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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

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, , , , , , , ,

Writing Easy, Advertising Hard

Authors, be especially careful with advertising your books at this time. It’s the Christmas season, so every writer, particularly those with deep pockets, is flogging their wares. I was about to put up another Amazon ad for my latest book. Then I looked at the suggested bids and, boy howdy, I was discouraged from even running that experiment. The suggested bids were simply too high. You don’t have to go with the suggested bids, of course. However, cut down too much and your ad will be invisible.

Depending on the popularity of your genre, you may find it takes way too much money to

(a) get your ad delivered at all, and

(b) make a profit on the sale.

Watch your math and consider saving your advertising dollars for the new year rather than competing head to head with Big Trad.

I have changed my advertising strategy and returned to experiments with to Facebook. My experience with Facebook was that they can burn through your advertising budget very quickly.

Please keep in mind, no advertising strategy is safe enough to gamble on set it and forget it.

However, I do like the granular targeting I can do with Facebook. With a keen eye for monitoring the ad spend, I’m hoping to find new readers for Endemic.

UNIVERSAL LINK TO YOUR AMAZON STORE:
mybook.to/MakeEndemicGoViral

What happens if the pandemic never ends?

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. Check out all my apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers on my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

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

The ProWritingAid Premium Lifetime Deal

ProWritingAid Lifetime Premium Membership is 55% off for a few days. It’s a Black Friday thing. No app can replace a good human editor yet, but using this could help you improve your writing (and make your editor’s life easier).

To analyze your writing from all angles (and get quite a deal), here’s the link:

https://prowritingaid.com/en/Landing/Promotion/L6d90

Filed under: Editing, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dexter, My Panic Attack, and You

Michael C. Hall is reprising his most famous role in Dexter, New Blood. That this limited series is back is remarkable. The original series ended in 2013 and it did not end well. A bit about that, then let’s talk about The Bounce and how it applies to you and me.

In 2013, I listened to a podcast that was all about Dexter. This pod went deep, right down to the music cues. This was for hardcore fans who obviously loved the series. Most viewers agree that the show peaked at the end of the season with John Lithgow (no spoilers here.) This podcast was for fans who stuck with it to the bitter end. Count me among that hardy crew of diehards.

That so stipulated, the podcast had two letters shows wherein fans wrote to express their final thoughts. The overwhelming evidence was that most people were terribly disappointed. Let’s be real about this: endings are hard.

Evidence

  1. Kim’s Convenience’s end was anticlimactic and seemed mostly pointless, as if they didn’t know what to do with it. And don’t get me started on the end of the second-last season, where I thought my TV cut out prematurely.
  2. The Sopranos end is memorable for the wrong reasons. I thought the bartender Tony beat up several times should have come back to kill him for personal beef, not mob business. That end seems fitting since he was such a shitty person.
  3. Breaking Bad was fantastic, but they missed an opportunity when he meets his end without ever sampling his own product. That’s my only complaint there.
  4. I didn’t see the final season of Game of Thrones for a while. I heard it was terrible. When I finally did see it, honestly, I couldn’t figure out what everyone was complaining about. Was the end really that bad. I found it quite consistent. It seems bad is the consensus since so many fans have disavowed it and GOT disappeared from pop culture so thoroughly.
  5. How I Met Your Mother met with outrage at the end. They tried something and I applaud the experiment. The problem with the execution was it was a comedy that managed to land as a downer rather than achieving romance. That’s not why fans tuned in for so many years.

    Let’s first acknowledge there is such a thing as toxic fandom. If you’ve written a book, eventually some reviewer who thinks they’re helpful will try educate you on how you should have done it better. Even though the longest thing they ever wrote was three paragraphs of a sour review, they’re very confident they could have saved you if only they’d sat on your shoulder and told you what to do. Note to those reviewers: better not to do that. Like it or don’t like it. Write your own. You’ll probably find it’s not as easy as you think.

