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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Writers and Writing 2015: Everything is Awful Edition

Everywhere you look, it seems we’re entering 2015 under a dark cloud. In many ways, 2014 kind of sucked. Tales from the torture report and numerous shootings seemed to reinforce my chronically disappointed view of humanity…but let’s talk publishing and tackle what we can handle.

Yes, publishing news sucked, too.

The VAT has come in. If I sold much in European markets, I’d be upset about it. Almost all my book revenue comes from the US, so it’s a shrug for now and a worry for later in my case. There’s a lot of Chicken Littling going on, and even a guru or two saying indies will be begging to get trad contracts again. 

Before I go on, I want to burn a straw man argument. There’s a lot of nyaa-nya, nya-nyaa-nya about how Amazon isn’t so great anymore because Kindle Unlimited (KU) devalues books etc. The forces behind the gloating (“Do you still love Amazon now that they’ve proven they aren’t your fairy godmother?”) are arguing with ghosts. Our love for Amazon was always conditional, so chill.

Let me clear a few things up from the indie side about our prospects in 2015:

1. Amazon has grown progressively less attractive to some authors. True. I’m one of them. However, some authors report they are doing better since KU came in. Let’s calm down and evaluate on a case by case basis. Running from Amazon might not be for you even though it may be right for big sellers who aren’t selling so big anymore. KU might still serve you if you aren’t so well known and if you write short.

2. When we defended Amazon, it was because that’s where we made money. It was a business decision, just  as the decision to leave exclusivity with Amazon is a business decision now. The straw man screams we either have to love or hate Amazon’s terms. Appreciate the nuance because it’s more complex than that. Look at your numbers and consider how you feel about Kindle Unlimited’s limited payoff before you make your move.

3. KDP Select versus the other platforms is still not a binary choice. I’ll keep some books exclusive to Amazon for a time. Not all of them. Not forever. I’ve been migrating a few books to other platforms as they come out of Amazon exclusivity. That will continue. My debuts will go to Amazon, but I won’t be clicking the auto-renewal button. After 90 days, most books will be everywhere. It’s got to be strategic, not a panic.

4. Just because Amazon isn’t paying off as well as it did does not mean the other sales platforms have improved. Can you name a single recent innovation the other platforms have come up with that benefits writers? Any new discovery tools over there? No? Waiting for Amazon to devolve isn’t a proactive strategy.

5. Considerations: I’m pulling many of my books out of exclusivity because of Kindle Unlimited. Though I get new borrows all the time, I’ve written a lot of long books and who knows how long it will take readers to get around to getting past 10% on my big books? KDP and KU exclusivity, in my case, seems increasingly a place for top of sales funnel projects (i.e. prequels, short stories and novellas.)

Add a call to action to short works to help readers find the longer books. Serials appear to be gaining popularity among writers again since KU came along. I serialized This Plague of Days, but some readers get awfully confused about serials and I don’t want to have to do it again if I can avoid it. I’d rather sell the TPOD Omnibus. Serialization is an option, but the tools to make it work better are not honed. 

6. Corollary: Kindle Unlimited pays horribly, but we may not actually be losing as many sales as we think. I suspect there are book buyers and there are KU users who are into free and super cheap books. Two groups. No one knows for sure how much that Venn diagram overlaps, but my guess is many KU users tended to get their books from libraries, not bookstores, before Kindle Unlimited became available. Nothing wrong with book borrowers and library users, but I can’t afford to subsidize the lending program anymore. I believe that exclusivity is hurting me too much and I hate the uncertainty of the KU payment, so I’m getting out.

7. Caveat: To harken back to point #4, since it’s so important, the fight for dominance is between what we can gain from all the other sales platforms versus what losses we attribute to Amazon’s exclusivity and Kindle Unlimited. So far, my experiments on other platforms have convinced me they really need to develop better discovery tools. When I have to use two searches to find my own books? Ye gods! Apple sucks at discovery.

I’ve said this so many times in this space: I look forward to the other platforms developing better sales strategies and discovery tools. I want to upload my books with some confidence that Amazon’s competitors will do better for me than Kindle Unlimited’s lousy pay. When one alternative book sales platform, an innovator and leader, can show me the effort is there, I’ll be shouting their praises on this blog.

8. What’s next for indies in 2015? I suspect a new platform will emerge or one of Amazon’s competitors will offer a strong alternative. I’m not betting on Smashwords to do it. I’m thinking Alibaba.

9. What else is new(ish)? I’m not impressed by interactive books at all. I want to choose my own music to read by and all that tech takes me out of the reading experience, especially if they perfect it. That’s crap.

Early adopters and smarter indies will diversify with audiobooks and translations. Indies will found more partnerships to put out more books. Author collectives will pool resources for closer “coopetition.” I’m in one cooperative for a book project with eight authors in 2015, for instance. Working together, we’ll be a huge marketing force. Cooperatives can work in lots of ways. Most of us can’t afford even a cheap virtual assistant, but several authors working together could.

You will also see more pen names crop up as indies, desperate to chase hotter genres, will abandon what they thought they wanted to write for what might pay better. Some will sell their souls chasing that kite. Others will discover that good writing is always about the writing, not the subject matter. They may even grow to love the genre they feel was forced upon them.

Direct sales are a good idea for the few with a huge mailing list, but it won’t come to fruition for any but a few in 2015. Now’s the time to build your mailing list. Several years ago was a much better time to do that, so whip out that time machine, kill Hitler, then zip forward and build your mailing list in 2008. No time machine? Set up your Mailchimp account, put a pop up plug-in for a sign up on your blog and offer readers something really sweet to get them to sign up. It’s very difficult to get people to give up their email addresses, so make that lure with extra fudge.

Those of us who have ignored print sales will capitulate and get print editions up beside the ebooks. I’m finally printing Murders Among Dead Trees and Hollywood Jesus this week and there’s more to come in print. I typically only move a few print copies here and there, though Self-help for Stoners sold 72 copies in print in December. If nothing else, the print price makes our ebook prices look better.

10. Indies will not run to traditional publishing any more than they have in the past. Despite the hoopla, ebook growth has not stopped. It’s slowed from a pace it couldn’t possibly sustain. Amid the growing pains of any new tech experience and the cyclical shifts and bumps that are inherent in any young industry, we’re still better off keeping 70% of the profits and retaining our rights forever. As bad as things appear for us, unless it’s a sweetheart deal no one else is getting and you’re allergic to entrepreneurship, staying independent is still better than most alternatives.

That said, I think there will be more hybrid deals. I’ll be in an anthology in 2015, but the publisher is friendly and forward-thinking. These hybrid deals will be short term with small stakes and indies will generally accept them to boost their self-published works. Traditional publishers will dump their non-compete clauses, too. In fact, that’s already happening as some houses already recognize new deals won’t happen if they insist on draconian contract clauses. Non-compete clauses aren’t compatible with the current landscape, as challenging as it can be. More indies want to make a living from writing and, through ebooks, have been doing so at a greater rate than their traditionally published counterparts. Yes, things kind of suck for indie authors right now, but accepting abysmal terms from a trad house that pays pennies on net, would definitely suck.

Am I optimistic for 2015?

No, that’s not in my nature. But optimism and pessimism don’t really matter. Assessment, adaptability and strategy matter on the marketing side of this business or any other.

On the writing side?

I have to keep writing. It keeps me out of jail. I’ll keep writing no matter what. You will, too. We have an infection and that writing rash sure is itchy, isn’t it? 

~ Robert Chazz Chute is a suspense and dark fantasy novelist who is funnier and nicer than he seems in this post. Blame the headache. 

HaUNTING (6)

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Solopreneur Writers: 10 Nitty Gritty Pickies

Thousands of little details afflict us as artisanal publisher-authorpreneurial Han Solo writer-heroes. A couple of authors publishing books for the first time have asked me about nitty-gritty details to watch for. Here are ten that came up in our discussions of new book launches.

1. When you set your price on Amazon, the calculator will automatically set comparable prices in other countries. Set it lower for India. The “comparable” price would actually buy three books in India (and so, is too expensive.)

2. If you have a list of book bloggers to whom you wish to send Advanced Reading Copies, check their guidelines carefully to see their preferred reading mode. PDFs are free to email but some people don’t want to sideload their e-reader or read on their computer.

The easiest solution is to gift the book to your list of reviewers, preferably during a pulse sale at 99 cents to minimize the cost of promotion. You get credit for the sales and potential reviewers are more likely to check it out with Amazon’s happy, one-click experience.

Smashwords has a solution that’s free: Promo codes. Send the code to potential reviewers so they can redeem it for a complimentary copy. Inexplicably, no other platform has stolen this idea yet. Still!

3. Services like Smashwords and Draft2Digital can upload to multiple platforms at once. However, there is often a delay if you want to change your prices across retailers. This makes a BookBub promotion, for instance, a logistical problem. And by “problem,” I mean a red-hot skewer in the gluteus maximus.

I’ve noticed the worst delays seem to happen between Smashwords and Apple. One of my books took more than six months to show up on Apple. Draft2Digital had problems with Kobo. Those issues are fixed now.

4. KDP Select’s five days of giving your book away for free isn’t the great tool it once was, though other platforms still seem at a loss as to how to promote effectively and boost discoverability. The commitment to exclusivity with KDP Select is five days out of ninety. 

If you are using free day promotions, I suggest you don’t promote for more than two days at a time. Better to stop while sales are still coming in and visibility is high rather than allow the sale to lose steam over an extended period.

Use Author Marketing Club to identify sites that will promote your promotions so you maximize promotion power.

5. Some intermediaries charge much more to upload your book to various platforms. Avoid them. More important than the fee they charge, you’ll sacrifice power over your book and flexibility to promote.

If you don’t have the technical skills to do it yourself, get someone else to help you for a fraction of the cost (and a one-time fee instead of bleeding cash on an ongoing basis.)

6. Box sets are the latest tool for discoverability. I’m involved in one now and, though we’re still at the very early stages, my visibility on Amazon has already gone up.

How it works is, several authors get together. After a cage match, the Alpha who has the most resources and the one they all trust, publishes a sampler. They might give away whole books. Everybody promotes the box set at 99 cents and bam, the tide raises all boats and more readers find you. 

Some people are sneering at box sets, but I think it’s because they misunderstand the intent. It’s not about making money, particularly. This is us playing the long game and working with allies to fire off flares. It’s about raising your rank, giving strangers a chance to fall in love with your work and selling your other books. (So write more books.)

7. Publishing is a business and, despite the fact that we’re all cybering and telecommuting from our worldwide basement headquarters, you’ll still have to run errands. The thing you track least for tax time is mileage. Keep a notebook in the car and track it. Canadians, use a pencil because you know that pen will freeze each winter (August to June).

It might not add up to much, but it’s a lot when you’re making nothing. You wouldn’t burn cash just for fun, would you? Then keep your receipts and track the little things. Claiming a home office may be all that justifies your new publishing venture to your accountant, and your spouse, for the first couple of years.

8. Word was built for office use. Scrivener was built for writers. The program allows you to bounce around your manuscript with ease and format for publication. Get Scrivener. If you’ve already written your text in Word, importing to Scrivener is not a big deal. Yes, there is a learning curve, but it’s worth it.

9. Before you publish and make all the other edits you’re going to make, search the text for two spaces. Those extra spaces sneak in if you don’t scrub them out.

10. Yes, you need an author website, but a simple WordPress site (preferably with your own name) will do. Eventually, with more books under your belt and future changes in the publishing landscape, you may choose to sell books straight from your site. It’s a cool idea that doesn’t really have elegant delivery solutions for the reader (yet).

You can switch your author site to a more complex configuration later, if need be. Don’t worry about that for now. Now is the time to build a base of readers. You could sell straight from your website, but most authors would prefer not to sacrifice their visibility and reviews across the current sales platforms. 

~ There are many more details to attend to, but that’s a start. Hi, by the way. I’m Robert Chazz Chute. Good to meet you. Find me on Twitter @rchazzchute. Connect with me on Facebook here.

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My Year in Indie Publishing: Lessons learned

Just released! Paranormal, crime, weirdness and murdering Delusion.

Just released! Paranormal, crime, weirdness and murdering Delusion.

Hundreds of mugs of coffee and almond milk later…where am I now? I quit my part-time job to work at writing full-time. It’s been one year, one month and sixteen days. Today, a look back on the first year of Ex Parte Press and lessons learned:

1. I published Self-help for Stoners and Sex, Death & Mind Control first, just before I quit. I went with Bookbaby as the intermediary on those two. In hindsight, not the best choice. To change absolutely anything costs. I should have gone more DIY up front so I’d have more flexibility with those titles. (Also, their responses to my requests for information have been very slow.) Unless things improve with BB, I will pull them eventually and republish without the intermediation.

2. I published some short stories through Smashwords. Smashwords hasn’t paid off, though I think it will the more I publish through that platform. I hurt myself early on with a bad DIY cover. Short stories are a tough sell, but my collections sell better. (Oh, hey! Just published the definitive collection: Murders Among Dead Treeswhich is two previous ebooks plus much more, bonus commentary and a sneak peek. More about that later. Nice cover, huh? No more DIY covers for me! My graphics guy and go-to dude is Kit Foster. Check his portfolio.)

3. In the first few months of the year, I wrote a lot but worked on promotion too much, too soon. I should have allocated my time to get more books done and worry about promotion less on the front end. Writing more books and expanding your bookshelf is the only sure way of grabbing more eyeballs in the long run.

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

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

4. In May, in a simulcast across North America, I gave director Kevin Smith an autographed copy of  Self-help for Stoners. It now resides in his bathroom. Though I got onstage, I was still too shy about promoting myself and hampered the opportunity by getting offstage too quick. The follow-up press release campaign was a waste of money and time. The appearance on Smodco’s podcast was a better stab at being a publicity monster, but due to a mistake that wasn’t mine, that effort, too, was hobbled because it aired at the very end of the Valentine’s Day podcast. Personally, it was a very positive thing. Professionally, less so. (When I see Self-help for Stoners stats go up, I have to wonder if that’s a delayed positive outcome, though.)

5. I had a disappointing falling out with a publisher in June. Everything was peachy until the promised money didn’t arrive on the timetable agreed upon. I relearned a lesson I should have picked up by now: Don’t work with angry people (and, when they are uncommunicative, that doesn’t mean all’s well.) Good luck to them. I remain righteous.

"Worthy of Elmore Leonard with shades of Thomas Harris..."

“Worthy of Elmore Leonard with shades of Thomas Harris…”

6. By June I’d published another collection, The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories. In July, Bigger Than Jesus, my first crime novel, was ready.

I later discovered that TDK &OS had production issues. I think Scrivener used an earlier draft it shouldn’t have. As soon as I found out about it, we went into whirlwind mode, corrected the text and published a new edition of The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories. (Nonetheless, sales plummeted on that title. Nuts.)

I found some things I want to change in the paperback of Bigger Than Jesus, though the same problems didn’t appear in the ebook. Scrivener is a great program, but there’s still quite a learning curve. Next problem, finding an equally great and affordable program for editing print books. Formatting print books in Scrivener is too hard (at least for me.) 

7. I podcast Bigger Than Jesus through the summer, a chapter at a time. The podcast continues to grow and the last episode of 2012 (airing this week) will be #62. I’m pleased with it, but my mistake was to focus too much on marketing the first book. I’d named the podcast Self-help for Stoners (reasoning that at least I’d have an identifiable and easily entertained audience.) I later switched it to the All That Chazz podcast because my author site is AllThatChazz.com and the new title reflects the variety of whimsies I offer. The podcast has listeners worldwide, but I’m still most popular with the beautiful stoners of California.

A quick-moving plot with lots of surprises and a clear-eyed examination of addiction.

A quick-moving plot with lots of surprises and a clear-eyed examination of addiction.

