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

Write and publish with love and fury.

ChazzWrites.com: 2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 31,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 11 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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

Uncomfortable answers to questions about blogging

1. When’s the best time to post to your blog?

There are better times than others to post to your blog. Late at night isn’t generally so good. There’s a lot less browsing after 9 pm and prime time seems to be the morning hours. Mondays are big blog stats days as people ease into their week. Fridays suck, so I post less on Fridays. The earlier in the day and the earlier in the work week, the better.

2. Should you blog every day?

I think you should post only when you have something to say. If your content is rich and if you post often, the more traffic you’ll get. At DecisionToChange, I often blog several times a day, but with short posts.

3. What should you blog about?

Blog what you care about. If you try to blog about stuff that doesn’t interest you for some audience-centric, strategic reason, you’ll run out of gas before long. People say you shouldn’t blog for writers, but of my six blogs, this is the one that gets the most traffic so far and I did get two books out of writing ChazzWrites, (Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire) so there’s that.

4. How long should my posts be?

Shorter and to the point is generally better (though this particular post will get pretty long). I used to write very long essays. It’s better to break them up into a series if you’re writing long. If you’re writing at great length, don’t blog it. Book it. You can sell it on Amazon. That’s what I did with Six Seconds.

5. What’s the least I can post?

You can have a static page you don’t update, but don’t expect a ton of traffic unless you’re doing something else to drive eyes there. I do two free podcasts (All That Chazz and Cool People Podcast) and frequently appear on other podcasts. (I’m on a comedy podcast called Inverse Delirium this week).  Even with that weekly boost, I wouldn’t do a static page. Websites are either growing or dying. If I can’t update a page at all, I’d rather abandon it for a more active, and therefore more useful, site.

6. Can you post too much?

Yes, if posting burns out you or your readers, that’s too much.

If it takes away from your core work (i.e. writing books) then prioritize and manage your time so you do the core work first. I post to six blogs, a tumblr, Youtube, iTunes, Vine, Facebook and Twitter. However, I watch almost no TV and writing is my full-time job. That list of social media belongs on the secondary activity, fun stuff and stolen moments list of things to do. Writing new stuff, editing and revising is always number one.

7. Where do you get your ideas for blog posts?

My life and work is research. I’m interested in making kale shakes healthier and more appetizing, so I find out about that and share the wealth. I’m interested in all aspects of the book business and subscribe to various feeds that feed that passion.

8. If you talk about your books on your blog, is it spammy?

Some might complain I talk too much about my own books here. My reply is (A) It’s my blog and if you aren’t that into me, I’m not pestering you with phone calls to visit my blog and (B) working my book stable is where all that real world experience comes from. I’m building a cult out of supplying free information, so it’s hard to feel bad about that. I also help writers and promote other authors and their blogs here frequently, so any outrage is misplaced.

9. What’s the most important element of a website?

A. Some websites I self-host and others I don’t. For the long-term, owning it is important. Ownership allows advertising, monetizing and more control.

B. Having a list for people to subscribe to is critical to monetization. (My mailing list subscription is on the front page at AllThatChazz.com and I use MailChimp.) I give new subscribers perks like sneak peeks and shout outs on the All That Chazz podcast. Some subscribers got Advanced Reading Copies of This Plague of Days.

C.  Your website should look good, but opinions vary on what good looks like. Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com creates my web banners. That adds a lot without dealing with webmasters and giant makeovers.

D. Strong content. Everyone says “Content is king.” It’s kind of useless advice because that can be awfully subjective. If you live a sufficiently exciting life with plenty of sex among celebrities, you could rock a diary and make it work. Otherwise, go for useful and newsy so readers feel the value that way.

10. What helps a blog’s readability?

A. List posts like this one.

B. Make it easy for the reader to scan with sub-heads like this post uses.

C. Use a less fancy font to increase legibility. I also bold the type so it’s easier for everyone to read. I dumped the dark background and the light text a long time ago.

11. What are the most useful blogging tools?

A. I think WordPress is the best blogging platform (and essential if you run a podcast.)

B. I love Scoopit! The tool allows me to point readers to useful information on other websites. I can add my thoughts so I’m still adding value without looking like a parrot. I dislike WordPress’s reblog feature because I don’t post pictures on my blogs unless I’m sure there are no copyright issues. Scoopit! allows me to easily delete images. 

