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

Write and publish with love and fury.

The power of the pulse giveaway: 99 cents or nothing?

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)

When I did my Bookbub promotion of This Plague of Days, Omnibus Edition, my dentist said, “You’re giving it away? Really?”

“Yup.”

“Okay.” He chuckled at me. He also didn’t know what I know.

That giveaway boosted my author rank and sales after the promotion was over. Most important to me was getting more reviews on that property. I got more reviews, thank Thor. The giveaway met my goals. If I had stuck to one genre (horror/fantasy) I would have seen more profits, too. However, I write across genres so that’s on me. My crime novel readers are not typically my horror and fantasy readers. Though there’s a little cross-pollination, readers are often fiercely interested in only one genre, no matter how much action and fun they’d find in Hollywood Jesus (my favorite of the Hit Man Series.)

"Perhaps the most underrated crime novel of all time." ~ Robert Chazz Chute

“Perhaps the most underrated crime novel of all time.” ~ Robert Chazz Chute

 

This week I’ve put just about everything except the Plague of Days series up for sale (just 99 cents!) on Amazon. That sale will end soon, but in the meantime, my strategy seems to have worked. But perhaps not as you or I expected. 

Here’s the thing:

You never know which book will crash hardest or fly highest until you put it out there.

Murders+Among+Dead+Trees+1121-1

I happen to think Murders Among Dead Trees might be my best book. However, it’s a collection of short stories. Collections are notoriously difficult to sell. The collection features several award winners yet it still only has four reviews on Amazon. My Cyber Week Sale hasn’t moved more than one or two copies of Murders Among Dead Trees.

A few more people bought Self-help for Stoners this week, but the sales numbers don’t bowl me over. Self-help for Stoners is a fun and quirky little short story collection that sells a little at a time, but steadily, and the paperback sells more than the ebook, especially this time of year. (You’re thinking it sells because of Christmas. I think it sells because there’s a great story about how to get away with murder using a skunk.)

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

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

 

A cursory glance might make you think that big free works and little 99 cent pulse sales don’t work.

That’s not what I get from this sales experiment. My sales of This Plague of Days (which stayed at their old price) went up.

99 cent pulse sales can boost visibility, but readers still have their favorite things to read and This Plague of Days outsells everything else I’ve done. I promoted everything else but buyers still gravitated to what are already my most popular books even though they weren’t on sale! 

Price matters less to some buyers. For those who are price sensitive, they still have the opportunity to pick up some great books for 99 cents. I have no regrets. The occasional pulse sale can move books…just not necessarily the books we think they will move. I’m also happy to give readers a break on price this time of year. Without cheap ebooks, a lot of people don’t feel they can afford to read more books. Believe me, I understand. This is a tough time of year for a lot of us and I’m glad to help stretch a dollar’s value.

My conclusions:

Write more books to get more shots at the readers’ sweet spot. Write more books to figure out what readers want most from you. (Authors can be terrible judges of what readers want unless we have empirical evidence, like sales numbers.)

To get more out of pulse sales, consider promoting them more than I did. I relied on my G+, Twitter and Facebook networks for my Cyberweek giveaway. Bookbub and several other sites promote 99 cent books as well as free books. I didn’t plan ahead with paid advertising, but I didn’t want to spend money on the giveaway if I could avoid it at this time. (Holding back might have been a mistake.)

Many authors prefer the 99 cent buyer to free seekers. That tiny commitment may tend to attract more committed readers instead of hoarders who may never get around to reading the books they download. (And why not? Supermarket chains have figured out that a mere quarter is enough to reduce the drastic loss of very expensive shopping carts.)

If you’re trying to make a living from your writing, write more books like the ones that are already successful for you. That’s why my next book is The Haunting Lessons, now available for a short time for free on Wattpad. It has some commonalities with This Plague of Days, but is more upbeat, faster and funny. I’ll put the whole book up on Wattpad, but I’ll take it down when it’s published on Amazon, closer to Christmas 2014.

Until then, you can read The Haunting Lessons for free by clicking the cover below. Enjoy it now because its time on Wattpad is running out.

Have a look at the beginning of my new series, free on Wattpad.

Have a look at the beginning of my new series, free on Wattpad.

What’s your experience with free versus 99 cent sales?

~ Please check out my author site at AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: author platform, book marketing, My fiction, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sell More Books Top 10: Variables that build success

We often don’t know for sure which strategies sell more books so we have to fire a lot of bullets into the darkness. Last week, the best advice I heard, repeated from a couple of authors, was about the willingness to experiment.

When it comes to radioactive isotopes, infant juggling and indie publishing, it’s good fun to mess around. Play with the variables to sell more books. What are some of those variables? Here we go:

1. If your cover doesn’t sell the book hard enough, change it.

Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire wasn’t selling the numbers I wanted. I changed the cover.

WYB NEW COVERcover

2. I played with categories for the Hit Man Series.

My funny and luckless assassin is Cuban, so I tried the Hispanic & Latino category. Didn’t work. I switched it back. Each failure is a refinement. It’s not permanent so relax and fire more shots into the dark.

3. I’m experimenting with keywords, too.

Did you know you don’t have to use a single word (i.e. crime, thriller, action, romance) for keywords? You can add up to seven phrases and it can pay to make them less generic. Cater to your niche and, for more on this strategy, listen to Nick Stephenson’s interview on the Rocking Self-Publishing Podcast with host Simon Whistler. It’s called “Quadruple Your Kindle Sales.” That got your attention and turned you into a podcast listener, didn’t it?

