an amateur pharmacist wielding a rusty syringe.
  21. Some readers have fixed and/or dated ideas about certain grammar rules. “Sentence fragments aren’t sentences!” (We know.) “You can’t start a sentence with but!” (But you can.) That’s all between you and your editor.
  22. Language isn’t static. It’s fluid. Rigidity is a sign of death. If you want to put a new spin on an old phrase, I’m all for it.
  23. Giddy and high on caffeine, you’ll put little Easter eggs in your work, alluding to other stuff you’ve written. You’re the only one who will ever know. That’s okay. You’re enjoying the creative process.
  24. You will occasionally repeat yourself. That’s not the catastrophe some think it is. Don’t repeat yourself within one book, but seriously, how many themes did Kurt Vonnegut really have? One? (That being: Dammit, I wish we were more kind to each other.)
  25. “It’s been done,” is a weak objection. Everything has been done. It’s all about execution.
  26. Novelists get paid for communicating stories from our imaginations with clarity. If you aren’t putting a movie in their heads, your writing isn’t clear enough yet.
  27. Some (well, many) readers won’t follow you on that journey. That’s okay. There are still plenty of willing voyagers in your target market.
  28. Good writers will always have their detractors. Great writers, even more so.
  29. Bad readers aren’t an excuse for writers to get lazy.
  30. Huge fan bases aren’t an excuse for writers to become lazy.
  31. In writing a novel, there is no easy way out. The way out is through, ass in chair, composing like Time itself does not exist.
  32. Some readers will say your work “could have been so much better” or, “I would have done XYZ with that premise.” You liked that plot enough to spend a hefty chunk of your life writing it and publishing it. Meanwhile, the most those people have written is probably a paragraph or two of a hypercritical review. Why give their judgment more weight than yours? Have they earned that from you?
  33. If someone tells you to write “high literature” instead of to genre, you could say a lot of mean things. “I’d prefer to write something that pays” is kind of clever and more subtle. Or how about, “See my nose? See how it’s not in your business? Isn’t that cool?”
  34. You don’t have to be polite to someone who is rude to you.
  35. Some stranger may try to insinuate himself or herself into your process. Develop an inner circle of trusted readers who can fill that role.
  36. A typo will slip through. Do not panic. I repeat, DO NOT PANIC!
  37. We don’t make it on our own. We develop and depend upon trusted advisors, beta readers, editors, graphic designers, and fans. We are grateful.
  38. #37 doesn’t mean you owe everyone your time and attention equally. The fantasy that the customer’s always right has been taken way too far.
  39. Naturally, some criticism will be valid and well-intentioned. (That’s especially appreciated when it comes at you privately. Thank them for their thoughts.)
  40. You and the demons know when feedback is weaponized, so let’s not pretend.
  41. As a novelist, you write about conflict all the time, so you already know some people are just dumb and mean. “Developing a thick skin” is bullshit. Don’t buy into the idea that you shouldn’t have legitimate human reactions to aggressive nonsense.
  42. Knowing all this, it takes hubris and chutzpah to put yourself out there and publish. Be proud you dare to defy demons, those many within and those few without.
  43. There are many variables to success and you cannot control all variables. Spin the dials on what you can control.
  44. Many people will tell you they’ll buy your book. Most of them are just trying to be nice as they motor on about their day.
  45. You won’t get all the reviews you expected. Ask for more. Expect fewer.
  46. If you gift someone a book, don’t mention it afterward. If they like it, they’ll tell you. Otherwise, you’re giving out homework and quizzing them. Nobody likes tests and you definitely won’t like their answers.
  47. You will be shocked and envious at the success of authors whose work you consider inferior. Keep that shit to yourself, or at least between you and your therapist.
  48. If self-published, those unfamiliar with the battlefield will be aghast that you “aren’t properly published.”
  49. Stay in the game long enough and a traditional publisher may hit you up. SP is okay. Going hybrid or trad can be okay, too. Your dad won’t understand if you don’t jump at the chance to go with New York, but that’s fine. He sold furniture for a living, not books.
  50. Someone in your family will ask, “You write a lot. Shouldn’t you be rich and famous by now?” (Possible answer: “I don’t know, Gary. You buy all those tickets. Weren’t you supposed to win the lottery by now?” Fuckin’ Gary.)
  51. Checking your sales stats several times a day will not increase your sales.
  52. The 80/20 Rule rules.
  53. You may have to abandon a series. If it’s not worth the effort, accept that fact and be brave enough to let go. Some readers may experience a few moments of disappointment. Is that really worth your opportunity cost and the time and money it takes to put out a book you’re sure won’t pay off?
  54. Never share how much money you did or did not make off a book. For somebody, your answer will spur them to shout “Too much!” or “Not enough!” You’ll feel bad for the rest of the day, or possibly for the remainder of the decade.
  55. Someone may embarrass you by asking, “I picked up your book while it was free. Was that worth it to you?” (Possible answer: “Depends. Did you enjoy it and leave a happy review? Or are you trying to make me feel bad?”)
  56. Sometimes you’ll get probing questions that aren’t anybody’s beeswax. The inquisitors aren’t trying to be mean. They are virgins fantasizing about writing their own book one day and they want the inside scoop.
  57. Virgins think there’s a lot of inside scoop. Not really!
  58. When a well-meaning person says they downloaded your book when it was a free promotion, others within earshot will titter because they don’t understand the reasons for free promotions. Yes, you will want to murder them all for mocking what they perceive as your failure. You probably won’t kill them, though. Coward.
  59. Treasure the people who treasure you.
  60. Don’t exhaust yourself trying to be all things to all people. Demons don’t go after people pleasers so much, but energy vampires feast upon them.
  61. Respect the opinions of those who don’t treasure you. They might have a point. You don’t have to hang out with them, though. Save that trial for Hell.
  62. Writing and publishing is work. Sometimes it will be hard, but you can do difficult things.
  63. You wrote yourself into a corner and don’t know how to make a smooth escape for your protagonist. You don’t have to chuck it all or retreat 50 pages. Take a walk, give it a rest, and the answer will come. You wrote yourself into that predicament. Write your way out.
  64. Guard your energy. Protect your peace. Put a moat and barbed wire around your writing time.
  65. Set out each day to write a book that will entertain brains, melt faces, and make the reader remember your story. Create joy and do so joyously. If you’re having fun, your target reader will have fun.
  66. Though writing sessions can begin as a grudging grind, something’s amiss if it remains a slog. Maybe alpaca wrangling really is for you. Or maybe you need a break, a fresh approach, or a new story. Give it a good think before you google alpaca ranches in Montana.
  67. Not everyone shares or even understands our obsessions. This is difficult when your loved ones don’t support your dreams. If you can’t afford the surgery to get your husband a personality transplant, find a writing buddy who gets it. Your spouse may become more interested when you pay for takeout with your book earnings. Or you could drown the filthy bastard. Up to you.
  68. Believe in the value of your work. However, don’t chain your value as a human being to a manuscript. In the end, it’s just a book. It’s not your life. Your legacy comes from how others feel when you engage them.
  69. Look forward, knowing in your heart that the next book will be even better. Be the badass who tells jokes, fills minds, and touches souls.
  70. You’re daring to accomplish what many only dream of doing and I love you for it. Keep writing.

Here’s the latest:

Endemic: mybook.to/MakeEndemicGoViral
Our Alien Hours: mybook.to/OurAlienHours

Filed under: publishing, writing advice, , , , , , , , ,

http://mybook.to/OurZombieHours
A NEW ZOMBIE ANTHOLOGY

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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