C. Rebelmouse. This free tool allows me to post all my blog feeds to one page so if you want to get a look at all I did in a day that was blog or podcast-related, it’s all there in one place. Every blog entry and podcast is displayed in a Pinterest-like array that’s easy to take in and stimulates the senses in a happy way without expensive and tech-heavy interventions. (You can do fancier things with Rebelmouse if you want to pay a bit of cash.)

12. Why should we blog?

(Sorry, I can only tell you why I blog.)

A. Sharing information builds the indie writer community and elevates the general level of expertise, discussion and product quality.

B. Ego and narcissism. I want you to love me and think I’m smart and funny. How else to explain six blogs and two podcasts? Pathetic and needy, isn’t it?

C. Honesty is the best policy unless questioned by Nazis. Honesty builds trust. (See 12B.)

D.  I’ve made friends and allies through my blogs and even a few readers for my books. You might even find a few people willing to be reviewers, ARC readers, beta readers, proofers, donors and helpers. My blogs and podcasts provide ways to help my friends by spreading the good word about great people.

However, if I were blogging just to find book lovers, I’d be disappointed. Only after I’m a huge success as an author using other strategies that have nothing to do with blogging will there be a clamour for all my blogs (and then I’ll have much less time to blog.)

Photo on 12-09-25 at 3.23 PM~ This fall, I’ll tell you about those “other strategies”, after I’ve given them a test run with This Plague of Days.

Have you read the manifesto for artists who want to live forever yet? Read that here.

Have you heard the latest All That Chazz podcast. The reading slips toward erotica toward the end, so this is the NSFW podcast episode you’ll probably want to hear. Check out The One That Gets Sexy here.

 

Filed under: blogs & blogging, book marketing, Books, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A free and easy editing program that works

TPOD 0420 2As I revise my upcoming horror serial, This Plague of Days, I find some passages that I can’t wait to share. There are plenty of big reveals to come, but a few teasers along the way are fun (so click here to get a taste of horror and weirdness.) As I plod along, I’ve found a helpful way to polish the writing I want to share with you and improve my manuscript. The good news is there’s nothing to buy and you probably already have it but haven’t used the program in this way.

Before I tell you about this helpful editing program…

I have to tell you there are other editing programs that aren’t nearly so helpful. They aren’t as good as human eyes (so always keep some human eyes in your pocket.) You can subscribe to these programs at varying rates, from cheap to expensive. Some are better than others. I tested one and it told me there were 43 areas of concern in the first paragraph. Of course, even a terrible writer probably doesn’t have 43 areas of concern in one paragraph. It wasn’t even a very long one! I shuddered, cursed and looked closer.

The problem was the program threw up red flags (as in vomited red flags) everywhere. In an effort to be thorough, it overshot into ridiculously unhelpful. The grammar problems weren’t grammar problems. The spelling suggestions were all just alternative words. Stylistic choices were only that. Of the 43 problems, I found two things I might change. Might! I get that from rereading any paragraph!

The signal to noise ratio was clearly way off in the program. If I ever hate a writer with OCD, I’ll be sure to gift him or her a subscription. We’ll never hear from them again and they’ll never write another book.

So, to the “new” suggestion

It’s not new, but it is useful. I write in Scrivener (which I love). When I find quotes and snippets I want to reveal as appetizers at ThisPlagueOfDays.com, naturally I post it into WordPress. I’ve found the WordPress editor has helped me reconsider some things. It suggests neither too much nor too little. It’s elegant, free and easy to use for that little added polish to make you feel excited about getting to your last draft and publishing your book. 

Grab a chapter from your WIP, paste it into WordPress, test it and consider adding it to your editorial production process. I like it.

 

Filed under: Editing, getting it done, grammar, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Amazon buys Goodreads. Mostly? So what?

Death and Resurrection (How appropriate!)

Sometimes change is forced upon us. It sure was forced on me today so I had to redesign this blog. Then I got the news Amazon bought Goodreads. More change. In both cases, it was worrisome at first, but I think it will work out fine. Mostly.

