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

Write and publish with love and fury.

The blog and book promotion tool you’ll love (that’s easy, effective and free)

Here's one of my Haiku Decks to start off your writing week right.

Here’s one of my Haiku Decks to start off your writing week right.

Haiku Deck is a free presentation tool that uses royalty-free images so you can make a statement with visual impact. Change up your next blog post or make a slick book trailer in minutes, for instance.

Click this link to ThisPlagueOfDays.com to see how I used Haiku Deck to remind readers that my next book is coming soon (and they better buckle up!) It’s actually quite beautiful and even easier and quicker than a YouTube video. The slideshow at the link was my first experiment with Haiku Deck. It took less time to put my trailer for This Plague of Days together than I needed for this short blog post.

There’s nothing wrong with YouTube, Instagram, Vine, and iMovie etc,…. Video can be useful and powerful if used well (and oooh! Moving pictures!) The advantage of Haiku Deck is that it’s free, fast and fun to play with. Consider adding it to your author platform’s arsenal. 

Want to sign up and start making your own trailers, presentations, charts and messages?

You’ll find the way to sign up at the end of each Haiku Deck presentation above. It’s easy to do and easy to share on multiple platforms, but if you do have trouble sharing on your non-self-hosted WordPress blog, no problem. Do what I did with the slideshows above. Load and link a screen shot and bam, it’s there.

Pretty cool, huh?

If you need tips on using video more effectively to promote your books or business, I wrote a quick book on marketing with Vine that highlights what you should be aware of to make it work better. Click the cover for Six Seconds below, for that chewy goodness (for the princely sum of just 99 cents!)

Six+Seconds+copy

~ Okay. We’ve started Monday morning off right. Let’s keep the healthy and happy vibes going. Pardon my excessive happiness today. It’s not characteristic of me, but I’m all ramped up about entering the final stages of publishing my eleventh book. Progress is being made. BAM! Okay, let’s go get ’em!

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

Marketing books: Thirteen video options

Season One of This Plague of Days is free until midnight tonight.

Season Two launches in two weeks.

Book trailers are problematic. Video can be done well. It often isn’t.

Most of them are too long. Production values are typically lower than viewers’ expectations. We’re trained to expect CGI on the level of major movie studios. Also, there’s little evidence trailers generate any sales. Go big and you’ll spend money with no return on the investment. Go too small and you might not be proud of it. Here are magnificent options, ranging from giving up and doing zilch to going big. Since I’m in touch with reality, most options are no-budget or low-budget.

Alternative 1

Don’t do it. It’s not worth the bother.

Alternative 2

Play with iMovie in your spare time. If it’s fun, great, but certainly don’t lose writing time to it. 

Alternative 3

Rather than worry about making a little movie and learning an editing program, do six seconds on Vine and/or fifteen seconds on Instagram. Focus on one quick, easy message. Don’t spell out the link to the camera. Leave the link in the caption. Note that people love video with cats.

Alternative 4

Upload to Youtube from your camera, iPod, iPhone or Android. Viewers will be more forgiving of low production values if they see you didn’t try to make it fancy. Just talk to the camera with a joke and/or announcement.

Alternative 5

Video pulls more clicks to your blog. Combine it with punchy posts for greater effect and more subscribers.

People have more tolerance for a short, laid back video than they will for long blog posts. For instance, yesterday’s post went deep into serialization and book pricing strategy. It was only for the most serious of book marketers and publishers. However, many more readers will click the video above and read this blog post for information because it has video and the text is breezy and scannable.

Alternative 6

Focus on what’s cool or ironically cool. Make it fun for you and the viewer. Try for the opposite of earnest and don’t try to tell too much of the plot of your book. Let the visuals do more work. Entertain first and come sideways at giving out information. One of the best book trailers I’ve seen was an author who talked about the glamour of the writing life while he scrubbed toilets.

Alternative 7

As I’ve suggested in the past, try a quote trailer. A quote trailer simply pulls intriguing quotes from your book. Don’t forget to include a buy link. Keep it short. No spoilers.

Alternative 8 

Use Animoto, as I did, for the video above. I already had the book covers. It took all of five minutes to use the free option for a video shorter than 30 seconds. The fire effect was appropriate and the music was a nice fit. Cool, huh? Animoto includes sharing options so you can export it to Vimeo, YouTube, Facebook, etc.,…

Alternative 9

If people don’t respond to your stabs at filmmaking, try making it more about you and how you can help others instead of making it about the book. Video reviews and how-to stuff get more hits. Funny’s always good, too.

I put up video of my podcasts to get more viewers and listeners. Some people simply prefer video to audio, or a YouTube video is how they will discover a podcast. Interaction in an interview setting can be easier to pull off than talking directly to the camera. Some people, like Hugh Howey, do it well and even dance for reviews. For most of us, solo videos look like hollow-eyed, stuttering hostage videos pleading for ransom under the threat of death.

Alternative 10

Have you set up your YouTube channel yet? It’s a great place to collect your video book reviews, too. Video reviews get more attention on Amazon than written ones, so it’s worth doing, for you and for authors.

Alternative 11

Go with Fiverr.com and get help to create quick videos like I did for my promotion plan for This Plague of Days. Check out my video samples at the link.

Alternative 12

If you really want to go big, get a semi-pro involved. There’s no proven ROI and most professional video production is expensive. Therefore, consider approaching a drama class or a film school. If your book trailer becomes a school project, at least your vanity project will benefit the education of a young actor or filmmaker in a concrete way. You could go the Scott Sigler route and make it a contest. Since every entry went up on YouTube for judging, Sigler’s books got multiple ads and multiple hits.

Alternative 13

I think Kevin Smith and Steven Spielberg are available for princely sums, but if you’ve just won the lottery, go with any of the above options and get your video production done free or cheap. Starving children everywhere would appreciate your generous donations. If you’re rich enough to consider professional directorial help, good karma’s the better way to go.

BONUS

Are you on Bookbub? Here's what the email looks like for my TPOD promo. Sale ends at midnight, never to return. Enjoy.

Are you on Bookbub? Here’s what the email looks like for my TPOD promo. Sale ends at midnight, never to return. Enjoy.

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 12.53.17 PM

Bookbub allows you to showcase deals to many targeted readers who are interested in your genre. Got a deal? Get noticed with Bookbub.

Filed under: author platform, book trailer, Books, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Combat the horrors of self-promotion (with fun)

Recently an article appeared in The Weeklings that was picked up by Salon. It was called The Horrors of Self-promotion by author Sean Beaudoin. I felt sorry for the author and, I admit, a touch of impatience, too. His problem is not unique. Most of us suffer hypothermia from a lack of limelight heat. I have the feeling he doesn’t read this blog. Alas. His best marketing so far was complaining about marketing and getting picked up by Salon. I don’t know how many more times that will work since I’ve seen this kind of story on Salon before. Repeatedly!

So, to solutions:

You know that rule about writing a book that states: If you’re bored, readers are bored? Same goes for self-promotion. Find a way to get them invested. Yes, give stuff away! Reward them for being helpful. Helping others helps you and never hurts. (That link will show you how to get stuff by reposting a video from my author site.)

Joanna Penn calls authors helping authors “coopetition”. That sums up why I do podcasts with authors, for instance. Besides, we’re in a lonely profession. It’s fun to talk to like-minded people like Hugh Howey, Jessica McHugh and Armand Rosamilia.)

If you hate Twitter, you won’t use it right. It’s supposed to be a fun, social discovery tool. If you hate Facebook, maybe it’s not the place for you. Those are supposed to be friends and fans you’re hanging out with. These are platforms to discover cool stuff and have conversations. I often can’t converse for long, so usually I choose to tweet useful information. (Follow me @rchazzchute and I’ll prove it.) However, there are plenty more options, both DIY and getting assistance.

We’re writers! We’re creative people. Find a way to have fun with promotions!

1. I’ve said this many times, but it bears repeating: The writing comes first. Social media is for in-between times that would otherwise be unproductive. Most of my tweeting happens from my iPod for that reason. If I’m at my desktop, I’m writing and revising Season Two.

2. For most authors, working with a publicist doesn’t make sense. However, if you really hate promoting books, maybe you should consider how you can farm it out. Can’t afford a publicist? Start with Fiverr.com. My buddy Jeff Bennington has a post about that here. Need more? Outsource or get an intern with whom you can teach and share. Contact your local college or get on Kijiji and find someone who needs experience in your subject or business.

(Please note: It’s not an internship if they aren’t learning anything. Interns don’t do laundry and are not slaves. They learn writing skills, gain publishing information and an important, perhaps first, entry for their resume. That said, if you’re predisposed to go this route, you’ll probably learn tech skills from them, too.)

3. Work with the platform that suits you best. Every day someone repins the cover to my book Self-help for Stoners on Pinterest. I do no other promotion for that book (since I still don’t have time to get it out from under Bookbaby’s distribution yet.) It’s passive, but the word spreads and it sells despite my lack of effort beyond Pinterest and Vine. (Vine’s discussed in #10.)

4. Some people over-correct and fail to promote at all. Maybe that’s shyness, although most authors who make a point of telling you how awful social media is are snobs. Mostly, they’re really complaining about a personal time management issue. We all have the same amount of time: 24 hours in a day. Use it right, don’t complain and reread Item #1. 

5. Some authors are snobs about social media because they’re tired of all the bad promotion that happens on Twitter. They need to exercise more patience, but they aren’t wrong, either. (See my post below, Book Marketing Top 10: When Less is More and tweet to content, not sales links!)

6. Don’t go into denial. Someone said their readers don’t hang out on social media. One in four people worldwide are on social networks and more than half of North Americans are on social media. That number will only grow. If your readers aren’t on social media (Amish people and older people who frequent Renaissance fairs), you better go to them. Get a booth by the guy who sells beer but calls it mead. Compensate somehow because otherwise you’re hurting your discoverability. Go where readers are, electronically or in person.

Readers have hungry minds. Therefore, they are so on social media!

7. Write another book. Too often I speak to nice people who believe their one book should find its audience organically. However, even organic plants need water. More books give your readers more opportunities to discover your awesomeness. Do not deny them your awesomeness. That way, madness lies.

8. I’ve recently posted about the many advantages of the Author Marketing Club and the tools they make available. With their free submission tool, you can harness the power of book promotion websites without hammering your own audience repeatedly. If you’re only tweeting to your followers, you’re doing it wrong. First, write stuff that’s useful, funny or retweetable. Then get on Triberr and expand your reach.

9. Blog. I have many blogs (all listed here) and reach out to varied audiences (writers, readers, podcast lovers, polymaths, the morbidly obese and schlubs like me, just trying to get their shit together.) However, ChazzWrites is the blog with the highest Alexa score. I do them all for the fun of it. If I hated it, I wouldn’t do it. I suggest ideas and try to be useful and helpful. I often try to be funny. People who get my flavor and like the taste will click the ubiquitous links to my books. Or not. But if you don’t blog, there’s no way for anyone to get what you’re about except unconvincing sales links that mostly sound the same.

Should books sell themselves? Yes, in a perfect world. You saw the news feed this morning. Does this look like a perfect world to you?

Are there exceptions and can you do nothing and still be a hit? Sure. It happened to Hugh Howey. His success is quite organic and, of course, well-deserved. However, that’s not the way to bet. Hugh told me so himself on the Cool People Podcast. Unfortunately, the norm is that many deserving books are ignored. It’s not that many of them aren’t good or even great. It’s that no one has helped readers find them effectively. Yet!

Look, I know all you want to do is write. We all just want to write and be taken care of by legions of adoring loved ones and fans. It would be great if we all had robot butlers, too. We don’t. Grow up and find a way to have fun with your chores so they aren’t chores anymore.

10. Do something different. Twitter isn’t everything. I get love and attention using Vine, for instance. If you don’t know Vine, I wrote a book about it. Basically, it’s six-second video and it’s surprisingly fun and addictive. I can choose to post the videos only to Vine, to Facebook, to Twitter or even embed vines (videos) like these fun and/or disturbing examples. 

Find what works for you. Then go do that as much or as little as you can stand. But please, no more complaining. There’s too much fun to be had and too many options to enjoy to waste time complaining. Unless you get picked up by Salon. Then maybe that worked. Sean Beaudoin! Did that work? Are you feeling better? Let us know!

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute because “Robert Chute” is already taken by a Native American author and poet who surely wouldn’t want to be confused with a crime novelist and horror author. I was recently challenged about why I wrote a book with zombies in it. (Well…not the Romero kind. More the 28 Days Later variety.) Anyway, I justified my love over at ThisPlagueofDays.com with this saucy post. You might enjoy that post, too. Fewer links, more sass.

Filed under: author platform, book marketing, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, self-publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Self-publishing: The stuff that isn’t the core work is still important

Click it to grab it.

Click it to grab it.

I’m up to my alligators in the final revisions and polish of This Plague of Days. Still, other stuff must be juggled when I take a break from the “real” work. Keeping the engine of the author platform going is very important. Without it, who will find and read my books? Fortunately, it’s all fun or I wouldn’t get to it. Here’s what else I did today:

1. Fired off  weird interview questions for a future author appearance on this blog.

2. Answered weird interview questions for another blog, prepping for promoting This Plague of Days. (If you want me on your podcast or blog, email me at expartepress [AT] gmail [DOT] com.

3. I posted the story pitch and beta reader feedback for my horror book and serial at ThisPlagueOfDays.com.

4. I wrote about the Vine app’s huge update on my blog about Six Seconds. Vine is used by 13 million people. Today, a whole new group of people, Android users, may be pulled to check out the book, buy it and use it.

5. I posted multiple vines (little videos) to my Vine account. That cascades to Facebook and Twitter. I welcomed the new Android users and interspersed that with several funny vines about the Android update and using my how-to book about the Vine app, Six Seconds. (I’m “Robert Chazz Chute” on Vine. Follow me there and say hi!)

6. I posted on my weight loss blog early this morning at DecisionToChange.com. Got some great feedback on that piece and I’m growing another audience segment there. That blog competes with this one as my fastest growing blog, though it’s very new and this is my third year posting on ChazzWrites.

7. Email correspondence. Confirmed a story meeting with a friend who’s an expert on logistics and hiking for Season 2 of This Plague of Days. He’ll help me plot details of the journey in Season 2 and he’s okay with getting paid in coffee.

8. Listened to a Self-publishing Podcast over the course of getting my daughter to the dentist and taking her to gymnastics.

9. I appeared on the Podcaster’s Roundtable Sunday night. We talked about dealing with negative feedback, reviews, haters and trolls. I made some good jokes. I had permission to spread the word and post the video, so I stuck the YouTube video up on my author blog at AllThatChazz.com today.

10. My friend Kim Nayyer alerted me to news of indie membership in The Writers Union of Canada. That post and link appears below this one.

11. This blog post is written. It’s 9 PM.

Tonight I’ll do the dishes and walk 5 km. Then I’ll probably polish another episode of This Plague of Days. Projected bedtime: 1 PM. And I’m very happy with that.

To do:

I’m appearing in a sketch on Inverse Delerium, a very cool comedy podcast. That went over so well, they sent me another script (and I get to plug This Plague of Days between the laughs). More revisions, that logistics/story meeting, a fresh reading for the All That Chazz podcast, posting a new Cool People Podcast with author LeRon Barton about drug culture and the drug war in America, incorporating new beta feedback as it arrives, consultations and prepping the TPOD cover and TPOD promo and t-shirt graphics with my friend and uber graphic designer Kit Foster.

They call us “indies” and it doesn’t take an army. It takes a platoon and total commitment and time management.

~ This weekend, in between podcast interviews and, of course, more editing, I now have a YouTube Channel dedicated solely to Ex Parte Press books and podcasts. I expect this channel will grow quite a bit as I incorporate much more video into my author platform. (For instance, I want to use it so you can not only hear the Cool People Podcast on iTunes and Stitcher etc, you can also see the interviews if you wish. My interview with Shermin Kruse about the Middle East and US politics is the first Cool People video cast.) 

 

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

Writing and Publishing: The balls I juggle

Cool+People+Podcast+Final

I’m currently adding a scene to This Plague of Days in which Queen Elizabeth’s Corgis get fed to rampaging zombies as an appetizer before the main (royal) course. As I move through the day, fueled by coffee and rage, I stop to take care of details: Fun details, critical details, tiny details. Here’s the last few days:

1. Sent uncorrected ARCs of This Plague of Days Episode 1 to a bunch of people. The early reviews are happy ones.

2. Published a new Cool People Podcast. I interviewed Renee Pawlish about her strategies for writing and selling books. Good stuff and of particular interest if you read this blog regularly.

3. Updated several plugins across my five blogs, but the change to the Image Rotator Widget screwed up so the covers of my books were displayed in too huge a fashion. Sigh.

4. Sent off a couple more suggestions to Kit, graphic designer extraordinaire, for promotional T-shirts, prizes and giveaways. I plan to sell the shirts in the future, too. Fun, dark and brilliant designs by my man Kit. I knew he was great at book covers. He’s got an impressive flair for t-shirt designs, too. (Hint: hire him for your next book cover, website header, Zazzle product, etc.,…)

5. Commented on some blogs on a few Facebook posts and blogs of interest. Posted to my own blogs. (There are five now. I post to DecisionToChange.com almost daily.)

6. Wrote several new scenes for This Plague of Days and posted some excerpts as teasers. A novel is slightly different from a serial. I’m a teasing, surprising, cliffhanger guy anyway, but to keep the readers moving from one episode to the next, I added new material for extra punch.

7. I recorded a new All That Chazz podcast. I have to edit it and publish it later this weekend since that’s behind schedule. Sickness and book launch prep has eaten into my podcast time, but something had to give.

8. Emailed back and forth with future guests on the Cool People Podcast. People are asking to be on, so it’s picking up.

9. Did some promotions on Vine and performed an experimental giveaway with Murders Among Dead Trees. Hit #34 in free on Amazon on the short story collection list with one day of promotion. Lessons learned: Get a higher profile on Vine and post more often. Most of the people who picked up the freebie came through my friends on Facebook.

10. Did some research on book sales and picked up Chuck Sambuchino’s new book Create Your Writing Platform. I also listened to the Self-Publishing Podcast in which the hosts believe free on Amazon is dead (as is the 99-cent price point.)

Bonus 1: I just learned that the plural is Corgis, not “Corgies”. 

Bonus 2: I learned a blog post about publishing with the word “enema” in the title, gets a lot of traffic.

Question:

How about it? Is free dead to you? Does 99 cents mean the book is inexpensive or just crap? The guys on the Self-Publishing Podcast advised putting your stuff out on all platforms. I’d feel better about that if the other platforms sold more and had a more active review culture. What do you think?

And now back to edits with The Little Things by Danny Elfman as my soundtrack…

Me B&W~ Follow Chazz on Twitter @rchazzchute. If you’re feeling down, go make a kale smoothie and dance sweaty. If you’re feeling up, make sure you have permission and then get sweaty.

Filed under: author platform, blogs & blogging, book marketing, This Plague of Days, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Book Launch Prep: Funnels, marketing, and tap dancing as fast as I can

A cross-genre flurry about  society's collapse under the crush of the Sutr Virus combined with a boy's love for odd words, Latin dictionaries and his father.

A cross-genre flurry about society’s collapse under the crush of the Sutr Virus combined with a boy’s love for odd words, Latin dictionaries and his father.

As the launch of my serialized novel, This Plague of Days, approaches, there’s still a lot to do that has little to do with writing the book. This preliminary work is about charming the unsuspecting into the back of my mind candy van, building happy buzz and marketing funnels. It’s time I gave you a glimpse of some of the things I do in that vein. (For more, check out Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire.)

I’m working on reaching out beyond people who already know me to the people who don’t know me yet. It will come as a huge surprise to you, that figure is still in the billions. (WTH?, man?!) Being unknown is the curse. And so we put ourselves out there to grasp for the blessing of new readers who will fall in love with us (dammit!)

This is, in part, what I did this weekend to reach out:

1. Approached an author about seeing an ARC of This Plague of Days in hopes of getting a cover blurb. (I get all squirrelly about this, but I have to do it more.)

2. Published several articles to my newest and fastest-growing blog, DecisionToChange.com. It’s about weight loss, life’s struggle, healthy recipes and becoming a healthier, happier person. (I know that doesn’t sound like me at all, but I’m playing against type.)

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

3. Posted something similar to #2 on Vine*. (Repurposing is not rehashing, so it comes across as much more amusing on video.)

4. Published a full excerpt of the first chapter of TPOD at ThisPlagueOfDays.com

5. Published the excerpt to WattPad. I haven’t used Wattpad enough. It’s an easy way to share stories and help readers find us.

Cool+People+Podcast+Final6. Published a new Cool People Podcast with erotica author Eden Baylee. The podcast is about the lovely and smart Eden and her cool worldview (but I’m there, too, so it counts.)  I also tweaked the site so it has a new slider bar which will draw attention to recent guests on the podcast.

7. Researched innovative ways to further publicize the coming launch. Innovative, as in different and untested. I’ll let you know how it works out once they are tested.

8. In giving someone else advice on merchandising, I figured out a new way to do that better with TPOD. (I’m not being coy, but more on that in a different post once I experiment with it.)

9. Wrote this post, giving you links to a couple of my other blogs you wouldn’t otherwise check out. (Hope you like the excerpt and sneak peeks.)

10. Most important: 

I worked on the revisions of This Plague of Days and added a new beta reader to my team. I wrote new scenes with more action where it was slower. I tweaked old scenes so they sparkle anew. I’m writing the best book I can. No matter what else you do to promote your book, #10 is the principle that’s most solid.

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

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

~ Robert Chazz Chute is writing horror instead of a funny hardboiled thriller for a change, but he loves it all and hopes you will, too.

*Want to reach out to more people and discover more about the Vine app? Go here to find out more about Six Seconds, The Unauthorized Guide to How to Build Your Business with the Vine App.

Filed under: book marketing, My fiction, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, self-publishing, This Plague of Days, Vine, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’m a believer (but I’m not a belieber)

My newest (not safe for work) podcast (#75!) is up at AllThatChazz.com: I’m a believer (but I’m not a belieber)

If you took my advice and joined Vine, you haven’t seen me there lately.

Here’s my latest for fellow Viners (from onlysixseconds.wordpress.com):

Sorry I haven’t been on Vine lately, fellow Viners! I’ll be back soon to continue the author reading and book contest. Had some tech issues and an injury that knocked me flat and in pain this week. Making a comeback soon, but in the meantime, please enjoy the All That Chazz podcast at the link above. Cheers!

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

Great ebook cover design: More on what to look for

Our book covers must not sucketh.

But how do we make covers that blow readers away?

You don’t have to know how to make a cover to recognize a good one, but it helps to be guided in the principles of solid design by experts. Fortunately, I know a couple people whose art and instruction are incredibly helpful to authors and publishers.

Joel Friedlander’s ebook Cover Design Awards are here! 

Regular readers know my covers are magically manifested by Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com. Incredibly, Kit won another non-fiction design award for the second month in a row.

His previous winner was this little guide to Vine marketing by someone or other:

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

How deliciously self-serving.

Congratulations to Kit, of course. Make sure you read all the comments on Joel’s site to cram all that good art learnin’ inside your brain box.

Filed under: awards, book marketing, ebooks, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Book Marketing: Problems and Solutions

It’s time to talk book marketing again and this time, I’m going to get up close and uncomfortably personal. One key to book promotion success — there are many keys and nobody knows where they all are — is to step outside our echo chambers. I’ll explore how to get out of that box and sleep with strangers…um, I mean, help new readers find us. But first…

Problems

1. I’ve noticed lately that Twitter love for me has faded somewhat. I’m getting fewer retweets. My Klout score is down to 62 from 65.8 (the horror of first world problems!) and the rate of new follows has slowed. That or, as someone told me recently, Twitter isn’t showing retweets as doggedly as they once did. 

2. I gifted copies of Six Seconds to a bunch of people who indicated their eagerness to give an honest review in exchange for a free copy. It only has two reviews thus far, and none from those who received the ebook from me. Six Seconds is a short guide to Vine, so I don’t know how to encourage them to review it without sounding churlish or whiny. Yet, I do need those reviews. I need reviews of everything.

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

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

I did receive a fresh review of Bigger Than Jesus recently and that was a great thing that happened organically. The trouble is, to promote the books on some websites, I need at least ten reviews. If I wait for it to happen organically, it’s a trickle. If you have any ideas on how to nudge reviewers without sounding like a bad guy, please let me know. Or perhaps I should risk it because as it is, I’m screwed, silent or sounding off. 

3. Promotionally, I’m in the doldrums between book launches. This Plague of Days is a monster-size book so the editorial logistics require a longer wait between publication dates. I’m very aware that if the time between books is too long, it’s easy to be forgotten.

4. I doubt more KDP Select for old books is not the answer. I’ve already done those promotions. I’ll do them again for each fresh book launch, but after the first 90 days, I’ll switch to more platforms. KDP isn’t worth its exclusivity anymore since they made free less attractive. Free isn’t dead, but it’s not as alive as it once was, either. Use KDP to give away enough copies to get more reviews if you can, but after one 90-day period of exclusivity, I’ve taken my shot and it’s time to spread the word wider. (This could change if Amazon sweetens the pot again, but I see no evidence of that on the horizon.)

5. I have a standing offer to subscribe to my mailing list at AllThatChazz.com. Subscribers get promoted on the podcast. Though All That Chazz is heard in more than 60 countries weekly, I’m not exactly flooded with subscribers. “Not exactly flooded” is my pitiful attempt to save a shred of dignity. It’s not really not working. Therefore, I have to go to them because they aren’t coming to me.

Solutions

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

1. Attitude adjustment = no whining. Over Christmas and into January, I had a bout of depression and self-doubt that crippled my creativity and work ethic. I still wrote and produced and put out podcasts. I think no one knew for sure, but I was down-dooby-do-down-down. I kept it to myself and pretended everything was peachy. It wasn’t. That put a dent in things. I can swing back and forth from high creativity to much less when Seasonal Affective Disorder hits. When I feel down, I sleep more and life feels like pushing a truck uphill without wheels. That was then. I’m feeling better, getting more sun and exercise and drinking more kale shakes. I’m back and looking for trouble to shoot.

2. I’ve stepped out of the echo chamber by adding a new podcast. On All That Chazz, I monologue, crack wise and unwise and read from my work. (Currently reading HigherCool+People+Podcast+Final Than Jesus. Get on board on iTunes, Stitcher, or from my author website.)

With the new Cool People Podcast, I have fun interviews with interesting guests. That helps step outside the echo chamber by expanding my connections, mixing networks with more people and best of all, did I mention I get to talk to cool people?  If you like the podcasts, please leave a review on iTunes. That helps.

3. I’m expanding my following on Vine faster than on Twitter.

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

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

The number of people following me so far isn’t that impressive. However, the rate at which people are getting on board through the Vine app is pleasing. They’re a tech-savvy, young and creative audience who are into what I’m doing. To let the right ones in, I’m doing an author reading on Vine from Self-help for Stoners. “Another Day at the Office” is one of my favorite, funniest stories and I’m running a contest, too. (Details on contest rules, the prize and entries at AllThatChazz.com.)

4. I’ve created more book-specific websites to inspire more qualified (read: interested) traffic. For instance,  Six Seconds, The Unauthorized Guide to How to Build Your Business with the Vine App, now has its own website. It’s useful and expands on the guide’s suggestions. Vine (the equivalent of video Twitter) just upgraded so I wrote about that development. This is a significant change because the upgrade allows vines to be embedded. Some viners will become stars on Vine just as some power users are stars on YouTube. Twitter has optimized the social sharing component of the app so I can enliven my websites with vines and spread my word wider.

This Plague of Days 03285. My newest website is ThisPlagueofDays.com. The primary focus of the blog is not just my serial of the same name. The book has a lot of angles. For instance, I’ve done extensive research in survivalism and sustainability over the years. I had a battered, paranoid youth so my past is dumped into the post-apocalyptic landscape.

I’m sure this serial will have a wide appeal, but providing specifics about surviving a world flu pandemic provides more added value than being yet another author talking about his or her book endlessly. I recently posted about the best books on disaster preparedness. In an upcoming post, I write about the SARS crisis in Toronto that killed 44 people, the mistakes that were made and how they’ll be made again in the next contagious disease crisis.

Find your angle and help people with it. If you’ve got a romance set in Martha’s Vineyard and you don’t think you’ve got an angle, write about tourism to Martha’s Vineyard. Find the angle and you’ll find a niche that’s identifiable. I’m sure Self-help for Stoners sells best because stoners recognize it’s fiction especially for them. That was by design. Bigger Than Jesus doesn’t sell as well because, on hearing it, someone will think my funny crime novel is a religious book or has something to do with the Beatles. That’s why those books have the covers they do.

6. Go to your niche. TweetAdder has a bad rap because last year, whoever is in charge of what’s polite on the Internet decided auto-tweeting is rude. Okay, but there’s more to TweetAdder than that. To find more readers who might be interested in This Plague of Days, I can search for Twitter users who are into post-apocalyptic fiction, emergency preparedness, Aspergers and survivalism. I can follow those who follow big names in post-apocalyptic fiction and interact with them. What’s your book’s area of interest? Readers want to know about you (assuming your intrinsic awesomeness bears up under examination.)

7. Advertise. As the power of free spirals out of the heights it has occupied, those of us who tried to get away with less promotional investment will have to change our patterns. I’ve been reluctant to use tools I don’t respond to as a consumer. For instance, I’ve never clicked on a Facebook ad once. However, I’m not all consumers and it’s time I got over myself to give my books a better shot. Other authors have had success with pay-per-click advertising and you can limit how much you spend. Spending is scary. I’m still working with a very limited budget, but I can limit the risk so it doesn’t get out of hand. This is the time to double-down on my bet on myself, not stick to the nickel a chip table. We used to be able to get away with zero ad budgets. We at least have to promote the crap out of free days now (if we have them) and that means paying some ad fees.

8. Send out more copies to book bloggers. More reviews will allow me to post the books to those sites that require a minimum of ten reviews above four stars. Sites like BookBub, for instance. I’ve heard good things about BookBub, but because of pricing, timing and review restrictions, it’s still out of reach for me.

9. Ask for help. I guess we’re out of the theoretical and I’m talking directly to you. If you’re interested in an advanced copy of the serial, please let me know at expartepress (AT) gmail (DOT) com. The serial overall is over 130,000 words, but the episodes are short. I’m still in revisions, so I haven’t nailed down episode word counts yet. However,  it won’t be an arduous read for those interested in a plague apocalypse pitted against an Aspergers kid who is a selective mute. His special interest is Latin and the nuances of the English language and it’s quite possible he’s hiding strange powers. Also, if you’ve read any of my books and liked them, please review them.

10. Take suggestions on how to effectively spread the word about my books that do not, as Guy Kawasaki suggests, require $10,000. Got any ideas?

All about the love...and vengeance.

All about the love…and vengeance.

~ Robert Chazz Chute is everywhere, yet nowhere, at the fork in the writing road. One path goes up and the other goes down-dooby-do-down-down.

 

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

On Writing Well: Openings, Distractions and the next Million Dollar Idea

The Challenge of the Slow Open

Crack the Indie Author CodeAs I work on revising my coming-of-age, love story cleverly disguised as an apocalyptic plague thriller, I worry about the beginning most. (I’ll give you a minute to digest that first sentence.)

This is a long book I will serialize (soon). The story unfolds largely through the eyes of a boy with Aspergers Syndrome, sixteen-year-old Jaimie Spencer. He’s a selective mute. I wanted to impress upon the reader how different he is from the first page. The story starts with the boy observing the plague as it infects his next-door neighbor. The neighbor is a pilot who happens to be having sex with a flight attendant at the time, but Jaimie is detached about such things. He’s asexual. His point of view is an interesting hook, but it’s not really an action hook. It reads like a character hook.

I’m going for intrigue and showing this book is more serious than much of my other work. I’m satisfied it’s a good start, but it’s a risk because of that slow start. I’m starting the novel with a long lit fuse instead of an explosion. That could be a problem and I will have to revisit this issue several more times before I commit to the slow burn open. There are plenty of explosions, strained family dynamics, obstacles, reversals, betrayals, realizations, death and a long journey  ahead. Amid the chaos, Jaimie is a detached, almost Christlike figure. The world is falling apart and he’s fascinated with dictionaries. (Expect Latin phrases, weird words and an amusing annoyance over homonyms.) The boy perceives the world as an alien might. His peculiar point of view questions how everyone else sees the world.

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

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

Big openings hook more readers faster. For instance, is it a cheap ploy to kill somebody off in the first paragraph? Many critics, both amateur and professional, seem to think so. However, I suspect the average reader doesn’t think that way at all. Some lit snobs say they shouldn’t think that way. Irrelevant. Many readers do think that way.

Every story should jump right in without throat-clearing, of course. (Don’t start your book with a weather report, as a baffling number of novels still do.) But how late should you enter the action? Bigger Than Jesus starts in media res with my loveable hit man out on a slippery ledge high over Tribeca with the bad guy hiding behind a gargoyle. Higher Than Jesus starts with a slower open in a dive bar, but right from the start, you know Jesus Diaz is there to kill someone on Christmas Day. Crime fiction should start with action. But can Jaimie Spencer do it?

Distractions

I’m confident in the writing for those who stick around for the show. However, we, as writers, are not competing with other books in our genre. We’re competing with Call of Duty, Game of Thrones (on TV), people working second and third jobs to earn enough to live, laughing babies on YouTube, the gym, the laundry, and all the other paperwork of life. Readers have so many distractions, it almost makes me yearn for a time when books were much more central to our culture. The good news is, if you survive the coming world flu pandemic that will wipe out billions, there will be fewer distractions and a bit more reading time.

Solutions and Opportunities

Jesus is resurrected in Chicago. Sex with the Queen of Giants. Violence with Very Bad Men.

Jesus is resurrected in Chicago. Sex with the Queen of Giants. Violence with Very Bad Men.

I have a suggestion to help combat The Distraction Problem. It’s not really open to me at the moment* but you might be able to use this suggestion: If you’re American, make audiobooks on ACX part of your publishing platform so people will be able to consume your goodness while they do the laundry, commute to their second job, run on a treadmill or play Call of Duty. Publish an audiobook on ACX and it goes to Amazon, iTunes and Audible. Audio is the future. That, and the massive killer virus thingy.

*I encouraged writers to go for ACX in Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire. Since I’m a Canuck, they aren’t set up to deal with me yet. That creates a huge hole in the market for audiobooks worldwide. If I had the money, I’d start a company to compete with ACX and deal with all them foreigners immediately.

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

~ Earlier today I published an article on ChazzWrites.com that was meant for my website about Six Seconds, The Unauthorized Guide to How to Build Your Business with the Vine App. Apologies for the mix-up and a suggestion: If you’re on WordPress, don’t ever use the Quick post feature. Any problems I’ve ever had posting to WordPress started there. I decided to leave it up since it automatically shot out to subscribers and I never did announce a page dedicated to that book, so…yeah, I’ve got a web page just about Vine and the useful glory that is Six Seconds. If you’re interested in checking out Vine and promoting your books with it, here’s the link to onlysixseconds.

If you’re on Vine and would like to hear a reading from Self-help for Stoners, find “Robert Chazz Chute” on Vine. I’m doing the first author reading on the Vine app. Interested in winning a signed copy of Bigger Than Jesus? I’m running a contest with that reading. Get the details on how you could win from this link to AllThatChazz.

Filed under: audiobooks, blogs & blogging, book marketing, Editing, My fiction, publishing, Vine, 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.

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