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

Write and publish with love and fury.

The blog and book promotion tool you’ll love (that’s easy, effective and free)

Here's one of my Haiku Decks to start off your writing week right.

Here’s one of my Haiku Decks to start off your writing week right.

Haiku Deck is a free presentation tool that uses royalty-free images so you can make a statement with visual impact. Change up your next blog post or make a slick book trailer in minutes, for instance.

Click this link to ThisPlagueOfDays.com to see how I used Haiku Deck to remind readers that my next book is coming soon (and they better buckle up!) It’s actually quite beautiful and even easier and quicker than a YouTube video. The slideshow at the link was my first experiment with Haiku Deck. It took less time to put my trailer for This Plague of Days together than I needed for this short blog post.

There’s nothing wrong with YouTube, Instagram, Vine, and iMovie etc,…. Video can be useful and powerful if used well (and oooh! Moving pictures!) The advantage of Haiku Deck is that it’s free, fast and fun to play with. Consider adding it to your author platform’s arsenal. 

Want to sign up and start making your own trailers, presentations, charts and messages?

You’ll find the way to sign up at the end of each Haiku Deck presentation above. It’s easy to do and easy to share on multiple platforms, but if you do have trouble sharing on your non-self-hosted WordPress blog, no problem. Do what I did with the slideshows above. Load and link a screen shot and bam, it’s there.

Pretty cool, huh?

If you need tips on using video more effectively to promote your books or business, I wrote a quick book on marketing with Vine that highlights what you should be aware of to make it work better. Click the cover for Six Seconds below, for that chewy goodness (for the princely sum of just 99 cents!)

Six+Seconds+copy

~ Okay. We’ve started Monday morning off right. Let’s keep the healthy and happy vibes going. Pardon my excessive happiness today. It’s not characteristic of me, but I’m all ramped up about entering the final stages of publishing my eleventh book. Progress is being made. BAM! Okay, let’s go get ’em!

Filed under: author platform, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Writers, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Books: Ventures, Misadventures, Adventures and Brutal Honesty

Crack the Indie Author CodeWhen George Lucas screened  Star Wars, most of his fellow filmmakers in the room looked at each other and said, “American Graffiti was awesome, George, but this space opera thing…yuck!” It was Stephen Spielberg who played the contrarian. “You guys don’t get it!” he said. “This is going to be huge!” And of course, Spielberg was right.

My personal Lord and Saviour of The Written Word, William Goldman, famously said of the Hollywood film business, “Nobody knows anything.” It’s true, no one can know what will hit and which will miss. Someone comes up with the somewhat moronic expression YOLO (the idiot’s “Carpe diem”) and it’s suddenly on t-shirts everywhere. True for us, too. You may write a heavy, ambitious tome, but it’s a tiny book like The Little Prince that captures the hearts and imaginations of generations of readers.

So it is with marketing books.

Agents say they can “guide your career”, but if that were true, anyone with a sentient agent would have a fabulous career. No one knows anything in publishing, either. That’s not meant as an insult, but as a reflection of reality. Publishing is famous (or infamous) for placing bets on many horses, hoping the big bets will pay off and cover the losers’ ubiquitous failures. Few industries have a miss rate as high as book publishing (though Hollywood’s screwing up even more than usual lately.)

So it is with my books, too!Self Help for Stoners JPEG

The summer is winding down and I find I must split my mania among many ventures. I’m in a philosophical mood and looking back at what took off, what has not, and why. We at Ex Parte Press are not lounging in the money, chocolate and champagne pool at the moment. (But we still have high hopes.)

  • Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus are critical successes among the few critics who are aware of my funny Cuban hit man and his tragic past. Alas, hardboiled and funny suspense isn’t trending at the moment. Nonetheless, I have more Hit Man books planned. Jesus Diaz will just have to wait a bit longer as I concentrate my efforts where readers have demonstrated more enthusiasm. I love Jesus, and can’t wait to get him back on the warpath in Hollywood. An assassin who can make movie references and quick quips while getting beaten up deserves more books. He’ll get them.
  • My first funny short story collection, Self-help for Stoners, sells just a little but steadily. It’s a tribute to Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com that the cover is repinned on Pinterest several times a week, every week. Later this fall I will stop using an intermediary so I can take back control of marketing that book. I have no doubt I can take it much higher once that happens. I’d have done it by now but I’ve been perpetually swamped for months with This Plague of Days.
  • Six Seconds, my book about using the Vine app to market your business was an instant book with lots of great advice. I’ve moved books and marketed my podcasts having fun with mini videos. Though Vine remains the superior product, Instagram changed their app to ape Vine so Instagram has many more users. I bet on the wrong horse, not every at bat is a home-run, insert your metaphor for failure here.
  • This Plague of Days, Season One is getting traction. It might even be on the cusp of taking off. I’ll find out when Season Two hits at the end of September. (Here’s my latest post with hints and expectations for Season Two.) Early feedback is very encouraging. As in this, from the beta team: “Suspense and plot and action – all of them are on steroids in this book…overall impression is you have brought this thing to the next level.”

Mind the towering caveat in the following paragraph:

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

So you see, I’m no better (or worse) at stabbing at the imagination of readers than anyone else. I don’t know what will sell buckets of books. No one does. It’s something that happens to you, as long as you pretend your destiny is under your control and do everything you can to get discovered. You can hit the target. We’re all shooting blindfolded in the dark, sure, but if you take enough wild shots, aiming matters less. You write the best book you can and engage more readers and attend some sad, ill-attended bookstore signings and do whatever else you can think of to fire off signal flares without becoming a Twitter pariah.

This is not to say that good advice isn’t out there. It’s just that so much good advice conflicts!

The great Chuck Wendig talks about voice (or the force of personality) being more important than “brand”. Others can’t talk about anything else but brand, stats and system gaming. Hugh Howey is the outlier that didn’t really market anything when he started Wool (though he says Facebook helps him most these days.) Some insist on lots of links to your other work in the back of each book. Others say that’s overkill and intelligent readers will find you easily if they love you enough to bother with a google search. Some book marketers are passive as a policy (or lazy.) Others are so active, it’s pretty close to obnoxious.

And still, nobody knows anything. Not for sure. There are too many variables to success and the situation is fluid. We, writers and publishers all, dance on tightropes while juggling feathers in wind storms and hope readers will cast a glance our way and enjoy the silly monkey dance.

Still, you’ll find advice about tactics everywhere.

Just this week, I pushed the Author Marketing Club and Bookbub. Solid advice I stand behind. But keep in mind, these are tactics. The potency of tactics can wax and wane according to many variables. That’s what’s hot now and into the near future. After that? New tools will emerge because good ideas get copied. Sometimes imitators are new and improved and often the copier doesn’t have enough toner.

Strategy is long-term thinking. Strategy says: Write more. Get more feedback. Write more books. Get better. Higher+than+Jesus+Front+1029

This is the only advice I know that lasts. (You’ll find that and much more about the writing and publishing life in Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire. Crack sells a bit while the second book hardly moves at all. Why? Who knows? Nobody. Nobody knows anything! My Lord and Saviour told me so.

However, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I have a third book about writing and publishing in the chamber ready to fire. When This Plague of Days hits big, readers will pick up all my books about writing and publishing. After the fact, they’ll say, “Well, no wonder.” 

The Johnny-come-latelies won’t know what you know. My overnight success wasn’t overnight. Success always seems inevitable, but only in retrospect. Until you make it, no one cares about you and your book. Those who do give you any thought probably think you a fool. (Insert an image of your disapproving in-laws here.)

Ah. But, afterwards? You’re a genius.*

~ *Afterwards, You’re a Genius is a wonderful book I recommend for anyone interested in scientists with lyrical sensibilities.

For more on the rising action and scary high stakes in the spiralling weirdness of an autistic boy fighting zombies, read this post at ThisPlagueOfDays.com. 

For more on my adventures in self-pubishing, swallowing bitter pills and my peculiar brain mania, there’s this post on the writing life at my author site. 

 

Filed under: author platform, getting it done, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Uncomfortable answers to questions about blogging

1. When’s the best time to post to your blog?

There are better times than others to post to your blog. Late at night isn’t generally so good. There’s a lot less browsing after 9 pm and prime time seems to be the morning hours. Mondays are big blog stats days as people ease into their week. Fridays suck, so I post less on Fridays. The earlier in the day and the earlier in the work week, the better.

2. Should you blog every day?

I think you should post only when you have something to say. If your content is rich and if you post often, the more traffic you’ll get. At DecisionToChange, I often blog several times a day, but with short posts.

3. What should you blog about?

Blog what you care about. If you try to blog about stuff that doesn’t interest you for some audience-centric, strategic reason, you’ll run out of gas before long. People say you shouldn’t blog for writers, but of my six blogs, this is the one that gets the most traffic so far and I did get two books out of writing ChazzWrites, (Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire) so there’s that.

4. How long should my posts be?

Shorter and to the point is generally better (though this particular post will get pretty long). I used to write very long essays. It’s better to break them up into a series if you’re writing long. If you’re writing at great length, don’t blog it. Book it. You can sell it on Amazon. That’s what I did with Six Seconds.

5. What’s the least I can post?

You can have a static page you don’t update, but don’t expect a ton of traffic unless you’re doing something else to drive eyes there. I do two free podcasts (All That Chazz and Cool People Podcast) and frequently appear on other podcasts. (I’m on a comedy podcast called Inverse Delirium this week).  Even with that weekly boost, I wouldn’t do a static page. Websites are either growing or dying. If I can’t update a page at all, I’d rather abandon it for a more active, and therefore more useful, site.

6. Can you post too much?

Yes, if posting burns out you or your readers, that’s too much.

If it takes away from your core work (i.e. writing books) then prioritize and manage your time so you do the core work first. I post to six blogs, a tumblr, Youtube, iTunes, Vine, Facebook and Twitter. However, I watch almost no TV and writing is my full-time job. That list of social media belongs on the secondary activity, fun stuff and stolen moments list of things to do. Writing new stuff, editing and revising is always number one.

7. Where do you get your ideas for blog posts?

My life and work is research. I’m interested in making kale shakes healthier and more appetizing, so I find out about that and share the wealth. I’m interested in all aspects of the book business and subscribe to various feeds that feed that passion.

8. If you talk about your books on your blog, is it spammy?

Some might complain I talk too much about my own books here. My reply is (A) It’s my blog and if you aren’t that into me, I’m not pestering you with phone calls to visit my blog and (B) working my book stable is where all that real world experience comes from. I’m building a cult out of supplying free information, so it’s hard to feel bad about that. I also help writers and promote other authors and their blogs here frequently, so any outrage is misplaced.

9. What’s the most important element of a website?

A. Some websites I self-host and others I don’t. For the long-term, owning it is important. Ownership allows advertising, monetizing and more control.

B. Having a list for people to subscribe to is critical to monetization. (My mailing list subscription is on the front page at AllThatChazz.com and I use MailChimp.) I give new subscribers perks like sneak peeks and shout outs on the All That Chazz podcast. Some subscribers got Advanced Reading Copies of This Plague of Days.

C.  Your website should look good, but opinions vary on what good looks like. Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com creates my web banners. That adds a lot without dealing with webmasters and giant makeovers.

D. Strong content. Everyone says “Content is king.” It’s kind of useless advice because that can be awfully subjective. If you live a sufficiently exciting life with plenty of sex among celebrities, you could rock a diary and make it work. Otherwise, go for useful and newsy so readers feel the value that way.

10. What helps a blog’s readability?

A. List posts like this one.

B. Make it easy for the reader to scan with sub-heads like this post uses.

C. Use a less fancy font to increase legibility. I also bold the type so it’s easier for everyone to read. I dumped the dark background and the light text a long time ago.

11. What are the most useful blogging tools?

A. I think WordPress is the best blogging platform (and essential if you run a podcast.)

B. I love Scoopit! The tool allows me to point readers to useful information on other websites. I can add my thoughts so I’m still adding value without looking like a parrot. I dislike WordPress’s reblog feature because I don’t post pictures on my blogs unless I’m sure there are no copyright issues. Scoopit! allows me to easily delete images. 

C. Rebelmouse. This free tool allows me to post all my blog feeds to one page so if you want to get a look at all I did in a day that was blog or podcast-related, it’s all there in one place. Every blog entry and podcast is displayed in a Pinterest-like array that’s easy to take in and stimulates the senses in a happy way without expensive and tech-heavy interventions. (You can do fancier things with Rebelmouse if you want to pay a bit of cash.)

12. Why should we blog?

(Sorry, I can only tell you why I blog.)

A. Sharing information builds the indie writer community and elevates the general level of expertise, discussion and product quality.

B. Ego and narcissism. I want you to love me and think I’m smart and funny. How else to explain six blogs and two podcasts? Pathetic and needy, isn’t it?

C. Honesty is the best policy unless questioned by Nazis. Honesty builds trust. (See 12B.)

D.  I’ve made friends and allies through my blogs and even a few readers for my books. You might even find a few people willing to be reviewers, ARC readers, beta readers, proofers, donors and helpers. My blogs and podcasts provide ways to help my friends by spreading the good word about great people.

However, if I were blogging just to find book lovers, I’d be disappointed. Only after I’m a huge success as an author using other strategies that have nothing to do with blogging will there be a clamour for all my blogs (and then I’ll have much less time to blog.)

Photo on 12-09-25 at 3.23 PM~ This fall, I’ll tell you about those “other strategies”, after I’ve given them a test run with This Plague of Days.

Have you read the manifesto for artists who want to live forever yet? Read that here.

Have you heard the latest All That Chazz podcast. The reading slips toward erotica toward the end, so this is the NSFW podcast episode you’ll probably want to hear. Check out The One That Gets Sexy here.

 

Filed under: blogs & blogging, book marketing, Books, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Self-publishing: The stuff that isn’t the core work is still important

Click it to grab it.

Click it to grab it.

I’m up to my alligators in the final revisions and polish of This Plague of Days. Still, other stuff must be juggled when I take a break from the “real” work. Keeping the engine of the author platform going is very important. Without it, who will find and read my books? Fortunately, it’s all fun or I wouldn’t get to it. Here’s what else I did today:

1. Fired off  weird interview questions for a future author appearance on this blog.

2. Answered weird interview questions for another blog, prepping for promoting This Plague of Days. (If you want me on your podcast or blog, email me at expartepress [AT] gmail [DOT] com.

3. I posted the story pitch and beta reader feedback for my horror book and serial at ThisPlagueOfDays.com.

4. I wrote about the Vine app’s huge update on my blog about Six Seconds. Vine is used by 13 million people. Today, a whole new group of people, Android users, may be pulled to check out the book, buy it and use it.

5. I posted multiple vines (little videos) to my Vine account. That cascades to Facebook and Twitter. I welcomed the new Android users and interspersed that with several funny vines about the Android update and using my how-to book about the Vine app, Six Seconds. (I’m “Robert Chazz Chute” on Vine. Follow me there and say hi!)

6. I posted on my weight loss blog early this morning at DecisionToChange.com. Got some great feedback on that piece and I’m growing another audience segment there. That blog competes with this one as my fastest growing blog, though it’s very new and this is my third year posting on ChazzWrites.

7. Email correspondence. Confirmed a story meeting with a friend who’s an expert on logistics and hiking for Season 2 of This Plague of Days. He’ll help me plot details of the journey in Season 2 and he’s okay with getting paid in coffee.

8. Listened to a Self-publishing Podcast over the course of getting my daughter to the dentist and taking her to gymnastics.

9. I appeared on the Podcaster’s Roundtable Sunday night. We talked about dealing with negative feedback, reviews, haters and trolls. I made some good jokes. I had permission to spread the word and post the video, so I stuck the YouTube video up on my author blog at AllThatChazz.com today.

10. My friend Kim Nayyer alerted me to news of indie membership in The Writers Union of Canada. That post and link appears below this one.

11. This blog post is written. It’s 9 PM.

Tonight I’ll do the dishes and walk 5 km. Then I’ll probably polish another episode of This Plague of Days. Projected bedtime: 1 PM. And I’m very happy with that.

To do:

I’m appearing in a sketch on Inverse Delerium, a very cool comedy podcast. That went over so well, they sent me another script (and I get to plug This Plague of Days between the laughs). More revisions, that logistics/story meeting, a fresh reading for the All That Chazz podcast, posting a new Cool People Podcast with author LeRon Barton about drug culture and the drug war in America, incorporating new beta feedback as it arrives, consultations and prepping the TPOD cover and TPOD promo and t-shirt graphics with my friend and uber graphic designer Kit Foster.

They call us “indies” and it doesn’t take an army. It takes a platoon and total commitment and time management.

~ This weekend, in between podcast interviews and, of course, more editing, I now have a YouTube Channel dedicated solely to Ex Parte Press books and podcasts. I expect this channel will grow quite a bit as I incorporate much more video into my author platform. (For instance, I want to use it so you can not only hear the Cool People Podcast on iTunes and Stitcher etc, you can also see the interviews if you wish. My interview with Shermin Kruse about the Middle East and US politics is the first Cool People video cast.) 

 

Filed under: author platform, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Book Launch Prep: Funnels, marketing, and tap dancing as fast as I can

A cross-genre flurry about  society's collapse under the crush of the Sutr Virus combined with a boy's love for odd words, Latin dictionaries and his father.

A cross-genre flurry about society’s collapse under the crush of the Sutr Virus combined with a boy’s love for odd words, Latin dictionaries and his father.

As the launch of my serialized novel, This Plague of Days, approaches, there’s still a lot to do that has little to do with writing the book. This preliminary work is about charming the unsuspecting into the back of my mind candy van, building happy buzz and marketing funnels. It’s time I gave you a glimpse of some of the things I do in that vein. (For more, check out Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire.)

I’m working on reaching out beyond people who already know me to the people who don’t know me yet. It will come as a huge surprise to you, that figure is still in the billions. (WTH?, man?!) Being unknown is the curse. And so we put ourselves out there to grasp for the blessing of new readers who will fall in love with us (dammit!)

This is, in part, what I did this weekend to reach out:

1. Approached an author about seeing an ARC of This Plague of Days in hopes of getting a cover blurb. (I get all squirrelly about this, but I have to do it more.)

2. Published several articles to my newest and fastest-growing blog, DecisionToChange.com. It’s about weight loss, life’s struggle, healthy recipes and becoming a healthier, happier person. (I know that doesn’t sound like me at all, but I’m playing against type.)

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

3. Posted something similar to #2 on Vine*. (Repurposing is not rehashing, so it comes across as much more amusing on video.)

4. Published a full excerpt of the first chapter of TPOD at ThisPlagueOfDays.com

5. Published the excerpt to WattPad. I haven’t used Wattpad enough. It’s an easy way to share stories and help readers find us.

Cool+People+Podcast+Final6. Published a new Cool People Podcast with erotica author Eden Baylee. The podcast is about the lovely and smart Eden and her cool worldview (but I’m there, too, so it counts.)  I also tweaked the site so it has a new slider bar which will draw attention to recent guests on the podcast.

7. Researched innovative ways to further publicize the coming launch. Innovative, as in different and untested. I’ll let you know how it works out once they are tested.

8. In giving someone else advice on merchandising, I figured out a new way to do that better with TPOD. (I’m not being coy, but more on that in a different post once I experiment with it.)

9. Wrote this post, giving you links to a couple of my other blogs you wouldn’t otherwise check out. (Hope you like the excerpt and sneak peeks.)

10. Most important: 

I worked on the revisions of This Plague of Days and added a new beta reader to my team. I wrote new scenes with more action where it was slower. I tweaked old scenes so they sparkle anew. I’m writing the best book I can. No matter what else you do to promote your book, #10 is the principle that’s most solid.

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is writing horror instead of a funny hardboiled thriller for a change, but he loves it all and hopes you will, too.

*Want to reach out to more people and discover more about the Vine app? Go here to find out more about Six Seconds, The Unauthorized Guide to How to Build Your Business with the Vine App.

Filed under: book marketing, My fiction, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, self-publishing, This Plague of Days, Vine, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Book Marketing: Problems and Solutions

It’s time to talk book marketing again and this time, I’m going to get up close and uncomfortably personal. One key to book promotion success — there are many keys and nobody knows where they all are — is to step outside our echo chambers. I’ll explore how to get out of that box and sleep with strangers…um, I mean, help new readers find us. But first…

Problems

1. I’ve noticed lately that Twitter love for me has faded somewhat. I’m getting fewer retweets. My Klout score is down to 62 from 65.8 (the horror of first world problems!) and the rate of new follows has slowed. That or, as someone told me recently, Twitter isn’t showing retweets as doggedly as they once did. 

2. I gifted copies of Six Seconds to a bunch of people who indicated their eagerness to give an honest review in exchange for a free copy. It only has two reviews thus far, and none from those who received the ebook from me. Six Seconds is a short guide to Vine, so I don’t know how to encourage them to review it without sounding churlish or whiny. Yet, I do need those reviews. I need reviews of everything.

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

I did receive a fresh review of Bigger Than Jesus recently and that was a great thing that happened organically. The trouble is, to promote the books on some websites, I need at least ten reviews. If I wait for it to happen organically, it’s a trickle. If you have any ideas on how to nudge reviewers without sounding like a bad guy, please let me know. Or perhaps I should risk it because as it is, I’m screwed, silent or sounding off. 

3. Promotionally, I’m in the doldrums between book launches. This Plague of Days is a monster-size book so the editorial logistics require a longer wait between publication dates. I’m very aware that if the time between books is too long, it’s easy to be forgotten.

4. I doubt more KDP Select for old books is not the answer. I’ve already done those promotions. I’ll do them again for each fresh book launch, but after the first 90 days, I’ll switch to more platforms. KDP isn’t worth its exclusivity anymore since they made free less attractive. Free isn’t dead, but it’s not as alive as it once was, either. Use KDP to give away enough copies to get more reviews if you can, but after one 90-day period of exclusivity, I’ve taken my shot and it’s time to spread the word wider. (This could change if Amazon sweetens the pot again, but I see no evidence of that on the horizon.)

