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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Art matters. Writing matters. We matter.

Graphic designers make a big difference to readers and the success of authors. A snarky writer once told me I was a hack, too concerned about the look of my book covers. Once.

Everyone else knows, yes, of course we do indeed judge books by their covers.

You can say it shouldn’t matter all you want, but beautiful people and beautiful things get more attention. I won’t find out if you have a great personality and keen intelligence if, when I spot you from across the room, you appear to be surrounded by flies because you’ve rubbed dog feces in your hair. That’s life. That’s science. 

My graphic designer is the brilliant Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com. Check out his portfolio.

Kit is my friend and ally. He helps to make my existence matter. He’s helping me get my message out, subliminal and subtextual. It’s that important. All my books are about escaping who I was. They’re about all of us rising to the higher potential of what we could be. Everything I write is about making our existence — yours and mine — matter. Book covers are the come hither stare that lets me into your brain, to play in the Mindfield, to turn the words, to entertain, laugh and think. That’s what it means and why Art matters.

That’s the why. A book cover with solid art is part of the how.

Here is the new cover for the This Plague of Days, Omnibus Edition. It’s not at all what I pictured for the Omnibus cover. It’s better. I just let Kit do what he does best so I can concentrate on what I do best.

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)

To find out about more about secret video and to get a free ebook with your purchase of the TPOD Omnibus Edition, click here.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute and, even though I occasionally write books with zombies in them, I am not a hack. It’s not the subject matter that makes the hack. It’s a lack of passion. Ultimately, with every twist, turn, joke and murder, I’m writing about me. And you. 

The suspense is in making our existence matter. Can we do it?

We will.

 

Filed under: book marketing, self-publishing, This Plague of Days, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This Plague of Days: How I sold my autistic zombie apocalypse through serialization PART 1

This week, I’m making This Plague of Days a case study for those interested in drilling deep. This will be a series of blog posts about strategies, platforms and book marketing: what worked, what hasn’t worked, what won’t and what might. I hope it helps you to sell your books, if only by avoiding my errors.

Topics will include various format releases, selling in different ways, pricing and publicity. You’ll find out how This Plague of Days became a bestseller (in its teeny-tiny category) and the ways in which I’ve failed miserably. I’ll also hit on how my strategy is changing for the conclusion of This Plague of Days. Season 3 comes out this spring. I’m always experimenting, looking for new and different ways to reach readers and make them happy. Sometimes what I thought was the wide road to glory turned into a goat path into a dead-end. As always, I’ll be honest about it.

On sale now for just $2.99. I mean, c'mon!On sale until Feb. 1, 2014 for just $2.99. I mean, c’mon!

HOW I LAUNCHED THE SERIAL

My strategy for launching This Plague of Days, Season One was to put the whole ebook out first. I waited a week. The sky didn’t shatter with raging need for my latest contribution to suspense and horror literature. Then, over the next five weeks, I released the book broken into episodes as a serial. Each episode came one week apart at 99 cents each.

Each section ended on a cliffhanger so readers were given a choice:

Wait another week to find out what happens next, come back to Amazon and download the next episode. (0.99 x 5 = $4.95)

Or, preferably:  forget all that nonsense and just buy the book for less money than it cost to get all the episodes piecemeal. I sold the ebooks at $3.99 with pulsing price dips to $2.99 plus a couple of promotional giveaways at $0.00. (More on that in another post, but hey, Seasons One and Two are at $2.99 until Feb 1. Take a hint and have some fun. It’s too cold to go outside so you might as well read.)

Print has been so little of my income in the past that creating the paperback was a low priority. I did that last. (That’s changing, as you’ll soon see in a post coming later this week.)

HOW TO SERIALIZE CORRECTLY

My nastiest reviewer noted with dismay that I’d written it like a television serial (as if I’d somehow done so by accident.) Most people actually liked the format and appreciated its quirks as added value.

That said, serialization doesn’t work if you break the narrative the wrong way. Take an ongoing television drama. Let’s say, The Walking Dead or House of Cards. Cliffhangers, wit, surprises and reversals are the gears of the engine that give a serial forward momentum. Each transition should scream, “That’s not the end you expected. Now turn the page for more!”

Not all books are suited to the serial format and it’s not just about taking any book, breaking it apart and selling off the chunks. It’s about adding value to the reader and certainly not making more cash off selling episodes at 99 cents. For get-rich-quick ideas, boy, are you on the wrong blog!

