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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

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, , , , , , , , ,

All of Us Are Wondering

The pandemic has altered our perceptions of what makes society’s gears turn. At their wit’s end, many people are exhausted of the fight against COVID-19. Not all changes are bad. I think the Great Resignation is a hopeful indicator that we’ll see more activism by labor in the future. However, the pandemic has also laid bare ignorance and institutional vulnerabilities. Watching the occupation of Ottawa, multiple failures have given birth to something ugly in the zeitgeist. I guess that ugly subtext was always there, but now that it’s out in the open, I wonder how these grotesqueries will change what we create in the next few years.

In my 20s, a friend often called me Mr. Cynical. After witnessing how a large contingent prizes convenience over the safety of others, I wasn’t cynical enough. A friend once insisted that people would come together in an emergency. Most will answer that call, sure. Others are too selfish to protect the vulnerable. I was cynical, but I did have higher hopes for us. George Carlin nailed it when he said, “Inside every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist.”

What does this mean for writers and readers now?


I have a new book out, and like Endemic, the world at large has influenced my writing.

Our Alien Hours is about how humans react to the arrival of interstellar conquistadors. My editor made an interesting comment. “This is an unusual move for you. It doesn’t offer sunshine and lollipops.” She has a point. I always offer a bit of hope at the end of the journey and there are usually lots of jokes in the mix of action, suspense, and adventure. Always, that is, until Our Alien Hours. Offering too rosy a vision of alien invaders didn’t ring true to the scenario I posed. Resisting attackers who have the technology to cross the galaxy sounded so optimistic it was silly. Getting grim made more sense in this case. It’s that feeling you get when you watch the Korean sensation, All of Us Are Dead: Oh, no! Not her, too!

(Hint: The first episode of All of Us Are Dead is a hurdle, but after that, the series really picks up. They take the zombie genre in unusual directions that will be familiar to lovers of This Plague of Days and AFTER Life. I gotta love that.)

You’ve seen the memes. Does future lit have to be dumber?

“Zombie books of the future must have a scene where people run toward the zombies to get bit as they proclaim it’s all a hoax.” And, “We owe horror movie writers an apology. When the killer is breaking down the front door, a certain percentage of victims will definitely run upstairs instead of out the back door.” Heck, the human inclination to wish our problems away is the whole point of the Oscar-nominated Don’t Look Up! Given all we’ve seen, it’s hard to shake the feeling that plenty of idiots are in charge, or at least our leaders are willing to cave to the mob’s whims.

We want our fiction to ring true, but when there’s no one to cheer for, I’m out. I just don’t care for that at all. As writers, we’re going to have to strike a balance even as we endeavor to provide authenticity and a context of verisimilitude.

Here’s how one franchise failed in my estimation:

I find The Walking Dead‘s tone so relentlessly grim that survival seems pointless. I abandoned watching it because it seemed like so much rinse and repeat. It left me wondering why the survivors were fighting so hard to live since doing so seemed so joyless. There is a follow-up to TWD. It’s basically, TWD, The Next Generation. I couldn’t detect any fun to be had in that enterprise, either.

Train to Busan is brilliant, and the staging makes for an awe-inspiring film. However, if you stretched it over eleven seasons like TWD, it would surely wear out its welcome, too.

What are our options as writers?

Well, we could give in to despair, steer into the skid, and admit that the inspiring utopian Star Trek future we dreamed is beyond our reach. I don’t think that’s the way to go, though. Of course, in horror, readers demand the icy finger of grim reality delivering shivers down their spines. Those readers aren’t looking for Margaret Atwood-level character development from the villain. The maniac who dips his victims in hot wax isn’t that complex or worth knowing beyond a gesture toward a bad childhood. We’re in the entertainment business and that market wants to know how the victims react. Horror villains from Jason to zombies to vampires are rarely real characters. Instead, they usually represent Mortality itself as a force of nature. The entertainment value is measured differently in that genre. We don’t need to know the complexities behind the killer clown in It. We resonate with the kids he drags into the sewers.

Note to all fiction writers about educating readers versus entertaining them! Please, whatever you write, set out to entertain first. If your primary goal at the keyboard is to educate, stick to writing textbooks. Thanks!

Now, where were we?

Next option:

Balance out the horrors of grim reality with happy escapism. Write more romances where quirky people somehow get married to their frenemy accidentally. Ooh, the storm is here, the bridge is out, and golly gee! This romantic little B&B only has one room left and look at that queen-size bed! Romance has always been the most reliable powerhouse of genres. To get us past the pandemic so we finally arrive intact in the New Roaring ’20s, writing fiction that looks the other way is a sure bet. A hundred years from now, if there are any historians left, they won’t be combing old romances for clues to how we dealt with COVID-19. And that’s a good thing. I’m all for getting your comfort wherever you can find it.

Don’t forget hopepunk. It’s not a big genre, probably because it is so difficult to execute with authenticity. Go this way and who knows? To counter the difficulties of the pandemic, it could be the genre that explodes in the next couple of years.

Or, we could reflect reality.

Remember The War of the Worlds, the Tom Cruise movie from 2005? It’s an alien invasion story, but it’s really about how war affects refugees. Both the film and the book explore our foibles, failures, and vulnerabilities. Survival is the goal, but the journey rotates around heroism, family, commitment, and communication.

In Our Alien Hours, I didn’t look away from doom. The book is about communicating the experience of facing death and danger. Heroes and fools both make interesting choices. The phrase “the human condition” has always sounded empty to me, but after writing Our Alien Hours, that’s not true anymore. The outcome may sound grim, but the trip offers noble and true moments as we face mortality together.

My next book will offer more hope for the human race, but it won’t get there dishonestly. Salvation must be earned. I hope by the time I publish my next book, we’ll be at the other end of this pandemic. We have a long way to go yet.

~ Our Alien Hours just launched. For a gritty but not gory alien invasion, you can pick it up here.

For links to all my books, head over to my author page at AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: pandemic, writing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What’s Changed in Publishing and What Hasn’t?

If you’re new or newish to independent publishing, you may wonder how much has changed since the early days. Some things have changed little. Here are a few similarities and a lot of differences between now and a decade ago:

  • Ten years ago, champions and detractors of the movement both called our new outlet self-publishing or indie publishing. Indie creators pointed to filmmakers who also called themselves indie. The cred didn’t transfer well. Now we understand that readers shouldn’t be able to tell the difference between an independently published book and the latest from Simon & Schuster.
  • When KDP was new, we called it the Amazon Gold Rush. As soon as the term was coined, everyone speculated how long it would last. There’s no firm time of death, but it’s definitely been over for a long while.
  • Bookbub promotions were much easier to get. Advertising was generally cheaper, though reach was a bit shorter.
  • More book promotion sites are available now, and their newsletter lists are longer than they used to be. (Search book promo sites and you’ll get a lot of options. e.g. Booksends, Robin Reads, Freebooksy, Bargainbooksy, The Fussy Librarian, Ereader News Today, Kindle Nation Daily, Book Barbarian, Rebel Reads, Books Butterfly, and so on.)
  • We didn’t have Vellum to format books. I even formatted one or two books before Scrivener came along. That was a slog. Vellum makes formatting easy now, but Scrivener also serves as a writing tool and is cheaper.
  • There weren’t as many programs to assist with editing and those that were around weren’t nearly as good as they are now. We still need human editors, but the machines are saving us time with the easy catches.
  • The publishing camps were more entrenched in the old days. You were either indie or you had a contract with trad pub. If you were the latter, you pointedly referred to yourself as a “published author” on social media. There are many more trad-pubbed authors crossing the line to go indie or hybrid now. They figured out it was possible to gain control, make more money, and get more transparency. (No more waiting for incomprehensible sales reports from a publisher twice a year. Now you can get a tally of each day’s sales! Whee!)
  • Agents used to wield more power. Some even made sport of the submissions in their slush piles. Then most realized such denigrating behavior was bad for their business. A lot of would-be authors wised up and stopped being wannabes. Rumors of bad agent behavior get called out quicker and the bad smell lingers.
  • Even though you can hire the same editors and graphic designers who once worked in traditional publishing, there’s still some stench on publishing your own books. Outdated ideas die slowly, usually along with the brains that held those stale ideas.
  • As new publishing developed, a bunch of gurus emerged with plenty of courses to sell. They are not all created equal. Be especially cautious of those who break their arms patting themselves on the back. If they get most of their money from courses instead of selling their own books, that’s a red flag.
  • Organic reach used to be easier. You could sell your old book simply by publishing your new book. A popular blog might be enough to gain sustained attention. Now you’ve got to advertise and promote more. Successful authors tend to have podcasts, eager fans, a fast publishing schedule, and newsletter subscribers to the moon and back.
  • Reviews seem much harder to get these days. (Insert heavy sigh here.)
  • You used to be able to respond to Amazon reviews. Few authors thought it was a good idea to do so, but on those occasions when it seemed necessary, it was nice to have the option.
  • Way back when, we were all convinced a savvy competitor would rise and give better terms than Amazon. It was logical and expected. Didn’t happen.
  • One might assume that non-Amazon platforms would copy their business model because Amazon sells more books. (There are exceptions, mostly dependent on genre. However, for most authors, Amazon income dominates.) Anyway, that didn’t happen. Amazon puts customers over curation. Others still treasure curation, so who you know matters.
  • Draft2Digital has made uploading to multiple sales platforms a breeze. I remember contacting Apple in the early days of the revolution. I asked how to upload a book to their sales platform and their reply could be characterized as both bewildered and useless.
  • Goodreads always had an angry contingent of meanies. The site’s user interface was never intuitive. If they were going to fix those problems, surely they would have by now.
  • Audiobooks were a thing, but they were much less accessible to creators. They are still expensive to produce unless you go DIY. However, the future of audio isn’t just bright. It’s loud. Audiobooks demand less attention. You can do the dishes and listen to an audiobook. That’s why we must make the move to record our books.
  • From my sampling of indie creators, many of us are more professional in our presentation than we used to be. As ever, we hate typos and plot holes. Now we have editorial teams, street teams, and beta readers to help us out. Many books from independent creators have more eyes on the lookout for problems than books created by big publishers. To trim costs, many big publishers purged their editorial departments years ago. That’s often where your skilled freelance workforce comes from.
  • Hardcovers on Amazon are a recent addition. Ingram Spark has some competition is this regard now. Endemic is my first book available in hardcover and it is beautiful!
  • There are plenty of podcasts about books and book publishing now and some are excellent. I miss some of the old ones, though. Old heads will remember Simon Whistler’s pod. The Self-publishing Roundtable and the Self-publishing Podcast are gone. So is the Author Strong podcast. Alas. Good times.
  • Good news: There are so many resources available, we can all improve or maintain our level of skill and professionalism.
  • Bad news: Your parents still wish you’d finished dental school or gone ahead and become a corporate lawyer who hates her job, herself, and everyone else.

