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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

10 Myths of Publishing

There are myths writers are told and sold. Let’s tackle them:

  1. Myth: Follow the various book proposal guidelines for each and every agent to the letter.

    Reality: That’s a waste of time, equivalent to the old days when magazines insisted they refused simultaneous submissions and then took a year to get back to you. Instead of tailoring your book proposal to 158 different individuals, make one really good book proposal and send it out. If it’s good enough and looks profitable, they will respond. If they’re so capricious they value protocol over profit, they wouldn’t have accepted your book proposal in any case. There. Saved you time and aggravation. Be professional, but treat them like peers. Don’t be a desperate supplicant. You’re better than that.
  2. Myth: Publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

    Reality: A bunch of publishers, in confidence, will admit they read everything from the slush pile. Scared of rejecting the next Harry Potter, I guess. You can submit directly to publishers without going through an agent. You may be thinking that doing so decreases your odds of success. That feeling will ease when you consider that agents may take on one or two new clients in an entire year. Sure, agents know acquisitions editors, but you’ve also added another gatekeeper and speedbump to your publishing journey.
  3. Myth: You need an agent to sell your book.

    Reality: If you are doing a deal with a publisher, the publisher may recommend their favorite agent to you. You may want an agent, but it’s optional. Better? An entertainment (AKA intellectual property lawyer). One fee, no percentage that lasts forever. There seem to be fewer agents than there used to be. It’s not that they are useless, but a bunch of them sure were. (And rude, to boot.) If you are going to deal with an agent, read their blogs, tweets, and reviews from other authors.
  4. Myth: A traditional publisher will take care of the marketing of my book.

    Reality: Very briefly, and only if your book has a high profit potential. You will have the attention of the Promotions Department for a very short time before they move on. After that, it’s pretty much all up to you. They want you to have your own website, a bunch of followers and engagement on social media, etc. Big promotional budgets push big authors to make them bigger, not to lesser-known authors to take a blind stab at minimal profit.
  5. Myth: I suck at book marketing, so I’ll simply outsource all of that ballyhoo to someone else.

    Reality: If you have a big bag of money, this can work. Advertising is expensive and requires experimentation and data. Getting someone else to do it for you, someone who knows how to do it well, will cost you in a big way. Most books don’t make enough to justify that kind of outlay on spec. Instead, you’re probably going to have to learn how to do that shit you don’t want to do all by your lonesome.
  6. Myth: To write in any genre, you must be familiar with many books in the same genre. Don’t write in a genre you don’t read!

    Reality: If you read a few of the best-loved books that are on point for the genre, you’re on the right track. No need to go so deep you put off writing your books forever. Yes, romance readers will be furious if your protagonists don’t get their happily ever after. But you knew that after reading one or two samples. What’s more important is that you grasp the essentials of storytelling. If you understand narrative structure and dramatic tension, you’re most of the way there already. Good stories are good stories. Don’t listen to the gatekeepers who insist you’re not qualified until you fulfill their ridiculously long list of arbitrary essentials.
  7. Myth: Write what you know.

    Reality: Write what you care about. If we only wrote what we knew, the field of science fiction wouldn’t be a field. It would be a small patch of bare dirt.
  8. Myth: Readers demand happy endings.

    Reality: Readers don’t know what they want until you give it to them. I like surprising endings, but conclusions need to be logical and, in retrospect, inevitable. Give them a happy ending if it fits your worldview and the story. I don’t necessarily do happy endings every time, but I always strive to provide a satisfying ending. Don’t try to shove a square peg into a radiator. (See? Surprise!)
  9. Myth: If an agent or publisher contacts me, I’ll accept that deal. Where do I sign? I’m on my way!

    Reality: I was contacted by an agent and a publisher. Then…crickets. Proposals don’t just go through people. They go through committees. An accountant may be blocking your route to publication. That breeze filling your sails might be pushing you onto the rocks. It’s not a done deal until you sign on the dotted line. Agents and publishers may express interest, but that doesn’t mean anything until it really means something.
  10. Myth: A publisher is a publisher.

    Reality: They aren’t all created equal. Some masquerade as publishers, but they’re really vanity presses. Some may call themselves publishers when, in fact, they’re in the book formatting and uploading business. Also, sad to say, you as an author are not guaranteed better treatment by either a large or small press. Integrity, attention to detail, and follow-through depend on the people you’re dealing with, not the size of the firm. Before you commit, read reviews of the company. Cautionary tales abound.