This Plague of Days 0328Today’s trouble started as I redesigned one of my new websites. I clicked a few buttons. Nothing good can come of that. I tried what I thought would be a five-minute experiment with this blog. I found I couldn’t revert to the merely acceptable design you usually see here. (The user interface in WordPress themes is a little different from with my self-hosted blogs, so I hit unexpected snags.) I couldn’t put the broken vase back together and Mr. and Mrs. Brady told me not to throw the football in the house! My five-minute experiment turned into lost hours. I did some pretty creative swearing. 

After I worked through the redesign, I reloaded my lost widgets. That took quite some time. Then, too late, I realized WordPress had saved my widgets. I just had to scroll down farther to find them. I lost a lot of time reinventing the wheel. However, perhaps it’s for the best. I found a couple of things that needed updating and now I’m pretty happy with how the blog looks. I get enough traffic here that it was time to spruce up. I won’t wear a tie, but I had a shower and put on clean underwear for you guys. Hope you like the new look.

Let’s talk about the Goodreads acquisition by Amazon

Some are panicky that this move heralds further world domination by the mighty Zon. Getting Goodreads is good for Amazon, but will it make that much difference to us? Some GR reviewers are saying they won’t be back since their independence has been compromised. Some authors are hoping the change will help them sell more books (yes), revamp GoodReads’ awkward interface (God, I hope so) and clean up the overly hostile atmosphere at GR some have suffered (which probably won’t change.) 

I don’t recall making a buying decision based on a GoodReads review. I prefer the user interface at Shelfari, by the way, but I don’t think I made any buying decisions over there, either. Like most people, I go to where I’m buying and decide there. I weigh genres, covers, descriptions and samples. I read reviews, but I don’t decide not to buy because of reviews. However, not everyone makes their shopping decisions the way I do. I’m guessing most people probably read the reviews and never look at samples. 

I’m not worried about the dreaded Amazon monopoly. Amazon made a good move for Amazon, but I don’t think they’re out to get us. Indie authors are a tiny factor among many larger variables. Interestingly, GoodReads assures us that the links to Kobo will not be shut down and GoodReads will remain an independent entity. I’m sure that’s true…for a while.

The part I don’t believe

Neither Amazon nor GR wants reviewers fleeing to some new, truly independent site. Their announcement about the buy-out makes the right noises about not shutting down the feed to Kobo. However, I can’t believe that will remain GR policy. Amazon is getting their data now and will further optimize with that information. However, if you spent a buttload of money to buy a company, would you let it continue to feed your competitors? I wouldn’t and I’m the nicest guy you know. I’d wait a bit to let the happy PR machine make everyone settle down and get comfortable. Then I’d announce one day that “There’s been a slight change in policy.” Do what everyone feared incrementally and you can do almost anything. I’ve seen it happen before.

I’ll leave you with that quibble, and refer you to the great David Gaughran’s blog, Let’s Get Digital,  where he has a much more sober, non-alarmist analysis. Be sure to check out the comment thread, too.

Happy Bunny Day! I understand he craps chocolate eggs…so…no, I wouldn’t eat that if I were you.

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

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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Rebelmouse Review: How to Gain Readers and Listeners with a Collage of You

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

Click it to grab it. Just 99 cents!

My author platform is a sprawl of social media. I’m bringing my voice to a more effective public address system with Rebelmouse.

Recently a social media expert told an author to bring two blogs together, amalgamated to one site for better SEO. That way, more people would discover her awesomeness. The problem resonated with me. I have (deep breath) three WordPress blogs, two podcasts, three Twitter feeds, a tumblr site, a Facebook page, Google+, a Pinterest board and occasionally I send out a SONAR pulse from my one-man attack submarine. I wondered, how could I possibly bring everything together without becoming some expensive programmer’s buttockal pain? I wanted to curate all my content so my readership and podcast listeners could hit the highlights in one convenient place and receive one harmonic signal. Tough problem. I now have an easy answer, and it doesn’t include hiring a programmer I can’t afford. In fact, the solution was free. It’s me on Rebelmouse.

