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

Write and publish with love and fury.

Number One in #SciFi #Free today: All 3 Seasons of This Plague of Days!

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)

The First Season is The Siege. The Second Season is The Journey. The Third Season is The War.

Think The StandStranger in a Strange Land + The Walking Dead.

That’s the This Plague of Days Omnibus.

Free. 

Today.

You know what to do.

Bravery is not required. Action is.

Filed under: ebooks, , , , , , , , , ,

Art matters. Writing matters. We matter.

Graphic designers make a big difference to readers and the success of authors. A snarky writer once told me I was a hack, too concerned about the look of my book covers. Once.

Everyone else knows, yes, of course we do indeed judge books by their covers.

You can say it shouldn’t matter all you want, but beautiful people and beautiful things get more attention. I won’t find out if you have a great personality and keen intelligence if, when I spot you from across the room, you appear to be surrounded by flies because you’ve rubbed dog feces in your hair. That’s life. That’s science. 

My graphic designer is the brilliant Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com. Check out his portfolio.

Kit is my friend and ally. He helps to make my existence matter. He’s helping me get my message out, subliminal and subtextual. It’s that important. All my books are about escaping who I was. They’re about all of us rising to the higher potential of what we could be. Everything I write is about making our existence — yours and mine — matter. Book covers are the come hither stare that lets me into your brain, to play in the Mindfield, to turn the words, to entertain, laugh and think. That’s what it means and why Art matters.

That’s the why. A book cover with solid art is part of the how.

Here is the new cover for the This Plague of Days, Omnibus Edition. It’s not at all what I pictured for the Omnibus cover. It’s better. I just let Kit do what he does best so I can concentrate on what I do best.

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)

To find out about more about secret video and to get a free ebook with your purchase of the TPOD Omnibus Edition, click here.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute and, even though I occasionally write books with zombies in them, I am not a hack. It’s not the subject matter that makes the hack. It’s a lack of passion. Ultimately, with every twist, turn, joke and murder, I’m writing about me. And you. 

The suspense is in making our existence matter. Can we do it?

We will.

 

Filed under: book marketing, self-publishing, This Plague of Days, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Why I unpublished from Amazon (it’s about sales pages, not Hachette)

This isn’t a story about getting away from Amazon. It’s about sales page management, and you need to be aware, sales pages are not something you can just “set and forget.” You have to keep an eye on them for glitches. A glitch just happened to me.

Today, I had a shock.

In the middle of my book launch for This Plague of Days, Season 3 and the TPOD Omnibus Edition, the Omnibus suddenly wasn’t on my Amazon sales page anymore! I checked and that’s the only reason I knew it had disappeared.

Gone! Oh, no! Not now!

I refreshed the page and knocked back a vodka.

Still gone!

I cursed my fate and invoked Thor’s intervention.

Still nothing. Dammit, Thor!

Naturally, after those early strategies failed, I contacted Amazon. They said they’d get back to me within 24 hours. If this had been my first rodeo, I would have pooped kittens. However, they generally get back faster than that and, in this case, I had the fastest response I’ve ever had.

The email assured me there was a “slight glitch” that deleted the book from my sales page. Maybe a slight glitch to them, but I just launched! My interviews are appearing across various blogs promoting my latest books. It was a big deal to me. The email further assured me that the problem would be corrected within “one to three days.”

One to three days?

Vomit.

No, not really. Like I said, this ain’t my first time on a horse. Those emails always allow a long time for their fixes, but the Amazonian techs have, invariably, acted much faster than that. And so it was. This Plague of Days, Omnibus Edition featuring the complete three seasons of the apocalyptic saga with the autistic protagonist trying to save the world? We’re back, baby!

They fixed it within a couple of hours. I have it on good authority other sales platforms don’t swoop in to fix problems nearly so quickly.

Check your pages and make sure all your books are there from time to time.

Further thoughts on sales pages and serialization

After I brought out Season 3 in my series, I had a problem. The sales page looked cluttered and my work is not displayed in the order I’d prefer for greatest sales advantage. What to do? I skipped calling on Thor since he doesn’t show up unless I dress up as a hot chick. (I’m still carrying some winter weight and can’t sell the hotpants.) I sent another email to Amazon:

Could I, perhaps, edit my sales page to make it less cluttered and show my wares to greatest advantage? 

The reply was, for now, a polite no. My Amazon contact did agree that mine was actually a good idea and they would pass the suggestion up the line. Currently, the order of book display is based on sales figures. Self-help for Stoners has been on sale longest, so it’s up top. That’s not the problem. Serial episodes are. 

My Serialization Problem. 

Season One of This Plague of Days was released as one book, but also as five episodes (and each episode’s price was 99 cents.) My Season One episodes sat there, clogging the page and confusing customers. 

I came up with a solution that fit my longer game plan.

I unpublished the five episodes from the first book and set the price for Season One at just 99 cents.

This presents several advantages:

1. At 99 cents, Season One is a low barrier to entry into the series.

2. It gives readers a break on price. 

3. It promotes my visibility and my other books. Sales are up, author rank is up.

4. It avoids (I hope) angry reviews from people mistakenly purchasing Episode IV and V at 99 cents each when they could have had all of Season One (which contains all five episodes) for one incredibly low price. It’s couch change, yes, but some reviewers go nuclear over such things and outrage is rarely expressed with a sense of proportionality. Angry? Burn down somebody’s house! Mildly annoyed? Burn down somebody’s house! See what I mean?

A note about the trouble with serialization.

Serialization certainly has its advantages and helped Season One  and Season Two get more attention. However, no matter how much you might explain it and lay it out in the descriptions and vary the cover art, some readers seem determined to confuse Seasons and Episodes despite a lifetime of watching television. Quick to click, I guess.

I’m very sensitive to criticism (so yes, wow! I know! I am in the wrong business!) Anyway, the last thing I want is for readers to be confused or feel ripped off. That’s another reason Season Three is one huge book instead of broken into episodes. Serialization put me on the map, but the Law of Diminishing Returns has kicked in.

I still have episodes of Season Two on Amazon obstructing the view on my sales page. It is, as it has always been, cheaper to buy the season than to buy the episodes. I can’t let it go at 99 cents, though, so those episodes are going to stay up for a long time. Until Amazon changes its policy and allows me to control title placement, they stay and Season Two is priced as low as I will make it. When I do get control, the eps will go to the back of the sales page. I could just unpublish them, but I don’t want to leave the few who just bought Season 2, Episode III in the lurch.

How long is long enough to wait for those readers to catch up and complete their S2 episode purchases? A year? Two? I don’t know.

~ The TPOD book launch bargains continue.

 

Tell me when you discovered the secret of the TPOD Omnibus and I’ll send you my next thriller as an ebook. Details here.

Filed under: author platform, Books, free ebooks, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to reach readers in a way most writers don’t

When you think of using video to promote your book, you probably think of a book trailer, like this:

I made the trailer above and it turned out pretty slick, I think. But there’s a better way. A book trailer broadcasts out. I want to motivate readers to find me, not just talk at them. Sure, book trailers can be cool, but there’s little to no evidence they motivate people to purchase more books. (Click on my old post here for thirteen options for using video. I especially like the Scott Sigler strategy.)

Here’s how I added value to This Plague of Days, Omnibus Edition.

The better way is to use video is to thank readers and engage them with a question or a reward. I opted to do both with a link to a secret video at the back of the TPOD Omnibus Edition. It’s three books in one, so, for those who care to, they can make one purchase and save a couple of bucks.

Here are the specifics of my latest launch strategy:

1. I’ve just launched two books, This Plague of Days, Season 3 and This Plague of Days, Omnibus Edition.

2. I dropped the price on the first novel to 99 cents and marked the second book down to $2.99. I’m selling the Omnibus (three big books in one) for $6. 

3. At the back of the Omnibus, exclusive to those readers, is a link to a private video. In it, I talk about the saga. It’s been years in the making. This is my Star Wars. Putting it to bed is a big deal to me and I give some behind-the-scenes origin information.

4. I ask a sincere question. A secret has been buried in this series from Season One and it pays off late in Season 3. It’s a huge surprise that a lot of people tried to figure out but they only saw it in retrospect. (My beta readers all said the same thing. “Oh! Of course! You dog!”)

5. As long as Omnibus readers answer the question in the comment thread at the private video link this year, I’ll send each of them my next thriller ebook as a gift. Free. No strings or demands for a newsletter sign-up. The new thriller comes out later this summer and it even ties other books together. It’ll be a fun ride and also a solid bridge to my other books even though it’s not in TPOD‘s genre.

6. Video is a more personal way to thank readers. By adding another book to the six-dollar Omnibus, readers won’t just save some bucks. They’ll get four books (three huge ones and one decent-sized novel.) Readers will benefit and I hope to gain readers who are already enthusiastic about my particular brand of crazy. 

7. I know this approach trips some fear alarms for some authors. Please don’t tell me I’m devaluing literature by pricing it too low and giving too much away. I’ve lowered the price, not the value. The literature that is devalued most is that which is read least. Times are tough for a lot of people, me included. But I still believe that generosity and helping others wins over greed. Give more and you’ll attract the people you want to be your readers. When they find you, they’ll buy all your books. Don’t chase anyone. Count the giveaway as the cost of advertising, something any business does. Let readers come to you willingly and they’ll bring you joy instead of heartache. 

How did I do it?

I used iMovie, but you could use a cell phone. It doesn’t matter as long as it uploads to Youtube and designate the link “unlisted” so only those who have the link can access it. It doesn’t have to be slick and fancy or have a kickass soundtrack that sounds like it’s calculated to accompany an invasion of Libya.

Your video might even be better if it’s not slick. I love my energetic little book trailer, but heartfelt and speaking into the camera? Heartfelt is more important than slick.

But how did I sell the TPOD Big Deal Book Launch to readers?

Here’s exactly how I did it.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute and no one can begin to fathom the depths of my exhaustion at this moment. I am puddin’. But I’m also happy. Anxious and happy. Mostly anxious. Go make a video. Of love. (No, I don’t mean like that!…okay…maybe like that.) 

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

Since I can’t rock a pencil skirt: My Writing Process

I don’t look good in a pencil skirt, even the neon pink one (dammit!) However, my friend, awesome author Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar (who does look sharp in a pencil skirt), asked me about my writing process. Since my fashion sense sucks, we stuck to talking about writing.

What are you working on, Chazz?

I’m putting the finishing touches to my apocalyptic series, This Plague of Days. It’s about a boy on the autistic spectrum facing the end of the world with his family. He’s our very unlikely champion. This is the third and last book in the series, but I’m putting all three seasons into one big ebook, too. At the moment, I’ve got five other books in the editorial pipeline at various stages of production.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?

I wrote it kind of like a television series. Three seasons (books) with five episodes per season. It’s not your typical shoot ’em up of a zombie story. There are three plagues and a large cast of characters so you see the crisis develop across continents. Lots of seeds and secrets were dropped along the way so the big payoffs and reveals all culminate in a story that builds and builds. It’s ambitious and really takes the reader on unexpected journeys. All the questions are answered in the end. This is my Star Wars.

Why do you write what you do?

I’m not attached to any one genre, but I do love suspense. My obsession is to take the reader on a roller coaster ride with lots of fun twists and turns, hanging off cliffs and chased by dragons and whatnot. You know…imagine the roller coaster at Hell’s amusement park. And just when you’re sure you’re safe, you aren’t.

How does your writing process work?

Typically, I write one chapter a day. That’s usually 1200 to 2500 words. I used to be more nocturnal, but now I find I’m more productive when I work earlier in the day. Since writing This Plague of Days as a serial, I’m really enjoying interacting with readers on Facebook as I write. I’ll finish a chapter and pick out a tidbit I like as a teaser or a taster and post it for some insta-reaction. That’s fun and buoys me through the parts of writing and publishing I enjoy less.

The writing process, for me, is to write myself lost. There I am in a corner. How will I find my way out? At the end of my crime novel, Higher Than Jesus, for instance, I figured a way for Jesus Diaz to kill an armed bad guy, credibly, while Diaz is bound to a chair eight feet away. That was quite a trick and one I’m proud of.

I don’t write by-the-numbers fiction. That bores me. Frequently, the only firm thing I know as I write is what the last line of the book will be. I write to discover what I think and for the joy of creativity and to surprise myself. If I can surprise myself, I’ll definitely surprise the reader.

This Plague of Days will launch in early June. Find out more about This Plague of Days at ThisPlagueOfDays.com. My author site is AllThatChazz.com.

~ Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar included me in her blog hop so a string of writers could share how they approach their writing process. She is a South Asian American who has lived in Qatar since 2005. Moving to the Arabian Desert was fortuitous in many ways since this is where she met her husband, had two sons, and became a writer.

To learn about her writing process and to check out her books, go to www.mohadoha. Follow her on Twitter @moha_doha. Click here for her Amazon author page.

You can also hear my interview with Mohana on the Cool People Podcast. She speaks of her experience in Qatar as a writer whose book has been banned. Why listen? Because she’s cool, of course.

Filed under: What about Chazz?, Writers, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Top Ten: Renew your readers’ interest between books

As I finish revisions to the finale of This Plague of Days, I’m entering that crazy time between the writing and the publishing. We all go through it. There’s still editing and proofreading to do and you aren’t done until you’re sick of it and not even then. But I am excited!

Today, I had my first back and forth with Kit Foster, my graphic designer. We talked cover designs. Out of context, my description of what I had in mind was pretty dumb or nigh-impossible, but through the magic of his art, Kit will transform that raw material into something awesome that makes browsers into buyers.

But how do you keep the sales going between books?

Sales always drop off. They call Day 30 after your book launch “The Cliff” because you lose attention from readers as you disappear from the bright, shiny new thing list. Interest can be buoyed and sustained, however. You don’t have to try all the strategies from this list (or any), but I do suggest you try at least one. Experiment and let me know what works for you.

Here are some ideas to extend your influence with all your books.

1. Write more than one book because your next book helps promote the last one. At a book event, authors talk about the next book, but readers talk about the last book.

2. Write more books. The bigger the stable, the more horses you have in the race, cross-promoting each other.

3. Write (slightly) shorter books. Sadly, my next tome (after TPOD) will (again!) be more than 100,000 words. I’m writing huge books. Many will see this as over-delivering and they’ll love it. It can also intimidate those less invested. The main problem is it makes you appear less prolific even if you’re very productive. It’s #2’s horse and stable issue.

I’m not saying you should shortchange anyone, but keep it reasonable. Few reviewers complain about a quick read. If you’ve got that much to say in a single book and you can’t make it shorter, make it a series.

The complete series for This Plague of Days will be over 300,000 words. The first draft took ten months and then I doubled its size in another eight months. Down the line, I’ll put out more books by keeping them down around 60,000 – 70,000 words.

My crime novels took 3 months each, for instance, from concept to completion. That length is what I’ll be aiming for in the future. Feeling more productive and hitting more milestones also feeds my excitement between books and keeps energy high. Less time between books also gives readers less time to forget about you.

4. Write in one genre. If you can dominate one list, you’ll be more effective in focussed marketing efforts and provide consistent branding. (I should have done this, but it’s not how my mind works.)

5. Collaborate. Writing with another author can expand your influence to each other’s audience and, if you work it correctly with the right person, you’ll get more done faster. Some people think writing with a partner is more work for half the money, but actually you have more people helping with the load, increasing productivity. The guys at Self-Publishing Podcast have proved it over and over, so there you go.

6. Cooperate. Soon, a new horror anthology will be released and I’m in it. My bit will be a sampler of Episode 1 of This Plague of Days. In joining forces with other authors, we’ll co-promote and raise each other up.

7. Have more to give away. I serialized the first two seasons of This Plague of Days. In the run up to the launch of Season 3 and the stand alone (This Plague of Days, The Complete Series), I’m using KDP Select to give away episodes as samples. Those giveaways always bump up my sales in between books when I would otherwise be in the doldrums. I’m a big believer in pulse sales to help new readers find me.

8. Diversify. To sell more between books, have more to sell in different media. There’s interest in turning This Plague of Days into a TV series. (It helps that I wrote the story like an HBO or Netflix dramatic series in the first place.) However, I’d love to see it as a graphic novel, too. I want to sell it as an audiobook. Each iteration feeds the potential for another opportunity.

9. Repackage. Converting This Plague of Days from serialized episodes into seasons, and then into one, big book that stands alone? That’s one example of repackaging. It’ll also give a new crew of readers what they wanted since quite a few people seem to misunderstand the cliffhangers and twists of a serial or they hate serials on principle. (I don’t know what that principle is, but I recognize it and I’m listening.)

Taking different books and selling them as one bundle is another way to go. (I’ll be doing this with the Hit Man Series by turning three books into a bundled trilogy with a new and better name for the whole.)

10. Stay in touch with readers between books. I don’t have a large mailing list, but I do connect with a lot of readers on Facebook and through podcasts. I also have a blog dedicated to This Plague of Days.

Recently, when I needed to add more beta readers to my team, I went to Facebook first because I knew I’d find people who are already into what I’m doing. I’ve got three new, enthusiastic volunteers now.

Staying in touch with readers keeps projects alive for authors, too. When I get another tweet or email asking when the next book is coming out, it helps drive me to get to the keyboard as fast as I can to oil the roller coaster. I know my readers and I can’t wait to make them scream.

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

Writers, Stress and, of course, Iron Man

We’re poor, starving artists. Of course, we’re stressed out. Why wouldn’t we be? I’ve often given lectures on stress management, so I’m going to give you a quick summary of what we’re normally told about getting all zenny. Then I’ll tell you the one useful trick you’ll remember and maybe even use.

Round One: 

Exercise, eat right, manage your time, use positive self-talk, deep breathing, be social with your support network, get lots of sleep, meditate, unplug more and say no more often.

Round Two:

For any stress, there are four responses: avoid it, alter it, accept it or act on it head on and solve that damn problem.

Round Three (and what you can really do, most of the time):

As suggested in Rounds One and Two, we can do everything that’s right for ourselves and go all goop.com and become perfect Gwyneth Paltrows, but you probably don’t have enough time, money and/or servants for that. In fact, trying to be Gwyneth Paltrow would add more stress to my life. I don’t look as good when I go blonde, for one thing. Also, I’m not a top Hollywood actress. I’m not even a bottom Hollywood actress working at Hooters. I confess, I’ll never play Pepper Potts. 

The answer, obviously, is: Be Iron Man.

Many people have the idea that the goal of life is to be relaxed all the time. You know what? Relaxation is great. It’s also bullshit. It comes in fits and spurts. Being relaxed all the time isn’t achievable for most mortals. Relaxation is often fleeting and, when it’s achieved, it can be shattered by a single bill, a phone call or a missile attack by the Mandarin. Not all stress is negative. Some sense of urgency is needed to ever get a book written, for instance. 

Yes, certainly take care of yourself and do the best you can, but stress-free is a high bar. Stress-resistance is armour in a troubled world.

Stress-resistant is more doable.

Think of Robert Downey Jr.’s character, Tony Stark, after he beat the booze (and Robert Downey Jr., the actor, post-drugs). In stressful situations (say…alien invasion) his reaction in the moment is to:

1. Crack a joke.

2. Think his way out of his circumstance.

And how do you Avoid, Alter, Accept or Act? Find the funny (subverting your rage with humor) and think your way out. When we panic or get angry, we get stupid and make things worse for ourselves. Do not catastrophize. Pause. Joke. Attack the problem with your brain. Attacking problems with your heart is a prescription for heart disease.

Thinking about the problem and holding on to your sense of humor might even keep you from strangling the door-to-door con artist who won’t leave your doorstep. That happened to me today and the twerp in question got to slink away without me denting his forehead on my “No soliciting” sign. Why? Because I kept my head and made jokes at his expense until he went away. 

Gee, I hope that jerk reads this. I think I stressed him out.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is nicer in person than you’d expect. Read the suspense and horror here. Listen to the All That Chazz podcast and the Cool People Podcast here. Nah, just buy and read the books. That would be cool. And if you’re Robert Downey Jr? Please have Jarvis contact me. You’d be great as the dad in This Plague of Days.

Filed under: Writers, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Writing a book by committee is a great idea in every way!” said everyone but the writer.

Imagine all the people from all the classes you’ve ever taken in one room. Each group has its own character, but today we’re going to focus on the outliers and oddball characters with whom you’ve gone to school. I’m not talking about those who stand out for their smarts and sweetness. I’m talking about the girl who, just before the last bell rang, reminded the teacher about extra homework for the class just before the long weekend. Remember the annoying guy who always had another question or inane comment to add long after a subject was beaten to death? And don’t forget the person who was really stupid, but for some reason thought he should speak a lot. Worse, he was smug about it.

Now put all those people you didn’t like in school and put them in charge of your work in progress.

That pressure behind your eardrums is your brain trying to escape.

This scenario isn’t entirely theoretical.

Recently, I listened to two different podcasts about two of the most successful television shows that exist. These were true fans…but:

1. On several points, they seemed determined to be confused about plot points even though the answers were readily available on screen, if only they’d looked.

2. Several weenies missed subtleties that weren’t really that subtle. It’s not the fault of the show’s writers if you aren’t paying attention. If you’re missing something, stop tweeting while you watch The Walking Dead

3. Someone objected to issues within the shows that are non-issues. e.g. Is Leonard’s mom on The Big Bang Theory really a licensed psychiatrist? If true, she’s terrible! Answer: it’s a comedy and you aren’t supposed to like that character and it’s a comedy and it’s a comedy and oh, for the love of Thor! Stop!

4. These dedicated amateurs had one or two good suggestions (I’m guessing by accident.) The rest of their requests for changes were objectively terrible, like dumping beloved characters that made the shows work, for instance.

There’s a reason we don’t write by committee.

It’s good that writing is a lonely job. You don’t get book ideas and plot points from other people. The elements develop organically, rising up from character and logic and by answering the question, “What’s next?” And then answering it again and again until you stop writing or die. The writing grows from the act of writing.

Input is helpful after you’ve done the work, sure, but don’t even ask a trusted friend what to do when you’re still in the second draft. He doesn’t know. How can he? You wouldn’t ask if you should turn left or right when all he knows is that you’re somewhere in New Mexico.

“Is this the right direction? Should the Mom die in the middle of the book?” A good friend will tell you to keep writing and hang up on you so you can get back to it. Finish something before you show it to anyone. You’re in command. Steer your ship solo. Lots of people will have their say later.

Everyone has an opinion on everything, even more so when they know less about the subject.

Once upon a time at a writing conference, an author asked me about the book I was writing. I gave him the broad strokes and he said, without hesitation, that my second act was “wrong”. If there’s a high school suicide in the first act, then the main character has to be torn up about it.

“Not if he hated the suicidal kid’s guts to begin with,” I replied. 

“Dude!” he said without a microbe of doubt, “High school kids don’t act that way. They shouldn’t act that way!”

“In my book they do.”

Summarily dismissed, I slunk away and have since dedicated my life to hating Stephen King with the fiery heat of a thousand suns. (No! I’m kidding! The offending author was not Stephen King. I love Steve! Him, I would have believed.)

Here’s the crux:

There are few rules in writing, but one I’m sure of is this, “If it plays, it plays.” You can make anything work in context. You can sell anything if the story sells it.

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

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

People doubted me, but I created a sympathetic hit man named Jesus (in second-person throughout, no less.) I create a lot of anti-heroes and no, I don’t care if readers love and agree with all my characters. Loving and agreeing with characters is overrated. Interesting is more important than loving.

Many of my stories don’t yield an easy happy ending but give unexpected, yet satisfying endings instead. I rarely do happily ever after, but you’ll often find transcendence there.

My main character in This Plague of Days is on the autistic spectrum and hardly ever speaks (and when he does, it’s often in Latin phrases.) When Doubting Tommy asks, “How the heck are you going to make that work?”, the answer is, “Watch me.”

My mission isn’t to write something easy that entertains. My mission is to write something different that entertains. Too much consultation, especially early on, would squelch my process. We don’t write by committee because committees are how most things don’t get done. Committees are where good ideas go to die. Committees are where you’ll find three reasonable, intelligent and helpful people compromising with one insane fascist to arrive at something closer to crazy than good.

Choose your beta readers, editors and allies carefully and don’t show them anything too early in your process. The book is only yours as long as you’re writing it. After that, it goes out to the world and it’s up to thousands of readers to decide if your vision pleases them. 

Make sure that, whatever you write, it pleases you.

~ The latest All That Chazz podcast is up at AllThatChazz.com. You’ll also find helpful affiliate links to my books there so you can buy them, which is quite a happy coincidence, isn’t it? Thanks. For a topic sort of related to this one, you can also get the latest update on Season 3 of This Plague of Days here.

Filed under: All That Chazz, publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This Plague of Days: How I sold my autistic zombie apocalypse through serialization PART 1

This week, I’m making This Plague of Days a case study for those interested in drilling deep. This will be a series of blog posts about strategies, platforms and book marketing: what worked, what hasn’t worked, what won’t and what might. I hope it helps you to sell your books, if only by avoiding my errors.

Topics will include various format releases, selling in different ways, pricing and publicity. You’ll find out how This Plague of Days became a bestseller (in its teeny-tiny category) and the ways in which I’ve failed miserably. I’ll also hit on how my strategy is changing for the conclusion of This Plague of Days. Season 3 comes out this spring. I’m always experimenting, looking for new and different ways to reach readers and make them happy. Sometimes what I thought was the wide road to glory turned into a goat path into a dead-end. As always, I’ll be honest about it.

On sale now for just $2.99. I mean, c'mon!On sale until Feb. 1, 2014 for just $2.99. I mean, c’mon!

HOW I LAUNCHED THE SERIAL

My strategy for launching This Plague of Days, Season One was to put the whole ebook out first. I waited a week. The sky didn’t shatter with raging need for my latest contribution to suspense and horror literature. Then, over the next five weeks, I released the book broken into episodes as a serial. Each episode came one week apart at 99 cents each.

Each section ended on a cliffhanger so readers were given a choice:

Wait another week to find out what happens next, come back to Amazon and download the next episode. (0.99 x 5 = $4.95)

Or, preferably:  forget all that nonsense and just buy the book for less money than it cost to get all the episodes piecemeal. I sold the ebooks at $3.99 with pulsing price dips to $2.99 plus a couple of promotional giveaways at $0.00. (More on that in another post, but hey, Seasons One and Two are at $2.99 until Feb 1. Take a hint and have some fun. It’s too cold to go outside so you might as well read.)

Print has been so little of my income in the past that creating the paperback was a low priority. I did that last. (That’s changing, as you’ll soon see in a post coming later this week.)

HOW TO SERIALIZE CORRECTLY

My nastiest reviewer noted with dismay that I’d written it like a television serial (as if I’d somehow done so by accident.) Most people actually liked the format and appreciated its quirks as added value.

That said, serialization doesn’t work if you break the narrative the wrong way. Take an ongoing television drama. Let’s say, The Walking Dead or House of Cards. Cliffhangers, wit, surprises and reversals are the gears of the engine that give a serial forward momentum. Each transition should scream, “That’s not the end you expected. Now turn the page for more!”

Not all books are suited to the serial format and it’s not just about taking any book, breaking it apart and selling off the chunks. It’s about adding value to the reader and certainly not making more cash off selling episodes at 99 cents. For get-rich-quick ideas, boy, are you on the wrong blog!

ABOUT ADDED VALUE AND STANDING OUT

With an autistic hero who mostly doesn’t speak and a story that spans Europe, America and Canada, my story is unusual. You meet a lot of characters but they don’t meet each other for a long time, if at all. The plagues start off based in reality and later supernatural elements à la The Stand develop as the Sutr virus evolves. I did weird things with how I laid the saga out, too.

The Table of Contents comprises a long, dark poem with clues to what’s coming. Each episode begins with “Notes from The Last Cafe”, which adds to the intrigue. That mystery is not actually solved until late in Season 3. Also, Seasons One and Two contain a secret. The first three readers to guess it correctly will get characters named after them. I’m receiving guesses every week, but so far, no one has won. (Check out ThisPlagueOfDays.com for more on that.)

THE PROS OF SERIALIZATION

1. My also-boughts proliferated on Amazon so customers saw the work of my brilliant graphic designer, Kit Foster, pepper those lists. They didn’t just see one cover. They saw six, each different, but in keeping with the tone and theme of each season. Repetition and increased exposure got attention to the book it wouldn’t have caught otherwise. Here’s what that looked like:

TPOD 0616 EP 1 cover
The Also-boughts (below) harnessed the power of repetition in advertising.

Screen Shot 2014-01-26 at 3.49.28 PM

 

2. Best of all, readers who dig This Plague of Days went ahead and bought the entire season immediately. Some even took Season One, Episode One as a big, cheap sample and went back to buy both seasons in their entirety.

An important detail that’s a pro and a con

Those people who were tepid on an autistic kid in the zombie apocalypse tended to just try Episode One. Each episode ranges from 15- 25,000 words, so they got a generous read. The zombies don’t actually show up for a while and they aren’t even “true” zombies in the Romero sense. If readers didn’t care for the pace at which I built the tension, early instalments took the hits of less-than-entranced reviews and readers dropped away.

The majority loved it and went on to leave stellar reviews on each season. This somewhat inoculated the books from negative ratings because the non-enthused bailed out. Serialization gave them that easy option.

THE CONS

1. Serials are a harder sell. Some people hate serials and won’t buy them. Others click indiscriminately and then will rank you lower even if they like the book. (Yes, I know that’s crazy, but I’ve seen it. Fortunately, those few are outliers.)

2. Despite going to great lengths to explain and differentiate between seasons and episodes with covers and sales copy warnings, some readers still got confused about what they were buying in what sequence. Each cover was clearly labelled and to some, that didn’t matter. (Too quick to click the one-click buy, I guess.) That got me a couple of bad reviews. I explained to those reviewers in the comment thread of their review that anyone who buys something in error can easily return it to Amazon for a full refund. Still, those negative reviews remain.

3. Episodes that sell for 99 cents make next to no money. Somebody’s going to object to that, but the math on my sales reports says it’s true. I’d have to sell way more episodes to equal the sale of one book/season. In my quest to find 1,000 true fans, this is one of the trade-offs along the way to helping us find each other. I don’t resent the journey.

4. Maybe it’s my sense of price resistance, but I don’t see charging more than 99 cents per episode. You could give less in word count per episode, but you also have to ask yourself, how much and how often do you want to format and upload files? Drag it out with more episodes and other costs rise higher.

5. I can see by my sales stats that The Law of Diminishing Returns has kicked in with respect to sales of each episode. With so many positive reviews on Season One and Two, it makes less sense for me to serialize now. As I move away from serialization in Season 3, those who liked serialization might ding me for it (even though, with the way I priced it, that’s irrational.) 

6. Serialization that’s not hooked up to Amazon’s auto-delivery system is problematic. The customer has to remember to come back each week and download the new episode. I did apply to Amazon to publish this serial with them. I never heard back. Had they gone for it, you might have heard of me before today.

7. Now that my Amazon sales page is populated with all those episodes from Seasons One and Two, it looks too busy. I’d rather just display the seasons (and eventually The Complete This Plague of Days) so it’s easy for readers to zero in on those books and click buy. How long must I wait before I can clean it up? I can’t simply unpublish the episodes in case someone’s still thinking of getting around to finishing the serial episode by episode? Do I wait a year? Two? Three?

CONCLUSIONS

You’ll note that the Pro column has two entries and I list seven disadvantages. I wish the analysis were that simple.

In my final analysis — not necessarily yours — the disadvantages I list are the cost of getting the book known. In this case, any damage was mitigated by moderate success. Serialization helped readers and hardcore fans find This Plague of Days (and in some cases, my other books.) Therefore, the sacrifice of getting roughly 30 cents on the sale of episodes is the cost of experimentation. For advertising so well in the also-boughts on Amazon, it was worth it. Season One has 72 reviews so far. Season Two has 31. That’s much more attention than my other books got. (Shocking because Murders Among Dead Trees is genius, dammit! And only 99 cents until February 1, 2014. I’m trawling for reviews from the bargain bin so…well, you know. Check it out, if only to read my favorite three-star review ever.)

Those two pros carry more tonnage than the feather-light cons. I don’t regret serializing Seasons One and Two. Without serialization, I wouldn’t have those problems. Some problems are the good kind to have. Without serialization, I’d probably be (even more!) anonymous in the literary landscape.

That’s why marketing Season 3 will be interesting. The revolution will not be serialized. Stay tuned.

~ This is a case study which may or may not apply to you. I’m not telling anyone what they should do. This is just my experience and my reasoning on serialization. Next post: Amazon, Bookbub and all those other platforms.

 

Filed under: author platform, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, self-publishing, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Top Ten: Some things no one tells you about writing

1. Nobody cares about your book at first, even if you think they should. Even if you think they care about you, they’re indifferent. It’s maddening. For you, each book is a magical dream made real. For them, “Nice hobby, but so what?” 

2. Since typing looks a lot like writing to the casual observer, you don’t get extra respect for being a writer from a lot of people. Anybody can type, so don’t think you’re special. “Who do you think you are, anyway? You think you’re better than me?” Oh, they won’t really say that. That’s silly. But some may as well say that by the way they’ll treat you.

3. A lot of people can read, but don’t. They care even less than the casual observers in Items #1 and #2. I don’t understand these people. Why live? It’s a mystery.

4. Some people do read, but they’re jealous of those who write. Read any one-star review that seethes with the venom usually reserved for a pedophile’s first night in prison or a family reunion. Yeah. Those people.

5. You and your family will make sacrifices for Art. Your kids’ friends will be able to afford nice vacations, cool stuff and the latest technology. Your kids won’t get that stuff, though they will get an in-house example of someone daring to follow their dream and buck conventional expectations. At least cover the basics somehow: food, shelter, clothing and good minds.

6. To paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut, pursuing the arts is a great way to disappoint your parents. Don’t expect them to understand. That’s presumptuous and unfair to them since they (probably) love you. It’s not that they don’t want you to succeed as a writer. They want you to take that accounting job because they don’t want to see you suffer. They don’t understand that the safe job they want you to take will hurt you in ways that last, too.

7. The first book that consumes your energy and attention which you poured your heart into? Odds are, first attempts aren’t that great. But no matter how many books you write and no matter how big you get, someone will say you can’t write. In fact, the bigger you are, the more negative messages you’ll get. (If so, congratulations! You’re reaching a wider audience.) That cost-benefit analysis works in your favor, but at some point you might still consider antidepressants, booze or illegal substances or too many brownies. Avoid self-medicating. Write more instead.

8. Sometimes betrayal arrives from unexpected sources within your circle of friends or family. This will hurt most and saps your creative energies. These incidents often lead to divorce or more heated arguments at family reunions. The alternative is you’ll quit and hate yourself because you are no longer being you. Anyone who forces you to choose between them and your passion is gangrenous. Amputate.

Another thing I learned just today:

If you’re being a dick, that doesn’t mean I’m thin-skinned.

9. Writing is harder than it looks, especially before you start. It’s more fun than it looks after you start. Begin.

10. Somehow, at least some readers will find you. You probably won’t even know what you did right, exactly. But there will be readers and even fans. Super-uber-robo fans that so get you, so love your work? Well…you’ll wish those negative friends and family understood you as well as these strangers. Don’t sweat it. You’re making new friends through your fiction.

Treasure your readers. Love them. Inspire them. Nurture them. Entertain. Make them laugh and cry and hit them with love and surprises. 

When you succeed, make sure everyone who tried to put you down on your way up finds out. You’ll care less about how they hurt you by then, of course, but not so little that your vengeance won’t be delicious.

~ I am Robert Chazz Chute. I write about funny hit men, autistic teens and humans versus zombies versus vampires. But mostly I write about the caprice of vengeful gods. I create gods in my own image.

Filed under: getting it done, publishing, Rant, readers, 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.

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

See my books, blogs, links and podcasts.

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

Join 10,142 other followers

Brain Spasms a la Twitter

%d bloggers like this: