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

Write and publish with love and fury.

The Great Review Controversy, Take 2

From The Telegraph: A best-selling British crime writer, RJ Ellory, used pseudonyms to pen fake glowing reviews about his “magnificent genius” online while simultaneously criticising his rivals.

Read the link? Wasn’t that frustrating?

This time it’s a writer from the traditional side of publishing who has disappointed and embarrassed himself. As bad and individual as the act is, I’m relieved he’s not an indie author. Blame has been spread  around like confetti at a clown rally lately and I don’t want any more glitter in my jock. Will the fact that he’s traditionally published buy indies any more slack? No, but it probably won’t make things much worse for us. It’s so difficult to get reviews and build an audience that I find it disheartening to be painted with mile-wide brushes. I’m trying to make a living as a suspense novelist here!

Instead of distrusting five-star reviews — or automatically believing one-star reviews — I wish more people paid attention to reading samples. I encourage everyone to read book samples before clicking “buy” (even when, perhaps especially when, it’s “free”).

Reviews get too much weight in some people’s minds. My tastes aren’t necessarily yours, so why give so much power away to another when making reading choices? I read book samples to avoid unpleasant surprises. The first chapter usually gives me a glimpse of the quality and tone of what’s to come. Some people fail to exercise the reading sample option and then blame the author. “I wanted romance and this is fantasy! How dare she?” That’s like getting angry because the drugstore doesn’t sell coconuts.

Is Amazon really “Spamazon”? It’s the Internet. Is the fault in our tools or in ourselves? To confront the problem of bad reviews, fake reviews and attack reviews, we need to grow up, do our due diligence and keep things in perspective. You don’t believe everything you’re told. Fine. Enjoy those free reading samples and make better informed choices before the too-easy click.

Indies are mostly beautiful dreamers and bold, generous storytellers. We are not all evil scammers out to fool readers. Many of us tell entertaining stories with few resources and we perform this service for the equivalent of couch change. It’s churlish to make all authors collateral damage for the offences of others.

When the NY Times story about paid-for reviews broke last week, I was initially forgiving and didn’t take it so seriously. John Locke, for instance, may have paid for reviews, but he said he was open to honest opinions as well and he still wrote all his books which, nicely reviewed or not, a lot of people like. I wished he’d mentioned the paid-for-review strategy in his how-to book in the interest of full disclosure, but at first I figured his tactic just sped up his trip on the success train. However, when I saw so much negative reaction from potential buyers, I got sad. Unfairly or not, it hurt our reputation.

Then I realized I couldn’t approach Locke to ask for a cover blurb for my next book in The Hit Man Series. He was on my short list of authors I planned to ask for an endorsement. I’m not assuming he would have gone for it. I’m just terribly disappointed because of the damage done. (That cry of “I’ll never read indie again!” really got to me, silly as it is.) I read a few of Locke’s books and enjoyed them, but now his name is tainted with the “Paid for Reviews” badge. He’ll recover from this. Locke has a huge fan base who don’t care about this controversy. It’s probably too inside baseball for most and for people who are already fans, why would they care?

It hurt me and fellow indies, though (and we don’t have that big cash cushion to ride out the bad weather.) You know that saying, “Save a horse, ride a cowboy”? Indies need a bumper sticker, too: “Save an author, buy a book.”

Hm. That’s not near as sexy and catchy. Suggestions?

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Top Ten: My best fight

I’m so happy with my new fight scene from Higher Than Jesus.

Here’s why:

Check out all the books by Robert Chazz Chute here.

1. My first draft of this chapter was too easy on the protagonist. I wanted to show that Jesus had skills. He’s not a lame sad sack, though he is subject to Murphy’s Law: If something can go wrong, it will. This seems particularly true of my Cuban hit man Jesus Diaz. When I went revised, the chapter doubled in length to a much more tense and intense sequence.

2. I needed to use this scene to show that the heroine was worth fighting for. I really dislike stories where the heroine is merely an interchangeable object who, when things get dicey, can’t be depended upon. There are already too many stories out there where the guy fights the bad guy while the woman runs away, is tied up, twists an ankle, or presses herself against a wall while looking on in horror. (That’s a way too retro view of women. I like strong women.) A real man in any fight for his life will shriek, “Grab a shovel and hit this monster in the head! Don’t just stand there! He’s trying to kill me, for god’s sake!” Heroes who fight alone with an ally/romantic interest nearby aren’t heroes. They’re morons.