Showcase pics and vids

You’ll notice at the top left there’s a new Rebelmouse follow  button. Please click it for The Full Chazz Experience. It’s free and ready for your unending delight. As for signing up to curate your own stuff, you can pay for premium services at Rebelmouse (starting at $9.99 a month). I opted for free now and may upgrade later. When you go to my page, it looks remarkably like a Pinterest board. The difference is, Rebelmouse pulls the feeds from the far reaches of my book and podcast empire (mmmkay, tiny kingdom) so you get the latest from the All That Chazz podcast, The Cool People Podcast, ChazzWrites.com, AllThatChazz.com, my primary Twitter feed (@rchazzchute), Facebook and Pinterest. I even added a few videos from YouTube, which, until now, most of my readers were unaware I even made. That’s the power of Rebelmouse.

Advantages for selling books

The move to Rebelmouse was especially important to me so I could show off the work and play I do with the Vine app. I make announcements about my books and podcasts on Vine amongst quick videos of our skinny pigs chattering and having fun as a six-second comedian. I wrote an instant ebook about Vine (Six Seconds, The Unauthorized Guide to How to Build Your Business with the Vine App). I wanted to draw more attention to the book and show the fun I was having with the app all in one place. Potential readers could see what I was so enthused about in Six Seconds and I could help them with the decision to buy my book and join up by showing them vines (that’s videos made on Vine). Traffic to AllThatChazz.com shot up since I joined Vine so there’s definitely value there (and the book’s just 99 cents on Amazon, by the way. Please and thank you.)

Pros

I’ve already noticed another increase in visitors since adding Rebelmouse. One easy curation page obviously makes it much easier for readers to consume my content. You can also share your offerings on Rebelmouse back to your networks. When visitors arrive to check out one offering, they can quickly check out what else is on display and get my flavor. That’s a funnel and funnels are valuable in building an audience and getting fans who buy all your books.

The front page on Rebelmouse even has further curation options. You can click on the tabs at the top so you only see the podcast page, books page or Pinterest page. (These pages were suggested by Rebelmouse based on the tags in my feed content.) Comparisons to Pinterest are obvious, except it’s a collage of the Magic that is You instead of a collage of the things you like. The beauty of this solution is an attractive page with everything in one place that’s easy to take in. When you click on the link, you’re whisked back to the original page. Not many authors are on Vine yet and very few are on Rebelmouse (I noticed Jane Friedman is there, for one). The time to get in early on these tech solutions and enhance your author platform is now.

Cons

I did have a glitch or two when I put the page up but I figured it out pretty quickly. Be careful about which feeds you authorize and be hesitant to hit the auto-update when it is offered. That got overwhelming when everything came in at once. I clicked on auto-update and then couldn’t figure out how to switch it back. I also changed the name of the page to my name (rather than confuse readers with another All That Chazz page.) That change messed up my first announcement link so eager readers got a “404, Page not found error” when they tried to follow. That fixed, I’d say most of Rebelmouse’s interface is fairly intuitive and I really like the page now.

There are certain posts I’d like to be sticky at the top, but that might be a premium feature in my future. The Pinterest look is effective, but if you never or rarely use pictures or video on your posts, it won’t work so well for readers. Like Vine, Rebelmouse is a visual medium first and text comes second. That’s fine. We’re visual creatures. Your future boyfriend or girlfriend across the dance floor might have a great sense of humour and a powerful intellect, but your first impression is eyes, hair, cheekbones, build and how well they fit in those jeans as they do the funky chicken.

Conclusions

Rebelmouse looks great for authors, photographers, musicians, graphic artists and anyone who wants a more social pitch site (compared to a pricier, upscale, hard sell, sales site like Crushpath). As we continue to search for new ways for authors to find readers (and help readers find us), Rebelmouse is one easy way. It’s the free solution I was looking for to create a magazine experience of all that I offer in one convenient page.

Book promotion and marketing is damn tough. It just got a little easier to curate ourselves in a happy way.

Filed under: author platform, book marketing, podcasts, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, rebelmouse, Vine, web reviews, What about Chazz?, What about you?, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Author Platform: Problems, Solutions & Stuffed Speedos

THE AUTHOR BLOG PROBLEM

This blog is quite the writing and publishing funfest. I blog plenty and happily.* However, I needed a bigger boat to carry my words to readers who weren’t interested in all the backstage stuff that goes into publishing a book. I needed an author site, too. I created AllThatChazz.com some time ago to fill that need, but that was a Fat Problem stuffed into a tiny Solution Speedo. This post is about The Big Blog Fix. Read this and you’ll pull in more readers by updating your author site.