5. I have a standing offer to subscribe to my mailing list at AllThatChazz.com. Subscribers get promoted on the podcast. Though All That Chazz is heard in more than 60 countries weekly, I’m not exactly flooded with subscribers. “Not exactly flooded” is my pitiful attempt to save a shred of dignity. It’s not really not working. Therefore, I have to go to them because they aren’t coming to me.

Solutions

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

1. Attitude adjustment = no whining. Over Christmas and into January, I had a bout of depression and self-doubt that crippled my creativity and work ethic. I still wrote and produced and put out podcasts. I think no one knew for sure, but I was down-dooby-do-down-down. I kept it to myself and pretended everything was peachy. It wasn’t. That put a dent in things. I can swing back and forth from high creativity to much less when Seasonal Affective Disorder hits. When I feel down, I sleep more and life feels like pushing a truck uphill without wheels. That was then. I’m feeling better, getting more sun and exercise and drinking more kale shakes. I’m back and looking for trouble to shoot.

2. I’ve stepped out of the echo chamber by adding a new podcast. On All That Chazz, I monologue, crack wise and unwise and read from my work. (Currently reading HigherCool+People+Podcast+Final Than Jesus. Get on board on iTunes, Stitcher, or from my author website.)

With the new Cool People Podcast, I have fun interviews with interesting guests. That helps step outside the echo chamber by expanding my connections, mixing networks with more people and best of all, did I mention I get to talk to cool people?  If you like the podcasts, please leave a review on iTunes. That helps.

3. I’m expanding my following on Vine faster than on Twitter.

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

“You will laugh your ass off!” ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

The number of people following me so far isn’t that impressive. However, the rate at which people are getting on board through the Vine app is pleasing. They’re a tech-savvy, young and creative audience who are into what I’m doing. To let the right ones in, I’m doing an author reading on Vine from Self-help for Stoners. “Another Day at the Office” is one of my favorite, funniest stories and I’m running a contest, too. (Details on contest rules, the prize and entries at AllThatChazz.com.)

4. I’ve created more book-specific websites to inspire more qualified (read: interested) traffic. For instance,  Six Seconds, The Unauthorized Guide to How to Build Your Business with the Vine App, now has its own website. It’s useful and expands on the guide’s suggestions. Vine (the equivalent of video Twitter) just upgraded so I wrote about that development. This is a significant change because the upgrade allows vines to be embedded. Some viners will become stars on Vine just as some power users are stars on YouTube. Twitter has optimized the social sharing component of the app so I can enliven my websites with vines and spread my word wider.

This Plague of Days 03285. My newest website is ThisPlagueofDays.com. The primary focus of the blog is not just my serial of the same name. The book has a lot of angles. For instance, I’ve done extensive research in survivalism and sustainability over the years. I had a battered, paranoid youth so my past is dumped into the post-apocalyptic landscape.

I’m sure this serial will have a wide appeal, but providing specifics about surviving a world flu pandemic provides more added value than being yet another author talking about his or her book endlessly. I recently posted about the best books on disaster preparedness. In an upcoming post, I write about the SARS crisis in Toronto that killed 44 people, the mistakes that were made and how they’ll be made again in the next contagious disease crisis.

Find your angle and help people with it. If you’ve got a romance set in Martha’s Vineyard and you don’t think you’ve got an angle, write about tourism to Martha’s Vineyard. Find the angle and you’ll find a niche that’s identifiable. I’m sure Self-help for Stoners sells best because stoners recognize it’s fiction especially for them. That was by design. Bigger Than Jesus doesn’t sell as well because, on hearing it, someone will think my funny crime novel is a religious book or has something to do with the Beatles. That’s why those books have the covers they do.

6. Go to your niche. TweetAdder has a bad rap because last year, whoever is in charge of what’s polite on the Internet decided auto-tweeting is rude. Okay, but there’s more to TweetAdder than that. To find more readers who might be interested in This Plague of Days, I can search for Twitter users who are into post-apocalyptic fiction, emergency preparedness, Aspergers and survivalism. I can follow those who follow big names in post-apocalyptic fiction and interact with them. What’s your book’s area of interest? Readers want to know about you (assuming your intrinsic awesomeness bears up under examination.)

7. Advertise. As the power of free spirals out of the heights it has occupied, those of us who tried to get away with less promotional investment will have to change our patterns. I’ve been reluctant to use tools I don’t respond to as a consumer. For instance, I’ve never clicked on a Facebook ad once. However, I’m not all consumers and it’s time I got over myself to give my books a better shot. Other authors have had success with pay-per-click advertising and you can limit how much you spend. Spending is scary. I’m still working with a very limited budget, but I can limit the risk so it doesn’t get out of hand. This is the time to double-down on my bet on myself, not stick to the nickel a chip table. We used to be able to get away with zero ad budgets. We at least have to promote the crap out of free days now (if we have them) and that means paying some ad fees.

8. Send out more copies to book bloggers. More reviews will allow me to post the books to those sites that require a minimum of ten reviews above four stars. Sites like BookBub, for instance. I’ve heard good things about BookBub, but because of pricing, timing and review restrictions, it’s still out of reach for me.

9. Ask for help. I guess we’re out of the theoretical and I’m talking directly to you. If you’re interested in an advanced copy of the serial, please let me know at expartepress (AT) gmail (DOT) com. The serial overall is over 130,000 words, but the episodes are short. I’m still in revisions, so I haven’t nailed down episode word counts yet. However,  it won’t be an arduous read for those interested in a plague apocalypse pitted against an Aspergers kid who is a selective mute. His special interest is Latin and the nuances of the English language and it’s quite possible he’s hiding strange powers. Also, if you’ve read any of my books and liked them, please review them.

10. Take suggestions on how to effectively spread the word about my books that do not, as Guy Kawasaki suggests, require $10,000. Got any ideas?

All about the love...and vengeance.

All about the love…and vengeance.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is everywhere, yet nowhere, at the fork in the writing road. One path goes up and the other goes down-dooby-do-down-down.

 

Filed under: author platform, book marketing, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

On Writing Well: Openings, Distractions and the next Million Dollar Idea

The Challenge of the Slow Open

Crack the Indie Author CodeAs I work on revising my coming-of-age, love story cleverly disguised as an apocalyptic plague thriller, I worry about the beginning most. (I’ll give you a minute to digest that first sentence.)

This is a long book I will serialize (soon). The story unfolds largely through the eyes of a boy with Aspergers Syndrome, sixteen-year-old Jaimie Spencer. He’s a selective mute. I wanted to impress upon the reader how different he is from the first page. The story starts with the boy observing the plague as it infects his next-door neighbor. The neighbor is a pilot who happens to be having sex with a flight attendant at the time, but Jaimie is detached about such things. He’s asexual. His point of view is an interesting hook, but it’s not really an action hook. It reads like a character hook.

I’m going for intrigue and showing this book is more serious than much of my other work. I’m satisfied it’s a good start, but it’s a risk because of that slow start. I’m starting the novel with a long lit fuse instead of an explosion. That could be a problem and I will have to revisit this issue several more times before I commit to the slow burn open. There are plenty of explosions, strained family dynamics, obstacles, reversals, betrayals, realizations, death and a long journey  ahead. Amid the chaos, Jaimie is a detached, almost Christlike figure. The world is falling apart and he’s fascinated with dictionaries. (Expect Latin phrases, weird words and an amusing annoyance over homonyms.) The boy perceives the world as an alien might. His peculiar point of view questions how everyone else sees the world.

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

My luckless hit man is a funny guy in big trouble.

Big openings hook more readers faster. For instance, is it a cheap ploy to kill somebody off in the first paragraph? Many critics, both amateur and professional, seem to think so. However, I suspect the average reader doesn’t think that way at all. Some lit snobs say they shouldn’t think that way. Irrelevant. Many readers do think that way.

Every story should jump right in without throat-clearing, of course. (Don’t start your book with a weather report, as a baffling number of novels still do.) But how late should you enter the action? Bigger Than Jesus starts in media res with my loveable hit man out on a slippery ledge high over Tribeca with the bad guy hiding behind a gargoyle. Higher Than Jesus starts with a slower open in a dive bar, but right from the start, you know Jesus Diaz is there to kill someone on Christmas Day. Crime fiction should start with action. But can Jaimie Spencer do it?

Distractions

I’m confident in the writing for those who stick around for the show. However, we, as writers, are not competing with other books in our genre. We’re competing with Call of Duty, Game of Thrones (on TV), people working second and third jobs to earn enough to live, laughing babies on YouTube, the gym, the laundry, and all the other paperwork of life. Readers have so many distractions, it almost makes me yearn for a time when books were much more central to our culture. The good news is, if you survive the coming world flu pandemic that will wipe out billions, there will be fewer distractions and a bit more reading time.

Solutions and Opportunities

Jesus is resurrected in Chicago. Sex with the Queen of Giants. Violence with Very Bad Men.

Jesus is resurrected in Chicago. Sex with the Queen of Giants. Violence with Very Bad Men.

I have a suggestion to help combat The Distraction Problem. It’s not really open to me at the moment* but you might be able to use this suggestion: If you’re American, make audiobooks on ACX part of your publishing platform so people will be able to consume your goodness while they do the laundry, commute to their second job, run on a treadmill or play Call of Duty. Publish an audiobook on ACX and it goes to Amazon, iTunes and Audible. Audio is the future. That, and the massive killer virus thingy.

*I encouraged writers to go for ACX in Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire. Since I’m a Canuck, they aren’t set up to deal with me yet. That creates a huge hole in the market for audiobooks worldwide. If I had the money, I’d start a company to compete with ACX and deal with all them foreigners immediately.

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

~ Earlier today I published an article on ChazzWrites.com that was meant for my website about Six Seconds, The Unauthorized Guide to How to Build Your Business with the Vine App. Apologies for the mix-up and a suggestion: If you’re on WordPress, don’t ever use the Quick post feature. Any problems I’ve ever had posting to WordPress started there. I decided to leave it up since it automatically shot out to subscribers and I never did announce a page dedicated to that book, so…yeah, I’ve got a web page just about Vine and the useful glory that is Six Seconds. If you’re interested in checking out Vine and promoting your books with it, here’s the link to onlysixseconds.

If you’re on Vine and would like to hear a reading from Self-help for Stoners, find “Robert Chazz Chute” on Vine. I’m doing the first author reading on the Vine app. Interested in winning a signed copy of Bigger Than Jesus? I’m running a contest with that reading. Get the details on how you could win from this link to AllThatChazz.

Filed under: audiobooks, blogs & blogging, book marketing, Editing, My fiction, publishing, Vine, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ebooks: What makes a great cover? What makes a bad one?

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

It’s very instructive to read the analysis of what makes covers better or worse. What makes a great ebook cover? It’s often easier to learn what makes a poor one. Art is subjective. We often don’t know what components go into making art “good”. We just know what we like. However, there are graphic designers who, with skill and experience, inject more objective analysis into art than we ordinary mortals. Joel Friedlander, at The Book Designer, is one of those magicians who can break down why a cover works, or, at the very least, he knows why it doesn’t work.

 This week, Six Seconds won February’s ebook cover design award on Joel’s website. Check it out, but have a look at all the books. Once you see the covers through Mr. Friedlander’s eyes, you’ll begin to reevaluate all the covers you see. You’ll look for what’s missing as well as what design elements hit the mark.

Kit Foster: The Dude Came Through

My graphic designer is Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com and he gets all the credit for the win. Sometimes we have long discussions about what the covers of my books should look like. For instance, our back and forth over Higher Than Jesus was exhaustive.

For Six Seconds, I was in a hurry to get the instant guide out because it’s the first book about the Vine app. All I told Kit was: “Gimme a stopwatch wrapped in vines, please. Here’s the title. Do your thing and I won’t ask for any tweaks, I swear to God.” Kit’s solid and, as usual, he delivered excellent art. (He also won for his cover of Higher Than Jesus in the hardboiled mystery category of the Venture Galleries Award recently.) 

Cool guy talk

Higher than Jesus Final NEW copyI’ve plugged Kit plenty over time because I think authors need him and skilled designers like him. If you’re still shy, then you’ll love to eavesdrop on a conversation I had with Kit recently. I just interviewed Kit on the Cool People Podcast. You’ll find him sweet, friendly and Scottish. We talk a little about a lot of things: bad drugs, bad drug laws, good drugs, Breaking Bad, what inspires us and, of course, what goes into making a book cover work or fail. 

Step 1. Have a listen to the Cool People Podcast. (Subscribe, donate, apply to be a guest @rchazzchute on Twitter, do jumping jacks etc.,…) Enjoy.Cool+People+Podcast+Final

Step 2. Go to KitFosterDesign.com and start up your conversation with Kit about your next book cover.

 ~ If you like the Cool People Podcast, you may also enjoy my other podcast, All That Chazz, wherein I monologue, do readings from my crime novels and goof around. Find those podcasts and links to all books by Robert Chazz Chute at AllThatChazz.com. For  highlights from all my various feeds and content, check out my Rebelmouse page here.

Filed under: awards, book marketing, Books, podcasts, publishing, What about you?, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Rebelmouse Review: How to Gain Readers and Listeners with a Collage of You

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

My author platform is a sprawl of social media. I’m bringing my voice to a more effective public address system with Rebelmouse.

Recently a social media expert told an author to bring two blogs together, amalgamated to one site for better SEO. That way, more people would discover her awesomeness. The problem resonated with me. I have (deep breath) three WordPress blogs, two podcasts, three Twitter feeds, a tumblr site, a Facebook page, Google+, a Pinterest board and occasionally I send out a SONAR pulse from my one-man attack submarine. I wondered, how could I possibly bring everything together without becoming some expensive programmer’s buttockal pain? I wanted to curate all my content so my readership and podcast listeners could hit the highlights in one convenient place and receive one harmonic signal. Tough problem. I now have an easy answer, and it doesn’t include hiring a programmer I can’t afford. In fact, the solution was free. It’s me on Rebelmouse.

Showcase pics and vids

You’ll notice at the top left there’s a new Rebelmouse follow  button. Please click it for The Full Chazz Experience. It’s free and ready for your unending delight. As for signing up to curate your own stuff, you can pay for premium services at Rebelmouse (starting at $9.99 a month). I opted for free now and may upgrade later. When you go to my page, it looks remarkably like a Pinterest board. The difference is, Rebelmouse pulls the feeds from the far reaches of my book and podcast empire (mmmkay, tiny kingdom) so you get the latest from the All That Chazz podcast, The Cool People Podcast, ChazzWrites.com, AllThatChazz.com, my primary Twitter feed (@rchazzchute), Facebook and Pinterest. I even added a few videos from YouTube, which, until now, most of my readers were unaware I even made. That’s the power of Rebelmouse.

Advantages for selling books

The move to Rebelmouse was especially important to me so I could show off the work and play I do with the Vine app. I make announcements about my books and podcasts on Vine amongst quick videos of our skinny pigs chattering and having fun as a six-second comedian. I wrote an instant ebook about Vine (Six Seconds, The Unauthorized Guide to How to Build Your Business with the Vine App). I wanted to draw more attention to the book and show the fun I was having with the app all in one place. Potential readers could see what I was so enthused about in Six Seconds and I could help them with the decision to buy my book and join up by showing them vines (that’s videos made on Vine). Traffic to AllThatChazz.com shot up since I joined Vine so there’s definitely value there (and the book’s just 99 cents on Amazon, by the way. Please and thank you.)

Pros

I’ve already noticed another increase in visitors since adding Rebelmouse. One easy curation page obviously makes it much easier for readers to consume my content. You can also share your offerings on Rebelmouse back to your networks. When visitors arrive to check out one offering, they can quickly check out what else is on display and get my flavor. That’s a funnel and funnels are valuable in building an audience and getting fans who buy all your books.

The front page on Rebelmouse even has further curation options. You can click on the tabs at the top so you only see the podcast page, books page or Pinterest page. (These pages were suggested by Rebelmouse based on the tags in my feed content.) Comparisons to Pinterest are obvious, except it’s a collage of the Magic that is You instead of a collage of the things you like. The beauty of this solution is an attractive page with everything in one place that’s easy to take in. When you click on the link, you’re whisked back to the original page. Not many authors are on Vine yet and very few are on Rebelmouse (I noticed Jane Friedman is there, for one). The time to get in early on these tech solutions and enhance your author platform is now.

Cons

I did have a glitch or two when I put the page up but I figured it out pretty quickly. Be careful about which feeds you authorize and be hesitant to hit the auto-update when it is offered. That got overwhelming when everything came in at once. I clicked on auto-update and then couldn’t figure out how to switch it back. I also changed the name of the page to my name (rather than confuse readers with another All That Chazz page.) That change messed up my first announcement link so eager readers got a “404, Page not found error” when they tried to follow. That fixed, I’d say most of Rebelmouse’s interface is fairly intuitive and I really like the page now.

There are certain posts I’d like to be sticky at the top, but that might be a premium feature in my future. The Pinterest look is effective, but if you never or rarely use pictures or video on your posts, it won’t work so well for readers. Like Vine, Rebelmouse is a visual medium first and text comes second. That’s fine. We’re visual creatures. Your future boyfriend or girlfriend across the dance floor might have a great sense of humour and a powerful intellect, but your first impression is eyes, hair, cheekbones, build and how well they fit in those jeans as they do the funky chicken.

Conclusions

Rebelmouse looks great for authors, photographers, musicians, graphic artists and anyone who wants a more social pitch site (compared to a pricier, upscale, hard sell, sales site like Crushpath). As we continue to search for new ways for authors to find readers (and help readers find us), Rebelmouse is one easy way. It’s the free solution I was looking for to create a magazine experience of all that I offer in one convenient page.

Book promotion and marketing is damn tough. It just got a little easier to curate ourselves in a happy way.

Filed under: author platform, book marketing, podcasts, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, rebelmouse, Vine, web reviews, What about Chazz?, What about you?, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I screwed up. I’m going to need a bigger boat.

I screwed up

I had a publishing schedule and a plan. I committed to ship books on time. As Seth Godin says, “Artists ship.” This is business, so make a good plan and Cool+People+Podcast+Finalstick to it. But what if the plan sucks?

Time to adapt

Adaptation is what a small company can do that a big company often can’t. Big companies have committees and hierarchies and approval processes. I’ve got me and a couple of freelancers and an ad hoc committee of friends and allies I bounce ideas back and forth with. All the decisions, blame and reward go to me. It’s time to take blame and make new plans.

The Excuses Not to Ship

Six+Seconds+copyI had stalled out on writing fiction for a couple of weeks because of time management issues and sickness: My daughter got sick; I started a new podcast; I wrote a book about Vine. All those things were necessary to deal with and I have no regrets. I’m rather fond of the sick kid, so there’s that. I’m excited about adding another podcast (the Cool People Podcast!) to my tiny empire. Six Seconds, The Unauthorized Guide to How to Build Your Business with the Vine App, was a fun exercise that could actually help people get more attention to their brands with a new social media tool. Diversifying helped my other books’ sales, too. As diversions go from the main war plan, these are pretty good ones. However…

The Reasons to Adapt

My production plan was off target because I need to launch a new series to get more attention to my other books. I try not to think too much about all that I have planned for this year. If I try to grok it all at once, my cerebellum pounds my brain pan until I lie down clutching an Advil bottle.

The core issue is the crime fiction I write is hardboiled, but funny. That’s a tough nut to crack. Many would call sardonic neo-noir Bigger_Than_Jesus_Cover_for_Kindlea forgotten niche. The reviews of the Hit Man Series (Bigger Than Jesus, Higher Than Jesus) are great, but I realized I had to diversify to get the whole line of books more attention.

Self-help for Stoners, for instance, sells the best consistently, but it’s also been around longest and by some people’s lights, it’s experimental fiction, too (or at least weird and maybe challenging). The Hit Man Series would be considered experimental by some. I don’t agree. In fact, I think that’s a bit silly, but who cares what I think when I have numbers to evaluate? I have to diversify to get the tide to raise all the boats.

The Original Plan

I was going to write the third book in the Hit Man Series, Hollywood Jesus, next. I’m already more than halfway through it and I love that character and his story. The book after Hollywood Jesus will be a real twist, too. I’m going to revisit characters from the original book. My pitiable assassin, Jesus Diaz, will share the book with…ahem…no spoilers yet…but the twist will make that series achieve lift off in a huge way, I’m sure. I can hardly wait. However, in publishing Six Seconds, I’ve seen how one book can help other books in surprising ways. By giving new readers a surprising book that delivers in a more conventional way in a comfortable genre, I’ll open them up to trying my other brands of inspired lunacy.

The New Plan

Higher than Jesus Final NEW copyI have a post-apocalyptic, coming-of-age plague thriller that’s already written. It took me a year to write. I’m revising it now. It’s 125,000 words and ripe for serialization. This book has some strange elements to it since much of the action is seen through the eyes of a boy with Aspergers. I’m going to publish the Aspergers/plague book next, instead of Hollywood Jesus. Though the subject matter can be strange and wonderful and scary and terrible, it’s an adventure story told in third person, limited omniscient. In other words, it won’t scare anyone off because it feels “experimental”. Strange at times, sure, but it’s ultimately about a family and family relationships strained by a crisis. In the Hit Man Series, there’s a lot created to make you laugh. In this series, you’ll take me seriously.

I will deliver the plague thriller in two months. Anybody who wrote me off as too weird for them just because I write stuff that challenges preconceptions of how stories should be told? Buckle up. I’m coming for you and I won’t even have to shanghai and coerce you up the plank to my party cruise. You’re going to want to be a passenger on my pleasure boat. I’m making it bigger, just for you.

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

“You will laugh your ass off!” ~ Author of Cybrgrrl, Maxwell Cynn

Game on.

~ Chazz’s author site is AllThatChazz.com where you can find out more about his books or check out his rants and author readings on the All That Chazz Podcast. His new website is CoolPeoplePodcast.com. The first episode features horror author Armand Rosamilia in conversation about zombies, The Walking Dead and writing more books, faster (among other things.) Check it out. 

Filed under: book marketing, Books, ebooks, podcasts, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, What about Chazz?, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

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

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