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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

Every Writer Needs a Gari

I’ve taken a bunch of writing workshops, but one thing I learned that I consider most valuable is about managing expectations. A very successful author stood at the front of the room and pulled a manuscript from her bag. The stack of paper bound by rubber bands was replete with Post-It Notes, all corrections from her editor. I don’t know whether it was her line editor or copy editor, but I can tell you the notes were copious, several to a page. That’s normal. Expect problems and recruit more pairs of eyes to comb your manuscript.

When I worked at Harlequin, we had many tiers of editors and proofers working on each manuscript. A few typos and whatnot still slipped through the net. We can aim for excellence, but perfection will always hover just beyond our grasp. You know why? Because we don’t know what we don’t know. Everybody needs a safety net. Whether you pay an editor or recruit a passel of beta readers (preferably both), pobody’s nerfect.

As I write this, I’m going through revisions on two new books (coming soon). I didn’t know the difference between a chartered accountant and a CPA. I didn’t think to check, either. However, my beta reader caught it. He also knew that it’s not restauranteur (with an n). It’s restaurateur. Somebody reading this doesn’t believe me because they, like me, have been spelling it incorrectly their entire lives. (For more on why the n is left out, enjoy this article from Mental Floss.)

Every time I think, Yeah, I’ve gone through the manuscript a few times. Surely, it’s pretty clean. Nope! And why? I’m not careless and I’m not an idiot, but I don’t know what I don’t know. The idiosyncrasies of comma placement often befuddle me. When I read a sentence, sometimes my brain fills in blanks so I miss something that should or shouldn’t be there. I publish in American English, but I sometimes write in Canadian. There are subtle differences and nuances, like whether to write Grade 4, or fourth grade. Some regional or Irish idioms that I grew up with would sound odd and unfamiliar to American readers.

Writing primarily for an American audience, I’ll take something for granted they may not. For instance, I wrote, “She took up after them,” instead of “She took off after them.” To me, took off connotes speed. Took up means the chase is on, but the runner is trailing and not catching up. Once our masterpieces are sanded smooth, readers stumble less. You want an easy glide path into their brains so you can highjack the feed of their consciousness. That’s where recruiting help comes in.

Fortunately, I have Gari Strawn of strawnediting.com on my side. Among Gari’s strengths are her tireless curiosity and a keen eye for details. I also suspect she sleeps with the Chicago Manual of Style under her pillow. She knows things, eases my stress, and allows me to focus on the story.

Confused about when to write a number out or type the numeral? Trained as a journalist, I was stuck in the AP Stylebook mindset until Gari reminded me of CMOS guidelines. Russ, my beta reader, and Gari, my assiduous editor, help to make my work better and clearer. Even Batman had Robin watching his back, so, no, most people cannot reliably edit their own work. Some authors will push back on this idea and say, “I’ve been an editor so I can edit my work.” Put aside the premise that you don’t know what you don’t know. To those writers, I would ask, “Why would you want to work without a net?” Please tell me it’s not pride. Would you rather hear about your misses privately and correct them, or read about them publicly in a negative book review?

Good editors and capable beta readers are out there and they do want to help you. If it’s not an editor, work with other writers. Recruit a team of beta readers. Since I began working with Gari, I’m more confident when I hit that big scary button marked Publish.

Something may still slip through, but that’s the case with every published book. Manage your expectations, strive for excellence, let others help. Expecting perfection is unhealthy and unrealistic, but making your books as wonderful as you can manage is much easier on you in the long-term.

~ I write killer crime thrillers and apocalyptic epics. Get the links to all my work at my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: Editing, Editors, writing advice, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Show me you are a writer

You know this meme:

Tell me you’re X without telling me you’re X.
It just occurred to me that this is another version of a good writing guideline: Show, don’t tell.

Good fiction exploits resonance and a certain amount of circuitousness. Don’t tell me your heroine is brave. Let the character demonstrate her bravery. Book readers want to meet the author halfway to achieve an immersive experience. They don’t want a telegram.

Of course, there are times to tell, not show. When dialogue is interesting and clever, let it be said in quotes. If the dialogue is merely informative and delivers zero bam-pop-pow, then it’s time to tell instead of show.

Telling:

He asked me if I wanted a coffee before the interview, and I declined.

Showing:

“Fancy a hot cup of java?”

“No offense, sir, but I make it my policy to never accept any beverage from a person of interest in a poisoning case.”

~ Robert Chazz Chute shows and tells appropriately. His killer crime thrillers and apocalyptic epics deliver lots of bam-pop-pow. Check out his books on his author site, AllThatChazz.com.

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

War Stories from Trad Publishing

When I moved to Toronto to enter the heady field of publishing, I had romanticized the profession. Profession, see? I didn’t know yet that it is mostly an industry. I dreamed that, surrounded by the glittering literati, it would be all wonderful words, sharp wit, and too many cocktails at book launches. Here are a few things I learned in short order:

1. If you’re looking for opportunities to trade bon mots, people in publishing don’t have a monopoly on that skill. They might have cornered the market on a false sense of superiority and condescension, but funny? Nope! Most of us were poor. Trying to survive in one of the most expensive cities in the world does tend to dampen one’s spirits.

2. If you’re new to the industry, anyone who’s been at it for two years longer will step back to see if you’re wearing shoes. At my first cocktail party, someone held forth on the strife of the former Yugoslavia and denigrated my opinion. She may have thought me a young hick, but I was the only one in the room who had actually traveled there and witnessed the damage bullets can do.

Snobs tend to gravitate to the profession. Stephen King left a publisher who profited well off his books because, despite his early success, they couldn’t seem to remember his name when they passed in the hallway. “Only a genre author, you know.”

3. After working in traditional publishing for five years, I can assure you that they don’t have a disproportionate number of smarter people than any other industry. I was chronically underwhelmed by many of my colleagues. There were a few gems, of course, but plenty of folks whose job was to make judgments had lousy judgment. One publisher I worked for ran himself out of business because he only wanted to put out “important” books. He may have briefly impressed his friends on the Rosedale circuit, but his list did not sell enough to sustain. I remember telling my sales manager, “Another sodbuster? Fine, but would it kill him to put out a cookbook people will actually buy this Christmas?”

4. People on the editorial side, mostly women, are infamously underpaid. They do not share the wealth. The moolah all funnels up. (And don’t get me started on the unpaid intern scam.)

5. Some editors and not a few salespeople denigrate authors’ efforts. Publishing companies buy manuscripts to sell books, but their respect for those who produce those manuscripts varies widely.

Hey! Want to break free of the blank page and work inside trad publishing? If you were impressed by the dismissive speech Meryl Streep gives Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada, this might be the job for you! If, on the other hand, you have self-respect and intolerance for workplace abuse, at least work at a firm big enough for an HR department.
(I put a bad boss in a hammerlock once. That fucker still owes me $5,000.)

6. Perhaps driven by desperation, some authors are pills, too. For instance, Bookstore X refused to sell books by a particular author who had a bad reputation. Bookstore X stood just down the street from the publishing house, so naturally, when the author got taken to a liquid lunch, they stopped in. The author discovered Bookstore X did not carry any of his books. “But I’m a literary icon!” the author wheedled.

Embarrassed, the publisher blamed the sales rep (i.e. me) and sent a memo to my boss. “What’s going on?” she wailed. It wasn’t a conspiracy. What was going on was the bookstore owner didn’t like the author personally. Nobody liked either of them, in fact. In hurting himself, the author tried to hurt me. (That writer is dead now. I claim to have had nothing to do with it.)

7. Speaking of bookstore owners, I liked most of them, but they had romantic ideas getting into their business, too. They thought they’d be reading books constantly, maybe even hobnobbing with famous authors. Instead, they were often saddled with businesses pushed out and pushed down by big box retail and online stores. Calculating GST payments all day and worrying about impending doom does make one surly.

One guy made a big deal out of the fact a sales rep didn’t want to get up at 4 in the morning and travel up from Toronto to pay a visit at 5:30 a.m. to a little bookstore in the back of the beyond. (Wasn’t me, but I felt bad for the sales rep from another house.) Another bookstore owner got very pissy that I dared to use the word comedy instead of humor. That person is now out of business, but I assume she’s yelling at some retail worker somewhere on Instagram.

I was tasked with presenting an extensive list for 16 publishers to a board of librarians. There were more than a
dozen people around the table as I went into my spiel. One guy thought the enthusiasm I had for my list made me stupid. I made a joke and he rolled his eyes. “Ba-dum-bump!”

I was young and full of blue piss, so I stopped my show and pushed back. “You don’t want me to be funny and energetic in my sales pitch? Fine. I. Can. Deliver. The. Entire. List. In. Robotic.
Fashion. If. You. Want. You wanna stop busting my balls now?” Everyone laughed but the guy I called out, but how can badly behaving customers learn if we don’t teach them?

8. Not everyone has romanticized ideas about what they do. My first two publishing jobs were at Harlequin. An exec struck up a conversation with me in the company cafeteria. “Why did you come here?” he asked. I told him my background was in journalism, but I loved books so I got into publishing.


“We’re not really publishers, though,” he said. “We’re book packagers.”

Meeting him, I vowed to escape before my innocence and light of aspiration in my eyes went dead.
You do want to keep some of your beginner’s mind as you move through your career. Otherwise, the days are long and sad.

9. A wannabe novelist and poet who worked as a copy editor told me, “Many people who want to write gravitate to this industry.” Then he cackled on at length about an author whose typo mixed up desert and dessert.
Maybe he wouldn’t have been so mean to actual writers if he didn’t still have a novel of his own trapped in his head. Frustrated writers make the most truculent editors.

You used to see this kind of behavior on social media, and the worst offenders were snotty agents. I don’t know if there are still high-profile agents making sport of the authors and unsolicited manuscripts in their slush piles. There are fewer agents now, perhaps for good reason.

10. This may be the worst one: Plenty of authors betting big on their first book have a romanticized idea of what New York or Toronto can do for them. They think if they get a traditional pub contract, they’re set for life. They won’t have to do a thing but write. Most authors don’t make much, and there are quite a few independent authors who do better financially. Either way, most of the marketing is on you. Some marketing requirements will feel onerous and still come to naught.

Unless you’re a controversial political figure or a hot celebrity, your advance will be lower than it was thirty years ago (and it wasn’t great then.) You may never earn out your advance and get royalties. Promotional opportunities that independent authors routinely use are denied you by traditional publishers. You don’t have the flexibility. If your first book fails to clear the bar, a trad publisher is unlikely to bet on you twice. Organize your own company, editorial team, and marketing, and you’ll get as many kicks on goal as you want.


Trying to negotiate a trad contract? Your publisher will inform you all contracts are boilerplate. Ignore them and have an IP lawyer negotiate for you before you sign your rights away. Nobody’s looking out for you but you. The acquiring editor is not your enemy, but this is the business part, not the art part.

About trad pub transparency: Your advance will come slowly, in stages, and you’ll have to rely on accounting reports from the publisher that obfuscate reality. At best, you’ll find out how your book is doing a couple of times a year, too late to respond in a timely manner.


FULL DISCLOSURE:

I’ve been independent since 2010, but I’m not saying you shouldn’t try your luck, talent, and skill in the traditional publishing arena. I am saying you should go in with your eyes open. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone.

Last year, a NY publisher approached me about submissions. I admit, I was excited. I sent an outline for a thriller. I haven’t heard anything from them since. I would still consider going hybrid, for sure. Any chance to expand my readership is an alluring thing. On the other hand, knowing what I know about all the variables, I’m not into chasing after anyone, either. (Cue Cheap Trick singing, “I Want You to Want Me!”)


BONUS MYTHS:

Some writers believe they are bound to get treated better by a boutique publishing house. At small operations, whoever answers the phone is more likely to know your name. However, a business on the brink is not more likely to treat you better. They don’t have the budget for that. They are more likely to go out of business.

Big versus little isn’t the issue. It’s about the people. It’s nice to work with nice, competent people who love what they do and share a sense of urgency about your work and concerns. But there’s another fly in the ointment. Editorial staffs have been downsized for years in favor of cheaper outsourcing. That editor at Big Publishing House who loved you and your work last year may not be there this year. She’s selling alpacas in Arizona now, and she’s much happier.



~ My next novel launches this September. In the meantime, please do check out links to my killer crime thrillers and apocalyptic epics at AllThatChazz.com.

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Help for the Anxious Writer

If your book idea feels thin at first, consider that Ice Road Truckers barreled on for 11 seasons and found an audience. If you’ve got a grand idea for a novel, but it’s not springing onto the page fully formed, I have some suggestions. If you’re unsure of yourself as a writer, I’ve got ideas about that, too.

When you lack confidence:

  • You don’t have to stop where you are today.
  • If you write more than one book, each level of success will vary. Think in terms of moving forward instead of dwelling on failures.
  • Go deeper into characters’ back stories to find the way forward.
  • Elucidate motivations and deny what each character wants. When desires conflict, you’ve got drama.
  • Do you have the basics? Who, what, where, why, when and how.
  • Play to your experience and strengths, but it’s not necessary to write what you know. Write what you care about.
  • Go deeper on specifics without beating the reader over the head with your deepest research.
  • Get the details right. For many readers, procedurals and process are porn.
  • Set the scene to give the reader a sense of time and place. Don’t forget the smells and feels, the sense and impact of the location, but don’t go too hard on the weather report.
  • Find the next step in your plot by finding a logical move, but don’t succumb to the first easy answer that springs to mind.
  • Discover the logical surprise twist. Defy the reader’s comfort in thinking they know how the story will unfold.
  • Smooth out the bumps later so it looks like you planned the entire narrative from beginning to end.
  • Too much editing as you go will impede progress. You’ll have a sharp Chapter One with no Chapter 2.
  • Make your characters distinctive. Giving one twin a porkpie hat he adjusts and readjusts for 200 pages isn’t special enough.
  • If two characters sound alike and perform the same function in the story, they might as well be one person.
  • Put the manuscript aside and give it more thought so you look like a genius later.
  • Put it aside and don’t think about it. The answer often appears when you come back to it fresh.
  • Don’t put a manuscript aside for too long.
  • Don’t get overwhelmed or too precious about storytelling. Plenty of half-drunk half-idiots sitting around campfires have told entertaining yarns for thousands of years.
  • Focus on the A to B to C in the first and second draft. Action flows from character and is character.
  • Themes will emerge later. Don’t set out to write a theme. A manifesto has no plot.
  • Entertainment is Goal #1. Don’t set out to educate with a novel. That souffle will fall flat.
  • Your main character needs a fatal flaw or they’ll be boring. Too perfect is boring and inhuman.
  • Your protagonist needs more obstacles in their way. Heroes and heroines have to be smoked in the oven a long time before they’re done.
  • Your villain needs the complexity of nuance and a purpose they believe is noble. No one thinks they’re the villain.
  • No character should feel like a red shirt, easily sacrificed. Henchman #3 has a family and feelings, dammit!
  • Don’t allow a smart person to do a dumb thing just to make a plot work. That’s the sound of gears grinding in a rusty machine.
  • Avoid a story with one tone, particularly if it’s one grim tone.
  • Heroics and horror both have room for humor when the wit is well-placed (but if you aren’t funny, don’t force it).
  • Fight scenes and sex scenes are similar: they both need to acknowledge the breath, heat, emotion and effort involved.
  • Read more in the genre to make sure you’re hitting the tropes without surrendering to cliche.
  • Drop the boring parts and concede that not every idea is worthy of a novel. Your idea for a full-length novel might make a better novella or short story.
  • Make your characters more relatable but don’t succumb to the critic who says, “People don’t act like that.” This character, your character, acts like that.
  • Decide your protagonist is unchanging and the series is episodic (e.g. Sherlock Holmes) or decide on a story arc that allows for character growth. Ignore reviewers who demand your character be fully actualized immediately. They don’t have the patience to understand what you’re doing with that character in the next book.
  • Dare to write a bold plot point, but too many coincidences are death.
  • Disguise your deceptions until the big reveals strike.
  • Contextualize the fantastic with normality to enhance the suspension of disbelief.
  • Read your manuscript like a reader, not like a writer.
  • Pick your allies carefully. Writers are much harder to please than casual readers and their motivations are sometimes suspect. (Hint: most readers are of the casual variety looking for distraction and escape, not an argument over comma placement.)
  • Let go of what isn’t working. Harvest wheat, cut chaff.
  • Go deep to create an immersive page turner. Make a movie in their heads.
  • Find an editor you trust who is out to help you, not tear you down. Some editors get into this biz for the wrong reasons.
  • The right length is the word count that gets to the end of the story.
  • Rely on feedback from your real readers, not randos.
  • Rewrite to make the reading experience richer.
  • Revise for clarity.
  • Edit to get where you’re going at the right speed, avoiding detours, potholes and plot holes along the route.
  • Drop the ten-dollar words but don’t talk down to your audience.
  • Do not overwrite character descriptions. You’ll interfere with the movie in their heads.
  • Have fun. If you’re having fun, readers probably will, too.
  • Are you getting up from the desk often enough? Moving? Getting some air and enough sleep? Feed the body, energize the brain, charge up Ole Ink Hill.
  • The only reason you dislike your manuscript might be that you’ve reread and rewritten it too many times. Your personal draft limit will vary. Send it to your editor when you hit the wall.
  • Cute can work. Too twee? Less so. So much depends on what you’re writing. Consider the variables. Listen to your heart when you write. Listen to your brain when you revise. Listen to your editor before you publish.
  • These are broad guidelines. Sometimes it is better to tell rather than show. If it plays, it plays.
  • Some write like they talk. When done well, it will sound natural.
  • Some try to write as if they’re 17th Century British nobles.
  • Let the words come from you. With revisions, You the Writer will come across smoother than You the Person with Cookie Crumbs Down Your Shirt.
  • Stop being so precious about writing. This is art, not a procrastination project. You want it to be excellent, not perfect.
  • Lives do not hang in the balance, not even your life.
  • Finish.
  • Edit.
  • Proof.
  • Publish.
  • Some will love you no matter what you do. Some will hate you no matter what. Most don’t give a shit. Let go of demanding that your family care about your high calling. Stop caring about anyone outside your target audience. What does your brother know, anyway? He’s obsessed with golf and foot fetish porn.
  • Don’t depend on one book to make you famous.
  • Write another book.
  • Somebody’s going to hurt your feelings. Nobody hits a home run every time and not everyone’s opinion gets equal weight. Look for support in the right places.
  • You’re not writing a novel. That can feel overwhelming and possibly a terrible waste of time. Instead, you’re writing a little short story each day (or most days of the week, anyway). Each short story just happens to connect to the next short story. These stories are your chapters. Writer 45 to 55 or so, and behold! A book! See? Easier than it sounded at first!
  • Relax. Enjoy telling your stories. Focus on process now, not outcome.
  • With enough at-bats, you have a better shot at hitting home runs.
  • Don’t talk about writing more than you write.
  • Don’t give up unless you hate writing.
  • If you hate writing, there are plenty of other things to do that probably pay more.
  • If you love writing, there’s not much else to do.

    *If you prefer outlining, there’s nothing wrong with that and you might end up writing faster with fewer hiccups and less anxiety. Your mileage may vary and that’s a blog post for another time.

    ~ If you enjoy apocalyptic epics or killer crime thrillers, I’m your guy. Find all the books by Robert Chazz Chute at my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Filed under: the writing life, writing, writing advice, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , ,

TOP 10 Tips: KDP Ads, Updates and the Writing Biz

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This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)

The only zombie apocalypse with an autistic hero. If you liked The Stand, you’ll like this.

Tip #1: Tweak your print descriptions. 

I use the Author Marketing Club description tool to develop my book descriptions for Amazon. The template makes ebook descriptions look great. Don’t just copy and paste your ebook descriptions to your print book descriptions, though. The text will run together into one big block.

Add editorial reviews and more information to your author sales page Author Central. Give the readers more reasons to check you out and revisit those descriptions from time to time to try out fresh ad copy.

Tip #2: Update old books.

I know it’s a pain, but after a new book comes out, go back and reload old books to update your calls to action. I used to give readers too many choices when they were done reading. Now I just send them to AllThatChazz.com and encourage them to subscribe for updates.

Tip #3: When something isn’t working, change it.

I realized I was getting behind in podcasting because I hate reading my own work aloud. I remember being called upon to read aloud in class in fifth grade and I don’t like it anymore now. (If you must read, don’t rush it like I did.)

It took me forever to get through reading a book I love when I turned on the microphone. Lesson learned: renew the All That Chazz podcast. Changing the format. Go back to my comedy roots.

Also, I’ll get voice over artists for my audiobooks. Podcasting is so much fun as long as I’m having fun. I’m back to that with the latest episode. Click below to hear some jokes.

ALL THAT CHAZZ pod pic

Tip #4: Experiment

KDP Select came out with an advertising tool within Amazon that’s sort of like Google Adwords without all the bells and whistles. The beta test of this new discovery tool did not go well and the changes since the beta run are not apparent to users.

So far, according to my totally unscientific survey of players in the know and my own testing with three campaigns, it’s not working…yet. It may not. However, it’s CPC (cost per click) so, it’s not like it’s a huge risk. It’ll either work or it won’t.

Opt in or opt out for your books within Select via your bookshelf. Don’t decide to avoid early adoption because your still angry about Kindle Unlimited. These are business experiments and business decisions.

By the way, not for nothing but once again, Amazon innovates and experiments while the other platforms watch and wait for…something.

UPDATE: So far, a lot of impressions but no clicks. I imagine an underground marketing bunker on high alert far below Amazon. The accounting and IT departments are running in circles like they’re at Defcon 2 and they’re screaming at each other, “Figure it out! Figure it out! Why is this so much worse than Adwords?”

The experiment continues.

Tip #5: Tweak pricing

If you go through Draft2Digital, for instance, notice from your pricing dashboard that you can manage pricing for individual territories. The automatic pricing tool is based on the US dollar.

I fiddle with pricing a bit. For instance, the book price they set for India is always high. The figure you see on Amazon that is commensurate with the US dollar exchange could buy you three books in India. Also, when I see an odd number, say $4.11, I change it to $4.25 or 3.99. If I see a price where I’m also charged the VAT, I bump up the price a bit more to cover the VAT in that territory. People are used to prices that end in .99 or .25, .50, or .75. Odd numbers look too odd.

Tip #6: Perspective.

I won an honorable mention from Writer’s Digest for the This Plague of Days Omnibus. This is my eighth writing award, but the truth is that, sadly, these awards don’t really matter much.

The win did boost my sales of the Omnibus a bit. However, unless you win first prize, it’s not going to change your life (and not even then.) I’m happy to win an honorable mention. Also, the judge said nice things about TPOD I used for a strong editorial review. I got $50 worth of WD books that cost me $30 to ship so that puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?

Entering the contest cost $100, so I hope the prestige pays off in the long-term. I’m leveraging the happy as much as possible. The book is up forever so that balances out the expense somewhat, but the usefulness of the recognition is an unknown value. I don’t know how to solve for x in this case.

Tip #7: Productivity

If you missed last night’s podcast with Mat Morris, it was fun and informative. For instance, Mat talked about what he has learned from an app called Rescue Time and I’m a new disciple of that software. You can watch that episode of the Self-publishing Roundtable here.

Good tips amongst the hilarity, though sadly you missed my Sean Connery impression in the after-party. Tune in every Thursday night at 10 PM EST.

Tip #8: From to-do until to-done

Since the beginning of January I’ve added an old-school method of tracking my work, daily sales and expenses. I mark it all on a paper calendar. I don’t write down what I will do. I write down what I’ve accomplished at the end of the day. (And now I’m adding metrics from Rescue Time).

That which is not measured will not be changed, so word counts are of prime importance. You can use your project targets and stats in Scrivener to keep on track, too. It feels good to fill up that calendar each day and it tells me when I’ve gone off the rails. 

BEST (1)

Coming soon! Get The Haunting Lessons now so you’re ready for Book 2! THL is about a young woman from Iowa trying to stop Armageddon while dodging ghosts, demons, a bad doctor and a dead boyfriend. Come to New York. Join the Choir Invisible. Fight for the future.

Tip #9: Reassess

This Plague of Days is by far my flagship, but I have other books that sell well on Amazon. As long as that continues, I’m still exclusive to KDP Select with those products. I take note of the books that aren’t moving. That’s when I give the other sales platforms a chance at selling my brain babies.

On Amazon, my branding is diffuse. On Kobo, I appear to be a crime novelist and only a crime novelist. I’m told thrillers can move on Kobo. We’ll see, but I do like that my brand is more focussed on other platforms.

Tip #10: Consider teaming up

I am collaborating with three authors on three separate projects this year in addition to my own lonely and solitary writing. If you find the right partners, you can divide the work and multiply effort and resources.

Keeping up with their pace on Google Drive is motivating. I often write faster by the power of pure excitement. I don’t want to let my writing partners down, so guilt works, too.

~ I hope you found one of these suggestions helpful. Find out about deals, review copies and advanced review copies first by subscribing for updates at AllThatChazz.com. In the new podcast, I do terrible, terrible, entertaining things.

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Is blogging dead? To blog or not to blog?

As we move into 2015, I’m reevaluating what works and what doesn’t. In talking with another author, I suggested that blogging is all but dead. I could boost traffic to this blog by posting twice or more each day and pushing hard. However, I’d be luring back many of the same people. Blogging, for me, doesn’t pass the evaluation required by the 80/20 rule. There are ways to blog better and draw more eyeballs, but I don’t think that’s the most efficient use of my time. (Your mileage may vary, as always. I’ve got too many books to create to devote that much writing to blogging.)

It’s not that blogging hasn’t helped me in the past.

If blogging was all I did and if I was working a different business model, it could work. However, the odds against are steep. There is little time and plenty to do and not that many destination blogs. By “destination blogs,” I mean blogs we feel we have to visit every day. The best blogs are those that don’t need to remind you to check them out.

Sure, there are a few blogs that stand out.

I anxiously await the latest from The Passive Voice each day. Seth Godin’s blogs are short, pithy and easily digestible. Copyblogger is a place I should visit. However, the truth is, I only check out a few blogs on a regular basis.

A fellow author challenged my thinking on my stance.

His said blogging isn’t dead. It’s just that too many bloggers do it wrong.

I really took my time thinking about that. If true, that means that most of us are doing a bad job, and by most, I mean a staggering majority. We’re not all that dumb are we? Gee, I hope not. So…

Nope. I don’t buy it. Reading habits have changed from 2006. Those popular blogs are the few outliers. If you don’t have heavy traffic to your blog, don’t feel bad about it. You’re with the vast majority.

What am I doing instead of reading a lot of blogs?

I’m listening to podcasts. We’re listening to Smart Passive Income, the Sell More Books Show and the Rocking Self-publishing Podcast. 

YouTube and podcasts are where the action is. Through podcasts, I’m reaching out to readers on the Cool People Podcast and the All That Chazz Podcast. Blog reading time (and sadly, much book reading time) has been displaced with conversations overheard and videos shared. We’re multitasking, running on treadmills, doing dishes and commuting while listening to conversations from Stitcher and iTunes. Maybe my podcasts aren’t huge, either, but there is less competition there and there are other audiences to reach worldwide.

Besides podcasts, we’re also listening to audiobooks whilst doing the hamster wheel thing at the gym. (So create audiobooks.)

That said, I do continue to blog.

I’ve made a lot of friends through this blog, several of whom I’ve worked with. I came up with two books from this blog. However, my Pareto Principle Assessment stands going forward. I don’t blog every day but, when you subscribe, you’ll get a notice in your inbox when I decide I have something to say. That’s usually 2-3 times a week, not 2-3 times a day.

If you want to build your author platform around your blog, I’m not saying you shouldn’t. I’m saying it’ll take more effort than I’m willing to invest. That’s a project that’s a challenging time management problem and it’s not for me. I do enjoy blogging and, like all my writing, it’s a compulsion and an itch to be scratched.

Going forward, I’ll be creating and co-creating a lot of books this year. The math is, fiction that sells forever has to be the focus.

The choice isn’t really binary, of course, but I’m putting my weight behind more books and podcasts. I’m not alone in this assessment, either. I’ve noticed several more authors who are turning their efforts to video and audio and leaving blogging to trail behind, almost forgotten.

What’s your choice? Have you noticed you are reading blogs and books less and listening more?

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

So you want to be the next big thing?

Odium The Dead Saga cover

~ Guest post by Claire C Riley

Most writers start out on this crazy train wreck of a journey with one thing in their mind: to tell a story. Okay, so maybe they have two things on their mind.

Tell a story, and have people read it.

Oh, wait. Maybe three things if they are feeling especially ambitious.

Tell a story, have people read it, and maybe, if they dare to dream…earn a living doing it.

Throughout my journey, I’ve met many different types of writers, all with different ambitions when it comes to their words/books/stories/novels whatever. Some dream big. They write a great novel and wait for it to be snapped up and make them their millions. Others write a great novel, work their socks off to get it traditionally published, and sit back and wait for their millions to roll in.

And then there are those who are more realistic about it all.

They write a great book. They want it to be read by people, and maybe they pimp it out to the big five, maybe they don’t, either way, that book gets published. And then they…write the next damn book!

Because to be a writer, that’s what it takes. Not one great book, but several. Readers don’t like investing in one book, because that’s a shoddy investment, and it’s not the book that they are investing in—it’s you, the author. They want to know that if they fall in love with your work that there is more to come. More ready for them to buy, more for them to look forward to. Just more.

I’ve met a lot of authors who are waiting.

Waiting for sales, waiting for fans, waiting for…who the hell knows what they’re waiting for, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but don’t sit up at night wondering when the big bucks are going to roll in.

As a reader I like to know that there’s more after I turn that final page—or slide the final page if I’m reading with my kindle. And I hate waiting for a year for a sequel.

So as a writer, I don’t. I try to get out several novels a year, both full length and novellas, and in between I like to write short stories in anthologies. That way I get to keep drip-feeding my readers my words, to keep them interested and hungry for more, and yes, invested in me. Because surely I owe them that much? After all, they took a punt on me by reading my book. And in return the more they read my stories, the more they talk about them, and the more word spreads, thus increasing my reach to potential new readers.

So for me being the next big thing isn’t about that traditional publishing contract, or making a million on my first book (though, of course that would have been nice.) It’s about continuously moving forwards, listening to feedback and improving with each book, making my readers happy, and maybe, just maybe, the next book will be the next big thing.

But I’m not waiting around to see, I’m too busy writing my next book.

Claire C Riley profile photo~ Claire C Riley is the author of “Limerence,” “Odium. The Dead Saga,” “Odium Origins. A Dead Saga Novella Part One,” “Odium II The Dead Saga” “Odium Origins A Dead Saga Novella Part Two” a contributor to several zombie apocalypse anthologies, including the upcoming ‘Fading Hope’, ‘State of Horror Illinois’ and a proud contributor to the charity anthology “Let’s Scare Cancer to Death.”

Odium. The Dead Saga is a top #100 dystopian selling book on Amazon.com for 2013, ‘Indie book of the day’ winner December 2013 and ‘Indie Author Land 50 best self-published books worth reading 2013/14’

Limerence was a featured book in the ‘Guardian newspaper for best Indie novel 2013’ and is currently a finalist for the eFestival of Words ‘best novel’ category.

Odium II The Dead Saga is a #1 Best Selling British Horror book.

She can be stalked at any of the following.

http://www.clairecriley.com

https://www.facebook.com/ClaireCRileyAuthor

http://bit.ly/clairecrileyamazon/

https://twitter.com/ClaireCRiley

https://www.google.com/+ClaireCRiley

Filed under: author platform, Books, publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , ,

Why you’re going to make it

As indie authors, we’re all encouraged to work harder. That’s frustrating to hear because I don’t know any indie authors who aren’t working hard. But I’ve got good news. Your chances of achieving some measure of success are better than we’ve been led to believe. Here’s why:

1. Businesses fail all the time, big and small. But our overhead is so low, we can continue after we fail! When your hardware store goes out of business, you’re done. We get a few kicks in the ass, but authors also get more kicks at the can.

2. Every business that ever made it to sustainable got there because the boss/producer didn’t quit. Many of the biggest success stories come from people who failed and failed and failed at their chosen path but were too dumb to quit. Stubborn is our advantage.

Being a writer isn’t just a job. It’s an identity. It’s a compulsion. How often do you really consider quitting? For many of us, we never seriously consider stepping on the brake. We’re writers and we always will be.

3. We have the right attitude and mindset about what we do. When a software engineer keeps his head down through seventy days straight of boring coding to come up with an amazing game, he’s applauded. Wow! Look at the art he created after all the boring stuff he did! Imagine all the fun stuff he went without to produce all that work!

Coding relentlessly may sound boring to us, but he’s probably into it precisely the same way we’re into books. Everyone has parts of their job they don’t like, of course, but could coding be any more boring than your eighth round of edits on a 100,000 word manuscript where the timeline and logistics still don’t quite work? 

What we admire in entrepreneurs is true of authorpreneurs. We make things happen in our business because we have passion for detail and it never occurs to us to quit. People who don’t quit write more books.

4. People who write more books have a greater chance at rewards, monetary and otherwise. 

Years ago, I met Dick #1 who asked Guy #1 what he did for a living. “I’m into convenience stores,” Guy #1 said.

Later, after Guy #1 walked away, Dick #1 said something disparaging about how little money anyone could make out of a convenience store. 

“You’re a fraction right,” I said. “How much do you think somebody could make out of a convenience store in a year?”

Dick #1 sneered. “Not much. $10,000. $15,000, maybe.”

“Well,” I said, “don’t get too judgy. He makes a lot more than you think he does.”

“Impossible!”

“Guy #1 owns ten convenience stores,” I explained. “And stop being a #1 Dick.”

So it is with books. Publish and somebody will dig your flavor and spread the word. Put a lot out there (improving with each book.) We can do okay in the long run. This isn’t an all or nothing game. It’s just a really long game.

5. The path to success is linear. You know what to do or you can learn what to do. All you have to do is continue.

Years ago, it seemed like the biggest topic was writer’s block and finding time to write. Finding time is still a challenge, but people whine less about writer’s block and I think I know why. They know they will be published now. Your destiny is in your hands and it’s not in anyone else’s. 

We aren’t worried about gatekeepers now. We’re anxious for many reasons, but our entrails don’t go into knots because we could spend years writing a book that no one will have a chance to read. We know we are spending energy toward a realizable goal that will happen: publication. If you knew you were going to the Olympics to stand before the world no matter what, you’d train every day. That’s us. To get to the big show, all we have to do is get on with it. 

6. There is a low bar to success. I’m not talking about becoming a millionaire. Not necessarily, anyway (though that indicates a high level of achievement.) Success is different for everyone, but you’ve got a much better shot at success than anybody daring to open a new yoga studio, hardware store or any other endeavour that requires employees, rent and huge bank loans. So cheer up. Authorpreneur is actually a pretty safe business venture.

Like many businesses, it starts off as a hobby and grows or it doesn’t, but you probably aren’t risking everything to do it. Plus, you get to do what you love. A lot of people are stuck in frustrating businesses where they feel thwarted. I often feel thwarted as a writer. I’m often envious of other people’s success. But I don’t love what I do any less. Loving what you do is perhaps the only immediate success, but it’s powerful.

7. Does finding 1,000 true fans really feel that intimidating? Many gurus say (as a general rule) 1,000 true fans is all we really need to reach sustainability. That’s less than the number of people in the tiny village I’m from. My goal is eventually to find 10,000 true fans. I can picture that. It doesn’t seem unreasonable.

The Staples Centre in Toronto has 19,000 seats and that’s just one city showing up to watch the Raptors play! (Sure, a Canadian invented basketball, but few are that excited about the Raptors. Still, they have enough die hard fans to keep the lights on and the refreshment stands busy.)

Getting half as big as the Raptors at the the writing game seems doable if I live long enough. That’s why I’m drinking more green smoothies, working out and eating less sugar. And writing my ass off.

8. Remember the statistic about how most indies make less than $500? Sure. That’s depressing. But I look at it like mortality stats. We used to die a lot younger, but that was because of the infant mortality rate. It’s a myth that people only lived to thirty a few hundred years ago. Many people lived longer but the infant mortality rate dragged down the average age.

You’ve just read all the way down to Item #8 on a blog post about writing that’s more than a 1,000 words. I’d say you’re pretty serious about this writing thing. Lots of people aren’t. Lots of people weren’t and they could imagine doing something else besides writing. For them it was TL; DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read.) They’re off pornsurfing while you stayed to hear me out to the end. You are not going to let your writing perish due to crib death. You’re in the survivors club and you know what I’m talking about when I talk about the writing life. Your chances of doing better than average are better than average. That’s why you are going to make it.

This Plague of Days OMNIBUS (Large)~ I am Robert Chazz Chute and I’ve written eleven books. I’ll write at least three more this year and they are going to be awesome. I am your happy warrior of the word. Check out my books at the author site, AllThatChazz.com. Find out more about my doomsday book with the autistic hero at ThisPlagueOfDays.com.

If you’ve read, This Plague of Days, Omnibus Edition (pictured and clickable, above), please review it. That would be awesome. Thanks!

 

Filed under: publishing, self-publishing, What about Chazz?, What about you?, Writers, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

TOP 10 in The Art of Seduction (and getting read)

Helpful or informative blog posts shouldn’t be hampered by headlines that repel readers. Here are some how-to suggestions for better headlines and variables that hurt the spread of your word:

1. Relentlessly negative headlines. Occasionally going negative with headlines can increase the number of people checking out what you have to say. If condemnation is all you’ve got, I’d rather watch puppies and kittens wrestle on YouTube.

2. Sex sells, but not too much. You’ll get fewer retweets among the squares. Many of the people who aren’t square won’t retweet, either. It’s not that they’re prudes, but Mom’s on Twitter, too. Stay classy…like “The Art of Seduction” instead of the sexier headline I’m really thinking of. 

3. Insular headlines don’t help. “Cover reveal”, for instance. Please give us more of a reason to click that link. It’s not that cover reveals are necessarily bad. It’s that it’s only for the people who already know you. We all want to expand our audiences beyond our inner circles, so be more welcoming to the uninitiated.

4. Vague headlines. “Author interview” seems a tad lacklustre, especially if you don’t at least name the author.

5. Pull quotes are better. You just did a hilarious interview with an author. Quote them in the headline or add the joke to your tweet. To get us to click the link, we want to know we’ll have fun when we get to your blog.

6. Provocative is fine. Don’t be misleading or a dick. In the case of today’s headline, I added the parenthetical “getting read” so those clicking quick would still have their clothes on by the time the page loaded. Please note that all my blog content is enjoyed best naked, however. That’s how I write it.

7. A headline is a promise of a sort. The headline should fit the content, but make both more fun. When I was in Journalism school we were told to only write headlines with verbs in them. I don’t believe in putting writers in straitjackets, but it’s not a terrible idea.

8. Brief is better but your tweet doesn’t have to be limited to your headline. Add appropriate hashtags. Add a pull quote. Offer more clues so we know what to expect. Can’t do it with one attention-grabby headline? Follow up with another tweet tomorrow that doesn’t use the headline but points out an angle of the content. Or write a better headline in the first place. 

9. Spend more time on writing headlines. What would get you to click? The words, “how to” and “review” get more clicks. Asking a question can get people to check out what you have to say. Using key words in your tags will help you find more readers, so think about what words you would search to find out about your topic. However, don’t overuse key words. Google spiders are smarter than they used to be about that and, worse, that kind of thinking lends itself to flat, repetitive articles.

10. Write your headline last. Some people write headlines first to maintain focus, but that can lead to plain and linear headlines (which aren’t necessarily bad if it’s something people need immediately and it’s something they’re searching for.) The first stab is not always best and it will be more clever if you give it some time to percolate as you write. People like Top 10 lists, perhaps for the brevity (and so they get less of me naked.)

BONUS

It’s okay to tweet old posts if the material is evergreen. Get more mileage out of your work. It’s still going to be new to a lot of people.

Robert Chazz Chute Bio Picture~ Have you seen that new gorgeous and bodacious you asked for? Check this out at ThisPlagueOfDays.com.

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

Writers: Fire Your Guru

As I suggested in my quotes for this post at tripthroughmymind.com (by Jerry Benns), we learn more from our allies than from self-publishing’s outliers and traditional publishing’s pundits.

Time for a reality check about perception and consequence.

This week I met a lovely and lively someone who was pleasantly surprised to learn I’m friendly and actually quite nice in person. After reading this blog for a long time, she thought I’d be snarky and “difficult”. I was a little shocked by this news. I thought I was funny, but I guess sometimes I do have a tone. I regret that when it leaks out. Mostly, I try to be a people pleaser. She suggested I let people in on my secret niceness by saying a spider crossed my desk and I let it live. That made me laugh because any spider meandering across my desk must die. Horribly.

Anyway, that experience got me thinking about the way we come across online.

For instance, I read a review of a friend’s book about book marketing. The nastiest review I’d read in a long time shredded his work at length because the reader claimed to already be familiar with all his suggestions. The problem with this is that not everybody has the same level of expertise. For the neophyte (at least!), that book would be very helpful. For this self-proclaimed expert, the book is less than nothing.

Worse, the nasty review got praise. “Thanks for the great review!” Really? Don’t ever praise anyone for a review designed to make the author feel bad. It only encourages dickishness. (I will not name the book I’m talking about, to discourage any further acts of dickishness.)

As for me, I wrote two books about writing and publishing. I think they’re very useful to anybody and the reviews reflect that. However, when I pitch it, I always lower the bar of expectation and tell people they’re for newbie writers, to inspire them to write and publish. If I had more confidence, I guess I wouldn’t sell it so short. But those reviewers who insist you write just for them, at their level of knowledge and no lower (or higher!), are waiting. For some egos, criticism is oxygen. It’s easier on my psyche to pitch Crack the Indie Author Code as an entry level book.

YMMV

Often online, when we come close to pontification, we add “Your Mileage May Vary”. That’s pretty elegant and humble. Few of us really want to tell others what to do for free. We’re trying to be helpful. 

When I was a kid, I visited Bermuda. I rented swim fins. I’d never worn fins so huge in the ocean. I tried to put them on while I was at the edge of the water and I was having trouble. A stranger came up to me and suggested I get into the surf first and then put them on. I ignored him and then he said, “I’m trying to help you.” When somebody tells me to do one thing, I really want to do the opposite. (And no, often that attitude has not served me well.)

Anyway, I’d thought he was bossy, but when I looked in his face I could see his intent was pure. I thanked him. I did as he suggested and, once wet, it was easy to get those big fins on and go swim.

Now some people seem to say your mileage won’t vary.

Since I’m resistant to telling anyone what to do, it irks me when anyone gets too full of themselves. Lately, I’ve noticed some authors who have achieved a little success, are getting bossy. They are laying down rules instead of suggestions. Even if they sell non-fiction and you sell romance, they’re sure all books are marketed the same in all venues. They’re assuming there’s only one way to go and it happens to be their way. Isn’t this why we got away from agents and other gatekeepers and published ourselves?

There’s an element of luck and timing involved in any success.

Results aren’t necessarily duplicable. I suspect some pontificators don’t really know why any particular book hit big or even semi-big. Or, they do know, but the market has changed since they hit it big and we can’t replicate that strategy now. Maybe they can afford Bookbub and you can’t, or they got into Bookbub and you can’t break past the application process. Maybe they had a track record and a fan base first. Maybe they have a huge mailing list and you don’t. Maybe they succeeded because of grassroots support and the author is attributing their success to their marketing brilliance in error. Maybe their book is simply better than yours.

Here are a few things you probably won’t read elsewhere:

Maybe [insert successful author name here]’s book is not so good, but it caught on anyway. We all push perfection pretty hard. We all fall short of perfection. Often writers and reviewers are hypercritical and, thank Thor, the average reader is not. Sometimes an author’s marketing skills are far superior to their writing. Meanwhile, some brilliant authors would be better known if they gave one crap about marketing. To each his or her own.

There are too many variables for one opinion to reign supreme. There are many paths up the mountain. There is no one way.

The writers who are too sure of themselves think that everyone is waiting for their next book. They should be more humble because people like me, who are easily irked by condescension, won’t buy their books. Lots of people are popular. That shouldn’t be confused with respect.

I’m sorry.

If I’ve come across too snarky here from time to time, I apologize. I don’t want to be one of those pontificators I complain about. I know I’ve said it occasionally, but maybe I should add the disclaimer more often: I try to help fellow writers and publishers. What I try to do here is make suggestions in an entertaining way.

Look in my face and I hope you’ll see my intent is pure. I’m trying to help.

Fire your gurus. Keep your friends.

 

 

 

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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