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

Write and publish with love and fury.

I like you more when your dog dies: Niches, conversations, dead blogs and a contest.

We don’t sell anything unless we tell stories. To sell stories, we must have stories about our books.

Seth Godin’s blog and books sell because they’re short, pithy, smart and he owns his niche. To own a niche now, you’d do better define a new one. Don’t try to take Seth’s purple cow, tribe or incisive observations about case studies. (Note: “Case studies” is the more scientific word for “stories.”)

Define your own niche and you’ve got a better shot at selling more books.

For instance, my next book is about Romeo in a drug-infested, coming-of-age thriller in New York. Shakespeare plays a role in finding the modern Juliet. Coming-of-age and thriller aren’t normally such cozy neighbors. My last book was a zombie apocalypse with an autistic hero and Latin proverbs. Not a lot of competition in that end of the zombie market.

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege.

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege.

Familiarity is overdone. Differences define us in the market. (e.g. Bookstores are still crammed with Harry Potter knock-offs, but there’s only one JK Rowling.) Take something familiar and find a way to make it original again and you’ve got something.

Story is the most important thing. Story works.

Podcasts don’t sell unless they’re rich in content and tell stories. From business success to how-to and gee-whiz science, podcasts don’t work as sales engines unless they tell aspirational stories. From the startlingly different (Welcome to Night Vale) to personal confession (Marc Maron’s WTF) stories must be told and be relatable.

I’ve noticed more authors seem to be shifting their cyber-presence to Facebook and away from Twitter. They’re all Twittered out. Tweets are solid tools of discovery and live-tweeting makes the Oscars watchable, but Twitter tends to be less about story and connection. We need a little more space to achieve resonance.

Facebook offers more opportunity for personal connection. FB’s post length helps, but it’s also subtext. On Facebook, you have friends

Twitter is less friendly and more competitive. On Twitter, people have followers and people pay attention to numbers gained and lost. On Twitter you use ManageFlitter and WhoUnfollowedMe. On Facebook, if crazy Aunt Sadie unfriends you, you’re relieved you can swear again and her abandonment confirms your politics are sane.

Personal stories help us plug into each other’s pleasure centres.

The mind often fails to make distinctions among what’s real and illusory, cyber and real world. On Facebook, Story is the carrier wave of connection: “This is my child, my dog, my life!” we tell each other.

Since we don’t know what the hell we’re doing and we’re all scared, our connections reassure us. “Maybe I’ve screwed everything up, but at least I’m making the same mistakes as everyone else in our journey toward a better tomorrow.”

That’s why your photo catalogue of a glorious tropical vacation on Facebook doesn’t fit into the brain’s three-prong plug of connection. People love shared stories of failure, vulnerability and happiness, but only after that happiness is earned by failure and vulnerability. We root for the underdog and rags-to-riches stories, not Donald Trump. Your new car is nice for you, but I like you more when your dog dies. My dog died. Commonality is currency. Because I want to be loved, I love you when you’re suffering insomnia from worry, too. Misery doesn’t just love company. It insists on it.

Though we are each mysteries, we like to imagine we are each other.

Each of us is just as challenged and sad and lonely, but we hope to be rich some day, too. When the money and success roll in, we tend to forget all this stuff about connection. We blame the poor for their poverty, give luck no credit for our rise and trumpet all our hard work to the exclusion of any variable that does not bow to our big ol’ brains.

No wonder the rich and poor hate each other (except the poor want to join the resented rich, too.) Meanwhile, the rich would rip out their own throats with car keys from their repossessed Lexus if they had to get by on less than $100,000 a year.

Our class boundaries break connections. That’s why celebrities seem so otherworldly in person. They lost their shock collars and passed the invisible electric fence! They made it, so we can, too! Unless they’re the children of celebrities. Those lucky devils get a sneer and a Barry Bonds asterisk beside their fame.

Our stories about who we are become who we are.

That quest for privacy? Quaint. Adorable. Amish.

Jonathan Franzen worries about our attention spans, the death of literature and loss of privacy. He worries about the horrors of the Internet, just about every week it seems, in the Huffington Post. Horrors.

Blogs are dead sales platforms.

You have to have an author site, but you’ll get more juice from connecting on Facebook. Twitter will serve you better than a blog because it serves more people.

A blog is too much of a commitment for the reader. Too few blogs are “appointment reading”. A blog is a magazine at the doctor’s office. You only pick it up when there’s nothing else to do and you’d rather be doing something else.

I am subscribed to many blogs. They’re up there somewhere, forgotten in an RSS reader, added to a long reading list I will never get to. The blogs I actually read daily don’t have to be stuck in my bottomless bookmark bin. I go to them.

Blogs fail because signals go out but they don’t connect. Like this post, a bad blog post pontificates. I’m doing it now, connecting less, to fewer people. Still here? You’re already hoping the meta will stop and I’ll somehow pull out of the dive and land a punch and a point in the final sentence. How will I bring us home after such a depressing, meandering trip? I’ll show you. Indulge, a moment more, before the doctor calls you in to talk about those test results.

There are exceptional blogs, still breathing.

You can tell which blogs still have a heartbeat. They have a large and active comment community who aren’t just there to fight. (The Passive Voice is necessary to indie writers, for instance, as is David Gaughran’s blog.) Their lure is a story of aspirational subtext: Read this and you will succeed as we analyze the mistakes and triumphs of others.

And what are comments but the back from the forth? The best comments are more stories, resonating and rising up in conversation.

Commenting as a sales tool is less effective than it once was, back when people still asked, “What’s a blog?” Commenting doesn’t sell, though it can hurt you if you’re a dick. Some commenters never communicate human warmth. They think their intellect and snark will win people over and drag eyeballs back to their own dead blogs. They’re wrong. We only go back to their blogs to see if they’re rude to everyone (yes, always, yes) and make mental notes of what books not to buy.

Living sales platforms are conversations.

Facebook is a bigger sales engine at the moment, coming at you sideways, fun and friendly and under your defences.  We tell stories in conversation with friends. That’s where the connection lies, even if it’s a lie. We share our failures and hopes and dreams and we don’t look at our watch when we’re on Facebook. (That’s how the wasted hours slip away and books don’t get written, too.)

Facebook falls short in some ways, but that’s where I can talk with Hugh Howey or Chuck Wendig or Robert J. Sawyer. Facebook is alive with conversation. That’s the hot, three-pronged brain plug of connection we crave.

So who cares about this shit? Too long to read. Meet me on Facebook and maybe we’ll connect in a conversation. Blogs are dead. I killed it. Just now. I regret nothing.

Season 2 is the quest.

Season 2 is the quest.

~ There is a secret in This Plague of Days. You’ve already read it. No one has guessed it yet. If you suspect you know, DM me on Facebook or DM me on Twitter. Praise and adulation will be heaped upon those who guess correctly. First prize is a signed paperback. Three winners will appear in my next book. Adulation for all will happen on the All That Chazz podcast.

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Write! Like a Boss!

One of the movies we love here in the secret bunker is The Incredibles. I love a good Bond movie and The Incredibles is superheroes in a Bond movie. It’s a lot of fun, though, for me, the most effecting scene is where the missiles close on the plane with kids on board. Having kids makes you cry easily and I’ve cried during that scene several times over.

Kind of a Spoiler

In the original plot for The Incredibles, the plot called for the plane to be piloted by an ordinary human — a sweet old man and friend of Elastigirl — who gets killed in the explosion. That was revised when they decided it was too dark a turn for a kids’ movie.

The best scene

For my wife, She Who Must Be Obeyed, the scene she always brings up first is the attack on the city.

Samuel L. Jackson, primed to defend innocents and come out of retirement, really sells it when he sees the devastation and shouts, “Honey! Where is my super suit?!” 

His wife’s reply: “Oh, no you don’t! I have been planning this dinner with the Robinsons for weeks!”

Honey! Where is my super suit?!” 

The juxtaposition of the mundane with a superhero’s clothing needs is funny, but it doesn’t stand out as much for me. She Who Must Be Obeyed is not wrong. (That can never happen.) However, it underlines that we can’t predict how our writing will be received. We must write for ourselves and hope others of like mind will find us (or we must find them). When I wrote for magazines, I was often surprised which bit of a column provoked outrage and what spurred letters of admiration. People won’t necessarily unpack your book the way you thought you sent it.

And then… 

Yesterday I read one-star reviews of a few of Shakespeare’s plays. One star. Really? I know it’s a subjective universe, but The Freakin’ Bard only gets one star? 

Write more. Worry less.

You could concern yourself with the trend of reviews. Report the abusive reviews. Consider correcting fallacies in reviews (like author Elle Lothlorien). Refuse to read your reviews (like author JA Konrath).

Reviewers are not your boss. You are your boss. Being boss is one of your best reasons to write. Don’t give it up. Write! Like a boss!

Stop worrying so much and just write your next best thing. The next best thing could be your best book ever (which someone will load down with a one-star review). Just write. Not everyone will love your book or they’ll love different parts of your book for different reasons. Those who dislike your work aren’t your readers of the future, so they don’t matter. They don’t pay you for your books so they literally don’t figure into the accounting. 

There really is no accounting for taste.

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes like a boss. Check out his books at AllThatChazz.com (where he also podcasts like a boss.) He interviews like a boss at CoolPeoplePodcast.com. He loses weight like a boss at DecisionToChange.com. He vines like a boss and writes about Vine here. He prepares an apocalypse like a ghoulish boss full of verisimilitude and magic realism at ThisPlagueOfDays.com.

Filed under: Rejection, reviews, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , ,

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

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