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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

One of us! One of us! Burn that bushel to sell more books

Crack the Indie Author CodeI’ve rethought free lately and I see now that I got something wrong. I didn’t wade deep enough into the free pool. When we give books away, we shouldn’t focus on getting those same people to buy more of our books, as awesome as that would be. We should build a team of enthusiastic disciples. As marketing guru Seth Godin says, “Nobody says I can’t make a living because too many people are reading my book for free.” 

I had assumed that he simply meant that same group of “too many people” would turn around and purchase the rest of your bookshelf. Therefore, publish a lot of books.

It’s still a great idea to publish a lot of books, but we can go much deeper. Here’s how:


Most authors try to get traction in the short-term by having friends and family buy their books and hope that, somehow, word will spread. That’s a flawed strategy, not least because it’s incredibly hard to get anyone to write a review.

Instead, think long-term leverage. What we should do is give books away to our true believers to build our network of reviewers, allies and preachers of your gospel. Your biggest fan isn’t necessarily your dad (at least mine isn’t.) My biggest allies are on my newsletter subscription list and those who have declared themselves fans. That’s my beachhead. We seed the morphogenetic field and percolate through the culture by sending out free information. (That’s even happening now as you read these words.) To infest the culture, you’re going to need a cult.


If some loon can convince a group of nerds to become eunuchs because aliens are arriving in a comet’s tail (yeah, that happened) building a cult shouldn’t be too much harder than convincing friends to help you move a piano. Okay, it’s going to be pretty f&$#!!! hard to reach critical mass, but the alternative is obscurity and failure, so gird your loins and strap in.

What each of us needs is a cult of proselytizers to spread our word. They’ll tell two friends and they’ll tell two friends etc.,… We need people — author CJ Lyons calls them “street teams” — to read, review and spread the happy word. We build those teams by giving away free books. This is not new. However, when most of us think about free promotion, we think of a contest giveaway or our five KDP Select free days. There’s much more to do and these strategies require your generosity.


1. The long-term money starts with your list. Build one. If you don’t already have one, set up a subscription for a newsletter on your author site. I use Mailchimp at my author site, AllThatChazz.com, I give shoutouts on the All That Chazz podcast to new subscribers. I’m thanking them, but I’m also giving their book, business, blog or website free promotion. You have to incentivize now to monetize later.

2. In advance of your next book release, give away review copies to people on your list. CJ Lyons gives away fifty books at a time to her street team (out of a pool of 200, so she’s not asking the same people for an advance review all the time. She published eight books last year.*)

Some churlish people think there’s something wrong with reviews appearing as soon as a book is published. That’s not cheating. It’s actually standard practice in publishing to give out advance review copies (ARCS). Every publishing house gears their publication dates to when reviews can appear in major publications. CJ Lyons admits she’s received a three-star review from a street team member, so obviously membership in her cult doesn’t equal idolatry for every book.

3. Speaking of standard practices, send out more review copies to book bloggers and review sites. Sharing an epub file or a kindle mobi costs you nothing so there’s no reason to hold back. I’ve switched my thinking about paperbacks recently, too, so my focus with CreateSpace is usually (though not always) for promotional purposes and much less for direct sales. I always send signed paperbacks to influential people, editorial team members and people who have inspired me as a special thanks.

4. Write something that is meant as an introduction to your flavor and make it extremely cheap or free forever. It doesn’t have to be long but make sure you show off. Here’s a NSFW example from Johnny B. Truant. He says this one essay about our place in the universe gets 60 downloads a day. It takes just a few minutes to read, but he’s spreading his word and beginning induction into his cult.

Naturally, some authors will object to these strategies. I’ve anticipated objections so…


PULL! But giving away free books devalues my art!

BLAM! What devalues your art is, though no doubt brilliant, it’s sitting unread. Your light is hiding under a bushel of entitlement. To burn that bushel: Get generous, make friends, build a list and inspire a network.

PULL! But I don’t want a “cult”. 

BLAM! Don’t get so deep in the metaphor that you miss the tasty cheesecake. Chuck Pahlaniuk’s fans really are called “The Cult” but they haven’t established an armed, fortified compound. They’re just really into Chuck’s books…okay, and possibly punching each other in the face. But who isn’t into Fight Club?