The Triumph of Hope Over Experience

Most famously, the fans brought Star Trek back to become a fantastic franchise with so many iterations it’s a disappointment again. Firefly returned as a movie because fans campaigned for it. It is generally acknowledged that the space western got short shrift from network execs who couldn’t find their ass with both hands. Similar story with Family Guy. The network canceled the series, but after three million DVD sales, brought it back to great success. FOX cancelled twenty-nine other shows in the meantime, so when it came back from its hiatus, Family Guy mocked them for it. Twenty-nine! The Winston Churchill joke comes to mind: “You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing after they’ve tried everything else.”

Finding the Way Back

The return of Dexter is a little different from other risings from the grave. They’re coming back to fix it. The final episode was so ill-conceived and ill-received, it was not relegated to the dustbin of TV trivia. It failed so hard, they’re getting another kick at the can. That’s what I call The Bounce. And you know what? It’s a good thing. We can learn from this,

I know it can be frustrating to see old ideas get recycled. It often seems like there are no original ideas in Hollywood. Perhaps your book should be made into a movie or a popular TV series. I know several of my books deserve to be made into films to stir the soul and make boffo box office. However, Dexter was very good before it went sour and it was always watchable. It’s taken a weird circuitous route to get to this place, but I think it deserves another chance to entertain us. Let’s be happy about it. Skepticism is understandable, but cynicism isn’t fun and hey, stay real. The stakes are low.

I miss Dexter living in Miami. I miss Angel Batista being sweet and kind and utterly oblivious to Dexter’s serial killer ways. Masuka was hilarious as comic relief in the original series. But there are new and fun characters to enjoy in this new iteration. I’m glad Dexter is back, and I enjoyed the first episode.
Welcome back, buddy!

What does The Bounce have to do with us?

As writers, you are the studio. If a book fails, you can kill the series or resurrect it in a new iteration. You have the freedom to edit it again, to add or delete chapters, to relaunch it. You don’t have to appeal to a network or suck up to a committee. You’re free to bounce back as many times as you can stand.

Last night, I had a panic attack. Those Bookbub ads I was experimenting with only worked on the first-in-series of AFTER Life, the one I give away for free. Three or four problems hit me all at once and I spiraled down. I couldn’t catch my breath. Caught up in catastrophizing, I felt like I was drowning and maybe dying.

This morning, I’m back to writing. I’m in NaNoWriMo and the word count is on track. I’m happy with what I’m creating. I am committed to bouncing back.

Lots of things fall apart for many reasons. You can’t control all the variables that lead to failure or success. As a writer, you are positioned to steer your own ship. If you steered into the rocks, you can fix the hull or jump onto another ship. It’s okay. We’re going to be okay.

The old joke is that a second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience. Art is a different story. Every book launch is full of hope. Every writer tends some small fire that signals they’ll “make it” (whatever that means to you.)

Make art. Just make art. Try not to panic.

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

Writing Fairweather and Foul

I recently received the most aggressive fortune in a fortune cookie ever: For a good cause, wrongdoing may be virtuous (pictured). Sums up a lot of fiction, doesn’t it? It spoke to a central question in my newest big book, though! (See below. Oh, and by the way, Endemic is FREE today, Tuesday, November 2, 2021!)

How good does the cause have to be? How bad can I be?

Papa, Don’t Preach

In fiction, themes and messages are best when they emerge from the narrative organically. If a writer sets out to create a message from the beginning, it might turn into a lecture rather than a story. Readers want to be entertained. Don’t write fiction to teach them something. Set out to discover something.

Why Endemic?

Someone asked me why my latest novel is called Endemic. There are layers;

  1. Of course, when a pandemic doesn’t go away, the disease becomes endemic. That’s the broad stroke of world-building and the basis of my novel.
  2. Ovid Fairweather, the protagonist of Endemic, is neurotic and nerdy. A former book editor, she gets into urban farming to survive the viral apocalypse. She’s a very unlikely heroine who has conversations with her dead psychotherapist. To defend herself, she commits violent acts. A conflicted soul, she wonders if her capacity to do the things she does was dormant, waiting to emerge her entire life. Was her violent nature endemic? Was it learned? Or was it merely a reaction to terrible circumstances?
  3. So, was Anne Frank right? Are people basically good? And if they aren’t, can they be redeemed? What actions are required to achieve redemption? Who dictates which transgressors can be forgiven? What punishments await sinners? If a trait is endemic, can we change?

Disaster stories and horror are most interesting, not for the disaster itself, but how people react to circumstance. Can we come together or will it always be “every man for himself”? Human nature is fascinating. That’s the exploration boiling underneath all the plot, witty dialogue, and action.

Going Deeper than Good or Bad

There’s a common mistake anyone can fall into. It’s the notion that everyone is either all good or all bad. If they agree with you, they’re geniuses. If they mostly agree, but don’t use your phrasing, they’re idiots you need to educate. Cultural divides don’t get bridged that way.

In real life, people often have a hard time with others. When we find out heroes who champion our cause are flawed, we’re sorely disappointed. There are still plenty of people who don’t want to hear that Mother Teresa was for suffering or that their favorite Hollywood star treats the help horribly.

In fiction, we try to avoid portraying protagonists as flawless. Flawless is boring, so readers appreciate characters who are not paragons of virtue 24/7/365. Common tropes support the detective who has seen too much, so she drinks too much. The serial killer may be evil, but as long as Dexter likes kids and kills serial killers, we’re rooting for him to get away with his crimes.

When you write your novel, you want your characters to be relatable. Readers want someone to like. Avoid writing characters who are so perfect no one can dislike them. That character may be likable, but the story will have less conflict and end up being boring.

Ovid Fairweather is perhaps my most conflicted character yet. The past haunts her. She isn’t sure whether she’s the heroine or the villain. I’m confident most readers will root for her even as she waffles and worries. She is quirky and neurotic so Ovid has a lot of challenges to rise above, just like the rest of us.

Find out for yourself here

I was a nail. I am a hammer.

As the United States falls to disease, killers and thieves rule New York. Bookish, neurotic, and nerdy, Ovid Fairweather finds herself trapped in the struggle for survival. 

Bullied by her father, haunted by her dead therapist, and hunted by marauders, Ovid is forced to fight.

With only the voices in her head as her guides, an unlikely heroine will become a queen.

Fun, surprising, and suspenseful, Endemic is the new apocalyptic novel from the author of Citizen Second Class, This Plague of Days, and AFTER Life.

BEGIN YOUR NEXT BINGE READ

and

DO YOUR CHRISTMAS SHOPPING HERE.

~ For all my apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers, please do visit my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

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

The Real Writing Life

To be an author requires a lot of patience and not a little audacity. You spend many hours working alone, charting your own course and assuming someone will want your art. Of course, to bring your creation to market, you’ll need help from editors, proofreaders, beta readers, and graphic artists. I’m speaking here of all the time you face the blinking cursor and the blank page. I was reminded this week of the joys and frustrations of sailing solo.

The Obstacles in Your Way

The Movies That Made Us (on Netflix) has a great behind-the-scenes breakdown of what it took to get Elf made. When the primaries were brought together to create a modern Christmas classic, none of them were considered bankable. Even Will Ferrell wasn’t considered leading man material. The amazingly talented director, Jon Favreau, wasn’t money yet. The writer was unknown, but what they did have was vision. Film is a collaborative medium, and in this case, the creative team were all on the same page. It was the studio that stood in the way, even going so far as to try to edit it down to something it wasn’t. The higher-ups just didn’t “get it.”

Fortunately, a more ambitious artistic vision won out over the cynical studio execs. Favreau’s vision won out and commerce was served without compromising a film with real heart. Working by committee is difficult. Hollywood is full of stories of great scripts that got squashed, derided, or ignored for years before somehow making it to the screen and becoming a triumph. There’s a great book titled Afterwards, You’re a Genius. Looking back, everybody says, “Of course, it’s a success!” Going forward, people aren’t so sure.

Do anything, and plenty of naysayers will emerge to helpfully inform you what you’re attempting won’t work. Often, the people who say they’d do it differently don’t do anything at all. Sometimes I wonder how anything great makes it to the big screen.

