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

Write and publish with love and fury.

What to talk about with readers

Sometimes you get to talk about a new cover, but there’s plenty more to talk about when we engage with readers.

It’s a common question: What do I say to readers?

If you’re meeting readers in person at a book signing, your engagement is generally as follows: a friendly hello, an inquiry about what they like to read and your elevator pitch tailored to their preferences. Ask their name and autograph it. Collect email addresses for your newsletter. Sell your paperbacks and/or have a QR code so they can buy ebooks on the spot.

If you have multiple books and a following who specifically came to see you (congrats!), they’ll talk to you about the last book of yours they read as they buy the next.

If you’re signing at a bookstore and the turnout is disappointing, don’t worry about it. Your mission isn’t to sell a few paperbacks and grub pocket change. Your job is to make sure the bookstore employees love and remember you. They’re the ones recommending books to their customers every working day, after all. You’re planting seeds in that case, not necessarily harvesting.

I’m not a great fan of in-person book signings. A few of my friends do marathons of signings and schlep to every festival, comics convention, bookstore and cafe. A buddy of mine is so prolific and peripatetic, he’d show up the opening of an envelope. More power to them. I live in Canada. Everything is far away from everything else. I’d rather stay home and talk to readers from the comfort of my writing bunker.

Before and after: Fresh, on-point covers may translate to increased sales. Consult with fans. They can help you choose covers and titles, too.

Which brings us to how most of us engage with readers: electronically.

We all know we should engage readers through newsletters, preferably not through a gmail account (so your news doesn’t go to spam), preferably keeping the list warm by sending out the mass email at some reasonable frequency so you are not forgotten. There are newsletter builders for most genres and autoresponders help convert casual readers into fans. I’m no newsletter ninja and my attitude about newsletter engagement is poor. I worry too much about bothering anyone too often. Unsubscribes from a small list are a bit depressing. However, I know a newsletter ninja who does it right so why listen to me about newsletters? I recommend Newsletter Ninja 1 & 2 by Tammi L. Labrecque.

Here’s how I love to engage with readers: my FB fan group

I list my books and links in the back of my books, of course. I also invite the die-hard fans to join us in my private fan group, Fans of Robert Chazz Chute. You can spend a month or years working on books, creating worlds in isolation. This group is one of the joys of the writing life and makes it less lonely. If not for them, I’d talk to three people on an average day. Four, if I order coffee.

Be honest, be real

These readers are fans who are mostly like-minded. They tend to share my worldview. I’m left of center, as is some of my fiction, I suppose. I know, I know! We’re told that, as authors, we lose readers if we’re political. Ha! That advice is common but it surely is not as universal as you’ve been told. Ever check out Stephen King’s Twitter feed or Chuck Wendig’s?

This topic is a longer discussion and another post. However, everything is political, especially now. Choosing not to speak up is a political choice, too. The market is fractionated. Everybody picks a side and everyone has their outlet. I was a citizen before I was a writer. I act like it and I’m real about my worries for the future. The climate crisis is real. The pandemic threat is real. Fascism, economic and governmental failures are real. Useful positions when you’re writing dramas about the end of the world, right?

Might I lose some readers? Possibly. I’d likely gain more readers than I’d lose. I don’t think I’d lose many readers who would dig my work so, frankly, I can’t worry about that much. To appeal to everyone, I’d have to say nothing. That’s not me and the writing would suffer. My fiction is richer because it’s informed by dark and stark realities of non-fiction. (Plus jokes. I make a lot of jokes.)

The Fan Group Offer

Members are entered into a raffle and, with their consent, lend their names to characters in my fiction. Nobody turns down the offer. It’s kind of a blast to find a character named after you in a book. I write apocalyptic epics and crime thrillers so even though safety is not guaranteed, people take it as a fun bonus of membership.

Pros and Cons

As discussed in last week’s post, there are problems with Facebook’s policies, post visibility and politics. You’re undoubtedly already familiar with those issues. However, talking with readers within the group is very rewarding for me. People do see my posts within the group, they want to see me succeed and the bond is tight. To me, newsletters often feel like missives to the ether. Within the group, I get replies in the comments, often instantaneously. It’s great to hang out with supportive people who get you and what you do. On some level, I think every writer needs that kind of edge. This is a fun way to make a living. It’s not an easy path.

The group is a club, the only kind I think I’d enjoy. This is not for the casual reader who can take me or leave me. Will it expand my readership? Honestly, not as well as a large newsletter list or a big investment in advertising might. The concrete benefits of the group are mostly indirect. It’s a time investment, not a monetary one and I never miss that time.

The experience is chummy. My editor is in the group. I’m more likely to find beta readers who know my catalogue there (and they can catch if I’m repeating myself). They know my genres. I have up and down days and I’m honest about both. Because of this blog and the podcasts I’ve been on, a lot of people in the group are not only readers, but authors, too. It helps to have friends in the know who you can PM occasionally to ask for a book blurb or get the answer to a question.

How often do I post to the fan group?

Pretty much daily. Sometimes I take a day off on Sundays.

