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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

Should Writers Double Back?

I’ve been thinking a lot about how things change. Before the pandemic, I would eat up book publishing podcasts like a fat guy scarfing down fudge donuts. I had to retreat for a while before I could move forward again. Dark paths through the woods are like that sometimes. I’ll get back to those podcasts, but I had other things to do for a while, like wonder when COVID was coming to kill me and losing sleep over nightmares of talking panthers (which were also trying to kill me). Not a joke. Happened last night. Talking panthers with green teeth are unnerving.

A few other things have changed (besides permanently giving up on writing at a coffee shop).

  1. My first anthology was Self-help for Stoners. I’d won a bunch of short story contests and SHFS was my first self-publishing experiment. I had a few dry runs before I figured out the publishing process. Inspired by director Kevin Smith and Joe Rogan, I dedicated that book to them. I’ve met Kevin and he could not have been sweeter. He liked the book, too. However, his movies over the last few years have disappointed me. The guy who broke into Hollywood with the clever writing in Clerks has fallen into reiterating his cult films now. Red State was okay, but that was 2011. He can’t get back to doing anything as compelling as Chasing Amy or as original as Dogma. Creatively, he’s stuck in park. That’s less inspiring.

    As for Rogan, I used to listen to all his podcasts. Now I listen when he interviews a scientist. My politics don’t jive with many of his guests and he sometimes spreads misinformation. I’m more a past fan than a current enthusiast. He also gives Alex Jones way too much rope. This is not me “cancelling” Joe Rogan. He’s got the most successful podcast on the planet and who gives a shit what I think? The point is, were I to write that book today, he wouldn’t be included in the acknowledgments. Things change.

    Note: If you’re looking for a thoughtful and funny podcast where the hosts listen to Alex Jones so you don’t have to, I recommend Knowledge Fight. They break down his claims in humane and surprisingly serious ways that show how deeply that man needs help.
  2. When I began writing This Plague of Day’s back in 2009, Aspergers was among the preferred nomenclature. Now “on the spectrum” seems generally preferred (though individuals on the spectrum have their personal preferences, of course). I would say and write “on the spectrum” now. Diagnoses of autism have such a wide range of implications. What it means for the individual and their families is a vast continuum. On the spectrum is perfect in the diversity the phrase reflects. I wasn’t ahead of the curve on the vocabulary a decade ago. This is not an apology. It’s an acknowledgment that I do not own a time machine.

    On the plus side, I have heard a lot of positive feedback from many readers on the spectrum. They and their families appreciate that I touched on the issues of diagnosis, labels, and the varied coping skills possessed by parents, siblings, and caregivers. It’s a very small part of a huge zombie apocalypse trilogy, but since the protagonist is on the spectrum, those issues came up naturally. The mother and father did not deal with their son identically, but I portrayed their viewpoints sensitively. I know that because everybody loves the mute hero of the apocalypse, Jaimie Spencer. Despite their differences, nobody hates his parents or sister, either.
  3. Since I wrote This Plague of Days, health professionals have largely changed how they feel about masks, too. Years ago, I served in healthcare and was part of a meeting about planning for the emergency measures we’re dealing with right now. The expert advice was different then. Hell, the expert advice was different at the beginning of this year! Remember when massive global pandemics that affected everyone were a thing of the past? Good times.

    The consensus when I wrote TPOD was that, due to moisture in the breath, a mask did not protect the user after about 20 minutes because the barrier would soon be compromised. Look around now! You can’t get into a Costco without a mask and you know what? I’ve changed, too. I accepted the new expert advice readily and wear a mask whenever I venture out beyond the walls of my blanket fort. Not that I get out often. I stay put unless my mission to the Badlands is essential.

    Is there a next step?

    The logical question is: Should I go back and revise history to fit the present day? First, the blanket refusal, then the nuance.

    In my current circumstances, I have neither the time, energy, resources or bandwidth to go backward. So no, I won’t be combing through huge books I wrote a decade ago to ensure they vibe with a tiny number of people who might choose to be graceless in their reading. However, I am writing a prequel to This Plague of Days so I will update what I can in the new book.