Don’t forget to play with changes to your book descriptions, as well. Use keywords where appropriate. Don’t fall into the trap of awkwardly stuffing keywords into the description so it sounds like you’re straining to please search engine robots.

While you’re plugging podcasts into your head, please do listen to my interview on Episode #60 of Rocking Self-publishing. We had a lot of fun talking about how to enjoy marketing your book.

4. I changed the cover for my poetry book, too.

Poetry is hard enough to sell so don’t handicap your efforts with a sad cover like I did. I changed the cover using an image from Pond5 and switching back and forth from two photo editors, Picmonkey and KD Renegade. 

As always, I recommend the awesome cover design work of Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com. He wasn’t available this week, so I improvised. It’s an improvement on the original cover (which was my fault, not Kit’s. The original crap cover was my design, too.)

BRAINGASMS FINAL cover

5. My biggest change was long overdue.

My first book was a fun, funny and thoughtful short story collection to read on the toilet. It’s called Self-help for Stoners. Unfortunately, I uploaded my first indie published foray through an intermediary. To make changes to the text cost a lot of money. It needed another edit so I have reclaimed the book from the intermediary. Huzzah!

I did the edit for the second edition. I added bonus material (big tastes of two of my series) so it could act as an introduction to my kind of crazy. Finally, it’s also a sales funnel to my newer books. 

Self Help for Stoners JPEG

I can do more with this book now, like experiment with variables. I can play with the price, keywords and categories. I can change strategies as needed and put it in KDP Select and try countdown deals etc,….

The print version of the second edition will be for sale again soon so I’ll have more to sell for the Christmas season. Most important, with these changes, I’m delivering a better reading experience along with all that awesome hilarity. It’s a relief to be back in the driver’s seat.

6. Speed.

I’ve been thinking a lot about production speed as marketing. I’m changing my production timetable. The third book in the Hit Man Series hits October 1.

HJ COVER FINAL LADY IN RED

The goal is to put out another crime novel thirty days after that. Thirty days later, the plan is to put out a time travel novel. The books are all written and in the editorial pipeline. I’ll also add an omnibus edition of the first three books in the series.

TWEAKED JESUS OMNIBUS COVER WITH CROSS

The goal is to avoid falling off the cliff. All authors experience the cliff. After a month on Amazon, your beautiful baby is old news and sales tend to begin to slide as you disappear from the list of freshly minted books. Publish a new book more often and all your sales may be buoyed…assuming all the other variables are properly in place. For instance, if the story sucks, nothing can save us.

7. Accept failure as part of the play in the gears.

Please keep in mind that you can put all the sales variables in place, but that does not necessarily mean the book will move. It should move more, but there are too many variables we can’t control. Maybe you’re going head to head against a book with tons of mojo and money behind it. Maybe you’re at the top of a genre that is stone cold. Maybe the book just isn’t that good or you’re an unrecognized genius. (So many of us are. I empathize.)

All we can do is write more books and play with the variables that we can control. I should get a blurb for the Self-help for Stoners cover, for instance. That task is on my list. Blurbs help. More reviews help. Maybe more review copies to book bloggers is something to change up. Or do you need to change the book bloggers on the list you already have?

8. Make plans.

This might be a new idea you want to resist because you’re an artiste, dammit! I know, but work to word count or page count goals and editorial deadlines, anyway. I always get more done when I pretend I’m a grown up.

9. in that vein, establish systems.

When you learn the steps to how to do something once (e.g. putting out a podcast or compiling manuscripts in Scrivener), write what you did right. That way, you don’t have to start at zero knowledge each time you repeat the task. Systems are flow charts of mistakes you corrected. It’s a great way to avoid making the same mistakes with your next project. Put it in a binder within reach of your desk. Update it as you go.

Sure, taking the time to put what you’ve learned into binders sounds like drudgery. However, systems actually make you efficient and eliminate the drudgery of reinventing the wheel each time. Tiny course corrections steal far less from our precious writing time. (Tip: Take screenshots of your winning Scrivener process to make it less tedious.)

10. Speaking of finding efficiencies, track results.

That which is not measured cannot be improved. Repeat the variables that seem to work. Dump what doesn’t work, no matter how much you loved those seemingly brilliant ideas. Old ideas that don’t work can weigh us down as we climb the mountain.

BONUS:
Get better with each book.

This will happen organically. It will happen faster if you organize the variables in that binder.

Pretty soon, you won’t be firing bullets in the dark. You’ll see what hit and become a sharpshooter.

 

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

Amazon sales secrets you’re probably missing

When you scan your book sales page and stats, it can be pretty dry, depressing and really not tell you much except what happened in the past. I’m more interested in what will happen and how I can make it so. There’s more information on Amazon than you’re currently using, but it’s all right there if you look. You can use this data to become more profitable. Delve deeper to divine what’s really going on with your readers. Here are some ideas about discovering who your readership is and how to reach them:

1. Categorize for Visibility

Yesterday I mentioned optimizing your books’ visibility by examining your sales and how your books are categorized. You may be invisible in a large genre category, but if you can drill down and pinpoint an appropriate category you could make your book a bigger fish in a smaller pond. In a category that is too general, you’re in a sea of books and harder to find. But don’t just look at the stats and numbers Amazon supplies at Author Central. There’s much more you can do. Let’s go further than the usual cursory glance at graphs, numbers, green up and red down arrows.

2. Surprise: Paperbacks versus Ebooks Revisited

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

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

Micro-publishers are often told that ebooks are the crux of our business and that’s where our focus should be. I agree that’s true in general but that doesn’t hold true for all books.