Daily?! WTH do you say to them daily, Rob?!

What to say to readers:

Update them about deals, of course. These two gems are set to free today (Nov. 19/19), for instance. http://author.to/RobertChazzChute

There’s plenty to talk about that is not spammy:

  • Share compelling snippets from your WIP.
  • Consult with them about titles and covers.
  • Share your hopes, dreams and frustrations. The writing life is a dream. Sometimes it’s a nightmare. Tell them the truth.
  • Share their successes. These aren’t just fans. I think of every one of them as trusted friends. If a troll wandered in I’d bounce them immediately but no one has let me down yet.
  • Ask their advice. I’ve got mice in my attic. I vented. Suggestions were made.
  • Pictures. I shared holiday pix of my trip to Chicago and growled about the Christmas tree my son put up way too early.
  • Sometimes the post is a music video I like or a book recommendation.
  • I congratulate readers on completing another orbit around the sun. I’m glad for every birthday. Readers are precious. I want them to live.
  • I share blog posts, especially this one since it’s all about the sweet, sappy love.
  • Tell jokes and stories. More than once I’ve shared amusing anecdotes about territorial disputes with other folks at my coffee office. It’s war!
  • We talk a bit about the news but that’s more for the main news feed. I mean, sure, as noted above, I’m politically aware. However, I don’t hit anyone over the head with minute-to-minute coverage of the impeachment hearings. That’s already ubiquitous.
  • Never miss an opportunity to be kind, helpful and grateful.

If this sounds like a diary, you’re not wrong

Don’t just talk like an author, stiff and selling. Talk like a human. Despite who I am, I can provide a reasonable facsimile of human interaction. Maybe not normal human interaction, but they can get that shit anywhere, right? Entertain yourself and you’ll inevitably entertain someone else while you’re at it.

It’s okay to be random. I recently switched to a whole foods, plant-based diet (nutritarian, specifically.) I’m losing weight and feeling great. I’ve shared recipes, cooking successes and failures alike. We’ve laughed about the pumpkin pie that was supposed to be the best in the world. It sure wasn’t. Why should anyone care? They care because it’s honest and relatable. Ironic that the same is true of the lies you tell within the covers of a novel, isn’t it? Honest and relatable lies make compelling stories.

This is not a marketing chore. Have fun with it. I love the writing life and my people allow me to enjoy it every day, not just when I hit publish or read a happy review.

~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I write apocalyptic epics and killer crime thrillers. Subscribe to my teeny newsletter at AllThatChazz.com. Apparently, I won’t bother you with it often enough.

Filed under: book marketing, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

As a writer, what’s optional? What’s necessary? What’s real?

1. I think charity, political action and social justice is important. Let’s not lose sight of what’s important.

(For instance, I’m trying to help a guy find a kidney.) 

This post is about doing what’s necessary and managing our time better as writers and publishers. Don’t click away. It’ll be fun. You’re going to like this post a lot, trust me, but before we proceed, please consider that at least one good kidney is what’s really necessary. Please sign your donor card. Follow @RSawatsky and retweet him. #DudeNeedsAKidney! Spread the word to change and save lives. Thank you.

We now return to your regularly scheduled programming…

Organ donation matters to all of us but Amazon and Hachette’s machinations really don’t much. I try not to get too caught up in industry debates that don’t affect me and hurt my productivity if I give them too much energy. I’ve commented on Amazon versus Hachette, but I don’t live and breathe that debate because I feel no agency in changing the outcome. Amazon and Hachette are gonna do what they’re gonna do.

Meanwhile, I’m publishing my fifteenth book at the end of the month. (That averages out to five a year, so clearly I’m a slacker.) My point is, it’s better that I spend time telling stories instead of scurrying around the ankles of giants.  

2. If you can’t afford to pay an editor, you can swap services, use your writing group or crowdsource. Finding a good editor is hard. Harnessing the hive mind, if you have enough solid people on your side, is easier in some ways. If you can afford to hire an editor, don’t stop there. You probably still need to crowdsource to get a lot of eyes on your manuscript before you release it. More proofreaders in your beta team now mean fewer problems later.

Beware of people who approach you about editing your next book. Better not to answer them. Best to depend on the team you develop and choose. Finding help gets easier as you go along. Don’t despair and take the time you need. Also, there’s zero shame in taking that job you need to pay for the professional assistance you need. You’re a full-time author if you put in a lot of hours, no matter what job is listed on your tax form.

3. I got a bill. As a result, I have never been so focussed as I am now on the famous 80/20 rule. That which does not advance my writing career in some tangible way is a waste of my time and I am ruthless. Priorities are: family and friends, exercise, writing, a certain degree of social interaction and the pursuit of happiness along career lines.

I write and exercise early in the day to make sure that gets done. Everything has a schedule and I am plugged into it.

Why exercise? Because we’re sitters and sitting is the new smoking. Self-care puts the oxygen mask on yourself before assisting other passengers in need. Do that or we’re all gonna die.