    I would need a really good reason to double back. Besides, would I have to change it when the medical vocabulary changes again? The nuanced answer is: possibly. If I live long enough for words to be too far outdated, I would consider editing again if I had the capacity to do so. I never used it, but as a for instance, the term idiot savant used to be common parlance. That is unfortunate. So is the misuse and offensive use of the word retarded. I have not used that term unless I’m talking about fire prevention.

    In any case, I doubt I’ve written anything worthy of cancelling me. Might someone on the planet be offended? Of course. This isn’t my first day on the internet. What alarms me about some outlying readers is their demand that a fictional character’s experience reflect their own reality identically. That’s simply not possible and, not for nothin’, I’m writing entertaining novels aimed at making a splash and a wide appeal, not a boring biography for each reader.

    (Hint: Some ghost writers get paid big bucks to write those biographies for no one to read.)

    I do my best to get details right, of course. Authenticity in the contextual nitty-gritty provides the thrust and lift that allows the more fantastic aspects of a narrative to fly. There is also creativity and artistic license. One rather condescending reviewer gave me high marks creatively, but berated me for not using real street names. She suggested I was lazy. I’d named her city and she demanded it be represented accurately.

    To which I say:

    Fuck, no. Yes, of course I know what Google Maps is. I made conscious choices for good reasons which became apparent later in the series. With my artistic license, I can drive anywhere. No kibitzing from the cheap seats is required. She’s entitled to her opinion, but I don’t write novels by committee. I wouldn’t have been offended, but it stuck in my craw that it wasn’t a casual reader calling me lazy. It was another author. I’m sure she knows what artistic license is, so I guess that leaves being bossy.

    As for Kevin and Joe

    I used to like what they did so much more. I might again. I don’t think they’re bad people and everybody gets to like what they like. I expect others to show some grace, so I’ll aspire to transcendence, too. The dedication stays. They don’t inspire me now, but they did. They might do so again.

    Everybody ease up. We’ve all got enough to worry about. I’m really focused on trying not to die right now.

    ~ Feeling existential dread? Need a break? How about a rallying cry for some positive societal upheaval? I recorded a story from my anthology All Empires Fall. It’s called The Face of Victory and you can listen to my reading of it on my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: COVID19, publishing, Rant, updates, writing, writing advice, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Brain, Porch, Rifles, Aliens

Huzzah, word warriors! What’s up? How are you holding up? Getting a bit of exercise. Even in a cramped apartment, there’s room enough to get into plank position long enough to wish you hadn’t.

Short update this week: I think I might be on the upswing personally. Still have to get taxes done and the garden in, but I’m feeling like it’s time to shrug off the funk and get more words down. The keyboard is right there, looking up at me. It appears decidedly judgmental.

This week at my author site, AllThatChazz.com, you will find an interesting video about doing the dopamine detox. It sounds more interesting with its other title. How I Tricked My Brain to Like Doing Hard Things.

For a quick feel-good story sure to warm the heart of any writer, meet Andrew Butters on my front porch through The AFTER Life Meet-up.

And for a good, long read, listen in on an uncomfortable conversation about taking the wrong lessons from disaster fiction. You’ll find it at my other blog, ThisPlagueOfDays.com. It’s called The Apocalypse Problem.

Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, try to stay safe. I noted that in my area, the premier tells us he thinks we’re past the peak of COVID-19. Not to be a downer, but we may be past this peak but it’s only a peak. Continue taking precautions wherever you can. Stop licking handrails and bowling balls. Watch the skies for meteors and aliens, instead.

Cheers!

Robert

Filed under: the writing life, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Love & Anger in the Time of Pandemic

Hey, friends, fans and fiends! How are you doing? Time for your weekly updates from my author site, AllThatChazz.com (plus one other)!

How to make your nervous system less nervous

In about 20 minutes of this audio recording, harness the power of your body/mind to ease your mental and physical tension. Hear me, stay in this relaxed moment and ease those fears.

(Get comfy on your bed for this one. Do not drive, operate wrecking balls, lathes or space lasers while you listen.)