Naturally, we often compare sales of one book to another. Each of us probably has a good handle on which of our  books sells most and least, if only for curiosity’s sake. Now compare each ebook against its brother in paper. I discovered one of my books in paperback, Self-help for Stoners, outsells the ebook version. I’ll hold back on making easy jokes about why this would be (Okay: Paper makes for good rolling after you read it. Happy, Stoner Stereotype Brigade?)

The why is just guessing and doesn’t matter, but the what is significant to me. It tells me the revamp and reload I’m planning for Self-help for Stoners (also discussed in yesterday’s post) is worth my time. A new edition in paper will be worth the effort.

The same thing is happening with my writing and publishing guides. I’m sure this is so because they are reference books. According to a recent study, students still prefer paper reference books to ebook texts. Since they sell better in paper than ebook form, I plan to reformat Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire

When I revamp these paperbacks, I’ll sell them in a smaller size. They’re currently huge honking trade paperbacks. I couldn’t get them down in size on my first attempt, but the next edition will be more like a thick 5 x 9. If the software won’t cooperate, I’ll call on a friend who is a book designer to help. With a smaller format, I’ll be able to bring the price down and sell more paperbacks. (Expect the format change at the end of summer to coincide with release of my next guide on writing and publishing. Don’t wait! Get them now or grab the ebooks. People are loving them.)

3. “Frequently bought together”

Crack the Indie Author CodeFrom your sales page topped with your author bio, click through to see what’s selling under the “Customers Also Bought” list.

We spend a lot of time, energy and free giveaway days trying to get on this list on other author’s sales pages to increase our books’ visibility. When Self-help for Stoners came out, over time it became clear that readers found me through my connection with director Kevin Smith. On the Self-help for Stoners sales page, Amazon still has my book paired with his book, Tough Sh*t, under “Frequently bought together.” However, on my main sales page, Kevin’s not on the author list anymore (discussed in #4). I noticed him dropping away as other authors took his place.

If your book is paired with another author’s, you could work together to promote both books, either through advertising together or doing a podcast for mutual benefit, for instance. 

4. “Customers Also Bought Items By” 

On your main sales page on Amazon, look at the list of authors under this category, down the right sidebar. Number one for me as of this writing is John Locke. That makes sense since Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus are funny and fast-paced crime novels with contemporary references. (I’m suddenly self-conscious about constantly plugging my books here, but since it’s my damn blog and I’m drawing on case study experience — poof! — I’m over that self-consciousness. I’ll hold on to all the other neuroses, though.)

Here’s the current screenshot from my sales page:

Screen Shot 2013-01-21 at 3.07.29 PM

If the same authors turn up consistently over time, that’s a stronger indication you share a common niche and audience. The Guy Kawasaki occurrence here is no doubt because he just came out with APE and that’s the identical reader demographic who would go for my Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire.

How is this useful and what does it tell you?

Aspire to Inspire eBook JPGThinking about the authors on your page could give you an idea where your readers are coming from. For instance, if you did a blog tour and soon noticed a familiar author on your sales page list, it would serve you well to guest blog for them again or host them on your blog.

It’s rare in book marketing that we can identify a causative marketing solution. That’s positive feedback that is actionable. (Is “actionable” too jargony?) Usually, when we see our sales go up and down, we can’t link it to a particular event. For instance, maybe your sales today came about because of a recent press release or maybe it was that giveaway you held two months ago. Who knows? Establishing causal relationships between promotion, publicity and sales is rare unless you’re doing a measurable campaign (like a rewards program, for instance.) Whenever you can identify something that worked, do it again!

I know a couple of authors on my “Customers Also Bought Items By” list personally. I suspect they show up here because they’ve been kind enough to promote me. I’m especially pleased to see Chuck Wendig on this list. I don’t know him. All we’ve exchanged are a couple of funny tweets and I’ve read a couple of his books. However, we both wrote funny writing advice books, so that’s undoubtedly the common audience.

From what I know of the other authors, it suggests to me that I’m hitting male readers somewhat. I reach writers who read about writing and publishing, of course. However, from that list, I suspect most of my readers are female, between thirty and fifty-six, well-educated and into suspense with romantic elements. It’s my crime novels in the Hit Man Series that will make the splash with most of them.

What this analysis could reveal

I want to know who reads my stuff so I get more ideas about how to reach them. That helps me target bookBigger_Than_Jesus_Cover_for_Kindle reviewers who have demonstrated that they tend to like similar work by authors on my “Customers Also Bought Items By” list. It might also help me choose which blogs to apply to for a guest post. If the authors on this list have already guest blogged there, that’s a clue. I might also request guest blog spots from some of the authors on the list directly since we already have readers in common.

This awareness is most helpful by finding those authors most like you. Watch success and emulate it. What might I learn from these authors whose audience overlaps with mine? I could learn a lot from figuring out where my fellow authors appear, which book reviewers adore their flavor of madness, how they handle their blogs, their book releases etc.,….

I loved Stephen King’s On Writing, but as much as my Maine town has in common with Derry, I can’t learn much from him about reaching new readers with a shoestring book promotion budget in the New World Ebook Order. In the author hierarchy, Mr. King is on a distant planet from little old me. Authors closest to me talk my language and we can relate to each other’s problems.

What this analysis shouldn’t tell you

Don’t avoid engaging your audience by relying on numbers and conjecture. The real fans will tell you what they like best (and, if polite, let you figure out what they liked less by simple deduction.) I don’t write what I’m told to write, but I listen. Readers have told me that, after reading the Poeticule Bay short stories, they want full novels about the creepy town in Maine everyone wants to escape. That bumped it up on my priority list. Others have emailed to request that I please get to that dystopian thriller with the autistic protagonist I mentioned once. I’m on it. Thank you for your encouragement and support as I prioritize what comes next from Ex Parte Press.