4. Experiments are conducted. That which works, stays. That which does not is jettisoned. Bookbub and BookGorilla and Freebooksy are still in. I try smaller services sequentially (separating promotions) to see if they have an effect on daily sales. They don’t (for now) so they’re out. I’ll revisit them periodically to see if they’ve grown their subscriber lists substantially, especially if they’re free services.

If I can spend an afternoon at some kind of author event and if I’ve just reached one new reader and touched their hearts? I’ve wasted that afternoon. 

I’m not playing small ball, anymore. I don’t hang out hoping for individual conversions. I make alliances with my fellow author army for mass mind invasions. I experiment with keywords and categorization. I give sermons to the masses. Scalable stuff. I don’t want twelve disciples. I want a vast cult of love that spreads among strangers by word of mouth in airport lounges and through the matrix as fast as the newly converted can warble at each other excitedly about my last book and my next book. I am a happy infection.

Don’t get me wrong. I love every reader who gets me. I’m not trying to sound harsh. I’m trying to maximize my time because I’m not immortal (yet.) Only the willing are drafted. I’m prepared to sell my books and ideas but it’s an invitation, not a hard sell that makes me hate myself and lose psychic energy.

If I have to spend time convincing them to take my book into their hands? They aren’t ready for me. They’re ready for James Patterson. Godspeed.

5. It’s best to hire someone to do your graphic design. I always recommend Kit Foster of KitFosterDesign.com. He is awesome and if you employ his talents you’ll undoubtedly sell more books.

If you can’t do that (due to financial emergency or scheduling issues), kdrenegade and picmonkey are options that work best together. There are many editing programs. Whatever we do won’t be as good as what a professional can do for us, but it might do until we can redo those covers with the pros.

Do do your best or you’ll rue your doo doo book covers.

6. Book formatters can make your work look great and elevate your art with their art and sensibility. Pay them if you can afford to do so. Otherwise, let’s not be quite so hard on amateur formatting attempts as long as it’s functional.

For instance, book formatters will insist that your print book must begin on the right. The people who care about this are book formatters. They can be hypercritical of details no one else notices. Also, unlike the formatting experts, I prefer seeing the title at the top of each screen of an ebook. I tend to read ten books at a time and the header they disparage as unprofessional reminds me which book I’m looking at instantly. (Did I mention I don’t have a lot of time to spare? Yeah.)

If you don’t care about certain details, you can do it yourself without expense or worry you’re doing too much that is wrong. Experts love to tell you you’re wrong. Non-experts, too. Especially non-experts.

There is much to obsess over. This is not one of those things. Prioritize what matters to you.

7. I blog when I have something to say. Otherwise, I write books.

Chasing the dragon by posting to a blog twice daily (or more) in an effort to boost blog traffic is so 2004.

8. YouTube videos of cats freaking out = a gravity well from which no one escapes. Don’t go there. If you do, you’ll write one less book this year.

You can’t feed your cat by watching cats on YouTube unless you film your own cat to make money on YouTube. You didn’t think all those crazy situations caught on video were accidents, did you? No. That’s a conscious plan to monetize cute (and steal your writing time.)

9. Don’t complain. Never explain. 

Someone at Thanksgiving dinner and on Christmas Day is caught up in outdated misconceptions of what you do. This is an energy suck. Do you really want to have that same conversation about how ebooks aren’t real books, the smell of paper blah-de-blah and your publishing venture is not legit unless a trad publisher pays you a pittance and abuses you with ferocious contract terms? 

Don’t get sucked in. Instead, agree with the Uncle Bozo. Tell him he’s absolutely right. He hasn’t changed his mind about anything ever, anyway, so stop butting foreheads. Your aspirations don’t matter and books don’t pay. Tell him what he wants to hear.

Then tell him, “Fortunately, you can remedy that.” Thank him for his concern as you say, “I’ve got my books in the trunk of the car. You can buy them right now! Thanks again! Be right back!” Don’t wait for his reply.

Bring them all. Before he can protest, tell him you have change for big bills. (With Square, you can also take his credit card.) Refuse to leave until those boxes are empty and his trunk is full. His choice is to buy your stuff or admit he was being a prick and trying to make you feel bad about your aspirations.

Uncle Bozo will never bother you again.

10. Look to others’ successes to figure out how to proceed and what practices to copy.

Don’t waste a minute worrying that everyone else is playing this game better and getting luckier and selling more books than you.

They are all doing much better (often succeeding by accident while you try guile!) They’re all doing great and thinking about buying a boat. You suck. I suck, too. I know! I know! But worry doesn’t help that. Writing the next book helps that.

You’re going to write that next book, anyway, no matter what the “market conditions” are. So go do that. No bullshit.

And stop checking your sales dashboard stats for green arrows ten times a day!

~ This post was briefly titled, “As an authorpreneur…” Then I changed it to “As an writer…” and it went out like that. Oh, for God’s sake! We now return to our regularly scheduled self-loathing….

 

Filed under: author platform, publishing, Rant, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

For my author site and the Chazz network, click the blood spatter below.

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