What good & bad people have in common

Time to get ranty about those Covidiots who would “sacrifice the weak.” We’re all in this together. Your safety and my safety are inextricably linked. Let’s all act like society is still a thing.


My Review of Weep

Craving a good read about a terrifying epidemic? Who isn’t? My site dedicated to all things apocalyptic, ThisPlagueOfDays.com, I reviewed a zombie apocalypse novel by Eoin Brady. If you’re into the horror genre, you will enjoy Weep. Smarter than your average zombie.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I write killer crime thrillers and apocalyptic epics. Please do subscribe to my author blog and check out all the books at AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: book reviews, Books, COVID19, Horror, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Your Health, Reading and Writing

My blanket fort (for audio, writing and hiding).

Greetings from the Blanket Fort!

I’ve been in isolation for over a month now. One or another, none of us are immune to this experience. If you’re finding life difficult, the World Health Organization has recommendations for your physical and mental health.

You can access their many helpful suggestions here:


WHO Healthy at Home

Speaking of health, all our medical concerns naturally focus on COVID-19 now. However, the problems we had before the coronavirus continue even while we’re distracted.

Ryder is a sweet little girl undergoing cancer treatment. I’m sure you understand the pain and stress this causes Ryder and her family. I think of them often. Dealing with these issues is tough enough without the pandemic in the mix.


If you can help Ryder and her family, they have a GoFundMe here:

Help Ryder Show Cancer Who’s Boss!

Thank you!

In the meantime, here’s your weekly round-up of articles from my sister site, AllThatChazz.com:


In the Works has a cover reveal for the fifth book in the Ghosts and Demons Series and recommendations for reading material for your isolation bunker. This post features the incomparable Armand Rosamilia’s Dying Days and Dirty Deeds series. Losing yourself in a book is a great escape. Use that escape hatch!

Next up, What to Read in the Apocalypse, including a hat tip to Weep by Eoin Brady. My next book is a prequel to This Plague of Days and it’s set in Ireland. Mr. Brady’s zombie story is set there, too! I’m enjoying the complexity of his world-building. Recommended!

Finally for this week, Managing Pandemic Stress harnesses the 3A Triad of Stress Management. Don’t let the bastards or your existential dread get you down! I hope you’ll find this piece helpful.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I write novels about the end of the world and killer crime thrillers. Find the book links, subscribe and enjoy them all at my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: All That Chazz, authors, book reviews, COVID19, This Plague of Days, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Deciding to Jump


Remember that summer feeling of standing on the edge of a swimming pool, convincing yourself to jump? The water is warm, but it’s colder than the air so it’s going to be a short shock. The swim will be great, but you still hesitate to make that leap. That’s my experience staring at a blinking cursor just now.

I just woke up from a nap. I can’t wait for the next nap. Do you find your sense of time is thrown off? March lasted eight weeks. It feels like April 1st was a month ago yet Friday whipped around again quickly, didn’t it? My internal clock is confuzzled and I’m having trouble getting things done.

I’m no Farmer Jones, but concerned about the security of the food supply chain, I started a garden. I’m waiting for seeds to arrive. I made cornbread this morning. I play Scrabble and Boggle on my phone a lot. The days slip away and each evening arrives as a fresh surprise. Where did the day go?

I did manage to write 2,000 words yesterday. I feel good about doing that much (or that little). I’m working on a prequel to This Plague of Days. For all the pages I’ve not written yet, I’m giving myself a break. We’re all in extraordinary circumstances. Whatever you do to cope, it’s more or less okay to accomplish more or less. Circumstances are stressful enough without piling on more stress.

For me, getting started on a writing session is the hardest part. Once I take that leap and start swimming, I feel much better. It’s wonderful to lose yourself to a story. I love to read and write. Books make the world go away. Maybe framing the work that way will help to make that jump into creativity a little easier.

For your entertainment and edification, here are this week’s updates from my author site:

My Movie Moments

Preparing for a Post-pandemic World

~ Robert Chazz Chute writes apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers. Find your next escape from the world at AllThatChazz.com.



Filed under: COVID19, getting it done, pandemic, This Plague of Days, Writers, writing, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Surviving the Apocalypse

Here are this week’s updates from my author site, AllThatChazz.com:

Your Limit for Today

Wanna See My Blanket Fort?

Physical Distance, Not Social Distance

What to do during the apocalypse

(plus a free book)


mybook.to/AFTERLife

If you can, please, stay home, stay safe, and read.

~ I write apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers. You can check out all my books here.

Filed under: Books, COVID19, weekly update, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Selling Books: Strategy Versus Tactics

Today we’re talking long-term versus short-term, investments is your author career versus the expenses along the way. It’s going to be honest and some of it is going to be painful. Strategy versus tactics, here we go:

But first, FYI, I’m running a promotion for the first book in my apocalypse trilogy, This Plague of Days. Pop over to AllThatChazz.com to grab your copy for just 99¢! The sale ends September 2.

I wrote This Plague of Days over several years. Though I’ve written many books since, my greatest earning power is in the backlist, possibly because I wrote TPOD when it was much easier to get reviews. (Separate issue for another time.) Though TPOD is my biggest seller, even successful books need a boost and a refresh. (Google the art of The Stand, for instance. It’s interesting how the cover art changed over the years.) TPOD will be getting a fresh face with new covers in the near future. In the meantime, I got a Bookbub. Let’s talk a little about selling books, short-term and long-term.

On the advice of several trusted author friends, I have moved away from giving books for free as a promotional device. If someone can afford to read on a phone or an e-reader, they can afford 99¢. I’ve heard rumblings that free isn’t as effective as it used to be. Selling at 99¢ is not a profit strategy, either. My first aim is to entertain, delight and absorb readers into my Mindscape until we are all one big ball of braingasms. Before the Well, Actually Guy shows up, yes, we have to write great books. That’s first and foremost. Okay, Well, Actually Guy? Now sit down.

To afford to continue to do my thing, my goal is to gain visibility, traction, and read-throughs for the rest of the TPOD series and the rest of my list. I have to find readers who value my work enough to support the enterprise. That tiny barrier to entry into my worlds (99¢!) might deter free seekers but readers who only buy when art is free have other options. I’d direct those readers to their local library or to the many free books that are offered daily in various promotions elsewhere.

Stacking promotions on various platforms, staggered instead of hitting all on one day, can help a book’s rank and visibility. Here’s what I’m doing to let people know they’ve got a binge read waiting for them for a very low price.

Marketing Tactics

1. The Bookbub hits on September 1 so that’s the biggest deal for me. For a long time, I have ignored Bookbub. I got several Bookbub deals years ago but let it go when it became obvious how hard it is to get a submission accepted. That was wrong of me. It doesn’t take long to submit a book and, though it’s difficult to get in, it’s not outside the realm of possibility so why not at least try? I tried, it worked. I should always have something submitted to Bookbub until such time as they prove a useless expense.

2. Facebook ads running for three days. I’m not a fan of FB ads but, using Bookbrush, I came up with something that looked good. I’m keeping the budget on the FB foray tight because I don’t trust it. I’ve read and listened to the experts on FB ads. They make it sound like it’s a full-time job to get it just right before it goes to shit again. The most successful authors who use FB ads seem to have very deep pockets. We can optimize all our variables to appeal to readers but that doesn’t matter much if we’re outbid every time.

However, big mindset shift: Expensive is bad. Expenses are to be expected. Thinking of expenses in terms of investments is best. Look for the payoff and cut what’s not working.

3. I’m also running a paid Bookbub ad for three days. (That’s different from the featured deal. I’m talking about the ad you bid for that, if successful, appears at the bottom of BB newsletters to curated audiences. BB says that helps to optimize featured deal promotions. We’ll see. I don’t have a great track record of making these sorts of ads work for me but they may be more effective in coordination with the featured deal.

4. This promo came together last minute. If I’d had more time, I would have hoped for an Ereader News Today promo for the day before the Bookbub. It’s set for September 2, instead. Still better than pouring all resources into a one day sale. No one knows Amazon’s algorithms for sure but to achieve higher ranking and stickiness, stacking helps.

5. Many Facebook groups are hostile to author promotion and I respect that. Fortunately, there are relevant Facebook groups that do welcome an author letting them know about a book deal. I’ll do that.

6. I’ve already told my readers on my Facebook fan page. Next stop: my newsletter. I don’t have a big newsletter list. I encourage you to join us at AllThatChazz.com. (The pop-up will soon pop-up when you go there.) I won’t bother you often and only when I have something new to say.

7. I’ve boosted the budget on my AMS ads temporarily. Once again, the goal is visibility and finding more and new readers who will pick up what I’m putting down. Whale readers, superfans, normal fans, casual readers: All are welcome. It’s not about immediate profit. I won’t make immediate profit on a book priced at 99 cents. As soon as this promotion is over, I’ll tally my investment in advertising and weep a little. I will lose money on this tactic in the short-term. It’s a loss leader, as in, I’m leading the way in losses. Yech. However, I’m hoping the readers will come through and pay for more tickets on my Crazy Train. This Plague of Days is one trilogy. I have several other offerings in the same genre: AFTER Life, Robot Planet, and the Dimension War Series.

Note: I also write killer crime thrillers. I don’t expect many crossover readers from the apocalyptic genre. That’s not part of the calculation. If you’re an author who writes in multiple genres, it’s more fun but it’s a tougher go. If I could go back to 2011 and do it all again, I would have probably done the same thing again, anyway. Writing in two genres I love is how my mind works. If your mind doesn’t work that way and you’re just starting out now, I’d recommend either cranking up a pen name to separate and solidify your market brand or simply pick a lane.

Other Caveats

Free may not be as effective as it used to be. Some say Bookbub isn’t as effective as it once was, either. AMS ads are often a quagmire. Some of my experimentations with AMS ads have been somewhat successful and plenty have been low-grade disasters. Worse disaster happen at sea, so let’s not panic. My most successful AMS ad tests have been achieved by concentrating on selling the paperbacks. Higher price point = lower ACos. Yep, some people still love paperbacks, may Thor bless them.

Marketing Strategy

Giving a series fresh covers that are on point and impact sales is a great thing to do as books age. I think too many authors ignore the gold in their backlist. It’s always fun to run off to the coffee shop to write a new book. I had plans for other releases this fall but I got a novel stuck in my head and had to write it immediately. The new shiny thing is always more fun to chase. However, as I write for a living and try to make it all work, it’s not easy juggling business versus art. Sadly, some books fail to launch and trip right out of the gate. Reviews are harder to get. Many would-be guru authors talk about how we have to art harder and be brainful instead of brainless. Few talk about their failures. We all have them. This biz is not for the weak of mind but we’re also going to need big spirits to keep going.

When the going gets tough, make time to go outside, smell the fresh air and chuck rocks at your enemies. Or scream into a pillow.

Then get back to the question: “What am I going to do next? How can I think bigger to do better?”

Thinking Bigger

As I stood in line at the grocery store with my daughter, I complained that book sales were flattening out. The stats about the number of people who read are grim. This is still the best time to be a writer overall but with fewer readers, new tactics aren’t enough. Strategies have to change.

“So what are you going to do?” my daughter asked.

My reflex answer has always been, “Write more books, see what sticks.” I’m proud of my books. They’re packed with wit, action and surprises. I work with a sharp-eyed editor who helps to bring out my best. That should be good enough but it isn’t. It used to be good enough but the market is pay-to -play now. Excellence in one facet is not enough. Writing great books alone won’t keep me going as a full-time writer. (And, at 54, who’s going to hire me for much? I’ve got to make this work!)

To be seen, like every other business, we must invest in advertising, engage with readers where appropriate and spur word of mouth. There are plenty of book marketing strategies and tactics to try. I’m working on a new angle in the run-up to Christmas but that’s just a tactic. It’s not a game changer. I need a new strategy and a far better answer to my daughter’s question.

“So what are you going to do?” my daughter asked.

Audiobooks. Some of you are yawning. This is not new to many authors. It will be new to me. It’s long past time I jumped into audiobook production but there were reasons I didn’t until now. (Good reasons? Debatable, but here we are.)

First, I complained ACX wasn’t available to Canadians. Without ACX, I didn’t see a way for me to enter the audiobook market. (This was before Findaway Voices.) When ACX finally became available in Canada, the costs were too prohibitive for my budget. Then, quite recently, I did some more research and saw my way in. I read articles from authors who took the DIY approach. We don’t need a fancy recording studio worthy of Quincy Jones to create audiobooks. I’m in the midst of turning a basement room into a sound booth and I’m doing it cheaply.

This promotion for This Plague of Days, Season One is a short-term marketing tactic which I hope will gain lifetime readers. Audiobooks production is a long-term strategy that opens up new possibilities. Fewer people are reading but they are listening to books while they’re on the treadmill, commuting or doing the dishes. That’s where the puck is going and that’s where I’ll be.

I’ve produced four podcasts and guested on many more so I was already halfway to adding an audiobook branch to Ex Parte Press. I thought I couldn’t afford the investment or do it right on my own. I had to think different and think bigger.

I had to be a little braver, too.

Please visit my author website, AllThatChazz.com, to pick up your copy of This Plague of Days for only 99¢. The sale ends September 2, 2019. Enjoy! Thanks!

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

TOP 10 Tips: KDP Ads, Updates and the Writing Biz

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This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)

The only zombie apocalypse with an autistic hero. If you liked The Stand, you’ll like this.

Tip #1: Tweak your print descriptions. 

I use the Author Marketing Club description tool to develop my book descriptions for Amazon. The template makes ebook descriptions look great. Don’t just copy and paste your ebook descriptions to your print book descriptions, though. The text will run together into one big block.

Add editorial reviews and more information to your author sales page Author Central. Give the readers more reasons to check you out and revisit those descriptions from time to time to try out fresh ad copy.

Tip #2: Update old books.

I know it’s a pain, but after a new book comes out, go back and reload old books to update your calls to action. I used to give readers too many choices when they were done reading. Now I just send them to AllThatChazz.com and encourage them to subscribe for updates.

Tip #3: When something isn’t working, change it.

I realized I was getting behind in podcasting because I hate reading my own work aloud. I remember being called upon to read aloud in class in fifth grade and I don’t like it anymore now. (If you must read, don’t rush it like I did.)

It took me forever to get through reading a book I love when I turned on the microphone. Lesson learned: renew the All That Chazz podcast. Changing the format. Go back to my comedy roots.

Also, I’ll get voice over artists for my audiobooks. Podcasting is so much fun as long as I’m having fun. I’m back to that with the latest episode. Click below to hear some jokes.

ALL THAT CHAZZ pod pic

Tip #4: Experiment

KDP Select came out with an advertising tool within Amazon that’s sort of like Google Adwords without all the bells and whistles. The beta test of this new discovery tool did not go well and the changes since the beta run are not apparent to users.

So far, according to my totally unscientific survey of players in the know and my own testing with three campaigns, it’s not working…yet. It may not. However, it’s CPC (cost per click) so, it’s not like it’s a huge risk. It’ll either work or it won’t.

Opt in or opt out for your books within Select via your bookshelf. Don’t decide to avoid early adoption because your still angry about Kindle Unlimited. These are business experiments and business decisions.

By the way, not for nothing but once again, Amazon innovates and experiments while the other platforms watch and wait for…something.

UPDATE: So far, a lot of impressions but no clicks. I imagine an underground marketing bunker on high alert far below Amazon. The accounting and IT departments are running in circles like they’re at Defcon 2 and they’re screaming at each other, “Figure it out! Figure it out! Why is this so much worse than Adwords?”

The experiment continues.

Tip #5: Tweak pricing

If you go through Draft2Digital, for instance, notice from your pricing dashboard that you can manage pricing for individual territories. The automatic pricing tool is based on the US dollar.

I fiddle with pricing a bit. For instance, the book price they set for India is always high. The figure you see on Amazon that is commensurate with the US dollar exchange could buy you three books in India. Also, when I see an odd number, say $4.11, I change it to $4.25 or 3.99. If I see a price where I’m also charged the VAT, I bump up the price a bit more to cover the VAT in that territory. People are used to prices that end in .99 or .25, .50, or .75. Odd numbers look too odd.

Tip #6: Perspective.

I won an honorable mention from Writer’s Digest for the This Plague of Days Omnibus. This is my eighth writing award, but the truth is that, sadly, these awards don’t really matter much.

The win did boost my sales of the Omnibus a bit. However, unless you win first prize, it’s not going to change your life (and not even then.) I’m happy to win an honorable mention. Also, the judge said nice things about TPOD I used for a strong editorial review. I got $50 worth of WD books that cost me $30 to ship so that puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?

Entering the contest cost $100, so I hope the prestige pays off in the long-term. I’m leveraging the happy as much as possible. The book is up forever so that balances out the expense somewhat, but the usefulness of the recognition is an unknown value. I don’t know how to solve for x in this case.

Tip #7: Productivity

If you missed last night’s podcast with Mat Morris, it was fun and informative. For instance, Mat talked about what he has learned from an app called Rescue Time and I’m a new disciple of that software. You can watch that episode of the Self-publishing Roundtable here.

Good tips amongst the hilarity, though sadly you missed my Sean Connery impression in the after-party. Tune in every Thursday night at 10 PM EST.

Tip #8: From to-do until to-done

Since the beginning of January I’ve added an old-school method of tracking my work, daily sales and expenses. I mark it all on a paper calendar. I don’t write down what I will do. I write down what I’ve accomplished at the end of the day. (And now I’m adding metrics from Rescue Time).

That which is not measured will not be changed, so word counts are of prime importance. You can use your project targets and stats in Scrivener to keep on track, too. It feels good to fill up that calendar each day and it tells me when I’ve gone off the rails. 

BEST (1)

Coming soon! Get The Haunting Lessons now so you’re ready for Book 2! THL is about a young woman from Iowa trying to stop Armageddon while dodging ghosts, demons, a bad doctor and a dead boyfriend. Come to New York. Join the Choir Invisible. Fight for the future.

Tip #9: Reassess

This Plague of Days is by far my flagship, but I have other books that sell well on Amazon. As long as that continues, I’m still exclusive to KDP Select with those products. I take note of the books that aren’t moving. That’s when I give the other sales platforms a chance at selling my brain babies.

On Amazon, my branding is diffuse. On Kobo, I appear to be a crime novelist and only a crime novelist. I’m told thrillers can move on Kobo. We’ll see, but I do like that my brand is more focussed on other platforms.

Tip #10: Consider teaming up

I am collaborating with three authors on three separate projects this year in addition to my own lonely and solitary writing. If you find the right partners, you can divide the work and multiply effort and resources.

Keeping up with their pace on Google Drive is motivating. I often write faster by the power of pure excitement. I don’t want to let my writing partners down, so guilt works, too.

~ I hope you found one of these suggestions helpful. Find out about deals, review copies and advanced review copies first by subscribing for updates at AllThatChazz.com. In the new podcast, I do terrible, terrible, entertaining things.

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

Self-publishing Roundtable Podcast tonight!

Tonight, January 15th 2015, at 10 PM EST, tune in to the Self-publishing Roundtable. I’m a guest and we’ll be talking about KU, new strategies and what the future holds for us in 2015. It’s interactive so you can chime in in the chat.

Here it is on Google+.

The podcast is all about independent authors helping independent authors. Please do drop in. I’ll be opening up about my approach to the obstacles ahead, what doesn’t work for me and what’s helpful.

Cheers!

~ Chazz

Check out my collaboration with Holly Pop. It's a little This Plague of Days and a little Buffy. Enjoy!

Check out my collaboration with Holly Pop. It’s a little This Plague of Days and a little Buffy. Enjoy!

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

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)

Filed under: author platform, ebooks, Writers, 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.

You can pick this ebook up for free today at this link: http://bit.ly/TheNightMan

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

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