Love acknowledged and that said, I write what I’m inspired to write. This analysis is to figure out how to be found by more people, not to figure out what to Higher+than+Jesus+Front+1029produce before I’m found. I’m not interested in identifying my audience so I can try to write for, or pander to, any one demographic. That’s artificial and would yield sub par results (at least in my case.) I write for myself first and hope others enjoy what I enjoy. The writing, insulated from any audience but one, comes first.

This analysis gives me ideas about how to help readers discover my books once I unleash my mind viruses upon the world. In art (or Art, if you prefer) the customer always comes second. I don’t chase markets. I stay true to my vision. The market will chase me…eventually.

Me B&W~Robert Chazz Chute writes blog posts that are way too long. He even (by Thor!) writes about himself in the third person in that little bio thingy at the end of blog posts. He’s also the nut behind the All That Chazz Podcast. But perhaps, if you aren’t allergic, he’s your kind of nut. Find out at AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: Amazon, ebooks, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writers, Readers and the Blame We Get

Dark Higher Than Jesus banner adI know a couple of erotica authors well enough to tell you that their private lives are not a full schedule of whips, naked gymnastics and ropes with elaborate knots. They’ve never had sex at the top of the Eiffel Tower with multiple hunky Norwegians. They’re ordinary moms who share your concerns about life. They have vivid imaginations that stay busy while they’re stuck in traffic as they chauffeur their children to play dates. Some readers draw conclusions about the character of the writer from the books they write. Unless it’s an autobiography, that’s an annoying habit.

When I wrote Self-help for Stoners, some readers assumed I was a drug addict. Never mind my liberal stance on unwinnable drug wars and the hypocrisy and sadism of sanctions against marijuana users. My addictions are sovereignty, choice and chocolate croissants. The drug I toss back most? Caffeine, just like you. When I wrote Sex, Death & Mind Control, some people thought I dabbled in the occult. Not so. I am not in a cult, either, (though I wouldn’t be averse to leading one for those awesome tax perks.) My work is fiction and my brain makes odd neural connections. Ideas get put together in new and exciting ways. That’s writing and that’s all.

When I gave my dad Higher Than Jesus for Christmas, he felt self-conscious about reading a crime novel written by his son that included sex. I know that because he tried to make me feel self-conscious about it. Yes, there’s a particularly blushworthy chapter, but I told him when I gave it to him that he never complained about the violence in my books, so he didn’t get to object to the sex. Here’s that fun phone conversation:

Me: Merry Christmas, Dad!

Him: I’m almost finished reading Higher Than Jesus. It’s quite the book.

Me (catching the tone): Uh-huh.

Him: I think you have fantasies about long legs —

Me: Stop! It’s fiction, Dad. I’m a writer. You’re an adult. I’m treating you like one.

Him (apparently unconvinced of points one through four): Mm, yeah. Well, I did enjoy it.

Me (deadpan): Imagine my relief.

Worse? Now I’m a bit worried. Since the gut-wrenching horror of the tragedy and loss in Newtown, Connecticut, even I’m becoming concerned that my fiction might intersect with real life. Part of the plot of Higher Than Jesus turns on a gun control issue and the actions of a fanatical group. Real life events have turned since I wrote that novel. Congruence make me think that my fiction and conjecture could actually line up with plots in reality. If something in particular (a very bad thing) happens in January, will some reader try to make that connection to my funny, sexy crime novel? They won’t call me prescient. They’ll wonder if a nut read my book!  

I hope law enforcement officers will foil any real life plots. Jesus Diaz is an interesting character, but I don’t think issues of national security and international peace should be left to my goofy, conflicted, love-obsessed, Vicodin-addicted hit man. He foils plots, too, but never in an easy, linear way. Our world has lots of tough problems, but fiction isn’t the problem. If anything, it’s a solution. Fiction is a safe outlet for revenge fantasies. Art yields entertainment, not sorrow. (Yes, I believe this is true about video games, too. Penn & Teller did an episode about the safety of video games. Here’s a link to that vulgar, NSFW video on my author site. This video is not for the easily offended or anyone who refuses to even consider that video games might not cause horrible school shootings.)

To readers: Please don’t ascribe words on the page to the character of the author. We’re just tap dancing to entertain you and most of us prefer to keep our violence where it can be safely managed: In fiction. Yes, my revenge fantasies are rooted in a deep dark place, but I learned to sublimate my rage with humour. If you’re going to make assumptions about me from my books, please assume I’m better than I am, not worse.

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

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

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes suspense and crime novels. He’s not Cuban. He’s not a hit man. He’s close to the same height as his Cuban hit man, though, so clearly he’s exactly like his fictional killer. Hear the All That Chazz podcast and check out his books at the links at AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Branding: The change I made

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

Milestones aren’t just for celebration. They are also reminders to reevaluate. Since last November, I’ve been podcasting comedy, author readings and a wee bit of ranting at the world. In that time, more people have gone from “What’s podcasting?” to “Ooh, computer radio! How do I do that, too?” Listenership is growing and I just broadcast my 50th show (a conversation with writer and friend Mark Young.)

When I began the podcast, I was very focussed on selling my first book, Self-help for Stoners, a fun book for creatives who love suspense. Those readers make great podcast listeners. They are interested in the creative process, want a little encouragement in the creation of their art and wonder what’s it all about (among all the jokes, murders and whimsy.) I didn’t put enough thought into my long-term branding then. Instead, eager to get both products up on their feet and out the door, I named the podcast after my first book. Since I’ll soon have eight books available, I needed to start thinking long-term. The podcast is now called All That Chazz. Since my author site is AllThatChazz.com, it fits. (Oh, my Thor! Such blinding narcissism!)

Across all my sites, the same image appears to help  set up one image in the minds of potential readers. I’m not giving up on Self-help for Stoners. I’m just expanding the line of books with which I’m identified. I should have thought of that at first, but I was too anxious to finally get the podcast up and running to worry about changes a year down the road. It’s now almost a year down the road and change is in the ether, zeroing in fast.

Dance fast in the short-term. Plan long-term. Adapt. Innovate. Overcome. Rock harder.

 

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

TOP TEN TIPS: How to set up your podcast

Why should you want to make podcasts and appear on podcasts?

English: Podcast or podcasting icon Français :...

English: Podcast or podcasting icon Français : Icône pour les podcasts ou la baladodiffusion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s radio with a low barrier to entry. It’s like having your own no-stupid-rules radio station that’s really close to free. You could be on iTunes a few days from now, promoting your business, your books, and yourself to the world. I’ve got fans in San Francisco, Dubai, Beijing and places I’d never heard of because of podcasts.

Since I began podcasting my crime novel a chapter at a time, several people have asked me how I set up my podcast and what’s involved. I can give you the broad strokes with an easy TOP 10 list. Don’t get overwhelmed. It’s not that hard, especially if you take my strongest advice and go straight to Tip #10.

1. You’ll need a microphone. I have two, one for $127 and one for $90. The cheaper one works better. Some people say you have to use a mixer to make sure your audio doesn’t peak and hurt listeners’ ears. However, I prefer the mic that plugs straight into the computer.  No need to be fancy with your podcast. You don’t have to be a Mac user. A chair that doesn’t squeak is a better investment. You don’t have to buy expensive shock mounts of your mics (but do get a screen for your microphone, called a sock, so you don’t “pop your ps”. Popped ps do thud into your listeners’ eardrums. You don’t have to have enhanced videocasts. Most of the people who listen to podcasts are either out for a walk, doing laundry or on a treadmill as they listen to programming. Video in podcasting is a deficit, not an asset.)

2. You’ll need a computer program to record and edit your podcast. Audacity is free. I use GarageBand. Though it does cost, I found the interface easier, especially since a friend gave me a one-on-one tutorial. I tried Audacity without help and the learning curve was a bit steeper. (I’m not turning anyone away from Audacity, though. It’s free and useful. It was just easier for me since I already knew someone who knew the software. Having a buddy who’s already in the know might make for a different choice for you, too.)

3. You’ll need a blog. WordPress is free and most anyone who reads this post already has a blog. Those lovely non-problems are the easiest to solve. There is also an ID3 tag editor (app) to buy, but it’s just a few dollars for a little program that will help you label your podcast and prepare it for upload to Libsyn. Speaking of which…

4. You’ll want a Libsyn account. Libsyn is the company that will publish your podcast to iTunes, your blog and elsewhere (even apps). Go for the $20 a month option. You can pay less, or even go with some outfit that will give it to you for free, but they cost more in the long term in other ways. For instance, lots of places will let you use them to broadcast your podcast, but you can’t move it anywhere later, so, effectively, they own your podcast, not you. You hold on to your rights and options by going with Libsyn. The best thing about Libsyn is that you bank unused broadband. When I started, I was worried about the hidden costs. What if my podcast is so popular, the broadband gets too expensive to pay? With Libsyn, there aren’t any hidden costs and they have an excellent stats page so you know exactly how popular you are. (Or not.)

Once you’re set up, you can also get your podcast on Stitcher. Stitcher is a very popular podcast outlet because it’s free and it  allows listeners to wirelessly stream podcasts to their phone or iPod. They don’t have to hook up to their computers. The podcasts take up no space on any device. Since I discovered Stitcher, I hardly ever use iTunes.

If you’re thinking of joining Stitcher, please use my promo code: SELFHELPSTONERS. By joining, you’re also entered into their draw for a $100 cash card.

5. You’ll have to have some time set aside. Every minute on air means four minutes in total invested with production. That’s a good rule of thumb, though I’ve managed to shorten it a bit over time. Don’t cut too many corners, though. I missed an edit a few podcasts back and the paper rustling seemed a tad unprofessional. Don’t be too professional, though. Mistakes are authentic moments and I like when the unexpected happens in a podcast. The unexpected never happens in radio and that’s one of the reasons radio is boring and only people who are trapped in cars or terrorist attacks listen to radio anymore.

Want a horrific example of authenticity? I’ve talked about the hilarious aspects of my colonoscopy, my first schoolyard fight, how I got screwed over by a financial adviser and a publisher, and worst of all, how I felt too fat and unsuccessful to go to my college reunion. You don’t have to be this revealing, but being real works in podcasting.

Don’t be self-conscious about your voice, either. I have a stammer that becomes evident when my brain works faster than my tongue. My delivery is positively Shatnerian. I talk in bursts and when I speed up I talk like a Nova Scotian, really fast and in the back of my throat. Most of that either isn’t a real issue, improves with practice or can be edited out.