PULL! I want my success to happen organically so it’s not a flash-in-the-pan cult of personality. 

BLAM! No worries there, mate. If they don’t like your books, they’ll hate you. Everyone confuses the book with the worst potential of its author.

BLAM! The marketplace is so congested, one “flash in the pan” might be our best chance. Success could come without getting others to blow your horn, sure. However, it’ll probably be a post mortem-type deal. Your genius will be discovered when an Amazon hard drive is pulled from the sand of a burnt Earth by a curious alien who discovers he’s really into cozy mysteries set in Maine with a ghost unicorn as the retired detective out to solve the murders of syphilitic elves. Best of luck.

PULL! I really just want to write my books and do no marketing.

BLAM! Most authors get into micro-publishing to take control of their fate, not leave it to the whims of strangers. (No offense intended, but what are you doing reading this far then?)

BLAM! You can just write more books and hope for the best. That’s not the way to bet, though. This is Art + Business = Art that is read + More Art. If marketing makes you feel impure, why publish at all?

PULL! Free is the finish line for the race to the bottom in book prices!

BLAM! Since few will heed this advice, don’t worry about what the unread herd does. The herd focusses on losing 100 book sales. Your intention is to stun with sales of 100,000 to a million or more.

BLAM! Good art will survive. You can’t build a cult around your books if they suck. In fact, give away more bad books and you’ll sink faster.

PULL! Free means more one-star reviews from people who will never like my books!

BLAM! Why worry about people will only ever download it if it’s free? They aren’t eligible to be cult members. One-star reviews are usually so poorly thought out, no one takes them seriously besides people who give out one-star reviews. When you’re selling chocolate, you don’t grieve for those freaks who only eat vanilla. Sell more chocolate.

*The Self-publishing Podcast has a great interview with CJ Lyons in Episode 32.

Aspire to Inspire eBook JPG~ For more from me on micro-publishing and book marketing, pick up Crack the Indie Author Code and Write your Book: Aspire to Inspire by clicking the covers on this post.

I’m hunting for cool and interested people for my cult. Are you one of us? To sign up for my free newsletter and get a shoutout on the All That Chazz Podcast, go to AllThatChazz.com and do the drill in the right sidebar.

I’m looking for cool and interesting people. Are you one? To be interviewed on the All That Chazz podcast, click the Chazz Has Guests tab at the top of this page.


Filed under: book marketing, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Writers: Reality check

Aspire to Inspire eBook JPGPassion is more important than discipline.

Passion is the why. Discipline is the how that comes after the why. If you have passion for your writing, you won’t have to whip yourself to get to your keyboard. If you love what you do, it’s not work. It is play.

If you’re having fun, chances are your readers will have fun along with you.

Are you having fun with your writing? Is it alive and lively or are you forcing it? If you’re complaining about the work of writing, you haven’t hauled a huge wood stove into somebody’s basement down steep stairs, crawled through itchy pink insulation in a hot attic or dealt with some jerk from the wrong side of the Customer Service Counter. “I’m sorry, but if you don’t have a receipt for this blender…sure, you can complain to my manager about what a bad person I am for enforcing the rules everyone who isn’t a pinhead knows…sir.”

Writing isn’t for wimps, though.

As you write your next sentence, paragraph or chapter, dare to take the story in an unexpected direction. The expected direction is too easy. Your audience is people who read. They’re smart. They’ll spot the easy trajectory, the facile solution and clichéd dialogue. They’ll yawn and put down your book. Don’t let them. Keep them up all night, wondering. Challenge yourself and your characters more. Sure your heroine wins in the end, but who saw the inebriated monkey with the bandsaw coming? Only you could make that story arc work (wow, how awesome are you!)


Dare to be funny. Do some research so they’ll believe you and do some more so you can tell them something they don’t know. Let them hear your distinctive voice in their heads as they read. I once heard an author do a reading of a crime scene. It could have been any opening scene to a Law & Order (i.e. jogger finds beautiful corpse in Central Park/cops discuss). But she gave us flat characters and added nothing to make it different or memorable. It wasn’t just boring. It insulted the audience because the author expected to roll out her most minimal effort and earn applause. She received polite, golf green applause and I hated her a little for having to give her that much.