What I hope hasn’t changed too much is you.

Learned and grown in the past decade? Of course. But I hope your level of passion for making art with words still burns bright. I hope you still get up each morning eager to entertain, inspire, and inform readers. Artists die, but they don’t stop creating. The connections, wonder, and experiences we share live on. If you’re a writer and you have readers, you’ve got a chunk of immortality.

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

What to do when the wheels fly off

Between illness and trying to bounce back from Amazon sabotaging my book launch, December has been rough. However, I’m making the effort to look on the bright side even when things are damn dark. My outlook tends to be grim and all the news events confirm that bias. However, giving up isn’t an option and pessimism isn’t a great strategy. Optimists may be wrong often, but they get more done so they get more chances to score. In my defense, at least I’m usually funny about my grim worldview. (That’s right, Rob! Sublimate your rage with humor.)

One Quick Parable

I was riding a tandem bike with my wife when the road we were on suddenly turned to dirt and then nothing. Dead end. Trying to find our way back in unfamiliar surroundings, we crossed a large property with a mansion on it. A couple of the curious workers looked at us askance but we pedaled by quickly. Then the bike’s front wheel fell off. One of the seats flew off in the crash, too. My wife and I weren’t really hurt, but we found ourselves lost, far from home, and carrying the parts to a broken bike.

The mansion’s owner came out and asked if we were okay. Then he asked how he could help. I was embarrassed and felt like a trespasser. The homeowner, Cyrus, didn’t treat us that way, though. He must have had better things to do than to cater to a couple of forlorn strangers. Instead of shooing us away, he asked us to follow him to the workshop in his huge garage. Together, we worked on putting the bike back together. That wasn’t what pulled my attention, though. What got me was how relentlessly positive Cyrus was. He was both kind and eager to problem-solve.

And all the while, I thought, I wish I could be more like you, you beautiful sunny bastard.

But I could. It does require forming new habits to rewire my neural network. Fortunately, a full personality transplant isn’t necessary. Mindset sets the tone for whatever comes next.

Unfortunately, cynicism is often associated with intelligence.

Skepticism is valuable, and it’s not the same as cynicism. Being mean isn’t smart and being mean to ourselves is downright dumb. I want to be more like Ted Lasso, but I resonate more with Dexter.

My encounter with Cyrus reminded me of three people. There’s Dan, a friend who seems immune to worry. Wayne was a relentlessly positive guy whose presence elevated everyone around him. Then there was the guy who worked at one of the dining room stations at a resort in Cuba. These are people with genuine smiles who are pretty sure things are going to work out okay. If things don’t work out the way they want, they hold on to their sunny attitudes, secure in the belief they can at least make things better.

I don’t always make things better or easier for myself. Anxiety is always ready in my pocket. What I wrote about Ovid Fairweather in Endemic comes straight out of my brain. “When I say, ‘I love me,’ I mean the opposite.'”

Solutions, not Resolutions

I’m very aware that it’s easy to fall back into my old habits of thinking. Between the pandemic and… (gestures everywhere), I can be downright sour. With Cyrus in mind, I’m working on putting things back together. Recently, I ran into someone else who has a lot of that positive Ted Lasso energy. I need that. Besides continuing to watch Ted Lasso, I have to reinforce my optimism with:

  1. Positive self-talk.
  2. Self-care (e.g. healthier lifestyle, more water and vegetables, exercise).
  3. Interacting with positive people more.
  4. Avoid too much negative reinforcement (AKA the dark side of social media).
  5. Avoid overdosing on the news.
  6. Problem-solving.
  7. Fewer side missions, more purpose.
  8. Setting boundaries so I’m not stuck trying to be rational with irrational people.
  9. Especially avoid comment sections on the internet, because trolls used to live under bridges but now they’re coming for our minds.
  10. Focus on what I can control and letting go of the variables I can’t control.

The wheels flew off my metaphorical bike. I’m not a big believer in New Year’s resolutions, so this is just my commitment. Not for 2022. Right now. Nothing metaphorical about that.

We all pretty much know what to do already. That’s not the challenge. The challenge is to be consistent in the application of what we know.

Filed under: mindset, the writing life, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

When I get up, you better watch out

First comes the whining

Anyone remember the fight music from the original Star Trek? Na-na, na! Na! Na! Na! Na! Na-na, na! Na! That’s the soundtrack in my head right now.

November was about fighting Amazon over an unjust review freeze (see the post How Amazon killed My Book.)

December started with a terrible head cold. The subsequent inner ear infection is persistent and has knocked me flat. I’ve got antibiotics going and I think I might be on the mend, but not nearly fast enough to suit me. As soon as the ear infection clears, I’m off to get my booster in the hope that Omicron won’t kill me. I’ll have to choose which of the remaining days of 2021 I will ruin because, though I’m glad to take the booster, each one has made me achy and shaky for days.

Not going to lie, Amazon tanking the launch of Endemic was a harsh blow. The only terrible event I could compare it to would be losing a complete manuscript.

Then comes the winning. I’m looking at solutions.

  • Endemic‘s launch was sabotaged by its own sales platform, so revenue from my masterpiece must depend on the long tail of retail. It’s disappointing, but I’m pointing my nose forward and refusing to look in the rearview mirror. No point in obsessing over that loss now. There’s too much to do.
  • I joined a mastermind group for writers in 2021. They are a good group. The people are encouraging and supportive. The writing room alone got me writing more and more often. Kind hearts help.
  • I successfully completed NaNoWriMo and have an alien anthology to edit because I harnessed the power of friendly competition, consistency, and metrics.
  • I have plans for a non-fiction podcast with a partner. She’s an expert ghostwriter. I’m there to tell jokes and pick her brain on behalf of the audience. Various tech issues and sickness slowed the start on that podcast. We’ve been thwarted at every turn, but the new year is looking good.
  • I have plans for a fiction podcast I’m excited about.
  • A prequel to This Plague of Days is two-thirds written.
  • I have covers in the chamber ready to fire off more projects.
  • I’m looking forward to getting back to my exercise program and joined an on-line group whose focus is healthy living.

The Gist

I’m going to stop there because I learned my lesson about exhaustive to-do lists in 2020. Too many to-dos and not enough to-don’ts can rob us of focus. Overwhelm is dangerous to productivity.

The Commitment

Years ago, I moved to a new city where I knew no one. I started up a business from a cold start with no clients and no allies. A guy I met my first week in the city made it clear he was skeptical of my prospects for success. He ended his list of my disadvantages with, “Aren’t you afraid?”

“No,” I replied. “I’m excited.” (You dick!)

Once I get past this illness, I’ll get excited again. There’s plenty to do to right my ship. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

http://mybook.to/MakeEndemicGoViral
NEW from ROBERT CHAZZ CHUTE

Filed under: book marketing, , , , , , , ,

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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