6. Get good album art. I used a cover from my book Self-help for Stoners because I wanted to publicize the book and podcast to an identifiable audience. Calling the podcast Self-help for Stoners made sense at the time. (As discussed in a recent post on book promotion, I’m changing that because I have so many more books now. One book is not your brand. You are your brand. Think long term.) You’ll need a couple of images of different sizes for this. When you know those sizes and have an idea for an image to represent your podcast, talk to Kit Foster at KitFosterDesign.com. His prices are very reasonable. He’s my graphic artist. Heck, Kit is The Graphic Artist. (Can’t wait to show everybody what he came up with for my print cover for Bigger Than Jesus!) If you go without a professionally designed image, your podcast listing makes you look like a hack and you’ll definitely be skipped over.

7. Choose your category. My categories for different podcasts range from politics to fiction to comedy. Some of your audience might like variety, though if you go deep into a particular topic or niche, you’ll definitely find your audience quicker. Go with your passions. Stick with one podcast to start. Setting up the first one and doing it right will probably cost $200 or $300. After that, it’s cheap (and a claimable promotion cost.)

Do it with someone else and not only do you split the cost, you’ve got a co-host to bounce ideas with. Monologuing (as I do) is not for everyone and I sometimes wish I had someone else on the mic.

Also decide if your podcast will be a swearfest or family friendly, explicit or clean. I started out swearing and came around to PG. Also, consider that if you want advertisers, unless you’re Joe Rogan or Kevin Smith, most advertisers prefer clean podcasts.

8. You’ll need to promote your podcast. I’ve been a guest or I’ve been mentioned on other podcasts about ten times or more so far. Similar to guest blogging for bloggers, I think that’s helped the most. I learned recently that it’s been proved statistically that there’s no correlation between a large Twitter following and a large podcast following. That surprised me but I have no reason to doubt the stats. That said, if you can be rich and famous first, that doesn’t really hurt any endeavour, does it?

9. Do you have enough to say? When I started podcasting last November, I reasoned that if I ever ran out of stuff to say, I could always just read some of my fiction. I did read a bunch of my fiction on the podcast, but I also found I had a lot to say that had nothing to do with fiction. I’ve done skits and bits and improv. I’ve gotten angry and sad and confessed and condemned. Just as you would with a blog, brainstorm what you might talk about.

There’s no rule that says you have to do a podcast that’s an hour, two hours or three hours long. Most of

Click to get Bigger Than Jesus

my podcasts were 40 – 45 minutes once a week. Then I decided to make shorter podcasts but a twice a week. Then, to get the word out about The Hit Man Series, I’m podcasting Bigger Than Jesus a chapter at a time. Book 2, Higher Than Jesus, might be ready for podcast before I’m done recording the foundation book. Podcasting helps with the final proof, as well. We’ll see. No rules, remember? I love that about being indie in whatever I do.

Listen to a lot of podcasts to get a flavor of what works for you. Figure out where you fit. Are you the next Grammar Girl (the first podcaster on Oprah) or Mur Lafferty from I Should Be Writing? How-to podcasts are very popular (if you have enough to say on the subject long term.)  I listen to Litopia (for everything publishing); some stuff from the Kevin Smith network since he started my career; The Joe Rogan Experience has awesome guests (and depending on what you’re doing with your podcast, guests are great); The David Feldman Show (because I’m a lefty who loves comedians); and The Best of the Left (for smart politics). There are, of course, thousands of podcasts to choose from, those are a few of my favourites. You should also listen to The School of Podcasting by Dave Jackson. You can even join up and learn more. Dave is an enthusiastic educator who loves podcasting. He can teach you everything from how to set it up to how to monetize it properly. He’s forgotten more than I’ll ever know about podcasting.

10. Which leads me to my most important tip of this monster post: Talk to Dave Jackson from The School of Podcasting to get help setting up your podcast. He teaches and consults. I am not an expert on podcasting. That doesn’t stop me from being a podcaster thanks to Dave.

When I started out, I read all the FAQ I could find. I made my first podcast, but I couldn’t figure out how to get it out into the world. I had launched my first books and I was anxious to promote them via an avenue I knew a lot of people were missing out on. I was missing out! A lot of people are still missing out! You’re probably missing out right now! After days of frustration, I called Dave Jackson: Great guy, smart guy, patient guy. He knows the nuances of feed burner and RSS feeds and setting up your podcast without tears or time lost. He’ll get you past the mechanics and into what matters: reaching a wider audience you would never otherwise reach.

UPDATE: Dave just emailed me that he is revising his website this weekend. Hang in there if it’s not completely available when you check in. He’ll have chat on, so Dave can still set up a consultation to help you set up your podcast.

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ultimate Blog Challenge: Top 10 Things I know I don’t know (yet)

THINGS I DON’T KNOW INCLUDE:

1. How to push my stats for my author site (AllThatChazz.com) as high as this writing blog (though spillover should be inevitable.

English: John Leguizamo at the 2007 Toronto In...

English: John Leguizamo at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Or should it? Not so far.)

2. How to get more attention to my podcast (though numbers have gone up since I started reading Bigger Than Jesus a chapter at a time.)

3. Have I put off more readers than I’ve gained with my strange titles?

4. Should I have pushed the title of Self-help for Stoners harder when I met Kevin Smith in a video simulcast, or would that have made me look like a douche?

5. If I’d started writing books seriously twenty years ago, would I be happier now, or trapped in contracts I’d hate?

6. Did John Leguizamo ever read the blog post about casting him in the movie of Bigger Than Jesus? Probably not, but we all go ego surfing from time to time, don’t we?

7. Will I ever get Scrivener to work the way it says it works when I format my books? So far I just play with it until I get incrementally better but so far it’s more like stabbing a keyboard in the dark than arriving at solutions logically.