And then there’s Paterson

The tiniest movie I’ve watched in a long time is Paterson, starring Adam Driver. It’s so low-key, you’ll watch it thinking, Where is this going? It’s a small, meditative film that flirts with the surreal. It’s a fairly uneventful week in the life of a bus driver who loves poetry. That’s it. No explosions. No action sequences. I can’t even say there’s a plot per se. However, it does have charm, and it offers an experience where the quotidian is the point. If you’re a Fast & Furious devotee, you might find this one soporific. I found something to love, though.

First, it’s kind of amazing this movie exists. No matter how small the movie is, big money and an army of participants are needed. Remember when a movie only required one production company? Now, movies are so expensive, I get tired and irritated just slogging through the opening credits as we get a slew of title cards and logos. (For example: A production of A Working Title Films, in association with Armchair Studios, a film by Lawrence Blahdiblah, with Fade in Innovators, and The Super8 Incubator and oh my God, get to it, I’m already out of popcorn!)

Second, Paterson is about an artist trying to create while dealing with the day-to-day struggle to survive. He writes poetry for the experience itself. Money must be made, and that’s what the day job is for. However, passions must be fostered and he draws on the mundane to create something beautiful.

The bus driver steals precious moments from the beginning of his shift to jot down a few lines in his notebook. His partner stays at home, painting everything while dreaming of becoming a country music star who’s also hoping to become a cupcake entrepreneur. The bartender aspires to win a chess tournament while a rapper works on spitting rhymes in a laundromat.

Meeting the rapper, the bus driver looks around the empty laundromat and says, “This is your lab?”

“Wherever I am,” the rapper replies, “that’s where it happens.”

That’s the creative spirit, always on duty, always practicing and perfecting, taking in everything to feed the muse.

Despite the surreal undertones, Paterson does not happen in an alternative universe. This is the world of any artist in our world. We create because something within urges us to do so. Most of those efforts will go unheralded. There is only one Jon Favreau, but we’re all out here, doing our thing. Most of us couldn’t tell you why. We just love words and stories. We’re trapped in the amber of the everyday, but we dream of more. We create worlds.

This sounds like a romantic notion, but it’s not. Yesterday, I completed final edits on my next big book. I think I’ve created an apocalyptic classic in Endemic (to be released early November). At 390 pages and 100,000 words, it’s an ambitious story about a neurotic book nerd facing down marauders in a plague-ravaged New York City. I was elated to send out the ARCs and excited to finally get the graphics set up for the hardcover and paperback. This has been two years in the making, so I could barely contain myself as my ARC team replied with their excitement and congratulations.

Pop the champagne, right? Um, no.

While still in the throes of self-congratulation, I had to go get winter tires on my car. Due to a miscommunication on my part, my son had taken the car to work. I stepped onto an empty driveway and panicked a little. I had to run to his workplace to pick up the car. Meanwhile, my laptop has failed and my desktop is iffy, too, so I’m struggling with how to afford to buy a new dream machine.

And that, my friends, is the writing life. Toil in obscurity, do the dishes, get your ass back in the chair in front of the keyboard. Maybe you’ll win an award, but that’s one night and then it’s back to work. Maybe you’ll make it big and have assistants to fetch you scones and coffee one day, but probably not. There’s only one Jon Favreau, but there are millions of writers across the world doing their thing because…I don’t know. Just because, man. We have to.

~ Check out my apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers at my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

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

Every Writer Needs a Gari

I’ve taken a bunch of writing workshops, but one thing I learned that I consider most valuable is about managing expectations. A very successful author stood at the front of the room and pulled a manuscript from her bag. The stack of paper bound by rubber bands was replete with Post-It Notes, all corrections from her editor. I don’t know whether it was her line editor or copy editor, but I can tell you the notes were copious, several to a page. That’s normal. Expect problems and recruit more pairs of eyes to comb your manuscript.

When I worked at Harlequin, we had many tiers of editors and proofers working on each manuscript. A few typos and whatnot still slipped through the net. We can aim for excellence, but perfection will always hover just beyond our grasp. You know why? Because we don’t know what we don’t know. Everybody needs a safety net. Whether you pay an editor or recruit a passel of beta readers (preferably both), pobody’s nerfect.

As I write this, I’m going through revisions on two new books (coming soon). I didn’t know the difference between a chartered accountant and a CPA. I didn’t think to check, either. However, my beta reader caught it. He also knew that it’s not restauranteur (with an n). It’s restaurateur. Somebody reading this doesn’t believe me because they, like me, have been spelling it incorrectly their entire lives. (For more on why the n is left out, enjoy this article from Mental Floss.)

Every time I think, Yeah, I’ve gone through the manuscript a few times. Surely, it’s pretty clean. Nope! And why? I’m not careless and I’m not an idiot, but I don’t know what I don’t know. The idiosyncrasies of comma placement often befuddle me. When I read a sentence, sometimes my brain fills in blanks so I miss something that should or shouldn’t be there. I publish in American English, but I sometimes write in Canadian. There are subtle differences and nuances, like whether to write Grade 4, or fourth grade. Some regional or Irish idioms that I grew up with would sound odd and unfamiliar to American readers.

Writing primarily for an American audience, I’ll take something for granted they may not. For instance, I wrote, “She took up after them,” instead of “She took off after them.” To me, took off connotes speed. Took up means the chase is on, but the runner is trailing and not catching up. Once our masterpieces are sanded smooth, readers stumble less. You want an easy glide path into their brains so you can highjack the feed of their consciousness. That’s where recruiting help comes in.

Fortunately, I have Gari Strawn of strawnediting.com on my side. Among Gari’s strengths are her tireless curiosity and a keen eye for details. I also suspect she sleeps with the Chicago Manual of Style under her pillow. She knows things, eases my stress, and allows me to focus on the story.

Confused about when to write a number out or type the numeral? Trained as a journalist, I was stuck in the AP Stylebook mindset until Gari reminded me of CMOS guidelines. Russ, my beta reader, and Gari, my assiduous editor, help to make my work better and clearer. Even Batman had Robin watching his back, so, no, most people cannot reliably edit their own work. Some authors will push back on this idea and say, “I’ve been an editor so I can edit my work.” Put aside the premise that you don’t know what you don’t know. To those writers, I would ask, “Why would you want to work without a net?” Please tell me it’s not pride. Would you rather hear about your misses privately and correct them, or read about them publicly in a negative book review?

Good editors and capable beta readers are out there and they do want to help you. If it’s not an editor, work with other writers. Recruit a team of beta readers. Since I began working with Gari, I’m more confident when I hit that big scary button marked Publish.

Something may still slip through, but that’s the case with every published book. Manage your expectations, strive for excellence, let others help. Expecting perfection is unhealthy and unrealistic, but making your books as wonderful as you can manage is much easier on you in the long-term.

~ I write killer crime thrillers and apocalyptic epics. Get the links to all my work at my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: Editing, Editors, writing advice, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Finding the Genre Vibe

When you’re writing, understand the tropes of your genre even if you don’t adhere to them closely. Lean into those and you’ll make your readers feel comfortable that they’re getting what they expected when they clicked the buy button. It’s a truism: People want the same thing, only different. Avoid cliches, sure, but tropes are often helpful in getting a reader and keeping a reader.

I must admit, I have not always stuck with what’s expected. My two zombie trilogies colored outside the lines. This Plague of Days is vastly different from a lot of books with “Zombie Apocalypse” in the subtitle. It’s a slow burn that builds and builds and relies heavily on supernatural elements and a mute hero on the spectrum. AFTER Life has plenty of zombie action, but the nanotechnology involved places the trilogy firmly in the techno thriller and least science fiction categories.

It may seem simple, but there are plenty of niches to drill down to and you don’t always know. When I published This Plague of Days, I thought I was writing straight horror. Then I got a Bookbub, and their marketing experts helpfully informed me I was writing science fiction. I suspect the success I had with TPOD was in part because of its contrast with other zombie books.

Now, when someone asks, I follow Stephen King’s example and say I’m a suspense writer. Mostly my backlist is suspenseful sci-fi. Other times, it’s crime fiction, but it’s all suspenseful. I’m a big fan of twists and turns. As I write this, my trusty Editrix Supreme, Gari Strawn of strawnediting.com, is working on my newest big book. It’s called Endemic, a survivalist thriller set in New York during the viral apocalypse. It does not have zombies in it, but there are infected people who are zombie-adjacent. The protagonist is a 38-year-old woman who is a very unlikely heroine. I like unlikely protagonists. If someone is prepared for their mission, the stakes are lowered. Will Endemic be different enough, or too different? We’ll see.

In the Meantime

While I wait for the final edits of Endemic, I cranked out a pop-up anthology. There was a time when I thought I was done writing short stories. However, I can produce them quickly and I enjoy writing them. Anthologies don’t sell as well as full novels, but I can use it for other purposes, such as creating an IP that leads to other IPs. Need a reader magnet to boost your newsletter? Short stories can give subscribers a sense of your style without the time commitment of a full free novel.

Leaning In

I’ve been reading a couple of gurus who are very deep into writing the same thing, only different. It can be profitable catering to a particular niche. If you’ve read X author and had a good time, you’ll probably read the rest of her books to get a similarly joyful experience. Browsing around, you’ll find successful authors who do this and their branding shows it. They have no shortage of entertaining stories their readership loves. Perhaps their biggest worry is burnout or that their graphic designer will die and they’ll have to find another who can create the same style of cover art. It is a good strategy and I do not disparage it.

For this coming anthology, I’m doing something I haven’t done before. I’m leaning into the zombie/horror tropes and giving readers more what they expect from the genre. That is not to say there won’t be twists and turns. I still offer plenty of those. However, there are no sci-fi elements. I just want to scare people for Halloween (and beyond).

Meaning

For all my writing, I look for meaning. The characters have to be relatable. Even if the good guys and bad guys are wading into the Wondrous Pool of the Fantastic, it’s important that readers find resonance. We all understand jealousy, anger, and fear. Tapping into our common human experience triggers the empathic parts of our brain. That’s when the world of the book envelops the reader.

You can accomplish that state by telling an entertaining story readers expect, or you can do it while pushing at the boundaries of their expectations. The trick is to do it in such a way that you reel them in instead of freaking them out.

Please note: Some minority of readers will always freak out.

Example: This Plague of Days has zombies and vampires in it. Some readers will never accept those genres colliding. They’ll take zombies, but introduce a smarter bloodthirsty killer, and suddenly they’re breaking the spine of the book and yelling, “Bullshit!” My thought was, what’s a sentient zombie? A vampire. Never mind that evolution, and never mind if you get a few reviewers who kick back against any genre-bending. That’s okay. Everybody gets an opinion. Relax and write your book.

There’s always someone who will say, “I would have done x, y, and zombie differently.” To which I reply, “Great! Go write that. Express yourself! Then somebody can try to educate you as to what they would have done differently. Then you’ll understand me better. Heh-heh-heh!

To put it crudely, meeting reader expectations does not make any writer a hack. Ideas are cheap. It’s the execution of the story you choose to tell that will elevate the work in readers’ minds or fall short of their expectations. I like blowing through their expectations, but it can be fun to play the game within restrictions, too. As Hitchcock said, a limited budget makes one more creative.

Endemic is a big book that will defy expectations because the protagonist is older, nerdy, and neurotic. She and I share several of the same neuroses, in fact. Our Zombie Hours is a small anthology playing to readers’ expectations of the horror genre. I’m oddly optimistic each book will find a readership.

To go deeper on writing, reading, and marketing that resonates with more readers, I suggest you check out 7 Figure Fiction: How to Use Universal Fantasy to Sell Your Books to Anyone by T. Taylor. It’s an enjoyable, quick read that will get you thinking about adding butter to your writing recipe and boost reader engagement with your words.

It’s all about resonance. Do you dig my vibe?

~ Robert Chazz Chute occasionally writes about himself in the third person (like right now) to encourage you to read his books. He writes apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers. Browse them all at his author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: book marketing, This Plague of Days, writing, writing advice, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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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