3. I put my protagonist through the burner. His reactions are realistic. He shakes. He trembles. He feels the euphoria of savagery and depths of fear. When bad things happen, he doesn’t just shrug it off. When somebody shoots at you, it’s totally unrealistic to react as if the shooter has offered you a sandwich of a sort you simply do not prefer.

4. The obstacles don’t stop. The guiding principle in The Hit Man Series is this: I don’t like it when the reader knows what’s coming next. Try to anticipate the unexpected. A lot of the time, I’m not sure what’s coming next, either. Expect a fast pace, twists and reversals.

5. A lot of fight scenes are dumb. This one isn’t. It means something much more to the larger story and to the characters.

6. There are long term consequences to a good fight scene. It’s not an episodic chapter of action only for action’s sake.

7. This fight scene elucidates in part how Jesus got the skills he did so what he can do doesn’t arrive out of nowhere.

8. The fight unearths something from Jesus Diaz’s personal history that overturns what readers think they know about his origin story. There was much more going on in Cuba than was revealed in the first book. I only found out when Jesus told me the other day.

9. The fight scene establishes my hit man’s amoral centre, but, because of his love for the heroine, he wants to reach higher. He wants to change. One of his challenges for the long arc of the series is, can he change? Can anyone?

10. When Higher Than Jesus comes out, you’ll see what I mean about this. No spoilers here, but I can say when the action is fast, the scene slows to take in details and make you grit your teeth. When the action slows down, the tension cranks up so there are questions that propel the story to the last word of the scene and the chapter.

This particular fight scene shows where Jesus Diaz has been and where he’s going.

The fight isn’t just with a couple of bad guys.

It’s about the fight between the two sides of Jesus’s character.

It’s about the fight we all face with the devils of our worse nature.

~ 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!)

UPDATE: Click here for the audio of Bigger Than Jesus, Chapter 2.

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

The mistake I made with my book cover (and how I fixed it)

Here's the new cover design for my novella. The graphic designer is Kit Foster of kitfosterdesign.com. IF YOU CAN'T SEE THIS IMAGE IN YOUR BROWSER, you can get the new cover image here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/83426

The Dangerous Kind is a top-notch, heart-wrenching novella of suspense (and I don’t just say so myself). Happy with the guts of the story, I put a bad cover on a good book. My reasoning at the time was that I didn’t want to spend money on any book that wasn’t a full-length work. I priced The Dangerous Kind at just 99 cents to introduce my flavor  to new readers. I did not consider that you can’t sell a gorgeous mansion if the front of the house looks condemned.

I created the first cover for my novella using picnik and morguefiles.com. I’m actually happy with some of the short story ebook covers I created, but with The Dangerous Kind? I made a mistake. The original cover makes sense to readers only after they’ve read the story. If I were a freakish hybrid with Bones McCoy after an unfortunate transporter accident, I might say, “Dammit, Jim! I’m a writer, not a graphic designer!” I should have asked for professional help instead of trying to do it on the cheap. I can recognize a good cover, but there’s a big gap between flying the plane and riding in back.

I was shortsighted. Once an ebook is for sale, you get to sell it forever. Why not make the best first impression you can? It will make a better return with a pretty face and you have forever to make back the investment. That’s what a good cover is: an investment, not a cost. My graphic designer is Kit Foster of kitfosterdesign.com (great guy!) so the cost was reasonable, too.

The other good move I made (finally!) was to ask for a cover endorsement from a fellow suspense novelist. I got one from a bestselling author: Jeff Bennington, author of Twisted Vengeance (and more). Jeff read The Dangerous Kind and gave me some nice quotes for the cover. Cover endorsements give readers courage to make that first click to buy our work and get sucked into our worlds.

Thanks Kit and Jeff. I may find new mistakes to make, but I don’t think I’ll be repeating this one moving forward.

Filed under: All That Chazz, authors, Books, ebooks, Publicity & Promotion, self-publishing, writing tips, , , , , , , , ,

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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