8. Will Amazon look at the numbers and switch their algorithm back to the way it was in December so giving away a ton of books means something useful in selling books on the paid side? (When an Amazon fan like Joe Konrath says, okay, I’m out of KDP Select until they change terms, we should all take notice.)

9. Will my books take off before I run out of money completely? I am in a race. (I just got some help with this and things might be looking up if a strategy I’m working on takes off. More on that later.)

Get Bigger Than Jesus

10. I don’t know if my gamble/mid-life crisis will pay off. I do know I’m glad I pulled the trigger. I’ll find out. It’s better than not ever knowing and looking back in regret at what might have been.

(UBC #14)

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , ,

Ultimate Blog Challenge: Top 10 things I wish I didn’t know about readers

Small-town terrors and psychological mayhem in Maine.

1. They get bored too easily. We used to have writers who were flavours of the month. With Amazon rankings, you can be the flavour of the hour and then disappear into obscurity unless you fight the death spiral and/or get lucky.

2. Readers are too busy. With the proliferation of “free” we all have huge To Be Read piles. Sadly, as with to-do lists, many of us never get to the bottom of those piles.

3. Many people prefer a genre I don’t write. Romance is much more popular. I used to read romances professionally when I worked for Harlequin. My books have a key romantic element, but they are not romances, so de facto, I am not on the radar of a large group of very dedicated readers.

4. The readers who love me might get sick of me trying to reach the readers who don’t know me. I’m very careful on Twitter to promote others, not just me. Still, I need to kick back and tweet a little joke here and there and say hello. It’s difficult to find the balance.

Paranormal persuasion and scary stories.

5. I’m not reaching some readers because I made some choices in titles that were challenging. (I almost wrote “unfortunate”, but that would put the onus on me and I’m not ready to own that yet.) The thing is, Sex, Death & Mind Control is one of the best things I’ve written but it has the lowest sales. It’s not sexy enough for those searching for erotica. It’s paranormal suspense (with award winners!), but when you see that always-interesting “What Else Customers Viewed” list, it’s almost all erotica on the Sex, Death & Mind Control sales page. “End of the Line” is probably the best short story I’ve ever written, but it  remains a hidden treasure because I turned readers off with a title I thought would get more attention, not less.

6. Ditto Self-help for Stoners. It was a clue for me when one of the reviewers who loved it added, “Don’t let the title scare you off.” It’s a weird mix of War of Art self-help and suspense. Strange, I know, but not really all that transgressive. (Should have called it Self-help for Surrealists to pull in readers who are also painters!) My strategy going in was to have an identifiable group to market to instead of saying it was for anybody who loved suspenseful fiction. To some extent that worked, but not as well as I’d hoped. (It still outsells Sex, Death & Mind Control four to one. I can’t say the Self-help for Stoners strategy was a failure, just that it could do better.)

You don’t have to be high to enjoy it. Sure, it would make you a better audience but…

7. Readers have less patience now. I changed my plotting and pacing with Bigger Than Jesus to cater to that lack of patience. I see it in myself. Maybe the Internet did it to our brains, I don’t know. That’s not even be a bad thing per se, but expect more Blake Crouch pacing and less Annie Proulx meandering. There used to be more room for both approaches.

8. There are still prejudices against anything labeled “experimental”. I wrote Bigger than Jesus in present tense, second-person. That alone is reason enough for some readers to run screaming. I can tell them all day that it worked. Won’t matter. That’s okay, but it’s still a prejudice.

I wanted to do something that some people thought couldn’t or shouldn’t be done and I wanted to do it so well they’d either quickly forget their prejudice or give me more credit for doing it so well. Blanket pronouncements of “You can’t do that!” are one of the reasons I did it. I don’t like being told what I can’t do. In fact, it makes me want to do it all the more. (I admit this attitude is not something that serves me well all the time. Having a job in the regular world, for instance, is uh…a problem.)

9. Readers look for ties to your real life. This is a byproduct of increased author/reader interaction. However, the Internet isn’t to blame for this one. This was very much the rage in English departments across the world years ago. Students were taught they couldn’t understand the fullness of the fiction without making judgments about the author, his or his gender, origin and life experience. They shouldn’t have done that. No one truly knows the inside of someone else’s skull. (I’ve even opened it up and had a look. Trust me, nobody really knows.) Besides, it’s fiction. Take it on its own merit. Please don’t make assumptions about the author from what you read in a book of fiction. Don’t make me kill again. (See what I mean?)

10. Readers fade. Even if they love your work, they move on. They get hungry for something new and different unless you keep feeding them. I don’t think anyone should race to publication if they aren’t up to the schedule and you do have to build in editorial time to make the book better. However, they are hungry and it is a race. People will tell you it isn’t. They’re wrong. It is. It’s a race against time. We don’t live forever and we have books in us and a readership to find and a readership we hope finds us. William Styron came out with a nice juicy thick book every ten years, but he was William Styron and that was before ebooks and our shiny,  new demand-per-click culture.

I love readers. People who don’t read creep me out. I can say that because how would they know I’ve insulted them? What do non-readers have to contribute? Those dummies!

Ha! Wait. You aren’t reading this aloud to someone are you?

~ Like my flavor? Listen to the first chapter of my crime thriller, Bigger Than Jesus. I’m podcasting the book through the summer. Enjoy! (Or be a hero and just click the cover to grab it. Thanks for reading!)

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ultimate Blog Challenge: Top 10 What I’ll soon do differently with my book promotion

1. Last November I started up my podcast to reach out to new readers. I called the podcast Self-help for Stoners

English: Third generation Amazon Kindle

English: Third generation Amazon Kindle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

after my book of the same name. The podcast was a good idea, but tying the title to one book when I have dozens in me was a tactical error and I’ll change that soon.

2. This, my main blog, focuses on information, both original and curated, for anyone interested in publishing books.  The blog is not geared to readers. That’s what the author site is for. In the future, I think I’ll post to the author site more often than I do, especially as I have more reviews and events to talk about. I don’t regret writing about writing, though. Some people think authors are stupid for doing that, but I went with my passion. If I had tackled something I was less interested in, I wouldn’t be approaching 1,000 blog posts now and I wouldn’t be able to make two books out of it.

3. My two latest books, Bigger Than Jesus and The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories, are both on Amazon and exclusive to KDP Select so they do not appear in retail outlets. That’s fine for now, but eventually I will migrate them to other ebook platforms. Amazon was great at promotion, but with their new algorithms, they aren’t so great for me anymore. (I hope they rectify this and we, collectively, get through the current summer sales slump to see a more energetic autumn.)

4. In the future, I’ll raise the price of my books. They’re all at couch change for $2.99 now. This is the introductory price and will change, which will also make more sense with Amazon’s new price-based (rather than quantity sold) algorithms.

5. I have several books in revisions that reach beyond 120,000 words. If they were shorter they’d be done and available by now. If it makes editorial sense, I may break the longest books up into trilogies.

6. I will write shorter books. As I wrote Bigger Than Jesus, I discovered that I love to write a book with a high momentum. A fast write (and read) energizes me. The paperback will still clock in at 249 pages, so no one will feel I’m shortchanging them.

7. I will write no stand-alones. Bigger than Jesus is the first of The Hit Man Series. The Poeticule Bay Series is in development. The books are meant to stretch out into long series following certain characters. Stand alone novels are a heavy investment of my time that do not develop a following to the same numbers as a series can. To make more art, I have to make that business decision. What will be fun is when I have crossovers, where many of my characters from different books meet.

8. I will write faster. I wrote Bigger Than Jesus in a month. To perfect it, the editorial pipeline was longer than that, but I find I can write effectively and well at speed. My editor and beta team made that possible and, maybe it’s the journalistic training talking, deadlines are my friend.

9. I will have print versions available for all my books going forward. Currently I just have Self-help for Stoners available as a paperback. The other short story collections didn’t have quite the length needed to make for a paperback with heft. Everything I do from now on makes for a great mass market paperback. I just finished all the book design and print formatting on Bigger Than Jesus today so I’ll have the paperbacks on hand pretty soon. (I’m in love with Georgia. She’s a beautiful font.)

10. I will be less shy about contacting other authors for blurbs and book blogger for reviews. This is more of an affirmation than a plan since I have yet to compose those emails. I’ve sent out a few copies for review, but it’s an issue about which I am still an introvert. (I’m only pretending to be an extrovert here so someone will read my books.)

~ Like my flavor? Listen to the first chapter of my crime thriller, Bigger Than Jesus. I’m

Get Bigger Than Jesus

podcasting the book through the summer. Enjoy! (Or be a hero and just click the cover to grab it. Thanks for reading!)

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ultimate Blog Challenge: Can you blog a book? Sure you can.

A special welcome to new readers from the Ultimate Blog Challenge! Today, since there are so many new readers pouring in, I should give a little introduction and make an announcement, just to spice things up.

Ancient History:  My first blog, way back when, was mostly about politics. My second blog was devoted to writing (back when I thought I wanted someone else to publish my fiction.) I dumped that blog because someone else was managing it poorly and I needed to get my own sites: ChazzWrites.com and AllThatChazz.com. That was two and a half years ago. Now I blog about writing and self-publishing daily here and keep the political rants confined to my podcast when the spirit (and rage) move me.

Modern History: As I researched self-publishing, I found I had a lot to think about. Since I discover what I think about something by writing about it, my blog grew. I curated a bunch of useful information and that’s still an important part of what I do here: helping fellow authors and writers. My posts grew, matured and got tall as I deepened my involvement, made allies and learned and shared more.

The Current Era: Last November I quit my day job and published a strange book of self-help and inspiration expressed through suspense fiction. I know! Crazy! I wish that I had called it Self-help for Surrealists. As it is, every day for the rest of my life I will say to someone, somewhere, “No, you don’t have to be a stoner to love Self-help for Stoners.” I published two short story collections and a bunch of short stories and marketed them like mad, but the best marketing is to put up another book for sale. Last month, after a long trip through the editorial pipe, I published two more.

The Future’s So Bright, I Had to Cut it in Two: As a result of all this blogging, I realized just this weekend (this is the announcement part) that I have not just one book for new indie authors, but two. As the word count climbed toward 100,000 words on my non-fiction book (Crack the Indie Author Code: Aspire to Inspire) I discovered that it would make more sense, and be less overwhelming, to break up the information into two books.

Alternative Futures: Can you blog a book? Absolutely. There are programs devoted to that very thing, though I suggest caution. Go as slow as you dare. You have to go back in and revise carefully. Omit links and images, for instance. Stuff that works for a blog doesn’t necessarily read well as a book. I’m editing it now and it’s coming soon, promise. It’s a tragic time management issue since I’m also working on the follow-up to my first crime novel Bigger Than Jesus. But that’s a separate blog post and different announcement for another day. Happy blogging!

COMING SOON: 

CRACK THE INDIE AUTHOR CODE: ASPIRE TO INSPIRE (YEAR ONE)

BY ROBERT CHAZZ CHUTE

*2

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 10,019 other followers

Brain Spasms a la Twitter

%d bloggers like this: