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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

Finding the Genre Vibe

When you’re writing, understand the tropes of your genre even if you don’t adhere to them closely. Lean into those and you’ll make your readers feel comfortable that they’re getting what they expected when they clicked the buy button. It’s a truism: People want the same thing, only different. Avoid cliches, sure, but tropes are often helpful in getting a reader and keeping a reader.

I must admit, I have not always stuck with what’s expected. My two zombie trilogies colored outside the lines. This Plague of Days is vastly different from a lot of books with “Zombie Apocalypse” in the subtitle. It’s a slow burn that builds and builds and relies heavily on supernatural elements and a mute hero on the spectrum. AFTER Life has plenty of zombie action, but the nanotechnology involved places the trilogy firmly in the techno thriller and least science fiction categories.

It may seem simple, but there are plenty of niches to drill down to and you don’t always know. When I published This Plague of Days, I thought I was writing straight horror. Then I got a Bookbub, and their marketing experts helpfully informed me I was writing science fiction. I suspect the success I had with TPOD was in part because of its contrast with other zombie books.

Now, when someone asks, I follow Stephen King’s example and say I’m a suspense writer. Mostly my backlist is suspenseful sci-fi. Other times, it’s crime fiction, but it’s all suspenseful. I’m a big fan of twists and turns. As I write this, my trusty Editrix Supreme, Gari Strawn of strawnediting.com, is working on my newest big book. It’s called Endemic, a survivalist thriller set in New York during the viral apocalypse. It does not have zombies in it, but there are infected people who are zombie-adjacent. The protagonist is a 38-year-old woman who is a very unlikely heroine. I like unlikely protagonists. If someone is prepared for their mission, the stakes are lowered. Will Endemic be different enough, or too different? We’ll see.

In the Meantime

While I wait for the final edits of Endemic, I cranked out a pop-up anthology. There was a time when I thought I was done writing short stories. However, I can produce them quickly and I enjoy writing them. Anthologies don’t sell as well as full novels, but I can use it for other purposes, such as creating an IP that leads to other IPs. Need a reader magnet to boost your newsletter? Short stories can give subscribers a sense of your style without the time commitment of a full free novel.

Leaning In

I’ve been reading a couple of gurus who are very deep into writing the same thing, only different. It can be profitable catering to a particular niche. If you’ve read X author and had a good time, you’ll probably read the rest of her books to get a similarly joyful experience. Browsing around, you’ll find successful authors who do this and their branding shows it. They have no shortage of entertaining stories their readership loves. Perhaps their biggest worry is burnout or that their graphic designer will die and they’ll have to find another who can create the same style of cover art. It is a good strategy and I do not disparage it.

For this coming anthology, I’m doing something I haven’t done before. I’m leaning into the zombie/horror tropes and giving readers more what they expect from the genre. That is not to say there won’t be twists and turns. I still offer plenty of those. However, there are no sci-fi elements. I just want to scare people for Halloween (and beyond).

Meaning

For all my writing, I look for meaning. The characters have to be relatable. Even if the good guys and bad guys are wading into the Wondrous Pool of the Fantastic, it’s important that readers find resonance. We all understand jealousy, anger, and fear. Tapping into our common human experience triggers the empathic parts of our brain. That’s when the world of the book envelops the reader.

You can accomplish that state by telling an entertaining story readers expect, or you can do it while pushing at the boundaries of their expectations. The trick is to do it in such a way that you reel them in instead of freaking them out.

Please note: Some minority of readers will always freak out.

Example: This Plague of Days has zombies and vampires in it. Some readers will never accept those genres colliding. They’ll take zombies, but introduce a smarter bloodthirsty killer, and suddenly they’re breaking the spine of the book and yelling, “Bullshit!” My thought was, what’s a sentient zombie? A vampire. Never mind that evolution, and never mind if you get a few reviewers who kick back against any genre-bending. That’s okay. Everybody gets an opinion. Relax and write your book.

There’s always someone who will say, “I would have done x, y, and zombie differently.” To which I reply, “Great! Go write that. Express yourself! Then somebody can try to educate you as to what they would have done differently. Then you’ll understand me better. Heh-heh-heh!

To put it crudely, meeting reader expectations does not make any writer a hack. Ideas are cheap. It’s the execution of the story you choose to tell that will elevate the work in readers’ minds or fall short of their expectations. I like blowing through their expectations, but it can be fun to play the game within restrictions, too. As Hitchcock said, a limited budget makes one more creative.

Endemic is a big book that will defy expectations because the protagonist is older, nerdy, and neurotic. She and I share several of the same neuroses, in fact. Our Zombie Hours is a small anthology playing to readers’ expectations of the horror genre. I’m oddly optimistic each book will find a readership.

To go deeper on writing, reading, and marketing that resonates with more readers, I suggest you check out 7 Figure Fiction: How to Use Universal Fantasy to Sell Your Books to Anyone by T. Taylor. It’s an enjoyable, quick read that will get you thinking about adding butter to your writing recipe and boost reader engagement with your words.

It’s all about resonance. Do you dig my vibe?

~ Robert Chazz Chute occasionally writes about himself in the third person (like right now) to encourage you to read his books. He writes apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers. Browse them all at his author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: book marketing, This Plague of Days, writing, writing advice, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

An Apocalypse in the Middle of an Apocalypse

When I started publishing books in 2010, my pace got faster as I refined my processes. Take a couple of books through the editorial process and you identify quirks, mistakes, and inefficiencies you can avoid with future projects. At one point, I wrote five books in one year (and that was while I still had a day job). I took three days to format my first book. Back when I serialized This Plague of Days, I refined that formatting process down to a few minutes. Some things get easier with experience, feedback, and repetition. Then along came a killer pandemic and all my routines and expectations got torpedoed.

Trouble writing? This bud’s for you, bud.

Not Coping with COVID-19

The last book I put out was a thriller called The Night Man. That was Christmas, 2019. Almost two years later, I’m finally about to publish again. For several reasons, I took my time with my new book. This apocalyptic tale is a compelling experience that, in part, explores how we respond to disaster (or don’t). Endemic asks, “What happens when a pandemic never ends?” It’s not a short read, but the pacing will make it feel that way. I put so much of myself into this book that, despite its grand setting and sweeping scenes, the story is a relatable cautionary tale about what happens when variant storms strike. I wish the story wasn’t so relatable. The immediacy of viral dangers affected my writing routines negatively. What follows are my suggestions if you have been similarly afflicted.

How to Write (or not) in the Middle of an Ongoing Disaster

  • Put yourself on a social media diet. If the TikTok warning comes up suggesting you go outside to smell the roses, you know you’ve been on the app too long. It’s easy to get sucked into doom scrolling. I sure did. Though the news might give you ideas, it can just as easily suck away writing energy. So much of the news is repetitive that listening to a third epidemiologist in one day is counterproductive.
  • Self-care. Maybe that means remembering to take a shower. Perhaps exercise is missing from your day. Look at what’s missing and fill that need.
  • Writing sprints with a willing writing buddy work.
  • Setting a timer and writing your first draft as fast as you can in short bursts works, too.
  • Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do.
  • Think of each chapter as a short story instead of setting your sights on a huge word count. “I am going to write 500 words before the top of the hour,” sounds reasonable and doable. “I’m going to knock out a massive epic of 150,000 words by the end of the month,” is intimidating.
  • Tell stories you feel a great need to tell. Passion alone may not take you all the way to the end of the project, but it should give you some inertia. Hacks don’t have passion. Business considerations are for before and after the writing session, not during. Write the story.
  • Abandon unreasonable expectations. If you’re writing 200 words a day, don’t torture yourself with promises to craft 10,000 words tomorrow morning.
  • There is no rule that says you have to produce x number of books a year. Things change. Your response can change. Do what you can do and want to do. What you think you need to do can’t be bigger than what you can do.
  • Avoid martyrdom. I’ve pulled my share of all-nighters as a writer. I don’t do that anymore because I know if I push myself too hard for too long, I’ll get burned out. I want to write useful pages. Longer hours might just give you more mistakes to fix.
  • You are a writer, not a robot. Accept that now isn’t necessarily your time to accomplish x, y, or z. The rise and grind ethos is fine if you can stay healthy working at a blistering pace. Some people get energy from that approach. It’s not for everyone, though. Is anything?
  • Many go-getters and gurus will encourage you to “get back to normal.” The pandemic is not over and, to me, such admonitions feel like celebrating a touchdown at the 30-yard line. I understand the inclination to pretend this disaster isn’t ongoing, but it is. These are not normal times and not everyone is okay. Not everyone’s losses or ability to respond to challenges are equal. Be kind to yourself.
  • Some writers have found the lockdown experience energizing to their work. I know of no stats that suggest what and where that split is. On the other hand, many people have quit their jobs. Writing is a job you can turn your back on. You can quit and focus your energies elsewhere. If it’s not good for you right now, be honest with yourself when you need to walk away.
  • Professionalism? Sure, I’m all for it. Set a schedule. Have a dedicated work space and show up. Establish flowcharts of your action plans for writing and marketing. Measure and record your quantitative output. Keep an eye on the quality of your input. Do the thing … as long as it’s helping you, not hurting. Writing is supposed to be fun, remember?
  • Hydration, sufficient sleep, a healthy diet, and exercise are all important. However, these are not panaceas. When people need help with physical and mental issues, some well-meaning cheerleaders will appear to tell you to go for a walk in the sunshine. That’s fine as far as it goes, but if your pancreas is merely serving a decorative function, you’re going to need more intervention than nice thoughts and meditation. If you need professional help, get it.
  • Another’s writer’s success can be motivating. That’s not true for me, though. When Amazon tells me an author I follow has come out with their fourth book in four weeks, I don’t feel good about myself. Besides, there are too many variables to replicate another’s path precisely. Do not compare your output to anyone else’s production schedule.
  • Procrastinate productively, whatever that means for you. If you need a nap and can do so, enjoy that nap. If you want to clean up your workspace, go head. However, don’t tell yourself you’re going to write “sometime” today and end up torturing yourself with I-should-haves. If you’re going to take the day off from writing, choose to do so consciously and choose early in the day. The worst writing days are the ones you tell yourself you were supposed to have had and didn’t execute.
  • A caution about procrastination: Are you one of those travelers who pack your entire wardrobe for a weekend getaway? When traveling, take half the clothes and twice the money. When writing, no, you don’t need to do so much research. Research to achieve verisimilitude is encouraged. Research that pushes your deadline back a month is procrastination.
  • Rely on social support. We have all grown more isolated in the last year and a half. Break loneliness. Talk to friends on the phone. Enjoy a Zoom call. Reach out and text someone. Share another cute dog video. Think of it as physical distancing, not social distancing.
  • Prioritize. That sounds like I’m scolding, so let me rephrase: Be lazy about the right things. Say no to the right things and yes to the write things. For instance, me to She Who Must Be Obeyed: “I got a lot of words down today, but I didn’t mow the lawn. It’ll keep another day.” Or, “I’m sick of the Sunday Bean Soup I made. It’s the fourth day in a row. Wanna order pizza?”
  • Writing, but you’re not feeling that last scene? Maybe it’s time to reward yourself with a short story to submit to an anthology. The right change can boost your creative energy. Taking a break can mean going for a swim. It might mean putting your energy into that mystery you’ve always dreamed of. You know, the one where the orangutan escapes from the zoo and solves heinous crimes with his sidekick, a Mormon sign language interpreter with a penchant for exotic cheeses. Do you, boo!
  • Blocked? Start writing about that. What does that frustration feel like? What childhood affront does that pain remind you of? Thinking about writing and not doing so is pain. Starting to write about anything, primes the pump and gets the juices flowing. Write fast, write now, and edit later. Silence your inner critic and dive in. Soon you’ll look up from the page and discover you’ve been at it a while and now you have something to work with. Blank pages are notoriously difficult to edit.
  • Read something that inspires you. You can read as a writer and analyze the narrative. I’d suggest you read like a reader instead. Remember the joy of reading? Let that feeling percolate so you’ll come back to your love of the written word.
  • Find what motivated you before you lost your mojo. There aren’t any wrong answers. Love, spite, competition, proving your ex wrong? Whatever gets you back to the writing mindset.
  • Aim for excellence, not perfection. Perfectionism is self-hatred. Some writers speak of putting out “minimum viable product.” I’m nervous about that wording and how it can be twisted. However, if it helps to get you writing, consider that there are plenty of successful writers entertaining legions of happy readers. Not all of them are solely focused on writing The Best Thing Ever Written. They are writing to entertain without the burden of a subjective and snobby literary standard.

What helped me most?

I faced challenges to my mental and physical health over the past couple of years. Chronic insomnia robbed me of many productive days, for instance. What I needed was time. I wrote a little, poking at my WIP. I didn’t manage to write every day. The best I could do was four days out of seven. When I allowed a limit and told myself it was okay not to write on a certain day (or series of days), the stress headaches went away. Taking my time with the story fueled my creativity. Patience made for a richer, more layered novel.

Writing a little at a time, I got where I needed to be. This month, I’ll release my first book in a long time. I’m healthier these days. My mojo and ambitions are rising again. There will be a hardcover, paperback, and a podcast of Endemic. Next year, expect an audiobook. Endemic holds echoes of my most successful series, This Plague of Days. I took my time. Endemic was worth the wait.

~ For all my killer crime thrillers and apocalyptic epics, please do check out my links at AllThatChazz.com.

http://www.AllThatChazz.com

Look for Endemic on Amazon later this month. To get your heads-up about when it’s available, sign up for updates at AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: publishing, writing, writing advice, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , ,

This Plague of Days

Season One of This Plague of Days (ebook) will be discounted to 99¢ for one day only, Saturday, December 19!

“This is like reading World War Z…hooks you from the beginning and you can’t stop reading!” ~ Armand Rosamilia, Author of the Dying Days

Jaimie Spencer is a boy on the spectrum caught in a fight for survival as the Sutr virus spreads across the globe. The inexorable mind virus brings civilization as we know it to an end. The war for the future has begun and the greater numbers are on the side of the infected.

To save the world, Jaime will have to save his family first.

Filed under: This Plague of Days, , , , , , , ,

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!

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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

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