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

Write and publish with love and fury.

When Readers Wander Away

Readers wander away.

There’s so much new and shiny stuff out there. There are new word confections to smell and taste, luring readers away from The Magic That is You. Let’s talk about reader attrition and how to combat it because keeping an old reader, fan, friend, client or spouse is easier (and less expensive) than gaining a new one.

I used to listen to all of the Smodcast podcast network religiously. Then I wandered away to get lost in the labyrinth of choice. I subscribe to more than 100 podcasts. Smodcast had some funny stuff, but I’m more into news and politics as the world blows up in slow motion, so I moved on to the plethora.

Almost everybody moves on.

Crack the Indie Author CodeAudiences are fluid. In my first book on writing and publishing, I said ten percent of people love you no matter what you do and ten percent hate you no matter what you do. The remaining eighty percent are consumers who may enjoy what you offer them, but they aren’t committing to the long haul. The passengers you have on the Crazy Train now won’t be aboard at the last station.

Confession Time

This week I went through boxes of files looking up addresses of former clients for my new business venture. It felt like cavorting in the Huge Catalogue of My Carnival of Past Failures. I had names in there I didn’t recognize. There were a bunch of clients I saw, once, years ago. Another group saw me a few times and they felt that was plenty. People move, lose jobs, get new ones, divorce, move again, remarry, forget about us and die. I probably pushed a few away by not nodding on cue, too. I’m lousy at that. I wonder how many of those addresses aren’t dead and stale?

In the end, I came up with a minute mailing list of hardcore fans and a few fringe possibilities. Twenty years in the business and to count the letters I’m sending out? You could count them all on your fingers and toes…but not all your toes.

Nurture the readers who think of themselves as fans.

The people who dig what you do? We all dig them back. Fans are awesome. They’re helpful and they’re motivated to leave reviews and they get us. Engage them. And why wouldn’t you? They’re fun and they know where you’re coming from so you have lots to talk about.

Fans are the people who are most like you. Our minds connect.

Be tolerant of people who don’t get you. 

You can even welcome these folks because most of them don’t hate you.* These people can change their minds. They might take you or they might leave you. They aren’t invested in you, but they might buy what you’re selling.

Ignore haters

They won’t change their minds because they hate everything. Hate is all they have and most of them can’t even be funny about it because they’re serotonin-disenfranchised. Haters are in no one’s demographic and they’re already cursed enough. They’re unhappy and it’s not really about you. The poor things can’t seem to enjoy anything. Move on quickly and don’t let them get any of their default setting on you. 

Own a genre

If I had to do it all again, I’d focus on one genre and write only that. That’s not how my mind works, but that’s my problem. I’d also write series exclusively. Preferably I’d set out to claim a beachhead in a big, well-read genre. (Read: Hardboiled with jokes wasn’t a big enough genre.) 

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

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

When you get lost in the woods, experts tell you to stay in one spot so you can be found. Same with literature. Moving targets, unless you’re Isaac Asimov forty years ago, are harder to find.

Go out of your way to find new readers and maybe even fans.

Facebook is the place to nurture community. Twitter is the place to find new people, discover new things and begin conversations. LinkedIn is where you go for people to talk at each other and say how everyone’s doing everything wrong in order to impress potential employers. (Sorry. That was my experience.)

Bookbub is hot. Author Marketing Club is hot. Publicists with small lists or lists that are too general and unsegmented** are cold. 

Write more quality books.

With each book, we get better. We refine our style and process. Write more. Be better. Build a bigger fire so the rescuers can find you.

Be different enough that you stand out.

People love identifiable genres that challenge expectations. Everyone loves “same thing only different.” It makes them comfortable, and you discoverable, without boring them. I’ve already said enough about this in previous posts, and this post is too long, so…

Go where readers are.

Writers are excited to meet with other writers. Meeting readers often freaks us out. Feel the fear and poop your pants anyway. It’ll make a great story. Do signings, readings, conventions (for readers) and get a business card with your hottest book cover on it. Everyone has hot and cold runs. Make sure readers get a chance to remember you at the top of the hill so you have some inertia to get up the next hill.

Be honest, but be nice. Be a person.

From the I-shouldn’t-have-to-say-this Department: Jerks around the world try to justify the jerkiness with, “I’m just being honest.” Probably a lie. Chances are, they’re just being mean to make themselves feel better.

A blogger I’ve followed a long time lost me today. I detected a mean tone in something they wrote that didn’t sit right and gave me indigestion. It didn’t sound like they were trying to be helpful and the smart and funny didn’t outweigh the nastiness. I need more positivity in my life. I’m a bit low on serotonin, too. Goodbye, blogger.

You’re supposed to lose some readers.

The only thing you can depend on is Change. As you progress as an artist, a bunch who did like you won’t be along for the whole trip. Maybe you switched to a genre they don’t read. Maybe they’re the sort of people who prefer bands “before they sell out.” (Read: “…before they become popular” or “before they repeat themselves too much.”) Maybe they only love underdogs or you squeaked out too much happiness when your book took off and now they feel resentment. Maybe they outgrew you or vice versa. Perhaps we aren’t so awesome after all and don’t deserve them. Not every book is going to be a home run and that’s where some readers will step off.

I lost a reader recently who loved Season One of This Plague of Days but didn’t like where Season Two took them. I’m helpless in this regard. I followed where the Art took me and Season Two is markedly different in some aspects. However, for the characters and story to evolve and do things and go places, I had to use different gas in the narrative engine. I promised something different from the usual zombie apocalypse and I’m delivering. Most people dig it. However, it pains me most to lose a reader who loved the first iteration but was less enthused about the next. It saddens me they won’t see the big payoffs on the way in Season Three.

I’m the literary engineer and the conductor, but I’m also a passenger on the Crazy Train. I go where the train takes me to the end of the line. I wonder how many fellow passengers I’ll have at the last stop?

This is why we all need those fans to nurture us in return.

People will buy your stories or not, but most readers will never say a word to you. As a writer working alone, driving the train through the night? It’s lonely work. We go through long, black tunnels between books. In the dark, every engineer looks back into the quiet train and wonders, Is anyone really still back there?

*Note: It’s not you, the writer, who should be hated. It’s a book, not genocide, though some people come on so strong in their negative reviews, you’d think babies were being slaughtered with each chapter.

It is legitimate to dislike a book, of course. But readers don’t generally distinguish a book from its author. Neither do authors. When we see a bad review, we don’t think, Oh, they didn’t like that book. We think, She hates me. She probably does. A lot of people are that harsh, for one thing. Also, since your book is a product of your mind, so naturally we identify with our work.

**Unsegmented refers to mailing lists where the subscriber doesn’t identify which genres they’re interested in hearing about. Send your romance sample out to everyone and a bunch of readers will grab it and dislike it because they signed up for steampunk and wouldn’t read a romance with a gun to their head.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I write a bunch of stuff that’s funny and suspenseful and strange. I’d tell you more, but I have to dash off to be ignored and invisible in a totally different field. See my books here. Buy them, even. Thanks.

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

Writers: Your Thursday afternoon reward

Photo of Greg Proops.

Image via Wikipedia

This week is so busy, it already feels like Friday. Tomorrow guest blogger Rebecca Senese will show you how to use Smashwords to publish your e-books. I can’t top that, so this afternoon, it’s time for an early reward post.

People ask what I listen to for fun and illumination and to escape the aching hell that is the mundane. (I can’t do laundry or go to the grocery store if I’m not armed with my iPod.)

I’m a podcast junkie. Hop over to iTunes and check out my top ten podcasts:

1. Hollywood Babble-on with Ralph Garmin and Kevin Smith: Filthy, funny pop culture.

2. Best of the Left Podcast: A political theme-based podcast that’s a survey course on what’s wrong with Republicans. It’s stimulating, irksome and often funny.

3. I Should Be Writing with Mur Lafferty: Solid writing advice.

4. The Joe Rogan Experience: Explicit, funny and philosophy on weed. If you only know Joe as “The Fear Factor Guy”, you don’t know Joe. He often hosts excellent guests who are either hugely funny stand-ups and or the uber-intelligent. Or both.

5. Slate Spoiler Specials: This is movie reviewing after the fact. The reviewers assume you’ve already seen it so they aren’t coy about spoilers and discussing everything about the move in-depth.

6. Writing Excuses: Each 15-minute episode tackles a theme about writing to help you improve your craft.

7. Irreverent Muse: I just discovered Mike Plested’s podcast this week and now I have 49 more episodes to catch up on. Oodles of publishing advice.

8. The Smartest Man in the World: Greg Proops freestyles his unique brand of comedy. You’ll feel a giddy, hallucinogenic effect listening to him bounce effortlessly from topic to topic.

9.  Smodcast: This is the Kevin Smith/Scott Mosier podcast that started the Smodcast network of podcasts. Funny stuff that’s just bent. Lots of personal stuff and then strange digressions that involve Hitler and the judicious use of time machine technology. If you’re looking for a funny Kevin Smith podcast that’s a bit more grounded, try Plus One, the podcast Kevin does with his wife Jennifer. When they talk about their kid growing up I think of my own kids and get misty right along with them.

10. Slate Political Gabfest: It goes up each Friday afternoon. I find the gabfesters are often a snooty bunch but the topics are often interesting. (I find American politics riveting, unlike just about any aspect of Canadian politics.)

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Filed under: Intentionally Hilarious, Media, podcasts, Top Ten, web reviews, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

#@ThatKevinSmith : Feelgood Story of the Day (Week, Year…)

An Evening with Kevin Smith

Image by Clintus McGintus via Flickr

Writing matters.

What you put out into the world matters.

And you never know how what you do will affect others (all the more reason to be careful.)

Last night, I got this reaction to my post on An Evening with Kevin Smith.

And the blessings and inspirations just keep on flowing.

When the good energy comes your way, run with it.

Find my original post on what I learned from Kevin Smith here.

Filed under: getting it done, links, web reviews, 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.

See my books, blogs, links and podcasts.

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