8. By September, Higher Than Jesus, the second in the Hit Man Series was ready. I need to get more reviews, but the feedback tells me I’m on the right track (i.e. clever twists and reversals, even more funny dialogue, less swearing, more sex.) There’s a prejudice among some authors that a book has to take a long time to write for it to be any good. I don’t agree, if it’s the right book and the right writer. That’s one of the many points I argued in…

9. Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire released this fall. I drew on years of experience from working in traditional publishing and I’d been writing about writing for years. It was going to be one book, but that proved too big and overwhelming. I made it into two books. Boiled down from more than 1,000 posts on this blog, I revised, revamped and added bonus and updated material. I need more sales and reviews, of course, but in the long-term, these two are a score on the non-fiction side of Ex Parte Press. I’m sure there will be more books in the Writing and Publishing Series in 2014.

Grab Crack the Indie Author Code here.

Grab Crack the Indie Author Code here.

So what was learned? This is Item #9. By now, you’ve no doubt noticed there’s always a kick in the teeth. I learned that when you farm out editing work to an unfamiliar editor who misses deadlines and doesn’t get back to you, don’t be surprised when you’re disappointed. When the manuscript finally arrived, she’d made four or five corrections toward the end (perhaps trying to make me think she’d read the whole thing.) That set production back two months so all that editing had to be accomplished by someone else.  A costly delay.

10. Anxious to publish, I had plans for two more books in 2012. I wanted to get on with revising the big book: my ambitious, dystopian, coming-of-age thriller. I also began writing the third in the Hit Man Series, Hollywood Jesus.

More tips and tricks to steer your authorship. This book is free to you until Saturday, Dec. 15! Please click to get it now.

More tips and tricks to steer your authorship.

Then I learned the most important lesson yet: Balance. My work schedule caused problems with my health. Family obligations were  ignored. You can work nineteen and twenty-hour days. I don’t recommend it for long. I slowed a little and took more time with Murders Among Dead Trees. I got stuck on a couple of the stories and needed to take my time to make them better. The short, “Another Narrow Escape”, flowed out all at once and came easily. Others needed tinkering. I took the time I needed and Murders Among Dead Trees is just out. That’s the last of my short story collections. People buy novels and series much more, so that’s what I will write.

I’ll release the next books in early 2013…but I’ll be more flexible about what “early” means. I’ll also wrestle with the kids more.

So, as 2012 draws to a close, I have eight books up on Amazon (that by February will mostly be available across all platforms, not just Amazon.) ChazzWrites.com is a finalist among the best self-publishing blogs of 2012. This morning, Roger Colby from Writing is Hard Work (say that a little louder, Candy! It sure is hard work!) nominated me for Blog of the Year. John the Aussie never misses an opportunity to hit the “like” button on my posts. The books on writing and publishing will help a lot of people and the Hit Man Series will distract many from their pain and doom as they enjoy hilarious and hardboiled revenge fantasies. Today, I’ve never been more poor, but I don’t think I’ve been happier. 

What did I do right in 2012? I wrote every day and consistently. Then I rewrote. I got Dave Jackson to help me with my podcast and I got Kit Foster to design my covers. I asked for help when I realized I couldn’t do it all. I gathered allies and made a lot of friends through this blog. This is good. This is what beginning again looks like. It’s only my first year in indie publishing, not the last.

Never mind the Mayans. Year Two starts now. Tally-freakin’-ho!

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AB Challenge 24: More on Free Books. Moron Free Books.

Yesterday, we talked about free ebooks and me. Now let’s talk about you, too. Recently we said, “Free is the new 99 cents!” Now free is fraught with diminished opportunity and all that lousy freeness. Let’s delve into pricing ebooks for promotions and try to figure out for ourselves if this is a time to rest and recover or should we double down on ebook marketing?

History: Last year, selling at 99 cents still moved some books and gained new readers. The royalty wasn’t great but it was a loss leader. Now 99 cents just seems to be a loss. I had my novella, The Dangerous Kind, up for 99 cents. It’s a great story that slides the steel home at around 10,000 words. After analysing the sales (took two seconds) I’ve taken it down. Later this week it will be back on Amazon for $2.99, bundled in with some Poeticule Bay short stories. My short story collections sell, but offering a deal on a shorter work didn’t attract readers and my short stories on Smashwords (each priced at 99 cents) aren’t moving as is so they’ll all be in one collection: The Dangerous Kind and Other Stories.

Part of the problem was the old cover for my novella. I’ve blogged about this issue before so I won’t rehash it. I’ll only say: Be indie if you want, but make sure your covers don’t look indie. (My graphic designer, Kit Foster can help you with that at a very reasonable price for a very professional look.)

GET BIGGER THAN JESUS

The Loss Leader Pricing Paradox: You’re pricing your work inexpensively to attract new readers. You’re hoping new people will find you, take a chance on you, dig your flavour, buy all your books and spread your holy word. However, going cheap actually repels some browsers because they associate a cheap price with a bad book. So many times I’ve read in comment threads, “If the author values their work so little, why should I?” There’s someone who doesn’t appreciate the indie author’s bind. I’ll save your life for free. Does that make your life worth less? (Ooh, he’s cranky today!)

Which brings us to the Opportunity/Problem Paradox: The same browsers who think 99 cents cheapens the inherent value of the book often think no less of an author who offers their work for free. All ebooks have free samples, of course, but I don’t think very many potential buyers look at them. They go by genre, the author’s rep, the cover and the description (not necessarily in the that order.) Free is easy and no risk and I haven’t seen many people casting aspersions on authors offering free entertainment. Free is so ubiquitous, it’s considered the norm. It’s an opportunity for the reader and the writer. Free is so ubiquitous, it’s a problem because of the glut of free ebooks on e-readers. We’re drowning in free.

The Perceived Value Corollary: There are so many free books filling up e-readers that readers have no commitment to what they download. (Amazon says, “Click to buy”, but if it’s free, it really means “Click to download”, doesn’t it?) Many of those free books will go unread. When you can click and get, click and get, click and get, there’s no investment on the reader’s part in individual books. Instead, the hoarder mentality rises. What this means for writers is, the minute you’ve dared to slow down your narrative, the quicker the reader is to dump you for another free ebook. We’ve already seen evidence of this trend: there’s less of a market for literary fiction that demands more of the reader.

PV Corollary Case study: A buddy of mine was a sales rep for Margaret Atwood and loved her to bits. I told him I couldn’t get into The Handmaid’s Tale. I bailed out after too many slow pages examining the scratchings of previous handmaids in the rear of the bedroom closet. “Chazz,” he said,”What you’ve got to learn to do when a story slows down too much is grab a few pages and flip forward.” I’m a bit OCD about reading every word so I was a bit shocked. Skipping a page  had never occurred to me. “So…” I said, “You haven’t read it, either!”

The Hidden Unintended Consequence: On an e-reader, no one knows what you’re reading on the bus to work. Sales of erotica have risen because we don’t have to hide our actual taste or pay at a bookstore register manned by a silver-haired woman who looks exactly like Baptist Grammy. Only Homeland Security and the computers that record everything know all you really want is Fifty Shades of Grey. However, it’s not just about erotica. The market has ruled and so-called “downmarket” fiction is what people buy. The readers disagree with the historic arbiters of taste about what’s important. (Did you hear that pop? Somebody’s head exploded again. Clean up, aisle three!)

The Value Addition: When you buy a book — not just download it for free — you show commitment. You’re trusting the author to show you a good time and if you throw it aside, you aren’t just tossing the book. You’re throwing away the bucks you put into it, too.

The Cost-benefit Analysis: For readers, free books are great because choice is awesome. For the writer, providing free books is a way to gain the trust of the reader at no risk (to the reader.) It’s about exposure so you get ranked on lists. Many readers don’t trust reviews (often unfairly) so free is one  avenue into their hearts and minds. We’re making a short-term sacrifice to get our work read, to get on “also viewed and also bought lists” and to get our share of that sweet lending pot of gold from Amazon. Giving our precious away for free is an advertising cost that doesn’t show up as a debit in our bank accounts, but it’s still a cost.

The Cost-benefit Caveat: Since Amazon changed their algorithm, it’s not as happy a story as it was last December. Unless you wrote Fifty Shades of Grey, sales have slumped across the board since March and we’re now into the summer doldrums of the book buying year. The market is as cyclical as the sea. The wind will come back in our sails. The readers will return as free diminishes. Some authors are opting out of KDP Select, or opting in for one three-month cycle for the promotion and then opting out to stop the exclusivity clause and give other sales outlets a chance.

The Irrational Variable Conundrum: Does free devalue literature? Will our prices be chronically depressed because of free? As an indie writer, this isn’t a question that affects me. The higher prices traditional publishers charge for ebooks doesn’t mean that their authors are getting more dough. It’s going to the publishers for their high overheads. I only have to pay me so the 70% royalty rate on my books still looks pretty sweet to me. Like they used to say in cheesy, local car commercials on cable, “How do we do it? Volume!” I’m glad traditional publishers keep their ebook prices high. It gives a guy like me a chance at being discovered.

Will these short-term sacrifices mean long-term financial pain? No, yes and maybe. Who knows? I’m suspicious of too much certainty. Your answer may vary because the fulcrum for this heavy conundrum rests of an irrational variable: How high were your expectations to begin with? Is this side money, the size, say, of the little Swiss Chalet side salad? Did you want the comfort of the double leg dinner as an income? Or did you want the richness of the full Swiss Chalet Family pack with the coconut cream pie for desert? Input your variable and solve for X.

Conclusions: Given the free ebook glut, do you market even harder now that we’re into summer’s slow days? I think I’ll just stay the course. It feels like trying to run up the down escalator and I already flog hard enough as it is. Instead, I’m focusing my energies on putting up more of the work I’ve prepared and I’m writing new stuff. I’m giving the market more time to recover so I’ll be ready with more books to sell.

Putting up more books is the only sure way I know of selling more books.

Predictions:  New strategies will emerge, but no one seems sure what The Answer is. It might not be one answer and it might not be as dramatic and sweeping as the free ebook boom that hit the market when Amazon’s KDP Select algorithms benefited us so much back in December. I suspect we’ll be actively spending more money on advertising and promotion for our books in the near future. I’m aware of a few new and clever-sounding strategies, but they are as yet untested by the market’s searing flame. I’ll revisit said strategies in a future post, but today’s post is already too long and don’t we have some serious writing to do?

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VIDEO: Brace yourself for my eyes afire. Yeah, that’s just a little disturbing.

Last week I talked quote trailers. Here’s a fresh one for a different book: Sex, Death & Mind Control. If I had to do it again, I’d change the title. Why? Because I’ve run into a startling number of people who expect it to be porn or too violent for them (not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that, but it’s not porn and it’s not even gory.) It’s twisty and weird and fun and you don’t see the groin punches coming. I ran into similar problems with another title, Self-help for Stoners. I write suspense, but my titles are obviously missing that mark.

I blame myself because I don’t have an intern around the office to accuse of incompetence and inadequate pencil sharpening. Oooh, but if I did…er…anyway, perhaps the quote trailers will change potential readers’ expectations. Download a sample from Amazon here or from Smashwords. I’m everywhere, and yet nowhere. I’m a riddle inside a paradox wrapped in a burrito. Which is a problem from a sales perspective but I’m confident my readership will find me. And if not, I’ll just have to suit up in my cape and cowl and go hunt them. By night. In a car with a jet engine that can turn into a submarine. The usual lengths authors have to go to find readers.

Now off to interview some intern candidates to see how tolerant they are to screaming fits, being called Alfred and cleaning up bat guano. The lair is looking untidy.

Filed under: book trailer, ebooks, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, What about Chazz?, , , , , , , ,

Review, Interview and Podcast News

Many regular readers expect a new podcast from me right about now. Since my throat has closed up and I’m currently absorbing oxygen through my pores, there’s no podcast this evening (though if you missed any, they can all be found at AllThatChazz.com.)

Twisty and twisted. Click the pic for more.

However, I do have sweet and tasty candies for you:

From the NSFW category, erotica author Eden Baylee asks me some piercing Proustian questions and I give some earnest, logical and scatological answers. Not only is it not safe for work, it may not even be safe for your living room. Click here, read there and have a laugh.

Over at The Raven’s Quill, Krista Walsh gives a lovely review of Sex, Death & Mind Control.There are allusions to Dr. Hannibal Lecter. She’s beguiled, so I know my experiments with mind control really are working. See what the fuss is all about and read the review on her site.

Recently, RaeBeth McGee interviewed me at The Writing World. I’m all about the pithy answers about writer’s block, verisimilitude and my enemies will get a clue as to where to search for the hidden secret to my weaknesses! Enjoy in a click.

A new cover is coming for The Dangerous Kind. This time it will be pretty since Kit at KitFosterDesign is pinch hitting for me. It will be more effective because the new cover will include a happy endorsement from a bestselling author.

If you don’t have a Kindle, but still want The Dangerous Kind edition with the vintage cover, you can get it on Smashwords here. I’ve had great reviews of this suspenseful novella. You could be the next happy reader to review this claustrophobic story of greed, betrayal and inner demons in the Maine woods. (Still for just 99 cents! Couch change!)

I shall be podcasting again when my throat is no longer full of razor blades. For now, I think you’ll find these links plenty entertaining. For me? Each of these links taste like affirmation of me as a writer and acknowledgement that I’m a player…excuse me, that should be playah. And all that tastes like chocolate croissant. My thanks to Eden, Krista and RaeBeth! That was fun!

I have major announcements cooking, so stay tuned.

Cool stuff is coming your way.

Related articles

Filed under: All That Chazz, ebooks, My fiction, publishing, reviews, self-publishing, short stories, What about Chazz?, , , , , , , , ,

Smashwords — PayPal vs Erotica Debate Update & a New Deadline

Via Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction
Mark Coker responds to critics and says the issue is not only bigger than Smashwords. It’s bigger than PayPal! Read on for the update on the deadline extension and the “sliver of hope.” Click the link for Mark Coker’s latest letter on the censorship debate. ~ Chazz
Via www.smashwords.com

Filed under: censors, censorship, ebooks, publishing, self-publishing, , , , , , ,

Two Legs Bad: An Open Letter to Mark Coker | Remittance Girl : Erotic Fiction, Stories and Series

Via Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction

This post is a public response to an email sent by Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, asking all erotic writers to take down any books that contravene their…
Via remittancegirl.com

Filed under: censors, censorship, publishing, self-publishing, Useful writing links, , , , , , , , , ,

PayPal cracks down on erotica e-book sales | TeleRead: News and views on e-books, libraries, publishing and related topics

Via Scoop.itWriting and reading fiction

So from the last post, we know that erotica is very popular on e-readers. But slow down, there, aspiring erotica fiction writer. PayPal just made Smashwords clamp down on your id with ice tongs and put your readers’ vice in a vice.

I’m probably not going to miss books I wanted to read, but the ultimatum from PayPal is a bit ironic considering that I often write about clever serial killers and nobody will bother me about it. Also, isn’t there research that shows that transgressive fiction may provide an outlet for kinks the world says it hates so said nastiness is not acted out in reality? Also, does it bother anyone that all this stuff Paypal is censoring is, in fact, legal? A group of European scientists are going to publish a scientific paper on how to weaponize an extremely virulent bird flu and nobody’s stopping them?! Wow.
I also worry that Mark Coker states up front in his warning letter to authors that “mistakes will be made.” (Points for honesty.) But will those mistakes include my book Sex, Death & Mind Control (for fun and profit) because of the title? I’d say obviously not, except someone already assumed it was porn because of the title. (It’s creepy suspense and brilliant literature in which you discover more about yourself, I assure you.) If my book gets swept up in the censors’ purge, how long will it be off the electric shelves?

Ultimately, if they’re going to censor, I wish they’d done this on a complaint-based, case by case basis so fewer mistakes will be made and authors won’t lose income.  It’s a sticky situation and I’m sympathetic to Mark’s position. To save the whole, he had to amputate a limb. If that imagery titillates you at all, I’ll have to delete this post. Click the Scoopit! link to learn more and to figure out your feelings on this. ~ Chazz
Via www.teleread.com

Filed under: censors, censorship, Genre, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Review: The highs and lows of a book promotion campaign. What works?

Suspense, parables, inspiration, surprise.

Last week I wrote about my campaign to drag Self-help for Stoners into the world’s consciousness. If you’re new to the blog, long story short: I wrote a book of suspenseful fiction with a self-help twist dedicated to director Kevin Smith. When I had the honour of handing the book to my DIY hero at a comedy event simulcast to theatres across the US and Canada, I felt I had to take advantage of this unique opportunity. I tried an experiment with a press release distribution service called PR Web. For more on that review of the troubles I had getting the press release accepted for wide distribution, check out the original post here. 

Soon after the press release went into wide distribution, I got a small increase in traffic, but not, it seemed, in the way I’d hoped. 

The Dangerous Kind

Murder might solve your problems. Two brothers go hunting. Only one will see home again.

A fellow on Google+ was complimentary to me (I have balls!) but thought the money ($240) was wasted. He wasn’t being unkind…at least I don’t think he meant to be. He just thought there were better uses of my time and newer, more innovative ways to spread the word about my book’s existence. I’m always interested in learning more and I’m particularly interested when people have ideas about what to do instead of what not to do. (More on that in another post after I conduct more field research.)

Imagine my chagrin when I read a post by Dead Wesley Smith who decreed that spending money on book promotion is a waste of time and money until you have 50 books for sale. That’s right. Fifty! I double-checked to make sure it wasn’t the cloying cloud of depression and stress headaches obscuring my vision misleading me. Kurt Vonnegut only wrote fourteen novels in his lifetime. If Dean Wesley Smith is right, is there any place for book promotion for most of us? Maybe I struck the iron too early, but given the scope of the simulcast, my press release appeared to be a now-or-never opportunity.

My speed of production isn’t near as quick as Dean Wesley Smith, but how many of us can write (good) books that fast? Maybe I should write faster, but even at once every three months, I wouldn’t be gambling a promotional penny to let the world know I exist until 2024. Will I even live long enough to ever have to bother with book promotion at that rate? Hm. That would be a great solution except for  the part about me being dead. I do agree with Dean on one point thoroughly and I’ve said it many times myself: your best book promotion idea is to get to work on the next book and I’m certainly doing that. I’ll be coming out with three books this year (so that’s one every four months, though I confess that two and half are already written and I’m mostly in the revision stage.) I’m not as skilled as Dean Wesley Smith because I’m not up to the pace he’s setting. I honestly wouldn’t have confidence in the end product if I pushed that fast. No worries or apologies on that score. We’re all just doing the best we can. (For more on what indie production actually costs, check out Dean Wesley Smith’s post here.)

But what you’re wondering is, what did the PR Web press release actually do and could that work for your book? It’s too early to tell, so once again, my results are

Don't argue over parking spots with strangers. Or else.

preliminary. The cycle of Google analytics is 28 days long, and what follows is just the first week of results. (However, isn’t it already old news now that the event is over a week stale?) I can tell you that PR Web’s marketing guy sounded very pleased. He phoned me yesterday morning to say that I’d worked the SEO right (five links maximum was how it worked out with my word count) and he said the response to the press release was “great.”

“How do I quantify ‘great’?” I asked. I’m sure I whacked him with a heavy note of skepticism but he seemed no less bouncy at my glorious prospects. He told me how to get the analytics for the press release. Apparently, the number of people who read the release, liked the headline and read to the end of the article was impressive, perhaps even unusual. Nice, though I wish I liked the press release more. (For more on that, once again, refer to the original post.)

8,027 media deliveries boiled down to 49 “interactions” (where a link was clicked or a pdf was downloaded) and eight “pickups”. The report contains a sample of Web sites that picked up or syndicated my story. It’s apparently not the full list, but media outlets included: Hollywood Industry, Mac DVD Pro, Digital Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, Corporate Media News, Yahoo! News, and Consumer Electronics Net.

But these aren’t the numbers you really want to know. Has this press release helped sales? Sadly, not much so far that is measurable. I saw a bit of a bounce up on my Amazon sales, but that settled quickly. And the truth is, since I’m doing several other things, I could easily attribute that blip to the success of other marketing tactics. But before I draw conclusions in this review, see if you can follow the roller coaster of author thrust and bureaucratic parry that has brought me to my sad current state.

Here are the highs and lows and forays

of my marketing campaign for Self-help for Stoners:

High: I sent out several press releases about meeting Kevin Smith to CBC shows and to my local paper. These forays cost me nothing.

Low: CBC didn’t call back. The local columnist who showed enthusiasm seems to have lost my number. Or he’s sick and not at work. Gee, I hope he’s sick.

What if God gives you what you want? What if you win an argument against God?

High: Kevin Smith has a cult and for a shining moment I was in front of them. I paid $200 for a one-minute ad to run on Smith’s Smodcast network the day he got back on the mic. I figured since he hadn’t been on the mic for such a long time, the first day he got back on the show would have high ratings and many downloads. And maybe they’d remember said shining moment from the broadcast of the Live from Behind Show in Toronto.

Low: The ad didn’t run on schedule. There was a communication breakdown. Despite my best efforts at keeping in touch with the ad guy at Smod, it didn’t happen. It’s supposed to run today (February 14th on Smodcast Internet Radio. I’m sacrificing a goat to Thor, hoping it happens this time. Don’t worry about the goat. He’s suicidal.)

High: I did two podcasts about my Kevin Smith experience, before and after. They’ve been well-received by those who have heard them. “One and a quarter hours of narrative gold,” said one, Thor bless him. Bliss. (See all the podcasts here.)

Low: Though they may catch on in the long term, not many people have actually heard them! I screwed up the metadata so, on Stitcher, the first words that show up in the tiny window that give the podcast summary are not Chazz Meets Kevin Smith and Jay Mewes. Instead it reads: Show notes and podcast details… That won’t get anybody new to check out my filthy jokes and stream of consciousness trips in order to find me utterly delightful and worthy of their love and bucks.

Twisty and twisted. Click the pic for more.

High: I thought KDP Select might be my salvation to really get things going. Amazon told me all I’d have to do was tell Bookbaby to withdraw from all other platforms to meet the exclusivity caveat. Any other action might risk duplication on Amazon’s site.

Low: BookBaby disagrees. I got a nice email (eventually—BookBaby seems awfully slow to respond to me of late) saying that they would have to withdraw the books from all channels, it would be permanent, and I’d have to enter my books into KDP Select myself. With no confidence in how long that might take, I don’t want to risk not having any books for sale anywhere, especially with all the promotion work I’ve done. I replied to BookBaby that rather than risk a screw up and no availability of my books for an indeterminate amount of time, I’d keep my books where they were through BookBaby and just get the new books straight into KDP Select without them next time. That’s a loss all around, I’d say, but I’m the one who will feel it most.

There are a lot of tragic starts and stops to this tale, aren’t there?

The word “thwarted” is pushing into the centre of my brain like the capricious thumb of an angry god.

High: I tried to organize a Buy X Get Y promotion for my book on Amazon.

Low: Amazon Advantage said they couldn’t do it because fulfilment for my paperback is through CreateSpace, which is POD and they’d need stock on hand. After a light scolding, they told me to go to CreateSpace for a similar promotion program.

Asia_Unbound

Are we ever free from our secrets? Find out here.

Lower: CreateSpace said they’d call back. Then they sent me an email instead saying they have no idea what Amazon is talking about. (Note that CreateSpace is owned by Amazon, too, but never the twain shall meet, I guess, even if the plan would have made a buttload of money.) Once again, Chazz hurts moms. So much so, he begins to write about himself in the third person. With loathing,

Lowest: As I write this, I’m feeling a bit emotional and teary. The sum of the message so far is: Nobody knows me, I don’t matter and as good as the book is, it still doesn’t matter if I can’t convince anyone to try it out. And a fresh pile of bills arrived yesterday. There isn’t an author on earth who hasn’t felt this way, yet the lash feels equally new for every person every time.

Clawing and climbing out of the mire: So there are a few things I am doing which I’m more positive about. Writing and revising the new stuff is going well. (Three new novels this year! Whoo, and also hoo!) The Writing World will run an interview with me in early March. My friend Eden Baylee will also run a saucy little interview with me soon. I’ve sent out a couple more copies for book reviewers and will continue to seek out reviewers for all my books. The Self-help for Stoners podcast continues weekly and I had a clip broadcast on Succotash, a popular comedy clip show. I think I’ll have an excerpt from Self-help appear on the next The Word Count Podcast, in support of #IndiesUnite4Joshua (fun and a great cause.) I’m also getting quite a few nice mentions on other podcasts, like Logical Weightloss and The School of Podcasting.

But wait, Chazz! How do you account for that blip where sales came up a bit? It could be my promise on my podcast to gain converts individually by tying each new reader up and torturing them with sexual delights to gain converts. It could be that some new people I met lately have checked out my books or some found me through the Kevin Smith event when I was on

Get Vengeance and get surprised.

camera. Maybe the press release had some effect, but I tend to doubt it, at least until more evidence arrives through Google analytics.

So what have we learned about promoting our books? So far? We need more data.

I’d say I’ve learned this much:

1. Triberr has helped me get more new traffic to my blogs than anything else. I can see that clearly in my stats and my Twitter feed.

2. I have to find more innovative ways to get the word out. I’m working on that. (More later.)

3. I have to get more reviews. I have had excellent feedback on much of my work, but even when people are enthused, it doesn’t necessarily translate to reviews. I am soliciting reviews as my writing schedule allows.

4. I have to remember how much I believe in my books, because in the beginning, no matter who you are and no matter your experience, you’re just another schmo until you’re discovered. After you’ve made it, you’re a genius. Until then? Schmo. The writing awards and all the experience don’t matter. Yet.

Most important?

Did I mention I have more books coming out?

That will be what counts more than anything.

I have to provide a larger target for my readership to find me. 

My people are out there. I will find them. They will find me.

UPDATE: In keeping with the theme of getting thwarted, the Smashwords website is down at the moment, so the links from the short story covers are directed back to the author site until Smashwords is back up. The links in the The Dangerous Kind, Self-help for Stoners and Sex, Death & Mind Control (for fun & profit) covers work fine. You can still get everything I write across most digital book platforms, of course, (i.e. search Kobo and there they are) but as long as Smashwords is down, you can’t grab the short stories directly from that site. I will update as soon as the Smashwords server is back up. It’s all very…consistent with today’s theme, isn’t it?

LATEST UPDATE: SMASHWORDS IS NOW BACK ONLINE AND THE SHORT STORY COVERS NOW LINK BACK TO THAT SITE. Find out more about these short stories here.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is the author of Sex, Death & Mind Control (for fun and profit), the novella The Dangerous Kind, Self-help for Stoners and several suspenseful short stories with gut-punch endings, available at Smashwords. He’s in suspense, figuratively and literally and his comedy podcast, Self-help for Stoners, airs each Friday on Stitcher and iTunes. Visit the author site, AllThatChazz.com,  for updates on Chazz’s fiction and to download the podcast.

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Filed under: Publicity & Promotion, publishing, Rejection, reviews, web reviews, What about Chazz?, What about you?, Writers, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

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