I started both ChazzWrites and AllThatChazz on the free side of WordPress. I needed AllThatChazz to become a destination website like ChazzWrites. I’ve researched many author blogs. The content is often pretty dusty and largely ignored. Author blogs tend to either static sales sites (static = not good) or they become the author’s personal blog (but I don’t have a cat!) What to do to make AllThatChazz a place people want to visit? It gets worse…

THE GRIM REALITY

Most author sites are ineffective platforms for gathering new readers. They’re useful for readers who are already on board with your books. Once they discover your books in other ways, then maybe (Big Maybe) they’ll happen to check out the author site to see what you’re about. That’s not good enough!

MY AUTHOR WEBSITE SOLUTION

I started my author site the same way everyone does. I put up some stuff about my books with links to sales pages. However, to make it a destination site, I must add fresh content often and I need to reach strangers I wouldn’t reach any other way.

Solution, Stage One:

The same month my first books went up for sale, I got into podcasting. Dave Jackson of the School of Podcasting set me up when the initial tech became too frustrating. His service was inexpensive and, after a few minor technical hurdles, broadcasting to the world on no-rules Internet radio became easy. I’d done radio in college and, despite a stammer that emerges as my brain races ahead of my mouth, it’s fun. It started out as the Self-help for Stoners podcast because I was too focussed on selling the first book. It’s now the All That Chazz podcast and I reach people in 60 countries at last count. Okay, but I can do better…

STRENGTHEN YOUR AUTHOR PLATFORM

I asked for help with my website last year and either didn’t get it or the help I needed was too expensive for me. (Webmasters are so often unreliable it seems everyone has a horror story.) Dave swooped in again to help me put AllThatChazz.com over on the paid side of WordPress. Dave’s my hero and, now that I was on the paid side of WordPress, I felt I had the freedom to do more with the site. It became a better tool for the job I needed done.

AllThatChazz was functional, but I needed to do  more with the site to make it look more appealing. It needed an makeover — okay, it was actively repellant and stunk of old feet  but I didn’t feel I was up to making those changes. Frankly, with so much to do, aesthetics were my lowest priority. I was worried about losing widgets or data in the switch. Lots of people had a horror story about that, too. But then…

Solution, Stage Two:

Apparently WordPress has changed so now it’s easy to switch themes. I didn’t have to copy all my widgets, though I ended up throwing plenty away before I was done revamping the site. Halfway through the changes, I began to understand how much the old look of my author site must have hurt me. She’s pretty now and her feet don’t stink.

HOW TO MAKE YOUR BLOG BETTER, STRONGER, FASTER

I have a thing for smart girls in glasses. That’s what AllThatChazz.com is now. Here’s what I did:

1. Ditched the sliding Amazon book widget. A moving sidebar is distracting and annoying.

2. Chucked out a bunch of widgets that weren’t selling anything anyway. Never look desperate, even if you are. Don’t underestimate the effect giving your blog a good airing. I didn’t realize how much stress I was dumping until I got rid of all that clutter! 

3. I switched to a very clean and simple theme. White background, black text and white space. It’s plenty legible without looking blocky. It’s more focused on content delivery now. The changes aren’t complete yet, either. When I connect with my graphic designer, Kit, we’ll change the site’s header to a brighter banner.

4. I plan to host an affiliate link, but just one or two, carefully chosen. I’m plotting some cool stuff for the sales page. However, aside from links, I’m keeping the sales stuff to that one area. Author platforms should be about helping interested readers buy, not squeezing sales. Letting go of the sales mentality frees up time and energy for writing. I admit, I’ve sold too hard on the podcast in the past. These website changes allow me to relax and let the website do more of that work.

5. I changed the menu to a minimalist solution that’s really cool. Instead of over explaining everything and hitting the desperation anvil with the heavy sales hammer, I designed an intriguing page menu that invites exploration with carefully chosen verbs. (Yeah, weird, but you’ll see.)

I’m not telling. I’m seducing. That Speedo is looking pretty good all of a sudden. 

 Check out the improvements at AllThatChazz.com.

Crack the Indie Author Code~ *I’ve already talked about the potential folly of writing about writing unless you have writing and publishing guides to sell. I do, though I still stand by a higher creative maxim: Write what you care about.

Will I use my lessons learned to change ChazzWrites, too? I’ve already added a couple of menu items at the top of this page that may interest you. However, since the traffic is already pretty good here, I’m going to focus on writing the next two books first, thanks.

Filed under: author platform, blogs & blogging, book marketing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Stuff not to say on your blog

I’m all for free speech. I want to start this post by being very clear about that. I’ve actually paid dearly for my belief in free speech (as in losing a job and a career.) What follows isn’t about censoring anyone. It’s about what’s best for a happier reader experience. In the spirit of honesty — without being brutal about it — here are things make me run from your blog:

1. Please don’t start a post by apologizing that you haven’t posted in a while. Everybody says sorry when there’s a lull, but few readers would notice if you don’t tell us. I see it with podcasts all the time, too. When I see that apology as the lead paragraph, I don’t expect awesomeness to follow and I move on quickly. Maybe you feel bad for letting us down, but it’s blogging, not a kidney donated too late. Ease up on the throat clearing and tell us the crux of your post up front. Have something to say.

2. Unless a hurricane has taken your house away or you’re facing extreme weather bravely (or even in a cowardly manner), your blog isn’t the place to talk about the weather. That’s what Twitter and Facebook are for. (Facebook is for people who at least sort of know you and it’s the place to be funny/political/share grumpy cat pics; Twitter is for strangers you hope to make into friends; blogs are the place for us to be honest/helpful/funny/entertaining/whatever you’re into.) 

3. Don’t make your blog post so short that it feels like a cheat post (i.e. you posted just to post and put no thought or effort into it.)

4. Don’t make it as long as I did yesterday. Confession: I should have broken that post up into three days of blog posts. I was just so excited about my little epiphany, I blurted it all out at once, unable to contain myself, eager to help and share. That was a mistake, but if you managed to get to the end of it, you’re probably pretty happy you snuggled into your blankie with provisions for the endurance read. Sorry about that. I messed up.

5. Snark can be funny, but a steady diet is wearing. Mean can be funny as long as it’s deserved and you’re punching up, not down. However, a blogger of my acquaintance recently went on at too much length about how she’d been wronged. She had a point, but by the time she finished dissecting the person who wronged her, I almost felt worse for the offender than the pedantic victim. Keep it on track and if you feel you have to slag someone in public, be concise. (Better, keep it between you two and try to find a way to work it out privately without embarrassing anyone.)

I’m not big on rules. Break these rules if you want. It’s doubtful, but maybe you can be the first to actually make the admission that you haven’t blogged in a while entertaining. Call these warnings or guidelines. There’s probably lots more neither of us should ever say, but it’s a free country and a free Internet. That’s the beauty of it. It’s the Old West and there ain’t no sheriff to poop on our free expression parade. Usually when things go awry it’s because we somehow managed to poop on ourselves.

Aspire to Inspire eBook JPG~ Robert Chazz Chute writes books. The first few minutes of each writing session are stressful. Then the wings spread.

Learn more about Chazz’s books and the All That Chazz podcast at AllThatChazz.com.

 

Filed under: blogs & blogging, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, , , , , , , , , , ,

Micro-publishing is publishing: Tools, tech and committing to change

Crack the Indie Author CodeWordPress Widget: Milestone

Your greatest tool is your mind, but your armoury doesn’t stop there. There’s that baseball bat under your driver’s seat. Oh, and glance to the left for my new deadlines, on display for Thor and everybody. I’ve struggled a bit with two works-in-progress. I had a false start and have to backtrack a bit with one (for the greater good). The other book is in revisions. It’s a huge project. It’s so secret, a team of kidnapped international scientists are working on it in a fortified base under a volcano guarded by an army of cloned ninja monkeys.

Projects need deadlines and production schedules. Successfully meeting those goals requires that I broadcast those commitment to my peers. That’s you, and that’s where the time trackers to the left come in. It’s a countdown to the launch of my metaphorical rockets. The timers are created with a WordPress widget you can use, too. On the Widgets menu of your WordPress dashboard, it’s called Milestone. Easy-peasy-here’s-a-reminder-to-stay-on-track.

Use Animoto for quick and easy video messages 

The second tool for spreading the word is Animoto. Videos get more attention than text. That’s our world. Deal with it. Many readers will click the video without reading these words. That’s okay. I just wanted to point out that a couple of months ago, I made a loud declarative statement that I would soon have all my books available everywhere. After polling a number of fellow authors and chatting with friends and allies through this blog, it’s apparent to me that I’m not ready to ditch KDP Select entirely just yet. The migration to other  platforms will be slower than I anticipated because the consensus is that exclusivity with Amazon is still the better bet overall. My forays into other platforms will be experiments, measured and evaluated.

Here’s a link to my first Animoto video.

Make a video of your own at Animoto.

Aspire to Inspire eBook JPGDitching intermediators

The beauty of micropublishing is that we can be flexible and change our minds without calling a meeting or paying extra fees for each detail. In the spirit of taking full control of my books, I’m ditching BookBaby. For my first book, Self-help for Stoners, I used their service to publish the ebook. It might even have been the right choice for me then. I was too intimidated by the details of dealing with formatting and taxes and I  wanted to get my book published faster.

Now I’ve got it together eight or so books later, it’s apparent I’ve sacrificed too much flexibility in giving up Self-help for Stoners to an intermediator. Any minor change in strategy costs more money, takes more time and, frankly, they’ve been slow to respond to my requests in the past. I like when the check arrives, but with a little more effort, I can cut costs, regain control and optimize the book. Once I withdraw it and republish, I can make those changes quickly and easily. I’ll release Self-help for Stoners as a new edition with new material. This baby’s growing up. No more hesitation or excuses, hoping things will get better. I’ll make them better.

Book category Bingo

Speaking of switching tactics easily, readers may find you by your book categories. They may not discover your awesomeness for the same reason. When is the last time you revisited your book’s categories?

I reviewed all my books’ assigned categories yesterday. For my writing and publishing guides, I changed to “Editing and proofreading” for the first book and “Authorship” for the second. You are allowed two categories per book. Choose wisely. For Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus, I switched from “Hardboiled” to “Crime” and from “Suspense” to “Crime” respectively. I’ll give that some time and if there’s no improvement, I might try switching to “Men’s Adventure” and see how that flies. It’s free to experiment when it’s all under your direct control.

Experimentation, improvement and getting it right is fun when it’s under your control. 

Higher+than+Jesus+Front+1029~Robert Chazz Chute is that guy who thinks like a hit man but has learned to sublimate his rage with humor, usually. Hear the first chapter of Higher Than Jesus, in which his hit man, Jesus Diaz, looks for love in all the wrong places (and Vicodin and bombs in Chicago.) It’s on the All That Chazz Podcast, broadcast chapter by chapter once a week. Or just go read the book. It’s fun and funny.

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

Writers and Readers: Heads up! Exciting changes ahead!

I have some really cool changes coming in the near future. I really don’t want to lose anybody as the changes take effect so, against my nature and all that’s holy, brace yourself for a brief commercial:

I’m putting it out there.

Please subscribe to my blog

and please ask your friends and followers to do the same.

What changed? I’ve been making lots of moves in the last year or so, but there’s a lot more to do.

(Here’s what gave me the big push this week. If you need a push, you’ll get one. Hard.)

Since last May, I’ve been posting to Chazz Writes five times a week.

That will soon change to three rocking posts each week:

Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

When is “soon” with the new schedule? Probably after next week.

Nothing but the schedule will change immediately.

  • I’m still putting great information and links out there.
  • I’m still looking for authors to profile.
  • I’m still available for guest blogging opportunities and giving guest blogging opportunities.
  • I’m still editing just as much as ever.
  • Also still looking for (affordable) web developers to help me migrate to a new hosted platform that will become more interactive.

What exactly is coming, Chazz?

Aside from my regular editing duties, I’m editing my novel and its companion e-book.The details are top secret until I’m ready to launch. Subscribers will be in on the ground floor for extras when the books drop like valkyries from the sky attacking to a Wagner soundtrack.

Stay tuned. And seriously, please subscribe so you’ll be in the know.

 

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

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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