ABOUT ADDED VALUE AND STANDING OUT

With an autistic hero who mostly doesn’t speak and a story that spans Europe, America and Canada, my story is unusual. You meet a lot of characters but they don’t meet each other for a long time, if at all. The plagues start off based in reality and later supernatural elements à la The Stand develop as the Sutr virus evolves. I did weird things with how I laid the saga out, too.

The Table of Contents comprises a long, dark poem with clues to what’s coming. Each episode begins with “Notes from The Last Cafe”, which adds to the intrigue. That mystery is not actually solved until late in Season 3. Also, Seasons One and Two contain a secret. The first three readers to guess it correctly will get characters named after them. I’m receiving guesses every week, but so far, no one has won. (Check out ThisPlagueOfDays.com for more on that.)

THE PROS OF SERIALIZATION

1. My also-boughts proliferated on Amazon so customers saw the work of my brilliant graphic designer, Kit Foster, pepper those lists. They didn’t just see one cover. They saw six, each different, but in keeping with the tone and theme of each season. Repetition and increased exposure got attention to the book it wouldn’t have caught otherwise. Here’s what that looked like:

TPOD 0616 EP 1 cover
The Also-boughts (below) harnessed the power of repetition in advertising.

Screen Shot 2014-01-26 at 3.49.28 PM

 

2. Best of all, readers who dig This Plague of Days went ahead and bought the entire season immediately. Some even took Season One, Episode One as a big, cheap sample and went back to buy both seasons in their entirety.

An important detail that’s a pro and a con

Those people who were tepid on an autistic kid in the zombie apocalypse tended to just try Episode One. Each episode ranges from 15- 25,000 words, so they got a generous read. The zombies don’t actually show up for a while and they aren’t even “true” zombies in the Romero sense. If readers didn’t care for the pace at which I built the tension, early instalments took the hits of less-than-entranced reviews and readers dropped away.

The majority loved it and went on to leave stellar reviews on each season. This somewhat inoculated the books from negative ratings because the non-enthused bailed out. Serialization gave them that easy option.

THE CONS

1. Serials are a harder sell. Some people hate serials and won’t buy them. Others click indiscriminately and then will rank you lower even if they like the book. (Yes, I know that’s crazy, but I’ve seen it. Fortunately, those few are outliers.)

2. Despite going to great lengths to explain and differentiate between seasons and episodes with covers and sales copy warnings, some readers still got confused about what they were buying in what sequence. Each cover was clearly labelled and to some, that didn’t matter. (Too quick to click the one-click buy, I guess.) That got me a couple of bad reviews. I explained to those reviewers in the comment thread of their review that anyone who buys something in error can easily return it to Amazon for a full refund. Still, those negative reviews remain.

3. Episodes that sell for 99 cents make next to no money. Somebody’s going to object to that, but the math on my sales reports says it’s true. I’d have to sell way more episodes to equal the sale of one book/season. In my quest to find 1,000 true fans, this is one of the trade-offs along the way to helping us find each other. I don’t resent the journey.

4. Maybe it’s my sense of price resistance, but I don’t see charging more than 99 cents per episode. You could give less in word count per episode, but you also have to ask yourself, how much and how often do you want to format and upload files? Drag it out with more episodes and other costs rise higher.

5. I can see by my sales stats that The Law of Diminishing Returns has kicked in with respect to sales of each episode. With so many positive reviews on Season One and Two, it makes less sense for me to serialize now. As I move away from serialization in Season 3, those who liked serialization might ding me for it (even though, with the way I priced it, that’s irrational.) 

6. Serialization that’s not hooked up to Amazon’s auto-delivery system is problematic. The customer has to remember to come back each week and download the new episode. I did apply to Amazon to publish this serial with them. I never heard back. Had they gone for it, you might have heard of me before today.

7. Now that my Amazon sales page is populated with all those episodes from Seasons One and Two, it looks too busy. I’d rather just display the seasons (and eventually The Complete This Plague of Days) so it’s easy for readers to zero in on those books and click buy. How long must I wait before I can clean it up? I can’t simply unpublish the episodes in case someone’s still thinking of getting around to finishing the serial episode by episode? Do I wait a year? Two? Three?

CONCLUSIONS

You’ll note that the Pro column has two entries and I list seven disadvantages. I wish the analysis were that simple.

In my final analysis — not necessarily yours — the disadvantages I list are the cost of getting the book known. In this case, any damage was mitigated by moderate success. Serialization helped readers and hardcore fans find This Plague of Days (and in some cases, my other books.) Therefore, the sacrifice of getting roughly 30 cents on the sale of episodes is the cost of experimentation. For advertising so well in the also-boughts on Amazon, it was worth it. Season One has 72 reviews so far. Season Two has 31. That’s much more attention than my other books got. (Shocking because Murders Among Dead Trees is genius, dammit! And only 99 cents until February 1, 2014. I’m trawling for reviews from the bargain bin so…well, you know. Check it out, if only to read my favorite three-star review ever.)

Those two pros carry more tonnage than the feather-light cons. I don’t regret serializing Seasons One and Two. Without serialization, I wouldn’t have those problems. Some problems are the good kind to have. Without serialization, I’d probably be (even more!) anonymous in the literary landscape.

That’s why marketing Season 3 will be interesting. The revolution will not be serialized. Stay tuned.

~ This is a case study which may or may not apply to you. I’m not telling anyone what they should do. This is just my experience and my reasoning on serialization. Next post: Amazon, Bookbub and all those other platforms.

 

Filed under: author platform, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, self-publishing, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writers: Saving Money and Making It (Part 1)

This week we’re going to talk about writers and money.

Mostly, we’ll talk about not having any because that’s reality for most of us.

Forget the clichés about how writing in a garret or a ditch lined with beer-vomit fuels us creatively. Poverty sucks. Worrying about income and outgo all the time drains us creatively. As a guy who’s basically been unemployed for two years, I have a lot to say on this subject, but let’s start by saving you $1,200 a year or more with one phone call.

You use the Internet for research (I hope). Call whoever supplies you with TV, Internet and your phone. I did this last week. I started the conversation with, “When I leave Bell, do you guys come get the satellite dish and leave holes in my shingles or how does that work exactly?”

“Why would you want to leave Bell, sir?”

“Because I just found out a buddy of mine in the same neighborhood with roughly the same services is paying $100 less a month than I am!”

This is true, by the way. This isn’t about scamming any company. It’s about solving the problem of being overcharged.

The guy I spoke to in Billing was befuddled as to what to do with me so I took the direct approach and said, “You want to transfer me to the Retention Department now.” That’s where the magic happens. The people in Retention are authorized to massage your bill and squeeze out money and happiness for you. The communications market is becoming more competitive and they don’t want to lose a customer.

Next I spoke with a helpful fellow who went through my communications package with me. I was paying for ten features on my landline. I don’t even know what those ten features could be. I dumped all but voicemail and caller ID.

If it were up to me, I’d dump the landline altogether, but we have to keep it so obnoxious telemarketers can harass us about buying gold and cleaning our air ducts. I also dropped my long distance plan. Use Skype for long distance. Skype is free. 

We’re on the net constantly so there were no services to reduce. However, Retention guy “put a promo on it”. That means he knocked $6/month off the price because I bothered to call. That’s $72 a year on one component of the monthly bill, just because I said my bill was too high (which it was.) We also edited down the satellite package. Everybody gets a lot of channels they don’t watch. Kill them.

We haven’t noticed any loss of services or channels, but that one phone call (which took about half an hour) knocked those bills down precipitously. I haven’t got the first bill yet, but I will save about $1,600 in the next 12 months. Your mileage will vary, depending on how much you’re getting screwed to the wall by your service providers already.

In Canada, we no longer have pennies. Sure, a penny saved is a penny earned, but I’m talking about a significant amount of dough. I “earned” $1,600 in half an hour. Make the call.

Part 2 of this week’s series for writers will be about Writing and The Day Job. Stay tuned.

For an article about gratitude, readers and sneak peeks of This Plague of Days, click here.

Meanwhile, if you’re reading This Plague of Days as a serial, Episode 3 is out now!

Episode 3 of Season 2 (not Season 3 yet!) is now available. Click on the right sidebar to grab the complete Season One and Two.

Episode 3 of Season 2 (not Season 3 yet!) is now available. Click on the right sidebar to grab the complete Season One and Two.

Photo on 12-05-23 at 4.39 PM~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I wrote a couple of books about an autistic kid versus the zombie apocalypse. Sure, that sounds ridiculous, until you understand that it’s also an international thriller and a Latin primer. This Plague of Days, Seasons One and Two have both achieved bestseller status. I’m still broke, but that will change.

Filed under: authors and money, Rant, What about Chazz?, What about you?, Writers, , , , , , , , , , ,

#VIDEO: Jumping into the Plague of Days serial?

This Plague of Days 2 E1 0918 AMAZONSeason Two, Episode 1 is now out for 99 cents. There are five episodes in each season, released one week apart.

Or, grab the complete Season Two for just $3.99 until November, 2013. (There’s a chapter that fills

Season 2 is the quest.

Season 2 is the quest.

you in: “Previously in Season One“.)

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege.

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege.

You can also get Season One of This Plague of Days here.

It’s kind of like writing for TV, but the imagination’s budget has no limit.

 ~ To learn more about This Plague of Days, check out ThisPlagueOfDays.com.

Filed under: This Plague of Days, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dystopian Braingasm: For word nerds and horror readers who love autistic heroes

Click it to grab it free before midnight tomorrow night!

Click it to grab it free before midnight tomorrow night!

It’s time to glimpse your future. The plague is coming. The pandemic will hit us in waves. One strange boy with hidden talents will determine whether this is the end of the world or the just the end of the world as we know it.

Get Episode One of This Plague of Days free until midnight tomorrow night.

Horror lovers have plenty of surprises ahead with this dystopian serial. The infected are not what you expect and the heroes and villains of this zombie apocalypse are like nothing you’ve experienced.

Jaimie Spencer is a selective mute on the autistic spectrum. Read Episode One for free now and find out why parents of autistic children love This Plague of Days.

A savage virus spreads around the globe and society collapses. In Britain, the story has the flavor of the international thriller. In America’s heartland, you’ll see what happens when the Sutr plague comes for a family just like yours.

This serial is two books in one on a collision course.

Five stars from reviewers:

“Not your average Zombie story!”

*

I think this storyline is brilliant. It’s not your cliched, run-of-the-mill zombie apocalypse story. It’s character driven. It’s cerebral. It’s awesome.

The first episode of This Plague of Days is the perfect balance of back story, anecdotes, and the events of the present crisis. Jaimie, the main character, is fantastically written and surprisingly well thought out.

*

Plague of Days Episode 1 takes the reader into a new perspective-the autistic. A different concept, refreshing as well as illustrating the challenges faced in real life as well as in fiction.

*

I’ve read and watched several zombie novels and TV shows. This one is told from a unique perspective and I can’t wait to read the next episode. I think this would translate to a miniseries!

Can't have just one chip? Season One has five episodes. Get each one for 99 cents or get all of Season One at a discount for $3.99. Season Two hits this September.

Can’t have just one chip? Season One has five episodes. Get each one for 99 cents or get all of Season One at a discount for $3.99. Season Two hits this September.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is a former journalist, columnist and podcaster. This Plague of Days is his ninth book. 

Filed under: free ebooks, publishing, Science Fiction, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Video, Audio and Pixels: Hugh Howey hits and This Plague of Days launches Episode 5

And here, folks, are the announcements as promised. It’s a cornucopia of fun stuff to feed your hungry, hungry hippocampus:

See the rest of the interview on my YouTube channel here, or subscribe at CoolPeoplePodcast.com.

Also available on iTunes (or on Stitcher through the show link to the All That Chazz podcast.)

This Plague of Days: The first zombie thriller on the autism spectrum.

Episode 5 is now available! Get each ep for just 99 cents or get the discount deal and get all of Season One for just $3.99.

Episode 5 is now available! Get each ep for just 99 cents or get the discount deal and get all of Season One for just $3.99.

In Episode 5 of This Plague of Days, it’s all action as the Spencer family faces great loss in the Midwest and Dr. Sinjin-Smythe runs for his life in London. Dump your expectations of what a zombie apocalypse can deliver. The survivors of the plagues can be just as dangerous as any horde of rampaging zombies.

From the latest review on Amazon…

“The final episode of Season One did exactly what it was supposed to do. It twisted your stomach in knots, let go slightly, then snatched your stomach away until the second season is available.

All the immediate conflicts were resolved in a satisfying way, not rushed, not unrealistic. There’s plenty of ground to cover next season, and the last few lines will leave you guessing. Well done, Chute. You’ve crafted a high-brow zombie thriller that stands out from the rest.” ~ Ava Easterby

Coming late to the Apocalypse? No problem! 

This Plague of Days scares me to death! I just can’t put it down; I have to see what happens next.

A review from Victor Morin

The mind virus is created. Spread the infection. If you already have read it, please review it.Thanks! ~ Chazz

The mind virus is created. Spread the infection. If you already have read it, please review it.Thanks! ~ Chazz

 

Filed under: book trailer, Books, Horror, podcasts, This Plague of Days, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

For my author site and the Chazz network, click the blood spatter below.

See my books, blogs, links and podcasts.

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