    Bonus: If it’s transparency you’re looking for, nothing beats getting daily sales numbers. That data is what you get when you publish your stuff independently.

    ~ Recently, I wrote 31 Ways We All Fall Down. It’s more advice to writers. Check it out on my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

Bullied her whole life, Ovid Fairweather is a book nerd trapped in an apocalyptic New York. With only her dead therapist to guide her, this survivor will become a queen.

READ ENDEMIC NOW TO DISCOVER THE POWER OF YOUR CURSE

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What We Don’t Know

Have you gathered all your tax receipts yet? I recorded all my expenditures as I made them in 2021, so this should be the easiest tax prep yet. Last year, we had to chase our accountant to do his job, but that’s a long story about frustration. Short story: We’re getting a new accountant.

Today’s brief post isn’t really about taxes. It’s about what we don’t know. I’ve always used an accountant because tax law is far too complicated (by design, depending on where you live). For instance, I don’t know what the latest mileage allowance is. I could look it up, but what about the deductions or pitfalls I might miss? Hiring a professional eases my mind because I don’t know what I don’t know. There’s no shame in ignorance as long as you learn or compensate.

We don’t know what we don’t know.

When you’re outsourcing work for your writing business, keep that adage in mind. My editor is far more versed in the many subtle nuances of comma placement. She’s taught me a few things (which I promptly forgot). Instead of trying to know everything, I rely on her encyclopedic knowledge of The Chicago Manual of Style. She knows her stuff inside and out and having her on my side eases my stress.

(FYI: Looking for a great editor? Email Gari at editor@strawnediting.com.)

It’s a popular (and damaging) myth that self-publishers do it all themselves. For many of us, our editorial pipeline resembles what you might expect of a traditional publisher. With the use of beta reading teams, some authors’ editorial process is superior to trad pubs. This is especially true after all the cuts to editorial budgets among traditional publishers.

Some readers and writers are stuck in the inertia of old biases. Detecting our own ignorance is the beginning of wisdom.

What work do you outsource?

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I write apocalyptic epics with heart and killer crime thrillers with muscle. Find links to all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

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Writing Easy, Advertising Hard

Authors, be especially careful with advertising your books at this time. It’s the Christmas season, so every writer, particularly those with deep pockets, is flogging their wares. I was about to put up another Amazon ad for my latest book. Then I looked at the suggested bids and, boy howdy, I was discouraged from even running that experiment. The suggested bids were simply too high. You don’t have to go with the suggested bids, of course. However, cut down too much and your ad will be invisible.

Depending on the popularity of your genre, you may find it takes way too much money to

(a) get your ad delivered at all, and

(b) make a profit on the sale.

Watch your math and consider saving your advertising dollars for the new year rather than competing head to head with Big Trad.

I have changed my advertising strategy and returned to experiments with to Facebook. My experience with Facebook was that they can burn through your advertising budget very quickly.

Please keep in mind, no advertising strategy is safe enough to gamble on set it and forget it.

However, I do like the granular targeting I can do with Facebook. With a keen eye for monitoring the ad spend, I’m hoping to find new readers for Endemic.

UNIVERSAL LINK TO YOUR AMAZON STORE:
mybook.to/MakeEndemicGoViral

What happens if the pandemic never ends?

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. Check out all my apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers on my author site, AllThatChazz.com.

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NaNoWriMo is not a bad thing

NaNoWriMo is a good thing.

We’re coming up on the halfway point of November already (which scares the rabbit pellets out of me because Christmas is coming fast. I wasn’t going to do National Novel Writing Month this year, but changed my mind at the last moment. I enjoy their metrics and I’m a little ahead of the pace so everything is chunky hunky.

Some authors are down on NaNoWriMo, but I have to say their arguments against it are often made of straw and soggy bran cereal. It’s not just for novices who’ve always dreamed of writing a book. I write every day anyway. That doesn’t mean NaNo doesn’t give me a boost. A little friendly competition can get me started earlier and makes me write a bit longer than I might have otherwise. 2479 words last night!

NaNo is so big, sure, there are inevitably a few people in the mix who think they should fire their first draft off to an agent. However, most people are sane. The vast majority won’t commit that sin. NaNo doesn’t encourage that kind of slapdash approach, either, so ease off of those worries and enjoy a chocolate chip cookie.

Some question the word count. Why 50,000 words? Isn’t that too short for a novel? It didn’t used to be. Those word count conventions are a bit dated considering that the numbers are less of a factor with ebooks. More to the point, the originators of NaNoWriMo chose 50,000 words as a suitable goal for good reasons. It’s not too short for veterans nor too long for first-timers. It also happens to be the approximate word count for The Great Gatsby.

There’s a little Apocalypse Now energy around NaNo that I find helpful. I’m Martin Sheen at the beginning of the movie whispering, “Every minute I’m in this hotel room I get weaker. Every minute Charlie is out in the jungle he gets stronger.” Then I break a mirror because someone out there somewhere is writing.

Then I write.

~ The newest novel from Robert Chazz Chute is Endemic. Highly sensitive, bookish, and alone, Ovid Fairweather is bullied by her father, haunted by her dead therapist, and trapped in the viral apocalypse.

Get Endemic now. It’s about to go viral.

Filed under: NanNoWriMo, writing, , , , , , , , , ,

Fans are Sexy

Unless you write as a hobby, authors need fans. Not just casual readers. Fans. Here are the 5Ws of getting sexy.

The Why

  1. Authors need reviews as social proof in order to gain more readers.
  2. Promotional sites often require a minimum number of reviews and/or a minimum rating before we can advertise on those platforms to find more readers.
  3. When we’re feeling down and hopeless, it’s the fans that bring us back up and get us writing again.

The What

  1. Buy our art so we can make more art. Poverty and hunger pangs distracts us from our mission. (Also please be aware, pirate sites give your devices cancer and infect your soul with incurable scabies.)
  2. Tell other readers about your favorite authors. Word of mouth makes our kung fu strong.
  3. Please review our books.
  4. Stock up on our books for Christmas gifts.
  5. Let your favorite author know you’re rooting for them. A quick email or tweet will make their day. This is a tough business, and some of us are prone to anxiety and depression. (Stares hard.)

The Where

  1. Review what you love wherever you bought the book. Seek out that “Write a Review” button. It’s on the book’s sales page somewhere.
  2. Tell your local bookstore you want to order your favorite author’s book.
  3. Tell your librarian the same.
  4. Tell your friends down at the ole swimmin’ hole, during a bank heist, at the golf course, and on Zoom.
  5. Suggest books to your enemies with the passive aggressive message that reading more will contribute to their personal growth and increase their capacity for empathy. Those bastards probably won’t take your recommendation, but you can walk away feeling good about that sick burn.
  6. Share your reviews and book recommendations on social media.

The Who

  1. You, if you’re a reader and you like art someone produced.
  2. If you’re an author reading this, I get it. You’re too humble. You’re self-conscious about asking for help. Your Dad, who loves David Baldacci books, isn’t keen on your thrillers, and hates your horror and science fiction. It’s okay. The people who support you understand you need to keep writing and buy groceries. Ask for help.
  3. Dad, if you’re reading this, I won’t be sending you my latest apocalyptic novel for Christmas. A David Baldacci book is on the way. Never mind, go back to listening to Lawrence Welk. And no, we won’t be talking about this.*

    *Okay, #2 and #3 of this section might involve some…ahem…projection.

The When

  1. No time like the present.
  2. See #1.
  3. The Rule of 3 compels me to add #3. (Also, it should be CDO because OCD is in the wrong order.)

BONUS: What Fans Receive in Return

  1. Writers give you their dreams for a small price and, by spreading the love, you help them fulfill their dreams. Priceless.
  2. You might get more books from that author or more books in a series you enjoy. If there aren’t enough sales and/or reviews on a series, the ROI isn’t there so chances are solid said series could die on the vine.
  3. The joy of helping other readers discover something they might love. Recommending books feels good.
  4. The fun of having someone share the experience of the book. Then you’ll have a fellow reader with whom you can discuss the book.
  5. Being the sort of person who reads and recommends books makes you look smarter. It’s more powerful than the nerdiest of nerd glasses and you will instantly become 87% sexier. 87%! That’s just science.
  6. In reading our pithy, funny amazing novels, you will find jokes you can later pass off as your own in casual conversation.
  7. You will earn our eternal gratitude, and who doesn’t want the warm fuzzies from a group of maniacs who sit around all day fantasizing about new and clever ways to get away with murder?

    EDIT: The police inform me that #7 came off as more threatening than I intended. So…hey! Eternal gratitude! You got it!

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. Find all my apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers at AllThatChazz.com.

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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.

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

http://mybook.to/OurZombieHours
A NEW ZOMBIE ANTHOLOGY

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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