Write like it matters because it does.

In writing, you are creating new neural connections and giving your brain a dopamine bath. You’re reaching out to readers through time and space to distract them from our collective doom. Entertainment isn’t a “mere” entertainment. It’s an escape from existential horror. It’s respite from the retail hell for some poor girl in Idaho who needs a break after slaving all day in a Mrs. Field’s outlet at the mall. That girl needs to fill her brain with love, adventure, giggles and false hope or she won’t make it through another day of standing at that godforsaken counter praying for an asteroid strike and doling out diabetes.

Writing is one of the few things that is simultaneously brave and joyful.

Your profession is a daily act of compassion. Writing is Art, dammit! Besides feeding a loved one, kissing a boo-boo or strangling a mime, what could be better than a hot cup of coffee and the privilege of exploring the mysteries in an undistracted hour?

Writing is the best meditation.

When I can make myself laugh or cry with my words (and hope to touch another) it almost makes me doubt I’m soulless. When it’s especially good, our work has the power to stir emotions, learn the secrets our minds keep from us and maybe even squeeze meaning from stars. Don’t you dare complain you had a tough go at it today. You’re nothing less than a psychonaut divining what’s real and valuable from the deception others call The Ordinary. Writers know nothing is ordinary and our vision takes us to greater depths to pull our readers to heights. We help people fly through an otherwise egregious hour and make it feel like minutes in a better world. We’re the drug in the doctor’s waiting room. We make getting trapped, housebound in a snowstorm, worthwhile. 

Love yourself and love others by writing today.

Aspire to inspire others with your words and let your actions fall into natural alignment with your mission. Write!

We are writers.

We are the lucky ones.

Make it a great day.

Filed under: Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , ,

How writers become publishers: Tools for the quest for love in 2013

In the days following Christmas, with your eyes on the prize of snagging all those new readers with new e-readers, you have hope. You’re out there marketing and trying to grab a piece of that book market pie. Hope must be tempered with thought and experience, so consider these valuable resources: 

More tips and tricks to steer your authorship.

More tips and tricks to steer your authorship.

1. The Self-publishing Podcast

I finally found a podcast that talks about writing and publishing the same way I talk about it: It’s often genuinely fun. I listen to a lot of writing podcasts that are all about the scolding. Self-publishers aren’t naughty children, so that’s tiring. The Self-publishing Podcast isn’t like that. 

2. Litopia

It’s a podcast that speaks with authority about publishing. They used to take themselves a tad too seriously. It’s improved and they tackle interesting publishing issues. Have a listen. 

3. APE

You’re an APE (Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur). Marketing guru Guy Kawasaki breaks it down in his new book.

4. You. Yes, you!

In a few days you’re going to make some half-assed New Year’s resolutions. We all will, but it doesn’t have to be a too-familiar exercise in failure that mimics last year’s New Year’s resolutions. Dreams of success can inspire you and fuel your art and business. Fantasies can distract or destroy. What can’t you control and what do you need help with?

If 2013 is really going to be your year, take this time to think about what’s real. Resolutions that work are plans that include lists and measurement and many course corrections. Many writers could realize their potential if they harnessed all that New Year’s resolution energy and converted it into daily resolve. (Ooh, does that sound too grim? It shouldn’t. Most of what we do as writers and publishers is fun.) 

You’ve got a lot to consider seriously in the battle for 2013 and readers’ hearts and minds. How about you hold off on making those big resolutions just yet? You’re still lethargic from all that Christmas turkey. Instead, take today to ruminate and marinate. You know yourself best. It’s introspection time.

5. Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire

As long as we’re talking about reading great books about writing and publishing that are fun, helpful and encouraging, how about these? Yes, I wrote them and I’m biased, but they’re no less double-plus awesome.

Grab Crack the Indie Author Code here.

Grab Crack the Indie Author Code and fuel your inspiration.

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

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

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

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